Category: Opinion

Some thoughts on the disgraceful events of New Years Eve.

A bit of a more serious post here, I’m afraid. Typically, I avoid commenting on topics like this, as that’s not really the tone I want to set for something I’d like to keep for the most part lighthearted. Sometimes, though, I feel so strongly about something that I just need to get it typed out.

I’ve been following the news this week about the New Year Sex attacks across Europe. Whilst the attacks in Cologne are currently the most widely reported, there are reports of similar happening in different cities throughout Europe.

Just reading some of the accounts from some of the victims is terrifying. Women going about their business were subjected to unprecedented sexual abuse. The police, whilst present, were of such small numbers that they were rendered impotent to do much about it as it happened right in front of them. Men who were out with their daughters and wives/girlfriends were powerless against a horde of barbaric arseholes who seem to think of women as little more than chattel for their own perverted amusement.

I don’t even know how I’d react if faced with a similar situation. It’s just flat out unthinkable that events like this can even happen in what are supposed to be civilised areas of the world.

The reporting on this has been slow, for flat out politically correct reasons, with an undertone of attempting to avoid a backlash. It took 5 days for these events to reach headline news, which is pretty appalling. The usual apologists are crawling out of the woodwork to engage in victim blaming, which is downright crazy in these circumstances.

I guess when it comes down to the threat of being called a xenophobe, people would rather stick their fingers into their ears and start shouting ‘I can’t hear you!’.

This attitude will not fix anything. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Should we provide asylum to those in need? Yes.

Should women be able to go about their business without fear of being assaulted? Hell yes.

I don’t know what the answer to the whole thing will be. It won’t be an easy one, for sure. But attempting to ignore the fact that the rights and freedoms of women are being overlooked – and even eroded, given the calls for women to alter their behaviour in response to these events (only travel in large groups, stay at arms length from men) – in order to be politically correct about a migration crisis is not going to end well.

For the sake of political correctness, women – and the large majority of migrants who are very likely not engaging in these barbaric displays – are being completely let down by a system that increasingly discourages upholding the laws of the land, or even speaking out, for fear of being branded a racist. I hope that the perpetrators of the events on New Years Eve are held accountable for their actions. Given the current reaction though, I’m not holding my breath.

The problem with the arcade

On New Years day, I was with the bloke and his girls at the seaside. We ended up in the arcade, and fed them 2 pence pieces for some of the machines. We had fun, and the girls managed to win some toy dinosaurs to add to their collection.

One thing that disappointed me, however, is just how blatantly *fixed* some of the games are in these places still.

Now, I know that there has always been a level of fixing in arcades. But one thing I do remember is when I was younger – we’d go on holiday to Skegness, and my older sister and I would spend hours on the ‘grabby machines’. These are the machine where you have a claw that you can control with a joy stick, and you attempt to pick up the toys inside. It’s a game of slight skill.

My sister and I were good at it. We used to return to the holiday chalet or caravan absolutely loaded with cuddly toys. It was great!

Sadly, this golden age of grabby machine was short lived. A few years after that, we stopped playing when the claw would grab your prize, rise up, and slightly loosen its grip to drop the toy before it had even given it to you. I suspect that the parameters of the machine only keep the grip closed about once in every thousand goes.

I was explaining this to one of the blokes daughters when she desperately wanted a go of one of the grabby machines that was populated with Minion cuddly toys. To demonstrate the problem to her, we hung around and watched someone else play it, so she could see the ‘fix’ in action. As soon as she saw the guy successfully grab a minion 5 times in a row, only for it to be released as soon as the claw raised, she was no longer interested in playing.

I guess that’s the point of this post. Even small children don’t want to get ripped off. Whilst a level of game fixing is to be expected, some of the machines take it too far. I stopped playing grabby machines years ago for this reason. As did my sister. And even a 9 year old has now been put off playing them.

I’d much prefer to pay more to play the game and actually feel I have a fair chance of winning the prize, than to watch time and again as I ‘win’ without actually getting my prize.

I doubt the arcade industry will change this behaviour. It’s obviously working for them, but if a 9 year old with little concept of the value of money can see the blatant scam, then you’re probably being a bit too obvious about the whole thing.

The Great Pottery Throw Down

It’s not my usual television show choice. However, me and the Bloke have ended up following this.

It started when we stumbled across the show in the TV guide, when looking for something to brainlessly watch after dinner. I just wanted to see how my home town would be portrayed. The bloke, on the other hand, has a total man crush on Sara Cox.

We first watched it expecting to turn it off part way through out of boredom. This was not the case.

This show is hilarious – especially if you have a somewhat juvenile sense of humour, as the Bloke and I do. We giggled our way through the first full episode which was dripping unintentional innuendo. This is helped by the Blokes observation that anything Sara Cox says sounds dirty. The main stars of this are the contestants, though.

Some choice quotes from this so far:

‘The shrinkage of this clay is 17%. That’s almost as bad as VAT!’

‘It’s only a little crack!’

‘It is, and I’m filling that baby up!’

‘Who mastered pulling, and whose touch has let them down?’

The judges almost feel surplus to requirements. Keith Brymer Jones is a strange looking man. His gelled up comb over makes it look like he has horns from a distance, and he’s prone to bursting into tears. Which is uncomfortable, to say the least. I’m also convinced that the other judge, Kate Malone, is constantly stoned, she’s so airy and arty. Little innuendo comes from these guys, and really – the filth is the draw of this show. I think I’d quite happily watch this show with just the contestants and Sara Cox every week, just to see the banter.

Next week is the final, and I’m going to miss it. The bloke and I are hoping that Jim wins, as his Elvis hair totally steals the show. The man is a legend!

Brussels Sprouts

I came across an article in the local news this week – ‘Brussels sprout ‘smuggler’ mystifies staff at primary school‘.

In a nut shell, some enterprising child is smuggling their uneaten brussels sprouts into the bags of their classmates, in what is assumed to be a ploy to fool his/her parents that he/she has eaten the sprouts.

This is brilliant, on so many levels. I’ve never been a fan of sprouts myself. In fact, I remember the year when my Dad declared that we don’t like them anyway, so he was no longer going to add them to the Christmas dinner. It was awesome. As such, I’ve never been in a position of needing to hide my sprouts. But what this kid is doing is just genius.

I hope he becomes a secret agent when he grows up.

What makes me sad about this article is the reaction of the school. If the report is to be believed, break time has been cancelled for some until the culprit confesses. The school has apparently denied this, but then goes on to say that they are worried about food allergies. For sprouts. While experts say that as little as 1 in 50,000 may have a brussels sprout allergy.

Now, food allergies can be a real concern – especially for things like peanuts. Here’s the thing though – I’m pretty sure that most institutions these days (especially where children are involved) keep records of any severe allergies just in case. Unless they actually have a child there with an allergy to sprouts, then a letter home like this seems like a complete over-reaction. Then again, in a world where people will sue for compensation at the drop of a hat, I guess I can understand why the school has had to take this position.

It’s a bit sad. The sooner we get out of the whole compensation culture, the better, in my mind. I feel that it has gone a long way to stop people taking responsibility for themselves in many cases, resulting in an ‘elf and safety culture gone mad.

Britishism – The Tea Queue

I got chatting with a Hungarian colleague at work whilst in the very small kitchen my department shares. This kitchen is small enough that you can only barely squeeze two people into it at once. At certain times of the day, you will find people queuing up outside, awaiting their turn at the kettle. I termed this the ‘Tea Queue’, and my colleague commented that those two words together summed up everything British.

Now, my colleague hasn’t been living in the UK all that long – and she told me a story about her own experience of British Rage when she inadvertently jumped a queue. I felt kind of bad for her – she hadn’t been here long, and had been in a rush to not miss her bus. The bus station is very busy, and the stops quite close together. She hadn’t realised that the long queue she ran past had been the queue for the bus she was aiming to catch. This resulted in a woman in the queue giving her a massive scolding, which has stuck with my colleague even now.

Here’s the thing. In the UK, we’re conditioned to honour the queue. Queue jumping is one of the biggest faux pas you can commit. Seeing queue jumping in action will incite us to fury. However – the majority of people do not mean to be rude, I find. Sometimes, they make an honest mistake. Queuing may not be such a huge thing where they come from. In all the times someone has queue jumped in front of me, I generally find that a polite ‘Excuse me, I think you missed the queue here!’ usually results in the queue jumper looking a bit embarrassed at their mistake and taking their proper place in the queue.

Granted, swallowing your rage can be difficult – especially on a bad day. But I find it pretty sad that all too often, people will let loose their rage without realising that people sometimes have just missed the fact that there is a queue. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give someone a bloody good telling off if they are unrepentant of their rudeness when you attempt to politely correct them. Still. I wish that the woman who told off my colleague had been a bit nicer. I fear that my colleagues first impression of Britishism may be tarnished somewhat by this experience, and that makes me sad.

Above all, the main Britishism should be politeness first, and fury at impoliteness second.

At least the coffee shops sell different flavours.

This weekend just gone saw me and the Bloke have a wander around town, looking for inspiration and mainly just getting out of the house.

We lamented a while over how all the shops sell the same things – which is something that is becoming more and more of a problem. You go into a shop and see something that looks really unique. In this instance, it was a make your own cardboard clockwork dinosaur. We spent a while playing with it in the shop, then found the same thing in the next 4 shops we looked into. Sigh.

You then get curious, and decide to check it out online. Amazon sell the same thing for around £5 cheaper than we saw in any of the 5 shops we found it in.

That’s a problem. In this case, it’s twofold. First off, if you can find the same thing in the majority of the shops you check, it discourages looking in different shops, as there is a lack of variety. This is something that has infected the independent shops in the area as well as the usual chain culprits. Secondly, if it works out both cheaper and more convenient to buy it online, then what’s the point in heading into town at all?

It’s no wonder that the high street shopping centres in towns around the country are being taken over by a gazillion coffee shops. I’ve been trying to be good this year, and buy gifts from the city centre, but I feel like I’m just ripping myself off and wasting my own time doing it. Meaning that I’ll probably be doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online once again this year.

 

It’s not Christmas yet. Stop it.

Over recent years, I’ve been getting more and more annoyed at Christmas starting earlier. Some people around here started putting up their Christmas decorations in October. October!!!

It’s insanity. I love Christmas decorations as much as anyone else – they’re shiny, glitzy and wonderful. But this whole ‘start earlier every year’ just smacks of feeding into a celebration that has become crazily consumerist. November is apparently the time to start showing Christmas films on TV.

I’d have no problem if we could stick with doing all of this shenanigans in December. The main problem I have with Christmas these days is that I’m already kind of fed up with it by Christmas day, as I’ve had Christmas rammed in my face everywhere I go for 3 months prior to the actual event.

I get why the shops do it – by starting earlier, they get more time to sell over-priced glitzy tat in the run up. It’s a shame that few have clocked on to this – buy all the things like wrapping paper and decorations in January at a discount, and you’re all set for next Christmas. Save yourself money, and feel smug as you get to avoid the screaming hordes of people doing their Christmas shopping.

The other thing is presents. We get encouraged to spend a crazy amount to prove our love for the people in our lives. I stopped buying into this idea quite a while ago. The people I buy presents for often have most of what they need, so I tend to buy practical things that don’t cost an arm and leg. Last year, I brought my Dad a new frying pan. Seems boring, but it’s what he wanted, and he’ll get to use it for years to come. This year, I’ve put money towards a new vacuum cleaner for my sister.

I may be seen as somewhat ‘Bah, humbug!’, but I’m not actually too concerned about that. I’ve been getting overdosed on Christmas. Whilst I’ll never pack it in completely, I do find that each year I’m caring less and less about it. Mainly because the focus has shifted away from spending time with loved ones, and more to buying shiny expensive things.

I guess the main message I’m trying to get across is that I think it would be pretty awesome if we could go back to keeping Christmas to December. I also doubt I’m the only one who shares that sentiment.