Thursday, March 30, 2006

Phun with fonetics...

I've spent a considerable amount of my working life in a customer service related role and as a result I like to think that I can maintain a little more patience than most, in sympathy for the poor soul at the other end of the line.

Case in point; I have been trying to register with the internet banking service that one of my credit card companies keeps pestering me about. For several months. Without success. And although I'm clearly no webmaster, I'm hardly a technophobe either. So I swallowed my pride and rang the company in question for some help. Unsurprisingly, the voice that answered was more reminiscent of a sunnier eastern location than the city 2 hours away where the bank's head offices are located.

Me: I seem to be having a problem registering for your online service
Call centre person: Sorry, I can't help with that but I'll put you through to our web support help centre. Can I help you with anything else?
Me: Actually yes, you don't seem to have my new address. I have now moved to [gave him my address]

At this point he proceeded to repeat my new address back to me using the phonetic alphabet. Now I'm not here to criticise the chap personally; indeed, his grasp of my native language was clearly much greater than mine will be of his and it is commendable that they had been taught the phonetic alphabet for such telephone confirmations, but they had obviously not been trained on how to use it.

For example, I would expect "Main Road" to be confirmed back to me as "Main - mike, alpha, indigo, november; Road - romeo, oscar, alpha, delta" and not "m as in mike, a as in alpha, i as in indigo," etc. You think I'm being petty? Even if I were to say that there are 36 characters of this I had to listen to? Back to the call:

CCP: OK we'll update that for you, is there anything else before I transfer your call?
Me: No thanks.
CCP: The line appears to be busy. While you're waiting can I tell you about our latest offers on balance transfers?
Me: No thanks, I just want to sort out the internet banking
CCP: It still appears to be busy, can I interest you in some of our insurance offers?
Me: No thanks, really, I just wanted so sort out my online registration
CCP: Still busy. Did I mention we have a low rate offer on cash advances at the moment.
Me: No, you didn't and I'm sorry but I'd rather you didn't persist with trying to sell me services whilst I'm paying for this call
CCP: No problem Sir. Oh the line appears to be free now
Me: [thinks] Well there's a surprise...
Web Support Person: I understand you have a problem signing into our internet service
Me: You see the problem is that you sent me a 16 digit number I have to enter on your screen, then a username, then a password, then a 6 digit login key, but it always throws me back out again. I answer the secret question with a response that I am 100% certain is correct after which I'm told there's another 16 digit number in the post because all online activity for the account has now been de-activated. Is there anyway we can go through this over the phone?
WSP: Well that should have worked. Are you sure you have the correct details?
Me: Yes, although I'm not 100% sure about the login key
WSP: Oh, you don't get to choose that, we generate that randomly
Me: So how do I find out what it is?
WSP: Well you need to log in first
Me: With all due respect, that appears to be where things are going wrong. If I could log on, we would not be having this conversation
WSP: Actually, its says on my screen here that your online account has been de-activated. We'll send you a new 16 digit number in the post then you can sign on again.
Me: I've had about five of these 16 digit numbers sent to me now and without wanting to sound arrogant, I don't think the problem is at this end
WSP: Well I'm afraid there's nothing you can do until your new number arrives
Me: [Beginning to think I'm talking to a loop tape and losing the will to live] OK maybe I'll try and contact you again when it arrives...

What a useless bunch of tango whisky alpha tangos...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Why bother...

Sometimes it can be a challenge trying to find something humorous to add to the blog regularly, but you can always rely on Ananova to provide you with a good story worth sharing:

Rollerblading cops scrapped

Police have scrapped a squad of Rollerblading cops - after discovering they can't chase criminals across grass.

The Royal Parks Police in London thought the Rollerblades would give the team extra speed.

According to The Sun Supt Derek Pollock admitted: "It was not a success. Not a lot of officers were interested because it hurts when you fall over. When people ran across grass, the guy on Rollerblades had to take them off."

The force has now reverted back to bicycles.

Supt Pollack added: "They go up and down steps. They're flexible."

Honestly, in a million years, I couldn't make stuff up as funny as that...

If I was a beer...

It's a long time since I've done one of these, but this one seemed somehow appropriate:


(66% dark & bitter, 33% working class, 33% genuine)

Microbrews, though obscure, are pretty tasty things, and they continually win beer contests. I, personally, have a hard time getting past the hype and the slight air of pretention that surrounds any discussion of "hoppiness," "5-star scales," and the like. But their non-working-classness notwithstanding, Microbrew is one of the best categories on this test: dignified, intelligent, rare.

Personality-wise, you have refined tastes (after all, microbrews are usually kind of expensive), but you know how to savour what you get. Your personality isn't exactly light and bubbly, but very you're well-liked by your close circle of friends. Your sense of humor is most likely on the dark side, but that's just another way to say sophisticated, right? Just remember to act like a Pabst every once in a while, and you'll be perfect.


Find out what kind of beer you would be here

I suppose I just wanted to check that these things still work...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

There's no escaping it...

Around this time last year, I was unsuspectingly caught up in Dave's unofficial stag night. It was a night of ridiculous excess in terms of food eaten, alcohol consumed and money spent; the events were catalogued here for future reference and the three of us promised that some time we would get round to giving it another go.

Well last night was the night and rather than see how much alcohol we could pour down our necks (which we know is lots) we all agreed on a couple of games of ten pin bowling and a meal, interspersed with a few liquid refreshments.

The bowling? Despite several strikes, my rusty form left me in third place in game (did I mention there were only three of us?). The meal? We went to China Town in Cleethorpes maket place and althought it's not particularly originally named, they served up some excellent food with friendly service - a definite recommendation. From there we wandered down the the No.2 Under the Clock (winners of this years local CAMRA pub of the year). It was whle enjoying a pint in there that the unthinkable happened. We'd had an excellent night and decided to draw the line there and then. Before 10:30.

I dread to think that I may be getting responsible in my old age or, dare I say it, perhaps I'm growing up at last...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dinner time...

It's Mother's Day tomorrow and this year's is a bit more special than usual seeing as Mum's been staying with Little Sis & family for the last few weeks so I'm looking forward to seeing her again.

Traditionally, I always treat her to Sunday lunch at a place of her choice and as Mother's Day co-incides with her first day back home I asked her where I should book a table. To my surprise, she asked for a repeat run of Christmas and for me to prepare a Sunday dinner at home so, my place it is.

Over the last few weeks I've been experimenting with a variety of dishes but I finally resorted to a traditional roast beef with the usual trimmings. So far, so good - the beef is cooked, carved and ready to serve tomorrow leaving the morning free to catch up on events of the last few weeks.

The only problem is that having been pottering around in the kitchen for most of the afternoon,when it came preparing something to eat for myself, I really couldn't be bothered. Meat feast pizza and garlic bread supreme it is then...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More visitors...

Another huge thanks to visitors old and new - the good ol' Bravenet hit counter passed the 7000 mark today!

In honour of this landmark event (well it is to me), I've taken a look at some 7000s (-ish) in history:

~ 7000 years ago saw the birth of the first pub, well, the Persians created bricks and wine.
~ 7000 months (approx. 583 years) ago saw the death of Richard Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, whose story is still told UK-wide each Christmas by resting actors and fading soap stars.
~ 7000 weeks (approx. 146 years) brought the arrival of one Henry McCarty, possibly better known to the world today as Billy the Kid
~ 7000 days (approx. 21 years) ago the performance of possibly the biggest and best concert ever - Live Aid (and the re-appearance of my heroes Status Quo playing live after I'd followed them for 5 gigs the previous year on their last ever "End of the Road" tour)
~ 7000 hours (approx. 10 months) ago I was celebrating my blog just having passed the 2000 hits mark (how tenuous is this getting?)
~ 7000 minutes (approx. 4 days) ago I was in the middle of one of my most lame attempts to celebrate St Patrick's Day
~ 7000 seconds (approx. 2 hours) ago I was coming down from from my first ever promotion interview over video conference. How did it go? Well I'll let you know when I get the result (hopefully within the next week).

All of which leaves the question "What will I do if I reach the 8000 hit mark?" Well I guess I've just ruled out trawling Wikipedia until I find something relevant...

Monday, March 20, 2006

A little perspective...

Yes folks, even I have room for a serious post now and then.

I'm often heard to rant (blog or otherwise) about the delights of my daily commute to Scunthorpe and back; it's not an exciting journey at the best of times.

The middle of January saw a significant chunk of the journey reduced to a single lane for essential re-surfacing of the M180 and replacing the central reservation barriers with concrete ones. No, I don't know either. Anyway, only a few weeks to go before it's over.

I also recently discovered completely by accident that the sliproad I use to get home has been closed for a few weeks for barrier repairs which means I have to go home through all of the town traffic in Scunthorpe. To say nothing of how much I love being in the town itself. Oh, I did - nothing.

Tonight, I crept out of the office a few minutes early to miss the traffic and found the A18 out of town somewhat more congested than usual. At this point I heard Sally Traffic on Radio 2 say that "there is major congestion around the M180 and the police advise that you avoid the area completely". Kind of difficult when it's the main thoroughfare home. As more reports came on the radio and I had not moved for 40 minutes, it became apparent that the entire area for several miles around had become gridlocked and showed little sign of clearing.

Ho-hum. I do know the surrounding areas quite well and while the thunder clouds were being held at bay, I thought I'd take the really scenic route and spent the next two hours traversing the winding country lanes across the wolds, encountering numerous more road repairs taking place. I do sometimes wonder if there's any truth in the rumour that the local councils and Highways Agency see the end of the fiscal year approaching, realise they have surplus budget left and dig like there's no tomorrow.

Anyway, I arrived home over two hours late and switched on my mobile to find to messages from well-wishing friends warning me of the delays (not that I had much choice but facing some of them), but I also found out that there was at least one fatality as a result of one of two major accidents that were at the root of it all.

So, despite the fact that there were hundreds of us silently raging inside our cars in the region this evening, I can't help but think of the people who are probably still waiting for someone to arrive home, thinking they are just running a couple of hours late...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Paddy's Day...

This year I felt more compelled than ever to celebrate St. Patrick's Day following our most enjoyable trip to the Emerald Isle earlier this year. Well it wasn't for the lack of trying. I put away several pints of the black stuff (is it still PC to call it that?), Little Em & I enjoyed a lovely steak dinner and the usual Friday crowd were all present and in good form. However, for some reason I still felt compelled to call it a night at 10:00pm. I even cracked open a bottle of Jamesons when I got home and rang out for more food, but something still wasn't quite right.

Is it possibly because man-flu appears to be doing the rounds again? Maybe my alcohol tolerance has finally dropped back down to human levels?

No, I'm afraid it might be that in the back of my mind, I'm worried that when we face Ireland in the Six Nations tomorrow, we put up a similar display as we did against France last week. I'm no expert, but I can say without fear of contradiction that it wasn't much fun to watch. Let's hope the Irish team have more success in achieving inebriation tonight than I did...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A few lessons...

I'm guessing everyone already knows this but here's a little reminder just in case:

1. Never go shopping for food when you're hungry

2. If you really must ignore rule 1 then make sure you have a comprehensive list with you

3. If you are irresponsible enough to ignore rules 1 and 2 then at least have the decency to eat some of the food you have just spent an entire fortune on rather than ringing out for a pizza whilst you're putting it all away.

In terms of lessons still to be learnt, I found out today that I have my first interview over video conference next week so I suppose that will be a good time to find out whether it's a good thing to do or not...

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I got in from work last night and in the midst of my rushing round getting ready to go straight back out again, I noticed the answerphone light flashing. I thought it better to check it in case it was something important and it turned out to be a young lady asking me to call a local number. Not a number I recognised, but hey, give them a call anyway. Engaged. Tried again. Still engaged. Decided it was probably just a telesales call then and carried on getting ready. Tried one last time just as I was ready to leave and

[ring, ring]
Girl: Hello Surgery...
Me: *Gulp* Hi, you left a message asking me to call you
Girl: Can you confirm your name and address please?
Me: *Bigger gulp* [confirmed name & address]
Girl: Thanks. It's about the lump you had removed last week. We've had it analysed and we've just got the results back
Me: *Huge gulp and breaking out into a cold sweat* I didn't realise you were sending it away - nobody said anything
Girl: Yes it's routine practice, we always get these things checked out just in case
Me:*Gulping, sweating and starting to feel decidedly incomfortable* and...?
Girl: Everything was fine. It was just a normal lipoma
Me: *Sigh* That's great, thanks very much

It's better to know these things I suppose, but it would have been less of a shock if I'd known it was being checked out.

Anyway, that was last night's excuse for a few beers, now for today. Oh, it's Six Nations Rugby on the big screen, so it would be rude to stay in and miss it...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No smirking...

So with today passes another poorly publicised No Smoking Day. I remember commenting last year that I'm sure they laid the guilt on much more heavily when I was smoking and I only discovered it today by accident.

All the same, I hope that plenty of you out there use today as an excuse to give it a go. I accept that I've certainly found it easier than many but if I have to pass on one tip, I would suggest that you look out for stuff by Allen Carr. I know several people who found his book really helpful although as I am always in search of the most economical solutions, I found enough inspiration on his website to convince me to stop.

How am I doing? Well I still refuse to admit that I've given up - I prefer saying that I've just stopped for now. However, if I may be allowed a brief moment to pat my own back, I've added a counter to the bottom of the blog to help me keep track of time. I can't believe I've been smoke-free so long.

One thing that ought to be smoking is my G-mail inbox. I've finally had enough of clearing out 40 or so messages every day from complete timewasters (I assume all automated) so I'm afraid all e-mail links have been taken off the blog, although you can still leave comments in the usual way. What I will say in G-mail's favour is that it does filter them quite effectively, but I'm curious to discover whether this is where they were all coming from. And after all, there are only so many offers for cheap pharmaceuticals, free software or appendage enhancement that anyone could possibly be interested in...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Telling porkies...

Every now and then you stumble across a story that whether actually true or not, is too funny to keep to yourself.

One such occasion arose when I had been talking to one of the neighbours at my last house and it turned out she used to work with a number my then colleagues at a local printers. When I next went to work, I asked if any of them knew her and they all did; some of them adding the comment "Isn't she the one who got married to Pork Pie?"

There had to be a story behind a nickname like that and sure enough, they had known this chap from many years ago when they all worked together and one particular morning he needed to go to the newsagents and asked if anybody wanted anything. One of the requests apparently went as follows:

Can you pick us up a pack of fags?
Sure, which ones to you want?
Get me twenty Bensons
What if they haven't got Bensons?
Well just bring back anything

And apparently, that's why they called him Pork Pie...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Life socks...

I've blogged several times in the past about my need for routine and my strange little neuroses, but I suspect things are seriously getting out of hand.

Whilst out on Boxing Day looking at the sales, I was in the very unusual position of being past Christmas Day and in need of some new socks. Without searching too hard, I managed to find several sets of them in the sales, but the ones that caught my eye were those with days of the week on them. Novel idea I thought and bought 2 sets with Monday to Friday designs on them and some non-descript ones for the weekends. Finally, I could throw out all of the well-worn hole-riddled socks.

The problem is that now I have to wade though a drawer full of socks every weekday morning because it's unthinkable to wear the wrong day's socks. The things in life I have to endure...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Do not adjust your set...

So I thought I'd give the old blog a bit of a new look. Why?

Because it's over 15 months since the last change?
To mark the fact I've had nearly 7000 visits to the site?
Maybe it's a celebration of having passed my 200 post mark?
More likely because I needed to kill some time whilst it was snowing outside and I was determined to have a Saturday off the beer.

Either way I'm still not too clever at the HTML so please bear with me while I get everything set up properly...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Such stamina...

I guess I knew I was onto a winner with the stay-off-the-beer-athon.

4:30 last night and a found myself in the Tap with a pint of Hobgoblin. Followed by a few more. Well I got an unexpected refund from the Land Registry so I felt the need to celebrate.

By my reckoning I survived 5 days, 20 hours and 40 minutes without a beer. And I did leave early last night. Of course that had nothing to do with snow settling on the roads and my wanting to make sure I could get a taxi...

Friday, March 03, 2006

If your face fits...

I found a link on Used Hack's blog last night which I found to hard to resist (what with my new look and all!)

Pay a visit to My Heritage and upload a photo of yourself, after which they scan it, compare it to their archives and tell you which celebrities you look like.

Anybody reading this who actually knows me will fall about laughing when they see my celebrity lookalikes (possibly as much as I did):

Just to clarify: Jason Priestley, Bruce Willis, Ashton Kutcher, Edgar Allan Poe, D.H.Lawrence and Jackie Stewart - it's just like flicking through a family album...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Decisions, decisions...

Well there I was thinking I was in a dilemma yesterday.

Thanks to Em & Dec's comments to yesterday's post it looks like a break from the booze could be on the cards for March. Is such a thing possible? I did give up for three months once and I still remember how good that first pint was. That said, it would give me a chance to save a few pounds in the bank and no doubt, to lose a few more around the waist.

Does anybody believe I am capable of such an extraordinary feat? Least of all do I? After all, I do already have plans for March:
For starters, the Six Nations comes to a conclusion this month and that could warrant some refreshment whichever way it turns out.
I hardly see Mothering Sunday passing without a tipple or two (26th March - no excuses now guys).
March the 27th, Dave, Dom & I have called "party" in honour of this expedition last year. We've all promised it will be a more sensible occasion than that one, but I doubt it will be a sober event.
Really going out on a limb, I have a promotion application going through right now which could also provide an excuse, however that turns out.

See how good I am at digging up excuses when the need arises? It's not looking hopeful is it? And take a look at this video attached to the first e-mail I opened this evening. OK, it doesn't really count as beer I suppose but it's the principle of the thing. (By the way, thanks Tom!)

Perhaps I should just start by giving up for a few days. Let's see if work tomorrow is as stressful as today has been, because by tomorrow night it will be almost a week since my last drink...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

OK, I give up...

Lent begins today and I've been trying to think of something appropriate to give up for forty days. It's not that I'm short of vices it's just I have the same problem trying to pick New Years resolutions - I just need something that I stand half a chance at.

So let's consider the options:
Beer - don't be ridiculous
Cigarettes - did that already
Chocolate - hardly touch the stuff
Breakfast bacon butties - maybe, but too tempting at work
Fried food - very rarely eat any (prefer my food grilled)
Junk TV - struggle to find much TV that isn't
Celibacy - I'm not sure if my memory's that good

After much consideration throughout the day, I've finally thought of something based on my experiences over the last couple of weeks. I'm going to see if I can survive the next forty days without letting somebody jab needles into my body. I've certainly no plans for any further surgery and Stewarts Tattoo studio is bound to be booked up for the next few weeks.

Having said that, I've almost decided on the next design and I am on holiday the week after Easter...