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August 29, 2004

Wrong numbers and mobile phones

"Err hello, I'm phoning about the BMW for sale" came a voice from my phone that was displaying a number that was not in my phonebook. Of course answering your mobile phone was not like answering your home phone. You had to actually give out your prized number, and in the process you logged the recipients number into your address book. I had not gone further like some others, assigning a different tone to a different number. That would be far too painful. I mean hearing the classical tone would send a shiver down your spine whilst in the pub with your friends, mum, don't call me there.
But suspicion always turns to intrigue. There's nothing worse than answering your phone than not answering your phone. "No I think you have got the wrong number, I'm not selling a BMW" I replied. "You mean you are not selling a BMW?" came the surprised voice. "I can't sell and BMW when I own a Alfa Romeo" was my response, my sarcasm trying to counter his disbelieving voice. "This is 0798 bla bla isnt it?". He countered. I'm not trying to hide my real telephone number, it's just it could have been bla bla for all I know, his Scottish accent was as thick as it was fast. "Yes" I replied, "If it wasn’t then I would not have answered the phone". Quite clearly this conversation was going nowhere. Why would I lie about selling a car that I did not own. I guessed his persistence was as much to cover his pride. We all hate to dial a wrong number, it's just normal people normally say "sorry, I've got the wrong number and that’s that".
Mobile Phones
"It has been twenty minutes, they have not texted back, something must be wrong...". Like it or not we are controlled by our mobiles, it acts as a voluntary tracking device. We feel lost if we go anywhere without our phone, it's like leaving our keys at home. What happens if we don't want to be interrupted? Simple. Don’t answer it. Wrong! By not answering the phone it makes the caller think. ‘Have they been kidnapped?’ Maybe they are in trouble? But there are greater concerns. ‘Are they not answering the phone on purpose?’. God forbid. Back in the simple old days you looked in the phone book for your friend’s number, only to realise their parents were ex-directory. So after getting your friend to write it down on a scrap piece of paper you would call, only to get their parents, and shyly say you didn’t want to leave a message.
Texting has introduced a multitude of new dimensions in the social context. Met someone the night before but to afraid to call? Simple. Text them. If they don’t text back it was confirmation that they were indeed drunk and never had any intention whatsoever of seeing you again. Easy. Want to get rid of someone without the pain of a phone call? Easy. Just never text them again. They will soon get the message. Or maybe not in this case. Your friends want you to go out but you really don’t want to? Even easier. Six words later and without even having to pick up the phone you are out of it. Texting has made things easier, but there are complications. Unfortunately text cannot portray the tone of your voice, be slightly tongue in cheek and the reciepent will think they never want to see you again. Take that extra ten minutes to reply and they will think you are not interested in them. Reply five minutes too soon and they will think you are too keen. And then come the all important who texts last factor? Who ends the text conversation? If you simply don’t reply is that rude?
Whilst going through you hundred best jokes book you laugh out loud. In fact you laugh so much that you feel like sharing your joy with others you know. So you sit down and start to write down the joke onto a piece of paper. There are ten friends that you want to forward to, so you write out ten letters, buy ten stamps and go to the nearest post box. Of course not. It simply never happened. Until email. Why did you not feel like sharing this joke before. Simple. It was too much effort. It can take twenty seconds to forward an email that you did not find, one that simply turned up in your inbox. You don’t even have to look up addresses. The computer has already stored them for you. And the result of all this? We have stopped talking, we have stopped thinking. You could argue people talk more because of the mobile phone – because you can get anyone at anytime of the day in any place. But there is always a reason to cut the conversation short. Whether it be bad signal, cross network charges, the bus is going, the boss is coming, the mother is coming, or “I’ll text you later”.


August 26, 2004

back to supporting a really bad football team

“Oh my god, look Sophie, there is a Southend Supporter, I didn’t think they had any” came a voice sitting next to me in an cyber café in Cairns on the East Coast of Australia. I was looking, as I had done daily for the last six months, at the latest transfer goings on via the website. “Yeah, I used to go to Southend a bit, my uncle used to be the chairman, Vic Jobson. Have you heard of him?” he enquired. I was into my sixth month of going around the world and I had finally met a fellow Southend fan. Actually, and not surprisingly, he supported Leyton Orient.

After bungee jumping in Auckland instead of dashing to the nearest computer to tell my friends about my latest suicide mission, I dashed to the computer to find out if Constaintine was really going. And then there was the sky dive. After the jump I got to the nearest computer, scanned the photos and sent them home. Of course not. I was logging on to check the latest rumours about Cort. But I knew things were turning for the worse when I turned down a drink with a former Dutch table dancer that had amazingly spoken to ME on Bondi beach. I had far better things to do. The LDV final commentary was on in the early hours, tom foolery could wait till the next time it came around. Seven years is nothing.

So of course, when the draw for the league cup was made there could only be one outcome. Cut short my sun drenched, bikini clad infested, beer drinking life in Australia for the kappa wearing, wide boy walking, rubbish infested, apples and pears selling streets of the East End. To the people who doubted my sanity I had one answer. Even though I had seen Southend lose on my last twelve visits, even though they never score goals, even if people say “Southend? Are they non-league?”, even though I haven’t even lived in Southend for the last eight years, even though people say “so why don’t you support Bournemouth then? Isn’t that down the road from you?”, I missed watching Southend too much.

“Who are they playing then?” came the amplified voice from my amplified hearing aided gran. “West Ham” I replied. “Oh I hope they win” she added, “and take some sweets with you”. Nothing ever changes. My nan still gives me sweets, and still, knows absolutely nothing about football. Well it made me smile. She was the first person I had met in a long time that actually thought the team I was going to watch could actually win.

The rain came down, it had been the wettest August for a long time. The station at Upminster was abnormally busy, a mixture West Ham and Southend supporters waited for the six minutes past from Shoeburyness. The commuters and tourists alike were both probably thinking ‘Why are there so many people on this train’. But soon they would be educated by the chat amongst the supporters. The West Ham fans talked to the Southend fans about Glenn Roeder and Alan Pardew. The Southend fans talked to West Ham fans about how the team on paper was good, it had just made a bad start. Again.

As I took my seat in row G, the drizzle turned to downpour. I thought about the Dutch table dancer I had turned down in Sydney, well lots of times actually. But there was no time for that. The game had started, the atmosphere was back. It only took ten minutes to see my first goal. And then I realised why I support Southend. Even though we concede more goals than we score, even though we lose more matches than we win, and even though every season we think we are going up, only to end up just staying up and getting knocked out in the first round of the cup, we still sing. Maybe badly. But we still sing

And so we huffed and puffed, West Ham were a little too good to be bluffed. We left the ground with our heads held high. Now it was time for the decision. A night out in
Bournemouth this Friday and a stumble home. Or maybe I should pay three times as much and sacrifice my Friday to go up north. I’ll get my coat.


August 22, 2004

First time buyer on Ebay

For someone who my friends said ‘planned their life over the web’ my first dabble on ebay would seem a little overdue. So why has it taken so long? I mean it has been going for over three years now. The answer? Simple. It’s just way to freaky.

Going to a normal auction is scary enough for me. For a start you to sit through hundreds of other bids before they even get to your item. You have to sit in tedium watching someone’s Aunt Sally’s china and slightly chipped old teapot go for thirteen pounds fifty to the lady at the front. Or even the 1957 framed picture of a donkey. Yes its true. Your rubbish is someone else’s treasure.

Even if you get past the old people, the of mistake of bidding for a wine decanter when you sneeze , paying twice as much as you would normally pay and the artificial winning feeling when you have won a bid, it’s still a safe bet. The auction house won’t run off, you get your goods as you pay and you get them that day.

Some say Ebay is perfect for masking the above misgivings. You can buy the best Take That CD without anyone actually knowing its you. You don’t have to sit in a room for five hours that’s smells of dying people. You don’t have to content with the delights that your local town has to offer. That gold leafed mirror might be suitable for Mrs Jones but maybe not terror away Johnny.

So its perfect. Well maybe not. For a start you have to rely on a picture that the seller has supplied. Just like submitting a picture into a matchmaker agency you are not going to put the worst picture on there. And then there’s the description. Completely unbiased. Of course. And then there are the emotional sales like this one from an Ebayer:-

"This auction is for a ring i bought my one time girl friend but she decided to cheat on me so i got rid of her and now the rings gotta go the winning bidder i may even throw in her phone number cause the ring already fits her hand and im sure she do just about anyone..i just hope one of my friends dont buy it because lately shes hopping on if your my friend please dont comes with a 2 year warranty and a grade card...i purchased it at zales and the warranty covers resizing and all of that..the ring is a three stone round brilliant diamond thats .11 carat the clarity is internally flawless and the symmetry is good...i paid 350 for the ring and the warranty......buyer pays 8 dollars shipping and handling "

When you have finally found something that looks genuine you decide to give it a go. The seller has good feedback. What can go wrong? Well first all you realise that if something is too cheap to be true, it probably is. An auction lasting 5 days will inevitably come to life precisely and hour before it is due to end. Then the rush will follow. All of a sudden people across the road will come out of the woodwork and start bidding against you. You are not just bidding against granny Margaret from down the world or Uncle Pete form the local shop. You are bidding against the world. And by the law of all sods there is always someone with more money than you out there.

After watching the computer screen like some religion in the last hour whilst constantly pressing the refresh button something shocking happens. You win the bid. Your buzz of achievement is quickly followed by a sense of trepidation. “Why didn’t anyone else want it?” or “Did I really need that cup holder?”.

Putting your fears aside you enter your payment details and click a button. Of course you have not just paid the price, you have paid that extra ten percent for posting. And then the waiting. How long should you wait until they deliver it? After two weeks of waiting you are starting to feel a bit restless. That email diarrhoea fanatic that was answering all your questions within two minutes prior to the sell now has suddenly forgotten to use their email. Time for a strong worded email. How does it go? Well it inevitably goes like this :-

Dear Jon

Look it’s been two weeks. Where the hell is my ‘Best of Take That’ cd? I’ve got an important party coming up and I need it now. If you don’t send it tomorrow I will report you to Ebay and give you negative feedback”

Of course not…..

Dear John,

Sorry to bother you. I am away on holiday next week and was wondering if you could give me an idea of when you may be sending the ‘Best of Take That’ CD I won on Ebay. The CD is not for me, it is a present for my little sister. It’s her birthday soon but if you cant post it next week then don’t worry.

So that’s. Just sit and wait. So what do you do in the meantime? That’s right. Start searching for your next item.

August 17, 2004

Directors Commentry

I've just finished watch the Butterfly effect on DVD. I first saw it months ago in Sydney and remember it was a good film, so I decided, to watch it again. Now when it comes to films I am the sort that will nudge you in cinemas and say "Who is that" or "ehhh I don't get it". Give me a film with a twist, and I will, miss it. Try and give me a Pulp Fiction type shifting all over the place film and I will get confused. I'm easily confused. So when I watch Donnie Darko I thought good film, but, what the hell is going on?

To save people getting nudged in cinemas from the likes of me, DVD makers have wisely introduced 'Directors commentary'. I love this feature. After every film I watch I watch the commentary so I can understand the film better. But the problem is, after initially curing my 'derrrrness' it then goes and confuses me even more.

It's when the Director says "Yes, we put the colour yellow in every scene with Johnny in it so you are subconsciously attracted to his mother" or "You see the Stars and Stripes flag in the background, yeah you can just make it out if you look hard, that is to symbolise his patriotism". Now I don't know whether it's me being a total derrrr brain when it comes to films, but who the hell is going to notice these things? And so I watched the director go through the commentary in 'The Butterfly Effect' spoofing himself talking about the little things that people were not meant to notice.

Give me film I understand please. Starting with Shrek 2.

August 12, 2004

Back in England

To my left there were two crabsticks. The top of their straps had been lowered to show third degree burns. Once removed the offending strap revealed a colour white similar, if not whiter, than the England football shirt worn three sizes to small by the man opposite. He was wearing shots that were ambitiously tight, forcing a large proportion of his hairy gut to overspill under the shirt. “Apparently the weather is going bad again tomorrow, typical, I’ve taken the week off as well” said one of the crabstick ladies. “Yeah, I know, was going down to Southend as well with the kids, they will have watch tele now, maybe go down to the beach next week instead” added crabstick number two. Just why these people with third degree burns wanted forth degree burns I will never know.

I had arrived back in in the middle of the summer and I forgot just how important the sun is to English people. When the sun shows any sign of emerging from the clouds, plague sweeps across the country. Large, hairless, beer ravaged men will walk the streets without their tops on. The old basket pushing ladies give a ‘that would never happen in my day look’ as they walk past. The women wear little crop tops that clearly do not fit, they had borrowed it off their younger sister Denise. The talk on the street is about one thing. The sun. When will come out? When will go in? Is it hotter this year than last year? Will it be hot next month when they go in their caravan to the South coast? What way are the clouds moving? Will there be an Indian summer? Will it be cold here when they fly to Tenerife. Have you caught the sun? Yes you’ve caught the sun! Has the weatherman been right? And so on. The plague makes people act in a strange way. Not only do people look like crabsticks and burn victims, the sun also makes them do things they hate in everyday life. They get in the cars and sit in a car park for five hours to travel fifty miles just to go to a place where thousands of others have gone. And what is this place? A bit of sewage infected water with a stretch of sand. Over here they call it a beach.

The British beach is a strange phenomenon. Just like the sun, contact with sand sends the British person into frenzy. Once you have driven for five hours in a car overloaded with screaming children and useless inflatable beach items, you spend the next two hours on objective number two. Parking. Trying to find a parking space in the summer is like trying to find a Thai market seller after selling you that fake CD player that doesn’t work. People will crawl in first gear playing ‘spot the gap’ game. This is a really good game. Different members of the family can play. You all must look out for a car park space whilst hundreds of other families play against you. Every so often use your dummy card. Shout out “There’s one!” causing the driver to nearly crash only to realise it a handicapped space, a marked bay or filled by a small motorbike which makes the space out to be empty when it isn’t. Once you have found a space three miles from your destination it’s then time to play the ‘Where do we sit game’. Normally you are helped out by the fact that a thousand families have come at 7am that day and your options are limited to the crappy pieces of sand where nobody else wants to sit. The areas deemed not as desirable are marked by the fifteen year old kids smoking joints, swearing and generally terrorising the general public. Once you have found your four foot piece of sand it’s time to get some refreshments. Unfortunately for you the idea has also been shared by half the population of the beach. So you stand in line for thirty minutes and finally get your hands on that dripping ice cream that you try and balance along with the other five ice creams back to your family. When you reach them you are more sticky than the chewing gum on the high street floor and are greeted by Johnny screaming “I didn’t want vanilla, I wanted Strawberry!”. Anyway, best make the most of it. Going to have to leave in two hours to beat the traffic, and you never know, the sun might not be out tomorrow.



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