Saturday, 28 May 2011


There are a great many things around today that exist specifically to make our lives easier, supposedly. You will hear, read or watch as some mouth piece tries to put forward the notion some change they're making is for your benefit, it'll make your life easier, you'll spend less time doing what ever it was you did before by doing it this new way, supposedly.

I'll say it on behalf of all of us, you're fooling no one.

Although the list is probably endless, just this week a number of situations have conspired (not limited to trying to pay a utility bill on line) where by you have to ask; why is this better? The truth is its got nothing to do with you and everything to do with their profits. It doesn't matter how they dress it up, only the most extreme idiot falls for it, oh look, my bank has a customer's charter and they've signed it, all my banking woes begone! It's just a wee bit patronising (and I can't say anything bank related without making known my loathing for the Halifax adverts, I could on and on but let me just say they're less of an advert for banking than for electric shock treatment, which is to say, I'm not sure if they've all had it already, if they haven't, as Scrappy-Doo used to say: 'lemme at 'em!'.)

Back tracking slightly, the utility bill I couldn't pay on line, I still couldn't pay online because I didn't have my card reader thingy about my person. Is not the whole point of having internet banking for the convenience? Being able to pay stuff anywhere? Not so with my crowd, I have to carry a small calculator type thing around with me, its too big to go in a wallet and if you sit on it goes without saying it would break into a million pieces. So banking on the move is only really so if you're happy to carry the equivalent of a TV remote control around, I suppose you could plan ahead but what happened to convenience? The final irony is, if you're stupid enough to get scammed online you're probably to stupid to work the thing anyway; we're trying to pay a bill not launch a space rocket.

Supermarkets are next on my ever expanding list. I'm going to show my age and recall the days when supermarkets weren't so super, atleast not in terms of size and choice. Back in the day you had the pick of two types of bread, well three actually; brown, white and that heavy leaden stuff that you couldn't chew which had wrought iron crusts on the top and bottom edges; a plain loaf? Now there are a gazillion different types to choose from, I'm not a good shopper, in fact I'm a quandry-shopper; every choice is an excruciating decision; there is a German saying for this: 'die Qual der Wahl' meaning the Torture of Choice. Is having four million different loafs of bread a good thing? Would we miss it if we only had, say, two million to choose from? If I don't nip things in the bud, I start to wander up and down the bread aisle in a fug of indecision, I turn at each end mulling over the choices on levels of consciousness I didn't know I had, what I call Supermarket Autopilot. Eventually my wanderings begin to collapse in on themselves until I'm walking in ever decreasing circles, later I can be seen corkscrewing gently in front of the seeded batch loafs humming gently under my breath. I'm sure people stare but since I vacated my body some time ago (my essence probably gone to the drinks aisle) I don't really notice.

Eventually I walk out the building with a pork pie and some diet coke, its the best I can do.

Mobile phone shops, is there a mobile phone shop that doesn't involve getting into a war of wills as soon as you set foot in the door, two things normally happen, you're either ignored entirely or several overly-made-up, fragrant sales staff surround you and start a war for your soul (and that's just the male staff.) I know I need a new phone so we're half way there, by the end of the experience I want nothing to do with anything approaching a mobile telephone, bullied, cajolled, pressured, blackmailed or bribed. I wouldn't be surprise if they have hidden cameras in the toilets. "Hi, yes you used our toilet? Right, well if you buy this phone (it's the most expensive one we have) then we won't put the video of you peeing and scratching your arse on youtube, deal?" Mark my words because I was right about the iphone.

Iphones. Its a phone, you're using your phone, you need to answer the phone (which is rude if you're already talking with someone,) someone is ringing you on your phone, none of this "uuh, yuh, listen it's Mungo, I need to take this call on my iphone yuh?' It's probably quite a good phone but many of the people who buy them turn in to massive twats, they just do, a bit like Invasion of the Body Snatchers except people are replaced by wanker versions of themselves. I meet friends for drinks or I should say I meet friends and their iphones for drinks, no sooner have you sat down than out it pops, it's technological mastarbation of the worst kind and you should stop it lest you lose the abililty to decide for yourself. There's an app for everything is there? The entire phone is an app for destroying normal social interaction; I hate them passionately.

Computers in general have pervaded normal everyday life, in call centres they're used extensively to piss people off, hold on, I mean deal with our calls, the laptop on which I'm typing this is just as lairy. I turn it on then go and make tea in the knowledge that it will update stuff then restart then update more things then restart again and so on. Occasionally it will pause in this loop for long enough to let me type something like this, lucky you, or not as the case may be.

Convenience? I think not, how can talking to a man in Mumbai be more convenient if you want to know what time a train leaves Edinburgh Waverley (for example) than talking to someone at Edinburgh Waverley? (I once asked an Indian chap on the phone at Virgin TV what time it was where he was, he said '...same time it is where you are sir, I'm in Edinburgh too.')

Turns out it's just a massive collective corporate typo, when a company says its for our convenience they're not lying.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


(I wrote this a while ago, I am no longer approaching 33 years of age, I'm looking at it in my inner rear view mirror as it recedes in to the distant past along with any hope of getting laid, being able to do a hand stand or getting on the bus for a half.)

I've never liked birthdays, well, I did when I was younger; you got given things for free. I remember on my 5th birthday getting an excellent book about dinosaurs, stangely, I don't recall having a 6th birthday, I think they must have forgotten that one. But what does it mean, symbolically and in the real world. What are you allowed to do after that you couldn't do before?

Starting at the beginning, obviously the day you're born is important because, ummm, that was the day you were born. Moving along... When you're one you can probably gurgle and vomit on yourself with more precision. On to two, Ummm, you might be crawling or something... Truth is, I don't know anything about babies other than they smell, leak and all look the same, which is to say; rather ugly.

So fast forward to ten, its important. You're into double figures. When you're ten, you can slag hell out of nine year olds and tell them they're crap. Also, you become criminally responsible. If a court can prove that you knew what you were doing, you get tried as an adult, (but not sentenced as one.) What this means is, if you steal a car, they'll probably send you on a character building safari in Kenya.

Moving along...

So: Thirteen, gosh you're a teen and all growed up. There isn't anything you couldn't do at 12 that you could do at 13. If you're Jewish, you'd be having your Bar Mitzvah, no idea what that means, I think its just an excuse for a party. If you lived in burkino Faso, you can pretty much do what the hell you like at 13; drink, hoor it up and get married.

Next milestone is 16... Oh the freedom, you can buy glue and scissors. You can get married, join the army (but not fight yet.) You can buy a lottery ticket... Oh, whats the other thing? Ummm, erm... Hold on, its on the tip of my tongue... Oh! Sex, you can have sex with someone else for a change! Yeehaw, in reality though, most of you have been learning about STI's first hand for a good year or so anyway, so its a bit of an anti-climax, (if you'll excuse the term.) Hold on, looking around, I might take that back...

While the age of consent for both straight and gay sex is now 16 in this country, its 17 for both in Northern Ireland. In Mexico its 12 (as long as your partner is of a similar age) and in Belgium all sex is banned... No its not, I made that up.

Onto 17, there's driving and riding a bike. I know, you can get a moped at 16 but whats the point, you'd be quicker walking...

Ooooh 18!! Fantastic, you can buy booze! Again this is a bit of an anticlimax because you've no doubt been boozing for a few years anyway. I suppose if you look young and can't get served, you'll manage it now. You can vote too, except if you live in Uzbekistan, in which case you'll need to wait until your 25. If you live on the Isle of Man, you'd have been eligible to vote for two years. If you've been daft enough to join the army, you can be sent to war. In Scotland you can now buy cancer sticks, (it used to be 16.)
The next one is 21, its more symbolic than anything, you're no longer a youth, shop assistants will no longer look THROUGH you, but AT you. Other adults (because that's what you are now: Old!) talk TO you, not AT you. If I hated one thing about being young, it was this, at least when you're older, people have to listen and they can't tell you what to do. You can also hire a car now, don't all rush out at once...

Now it gets a wee bit boring, the only thing that'll change are your insurance premiums, unless you're a complete tit in your motor they should go down. When you turn 33, (what a horrible boring age to be!) nothing changes, its just another tick on life's clock, one step closer to middle age, how boring.

Its just as well I'm not going to be 33, I'll only be 24 on my birthday. Yes, my parents lied all these years, it wasn't just my 6th birthday they missed out... I'm only 23, I had a hard paper round so look a bit older. Fuck, who am I kidding! I like being old, you get to drink & smoke, stay up late, eat crusty bread and buy as many sweets as you like, you can also say cock, bastard and shite and not get into trouble: Its definitely better than being 15.

That is all.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Utilities not being utilitarian.

To give you an idea of what I do with my spare time. I enjoy concocting letters to lairy utility companies.

Dear Steve (Hayfield).

I have on a number of occasions tried to get in touch via your 'Contact Us' page by email to ascertain the bank account details where I can deposit my final bill payment with EDF, to date I've received no response other than a letter inviting me to phone your call centre. Unfortunately I suffer from a largely unreported allergy called Acute Call Centre Dyspathy, symptoms are brought on by call centre-based telephone conversations and numerical decision making and appear in the form of uncontrollable verbal outbursts, anger management problems and erotic hallucinations. (If I'm being honest, I don't mind the latter but I need to have the candles set out in advance.)

I've also had a number of phone calls from a computer which claims to be working for EDF, two things here, firstly, I asked it to confirm who it was for security purposes but it didn't answer, secondly it then went on to refer to itself as 'I' several times which to me is very creepy and puts me in mind of HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey and a previously repressed memory of a childhood incident with a Speak & Spell machine.

I have your letter in front of me advising I can pay at a 'paypoint' machine, I think I've seen these in shops around town but have avoided them due to the long lines of unwashed people waiting to buy powercards, at the risk of coming over as a snob, I don't really identify with that social demographic so don't see why I should stand near them in a shop, also, I have a good internet connection in the parlour so can pay via that method if...

...You could supply me with bank account details into which it can be paid, I know you have bank accounts because yours is a big company, I also know even although EDF is French owned, France has banks and bank accounts too, indeed, a prominent French banker is currently in the news, it seems he is having similar problems to me in-so-far as he was also having trouble making a deposit.

Finally, please do not instruct your Collection Management Team to contact me as the allergic reactions I described above will surely kick in, I'm currently working in a very public place so could be in trouble with my employers on the very rare off-chance I could answer the phone during the day. Of course, if someone from that team were to send bank details via email, I could pick that up and make payment as soon as this evening leaving any potential call centre phone calls purely for personal entertainment purposes.

In any case, I look forward to your email response and at this time; reaffirm my intention to pay this bill as soon as you can provide those bank details.

Votre sincèrement

Update 24/05/11

I did get a letter from another person at EDF (not the Collection Management Team.) I replied asking if any of the signatories to these letters were real people or just constructs manufactured to make us believe the staff at EDF didn't just count money and listen to people curse while listening to The Girl from Ipanema for the eighth time while waiting for a non- existent operative to deal with their call.

Dear Mr Brown

Thank you for your email please be assured that Steve and I do exist and are both concerned when we receive emails like yours.

The details you are asking for can be found on the back of our bills but I also detail them below;

EDF Energy account No. 40951056 Sort code 40-05-30 please ensure you quote your energy account No. to ensure the correct posting of your money. In the meantime I will make sure that no further action is taken until your payment is received.

Please accept my apologies for the obvious frustration that you have experienced.

Richard Browning

There you go, I'm somewhat mollified but still think utility companies exist mostly to frustrate us all.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I unplugged my TV.

Which is why I'm here, not because I think I have anything to write which is worth reading.

I've been thinking about putting it away for a few days, what do I actually watch which is worth the time it takes to, erm, watch it? I come home from work, put it on and I'm over come by an urge to do little but sit and dribble, ditto when I get out of bed on the weekend. The only other time I dribble like this is if I find myself on public transport and want the seat to myself.

Soaps. If I wanted to look at miserable people I'd look out the window, if I develop a burning desire to know what's going on in Eastenders etc I'll pick a copy of The Sun out of a bin, they report happenings in the soaps as if its real news anyway or I'll visit my Mum.

The News. Varying degrees of how fucked we all seem to be, indeed we are so fucked, if we were literally fucked to the point reported on television news, we'd all be running around in wheel chairs because the panoply of sexually transmitted diseases we'd have contracted would have rotted our legs away from beneath us.

American Drama. Some of it is ok but why are they all so good looking, ultimately it only serves to remind us all of how ugly and fat we are (just me then?) CSI this CSI that, why do all their computers beep inexplicably? I've been around, things don't beep as much in real life as much as they do in telly land. And House, he's just a smug bastard, what is so good about that?

US Teen TV. Loathsome, utterly and completely loathsome. My Super Sweet Sixteen, they should change the title to Young People Who You'll Want to Throttle, here finally is an argument for waterboarding.

Reality TV. I can't watch it, it's got nothing to do with reality, nothing at all. It's an opportunity for people who should remain unknown to wank their ego in front of an audience. Alan Sugar on The Apprentice; its big ego circle-jerk; I can't bear to watch it and I can't bear to watch the simpering clinging greasy little sycophants that apply to be on the show.

Films. I watch the occasional film but I can do that on a laptop can't I?

Dross. This is the collective term for anything on Dave, it's all eminently watchable but that's the problem, it adds no value to life in general, for my own good I have to get rid of it. All of the other stuff is annoying for a specific reason, dross on the other hand is much more dangerous because it draws you in like a Triffid, I walk past the TV and Mock the Week or Top Gear will be on so I might pause, maybe sit down. Before I know it hours, perhaps days have passed, I have more grey hair, my stomach grumbles because I forgot to eat and my toe nails have grown through the ends of my slippers.*

So it had to go and this is what I'm doing in its place. I don't care if no one reads this, I know I'm supposed to say that so let me say I actually do care. This is me at my most craven, seeking, NO! demanding the attention of as many people as possible, why? because my ego won't masturbate itself.

* Yes, I have slippers and very comfortable they are too.