Sunday, 26 June 2011

It's Only Time

A lovely days sunshine, busy day beavering away in a not so local coffee shop courtesy of my Costa boycott, and a mindful walk back to the car park I happened to stumble across a lady in distress at the ticket machine.

The first machine she went to only took credit cards, after scouring the car park for a coin machine I bet she wished she hadn't bothered. She put her ticket in only to find she was 10p short, she began apologising to me and I gave her a Kiwi "no worries" and gave her the 10p she was short. Only a couple of weeks before I asked a driver from Green Line at a ticket machine for change of a pound, which he didn't so he gave me 50p and said it was on him. I had begun to think that pleasant human interaction like this was a thing of the past or something you only saw in movies these days.

As the lady started to put her silver in the machine it locked out. She got flustered and pressed a multitude of buttons before getting her ticket back and an actor respond to her through the communication link. The voice from the machine said he would send an actor, sorry colleague, around to assist and we waited with baited breath. The lady began to tell me how she had recently suffered at the hands of these ticket machines and gone through this palaver before. She began to apologise to me again asking if she was holding me up for 'time' or something similar. I started to get philosophical asking "what is time" and about to give her a break down on space time and a meaning of life before she interrupted me with "time is money". I did not want to get into the meaning of money with her and decided to stop where I was, much to my friends relief.
After a few minutes a man arrived and the lady began to tell him what had occurred, he took the ticket, pressed some buttons and as if by magic everything was fixed. The lady thanked me for my assistance and went on her way.

Now it was my turn. Fortunately the actor had stayed for if he hadn't there may have been a little Steve Martin esque freak out....again.

I put my ticket in, expecting to pay my three bucks and then....well it was nothing like the £3.20 I was expecting, more like £8.50. The lady it appeared was right. Time WAS money and in this case it was 8 Earth minutes past the 5hours I had allowed and also £5 more to get out of the car park all because I stopped to help an elderly lady who was freaking out over faulty machine.
I remained calm and asked the actor to do something, I explained the situation and as he held back his laugh he told me there was nothing he could do. I had to report to reception and see if they could assist.

Tired, hungry and waspy over the ticket I headed towards reception with some flakey directions in the opposite direction to the actor, whom I bumped into outside the office when I got round the other side. I explained what had happened and pointed to the ticket and the time device on the wall explaining I was not going to pay a penny more than the £3.20 I owed. Thankfully he did not want to argue or exercise his right as an actor to mess me about.
All I had to do now was find the car and get out of there.

In hindsight I should have gotten my speech on time out to the lady before she had a chance to put a hex on me but it turned out alright in the end.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


'Keep Calm and Carry On'
The past few months have seen me trawl through all manner of newspapers and today I have a selection of the best (and worst) that have come to my attention.  Stop me if you see any patterns....

Your car does not define you
People dying over oil is comparative to a football scandal apparently.

Same day as the Despot headline, Imogen 'changes' team

The immigrants blamed for a lack of jobs again. Divide and conquer anyone?
Bin Laden's death prompts the old "what does a terrorist look like" debate.
What does a terrorist look like... a favourite around airports around the globe I suspect.  Twenty years ago a terrorist may have been deemed to look white and Irish.  Today the media tells you they are brown with beards.  If you ask me I would say they wear £1000 suits and call themselves Mr President and Prime Minister.  What do you say?
Everyday for a week we head about the alleged  rape by Sarkozi's opposition courtesy of Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, sealed with a handshake? 

Sorry Costa but Starbucks is bigger than coffee...

Art from the March revolution to be shown in Rothchild's galleries

Vanity sizing gets aired out for all to see

War criminal Tony Blair continues to make his millions on the back of his jackanory.

Reading seriously damages your health...must be why the only book store in town has shut...

They might be sex trafficked but it is OK if you "don't ask no questions"
A caring giving nation, just give us some of your resources.

Slut walks are a no for the children but it is OK for their mothers to walk around in knickers for cancer?
China stoke up trade wars by hording precious metals.  Where will we get the parts for our iPhone and bombs....

Just in case you did not get the message the first time, foreigners are taking your money...
The Oceans have been raped for generations, only now are some people beginning to care.

The Illusion of Feminism.

Sipping coffee in a relaxed CafĂ© Nero’s flicking through the latest print of The Times, I come across an obscure little article on the edge of one of the back pages. To my disgust it was one of most importance! The article claimed that the UK government are lobbying to have the law on domestic violence changed, as they no longer consider this a breach of their human rights. It also stated that they would apply different sanctions and punishment on offenses committed during ‘peacetime’ vs. ‘wartime’.

After cleaning up my initial response of splurting out my caffeine, I reread the expose and hoped that this, given appropriate coverage, would have caused complete outrage! Is this what our ancestors have fought and defended throughout the decades? If this is something that is going to be enforced in our country, and possibly others, surely thought should be given to spouse battery of men? A woman need not label herself a ‘feminist’ to discover a deep rage over the simplest innate rights as a human being!

Instead, we are bombarded with images of young women parading their half naked bodies through bustling city centres. This in response to what seems to me, a sensible man advising young women on appropriate attire that seems to have been left behind since the broadcast of Big Brother/ The Only Way is Essex and the likes.

This would be an appropriate time to state that I, in fact, do not label myself a ‘feminist’. The reason for this being that by segregating ourselves into a clearly defined group, we give others permission to isolate and stereotype females enabling ‘different’ treatment. However, saying this I respect the fights and liberation of First and Second generation feminists. The battle to gain a voice of any calibre is a struggle, but unfortunately this is no different to that of other ‘minority’ groups that inevitably make up a large proportion of our population. The fact is that the only reason that these ‘groups’ are given any ‘voice’ at all is so that they may be taxed. And the war on equal rights is nothing less then an illusion provided to augment these charges.

The media of late has surrounded issues of sexualisation, whether that is of women, children or the general population. Everyone is complaining about it, everyone has an opinion on it, but yet mothers are still participating in Burlesque themed Midnight Walks and parents are still allowing their daughters to undress and partake in ‘Slutwalks’. This seems to me that the people that complain about it are the ones creating the problem. When was it exactly that women, or ‘feminists’ if you prefer, lost their voices and felt the need to use the sexualisation of their bodies as tools of combat? And what has this achieved other then a generic ’15 minutes of fame’? The population seem to have forgotten what unity can achieve when thoughtfully demonstrated. Maybe if these young women created another 1911 Census debacle, there would be a more considerable repercussion.

Taking this into consideration, is it any wonder at all that government officials are able to pass bills dictating what is and isn’t against a woman’s human rights? It seems that the ‘New Feminists’ of this generation have forgotten what women’s’ rights are all about. When did the saying ‘sticks and stones’ become irrelevant? These young girls should be battling out for the education that their predecessors fought for and think less of what is on their bodies and more of what is inside their minds.

I don’t think that any die-hard fan of Made in Chelsea, will appreciate the tone of black and blue spoiling their fake bake tans.

For most women, free choice remains as unattainable as an investment handbag.’ Charlotte Raven, The Independent.

Nicola Keane

Charlie Says T.V Ruined Your Life, I agree.

The past few years has seen a rise in the public’s obsession with Vintage looks from clothing to cars.  This coincided conveniently with the television shows Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, set in the 1970’s and 1980’s respectively.

Social Media such as Facebook highlighted a sense of reminiscing or nostalgia from people of a certain age for the music, the fashion and the fun times had during this period.  It is of no surprise that the critical reception of these shows led to a demand for a return to these looks.  Look in the street and you will not have to look to hard or long for a white care to go whizzing past, reminiscent of the 70’s no?
Alongside this, big movie adaptations of the book Twilight depicting a time of love, romance, classic dress sense, and the sense of older world living, the recent movie explosion has just re-awakened this long serving affiliation within the public.  It taps into a perceived feeling of a time when ‘men were gentlemen’ and ‘women were ladies’. This wave of T.V and movies also opened up the door to an entire generation that otherwise may have never come across these trends.

History is our link to the past and a key to our future. In movie terms it is the closest we can get to time travel and so draws the viewer in with vast movie sets, fight scenes and glamorous costumes from epics such as Cleopatra and Ben-Hur, through to Braveheart, Gladiator, The Last Samurai and 300.  Historical accuracy has not always been of importance in the pursuit of box office figures, as Hollywood has long sought to entertain us with stories of historic battles where ‘good triumphs over evil’ at times glorifying war, with its big screen version of the ‘social conditioning box’. 
The popularity of historical movies is one that will continue for these very reasons.

This leads me on very nicely to the British fascination with stately homes and their ‘pomp’ as illustrated in the recent Royal Wedding between William and Kate.

The British love pomp.  “No body throws a party better than the Brits” someone recently told me after the celebrations had ended.  The British have a deep affection towards their architecture, Cathedrals, Palaces and the like.  Britain is a country with a history of class divides and today in the 21st Century, although the waters have been muddied, it still exists and it is this differing of class that drives the love of stately homes. It is about the lifestyle, or the idea of a lifestyle that goes with these homes, fuelling the fascination.  Country Life and Escape to the Country are T.V shows that generally air at a time when the majority of the public are at work, but for those not so fortunate, have to sit and watch as millionaire mansions are shown off in front of them.

Fashions is about trends and these trends are dictated to us by television and other media sources giving us the illusion of choice.

Together We Stand

Home, and the only one we have so cherish it, nourish it.

I believe someone needs to address the issue of race, in that there is one race and it is Human, and the word 'ethnic' in that the dictionary term means 'people of non Christian or Jewish faith' and them being heathens, or people with common features from a common homeland.  If this is the case then we are all from the same home, Earth, and have common features such as eyes, nose, mouth ears etc.

Too many times in the past I have sat and listened to, not just the BBC, but all media outlets categorise people in to groups by race or colour.  The crowning of Lewis Hamilton as the first 'black' formula one world champion for example, is one in a long line of media reports that serves to irritate me and others I know from so called 'black and ethnic minority' backgrounds.

As a human with a white mother and black father I find it shocking in the 21st century that someone successful from from a similar background gets referred to as being the first black formula one world champion, completely ignoring the fact half his family is in fact white.  This goes back to the old 'one drop rule' from America many years ago whereby if you have any African heritage make up then you are grouped as such.  Another example of this is of President Obama who was America's first black president but in fact he has white family too.  He famously quoted in 2006 that he had "family that looked like Bernie Mac and family that looked like Margaret Thatcher" yet the news outlets still to this day refer to him as the first black President.  I realise not everyone may understand my personal distaste for this, and neither did my own family once upon a time but I put it to them like this.  As a previous budding rugby player seeking a career  I wondered how they would have felt if I had made it and been given the honour of captaining England, only to be referred to as the first black England Rugby captain.  It was at this moment the point was understood.

The continued term of the word racism and the grouping of successful people into certain 'ethnic' groups gives a sense of specific belonging to people which is wrong.  At a recent Black and Ethnic Minority Members meeting within the FBU, I argued the point that a good role model to children should and could be anyone that demonstrated good morals or values and that this is not explicitly limited to colour.

Why can't a white male be a good role model to a black child? Or vice-versa?

In summary I believe that someone needs to take a leading role in changing this deep seated indoctrination that has gone on for too many years.  People claim to be looking for a socially accepting diverse culture, but this will not happen so long as we all keep empowering terms such as 'racism'.  The sooner mankind comes to realise we are one species, the sooner peace will come, and by media outlets moving to reinforce this message of togetherness by addressing the ways in which they talk about people in the news, the sooner it will happen and I for one would be happy to follow.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

All Is Fair In Meat and Veg

Vegetarians, a funny bunch some would have you think.  Born with incisors and flesh tearing teeth, it is surely natural to eat meat, the lord did offer us dominion over the land and sea animals yes?  Or no, I am perhaps not the best person to ask.

I stopped eating meat shortly after watching a documentary called 'Home' where it broke down the amount of grains grown for cattle, how cattle was transported etc, and the presence of a school friend who is vegetarian who every now and then would open up my eyes to another ridiculous aspect of farming. I decided I had had enough.  
Some vegetarians do not eat meat due to cruelty to the animals going the whole hog (no puns intended) and do not consume or wear anything to do with animals.  I had just had enough of the bull, so to speak.

I am not going to debate the rights or wrongs of eating meat, rather highlight some of the funnier things that happen when out ordering food or eating in general in this world of meat eaters.  

Most recently I was sat at a table in Nando's with a group of people all ordering chicken, hot Peri Peri sauces, corn on the cob, double coleslaw etc, it was a beautiful scene....right up until I asked for a "mushroom halloumi wrap".  The mood changed and I could have been mistaken for feeling like I had been dumped in the middle of a spaghetti western. The music stopped, someone coughed and a woman fainted before someone muttered "god damn man" though what the man in the sky has to say about my abstention from meat I do not know but if he wants to ask he can join the back of the line.  

The music resumed and everyone carried on, not the first time I've been sat in Nando's and bamboozled the person sat opposite me as they ordered half a chicken and I whispered something along the lines of "I'll just have a salad" then proceeding to chew on my leaves to a surprised audience.  It seems as if too many movies may have convinced some people I would rather have fried chicken and water melon over a good old Mediterranean vegetable mix or salad.
Waiters/waitresses also make me chuckle, particularly if you are with a lady when ordering your food, for when they return with your meal they automatically try to offer the leaf mix salad or meatless option to the lady, not even remotely considering the man sat at the table may be the herbivore, because men eat meat.  

Soccer AMs 'something for the men' meat video must have done it's job and done it well.

Before I move on if anyone at this point is feeling offended I again point you in the direction of the classy Australian comic 'Steve Hughes' ( you will not get leprosy.

Eating in groups, another challenge, particularly when working with fifteen hungry men halfway through a night shift.  The menu usually reads 'chicken or mince'.
You would go in, work away and sit down to a quick bite that had been rustled up by the mess manager who has taken the extra time needed to knock me up something slightly different to the rest of the troops. It was not always this way however as 'lasagne gate' showed when they had forgotten I was eating one night and I was left with a beef lasagna to "pick the beef out of".  My revenge was sweet as on my turn to feed them there was not a morsel of meat in site.

Having been veggie now for near on four years I simply forget to inform people that I do not eat meat which is fine....until someone offers to cook you a dinner on a date and you forget to mention you don't eat meat and your first mouthful you are pretty sure you are tucking into pork filled pasta.  Yum.  Not so bad, but then in the years leading up to my journey away from meat, pork was way down on the list of meats to eat.  In the interest of not wanting to ruin the occasion I just had to... keep calm, and carry on.

The variety in vegetarian foods is starting to increase with some vegetarian restaurants opening up over London.  Gone are the days when your choice was salad, with or without a jacket potato cheese and/or beans, today you will now likely get the odd quorn meal or tofu curry etc.  Supermarkets too have moved a long way from the questionable flavours of the cardboard tasting Linda McCartney selection but it is a heavy price to pay.

If you think meat is expensive wait until you have to cook for a veggie.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Good App Guide to Gluten Free Recipes...If Only

In March I wrote about how the NHS were considering the place of Gluten Free prescriptions and their removal off of their list ( and the potential impact this has on a portion of society where the price of their food alternatives are nothing short of daylight robbery.  This has now spread to the world of applications, those of us familiar with smart phones will know all about these little 'apps' as they are fondly referred too.

Coeliac Disease is an autoimmune disease which triggers an immune reaction in the human body if consumed.  This causes damage to the linings of the small intestine and can lead to damaging effects to other parts of the body.  One potential outcome of this is Cancer.

Gluten or wheat however is in virtually everything.

The list of signs and symptoms and common confusions are lengthy but for further reading I attach a link to the Coeliac UK page ( This is not meant to suddenly alarm people out there with any signs of these, but more of a heads up so you can learn about something new that seriously affects some of our fellow humans.

The 'i' newspaper yesterday.

You will no doubt be aware of the soaring cost in the price of food goods at the till, Gluten Free products start off at a hefty price in the first place, almost £3.00 for a loaf of bread that won't lead to cancer is quite a steep price I am sure you will agree.  This forced my hand to start baking bread for someone I know who was recently diagnosed Coeliac and has also led to some interesting sessions in the kitchen trying to create things from scratch as the price of these foods on the shelf are shocking (and generally flavourless)

"Billy get ya guns"
I am not afraid of the kitchen and have been cooking since I was 8, courtesy of a row at home once over what time dinner was served, and am confident but occasionally I like to follow a recipe and see how it turns out so I turned to the world of the 'App'.  There are literally thousands of applications out there now some free, some paid for, but not one dedicated free Coeliac Recipe app.  Now, if I wanted to punch a talking cat or design an imaginary gun there are free apps for this, but not for someone to create something real and meaningful from scratch that has a direct health benefit.  The closest you can get is 'Eden Recipes' which has a section by diet and a list of things to try.

Maybe they are too busy trying to groom children for war with themes of 'war porn'? After all, "there is a soldier in all of us".

The infamous 'Black Ops' advert

The cheapest is 0.59p of your English Sterling, which may not be expensive but it is not the point.  Coeliac Disease is a serious issue affecting a large number of people, some without even knowing perhaps, yet they are no longer being considered important by the NHS, charged through the teeth for tasteless crap at the supermarket and then penalised again at home if they decide to take up home made cooking because to get a recipe from an app will cost you somewhere between 60 pence and £3.00 if you do not have the Internet.

In all honesty it is not good enough.  The depth of this problem has become ever more present to me as even a quick stop for a sandwich whilst on the move becomes an effort as the vast majority of places, particularly in England,  just do not cater for Coeliacs full stop. My recent trip to Scotland highlighted a difference in attitude regarding Coeliac awareness with virtually every cafe or shop I visited offering a Coeliac option or menu and a care and strictness about the handling of foods that I have not encountered anywhere else.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Use Your Illusion

After a weekend away camping and hiking high up in the highlands I had found an inner peace away from the rat race of social conformity that is everyday life in the 'real' world.

Once again my coffee dependency was about to wreak havoc on my soul.

Hacking across country and back down the M6, chasing rainbows and little pots of gold, I decided to pull over for this coffee, the black gold that keeps you going through the night.
The first service station was a Costa stop, much to the dislike of copilot Keane. Starbucks however was over 100 miles away, unfortunately for her she lucked out this time round, and I was about to reap the comeuppance for the next two hours.

Walking up to the door I warned against the Costa shop being closed, after all it was only 20:30. As the automatic doors opened I saw that Costa was shut. There were signs for one upstairs but I was not going to hold my breath. This was just as well because it was shut too.
The 'Eat In' franchise Costa shop opposite was open so I bit the bullet and ordered my drink from there. The service was frosty, I had only asked for it to be made with soya and you would have thought I'd asked to sleep with his wife. He did inform me however that they just "didn't do soya". I paid my three bucks and walked out.

I rejoined the motorway and continued due south pressing on towards Starbucks for my lovely copilot. When we got there this too was shut.  The manager informed me that both North and Southbound Starbucks were shut.  Once again I headed upstairs to be confronted by some clown that informed me that KFC was shut, which was fine because I am a vegetarian.  I did however notice some self service tills, thinking smugly and secretly to myself that one day it will all be run by machines and jobs worth's like that will be complaining heartily about the monetary system.
I was now getting annoyed by the lack of coffee available to me at a reasonable time of 2100 on a busy motorway.  After a couple of minutes ranting in the entrance and a small discussion on weather or not I would get arrested for bringing my camping stove into the service station to brew some coffee we got back in the car and continued our journey which was now starting to descend into farce.

I was adamant I would get my fix.

So back on the road, the mood had turned and the music had gone from sweet soul to some angsty grunge, the signs about tiredness killing appearing every hundred yards it seemed, take a break they told me.  Manchester was in sight and the Knutsford service station I had been to time and again was just down the road.  I was on to a winner.

Or so I thought...


New venue, same drill.  Downstairs Costa? Shut.  Upstairs Costa? Shut.  Only the Eat in franchise Costa remained but once again I asked for "soya cappuccino" but this time the woman lied to my face.  "we haven't had a delivery today."  Now usually I am quite a placid guy but I draw the line at blatant lies, as my colleagues can attest too, so I informed her that the previous Eat in told me that they just did not do soya.  I thanked her for her lies and walked back down to the WHSmiths shop, fuming about the lack of service at a service station for the third time in an hour.
As we left the shop to leave we noticed a self service coffee machine by the entrance with a huge 'OUT OF ORDER' sign on it.  Upon taking a look it was obvious there was still power to the machine.  Nicola touched a button and it started to flicker.  She wondered if it was still working.  We had a little debate and headed back to the car to sit and defuse me from my latest caffeine set back.  Whilst we sat chewing away about everything being closed we started to talk about the coffee machine by the entrance and why it may be broken.  The more we spoke about it the less we believed it was out of order.
Being a student of International Marketing Nicola started to break it down to me how the principle of a franchise shop works and it became obvious.

The machine was in full working order but the sign was put on it to force people upstairs to buy from the franchise Costa at the Eat in restaurant.

It was all too much for me.  The illusion of choice that is forced upon us everyday made me snap.  I felt like Michael Douglas in 'Falling Down' and I needed to do something.

I stormed out of my car, flip flops flicking up rain and stumbled into the lobby area looking for a cash machine.  This was about to become the most expensive coffee of my life because service station ATMs, as you will know I am sure, charge you £1.99 to access your own money which is a scandal in itself but it would be worth it if I was right.
One of two things was about to happen.  I would either throw in my money only for the machine to chew it up and tell me it doesn't work, making me look like an utter prat OR it was going to work and I was about to get a coffee that would taste so great it would be fitting to be my last.

I walked up, put my money in and pressed the cappuccino button.  Some whirring happened, it went through a cleaning process and I started to deflate thinking that it was indeed out of order and I was in fact a little crazy seeing the con in everything.
Crazy eyes
Then something magical happened, a cup appeared, black gold poured from the dispenser and the air filled with aroma of conflict coffee beans, a smile spread across my face.  I grabbed my coffee, looked over my shoulder at the shop assistant in WHSmiths and gave him my best Grandma impression "mmmmm hmmm" and ran out to the car.
The 'Out of Order' Coffee

We took a sniff and a sip and it was golden,  I took a drop of my own soya milk to put in it and it was like little drops of heaven.  The shakes were leaving me and I was back.  Nicola could not believe we were right but upon reflection, of course we were right.  It made perfect 'profitability' sense.  Screw the consumer, and screw them as hard as we can for a buck.  Why would any sane, or unsane for that matter, person walk passed a £1.99 coffee machine to go upstairs for a £3.00 plus bit of fake Costa???

My anger was back and I decided to storm back into the lobby and up to the machine, doing a little Bambi dance in between with my wet flip flops, and rip the out of order sign clear off the machine so that the next poor sucker stopping at Kuntsford service station did not get screwed because they do not know any better.

The last supper
I decided my crazy had enough of an outing and I needed to get out of there before I got myself into some trouble.  We hit the motorway again, having a laugh at my craziness and a little hysterical at what we had just witnessed.  More questions than answers came to us.  Was the sign there in the day or only at night?  Had the company had any calls informing them of a fault? Did Costa really need to squeeze the market that tight for a few pennies?
That is all
We made a conscious decision to boycott Costa in future because they were now in the mould of Tesco...coming to think of it Costa have opened up IN Tesco!

The illusion of choice is real people,  it may only be a small example but things like this occur everywhere if you look hard enough.
Are you listening to me, or are you looking at the woman in the red dress?