It has been pointed out that my postings are somewhat of a general moan – and this is probably a fair observation. I often reflect on myself and think, ‘Beasley, you’re a moaning, miserable twat’, because I can be a misanthropic cynic. However, I once read somewhere that a cynic is really a romantic who is bitterly disappointed by the weaknesses and failings of our blessed species; a species that has the potential to be so much more, yet perpetually reverts to its baser instincts of cruelty, greed, selfishness, complacency and the petty vanities of ego (I’m pretty certain I embellished that a little, but that was the general gist as I recall it). That said, believe it or not, when in good company and good spirits, I am the life and soul of the party and positively effuse happiness and good will to all around me, which probably makes my sporadic periods of gloomy cynicism tolerable. That and the fact that rather than be a relentlessly grim harbinger of the ills of the world, I like to sugar my moans with a bit of wit and some intelligent observation I hope. More Edmund Blackadder or Jack Dee than Brotha Lynch Hung or Mike Leigh.
Many of my gripes tend to address the seemingly irreversible travails of society that have diseased mankind for centuries, so today I’ve decided to sweat the small stuff. These are my idiosyncratic, personal gripes. The Devil’s details. Those minor things that ‘grind my gears’. So come join me and share my irritation at those little things in life that really piss me off (in no particular order).
When I can’t find the remote even though I have not left the sofa.
When I can’t find my car keys when I really need to leave the house NOW.
When I can’t find my glasses when I really need to see.
When technology works one minute, then for no apparent reason doesn’t work the next.
When I want to write ‘of’ on my phone’s touchpad and it selects ‘if’.
When I want to write ‘is’ on my phone’s touchpad and it selects ‘us’.
Most of all when I want to write ‘this’ on my phone’s touchpad and it chooses ‘thus’ instead – who programmed this thing, someone from the Shakespearean era?
When I put my cup on a coaster which then gets wet, sticks to the bottom of the cup, falls off the bottom of the cup and the sudden unexpectedness of it makes me flinch, thus (I meant to type ‘thus’ then) causing me to spill my drink, not just on the table, but usually on the floor or in my lap too.
When I am carrying a plate of food with the knife and fork safely (so I believe) weighted under the food, then one of them falls off the plate anyway, catapulting a big dollop of food with it too.
When people say ‘erm’, every few seconds when they are talking.
When people pre-tag every sentence with… ‘Well…’ we know you don’t really know what you’re talking about or you’re about to tell a lie.
When people pre-tag every utterance with… ‘Basically’, before rambling on and not being basic at all.
When people have a rising inflection at the end of every sentence… this might actually include every person under 25 from America and the South East of England.
When people have music playing… no – screeching directly out of that shitty little tinny speaker on their mobile phone – get some earphones you fucking cock, nobody wants to hear your shit music, let alone without any bassline.
When people who aren’t homeless smell – there really is no need. You can get a stick of roll-on for £1 from a pound shop you dirty twat.
When someone on TV is asked a question and they simply paraphrase the question that they have just been asked without actually answering it.
When footballers or pundits talk us through a goal – do we need it? The player kicked the ball and it went into the back of the net – what else is there!?
When a football pundit says; “If it had just been half a yard to the left/right/lower it would have gone in” – really? No shit. That’s a bit like saying “If there was no keeper and no other players and he could have used his hands to pick it up and place it over the line – it would have gone in” – SHUT UP!
Any interview with a footballer: “Obviously, errr… [followed by nothing of any real consequence]“ They’re contractually obliged not to slag off the ref, their fellow players or their manager – so is any of what they say actually worth hearing?
When you stand on a crooked paving stone after it’s been raining and it splashes water all over your shoe and down your sock.
When you leave the house and suddenly realise you’re going to need a poo very soon.
When drivers use up two free parking spots with one car.
When drivers wait in the far side lane at traffic lights, then indicate to turn once the lights have changed – if I’d have known I was going to have to wait for you to turn I would have got in the other lane you twat!
When drivers don’t indicate – it’s a simple fucking finger movement that can make such a difference.
When drivers don’t acknowledge when you have let them pass or cut into your lane – UTTER BITCH! (yes, it does tend to be a trait of female drivers)
When I go to the bank or the post office and the clerk starts trying to sell me some shit that I didn’t ask for and probably don’t need.
When I ask for a burger in a McD’s or a BK and the clerk asks me if I want fries with it, or a meal – if I wanted fries or meal I would have asked, stop trying to sell me shit!
When you ask the waiter or waitress in a restaurant what’s good and they automatically suggest the most expensive dish on the menu. Really? Doesn’t anybody actually prefer something other than the largest most expensive cut of steak?
When you call the helpline for… well for anything, and the guy in the call centre in India repeats ‘Sir’ and ‘I’m sorry’ after every single utterance – just sort the problem out please and you won’t need to be sorry.
When my beloved wants to cuddle up to me but insists on delicately touching me under or around my armpit – honey you know that tickles and irritates the hell out of me, so why? I mean really, why?
‘Breaking News’ - Breaking News!? Get the fuck outta here. Every news channel churns out the same pre-vetted nonsense. Toggle between BBC and Sky News – it’s the same damn shit! The last thing I remember that was truly ‘Breaking News’ was the fall of the Berlin wall – that was in 1989! Everything else is propaganda and distraction.
My aunt and her whole family – you’re a bitch and your kids are all wierdo’s who won’t read this because your matriarchal oppression has turned them all into lazy, workshy, social misfits (that was so cathartic).
‘Trending now’ – aw go fuck yourself… ‘Trending’! What does that mean? Lots of people are talking about some shit that probably isn’t even true!?
Every time a professional salesman opens their mouth and speaks.
I’m gonna stop now and have a cup of camomile tea because just writing this is winding me up. But my list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve avoided fashion (pants hung low around your arse – WTF is that all about dickhead), celebrities (where do you start?) and musical tastes (way too subjective). But please feel free to share your personal hates with me, I want to connect with my readers… maybe I can tweet this blog as ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and see if it starts ‘Trending’… grrrrr!!!!
Now I’m going to end with a poem:
I’m sick of buying things that break,
I’m sick of excuses call centres make.
I’m sick of numbers to get through -
“Sorry, you are in a queue, your call will be answered very soon”.
I’m sick of stuff that doesn’t work,
Demands for payment with no returns.
I’m sick of turning the TV on at a commercial break,
Of adverts selling debt and the threat of lifestyle choice mistakes.
I’m sick of ads for porno-telephony
I’m sick of premium rate numbers aimed at the lonely –
“Call me, call me, call me…” – No!
“Then watch this program and gamble away your dough”.
I’m sick of facile daytime TV
Filled with artificial sincerity.
Fern Britten, Philip Schofield and Lorraine Kelly
Sold with cheap ads trying to get the gullible to part with their money.
I’m sick of officials talking crap,
Of politicians who are lying twats.
I’m sick of PR and press officers and publicity spin.
I’m sick of resignations when they should have sacked them.
I’m sick of this and I’m sick of that
And I’m getting sick of the whole bloody lot.
I want my services to be better
Without complaints and calls or having to write a letter.
I want Ronseal promises, not endless spin.
I want people to do exactly what they say on the tin.
I should feel protected even if I’m naïve,
By promises made, when I choose to believe.
There is a lovely Muslim woman whom I teach English to in an entry level beginners class who prays [religiously] half way through every lesson. Today the class had a test and I caught her cheating – not once, not twice, but three times! She denied profusely despite me looking straight at her from less than two yards away.
Earlier this week it was reported that Reverend Paul Flowers – the ex-Chief Executive of the Co-operative Bank (an ethical bank apparently) – was caught buying crystal meth and cocaine from an undercover reporter; today it was revealed that he also swindled £75,000 from the Lifeline charity (but they didn’t tell anybody about it until now).
Also in the news, MP Dennis McShane swindled £13,000 of British taxpayers money in bogus expense claims (who want’s to bet he doesn’t do as much time as the 18 months that a young man from Salford did for his first offence of stealing a bottle of vodka from a shop during the England ‘riots’ in 2011?).
MacShane resigned as an MP last year before he could face punishment for submitting fake receipts amounting to £12,900 of taxpayers’ money.
In recent history it has been revealed that many Catholic priests have been fiddling with young boys for centuries and many Imams brutally beat young Muslim boys for misbehaving in the Mosque. For decades Evangelists have been fleecing £millions from desperate and gullible morons (that’s ‘morons’ not ‘Mormons’) in the USA in the name of God; politicians have been robbing the poor via the public purse to feed the industries of corporations so the Executives of those corporations can exploit the even poorer in developing countries and swell their own already swollen tax-free bank accounts; Jimmy Savile (a British Knight of the Realm and tireless charity worker) and a whole host of our favourite childhood icons from the seventies have been sexually abusing children for decades – even our footballing heroes cheat the ref and dive all over the place to win matches. All this and people wonder why I’m cynical!
In a world of abundance in education, technology, wealth and natural resources, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the End of Days. Have no respect for faith or status, believe in your eyes, ears and most of all, your gut feeling.
So there I was, sat in the kitchen at my mum’s house, just passing time. I’d come around to visit the old dear, but she was pottering around the garden talking at nobody in particular and ignoring me as retired mothers are prone to do. Although I know she still likes the company of her visiting brood, I sometimes get a little bored, so on this day I put the kettle on for both of us and as it boiled I decided to skim through the newspaper that was lay on the kitchen table.
The Daily Star is one of the most popular tabloid newspapers in the UK with a circulation of over half a million, yet by the time the half-full kettle reached boiling point I’d pretty much read everything of interest that was written in there. Being a Man City fan I wasn’t interested in reading about the boring 0-0 draw between Chelsea and United the day before, so I ignored the sport section and skimmed through the whole paper again just in case I had missed something. I hadn’t – there was literally nothing of any real consequence contained within the 56 pages of that newspaper. So what filled those 56 pages and was I bored enough to find out?
With my holidays coming to an end along with the British Summer, my boredom got the better of me and I decided to work out what constituted news in The Daily Star on 27th August 2013. It wasn’t too difficult – simply measure the column centimetres of copy text for each real news item. There weren’t many.
Spread out flat the paper has an area of around 5.75m2 on which to write news. Add the newsworthy copy and you have a diagram that looks like this.
The little red bits represent the serious hard news. The kind of thing that people should know about – what our leaders are doing in the world of politics, serious global affairs and crime stories of national interest. According to The Daily Star everything is just peachy with the world around us – “Move on, there’s nothing to see here.”
Next up are those soft news stories, the noteworthy, the strange, the bizarre and the ‘human interest’ stories that you usually get at the “And finally…” section of News at Ten.
Not a huge amount there either really. Stories include: a diamond estimated to sell for £12million at auction, Brazilian prostitutes learn English in preparation for next year’s World Cup, police caught ogling celebrities on Twitter, a man who claims to have photographed the Loch Ness monster, a Brazilian footballer called Elvis who was shot dead, a giant gooseberry, a botched wedding proposal, the Royal Mail have done what they have supposed to do and delivered mail on time, and of course, a story about a Panda that may be pregnant – awesome.
There’s half a page dedicated to Hollie, 23, from Eastbourne who has great tits.
There are four pages dedicated to what’s on TV.
There are ten pages dedicated to all sport, apart from horse and dog racing.
There are four pages dedicated to horse and dog racing times and results.
There are some regular features, including puzzles and games, the daily horoscope, letters to Jane the agony aunt, photo casebook and consumer advice.
Still, with all those sections covered, there’s still a hell of lot of space left.
Now bear in mind that apart from the hard and soft news copy, the vast majority of the content of the other pages highlighted are made up of headlines, advertisements (there are several ‘Daily Star reader’s offers’) and photographs. So what makes up the rest of the space? Well, the rest of that space is made up of advertisements and photographs of celebrities with various bits of facile and inane celebrity related gossip. I could illustrate how much of The Daily Star’s pages are made up of advertisements and pictures, but life is too short so I’ll make a rough estimate. My rough estimate is that only about 5% of the remaining space contains words that aren’t headlines – and I’m being generous. Sure there are those broadsheets that have ‘proper’ news, but surely even a tabloid should offer something more informative and stimulating than semi-naked, celebrity titillation.
The Daily Star is a pretty poor example of a newspaper, but it is indicative of what you see online, in magazines, on the television and in every media outlet. Marketers and broadcasters will defend themselves by saying that they are supplying a demand – essentially, you get the media you deserve – and they wouldn’t be wrong. But the obsession with celebrity trivia seems to have become a social addiction. The side effect of this addiction is inertia and complacency and a section of society whose lives revolve around an illusion that is sustained purely by their attention. If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.
Right now England, America and their allies are considering going to war with Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Detainees in Guantanamo Bay are still starving themselves for justice. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from corporate industrialists. Honeybees are threatened with extinction. Women in India are fighting for humanity, justice and protection from getting raped, beaten and brutalised. There is a global recession that show’s little sign of abating. Bankers and corporate giants are still pocketing offensive amounts of money whilst people all over the world are facing unemployment, bankruptcy, homelessness, increasing food and oil prices. Crime is rising and so are suicide rates… etc, etc, etc. A little bit of light relief is all fine and well, but there’s a lot more important things worthy of a double page spread than what’s going on in the Celebrity Big Brother house and the “controversial” performance of a young Disney star who still looks like a child, sexually gyrating on stage in latex underwear with a bunch of teddy bears.
For most of us there isn’t a great deal that we can do to effect change in what is going on around us. For many of us, the simple pleasures of our day-to-day is the best we can look forward to without worrying about things that we have no control over. TV, movies, magazines, video games, drink, drugs – all these social sedatives make a life less ordinary – or at least palatable. However, when you look around at the media distractions, you can’t help but notice the sheer amount of trivial, celebrity, nonsense that’s staring right back at you.
The irony of this celebrity overkill is that it mainly serves to highlight the shortcomings in your own life. You look on and find yourself worshipping a lifestyle that is unattainable – Photoshop dreams and fake images of ‘bling’. This can either motivate your aspirations or make you feel miserable. Either way, every time you watch and buy into the celebrity bubble, it inflates. The celebrities bay for your attention, you feed their ego and the advertisers fill their bank accounts whilst you go back home to your dissatisfaction and debt and forget that all is not well with the world around you.
If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.
Toward the end of the Zeitgeist documentary the narrator talks about the media being a deliberate distraction from the real issues that affect people’s lives. The Roman’s used gladiatorial battles to deflect their public away from the affairs of state. Today it’s gadgets, games, sport and popular ‘culture’. Every hour spent on some trivial nonsense is an hour not spent making yourself aware of what is happening around you. It’s an hour not spent educating and improving yourself. It’s an hour not spent supporting a cause. It’s an hour not spent lobbying your local MP for improvements in your local area. It’s an hour not spent soliciting your government to change its policy on something that is worthwhile; something that will improve your life, your children’s lives, your grandchildren’s lives, or just the life of someone less fortunate than you.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in a little escapism, but too much of anything tends to be bad. The serenity prayer tells us to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. There’s nothing in there about burying your head in the sand and pleading ignorance. Ignoring what is happening on your doorstep and in the world around you doesn’t make it go away, it just helps it continue to remain the same.
When you live in Britain the media and the state like to remind you about the scourge of ‘benefit scroungers’. The Daily Mail are often the spearhead of media outrage against the lower-class, welfare pariahs and ‘chavs’ who they seem to believe enjoy do nothing more than hanging around waiting for their 15 minutes of fame on Jeremy Kyle in between picking up state handouts.
The scourge of the benefit scrounger is usually reignited every couple of months by an inflammatory story highlighting an isolated case of extreme governmental incompetence; like the one where Kensington and Chelsea Council moved a family of Somali’s who had migrated to England from their war torn country and placed them in a £2million pound house in a posh part of London. Then there are stories like the one about Joanne Sheppard, who has 12 children by three men and hadn’t worked for 19 years. Her 12th child (“an accident” apparently) was to a man who had no job, but was collecting £89.80 a week for long-term incapacity whilst allegedly still pursuing his hobby of riding motorbikes. This was the one that tipped the scales of outrage for The Mail, who stated that Miss Sheppard claimed £30000 a year in benefits. Perhaps Miss Sheppard and her partner have a long term plan to create there own Apostles and set up the church of Evel Kinievel, who knows what could motivate such irresponsible copulation. More to the point, who would seriously want to raise that many children on welfare money!?
Benefits couple with ELEVEN children rake in £30,000 a year and a free-five bedroom home (and now they’ve got another on the way)
I’d like to think that most rational people would recognise that both of these stories are exceptions to the rule. For the vast majority of people who are claiming benefits long term, life is pretty grim. Let’s face it, you can’t exactly live it large on around £70 a week. However, for those of you who may be ‘between jobs’ due to the total mismanagement of the country by government and the total mismanagement of taxpayers money by bankers which has left you unemployed due to a declining economy; if you have decided to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for a period of time whilst you sell yourself cheap to an employers market, you will find that just making that claim is a harrowing process. A process that makes you want to dive out of a window – a plate glass window that is closed and exits a 10th story apartment. I found myself in this position and spent a very frustrating hour or so trying to make a claim. Although not as frustrating as the time I spent three weeks on the phone to BT technical support in some place in India trying to get my broadband problem resolved, but that’s another posting…
1. The first call – 0845 608 85 04
You start off with a call – that’s where it always starts, that first call. You know how it is, you’re wondering; “How many button choices will they give me to get to the right department? What will her voice be like? Or will it be a he? What about the hold music – classical, calming, some Costa coffee, soft, indie, rock/pop – what will be poisoning my ears for the next twenty minutes? Or will it be an hour? Ooh I’m scared!!!” But you have to make that call. I’d actually been told in the Job Centre that they prefer you to make the application online, but that has become little more than the alternative of two evils these days, and often results in having to make a phone call afterwards anyway, so I thought I’d try and skip the middle man. Bad idea.
2. Navigate the automated phone directions
She has quite a nice voice – calming and almost caring whilst also somewhat alluring. But it’s early days. She hasn’t even repeated anything yet. She gives you the customary preamble, which like the lengthy opening credits of a HBO series, is worth sitting through the first time round, but after episode 3 you’re reaching for Sky+ fast forward on your TV. Fortunately the second option was the option I need so I opted for option two. This option instructs you to give your postcode so that you can get put through to the right area. My postcode is for Manchester, so I got put through to a woman in a call centre in Eastbourne, which is about 220 miles away!
3. The first interrogation
So you get asked a whole bunch of questions in this bit – name, address, national insurance number, when you want to claim from etc, etc, etc. Essentially, you answer enough questions to fill a good-sized application form – then you get told you can’t make a new application over the phone, you have to do it online!
4. Complete the online application form
This takes about 10 – 20 minutes depending on how much information you put in. There are some really useful questions like ‘How did you find out you could claim Job Seekers Allowance? Who did you ask for advice about claiming? When did you ask them? What did you ask them? What did they tell you? Is it safe?’* But this is okay because you’re only given 200 characters to answer the long questions. After you’ve completed the form you are informed that you will be contacted by telephone within the next 48 hours between 7am and 9pm. This all makes it seem quite exciting, like an important arrangement between secret service operatives.
5. Wait for the call
I missed the call – both of them. Instead I got an answer machine message telling me that because I missed both calls I had to call a freephone number to complete my claim otherwise they will assume that I no longer want to continue the claim. So I called the number 08000 55 66 88…
6. Call the
When you navigate the options for this call you find you get redirected back to the first number you rang!
You eventually get put through to someone who tells you to call theagain. By this stage you have heard the recording four times and the lady’s voice is no longer calming, caring or alluring, it’s just fucking annoying. The hold music is like an acoustic ice ballet performed on your brain by miniature sadists wearing razor blades for skates. You try to stay calm as you explain that you have already made an online application and you have already called the 0800 number. They detect the tremulous hint of desperate frustration in your tone and concede that the automated directions aren’t very clear, so they instruct you to select the option for a new claim, even though you are calling about a claim you have already made. You accept those instructions and you end the call politely.
7. Call the 0800 number again
You call the 0800 number again, this time making the incorrect selection in order to get to the correct person but…
…this takes some time. Your patience withers and wanes as you are told over and over again to make your application online, knowing that you have already made an online application. Your ears start to bleed as you listen to that first part of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons again and again and again and again – knowing that when it finishes you’ll have to listen to her voice again telling you to make your application online. And this seems to go on forever and ever and ever. In desperate reverie you imagine yourself smashing your phone against the wall and the pieces shattering in slow motion before you turn to the owner of the automated voice – who looks like the woman you hate most in your life – and you imagine strangling her with the strings from one of those violins playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Then you imagine just giving up on the claim, buying a local newspaper and replying to the first vacancy for door staff, cleaners or traffic wardens – anything just so that you don’t have to hear Vivaldi play that tune again!!!!!!!
Then you get your breakthrough. A voice. A voice at the other end that isn’t automated. You feel like Columbus, starved and deluded after months at sea, when suddenly land appears on the horizon. Hallelujah!
8. …It’s not over yet
I don’t know if it’s the effects of exhaustion or chronic exasperation – but you are calm. You’re just happy to hear a voice again – a real voice. This voice asks you questions that you have been asked before over the last hour but you answer them calmly. Then she tells you to ring that 0845 number again!
9. …you’re almost there
To your surprise you do not explode. You appeal to the lady in Eastbourne to consider your situation and ask her to actually try to resolve the issue rather then putting you through that hell again. Then there’s a pause at the other end of the line.
“Ok, can you just hold for a second whilst I speak to my supervisor?”
Now this can go one of two ways; the supervisor can resolve your issue there and then or they can insist that you have to jump through another administrative hoop and do something else. I got lucky and the lady from Eastbourne came back to me and went about resolving my problem. And the solution was? I was given an appointment to go into the job centre and complete a ‘clerical’ application.
10. The Clerical Application
Having spent over an hour making phone calls and filling in online forms I now have an appointment to go into the job centre. When I get to the job centre I will have to fill in a paper form in order to make my JSA claim.
Fortunately I was offered a job before I actually made the claim and I am now in gainful employment again. The thought of having to become an unwilling player in the sadistic administrative pantomime of welfare living frightens me. I cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would genuinely want for this. The process in itself is almost like a war of attrition. I can only assume that those who have been on long-term benefits without any genuine reason simply don’t have a mind that is right, or have been oppressed into submission by this process. They have been demoralised to the point of abject inertia as their resolve and motivation has been eroded by pointless and monotonous administrative processes. If daytime television isn’t enough to get you out to work, surely being counted and questioned and qualified every fortnight must be. Whatever the reason you find yourself on welfare, one thing is for certain – there are far easier ways to process a claim.
* ‘Is it safe?’ isn’t really one of their questions, it’s a parody of the classic Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier movie ‘The Marathon Man’. Good film if you haven’t seen it, one of Hoffman’s most accomplished performances. Thank you for taking the time to follow the asterix.
It can be a tough old thankless task being a devoted parent or loyal family member. You can spend your whole life raising those little ones, bouncing them up and down on your knee, taking them to the park and buying them ice-creams and sweets, showering them with gifts year after year at Christmas and on birthdays. You’ll spend time, energy and money ensuring they have a great time as you take them to theme parks and fairgrounds, teach them how to ride their bike, protect them from danger and comfort them when they hurt themselves. As they get older you’ll try to give them advice and help them with their choices in life, guiding them the best you can. You’ll have arguments with teachers, neighbours and friends in defence of your family, even when you know deep down your clan was in the wrong. And when they need you, you’ll be there. Always; without question. Then they go through the metamorphosis of puberty and things change.
When your sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren grow up, for some, all that time and love you put in will count for nothing. You’ll find the respect you feel is due is forfeited when you call it in. And if you’re unfortunate enough to find them hurtling along a rollercoaster of decline, your love will make you reach out to stop them; but if that descent is too steep and the decline has gathered too much pace, the best you can expect is that your arm will be ripped off. At worst, if you can’t help but cling on to save them, they will drag you into a maelstrom of pain and despair and neither one of you will come out of it good. You may get your respect due at the end, but there may be too much damage done to all parties for it to make any positive difference. It is a pretty tragic and desperately sad aspect of a fractured or dysfunctional family unit. So much so it makes me think that blood and genes make you related, but only proper respect and loyalty makes you family.
Football, a funny old game – of two halves – but it only takes a minute to score a goal, and at the end of the day – that’s what wins matches. Putting the ball in the back of the net, because that’s what it’s all about, winning. But it isn’t. There’s more than that. The coverage, the commentary, the clichés and the cut of the new kit. It’s about performing in the theatres of dreams to the elation of the crowds and for the profit of the sponsors. Big games, big names, big stadia, big money and big adjectives. The Beautiful Game, the beautiful players… hang on a minute! That’s going too far. Prancing primadonna’s with sublime skills is one thing but in fact, footballers are more likely to share the aesthetic appeal of ‘Ginger Ninja’than ‘Goldenballs’ Beckham, and not all managers have the suave sophistication of a Mancini or Mouriho either, so let’s have a look at the extended football family… just for fun of course
Being a City fan looking forward to a new season with a new manager in 2013, I’ve been looking at Señor Pellegrini. At 59 the man they call ‘The Engineer’ is no spring chicken, and having spent a career working in the sunshine of Spain and South America, the sun has taken its toll and he now bears more than a passing resemblance to Zelda from Terrahawks. I imagine one sharp look from this guy will keep most in the dressing room in check.
Mr. Interim at Chelsea seemed to have picked up a poisoned chalice when he took over from fan’s favourite Roberto Di Matteo for the second half of the season. But Rafa Benitez is just like his distant cousin Penfold from Dangermouse, no matter how much of a disaster he finds himself in he always manages to come out on top… except at Inter Milan of course.
Wes Craven is best known for the Nightmare on Elm Street films, but in 1977 Craven made a horror film about a clan of deformed, inbred, cannibal mutants who terrorise a family that get stranded whilst on a road trip. The quote on the DVD release simply says “HARROWING AND NASTY”, what more is there to say about ex-con Joey Barton – the trademark cold sore and dead-eyed glare are enough to put you off your pint. Thankfully Monsieur Barton now plies his trade at Marseille in between bouts of assault and verbal diarrhoea on Twitter.
Staying on the mutant theme but on a much less nasty note, we turn our attentions to Aston Villa and England winger, Gaby Agbonlahor. I just couldn’t decide which side was Gaby’s best side, so I decided not to side with either side and present you both sides. Turning to show his left, Gaby is a dead ringer for Sloth from the Goonies, whilst down on the right he strikes a much more regal pose as he looks out toward his carer waiting in the stands, giving him a striking resemblance to Family Guy’s favourite office worker, Opie.
Mid-season, when Luis Suarez was twisting and turning defences inside out for Liverpool, you could forgive his cheating, diving, antics and laugh them off. Then he was just a cheeky little buck-toothed Uruguayan striker that everyone wanted in their team and he reminded me of Rocky the flying squirrel. Then he sunk his teeth into a Chelsea defender and returned to being a nasty little critter just like the rabid, poisoned, rat-monkey, from Peter Jackson’s ‘Braindead’ movie. Noxious vermin is a little too strong, but only a little.
Staying with creatures of the night we look at a player who now only occasionally appears in between long periods of absence, resurfacing in a different coloured shirt at a different ground after being silently transferred without ever being noticed. Just like Nosferatu the Vampyre Yossi Benayoun rises from the grave of mediocrity before disappearing again into mystery and obscurity, making some believe whether he ever really existed at all.
Just like his sword wielding, animated, counterpart, Marouane Fellaini takes no prisoners on the field of play at Everton. His trademark afro is often seen towering above opponents in the box as he heads the ball into the back of the net and his deadly elbow is often seen by the ref as he smashes it into opponents faces. His uncompromising, aggressive style makes him the original Afro Samurai.
There is only one serious contender for the Carlos Valderrama Big Hair Crown in the Premiership and that is Chelsea’s David Luiz. It is big, but it’s not clever and it’s pretty obvious who his distant cousin is – it has to be Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons – nuff said.
Arsene Wenger has fallen out of favour with some Arsenal fans because of his frugal approach to spending on big players. Whilst refusing to part with the clubs cash to improve his squad, he continues to sell off players who go on to win trophies at other clubs – or in the case of Adebyor, win a contract and then do bugger all on the pitch. With his miserly approach to the modern game the obvious distant cousin would be Mr. Burns of The Simpsons. However, the spell Arsene seems to have over the club he manages is more akin to the influence of a Sith Lord. His Jedi mind tricks seem to work every season as Arsenal slip closer and closer toward the Darkside – fifth place and into the Europa league. So let me introduce you to Darth Vengar.
An Alex Ferguson look-a-like would have been ideal, but as much as I hate to say it being a Blue, Old Bacon Face is a one and only. However, his replacement David Moyes is a class act also, a work of art no less. Surely 20th century Norwegian artist Edvard Munch beat the bookies and everyone else in predicting who would be Sir Alex’s successor. He even captured the very look on Moyes’ face when it dawned on him just the size of the task he was about to undertake.
Last summer I decided to visit the beautiful city of Rome. I had never been to Italy before and IPM were hosting their annual club promoters festival and pool party, so it seemed a good excuse to take in some sun, fun and a bit of ancient history. Since the events for the festival were scattered all over the city, it seemed sensible to hire a car to get around. I’m quite an experienced driver and I’ve driven in many European cities and felt quite confident getting around without incident. My general rule of thumb when driving abroad is to follow the signs and the flow of the local traffic, never park in a place where nobody else is parking, and if in doubt – ask somebody. So it came as some surprise five months later – just before I was heading out to Turin for a bit of winter ski – to find that Advantage Hertz Car Hire had debited six lots of €30 from my credit card for ‘traffic violations’.
“How could this be!?”, I fumed. Rome is the 3rd most congested city in Europe, you can’t help but be careful. You have to perpetually check your rear view and wing mirrors just to survive. And in a Fiat Panda, no one can really speed. Especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a Tom Tom One with speed camera alerts. I didn’t even get a parking ticket! So after notifying my credit card company and making enquiries with the people at Advantage Hertz, I decided to do a search on the internet to see if other people have had a similar experience. And lo and behold I found a thread on Tripadvisor with over 30 postings from unhappy customers. So I decided to use an alias and chip in with my experience. However, Dbabe from Pittsburg was not happy with what we had to say… me in particular.
Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
25 June 2011, 7:09
1. Dear all
A stark warning about the above – avoid making the same mistake as me.
I booked a car from these people from “Rome Fiumicino Airport”, believing (understandably) this would be convenient for my flight. What they neglect to tell you is that they are in fact several kilometres away from the airport, and offer a very limited shuttle bus to the airport, at times that suit them and not you (it is certainly not 24 hour or even close).
We nearly missed our flight having to deal with navigating our way to their offices, and then waiting for ths shuttle bus when it eventually turned up late.
I simply do not understand how, given the critical nature of timing around getting to an airport, they can claim they are based at the airport. If you want the convenience of an airport-based car rental service, avoid Advantage.
After 33 postings of complaint, Donna (aka Dbabe) entered the fray with a staunch defence of Advantage Car Rental.
Dbabe is a destination expert for Rome and she travels there often with her husband, but only once a year with the kids. The Dbabe profile states that she is aged 35-49, she is female, hails from Pittsburgh and her travel style is “splurge occasionally”. When travelling Dbabe tries to “blend in with the locals”, and although she likes to travel for fun, a great holiday includes: Museums / Cultural / Historical sites / Great food / Wine
Donna joined Tripadvisor in 2003 and at the time of writing has made 13,487 posts, written 39 traveller articles but only 10 reviews. Donna often writes her name without a capital letter at the beginning. I’m assuming that this is because she is so busy writing postings for Tripadvisor that she just doesn’t have the time to check for such grammatical detail.
34. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
05 November 2012, 17:47
Destination Expert for Rome
Their website clearly states that the site is “near” the airport, not at the airport. Their website also states they do not accept debit cards. You should have read this information before booking. This is your fault and not advantge’s.
I hadn’t read what Dbabe had wrote when I joined the debate, I merely relayed my experiences in a serious and sensible fashion:
39. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 16:45
Forget the distance from the airport – what about getting half a dozen deductions from your credit card for ‘traffic offences’ that are never corroborated? When I booked with Advantage this summer, not only did they not have the car I booked when I arrived, the car they did have was a grade lower and they charged me MORE than what was on the voucher! 5 months later and I have had not one, not two, but 6 deductions off my card for unexplained ‘traffic offences’. No paperwork has been provided to validate these, I never once received a parking ticket (I was in an apartment parked on a residential road with lots of other cars) and I was driving a Fiat Panda so speeding is impossible. This is still ongoing, but at present they’ve had me for €180… avoid like the plague.
Fatjack from San Diego understood, but gave me this stark warning…
Fatjack, San Diego
40. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 18:10
Wait a few months and you will be getting traffic violations through registered mail. Most likely they were for ZTL violations or driving in a bus lane.
41. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:15
Fatjack, you weren’t wrong – ZLTs and driving in public transport lanes! These ‘violations’ are obscure to say the least. Advantage seem to be taking advantage of the fact that these are obscure offences that only locals would know about. The staff at Advantage could simply tell you to be careful about what time you’re driving into the centre, or to look out for bus lanes. But of course why would they when they get an extra €30 as a ‘reasonable’ administration fee for each offence?
This is clearly a recurring issue with tourists yet its obviously a deliberate policy not to warn tourists of these pitfalls of driving in Rome. I simply keep on getting told I should have read the T&Cs, but they were never included when I booked online with Economy Car Rentals, and the type on the actual form is about half a millimetre high, and condensed, and after all the messing about when you arrive, who’s going to then spend an hour going through T&Cs when they’re on holiday? Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference unless you were aware of these random obscure violations. I’ve driven in many European countries and get around without incident and I’m sorry, this is just a con, and its more to do with Advantage than the authorities. So far their admin fees amount to practically the same as the price of the car hire!
So this was all very civil, until Dbabe decided that I was a woman and I was very naughty and I needed scolding…
42. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:30
Destination Expert for Rome
Another person who claims that because she’s a tourist she’s a target. If you parked on a street without having the proper sticker on your car then you would get a ticket. If you were speeding then you would get a ticket. If you were in a restricted zone (ztl) then you would get a ticket. If you drove in the wrong lane then you would get a ticket.
These are legitimate fines and the authorities go to the rental car companies for your information. Each time they have to do the research to see who had the car it costs you a fee. If it was six different infractions then it’s six different fees. You agreed to these terms when you signed the contract. If you didn’t read the contract before you signed it and didn’t read up on the driving laws in Italy then that’s your fault and not the car rental agency’s fault. The company is under no obligation to make sure YOU know what the laws are before you rent a car. I have never had one rental agency in the US tell me about restricted zones or lanes or times I could or couldn’t drive somewhere so why should they be responsible for that anywhere else? You were responsible to know this information-not them to tell you.
These violations are not random and they’re not obscure. There are signs telling you about bus lanes and restricted zones. If you missed or ignored them that’s your fault. If you chose not to read the T&C’s of your contract-that’s your fault. If you broke the law-that’s your fault. I get so tired of people complaining that this is a “tourist ripoff”. How the heck can a camera know who’s driving the car? Can you explain that to me? How does a camera target tourists? The simple answer is—-THEY CAN’T!!!! You broke the law and were caught (6 TIMES-NO LESS!!!) and now you come here to complain that the rental company should have warned you before renting you the car. Give us a break. Take responsibility for your actions, pay the fines and stop wining. It’s not a con, it’s what you agreed to when you didn’t read the T&C’s but signed them anyway.
Donna wasn’t finished and took the time to look up, cut and paste information from the Advantage Car Rental website, which I greatly appreciated.
43. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:40
Destination Expert for Rome
And by the way, this is on the advantage rental cars’ website:
Fines and Penalties
You are responsible for the cost of any parking fines or other penalties incurred when the car is on rent to you. We will pass on the relevant charge to you plus any administrative expenses, as follows:
- Damages Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
- Fine Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
Fatjack asked if he could show my posting to his wife, which I agreed to before trying to calm down Dbabe.
45. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 22:10
Feel free to pass it on as far as you like fatjack… And despite what dbabe says, a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place. This is obviously a common problem so give a customer a break eh. No one wants to have their memories of a great holiday in a beautiful city tainted by a nasty little surprise debit on their credit card a few months later, it’s just a plain mean and deliberately exploitative way to do business. SO STOP SHOUTING AND REMONSTRATING as if I purposefully roared around Rome in my hired Fiat Panda like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. And If anyone thinks €30 is a reasonable ‘administration’ fee for typing a registration number and date into a computer to identify a car then I’d love you to be my employer, I’d be on footballers wages.
Dbabe wasn’t any calmer…
46. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
13 January 2013, 14:09
Destination Expert for Rome
Whether or not we think it’s reasonable is not the point. You agreed to this when you signed the contract. They are well within their rights to charge you for their time and effort. There is nothing mean or exploitative about it. If you thought the fee was too high you shouldn’t have rented the car or broken the law. It’s really that simple. Perhaps they charge so much as a deterrent so people will be more cautious of the laws, who knows, but that’s what they charge and you’re responsible to pay it just like you’re responsible to pay the actual fines when they catch up with you.
***a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place****
I’m sure the Italian police think the same thing about people being more considerate of their laws and not driving without fully knowing what they’re doing. The fact that you broke six different laws shows you had no business driving in Italy and that you showed no consideration for the Italians who live there and have to put up with this kind of behavior on a daily basis.
Here is a picture of a typical days traffic in Rome.
Here is a graph of how many of those cars Dbabe seems to think belong to tourists.
47. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 9:32
Dbabe, I don’t know about you, but I imagine that most people look forward to going on holiday, as by its very definition it is a welcome break from working and a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and escape the pressures and responsibilities of home and work. Usually, once I’ve planned my vacation time I get the added bonus of looking forward to what is always an enjoyable experience. But that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Judging by your fervent defence of Advantage and your passionate advocating of the thorough reading of T&Cs, I imagine you’re the kind of freewheeling gal that plans your holiday nine months in advance with a detailed itinerary of all the fun activities you’re going to do, detailed maps of the resort and surrounding area with a chart logging distances between attractions, and variable times of how long it will take you to reach each place of interest depending on traffic, weather and wind direction. I would also imagine that you take time to learn the language of the country you’re travelling to, as well as local customs, bus and train timetables and the entire legal system. I bet you’re so organised that you vacuum pack your luggage well in advance so that its ready to go, and then adhere to a strict diet to ensure that your weight doesn’t change before your holiday and the clothes you prepacked don’t fit. Me; I pack the night before – shocking eh! But that’s just the carefree, reckless maverick that I am. That’s probably why when I booked my hire car online via an agent, I didn’t think to track down the company CEO to ask where the car hire company’s T&Cs could be found.
My crazy, mad, foolish recklessness was probably the reason why after arriving at the airport in Rome – soaking in the glorious sunshine that I am so cruelly deprived of in my hometown and excited about the vacation week ahead – whilst waiting to get picked up by the Advantage rep, I wasn’t thinking about reading T&Cs. Outrageous I know, but after the short journey from the airport through the organised chaos that is Roman driving, when I got to the hanger full of cars that were broken in one way or another, and was told that there was only one car available and it was lower than the class of car I had prebooked and paid a deposit for but I had to pay the same for it anyway, my thoughts weren’t “Ok, then direct me to your T&Cs”. Foolish me was thinking “Right, okay, I’m on holiday so let’s just make do and get on with enjoying ourselves and not make a fuss” – what a total fool I was. Even when I went to pay for this lower grade of vehicle and for some unexplained reason it was about €15 more than what was on my voucher, I still didn’t think “Hm, well let me just sit here for the next hour painstakingly examining the 3pt tiny text of your T&Cs in this hot, dimly lit hangar to see what has gone wrong so that I can take the ‘no choice’ option left to me, return back to the airport and spend another few hours of my holiday doing the same with another car hire company. I’ll phone the apartment owners from there and just inform them I’ll be a little late – maybe 12hrs or so.”
Clearly you are right for admonishing me for “wining” about all this because its obviously my fault for behaving in a recklessly human manner. Had I been the fastidiously organised automaton that you obviously are, and a stickler for loyally following rules and regulations to the very letter, regardless of how unreasonably impractical and improbable doing so is for a normal human being, then I obviously would be incredibly dull, irritating and wierd, but at least I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I am in now.
Could I ask you something that is not really related, only perhaps in an abstract way? Have you ever done that social experiment where they put you in a room with a machine that gives a stranger in another room electric shocks everytime they get a question wrong? The machine has a dial that goes all the way up to ‘DANGEROUS, RISK OF DEATH’, and with every wrong answer the voltage goes higher. But its up to you to turn it up and press the shock button. Obviously its a test, you can hear the stranger screaming everytime you administer a shock, but the ‘authority figure’ in the room just keeps on telling you to turn it up until you refuse or you electrocute the screaming, anonymous stranger to death – but not really of course because its just a test. I think if you did this social experiment that the anonymous stranger would be toast in no time at all. I’m not too sure what the test is supposed to say about the subject who is doing the electrocuting, do you have any ideas?
Here is how Dbabe prepares for her holidays
48. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 20:08
Destination Expert for Rome
Yes, foolish you!!! You booked the car in advance. This is the time to read the T&C’s! You had the time, you had the opportunity. Did you do it – NO. That is your fault for not finding them on the website. They’re there and very easy to find.
Also, you’ve made a lot of assumptions about me and the way I travel. Most of them are wrong. The one thing I will say is that when I book something, be it a car, hotel, apartment or even a tour, I read the T&C’s. This way I don’t get surprised by anything that may go wrong. Does this make me an “automaton”– I don’t think so. It makes me a prepared traveler.
As for the shock scenario- it’s just idiotic.
All in all, your whole defense is that you didn’t have time. You didn’t have time to find the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the traffic rules. You didn’t have time to find out about the ZTL’s. You didn’t have time for this…..you didn’t have time for that. I suspect that if you have invested as much time in your research of the driving responsibilities and the T&C’s of car rental as you have invested on this thread you wouldn’t have had any problems while in Italy. Yet you didn’t because —let’s all say it together— you didn’t have time! Yet, you’ve found plenty of time to come here and whine and make assumptions about people and accuse companies of being on the take and all sorts of other outlandish things.
You’ve made 4 posts…all of them complaining about how unfairly you were treated. You’ve not once taken responsibility for anything that happened. It’s the rental agencies fault for not telling about ZTL’s. It’s Italys’ fault for having ZTL’s. It’s the company’s fault for not handing you a copy of the T&C’s and for not reading them to you. It’s everyones’ fault but yours. I find that amazing.
I was quite impressed that Dbabe found my scenario amazing after all of that time she has spent looking at spectacular works of art in Rome, and I found myself warming to this lady who steadfastly reads all Terms and Conditions every time she enters into a contractual agreement – I wanted to know more about what made this lady tick. Unfortunately my next posting was deleted by Tripadvisor at the behest of the community of Dbabe and two Australians – Lynn B aged 50-64 from Sydney who has 15,039 postings, 38 reviews and 6 traveller articles to her name, and zomp416 from Melbourne who has 665 posts and 8 reviews – pretty impressive considering he has only been a member since September 2012… But here is a copy of the posting anyway.
Dbabe, again you are absolutely spot on. It’s just fortunate for me that Advantage refunded all the charges to my credit card today. They obviously do not retain the same fascist outlook that you and Mussolini both share. Fortunately I only have skis to get around here in Turin, and all the closed slopes are clearly signposted, so I have no need to worry about incurring the wrath of the authorities by doing something that I shouldn’t be doing when I don’t know what I am doing is something that I shouldn’t be doing. And rest assured that I didn’t spend too much time replying to your reply, I was just lucky enough to catch an internet signal in my hotel as I was taking a dump, which inspired my lengthy posting. Incidentally, is Babe your surname or is it something that you have added to your Tripadvisor ID to assert the fact that you are a hot chick. If it is your surname then that’s pretty cool, although quite a name to live up to. If the latter, then can you please send me a photo to confirm that you are actually a ‘Babe’ and not advertising falsely, its just that the three Donnas that I know – Donna Eetsalad, Donna Ecksersize and Donna Kebab – are all quite obese and very ugly, so I am naturally sceptical.
PS: If you aren’t actually a ‘Babe’ but have only added this to your name to make you feel better about yourself, safe in the knowledge that your true identity will never be revealed online, then I’m afraid we’re done. I can handle you being a Fascist as that would imply a penchant for S&M, which could be fun; but a liar too! That’s just a bridge too far.
Here is a picture of how Dbabe might actually look
50. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
16 January 2013, 16:39
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Removed on: 16 January 2013, 23:05
I pleaded with Tripadvisor to allow me to make recompense for any offense my written nonsense had caused. I wanted to write some Terms and Conditions related to having a sense of humour so that Dbabe could read them and satisfy herself that it was actually OK to be a little foolish and irresponsible every now and then, and even have a smile at your own expense sometimes, because people who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything. I feel that with adequate instructions and T&C’s to follow that Dbabe may have lightened up. I even offered to write a poem to Dbabe as a show of amnesty; but alas, they would not allow me to add anything more to the thread. If they had then Dbabe would have surely seen me in a completely different light after reading these poetic words of penance:
Roses are red, violets are blue
Donna’s from Pittsburg and likes to read rules
Advantage Car Hire are great at what they do
And the Roman authorities, they are great too
But me, I’m just a lazy, inappropriate fool
And I should spend more time reading and following rules
For Donna aka Dbabe (forgive me)