Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Rhino's revenge

I really like this idea.
African game reserve poisons horns to prevent poaching
If the whole reason for taking a rhino's horn (and mercilessly butchering the poor beast in the process) is for the inclusion of crushed rhino horn in 'traditional' Chinese medicine, then what better way to discourage this than by making that particular ingredient DEADLY?
In fact, why did no-one think of this before?
What greater dis-incentive can there be for including rhino-horn in some potion or other than the fact that, once you swallow, you begin to have stomach cramps, sweats, uncontrollable flatulence followed by explosive bowel evacuation, vomiting so violent that you bring up your own innards, muscle cramps so severe they crack bones, bleeding from every orifice, blindness, a sudden craving for the music of Bros followed, mercifully, by the passing of the craving for the music of Bros, abrupt brain expansion until the skull cracks, impotence, cracked nipples and then, finally, the unexplainable loss of all bank savings and death.
And, better still, there's stuff in the injected material which means it shows up on airport x-ray machines (I suspect that will be some metal then) - there's even a rumour that the stuff injected can actually be detected by Mr McCormick's 'bomb detector' (though I somehow doubt that!).

Monday, 29 April 2013

Getting to the 'heart' of a problem

I was pleased to hear the other day that Blackburn with Darwen (never quite sure why it is 'with' instead of 'and', but comforting to know that the local Council probably paid £100,000 to a marketing consultancy for that piece of brilliance) was actually in the top 10 for something.
I was somewhat less pleased when I heard that it was in the list of places you are most likely to die of a heart attack (other fatal cardiac conditions are available).
Apparently, every year, 127 out of every 100,000 people in this particular area will croak as a result of a dicky ticker, which is three times more than certain posh parts of London such as Kensington and Chelsea (where 127 out of every 100,000 people die after contracting the infamous River Plate 'Bum' Parasite from contaminated batches of Uruguayan foie gras, which invariably result in death from exploding piles).

I loved this quote from one of the authors of the report, Dr Jessica Allen, of University College London:
"It is still the case in England, as in most other countries, that the richer you are the healthier you are likely to be and the longer you will live."
No shit, Sherlock!

I also read that Heart UK is launching a 'hotspots' campaign to raise awareness of the inequalities across England and encourage patients to look after their health.
Not sure the government will be supporting it though - after all, the last thing they really want is lots of people living longer than they should, drawing a pension for 30 years instead of 10, using more and more NHS services and drugs to deal with weak bladders, angry haemorrhoids, rheumatoid arthritis, dodgy hips, even dodgier knees, erratic thyroids, dementia, etc, etc...
In fact, I suggest the government would be quite happy if people in these 'hotspots' continued to eat too many pies, too little fruit, not do enough exercise and vegitate in front of the TV watching inane drivel (such as The Voice) - the nation can't afford to have everyone living to 100, can they...unless, of course, they make everyone work until they are 80...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A big Thank You!

This is just a quick note to say thank you to everyone who is currently following my blog, which has now been going for a month.
At present, I am getting about 30 page views per day, and it may come as a surprise to some that my audience has a truly global feel to it.
In fact, since starting the blog last month, it has been viewed in 11 countries and, as such, I'd just like to say a big 'Thank You' to everyone who has taken the time to read my inane ramblings (and apologies if Google Translate fucked things up and I've written the words 'toasted bananas' or 'may your melons always ripen' instead!)
  • United Kingdom - Ta Very Much
  • US of A - Thanks, Dudes
  • Russia - Спасибо
  • India -  आप का शुक्र है
  • Germany - Danke
  • France - Merci
  • Australia - Cheers, Mate
  • Japan - ありがとうございました
  • United Arab Emirates - شكرا
  • Malaysia - Terima Kasih
  • Hong Kong - 谢谢您

Friday, 26 April 2013

Invention of 'Mr McCormick's Bum Detector' denied

Yes, my friends, Her Majesty's Prisons have denied in the strongest possible terms (which menas it must be absolutely true) that inmates at several UK jails have been secretly working on their own 'Mr McCormick's Bum Detector' so that when the creator of the worthless, death-inviting piece of crap (yours for only $40,000) joins them at their tax-payer-funded holiday camp for the rehabilitation of offenders, they'll be able to give him a proper, law-breaker's welcome.
Unconfirmed reports from some prisons suggest that early prototypes of the Bum Detector have remarkable similarities to McCormick's own discredited gizmo. They are held in the hand somewhere just below the waist, can elongate when required, be pointed in a variety of directions, are water-proof (so good in showers) and can put up with being banged about or squeezed into dark places and tight orifices.
There is a likelihood, however, that unlike McCormick's useless piece of ex-golfing shite, the Mr McCormick Bum Detectors that are currently under development will be far more effective in locating that which they have been designed to find.
Let us hope so.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Interview with a tw*t

That's 'twit'...with an 'i'...not with an 'a' as, I suspect, you were thinking...it did make you look, though, didn't it? Clearly there is value in putting suggested obscenities in the titles of my posts...
Well, dear reader, now that you're here, why not read on a little more...

As a recently published author, I've been dabbling with a variety of different marketing techniques to increase my 'visibility' and thus increase those all important sales figures - some have worked...and some, it has to be said, haven't.
This blog, for example, now has a steady following of fantastic people who are spreading the word of its wit and wisdom (I am confident that my target of 1.5 billion pageviews a week will be surpassed before the end of the year) and in so doing are also spreading the word about my books.
My Facebook page 'IveReadItHaveYou' has just reached the dizzy heights of 20 'likes', and I've just orchestrated a serious membership push to double that number (though the jury is still out on whether that will work, especially given the confusion and perplexity caused by Mr Doyle's posting on Facebook last night!).
I've contacted local newspapers to see if I can arrange an article, but alas, to-date no-one has had the courtesy and good grace to even respond.
I recently contacted a local book club to see if they would be interested in adding my book to their reading list - still awaiting a response on that one, but fingers crossed. More positively, the book club at work has indicated that they'll look at putting Part 1 on their list...thanks Mags, you're a star!
There's a couple of little posters in my car (which have QR codes on them for fast access via smartphone to my book on Amazon...which, you have to admit, is pretty techno-savvy of me) though I doubt whether anyone's ever used them; there are some mugs at the office with the same QR codes, and a bunch of 'I've Read It Have you' business cards which are being randomly handed out by the faithful.
And then there's good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth, still the most successful technique I've found (apologies to those who know me whose tits I have probably bored off in the weeks since my book went live! Your tolerance of me is truly commendable.)
And then there's Twitter.
What to say about Twitter.
Well, on the positive side, it is through Twitter that I linked up with Indie Author Land who were kind enough to conduct an interview with me (though it was more of a questionnaire to be filled in than a Frost-Nixon face-to-face conversation) and then publish the results on their web-site and promote through Twitter and Facebook (shame the first tweet had a link in it that didn't work):
Read the interview for yourself at:
There are actually some quite funny answers, even if I do say so myself!
On the negative side, though, I'm coming to the conclusion that Twitter is just not for me. Yes, I have 109 followers, but I'm not entirely sure whether they are following me because they are interested in what I have to say, or simply because by following me they know there's a good chance I'll reciprocate and that will boost their own number of followers, and it's the number of followers they have that's important to them.
And there's just so much noise on Twitter. How anyone with 10,000 followers can even begin to sift through the banality and desperate 'Read Me'-ness of it all to find something really interesting, I have no idea at all.
I suggest most of the people on Twitter just simply don't bother reading what other people tweet because all they're really interested in is what they themselves have to say!
If that's true, then it's just a question of trying to get as big an audience to shout at...and where's the point in that, when no-one's actually listening?
So, once again, my sincere thanks to David Njoku for taking the time to put my rambling nonsense on his web-site - you are top-notch!

ps Am I the only one who's had a little smile at the way the much vaunted, ITV-presenter-orgasm-inducing 'Spanish Flair' has been ruthlessly crushed by German Footballing efficiency in the two Champions League semi-finals?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Why Mr McCormick deserves to be butt-f**ked in prison

[WARNING - This post contains some strong language, so those who are easily offended are advised to replace the word 'fuck' with a loud beep whilst reading]

I have to admit, this story of monumental gullibility and deplorable corruption just beggars belief, and I'd have a grudging admiration for the man in question if the consequences of his actions had not been so bloody terrible.
As it is, he really does need to be well and truly ass-whipped by the legal system so that he can spend a few years hoping he doesn't drop the soap in the prison showers.
Having read all about the way Mr McCormick sold 6,000 bomb detectors to the Iraqis, making a cool $50million in the progress, only for the bomb detectors to turn out to be nothing more than shitty golf-ball detectors that couldn't detect diddly, I'm left with a very simple question:
Why did nobody check whether the fucking things worked?????
I mean, come on, it wouldn't have been too difficult, would it - get a few cars, put a bomb in one of them then see if the thing goes 'beep' when it should.
For pity's sake, how hard is that?!?
And even if gullible idiots and corrupt bureaucrats ensured it was never tested before it went into the field, you'd have thought that some of the people who were actually using it would have checked it out on the quiet - by Christ, I know I would have, especially if my life depended on it...which it pretty well would do.
But no, no-one seems to have looked at what is nothing more than a car aerial with a fancy handle in a big, plastic case and said:
'Hold on a minute...how exactly does this thing detect bombs? I mean, look at it! It looks like the sort of thing which gullible golfers with too much money would buy to find lost golf balls...'

And if all that wasn't bad enough...the silly fuckers are still using them...
I know, I just can't believe it either, but there was footage on the BBC News yesterday of a policeman walking through traffic in Baghdad, pointing his 'bomb detector' at passing cars and lorries like it was some kind of magic wand and, because the piece of plastic shit stays silent, he's blithely waving through cars and trucks that an hour later will blow the arms and legs off innocent women and children...

And that, Mr McCormick, is why you so need to spend every day of your prison sentence being butt-fucked in the prison showers...

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Literary Immortality - a Competition?

I've recently started work on my new literary project:
'The Peculiar Case of God vs Pratt'
and it was whilst I was writing the first couple of pages that a thought occurred to me (that does happen...occasionally)
How would people react to the idea of a competition, the prize for which would be the inclusion of their name, and their description, as a character in my new book?
Would the prospect of literary immortality appeal to them?
Would the prospect of coughing politely at a dinner party to attract attention and then swiftly saying (in a somewhat matter-of-fact, this-happens-to-me-all-the-time tone of voice): 'One of the characters in Andy Ritchie's recent inter-galactic bestseller is actually based on me' actually appeal to people?
Well, there is of course the serious risk that the dinner-party is awash with literary ignoramuses and that someone else at the dinner party (whom we shall call 'git') would turn around and laughingly say 'Who the fuck is Andy Ritchie?' at which point my competition winner will have experienced the dinner-party equivalent of a wedgie (definition below).
But there is also the possibility (nay, probability) that all the dinner-party attendees have themselves read (and marvelled at) the previous works of the Ritchiemeister and, in the moments following the utterance of '...is actually based on me', a silence befalls the table (broken only by the sound of a Brussels sprout dropping from a gaping mouth onto a plate), whereupon everyone turns in awe and disbelief, following which the women begin to offer themselves as sexual playthings for the remainder of eternity whilst the men grovel pitifully on the ground in complete and utter unworthiness (of course, the sexual plaything-thing could work the other way around, or any which way the competition winner's personal preferences may lean).
With such a possible prize to be had, the only question is:
What should I demand in order for it to be won?

Note - A wedgie occurs when a person's underwear or other garments are wedged between the buttocks. While a wedgie can be created naturally, the term is usually associated with a prank or as a form of bullying. When a person is on the receiving end of a wedgie, his or her underwear is forcibly pulled up by a second person.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Oh, bite me!

Next time I'm in the office and someone winds me up, I think I'm going to bite them on the arm.
I'm then going to issue an insincere apology, stating how sorry I am for what I did and how I will work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again, whereupon, fingers crossed, my bosses will decide to fine me £50 and tell me that I'm not to come into work for the next eight weeks and I'm to spend that time reflecting seriously on what I've done.
Result. That's eight weeks with the feet up, thank you very much.
And if that doesn't work, then I think I'll take a leaf out of my mate John's playbook and either racially abuse someone at the office or, if all else fails, sleep with the WAG of one of my colleagues.
Surely that will result in some extra time off work...paid, of course.

Is it any wonder that we have problems with young people in society showing no-one any respect when such sporting 'role models' as Suarez, Terry, Rooney and the like act so irresponsibly (nay, so violently) and with such contempt for everything and everyone else, yet do so without any proper censure, either from their employers, their sponsors or, sadly, the footballing world at large.
A slap on the wrist, a brief public dressing-down from the manager and, hey presto, everything is rosy in the garden again, misdemeanours forgotten, and they are free to continue to receive their obscenely large financial rewards and the misguided adulation of the ignorant masses.
And, to add insult to bite injury, there is every chance that Luis Suarez will be named 'Footballer of the Year'...my God, if that happens, what sort of message does that send out, not only to our youngsters, but to society in general!
Such a contrast to Mssrs Hoy, Wiggins, Farah, etc who conduct themselves impeccably and, as such, are truly deserving of the rewards and admiration they receive.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Rolf a perv? I just don't buy it

Just to be clear at the start of this post - I am not for a moment suggesting that anyone who is guilty of abuse (however long ago that abuse took place) should not be brought to account. Nor am I suggesting that those who have been genuinely abused should be denied the satisfaction of seeing their abusers brought to justice.
There simply should be no hiding places for those who prey on the vulnerable and the defenceless and I am all for punishing such individuals harshly and publicly.

But, having said all that, am I the only one who is becoming deeply, deeply concerned about Operation Yewtree?
For those of you who are not aware of Operation Yewtree, this is the police investigation into allegations that the shell-suit-attired and heavily-blinged entertainer Jimmy Savile has systematically abused half of the world's population.
Now, please don't misunderstand me - I'm not suggesting that Jimmy Savile is innocent; the weight of evidence in this particular case appears to be overwhelming. Nor am I suggesting that there aren't other perverts out there, not least young-thai-boy-loving former 70s pop-peacock, Gary Glitter.
But with yesterday's news that the one-and-only Rolf Harris (adopted Aussie, painter, singer, Animal-Hospital dude and, in my eyes at least, all-round good-egg with a fine beard) has been arrested and questioned (and more importantly, publicly named) in relation to a single allegation of sexual abuse which took place decades ago, is there not a worry that whilst the intentions of the Yewtree investigation (to expose those who used their wealth and their influence to satisfy their depravity) were soundly based, there is now a risk that the investigations themselves begin to create a whole new set of victims - aging entertainers and celebrities whose reputations (and therefore their livelihoods) are left in tatters as a result of the insidious workings of the 'Court of Public Opinion' and the clear approach of the media that everyone associated with Yewtree is guilty until proven innocent (but even then, we'll always express doubt) and that there can't be smoke without fire.

Now I may be wrong (I have been before, though I can't quite remember when...).
There may be substance to the allegations against old Rolfy.
And if he is guilty, then it is right that he should be punished.
But by the same token, can we ensure that if the allegation made against him proves to be false or proves to be nothing more serious than a playful pat on the bum, then there is just a much coverage of the declaration of his innocence as there has been about his possible guilt.
Oh, and if the allegations are actually proven to be false, can we ensure that the vindictive person who made them is treated as harshly by the media and the law as Rolf himself would undoubtedly have been if they had ever been made to stick...and that includes ensuring that if the false-accuser sells their story of 'Why I Lied About Rolf' to a tabloid newspaper, any money they receive goes to pay for the cost to the taxpayer of investigating their false accusations, or as compensation to the person whose life they tried so hard to ruin.
Better still if it went to pay for the time they should spend in prison for trying to pervert the course of justice.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Coffee in the sugar bowl...aaaarrrggghhh!

It's often the little things that wind a person up, isn't it?
For me, whenever I'm in the office, it's the state of the sugar bowl.
Why, in the name of James Tiberius Kirk's black pants and boots, do some people...actually, no, I shall call them bastards, though that term is meant in a completely asexual way as the culprits could just as easily be women as men...insist on using wet teaspoons covered in instant coffee when getting their teaspoon of sugar from the sugar bowl?
Can't they see, with their own fucking eyes, that it not only results in the creation of great lumps of congealed sugar that sit on the surface of the sugar like infected warts, but that it also results in me having to pick granules of crappy instant coffee (made from 100% Arabica beans, my arse!) out of the sugar bowl so that my tea remains tasting like tea, and not some horrible tea/coffee hybrid-shit.
Come on, you knobs!
Use a dry, clean teaspoon, for Christ's sake!!!
Otherwise, I'm going to start ripping open tea-bags and sprinkling their contents into the sugar bowl - then we'll see how you bloody-well like it!!

Thursday, 18 April 2013


There seems to be fire everywhere this morning.
In addition to the horrifying scenes from Texas (and my God, wasn't that footage of the fertiliser plant exploding both horrifying and yet just a little bit awe-inspiring...) there's also been a fire at a paper mill not too far away from where I am this morning (obviously, my exact location needs to be kept a closely guarded secret, for national security reasons).

Smurfits is a paper mill that I've been to in one of my previous working incarnations - I remember it fondly because we were treated to what can only be described as a full cooked breakfast...on a bun. If memory serves me correctly, it was two sausages (maybe three), two rashers of thick bacon (maybe three), two fried eggs (maybe eight), mushrooms (which I didn't have because they are the carbuncles of Beelzebub) and probably even some black pudding, hash browns and anything else you can think of, all with lashings of tomato ketchup, served on a bread bun about the size of a dinner plate! There was clearly an art to eating it without ending up with egg-yolk and ketchup in your crotch that I did not possess.

And now some of it is on fire...though it does appear to be the paper store and not the mill itself, thankfully.
It will take some putting out, that's for sure. I once saw a similar fire at Hollins Paper Mill when I was in my late teens and the poor firemen who were hosing down the smoking bales had to keep going from one end to the other because no sooner had they damped down one area than another would spark into fiery life again. Those of us watching (yes, we were supposed to be working at the time, but it was the 80s and that's how British industry was then) found it both amusing and fascinating - there was even time for some betting to take place on where the fire would re-ignite next. I think it took them about eight hours to finally extinguish the smouldering embers - we had all gone home by then (because that was also how British industry worked...or didn't).

But seriously - I hope that the fire at Smurfits doesn't impact on the jobs of the people who work there - it's hard enough for paper mills to survive in Britain without fate and nature conspiring against them as well.
I also hope that the feared death toll from the Texas explosion is significantly less than seems to be initially feared...better still if there is no death toll at all.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A shameless plug...and a Corkscrew

I guess it's wrong to use this blog as a vehicle for the shameless plugging of my book, but as this is my blog, I'm thinking 'what the hell!'

That's right, folks - Part 2 of 'The Book That THEY Do Not Want You To Read' is now available for download to your Kindle (other e-readers are available) at the spectacular bargain price of £2.99 - see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-That-THEY-Want-ebook/dp/B00CBXDEQQ/ref=la_B00BZ0T0D2_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1365950481&sr=1-1
...what's that...you didn't know about Part 1?
Come now, my friend, did you not notice that subtle link on the side of my blog page?
Just click on that and, hey presto, you're about to start on the literary equivalent of the Corkscrew, a ride of such excitement...what's that...? They've dismantled the Corkscrew and have replaced it with something else...so I need to find another metaphor...?
But I really liked the Corkscrew metaphor...damn this thing called progress...

For those of you not familiar with the 'Corkscrew', it was a roller-coaster ride at Alton Towers (between Leek and Uttoxeter) shaped a bit like...well...a corkscrew...
Hang on...have a look at this:

I went on it during a school-trip to Alton Towers back some time around 1983 - it has stuck in my memory because I was sat next to my old geek-pal, Dean 'Stampy' Stamp (we weren't particularly imaginative with nicknames when I was at school, it was generally the rule that your nickname was either your surname with a 'y' added (as per Stampy), a long surname shortened so that it ended in a 'y' (O'Sullivan shortened to Sully, Pennington shortened to Penny), your first name, if you were fortunate enough for it to end in the 'y' sound (e.g. Dougie, Eddie) and you were considered hard enough to warrant the respect of having your first name used; or, very occasionally, something random, like 'Chipper', as in Mitchell 'Chipper' Berry...I think that was because he already had a surname that was short and ended in 'y'...anyway, I'm rambling).
Back to the Corkscrew and Stampy.
At the start of the Corkscrew ride, the cars are pulled up high and then released to the mercies of the forces of gravity (but I guess you'd all realised that, being fairly familiar with the theory of how roller-coasters work...) - however, on the Corkscrew, the release was not followed by an immediate, stomach-churning drop; instead, the cars dropped just a little bit, as if the designers were trying to lull you into a false sense of security...whereupon the cars then fell like a stone and the world became a blur of fast-moving shapes and colours and, if the people in front did not possess strong stomachs...vomit.
At the commencement of the initial drop, Stampy (and I'm sure he won't mind me telling you this...and even if he does, I don't care) gave out a weird, guttural moan of what can only be described as 'pure, unadulterated terror' - it is still, to this day, one of the most disturbing sounds I have ever heard; he then screamed like an absolute girl when the big drop finally came...so loud, in fact, that it was audible over my own girly scream! Stampy continued screaming like a girl (drawing breath only three times in total if I recall correctly) for the entire ride, the pitch and timbre only changing when the cars entered the actual corkscrew element of the ride and the occupants were twice turned upside-down, whereupon his scream went up by several octaves to a pitch capable of shattering windows. I think he continued screaming for several seconds even after the cars had finally stopped!
It still makes me smile when I remember it...though how I got to talking about a screaming Stampy I'm not sure...
Let me look back...

Oh yes, the shameless plug for a book that is a literary Corkscrew...

Go on...buy my book!!
I guarantee you won't regret it!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

May they rot in Hell

I did have quite an interesting blog prepared for today - in fact, it was reasonably witty in places (even if I do say so myself).
But, having heard about the terrible events in Boston, and with many of the followers of this blog being over there in the old US of A, it didn't seem right to try to be flippant or funny.

I note that the US government is being somewhat guarded about who may have been responsible for this atrocity (no doubt learning the lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing), but whoever is behind this madness, no ideology, no belief, however passionately that ideology or belief may be held, can ever justify such indiscriminate taking of life.
And whether it's just me, but there's something particularly twisted about attacking an event such as this, where thousands of people are running to raise money for worthwhile charities, where individuals are doing something special to help their fellow men and women.

Today, our thoughts and prayers should be with the families of those who have sadly lost their lives and with those who have been injured as a result of terrorism, not only in Boston, but everywhere around the world.
May those cruel, evil bastards who are responsible forever rot in Hell, their every moment tormented for all eternity by the never-ending screams of their victims, their bodies forever racked by the same agonies that their actions have inflicted on others.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Grinping - the future of photography

Further to my previous blog regarding my creation of the word 'knobbery', in which I mentioned a previously created word of mine, I have been inundated by literally no requests for a further explanation of that previously created word.
Nonetheless, I have decided to provide both the definition of 'grinping' and also a couple of examples.


grinp (gr-i- np)
v. grinped, grin·ping, grinps

To attempt to have one’s grinning expression captured on someone else’s photograph or video recording without that person realising it.

1. The act of grinping.
2. The facial expression produced by grinping.
3. The photographic or video evidence demonstrating that an act of grinping has taken place. 

Etymology: The word ‘grinp’ was invented by Andrew Ritchie in 2006 at the Landmark Centre, Carrbridge, where he and daughter Kayleigh ‘grinped’ on the video recording of a man who was taking a panoramic shot from the top of the Fire Tower.
The term is an acronym for: grinning in a photograph

Example 1:

Can you figure out who's doing the 'grinping'?

Example 2:

Note the man sat bottom left, grinning straight at the camera; who the hell he is, I have no idea...and I'm the one who took the photo - classic 'grinping'

Friday, 12 April 2013

I've invented a new word

Even though I yesterday threatened everyone with politics, I have decided to hold fire on this for a few days and instead involve myself in morphological word formation (sounds very cerebral, that, doesn't it?)

knobbery (nb-r)
an act or action undertaken by, or pertaining to, a knob

Yes, my friends, the man who brought you the word 'grinping' (that's me, by the way) has now created another new word that will one day undoubtedly make it into the Oxford English Dictionary:
Say it with me...
How well it rolls off the tongue and how quickly it creates within our minds a visual recreation of what it represents.
Instinctively, we know what it means and when it should be used, it's that kind of word.

A warning, though. There is the potential for the word 'knobbery' to be used interchangeably with another of my favourite words - 'muppetry'. This mistake should be avoided at all costs!
Whilst there are some obvious similarities - for example, both are applicable when the noun (the 'knob' or the 'muppet') undertakes an act or action that can best be described as 'stupid', the act of muppetry is generally regarded as innocent, humorous and its consequences can mostly be summarised as resulting in mild inconvenience or subsequent merciless piss-taking. Knobbery, in contrast, is a much more serious, sinister and unbecoming trait and is certainly not something which an individual would want to be associated with (no-one minds being called a 'muppet' every now and again; the same can't be said for 'knob').

Perhaps this important distinction is best explained through a practical example.
Take texting whilst driving a five-tonne Mercedes van along the northbound carriageway of the M6 at over 60 mph - now that, I would suggest, is classic 'knobbery'. (At this point I would like to say that I am sure that none of my friends, colleagues, blog-readers, Facebook 'likers' or Twitter followers would ever be guilty of such moronic action - if that is not the case, then I expect the person responsible for such 'knobbery' to either beat themselves senseless with three sticks of rhubarb covered in Nutella or to run naked up and down the aisles of their local Tesco with the words 'I am a knob' written in indelible ink on their backs, shouting 'Forgive me, for I have sinned!' at the top of their voice).

Driving to that same supermarket (other supermarkets are available) and, having parked the car and got a trolley, you then discover that you've left your shopping list (or your wallet) on the kitchen table - now that's 'muppetry'.

Don't forget to spread the word about 'The Universe According to Andy' - I've set myself the modest target of 1.5 billion pageviews a week - thought it best to set my sights fairly low to begin with.
Oh, and also don't forget that you can sign up to receive my blog by e-mail over there on the right of the screen somewhere - that way, you will never miss a single pearl of wisdom.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A call from Mr Cameron

Well, my friends, it's finally happened (and not before time as far as I'm concerned).
Prime Minister Cameron has asked for my help in running the country.
Okay, so Dave hasn't actually rung me personally and said:
'Hey, Andy, we're in a bit of a fix here - there's all these problems with the country...you know, a flat-lining economy, a deficit that just seems to get bigger, bankers-who-are-knobs, the Euro going down the pan, big business ripping off the little man, a welfare system that's just broken, an NHS that's...well...pretty much broken too, Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, the Falklands...oh yes, there's the fact that the lights will be going out soon because we've shut too many power stations and it's not windy enough...er...what else?...of course, policemen who sue victims of crime...this referendum thing in Scotland...and the fact that everyone thinks I'm a closet anti-Christian...oh, for fuck's sake, Andy, I really need your help!!'
It would be funny if he had phoned me up and said that, wouldn't it...?
Instead, he's sent me a three-page questionnaire, asking my opinion about 'Helping with the Cost of Living', 'Making Welfare and the Benefits System Fairer' and 'What Matters Most to You'.
It contains such questions as:
'What should happen to petrol duty in the future?' - interestingly, 'Abolish It' is not an option.
'Which bills are most worrying to you and your family?' - disappointingly, there is no multiple choice option for 'Really big ones!'
'What further action would you like to see taken to deal with high energy bills?' - come on, Dave...two measly lines..how the hell can that question be answered in just two lines?!? I could write an essay on that!

Of course, I'm going to do Dave a favour and respond to his questionnaire...but, because I'm a nice guy and feel it is my humble civic duty to prevent Great Britain from sinking any further into the stinking pile of shit that successive governments have created around us, I'm going to share with Dave, and with George and Nick and Wallace (sorry, Ed) and the other Ed whom I shall call 'Balls' in order to prevent confusion, all my profound wisdom, insight and savvy, through the medium of this very blog.
So, my friends, prepare yourself...
and for those of you living outside the UK, you can sit back contentedly and thank your lucky stars that you don't have these problems...unless of course you live in Greece...or Spain...or Portugal...or Cyprus...or Italy...or Ireland...or Germany (because you have to pay for everything)...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Look, it's my opinion...Part 3

It's a word I like...especially when I am the one being vindicated.
Vindication...let's say it together...
So, on what basis am I entitled to feel that most satisfying of sensations?
Well, have a read of the following response from TripAdvisor to my complaint about Mr Unhappy Bunny:
'TripAdvisor does not condone abusive language or harassment via our private messaging system. However, since we do not review communications between members unless they are reported, we depend on helpful members like you to report incidents like this. We have investigated the situation and taken fair action to prevent further communications from this individual; we appreciate your taking the time to let us know about this issue.'
I'm curious, I have to admit, about what constitutes 'fair action' - have Mr Unhappy Bunny's testicles been repeated beaten with an electrified fly-swat by masked men dressed all in black and sporting masks with the TripAdvisor owl logo on them? Have the TripAdvisor elves updated all his reviews with the words 'Take no notice of this review - it was written by an arrogant knob!'
Or...and I really hope this is the case...have they simply written to him and said: 'Either accept and respect that some people will have an opinion that may differ from yours, or stop using TripAdvisor.'

Actually...come to think of it...I'd like to be all noble and magnanimous about this but, if I'm honest, I really hope they've used the electrified fly-swat on his testicles...!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Wake up, Maggie, I think I got something to say to you...

Maggie's gone, off to that great grace-and-favour home in the sky...and I find myself reminded of a joke I first heard in the mid 80s:
'When Britain was an Empire, it was ruled by an Empress;
When Britain was a Kingdom, it was ruled by a King;
Now Britain is a Country, it is ruled by Margaret Thatcher!'
Of course, that same joke can (and maybe should) be applied to John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron...actually, it's a very adaptable joke indeed and that's why I like it!

But back to Mags...the Iron Lady...The Wicked Witch of the Right...Scourge of the Argentinians...Scourge of the Unions...the best thing that could have happened to Britain...the worst thing that ever happened to Britain...
And that, more than anything, is what is just so great about Maggie, the fact that, even in death, the old lass is still capable of doing that which she was so adept at in life...polarising opinion.
Maybe that statue they unveiled of her in parliament should have had her holding a bottle of Marmite because people either love or hate her...indeed, there's very few (younger than 35 anyway) who would be happy to stand in the middle ground of ambivalence when her legacy is being discussed.

So what do I think of her? After all, she was a major part of Andy's Universe during my formative years at secondary school and my early years of employment.
I guess I would describe myself as having a grudging admiration for her - after all, she was all kick-ass when the Argentinians tried to bully us off the Falklands, and she did turn us from the economic basket-case we were in the 70's into the strong economic power we were in the 90's.
It's just a shame that such a high price had to be paid for the latter.
Yes, the power of the unions needed controlling, but they didn't need to be smashed.
Yes, British manufacturing had to be made leaner and more competitive, but it didn't need to be cut down to the marrow, let alone the bone.
And I;m afraid that that's where my grudging admiration turns into disdain...disdain for her arrogance, for her false sincerity, disdain for her clear disconnectedness with 'ordinary' people - let's not forget, this is the woman who actually stood outside 10 Downing Street and said “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” Oh brother, get me the sick-bucket...quick! The scary thing was, she actually believed what she saying!
And let's not forget the things she got wrong (the legacy of which we are very much living with today):
  • privatisation, particularly of energy production and distribution which has left us all beholding to a cartel of 6 major power companies all seemingly headed by swindlers and cheats;
  • moving an economy towards financial services and away from manufacturing (true, we needed to get away from low-tech manufacturing, but even our hi-tech, high profit manufacturing was virtually crippled), leaving us exposed to the sort of financial chaos we found ourselves in in 2008 (though let's not forget that successive governments did nothing to reverse that trend!)
  • the idea that it's good to keep several million people on the dole;
  • the list goes on and on...
  • and then there's the poll tax - well, I guess enough said about that, the better...but that won't stop me asking how anyone thought it was a good idea that an old couple living in a one-bedroom flat should pay the same amount for local services as a large family with five kids living in a 10-bedroom house with 5 acres of land and a fishing lodge with swans on it...Christ alive...how did that ever compute in their brains as being reasonable?!?
So, in summary (because I could go on and on).
Maggie did a few good things and I, for one, am willing to applaud her for those.
But Maggie did quite a few bad things as well and I, for one, quite dislike her for those.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Look, it's my opinion...Part 2

The week has not started well (strong language alert - those easily offended should look away now; those who enjoy seeing some colourful expletives...read on)
Firstly, my works computer is playing silly-buggers with its security.
Secondly, I received a response to my TripAdvisor message to Mr Unhappy Bunny (aka OnlyLive0nce - and no, that's not a typo, he really has used the number zero instead of a capital letter 'O' in his 'handle' - tit) and it's left me flabbergasted (great word that - let's make it word of the day).
Read Mr Unhappy Bunny's reply for yourself:

'I will be straight with you. Honesty is the best policy. If you think that place is very good you and the mrs need to get out more often, quite frankly. The place is a joke for b and b. Your review was farcical and that of an inexperienced traveller. We have been to 40 countries and over 600 hotels and guest houses. We know what we are talking about with this.
Very good? You must be having a laugh....

I am not reading any more of your nonsense so save your time and go away.'

Not sure what to say, really...
Of course, I've been in touch with TripAdvisor to express my opinion that this sort of direct message is completely unacceptable and we'll wait to see if they do or say anything (I'll keep you posted on that).
But I just can't get over the tone and the language...it's so...knobbish.
'...you and the mrs...'- I mean, who on God's Earth uses that sort of expression in writing? I draw my own conclusions about the type of person this is, but 'moronic twat' comes very much to mind.
'...inexperienced traveller...' - I'm sorry, but do you know me? I've spent the last 16 years travelling to various places around the world, with work and for holidays; hardly 'inexperienced'.
'We have been to 40 countries and over 600 hotels and guest houses' - oh, so TripAdvisor is some kind of 'biggest dick' contest, is it - the more places someone's been to, the more valid their opinion...sorry, didn't realise that. And, by the way, who the fuck keeps an accurate count of the number of hotels and guest houses they've been to?
'We know what we are talking about with this.' - I suggest this is the new definition of the word 'arrogance'.

But what really gets my goat, though, is the final comment:
'I am not reading any more of your nonsense so save your time and go away.'
You contacted ME, you utter gob-shite.

So, what conclusions have I drawn from all this, and from a quick look at Mr Unhappy Bunny's previous entries on TripAdvisor.
Well, my friends, I shall tell you.
Mr Unhappy Bunny is very unhappy indeed, not only with me, or with Dee & Em B&B on Mull, but also with the Waverley Hotel at Felixstowe, the Old Mill B&B at Yarm and the Bay Great Western Hotel at Oban. All of these were rated 'terrible' (1 out of 5) on his TripAdvisor ratings. He did, however, in one of his 3 other posted reviews, rate the Travelodge at Covent Garden as 5 out of 5 (come on...a Travelodge?...excellent?...when Hell freezes over, buddy...!) which is interesting because although 247 have also rated his excellent, 285 said it was terrible!
I wonder if this sad, lonely dickhead (whom I now imagine to be a portly chap in his early fifties with a ridiculous comb-over, the dress-sense of a llama and a wife whose face looks permanently like a well-smacked arse because they haven't 'got it on' for over fifteen years) sent direct messages to all 285 who disagreed with his viewpoint, telling them that their opinions were crap, wrong, inaccurate or farcical?
I can only say that 'robmac13' needs to be careful - he had the temerity to rate Bay Great Western Hotel in Oban as 'excellent' last week...he shouldn't have done that, because that makes Mr Unhappy Bunny very angry...and 'he knows what he's talking about with this'!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Aren't Numbers Fantastic!!

Today, I have mostly been thinking about...Numbers.
Numbers are, let's be honest, pretty damn cool and just about the second most useful thing in the cosmos.
I mean, could you imagine trying to go through just one day without them...there you go, I've already used a number and I haven't even begun to come up with examples of where numbers are crucial...like time...you wouldn't know exactly what time it was, or the date for that matter. Then there's the number of Weetabix to have for breakfast, the number of spoonfuls of sugar to have in your tea, how much petrol you put in your car at the garage (a little, quite a bit, a lot?). And how would you know what to pay...
Let's face it, it's pretty difficult to imagine life without Numbers.

So, in honour of the importance which numbers play in the universe, I've decided to list out 20 of the more interesting and surreal numbers related to my life:

2 - the number of lovely daughters I have
4 - the number of operations I've had in a hospital
52 - the number of Munros I've climbed
8 - the number of houses I've lived in
4744 - the number of days I've been married...happily, I might add!
66 - the number of Wainwrights in the Lake District that I still have to climb
230,000 (approx) - the number of words in the complete version of The Book That THEY Do Not Want You To Read
22 - the number of foreign countries I have visited
45 - number of friends on Facebook
0 - the number of Nobel prizes, Oscars, Grammys, Pulitzers or Booker prizes I've won
2 - number of long distance walks completed (West Highland Way (3 times), Cumbria Way)
258 - the number of photos I've uploaded to Flickr
1 - the number of bones in my body that I've broken
3 - the number of times I've been in a helicopter (not including the one that I was strapped into and then turned upside down under water)
1,657,000,000 (approx) - the number of heartbeats since I was born
32 - the number of orgasms I've faked
49 - the number of the Trail 100 I have climbed
28 - the number of books I've rated on www.goodreads.com
7 - the number of different jobs I've had
1 - the number of people I've genuinely found myself hating

Feel free to share with me any of your interesting numbers (though please just don;t provide me with a number and expect me to guess what it relates to - an explanation really would be useful!
And don't forget, you can always sign up to receive my blog as an e-mail!

Oh, one last thing.
In a shameless attempt to ingratiate myself with the wonderful people at www.authorsdb.com, I'm going to give them a mention in my blog.
Actually, whilst shameless ingratiation may be a strong motivating factor for this mention, I'd also like it to be known that they are the first writing-orientated social network group or individual who have 'liked' my Facebook page 'I've Read It Have You' - that's right, they are 'Liker 18' (there you go, another number!)

So I am wearing my AUTHORSdB badge with pride.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Look, it's my opinion, not yours!

Yesterday, I got a direct message on TripAdvisor with regard to one of my previous reviews (the review of the Dee-Em B&B on Mull that we stopped in last October). This is the first direct message I've ever received on TripAdvisor.
The message itself made it very clear that whilst Wendy and I had pretty much enjoyed our stay at this particular B&B, this person certainly had not.
'I am amazed you had such a good stay. The never-ending instructions in the room were tedious, we are 46 years old, not 6. The woman, who is a very weird character indeed, slightly disturbed if you ask me, was really rude when we returned to change wet clothes. She said "you have b and b,; we do not expect you here during the day". Silly cow!
Glad you had fun, but walking through their lounge half dressed was ridiculous. The en suite room should be rented out not the spare room.
Total crap compared to where else we have stayed.'

As you can read...not a happy bunny at all. In fact, for the purposes of this post, we'll call them Mr Unhappy Bunny.
Having wondered about whether I should respond to this message, I eventually decided to do so.
Well, if only to make the point that the individual who had gotten in touch with me should share their thoughts on TripAdvisor as I had done. That is what it's for, after all.
Oh yes. Just to clarify at this point - my original review (for which I gave 4 out of 5) stated the following:
'First point to make - the one double bedroom (reasonable size, comfortable and warm) is directly off Peter & Janet's lounge, and you have to walk through the lounge to get to your private bathroom. That may not be to everyone's taste.
Second point to make - Peter and Janet are the most welcoming hosts and it is precisely the fact that you are staying WITH them that gives the whole experience a quirkish charm.
Breakfasts are excellent, especially as you can sit and talk to Peter about your plans for the day whilst he prepares your cooked eggs, bacon, etc., and make use of his excellent knowledge of the wildlife on the island.
The B&B is only a short walk from Craignure where food is available at the Craignure Inn (but take a torch in winter as the road is unlit).
If you are willing to accept that you are being invited into someone's home (as opposed to just staying in a room attached to their house) and your willing to engage with your hosts, then you will have a really enjoyable stay.
Oh, just a warning to anyone allergic to cats; there are three of them!'

I received a response from the Mr Unhappy Bunny today, stating that they had indeed put their comment on TripAdvisor...and really, that should have been that. Mr Unhappy Bunny comments on their experience; I comment on ours. That's the whole point of TripAdvisor.

Unfortunately, that isn't where it ended.
You see, the problem was the title of their comment:
“Astonished at the November ''excellent'' review!”
Now I don't have a problem with anyone putting forward an alternative viewpoint to my own; in fact, it is inevitable given that people are different (higher/lower expectations, greater/lesser willingness to accept things, etc) and the circumstances of their stay will be different as well.
What I do, however, have a problem with is someone inferring that my review is either incorrect or in some way less than honest.

So, Mr Unhappy Bunny, let's get two things absolutely clear.
Firstly, it can't be incorrect because it is my opinion! It's a judgement, numb-nuts, not a mathematical equation!
Secondly, if for a moment you are implying that my review is anything other than a balanced view of what we experienced, then you can either come and say that to my face (in which case I'm likely to slap yours very hard, and not in a girly way, I assure you) or you can kiss my hairy arse!
Needless to say, my direct message response to them was a lot more...diplomatic.

I've not had any further reply from them, and I doubt I will get one.
In fact, maybe the wording of the title is simply a genuine mistake on the part of Mr Unhappy Bunny and that no offence was intended. If it is, then fair enough.
However, I suspect it isn't...and in that, I find myself wondering if there is a little bit of a warning to be had here for us all.
TripAdvisor encourage contributors to provide genuine appraisals of the virtues and faults of those places where they have spent their hard-earned cash. I, like many others, use those appraisals to guide and inform my decisions of where to stay and where to eat (I certainly don't take all the ratings and reviews as absolute truths - who in God's name does?)
I like to believe that most people are, like me, eager to share with others that which they thought was good, and to warn others about that which they thought was bad. I guess you could call it a form of good citizenship.
But, if we begin to think that our opinions, honestly expressed and shared with all the best intentions, are likely to be criticised, questioned, lambasted or (and it will surely happen one day) used as the basis for a compensation claim or other form of litigation by a disappointed holidaymaker or diner whose experience they did not deem to be as 'excellent' as our own, then I begin to question whether the sharing of my experiences is really worth the trouble.

For now, I'll continue to make my comments as honestly and genuinely as I have in the past. But should I get another direct message from some disgruntled moron who seems intent on blaming me for their bad holiday experience, or intent on arguing the toss about whether their impression of someone is different from my own, then contributions to TripAdvisor from yours truly will quickly become a thing of the past.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Is it wrong to 'enjoy' a funeral?

It's strange, isn't it, how a life-event can have associated with it words that have come to be seen as appropriate, whilst other words which can have equal validity in describing that same event are almost always left unspoken (the sort of bastard child that people know about but are too polite to mention).
Take the following:
  • birth - joyful
  • fart - disgusting
  • wedding - beautiful
  • orgasm - mind-blowing
  • funeral - solemn
All of these (and countless more) sit comfortably with each other and do not give us any cause to furrow our brow or shift uncomfortably in our seat.
But what about...
  • birth - agonising
  • fart - satisfying
  • wedding - exhausting
  • orgasm - ordinary
  • funeral - enjoyable
Not such good bedfellows these, I wager, and yet, these adjectives can be equally apt for those same life-events, depending upon your perspective.
So why am I whittering on about adjectives and life-events?
Why am I not venting my spleen about the many events of the week that have made the blood inside our veins bubble and froth (oh I will...but not today)?

Well, as I drove home following the funeral that we had been to yesterday up in the badlands of the North, I found myself wondering if it was right to conclude that I had actually, in a very subdued way, 'enjoyed' myself.
Initially, I told myself that the use of the word 'enjoy' was inappropriate for such an event; after all, funerals are solemn affairs, awash with sadness, grief and the dark despair of the loss of a loved one. In fact, to even think about applying the word 'enjoy' to a funeral was bordering on the disrespectful. Funerals are, by their nature, serious, sober affairs, something which we must suffer and endure.
But why?
The day itself was a beautiful one...cold, yes...but the sky was a deep azure blue dotted with archetypal fluffy clouds. The sun was warming. The ceremony, a humanist celebration (the first one of these I have ever attended), was refreshingly positive and interestingly free of the often depressing religious trappings of hymn and prayer; it focused on Joan's life and the great memories which everyone had of her, reminding us (in an upbeat way) of what had made Joan special. At the meal afterwards, there was a chance to chat with relatives that we see too infrequently, to share a joke or two and to remark on how so many of us have less hair (and more girth) than when we saw each other last. There was the chance for comforting words, for hugs and handshakes...and for tears.
Yes, of course, there was never any forgetting the loss, and the terrible hole that is left by Joan's passing, particularly for Drew, Alison and Andrew; for them, the word 'enjoy' is likely as far from their current vocabulary as it is possible for a word to be.
But, if it is just one small crumb of comfort to those left crushed by Joan's untimely death, I would like to say that the day on which that passing was remembered, the day on which Joan's life and all that it had touched was celebrated, the day on which we all gathered to pay our final respects...well, I for one, enjoyed it.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A bird in the hand...

It's nice, isn't it, to redress an imbalance.
Take my relationship with birds.
Yesterday, I was well and truly in deficit after splattering a female pheasant all over the eastbound M65.
Today, I have re-balanced the ledger of Life/Death with my feathered friends by coming to the aid of a siskin that clearly did not previously understand the difference between glass and air (i.e. one is solid and the other isn't) but now, I think we can safely say, does.
This makes me feel a whole lot better and hopefully sees my name removed from the list of humans who must suffer a terrible fate when the birds rise up, a la Alfred Hitchcock's classic film, to take over the world...although, if that did happen, I'm pretty damn sure I could kill a couple of hundred of the feathered monsters armed only with a tennis racket!