A Muppet’s Christmas Carol… I mean MP’s

January 3, 2011

Christmas. That simple word brings happiness to the faces of children, dismay to the faces of parents; it conjures up images of roast turkey, potatoes, and all the trimmings, not to mention the mound of presents just screaming out to be opened as early as possible on Christmas morning.

Last year, however, was a year when the taxpayer had a less than jolly Christmas.

It seems that whilst we were making the most of the festivities, MP’s were making the most of the tax payer’s hard earned money in the form of expenses claims.

Although an independent expenses watchdog has been set up in recent months, hopefully putting an end to ridiculous expenses claims, we thought we would show you a couple from last Christmas.

These two incredible tales of MP’s taking more than their share of the Christmas pudding are set to warm you to the core faster than a toasted turkey sandwich on Boxing Day.

And remember, although the MP’s ‘Green Book’ tells them quite clearly that expenses are only there to “enable them to work effectively in Parliament and in their constituencies”,  these MP’s clearly have no real understanding of what constitutes a fair claim.

–          George Galloway, an MP thrown out of the Labour Party, with his constituency based in Bethnal Green and Bow, East London, tried to charge the taxpayer for the cost of Christmas cards sent from his constituency office.

After being asked by the Telegraph why he had claimed £32 on cards, he said it was “a simple error made by a new member of staff.

Off course it was, George.

–          Vera Baird, Solicitor General for the Government, on a yearly salary of £125,602, tried to pass a claim of £286 for “miscellaneous items” that turned out to be Christmas decorations, and although this particular claim was refused, she did manage to claim tens of thousands of pounds pay for a new roof, flooring, windows and a porch at her second home.

In 2006, she also claimed £29.97 after visiting her local branch of Woolworths and purchasing 24 baubles, 20 “snowflake” lights and an extension lead.

At another shop she spent £5.48 on decorations, and, at a third, £214.97 on what appear to be 48in and 72in artificial Christmas trees.

Spending our cash wisely, Mrs. Baird.

A merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone, and if you see an MP, ask them if you can have a £20 for a fully lit inflatable Santa, two packets of festive McVities chocolate HobNobs, and a few dozen fairy lights.

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Resistance Is Futile

June 2, 2010
Each and every day when I turn my computer on it tells me that new and exciting updates are ready to be installed. Although I can find nothing that interesting or exciting about updating ‘Vista Service Package B-27’, I click update, not because I want to but because my computer tells that it may be dangerous not to. (For those of you who know very little about computers, bear with me because I know even less than a moth. I will not talk about computers for long.)
 
So I sit there, wasting my life as it slowly shuffles from 68% complete to 69%, wondering what magical improvements are waiting for me, and wondering what I have done wrong in life to be enduring this.
 
At 100%, however, it tells me that I need to restart my computer so that the updates can be configured. Why? Why are you doing this to me? Why did you not tell me this at the start, before I had clicked ‘OK’? I was in the middle of purchasing second-hand lavatory paper off of ‘Myface-land’.

 After restarting the computer and losing my shipment of toilet paper, the screen comes to life, and, so far as I can see, nothing has changed. All of that time, wasted.

 
This time wasting, I have discovered, doesn’t just happen with computers. If you look carefully you can see that almost every aspect of your day-to-day life is hindered by waiting for something.
 
There are exceptions, of course. Every now and then, this temperamental technology does work, and it delights you, in the same way that when a classic car that spends most of its time on the back of an AA lorry actually works without fault, it is magnificent. But for the most part, technology slows life down.
 
I recently wanted to buy a chicken sandwich from a small supermarket. I only had a couple of minutes to spare, but I knew that modern technology would want me to be on my way as quickly as possible.
 
It took me five minutes to buy that sandwich. Five minutes. I could have read a small novel in the time it took for the incompetent woman behind the till to scan the bar code, poke the computer screen, and call for an assistant.
 
You can see my point now. New technologies designed to whisk us through a cushy, mumsy-wumsy, airbagged life are doing nothing but slowing things down.
 
But there is nothing we can do about it because, who are you, in many peoples minds, if you don’t have the latest phone, the flashiest car, or the swankiest clothes.
 
Although I am young, I know that fashion really doesn’t matter. I couldn’t care less if your clothes were not from ‘TopBloke’, just as long as you were happy.
 
Despite this understanding though, sometimes I still feel compelled to buy overpriced clothes.
 
It’s a shame really because, deep down, I’m fine wearing a pair of old jeans from ‘Marks & Sparks’.

A free country… Sort of

April 15, 2010

It’s just fantastic that we can go wherever we want, quickly and without limits, and without the feeling that we‘re being watched. Its wonderful being able to drive as quickly as you want without any fear of being told off. I love being able to say whatver I want to say whenever I want to say it.

Sorry, did I just say you could do all of those things? I must be mistaking you for someone who lives in a free country, because we obviously don’t. 

As this small island nation progresses further into the twenty first century, it seems that in order to progress in a healthy and safe way, every aspect of our lives must be monitored, checked, double checked, surveyed, and finally analysed so that any future activities can be restricted further.

Apparently it is for our benefit, but really? For our benefit? Seems more like the governments benefit to me.

Let’s start with my first statement: That we can go wherever we want, quickly, and without limits or the feeling that we are being watched. This is in no way true.

If you decided to drive, right now, to, let’s say, Buckingham Palace for some sight seeing. You would think that your government would want you to see the main home of your monarch from the comfort and five star safety of your own car. Don’t be silly. If it were up to them, you would be feeding off of moss in some horrible prison where stabbists and window lickers can be found. Instead, you are not allowed anywhere near Buckingham Palace in a car for ‘security reasons’. What security reasons? I’m as English as a cricket bat and a piece of fruit cake. And I’ve had a letter from the Queen, se we’re like, best mates. I’m not going to want to put her corgis in a food blender.

Not only would they not allow you to drive up to the palace, but they wouldn’t want you to drive to somewhere nearby either, unless you did so at a cool and collected top speed of eight miles per hour. In fact, they would prefer it if you didn’t drive at all because you would be endangering foxes and honey badgers.

Then there is the feeling that you are constantly being watched. Nowadays, in Britain, there are approximately 4.2 million cameras. 4.2 million! And that’s just the surveillance cameras. But there are speed cameras, mobile cameras, private cameras, and, in the near future, talking cameras, that will tell you that you are being a bit cheeky by putting your can of expensive and taxed fizzy cola down on the ground, and that you must put it in the recycling bin like a good chap. This is the biggest waste of money since an MP bought a duck house, because if we have people that will stamp on a homeless person until he dies, what notice will they take of a talking camera?

So we can’t go where we want, at the speed we want.

But what about my second statement? That we can say what we want whenever we want? “Of course we can” you’re shouting. Its one of our basic human rights. Not in this country it’s not. Every single thing that anyone says is put up against an imaginary scale of offence and racism.

You cannot call a black person black because it might offend them. So what are they then? What should I call them? You cannot call someone who looks Chinese a Chinese person just in case they are Japanese, or Thai, or Korean, or Vietnamese. You see my point. It really is ridiculous.

So what is my conclusion? In the name of progression and multiculturalism, we are sacrificing our rights and our ability to do what we want. It stands to reason that in a few years time we will reach a barrier where we will not progress at all because everyone is afraid to say anything, for fear of imprisonment.

Apparently, we do not live in a democracy, as No. 10 would have us believe. Instead, we live in a communal dictatorship in which everyone has the power to have someone fined or put behind bars, with the stabbists.

If I were you, I would create my own country, because otherwise free countries will become extinct.

The start

March 18, 2010

If you are looking to play the guitar, or indeed any kind of musical instrument, starting it because you have to will almost certainly end in disaster or in you becoming unhappy. That is something that everyone should avoid. 

If however you are saying to yourself: “Ah-ha, the guitar! That would be a fun!”, then strap yourself in and prepare yourself for the magical journey which is playing guitar. It may not be easy, and sometimes it can be a bit repetitive, but it is certainly worth it. 

The guitar is without a doubt the coolest instrument to play; A theatrical mixture of drama, passion and enjoyment. Look at the people who have played guitar in the past: Eric Clapton, Django Reindhardt, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan… could you honestly look any of those greats in the face and say: “you’re rubbish at guitar and as cool as an Albanian turnip farmer who works at B & Q part time”. The answer is obviously no. You couldn’t because by doing that you are proclaiming to the world that you hate all things good and you should stop reading this and go back to acquiring photographs of paving slabs for your album. 

The Guitar’s Anatomy 

If you are still with us then that’s excellent, but don’t think that you will simply be able to pick up a guitar and play it like an angel. First you need to get to know the guitar. And by know I really mean know. Don’t just sit there and believe you know what the wire things are, what the twiddly bits at the top of the guitar do etc. 

(This is easier to do with a guitar in front of you but if you haven’t got one yet it doesn’t matter. Consider you options; go to a guitar shop and speak to someone who really knows about guitars, not just someone who works there at the weekend so he can afford the Beano. Tell them your spending limits, what music you like, and your personal tastes. Hopefully you will be guided through your possibilities and end up with a guitar you are really happy with.) 

Whether you are learning the acoustic or electric, this hand guide will show you exactly what you need to know. 

 

 

Body: The main bulk of the guitar. It provides a mounting point for the neck. On an acoustic, there is an amplifying sound chamber, which without would render an acoustic useless. On an electric, it houses all the electronics and bridge assembly. 

Bridge:  The metal or wooden anchoring point for the strings.

Fingerboard:  A piece of plat wood on top of the neck where you place your fingers to produce notes or chords.

 

Frets:  Metal bars which are place along the fingerboard. They shorten the vibrating space of the string allowing different pitches to be produced.

Head: A mounting point for the tuning keys, connected to which are the strings.

Neck: The long wooded “neck” of the guitar that connects the body with the head.

Nut:  No, it’s not someone who lives in a room with padded walls and twenty four hour surveillence. It is in fact a metal or stiff nylon bar that prevents the stings from vibrating beyond it towards the tuning keys.

 

Output Jack:  Only on the electric guitar, it is where the wire that connects the amp to the guitar is inserted.

Pick-up Selector: Only on the electric, it is a switch that selects which of the pick-ups is used.

Pick-ups: On the electric only, they are small electro magnets that changes the variations in magnetic field around the pick-ups into an audible signal in the amp.

Strings: The strings are the music making devices. By playing them together or separately, you can create music. Each of the strings is tuned differently, except the two end strings which are the same but at different pitches.

Tuning Keys: These keys are attached to the strings and by turning them you can alternate the pitch and tuning of the strings.

Volume and Tone Controls:  On the electric only, these dictate the volume and, you guessed it, the tone of the sound that is emitted from the amplifier.

Pick Guard: This helps to stop the body of the guitar being scratched by playing.

Whammy Bar: This allows you to momentarily change the tone of all the strings.

There we are. That wasn’t too difficult was it. And (pardon the pun) don’t fret about it. You will get to know your guitar more and more in the future.

It’s all in a name

March 17, 2010

In some ways, I am very like Jeremy Clarkson. Not quite as tall, but we both write and we both share an extraordinary passion for cars. I’ve even been around the Top Gear test track in a Ferrari. 

I’m not sure what it is though that draws me to cars. There are a number of contributing factors. The sounds; the looks. Lots of things really. But the one of the most important has to be the name. 

Looking at cars of the past, they always had to have a really exciting name to go with the fact that, because they were a car, they themselves were actually exciting. Imagine, seeing a car like a Jaguar XK 120 cruising down your local high street with those lustrous curves and a beautiful engine note. You would have literally wet your pants. In fact, in post war Britain, upon its release in 1949, it was common to see people having to be cleaned up whilst on their way home from the butchers. 

There are other cars from the past that, it is clear, the builders and designers really put a lot of effort into deciding on a name; The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the Citroën Traction Avant, the Auburn 851 Speedster, the Ford Thunderbird, to name just a few. 

So, it seems, with the exception of MG Midget, which although looked good, its name failed to do it justice, cars of the past had both exciting names and exciting looks. 

This, I fear, is something that has not been seen in the past decade. The Nissan Micra Convertible, for example, looks pretty odd, feels inside like someone has put you in a Pringle  tube made of bits of plastic that low-rent Chinese manufacturers have turned down, and has a name which sounds a bit too close to licra. It is far better than walking, but it doesn’t share the quality that cars of old had. 

Another prime example of lack of thought is the Proton Savy. Although its looks are good (not so much of the mumsy-wumsy, “I’ve-given-up-on-life” styling), its name is flawed. Savy is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardie in northern France; hardly something a bestselling car would share its name with. 

In some ways though, things are looking up for cars. Styling, it seems, for the next couple of years looks like the designers have really sat down and looked at what works and how to improve it, rather than just connecting basic shapes with squiggly lines and giving it a name like the ‘Ted-shuffle-bottom peace lover MK 2’ in a coffee break. The VW Polo, the BMW Z4, and the Ford Focus, are examples of modern cars that look good and share quite good names; it appears they have learnt from the creator of the MG Midgets mistakes.

For me though, only one car manufacturer has truly shown complete and utter quality throughout its history: Aston Martin. They look drop-dead gorgeous, sound better than anything else, and have always had names that have been though about and considered properly. And with the fastest Aston Martin ever set to be released in 2010, they are leading the way for the manufacturers of the world.

So what is it then that I really mean by writing all of this. Trying to educate people about cars? Slightly. Trying to teach manufacturers a lesson? Maybe. But really, if you can take away one thing from this article, it is that names matter, and I have a very real and prominent theory on this. As Britain is finally starting to climb slowly out of the recession, and everyone is starting to get their jobs back, it is clear that the real reason for the recession is not that bankers got too greedy (well, they did, but never mind), it is not that we need to take more care of our wallets, but instead, we need to follow the modern car industry and give children names that set them up for good, prosperous and successful live. Stop naming children on a whim, or on the place where they were born, or on your favourite actor, because naming children like this can surely only end in them failing, cataclysmically.

Instead, children need to be given names like Lightening and Rapide. They may eat a little more than you expected, but it’s better than naming them ‘Ted-shuffle-bottom peace lover MK 2’.

Manchester-Field Town Football Club Rovers Team are heading for trouble…

March 17, 2010

Football this year should be good… According to my friends. I however am not a footballer. I did try it once but was called off-side, told I was rubbish, made a sub, made a permanent sub, and then told I shouldn’t follow football as a career. 

Luckily for the bankers however, there are footballers. And those lucky football players, as I said a minute ago, should have a good year in the football profession. Brand new stadiums like that of Brighton’s Falmer Stadium are to be built, for example. David Beckham earns about €44 million per year, and even teams that weren’t supposed to be doing very well are taking on the giants. All is merry in the world of the foot.

 This could mean trouble ahead, however. If there is more and more money being put into football (the bulk of it coming from buying a bog standard ticket at Chelsea for £50 a pop!) then surely that means there is less money elsewhere? A possible cause for the recession? Or even a reason for the bosses at Toyota having to recall a total, so far, of 7.6 million cars due to cheap parts and computers? 

But there is an even bigger danger and that is that because footballers will be surrounded by a world in which money will be a substitute for punishment for bad behavior, they will start acting as though they can do what they want without any thought about who they are as role models to young aspiring footballers. 

This is why Portsmouth FC is now dodging the bailiff and Chelsea’s John Terry is dodging the press… And “Fabio”… And his England captaincy… And his wife… 

Somehow though, despite all this football news, I am none the wiser about the workings of football, and despite being a man I could not explain the off-side rule to save my life. 

There are many possible reasons for this. Some say I’m a woman. A couple say I’m the Stig. But I say in a proud and noble voice, that I am a hockey player. 

Unlike footballers, I don’t call for a penalty if an opposing player looks at me in a hostile tone of voice, and I certainly don’t cry if somebody touches my hair while making a tackle. For me it is a literal case of ‘Give blood… Play Hockey’. My first injury was a stick to the head and I didn’t complain. I just carried on, slightly dizzy. 

Because of this manly approach to sport, I have concluded that if the world played hockey, all we would do would be get up, train, eat, train, sleep. And possibly go to the toilet. As a result of this intense and hopefully enjoyable regime, there would be no crime. No debts. Think of that. A world where the word recession is just a distant memory and where the PM’s bullying claims would be a thing of the past. As well as this, the owners of Manchester-field Town Football Club Rovers wouldn’t build ghastly “modern” football stadiums in the middle of beautiful ancient countryside scenery, and there certainly wouldn’t be people who have a new million pounds a week to spend on their over maintained hair because they can kick an inflated piece of leather. 

If I was a footballer, I would watch the hockey.

Hello world!

March 17, 2010

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