Wednesday, May 30

Conversation overheard in a pet shop.

Parents with small bouncy boys notice the display of kitsch diamante cat collars.

Mother: "Oh, look at the jewellery you can get for your cat."

Small boy: "Can we get one? Can we get one? Please? Please? Please?"

Father: "No."

Small boy: "Ohhh. Why not?"

Father: "We don't have a cat."



Monday, May 28

Conversation overheard in a pharmacy.

"Could you take a look at my son's eye, please? It's very dry in both corners."

"Hmm. It is irritated; looks like an allergic reaction. Do you have any animals in the house, anything you could be allergic to?"

"No, just his father."



Common sense and empathy.

There are a couple of restaurants in Bangor called "Jeffers by the Marina" and "Jeffers at the Boathouse". The one by the Marina is a little cafe-bistro type place with extremely good food and the Boathouse one is a posher affair with — so we've heard; we've not been there — even better food. So I booked a table at the Boathouse for Vic's birthday dinner last night. I booked it about three weeks ago, and we'd been rather looking forward to it.

We turned up last night, and the place was shut.

So I called Jeffers at the Boathouse, and Jeffers at the Marina answered. Hmm. My first thought was that I'd screwed up the phone numbers and called the wrong branch when I'd made the booking. It was a difficult conversation because whoever'd answered the phone couldn't speak English comprehensibly, but I was able to glean that, yes, our table was booked at the wrong restaurant. How thick am I?

So we headed off to the Marina (it's only just up the road) and, just as we were approaching, the manager called me back to apologise. It turns out that I hadn't screwed up the phone numbers. When Jeffers at the Boathouse is shut, they forward all their calls to Jeffers by the Marina. So you ring up, ask to book a table, and they oblige by booking a table, without your having any way of knowing that your call to one restaurant has been answered in a different one.

This is not the best-thought-out system I have ever come across.

So we cancelled. When someone's incompetence has caused us to traipse round a car park in the pissing rain trying to figure out how to get into a thoroughly closed building, we feel disinclined to give them money.

We went to the Villa Toscana instead, the only place likely to be open and still accepting customers by this time. It used to be a very good restaurant — we had our wedding reception there, in fact. In the last couple of years, the place has been under new management and gone downhill a bit, but we reckoned it was worth a try. As it turned out, the food was extremely good. The service, however, was bad. Luckily, it was so bad it was actually funny, and we were able to have a laugh about it.

Two women — one of whom appeared to be the manager — were stomping around making it abundantly clear to everyone that they had better things to be doing with their time than serving bloody customers in some bloody restaurant. After waiting in vain for nearly half an hour for one of them to offer us actual food, I had to approach the manager — who was stacking menus, a terribly important job when you've got three tables you've yet to take orders from — and ask her if someone would take our order. She responded testily with "Yes, what is it?" Staff in McDonald's are politer than this.

When another couple entered the restaurant after us, the women turned to look at them; one clicked her teeth and said to her colleague "Are we not shut yet?" Nice greeting. One of them later took that couple's drinks order with her back to them. Really. Time between my ordering an orange juice and receiving it: fifty minutes. When Vic asked for a cappuccino: "We've turned the coffee machines off." Pause. "I could make you some instant." We left.

So that's three restaurants in one evening whose service has been so appalling we'll never go to any of them again. Welcome to Britain.

We're going to try this again next week. Maybe The Narrows in Portaferry. I just hope this new style of restaurant management hasn't infected them as well.



Tuesday, May 22

Doing things the easy way.

We were recently considering getting a spare key for our car, a Mercedes. We have stopped considering it now, because Mercedes charge in the region of £130 for a new key. One hundred and thirty quid.

Now, it's bad enough that Mercedes should fleece their customers — many of them very loyal customers — for such a simple job as cutting the metal bit of the key and programming the infra-red bit, but my brother-in-law the mechanic informs me that that's not even what they're doing. You or I might do things that way, but oh no, the clever people at Mercedes know better.

When a new car rolls off the production line at Mercedes, it does so with some keys. I don't know how many — let's say ten. If you lose a set, you contact Mercedes and they sell you one of these keys for £130, the bastards. But what if you're really forgetful or unlucky and you lose ten keys? Or what if you bought the car second-hand and the previous owners have lost nine, and you then lose just one? You'd think Mercedes might charge you even more to manufacture a new key than merely to sell you one they'd made earlier.

And you'd think wrong, because what they actually do when they have no more of the original keys to sell you is nothing. If you lose the last set of keys, you have to have the car's entire locking mechanism replaced.



Tuesday, May 15

More refuse shenanigans.

So the bin-men didn't empty our bin yesterday. I hadn't broken any of their silly new bin-presentation rules, so they must have just missed it. I called them to get them to come back out and empty it, and spoke to a rude and unhelpful tosser who I later learnt was a supervisor, then, later, to a reasonable and helpful man who sorted the problem out, then, briefly, to a personality somewhere between the other two. I shan't bother you with all the sordid details of what really should not have been a saga; I just want to mention what the last man told me.

He said that the bin-men insisted that our bin had not been there when they came out the first time.

Quite apart from how bad an idea it is to accuse a customer of lying when you don't have to, I find it astounding that anyone in their right minds would believe such a bad lie in the first place, let alone pass it on to me. The bin-men go out in the morning and collect several thousand bins. Later that day, their supervisor tells them that the resident of 15 Acacia Road claims that his bin has not been emptied. They respond that they remember clearly that 15 Acacia Road's bin was not there. Of all those thousands of addresses, they can remember which bins were there and which were not. What kind of a twonk, at this point, believes them?



Monday, May 14

Whose line is it anyway?

My niece, Eva, is now a little over four years old, and has just got into jokes in a big way. She understands the structure of jokes, she understands that they're funny, but — and this is the thing — she has absolutely no conception of why jokes are funny. None whatsoever.

So, for instance, she's discovered this old gem:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock knock!
Who's there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock knock!
Who's there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say banana?


Hilarious as it is, I'm sure we can all agree, but it gains a whole new level of hilariosity when Eva starts developing new jokes around the template, effortlessly drawing handy everyday objects into her improvisation. Thus:

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Glass.
Glass who?
Glass you glad I didn't say banana?

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Mouth.
Mouth who?
Mouth you glad I didn't say banana?


And so on. For a while.

The interesting thing is that Eva appears to find all these new versions every bit as funny as the original, laughing and giggling copiously. She clearly has no idea of what the joke is, but that doesn't stop her laughing at it, and the laughter really is genuine. Fascinating.

That, however, is as nothing to what happens when you combine her new-found love of joke-telling with her long-established outright obsession with princesses, fairy tales, and all things Disney.

Why did Sleeping Beauty go to work?
I don't know, why did Sleeping Beauty go to work?
Because she's so beautiful and lovely and I really love her.


You had to be there.



Arithmetic in modern finance.

An acquaintance of mine applied to the Northern Bank for a loan today, and was turned down. The reason she was turned down was interesting.

She receives a standing order from one of her relatives for £600 every month and a cheque from another relative for £300 per month. The reasons why they pay her aren't important — the bank weren't interested in the reasons — but pay her they do, and will continue to do long-term. The payments are there on her statements where her bank can see them.

The Northern Bank told her that she could not have a loan because her outgoings were greater than her incomings. They aren't, but the Northern Bank refused to take into account the above-mentioned payments. In other words, if we insist on ignoring nearly a thousand pounds of your income, your income is too low for us to give you a loan.

Does this make sense to anyone?



Friday, May 4

I can't keep up with their fickle whims.

I just want to make sure I've understood this correctly.

According to the news over the last couple of days, the British media are very upset by the British security services' stubborn refusal to arrest and imprison Muslims who have not committed any violent acts against anyone at all.

That is right, isn't it?



Hello there.

Yeah, I know: I've been blogging very little of late, for which I'd apologise if this blog were for you. It isn't, though; it's for me. So no apology, then, but an explanation.

Well, obviously, there's the whole having-a-six-month-old daughter thing, which is going swimmingly, by the way. Daisy's just weaned the last couple of weeks, and likes my cooking, as long as it's pureed. We've been watching lots of TV for very small children, and many of the parents reading this will know what I'm on about when I mention the "We are the sheep" song from Teletubbies. By the way, the BBC's new In The Night Garden makes Teletubbies look conservative, humdrum, and drab. It is completely bonkers and thoroughly excellent.

On top of that, though, I've been rather busy getting a new job, which I have now got, and which is class. My new employers do not require me to be at work till eleven if I don't feel like it, which suits me just fine. And I can get from my desk to the train platform in five minutes flat. And I no longer have to drive to work through bad traffic. And even if I do feel like driving to work now and then, I don't have to do it in the rush hour. And there's a list of perks as long as your arm. And the people are dead nice. And there's a great bagel place round the corner and Burger King is within reach. I'm happy as a pig in a really good job.

Apart from all that, I'm going through one of my periodic bored-of-the-news phases. I mean, is there really any point in blogging all this crap? Someone in a position of power has done something inefficient and/or counterproductive? Really? Well I never. Must tell the world.

And the weather's nice and I've been gardening. Life is good. But I'll try to get a bit of blogging done at some point. Promise.



I'm dead famous, me.

That nice Mr Geras does his weekly Normblog Profile thing, like the Q Questionnaire but for bloggers instead of rockstars, and this week it's me. Brilliant.



Tuesday, May 1

A slight problem with definitions.

At Raw ("4 the very latest in lifestyle footwear"), they repeatedly use a sentence that one does not really expect to read:

Please allow 4 weeks for delivery of all items purchased through the Art 2U service, even if you select the "Next Day" delivery option.


Right.