Monday, December 24, 2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Ok, so here are my ups and downs of the year. Let's start with the bad and finish with the good, the way I like to eat meals.
  1. Messy break up and domestic situation with the ex. Though it has taught me to trust my instincts more.
  2. Having to go to Dubai for 4 days and hating every minute. I think my mind at the time, my role in being there and the environment really disagreed with each other.
  3. Mice in the kitchen.
  4. The realisation that I haven't really moved forward in my life in any meaningful way this year, even though I started it with grand ideas.
  5. Err...having to sleep in a minging couchette with a couple of fragrant Italians on the way to Greece? No I don't think that counts. It's actually not been a bad year at all.
The good stuff:
  1. Meeting the current girlfriend. I'm deliriously happy. And I've learnt a simple truth about love - that if it's real they want you as you are.
  2. Dog-sledding under the Northern Lights in Norway. A real once in a lifetime memory. Awesome.
  3. I'm going to put my recent promotion in here even though I might get a bit of stick (work isn't everything after all) because a) I like getting more money (company car anyone?) and b) I'm not entirely sure what it means yet and where I fit into the new world at work. So the new year will start on a positive note, with new opportunities. I've already been invited to have a look around one of our offices - just to familiarise myself with the set up.
  4. My break away from life, the universe and everything on a remote Greek island. If you want your head sorting out, I can heartily recommend it.
  5. Realising that I actually like myself. I may be a bit lumpy in places, I don't have eight degrees and I'm as useless with money as I am with knowing when to say 'no' in the pub - but I've decided that I'm allll-right. None of this superflous stuff matters. If you're happy with yourself and have friends and loved ones that agree, then I reckon you've mastered the meaning of life. Everything else is just window-dressing.
It took me a long time to figure that last one out. Ohhh, approximately 28 years or thereabouts. I'm not a subscriber to the theory of depression being chemically induced and it was with professional help that I finally, positively accepted who I am. And I feel fantastic for it. Of course I'm still going to have my ups and downs, everyone does, but life seems so much more filled with joy and opportunity than it did at any other point in my life.

So this year, whilst I haven't moved on tangibly with my situation, I have greatly sorted myself out emotionally. What this means is that I'm in a much better frame of mind to start living a bit more next year, to take some more risks. I now recognise what is important to me and as long as I have that I can't really fail can I? Hopefully next year I'll have a long list - even if they're all downers, at least it'll be because I tried.

Why Internet shopping is about to land flat on it's arse

As I sit in my office on the day before Christmas reflecting on the reality of what a 'delivery estimate' of the 24th Dec actually means I feel a little sad inside. Not because this package was going to 'make' Christmas - it's an inconvenience easily solved - but because internet shopping was supposed to be the opposite of the way it's become. It was supposed to be the convenient way to shop - no crowds, low prices, delivered wherever you wanted. But it hasn't quite worked out that way.

First off, last week I bought a very nice gift that I thought would be perfect for my special someone - only to have it stolen in the post by someone from the Royal Mail. You'd expect Special Delivery to have some meaning to it, but seems the only meaning is that it gets stolen before 9am the next day.

I've had endless problems with courier companies not able to deliver the goods, so to speak. And today I'm waiting for an order that I placed in plenty of time and kicking myself for being a cheapskate and opting for free delivery.

Last year I managed to buy just about everything online, and I had no problems whatsoever. This year I've been far less ambitious and everything's been screwed up. I think the difference this year is that everyone else is trying to do the same.

The thing is, if a shop is too busy you leave and go to a different one. But online retailers have no such problem - from their point of view. If Amazon's website is getting too busy just ramp up the bandwidth or stick in some more servers. What's often forgotten is that behind that web front there are actual people picking up and sorting actual boxes of actual stuff, and we're relying on crap couriers to take this stuff to our doors. They can only go so fast but there is no way of telling from the website how busy they are. Apparently I'm not the only one to notice this degradation in service.

This is what I'm angry about. It could have been so good - no more being ripped off because your local music shop is HMV, no more paying John Lewis prices for electronics, no more being hassled to take out insurance by Dixons. But instead consumers are getting burnt by online shopping and will be more reluctant to try again. I know this is just the Christmas rush but would you be willing to take the same risk for a birthday present? I know I won't.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's wrong with these pictures?


This last one's a bit of a giveaway...


No prizes on offer except a smug feeling of satisfaction. I will reveal all in a couple of days and my thoughts on this, bet you can't wait!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Busiquette

Sometimes I am astounded by the malaciously inconsiderate nature of Britain's on public transport. You tend to think buses are far more civilised than the tube, and they are, but here are some tips to make my life easier. Feel free to add your own.

1. A bus has two floors for a reason. Go upstairs and sit down instead of loitering by the stairwell so the driver thinks it's full.
2. Sitting in the aisle seat does not mean the empty window seat becomes invisible. I will want to seat there if you don't, so quit bitching when I thrust my arse in your face to get past.
3. Your handbag is not entitled to a seat. Not even if it's the size of a small cow.
4. Mobile phones are for talking on, quietly. They are not a vehicle to demonstrate how atrocious your musical taste is.
5. The back of the W3 is not considered a suitable place to smoke crack. I don't care if it does take you all the way home to Wood Green.

Holiday. Celebrate.

Planning has now started for what's fast becoming a February tradition - freezing my arse off in Scandinavia. This time I'm going here:


Doesn't it look fantastic? They're the city walls surrounding the Hanseatic town of Visby, a UNESCO world heritage site on Gotland - an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. I like islands. This one will be a trifle colder than the last. Historic home of the Goths! Cool.

I laugh in the face of a rough North Sea crossing so will be making this intrepid journey across land again, with a few days in Copenhagen. Ah, holidays. Our only respite from the pointless monotony of work.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I just switched to hippy power

It's cheaper too, a lot cheaper. Go here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NBC can suck my balls

That's right, they're conspiring against me too. Just when I think I've found a TV series that can rival Heroes for my attention I discover that it's already been cancelled. Motherfuckers.

Courier companies can suck my balls

Not only do they lose a lot of stuff, courier companies seem intent on personally antagonising me. Really, how difficult is it to get an item from a to b?

Let's start with Secure Mail Services, as employed by Seetickets to carry out the incredibly difficult task of taking a small envelope of low value tickets from the Seetickets building to my own. Of course they don't bother to attempt delivery until the day before the concert, and then send me a text (?) saying they'd done so. Naturally they'll maintain that they tried to deliver on a number of occasions beforehand, but as they never left a card I have no choice but to assume they're lying. When I spoke to someone at Seetickets she actually said they were constantly having problems with SMS, and I'm not surprised at all as I've had the misfortune to be on the receiving end (puntastic!) of their woeful service many a time. It seems like a lot of banks are using them to deliver new cards - there's nothing more secure than not getting your mail at all!

I find Seetickets equally responsible for ruining my night (when I was supposed to be at Iron & Wine) but it looks like they've just passed my complaint onto SMS to deal with. This is quite clearly bullshit though, as my contract is with Seetickets. If they can't uphold their end of the bargain, i.e. by getting tickets to me, then that's entirely their responsibility. I'll see what happens but I'm not letting this lie dammit.

Next up we have DHL. Well at least they managed to leave me a card when they missed me, I'll give them that. When I called up to arrange re-delivery I wasn't too surprised to find I had to negotiate a labyrinthine IVR system, and dutifully rearranged for the Monday I had off work. What did surprise me, however, was that it would have been as much use shouting the delivery instructions out of my window in the hope that someone from DHL might hear.

After yesterday's no-show I called back and it literally took all my cunning and patience to find the option that allowed you to speak to a human being. And I use that term lightly. This was a shell of a human being, clearly at the end of a long shift apologising to people for DHL's crap systems. Apparently my mistake was to hang up the phone after the automated system had confirmed my delivery date. I should have held on for longer until it started with a 'You hang up, No you hang up, No you, No you!....' routine.

Unfortunately I can't change the delivery address without asking the supplier to write a letter on gold-leafed paper, sealed with wax, enclosing pictures of mine and their testicles painted a lovely amber hue. I've got the address of the place so maybe I'll just have to go up to bloody Enfield and pick it up. It's only a £20 router ffs, is it worth the hassle?

It's funny really, it's only the good ol-fashioned Royal Mail chaps that have got it right. Not intentionally of course - if they did what they were supposed to they'd be in the same boat as the rest of them. But by leaving my parcels outside the flat when I'm not in, and opening my Amazon packages to post the individual items through the letterbox they show genuine ingenuity and initiative. God bless 'em.

Sunday, December 09, 2007