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. 

Saturday, 31 January 2015


I wouldn't like to calculate the number of hours I've spent during the last few years struggling to decipher the squiggly "RECAPTCHA" riddles in order to let me comment on people's blogs.
It's sometimes virtually impossible to achieve the required answer on a mobile phone and rather like the time I visited Diss and was beaten back by high winds, I've just given up in disgust. My fellow bloggers just don't realize the amount of pith (and wind) they have missed in their comment streams. 

But wait! The good Denizens of Captcha have now come up with a far more sophisticated barrier to robot picking of blog locks and it appears to be a masterstroke. This is what they say on their blog:

But, we figured it would be easier to just directly ask our users whether or not they are robots—so, we did! We’ve begun rolling out a new API that radically simplifies the reCAPTCHA experience. We’re calling it the “No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA” and this is how it looks:

Yes! Now that artificial intelligence networked banks of computers can decipher the squiggly text, the brilliant new ruse is to ask the user to declare "I'm not a robot". Genius.

It makes commenting on blogs so much easier so let's hope the massive super-computers run by bandit Russian spamsters and that bloke in the US who doesn't like women don't catch on to the fiendish ploy and work out how to, er, tick the box.

Robots reminded me of this gem:

Monday, 26 January 2015

Social Strata of the British Aisles

At the weekend we decided to try something new in the way of grocery shopping and drive 10 miles to our nearest Waitrose. I had recently signed up for a Waitrose Card which sits alongside my Clubcard and Nectar card and needed trying out.

It has always fascinated me how supermarkets have replaced organised religion in this Country and how they have developed an image in the mind associated with their social ranking. Eg Waitrose - posh upper/middle class, Tesco - middle/working class, Aldi/Lidl -  working class etc. I realise this very British obsession with class is far more complicated than it appears and is possibly completely irrelevant in a 21st Century electronic economy where manufacturing and the use of indicators has all but died out.

However I walked into Waitrose expecting all my biased preconceptions and prejudices to be proven correct. I was prepared to be met by a melee of Teachers, Senior Administrators and land owning gentry calling things out to each other such as "Jocasta - have we got Hummus for both houses?" or "do come to supper, our Latvian au pair is presenting us with some authentic Aukstais galds and it'll be such fun". I had an Auntie Bessie crinkle cut home-style chip perfectly balanced on each shoulder.

Here are my observations:

1. Passing the tills, the "free" newspaper offer to Waitrose card holders had left large piles of Telegraphs and even larger piles of Daily Mails, whilst Guardians were long gone in a frenzy of early liberal left-leaning excitement. This was ticking my predictive boxes completely.

2. There appeared to be a long line of less-than-posh looking people queueing up for a free machine coffee near the front door. This wasn't fitting into my pre-cut mental jigsaw - where were  all the people with £900 Gaggia Machines and an obsession with grinding one's own beans?

3. The prices of everything were up to 15% higher than Tesco and a lot more than Lidl. I was able to verify this from my "Hello Lidlers" email which arrives weekly.

4. The general standard of dress of Waitrose clients was above average. The pinchy-faced teachers and glum cash-rich pensioners were all out in force.

5. Gravitating to the "reduced items" shelf, we purchase a pack of two "Charlie Bigham's Steak & Mushroom Pies" reduced from £7.00 to £5.85.  It was "Made in our kitchens at Coriander House, NW10". This is what it suggested on the side of the pack:

"Perfect for two - serve with a wink (sic)

Turn off the phone, dim the lights and crack open a bottle. Steal back some time by letting Charlie prepare you a truly delicious meal. All you hace to do is relax and enjoy each other's company"

When we got this package of marital delights home it transpired that each pie (although "pie" was surely an inadequate word for these little marvels) is in a ceramic ramekin. But surely Charlie, this is very non-green and bad for our lovely planet?

Charlie had already pre-empted our concerns and put a special card inside the box to allay our liberal sensitivities.

"Donate Your Ramekins! Don't throw your ramekins away - take them to your local charity shop instead. They'll sell them for £1 or £2 each, so you could help raise £££'s for charity!"

The pies were actually very nice and we have been truly comforted by the fact that poor people and council house dwellers will be able to benefit from our largesse by buying the empty dishes from charity shops with their state benefits.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Deal or No Deal - Open the BOX!

I love Photobox - particularly their Photobooks which are a great way of preserving digital images and far better than having loads of prints loose in envelopes or springing out of photocorners in albums. Or languishing on hard disks which will get upgraded or broken within two or three years.

A couple of years ago I signed up for their "exclusive insiders club" for access to special discounts that ordinary mortals can only dream about. This morning I received this Special Insiders Email Offer, just for me. I am a treasured and elite long standing customer and they are very anxious to look after me :

I managed to contain my excitement long enough to check my other email (yes, yes, I know) and was slightly disappointed to find what the ordinary plebs are being offered:

I'm distraught. I intend placing my special insiders club membership badge in the back of the drawer along with my Blue Peter badge and Cycling Proficiency certificate.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Shingles Party

Five things I have discovered since last week:

1. The expression "How's your belly off for spots?" is a Northern greeting equivalent to "how are you?" to someone with whom you are on familiar terms. A comprehensive answer
referring to the belly in question is not required or expected.

2. You can't catch Shingles - it is actually "The Return of The Chicken Pox Virus". It sits in your nervous system after you have chicken pox for 60 or 70 years and then suddenly decides to re-emerge as an unwelcome episode of shingles. It only affects one side of the body.

3. You can catch chicken pox from shingles if you come into direct contact with the spots (which contain the Varicella Zoster virus, named after the gravel voice sexpot radio presenter). Pregnant women have to avoid such direct contact at all costs as Chicken Pox can affect their foetus.

4. There is an effective vaccine against Shingles which is offered to anyone over 70. In the USA it is more widely offered to those aged 60 and above.  You can be vaccinated in the UK at any age privately for £100-£200. 

5. It can be relieved by the taking of prescription anti-viral drugs which were largely developed in response to the Aids epidemic of the 1980's. It's very itchy at night.