Poor BBC NI

There once was a time when BBC Northern Ireland had a serious job to do; they did some really dangerous investigations and uncovered some really important stories. But now that peace is pretty well established and the culture of secrecy surrounding many nasty things has been defeated, what is a small public service broadcaster to do?

Stunningly, their latest revelation is this: buying in bulk saves you money.

Except, being the BBC, they got it arse about tit: Cold reality for poorest households.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been told that a growing number of households have no choice but to purchase 20 litre drums of oil that are significantly more expensive per litre than buying in bulk.

BBC’s consumer correspondent Martin Cassidy has been calculating what that means at today’s home heating oil prices.

The comparison shows a yawning gap in annual heating costs.

Not surprisingly the household relying on buying its heating oil in 20 litre drums is paying a lot more for fuel.

No, really? Buying fuel in amounts that is massively less efficient in packaging, transportation and general all round effort per liter is more expensive than buying a large proportion of a truckload? And this is a bad thing?

Dear BBC: find something real to get angry about. Please.

A most enjoyable way to spend an evening

One: go for a nice meal at Chez Gerard. Lots of lardy food and a nice whisky sour. Get involved.

Two: wander up the road to see Matilda the Musical. The excellent work of Roald Dahl with a smattering of input from Tim Minchin and many other extremely talented people who produce an outstanding couple of hours of musical theatre.

That second item clearly provided a more entertaining time of it, and I heartily recommend it to anyone that has the opportunity. There are a great many things that work well in it; the cast (especially the kids, but special mention must go to Miss Trunchbull), the adaptations to the book (which work well; they’re in the spirit of the book rather than true to each word), the set design (I particularly liked the desks, and the way they introduce the alphabet), and the little tricks.

Get thee there. Now. Richard Wilson did, and he managed to sit a few rows in front of us. Good celebrity spot, I though.

Another thing I forgot to do anything about

TOday nine years ago, I wrote the first post of what became this blog. Clearly this last year hasn’t been the busiest of years for the blog; for whole months of the year I’ve completely neglected the blog. But I keep meaning to keep the blog going, so I’ll not lay it to rest just yet.

The stats, as is traditional.

  • 5,224 posts
  • 6,502 comments
  • 106,000 unique visitors, apparently

And that’s all the interesting numbers that I have…

If you’re going to steal, be honest

That is my mantra of the day, and it is the reason that I’m admitting that I stole this list from Grannymar. I’m not a big one for email forwards, but I thought I’d give this a go here where it can just sit and not bother people who choose not to be bothered with it.

The idea was to:-

Hit forward and place an X by all the things you’ve done,
remove the x from the ones you have not, and send it to your friends. So being a good sport, I am prepared to share it with all of you:

This is your life:

  • (x) Shot a gun (not very well…)
  • ( ) Gone on a blind date.
  • (x) Skipped school (and generally got caught)
  • (x) Watched someone die (too many, and some too recently)
  • Visited any of the following:
  • (x) Europe (well, duh)
  • (x) Africa (Egypt)
  • (x) Asia (Malaysia)
  • ( ) Australia
  • ( ) Antarctica
  • (x) Canada (quality skiing in Banff)
  • (x) North America (New York, the south west and Colorado)
  • ( ) South America
  • (x) Flown on a plane (a great many times, but not yet enough that I’m bored of it)
  • ( ) Served on a jury
  • (x) Been lost (oh, many many times. But it’s fun because you get to find your way again)
  • (x) Travelled to the opposite side of the country (in both Ireland and England)
  • (x) Swam in the Ocean (the Atlantic, clearly)
  • ( ) Cried yourself to sleep (not in memory)
  • (x) Played cops and robbers
  • (x) Played cowboys and Indians
  • ( ) Recently coloured with crayons
  • (x) Sang Karaoke (badly. Very badly)
  • (x) Sang a solo or duet in public (not sober)
  • (x) Paid for a meal with coins only (and demanded the extra cheeseburger that my NUS card entitled me to at the same time)
  • (x) Made prank phone calls (the fun that only the Scouts can bring, eh…)
  • (x) Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose (which is worse: warm beverages or carbonated beverages? Discuss)
  • (x) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
  • ( ) Had children
  • (x) Had a pet (the Roxinator)
  • (x) Been skinny-dipping outdoors (a very long time ago)
  • (x) Been fishing
  • (x) been boating (both in silly little sail efforts, and in more style)
  • (x) Been downhill skiing (not this millennium; I prefer snowboarding)
  • (x) Been water skiing (in the Bann. It was cold.)
  • (x) Been camping in a trailer/RV (only if a caravan counts)
  • (x) Been camping in a tent (a decade in the scouts and one or two festivals)
  • ( ) Flown in a small 4-seater airplane (should probably do that at some point…)
  • ( ) Flown in a glider
  • (x) Flown in a helicopter (on my own, too. I even got to play with the big boys!)
  • ( ) Flown in a hot air balloon
  • (x) Walked on a glacier
  • (x) Driven a motorcycle/been a passenger (yes, and I have a certificate to prove it)
  • ( ) Been bungee-jumping
  • ( ) Gone to a drive-in movie
  • (x) Done something that could have killed you-but not (of course, but yet here I am)
  • (x) Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life (obviously, but no big things)
  • ( ) Rode an elephant
  • (x) Eaten just cookies or cake for dinner …and ice cream for breakfast (Yes, I was a student)
  • (x) Been on TV (and I even have proof!)
  • (x) Stolen any traffic signs (why yes, I was a student)
  • (x) Been in a car accident (with the head of the local CID, no less)
  • ( ) Donated blood
  • ( ) Gone Curling
  • Favourite drink: Good coffee with better whiskey
  • Favourite number: 42
  • Favourite Colour: blue-ish
  • Favourite movie: Oh, so many.
  • Favourite dessert: ALL OF THEM
  • Where you hope to be in 10 years: With TLW, somewhere sunny.
  • Furthest place you will send this message: As far as the ‘publish’ button

So, does anyone feel they know me any better?

Bugger. It happened again.

Last year, there was a period of about, oh, two months where I forgot about this place. I felt bad about that. And I tried to come back again, but the same damn thing happened.

So, five weeks after my most recent post, I’m back. Once again (thanks to a minor issue at my web host, I’ve had to do a lot of reinstalling and password changing (always fun), but the site is back up and running. Which is nice.

What has happened since I last posted? Not a lot. Work, eat, sleep. Got excited by some football results, and very annoyed about others. Wondered why the world was getting annoyed about many things and not about other things. Pondered why anyone was giving Occupy! the time of day. Spent quality time with TLW. Watched seasons 1-3 of The Wire, and cursed FX for screwing with the scheduling so that I missed season 4. Attended a funeral. Had a Christmas. Cursed the dog for killing the fence at the bottom of the garden.

So, not much really…

International diplomacy

Two stunning examples of international figures being statesmanlike:

  1. Cameron saying “It’s my ball and I’m taking it and going home”; not immediately successful, but I think that it’s important that someone finally says no to the EU. If he sticks with it, it’ll be a bit impressive – after all, the EU doesn’t like to hear the word “no”, and tends to just keep asking the same question until it gets the answer it wants. We shall see.
  2. Obama saying “It’s my ball and I’d quite like it back, please”. I don’t imagine that Iran will respond favourably, given that they didn’t a few years ago when it was actual Royal Navy people they had (or even longer ago, when it was an entire embassy). Now that it’s a bunch of wires and stealth materials, I’d wager that they’ll tell the US to bugger off…

Is either actually being a statesman? Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell in the first case, but I think that we know the answer in the second case.

The times, they are a’changing

In 2006, I was a low rank nerd, with a score of 68. I was single, lived on my own, and spent many hours of every day on blogs and the like. Computer games were played often.

In 2011, how have things changed?

I am nerdier than 70% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

Hang on; I spend much less time on t’internet than I used to. I spend less time playing computer games. I’m married, fer crying out loud. How can my nerd score have gone up?

It gets worse: by some metrics I’m actually nerdier.

NerdTests.com says I'm a Slightly Dorky High Nerd.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

How the hell did that happen?

Priorities

Yesterday, as you may know, there was a fairly large (pointless strike. It didn’t seem to have the desired effect; the country struggled on and lots of people lost a days pay. The world continued to turn.

But you’d think that such a thing would still be the main news item on the national news, wouldn’t you. And it is, generally. The BBC front page is all about it; as are the local stations and the grown-up BBC radio stations.

Not so Newsbeat on Radio1. No, news-for-spanners has spent the time concentrating instead on calls for state regulation of hairdressers

Priorities are brilliant there, guys. Plus, state regulation of non-essential industries is to be filed under NOT ON YOUR FUCKING NELLIE. We don’t want a licensing system for hairdressers; it’s the first step towards government control of scissors and nobody wants that…

Pointless comments

Seeing as how I’ve been writing nonsense to these pages for eight years, it’d be extremely stupid of me to say that writing comments on t’internet was not actually that useful. It’d be just silly for me to denounce campaigning Facebook status updates as pointless, and good for no more than letting you know who to ignore.

But I’m going to say both of those things anyway.

The current pointless comment that’s doing the rounds is as follows:

Remember when Teachers, Policemen, Police staff,Ambulance staff, Nurses, Midwives, Doctors and Fireman crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? No, me neither. Please copy and paste to status for 24 hours to show your support against the government’s latest attack on pensions and public sector workers

See what it does? It lets people show support without doing anything, and it does this by supporting a completely nonsensical statement. I don’t remember things like that statement, y’see. I remember all of us working in the public sector being happy to take pay rises and very generous pensions on the back of taxes paid by the rich and the (now loathed) banking sector. I remember the country borrowing money even when the economy was booming.

I remember those good times, and I recognise that they’re gone. And no amount of fatuous statuses will bring them back.

Pleasant little surprises

Belfast, for all its little virtues, never really did it for me as a culinary city. There were a few nice restaurants, to be sure, but none that really set my soul alight. So I often preferred eating in pubs and getting by on their simple fare, rather than attempting to be wowed and leaving underwhelmed.

London, on t’other hand, is fully stocked with fine dining places. We’ve only sampled a few, but I doubt that Belfast has anywhere to rival a branch of Gaucho, and I know that it has nowhere that can compare with the Ritz. And when I lived there, there was nowhere that excited my group of friends as much as Mother Mash has.

The idea of the place is simple: you choose which type of mashed potato you want, what kind of meat goes with it, and was gravy goes over it. They then provide you with it, and remove less than a tenner from you. Simple, yet delicious.

Where I think our table went wrong was on desserts. Some of us, me and TLW included, did this properly; we had things like sticky toffee pudding and chocolate cake. Others were so enamoured of the mash that their dessert was, in fact, more mash and gravy.

This is wrong on so many levels. And the restaurant didn’t even try to make it right by putting a flake in said mash, to make it look like a dessert. Their only flaw…

Not subtle?

Back in Belshaft, I was rarely bothered by political canvassers. Most of the political parties were content to rely on tribal ties to get their vote out, and the ones that made the effort to pound the pavement tended to be the ones that I’d never vote for.

Over here, it seems to be a little bit different. For example, only this weekend I had a knock on the door from my local MP, who had a little team with them and seemed to be knocking on each of the three hundred doors on my road.

“So,” said she, “Mr Hillan, I’m sure that you’re aware that the London mayoral elections are coming up next year, Ken v Boris… Do you happen to know who you’ll vote for?”

“Yes, I do. And I’m sorry, but it’s not your guy.”

“Oh I’m sorry to hear that, do you mind if I ask why?”

“Because he’s a mentalist and he scares me.”

Three things that I think, following this encounter:

  1. My self restraint is better than I thought, I managed to avoid pointing out that her seat could have been won by a donkey with her colour of rosette; I managed to avoid mentioning the word ‘demagogue’, I didn’t mention anything about election stealing, Marxism or individual and non-mandated foreign policy decisions. My, I must be growing as a person.
  2. Fair play to her, wandering the streets of an afternoon when there could be any number of people who’ll answer the door and point out some of the things mentioned above.
  3. I’m not entirely sure that TLW will ever let me answer the door again…

Why the jubilation?

So, the Jackson death trial. There’s something about it that just sits very wrongly with me.

It’s not the verdict; I can see why it was so. It’s not the media, for you can count on them to be fucktards given the slightest opportunity. It’s not the prosecutors, for much the same reason.

It’s the complete loons outside, who were dancing in the street and announcing that “justice had been done”. No, it hasn’t. The wheels of the justice system have turned, and someone who is probably guilty of being bloody stupid has been caught and punished for it. But that’s not the same as justice; justice would be getting all the people who surrounded Jackson, who were catering to his every whim, who put him in a place of being in terrible pain and having to prepare for a show that clearly he wasn’t capable of doing. Justice would be letting the world know the cost of being a media creature for your entire life, and trying to stop it happening again.

Justice, in fact, would be demystifying the poor man. And getting the nutters on the street to move on. But they’re not going to dance to celebrate that, are they?

Winter is definitely upon us

The signs that winter is here, despite being very delayed this year:

  1. The clocks have gone back, bringing us that little bit closer to the day when I arrive at work in darkness and leave again after the sun goes down.
  2. A new Pratchett is sitting, waiting to be read.
  3. We’re starting to worry about how things will look at the end of the financial year, as opposed to tidying up how they were at the end of the last one.
  4. TLW has broken out the first stew of the year.

Cue the Eddard Stark memes…

Missing the point, somwhat…

I’m being entertained somewhat by the fun and games going on at Saint Paul’s in the last few weeks. It’s a pointless protest, sitting on land near the stock exchange and protesting against capitalism. Capitalism, of course, is not what cause the recent crises, nor is it what the people protesting think it is. Capitalism is probably the only thing that will get us out of the shite we’re in, but don’t let’s let that get in the way of a nice camping expedition.

Happily, it’s not just the protesters who miss the point of things. For example, the BBC has this to say: In an address Dr Chartres told protesters, who fear forcible removal, he shared many of their concerns on corporate greed.

Dear Dr Chartres: the protesters do not ‘fear’ forcible removal. They practically pray for it; their protest is totally pointless without being forcibly evicted. If they give up in a while and drift away1 then they’ll be forgotten in a fortnight; if they are dragged away kicking and screaming by the grownups then they can pretend that their message is so important that The Man must beat them to stop them. As opposed to the truth: they’re messy and noisy and don’t have much to say, and they’re getting in the way of the city.


1 – in a permanent way, not just going home for the evening.

Utter relaxation

A few weeks ago, I got this blog up and running again. But in a half-hearted way; I used to be very particular about posting something every day, no matter how inane or pointless it may be. Not so much any more; I tend to post a couple of times a week.

I’m trying to cut down on the inane, but looking at what I’ve posted recently, that’s not happening. Nor am I really posting the things that are going on with me. For example, a week or three ago, I published this post, saying that I like to occasionally get away from the rat race.

The reason I posted it then was because myself and TLW had just returned from a nice weekend in a little cottage in the hills of Tuscany; no internet or newspapers, no television. Just us, a rented Fiat, a beautiful 400 year old house and some sights to see.

It was, for the time we were there, bliss. We slept like babies, we saw Florence1 and Lucca2, and Pisa.

All these places were definitely worth seeing, and the time away provided some well needed rest. Aside from the stress caused by meeting Italian drivers on tiny Italian roads up steep hills and at speed, of course.

It being Pisa, we of course had to resist the urge to do the least original tourist thing ever:

We tried to avoid it. We really did.

Fail. Oh well.


1 – Noted for being the scene of a couple of the Assassin’s Creed games, and for being a place where poor TLW was bored to death of me constantly pointing a ancient and beautiful buildings and saying “I’ve climbed that in a computer game, you know, and I once shot someone from that building with a crossbow.” How she puts up with me, I don’t know.

2 – Noted for having featured in a Top Gear episode where the protagonists get lost in the old, tiny streets. I can see why.

Things that are unexpectedly nice

Walking the dog in the early morning at this time of year.

You get about an hour of peace and quiet, with the normal sounds of the city subdued. You get to meet a couple of other dog walkers and talk shite for a minute or two. You get to see the sun starting to rise and hear the urban dawn chorus. ‘course, in this part of the world that means that you get deafened by parakeets rather than traditional songbirds, but hey.

Also, the park seems very calming and quite busy at the same time; on the way around during daylight I might see half a dozen dogs and their humans; in darkness I see many more by their use of lit collars and torches. But still, it’s eerily quiet. Except for the scores of early morning flights into Heathrow, naturally, but then I’m odd and like them as well.

I’m a fan. At least until the rain returns.

Bah

Look, if they don’t have nuclear powered proton packs and permanent hells with funky black and yellow tape on them to trap the ghosts in, then they’re not Ghostbusters.

I recommend that Belfast City Council treat these people like the fakes that they are, and commit them to some form of lunatic asylum while being over confident in the non existence of ghosts. That always works in the movies.

And others should reflect as well

Ah, Norn Iron politicians and their need to talk bullshit.

The latest example: Mr Poots, of the DHSSPS.

The Health Minister Edwin Poots has said the Executive is determined to introduce new legislation to raise the minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Mr Poots told the Politics Show:”I am aware of one supermarket in the run up to Christmas not last year, the previous year, having a £20m loss leader on alcohol.

“I do think supermarkets really do need to reflect on where they sit in society.

“We shouldn’t have to intervene, but the irresponsibility of supermarkets and others is causing a situation where we do.”

Supermarkets should, indeed, reflect on where they sit in society. From what I can see, they only sell things to people if said people want to buy them. They do not sell things that the customer doesn’t want, and they don’t take away any money that the customer doesn’t give to them voluntarily.

Whereas the Northern Ireland Executive, and politicians in general, give people things they don’t want (in the form of services like intimidation and red tape), and take a chunk of money from people that never wanted to hand it over in the first place.

I put it to you, Mr Poots, that perhaps you should reflect on your position in society…

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