Just lately I have been receiving a few calls on my landline. Such calls have been such a rare occurrence that one almost feels compelled to stand to attention when the phone rings, as I’m sure my grandparents’ generation did when they first had telephones installed. Now of course I can predict with 97% certainty that the caller will have an Asian accent and will be calling from ‘I.T. services’ and will have some urgent and worrying news for me about my computer. Usually at this point my routine has been to hang up, but today, when the call came again, I decided to play the part of a vulnerable old git who didn’t understand anything. This meant that my caller became increasingly impatient, revealing his hand as just another cold-calling (and cold hearted) scammer. I would have kept him on the line for a while longer, but he may have heard my stifled laughter. He tried to call back straightaway, but on not receiving an answer I can only assume that he will have thought his first call had given the doddery old fart a heart attack and had keeled over.
I visited my bank branch a few days ago, to pay in a cheque using the ATM. Yesterday I received a text from the bank asking me to fill in a survey about my experience. I would like to think that somebody at XXX Bank plc thought (at 8.42pm) that this was something worth chasing up. Let’s ask Mr Challen (of all people!) how he managed to slip that cheque (a cheque!) into the slot? Was it the right way up? Did the machine snatch the cheque with suitable panache? Did the machine decode the handwriting accurately? Did you get a prompt receipt? Was anybody looking over your shoulder (like one of our assistants)? Was your intercourse with us exceptional? Fantastic? Amazing? Fabulous? (We’re not quite sure which superlative to use, so we’ll take a leaf out of Virgin’s playbook and use them all.) Thank you for completing this survey! It will help us blend our customer experiences into the electronic synaptic structure of our impenetrable consumer satisfaction matrix, which will shortly have a massive dump. On you. Thank you again. Your custom is apprecitited/(enter code)EXIT:ENTER:Salutation signoff
I'm having an interesting time as a new student. A postgraduate student in fine art, in fact. A weird experience it is, walking round the campus being the oldest person in sight (unless there lurk lecturers who are 'senior citizens' too, but I doubt it). Since it's been nearly 40 years since I was last a student, I have been on a double learning curve. Gone are the library card indexes which threw up (or so I thought at the time) so many serendipitous connections; gone are the one to two ratio tutorials with tutors; gone are the all-day drinking sessions (I made that one up, of course) . . . gone are the student grants - even in the early years of Thatcherism you could still get a mature students grant - it paid for everything (I was classed as a mature student even then). Long gone too, since the time I was at Hull University are the days when Philip Larkin was librarian, now most people with an education couldn’t name a university librarian. Naturally computers, nay iPads are at the centre of things today. Since I resolutely can't be arsed with social media, I may be at a disadvantage. It seems a lot of discourse takes place in that blessed arena, which probably explains why young people aren't drinking as much as they used to do.
All this new experience – enrolling as a student pensioner – begs the question ‘how old do I think I am?’ It is a question not unrelated to the recent stuff in the news about the NHS website survey where you are asked to impart details of your life so that an algorithm can suss out how old your heart actually is. It seems that most UK hearts are somewhat older than the vehicles to which they are fitted. Perhaps it would be an interesting survey to ask people how old they think they are, apart from acknowledging how many birthdays they’ve had. I’d like to think that I’m stuck around 40 – once upon a time that was an age when maturity could be savoured whilst the benefits of youth hadn’t been entirely wasted.
I’m not against change, but with the advent of the Internet, and computer programs, change seems to be introduced for change’s sake – the tech savvy designers can’t stop fidgeting with ‘new looks,’ ‘fantastic new designs,’ ‘amazing experiences’ and so on. None of which of course matches the rhetoric but only happen because they can – not that they must. Hence, my online banking portal will change shortly and I will have to refamiliarise myself with all the upgraded features I was perfectly content without before. Then there’s Google – ‘upgrading’ gmail with a new look which merely serves to discombobulate near-elderly types like myself. Part of the reason for program upgrading is naturally the desire for profit – when you find that your version of Word no longer works in the latest version of the great scheme of things, you have to nip out (sorry, that’s what we used to have to do) and buy the latest version. Not that the latest version will have any tool to help the imagination, you’re still unaccountably left to your own devices to find the words you need to express yourself. (Yes, I know that's not strictly true any more. And who needs words when you can have an emoji?)
There used to be an idea that not everybody needs to be on the same hymn sheet (remember talk of a twin-track E.U?) – that it was perfectly OK to travel life’s course at one’s own pace. This is now fuddy duddy thinking. Everything must be conducted through an online portal, and the less likely you are to have easy access to an online portal (e.g. many Universal Credit claimants or any peasant seeking interaction with government agencies these days) the more you will be seen as wilfully betraying progress. When the case is made on behalf of poor old bloody pensioners that they don’t make use of the internet as much as they SHOULD do, it sounds like our society is harbouring a Trojan army of retards who could imminently crash the system through their sheer minded obstructiveness. They stand opposed to greater heights of efficiency, transformational management and productivity, they’re but barnacles on the sleek hull of decimated public services. I tried to introduce my mother in her eighties to the use of a mouse. Her spirit was willing, but her flesh was weak. In such circumstances, I worried that the internet could be a very dangerous, or at least a rather expensive place.
Just about every new technology, or variants of new technology have met resistance. What is different now however is the fact that the technologies that are changing fastest are those which seem to have more immediate, universal application. Whoever thought of Google maps deserves credit. The idea is grandiose in its vision, matching your whole life not just in terms of getting from A to B geographically but everything in between and more importantly anticipating where you’re going next. In life. You’re whole life is already contained in a heavenly Cloud, and unlike the weaving machines in Colne Valley you can’t smash the Cloud. (Having said which, I’m sure somebody is trying.) Yes, there is a bit of a reaction to the sprawling influence of new technology. According to today’s Guardian there’s a movement against social media – young people are more questioning of its value and there’s a ‘Don’t use social media month’ coming up. I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’ll just lead to another change in portals and the main task of the social media moguls will be to spot which start-up will be the next trend setter and buy them out.
Well, I don’t know where I’m going with this. At heart I’m just an old postie wondering where all the mail went.
I suspect that if as a result of this long, dry summer standpipes had to be erected in our streets, there would be quite a few grumbles. Mutterings about Yorkshire Water having the second worst record nationally in leakage, etc. But I also suspect that when a leak happens, many people can't be bothered to report it. It was the case with the major burst pictured here (this was a couple of years ago). It's the first time I've seen a group of young people with not a single mobile phone between them. I reported it immediately I saw it, and that was after it had been spouting away for a few hours. Nobody else had bothered. Now I have just reported another leak, admittedly not so obvious as this one, but one which scores or hundreds of people will have seen every day. Checking on the Yorkshire Water website, there is a map which tells you if a leak has already been reported, and there was nothing. So why are people averse to reporting leaks? Is it a big effort? Hardly. But I'm underestimating what some people consider to be a big effort.
Tory grandees are clearly livid with Boris Johnson over his remarks about some Muslim women’s attire. Not because they don’t agree with him – surely Boris’s antennae aren’t that out of sync – but because his comments have knocked Labour’s ‘anti-semitism’ garbage off the top slot. Even the Guardian had to relegate the latest musings of Dame Margaret Hodge into a secondary place. On the Today programme this morning the stand-out moment for me was when ‘Lord’ Eric Pickles, in full smoothy-chops mode described Boris as his friend but . . . his language was out of line, and by the way this couldn’t be compared with Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. I love this use of the non-comparison comparison. Could it be called a false flag comparison? Who else actually made the comparison? The point is to plant the thought in people’s heads. I’m not sure Eric really is Boris’s friend after all.
I can envisage the scene now. Scarborough south bay’s golden beach is crowded with sun-seeking day-trippers, the sea is crystalline glistening, seabirds swoop overhead, leaving the occasional ice cream slurper wondering why their extra-large peach and vanilla cornet suddenly tastes of sea food. Then suddenly and without warning, a phalanx of black, wet suit clad commandos emerge from the water and scatter the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades. Panic ensues. Ice creams are flung into sand castles and seagulls snatch abandoned chips.
Oblivious to the crowds, the heavily armed commandos continue at pace up Eastborough, checking their GPS trackers every 10 seconds as they close in on their target. Soon, their destination emerges, it is surrounded and isolated. Carefully, as we have seen many times in Hollywood action blockbusters featuring special forces, a crack squad enters Scarborough’s historic market (recently the beneficiary of a £2.7 million make-over) and their red lasers pick out a cheery but somewhat startled criminal, known as ‘the greengrocer.’ He is zapped and taken off with a hood over his head whilst in the background the muffled sound of a controlled explosion destroys the evidence of his crime: the contents of boxes of ‘Pars’ supreme quality Iranian dates are splattered all over the shiny balustrades of the historic market’s brand new mezzanine level. Mission Accomplished (as they say), the U.S. Navy Seals retreat the way they came, bellowing ‘Make America Great Again!’, taking with them their captive the greengrocer – who’s headed for Guantanomo Bay (via an undisclosed rendition centre).
Yes, today’s the day Trump’s new sanction regime against Iran came into force and it's going to be BRUTAL. Does this mean that Pars dates (to which I was recently introduced) are going to disappear? These sublime confections must certainly be on Trump’s no-go list. For the time being I imagine they’ll remain on sale, as stocks are used up. Perhaps E.U. resistance to Trump’s reneging on the Iran nuclear deal will prevent the supply chain breaking down, for now. But come March 19th next year when the U.K. ‘takes back control’ what then? Out of the E.U. our glorious and ever so strong and stable leader will no doubt stand up to Trump on her own hands and knees, and say ‘No, Mr President, we’re quite able to withstand your pressure and we’ll stick with the E.U. on this one.’ Of course she will. That’s the new freedom we’ll have, being on our own.
An email arrives from B&Q “to let you know about some important changes to the Diamond Card discount.” When a retailer refers to important changes it usually means price rises, and so it is in this case. Grey Wednesdays are over – that is when the over-60s could enjoy a 10% discount on everything instore. Now the discount is to be limited to ‘gardening products’ only. This of course is all in aid of maintaining ‘our best price every day you shop.’
Given that B&Q rarely was the cheapest place to buy stuff – but simply had a bigger choice under one roof – I can now envisage diamond DIY geezers shopping around a lot more, perhaps even making more use of the internet. I think B&Q have shot themselves in the foot. I don’t think people minded paying a little extra to get a little discount. That’s the curious psychology of the consumer, daft as it seems.
When Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, anti-semitic incidents in the UK actually dropped, according to the Community Security Trust. They have sadly risen again. But between 2012 and 2014 they doubled. If I recollect, that’s during Ed Miliband’s term as leader of the Labour Party. He was a Jew of course, once photographed eating a bacon sarnie, and many times demonised, along with his father by the right-wing press. I don’t recollect the Jewish Labour Movement or the Board of Deputies attacking the right wing media with the venom they now reserve for Jeremy Corbyn.