One of my photos

Being a pioneer

April 20th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Politics

I don’t usually join the Daily Mail/UKIP  rant about political correctness gone mad or nanny state health & safetyism. As Stewart Lee says, political correctness is basically just being polite and respectful, and as far as H&S complaints are concerned I always want to ask the complainer whether it is safety or health that they object to. Furthermore, most of the tabloid examples of health & safety or political correctness gone mad are either inventions, exaggerations, misunderstandings or urban myths, like many of the stories about EU regulations.

But having said all that, there are two bits of mealy-mouthed language that have been niggling me. The first is our new shower. The shower was replaced last year and the temperature control on the new one is not labelled “hot” and “cold” but “warmer” and “cooler”. Really. Who ever says “I really feel like a warm shower”? The irony is that, despite the cuddly labelling the temperature dial still works way all showers do – there is a tiny sweet spot and if you move the dial a fraction either way you either get freezing or scalding.

The other bit of language manipulation concerns the forthcoming elections where we appear to not have paper candidates any more. Instead we have “pioneer candidates”. Nobody consulted us about this or even told us it was coming, we just started seeing the term crop up with no explanation.

I don’t know if it is intended to make paper candidates feel better about themselves or a dressing up of the job title to make people less reluctant to apply. I do hope not. As a serial paper candidate I have to say that I don’t object to being called a paper candidate at all. I always considered it quite an honourable thing to do, whatever it is called and was proud to be a paper candidate – at least you can’t be accused of being in it for the money if you stand for Labour in Horsham!

There may be another reason for the terminology. It could be a bit of a motivational, business jargon sort of reason which is meant to give the impression that you are not standing in an unwinnable area but are instead establishing a presence to make an area a future target seat.  That is a bit better but still a bit of a weaselly euphemism.

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April 14th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

Blackburn Buccaneer at Gatwick Aviation Museum

Blackburn Buccaneer at Gatwick Aviation Museum

We had our grandson, Alfie, visiting over the weekend so I thought I would take him along to the Gatwick Aviation Museum to look at the planes there. In all the time I have lived here I have never got round to visiting before so I figured it was about time. I also decided to take my camera along, having realised that I haven’t used it at all this year.

This is a place I would have loved to visit when I was about 12, and fortunately I turned into a 12-year-old when I got there. [Read more →]

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Where does he get those wonderful toys?

April 7th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Right now I’m l’m listening to Prince’s soundtrack to the Batman film. I don’t care what anybody else thinks, but I liked that album when it came out and it is still good to listen to now. It got me to thinking about the Batman films, and thinking about two things in particular.

Firstly it got me thinking about the logo. It must be one of the best bits of movie branding ever. A proper icon of a logo, it appeared on the posters and everywhere, but it wasn’t totally standalone because it also appeared in the film (or near enough – the symbol on Batman’s chest had a slightly diffrent design I think). I know I used to have a pair of black socks with the bat logo on and I’m sure you can still buy them even now. The only film logo I can think of that is in the same class is the Ghostbusers one.

The other thought was this: Batman came out in 1989, about 20 years after the Adam West ones finished. It is now more than 20 years since Batman, and 17 years since the Batman & Robin film. I wonder if kids now, who are used to the Dark Night version, see Batman and think it is as dated and camp as the Adam West one seemed to us in 1989?

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The Gatwick problem

April 6th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

I popped down to the Hawth theatre today for the exhibition by Gatwick Airport Ltd. about possible expansion at the airport. As I arrived I could see that there was actually a queue to get in, and not a small one either – it must have been at least 10 metres. My immediate naive thought was that this was a huge demand for debate and information, but I soon found that there was not a lot of information available or indeed much of a call for it.

I had momentarily forgotten one of the rules of thumb of such event: whenever anything is proposed, people who are vehemently against it will turn up to let everybody know, and those who are for something don’t usually bother. Those who are neutral might want to go to in the hope of learning enough to make their mind up but a lot of the time that neutrality is effectively apathy. I can sympathise with that. I have lost count of the number of marches and demos I have been on but I’m pretty sure they were all against something, but when ther topic is building anything you have the added dimension of any consultation being a gigantic NIMBY-magnet, and this was no exception. [Read more →]

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Serious banking question

April 5th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

This is a serious question. I’m not trying to make a point about something, or make a joke or anything. It is something I noticed and don’t understand, and I don’t like not understanding stuff.

When I do internet banking I can see the balance on my account, and then another figure for amount available. Now I know that the amount available can be lower because of transactions that went through after the close of business, I’m OK with that bit, but sometimes the difference is a value I know I haven’t had for any transaction.

Example: the other day the amount available was exactly £10 less than the current balance. It confused me because I couldn’t think of anything I had spent exactly £10 on. I wish most of my bills were that small! Out of interest, I checked the next day and there were no transactions of £10, or of any amount. My balance was what it was the day before. I have now started checking the balance more often and noticed this a few times, often for an amount of £1.01.

Any ideas?

I know that in some circumstances a small nominal transaction can be made and reversed for security purposes. In other circumstances crooks make small transactions to be sure a stolen card or bank details are correct before they go for a serious bit of robbing. It was that thought that made me check the next day, only to find everything OK.

Do banks put through small but specific transactions out of hours and reverse them again for some sort of valid reason? If so I would expect to see the debit and corresponding credit the next day. What I really want to know is whether I should be reassured that they are doing whatever they need to for some obscure security purpose, or whould I be worried that someone is just prodding around and waiting until I have enough to be worth stealing?

They would have a long wait, but I suppose that if they pounced in the few minutes between me getting paid and all the direct debits coming out it might be worth their while.

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A Govial evening

April 4th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

We had a Labour constituency meeting tonight, and given recent news stories I couldn’t resist proposing, under any other business, that we invite Michael Gove to Crawley and then leave the minutes with those remarks on a Town Hall photocopier.

It would be incorrect to say that we are not enjoying all this, but I do wonder if it wasn’t a deliberate attempt by the local Tories to distract attention from their endless in-fighting within the town by pouring petrol onto the bonfire of in-fighting amongst their leaders. Talking of which, what a dreadful choice the Tories seem to be offering us: George Osborne or Boris Johnson. It makes Sophie’s Choice look like an easy decision to make in comparison.

Choosing which of them should lead their party, and possibly the country, is like asking which of Jedward you would like to be your phone-a-friend on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? or which 1970s celebrity you would ask to keep an eye on your teenage daughter while you are on holiday.

Anyway, back to the original story, you have to laugh at their chair’s attempts to bluff her way out of it in the Crawley News story:

When the Crawley News spoke to Mrs Bloom this week to clarify why Mr Gove would not be wanted here she said she could not remember it ever being said and questioned the authenticity of the document – even though it does appear to be genuine.

“I think that is not genuine,” she said. “I cannot remember that ever happening.”

Well the meeting which the minutes relate to was back in December, and appears to have been quite dull so it wouldn’t be surprising if it wasn’t very memorable.

Here’s a thought though: using Occam’s Razor, the most likely place this printed email would have been found is the Town Hall. It is the place where Tories can print things that is also widely accessible to people who are not Tories and do not like them. Also, I seem to remember that the photocopiers there, in common with many workplaces, are not photocopiers but MFDs – combined copier/printer/scanners. It is just as likely that the document was there not because it had been copied but because it had been printed from the network.

If that was the case then it also looks like somebody was using their Crawley council e-mail address for such internal party matters. By the way, personally I don’t have a problem with that. It is not as if sending an e-mail from a council address incurs any cost, but some people get very worked up about that sort of thing.

The biggest unintentional laugh from the Crawley News story was this:

“It brings the spotlight on Crawley and lets people know what we have been doing.”

It certainly does. As did the story about her colleague saying that there was no need for foodbanks because you have to queue for Nando’s on a Friday night.
Apart from making inane comments to the press and sharpening the knives for each other, what the local Tories have been mostly doing is very, very close to naff all. The last two Exec meetings of the council have had just one thing on the agenda and nearly every major decision has been postponed until after the elections – where we will gladly tell anybody who wants to listen what they have been doing and just as importantly, what they have not been doing.

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TV crossovers

April 2nd, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I quite like it when one TV show crosses over into another one. It always used to be a rare treat, just because it was so rare. If it still goes on then I don’t see much of it, probably because I don’t watch any of those evening-long charity telethons, and if I did then I probably wouldn’t appreciate it since it would probably feature characters from shows I don’t watch like any soap opera, reality show, talent show, or cookery show.

But I remember the enjoyment of watching an episode of Mad About You (remember that?) where Kramer from Seinfeld appeared in it.

Anyway, a couple of crossovers or mashups I wouldn’t mind seeing:

Based on the success of 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, how about Never Mind the Buzzcocks does University Challenge or Mock the Week does Pointless?

On the subject of Pointless, I would love to see – just once – Alexander Armstrong bring one of his recurring catchphrases from the Armstrong & Miller show into Pointless. One specific catchphrase. Just imagine it; one couple has got narrowly beaten in the head-to-head. They managed to guess the most obscure anagram of a type of condiment, but in the picture round which was photos of famous Rogers their opponents just happened to recognise the mathematician Roger Penrose. The decider was questions about Motown which they lost by 2 points.

At which point Armstrong says the usual: “Oh. So close, but Dan and Olly just beat you to it so we have to say goodbye to you, but thank you so much for playing, you’ve been brilliant contestants across both shows. Erica and James everybody!”

Cue applause and after the unlucky pair are escorted from the set he leans into the microphone and says “Kill them”.

That would make my day.

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April Fool Crawley!

April 1st, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The worst thing about April Fool’s Day is how it makes you realise how ridiculous, strange or just unlikely the real news is. You see a story and think “ha ha. What a great joke, well done” and then straight afterwards you see another one that is even less likely and wonder: has the paper done two spoof stories or is one of them actually real?

This may not apply to readers of the Daily Mail or Sport, where so much of it is made up anyway, but for the rest of us it makes you question reality a bit. Surely the media don’t save all the weird stuff until April 1st. It must happen all year round and we just take it in our stride.

Anyway, the Crawley News website presented a real challenge today. On the one hand there was a story that said George Clooney would play Widow Twankey in this year’s Crawley pantomime and would try to get Matt Damon and Cameron Diaz to sign up for it as well. On the other hand, they also have a story that says the county council are going to repair the potholes in Woodfield Rd in Northgate. One of them has to be true.

At least they kept it almost plausible and didn’t try running a story about the Tories approving a local plan for Crawley. We would have seen through that straight away!

Nice PhotoShop job on the Clooney story BTW.

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Hello again Yellow Brick Road

March 28th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Apart from the lack of any vocal talent or looks, the thing that stopped me being a top rock star was a problem remembering the words to songs. Some people (like Jayne) can sing along to something they have only heard a few times on the radio. I can’t even remember all the words to some of my favourite songs, and others I never even knew what the words were except for the chorus.

Last night and tonight I was listening to the newly re-released Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album and found that I actually know nearly all the words to the whole double album. Even the non-single tracks, and this is despite only having heard it a few times in the last 25 years and probably not at all since I bought it on CD two or three years ago.

Partly this is because I had the vinyl LP at a time when I only had a handful of records so listened to it a lot, while reading the lyrics in the huge gatefold sleeve, but I think a lot of it is because it is just a brilliant record. Is it really 40 years old? It still sounds fresh now.

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Putting Crawley on the map. Unfortunately.

March 27th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Crawley news doesn’t usually travel much further than the Crawley News. Or Crawley Observer.  So it is good that the opinions of one of our local councillors is getting into national/international news channels right? Well maybe not if it is Southgate councillor Liam Marshall-Ascough who has made it into the Huffington Post with his twisted logic comments about food banks.

What he says about food banks is:

People aren’t in poverty in terms of going without food. You try booking a restaurant in Crawley on a Friday or Saturday night. You can’t do it

I think we should be thankful that Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week are currently off air. They would be all over this. The scary thing is that, as far as I know, this councillor isn’t even one of the posh Tories. (Don’t be fooled by the double-barrelled name. They are not the sole preserve of the posh any more) Maybe he just wants to sound like an old Etonian for the purposes of advancement.

Following his logic there is no homelessness because whenever a new development of 3-bed detached houses is built they all get snapped up straight away and there is no unemployment because job vacancies get filled while you are still licking the envelope to post off your CV. And poverty? How can poverty exist when Barclays are paying out £2.4bn in bonuses?


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