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Blog : Posts from April 2009 : Page 1

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Oversized and overpublicised

In which we get annoyed by the media and press releases


The other day, various news media carried the story that Ryanair, the world’s most controversial airline, was planning to charge fat people extra. Because that was, apparently, what its customers wanted. They’d been polling and everything.

Personally, I was surprised they hadn’t done it earlier. After all, they’ve already charged the physically disabled extra, so one more act of discrimination is hardly a surprise. It’s a small step, too, from charging per pound of luggage to charging per pound of flesh. I’ve never flown with them; and, because of policies like this, I’m never going to, so I don’t particularly care what they try to charge people. At least, until the day that other airlines start to think: “well, Ryanair can get away with it, why don’t we?”

What annoyed me, though, was the media’s reaction to what is, as yet, nothing more than a press release and a publicity stunt. The Guardian said as much in its article linked above; the rest of the media didn’t seem to care. BBC News was inviting people to phone in and text with their reactions; I wanted to say: “why are you giving them the publicity?” It’s nothing but cheap advertising for a firm who doesn’t really deserve it.

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Not Photo Post Of The Week

In which we don’t have many photos, but do have some of the latest guided busway gossip


Back in August, we went away to Cornwall. As you’d expect, I took the camera, and took hundreds and hundreds of photos. They slowly went online – very slowly, because I’m impatient, and it takes a long time to upload photos when each one weighs about 4Mb.

Moreover, a few weeks after we got back from Cornwall, we moved house; and after we moved house, we were offline for about two months whilst we argued with various broadband providers whether our flat really existed or not. All that time, we were out taking more photos, which slowly built up. As a result, when we did finally get online, I had a rather large backlog of photos to deal with. Plenty of photos for me to upload 30-35 photos per week, and post the best few on here every Friday.

800-odd photos later, though,* the end is in sight. I’m still working on the photos from the Easter weekend, but after that, that’s about it. The backlog is over, and I’m going to be putting photos up within a few days of taking them. Which leaves Photo Post Of The Week a little stuck, without the regular flow to pick the best of. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it. Do I return to it when I have more to show, or do I go back and post here photos that I took months or years back? I’m still trying to decide. Maybe it will just be replaced, with a sign like this:

Sign, Bedminster

In the meantime, there have been more Bristol Guided Busway developments following my most recent post on the topic. Chris Hutt yesterday published “At Last, The Truth” about the history of the West of England Partnership’s plans for Prince St Bridge, and Bristol Traffic has pointed out that their plans to replace the Bristol-Bath Cycle Path with a buses-only road are still marked out clearly on their maps despite being tactfully edited out of the text, which merely mention their aspiration to build an Ashton-Emersons Green route one day. Personally, I think Chris is being a tad optimistic as to whether he’s discovered the truth and the whole truth, as you could say, but we’re certainly closer to it than we’d be if we were relying on the West of England Partnership’s own somewhat misleading and vague publications and press releases.

* Or “800 odd photos later”, you could argue.

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Overheard

In which we spot something to tempt a thief


Or, rather, overseen.

Walking along the street, in a fairly quiet neighbourhood, but not so dead that there’s nobody in sight. A man pulls up in a fairly battered 20-year-old car. He stops it, gets out, and pops into a shop – leaving the car unlocked with the keys inside and the engine ticking over.

Either this man is some sort of well-known local underworld bigwig, or he’s so blasé he doesn’t care. Or, possibly, he was hoping it would disappear when he returned. Maybe its starter was so dodgy, he didn’t dare risk turning the thing off. I had turned the street before he returned, but nobody looked likely to try jumping inside and driving it away.

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Money money money

In which we make some political predictions


It’s Wednesday morning, and in a few hours time Chancellor Darling will stand up in Parliament and give the Budget speech. Back in 2006, I tried to predict what would be in then-Chancellor Brown’s budget, and, for someone making random stuff up on the spot, I did surprisingly well. So I thought I’d try the same thing again this year. Here is: the Symbolic Forest Budget 2009.

  • Higher taxes for old cars
  • Tax rebates for new cars
  • Increases to Recruitment Subsidy payments
  • Lower taxes on gin*
  • In fact, lower taxes on everything in the hope you’ll spend more money
  • Creation of a new Law of Prarial for merchant bankers. New legislation to enable majority shareholders to retrospectively alter company directors’ contracts.
  • Promise to save money but in vague unspecified ways such as “efficiency”, like the Tories said they’re going to do

Just a few guesses for you there. Let’s see how I do.

Regular reader E. Shrdlu (of Clacton) writes: “Law of Prarial? Recruitment Subsidy payments? This is all getting a bit serious, isn’t it? I don’t even know what a recruitment subsidy is.”

No, neither does anyone else, I think, which is why they don’t seem to have had much effect.

* I put this one in last time – well, I can keep hoping

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Heat

In which we’re cast back to the olden days


You probably thought, like me, that the days of people bathing in a tin bath by the fire, jugs of water heated on the kitchen range, were a thing of the past. To be honest, they probably are. It doesn’t feel like that sometimes, though.

About a month or so ago, I went to do the washing up. Ran the hot tap, waited a few minutes, then felt to see if it had warmed up. Nope. Stone cold.

I waited a bit longer. Still stone cold. Ah. The gas boiler had a flashing light on the front, where no light had flashed before, and its burners were unlit. A swift internet search led me to the boiler manual, and the meaning of said flashing light. “General fault – call our service line”. Oh dear.

Now, the boiler belongs to our landlord, who has it insured, so we don’t, at least, have to pay emergency plumbing rates, call-out fees and so on. This, as you’ll see, is a Good Thing. However, it’s the only source of heating in the house. With no electric shower, it’s the only source of showers, baths, and hot water generally aside from the kitchen kettle. Back to the days of the old tin bath, then.

The landlord called British Gas, and British Gas came to visit. And the boiler was fixed – or, at least, it was working again. But the engineer freely admitted that he had no real idea how exactly he’d cured it. He’d serviced it, given it a bit of a clean-out inside, and it had sprung back into life again. And everything was fine and warm and cosy. For two weeks.

A couple of weeks later, I suddenly realised the heating wasn’t on when it should have been. We checked the boiler, and yes, the fault lamp was there merrily flashing away again. Oops. Come back please, boiler repairman. A different engineer comes back, and proclaims that, for sure, there is nothing at all he can find that’s wrong with the boiler. It might be low pressure in the heating circuit, maybe. We check around, but can’t find any leaks anywhere. There might, he says, be a slow leak somewhere in the dark under the floorboards. If we find where it is, then British Gas will fix it for us; but they won’t go hunting for it. The boiler is working again, though, although again we’re not entirely sure why.

Roll forward to the other day, and I go to do the washing up again. Guess what? No hot water. Broken boiler. Call Landlord. Wait for British Gas. We’re getting rather used to this now.

This time, the first engineer comes back. He does the same thing as before, and gets it going again, without really knowing why it has any effect. This time it keeps working for a few hours, and then, again, stops. So now we’re left with a weekend without hot water. Boiling water from the kettle for a shower* or a shave is really getting annoying, now.

He’s coming back today, with a bevy of spare parts. Just about every spare part available, in fact, in the hope that it’s something replaceable that’s causing the problem. I’m really glad we’re not paying by the visit, given the number of unsuccessful visits we’ve had so far. But, never mind the fact that we don’t have to pay for it, we’re definitely fed up of this now.

* although it would be better described as “a pour”

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Recent Search Requests

In which we know what you’re looking for


From the past month or so:

1/64 scale castle. 1/64 scale is also known as “S Gauge” in the model train world. I have some photos of an S gauge model train on here; no castles, though.
addicted to prostitutes grimsby. I’ve seen what Grimsby prostitutes generally, and, well, grim is the word.
describe a seaside town in winter. “Grey” would be a good start, usually.
did horne and corden write there new sketch show?. If they didn’t, they should consider asking for a discount next time.
evening post crash bedminster. The junction of Winterstoke Road and Bedminster Down Road is still covered in flowers and mementos, after a woman died when a car crashed into a stone wall there late one night recently. I should pop down and take photos of it all before it rots away.
finding a deat bat meaning and symbolism. Well, I know what to do when you find a dead bat on your doorstep, if you’re British at least. Its meaning: erm, the cat managed to kill a bat, I think. As for symbolism, I’m at a bit of a loss.
mark bradshaw replacement bedminster surely has to be a bit of wishful thinking, because it’s a couple of years until Bradshaw (one of Bedminster’s city councillors) is up for re-election. He’s recently been tipped as an ideal Bristol Labour leader, despite his reputation for ignoring correspondants and being linked with misleading press releases.
men diamler did a very good performance and DJ set at The Cube on New Years Eve, despite being (by his own admission) the most alcohol-infused act of the evening, as I mentioned at the time. Still, as I said: rather good.
naked forestmen. That’s enough Recent Search Requests, I think.

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Photo Post Of The Week

Another camera-equipped wander around the city


More weekend jaunts around Bristol.

Eroded wall, Southville Alleyway Bridge rail, Wapping Road, Bristol
Yachts, Floating Harbour, Bristol Holy Trinity Church, Hotwells Vauxhall Bridge, Bristol

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Signs I’m Getting Older

In which FP has lost interest in something


Signs I’m Getting Older, number 3267. Not only do I not remember that there’s a Doctor Who special on, I’m not particularly bothered when we realise we’re missing it.* And not only do I forget it’s on, I forget when it’s repeated. And don’t bother to watch it online, either.

OK, I did at least look up the repeat times. But in a mildly disinterested way. And I don’t have any particular urge to watch it, especially not after seeing the trailers many times. I’ll probably be able to raise a bit more interest next year when the next proper series starts; but for now, I’m not too bothered. Maybe I am starting to get older.

* because K phoned someone only to get: “why are you phoning me right now? Doctor Who‘s on!

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Taking Notes

In which we list other things that FP is working on


Incidentally, one reason I’ve been missing the target of posting here every day recently is that I have been non-blogging about something else. Non-blogging, in the sense of a private diary; but about a specific topic, rather than vague everyday-life ramblings. In a few months, it will hopefully get published, either here or on paper; but I can’t say anything until at least the summer, and hopefully longer. But if you’re writing something like a diary, it’s best to do it as the events occur, while they’re still fresh in your mind; and it’s been soaking up the spare words in my head.

Last week I mentioned that we felt inspired to finish off our current artcraft projects. It got me thinking just how many creative projects I’m working on at the moment, that are at least vaguely concrete but haven’t been finished. There is:

  • A crochet bomb
  • A binary scarf
  • Two model railway wagons
  • A website that, as yet, is secret
  • The aforementioned diary-blog-zine-thing that is also currently secret
  • Something vague for the London Zine Symposium, heading towards us more rapidly than I care to think
  • K’s sister’s wedding album, which we definitely should have done more of by now

That’s 7 or 8 things, depending on how you count. Plus there are many other ideas which haven’t yet made it outside my head, and vague concepts such as “a photographic portfolio on the theme of disused hotels,” or “a model railway incorporating the Ostrich pub”. Really, though, I should complete some of the started-projects before embarking on anything else.

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Chauvinism

In which we are shocked by vintage sexism


If you get involved in some hobbies, some fields of interest, you have to get used to the fact that you’ll end up finding yourself alongside older men with unpalatable views. If you like trains, for example, you will sometimes find yourself alongside elderly trainspotters who haven’t yet worked out that there might be a link between “being single” and “not washing”. You get used to hearing them espousing rather reactionary viewpoints, such as “we should send them all back to their own countries”, and so on.

Nevertheless, occasionally, something comes along which makes you think: I can’t believe they said that. Or, in this case: I can’t believe they printed that. I was reading a book I picked up recently in a charity shop: Victorian and Edwardian Railway Travel From Old Photographs by Jeoffry Spence, a 1980s reprint of a 1970s book, and came across this delightful passage in the introduction. It starts off with saying how Edwardian railway timetables were far too complicated for women to understand, and goes on:

But even today, with so many regular-interval services and absence of complexities, there is something rather irritating to us chauvinistic males about the sight of a woman standing haughtily in the circulating area of a big station, telling us firmly what time the train goes, which platform, where to change, and even the time of arrival at the destination; it makes a bad impression on our younger children.

I’m sorry? It “makes a bad impression” for children to be allowed to see a woman advising a man? To see a woman having responsibility? To see a woman speaking firmly? Or, indeed, all of the above? Even for something written in the late 70s, that’s a bit much to see in print.

A bit of research suggests that Spence was born in 1915, so was probably in his early 60s when he wrote that. He died* in ’92, at 77 or so. Getting a bit elderly when he wrote those words, then, you could argue. But I don’t think that’s an excuse, given that feminism was already alive and well when he was growing up; and that there are plenty of people of his generation who weren’t such terrible bigots. Thirty years later, it comes across as a shockingly sexist piece of writing. The worrying thing is: I’m sure there are still men today, lurking in the backwoods and writing down the numbers of trains, who would probably still agree with him.

* Assuming I’ve found the right man, but the unusual spelling helps

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