Gripes & Graplings

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Don't You Need To Know The Alphabet To Write A Book?

There's a new book scheduled to hit the shelves this autumn and guess who's written it? Victoria--"I've never read a book"--Beckham!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the knowledge of how books work one of the basic requirements of writing one? I mean, surely Victoria Beckham writing a book would be like me walking into a recording studio and whacking out a number one, wouldn't it? Mind you, she isn't capable of that either and she's a star! How??? The woman has admitted to never having read a book and yet... [sigh]

The book's about fashion (now didn't that surprise you?) and will undoubtedly make her lots of money, or at least the kind of money most of us would call lots. I doubt it'll even make a noticeable difference to Victoria's bank account, though. When you can afford to buy your partner a car that costs more than the average house and your son a pair of earrings that cost more than I've spent on all my three children's birthdays throughout their entire lives, you're not exactly hard up for a bob or two.

Oh well, back to writing my book and hoping I'll still have enough money at the end of the month to pay the council tax.

Jealous? Me? Never!

Related Link:
Victorian Beckham Has Never Read A Book


Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Work From Home - Geddit?

Why is it that the world and his gerbil seem to think that because a person works from home, they're available 24/7 for long telephone conversations about relationship problems/diets that don't work/boredom at work etc?

These people seem to be missing one vital point. Working from home means that one is working whilst in their home. Not all the time, obviously, but a lot of the time. Probably 8 hours a day and often more.

For every hour I spend jawing on the phone, that's an hour longer I have to work that day in order to finish my work load.

"But everybody has to have a break" I'm told. Sure they do. But why should I be forced to spend my break on the phone? I'd like to spend it eating my lunch, thank you very much.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind the occasional break in the day spent chatting on the phone, in fact there are times when I positively welcome it, but 15 minutes is enough. Anything more starts eating into too much of my working time, especially when more than one person calls in the course of the day.

I get paid for the number of jobs I can complete and return to my clients. The fewer finished jobs I have in a week, the less money I earn. That's not too difficult to understand, is it? No money = no bills paid = family tossed out into the gutter.

Please. When I say "I'm working", try to understand that I can't shorten my working day just because your boyfriend called you a tart, you've put on two pounds in a week, or have caught VD for the fifth time this year.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Organ Donar Complaints??

Don't go getting your knickers in a twist; I know I've misspelled 'donor'. It was deliberate. Just bear with me, will you?

Every now and then I pop over to Bravenet in order to check my stats. Like most, when visitors come knocking on my virtual door, I want to know how they found me.

This morning I discovered that one visitor had searched for 'Organ Donar Complaints' through MSN so off I went to give it a try. Sure enough, in 7th position was my gripes and graplings, which of course have absolutely nothing to do with organ donation. Not one post has so much as touched on the subject. Why? I asked myself, whilst sipping at my Bovril, kindly provided by Richard along with a selection of cheese and biscuits for breakfast. Why would my blog have appeared on the search results?

Well, the fact that the searcher probably didn't pay proper attention to at least one of the three Rs whilst at school certainly hasn't helped him find appropriate results. Although it's obvious that Mr Searcher (I'm going to be sexist here - like it or lump it) was actually looking for organ donor complaints, the fact that he's misspelled the middle word brought him to me.

Three words: ORGAN - a quick glance up at the top, right-hand corner and you'll see the word used in my 'about me'. This, according to the Blogger search thingy, is the only time the word appears. DONAR - a clear misspelling of donor, this one appears on a post about take-away food. Now, I'm not entirely sure whether any internal organs are used during the process of making the huge chunk of lamb's meat that's sliced into pita bread and sold as a 'donar kebab', but I'm reasonably sure that this wasn't what Mr Searcher was looking for. COMPLAINTS - appears once, in a very short post about Firefox 1.5.

Mr Searcher may have been in luck, though. Several of the links above that to this blog were actually about organ donation, but like Mr Searcher himself, the owners of those sites had also misspelled donor. I guess it's a matter of the 'spelling challenged' finding each other.

Related Links:
UK Organ Transplant


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Disability Living Allowance - Mobility Component

The DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) has a handy scheme available that offers those who are disabled to chance to be awarded a sum of money that's meant to help them get about. This is called the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance.

It's a good idea and one that, for many, can mean the difference between isolation and a social life.

The mobility component is awarded on two levels, the lower level being worth £16.05 per week and the higher level a whopping £42.30. Yes, that's all of nearly £2,200 per year. A huge amount, isn't it? Well no, it isn't, but because the majority of those in receipt of it aren't high earners (we're disabled, remember?), the money makes a huge difference to our ability to get out and enjoy life on par with the rest of the population.

What's unfortunate is that there are still thousands of disabled people out there who aren't getting the highest level of mobility because they don't fulfil the criteria, one of which is that you shouldn't be able to walk more than 100 yards without severe discomfort. Let's take a closer look at what that means.

Let's say somebody has a problem with their hips/back/legs but that the problem allows them to walk 150 yards before they experience what can be described as extreme discomfort. They live in an area where their nearest bus-stop is 500 yards from their home and there are no local shops. This person won't be able to receive the highest rate of mobility but where does being able to walk 150 yards get him? Nowhere. He still won't be able to catch a bus or do any shopping, and as he'll have already used up his walking quota, just how is he supposed to get home again?

Then let's say there's another somebody who can only walk 80 yards but has a bus-stop right outside her door and can take the bus to a large shopping centre that supplies mobility scooters to help disabled customers get around. The bus also goes to the train station and the bus station. This somebody is in a far better position to be able to get around without either owning a car or using taxis, and yet, as long as doctors agree that she meets the correct criteria, she'll be automatically awarded the higher rate.

The bloody bureaucracy in this country is so boxed in that those who decide who can and cannot be awarded the higher rate of the mobility component aren't able to offer any consideration to the bigger picture. And if you're over 65, you can forget any ideas you may have had of ever receiving any DLA component.

Sure, if you were awarded it before your 65th birthday then you can continue receiving it (assuming you still meet the criteria, of course), but if you're unlucky enough to have an accident or develop a medical condition that makes walking painful or even impossible after you become 65, they'll give you sod all. Even if you have to have both your legs amputated you'll still get nothing. If that isn't discrimination, what is? How can anybody imagine that a person who became disabled at a later age is less in need of getting out of the house than one that has been so for a while already?

Admittedly they government have been looking at changing this but abolishing the upper age limit would cost the taxpayer an estimated £3.1 billion a year, so they're loath to do it. After all, we all know how selfish Joe England can be when it comes to how his taxes are spent!

Some would probably describe me as one of the lucky ones because I was awarded the higher rate of mobility without having to see a panel of judges (see Colin's post for more on this). The DWP accepted the opinions of my specialist and my GP. My son, on the other hand, was born with severe learning difficulties and a variety of physical problems. He can walk. In fact, he can walk for miles and miles and at speed. But - and this is where the DWP are unable to move out of their cosy little boxes, even though they insisted on sending him to see several doctors - he doesn't have a snowball's chance of going anywhere alone and even when he has somebody with him, he's still prone to knock people over and generally upset the apple cart.

The good people at the DWP awarded him the lower rate because he requires "guidance from somebody" when he's out. Yes, they're quite right. He does indeed need guidance. I've lost count of the number of times I've been busy paying for the bus ticket while Paul has been 'busy' telling the other passengers where to sit, where to put their shopping etc., and knocking things, and sometimes people, over in the process. I've also had to run up the street after a bus where he's jumped on through the back door before I could stop him, thinking that this must be our bus, and moving off into the distance whilst waving to me through the back window. Oh dear... what with him and his antics and me and my dodgy legs, you can imagine what a tizwoz we could get into, can't you? Surely all this would generally be described as "severe behavioural problems"? That's another of the criteria that can be applied to a higher rate award.

And what about "severely mentally impaired"? Yes, that's another that qualifies. What's the difference between "severe learning difficulties" and "severely mentally impaired", exactly? His problems don't stop at not being able to read. He has no understanding of consequences, has no sense of direction, doesn't understand traffic, he can't speak and... well, I won't bore you with the whole list.

As it happens it doesn't matter too much because I use the car I took through the motability scheme (you can only do that if you have the higher rate of mobility) to ferry him about too, but I'm not supposed to. I'm only really supposed to use it for my own needs. But then I can't take Paul on the bus anymore because I can't walk far enough to get to the bus-stop in the first place so surely ferrying Paul is also covering my need? According to the DWP: no, it isn't. Doh!

Draw your own conclusions.

Related Links:
DirectGov - DLA and Who Can Get It
The DWP website


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Word Verification

Like most people who use to host their blog, I've turned on word verification.

Unless you're one of the few who has yet to discover how one would employ viagra, or that it's available on t'internet, word verification is a good thing. This is also the case for those who are able to resist the urge to be led into the underworld of casinos and animal sex (not that one necessarily relates to the other, you understand).

Word verification is a good thing because, by and large, it stops those dreadful people who take pleasure in spamming the likes of you and I. I'd love to be able to tell you how much return they enjoy for their efforts but, not being in possession of such information, I'm afraid you'll have to find out for yourself (assuming you're interested).

What truly amazes me is that anybody would be interested in any of the rubbish that we're regularly spammed with. If you want viagra, you go to your GP. Right? If you want to play poker, you either go to a real world casino, invite some mates round for an evening of beer, cards and cigars, or type "casino" into Google. Don't you? And if you want animal sex... well, you bugger off to Amsterdam, presumably.

But the point I wanted to make was that Blogger's word verification could, I'm sure, be made better. Why on earth did they have to design the system such that the letters are sometimes so damned difficult to read? Note: only sometimes. There are times when they come up nice and clearly - no problemo, Jose - so what's with the "somebody threw a handful of spaghetti at the screen and we're supposed to interpret the meaning of it" lark? Is it some sort of hidden test like the ink splodge things that psychologists use? I'm crap at 'em. If I have to type in VMKLLOPUMW once more, only to be told that I now have to type in KLPJAMUX instead, I'll cry.

There are bright spots amongst the grey, though. Yesterday I got to type in QUIM as part of the word verification. Well it brightened my day, anyway. Weyhey!

Related Links:
For Those Who Have No Understanding Of The Word Quim


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Main Meal Salads

A distant relative has recently announced that my explanation of the origination of salad as a main meal is, as he so eloquently put it, bollocks.

The problem, you see, is that this particular fifth cousin once removed had been unable to grasp why anybody would want to have such items as salad plates amongst their kitchenalia. Having only ever experienced salads served on full-size dinner plates, he's obviously never been in a position to be educated regarding the finer side of salad serving.

Being from a considerably better line of the family than my poor relative, it's understandable that he wouldn't have the same kind of extensive knowledge of dining etiquette as one would hope and that was taught me by my mother's servant. If he had been in possession of the necessary knowledge he would have immediately understood that salad plates measuring six inches in diameter are used for side-salads and not main meals. Side salads, for those who aren't familiar with the finer points of dining, are generally served from a large bowel bowl out of which the diner chooses a selection of greenery, and are eaten as an accompaniment to cold buffets. Or yesterday's leftovers.

Salads as a main meal developed out of necessity during the Second World War. The working classes grew lettuce, cucumber, radish, onions and a variety of other vegetables in their small back gardens and, as a means of saving energy, began serving copious amounts of them in their raw state. The salad as 'lunch' was born.

Should you be in the unlucky position that you find yourself disagreeing with me on this, please leave a comment either explaining your reasons or point me in the direction of your truth. It might also be worth procuring a sleeping bag, especially if you're 'almost' family.

Thank you and [enter rude work for testicles here] to it all.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Take Away Inconvenience

The inhabitants of our house all enjoy a take away at some point during the week, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it means nobody has to cook that night. Or rather, it means Richard, my partner, doesn't have to cook that night. This pleases Richard.

But as with much of life, having a take away isn't without its problems, the ones attached to our family being that it's a rare occasion that we all agree to having something from the same outlet. Richard may well be up for a Biriyani or a Tikka, while I might fancy a chow mein. Paul, my 28 year old still living at home, non-independent son would much rather have fish and chips, and the youngest of those still residing here will probably opt for a donar kebab. Pizza and cheeseburgers also feature regularly.

So, do you see where the problem lurks? Yes, that's right. Whoever has the responsibility of procuring our evening meal (and by rights that should be the hunter, should it not?) has to visit up to four different establishments, often situated in vastly different areas of our town. Yes, we're a fussy family, I know, but luckily we don't live in a particularly large town - just large-ish.

However, during yesterday's venture into the night in search of our take away meals, we discovered an Indian takeaway, a Chinese takeaway (also offering a limited choice of English meals) and a kebab/pizza/burger place, all lined up in a row. How convenient is that? All that was missing was a fish n' chip shop and we'd have been totally made up.

Why has nobody thought of this before? Four food outlets that are leased to four take away restaurants offering the whole range of fast food types. Surely they'd be on to a winner?

Now all that remains is to test the kebab/pizza/burger place on the 17 year old, and hope she gives it the thumbs up. Fish and chips can always be had from the chippy we pass on the way back.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Democratic Blogging Pt II

It appears I've upset a pigeon or two amongst the English Democrats.

I posted an opinion a while ago, based on the fact that this particular party only allows comments from pre-authorised members of their blog, something that I considered un-democratic. Their response and my response to their response (getting complicated now) can be seen here.

St George FlagI admit that I was mistaken when it comes to the ability to register without pre-authorisation, but the blog really doesn't make that clear. When a message reading: "Sorry but only registered users can post comments, and 'Sharon Jacobsen' is not recognized as valid member" appeared when I tried to post a comment, with no mention of where or how one can register, I found it somewhat misleading.

However, I still don't understand why they feel the need to moderate comments from supporters of other parties. Quote: However as you may imagine we do get spammed, from people wishing to sell viagra, insurance and of course supporters of other parties. Therefore regrettably we do have a censorship policy.

That's not very democratic, is it? But then I was once accused of being a Blairite by one of the EDP's candidates even though I've never voted New Labour. It's obviously not unusual for them to aggress if a member of the electorate happens to use their right to free speech in a manner that isn't beneficial to them so I really shouldn't have been surprised.

Is it any wonder that opposing political opinion is behind so many wars?


Friday, March 03, 2006

Three Golliwogs

To quote the wonderful Victor Meldrew, I don't believe it!

Police have only gone and raided a shop in Bromyard, Herefordshire because the owner had three golliwogs in a window display!

What on earth is this country coming to?

Robinson's GollyEvidently a member of the public had complained that they were offensive so our boys in blue, ever ready and willing to protect Joe Public from harm, marched into the shop and snatched the golliwogs out of the display, leaving the owner in a state of severe flabbergastation!

While I understand that the original Golliwog, developed in the US during the late 1800s, was based on the Negro minstrels with the name incorporating the word 'wog', an obviously derogotory term once used to describe black people, surely our society has moved on since then? Modern Golliwogs are just rag dolls that happen to be black. There are plenty of white faced rag dolls around; maybe we should take offence at them, too? But ok, let's be a little more politically correct and call them "Gollies". Surely that's not offensive?

I'm not racist, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I sometimes think we're doing minority groups an injustice through the kid glove treatment we tend to give them. Ultimately, doesn't this kind of behaviour actually increase racist tendencies? Remember do-gooders demanding that blackboards be replaced with whiteboards, black bin bags replaced with green bags, and black out blinds renamed light eradicating blinds? Dear, oh dear!

Anyway, it's just as well that red compliments blue, because some very red faces had to return the black faced soft toys to the shop because, regardless of how offended the member of the public felt, it isn't actually illegal to either sell, display or own a golliwog. However, section 5 of the Public Order Act does outlaw the display of material that might cause or is likely to lead to alarm, harassment or distress. Fair enough, but what would happen if I called the police and told them I felt distressed because a local toy shop was displaying naked dolls that might excite paedophiles, for example? How do we actually decide what is and isn't offensive, etc.?

But all of this still begs the question: why the raid? Wouldn't you have thought the police would have perhaps had a word with the shopkeeper about his display rather than doing the heavy mob bit? Maybe it was just a quiet day and for the want of something better to do, they figured it'd kill some time? No doubt they'll be cursing over the paperwork, though!

And there was me thinking the police were there to fight crime! Easy enough mistake to make, I s'pose.

Related Links:
Save Our Golliwogs
News Story from The Telegraph