Thursday, 30 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Health & Safety Gone Mad

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

Ever fancied throwing yourself down an extremely steep hill in a frantic and pointless attempt to catch a runaway cheese?

Well, despite my addiction to cheese, neither have I.

My addiction is near legendary in our house and Herself lives in constant fear that I will notice there is no cheese in the house and, in a state of panic, either strip naked and run down the street yelling that the end is nigh or else turn to a slightly less addictive substance - such as crack cocaine

Fortunately neither of these things has happened so far, but for those of you who do enjoy the prospect of endangering life and limb there is the annual Cheese rolling event in Gloucestershire

Every year since time immemorial (which was, apparently, the very precise date of 6 July 1189 - although in reality the cheese rolling hasn't been going on THAT long) someone throws a truckle of cheese down Cooper's Hill and hundreds of people throw themselves down afterwards - often resulting in flying head over heels and broken limbs.

Like many traditions in England it's hard to say exactly why they started doing this in the first place, but like so many daft things we now do it because (drum roll please) IT'S TRADITIONAL

That is until 2013 when, after 25 years of supplying the cheese to the event, local Police turned up to cheesemaker Diana Smart's house and warned her that should anyone be injured, maimed or killed in the event then she could be liable for any claims of compensation.

Now the first thing you need to know about Diana Smart is that she is an elderly lady, in her mid to late 80s - so I guess you can imagine how she must have felt when the Police turned up unannounced and issued dire warnings.  The second thing you need to know is that the Smart family do not organize the event - they merely supply the cheese.

As it happens the Smarts were so worried about the warning that they withdrew their involvement, forcing event organizers to supply a fake cheese (not actually the first time that this has been done, as during the rationing of WW2 a wooden replacement was used)

But two things occur to me.

Firstly - if I were a judge in a case for compensation and I heard that injuries were sustained "running headlong down a steep hill after a rolling cheese" I think my response would be "Well, you brought it on yourself then, didn't you"

Secondly - I recently put myself in for a charity run and had to sign forms in triplicate saying that if I died mid-route then I couldn't hold the organizers responsible (from what I understood from the form this extended to "even if we happen to run you over in a support truck" - which I guess gives them something to do if they get bored with marshalling) - so why can't the cheese rolling event get the contestants to do the same?

But what saddens me the most is that we now seem to live in a society where we are constantly told that we are entitled to compensation for everything that could possibly happen - every time I turn on the TV I see an advert for AmbulanceChasers4U telling me that if I fall over at work, drop boiling hot soup on my shirt, get hit by another driver or am involved in a freak yodeling accident (more common than you might think) than I can sue, sue, sue until my name is changed, by deed poll, to Sue.

I'm sure that there are instances where someone is injured through neglect and due compensation so that they can continue to live to a good standard, but I am concerned that what it leaves us with is a society where everyone is looking to assign blame and far too many companies are looking to make a nice profit into the bargain

And as for the cheese rolling - well, even though it seems like insanity to me I hope it continues without litigation and that a real truckle can be found for future events.

Oh...and when you're finished with it - just clean it up and post it to me would you?  Cheers.

(NB: For anyone wondering about the image - it's the Don't Sue People Panda)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Infrequent And Pointless Film Reviewing

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?
Well, as you probably know by now I am an occasional visitor to the cinema: in fact last year we had a two-for-the-price-of-one ticket for our local Art House cinema, which meant that once a month myself and Herself found ourselves staring in bemusement at a series of Hungarian animations about people being chased by buildings...well, not quite: but we did get to see some films that wouldn't have graced the screens of a multiplex - some of which were very good, some...erm...weren't.

However this year we had no such luxury and, as a result, have seen a lot less movies: in fact I can only think of three that I've seen at the cinema this year - one of which, shockingly, was at the Multiplex...

#1: A Liar's Biography
Many, many years ago there was a man who was persistently interrupted from his training as a Doctor by the lure of writing and acting.  Having succeeded in being a founder member of one of the all time most influential comedy troupes he then decided that being permanently drunk and partying was much more fun.
This then was the semi-true story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman - one half of the team behind The Parrot Sketch.  Based on his autobiography of the same name the film was animated by six different animation companies and used the voices of Chapman (recorded reading his autobiography prior to his death) and four of the other living Pythons (with only Eric Idle abstaining)
Now I have to start by admitting that I started with this film based on a false assumption: I was sure that I had heard that Chapman's biography was full of apocryphal stories of things he didn't do - like be the first man to climb Mount Everest - and it wasn't that at all.
There was lots of sex of all variations and flavours, parties, drinking, flashbacks to a surreal childhood and switches in animation style.  For me it was this change of style that worked the best in the film, reflecting the madcap style of the original TV series - but it was, at the same time, quite disorienting.
At the end of the day the film was not funny, or clever, enough to qualify as true Monty Python but it did succeed in getting Herself to describe it as "the weirdest thing I've ever seen" - in short then: only a film for a die hard Python fan

#2: Les Miserables
Ever read a novel by Victor Hugo?  Don't - I read The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and the best word I can think of to describe it is "Impenetrable".  Four hundred pages of incomprehensibility it must have taken some really twisted genius at Disney to look at that book and think "what this really needs is animation and some cheery songs"

However - onto Les Mis and immediately anyone who has been following my blog in any way whatsoever will know that if there's anything that I hate more than Rugby, Football and Jazz it's musicals - as a story telling genre I find them hard to bear at best and padded out with 3-4 hummable tunes at worst.

There are, of course, exceptions - Baz Lurhman's "Moulin Rouge" was genius and I would recommend Return To The Forbidden Planet for its cheese value, but those dreadful ones where they get lots of ABBA or Spice Girl songs and attempt to tell a larger story with them and pretty much anything by Andrew Lloyd-Webber are, in my humble opinion, best avoided.

But Les Mis does actually have some pretty good tunes and the thing that appealed to me about this film was the approach to getting those songs onto the screen.  Whereas in most movies of musicals the songs are recorded months in advance, meaning that actors had already made their acting choices before meeting their fellow cast, the cast of this one had an earpiece in so they could hear an off-stage piano and react live to what was happening.

This, for me, was the big success of the film as everything felt much grittier and more realistic.  True you could argue that Russell Crow and Hugh Jackman are not the greatest vocalists in the world, but their voices more than suited the story and I was surprised to find that Sacha Baron Cohen (a person I've never had any time for in the past) was stealing the show as the tavern owner

As with anything written by Hugo this is grim writ on a big scale - but the film still managed to stir the emotions - definitely worth a look - even if you hate musicals

3: Star Trek: Into Darkness
There was a brief  battle of wills between myself and the local multiplex over this one, as I wanted to go and see it - but at the same time I was determined to stick to my policy of avoiding 3-D films for as long as I am still able to do so.  Finally the cinema did announce some 2D showings - but I suspect this will soon be a thing of the past if the attendance (admittedly at a mid-week screening) was anything to go by

So - Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the gang are back for another of JJ ABrahams's re-boots of the Trek series and this time Chris Pine (previously, for me at least, one of the weaker points of the first one) seemed to be stepping more comfortably into the huge shoes (although hopefully not huge ego) of Shatner

Supported by a strong cast, some excellent visuals, something approaching a coherent plot and an old and deadly enemy this gave me the vague hope that if the current rumours that JJ Abrahams is really attached to the next Star Wars film then it might not be as gratuitously awful as the prequels

I won't say anything more about the plot other than that central villain Bennedict Cumberbatch is a name to be reckoned with, in more ways than one, and probably made the right decision when he turned down the TV role of Doctor Who a few years back

There's some nice nods back to previous stories throughout, although the appearance of Leonard Nimoy as Old Spock is so pointless that I feel secure in telling you that he's in it because it in no way, shape or form spoils anything that happens in the movie.

I'm still not sure where I stand on the new emotional Spock, but after the truly dire Next Generation movies its nice to see Star Trek looking fresh and having something to say for itself - definitely watch this if you are a Sci-Fi fan, or even just like action films as you will still get something from it regardless.

NEXT UP: Man Of Steel - inspired rebooting or pointless sequel spinner?

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Haunting Of The Old Lighthouse


Is it a ghost or just the caretaker
that lurks in the corner and jumps out to scareya?
From the ole shut down lighthouse on Albany Bay
Where the kids and their pet mutt are well on their way

 From the ole shut down lighthouse the Mystery Machine
Which Fred, Velma, Scooby and Shaggy have seen
In a darkened old building way off of the grid
Seeking the treasure that ole Bluebeard hid

Though he tries hard to chase them they manage to stop
All the plans and the traps and the haunting he's got
And he would have got away with his desperate bids
If it hadn't been for them darn pesky kids

Thursday, 16 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: The Total Perspective Vortex In Practice

 The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.

Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?


There's always that temptation to believe that we are the exact centre of the universe, isn't there?

When you think about it being human is a weird thing - we live in a world entirely of our own making, where we can never have any perception of how the others around us see and experience things and, in fact, as far as we know other people could be little more than robots that go back into their boxes for storage when we are not there.  How much better the world might be then if we could only see and experience things that others do - maybe then we'd be more tolerant.

Anyway: have you ever found yourself in a situation, maybe at work or in some social group, perhaps at your local church or speakers club, where you find yourself becoming the "reliable one": the one that everyone turns to in order to get something done, feeling under more and more pressure to be there and unable to turn away feeling that if you step down then no one will offer themselves to take your place?

Or perhaps you've known someone at work who either you or they were convinced without whom the whole thing would fall apart?  Someone who marched into the manager's office believing themselves indispensable and demanding more salary, only to walk out again without a job?

Well: I'm going to let you into a little secret and that is that one of the hardest lessons in life is that no one, and I do mean no one, is indespensible

In one of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy Douglas Adams talked about a machine called the Total Perspective Vortex into which subjects would be put so they could finally see their place in the universe - the effect of which was insanity or death.  Sometimes working for a big company can be like that too - you can feel like a grain of sand on a never ending beach.

But here's the thing: it's ok to be dispensable.  It's perfectly fine to let go and to walk away.  The weight of the world does not sit on your shoulders and nor should it have to.

If you want to take on more responsibilities at work, at leisure or at home then do so - but you should never feel that you HAVE to do so and nor should you feel under pressure to keep on doing something when those around you just shrug their shoulders and say "ah but you do it so well" - because ultimately the world will keep on turning and there will always be someone, somewhere who can do it too.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: The Age Of The Train?

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

PIXIE: Hi yes, I'm trying to make an inquiry about season tickets

Incomprehensible Member Of Staff (IMOS): Yerrs, where were you heading

PIXIE: From my home to Central Smokey.

IMOS: Ah yes, you can buy two tickets from there, Ticket A the £Modestly rip-off price or Ticket D the £Extremely rip-off price

PIXIE: It's actually the two prices inbetween I'm trying to find out about - my search result on your site came up with Ticket B: £100 more than the Modest rip-off and Ticket C: £100 more again, but still less than the £extreme rip-off

IMOS: Ah yes, but Ticket B requires that your journey goes through or changes at Timbuktoo, whilst Ticket C requires that you go through change at Outer Mongolia

PIXIE: Well, yes - but that's what i'm trying to work out you see - because I was hoping that you could define "goes through" for me.

IMOS: Your train has to go through there

PIXIE: Yeeeees.....but here's the thing - There are two routes that I can see from my house - the Extremely Slow Train Company (ESTC) or the NeverHadSex Company (guessing that readers will probably work out who this company is).  Now ESTC takes about 2hrs to get to Central Smokey, but if I change at my nearest city for NHSC then i can get there in just over 1hr.  So: the NHSC route takes it THROUGH Timbuktoo, but it doesn't stop there - does that count

IMOS: Your train has to go through the station for the ticket to be valid

PIXIE (Slightly frazzled now): Yes, but can you define "goes through" - the train DOES "go through" the station - it just does so at 100 mph - does the train have to stop there, even if i remain on the train, for it to count as going through?


PIXIE: No it doesn't?

IMOS: Yes, it does

PIXIE: So it does, or it doesn't?

IMOS: The train has to go through the station for the ticket to be valid

PIXIE: OK let me try a different tack then.  Ticket price A only allows me to go on ESTC routes and nothing else - therefore it is the cheapest price yes?


PIXIE: Great, finally some clarity.  B-UT Ticket Price B allows me to get on any train SO LONG AS it goes via Timbuktoo - whatever that actually means - right?

IMOS: Right

PIXIE: AAAH, but you see - the only train that will go through my local stops and stop at Timbuktoo is the ESTC, and the only connection i can get from there to Central Smokey is also run by ESTC - so what you're effectively telling me then is that I'm paying an extra £100 for the privilege of catching exactly the same train, yes?

IMOS: The train has to go through the station for the ticket to be valid

PIXIE: You know, i used to have a toy talking robot dog as a kid that had more stock phrases than you do.  OK - so ticket price C means I have to go via Outer Mongolia, but that otherwise I can catch any train yes?


PIXIE: But the problem here is that the only train to Outer Mongolia won't get me to Central Smokey till nearly midday and has to change at three other locations - so now you're expecting me to pay £200 extra for an even more useless ticket?

IMOS:  The £extreme rip-off train ticket does allow you to catch any train

PIXIE: Yes, but that's over £300 more per month than the ESTC for what, with changes in service, is effectively a 15 minute time difference in journey per day.  Which is why I'm trying to get you to define "goes through" for me.  If it means "must stop at" then it should say "must stop at" so that people with second languages can clearly understand what is being said.  Buuut - if it means "goes through" - IE merely has to pass through the station but doesn't actually have to stop whilst in the process of doing so - then I can have the option of switching to the NHSC service and save myself some time - so please, for the love of God, can you just tell me does the phrase on your website "must go through" translate as "must stop at" or not???

IMOS: The train has to go through the station for the ticket to be valid

Cue sounds of muttered, but still copious, swearing and the sound of a disconnect

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Hot With A Hint Of Frostbite

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?
It's the first day of May and the sun is out.  Both cats are in the garden enjoying the sun.

The sun is drying the washing on the line and summer is wearing her skirt and showing her legs for the first time this year.

And me: sitting in the front room, working from home: the room that never gets any sun and, as such, is a good 10 degrees colder than the rest of the planet

Sitting with heater plugged in , with a jumper on and a hot drink in my hand to stave off the shivers

Roll on summer.