Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seal with a kiss...

Listening to the radio on my way into work the other morning, I heard Terry Wogan comment after playing Kiss From a Rose by Seal that it was a beautiful song, but he had absolutely no idea what it was all about.

On the CD sleeve notes, Seal actually says that he prefers not to print the lyrics to his songs as it's the general vibe that he is trying to get across and the listeners are able to take their own interpretation from it.

With that in mind and after the fun I had making the Christmas one, I thought it would be an opportunity for me to put together another one of my literal (i.e. silly) videos, or if you prefer, what BBC news teams would put on the screen if the song was played during one of their bulletins...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Any excuse...

Despite all of the financial doom and gloom lurking at the moment, there are a couple of good excuses for celebration on the horizon.

Tonight of course is Burns night. I can't lay claim to any Scottish heritage that I'm aware of, but that won't deter me from having a wee dram later on in honour of the Scottish bard. I believe it falls under the "rude not to" category.

Tonight is also Chinese New Year's Eve as tomorrow sees the arrival of the year of the ox. Again, I'm quite certain I can't lay claim to any Chinese ancestry, but I understand the ox symbolises prosperity though hard work so let's hope that we can all look forward to some fruitful rewards for our efforts this year.

Had I realised earlier, I would have used the excuse to have a play in the kitchen. I've yet to try haggis and I've frequently knocked together a sweet and sour something-or-other, but yesterday I made a delicious steak and ale casserole that I'm afraid I can't wait to finish off.

Closer to home, we've one more celebration pending. It's Emma's birthday next weekend and seeing as I didn't get to the pub for Christmas, New Year or my birthday, I'll be out on Saturday night for a long awaited reunion with the pint glass.

Only a short-lived reunion though. I've finally got the running machine back into my daily routine after a four month break so I'm hoping that I can finally start chipping away at the weight again having managed to maintain last years weight loss. However, if this last weeks results are anything to go by, it's not going to be as easy...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Highway Robbery...

Apparently this issue has been known about for a little while now, but I've only just heard about it and thought it was worth sharing.

Do you have a UK photocard driving license that looks something like this?

(click for larger image)

Do you know when it expires? Are you sure?

You are probably aware that your driving entitlement expires on your 70th birthday and if you turn your card over, you will see valid to and from dates alongside each of the vehicle categories you are permitted to drive.

But did you know the actual license expires after ten years? If you look at the minuscule writing to the left on the reverse of your license you will see a key to the numbered information on the front, including "4b. license valid to"

(click for larger image)

So your driving entitlement continues until you are 70, but you must update the photo on your license every 10 years. Current renewal cost is £17.50 and it's been estimated that the treasury will net £437 million over 25 years from this lot.

Of course, you could choose not to bother renewing, but then you run the risk of a £1000 fine for driving without a valid license.

At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On the plus side...

One of the things I do enjoy about Virgin Media TV is the "catch-up" facility where you can watch missed episodes of your favourite shows. Personally, there is very little I'll go out of my way to watch, but the aforementioned feature brought a new Channel 4 comedy to my attention, Plus One.

Basically, it's about a bloke who's girlfriend has just dumped him to go out with Duncan from the boy band Blue and his endeavours to get an impressive "plus one" to accompany him to their wedding. Fair play to Duncan James, he's certainly not afraid to send himself up.

It's the most I've laughed out loud at a TV programme since the last series of Mock the Week finished and I heartily recommend you check it out. It's back on Channel 4 next Friday night at 9:30 or you can find out more here where you can also catch up with the first two episodes...

You don't know until you ask...

While the financial climate is in it's current condition, I think you can be forgiven for pushing your luck with sales people.

It's been in the back of my mind for a while now that I ought to give Virgin Media a call to discuss what they are charging me for my TV, phone and broadband internet package. Not that I think I've got a particularly bad deal at the moment, but it irritated me to see that they appear to tempt in new customers buy offering my package at half price, but do little to reward existing ones for their loyalty.

I wasn't overly surprised to hear that the half price deal is only available to brand new customers so by being a loyal, trouble free, timely regular-paying customer for over three years, I didn't qualify. Then young laddo starts with his sales pitch:

Pitch one: he could give me a free weekday phone calls and upgrade my broadband service to 10MB for only another 95 pence a month. Quite tempting, except that I don't really need cheaper weekday calls as most of the ones I make are on Skype which cost nothing. Perhaps he could find a package that would actually save me money.

Pitch two: existing phone package, existing TV package and 10MB broadband for a reduction of £3.50 a month, the only catch being that I would have to subscribe to a new 12 month contract. I admit, he almost had me there. It was only when he went off to check some details that I decided to push them further. I actually get by quite nicely with my current 2MB a month and if they can offer this 10MB package for a £3.50 reduction, surely they can reduce the cost of my existing package even further. Apparently he couldn't, but facing the harsh reality that he had just lost his sale, he somewhat begrudgingly put me through to customer services.

As it turned out, they couldn't offer anything better either, beyond knocking another £1 a month off for e-billing rather than paper bills. Rather more worryingly, they advised me that the 10MB deal in pitch two would only last for a month after which it would revert to my existing speed (unless of course I chose to upgrade at that point). Apparently, it's not unusual for their sales team to overlook this short term detail.

So while I consider the virtues of Freeview over cable TV and how necessary a landline really is, at least I am happy in the knowledge that my call to them didn't cost anything...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Me and my big mouth...

It's always a dead giveaway when you pick up the ringing phone and there is a momentary pause at the other end while their auto dial system does the equivalent of calling across the office "hey up, we've got a live one here!"

A girl at the other end with more accent than dialogue asked me how I was this evening then proceeded to waffle on without pausing to hear my reply.

"I'm calling you from ???????". Believe me, I would tell you if I could have understood her and was still no better off after asking her to repeat the name twice.

She continued "I'm pleased to tell you that your name has been pulled out of our prize draw and you have won a prize worth 12 thousand euros"

"I haven't entered any prize draws" I replied in my best faux-naive voice "but I am registered with the Telephone Preference Service so I sincerely hope this isn't a thinly veiled attempt to try and sell me something"

"Very sorry sir, we will remove your name from our database"

Unfortunately she hung up too quickly to tell me the rest of the details of my prize...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

All together now...

A pea berth data ewe too if you are Emile Heskey, Dean Reynolds, Brian Robson, John Sessions, Arthur Scargill or one of the millions of other people celebrating today...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Look at these...

For some bizarre reason I feel compelled to share this picture of a part of my anatomy that none of you will ever have seen before.

You'll be relieved to hear this is obviously totally innocent. When you have an eye test with Vision Express, they now offer an additional service where they take a photograph of each retina so the health and condition of your eyes can be examined more thoroughly. Then they store the pictures in a secure site on the internet where anyone who has need to can look over them. I couldn't resist.

The verdict? Apparently they are in pretty good condition except for a mysterious shadow lurking behind one of them. They assure me that it's probably just the eyeball equivalent of a harmless freckle, but now they know it's there they are referring me to a specialist to investigate further.

Oh whoopee, a bit more excitement to kick off the new year...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Out with the old...

It may be the time of year to be considering resolutions again but I'm running short of ideas.

Thankfully I've just passed the 4 year milestone of non-smoking and although temptation has been greater of late, I'm pleased that I've managed to resist so far.

My alcohol intake took a huge nosedive towards the end of last year and having just learnt that my new specs are going to cost me over 170 quid, I certainly won't be going out anywhere this month, possibly even longer.

Of course, I can't overlook the success with the weight loss last year. Two and a half stone down from where I started, I fully intend to get back on the old running machine and see if I can shed a couple more.

The one major factor I need to focus on this year is getting my work/life balance back in order, which despite good intentions last year still had far too much emphasis in the wrong area. Something has got to be wrong when you feel pleased that you only worked 4 weeks worth of unpaid overtime last year as opposed to 8 weeks in the previous one. It's heading in the right direction I guess but I don't see pressures of work relieving to make 2009 much of an easier ride.

As if to deliberately catch me at the first hurdle, I received a call this afternoon asking if I can start three hours earlier tomorrow. Well of course I said yes - I was caught off guard by receiving a call at home on a Sunday and it's not as though I had got anything else planned at that time of the morning tomorrow...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Altruism. It's not for me...

Happy New Year everyone!

I've just got back from a very enjoyable break to see the New Year in with Andy, Sharon & little Laura and although I don't usually do the whole New Year thing, it was nice to get away for a couple of days.

So back to the first witter of the year. I'll spare you the tale of how I managed to ruin a completely good set of specs, despite my not feeling overly drunk when I eventually turned in. I say that, but my head the next morning gave a tell-tale clue to the 20-odd bottles of various real ales we managed to put away between 5pm and 3 the next morning.

The nearest Vision Express to where I was staying couldn't repair rimless glasses so I resorted to driving home this afternoon wearing prescription sunglasses. As luck would have it the sun actually shone so I didn't look the monumental tosser the occasion might have warranted.

Anyway, with eye test appointment arranged back in Grimsby for tomorrow, I set off for home then suddenly remembered there was a blood donor session in the neighbouring village. I had to miss the last session at my usual venue as I was out of town that day, but knowing they are always desperate for donations this time of year, I took the chance of just dropping in.

They do operate an optional appointment system now that helps them to organise staffing but you can never be sure how many impromptu donors will show up so sometimes you may need to wait a little beyond your appointment time.

For the first time in my 25 years as a blood donor, I felt truly embarrassed tonight as people started complaining that they "had better things to do than wait around all afternoon" and left without giving a donation. Worse still, they made a point of doing so with raised voices to the poor nurses who were clearly busy enough trying their best to reduce waiting times for the more patient among us.

Where the hell do these morons get off? Before the appointment system, it was perfectly acceptable to wait around for as long as it took, but now they can give an indication of when you might be donating, apparently it's supposed to be exact to the minute. Worse still, what is ever going to be achieved by shouting at the poor nurses? I'm pretty certain they all have places they would much rather be.

Please don't let any of this put you off though. I was less than an hour from getting out of the car to getting back in again, a pint of blood lighter (well, about 470ml actually); a small price to pay for the proud claim that it may save someones life. I make no apology for promoting this at any opportunity so please click on Billy's image below where you can find out more, or better still, see where the next session is near you...