Its a Funny Old Game

Just a few weeks ago, Manchester United were 8 points clear in the Premiership and the Man City manager had stated his side had no chance of winning the title. Tonight Manchester City are top of the Premiership with only 2 games left. 

 

Strange how a season can turn around in only a few games?

 

Well, tonight Spennymoor Town won the Northern League for the 3rd season in succession. They have I believe won their last 8 league games to deny West Auckland and Dunston who as recently as last week (in the case of West Auckland and a couple of weeks ago in the case of Dunston) were far better placed to win the league. West Auckland lost their last game of the season on Saturday meaning if Spennymoor won their last game they would win the league. They duly won 1-0 tonight to take the league. Congratulations are richly deserved, especially as many fans had written them off recently.

 

A season turned around in 2 games?

 

On Saturday, Orient played away at Hartlepool and at half time, if results stayed the same, Orient would be guaranteed to avoid relegation. However, in the 69-73rd minutes, the 2 sides who could catch Orient both scored and Orient conceded meaning that Orient were facing the prospect of relegation on the last day of the season next Saturday.  A season turned round in 4 minutes? In the last few minutes of the games, the 2 sides who could catch Orient conceeded, one of them twice, meaning that after all, despite losing Orient were guaranteed surviving in the division another year.

 

A season turned round in minutes.

 

The Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in English football having won     trpohies since he joined Manchester United in 1986. His successes at Manchester United are as follows

 

Manchester United[106]

 

This is by any stretch of the imagination a truly remarkable record. In 989-1990 season, before Manchester United had won anything, it was widely believed that a defeat to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup 3rd round would have resulted in his sacking [ This is denied by Manchester United now]. Manchester United won 1-0 thanks to a Mark Robins goal. The rest as they say is history. Not just a season turned round by one game, but 1/4 of a century of success turning on a single game.

 

As Jimmy Greaves used to say, its a funny old game

 

PS I’d still not bet against Manchester United winning the Premiership this season

Sweet FA or Why the FA Leave a Sour Taste

I recently was invited to take part in one of a number of focus groups organised on behalf of the FA. The focus groups were to look at how the FA interacts with football fans. I thought this would be a good chance to let them know what I think, so I volunteered to attend the London based focus group.

clip_image002Dear XXXXX,

The Football Association have asked us to contact you as they are conducting research into understanding how to better help their customers participate in and enjoy football in England.

We are running a number of group discussions in London (FA Head offices, Wembley Stadium), Manchester, Birmingham and Derby that should last no longer than 90 minutes. These discussions will cover how you currently engage with and participate in football, and your thoughts on how The FA could improve its communication and services to you.

The discussions will be held in the evening between the 24th April and the 3rd May (we will ask for you to attend just one discussion).

As a thank you for your time and contribution to the research a cash incentive will be provided at the end of the discussion – this will be discussed further following registration (refreshments will also be provided during the discussion).

Please be assured that this is legitimate market research study and nobody will try and sell you anything in relation to or as a result of this research. We abide by the data Protection Act 1998 and Market Research Society Code of Conduct, so all views and opinions given during the discussion will be kept anonymous and completely confidential.

If you feel you could provide feedback to this valuable research then please register your details using the following link:

www.rootsresearch.co.uk/focus-group-discussion-research-behalf-football-association/

If you would like to further clarify this research please do not hesitate to contact me on: 01273 681074
Thank you for taking the time to read this email and I hope to hear from you shortly.
With best wishes,

Andrew

Andrew Folkes

Roots Research

www.rootsresearch.co.uk

clip_image004

Working on Behalf of:

Research Agency: Iris Concise

Client: Football Association

I was telephone by Andrew Folkes from Roots Research who were conducting this on behalf of the FA who confirmed the Focus Group was to be held at…….a central London venue, convenient for people in London and the South East? No, it was to be held on a work night 10 miles from Central London at Wembley Stadium. Why there when it is not convenient for most people to get to or from? I don’t know but I suspect the FA were too tight to pay to hire a room in a London hotel for a couple of hours.

Well, I was going to be free that night and I thought I’d go to let the FA know my views despite the location in North West London and my living in Essex.

So on 19th April, I received an email from Andrew Folkes confirming my invitation.

From: “Andrew Folkes” <andrew@rootsresearch.co.uk>

Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2012 12:06:02 +0100

To: <andrew@rootsresearch.co.uk>

Subject: Football Association Research – Discussion Confirmation

Description: Description: Description: C:\Users\ANDY@ROOTS\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Outlook\8YJCIY6D\1014_FA_Group_SI (2).JPGI am writing to confirm your participation in the Football Association discussion group. As discussed, the group is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 25th April at 7:45pm. The discussion will last no longer than 90 minutes and, as a thank you for your time and opinions we are offering you an incentive of �15 (which will be given to you at the group). As well as providing us with some valuable insight, it’s our hope that you will find the discussion helpful, engaging and enjoyable.

On arrival please head to the main entrance. Someone will meet you there and take you to the research. Please aim to arrive 10 minutes prior to the start time stated above.

As discussed, the research is taking place at the:

Wembley Stadium,

Wembley,

London HA9 0WS

(Map & Directions attached)

Parking will be available if you are planning on driving to the research, please provide us with your registration number no less than 24 hours before the research in order to book a space.

I have also attached a short exercise that we would like you to print off, complete and bring with you to the research – please just let me know if you have any questions regarding this.

****** Please be aware that there are scheduled underground strikes throughout next week, therefore please organise your journey carefully and in advance. ******

We assure you that this is a genuine study and that the data will not be used for any other purpose than the research itself. You will not receive any follow-up marketing calls and your details will not be passed on to any third parties.

Roots Research are bound by the Market Research Society ethical guidelines and will treat any information you disclose as confidential. When reporting, the findings will not be attributed to you and will only be reported in summary as being representative of the opinions of a group of participants.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on: 01273 681 074.

Thanks & Best regards,

Andrew

Andrew Folkes

Roots Research

Now, as many of you know, I cycle to or from work. I thought I could cycle to Wembley from work and then after the meeting cycle home or get the tube to central London and cycle home from there. The problem was that there was no mention of cycle parking facilities, so I emailed Andrew Folkes as follows

Andrew,

Thank you for this information.

There are details re car parking & tubes, but no mention of secure cycle parking facilities. As I will be cycling I will require somewhere secure to leave my bike

Can you advise me of the arrangements for cycle parking please?

Peter

Peter Bennett
www.spen666.wordpress.com
Twitter: @spen_666

It is clear is it not that I am asking about the provision of SECURE cycle parking.

It took a while for Roots Research to get back to me. When they did the reply was as follows

Hell Peter,

Just to confirm, there is secure parking for bikes opposite B2 security.

Hope this helps,

Andy

Firstly, what he means by “Hell Peter” I have no idea. However, the email is clear that there is secure parking for bikes opposite B2 security. Great, I will cycle to Wembley to take part in this focus group. Today however the weather was forecast to be awful and indeed it was. Heavy rain and strong winds, but nevertheless, I cycled the 10 miles from work to Wembley via various very busy and poorly maintained roads. I ensured I arrived at Wembley in good time and got to the B2 entrance and asked where the secure bike storage was. I was told to walk further round the ground and it was at the next entrance. When I got to the next entrance, signposted Security, I was told there was no secure cycle storage and all there was were some Sheffield steel stands in a dark dingy corner some 30 yards from the security office.

I went back to the B2 entrance and was told that was the bike parking. I pointed out that it was not secure and I would not leave my bike there. The security guard volunteered there was a storage area INSIDE the stadium for staff. He did telephone to ask if I could leave my bike there, but was told no.

I spoke to Andrew Folkes who tried to tell me the bike parking was secure. I pointed out that a Sheffield steel stand in a dark isolated corner was not secure and I would not leave a valuable bike there. I was told the area was patrolled by security staff and was covered by CCTV. None of this would be much use when it only takes seconds to steal a bike .

The end result was they lied that there was secure bike parking and as a result of that I relied on that representation and cycled to Wembley and was refused the chance to take part in the focus group.

I left and went to the bike storage area and spent some 15-20 minutes there talking on the phone and paying close attention to the one other bike that was there. No one challenged me and not one security guard was seen during this time.

CCTV? well, it does not exist in this location despite the lies I was told.

I took a number of pictures of the area. Please tell me what is secure about this bike parking area?

 

IMG-20120425-00052

Bike Racks on the left on dark corner of concourse – not absence of any security. The yellow fence is part of a builders compound

IMG-20120425-00054

Bike Racks on the left. Can you see any CCTV? No? well not surprising as there isn’t any?

 

IMG-20120425-00055IMG-20120425-00060

Looking from bike racks to the entrance. Can you see the entrance? No? neither can I.

IMG-20120425-00061

Looking from bike racks to security office. Note the pillars would obviously not provide any obstruction to view from security office, if anyone bothered to try to look out at the bike racks.

 

IMG-20120425-00065

So much for CCTV on the bike storage area – the sign next to the bike storage makes it clear there is CCTV within the ground, but no mention of it outside!

 

IMG-20120425-00066

The view from outside the barriers outside the security office. To get this view, the security guard would have to get through 3 doors from his desk. Hardly likely to be able to stop a thief!

 

 

Am I surprised at the incompetence of the FA?  Did I say incompetence, I meant to say complete disregard for their customers?  The answer is sadly no I am not. This is the same FA that in recent weeks made Liverpool & Everton fans travel all the way to Wembley for a game on a Saturday lunchtime on a weekend when there were no trains between Liverpool and Everton. A game that could easily have been played at Old Trafford Manchester, some 40 miles from Liverpool instead of 200 miles. Imagine the carbon footprint of 80,000 travelling a 400 mile round trip instead of an 80 mile round trip.

The same FA that switch games at short notice with complete disregard for those people who have bought non refundable train tickets or taken time off work, booked hotels etc.

It is ironic that the focus group was said to be “into understanding how to better help their customers participate in and enjoy football in England. “ Well a good start would to be to tell the truth and to accommodate those customers who come to help you out with focus groups.

The Sights of London Town

More of the sights around London.

Lets start with my local cafe which has the following board outside

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Jacket potatoes with “one toppings”? I always thought it was one topping

Then you may choose Sweet Corne as the topping

Over in Greenwich. there is an interesting Indian food stall.

DSCF0024

Anus Indian? Is this a comment on the food or the part of the body it has a huge effect upon?

The Jamaican’s have interesting ideas.

DSCF0026

I’m wondering if this is something similar to choking the chicken? If so, should they be advertising it in a public place.

Now one of the issues in getting about London is parking. I’m pleased to say that over in Greenwich they have come up with an interesting solution. In fact I’d say it was a unique solution.

DSCF0028

So, you know where you can park your dog. Sadly there is little available car parking in Greenwich.

One issue that causes controversy everywhere it seems are family pets and in particular dogs. There have been numerous complaints about dogs in the Redbridge area. As a result, the council have launched a “Mutt Month” which aims to tackle some of the issues regarding control of dogs etc. Posters are advertising it across the borough.

2012-04-08-0014

You will notice from the poster that the “Mutt Month is on Monday 30th April 20012 between 10-am and 12 noon. I always understood a month to be somewhere between 28 and 31 days long, but clearly I was wrong. Now what was that childhood rhyme

30 days hath september etc

but Mutt month alone which is 2 hours long

No look around London is complete without a visit to Dagenham Market. Once again, a recent visit with Michelle didn’t fail to disappoint:

2012-04-08-0039

The organisers’ of the market kindly installed bus stop toilets. I’m not sure what is special about these compared to other toilets.

2012-04-08-0040

Who is Julie? and what is she fast at? Answers on a postcard please

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Non dog owners can foul anywhere, but for some reason the owners of dogs have to poop and scoop

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Now, I know that in deprived areas like Dagenham that drugs are said to be commonly available. I was surprised to see that lines were available at the food outlets for either £1 or £2. No under the counter drug dealings here.

2012-04-08-0044

I wonder if George Osborne is aware of this stall. Perhaps he could take the economy here and seek to get our money back – mind you as its only a 1 year guarantee, its probably only useable against the most recent budget.

2012-04-08-0045

Now, I wonder if you are size 32 do you actually have any curves to love or are they just a shaeless mass of flab?

Finally, no visit to Dagenham is complete without seeing the locals.

2012-04-08-0051

Note the skin tight leggings, with holes ripped in them and the great muffin top on show. Essex girls never fail to live up to their reputation!

Time to Rid the World of Accountants?

Its time we all faced up to a few truths.

The first and most important truth is that we need to get rid of accountants because they are clearly responsible for all financial crimes. Remember Ken Dodd being acquitted back in 1989. He was acquitted of tax evasion after he blamed it all on his accountant. (I’d give you a link to the news story, but it was in the days before the internet!)

Then just a few weeks ago the dishonest, untrustworthy football Manager Harry Redknapp was acquitted of tax offences after blaming his accountant ( or was it his dog Rosie?) Redknapp managed to persuade a jury that despite his going to Monaco to open a bank account, he knew nothing about monies in it. He blamed it all on his accountant and claimed he (Redknapp) was too stupid to understand finances.

It was the accountant wot dun it says honest ‘Arry

Now, the latest person to blame his accountant is Ken Liarstone Livingstone the Labour candidate to be Mayor of London. Crooked Ken is so popular that Labour Lord, entrepreneur and TV Star Lord Sugar has taken to Twitter to encourage Londoners to vote for anyone but Ken.

Livingstone is an incredibly hypocritical politician who is happy to use tax payers money to fund his lifestyle and when previously mayor he employed his partner and other cronies in non jobs at top salaries. He also has made public pronouncements about how disgraceful it is that some people avoid paying tax by for example setting up limited companies rather than being paid directly. (Remember tax avoidance is legal) So in recent weeks, it has come back to haunt him that he has set up a limited company to avoid paying income tax whilst he has been out of office.

Mr Livingstone, who has called tax avoiders “rich b******s” who should “not be allowed to vote,” has struggled to fend off charges of hypocrisy after The Sunday Telegraph revealed that he has avoided at least £50,000 in tax by channelling his earnings through a personal company, Silveta Ltd and paying corporation tax at 20 or 21 per cent rather than income tax at up to 50 per cent

Livingstone Hypocrisy

This story has been in the media for weeks now and as the Mayoral elections are on 3rd May, this is a problem for Livingstone. He gave an interview to the London Evening Standard which was published on 19th April in which he is trying to play down the story. I just want to highlight one or two things said in that article.

Ken Livingstone today insisted he was simply clueless about his financial affairs — as he promised to publish his income every year to show he is not a tax-dodger.

In a bid to draw a line under the tax affair that has dogged his campaign to be Mayor of London, Labour’s candidate said he only hired an accountant because he “would have just screwed it up” himself.

Mr Livingstone has been accused of setting up a private company, Silveta Ltd, which allowed him to avoid paying at least £75,000 in tax. Today he claimed he was forced to employ the accountant following his defeat to Tory rival Boris Johnson in 2008 because he was touring the world advising mayors in South America, China and Africa — and could not manage all the different payments.

So, Livingstone is unable to manage handling payments from 3 sources? He is by his own worlds clueless about finances and would have screwed it up.

Hmm interesting claims by a man who expects the public to vote him into a role where he will be responsible for a budget of £14BILLION  per annum! The amazing thing is that despite his own admissions, people are still even considering voting for him.

If you were in any doubt about Livingstone and finances, then this next quote will do nothing to reassure you.

In addition, he said he does not know how much his wife Emma Beal earns from their joint company

Livingstone is I understand a director of this company which effectively is made up of his and his wife’s earnings. To claim he does not know how much his partner earns is possibly an admission that he is not doing his role as a director in accordance with his legal duties.

Other claims by Livingstone are designed to appeal to people’s greed and stupidity. He says he will immediately cut fares on London Transport by 7% and thereafter freeze the fares. There is no explanation of where this money will come from. He claims there is a pot of money sitting there to enable him to do this, but has not explained what this pot of money is. There is a suggestion from some that this pot of money is the money that is funding the modernisation and improvement of the transport system. Sadly many people are greedy and like the idea of a 7% cut in fares. They are also too narrow minded to realise or care where this cut in fares will come from. A 7% cut in fares means a 7% reduction in income for TfL (Transport for London). This means either reduced money for TfL to pay wages or improvements or an increase in subsidy needed – i.e. an increase in council tax.

It may well be that it is appropriate for an increased subsidy and increased council tax to fund this, but Livingstone is not saying this. Sadly, the media are not challenging him over this and the issue is not properly debated.

 

 

The fact that Livingstone is still a realistic candidate for the Mayoral roles and that Ken Dodd and Harry Redknapp were acquitted of their tax charges goes to show how gullible people are much of the time. We have stories in the media that people react to after only reading the headlines and they fail to consider the papers/ TV/ media may have spun the story.

 

The moral is that in this day and age, the truth is irrelevant as long as you have good sound bites

Hypocritical?

A few things in recent days have made me think that some people can’t help being hypocrites (I know you are probably thinking it is hypocritical of me to say this).

Yesterday morning, whilst cycling the long way to work (25 miles instead of 12!), I rode into a private housing estate  near my home. It was around 0730 and an Asian male was putting his 2 daughters into the car to take them to school or pre school club. As I rode past them, he shouted that I should not be riding my bike on the estate as I was “not from round here”. I was a little taken aback at this attitude and stopped and asked him what he’d think if I told him he shouldn’t be in this country as “he wasn’t from round here”. He told me he’d be offended and would report me to the police for racism!

Is it just me or is that not a tad hypocritical? On the one hand he tells someone to leave an area they are lawfully in because they are not from round here, but if someone says the same to him, he would report it to the police!

 

Next was an incident in the Scottish FA Cup Semi Final on Sunday. With just 3 minutes of normal time remaining, Celtic scored an equalising goal, despite one of their players being in an offside position. Three minutes later, Celtic conceded a debatable penalty when, perhaps harshly, their player was deemed to have handled the ball. Hearts scored the penalty and therefore won 2-1. Immediately after the full time whistle, the Celtic manager ran 50 yards across the pitch to berate the referee for the penalty. He has also slated the referee in the media and accused the referee of a personal vendetta against him. Strangely, the ginger whinger seems to have forgotten the offside goal Celtic were awarded.

Two controversial decisions resulting in two goals, one for each side, yet Lennon can only come out which pathetic comments like he is the victim of a vendetta. Its a tad hypocritical to slate the referee as biased against him when he gave one decision to each side

 

Then in a recent thread on a cycling forum, we have a cyclist saying that invalid scooters should be banned from the road because:

  1. They travel to slowly
  2. They don’t have insurance
  3. They don’t pay road tax

These are exactly the same nonsensical arguments used against cyclists by some motorists! So its a tad hypocritical to use the same arguments against another group of road users isn’t it?

By the Grace of God

It’s been a while since I last blogged and if the driver of the Berryman’s recycling lorry had his way, then I would never have blogged again. I’ll come back to that later in this blog.

Well, since I last blogged, I have done no cycling. I drove up to Newcastle on Maundy Thursday (that’s the day before Good Friday for you heathens – oh and Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God. Its not the festival of eating chocolate).  On Good Friday, I drove back down to London, along with Michelle, Josh and the two dogs. They were coming down for the week as I was off work.

A rather uneventful trip to London, but it was interesting that as soon as they got out of the car, the dogs knew where they were and obviously remembered the house from last summer. I have to confess to being surprised that dogs could remember somewhere from seven or eight months ago! If this is the case, then the dogs have a better memory than me.

It proved to be an expensive week, not due to Michelle, Josh or the dogs, but my TV broke and I had to buy a new one; this also necessitated getting a new TV aerial installed; then my camera broke and I had to go out and buy a new one. Finally, I also had to buy a new DVD player as both the ones I have had broken. The upshot is that I now have a nice 40” HD TV filling up my lounge wall (well the coffee table as I’ve not yet got the wall bracket!)

Sadly, the weather during the last week was not as good as we had hoped for and we were limited in our activities. We did get to see the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Golden Silk Cape made from silk spun by Madagascan spiders. The intricate needlework in the cape was incredible and was a sight well worth seeing. Thanks Josh and Michelle for making me see something cultural.

DSCF0021The Victoria and Albert Museum ( photos of Cape were forbidden)

The V&A museum is near Knightsbridge. It was sobering to look in the Estate Agents window and see leasehold properties selling for 60 times the value of my freehold property! Big houses? No, no bigger than this house. Its all about location location location.

We also went to Greenwich for an afternoon after earlier visiting the Olympic Viewing Gallery in John Lewis at Westfield Shopping Centre. I learned that all my extra council tax and the loss of the Eastway Cycling Circuit was worth it to see the huge pile of concrete and tarmac that has covered parts of Hackney Marshes and Lee Valley. More concrete and less grass and open spaces is exactly what we need.

Greenwich is one of my favourite places and I often visit there. It is home to the Cutty Sark, the Naval College as well as Greenwich Park and Greenwich Observatory ( Think Greenwich Meridian). Greenwich indoor market on a weekend is a great place for food. There are stalls selling food from all over the world. I recommend it!

On the North (opposite) side of the river to Greenwich is the Isle of Dogs and Millwall (the place- the football team is on the South side of the river!). This is also where Canary Wharf is and home to a lovely park at Island Gardens directly opposite Greenwich.

DSCF0057Island Gardens and Canary Wharf from Greenwich

 

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Naval College flanking Queen Anne’s House and the Observatory in the background in Greenwich Park – viewed from Island Gardens

The scaffolding in the last picture is part of the scenery for the film version of Les Miserables which is being shot in part in the Military College.

 

Friday sadly brought the end of our week together and it was time to drive everyone back to Newcastle. The week passed far too quickly and it was not a pleasant thought that I was taking Michelle and Josh back to Tyneside.  Saturday morning saw me say goodbye to Michelle and head back south. However, not all the way to London, but to Barnsley instead where I was going to meet Tom and spend the night with friends after going to the Barnsley v Cardiff Game. Thanks to Matt & Lynn for the tickets, putting me up for the night and being such good hosts. They even had an extra lodger when Tom missed his train home and proceeded to pebble dash their kitchen before passing out on their sofa! I also got to meet Sue & John and their family at the game. They are such good hosts, that we finally left the football ground at 10:20pm. given the game finished at 16:50, that was impressive. I am not sure who was buying all the beers, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was John putting it on his account. Thanks John.

I met a familiar face to all Newcastle fans at the game.

Trelford 20120415

I believe he refereed the 1987 FA Vase Final and possible a certain cup tie in 1983 at St James’ Park

 

Whilst I can never agree with his decisions that night, I have to say he is actually a likeable chap and his football knowledge is second to none. Not sure many people on Tyneside will agree with me though! He’s only rivalled in unpopularity on Tyneside by Margaret Thatcher.

So, it was back to work today. Well it was nearly not if the driver of the Berryman’s recycling truck has his way. He tried to left hook me as I cycled to work. Fortunately, I ride very defensively and suspected/ anticipated he would turn across my path and without indicating. Fortunately I was able to avoid being hit by the truck and becoming yet another fatality at the hands of an HGV. The driver claimed he had not seen me because:

1. He was looking down the street to see if the school children were out in the street!

2. He claimed I was in his blindspot.

So its fine not to be looking at where you  are driving and instead are looking elsewhere. Oh and this was well before 08:15 in the morning, so why would he be looking at the school for children given the school doesn’t start till 09:00.

No explanation of why he doesn’t use his indicators to give people a clue as to what he was doing. Also, he seemed to think it was some form of excuse to say his lorry had a blind spot. Would it be acceptable to put a blindfold on and drive like that? so why do we allow vehicles with blindspots on the roads – especially when for only a few pounds mirrors can be fitted to greatly reduce or eliminate blindspots on these vehicles. Sadly it seems that to Berrymans a person’s life is not worth the few pounds these mirrors cost.

 

Their website boasts about their vehicles

We run a large fleet of specialist vehicles collecting from Local Authority bottle bank sites, other recycling stations, and many trade sources and organisations. The vehicles are clean and smart to create a positive impression, both on the move and when collecting glass. They are also used as moving advertising hoardings with panels being used for recycling messages. These vehicles service a wide range of bottle banks and skips for the various types of glass.

 

And under the Health and Safety Section

Berryman has all the procedures and checks in place to ensure that your bottle banks comply to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), which came into force on December 5 1998.

Regulations aim to reduce risks to people’s health and safety from lifting equipment provided for use at work

No mention of anything to do with safety of this large fleet of specialist vehicles or training to their drivers. Clearly profit is of far more concern than being regarded as a safe fleet operator.

I’m not going to mention the issues with the p*nct*re fairy visiting repeatedly today. It limited my cycling to only 45 miles today, BUT it had the advantage of delaying me getting home. Advantage you say? Yes, the house seems to big and too quiet now Michelle and Josh have moved out. So getting home late meant I had less time to rattle around this place on my own.

Hopefully they all will be down again soon for a weekend and then for a few weeks in the summer. The dogs certainly like the garden rather than their exercise yard on Tyneside.

The Stella Awards 2011

For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico , where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That’s right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know the kind of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy

Here are the Stellas for this past year — 2011

* SEVENTH PLACE *

Kathleen Robertson of Austin , Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of
her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably
surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Start scratching!

* SIXTH PLACE *

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord.
Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor’s hubcaps.

Scratch some more…

* FIFTH PLACE *

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania , who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut.
Forced to sit for eight, count ’em, EIGHT days and survive on a case
of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner’s
insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish Keep scratching. There are more…

Double hand scratching after this one..

* FOURTH PLACE *

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock , Arkansas , garnered 4th Place in the
Stella’s when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor’s beagle – even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Pick a new spot to scratch, you’re getting a bald spot..

* THIRD PLACE *

Amber Carson of Lancaster , Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a
Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a
spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Only two more so ease up on the scratching…

*SECOND PLACE*

Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000….oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.

Ok. Here we go!! Drum roll …

* FIRST PLACE *

This year’s runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv
Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home.
On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owners manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down? $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

This post is a shameless cut & paste. I can claim no credit for any of it. It may make those who criticise the English & Welsh legal system realise how good it is compared to that in the USA

I’ve Got A Stalker

As the title says! Events of the last few weeks culminated in my realising I’m being stalked. I should have realised earlier, but that is the thing about stalkers, they are good at stopping you realising what they are actually doing.

Tonight after work, I was minding my own business cycling round Hyde Park thinking about spending the next week or so off work and with Michelle, when out of no where she appeared. My stalker forced me to stop my cycling and confront the effects of her appearance

Yes, despite my taking precautions to prevent her getting to me, the p*nct*re fairy got me again. She has been stalking me for many years, but has become more active and vindictive over the last few weeks.

fairy_large

This morning I fitted one of the new tyres I had purchased. These are Continental Gator Hardshell and are said to be extra p*nct*re resistant. So, what happened?

Well after much cursing, I examined the new tyre I had fitted and found not a single mark on the tyre. There was nothing that had penetrated  the tyre. Next was to check the inner tube to find the leak. The valve is often the cause of problems, but not in this case. After re-inflating the inner tube, I found the hole. It seemed to be in the same place as the last inner tube that p*nct*red. I then examined the rim of the wheel to see if there was anything sharp on it that could cause a p*nc*re. Nothing appeared there, so what next? Well, a close examination of the liner that goes on the inside of the rim revealed it had moved very slightly, exposing a small piece of metal that was apparently sharp enough to p*nc*re the inner tube.

Right, that was the problem diagnosed, now how to fix it. Well I have new lining tape back at home so can use this when I get home. In the meantime, I got 2 patches from my p*nct*re repair kit and stuck them over the exposed metal to protect the inner tube from it. I then replaced the tyre and inner tube on the wheel rim.

I then continued my ride and got home with no further problems. Another 28 miles tonight making a total of 53 for today. I didn’t ride on Tuesday, but in 2 days (Monday and today Wednesday) I have managed to ride over 100 miles. I’ve done a total of over 600 miles in 2 1/2 weeks.

Some of you may think I have a thing about the p*nct*re fairy. Well, you’d be right, but I’m not the only one. See this extract from the blog by Nutty Cyclist written some time ago. The blog seems not to have been updated for around six years now.

The Pun*ture fairy. What is it? It is a sprite which attacks cyclists with the sole intention of ruining a ride and causing annoyance and inconvenience.

There are many types of Pun*ture fairy. After I have been afflicted by their attentions I tend to refer to them all by the anagram of their name; they really are “Pure ****s”!!!!!

So what weapons do these critters have at their disposal? Well the “Litter Louts” and “Geologists” are pretty obvious, some of the others are less obvious. The one weapon all fairies have, and which you will find if you look carefully enough is their fairy fingernails. I would recommend that as soon as you finish reading this you go and examine your tyres. You will find evidence that these critters have been grabbing at them, and if you are lucky you will find the odd torn off fingernail embedded in your tyre. If you are lucky enough to find it, REMOVE IT NOW! Even once removed from the fairy these fingernails retain their mystical powers and slowly work their way inwards towards your inner tube. If you don’t remove them now you can suffer a pun*ture weeks after the initial attack!

So what time of the day do these fairies appear? Well that is a great unknown. Different fairies seem to appear at different times. Some love the peace and quiet of a dark overnight garage. Some are attracted to a cyclist in a rush. Many appear to enjoy the rain as that is when many cyclists are targeted; whether they use the rain for hygiene purposes, weapons lubricant or simply for the discomfort shown on the cyclists face I really don’t know. …

What do they look like? I’m afraid that despite many long hours sat by the bike uttering the magic word that summons the fairy controller, when I should have been doing other urgent work, I have not yet met one of these creatures (they visited the car on that day). The Photo above is actually obtained courtesy of a friendly fairy who sits in the garden.

How do you summon them? It all depends on the fairy type you want a visit from. One guaranteed method is to utter the P word; especially if you are out, have no repair kit and utter the P word in the context of “It’s ages since I had a P******e… psssssst….. Blast!”

How do you repel them? There is no guaranteed method unfortunately. No tyre is fully exempt (other than solid tyres). I recommend ALWAYS carrying a full repair kit. This discourages them from spending too much effort on you. Always avoid known haunts such as potholes and Sustrans paths. Always keep your tyres inflated hard. Be extra vigilant in the rain and wet. Avoid the P word.

So as you can see, I’m not the only one obsessed with her.

Well, I am not going to be riding my bike much if at all over the next few days as I am spending some time with Michelle, Josh and the dogs. They are all coming down to London to spend Easter with me. I have the next week and a half off work and intend to spend some quality time with them. I’ve not seen Michelle for the last 3 weekends and it has been a long 3 weeks. Too long – in fact I’ve not seen Michelle since long before her birthday. That is not right. 

I screwed up on booking train ticket and won’t let it be as long next time. I promise you that Michelle

Essex: My Current Abode : A homily to Essex

Q. How do you make a Essex girl’s eyes sparkle?
A. Shine a torch into her ear.

Q. How can you tell if a Essex girl is having a bad day?
A. Her tampon is behind her ear and she can’t find her pencil.

Q. Did you hear about the big power cut at the Bluewater centre?
A. Forty Essex girls were stuck on the escalator for three hours

Q. What’s the difference between a Essex girl and an ironing board?
A. Occasionally you have trouble getting the legs apart on an ironing board.

Q. What is the difference between a supermarket trolley and a Essex girl?
A. A supermarket trolley has a mind of its own.

Q. How many Essex girls does it take to make a chocolate chip cookie?
A. Five. One to stir the mixture and four to peel the smarties.

Q. What’s the similarity between a Essex girl and a dog’s turd?
A. The older they get, the easier they are to pick up!

Q. Why are Essex girls only allowed 30 minute lunch breaks?
A. It takes too long to retrain them if they take an hour.

Q. Why was the Essex girl so pleased to complete a jigsaw puzzle in 18 months?
A. Because the box said “From 2 to 5 years”

Q. What does a Essex girl say after her doctor tells her that she’s pregnant.
A. Is it mine?

Q. What do you call a Essex girl with an IQ of 50?
A. Cheat!

Q. How do you make a Essex girl laugh on a Saturday?
A. Tell her a joke on a Wednesday

Q. What’s the difference between a computer and a Essex girl?
A. You only have to punch information once into a computer.

Q. Why is it good to have a Essex girl passenger?
A. You can park in the handicapped spots.

Q. Why do Essex girls wear so much hair spray?
A. So they can catch all the things going over their heads.

Q. What is the difference between Bigfoot and an intelligent Essex girl?
A. There have actually been sightings of Bigfoot.

Q. What does it mean if you see a Essex girl with square boobs?
A. She forgot to take the Kleenex out of the box.

Q. How do you plant dope?
A. Bury a Essex girl.

Q. What did the Essex girl say after the guy blew her in the ear?
A. Thanks for the refill.

Q. What’s the difference between an Essex girl and the Panama Canal? A. One’s a busy ditch…..

Q. Why do Essex girls write TGIF on their shoes?
A. Toes Go In First.

Q. Why do Essex girls have TGIF on their shirts?
A. Tits Go In Front.

Q. What do you call a Surrey girl between two Essex girls?
A. An interpreter.

Q. What’s the mating call of a Essex girl?
A. Gosh, I’m so drunk!

Q. What’s the difference between Robert Maxwell and a Essex girl?
A. A Essex girl won’t slip off your boat

Q. What do you call a Essex girl with half a brain?
A. Gifted!

Q. How is a Essex girl like a beer bottle?
A. They are both empty from the neck up.

Q. What do you call a Essex girl with a whole brain?
A. A Golden Retriever!

Q. Why do Essex girls wear shoulder pads?
A. (With a rocking of the head from side to side) I dunno!

Q. How do Essex girls pierce their ears?
A. They put tacks in their shoulder pads.

Q. How many Essex girls does it take to change a lightbulb?
A1: “What’s a lightbulb?”
A2: One. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.

Q. How do Essex girl brain cells die?
A. Alone.

Q. What do you say to a Essex girl that won’t give in?
A. “Have another beer.”

Q. What’s a Essex girl’s favorite wine?
A. “awwww, why can’t I go to Bluewater?”

Q. What’s the difference between a Essex girl and a Porsche?
A. You don’t lend the Porsche out to your friends.

Q. Why do Essex girls wash their hair in the sink?
A. Because that’s where you wash vegetables!

Q. How do you get a Essex girl to marry you?
A. Tell her she’s pregnant.

Q. Why did the Essex girl scale the glass wall?
A. To see what was on the other side.

Q. How do you pull a Essex girl?
A. By her earrings!

Q. What do you do if a Essex girl throws a grenade at you?
A. Catch it, pull out the pin and throw it back.

Q. What do you see when you peer into a Essex girl’s eyes?
A. The back of her head.

Q. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, a dumb Essex girl, and a smart Essex girl are walking down the street when they spot a £10 note. Who picks it up?
A. The dumb Essex girl. (There is no such thing as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or a smart Essex girl)

Q. How do you confuse a Essex girl?
A. You don’t. They’re born that way.

Q. Did you hear about the Essex girl lesbian?
A. She kept having affairs with men!

Q. Why did the Essex girl stop using the pill?
A. It kept falling out.

Q. What did the Essex girl say when asked “ever been picked up by the fuzz?”
A. “No, but I’ve been swung around by the tits.”

Q. How did the Essex girl try to kill the bird?
A. She threw it off a cliff.

Q. What do you say to a Essex girl with no arms or legs?
A. “Nice tits!”

Q. What do you call 15 Essex girls in a circle?
A. A dope ring.

Q. What’s the difference between a Essex girl wife and your job?
A. Your job still sucks after 6 months.

Q. How do you describe a Essex girl surrounded by drooling idiots?
A. Flattered.

Q. Why did the Essex girl drown in the pool?
A. Someone stuck a scratch & sniff at the bottom.

Q. What’s the difference between a Essex girl and a terrorist?
A. You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Q. Why did the Essex girl go halfway to Norway then turn around and come home?
A. It took her that long to figure out a 14 inch Viking was a TV set.

Q. What did the Essex girl name her pet zebra?
A. Spot.

Q. What did the Essex girl customer say to the buxom waitress (reading her nametag)?
A. “Debbie… that’s cute. What did you name the other one?”

Q. What do you call a fly buzzing inside a Essex girl’s head?
A. A Space Invader.

Q. Why did the Essex girl have a bruised navel?
A. Her boyfriend’s from Essex too.

Q. Why did God create Essex girls?
A. Because sheep can’t bring beer from the fridge.

Q. Why do Essex girls have one more brain cell than a cow?
A. So when you pull their tits, they don’t shit on the floor.

Q. How can you tell if an Essex girl has been using a computer?
A. There’s a note in the disk drive and a condom on the joystick

Q. Why do Essex girls like BMWs?
A. Because they can spell it.

Q. What goes blonde, brunette, blonde, brunette?
A. An Essex Girl doing naked cartwheels.

Q. How do you know when an Essex girl is having an orgasm?
A. She drops her donna kebabs

Q. How do you make an Essex girl laugh on Monday?
A. Tell her a joke on Friday!

Q. How does an Essex girl turn on the light after sex?
A. She opens the car door.

Q. What designer label does an Essex girl have in her knickers?
A. Next!

Q. What does an Essex girl use for protection during sex?
A. A bus shelter.

Q. What does the Essex girl say after sex?
A. Do you all play for the same team?


An Essex girl and an Irish guy are in a bar when the Essex girl notices something strange about the wellies that the Irish guy’s wearing.
She says to him “Scuse me mate, I ain’t bein fannny or naffink, but why doz one of your wellies ave an L on it, and the uva one’s got an R on it?”
So, the Irish guy smiles, puts down his pint of Guinness and replies, “Well, oim a little bit tick you see. The one with the R is for me roight foot and the one with the L is for me left foot.”
“Cor, blimey!” exclaims the Essex girl, “So THAT’S why me knickers ‘ave got C&A on them.”


An Essex girl was involved in a nasty car crash and was trapped bleeding in the wreckages. The paramedics soon arrives on the scene.
“It’s OK” said the ambulance man, “I’m a paramedic and I’m going to ask you some questions”
“OK” said the girl.” What’s your name”
“Sharon”
“OK, Sharon is this your car?”
“Yes”
“Where are you bleeding from?”
“Bleeding Romford”

How to Waste Time

Well this week I’ve been reminded of several lessons that I already knew.

Firstly in order to avoid doing any work or if you don’t know what to do – hold a meeting. I sat through a meeting recently at work where everyone was earnestly discussing what we were going to do in a forthcoming piece of work. I could have sworn we had the same discussion the week before and the week before that. What has happened in the last 2 weeks? Nothing. We have been waiting information and are still waiting it. So nothing has changed and we are having the same discussions each meeting! What is worse, we are making plans as to how we are going to deal with a situation, despite not knowing what that situation will be.

Second learning point is that some people like to hear their own voices. The meeting was dominated by one person who had an opinion on everything, even things they had no experience of. You know the sort of person. They want to talk over everyone and want everyone to agree with them. Just when you think things are moving on, they take the subject back to what was agreed and want to change it. Would it be wrong of me to say that such people need putting in their place. Sadly, those taking meetings are often too weak or want to avoid confronting the loudmouth, so they get away with it.

So what did this meeting actually achieve? Well it wasted an hour or so of my life that I will never get back. Did it take us any further forward? Of course it didn’t, all we did was agree what we had previously agreed. Even this is speculative until we know the information we are to receive. It is only at that point that we can start to properly plan.

Today, one of those present at the meeting has sent emails to all those in the meeting trying to get one of the decisions revisited. Ironically the decision made was what they had proposed in any event! Now they are wanting to undo what was agreed at their recommendation. What is the point?

What else have I learned this week?

Well the p*nct*re fairy is a vicious and vindictive b&tch. She has been paying me repeated visits. I’m not sure what I have done to upset her, but she has struck more than one bike and both wheels at different times. Clearly I have to do something to placate her. Sacrifice a virgin perhaps? Then again this is Essex. where am I going to find a virgin around here? Think white stilettos, think dancing round your handbag.

essex_girl_big

Think I’m being unfair to Essex girls? You haven’t been out in Romford on a Saturday night then.

Anyway, I have taken steps to resolve these visits from HER. I ordered 4 new bike tyres online recently. Amazingly, the four tyres cost a total of over £115. When I first passed my driving test, I could buy 4 new tyres for the car for less than this! That’s inflation for you (no pun intended) or its so long ago since I passed my driving test.

The tyres were purchased from an online retailer. This brought me to the next reminder of life’s lessons. The tyres were delivered on Monday by courier. Obviously, I was out at work so my neighbour took delivery for me and handed them over to me when I got home. Good neighbours are a god send and I have to say that I am blessed in having good neighbours. I’m not sure they can say the same though!

Another lesson is that the British weather is unpredictable- last week it was 24C in Aberdeen this week, it is snowing and 3C. The temperature in London has dropped, but not that drastically. We complain about the weather in the UK, almost as a national past time. however, we get no real extremes of weather despite what the media would have you believe. For example, Texas has this week been suffering huge tornados. Eastern USA gets snowfall of as many feet as we get inches of snow. A hot day here is 25F. In the parts USA, or the Middle East, Australia etc, they often regard 25C as a cold day!

Looking ahead, Michelle & Josh are coming down to London this week and staying down for a week. They will be accompanied by the dogs. I have to say that I am really looking forward to having them to stay. I have got a week off work as well. It will be nice to spend some quality time with them both. We have nothing definite planned yet, but are thinking of visiting one or two of the usual tourist attractions, Tower of London, V&A Museum and even Petticoat Lane Market. We will have to be up early on a Sunday to get there though

A quick word of congratulations to both West Auckland Town FC and Dunston UTS FC both from the Northern League. They have battled through to the final of the FA Vase at Wembley. I believe it is the first time 2 teams from the same league have reached the final of this competition. Hopefully there will be a fitting final at Wembley. Sadly I will be in the USA and unable to go to the final.