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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Society

The Dying Art of Queuing

All our plastic ducks in a row

Image by DaKub from Pixabay

Not much is more English than queuing.  We are the best in the world at self-organising into an orderly line without being corralled like rowdy cattle.  Or at least we were.  We used to take offence, in a chorus of disapproving murmurs if someone just ignored a queue, or barged in.  We instinctively know that, for example, outside the bank I use if someone’s already at the cash point the queue will extend along the wall of the building, not across the pavement and into the pedestrian area.  

In the past I’ve even been barged aside in a supermarket by two women who were desperate to get to a newly opened checkout lane.  Usually when I’m in a queue and a till is opened I will usually suggest to the person in front of me that they go to it before me, as they were there before me but not many people do now.  I was once in the barber’s shop and another man walked in and sat down.  A customer paid for his haircut and left, the hairdresser said “who’s next please” and the man, who I can only assume was related to Usain Bolt, shot from his seat and into the chair before I had even had the chance to say “where the feck are you going, I’m next”.  Being English I, of course, harrumphed, wished bad karma on him and waited for the next chair.

I’ll admit that most of us still have our instinctive ability to line up, many even offer to bump you up the line ahead of them if you only have a mars bar and box of tea in the supermarket and these people are to be blessed and cherished but…

During the time of Covid and social distancing I’ve noticed that people’s inability to see queues has increased, and others have reported the same.  You’ll be queuing at the end of an aisle as required, then someone will walk past with a basket or trolley and march straight up to the checkout having seen that you’re standing there and not so much as wondered what you were doing – “yes, I just loiter next to the discount freezer for the fun of it, you meet such interesting people, such as the TEN PEOPLE WITH BASKETS BEHIND ME”.

Even in a virtual queue few people are willing to wait, most think they’re more important, that their job should be done before everyone else’s, their food should come first, “but I’ve paid for it” they whine, but so has everyone else, and all before you.

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Politics, Psychology, Science, Society

It Was Bound To End In Tiers

I’ve just heard yet another news report about anti-lockdown protests in London, people chanting “take your freedom back.”  What freedom has been taken away exactly?  The freedom to contract a potentially deadly virus and then pass it on to someone else who might then die or perhaps the freedom to die yourself?  Such people say it’s their responsibility if they catch it, or they don’t believe it exists – one man, when asked if he had a face mask said he hadn’t and was asked to remain behind the screen instead at which point he said “it’s sad that you’ve got to believe in this crap”– and this attitude demonstrates the levels of sheer selfishness in modern society and ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence – ask someone whose relative has died from it if it isn’t real.  Their protest is not about freedom, it’s about ego.  It’s about being told they can’t have parties, go to the pub and show off to their friends.  If they wear a mask then it means accepting, visibly, that they’re not able to do whatever they damn well like, that they’re not so badass and indestructible.  They’re terrified that they’ll look silly in a mask, weak, or afraid of the virus.  They’re terrified they’ll look boring, subservient or submissive, it’s not cool to follow rules.  They want to show that they’re too special or tough to be affected, that even if they catch it it won’t bother them, when this attitude is demonstrated by so-called celebrities who should be setting a good example then it’s all the worse.

What they’re also showing is that they care not a jot about anyone but themselves.

Since we started wearing face coverings in the UK I’ve seen quite a few people, men and women, wearing a mask over their mouth but not nose – a fundamental misunderstanding of the plumbing inside their own heads and the nature of Covid-19, preferring to live, as it does, in the lungs not the mouth, it’s not fatal halitosis.  I also saw a young couple, of the type you see on so-called Reality TV shows – all gelled hair and excessive makeup.  He was wearing a mask and at first sight she wasn’t, until I noticed she was wearing one – on her wrist.  I know she might have had a good reason to take it off but you have to wonder if she was instead taking the definition of “wearing” at face value, or not face value.  In our shop a man came in with what appeared to be a scarf covering his mouth and when he started to talk he pulled it down to around his neck.  I saw the same thing in another shop.  I wonder what they think the face coverings are actually for.  Similarly during the Tour de France and Giro D’Italia there were spectators stood in the road on the slow climbs, leaning in to within a couple of feet of the riders, shouting “encouragement” at them, many with their masks worn round their neck or on their chin at the most – potentially one big dose of the virus sprayed into each cyclist’s face.  No doubt it would have been the same at other such events.  I’ve even heard it said that “it’s ok, I’m outdoors” – hence large groups travel halfway across the country to see some snow.

The first lockdown was imposed because something had to be done fast to keep people apart as face masks weren’t readily available.  But it was also because of the reason the subsequent lockdowns have happened – because a large number of people won’t follow rules and as such they have to be legislated into doing so.  We’re told to wear masks, many won’t; we’re told to stay two metres apart, they won’t; we’re told not to go to each others houses or gather in large groups, people gather in large groups and have parties at each others houses, or just continue to visit their friends and family like nothing’s happened. 

The lockdown measures aren’t the fault of the government or scientists but the arrogant and/or stupid who refuse to follow simple rules, who can’t compromise for a year – to go without socialising, to go without their holidays like most of us have.  If they’d be sensible then the pubs that they complain about being closed could still be open.

Those crying about losing their freedom would still expect the NHS to make them better if they catch the virus, they’ll probably also be the ones shouting loudest to get the vaccine first too. Our global situation needs cooperation not selfishness – we’ve seen plenty of the former but sadly too much of the latter.

[For those outside the UK the title refers to our Tiered Lockdown system, where we’re mostly in Tier 4, or is it 5?]

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Gadgets, Health, Home, Society, Tech

Portable TV

Television

Image by 동철 이 from Pixabay

In the past the term “Portable TV” just meant the set had a handle and was small enough for one person to lug into another room, it wasn’t truly portable as it still had to be plugged in, to the mains if not an aerial. Today though, again through the multipurpose devices we call smartphones, TV is everywhere.

Again the sheer volume of output sees people feeling the need to watch wherever they are and mobile networks, of course, trumpet this as a virtue of their 4G and upcoming 5G networks – you can binge watch the new series that supposedly “everyone” is watching on the train, on the way to work, on the toilet, or all three. The previous menace of people not watching where they’re walking because they’re texting or facebooking or tweeting has now become people not being present in the real world because they’re watching fictional ones instead. Similarly on holiday people want free wifi everywhere so they can watch boxsets that it would be cheaper to simply spend a fortnight watching at home.

It’s not all bad though. With digital TV and internet streaming came catch-up services which I use regularly. Often the Cricket or Formula 1 clash with other programmes and as such I can sit later and watch it on my tablet or stream it to my TV via the Chromecast, or even watch two things at once such as the British Touring Cars and F1 British Grand Prix which due to the current back to back races were on at the same time. In the recent hot weather I’ve enjoyed being able to prop the tablet up somewhere cooler than the living room and watch the Cricket highlights – by which I mean the kitchen, not the downstairs toilet. Another advantage is while streaming either live or catch-up is being able to transfer the programme from the big TV back to the tablet and take it into the kitchen while making something to eat and still keep watching. Sometimes of course it’s nice to be able to lay on the sofa and prop the tablet up on my knees and watch the cricket highlights, QI or something similar in even more comfort than normal, especially in winter when pyjamas, a dressing gown and blanket may be involved as well.

When internet TV started I wondered whether broadband would have the bandwidth to cope, it seems to, even on the mobile networks and even on my 4Mb broadband at home I can stream effortlessly and in high quality.

There used to be an image of a family gathering round the TV of an evening, now they might watch the same thing in different rooms, even different houses and still chat about it on social media. Strangely though during and since the lockdown I’ve found myself turning the TV off more and reading, listening to music while looking out of the window or just, as the summer allows, the breeze and the sounds of nature outside. Some people seem to revel in the constant availability of entertainment but I’ve found it overwhelming and as much of it is repeated relentlessly I’ve become more selective and have felt better for it – this blog has certainly become better for it.

For someone like me it’s bliss to turn off, to be quiet, knowing that the now ever-present telly is there, if and wherever, I want it.

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