I really wish it was possible to dress so stylishly nowadays. And in clothes made entirely of plastic, so on a day like today I could lose well over a stone and possibly die in just a few hours.
Hat tip: Mike Knell (@mpk)
Oh, there's so little point in embarking on the course I have embarked upon, yet I have embarked upon it: the modern version of "go fight City Hall", "go argue with the BBC".I'm a huge BBC fan. I have to say this, because there are a very tiny but extremely loud minority of sociopaths, right-wing loonsacks and general hard-of-thinking fools who believe the BBC is biased to the right/left/centre, is too/not enough progressive, sucks up/insults the government, is anti/pro war, and would be better if scrapped so that Mr Murdoch's empire could have free rein and save us from any or all of these supposed ills. I am not one of those fuckwits. Certainly not: I actually think that the licence fee is too little and should probably double (and then be index-linked to the Sky subscription price, as a counterweight). But there's no denying that the current BBC management are failing, dismally, to manage the BBC very well on a number of levels. Whose idea was it to sack experienced, dedicated people in London in order to hire cheaper people in Salford? Whose idea was it that BBC-2 should be rudderless and seemingly without a reason to be? Whose idea was it to sell Television Centre like this was still 1994? Whose idea was it to cave in to everything and more a pro-Murdoch, anti-BBC government wanted without a fight? This lack of management has begun to filter down through the ranks. With nobody leading at the top, the middle management has got confused and the bottom management is operating without support, so much so that I've had reason to complain to the BBC twice in the last couple of months – and I almost never complain to the BBC, mainly because it's an exercise in futility, but also because, as I say, I'm a huge BBC fan. I've previously detailed how I complained to the BBC over a trivial – oh, go on then, anal – matter of them putting on-screen, at prime time, on BBC-1, wrong phone numbers. The promo makers – possibly Red Bee Media in these outsourced days, I don't know – grouped a London number as 0208 576 9785, when the code for London is 020 and the number therefore is 020 8576 9785. Anybody in London who doesn't know that 020 is the code would dial 576 9785 and wait for about 45 seconds before the schoolmistress BT voice broke in to tell them to check the number and dial again you idiot. I hoped that the BBC would accept this point and say that they'd try to get the numbers right in future. My mistake: they justified it instead. After careful research, the BBC has found that grouping numbers in "easy to remember" clusters is now policy. Of course, I had to get back to them (they make you go back to the website, jump through all the hurdles again and write your reply in a tiny box, possibly just for the lulz) and, tactfully or otherwise, call their bluff. If there has been research into such a preposterous subject, then please can they produce it, I asked. So they ignored me. Needless to say, I've put in a Freedom of Information request to attempt to unlock this research they claim to have done. I'm awaiting a reply, but if (when) that produces the reply "we can find no record of such research", then the next step is to take it to the BBC Trust: not because of the damn telephone numbers, but because the BBC, like everybody else, doesn't have carte blanche to lie to people when they can't find an actual justification for what they're doing. Who do BBC Complaints think they are, politicians? I was typing my FoI request while listening to BBC Radio 4's six o'clock news. Three quarters of the way through, their science correspondent came on with a package about exciting research done by the charity Diabetes UK that offered real hope for a cure for diabetes. Several paragraphs of about the detailed "scientific study" were read out before, in a classic "Paragraph 19 denial", the correspondent added that the "study" was of 11 people. Eleven people? Nothing scientific, nothing statistically significant, nothing of note at all can come from a study of 11 people. A beat later and he 'fessed up that, of those 11, only 7 had had a medium-term improvement in their condition. He then added a brief disclaimer hinting that the science wasn't up to much and the package ended. In short, the man had come on the radio and read out Diabetes UK's press release. I complained out loud Twitter and then directly to BBC Complaints – again in full knowledge that doing so will be futile and, on past evidence, knowing that they'll tell easy lies to make me go away. Interestingly, Diabetes UK saw my Twitter complaint. They were at pains to point out that they did think the research was important… but also that an 11 person study wasn't up to much and that they needed to ensure scientific rigour was evident in future; but particularly that my concern was valid and they hoped that the BBC would listen, which suggests a lot of things about that particular report, none of them flattering to the BBC. I await the reply from the BBC, even if it is just fobbing me off as I expect, with real interest – and will report back.
It’s my monthly team meeting for work today, so I have to get up at Stupid o’Clock, get 3 trains to Harrogate, prove that I’ve actually done some work in the last month, then get 3 trains home and collapse into bed.I pitched up at the mainline station at about 0650 for the 0715 train forward. At this time of a morning, I can barely focus without help, so I’m not at my best. I popped into WHSmith, seeking a taurine-based beverage to prevent me sleeping past Leeds again and perhaps something breakfasty-sandwichy. Sadly, WHSmith couldn’t help with the sandwich, but they did have something called “Monster” that promised, almost, to be speed in liquid form. They also had an offer on Walkers crisps: 99p each and buy one, get one free (BOGOF is the trade jargon). I grabbed two big bags of Quavers and a Monster and queued to pay. When I got to the head of the queue, the woman at the till said “If you get two Walkers bags, one of them’s free, like”. Yeah, I said, these are Walkers, pointing to the Walkers logo. “No, it’s just them Grab Bags” she said. Uh huh, I said, pointing to the words “Grab Bag!” emblazoned on the front. “No”, she said, clearly now a woman on the edge, “them’s big bags. The offer’s on the others, like”. Clearly, we were at an impasse. The shelf with the Quavers was clearly labelled with the offer, I offered, and with that she catapulted out from the tills and on to the shop floor. I scurried after her, surprised at the speed she was making. I arrived at the Quavers shelf just as she finished removing the offer label. “See?” she said triumphantly, crumpling the label in her left hand, “Those bags aren’t included”. I was clearly being outplayed here, if such an obvious and painful lie could be told to my face without shame. She watched as I put the Quavers back and selected two, lesser, packets I didn’t really want instead. I paid and left. I’m sure she felt she’d done the right thing by her store. I’m sure the store also would feel the right thing had been done. The sanctity of the offer was maintained, WHSmith didn’t lose money, Walkers got what it wanted from the marketing support they must be offering. Capitalism did really well. Of course, now the WHSmith brand is damaged in my mind, with collateral damage to the Walkers brand. And I’ve spread this damage to my friends on Twitter and Facebook and now this blog. It won’t bankrupt either brand, but perhaps 40 or 50 people will spend the day feeling a bit negative about WHSmith. Some will be tipped over into not shopping there today. Others will forget this exchange but remember “wasn’t there something dodgy about Smiths’s special offers?” and stand a bit back next time they’re tempted by one, looking for the scam. The total damage to WHSmiths revenue will probably be less than ??100 so it’s nothing they will worry about, which is a shame. As for me, I’ll deprive them of profit for a few weeks (I’m out of Smints, but I’ll buy them at a locally-owned store at Harrogate station rather than Smiths at Leeds) then forget this incident and go back to shopping there. But I’ll join those who’ll never trust their special offers again.
Ah, some good times for a change: Kate and Jon (Best Woman and Man of Honour at our wedding) got engaged in New York earlier this week. Yay!