Friday, 19 June 2015

The Cookie Crumbles

It seems a long time since we visited St Michael's Mount in Cornwall and I spent two hours searching but COULD I find the Marks & Spencers?

Anyway no such problem now because I'm bombarded with M&S advertisments whenever I log into Facebook, Ebay and other web sites. Last week I bought some shorts from the Marks & Spencer web site and now, whenever I look at these other sites, I'm presented with this:

M&S are presumably paying good money to Facebook and others to wave this attractive image in front of me but having just bought three years supply of shorts from them it is money down the drain.

I thought Cookies (the little tracking files which grass on our viewing proclivities) were supposed to be really smart and anticipate interest rather than blindly repeat information from past purchases so it brings into question the decisions of media buyers to transfer millions of pounds worth of advertising from old media to new. I quite like browsing through advertisements in the local free paper.

This cookie stuff is trying to be too clever and failing miserably. It's like in the old days, if I'd bought a jacket from an old-fashioned outfitter* in the High Street and every time I walk past his shop he runs out into the street waving an identical jacket at me shouting "do you want to buy THIS jacket?!!!".

(*a Victorian gentleman's emporium where clothes were purchased over a friendly chat and a pinch of snuff. They kept one's inside leg measurement on a card index in a fine oak bureau).

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Tracks of my Years

Taking the train into Cambridge is for me like sitting in front of one of those cheesy 1930’s Hollywood flashback sequences. There's a green blur of trees and fields then a house I used to live at, then another blur and a place I used to go running. More blur, an old cycle route, blur again and a favourite riverside walk. It's a bit like examining a core sample of my last 30 years as I pass three of my old houses and numerous old haunts within the space of 10 minutes. I wonder why all my previous residences were so close to a railway line and think I could perhaps take part in Radio Two’s “Tracks of My Years” feature.

The flashbacks of nostalgia soft-fade into the open flat black fenland and the three carriage train achieves a hypnotic beat across the horizontal landscape. My mind starts to drift.

We reach Ely. A sea of laughing, chattering youth pours into the carriage with their bags and bikes and smells of deodorant and fresh coffee. I'm jolted back to my present where I wouldn't change places with a living soul.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bearly Discernable

This weekend we experienced an alien visitation. A strange QUASAR craft from the plantet IP Switch 9000 landed at the end of our village known as Crack Nell and two Ursine beings emerged blinking into the sunshine.

In order to give them a clue as to what life is like in 21st Century Britain we made them watch the entire Eurovision Song Contest and they nodded wisely. I explained that this is the only entertainment available because we as a Country are in straitened circumstances which is all the fault of the Banks.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Parsley and Time

It seems to have been a spectacular year for Cow Parsley. I haven't taken much notice of it in the past and regarded it as just another weed, but the wonderful displays this year on the green and alongside the lanes have changed my view.

Apparently (Wikipedia tells me) it is not to be confused with Giant Cow Parsley, French Cow Parsley, Fool's Parsley or Poison Hemlock, so I'll be treating their advice that it is "edible ...sharper than garden chervil, with a hint of carrot" with a proverbial bargepole.

Last week I invoked the perk of the self-employed/semi-retired and took a spontaneous day off to cycle to the Coast and back. It happened to be the nicest day of the week for weather and my 73 miles were most enjoyable, particularly the yellow-green-blue section between Halesworth and Harleston through the rolling Suffolk hills.

Here is my trusty Raleigh Stead parked outside the Community run village shop in Metfield where one can buy the most wonderful selection of cakes to ensure one's athletic prowess is undimmed through carbohydrate shortfall ("some chance - Ed").

And here we are at the aforementioned Coast where (if the sun is about) the sea is always twinkling in a very pleasing way.

Southwold always had a lovely faded Enid Blyton 1930's feel to it with tea shops, book shops and even a pre-digital camera shop. Now, sadly, it seems to have turned into an offshoot of Chelsea or Hampstead and the dour little seaside coloured shops have all become coffee shop chains or expensive faux-30's clothing shops or upmarket boutique hotels. It is really now a pastiche of its lovely former self and the only things left there for me are the amazing Tim Hunkin machines on the pier or the rowing boat ferry out to Walberswick.

I made an excuse and left down the treacherous main road to the A12 and back to the excellent little market town of Halesworth for my lunch. An old-fashioned pedestrianised place with "proper" shops and pavement cafes. However, even here the cold hand of modern ways has penetrated as my excellent quiche and salad was served on a plank of wood. The great scribe Sir Bruin once pointed out that the ceramic industry has now been around several hundred years so you'd think plates might be freely available to cafes and restaurants by now.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

I'll put a Spell on Yoo

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good play on words and am very happy to see commercial enterprises do the same. In fact, they always bring a smile to my face and build a confidence that the business is being run by a real human being.

I'd be very happy to pop in here for my 5-yearly groom. I think they are based in Higher Barnett.

And I'd be happy to entrust Mr Spruce's Company to clean the upholstery knowing they weren't "Born to Ruin".

Or get some heavy lifting done by the muscles from Brussels.
Mind you, sometimes the pun may not be intentional and I was once stuck behind this local driving instructor:

Anyway, be that as it may. What I DO find infuriating is when Companies pick brand names which are simply mis-spelt on purpose using the theory that a badly-spelt name is a memorable name. They don't have the elegance or wit of the pun - just a lazy and annoying transposition of a letter or two which some 22 year old creative in London on £165,000 per annum has "blue skied" to a focus group.

In the olden days, people used to use the name "AAA Taxis" or "Aarvaark Security" to come up on the first page of the telephone directory. Now the Global internet market has made things so much more complicated the desire to stand out from the crowd involves eye-wateringly complex Search Engine Optimization algorithms. This results in a plethora of annoying brand names such as "Tumbr", "flickr" and "reddit" plus daft messing with capitalisation such as "iPhone" or "eBay". About as creative as tipping over a Scabble board.

In My Glorious Rule the use of silly spelling will be illegal (along with the non-use of indicators to change lane or writing the words "inbox me"). 

However, my theory is that this practice will knock itself out through over-use and it is the correctly spelled names which will stand out in the future. Two or three generations have now been born into a World where "CU Mund arvo hun lol xx" is a meaningful sentence and switching a "C" to a "K" or sticking a random capital in the miDdle of a wOrd will look positively dull. Then they'll be F.C.U.K'd.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Norman Wisdom

Following the Norman invasion of 1066, French Knights spread throughout England and built up strongholds in their adopted Country. One of these knights was William D’Albini who became very influential - his position as Butler to William the Conqueror’s son Henry was like that of another powerful Norman enforcer, Tebbitt the Chingford Polecat.

He built Castle Rising in West Norfolk and later established the moated Old Buckenham Castle on Abbey Road, adjacent to the site that would (much) later become a WW2 Bomber Base. His son, William D’Albini II wanted more and gave this Castle to Augustine monks to turn into a Monastry ("Let ze monks 'ave it", he shrugged). D’Albini II moved to a new site about 2 miles away where in 1145 he founded New Buckenham Castle, a stone and timber ringwork surrounded by a massive Bailey earthworks and moat. However, he built not just a new Castle but a new town to service it, and the unique surviving medieval street layout of New Buckenham is said to be the only one in England to retain its original pattern.

New Buckenham Castle was, like the Gherkin or Shard, built largely as a pure status symbol. By the time it was finished in 1176 it must have been an imposing sight with its huge circular keep (probably the earliest and largest of its type in England).

We’d walked past this strange earthen structure several times and been intrigued to see the large cast iron gates padlocked but a little googling revealed that the key is available for £3 from the owner of the local Garage, which, incidentally, is home to the largest collection of Reliant Robin three wheelers I’ve ever seen outside of Peckham.

It therefore seemed a good idea last weekend when we were experiencing a second French invasion in the form of my brother-in-law from France to go and get the key and show him what his ancestors had achieved. The Garage/Castle Gatekeeper, who I believe is called John (sadly not Robin) was there to greet us with enthusiasm and merry quip.

After a long discussion on medieval sewerage, heart disease in teenagers and the reason the population of Italy is so healthy (they shout a lot and relieve stress apparently), he sent us off with a final word of warning: “The local archery club are in there practising today and with this wind you need to keep your eye out for stray arrows”.

This turned out to be another hilarious quip – fortunately! We opened up the gate and revealed a truly massive internal keep and one can only marvel at the sheer physical toil which must have been involved to carve it out of the landscape sans JCB. Our Norman visitor was suitably impressed and we repaired to the Inn on the Green for their excellent Sunday Brunch.