Sunday, 31 August 2008

Victoria wanderings

Wandered around victoria  for the last time with flatmate, who is heading back  to the northern lands to escape the clutches of the capitals maddening pace, coldness and  'treacherous people', a term which i find myself using more and more.

So it was a final pottering meander that we took in the facade of westminster cathedral, wonderful pigeon sized flats, lots of glass and a very-dead pigeon.

But before all of that, i must give an excellent mention to one of the better tasting chippies i've had the great fortune to visit and sample their goods, since the last one in dudley over 15 years ago.  But this one is located in strutton ground, sw1.  Tucked away right at the far end, off and out of sight of victoria street.  A chippie that can indeed boast, of the best in its title.


We entered the premises to find only one patron sitting down. At times like that second thoughts usually kick in as to the wiseness of continuing any farther. But after having no breakfast - and it was just approaching noon - my growling stomach wasn't taking no for an answer. 

As it transpired, within ten minutes of sitting down and placing our orders, the cafe was packed.  Filled with office workers.  Other workers, locals and a queue snaking out of the shop.

The chips had a wonderful crispy exterior and meltingly desirable interior.  The added bonus been generously filled plates - and not the size zero measures you seem to find plonked in front of you, at many other establishments nowadays.  You can always judge a decent chippie by its chips. So full marks to the laughing halibut.

With repast complete, it was time to meander out and have a potter, whilst taking a few snaps of the area in the process.

DSCF1613 DSCF1625  DSCF1620  DSCF1633  DSCF1630 DSCF1639  DSCF1629 DSCF1611 

Almost at the start of this I did mention a dead pigeon. Now, not to be gratuitous, this is just the unlucky end of of one of our feathered city co-habitants!  Suppose it had a quick end and wasn't pecked to death by a murder of crows!


If you're squeamish, don't scroll any further!!!!!


I did warn you!!!



Wednesday, 27 August 2008

HFO services and unprofessional ethics

HFO is a company 'headquartered' in the UK with an office in gurgaon india.  With another two offices opening in 2009, mumbai  and sydney respectively; this is obviously a fast growing dynamic international company.

A company which, to all intents and purposes when you listen in on conversations, might have had many of its first and second tier employees taken from Fawlty Towers, if it had been a finishing school, and they had been forcibly ejected!

The thing about HFO (which you may discover if ever you have the misfortune to come into contact with them), is they're the bottom feeders - in the eyes of debtors and angelic sharks to creditors.

As a strapline quote on their website says...

An ever expanding client base
A global Distressed Debt Investment Company
A unique multicultural environment, with one overriding goal – SUCCESS

Yes a company that appears to be of the mind-set, that if you don't succumb after the first five minutes they'll progress to shouting at you. Use legal terminology to put the wind up. Threaten court as the next step. All in the hope the unlucky plucky person on the other end will say "bang to rights guv. I'll just pop over to the cayman islands and liquidate all my assets as i've seen the error of my ways!"  Hfo services, i presume, can then feel justified in placing another tick of success, into the book of commission whilst throwing the book of good business practice, into the bin. 

Just in time for that presentation to bigger company "a", and buy their debt for peanuts. All to begin the bullying tactics all over again.

Is this unacceptable behaviour? If not, it should be thus described. But what do I know, as an outsider looking on.

A quick bit of typing into any search engine will bring up streams of pages about the antics of this particular company.

But why would I bring this up?

Well the following is just one example of a conversation overheard:

"If you want you can record this conversation.

Legal proceedings have started which will add £80 to your account and when court proceedings occur it will add a further £32; and judgement will be passed against you.

Please do not waste our time or yours by offering to pay £1.

We're not regulated by the FSA and not bound to accept any payment.

Do not waste your paper or our time.  Your £1 will help you reach to the court.

You just need to wait, the calls will not stop and you will not stop the court proceedings"

Here is a link to the consumer action group and forum with experience of hfo and its practices.

Here is a link, in relation to call recording and your rights.

If you have or are been harassed by telephone calls from companies, then here is a link to a letter template that you can send them, to desist.

And finally, just to put the cat amongst the pigeons, here is a link to trading standards - in the uk

So, in summary. Don't sit back and take it. If they, or any other organisation (and there are sharks out there), attempt to force or bully you into doing anything, stick to your guns.  Know your rights, and don't be afraid to get help!

Now, just have to calm my friend down, and begin the process of hunting down the sharks!

Thanks for listening and reading.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Glorious day

Yesterday was such a glorious moment: blue sky, a light breeze, smiling people. I even managed to take the camera out for a little spin; after the flatmate's inner ear required the attention of a doctor.

Living in one of the noisiest parts of town, you get used to inserting earplugs on a nightly basis. But on this occasion, it would seem the plug insertion was carried out a little bit too forcefully. Personally I put it down to a simple case of the flatmate overstressing the body the week before. 

The options were:

  1. going to the local gp as emergency and waiting nearly four hours to get seen, or
  2. trying out the nhs walk-in clinic tucked away just off the main road in victoria. 

Luckily there's a direct bus (which on this occasion looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since it was introduced) route.  Twenty minutes later we walked in to a practically deserted, modern, clean, fresh smelling reception, with (and this caused a little stumble) an actual smiling receptionist; who took down the details and said the flatmate should be seen in about 15 minutes. It took ten. Ten minutes on the NHS to walk-in and be seen. People came, people left and the doctors and nurses quietly, efficiently, went about their duties.

Even heard one person upon leaving, congratulating the receptionist, "I didn't know you were here, but I'll be using you in future."

And there's the rub.

It's currently good, efficient, with a relaxing - almost healing - atmosphere because it's not stretched to capacity. Once that happens, it will end up like any other gp's surgery. Everyone bad tempered, cursing the day they set foot in, and with a two week plus waiting list.

But the pictures. Not of the surgery but of a couple of other lines that caught my eye...

DSCF1534  DSCF1535  DSCF1536  DSCF1541  DSCF1543  DSCF1546

Which ended in a glorious moon...


Friday, 15 August 2008

A quick chuckle

Had to take a second look at this piece from auntie. And a screen pic - just in case they change it.


"Five arrested in joint operation

Five people have been arrested and drugs with a street value of £1m seized in an operation by Thames Valley Police and the Prison Service.

Search warrants were executed at houses in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Coventry, London and Southampton.

About £100,000 of cash was also recovered in the raids on Wednesday..."

So how big was the joint, this particular operation managed to handle?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Bad brown

There is a great trend for those who are already highly skilled to be working with employers - who so value their skills and experience - that they will go out of their way to ensure those are kept up to date and relevant.

But work your way further down the greasy ladder of employment, until you reach the heady world of the temp, agency workers and employment agencies; where your current skill-set, reasonable ability to work (or at least shuffle papers around and click the mouse button a couple of times per hour) is all that matters.

It is is up to you, to ensure your skills are better than just up-to-date.  To, as week follows week, keep abreast of developments, new legislation, protocols that are produced in any arena of work, but especially in any area where computers play a very big part.

If however, you are unemployed and poor, then your ability to improve your employability decreases at an exponentially marked level. 

The job centres are really only concerned that you can read/write/apply for a job (any job), forgetting that having this lowest common line in the sand is damaging in the long term, to the economy, the unemployed person whilst bolstering the how much can we get away with paying mentality. 

Case in point been tjk parent of tk maxx, of the losing millions (45.7) of customers banking details and making the uk government look competent in comparison, company based in the us. Yes this company pays a bit more than the minimum wage for its uk staff. But the staff forego overtime pay, easily working an extra 4+hrs over allotted scheduling per week. Breaks are short. Cancelable at short notice, as the one off goods are priced up for consumers to whip off the shelves.

But back to the point.

Colleges, which used to have subsidised courses for those who where unemployed - but keen to re-enter employment by re-skilling - now find they have to scrap particular courses under the current governments "re-balancing" of educational need towards those in the 16-20 year old age bracket. With those over the upper age, considered over the hill and past it!

In today's environment, webdesign, plumbing, engineering, are a few courses of note that would be beneficial to potential employers and to those seeking work. With the added bonus of improving the unemployeds earning potential, way beyond that of the idle giro payout; thrown in. 

But the Wisdom of Brown seems to be striking again. As those very same courses have been favourably targeted towards the under 21's whilst those over 20 are forced to consider different courses or learn by themselves as the courses are no longer subsidised, or even worse, have been cut altogether.  Sort of when Mrs Thatcher made away with the milk and deprived many growing children (from deprived backgrounds) of a valuable source of daily calcium and nutrients.

Invariably as this carries on, it will mean temp/part-time workers will have to create and fund their own learning map.  Which is as it should be, as generally they're financially on par, or better off, in the particular employment situation they currently inhabit than their full-time slave to the boss colleagues.

During my webering (web wondering), bumped across this carton from Paul Toner on his ruebritannia site. Excellent work.

Lowest of the low

So a Doctor who rushes to the aid an elderly person injured in an accident -and forgets to remove her keys - has her car stolen, obviously from an opportunistic parasite at the scene. 

There will be those who say it's her own fault for not removing the keys, after all it only takes a second. But those few seconds could be all it takes, for that person she's rushed to help, to die in.

I just hope the person who's nicked it doesn't need to be cut out of an upturned car, waiting for the emergency services to cut her/him (more likely to be a him) out.  Only to have it burst into flames and him (or her) burnt to a crisp; all because the services have to go through those extra few seconds of procedural diligence, due to the lowest of the low!

Instead of village stocks, we should have tasering posts.  Were the victim of criminal activity can, if they wish, go along to off-load a well aimed taser.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Own goal raspberries

Have decided to throw a couple of raspberries at myself, for forgoing that staple of the written word - no not self censorship - but proof reading.  But then, it's not always the case that undergoing umpteen amendments ensures the best body of work. 

Sometimes the only things amendments, changes and redrafting achieve, is the neutering of that initial burst of enthusiastic anger, which threatened to burst a couple of blood vessels or two.

Luckily, this particular entry only required the one (well nearly one) redraw. Now, where's my musings on the olympics.....

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Dead Mercenaries Found in Tskhinvali

One side of me had to muse on this for this while. But I suppose it could well be true.

'Authorities in the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia claim that dark-skinned mercenaries took part in the attack on Tskhinvali, reports RIA Novosti, citing representative of the South Ossetian president in Russia Dmitry Medoev. He said there were bodies of many Georgian soldiers on the streets on Tskhinvali. “There were blacks among the dead, who were probably either mercenaries or instructors in the Georgian armed forces,” Medoev said.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity had said earlier that mercenaries were fighting with the Georgian forces. That information has not been confirmed in Tbilisi.
Latest information indicates that the Georgian Foreign Ministry has announced the withdrawal of its forces from the conflict zone. Russian peacekeepers have not confirmed that information, however.'

Taken verbatim from, the Russia's Daily online english version news otherwise known as kommersant.  But then I thought yes it probably is possible.  After all there couldn't be any Georgian soldiers who happen to be darker than the President... surely that sort of thing, just isn't possible.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Golden dragon - the computer says no!

No not a swipe about the olympics, but it does start tomorrow. Oh I can just see the disasters.  No nothing about the olympics, except that.

A wee tale about the bending of space and time? No. Of warp-holes in the fabric of macadam tarmac? Again no. 

This is a regaling tale, of the dire state of trying to order a chinese takeaway. Supposedly, in one of the most populated chinese takeaway parts of the globe.

The fridge was bare. The flatmate, although soon to leave for pastures new was elsewhere entertaining, and so it was a case of what should I do. 

Over to friends?  No, I'm sure they're tired of giving me doggy bags to take home.  Hmm. I could pop to the "salmonella" cafĂ© and spend the rest of the morning heaving as it leaves my system...

A couple of hours zip along before I realise I've tied myself into a tizzy. I should just relax. Count the pennies and bring out the faithful old dusty chinese menu, for a treat. 

Proceed to give them a call, only to hear "I'm sorry. The number you have dialled has not been recognised, please check and try again." 

And I do.

Of course, my phone's speed-touch button had misdialed?  It couldn't be a network fault or the business closed down? Perhaps just another exchange's stopped working?

So I do a little online search on, And pick out the nearest two.  Dial the first and start to order...

"It will cost you an extra pound," the order taker informs me. "You're too far!"

"To far? I'm not even one and half miles away from you. How can I be too far!"

"The computer says you're to far."

Apparently, the system they use to calculate the food bill also incorporates a postcode checker, which can't be overwritten (suppose it avoids tampering by the staff) so he couldn't do anything. 

Obviously the credit crunch isn't affecting this particular business as they're more than happy to lose my order, because to all intents and purposes, the computer said "no!"

Do I hear a "so what?"

Well the main reason I was so particularly irked was, in comparison, the company that I usually call up is approximately - thank heavens for dependable google - 2.5 miles or 4.1 km (one way), and doesn't charge delivery if the amount of the meal exceeds £9. Whereas this interloper company wanted to charge an extra pound for less than two-thirds the distance, whilst requiring a spend of at least £10, to be entitled for free delivery.

So I try another restaurant, which is 1.4 miles away only to have the number permanently engaged.  No-doubt myself and another 500 people using re-dial.  Perhaps it was a major hack on chinese takeaways by the "hackus of tibet".  Or maybe, it was just one of nights. 

I had forgotten how delicious beans on toast could taste. Had to include that link, as I came across it in my ever frantic attempts at finding something.  Even though the webowner thought it looked unpleasant, it looked far more appetising than the fare I managed to eventually scrape together and swallow down.

When I initially penned this, the last sentence was going to end on a dire trembler.  But the olympics started and russia invaded. Bombs went off, the international community showed just how impotent it is when dealing with an ex-upandcoming-muscleflexing superpower. 

I just hope the games can make it through without any other major incidents taking place.  That would be nice. And in honour of the sporting achievements been created by the many thousands of athletes taking part in this years olympiad here's a wee collage...

... or it will be, once it's finished.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Rambling missives - revisited

At 01:22hrs (GMT) watched the Constable Savage clip from youtube. Not on the official auntie channel, or any of the other "authorised" terrestrial, cable or satellite channels, but from a link posted on a comment read from the PC Pro website) and remembered just how comically excellent the "Not The Nine O'Clock News" series was.  Enjoyed it so much, I will now consider purchasing the series on DVD - if that is, they're out. 

It's little things like this which, over the years, enable people to remember things they've forgotten (have I just uttered a bushism?) - which those silly companies that wish to take people to court should consider is actually helping to keep their income streams flapping around in the breeze.  People will watch and see far more in the future from the interwebual than by simply sitting in front of a slivering television box watching the latest advert about henna hair. 

But then the television box will in turn become even more interactive and replace the noisy PC. We can simply wave our arms in the air (aka the Wii wave) and become even more athletically couch-potatoesque, by waving our arms in the air more vigorously (whilst sweating and obtaining a hernia) in a half-assed attempt to get even more complicated remote controls functions, to do what the old plastic wedge of a remote used to do, so simply and easily before.

In the meantime, the big companies with bosses who make whopping bonuses will instead of properly bearing down on those criminals who repackage the entire DVD for resale at t'pence ha'penny, continue turning their fire and brimstone lawyers onto those people who use these little memory aides to recapture such long lost moments.

So it's a yes to "go after those making millions illicitly copying dvd's/vids etc for resale" in pubs, clubs, on the street, down Mr Parokies cornershop. But think again about the others.  The many who will actually buy those overpriced shining tea coasters.  For those of us wondering what all the fuss is about, let's just hope we only get that fly on the wall experience by reading the headlines in a Sunday paper; that the judiciary or legislative/lawmakers have finally worked out, who the real cowboys are!

And then we have Alistair Darling saying that the government aren't sure yet about what to exactly do, to help those mortgage buyers suffering from the credit-crunch.  Doesn't know what to do? What have the government been doing since all this started so many months ago?  If they initially believed what was happening in the US wouldn't wing its way over here and then make plans for it then they don't deserve to be in power, neither do the conservative party as they didn't have anything much better in place or to say either.

"A return to family values", not quite sure how that equates to been better by doing without tv, internet access, mobile phones, consoles. Smacks more of a return to the buggy and cart, quill and parchment, with food been brought in by the servants period.  But then caravanning's on the up. More people realise we can do without the latest updated upgrade and it's so much more environmentally friendly.

The olympics... 3 days and counting.