Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Chickens coming home to roost?

I was very surprised to hear that the Chilcott Inquiry had not only reviewed Tony Blair's evidence - after all, nothing ever sticks to Teflon Tone - but had called him back for additional questioning.

So, on Friday Tony Blair will face the Inquiry again to explain the 'inconsistencies' in some of his statements.

Could it possibly be that a long awaited appearance at the Hague is now appearing on the horizon?

A tale of our times.....

The Haircut

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door..

Later, a police officer comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen doughnuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Member of Parliament was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen other Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.


Saturday, 19 June 2010

Nokia phones? I'd rather stick blunt pins into my eyelids - a purely personal perspective

This is a purely personal view, fuelled by three months of frustration and bile. I'd actually be really interested in other peoples' feedback - is it me or is it Nokia and a complete lack of customer care?

For many years I was a devoted Nokia mobile phone user. From the real bricks to the - was it a 5200? A phone which I accidentally dropped on my hardstanding as I got out of the car, watching in horror as my screen, battery & the rest all flew in different directions. And which I was able to put together after a few moments fiddling and with a huge sigh of relief. A phone that had a great battery life, that always worked - a Prince among mobile phones. I still have and use a Nokia regularly - though not quite as old a model as that. I use it with local SIMS when I'm abroad - it texts, it makes and receives calls, it's got a flashlight for all those strange twists and turns in an unknown village - what's not to love about that?

However, in the real 9 -5 world of the UK, I got seduced by Sony Ericsson. Mainly because a very trendy colleague was moving onto the very latest model and offered me her old (twelve months old) one. After about a week of struggling with a different(non-Nokia) way of doing things and a lot of manual reading I was in business! Me and my SE faced the world - together! The two of us had a number of happy years together (it's still tucked somewhere in a drawer in my study) and then I decided to modernise - to the latest (at that time) SE. Again, many happy years followed until iPhones and Smartphones hit the scene. Being by nature cheap, I went for a Chinese Smartphone - I still haven't sorted out how it works although it continues to ring regularly on my TWO sim cards. Seeing that 3 were giving away free sim cards and talking about free phone calls on Skype (I told you I was cheap) I got a free 3 PAYG simcard - which worked in my old SE but that was (the SE I mean), unfortunately, incompatible with Skype.)

Going into a 3 shop one day, with the original intention of buying a £10 PAYG top-up voucher, I made the fatal mistake of asking 'So, what sort of deals have you got on offer at the moment?' Faster than a jackdaw at a diamond ring, the salesman was IN. In fairness, I cannot blame him, it was me - he answered the questions I asked and asked me questions about text and call usage and I ended up coming out of the shop with an 18 month contract and a Nokia 5230. The contract is a good deal, I'm very happy with it and will probably take out another contract with 3 when it finishes. The 5230 is very good for texting - with a virtual QUERTY keyboard (if you want it) and makes and takes calls sucessfully. You can also use it for Skype calls - as my grown up kids live away this is GOOD. HOWEVER...... I live a busy life but am very disorganised and find it hard to keep track of appointments, meetings etc. SO, I key all my appointments into my laptop on Outlook and my old SE had an application called SE PC Suite that copied all my contacts, deadlines and appointments onto the phone so that when asked, in the middle of a meeting, if I was available on such-and-such a date, I checked my phone and could answer immediately (and accurately) that I was - or wasn't. So this was a question I asked the salesman - could I copy appointments from my PC onto the phone? Oh yes, a disk comes with the phone..... Off I trotted, happy as a pig in the proverbial.

Until that is, I started checking and discovered that the 5230 now pairs up with an application called Ovi rather than with an application called PC Suite and Ovi is all singing and dancing and trendy - for the under-tens I imagine - and is not at all interested in your Outlook appointments. By chasing around Forums and Googling like a demented gibbon I discovered that Nokia PC Suite, although meant for older Nokia models can be loaded onto the 5230 and will work successfully on it. However, as someone else out on one of the Forums complained - to get the most out of your 5230 you need both PC Suite AND Ovi, although the 5230 documentation only talks about Ovi and presents it as the replacement of PC Suite.

However, life was about to get worse - much worse. One of the selling points bigged up by Nokia for the 5230 is/was free sat-nav maps and directions for life from Ovi. I managed - not without problems - to load up a version of Ovi Maps (think that's what it's called) - one that placed me round the corner living on another street.... However, a lot of it was accurate and as I wasn't actually using it as a sat-nav I could live with that. Today I got a text from Nokia inviting me to download the latest version to increase the speed - 'faster performance and more accurate positioning'. Always a glutton for punishment I started - to eventually be told that my memory was full and I needed to clear something out and that it couldn't be installed. Funnily enough, on subsequent re-tries, I was told that the new version was already installed - and, incidentally searching for where I am, I discovered that I'd moved about a mile away (more accurate?). My originally supplied document omitted any mention of what I could do to clear memory so - off to the Forums. Here I discovered that I needed to 'clear the cache'. Another half an hour or so and I discovered a) what that meant and b) how to do it - with thanks to the members on the various forums who had contributed to this. I then got a message that the installation was 'unable to delete file'. Yes, thank you, give me a clue here - perhaps the initial of the file you're unable to delete if you don't want to be too helpful and give the complete name? No? OK - should I delete each and every file on my phone in the hope of eventually selecting the correct one? Life as a 5230 owner went steadily downhill from there with weirder and weirder messages appearing that made no sense whatsoever and the application being totally unable to contact the existing files on my 5230. It's beginning to feel like the Chinese iPhone again - and its instruction manual. I've just left it, I'm going to go into 3 next week, complain bitterly that it's 'not fit for purpose' and ask for an exchange for another make.

My overall complaint is that there is no one piece of documentation nor one Nokia-funded site (and I think this is quite important because after all they're the people who are selling this piece of rubbish and are making a nice profit out of it too) that can guide you through all the pitfalls and all the 'best practice' of getting a 5230 that actually does do what it's meant to do. Maybe it's because they sell to so many different countries? Don't know but I never had these problems with SE who, presumably are also international sellers. Could it be that like Microsoft at one stage, Nokia are beginning to believe their own publicity? Until people started moving to Apple and Linux that is. Each to their own preferences and this blog entry has been a very personal rant of frustration but I, personally, will never, ever buy another Nokia phone.


Despite my best intentions, I didn't get into a 3 shop after my recent rant. Instead, I received a message that there was a new firmware release available for the 5230 - ever the gullible, I downloaded & installed it. The phone still worked so in a moment of unwarrented optimism I wondered whether the new firmware might allow me to download & install the long promised 'sat nav for life' - NO!

Eventually, I was down in my local town last week so I went into the 3 shop & had a bit of a moan. The helpful assistant offered to try & download the application for me - he got the same result as me. He suggested that I leave it with him for an hour or two and he would look at it again, offering a worst case scenario of returning the phone for repair. Naturally, it turned out to be worst case. However, he didn't have a phone he could loan me so he suggested returning it to another 3 store where they would be able to lend me a phone. After almost an hour trailing through the backed up traffic I was seriously fed up. The phone has gone for repair - with dire warnings that if I'd dropped it or got it wet I would have voided the guarantee & would be responsible for any repair bill. They also could loan me a phone - I've used it once & am beginning to consider whether or not I actually need a mobile except when I'm abroad.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A New Beginning?

Back in April I blogged about how intimidated I felt on returning to my homeland & being greeted by three 'layers' of officialdom at a small provincial airport. I have escaped to Europe again but my return this time was not so depressing.

Landing at Innsbruck on my way out, we were once again met by the lone security guard checking our passports, with a polite 'Danke' as he handed it back. Thereafter I spent a week in small Tyrolean villages where bars allowed smoking. Although smoking was forbidden in the hotel rooms, there was a balcony which held a table & chairs and an ashtray. Like Spain, it appears that the Austrians acknowledge the EU but obey its rules (or not) as they see fit.

On a trip to Germany, we were advised to carry our passports but there was no perceptible border (Schengen?) & we never needed to use them. In Austria I saw a police car travelling through one of the villages - no other police presence. In Germany, police on the beat were more common but they seemed to be more 'keeping an eye on things' rather than anything else. Returning home I had already warned my travelling companion of what to expect. Yes. the zigzag was still in place, yes the three desks were still in place but they were fronted by a smiling young lady who asked if we'd travelled together & suggested we should go to a desk together. Here again we were greeted with a friendly smile and a polite 'Thank you' on completion. Beyond the desk, the way lay open to the luggage retrieval area. Is this the effect of the new government? If so - good for them. It was a much more friendly experience than the one I had at Easter and I really felt I was returning to a 'new' country.

The one sign of my earlier trip was the notice 'remove your passport from its cover....' without any 'Please' or 'Thank you'. I expect to be travelling though that airport again very shortly. This time I'll be carrying a black marker pen & I shall print a big 'PLEASE' at the top of the notice & an equally large 'THANK YOU' at the bottom.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Just a few questions. Mr/Ms Candidate

YouTube - The Crow on The Cradle

A friend of mine sent me the following by email today:

Thought you might find the following useful if any candidates visit you:

1. What is in your manifesto concerning the State Pension? – we receive amongst the lowest state pensions in Europe and are well below the national poverty level of £165. 00 per week.

2. What is in your manifesto about single sex wards in hospitals?

3. What is in your manifesto regarding free UK wide travel on all forms of public transport (buses, trams, and rail) for OAPs, to encourage independence and greater mobility, as well as helping the environment and reducing demand on care services?

4. Why are we still sending our soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq when it is none of our business? The terrorist threat is here in England.

5. What is in your manifesto about getting rid of the regional assemblies?

6. What do you propose to do about the broken promises made by Gordon Brown and Tony Blair? –

Pensions in line with Europe;

No means testing for pensioners;

Further education for everyone;

Cutting crime;

More NHI dentists.

7. Tony Blair said in his election speech that he did not want to live in a country where people had to sell their homes for health care – where do you stand on that?

8. Where do you stand on MP's and councillors’ salaries, pensions and expenses?

I wouldn't have thought of asking many of those questions - I will now!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A future fair for who,Gordon?

Gordon asks us to look at his achievements. Where? What? Bankrupting the country?

A future MORE than fair for those MPs accused of fraud over their expenses as taxpayers will pay all their legal fees

A future more than fair for this family too

A future not so fair for the families facing Gordon's 'secret tax'

Labour's unfair use of NHS employees' email addresses to try & force them to sign a pro-Labour petition

Labour's unfair use of personal NHS data to send alarmist mis-information

Perhaps a future not so fair for pregnant women in Britain?

These people don't think Labour are providing 'a future fair for all'

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Welcome to Britain?

I've been out of the country over Easter - only to other EU countries - but the sense of freedom there is fantastic compared to the UK.

I started off by flying into Valencia, Spain. Heading for Passport Control I lined up to show my passport to one lone security guy in a kiosk & then walked to pick up my bags from the luggage hall. That was it - security checks over - the pleasures of Spain and the rest of Europe lay open at my feet.

Over the weekend I saw very few police and didn't see any drunkeness or fighting in the streets either. I went into both smoking & non-smoking bars. Over there, despite the grip of the EU, freedom of choice still exists.

I flew back into a small local UK airport, negotiated about 10 zig zags to reach the entrance to 'Security'. This was represented by three men & women in white shirts/dark trousers that we had to show our passports to. Behind them were 3 or 4 big blokes in suits standing with their arms folded. Behind THEM were about 8 - 10 men & women in black or navy outfits standing across the entrance to the luggage hall. Big notices 'Remove your passport from any folder' - obviously the mother of whoever designed these notices forgot to teach him/her the basics of British good manners and the use of the word 'Please'. Another round of notices saying it was 'forbidden' to take any photographs - the mantra of 'Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear' doesn't seem to apply to officialdom being observed by us plebs.

When we went into the luggage hall, the men & women in black/navy continued to circulate around that area eyeing the passengers up and down. They had flash tags on their uniforms which I think said either 'Border Agency' or 'Border Control Agency'. Looking back, I saw one passenger who had been 'passed' by the passport checking person being stopped & pulled to one side by one of the blokes in suits - he was subsequently allowed to continue into the luggage hall.

Amongst the passengers were some ex-pats returning for a visit - they made some very scathing remarks and I don't imagine they'll be visiting again any time soon. 'Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear' is the great Labour mantra. I had nothing to hide but I certainly felt I had something to fear in that a supposedly democratic country considers it's quite OK to greet visitors to the UK and its own citizens in this impolite and intimidating manner. The airport is in a supposedly tourist area. As a tourist I would have been repulsed by my initial sight of the UK. I doubt I would ever bother to visit again. Why not visit and spend my money in a country that welcomes me with smiles and open arms?

As a resident, I looked around and felt a wave of depression sweep over me at the thought of what Britain has become under Labour and its totalitarian Socialism/Communism. Will May 7th bring any good news with it?