Psychology, Society, Transport

The Road to Hell…

Road

Image by Jim Semonik from Pixabay

…is paved with good intentions – as we all know.

The recent changes to this country’s Highway Code were intended to improve road safety for the most vulnerable road users but it seems that they will only cause confusion at best, resentment in between and accidents at worst.

As a driver I disagree with the new requirement to give way to pedestrians crossing a junction you’re turning into. In principle the car driver should be slowing for the junction anyway so stopping shouldn’t be an issue, the problem is that there will be, at some point, a car following where the driver will either not want to stop, is following too closely, or not paying attention and will, not expecting a car to stop on the main road, run into the back of the stopped car. If this rule applies to roundabouts as well where people often don’t actually stop before joining then I can see many t-boned vehicles blocking roundabout entrances before long.

I’ve said before that I am both a cyclist and car driver and I admit that not all cyclists follow the highway code. I get just as annoyed as anyone else at cyclists riding on the road in the dark, in dark clothing without lights and expecting drivers to see them, I get annoyed with cyclists who don’t indicate, who just dart across the road etc – mainly because they are the ones held up as an excuse for car drivers to act aggressively towards all cyclists, not give us room, sound their horns at us etc. As it is the new rules will make no difference, those who break them will always have the attitude of “I’ll do what I want, nobody’s telling me what to do or how fast I can go…”

Since the new rules have come in I’ve had a white Fiat 500 sat behind me at a junction revving and edging forward to get me to pull out in front of moving traffic then another, or the same, Fiat pull out of a junction in front of me, causing me to brake sharply and two vans passing within inches of me, the last one almost pushing me onto the pavement – all the drivers no doubt thought it was funny and in most cases pedestrians nearby looked at me like it was my fault, that I shouldn’t have been there, which typifies the attitude these days.

As has been said recently the newspapers haven’t helped much by implying that drivers will be fined for opening their door with the wrong hand – it’s a recommendation in the highway code to use the hand furthest from the door, so you look in the wing mirror – and screaming and crying that cyclists will all be riding down the middle of the road and stopping everyone getting to work.  Sensationalist headlines sell papers and get websites ad revenue don’t they, even if they stir up aggravation.

Demands for licence plates, insurance, road tax etc, on the grounds of road damage, accidents etc is just sour grapes. The true source of the resentment that some drivers hold towards cyclists is, I believe, that firstly they are being delayed by the slower bike, their journey taking all of a few seconds longer; secondly their egos can’t stand not being in control – they want to drive at the speed they want to and they’re being prevented from doing so – when a car slows them down they can’t say “F***in’ car drivers, should be banned from the roads, oh, wait, er…” Thirdly there is a simmering jealousy that they don’t look so good in lycra, no sorry, I mean they can’t get round, and in-between, stationary traffic. Finally is an arrogant sense of entitlement, that it’s their road, that roads were invented for motor cars, to the degree that many drivers feel that roads shouldn’t be used by cyclists or pedestrians at all – well as for the ownership I think some Romans laid claim to that with their carts and chariots a long while since.

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environment, Nature, Society

Throwaway Comments

Reused Lightbulb

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I watch TV shows like the BBC’s “Money for Nothing” with despair sometimes. Who am I kidding, every time. The reason is waste. When I see people throwing away perfectly usable objects just because they don’t want them, from kids bikes to three-piece suites, it makes me cringe. Why? Well, because of all the people who could make use of them. People will religiously wash out their yoghurt pots and put them in the recycling bin, “doing their bit for the planet”, but then take still usable items to the tip – It’s as if they’ve never heard of charity shops, who would happily take many of the items that go in the big bins, either that or they can’t lower themselves to give their stuff to a charity. Often items just need cleaning or a basic repair – I once saw a perfectly good, solid, bench vice being thrown away which could have been cleaned, painted and oiled and be back being used on a workbench but it was going to be skipped and was then “rescued” and turned into a wall lamp, which is another subject altogether.

Of course there are other outlets for unwanted items – Ebay, Gumtree, Facebook, friends or family – but maybe it’s all too much effort, far easier to take them to the tip. Besides selling items yourself or via charity shops, old tools like the vice above could be donated to local projects, there is one near here that does free bike repairs while teaching youths useful skills in the process. Old furniture can be provided at low cost to those in need by organisations like The Furniture Project whom I have donated many pieces, including two good sofas (the second of which wouldn’t fit into my current house, I wish I’d kept the first, smaller, one now though – I might have got it up the stairs.) Organisations like these will collect the items free of charge, at a time that suits you and you get to know that someone will be helped, that someone will appreciate what you no longer want or need.

It’s currently fashionable to “upcycle” things into some trendy “authentic” or “quirky” lamp or piece of “shabby-chic” furniture, usually to sell for a stupid price, but how about we think about the “reuse” option a bit more, which is a bit “greener” too, isn’t it.

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Business, Society

Movable Feasts & Extended Events

Xmas

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

When I was young Halloween was 31st October, regardless of the day it fell on, even if it was a school night, the same with November 5th. I was never bothered about Halloween, in fact I think I’m allergic to fancy dress of any kind, being averse to any kind of school play too – I couldn’t even be persuaded to play the dead Mr Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and instead taking part in the choir, I much preferred singing – still do – I do wish there was a good local Karaoke.

Anyway, when I originally wrote this I couldn’t see the keyboard quite so well as I was almost in the dark to avoid the inevitable “Trick or Treaters.” My last home’s front door was up two floors and hidden in such a way as I’d often had to go downstairs to meet delivery drivers bringing parcels and take-aways. My new house’s front door is again hidden under a dark archway and it looks like my home is part of the neighbour’s house but I wasn’t taking any chances. The thing is it was a Saturday night, the 28th of October, three days before All Hallows Eve. Today is the third of November and my writing and the Jazz on the radio is being disturbed by fireworks. The same being increasingly true of other such days; in the UK we have what used to be called Guy Fawkes Night, remembering the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament which is now more usually called Fireworks Night, or more accurately Fireworks Week now as again it can cover two weekends, particularly if the 5th of November happens to fall mid-week. This year it’s on a Friday yet it’s started tonight.

Valentine’s Day used to be just that – a day. A day when people would send a card, anonymously once upon a time, but now it’s part of the selling season and regardless of what day of the week the 14th of February falls on the nearest weekend has become “Valentine’s Weekend” when people are encouraged to buy expensive gifts and go out for an expensive meal or have an M&S meal for two at home, it has even extended to encompass cars – a dealership’s radio advert suggesting that “this Valentine’s weekend” you might want to take your loved one to look at a new car.

Easter seems to vary in length as well as its religiously defined date and the eggs go on sale sometime in January while Christmas is similarly a week now and begins sometime in August and parents are encouraged by some companies to buy their kids Christmas Eve presents. Stag and Hen nights became weekends or even weeks depending on how far from home the event is, having moved from a few drinks in the local pubs, humiliating outfits and “bride to be” sashes, being tied to a lamppost and onto trips to Ibiza etc – mostly due to the inevitable modern phenomena of showing off on social media – having the most extravagant, expensive, event.

New Year’s Eve seems to have escaped extension, so far, if only because it’s so close to Christmas that many wouldn’t have recovered from the latter in time for the former.

Even Black Friday which spread to Britain a few years back has become Black Friday Week. I think the greatest example of Mission Creep I’ve seen so far was Wren Kitchens’ Black November sale…

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Society, Transport

It Didn’t Register

Licence Plate

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Personalised registration plates are an anomalous thing, expensive (in this country at least) and often pointless.  There are those which are spaced as to indicate that they’re trying to spell something but I cannot for the life of me figure out what – the secret belongs to the owner and perhaps, for them, that may be the point.  I’m not against them in principle, I have seen some genuinely funny ones (which I can’t unfortunately recall) and personally toyed with the idea of replacing my old car’s full-length registration with “P6 ETC” but decided it wasn’t a pun worth £250.

The second group are those who spell out their name – and as Phil Jupitus once pointed out if you call out their name from the plate, Jim for example, “they don’t like it.”  So don’t get it then.  Maybe it’s just so they can remember which is their car, or their own name.  Last summer I regularly saw a car that had a registration that, I presume, was meant to spell – combining letters and numbers with a little squinting and imagination – “Jodie’s” but actually spelt “Jobies” which, if you’re familiar with the Scottish dialect, is something less pleasant – I thought the car looked ok.  I once saw a car with the owners initials following “XO07” once, it was an old Ford Mondeo, but then the secret service has, no doubt, had budget cuts.

Next are the truly pointless ones – the brand names, plates ending in BMW, for example and often beginning with the model number, or as near as.  Hundreds of Honda S2000s have plates beginning S200, while there will be limits on how many “O”s to follow it are available so many drivers appear to have S200s instead.  I once saw a Skoda whose numberplate tried very hard but was missing its terminal “A” being a “Skod”.  Ah.  The biggest issue with these plates is they fact that they tend to be stuck to the car roughly six inches from the front or rear manufacturer’s badges and model numbers.  The oddest thing I’ve seen was a plate that had clearly once been attached to a BMW X5 – it started with the model number then presumably the owner’s initials followed – but was at that point attached to a Skoda Octavia.  Downsized?

There are numerous miscellaneous messages and such like – I regularly saw a car with plates apparently saying “No Sweat” but due to the limitations of the letter combinations available actually said “Noo Suet”.  Either they were not aware of the stodgy cooking ingredient or they don’t like meat puddings or Jam Roly Poly.  Similarly I was passed by a fast Merc which had an apparently inspirational numberplate exclaiming “GOO BRUV”.  Goo?  The mind boggles. I have seen many with “Boss”, “SXY” and even one which was split in order that the centre four digits spelled “Asbo” (an acronym for Antisocial Behaviour Order in the UK).

Lastly, just a few weeks ago, I encountered the most existential registration I’d seen, ending in the letters “YRU” – well, I think we’ve all wondered that, at some point.

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Society, Work

Retail Impatience

I was in a short, socially distanced, queue in a major supermarket, at twenty past six in the evening, after work, a month or so ago.  The complete queue ahead of me consisted of a younger couple – the lad in baseball cap was clearly a gobby type, and between them and I was an unattended trolley, which it soon became clear belonged to a man who was breaking all distancing rules by leaning over the screen at a checkout, being too close to both the cashier and the customer being served at the time.  When he returned to the queue he was loudly making it clear to everyone including the couple in front that he’d been complaining that they weren’t getting served quickly enough.  Baseball-cap man then loudly pointed out that the male cashier was “…going even slower now ‘cos yoov said somefink to ‘im (s.i.c.).”   The wanderer then started exclaiming to baseball-cap man that he’d said to the cashier that “I won’t need to defrost anyfin’ when I get ‘ome, ‘cos it’ll be done before I leave ‘ere (s.i.c. too)“, or words to that effect, laughing loudly because he thought he was so amusing.

All of us who work in retail will have had to put up with loud-mouthed clever-dicks like him at some point.  Emphasis on “dick”.  I wasn’t amused even though he looked round at me for affirmation in an “am I right?” kind of way, I expected him to start high-fiving everyone.  But no, I thought, you’re not getting any group approval from me, no matter how much you want to look like a supermarket hero, the shoppers’ champion.   Another man joined the queue behind me and was similarly agitated, probably in a display of group conformity – everyone else is complaining – “there’s not normally this many customers at this time of night” I wearily muttered to him.  In the end we all got through in a reasonable time, my BBQ chicken bake was still frozen when I got home. 

I felt like saying to all three of these individuals “have you worked in retail?…  no?… you should try it.”

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Health, Science, Society

A Shot in The Arm

Vaccine

Image by Ali Raza from Pixabay

It looked like a scene from a dystopian SF novel.  A long queue of slightly uneasy looking men and women, two metres apart, in a long cattle shed.  It was eerily silent…  No, it wasn’t, a elderly woman and her daughter behind me were talking about the Llamas the daughter had photographed recently on her phone, which was fine, in the circumstances.

This was the Newark-on-Trent mass vaccination centre for covid-19 and about twenty minutes earlier I’d received a text message asking if I could go straight away to have my jab a couple of hours earlier than my booked appointment.  So had everyone else – as the man on the entrance said “the last time we asked for early attendance nobody turned up, this time everyone has”.  But nobody minded queueing, because at least it was a lovely sunny, warm Spring Sunday evening and secondly, we’re British.

Many in the queue were there for a second dose of the Pfizer, only a few of us were having the first and as such we were fast-tracked through to the side administering the AstraZeneca vaccine.  The vaccinations, I should add, were carried out in one of the showground’s offices, alongside the cattle sheds.  The staff were friendly and efficient, many were volunteers, all doing a wonderful job and all should be applauded for being there doing this for our benefit.  We were all there, eager and grateful to get the jab, I even got a sticker to say I’d had it.  Which brings me to the other subject of this piece.

A friend put on Facebook a few months ago that he was Anti-Vax – he didn’t like how they cleaned the carpet and preferred a Henry vacuum cleaner instead, ba dum tish.  It’s a joke, much like the actual anti-vaxxers.

So many debilitating and deadly diseases, affecting anyone in the population like Covid-19, have been eradicated by vaccination, it’s the only way to get rid of them, wishes and positive thoughts have no effect on viruses like SARS-CoV-2, much as we’d like them to.  

Anti-vaxxers claim that their protests are about vaccine safety. During the protests, against all scientific evidence (which they also encourage us to ignore), they have made unfounded claims about the vaccine, and they say the vaccine kills people so we shouldn’t use it – have they not noticed that Covid-19 kills people.  If I’d been present I’d have liked to have said to them “Ok, I want figures, citations, references and peer-reviewed evidence”.

They claim it’s about civil rights, shouting “we want our freedom back” – but as previously regarding face masks and lockdowns, what civil rights, what freedoms have been taken away exactly? To this end what right have they got to tell us whether we should have a vaccine, what right have they got to try to deny it to those of us who want it, to try to intimidate and scare people at vaccination centres and buses into not having it – if you don’t want it shut up and take your chances. At the end of the day it’s mostly people just protesting against rules: their egos can’t stand being told that they’ve got to do something, or can’t do whatever they want to do. Others, of course, just want to cause trouble for the hell of it, to show how big and clever they think they are. 

Some of them though are just selfish and arrogant – someone who does work for us told me that a friend of his was going to have his vaccine “under protest” because “why should I have it just to suit other people.”  Then many of them are simply afraid of looking weak, still insisting that they don’t need protection, that they’re too tough to catch it, be affected by it or pass it to their family. 

If too many people refuse to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 then it will keep circulating amongst those who aren’t immune and we live like this forever; wearing facemasks and queueing in cow sheds every six months.  Thankfully most of us actually want our freedom from Covid-19 so the anti-vaxxers won’t win.

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Society

Areas of Outstanding Natural Stupidity

Vintage Sign

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

I was walking home in the rain, I was wearing my big waterproof coat, gloves and a woolly hat under the hood, and a white van went past.  As it did the driver shouted out of the window, which he’d wound down for the purpose, “it’s raining mate.”  No shit, I replied.  I could also have said “No, God is crying, because His creation made you” or “Oh, is it?  I’ll just go home and get my car, oh, no wait…”

The next night a youth in dark clothes on an electric scooter turned off one not well lit road onto a side road and towards an oncoming car – on the wrong side of the road, expecting the car to get out of his way.  The next night I was walking along a long straight road, again with limited lighting, when out of nowhere on the narrow pavement which is separated from the road by a grass verge comes another youth on a bike at high speed, again in dark clothes, no lights and apparently with his head down so not looking where he was going at all.  I literally had to jump out of his way into someone’s driveway which I was fortunately passing at the time.  A few seconds later I might have been over a wall and upside down in a flower bed.

Talking of which another evening I was walking home when two youths initially nearly knocked me over as they rode their bikes across the pavement and abandoned one outside a shop – the other youth blocking the whole path so I had to walk on the road.  Minutes later the same two passed me on the opposite pavement further down the road.  One of them reached down and picked up a road cone and lobbed it into the front garden of a house.  They honestly think that such behaviour is big and clever, real gangsta – a ride-by coning, perhaps.  There are other examples of this badass behaviour around though – people pulling all the plants out of town centre planters and throwing them on the ground, pulling the yellow padding off of scaffolding and throwing it on the ground.  Similarly “big” acts include stealing a stack of lottery playslips and spreading them along the pavement outside the shops, similarly with offer leaflets, takeaway menus, Argos catalogues etc. One night I was driving along a narrow single-lane street and some youths who I’d seen walking that way a few minutes before I set off has put a traffic cone in the middle of the road, having first rung the doorbell of the house it was outside – true anarchists, aren’t they.

Another common behaviour is groups of lads walking down streets – the road not the pavement – and expecting cars and vans to stop or go round them, to show how big and important they are.  One day someone who thinks that they’re even bigger and more important, or just doesn’t give a shit about idiots being macho, will come along in a big van a flatten the lot of them.  Not a shit will be given by anyone else.

In Fortean Times 403 there is a news sideline about men in a van driving around a town in the early morning shouting “wakey, wakey” and driving without lights on shouting “you can’t call the police because you can’t see us.”  There are of course many stupid people driving vehicles, last year a woman in a large pick-up truck pulled out of a side road without even looking or stopping across the front of me on my bike and as I write this I’ve just got home from shopping in the car and an SUV pulled into a side road across the front of my car, causing me to brake sharply.  The attitude with such drivers is “I can do what I like I’ve got a four-by-four” “yeah, but you’ve got a two-by-one brain” “eh?” “thick as two short planks.”  Ba dum tish.

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Fashion, Psychology, Society

Rescue Rover

Cat and Dog

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Today more people in the UK get pets from animal rescue centres than other sources and this is a good thing for the animals that have been removed from cruelty or neglect and the various organisations doing the rescuing do a great job.  Battersea Dogs and Cats Home even say in their adverts “rescue is our favourite breed”, to encourage people to look beyond pedigree and perfection to choose a pet.

Why though do so many people who obtain their pet this way emphasise the fact whenever they mention their dog or cat – for example someone writes in to a radio show saying “From Ellie, Tom and Boris, our Rescue Dog”?  Is it now a fashion tag – along the lines of “shabby chic”, or a badge of honour – a way to look good in other people’s eyes, to show how caring you are?

Personally whenever I hear the words “our rescue dog” I imagine that at any moment a beeper will go off and the dog will grab a rucksack and head off out the door and up a mountain clutching a Kendal Mint Cake. 

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Politics, Society

Quarantine Party!

Flock of Pigeons

Image by Greg Montani from Pixabay

A colleague today made a good suggestion for what to do about large groups of people who insist on ignoring Covid lockdown rules and any kind of common sense and have large parties, raves or wedding receptions for hundreds of people.  There would no doubt be complaints about Human Rights though…  no, wait, stay with me people…

Instead of fining everybody the police should just lock them all in where they are for two weeks, with regular food and medical supervision.  You could even seal up the doors with big “quarantine” signs.

There you go, you wanted a party, now you’ve got one, a fortnight long one, enjoy.

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Cars, DIY, Fashion, Psychology, Society, Transport

Less is More & More is Less Authentic

Car

Image by strikers from Pixabay

Why do so many people not want others to know what they drive?  So often it’s bloody obvious.  A common practice is de-badging which removes everything including the makers marks, the Vauxhall, Ford or Peugeot badges etc.  I’ve often wondered if some of them have watched TV police shows where they say “you’re looking for a dark blue Ford Fiesta” and they’ve thought, I can get one over on them, I’ll take all the badges off so they won’t know what kind of car it is at all.  Generally though car customisers say it’s about individuality, about not caring about such superficial frippery as brands and badges.  Okay.  It’s definitely not about not wanting people to know they actually drive an everyday branded car, of course, which brings me onto the additions…

Image does matter to some people though to the extent that they add badges that weren’t there when the car left the factory.  I’ve seen many old BMWs in particular which are clearly not M3s or M5s (the details are all wrong, I’m a car geek and make no apologies) and yet the badge on the back says 325i (petrol) when the car’s clearly a Diesel and there are M3 badges on the side, usually applied in the wrong place and at some kind of jaunty angle too – if you’re going to make out that you’ve got a higher spec car than you actually have then at least settle on one model rather than mixing two together and then find out where they’re meant to go and use some masking tape to mark out their location first – there’s this magical thing called the internet that has lots of instructions and even pictures, Google Image Search is your friend.  A quick search on Ebay reveals thousands of badges that can magically transform a humble hatchback into Type R – not even just a Civic Type R but a Fiesta Type R, a Polo Type R, a C3 Type R…  (glances outside at the silver car in the car park).

The best fakery I’ve seen (by which I mean the most unbelievable) was a brand-swap.  It is common for people who own Smart cars to apply the badges of Smart’s parent Mercedes Benz to their cars but the association on this one was, as far as I know, non-existent.  I saw a Ssangyong SUV parked and I noticed after a few moments that the badges looked odd, the owner had glued AMG badges over the Ssangyong ones, not replacing but stuck on top of the originals.  I looked at the back as he drove away and the same was true at the back but then the piece de resistance…  “Turbo” badges which were clearly from a Porsche, I could tell by the distinctive style of the lettering.  There was another equally preposterous badge on the rear but it escapes me what it was – something like AMG’s Black Edition or something similar.  Lastly I did see a 2004 Volvo V50 sporting Ferrari badges.

Finally there are the attempts to make an older car look newer – now this can have merit, it’s been done on Wheeler Dealers on TV many times including a Land Rover, a Range Rover and a Merc G-Wagen and it can even add to the resale value but another example that takes the biscuit was an Audi A3 which had the split-grille that preceded the current single, large trapezoidal one they use across the range now.  In an attempt to look newer the owner had painted the silver bit of the bumper between the two grilles black, painted or removed the top chrome trim of the bottom grille and the bottom of the top grille and added stick-on silver trim at the edge of the bit he’d painted.  Five stars for the idea, one star for the execution.

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