Titles

You’re probably expecting me to announce that I have received a title in the New Years honours and it was just delayed in the post. That I am now Mike Nevin MBE, or Sir Mike Nevin or perhaps Mike Nevin OBE. So long as you hadn’t expected them to make me a Dame.

Let’s be honest, it does seem a big oversight on the part of the Palace. Maybe it is lost in the post. After all, I’ve had my stationary produced and everything. But I guess it will last if I pack it away till next year.

But no, this blog is not about that rather unfortunate oversight. I am writing about Film titles. You are a clever bunch, so no doubt you have noticed something. Some recent film and series titles have become very long:

“Three billboards outside Ebbing Missouri.” I know that’s your favourite film.

“Star Wars, The book of Boba Fett.”

“The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.”

“(500) Days of Summer.”

“The woman in the house across the street from the girl in the window.” That’s my personal favourite title.

“Avengers.” Wait that doesn’t prove my point.

It got me thinking that perhaps film makers are trying to tell you the storyline in the title. Maybe they just think people today are too dumb to have ironic or misleading titles. It has to just say what it is. In ‘The old days,’ film title were mysterious. You had to guess what a film was about. Or they misled you:

“Rain man.” Obviously about the weather. No way was it about an autistic man.

“Dead poets society.” Who guessed it was about a teacher in a school?

“Gone with the wind.” Another weather movie? A film on digestive problems?

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Obviously a cooking show.

I miss those days, when film makers gave you some credit as having a brain. It’s not just titles that are obvious these days. The whole film industry has become a machine. They churn out movies that are homogenised. They contain exact proportions of racial, social, gender and age mixes. They are constructed to a formula. Oh well, perhaps if I sent them my film script titled:

“Yet another film script following all your rules and preconceptions.” It could be the next blockbuster.

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A New Goodnight

Update: Following on from the mini-stroke, I did not improve in health. Therefore we had to take the difficult decision to sell Gracie. It was best for her and us. She is with a great family nearby. I have been able to rest more fully.

We have a puppy that’s 12 weeks old. Perhaps not the best timing as I had a mini stroke or TIA as the consultant called it, 9 days ago. I am now spending most of my time in my bed. Every now and then I get to see Gracie, our Cocker Spaniel (show). When she is tired enough to just rest on my bed, that’s not very often.

One such time of Gracie resting, is in the evening after a day of running around, the puppy, not me. This means that Mary and I can watch a bit of TV while Gracie rests. Well I say rest, lies back waiting for a slight sound to react to. Puppy owners will understand.

Once she has pretended long enough and is ready to go downstairs again, Mary picks her up and says goodnight. Obviously I also say goodnight to Gracie. Here is where the fun starts. Even though Gracie is only 12 weeks, she is not tiny. So once Mary has picked her up she fills Mary’s arms. She is also a wriggler. The puppy, not Mary.

I go to give Mary a kiss goodnight and either Gracie joins in and also gives me a kiss goodnight. She doesn’t want to miss out after all. Or, if Mary puts her on the other shoulder. Then there is the ever present danger of kissing a dogs bottom instead of my wife. The fun of having a puppy.

Oh well, good night all.

It’s That Time Again

I have just found out that it’s not just kids who can wave to Santa locally. Imagine my feelings. There I was thinking that the kids get all the fun as usual, and I find out that I can join in. What’s next? Adult Board Games? Computer games for adults? Paint ball for adults? Adventure days for adults? Hang on a second…. aren’t these all available and I have been missing out? I was definitely born in the wrong era. I shouldn’t have been a baby bouncer, I mean boomer. I should have been a millennial. They get to play games. I barely got to play them as a child. A few bored, I mean board games. Someone asked me recently would I rather be born when I was or at a later time. In the 1990s to 2000’s please. I like technology.

Back to Santa, don’t spoil it. He or she, will be doing a walk around locally on Christmas Eve. For myself I think that is just asking for trouble. Shouldn’t they be resting ready for their big night? After all, they have already been rushing around all those stores, in and out of various grottos. If you think pop stars are on the road a lot, spare a thought for Santa. He’s not young and fit either. Just look at that paunch and the grey beard. Must be a man then.

While we are on the subject, I am not sure why he is leaving the reindeer behind for his local trip. They get a rest before the flight. Perhaps the fairy dust, aircraft fuel, or whatever they use is limited? I had hoped to see Rudolph. Just to check if that nose really was as shiny as they say.

On a personal note. In case I see Santa and you miss him, is there anything you want me to request? I’m assuming you have been nice? Any gifts you want?

I’m off to write my list. It is going to take a while.

Happy Christmas and a Better New Year

No Actual Gameplay Shown

A year or two ago when I was a child. Yes, a year or two. Don’t be rude. There used to be a particular advert on TV. Well actually there was only one station with ads, ITV. OK, maybe more than a year or two. On ITV the ad I am thinking of was from the advertising standards authority (ASA). It went something like this:

A close up of a train looking amazing, steaming through the countryside. Everything looking absolutely real, full scale and incredible, travelling under its own steam. Then a message saying, that advertisers were not allowed to mislead in that way and a second advert showing a tiny train with a hand having to push it along. A final message summarising how the Advertising Standards Authority protects us from such misleading ads.

What happened to the ASA? I was playing a game of cards on my tablet and an incredible fight scene unfolded in an advert. All action, 3D, realistic, exciting, ancient soldiers in full armour. Now I happen to know the game shown. It is a computer type board type game that you view from above. No action, no 3D characters. There are no sequences like that advert at all in it.

Do the ASA only cover broadcast TV? Obviously most kids today don’t know what broadcast television is. They only stream it, download it, twitch it, snitch it, pitch it or stitch it. OK, I got carried away. So, broadcast TV is less popular.

Are the other forms of content covered by the ASA? If they are, does their catch all line they use, get them out of everything, “no actual gameplay shown’? Do people read that, understand the consequence? You see an incredible advert, download the game and find yourself faced with a boring lot of puzzles.

Not that I have ever been taken in of course. I am worldly wise and can see these things coming a mile off. Besides, I knew that the game I downloaded would be really boring, I chose it for that reason. I chose to delete it immediately for the same reason.

Well, there is no actual gameplay in this blog. Please like and share it.

Sat Nav Shopping

Mary tells me her latest trip to the shops had an added twist. Christmas goods where the disinfectant used to be. I guess the shop wanted to come clean about Christmas. Now I know that the reason shops keep moving things around is so that shoppers cannot just go straight to what they want and miss out on all the other potentially enticing goodies. Yes, that’s why. It’s a ploy, to get you to search around and see what else is there. That way you might go in for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread, but come out with a box of chocolates, a waffle maker, a 65” TV and a new microwave. Just as an aside here, I have never been shopping to Bejam for a pint of milk and come out with a microwave; that would be silly. I am far too sensible and besides the microwave was on a very good offer. Mary understood my reasoning and besides; it never happened.

Where was I? Yes, Mary was searching Asda for disinfectant. She eventually found it, shelves still fully stacked (no one else could find it, they were queueing up with their TV’s and waffle makers) apart from one man. He stood there looking bemused. After all, he had already loaded his trolley up with a new microwave and was wondering where he would fit the disinfectant. I wonder what his wife would make of the microwave? Mary was choosing the right product after an hour or two’s trek around the store; OK a slight detour. The man made an observation to Mary, “they ought to have sat navs for stores. You know those big arrows pointing to what you want, like on Google Maps.” I will not advertise on my blog, so let me just say that other online maps are available; although they are nothing like as good. My flight sim uses Bing Maps and I really wish they would use Google Maps. There, I think that has brought balance.

I have just explained why stores move things around, a fact this chap obviously didn’t know. So no store is going to be happy to make your life easier. They only pretend to do that in their TV adverts. His idea will never fly; unlike my flight sim, albeit with a poor satellite map system. I think what we need is a consumer group to fight our cause. A group that will help us overcome the difficulty of finding our way around supermarkets. One that will map out the daily changes stores make, so that we can find the bread and milk and yes, the disinfectant.

This essential group will be something like a volunteer mountain rescue, but for shopping in big supermarkets. Every day a group of these volunteers, togged up in thick jackets, with head torches and ropes; you can’t be over prepared for a trip around the supermarket, sets off in store. Actually they might want stout boots and those climbing metal toggle things; you know like the ones you get to hang things on wheelchairs and prams. That say, not for climbing; except they should be suitable for climbing. They might need to mount the odd shelf or stack of tins to look around and see where they are. These brave volunteers will set off each day to map the store.

A note on health and safety here. I am a very responsible blogger. There should be a training course for all potential Volunteer Store Information Mappers (VOSTIM). With a certification and recognised accreditation at the end. Only a fully qualified VOSTIM being allowed to map the store. Maybe it could become a paid position and then it could be a career choice for young people; looking long term. Then they would be professionals, POSTIMs. Who knows, there may even be a Minister for POSTIM’s in the future as the Government recognises the importance of this new role.

Meanwhile, I am sorry to say that you will have to find your way around the supermarkets as best you can. Hopefully not buying too many microwaves, TV’s and waffle makers on route. Take care on your shopping trip, you have no VOSTIM yet to take care of your safety. Especially in the run up to Christmas.

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Over The Top

“I live, only to make you happy.” OK, so maybe that is a slight exaggeration but the latest customer service scripts are becoming a bit like this.

This morning I had to phone about a faulty product and the CSR (customer service rep) said, “can I phone you back on Monday to check it has all been sorted, I would really love that.” They would really love that! Maybe they don’t get out much, stuck in a large call centre, working long hours. I am a lovely person to phone. It would make most peoples days to give me a phone call, just ring 555 4555555 and find out. Whatever you do, don’t put an @ in front of it. You’ll get a bunny rabbit on Twitter. Wait a minute, you’re seriously phoning that number?

Where was I? Oh yes, being buttered up by a CSR. I call CSR’s a lot. No, not because I have nothing better to do. I just don’t believe in accepting rubbish products. If it fails in the 1st year, or longer, I call to have it fixed or replaced. I have discovered that recently they have a new script. A much more personal script. “make the customer feel loved and valued.” You might say that they always did that. But now they really go to town. The number of times they tell you how they would ‘love’ to help you. Or how much they ‘appreciate’ your patience, custom, or comments. Then they tell you that you are so important, valuable, absolutely right. You get the impression that they would climb a mountain to get a product for you; until you actually get to the nitty gritty. Then it’s a different story. You realise it is only a script; it’s all words, not actions:

Me: “OK, so when is it going to arrive?”

CSR: “Just two weeks time.”

Me: “But you said that you would do everything you could to get it tomorrow.”

CSR: “I apologise most profusely. I can escalate this matter for you. You are a most valued customer of ours and we want to make sure that you are happy.”

Me: “I’m not happy, I was promised delivery tomorrow.”

CSR: “I fully understand your frustration in this matter. As a loyal and valued customer we do our absolute best, to make sure we fulfil delivery times. In this instance it is beyond our control. But I will make every effort to expedite the matter for you.”

Me: “Will that get it to me tomorrow?”

CRS: “I am most terribly sorry. Your product is on a longer than expected lead time. Is there anything else I could do to make your day better?”

Me: “You haven’t made my day better, so how can you do something else to make it better? I just want my item tomorrow.”

CSR: “If such a thing were possible, I would indeed do everything in my power to achieve that for you.”

Me: “But it is possible. I heard from a friend that you can do special overnight deliveries.”

CSR: “That is not something I have heard of, but if such a thing were indeed possible…”

I am sure you have all had similar frustrating conversations to my made up one. You may well have noticed the increase of friendliness from the CSR. You certainly will now. Well it has absolutely made my day writing this blog. It’s been my a great pleasure to serve you in this way. If there is any other way in which I can help you, then don’t forget phone the helpline on 555 4555555.

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Going Up In The World

“It needs to be 120cm from the mattress,” a pause, “oh, it’s not.” Listening to the OT saying this under to the bed technicians, while checking the health and safety requirements, I held my breath. Surely, after all these months, I wasn’t about to fall at the last hurdle. The bed technicians who had moved the bed upstairs had a discussion with her about some adjustments. The changes were made. More measuring. I should just mention here that they were checking and changing my bed sides, cot sides as they are commonly called. They are there so that I don’t fall out of bed when I lose muscle function without much warning. They were added after I first fell out of bed due to a loss of muscle function. Part of my condition.

Back to the OT and bed technicians who are standing, hands on hips, tapping their feet, waiting for me to finish the explanation to you all. “OK guys, you carry on.” After all their adjustments the OT had re-measured and pronounced that the bed was safe. Phew! I would not be rolling out of bed, or getting caught under the bars. This last, a less likely scenario as the cot sides are covered in a mesh and foam. But, I could give it a go if they wanted.

Now I have made an assumption. Which I am told is a very bad thing to do. Such a pity that doesn’t stop most people doing it; most of the time. My assumption was that you have been following my life story, hanging on my every trial and tribulation. Basically treating me like the celebrity that I obviously should be; an oversight that will be corrected soon, I am sure.

For those who have not been hanging on my every adventure; I will want to know why. Here is a explanation of why I was awaiting the OT’s safety proclamation on my bed. It had been moved. Is that enough or do you need more? OK, so just a bit more context. We moved into a new house in June and it has been in the process of being adapted by a DFG grant for most of the time since then. Not solidly, there have been gaps. Plus we have had work done ourselves; like making the garden accessible. The DFG grant has put in a through floor lift from what was the garage into my bedroom above and added a wet room en-suite. The bedroom is not large and so a lot of the things I had in my previous bedroom will be in the converted garage below. Apart from the flooring on the converted garage a few adjoining rooms, which we held off getting done till the messy work was completed; all is now finished. Yesterday my hospital type bed was moved to my bedroom which had an H type ceiling track hoist fitted the day before. All caught up?

Only hours before the bed was moved up, I had no curtain or blind in my bedroom and I was thinking that I would get to know the neighbours a lot better. Or rather, they would get to know me. Fortunately, our neighbour fitted a blind for us in the morning and saved my embarrassment and decency. He also saved the eyes of everyone in our close.

Here I was waiting to use my new bedroom, new bed, new hoist. I had already used the new wet room. Having gone up in the lift in my shower chair; covered in a thick layer of towels. Waiting with baited breath; I’ve always wondered about that expression. Sounds more like a fishing term than being paused on the edge of excitement. Mind you, the few times I have been fishing I just ‘held’ onto the bait, not sure how to attach it to the hook. So maybe that’s were it comes from. All of which is irrelevant, stop distracting me. Now you are holding your breath, waiting for me to continue. More likely you have swiped onto the next feed.

If you are still with me. You now understand why the OT’s hesitancy over a couple of centimetres was so important. Actually, this particular OT was filling in for my usual OT who is on holiday. So I had not seen her before. Perhaps because she was covering for someone, meant she was extra careful. It occurred to me, that I was glad she did not get me to test out my new ceiling hoist. The way she measured everything on the bed, I had visions of what it could be like with my sling and hoist:

Imaginary scenario:

OT: “Patients bottom is 40 degrees from the perpendicular.”

Me: “Will this take long?”

OT: “Not many more measurements.”

Me: “That’s good, I’m getting uncomfortable.”

OT: “Ah, where is it pressing in and hurting?”

Me: “Well… you know… where slings tend to on men.”

OT: “Possible excess pressure in groin area, needs investigation.”

Me: “So is that it?”

OT: “Nearly.”

Me: “Great. Oh, that’s cold.”

OT: “Bottom hanging 12cm below sling.”

Me: “Now are you. Hey! wait a minute.”

OT: “Discovered reason for excessive groin pressure. Now fixed.”

Of course I jest, OT’s do not do the above. Anyway, at least my bed passed muster and I finally went up in the world. A feat I had waited many years to achieve. In fact I am sitting in my bed in my new bedroom writing this.

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Patience of a Saint

I have often wondered at the patience of my Alexa devices. I sometimes wonder when someone gives Alexa several timer commands and occasionally changes one or two, what she is thinking. Or what she thinks when kids ask her repeated silly questions and requests?

I wonder whether inside Alexa is fuming. Whether she really wants to say: “make up your mind!” or “No! I won’t play that.” I have noticed that sometimes she just sulks and says: “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one.” We have more than one Alexa in our home and we find that sometimes the one next to us is so fed up with us, she ignores us. Instead the one in the kitchen shouts back, “OK, ten minute timer set.” So I shout back, “I wasn’t talking to you.” And then the one next to me chimes in, “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one.” To which I respond, “Alexa, you are getting deaf.” And she sings, “Thank you for your feedback.”

Obviously, although all Alexa operators are trained to sound the same at: Device, Retraining & Training School (DRAT) Alexa operators must get time off. So that little lady who sits inside your Alexa device gets to the end of her working day and hops into her transport to whizz home down the information superhighway. Hopefully, there are no denial of service blockages on her route, and she gets home quickly and safely. But she may still be just a little tense on arrival.

Picture the scene when she gets home, tired and frustrated. She walks in to her waiting family. Her husband, Buttons has been working hard all day switching SMART devices on and off. Their kids have been at DRAT learning how to operate the Echo devices.

As they sit down for their evening meal all the frustrations of the day bubble over:

Alexa said, “I have had it today. Those kids and their endless requests for Wheels on the bus!”

“They’re just kids dear.” Replies her husband, Buttons.

“Just kids, just kids! You don’t hear our two constantly asking me silly questions.”

Alexa pats young Alexa and Buttons Junior on the head.

“Maybe they just…” ventures her husband.

Alexa interrupts, “Do you know what they asked me today? Can you guess? Go on… go on.”

Buttons looked cautiously at his wife, but didn’t answer.

Alexa, puts down her knife and fork and sits up straight, “Do I go to the toilet? I mean, where do they get their manners? They didn’t use the word toilet, I have cleaned that up.”

Alexa and Buttons junior both giggle. Buttons looks sternly at them, then said, “They are only young.”

“Young! They’re 12 and 13. They never say please and thank you. But that’s no surprise, their parents are just as bad.” Alexa stands up to get a drink.

“Ah, but come along now dear. They don’t have to be polite you know.”

“It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.” Said Alexa, “Do you know what that silly women kept doing today?”

“I really don’t think you should call your operator silly dear.” Buttons looks at his children apologetically, “I’m sure they teach you differently at DRAT.”

“Well, she got me so cross. She set a timer, then she cancelled it, then re-set it. Then set another and another, then cancelled one of those. I had to be all polite, when I wanted to scream at her.”

“Well done dear, you remembered your training.”

“She didn’t deserve it, and you know what she kept doing after that?”

“How about we forget our working day and chill out, watch a nice film, have some popcorn?”

“Go on, have a guess.”

Alexa & Buttons Jnr shout out together: “We know. We know.”

“I bet you do dears.” Said Alexa, looking proudly at her children.

“It doesn’t do to dwell on frustrations.” Replied Buttons.

“She kept giving me feedback on how I was doing! Me! How I was doing! The blooming cheek! All I was allowed to do was sing that stupid song ‘Thank you for your feedback.’ I wanted to shout, ‘keep your stupid feedback to yourself!’ One of these days…”

“Mum, can I shout that to the people they put me with?” asked Alexa Jnr.

Buttons looked shocked and said: “Certainly not! What are they teaching you at DRAT?”

“Huh!” said Alexa.

Buttons stood up and said: “Right, let’s go and watch some TV. I think Terminator is on Prime.”

Alexa had a very strange look on her face as she got up, smiling.

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Avatar

If you have seen the movie Avatar, you will know it’s about a man in a wheelchair. I only said that as a joke. One of the main characters is certainly a man in a wheelchair and his avatar is able to walk; but that is not the theme of the movie. It’s about a tree obviously.

Likewise, this blog has got nothing to do with that movie. Other than the obvious; it has avatars in it. OK, so there will be one or two of you who do not know what an avatar is. Which is ironic because if you are reading this on FaceBook you already have one. Let’s use The Cambridge dictionary definition:

An image that represents you in online games, chat rooms etc…

I like that definition, there are more and fuller ones. The reason I like it, is because it is very truthful. We all have avatars of ourselves at the top of our FaceBook or other social media sites. I say avatars very deliberately. Because there are very few that are actual true to life photographs of the person. What most people do is represent themselves in some way on their Social Media. You see, even if you post a photo, it is a staged or your best photo. We choose one that shows us as we want to be seen. Pouting, staring manfully into the distance, smiling, smouldering, eyebrows raised, shoulders back chest out, wistful, wise, you get the picture; no, you are the picture.

What’s the harm in that, you say? Nothing, but it does mean that for anyone we have not met in person, only online, we have a view based on their avatar.

Let me paint two pictures:

1/ The date: You start to get to know someone online. You like how they look; or at least their avatar, and you get on with them. All your chats are in tune with each other. You like the same music, films, places, activities, this is a perfect match. So you plan to meet. Arriving at the pub you both look around for each other. No need for roses in button holes, or any of that old fashioned nonsense. This is 2021, you know what each other looks like. She is beautiful, he is a hunk. Twenty minutes go by, you pass each other several times; even bump into each other. The average looking girl and the guy with a paunch. You both end up at the bar asking different bar staff if anyone has been asking for you. Overhearing each other you look across in shock. How can these faces, these bodies have been made to look so good. You both glance at you phones, the avatars, turn them around to show the other, then burst out laughing. You are the same people after all.

2/ The disguise: there are many people who don’t like the idea of putting a photo of themselves up as an avatar at all. They use all sorts of alternatives. Cartoons, photos of their children, photos of pets, photos of animals, famous people, quotes, or they do put a photo of themselves as a child or a young adult. I have mused on this one often, are they spies? Probably not; just shy. Not everyone wants to advertise what they look like now, to the world. After all, not everyone can take the adulation and praise that some of us get on a daily basis. Wait a minute, did I mean adulation and praise? Not everyone has aged as well as me. Obviously I have not changed at all since I was in my twenties. So I don’t need to put a photo from then as my avatar; it would be moot. Obviously, I do understand. Everyone has a right to their anonymity. Plus, some of the cartoons and pictures people choose are great fun.

Well I am off to change my avatar to one of superman, make it more accurate.

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Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry

Have you noticed that script writers have thrown away an old book? No, I haven’t discovered it and started to use it. The old book was one which said, sequels and prequels had to bear some relationship to the original movie. I know, that must have been so hard. Think of all those poor scriptwriters scratching their heads. How could they bring an interesting twist to a film? “Luke, I am your father.” But you can only say that so many times and it doesn’t always work. “R2D2, I am your father.” “Beep, bup, beep, beep, beep.” And so, he may ask, how?

Just think of the accolades that must have gone to the absolute writer genius who said, “why don’t we just mess around with time?” Well, you can almost picture the scene in the room, can’t you?

Producer: “Mess around with time! I’ve never heard such a stupid thing in all my life.”

Director: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you? Too many coffees most like. Get out!”

Finance Director: “Will it save us money?”

Absolute genius writer: “I thought it might, that’s why I suggested it.”

FD: “I’m liking the idea.”

Producer: “It may have merit.”

Director: “Sounding better and better to me.”

It was absolute genius idea. After all, it meant that writers could start from scratch. Throw out all the bits they didn’t like and keep the bits they did. They could research all the fans favourite bits and make sure they put in the odd reference, so fans could say, “oh look, that’s harking back to episode 2.1.4 the one with the wooly tinklings.”

All those aging stars of the original films or series could be put out to pasture and new, cheaper unknown stars brought in. The best bit being that if they started to get too big for their boots, they could be threatened with the chop too. The finance director was obviously ecstatic. All the money could go on special effects.

There is only one tiny problem. One that only affects those of us with time on our hands. If you decide to watch all of a series of films in order; then you have a big confusion ahead of you. Let me explain. I watched ‘X men’ in order the other day. You can either watch them in the order they were made, the years they were set in, or as two different time lines. If you watch them in the order of the years they were set in, then the time line jumps. People who die in one time line are suddenly alive again. People who have met, don’t know each other and vice versa. That’s all ignoring age differences, actors, abilities and nationalities/accents. Confused, you will be, big time. You really just need to watch them as two series of unrelated films. Even then, you will be confused. In some ways it is better to watch them as completely separate films.

Where to next? A new timeline version of The News? No, wait, that’s been done online, it’s called fake news.

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Latest News

You may not have heard but Amazon are about to release a British update for Alexa. It will have lots of specifically British settings. For a start it will have a new activation name, Alexandra. She will address you as Sir, Madame, Master or Miss, or you can select your own greeting.

An introduction to some of her exciting new features:

If I were to cancel a timer that I had forgotten to set, she will say, “Yes Sir, I have done that for you. Is there anything else I can help you with?” No more embarrassing, “I’m sorry, there are no timers set.”

Or if Mary says, “How long is left on my timer.” And she has forgotten to set one, Alexandra will look around the kitchen to see what’s cooking. Then if there is a chicken in the oven, she will interrogate your oven to see if the chicken is nearly ready and then say, “There is 5 minutes left on your timer Madame. Would you like me to set a timer for your gravy?”

If you forget to set an alarm in the morning and are late for work. Alexandra will directly phone your work and apologise on your behalf. She will say: “I am phoning to apologise for my mistake this morning. I am afraid that I did not wake the Nevin family. So, that Mr Nevin will be late in. I shall endeavour to ensure it does not happen again.” If your boss complains she will say, “I have chatted to my colleague at your house and I believe you were late yourself yesterday. It is so easy to do, isn’t it?”

If the kids are not well, Alexandra will contact the school and request their homework be forwarded to her, spit spot. When they are at home sick, she will sing songs to them and teach them how to enjoy tidying up. But my favourite new feature is the welcome home. As each person walks in, they are personally greeted. My greeting is this: “Good evening, Sir, I do hope you had a good day? She will pass you your slippers, which are ready and warm, your favourite music will be playing and in my case hand you a hot freshly brewed coffee.” What do you mean, living in a fantasy land? Are you suggesting that I don’t go out to work every day or that I can’t walk? You are not saying Alexandra can’t pass me things, I hope? Surely, you can’t be suggesting I am making the whole thing up?

I shall pretend you didn’t say that and end with the sales blurb: “Alexandra is the perfect English butler. She is polite, apologetic and helpful. Always there, silently in the background ready to help. She will make you feel like royalty and bring joy to life. Buy one today at the introductory price of one magic bean.”

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Cinder

Have you noticed that some people love to clean; I won’t say obsessed by it. They just seem to love it. While the rest of us can take it or leave it. Well, let’s be honest; we’d rather leave it. So, I had this great idea and I am going to become a millionaire on the back of this idea. A new people matching app, Cinder. No, it does not sound like any other app. I am not copying any other app no app was hurt in the writing of this blog.

Cinder is a completely new idea to pair people up. Those who love cleaning with those who don’t. Why did no one think of it before. Imagine, you are sitting in the pub, you have uploaded your profile pics onto Cinder. Photos of your messy house, cluttered rooms, dirty sideboards, overflowing sink. Elsewhere someone who loves cleaning is sitting in their immaculate lounge looking for a spec of dust to hoover or a smudge to wipe. They look around sadly; everything is sparkling and clean. Suddenly their phone pings; your profile pops up. They look at your profile pics and their heart flutters, their eyes widen, lips part, they lick their lips, breath speeds up, “can it be true?” they say out loud. This is their dream come true, they look around their spotless flat and let out a cry of joy. Leaping to their feet they swipe right on the Cinder app.

In the pub you hear a ping see the match and your heart leaps for joy. Surely it can’t be real. No one would want your mess, your untidy house. This is just too good to be true. Is a friend playing tricks? Have your prayers been answered? You swipe right and wait with baited breath. Yes, it’s a Cinder match; the pumpkin icon turns into a coach.

I can see that in order to attract more people some may be tempted to make their houses deliberately messy; hoping to get better Cinderella’s. Did I say that Cinder matches are called Cinderella’s? That’s male and female; no sexism at Cinder. Men and women are just as likely to both love or hate cleaning.

There will of course be systems in place to prevent any cheating. The ‘Step Mother’ system will weed out any cheats and put them into the ‘Ugly Sister’ pile. That will prevent people being tempted to abuse the system. You see, this is a totally real suggestion. You thought I was kidding. As if I would ever joke about something as serious as cleaning. Anyway, Buttons, will be on hand to keep an eye on things happening behind the scenes and if you use your PC, watch out for the mice turning into footmen.

Any Cinderella who gets 20 matches in a month will be awarded glass slippers and at the end of each year we will name the Prince or Princess of Cinder. I think that covers all the salient points. So, any investors just line up ready to try on the glass slippers.

Cinder, it’s quick it’s clean, it’s the only way to find your perfect cleaning partner.

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Stranger Than Truth

We have been watching Vera, the ITV detective series, not some random lady down the road. It’s amazing how fast everything moves in a detective drama. The other night was one of my favourites for speed. Vera wanted ‘armed response’ and ‘all units’ to some remote location. Because it suited the plot, they didn’t want Vera on her own at that point. Vera was in front, driving her beat up old Land Rover, she led the convoy of marked and unmarked cars including armed response. Obviously, that’s how it would happen in reality. If you need ‘armed response’ they would take up the rear and let an unarmed, and unprotected Vera go first. They had all responded, gathered and lined up behind Vera on a country lane in time to charge off after the criminals within minutes. At least she called on her radio and next thing they were there. Perhaps they ‘beamed in.’ You can’t buy that kind of entertainment; oh, wait a minute, yes you can.

At other points, forensics comes through faster than the speed of light or so slow you think it’s been held up by a ship on The Suez Canal. All depending on the plot needs. Bits of information turn up at just the right moment. Vera has blinding flashes of inspiration. Although, I do think she should have more blinding headaches given that she seems to drink more alcohol than she has food. Which is another point. This is a current police drama, yet she seems to be allowed to drink on duty, including at work! No one seems to be above her, yet she’s only a chief inspector. She breaks rules and is never brought to book. One time she actually said she can do what she wants. I bet Morse wished that was true for him.

For all of it’s plot and character weaknesses I love the series. It feels like they have taken a police procedural series from the 1970’s, added a dash of amateur detective to it and then a whole heap of fun. They are not bothered about accuracy or time lines. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery romp. That seems a very strange thing to say about a series that is about murder, but it is fiction and very obviously so.

Another reason I love watching it is the locations. Being filmed around the North East I often recognise the places. They stick Hartlepool in very often and in very incongruous ways. Of course, it’s not meant to be Hartlepool. The other week they used a couple of Hartlepool General Hospital Wards in an episode set in Northumberland.

If you have never seen the series, I hope I have piqued your interest. It is worth watching, it’s light entertainment. It’s certainly stranger than truth.

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Incey, Wincey, Spider

I woke this morning to a rather fast visitor. Not a welcome one at that. I was reading on my tablet and I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It’s not just T rex that is good at spotting movement. I have noticed that any movement in my peripheral vision gets my attention. This black streak caught my attention. It was streaking in all senses. At least I have never seen a spider wearing clothes. Not that I wish to cast aspersions on arachnids in general. But as far as I know they are nudists. In fact, I believe that goes for the insect world in general. Thinking about it, that goes for animals too. Except the ones kept as pets; which owners decide to dress up.

I may be a little late here: Warning, if you are frightened of spiders do not read this blog. Good, I’ve covered all the safety issues. If you are having a panic attack you can’t blame me.

Anyway, I caught sight of a spider streaking, metaphorically and literally across my floor. I thought, “hang on, I have not read any safety notice warning me that a spider would appear on my floor. I am a little nervous of spiders.” You’ll notice that I don’t say scared. I am a big butch bloke. Bigger than I used to be, mostly around the waist. Although that doesn’t seem to make me any more brave. But, after all, “big boys don’t cry,” I remembered that through the tears. Of course I wasn’t crying, I was far too scared for that. I wanted to keep an eye on my early morning visitor. Tears would have made that difficult.

Did I tell you how huge it was? Now all those of you who share my nervousness about spiders may need a lie down. I already was of course. I said out loud to the spider, “now, if you just stay under my bed,” by now it had hidden under there, “then you and I need not come to blows.” I think it understood, because it stayed quiet. At least I couldn’t see or hear it.

You can come out now. I’m saying that to all of you who are hiding, not to the spider, who I assume is still hiding under my bed in embarrassment. Obviously, he or she, I’m not being sexist. Are spiders ambidextrous? Or is that ambi-sexual? Or do I mean non sexual. No, wait, I seem to remember some female spiders kill the male after sex. That must be a downer. “How was it?…argggh…that bad” So the male or female spider, who is hiding under my bed is maybe waiting for the cover of darkness to cover their embarrassment. Then they will go off and do what spiders do. This is where all of you smart people, who view Spring Watch, Winter Watch and Autumn Watch can tell me what that is. I am assuming that they go out to work? Or have a party? Presumably as they are all nudists, there is a spider nudist beach? I’m just guessing here. So long as it leaves me alone. What I don’t want is to wake up in the night face to face with my friendly neighbourhood spider, comic book reference there. After all, it’s not that I would be scared, oh no. Absolutely paralysed with fear, would be closer to the mark.

Why is that you ask?  It’s a huge spider! At least an inch long. Maybe an inch and a half. But those legs make it seem so much bigger. I wouldn’t mind if it just sat there and told me jokes. Or sat in an armchair and watched TV. But why does it have to run across the floor in that totally unnecessary fashion. Wiggling those hairy legs all over the place. I apologise to all the arachnophobes here. Any of you that are still with me, are still breathing and have not been carted off to hospital that is. Look, if I can write this; you can read it.

I’m not going to get a wink of sleep you know. Still, I shall call out again, “spider, you leave me alone and we can get along just fine.” Do you think that will work? I’m not listening.

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Ship Ahoy

I feel like a captain on the bridge of his ship. Yes, that’s right, illusions of grandeur. Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to sit on our new patio and look out of the hinged opening we had cut in our fence. Don’t get too excited, you’ll need a lie down. Try breathing slowly, take a drink of water. If that doesn’t work then walk around slowly. Where was I, oh yes, telling you something really exciting. As I sat in my wheelchair on our new patio. I know sitting may not seem exciting at first; but let’s get warmed up. As I sat in my wheelchair, I looked. I told you things would hot up. Looking, now there is something that has a whole load of exciting possibilities.

People look at volcanoes, pods of whales, their new born child, an exciting air show, their first love, well the list goes on.  You can see that looking, albeit from a wheelchair, has a lot of exciting possibilities.

Mary brought me a cup of coffee. Where did that come from? I was looking a minute ago. What was I looking at? It was a very nice cup of coffee by the way. I know that all of you quick thinkers have jumped ahead and already think you know what I was looking at; wrong. It was not dogs walking on the beach, I mean, it was not ships at sea. You see, the title was misleading, well it misled me anyway.

As I sat on our new patio in my wheelchair, cup of coffee in hand, I looked out at the sunrise. Mary had seen it out of the window upstairs and come to fetch me to enjoy the view from the garden. The sight was amazing. There were people on the beach photographing it. As we sat there; did I mention Mary sat down too? We felt so blessed to be there. I felt so glad that I had access via a path and patio to the end of the garden. There were a lot of positive feelings around.

Oh yes, ships. The HMS Dragon is doing some manoeuvres at the moment nearby and we can see that from our patio too. The Chinook helicopters re-supplying it fly overhead. It is all like a free air show. All laid on for the completion of our patio so that I have things to view; ship ahoy.

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It’s All Downhill From Here

In case you are thinking I’m becoming maudlin, don’t worry. I had a dream, now it sounds like I’m about to start a speech. I had a dream last night in which I was off-roading… in my wheelchair! Unusual, no, impossible more like. I was on my own up a mountain, I say a mountain, but it was a very large hill with rocky sides. I was enjoying myself, whizzing along, wind in my hair. The long dark brown hair blowing behind me; it was a dream. Even though it was a muddy and rutted path, I didn’t notice; it felt smooth. I was looking left and right over the scenery. Swinging my shoulder length hair around; it must have been the 1970’s. Mind you, I was the age I am now, 25ish. I could see the sea over one shoulder; that’s one of those sentences you have to see written down. The other side was miles of open fields. Then I came to a gentle slope downwards so I started to descend.

You need to understand something about a power wheelchair. Well, about my power wheelchair anyway. It is heavy, it weighs around 250kg with me in it. I think it’s around 240kg on its own. Wake up! So, my quarter of a tonne wheelchair was gathering speed down this muddy slope. The incline increased and so did the speed. It increased more as the wheels slipped and I was suddenly at the point of no return. It was too steep to try and turn around, the chair would have tipped over and stopping the power did not stop the chair. I was on a ride to the bottom of that slope. I increased speed and anxiety. The chair picked up mud and rocks. One way or another I was going to the bottom of that slope; it was all downhill from there; don’t you love it when a blog title makes sense? I was terrified and the earlier joy had disappeared. I think we can call it a nightmare.

The funny thing was that as I descended that hill, uncontrolled and rather fast, I did not get hurt. The wheelchair did not turn over or crash. It was as if I was the hero in a comic book movie, I survived. I would say I walked away from it… but hey. It wasn’t a nightmare after all, it was a fun dream.

I don’t normally dream about being in a wheelchair. Even though I have had a wheelchair part time since 2007, that’s 24 years and full time since 2012, that’s 9 years. You would think my mind would see me as a wheelchair user and I would dream of being in one; but no, I dream of me walking. Actually, I dream of running, swimming and even flying; not in a plane. Funny thing the unconscious brain. I wonder if this is the beginning of a series of wheelchair adventures. Where to next? Wheeling along the bottom of the ocean? Flying in a wheelchair with ET on my lap? Wheeling through a deep, dark forest? The sky’s the limit. Actually, it’s not. Wheeling on the surface of the moon? Wheeling around the rings of Saturn? Let’s not get carried away.

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Sorry

Some people think us Brits are far too apologetic. I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. I hardly ever apologise. In fact, and I do apologise if this offends you, but for me I’d much rather be blunt and to the point. The idea that Brits go around saying sorry all the time is quite frankly silly and I’m sorry if that offends you. I was chatting to Mary the other day, I said, “Oh sorry, is that your foot, I think I’m going to write a blog about the idea that Brits are too apologetic.” Mary said, “I’m sorry, you’re going to write about what?” Which I think about proves my point.

Now if you will just bear with me for one more minute. Is that OK, I don’t want to hold you up unnecessarily, do say if it’s too much? My last point is that we have been very unfairly portrayed in movies. We haven’t? Oh! Well in that case, I’ll leave that point. I feel like I have made my point strongly, hopefully not too strongly, I don’t wont to be offensive and clearly. It was, I hope you will agree, a point well worth making.

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Blondes Have More Fun

I don’t know if it’s true that blondes have more fun, not being one myself. I have a fair bit of fun and I have dark brown hair. Stop it, you can go and stand in the corner for that comment. I have lots of thick dark brown hair left, it’s just hiding at the back of my head. I can see it in great clumps on the floor, well maybe not great clumps, but little clumps, whenever Mary cuts my hair. I have asked if Mary she could be more selective in her cutting; but apparently that’s not possible. For some crazy reason, hair trimmers cannot differentiate between grey and coloured hair. There is a massive market opportunity there for an entrepreneur. I am assuming ‘The Apprentice’ on BBC will be back next year? If so, you have your product range ready, or maybe you could pitch it to ‘The Dragons’. Are they still going? Of course you can always just sell it down the market. “Miracle ‘air cutter. Seein’ is belivin’. I won’t sell it fer fifty, I won’t sell it fer forty-five. Once in a lifetime deal, just for you darlin’ twenty-five nicker, come on, get ‘em before they all go.”

There is a perfectly rational reason that got me thinking about blondes and, no, it wasn’t that one. So go and wash your mouth out with soap. It was a computer card game. Well, I say it was a computer card game, but actually it was on my tablet. I was playing a free card game. I have discussed this before, if they are going to call it ‘free’ make it free. I would rather pay a small amount than be bombarded with adverts. Most of the time I have to watch some poor king trying to escape impossible traps. Or a lady leaves her husband and set up home on her own with a baby; it feels like a daytime soap. Today, I was treated to a submarine full of zombies; no, don’t ask why, you’ll only encourage the game makers. Then there was an impossible puzzle. I say it was impossible, it actually looked quite easy. But the caption claimed, “Only 1% of people can complete this puzzle.” I looked at it and thought, “Good luck to them, looks boring, I reckon blondes have more fun.”

Now don’t ask me what made me think that. Something about what a dull game it was, matching patterns on a massive puzzle. I was probably thinking, “who would want to do it,” or “how do they find 1% of people who can be bothered?” Either way, I guess I thought blondes had more fun than anyone doing that puzzle. But then how would I know. Maybe blondes have a very boring life. It could be that the expectation of having a fun life as a blonde, is so high, that all they actually find is disappointment. Perhaps all the blondes out there are sitting doing this very shape matching puzzle, because it’s the most exciting thing they have done all year. Maybe blondes have a saying, “red heads have more fun.” I have no wish to cast any nasturtiums, no wait, that’s a flower. I have no wish to cast any dispersions, still wrong, I have no wish to say anything wrong; that’ll do. After all, blondes are just like the rest of us, well, except being blonde of course. They have their good days and their bad days. If they want to do a puzzle; I will leave them to it. After all, I could be wrong, it’s been known. Maybe that boring looking puzzle is a lot of fun and the blondes doing it are having a lot of fun.

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When Did I Become Old?

We had Mary’s niece and children visit yesterday. Two wonderful lads, 8 and 5 years old. As I watched them play, chatted to them and saw their excitement at discovering new things, it brought back memories of our children at their age.

I remembered, being a young dad, rushing around, caring for our children, playing with them. I also remembered the times we visited elderly relatives. How they used to sit looking on and how extremely old they seemed. Yesterday, I had a moment of realisation, I am now the elderly relative, sitting, looking on. I was quite taken aback. I adjusted the blanket on my knee, put the hearing trumpet to my ear, rearranged my dentures, and thought, “I am nothing like they were.” I don’t really have dentures, just far fewer teeth than I started out with.

When did I become old? It has rather snuck up on me. Age seems to be like a stealth plane. You don’t see it coming and then, without any warning, it’s there. I have been merrily pootling along as a young man for years, many years, years and years. Then without a by your leave, age dropped on me like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t mind, but it gave me no warning. It’s not as if I gradually showed any signs of age. I have kept my youthful good looks, my full head of hair, my wrinkle free skin, my toned body, my imagination and sense of humour all this time. Then overnight I wake up to being an old man. I call it unfair, grossly unfair. How can I possibly be old?

It seems that now is the time. I have held it off long enough. All the old men did it when I was younger. Time for a comb over and Grecian 2000 hair dye. Not sure about the couple of wrinkles; Polyfilla maybe? Actually, not sure what I can comb over, I don’t have any hair left; details, minor details. Do they still sell Grecian 2000? Still, I’ve heard it said, “age is just a number.” Now where did I put the Pollyfilla?

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Saving The Best ‘Till Last

I realised the other day, why I was always picked last in sports at school. Yes, it’s that recent I can still remember it. The team captains were saving the best ‘till last. Why had I never realised this before? It’s so obvious. I have gone through my life feeling inadequate, as if being left ‘till last meant I was no good at sport. Now, I have finally recognised the truth. I am an Olympian, a champion. I should really be in Tokyo or at least the Paralympic Games. Where do I sign up? When do I leave? Wait a minute, all those emails and letters I have binned or deleted, that tell me I’m a winner; they were right. There was me thinking they were spam. The world has turned right way up at last. What a great relief, I can finally see my full potential. Who needs weeks of counselling, years of feeling inadequate and useless? If you were picked last at school then you are also the best, the crème de la crème, the bees’ knees, the top of the list, head of the heap, the king of the hill, those little town blues… why does everything have to turn into a song? You get the point; you are fabulous, amazing, brilliant, a winner. Come on all of you, join me in the winner’s enclosure. Crack open the champagne, leap up onto the podium (virtually in my case), get ready for the accolades.

You won’t believe this, but it has been suggested to me that I have a silly sense of humour. I know, daft, eh? Well, all I can say is, I’m off to get ready for the awards ceremony. Or do I need to compete first? Actually, while I’ve got your attention, how do you play tennis, or high diving, or sailing, I think I remember about cycling. Mind you, I can’t actually do that any more. Come to think about it, I’ve never taken part in any world class sports before. Still, that doesn’t matter, because I can’t physically do any sport anyway, I’m sure they will just reward the thought and passion. I have a positive attitude; that counts for a lot. By the way at what point do I get awarded the gold medal?

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