Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Corrections, clarifications and recriminations

They say the best things in life are free.

They can't have read the Metro.

On 11 June the Metro printed a story wherein they called Mencap a mental health charity.

A mistake. Fine. It happens. So I emailed their corrections and clarifications address pointing out that they are a learning disability charity and that learning disability and mental health are quite different things.

Checked the paper the next day...no correction.

Checked the paper the day after...still no correction. All the time, other corrections are being printed.

So I emailed them again asking for a reply and adding that it was Learning Disability Week (at the time) and ironically enough the theme this year was 'what is a learning disability?' The reason for this theme being a general misunderstanding about the nature of learning disability, so it would be a really apt and helpful correction to print.

Nothing.

I emailed one more time because hope springs eternal right?

Then after a long pause...............................(these dots represent said long pause, to immerse you, dear reader, in the experience.....................and lo, at last, an answer! Oh. A rather snarky answer. Odd.

"Thank you for your notes.
Mencap has been described as a mental health charity in the media for many years.
A quick Google search will find many references in the media and I am old enough to remember the origin of the Mencap name.
Having said that, I take your point and note the current description of the charity as ‘the voice of learning disability’.
In future references to the charity we will endeavour to use ‘learning disability charity’ or similar. But ultimately, the charity and not the media is responsible for getting its message across and for the way it is portrayed. Our aim with descriptors generally is to let readers know who we are talking about and that inevitably may reference the past"

They agreed to use the correct term in future, which is good, but what's with the snark and the smug?

The (strangely overconfident for someone who is wrong) assertion that it started as a mental health charity and that he himself knows this from being aged and wise and knowing the origin of the name.

(Anyone who had an actual grasp of the name would know that it comes from The Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults. Hence Mencap. Not Menhealth)

Then the compounding of that incorrect factoid born of muddled memory or guesswork by only conceding that the correct description - borne out by a visit to their website - is actually merely the 'current description'. So begrudging and sulky.

The batting back of responsibility for their mistake to MENCAP, even though MENCAP get their message across very clearly thanks very much. Something that is undermined by incorrect reporting over which they have very little control.

The inference that previous incorrect references in the media mean that the media can repeat said wrongness ad nauseum, because fact checking is for losers right?

And a worrying reference to perfunctory Google searches, which explains a lot about the quality of their journalism.

They never printed the correction either. A correction that was definitely worth printing. The most they could promise is that they would try to use the 'current' (for current read correct) term from now on, but may inevitably fail.

Nice people. Excellent journalists. Great paper.

Correction: Twats, hacks, rag.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ghost Hunt!

Hey look, it’s another sporadic blog entry!

Sorry, no discipline. It’s just so much easier to post a 140 character Tweet. Maybe that thing about the internet destroying attention spans wasn't a myth...oh look, a poodle...sorry what was I doing here?

Oh yes, one of my infrequent blogs. I suppose it keeps it special though, eh? Like spotting a yeti or a ghost.

And speaking of...

A couple of weeks ago, I went to 30 East Drive. A property billed as being home to Europe's most violent poltergeist.

As you can tell, I'm still alive. That's one spoiler alert that I can't help, sorry.

I answered an invitation from a friend who I met when I was doing comedy. He goes on lots of ghost hunts and has all of the equipment; emf meters, temperature gauges, night vision cameras.

I figured at the very least it would make for a more interesting than usual response to the dreaded “What did you do at the weekend?” question you get at the work tea point every Monday morning. A refreshing change to: “Not much, you?” - “No, not much”

Providing I survived. Which we have already established I did. More spoilers!

As we turned off the motorway on to the a-road leading to Pontefract we were greeted by a huge sign in a field which said ‘Prepare to Meet Your God’. A fantastic omen.

I should probably stop here for a moment and just state my position.

I was going along as an open minded sceptic. I like to think I am logical, rational and all those synoyms – see my previous blog entry on ghosts and how we frame everything backwards according to experience and preconception – however when I was little a few things happened which are hard to explain.

My dad was pushing me on a swing in our back garden. My mum was in hospital having just had my brother. I started waving and saying goodbye to, apparently nobody. Dad asked who I was waving to. I named the person and said they were saying goodbye and going away. When we got to the hospital we bumped into my nan who said that her neighbour, of that name, had just died.

I don't remember this as I was too young, so I can't conclude anything. The only explanation I have is that I may have overheard the grown-ups talking about her. Maybe they were mentioning she was ill or something and my imagination went with it. I didn't know her and hadn't interacted with her. My nan lived on the Old Kent Road and I lived in West Wickham. At that age, I only went there for a couple of hours at Christmas.

The house in West Wickham was weird too. My mum didn't like to be there on her own. When she put the TV on heavy footsteps started going up and down the stairs. Then when she muted it, they abruptly stopped. I used to claim there was an old man in the house, coming up the stairs. I used to run to bed and clean my teeth under the duvet. Again, I can’t conclude anything. I was too young to remember seeing him. I have no memory of any of it. But I have been told all of the stories. Here’s one which is really rather creepy.

Mum says I had a toy bunny, like the ones in the Duracell adverts, which I used to play with to excess. It was taken off me one day to give my parents some peace. The batteries were taken out and the bunny was placed on the top of a wardrobe out of my reach. In the middle of the night what do my parents hear? The bunny. Batteries back in, marching around my bedroom floor whilst I watched on from my crib. If I'd have been on the ball I would have said “They're heeeeere” in a squeaky voice. Ah, l'esprit d'escalier.

I can't think of an explanation for that one. But the absence of an explanation still doesn't mean ghosts. So yeah, open minded sceptic. More things in heaven and earth, only know I know nothing etc etc.

Whatever, back to the ghost hunt!

30 East Drive is an ordinary looking, fairly modern council property. A strange place for a black monk to haunt you might think. He should be in an abbey or a castle. But apparently there was a gallows on the site of the house and he was hanged for a crime he didn't commit, hence the restless spirit roaming the earth story. There is also supposed to be a little girl in there, and according to the neighbour, an evil elemental in the bathroom. Quite off-putting when you're on the loo I expect.

First impressions on entering were: it's freezing, it smells funny, the atmosphere is tangibly 'orrible. The former two were down to the property being uninhabited, the latter because of the story behind the house. It was odd though, being that struck by the unpleasantness of a place, despite the rational explanation.

(The d├ęcor didn't help. The guy who bought the house – the producer of the movie about it, which we watched in the house that night, woooooo! – has done his best to recreate the look of the place at the time of the poltergeist activity. Old furniture, old carpet, bare beds, creepy china dolls. He has bloody well succeeded)

The cold was weird though it has to be said. I've been in a house that hasn't had the heating on for a long while. This was a different cold. Extra cold. It clung to you. Literally. There was a point in the night where I thought someone was squeezing my legs (actually there was a point where someone really did this – hid under a bed and grabbed my ankles in the dark – I didn't flinch and am therefore, in the words of Alan Partridge, braver than ten firemen and a dozen policemen) The time I am talking about though, I was standing alone in the main bedroom. It felt like something tightening around my legs. I stood there for ages, trying to be objective about this weird feeling. Then I looked down and it turned out the cold and damp had caused my jeans to cling to my legs really tightly. I see now why people on Most Haunted keep insisting that someone is touching their leg (apart from the need to fabricate activity for their TV show that is) There were also sudden drops in temperature in certain isolated spots now and then.

“But were there any weird occurrences?” I don’t hear you say because how could I? Well, one or two.

When we were setting up for the baseline tests my friend found that all of his fully charged batteries had drained to zero power. Apparently this is something commonly reported at 30 East Drive. He put them in the wall charger and we went off to do some of the tests as a group. When we all came back, the wall charger had been switched off. Nobody admitted to doing it. We were all upstairs and the front door was locked. That was interesting. Not beyond explanation but interesting.

During the early hours light orbs were seen on film and on still camera – some say this is supposed to be ghosts trying to manifest, some say it's reflection and dust. So debatable and explainable. There was however an unexplained light which flashed brightly when we were asking for activity. We were in the sitting room and it flashed past the glass door connecting to the kitchen. It was like a car headlight but much more focused and very bright. Our resident die hard sceptic was in the kitchen at the time and my mate said that it had pained the guy to report that there were no cars going past when it happened. That too was interesting and we can't find an explanation for the source of the light. All of the lights and torches were off and the biggest sceptic among us was in the room where the light came from.

The best bit of the night was when we all went off to sit in different parts of the house in the dark. My friend went into the coal shed, where the dad who lived there at the time of the poltergeist activity got locked in by unseen hands, apparently. A friend of his who was standing outside in the kitchen asked “Where are you in the house? Are you in the coal shed?” At which point the motion sensor outside the coal shed went off. My friend leaped out of there and ran at his mate, who kicked the kitchen door shut behind them. My friend decided to put that down to setting up the motion sensor carelessly and it falling over by itself. Amazing timing though eh? Only time in the night it went off.

In the absence of actually seeing a ghost, shaking its hand and having a chat, I remain an open minded sceptic. It was a fun night though and I would recommend a ghost hunt whatever your perspective on the matter.

Here are some photos

The group at the start of the night


Sign on the kitchen door


Creepy decor


Using the emf meter in the coal shed


Stairs where the black monk is supposed to walk


Watching the film about the house, in the house


Waiting for something to happen in the dark


Lights out selfie

Monday, 26 January 2015

Now *that's* magic

Hi. Sorry for never blogging. It's a combination of being way too busy and not interesting enough.

Anyway, before I disappear back into silence, I wanted to show you something.

My friend Jane got me the birthday present to end all birthday presents: A personalised message from Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee.

Drink it in:

Friday, 15 August 2014

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics

Women. We love nothing more than a good old gossip don’t we?

No, that is not a crass generalisation; it’s a fact.

It is. A study has gone and proved it.

Well, I say study. It was more of an amateurish internet survey by a wine retailer, for soulless marketing purposes, that was riddled with data input errors; but, whatever, statistics don’t lie.

(Spoiler alert: They do)

The results revealed that us ladies are officially addicted to tittle-tattle, and are unable to keep a secret in our silly female brains for more than a measly 47 hours and 15 minutes, at the absolute maximum.

I was quite disappointed when I read that I have to say. What a terrible bunch of harpies we must be.

But then I remembered that I took part in the survey at which point I was thoroughly relieved to be able to dismiss the conclusions out of hand. Phew!

The survey was hosted by a website which I’m registered to that offers cash and prizes for questions. Just like in politics, right guys? Satire, zing!

This website is the banal source of all those pointless Metro newspaper mini articles which say stuff like “The celebrity people would most like to have afternoon tea with is Sharon Osborne, and the celebrity most people would least like to have afternoon tea with is Katie Price”

Yep, if you’ve ever wondered where this arbitrary information originates from, it’s this survey website.

And by the way, the celebrity people would most like to have afternoon tea with is not Sharon Osborne per se; ditto the inverse scenario for Katie Price.

Nobody actually gets to volunteer their choice you see.

You get a list of about ten people that you can choose from for each question.

Sharon Osborne is not in the ‘wouldn’t like to’ list and Katie Price is not in the ‘would like to’ list. They have already helpfully categorised the celebrities according to how popular they are perceived to be in the first place.

All very leading...

It doesn’t really matter for the most part. Skewing the results of an inconsequential celebrity afternoon tea survey is fairly low level stuff. But when they start spewing out casual misogyny left and right, you tend to sit up and take notice.

It’s not only leading and limited questions that are the problem on this website. It’s that, even when they’re not incessantly trying to get you to say exactly what they want, they’re just generally sloppy.

For example sometimes they just forget to give you a ‘not applicable’ option.

For instance, say they’re doing a survey about punching the Queen. And the first question is "Have you ever punched the Queen?"

They will give you a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ option for the first question.

You select ‘no’ (hopefully – that’s treason guys!) and then move on to question two which is…

“How hard did you punch the queen? – Very hard, Hard, Normal, Normal but with a hammer, Gently…”

No ‘not applicable’ option. But you can’t continue without picking an answer, so you have to check anything just to move on. And you tend to, because there’s cash to be had.

It’s sloppy and the results that their sponsors are paying to gather are really not worth the paper they’re written on.

Which brings me back to the survey about bloody awful sneaky lying women.

The question was, “How long is it before you tell a secret?”

The options were, “One minute, ten minutes, thirty minutes, one hour, three hours, six hours, twelve hours, twenty four hours, one week, one month”

HOW ABOUT NEVER?

So, once the (inevitable) results were in Michael Cox, UK Director of Wines of Chile, who commissioned the research, sent out a press release saying: "It's official – women can't keep secrets”

And that quote got used in the news. The real news! Where factual things get relayed and people take them to be…fact. Thanks Michael, you’re my hero.

He then went on to say that “juicy gossip can really flow after a couple of glasses of wine” (Don’t know about you but I’m picturing him holding up his product with a dead eyed smile as he said that) Fancy propping up misogyny to sell wine Michael, that’s not very nice.

But it’s not all Michael’s fault. Leave him alone, he’s had enough.

Gender stereotypes – however untrue – are vigorously maintained throughout the media all the time. So often in fact that we don’t even notice anymore; they are just part of the everyday landscape. Oh yes readers, I have seen the Matrix (not the film, the idea from the film) (I have also seen the film)

Rom coms, sitcoms, adverts. Mostly those bloody adverts, full of boring killjoy women rolling their eyes at silly men, whilst the men are all trying to avoid their wives and girlfriends so they can eat some Pringles (?) and actually have fun. Something women kill dead, right lads? Yeah, it’s cool, I’m not like other women. I speak your language.

Oh yes and then there’s that, the thing I just did there. The worst result of all this nonsense. Women who have bought into the lies about their own gender so much that they go around trying to ingratiate themselves with men by saying stuff like “I don’t get on with other women, they’re all so bitchy and girly” The fuck? Don’t do that. That’s the kind of thing Michael Cox would do. Sorry Michael, I’ll leave you alone now I promise.

This bullshit battle of the sexes, which I don’t actually recognise from real life at all, is accepted as being a true and tangible thing. Usually to shift gender specific products. Or fun Pringles for fun man time….yeah, I still don’t see it.

Sometimes, just sometimes, people recognise half of the problem (their own half usually)

Men will write into the Metro saying “why do adverts make us all look oafish and stupid and women look smart and sensible” Then they’ll get a rant on about bloody women. Like all women wrote the advert.

Then women will write in and say “why do adverts make us all look like such awful nags?” Then they’ll get a rant on about bloody men. Like all men wrote the advert.

Nobody joins forces and says “wait a minute, we’re both being painted to look bad in our own way…hmm, it must be because this is how advertisers use their very limited screen time to sell us stuff. By being really basic and simplistic and therefore using stereotypes that weirdly appeal to us after years of being whacked over the head with them so hard that we’ve ended up with some form of Stockholm Syndrome where we actually cling on to them a bit and carry them on ourselves. Oh yeah, this isn’t something we should be taking into our lives and applying there. Sod you Mr Pringles, I can eat your crisps with my wife and still have fun”

What I’m saying, in a really cack handed way is, people are people, with very individual experiences, characteristics and ideas. Gender sometimes informs certain things about people, like whether they wear a bra or not for example, although…no, that’s another topic.

So ignore adverts (that’s just good advice in general), don’t believe rom coms (not just for the gender stuff, they also give people a truly warped vision of how relationships work) and the next time you read a headline that claims some study or other has proven a stereotypical behaviour exists, remember Michael Cox and his bloody awful wine survey. Ok, leave Michael alone now.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Derek Acorah & his Wacky Rape Theory

Last year I saw Derek Acorah's book 'Haunted' in a bargain bin.

Well, I say 'bargain' bin, it was a staggering 50p, which I think we can all agree, is too much.



But I’m a big fan of the crap autobiography. They can produce some real gems such as this moving story of redemption by cheeseburger from Jim Bowen’s ‘Right Place, Right Time’



Or pretty much everything Paul Daniels wrote in his autobiography.

So I reluctantly paid my 50p and took home what I thought would be at worst an amusing read.

For the most part I was right. The first chapter for example, offered up musings such as: "...at times I come across spirit beings who are behaving in an anti-social manner"

Honestly, spirits today!

But then a few chapters later this paragraph popped up:

"I explained to Terry that, difficult though it might be to come to terms with, it is my belief that before we enter our physical lives we choose the way in which we will live those lives. We choose the burdens we will have to carry, the things we will have to endure and also the manner of our passing"

How naive of him, I thought. He clearly hasn't considered all sorts of stuff like death in childhood, brutal murder, wrongful execution or rape.

Actually, it turned out that he had.

In the next chapter he talked to a woman whose father raped her throughout her childhood. There’s no way he could think anyone would agree to that before they were born right?

"As Nancy related this story to me I realised that unfortunately this was a case where people have to undergo certain harsh experiences in their lifetime in order to achieve soul growth. In other words, they had agreed to these experiences before they had incarnated into their physical bodies"

Wrong.

If his theory is true (it isn’t) but if it is (it isn’t) then it would explain why he recently refused to do a breathalyser when caught driving drunk.

This obviously was not one of the things he contractually agreed to before he was born. His hands were tied.

This is a probably a good juncture to insert the screen shot I took late one night of Mr A mistaking the ‘tweet’ function for the direct message option



Sure you haven’t Derek, sure you haven’t.

So the book went from the bargain bin, to the recycling bin and as I put it out with the paper recycling I hoped that Acorah’s book would come back as something more useful.

The same goes for Acorah, when he passes in the manner of his own choosing.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Wit & Wisdom of Paul Daniels

If you were to say to me “so, read any good books lately?” the answer would be a definite “no”

But who wants to read a good book when you have Under No Illusion, the life story of magician Paul Daniels, at your disposal?

It is better than good. It is bad. So bad it is bad and therefore good. But mostly bad. Very bad.

I would like to share with you some of the highlights. Brace yourselves.

We start with his dramatic entrance:


We experience the cold, budgie-killing reality of war:


Something that really gets up his nose by the way, bloody war:


The Holocaust didn’t bother him that much though, until he saw a film:


He finds fat ladies far more traumatic:


Not as traumatic as he finds homosexuals though:


Thankfully nobody has ever thought he was gay, no sir:


He has urges:


And casual sex (a whole chapter thereof):


And rages with lust:


Although his erotic nightmares do point to some sort of issue with women:


As well as his treatment of prostitutes:


And his description of their lady bits:


Oh and his attitude to women in comedy:


And the fact he thinks they are all filthy:


Oh and by the way, as a grown man, he bites toddlers:


He has an interesting name for his penis:


Has an even more interesting take on racism:


Has a yet even more interesting take on the teachings of Gandhi:


He hates cheese, not like you, you idiot:


He once got covered in poo from a faulty boat toilet. One for the memoirs:


He’s not dead, obviously:


He abused his position in local government to spy on his first wife’s lover:


And then presented the lover and wife with a dossier whilst they were in bed:


But things turned around when he met Debbie McGee and they had sex in a rowing boat:


And finally, his most valuable life lesson. Take note:

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Best of 2013

So here we are at the end of another year.

This can only mean one thing....

No, not that we are all advancing ever closer to our inevitable deaths. Although we are.

No, on this occasion the other one thing it means is....it’s time for my review of the year blog.

I try to fill the gap in the market left by most of these types of article.

Instead of covering news stories, significant events or anything interesting at all, I cover whatever nonsense I have stumbled across throughout the year and photographed on my phone.

Enjoy:

Best book swap


Best courgette


Best newspaper correction


Best relocation for people's alleged convenience


Best mysterious claim


Best etiquette guide


Best awkward owner-pet relationship


Best passive aggressive sanitary product


Best website pop up


Best Peter Simon moment


Best quiz in lieu of a pregnancy test


Best Jeremy Kyle topic


Best Catchphrase clue


Just what IS Mr Chips doing?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year