Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Oh Mr Branson!

Below is a copy of the letter of complaint to Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic. It's been going the rounds and was published in The Telegraph as Is this the best complaint letter ever?

Well I don’t think it is because I have a book called The Complainer’s Guide to Getting Even and this letter doesn’t even come close to some of the letters in there. It could be the best letter of complaint about an airline. It’s quite funny, I like the way he write and addresses Richard Branson as Richard as though he knew him. So if you haven't already seen it, read on!

Dear Mr Branson

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation. Look at this Richard. Just look at it:

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?

You don't get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it's next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That's got to be the clue hasn't it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they. Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a desert with peas in:
I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you'll be fascinated to hear that it wasn't custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It's only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.

Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started desert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So lets peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what's on offer. I'll try and explain how this felt.

Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it's Christmas morning and you're sat their with your final present to open. It's a big one, and you know what it is. It's that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it's not in there. It's your hamster Richard. It's your hamster in the box and it's not breathing. That's how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it's more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It's mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.

Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard. By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it's baffling presentation:

It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn't want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.
I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.
Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous onboard entertainment. I switched it on:

I apologise for the quality of the photo, it's just it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson's face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:

Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over again throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that I switched off. I'd had enough. I was the hungriest I'd been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen. My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did it surpassed my wildest expectations:

Yes! It's another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff. Richard.... What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture between the Baaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I'd done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard, a cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your baaji-mustard.

So that was that Richard. I didn't eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can't imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary. As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It's just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to it's knees and begging for sustenance.

Yours Sincerely
..............

No this wasn’t a stunt it was a genuine complaint and according to Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson phoned Mr Beale and he was invited to help select the next range of meals they serve on board. Apparently he’s thinking about it!

The photographs and text reproduced from original and published on www.telegraph.co.uk

Monday, 26 January 2009

Poo Sticks!

If you're thinking that this is a post about A.A. Milne's story about Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh's game of throwing wooden sticks on the upstream side of a bridge and seeing whose stick passes under it first, think again. It's not! We're moving in a totally different direction and adding a whole new dimension and different spelling to the phrase Pooh Sticks.

A few days ago I received a letter in the post from the NHS. Crumbs I thought, time for the dreaded mammogram or smear test. Amazing how fast they come around. Unfortunately they're both due in the next few weeks and I'm trying to psyche myself up for them. However it wasn't. It was to inform me I was about to be invited to take part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme and that I would shortly be receiving a package in the post.

Apparently:

  • About one in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.
  • It is the third most common cancer in the UK
  • It's the second leading cause of cancer deaths, with over 16,000 people dying from it each year

The idea is that the tests pick up problems in people who have no syptoms.

The package duly came and included a test kit with full graphic instructions on how to use it. I won't go into detail but suffice to say it includes 6 cardboard sticks which have to be used for samples of you can guess what, on 3 separate dates. As if once wasn't bad enough!

Then I have to send it off to be tested. Thank goodness. I thought it was a DIY kit and I might have to do that too. The letter says I'll receive the results within a week. Pretty amazing really!

If there are any problems with the results I may have to repeat the test or go for a colonoscopy. I remember Pam's posting about her "dreaded procedure" so I'm hoping I don't have to do either. However if I do hopefully it will detect any problems early.

Now what else can they test us for? The mind boggles but I have to admit at least they're trying.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

“I Hope We Passed the Audition”

For Beatles aficionados there’s a programme tonight on Radio 2 at 10.30pm, I Hope We Passed the Audion which is introduced by Charlene Spiteri (ex Texas). It tells the story of the Beatles final, live and impromptu concert forty years ago from the rooftops of the Apple recording studios in London.

Around lunchtime on January 30, 1969, a din erupted in the sky above London’s staid garment district. Gray-suited businessmen, their expressions ranging from amused curiosity to disgust, gathered alongside miniskirted teenagers to stare up at the roof of the Georgian building at 3 Savile Row. As camera crews swirled around, whispered conjecture solidified into confirmed fact: The Beatles, who hadn’t performed live since August 1966, were playing an unannounced concert on their office roof.

Crowds gathered on scaffolding, behind windows, and on neighbouring rooftops to watch the four men who had revolutionized pop culture play again. But what only the pessimistic among them could have guessed—what the Beatles themselves could not yet even decide for sure—was that this was to be their last public performance ever.

Christine Gibson, American Heritage Magazine

John Lennon's final words that day provided the group's epitaph:

“I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

Friday, 23 January 2009

Google Doesn't Like me Anymore!

Well I don't know what I've done to upset Google but this is the message I'm getting when I try to visit anyone's Blog.


We're sorry...
... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.
We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a
virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.

If you're continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser's online support center. If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the
Google Web Search Help Center.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google.
The message came up after I had linked to the T- Mobile advert on You Tube that Gill posted. When I tried to go back to Gill's website to say how great the ad was this message came up.

After that I couldn't get into anyone else's postings. Take a look at the video, it's brilliant. Wish I had been there when they were filming, I wouldn't have been able to resist getting up and bopping about. They can't use all of it in the ad, would cost them a fortune. I'm dying to see it on telly.

Well I've tried what they suggested but nothing has worked and I don't have any kind of virus or spyware that McAfee can pick up. It's taken about 4 hours to scan my lap top but nothing is showing.

I can get into my Blog but nobody else's. Weird!

So, sorry if I don't visit you for a while. It's not that I'm ignoring you and I know I'll miss you and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Hope to see you soon and in the meantime, maybe I'll get some housework done!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Thank You Tim Berners - Lee!

You might wonder why I'm grateful to Tim Berners - Lee and what that has to do with a virtually empty perfume bottle. Well this scent has nearly driven me batty recently and thanks to Tim Berners - Lee, I can retain what little vestige of sanity I have.

This rambling is about scent, (perfume as the posher people call it) and my feeble attempts to track it down, so it could be a good time for those amongst you who are not interested in this topic to jump to the end of the posting and grab the gist. I've given you the opt out opportunity!

Well, I've had this scent for years because I don't use perfume very often. I got out of the habit when I shared a room with a colleague who drowned herself in Sunflowers. For those amongst you who don't know what Sunflowers smells like, well to me it has a very fresh strong smell rather like cucumber. Now don't get me wrong, I love cucumber, however I prefer it on a plate to eat, not wafting around me 8 hours of the day, permeating my olfactory senses as though I had a piece of cucumber wedged up my nose.

It made me realise perfume smells differently to various people, that not everyone likes your choice of scent and perhaps it's best left to be used in places where there is plenty of space around you, to let the smell dissipate. So I only use perfume occasionally now, when I go out somewhere nice. That's not very often these days. Sympathy for me, Ahhhhh!

Over the years I've managed to persuade loved ones not to buy me scent as I am very fussy about it; there aren't many I like. In a previous posting I mentioned having to give away or throw out some very expensive perfume presents because I couldn't stand the smell. Ungrateful rat that I am.

Well this bottle is one scent I do like, along with my old favourite Le Dix (Balenciaga) which I can't buy locally now. However I can't remember what the heck this scent's called. I've had it so long and I've thrown the box away; the bottle top was such a heavy one that kept dropping off and so I threw that away too. It has absolutely nothing on the bottle to identify it. I do know I bought it about 10 years ago in Lanzarote. As you see I'm not extravagant.

Racking my brains to recall it, I was sure it was made by one of the French designers, so that eliminated quite a lot of today's perfumes from the so called celebrities like Jade and Posh. However that was as far as I could go. So I put the bottle away for a few months in my "holiday" drawer (where I keep the bits and pieces I only ever use on holiday) so I wouldn't see it regularly and be reminded about it.

Now it wasn't so much that I was desperate to buy another bottle of the scent, although I decided I just might, if I couldn't find another perfume I like. As I say I'm fussy! However I went into the drawer for my granddaughter's inflatable armbands and I saw the bottle. Fatal! It started my brain off again, I put it in my handbag and decided to ask about it next time I went to a shop with a big perfume department. I did, and they very kindly tried to identify it, but not surprisingly it had them totally baffled. Well really it was a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

So back the bottle came and stood on the windowsill for a couple of weeks (well I don't pretend to be houseproud). Today, Lauren, my granddaughter sprayed what was left of it about in the living room and it smelled delicious. I decided there and then I was going to have to try to find out what it is, just on the off chance I can afford to treat myself when we go on holiday in May.

Off I went to the Internet and I researched perfume websites where they had dozens of perfume brands all in designer alphabetical order. I checked all the main ones, Balenciaga, Balmain, Givenchy, Saint Laurent and so on but with no success. Then I decided that maybe I had got it wrong and it wasn't a French designer, so I went through the rest. That took over an hour, I hadn't realised just how many perfumes there are out there!

I kept wishing that there was an alphabetical list of perfumes with a photo of the bottle. I felt sure I'd recognise it if I saw the name. At this point I started to wonder whether it had been discontinued. That didn't worry me too much, at least I would know what the blinking scent was called and could throw the bottle away and forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind.

So Google to the rescue! I put "discontinued perfumes" in the search and it brought up a site with perfumes in alphabetical order. Not necessarily discontinued ones though, it seemed every perfume ever invented came up. Undaunted I started at the letter A, as you do. I worked my way through to I and was getting a bit naffed off by this lengthy but comprehensive search. So I put the thinking cap on again. I decided to do a bit of that sort of free thinking, you know when you let your mind go a bit blank (not hard for me) and see what comes into it, well that's if you're lucky! I
t kept running through my mind that it was two words both starting with the same letter. Once I got that, I suddenly thought of the letter V. Amazing! I have no idea where it came from. I still hadn't a clue about what the words were though.

Never mind I went to the letter V and worked my way through. Eureka! There it was, Vice Versa by Yves Saint Laurent. So would that mean it was discontinued because I'd already checked the Saint Laurent website for their perfumes early on? So I did another search and found a website with information about the scent. Apparently it's a limited edition. No wonder those poor women in the perfume department didn't recognise it if it's not even on the Yves Saint Laurent website. Looks like there are a couple of websites I can buy it from. Well I could if I had £60 to spare. I don't, so that's that. At least it's stopped me wondering about what it's called because I think it would have definitely driven me batty.

Now lots of people probably think I am batty, letting something as insignificant as that irritate me when life has so many other problems. PG Wodehouse called them "life's banan skins", love that expression. Anyway I think it's the little things that do get on our nerves and if we can get them out of the way, we can focus on life's bigger issues. I remember at work on occasions I would have a massive problem thrown at me and I didn't bat an eye. I just sat down and thought about how I could resolve it. Yet on other occasions, something really small would get me going, irritate the life out of me and on a couple of occasions I threw a bit of a wobbler!

Once I had the information I started thinking about the Internet, how it really helps us in all sorts of ways we couldn't have imagined twenty years ago. How we can meet and communicate across the globe almost instantly with people and how we have the world's information at our fingertips. Information, a mammoth library to help us resolve the "silly" little things in life like identifying my scent bottle, useful stuff like researching and booking holidays and interesting stuff like finding the latest medical information, new hobbies and interests.

This is where my gratitude to Tim Berners - Lee comes in. Well after all he did invent the World Wide Web, nearly twenty years ago and I'm not sure he gets the credit he deserves for it. Surprise, surprise, in this day and age of computer greed (think Microsoft et. al.) he gave it away free! How altruistic was that!

So thanks Sir Tim, I'm really grateful to you and for more than finding my elusive scent.

What's a Gansey?

                                                Photograph courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums It's a seaman's kni...