You’re Being Lied To…..part 1

This is not a strange concept and most of us realise this on some level. What worries me is the frequency with which it happens now. We get bombarded with these lies and untruths on such a regular basis, we are becoming anaesthetised to it. So much so, we are in danger of accepting some of them as being the truth.

I have many examples that I would like to convey and I am sure that you are aware of many of the same issues. At the very least, I hope you share my opinion and in some cases, I hope you might look at some of these issues in a new light. As I have so many of these examples, I’ve decided to break them down into small bite-size chunks.

Lie #1 –This call may be recorded for training purposes……….”

Yeah, yeah, blah, blah! I was on hold to one of the many service providers that I have the displeasure to call on a regular basis and this same message was droning on in my ear. We’ve all had to listen to it. And then it dawned on me. If these companies use these calls for “training purposes”, then why are most of the people that I speak to so incompetent. It appears that the only training they might have received is on how to use the phone system and how to read from the scripts in front of them. If your query is even slightly off from the list of things on their cheat-sheet, you might as well be talking to a trained parrot. Hell, at least the parrot would be entertaining!

If these calls were used for training, then these companies would see how ineffectual their call teams were. Such is the frustration at dealing with these individuals, normal, polite, self-effacing people are reduced to snarling, foul-mouthed animals, spewing expletives and profanities.

No, don’t be fooled. These calls aren’t used for training, for that would imply that they actually care about you, their customer. No, these calls are used to defend themselves should an issue arise that could be escalated. They can dredge up every word that you have uttered and use them against you. Prove that you are some unreasonable, quarrelsome time-waster who uses language that would embarrass even a fishwife.

Of course, this is only my opinion. If you are someone that manages to keep your cool in the face of overwhelming incompetence and obstinate ignorance, then I applaud you. If you are a company that does actually use this information for the betterment and training of your employees, then you are to be commended, a gold star for you.

Personally, my experience tells me otherwise. You’ve only got to trawl through the many corporate websites for these service providers to see the truth. What can you never find? A telephone number, that’s what! No, I don’t believe they use your call to train their staff, because they don’t want to talk to you in the first place!


Brexit……..give me strength!!

I did say that I wouldn’t comment on the subject of the UK leaving the EU, as enough has been said already. Everyone has an opinion on it and to be honest, I’m fed up hearing about it. As someone once said, opinions are like ass-holes, we all have one, it’s everyone else’s that stink!

The whole issue of Brexit has been like a badly planned car journey. You think that you know where you are going and that you’ve planned the route down to the last detail. You checked your petrol and tyre pressures and you’ve even packed some snacks and a drink, just in case you get peckish. You set off, happy that you know where you’re going and you’re grinning at the thought of exploring pastures new.

However, after a short distance into your journey, you start to hear a small niggling voice in the back of your head. You try to ignore it, but the further you go, the louder it gets and you know that you won’t be able to ignore it for much longer. But you carry on, reassuring yourself that you’ve covered every option and there’s nothing that can possibly go wrong.

Onward you go, but all the while that voice carries on nagging at you. Louder and louder it grows until you can bear it no longer.

“Hey dimwit!! You’re going the wrong way!!!!!”

Every fibre of your body knows that the voice is right, but onward you plough, determined to carry on with your planned route. As the road becomes more and more unfamiliar, that feeling of dread becomes almost unbearable, but on you go. After all, you researched the journey, so this must be right. Right?


At least stop and check where you’re going. The very worst thing you can do is to carry on, blindly heading down the wrong road until you end up god knows where. Check the map, ask for directions, turn round and go back. Do anything but carry on!

But no. We’re Brexit bound. After all it has to be right, it was carefully thought out. Wasn’t it!!!

Give me strength!!!




Once Jesters Now Kings

I’m sure that everyone has noticed the slight kafuffle in the news concerning the salaries of a number of BBC employees. Whilst I agree with what seems to be the overwhelming opinion that these salaries seem to be completely out of step compared to the average wage of your general BBC viewer, especially when it is said viewers that are funding these pay packets, my concern comes from a slightly different direction.

Let’s step back a few years to an age when entertainment came in a slightly more basic format. Back to a time when what was considered to be entertainment was watching someone dressed in bright coloured clothing, perhaps juggling or walking on their hands.  Jesters in favour were rewarded with scraps of food, a place to sleep and maybe the odd coin or two if their antics and stories were funny enough. Jesters, or fools as they were commonly called, were considered to be no more than servants and were treated accordingly.

Fast forward a few hundred years and entertainment and more importantly, entertainers, are now viewed in a completely different light. Some are now the earning elite and command vastly inflated salaries for what appears to be the most perfunctory of roles. Whilst you could argue that newsreaders and the like perform a vital role bringing us the latest news and current affairs, does this really justify six and seven figure salaries. Especially when you consider that the average annual salary in the UK is approximately £26K. Basically, the lowest paid are helping to pay the wages of the top 1% of earners – that sounds fair! To look at it another way, if you were to relieve the top BBC earner of their salary, you would be able to give 440 nurses a £5K per annum pay rise.

And then it dawned on me. There is a solution to this problem. Are these people going to relinquish their salaries and take a huge pay cut? Of course not. Instead, what we should do, is re-categorise everyone’s job based on its usefulness and contribution to the rest of society. For example, jobs such as nurses, police officers, firefighters, teachers etc., would be seen as vital as their contribution is immense. As a result, these jobs would score relatively low. On the other hand, jobs such as actors, film stars, pop musicians, footballers (other sports are currently available) would be scored highly as their contribution to society would be seen to be comparatively low. Should the scoring system not be the other way around, I hear you cry! No, no, no. The reason being, the lower score a job carries, the lower tax that that person has to pay. Conversely, the higher the score, the higher the tax. Imagine an actor earning several millions for making a single movie paying 70 or 80% income tax, or a football player earning £500K per week paying a similar amount. All of a sudden, we would be in a position to lower the tax for everyone employed in one of these more “vital” roles, maybe even to the point that certain roles would actually be tax exempt. Writing off the income tax bill for a nurse is almost the equivalent of awarding them a 25% par rise.

I understand that there would be a huge resistance to such a scheme, but only from those top earners that are in that top 1% category. It would be down to the rest of us to ensure that the scheme was adhered to and people were accountable for what they owed. Incentive schemes could be set up, whereby discounts were applied for people that willingly “gave up” a percentage of their earnings. So, the footballer earning £500K per week could be liable for a £350K income tax bill, or alternatively they could “surrender” £250K of their salary into a government pot that then went to help fund health care, education, the police force etc.

On the other side of the coin, perhaps it would help encourage more people into jobs that were once seen as vocational rather than a career path to higher earnings. Am I being idealistic as well as unrealistic. Probably, but something has to be done to try and address the balance. And when all is said and done, if I were that footballer whose £500K per week was slashed to a mere £250K, could I survive. Possibly. It would be a struggle, but I’d give it a go!!

Rage Against The Machine……Or, At Least The Software Update.

Imagine this scenario. You’ve bought a house, moved all your goods and chattels in and have even managed a bit of DIY and decorating. It is finally starting to feel like home and you have that comfortable feeling of security and stability. Then one day, you come home from work to find that someone has painted your front door bright fuchsia and have replaced your perfectly manicured lawn for grey, hard concrete. On entering your house, you find that the hallway, kitchen and living-room have been re-decorated and someone has chosen a jungle theme with leopard print and zebra stripe everywhere!

After investigating, you find out that the company who originally built the house have come in and “updated” your home, as apparently, whilst you own the bricks and mortar, they still have rights over the decor and features. On further investigation, you find that this all part of the small print of your title deeds and they have the right to “improve” your home as when they feel is necessary or appropriate. You would be livid! Or at least I hope you would be livid. But replace the words house for computer and title deeds for license agreement and this is exactly what happens to all of us who own a computer, tablet, smart phone, or indeed, any device that requires software in order to for it to operate. In the good-old-days, you would buy your hardware, which would come with the necessary software preloaded, primarily the operating system and it would remain in this state until such time as the software company came up with a new version. But, at some point, in order to steal a march on would be competitors, they would release new versions ahead of all the bugs being fixed. The rationale being that they could release a “fix” in the form of a software patch at a later date as the bugs were fairly minor and would only affect a small number of people. This was back in the days of 56k dial-up when it would take longer to download a movie than it would to actually make and shoot the damn thing. With the advent of broadband, this all changed, suddenly patches could be downloaded in less than an hour in most cases and believe me, that was quick in those days.

The internet age has led us into a whole new era of half-arsed software releases and most people have their devices updated without even realising. Hardly a day goes by without being asked to update a tablet or smart-phone. I can receive notifications to update up to two dozen applications and a couple of days later I have to update another two dozen. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad, but how many times have we applied an update only to the detriment to the operating of the device itself. My daughter recently had an automatic update to her laptop’s operating system which led to her having no internet connection at all. My daughter was told by the retailer that it was due to a faulty wireless adapter, but I knew this wasn’t the case. After I fixed the bug and re-installed the operating system, the aforementioned laptop was back up and working. I recently updated the operating system on my phone only to find that I had lost almost 2,000 contacts, most of which were work related. These are just two examples of many and they are not just isolated incidences as any Google search (other internet search engines are available) will reveal a raft of people all experiencing the same problem.

My answer? I don’t really have one as the software developers have us by the short and curlies. Most of us rely on our devices to one degree or another and the last thing that we want is to ignore these updates, only to find that they don’t work a few months down the line because the software is too old and out of date. Most of us have a working knowledge of the IT that we use, but in the case of fixing bugs, this generally doesn’t stretch beyond the good old reboot, or “have you tried turning it off and then back on again!!” Aaaaarghhhhhh!!! But there is more we can do than you would think. Get on the forums that said software companies operate and start demanding better software, or at the very least working updates. Most people would be prepared to wait a little longer for an update if they were confident that it would actually work. Perhaps we should all threaten to start charging “rent” for housing their software on our devices – not quite sure how that would pan out, but it would be interesting if there were enough people to implement it.

So……rage against the machine? Most definitely! Or at the very least, rage against the software update!

The internet, vision of Utopia or hellish Dystopia. You decide, or perhaps that should be, you subscribe!

In a discussion the other day, it was suggested to me that the internet should be regulated and that all sites, posts, entries and content should be overseen, edited if you like, before being cast into the public domain. “Are you crazy, I never realised that you aligned your politics with that of a fascist dictator!!”, was my response.  The person that I was having the conversation with (the names have been withheld to protect the innocent) looked rather crestfallen at this as they considered themselves to be quite a liberal and enlightened individual who self-edited themselves for political correctness before speaking whilst at the same time read two broadsheet newspapers to ensure that they were constantly “up” with current affairs.

“So, you’re quite happy for your children to accidentally stumble across some of the filth and trash that is currently out there?”, was his response in an effort to parry my outburst. After reminding him that my children are now both in their twenties, not to mention that my youngest has a degree in journalism, I decided to also throw the old “freedom-of-speech” gambit into the pot. Now I must confess, this is a bit of a double-edged sword for the recipient, as you can either claim to not believe in free speech and thus confirm yourself to indeed be a fascist dictator, or you can utter the words, “Of course I believe in the freedom of speech….”, which is then usually followed by that small three lettered innocuous word that says oh so much……..BUT!!

What this really means is, of course you believe in the freedom of speech, but only if it agrees with your own ideology and sensibilities. Only if it appears on your own moral compass and most importantly, only if it falls within the confines of what society deems to be acceptable. But, surely speech is only truly free when you can say anything you like, no matter who you upset or disagree with. I make no apologies for paraphrasing Orwell, or was it Wells, as the sentiment of this statement rings as true now as when it was first uttered. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that should you say anything that is so defamatory, or derisory that it oversteps the boundaries of the law, then there should be consequences. But lets leave the police force, legal eagles and the judiciary to decide what is in and what is outside of the law.

I can’t deny, there is a lot of unsavory stuff on the internet and that’s putting it mildly, but I have always believed that the power of censorship lies with the individual. If I don’t like the look of something, I won’t click on it and if I disagree with something that I read, then I won’t visit that site again. I don’t need someone else to tell me what is and what isn’t suitable for me. Surely, the only people that are going to be looking at pictures of individuals with questionable morality in dubious poses with various farmyard livestock are those people who are actively seeking out these images. I can’t imagine that I will type, “release date of next Bond movie” into my preferred search engine, only to be directed to a number of sites that will show me how to make an explosive device out of kitchen foil, baking soda and a rolled up copy of the Radio Times.

Sure, I have thought how nice it would be to have an internet where there aren’t adverts popping up indiscriminately every three seconds. Or where you can get relevant results for a search that doesn’t require you filtering through umpteen pages of completely irrelevant sites that are just trying to flog you their wares or services. My concern is that this Utopian vision, will come at a cost, literally and that cost will probably be in the region of £19.99 per month, but the first three months are half-price! Another subscription!!! Arrrghhhhh!!! Add that to my phone tariff, broadband service, satellite television, Now-Flix, What TV and up- the-Amazon-without-a-paddle and I’m actually going to need to get a proper job to pay for it all. I can also see it leading to a two tiered internet service  whereby all the nice shiny and relevant stuff is available to those who pay for it and all the dregs and gutter-slop are left for everyone else. I can see a virtual world akin to that represented in the film Demolition Man – a squeaky-clean, polite and clinical internet on the surface, but scratch a bit deeper and what lies beneath is a stinking pit of grime and squalor.

But, do you know what, I’ll take that dark and dank underworld because it will be my choice. The ethics and morals that guide me will remain, but more importantly they will be ones that I have chosen for myself and not ones that have been given to me. Surely, freedom of choice and freedom of speech are not separate issues. but things that are intrinsically linked like the two sides of a coin. If you only have one side, you no longer have a coin.

So for me the choice is clear, no censorship, no overseers, no regulators, leave it as it is and let us judge for ourselves.

General Election? None of the above please!

Well, it’s that time again and we are beset with election fever; when I say fever, I mean more of a slight temperature and that scratchy feeling you get in the back of your throat. Now don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some typical rant berating one party in favour of another, but rather my view of the political “scene” as an overview. I know, I know, never discuss religion or politics, but how are we ever going to change things unless we engage in some form of meaningful dialogue.

I was flicking, or should I say, scrolling through some news stories on the internet the other day and saw a headline tearing into a certain soap actress for admitting that she had never voted in an election. The particular site that I was on didn’t seem particularly interested in covering the serious issues of the topic, but instead seemed more interested in the frills and frippery and so concerned itself on whether the actors outfit was de rigueur or not. I realised that the report didn’t give a reason as to why this particular actor hadn’t voted before, but it made me realise that there have been elections where I too have failed to register my mark in the necessary box. Now before you start lambasting me for not upholding my democratic right and pointing out that we have fought for our liberty in order to exercise this right. let me explain. Posed with the question, would you like to be stabbed in the face, or shot in the chest, I sincerely hope that your answer is, none of the above please. At this juncture, I would like to thank and apologise in equal measure to Rufus Hound, as I have stolen/paraphrased this question from some of his material – and damn funny it was too! (his material, not my question)!

The origin of the above material to one side, it does pose a very interesting question and that is, why should we feel compelled to vote, especially if we are left feeling as though we are picking the lesser of two evils (or many evils as is case in many constituencies). Surely this opinion is backed up when you consider just how many, or to put it more accurately, just how few people turn out to the ballot stations come election time. Whilst I don’t recall the exact figure, I believe that less than 40% of the electorate turned out for the last election and even those people couldn’t decide a definite majority. Surely with around a quarter of the electorate forming the “majority”, the result should be deemed null and void. I won’t labour the point (forgive the pun!), as many discussions have been had on this subject, but surely isn’t it time we had a “None of the Above” option on our ballot cards and we can then see what the real majority want. Then and only then can you truly berate myself, aforementioned soap actors and other abstainers for not exercising their constitutional rights.

That’s all well and good, I hear you cry, but what do we do if the none-of-the-above-ers achieve the majority. I should also make the distinction that “none of the above” isn’t the same as “I don’t know”. In my opinion, the “I don’t know” faction are people that the politicians have failed to engage in politics, rather than people that have weighed up all the options and have made a conscious decision that none of the political parties available to them are able to steer the country in the direction that they see fit. In my opinion, if the majority of the electorate tick, “none of the above” on their ballot papers, then the election should be suspended. The main parties involved should be given an opportunity to go away and re-group, even elect a new leader if needs be, within a pre-determined time span. You would hope that any necessary action taken would be driven by the actual numbers counted at the polling stations. If a particular party spectacularly under-performs in certain constituencies, hopefully this will then force them to make the necessary changes in order to win the voters on-side. Who knows, perhaps it will force the main political parties to draw-up manifestoes based on what the electorate wants as opposed to want they think we want to hear.

Idealistic and fanciful – maybe; impractical and unworkable – perhaps, but what’s the alternative, a constant round of being lied to and mis-represented. Surely, isn’t it worth a little bit of extra pain and hard work in order to get a government that is genuinely looking out for the well being of the majority, or in other words, a truer democracy than we have now.

So Brother and Sisters, when election day comes, join with me and demand a better future with a brighter outlook and vote for…….None of the Above!!!

Social Media – Why, oh why?

Well, it’s finally happened and I have always said that it wouldn’t. I have always shunned the concept that is generally referred to as “social media” as I have never seen the point, or more importantly, I have never felt the need to engage with it. I have never been one to actively seek attention and prefer instead to watch others and join in when it felt appropriate. I was once told that you have two ears and one mouth and that they should always be used in that ratio. Besides, I have never felt that my life is so interesting that I need to share it with the general populous, and as such have never actively used facebook as a consequence. Twitter is another platform that I have chosen not to participate in and for very similar reasons. If I ever did feel that I had something witty or insightful enough to share, I wouldn’t want to feel constrained to keep it within a predetermined number of characters, or dissect it into a series of posts, sorry, “tweets” . Whilst I do see the merit of sharing milestone moments, such as marriages, births and deaths, I do draw the line at parading the minutiae of one’s life such as deciding to buy a red toothbrush this time instead of the customary choice of blue. (This is ludicrous of course as I could never change from a blue toothbrush, that would just be wrong!).

“Aha!”, I hear you cry. After making disparaging comments about social media, here I am about to exploit one element of it, and you would be right. On the one hand, a blog is no more than another means of expressing your likes, life and interests via the electronic super-highway that is the internet, but on the other it can be more structured and informative if you choose it to be. I have read (and viewed) some really great “how to” blogs that have helped me out with a myriad of things ranging from tricky DIY tips, through to how to get to grips with the finer points of Microsoft’s Access (now there’s a few hours of my life that I’m not going to get back!). As well as being helpful and informative, blogs can be witty and insightful, poignant and meaningful, not to mention hilariously funny.

Whilst I’m not going to claim that my blog will be any of the above, it will most certainly be mine. I don’t intend to have any theme, or follow any particular topic. At times I will try to inform, whilst at others I will just try and share my opinions in the hope that you will share with me yours. My view of the world is one whereby my head is quizzically cocked slightly to one side so that everything is at an angle. I am that ageless kid who is outside with his face pressed against the window peering in. My parents had me believe that my first word was “why” and I’m inclined to think that they might be right, as at the tender age of forty-eight I still ask it all the time. I think it’s a fundamental part of life to ask why, “why does that do that”, “why did he say that”. why did that happen” and most importantly, just why. For this one word will lead to answers and whilst they won’t always be the right ones, it will at least get you thinking. The more you think, the more you rationalise and from this, opinion is born. As someone once said,

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it”.