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November 29, 2004

A night out in Brighton

Going out in a town not belonging to you with five of your friends normally means five things - investigating the local architecture, discussing the important issues of the day, investigating the cuisine, watching sporting events, and sampling the foreign drinks on offer. Well sort of. The architecture was important. We needed to find a pub that served food and showed live sport on the big screen. Preferably this would be near a bookmaker so we can discuss the football betting opportunities on offer that day over a pint of Guinness.

At one o’clock in the afternoon we found our temple. The Hogs Head pub had everything we were looking for, and more. There was a large sofa, our own plasma t.v showing live sport, a pool table, a good menu, quiz machines, fruit machines and most importantly, waitress service and a tab facility. A concept completely foreign to this country. Essentially we could sit and watch the sport and they would actually bring over the food and drinks when we wanted it. Perfect.

Offering a tab in a pub in England is like saying to a kid “Don’t worry, just go in the sweetshop and get what you want, we will worry about the money later”. And just like kids with sugar all over their faces we did just that. Despite England losing against Australia twice in the rugby and none of us winning anything on our vast array of football bets, we were having a great time. After six pints of Guinness, a slightly burnt Chicken burger, half a portion of cheesy fries, a rugby and a football match, it was time to go. Well actually the pub told us to settle the bill. Obviously the tab system here has a limit of eighty pounds.

“How many are there of you?” the doorman enquired. “Six” we replied. “Where are you from?” the doorman countered. This remains one of the most bewildering questions commonly used by doorman. What difference does it make? Is he trying to make polite conversation? Did we not look like ‘Brighton’ people? The problem is you can’t really say “why?” if you want a realistic chance of getting into a pub. “Lads, listen here, if you get involved in any trouble will you tell us about it, don’t try and sort it out yourselves”. Firstly he wanted to know where we lived and now he was basically saying the pub was rough. Great.

We tried to use this knowledge to work in our favour for the next pub. Splitting into three groups of two, we approached the delightfully cheap drinks Weatherspoons pub. The problem is when the doorman says “Where are you from” and each of the three groups say “Bournemouth”, it’s slightly obvious, even to the most mentally challenged ones, that they are indeed all together. As a result we all had to give the doorman some identification as insurance in case we caused any trouble. After a couple of rounds of cheap double vodka Redbulls it was time to move to the clubs.

From that moment on it got a little blurry. After a ten pound entry we were in the ‘Beach’, offering the finest selection of 70’s music. All I can remember is changing shirts with my mate Dave half way through the night, dancing to a lot of cheesy music and talking to these women for a large part of the night. But there was one question I remembered, well I had to, it had an amazingly sobering effect.


Thoughts from the weekend

1) Why don’t more pubs in England offer table service and a tab system? We spend more, we don’t have to go to the bar and they get tips. Everybody’s happy. In some places like Germany you can go to restaurants and help your self to food and drinks, you work out your bill and you leave how much money you want. I think that system of trust would last two minutes here unfortunately.

2) Why do doorman on pubs and clubs want to know where we live?

3) Why is it at the time you think you are in control of everything after a few drinks, yet the next day you think “I can’t believe I did that?”

4) Why does food taste so good after ten pints?

5) Why do you dance to songs you hate when you are drunk?

6) Why do you always have a better night in a different town?



November 26, 2004

A Thousand hits, but who are you all?

I put a stat counter on this site a couple of months ago and today I see reached the first landmark, a thousand hits. Some people spend hours analysing their statistics. Which country? Who referred them? How long were they on there for? Well that’s all well and good, but having spent the last five years analysing data from nine till five I resisted that temptation on this occasion. Anyway who needs a computer to tell you this? I can tell you right now how you got your traffic. I’m developing this complex methodology that I'm planning to roll out to all people who write blogs. You don’t need to install it in the html code of your blog, you don’t need to pay any monthly fees and it will be completely invisible to all your blog visitors so they don’t have to see if you are a five digit guru or a two digit loser.

Where all your hits came from..................

Tell your friend hits

Whilst talking about the week you have just had with your friends at the pub, you mention your blog. They look at you as if you are ill, thinking it is some illness that’s far too embarrassing to give a real name to, so you have invented one instead. When you tell them what it is they look even more confused. They don’t say it, but they might as well open their mouth and say “But why would you do that?”

Statistically this will provide 0.5% of your traffic. The geographical location will be eighty miles away. It is them, it’s just their ISP is there, no you have not got any new admirers from a new city. They will have a return visit rate of 1, and that’s only after you said you were putting up the photos from last night up on the site.


Include your blog address on your email address hits

The initial hit trend will be high after forwarding a funny email to your friends. This will be for three reasons. Firstly, they will think that the site will be related to funny picture that you sent, only to be incredibly disappointed when they reach your blog. Secondly, they see ‘blog’ in the title and your name, curiosity will get the better of them and they will take a look. Again I can see the disappointment on their faces now. Thirdly, the people that you send jokes to are normally bored and depressed at work. This means they will have nothing better to do than take a look at your musings, your blog will make them feel better about their lives.

Statistically after a high hit rate, people will realise what the link really is. There will always be two regular hitters after that, the time trends will normally show 4.50pm on a Friday.

WARNING: It is not advised that you include your blog address as your email footer. Potential employers will not see it favourably if they read your blog and then see that you are applying for jobs to make you feel better.



Random surfer hits

These are normally generated by the people clicking the ‘next blog’ random button. This can happen for a number of reasons. The main one being boredom. There is a certain amount of intrigue at what other people are writing which can cause the random button to be activated.

Statistically these hits will only last for a second. People are very difficult to please these days. If they don’t like the colour, the music, the title or the first sentence of the blog then they will hit the ‘next’ button quicker than then the ‘next’ button when Microsoft say ‘do you want to register now or later?’. Don’t expect these people to come back, after all they were just randomly looking because they were bored at that moment in time.


People who look at your site to get return hits themselves hits

Yes, it’s true. Some people examine their stats religiously and think that other people do to. If you see a referring blog site in your stats, you will look at that blog to see who has been looking at your site.

Statistically you will get very few hits from this. Most people will not have a stat counter and most people could not be bothered where their hits cam from or not rendering this one pretty useless.


Search Engine hits

If ever there was a reason to have a stat counter then this is it. Is it because you want to analyse what parts of your blog people are looking at? Well sort of. It’s more to do with the disappointment factor of potential searchers. Having been to Thailand I had to write about Ladyboy’s. Of course this was in a strictly educational sense. However it seems some people out there are actively searching for very strange combinations. I can guarantee you that whatever you are writing now, Google will try and make up something using your words to make it a lot more appealing to certain users. Take this for exaple search.yahoo.com/bin/search?p=ladyboy%20botom%pincher%20how%much%cost

Statistically these hits are quite low. If you wanted to increase your hit rate you could try by putting seemingly innocent words in the same article so that when put together, Google thinks you are a dating aging for old Western men and ladyboy’s. Don’t expect these people staying here for long, they will probably not even read the first paragraph.


Your own hits

Yes it happens. Some people either fail to exclude their own address so that every time you look at your blog you record a hit. This can be quite distressing to some people. For months they will be wondering that there must be a person out there who is looking at the web page at the same time as them, as if by fate. There are other people who have internet accounts that have dynamic IP addresses, that is every time they log on they have a different identifier. The person then thinks that is okay, as the stats are telling me it’s a different city every time. It’s then that they realise that by having a dynamic IP address means it will say different cities every time.

Statistically you will see large trends developing at certain points in the day, it will be the same country and it will probably have no referrer. There may be a strange pattern occurring, with big activity relating to when you were looking at your blog. Other than that I don’t know who these people are, sorry.

The truth is I have not got a clue why people are looking at this blog although it's probably more by random than purpose. Apart from the very few occasions I have given out the address I simply don't know. So if you could make yourself known that would be great. Please could you manually write down on a piece of paper the number of hits and where you are from, thus rendering stat counters obsolete (believe me people are scared)

Must go, I’m getting finger cramp pressing the refresh button Only another three hours until I reach two thousand.





November 24, 2004

Sign of the Times

I gave up reading the tabloid newspapers last week after finally deciding that I did not want to be brainwashed into thinking that England was a bad country. Apparently the newspapers have been trying to tell me over the years that we have critical illegal immigration problem, a highly fraudulent benefit system that is costing the tax payer millions, a police service that could not catch a cold let alone a criminal and a state pensions system that will mean we will have to live of twenty pounds a week when we retire. Okay, this maybe true, but don’t tell me about it everyday. I just want to live in ignorant bliss.

Just as my switch in newspaper was making me feel a lot better about my life in this country, I turned on the radio. I listened to a caller say that he felt safer in Rio de Janeiro than here in my home town of Bournemouth. Now lets examine the evidence. In the Bournemouth news today local residents are ‘angry’ over council plans to create a new sewage plant in town. Very dangerous I agree. In Rio twenty people were held at gunpoint in a raid whilst three tourists were killed in robberies. I have to admit old people with sticks can be scary, especially after half a pint at the bingo. Then there are the old people that drive slowly causing accidents. But feeling more unsafe than Rio? So I banned the tabloids and started reading more serious newspapers, and this is what I learnt from my new best friend.


Whilst reading the ‘Times’ today I noticed that in Tokyo a survey has revealed that women want ‘female only’ trains in an attempt to eliminate the act of ‘bottom pinching’. Apparently they trialled women only train carriages after a survey had revealed that two thirds of women had been the victim of such a crime. Now whilst being highly sympathetic to this crime, I cannot imagine for a minute it would work on the London Underground. I can just imagine it now, looking up at the sign, great a train is approaching, I can’t wait to get home,…oh no….it’s a pink train, another ten minutes to wait then. But in all seriousness London Underground deserve special praise for their tough measures against bottom pinching. They have devised an intelligent system where if you pack as many people as possible onto a train, physically your hands cannot move anywhere, one is being jammed against the wall by Aunt Sally’s suitcase, whilst the other is holding onto the rail for dear life as the train bumps around the pre-war train track.

Apparently our good friends from across the English Channel are not too happy either. An employees union is taking a French company to court for forcing them to speak English. Despite a 1994 law saying that foreign expressions should be translated into French in the workplace, the growing trend amongst companies has seen ‘International English’ being used as standard in management. I do have some sympathy for the French employees. To show my respect I will translate this into French. Errrr….. maybe I should have not copied John Watson so much in my GCSE French class every week. I actually blame it on my parents for not sending me on the one week exchange trip with Robert from Calais when I was fourteen. Maybe I should blame it on the laissez faire (wow, I’ve just remembered French) attitude of English people when it comes to learning foreign languages. They have a good argument over there in Le France, why don’t le Anglais speaking managers make more of an effort to learn le French than making le rest of la company (is it feminine?) have to parle le Anglais?

Chocolates or flowers? No I’m not going out on a date, yet, but that’s often the dilemma when choosing a present for the opposite sex. Well it’s got to be chocolates. Is it more romantic? Will she enjoy them more? I don't really care, they cost less, involve less effort and last longer and I can have one. Apart from that there is another reason. Apparently researchers at the University college of London have found that obromine, found in cocoa, was nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs than codeine, currently considered the best cough medicine. It must therefore explain the guilty looking women I have seen recently whilst on the Tokyo underground, they were coughing whilst downing large segments of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. I would not be surprised if women deliberately went out to catch a cold so they could deliberately stay at home and take what the doctor has ordered.


November 22, 2004

I believe in a thing called Fate

One of my personal attributes is ‘easy going’. There are a number of reasons for this, one of them being that my mum has always been a stress head and I saw the way worry could affect you. More importantly in my opinion is I’m a believer in fate. It’s a great way to deal with any problem or tough decisions that come your way. I live my life by this rule, if something happens, it happens for a reason.

There are many people out there that think the opposite. You control your future and it’s up to you to determine the outcome of your life. Well that is very valid argument. I’m not saying you just have to sit at home and your life will be run for you. I mean if you want a job you need to go looking for jobs. If you want to meet someone you have to put yourself in social situations to meet them. I use the fate argument when I have to choose between different options or scenarios. Instead of spending hours worrying about decisions or things I have done, I just think to myself “It has happened for a reason”.

When I was travelling it was one big lottery who I would meet or which things I did. Depending on which side of the coach I sat on determined which people I got to know and those I didn’t. Make a decision and live by it. There is no point looking back and worrying about the decision you have not made. One example was in a dorm in Sydney in March. I was staying in room 406 in the WakeUp hostel for a week which was great, I had no intention of moving and was set to stay there for another week. However I was forced to change rooms after experiencing some very strange goings on by this weirdo that had just moved into the bed opposite to me. The result of this meant that I had all this hassle changing rooms when I had no prior intention on moving. Instead of being hacked off I just accepted it as a course of action. As a result of the room change I went of to meet someone I hope to stay in contact for rest of my life. Ok, people may argue ‘But what about the people that you would have met if you stayed in the room’. My answer is I don’t know and therefore I don’t worry.

I have found this technique amazingly helpful in job interviews. I go in completely relaxed and without a trace of stress. After all, if they like me they like me, if they don’t, they don’t. If I am suited to this job I will get this job, if I’m not it wasn’t meant to be.

So why am writing about this today? Well sometimes a chain in events happen that are so unlikely to occur at once that it makes you think ‘surely that cannot be coincidence?’ I was reading through the job papers on Friday and one job jumped out of the page at me. It was the sort of job that I wanted to apply for right then and there. My initial response would be either to write a letter and send in my c.v via post or email it, but on this occasion I decided to walk the 4 miles into town and deliver it myself. When I found the road, I walked up and down looking for this small office that was not very well sign posted. I was nearly going to give up and post it in the nearest post box when something strange happened.

“Ah Coops, how you doing?” came the voice as I stood in the road looking for a stamp. I looked up. It was a person called Mark who I had worked with six years previously at my old company Zurich. “Yeah not bad, back from Australia and applying for jobs at the moment” was my reply. After a little bit chat we were about to go our separate ways when I said “You don’t know where this company is, I‘ve given up looking for them”. He looked at the address. “I should know, I work for them, how funny is that!”. Not only did he work for this company but he knew who to deliver the letter to.

Sure it could have been coincidence, but the fact that I subconsciously chose to deliver the letter, the fact I came at a time when he was outside on lunch, the fact that I got lost and therefore arrived at the right time, the fact that I knew this person and the fact that he actually worked for this company that I could not find left me feeling slightly euphoric. It was a Sliding Doors moment.


Saying that, sods law I won’t get the job. Damn fate. Just a load on nonsense if you ask me.


November 20, 2004

Wet, cold and shaking

The rain dripped down my face. I could now taste the rain, largely flavoured by the L’Oreal gel used that morning. My legs had started to shake, uncontrollably. It had been like a time bomb, with every minute the water had infiltrated every layer and now had reached my skin. In a cruel act of fate the wind blew up, it was like someone was pressing an ice cube on my neck. Just as it couldn’t get any worse they scored.

It was times like these that I was left wondering why the hell I was there. Even more to the point why I had I paid fourteen pounds for this? I had driven down to Yeovil in Somerset on a cold and wet windy Saturday afternoon. Like all my trips to this football ground it always seemed to be ridiculously cold and always poured down with rain. Normally this wouldn’t be too bad, but this club was the only one which did not have a roof for the away supporters, leaving it completely exposed.

For all the nine thoughts I could think of why I ever bothered going to such games there was always one that made it worth it. On the downside I was supporting a football team that had pretty much being losing for the last ten years. In a knife in the back moment the only time they reached a national final was this March, when I was in Sydney.

So why on earth would anyone support a team that plays in the bottom league of the country? Why would anyone support a team in which I now lived hundreds of miles away from? Why would anyone support a team that always loses? Why would anyone spend hours driving to a game they know they are probably going to lose and get extremely wet and cold in the process? I have no idea.

Well maybe I do. Football humour has a lot to do with. It amazes me that people who are cold, wet, watching their team lose and are probably penniless after taking their family miles away to watch a game can be so full of humour. The banter between each set of fans is priceless. If you forget about the poor game, the fact that you are standing in an ice bag, you get treated to a live comedy show full if irony. I did in fact laugh more in that ninety minutes than the two hours of live comedy the previous week. If you can laugh when you are blue and shaking, it must make sense.





November 18, 2004

Do I know it's Christmas?

Apparently they are banning alcohol from Bondi Beach this Christmas. They can’t complain too much. On the same news page it said that we in Britain are set for one of the coldest winters on record. I was originally planning to spend Christmas day on Bondi. And given the choice of beach, sun, swimming without alcohol or frozen ears, I think I would still take Bondi despite this ban.

I could not believe it when I read that Birmingham are banning Santa from the shops this Christmas in case it offends non Christians. What is happening to this country? Christmas is a bit of strange one for me. Every year it starts off commercially earlier every year. The last time I looked it was November 18th but it may as well be the middle of December now.

I went to the shops yesterday and was confronted by large plastic Christmas trees in the front doors of the shops. I could buy tacky Christmas cards, even tackier crackers, or even a Christmas CD full of Number One Christmas songs. The only thing I did buy was a bottle of coke. Ironically it had a big picture of Father Christmas on there and continues to smile at me every time I take a drink from it.

At least I had escaped. As I walked into HMV to browse some CD’s guess what song came on? ‘Do they know it’s Christmas 20’, a new charity song that was realised that day. A quick pint with a couple of my friends presented me with the ideal opportunity to get away from all this premature Christmas talk. It was a good idea until everyone started to talk about the plans for their Christmas work parties. If people were trying to brainwash me with everything Christmas it was working. As soon as I got in I knew I could escape these Christmas thoughts. The phone rang. It was my mum. “Love, what do you want for Christmas”.

Don’t get me wrong, I like lots of things about Christmas. I like getting soft and squeezey presents from my gran on the day. There is nothing more enjoyable than trying on the newly knitted jumper in from of the rest of the family, one which she knitted on measurements when you were fourteen not twenty six. There is nothing better than watching your normally sober for three hundred and sixty four days of the year parents get merry in front of you and trying to be funny. And what else could top watching eight hours of television repeats with your extended family followed by the Queens speech in a fire induced cauldron of a living room? But to top it all off its seeing the reaction of people opening up presents that they would never consider buying themselves yet by miraculous coincidence claiming they have always needed one they were so desperate for it. So desperate for it in fact that never had one.

p.s do you know it’s Christmas next month?

November 16, 2004

A Day in the life of.. for once

After reading everyone's blogs I felt guilty that I don't actually write what my day has been like.... so here goes for today.....

“Look, just go and stand over there and leave us alone” came the ever increasingly agitated voice. I couldn’t see what was happening but I had a good idea what was going on. “No don’t do it” the female voice cried. “Common then, I dare you”, the thick boyish London accent taunted. Before I had time to look up from my phone the two characters were wrestling. Slap. The sound of fist to face caused all of the heads to rotate in unison.

Today was one of those undecided days. It didn’t know whether to feel happy that I was out in London doing something different from the norm or nervous at the thought of the four o’clock interview. It was one of those jobs that sounded good over the phone, yet seemed to fall in favour the more thought I gave it. It was on the wrong side of London. The interviewer sounded important, purely by the sound of his name. More importantly, the abstract job title left me feeling completely unsure about what job I was actually applying for. I would then argue the positive. It was for a company that that was a dream for me. It’s not often that a person who likes to bet on sports gets the chance to work for a sports betting company after all. It was so far removed from my previous five years of insurance boredom that it did indeed seem perfect. I could even get a tube on the Underground line from Upminster to Hammersmith without having to change. Perfect, apart from the twenty three stops in between and an hour and a half of bumpy travel. But the biggest selling factor was that it was a job, and a job was better than no job.

“Yes can you write down the time on your visitor’s pass, I think you will find it is ten past four”. Surely the security guard had got it wrong. I had timed it perfectly. I had left the house with an hour to spare. In an effort to counter my notoriously bad time keeping, I had left ridiculously early but had somehow managed to be ten minutes late for my interview. Of course having a phone that said it was later than it was really didn’t help. I had also turned the ten minute walk from the station to the office into an hour long one, looking for roads that did not exist and finding that one of the roads was in the crease of my new purchased A to Z thus rendering it unreadable.

“So can you give me some examples of some projects you have managed in the past and describe any problems you encountered? Demonstrate to me how you have overcome these issues”. It had been nine months since I last worked and the automatic blag mode had been left somewhere between Fiji and New Zealand. Then it came back. I had verbal diarrhoea. The problem was I was having trouble convincing myself let alone a person who was in charge of employing me. It was at that point I realised just why people don’t like interviews. There was nowhere to hide.

“It was nice meeting you” was the last words. I thought we got on well but then again he probably thought I was bumbling bumble bee. I walked into the darkness, slightly relived, slightly anxious and slightly positive. The ten minute walk gave me time to analyse the good and the bad points. Could I picture myself in Swan pub on the corner at lunchtime? Did I like the office atmosphere? Would the job be asking too much of me? Have I got chance? But far more importantly why was he wearing a black sweater with a hole in the arm? And where did he get that scar from?

The doors opened at Hammersmith station. I had forgotten what rush hour was actually like. I managed to squeeze myself on. My right hand clasped the rail for balance. My left hand, well I don’t know where that was, sandwiched between an ageing, balding man and a bag slung over an anonymous shoulder. I had forgotten the commuter look. The look of nothing. Staring into space. Anything to avoid eye contact with a fellow commuter. We all have out personal invasion zones, once other people get within five two meters we tend to act differently. We make excuses to stare at anything, phones, watches, newspapers that you have already read, books that you have already finished. Anything but eye contact.

In the corner of my eye I could see a situation developing. A boy of sixteen was trying to interact with a fellow stranger. In the silence of the train this made an uneasy atmosphere. “Hey man, do you wanna go to Romford to get some ladies” bellowed the cockney voice. Drugs or alcohol, probably drugs. His inhibitions were gone. The victim looked into space, shaking his head occasionally. Knowing that I could be his next victim I looked away. He was becoming more boisterous. He drifted over to a couple sitting down. “Hey why is he sleeping, is he tired?” he probed as he prodded the next victim. “Get up man, get up man” he persisted. This was going to end in tears. The now awake man was considerably bigger in stature than the youthful wafer thin troublemaker. As his girlfriend glared he awoke. All I wanted was a peaceful journey home. My stop was next. But it seemed like an eternity. The joys of commuting. The only good thing was I would not be doing this tomorrow like everyone else. For now that is.




November 14, 2004

Blogs huh?

I’ve been looking at a fair few blog’s recently and I’m still completely bemused as to why people write them. So I have tried to put them into categories to help me understand what it’s all about.

The started so I won’t finish blog

Yep these are good. Normally the person has decided it would be good to write a blog, maybe because they are bored, maybe their mate has got one. To be honest I don’t know and will save doing the psychological profiling for now. What is clear is they enjoy doing the fun bits, the profile, the design, the interest and hobbies. The tough bit it seems comes to actually doing some writing. At least it’s a start I suppose.

The ‘I went to the toilet’ blog

Yes, some people actually feel like sharing such detail with anyone who will read it. Okay maybe some people write such things in their paper diary, but to the masses? I can understand that some people like to be voyeuristic in a Truman Show respect so maybe people do care if Jane had two lumps of sugar in her coffee and had slightly stale milk on her cornflakes. Who knows?

The impressively designed makes yours look shit blog

Believe me there are lots of these out there. I’m not a jealous type, really, but sometimes I feel physically sick when I see how much talent people have got out there. From the artistic photos to the fancy effects, these people really take pride in their work. These are the sort of blogs in which you look at the code to try and understand how they did it, only to realise they have used some really good copyright techniques. It’s called make it incredibly complex so that simpletons like me won’t have a clue. I’m happy to say it worked.

The very strange and weird blog

You can tell these without even looking at the screen. That’s because your room has been filled with the most bizarre, axe murdering music you have ever heard. This can be replaced by Christmas type music, equally worrying. The title on these blogs normally goes something like ‘behind the face of a devil lover’ or something like that. I suppose it’s different.

Annoying blogs

First you get hit but some beeps and some 'yes/no’ buttons coming on your screen taunting you. “Do you want to update your internet explorer because this blog is so complicated your poor one won’t be able to handle it”. Every time you try and click back without clicking 'yes' or 'no' you get forced back onto the page. Why don’t I just click ‘no’ I hear you ask. Well I don’t trust yes and no buttons on the internet anymore.


Sex Blogs

Some bright spark thought ‘I know if I make it look like a blog, nobody well ever notice I’m trying to sell them enlarging pills, magazines, videos and sexy underwear. Yep, even the wonderful world of selling junk and spam has made it into the blogging world.

Selling stuff Blogs

Very subtle. But if you notice they don’t talk much about their day, their political views or their Aunt Sally. Strangely they have got links to insurance websites. Everyday. Insurance must figure heavily in their personal life I guess.

Poem Blogs

People who just write poems everyday. Do these people talk to other people in poems? I can just imagine them walking into a shop and getting some milk and making it into a poem like 'I'd like some butter, but I also need some flour for a cake, I don't care what make, for gods sake'. Of course I’m just bitter as I have not got a poem making bone in my body.

Good blogs

Quite a few out there, difficult to pigeon hole as they are unique, which in turn makes them so good.

People to be very worried about Blogs

These are dead give ways. Normally they can’t be imaginative enough to think of title, so they just write what their mates call them instead. These people have looked at other people’s blogs and tried to be creative, the problem being it is obvious they have been fiddling around in Paint Shop Pro too much. They have probably taken a picture of some bubbling mud pools in New Zealand and tried to make it look like a nice pattern for a header. These people normally try and make their Blog black and white on the whole so it looks a bit more arty. In general they will include a picture on their profile. A popular one is when they were Scuba diving to make them look active. The truth is that they nearly drowned in the water after one of their ‘friends’ made them laugh under the water. They normally put pictures on every blog entry to shift the attention of the user away from the words, avoiding the spotting of spelling mistakes.


November 12, 2004

Wake up and smell the coffee

No I have not just had an argument with someone and been told to get real. There would be nothing better at that moment than for me to wake up covered in coffee beans at 9am in the morning. But I can’t. I have developed new phenomena called ‘Man Flu’. Ok so it’s just a common flu but it is a pain in the neck. Literally. I’ll come back to Man Flu later.

It’s seems I’m the only person I know (wait I’m not a sad loner) that loses my sense of smell and taste when I get a cold. Now I don’t mind the headaches, the sniffling, the cough, the neck ache, the tiredness, well I do actually but anyway, there is one thing that really gets up my nose apart from the snot, it’s losing my senses.

Not only can I stand in a public place and not know if I smell like a onion bag and Paula Radcliffe after the New York marathon, I can’t smell if the milk is off. Now I know you are one step ahead already, I mean if I can’t taste the sour milk why should I worry if it smells off? Look it’s just a principle and procedure thing okay. Scientists have proved that although we taste via our taste buds, the way we smell things has a huge impact on the way things tastes to us.

I have been researching for years how our sense can be affected by outside factors. The main research focused on me drinking rather large quantities of alcohol on a nights out and then testing the cuisine that is on offer, be it kebabs, burgers or hot dogs. My research was conclusive. Anything, despite how bad it looks, how bad it has been cooked, how bad it smells, tastes fantastic.

So now should be a perfect opportunity to eat all the foods I really don’t like but are good for me. Maybe I should eat the hottest curry around, the Phal. Or maybe I should take the ultimate risk and suck on a Cod Liver oil tablet. I mean if I can’t taste or smell it, what’s the problem? Maybe I just need to disguise the way it looks and everything will be okay. In the morning I could have a fish shake, a liver sandwich at lunchtime followed by a spinach and seafood crape for dinner. Then again the subject of fooling me with food is bit of a sore point. When I was eight I was eating ‘chicken fingers’ happily for a year. Then one day after doing a bit of searching that Columbo would be proud of, I saw a Captain Birdseye box in the kitchen. All was confessed by my mum. The chicken was in fact fish and to this day I haven’t eaten it since. Call me a fussy and melodramatic person, but I wasn’t intentionally fishing for sympathy.

Man Flu. This was a description devised by woman, when men say they have got flu, it actually means they have got a cold. In essence men are moaning they are really ill when in fact they have got nothing more than the common cold. Firstly the reason why men say this is two fold. If you say you have got a cold then you are not going to be looked on favourably by your mates when you say you can’t come out for the night. You say flu, they understand. Secondly if you are going to take a day off work you can hardly say you have got a cold. Flu sounds much better. From a serious point of view it’s no wonder so few men go to the doctors when they ill. After all they are constantly being told they are over reacting when they get ill. I think it’s totally unfair that blokes get accused of over reacting when they are ill.

Anyway, must get back to my death bed, if my blog has not be updated by Tuesday please can you inform the relevant authorities and next of kin. Thanks.



November 09, 2004

Say Again

I wrote it without thinking. I said “I’ll keep my eyes peeled”. Normally I would not react, but then I suddenly remembered that my recipient was German. If translated literally, would she be worried? It got me thinking, where did theses sayings come from? Why do we use them? And do people who’s first language is not English think we are crazy for saying them?

I’ll share some examples with you.

‘Break a leg’

Now this is normally used to wish someone good luck before a stage performance, but surely the person is not being sarcastic? In fact it relates to the good old days. After a good performance the crowd would beckon the performers back on the stage to get more applause. As a result this would result in lots of bowing and curtseying which would be hard on their knees – thus breaking a leg was meant in a good way.

‘Back to square one’

What the hell is square one? Why is it square? Actually this refers to a diagram that was printed in the Radio Times between 1927 until 1940. The numbered grids aimed to help listeners follow sporting commentary on the radio.

‘In the Limelight’

Ok so this means centre of attention. I could understand the light part being some sort of spot light but why lime? Well before electricity, spotlights were created by burning lime in an oil or gas flame. The light created turned the actors a green colour so when anyone was taking centre stage, it became known as being in the limelight.

‘Let the cat out of the bag’

Ok this means whoops, I’ve let on a secret that I shouldn’t have done. But it’s a bit hard on cats surely? Well in olden days dishonest farmers would try to cheat their customers by putting cats in a bag and pretend they were selling young pigs. Unwary buyers wouldn't check what was inside until it was too late. But once the cat was let out of the bag, they knew they had been ripped off.

‘Raining cats and dogs’

Of course it doesn’t. So why say it? The problem is one day it may rain cats and dogs and nobody will believe you. It’s because Cats and dogs also caught the plague and often died in the street. When it rained very heavily the bodies of the cats and dogs would get washed into the gutter.

‘Rings a bell’

How can a name ring a bell? Is that possible? Well years ago, before email and wrist watches, church bells were rung to remind people of people of an event like the start of school or a celebration. Later town clocks were built with bells that rang every hour so people would know the time.

‘Mad as a hatter’

Who is a hatter? And why was it mad? Well Hat makers have been associated with madness since the early 19th century when they used mercury to make felt which they turned into fashionable hats. At the time, no one knew that mercury was extremely poisonous and after breathing in the fumes day after day, it caused madness. That's why people who do silly things are said to be Mad as a Hatter.

‘Off the cuff’

Ok I say something that’s unplanned, but how many people wear shirts with cuffs?
It seems for centuries gentlemen have traditionally made after dinner speeches. When thoughts flew into their minds, they didn't always have paper to hand so they wrote on their detachable shirt cuffs

‘Sleep tight’

Now I say this a lot. Why don’t I say sleep loose? Actually that would infer some kind of sexual unfavourable remark so maybe not. The thing is beds used to be built with rope pulled tightly across the bed frame and then the mattress on top. If the rope wasn't pulled tight enough then the mattress would sag and be very uncomfortable to sleep on.

‘Under the weather’

This is just plain stupid. Everyone is under the weather surely? But really when travellers or sailors were ill or seasick on boats it was better to go below decks because the boat didn't rock as much there. So they stayed "under the weather".

‘Put on your thinking cap’

If only my cap made me more intelligent. Well In the olden days when people went to court the judge donned an official cap. When he wore this cap, it meant that he had heard all of the evidence and after thinking a lot about it, he was ready to make his final judgement. Nowadays we use this term to advise people when they have something important to think about.

‘Reading between the lines’

Which lines? Well actually this used to be a way of sending secret messages by writing in between the line of other messages in invisible ink.

‘Every cloud has a silver lining’

If only id did. But what about a Golden one? Blame John Milton’s 1634 offering ‘Comus’.


‘Beat around the bush’

Now I like this one as I can be cheeky and rude. But really this saying came about when people used to hunt game. The birds were chased and scared out of their hiding place, normally a bush. They were then captured and killed. We now say don’t ‘beat around the bush’ meaning don’t procrastinate like the birds did when they hid.


‘Saved by the bell’

One of my favourite t.v shows as a kid. But the saying came from the fact that people who were thought to be dead were waking up during funerals that led to the discovery of the coma. Scratch marks were found on the underside of some coffins and fear of burying someone alive led to the tying a string to the “dead” person’s wrist. The string was attached to a nearby tree and bell. If they woke up and rang the bell, they were saved.



‘Turn the tables’

Well if I did’nt like my food as a kid I used to turn the table so I got my brothers empty plate and he got blamed. But I don’t think they based that’s saying on my fussy eating habits. In fact tables in the past had only one finished side. The family, to preserve the nice side, used the rough underside. When company would come over the whole top lifted off and the finished side was shown. Families would ‘turn the table’.

‘Mum’s the word’

Absolutely nothing to do with poor old mothers. In fact mum used to mean an ‘articulate sound’. It dates back to 1400.

‘Over the threshold’

No idea. Well actually the wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway -hence, a "thresh hold."

‘A frog in your throat’

Don’t be silly. Well they were in those days. Medieval physicians believed that the secretions of a frog could cure a cough if they were coated on the throat of the patient. The frog was placed in the mouth of the sufferer and remained there until the physician decided that the treatment was complete. "A frog in your throat"

‘Square Meal’

What’s this all about then? Only eat waffles or what? Well no the British war ships of the time of Nelson and Trafalgar had square plates to fit the tables slung between the cannons below decks. So many sailors were from such poor and under nourished backgrounds they saw this as a "Square Meal" - meaning the only good one they had had.

And finally is it called golf? Well in Scotland, a new game was invented. It one that only men could play. Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden.... and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

Anyway, I’ve got to see a man about a dog.



November 07, 2004

Breaking the job code

How do you get a job? Well most people get a newspaper or look on the Internet. So I suppose I’ll do the same. But that is only the start of it. Getting a job is like going to the dentist. Only the pain a dentist gives you is temporary.

In the past few weeks I have spent most of my life looking at job adverts, trying to decipher the code. Move to one side Mr Brown and your Davinci code. There is more important things out there to crack.


Unlocking the Job Advert code

"Competitive Salary" means:-

They remain competitive by paying less than their rivals


"Requires Team Leadership Skills" means:-

You'll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect


“Market Rate Salary” means:-

They initially advertised last week with the actual salary but had no responses. This really means based on a job title that really does not pay well

“A rapidly expanding company” means:-

Two people sitting in rented office space above a shop. When Jill goes on holiday there is nobody left to do the photocopying so they need someone urgently

“Busy Office” means:-

When you start nobody will want to help you. In fact you can look for the coffee machine yourself. If you need the toilet on your first day then…….. just don’t, use the public ones at lunchtime. If they let you out of course.

“Ability to work in a pressurised environment” means:-

Forget having a social life with anyone in the office. They all hate each really and back stabbing is rife.


“Any relevant experience would be a distinct advantage” means:-

Well actually forget about it sunshine. We will consider you if nobody else applies and we get desperate

“Fantastic opportunities for progression” means:-

If Bill who has been here for forty years finally retires like he has been saying for the past decade. Alternatively everyone hates their job and they are leaving quicker than we can get new people in

“An outgoing, friendly candidate” means:-

It will be a selling job, mainly outbound cold calling to people who do not want you to phone them at home and who certainly do not want your business. By being outgoing hopefully you will not dwell on the dismal failure of these calls too much


“Do you enjoy a challenge? Means:-

The job is impossible. Everyone else hated it and has left


“Flexibility is required” means:-

Forget about weekends out with your soon to be forgotten friends

“Looking for a strong character”

You will be the source for the blame for the whole company

So once you get past all the hidden code and find a job you think maybe suitable, it’s time to create a coded document yourself. These crafty companies then insist that you put your entire life onto two pieces of paper. And it must have a structure!


Your CV (Resume)

Personal Details

Normally you start with your name, age and where you were born. I suppose this tests your attention to detail they talk about in the adverts. But then again, they don’t know my name so if I did get it wrong they would never know. And even my dad thinks I was born in 1977 and not 1978 so I’ll get away with that.

About Me

This bit is great! Like all potential employers they want to know why you are in a situation to be applying for jobs. If you are currently employed then why do you want to leave? Do you smell? Does nobody like you? Are you no good at your job? Are you looking for more money you greedy bastard? And if you are not in a job then why not? Did you get the boot? Are you lazy? But hey, there is no pressure on this paragraph after all. I mean it’s not like first impressions count when they have five thousand c.v’s in front of them. Time for a few select words here. “Looking for a new direction” and “aiming to enhance my experience” will do.

Experience

Ok I know I was involved in that project so really I ‘project managed’ it. That will sound better. And that training course that I did to get a day off work. Ok I fell asleep half way through but I got the gist. Put it down. I know, if I write “I worked closely with Marketing” they will never know it’s because I fancied Sarah the Marketing assistant.
Skills

Now this is a difficult one. “Good team player” sounds good. Well I play football when they wanted me to play, and I always passed the ball. “Self motivated” – Well I was – I always made sure I did my work so I could leave dead on five. “Good problem solver” – of course, I was always helping out Julia with her boyfriend problems.

Education

Well let’s not talk about my A-Levels. I was out the night before my exams so less said the better. If I put four ‘A-Levels’ and just forget to put the grades, they will never know. Anyhow, General Studies is not going to help me now anyway. They want me to list my degree subjects? How am I going to explain that I did social studies because Kate did it, or I did Computer Science because Jim the guy who let me copy his work did it? I’ll blag that in the interview. At least they won’t know I was utterly amazed to get an Upper Honours – a tragedy for the other hard working people on my course who did some work and got less.

Interests

Great. They want to know what I get up to in my spare time. Do they want to be friends with me or something? I can’t put down reading and going to the gym because everyone else puts that. If I put down ‘going to the pub’ will they think I’m an alcoholic at lunch times? I know, if I put down ‘comedy’ they will think I have got a sense of humour. But do they want someone serious?

I give up. That will do. I’ll just send it off and see what they say. If they don’t want me it’s their loss. Of course not. I think I have got more to lose than them. So you have them advertising hidden meanings in their adverts to please you, you have me bending the truth to please them, why is it all so painful. The best bit is still to come. The interview.



November 05, 2004

Guy Fawkes Night

Tonight is the night when we British celebrate the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes in 1705 to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Across the land there will be bonfires in back gardens, organised firework displays and a good excuse for families to go out together to watch the sky light up. In reality twelve year old Dave from the flats down the road and his mates Tom and Simon will be setting off fireworks at passing cars and family pets whilst lighting fires in rubbish skips. I suppose everyone celebrates it their own way.

Just why we celebrate events of stupidity that happened three hundred years ago is always questionable. I mean if you are going to blow up something as big as the House of Parliament then there are a few things you should and should not do. Firstly don’t write a letter to one of the people in the Houses of Parliament and tell them to stay away that day from work. Smell a rat and all that business. Secondly if you are caught, don’t get caught with the fuses and gunpowder in your pocket. Not going to look too good in the papers the next day is it? And finally after you get caught don’t say “I wanted to kill the Queen” as this Fawkes character did. The subject of treason was a bit of a sore point in those days, execution was always looking likely. Especially harsh when you consider this meant torture in the Tower of London followed by public hanging.

The problem is that if something happened like that today we would hardly be celebrating it every year. The best it would get would be a five minute airing on ‘America’s Dumbest Criminals 2’ on cable. The fact that it was illegal not to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night prior to 1959 is even more laughable. Even more hilarious is that even today the opening of a new session of Parliament is accompanied by a searching of the basement by the Yeoman of the Guard. Ok this maybe more tradition than actual common sense, but really. And just to prove we are still stuck in a time warp, here are a few other laws which are still valid today from the strange days of old:-


> All English men over 14 are meant to carry out two hours of longbow
practice per week (supervised by the local clergy).

Yes it’s true. Forget playing golf, going down the pub or watching t.v. We should all be playing with our longbows. It’s law. I just need to find out who my clergy fella is and re-string my bow.

>It is illegal for a Member of Parliament to enter the House of Commons
wearing a full suit of armour.

Nearly as stupid as the tradition that the Houses of Parliament should be guarded by old men in tights and a sword. This was exposed hilariously when anti-fox protesters stormed the House of Commons recently and were faced by these sword welding pensioners in stockings. Unsurprisingly they got past with no trouble.


> London Hackney Carriages (taxis/cabs) must carry a bale of hay or a sack
of oats for their horse (if they've got one).


I’ve seen a lot of things in the back of cabs including sick, coins and drunk people, but I have never seen a bale of hay. Okay, maybe I have seen people getting their oats but I’m sure it’s not what they meant.


> In Chester you are allowed to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow caught inside the city walls and after midnight.

I’m yet to hear of anyone doing this yet despite the national ‘rivalry’ that exists between England and Wales.

> In Hereford you can shoot a Welsh person all day Sunday, with a Longbow, in
Cathedral Close.

It’s now I start to realise why the Welsh are not particularly fond of the English.


> And not to leave the Scot’s out. In York Upon sight of a Scotsman, it is still legal to shoot him with a bow and arrow, except on Sundays.

Damn, there is my Sunday afternoon gone.

> But finally, and probably most stupidly, it is illegal to be drunk on Licensed Premises (ie: a pub or bar).

I’m going to hand myself in now, must go.

So the next time you hear someone say “Yeah England has got so much tradition” get them to go to Chester, shoot them with a Long Bow, celebrate it by getting incredibly drunk in the pub and dress up in fancy dress armour with your mates and walk into the Houses of Parliament.





November 02, 2004

Crazy drivers and sporting hero's

I witnessed this bizarre piece of driving at the weekend. A silver Alfa Romeo was driving the wrong way down a one way road. Even more shockingly, it was driving on the narrow cycle path. Nothing ceases to amaze me now days. Quite how there was no traffic coming the other way was a miracle.

The whole point I was back to the place I grew up was to see one man. As an twelve year old kid I remembered this young and amazing footballer saving my local team, Southend United, from relegation on his own. When your team goes on to drop down the leagues after that, you tend to remember the good old days. I watched with interest as he left our club for millions, went onto play for England and then sadly wasted his talent by retiring from the game early.

If you mention the name Stan Collymore in England now, most people’s reactions would not be favourable. People would belittle his visits to the Priory clinic when he was playing. After all, how could a millionaire footballer suffer from stress? Was he worried about which car he was going to buy next or which shade of crème he was going to decorate his mansion with? Unfortunately the British public will long associate him with the indefensible Ulkrika Johnsson moment, hitting her after an argument in Paris. After finishing his book ‘Tackling my Demons’ the other day, it really makes you realise that the media can portray someone however they want to.

From a truly sporting point of view he remains my sporting hero, the chance to meet him at his book signing would be an opportunity to good to miss. Whilst waiting in the queue for an hour I was preparing all my questions, this was going to be good. Did we chat for long? Of course not, I struck the star, I mean I was star struck. Maybe it was because this guy is huge, I'm 6ft 1 and he made me look like a school kid.


Going back home always makes me laugh. Nothing ever changes. As I drove the way to my old house as I had done thousands of times in the past I became slightly agitated. The stationary traffic had blocked my way into my old street. Damn drivers. When the traffic cleared I accelerated up the street. That’s strange. Seems a bit narrow. Why are all the cars pointed the same way? Shit.













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