Indescribable Fuckwittery.

Manchester is currently in the process of holding a referendum to decide whether the city should embark upon the world's largest congestion charge. I say referendum, that would imply some variety of democratically sound canvassing of uninfluenced public opinion which is about as close to what has gone on as chocolate is to dog turd. There have been quite literally millions of publicly funded pounds pumped into the 'Yes' campaign, involving newspaper ads, tv ads, glossy leaflets and brochures while the 'no' campaign has had to rely on donations from the public and businesses who can envisage their livlihoods heading down the proverbial gurgler should this scheme go ahead.

Today my ballot pack arrived. I was expecting a paper and an envelope to deliver it back to them. Which I got. What I wasn't expecting was for my 'democratic' ballot paper pack to contain another fucking promotional leaflet for the shagging scheme we're meant to be voting on! Imagine my surprise, swiftly followed by my anger as I read through it and absorbed some of the details that I hadn't taken in before. Here are a few of the bits that REALLY ground my gears:

Buses : More services would operate at the weekends – Really? Well this is a referendum on weektime congestion charges isn't it? So that's not fucking relevant is it? And if it isn''t relevant then it's just propaganda which to my mind has aboslutely no place in a bloody ballot paper pack.

A new coach station adjacent to Piccadilly train station in the city centre
– Would that be in addition to the existing coach station for the people who can't be arsed to walk the 600 yards from Piccadilly Station to Chorlton Street or will they flatten the perfectly good and recently refurbished coach station in order to build a new one?

Tramlines to new destinations…funds are also available to connect Metrolink to Trafford Park and the Trafford Centre – What the fuck does this mean? Since it isn't included in the list of 'new' tram stops to be created but is listed seperately as 'funds are available' then does that mean that funds are available but won't be used? Or, is it, as I suspect, that the govt haven't stumped up the cash for a station there. Just write what you mean you mendacious twats and stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We might be Northern but that does not make us a collection of utter retards, no matter what London-centric policy makers may think.

Improvements for car drivers – Information for all drivers on local traffic conditions and incidents affecting journeys – What? Are you nuts? Do you seriously expect car drivers to vote yes to paying christ knows what for the priviledge of driving to work in return for information you can get if you are bright enough to switch on the radio? What the hell is wrong with you people?

But all this pales into insignificance when you get to the bit about how it will be collected and how much it will cost. That bit is near the end of the leaflet, possibly in the hope that readers will lose the will to live and kick the bucket before they reach the really shitty information.

 Cost – £2 to cross the outer ring road and a further £1 to cross the inner road towards the city centre in the morning then £1 to cross the inner ring road and a further £1 to cross the outer ring road out of the city in the evening – at 2007 prices for pre-registered users. – Now the price wasn't a surprise, it's what I was expecting but 'at 2007 prices'? Well it's not even 2007 now, it certainly won't be 2007 in 2013 when the scheme would come in and I think we can all guess what that means can't we? Yes, they'll offer low costs to get people to vote for the scheme then jack up the amount they charge. Utter, utter, utter wankers. And then another thing struck me. What the hell is 'pre-registered' when it's at home? So I looked it up. And that did nothing to improve my mood at all. Pre-registered is what you become if you agree to have one of their fucking tracker devices put into your car so they can direct-debit cash straight out of your bank account every time you drive past one of their beacons. So there's your choice – have a device put into your car so you can be tracked like a lab rat whenever you drive round the city or be slapped with a charge that is three times that which the lab rats are paying. Nice, very nice. You utter bastards.

So that is the choice that Manchester is making, be bullied and cajoled into voting in something that is not only going to cost your average person a fortune but will also make the city uncompetitive or stand up for citizen's rights and tell these politicians to fuck right off. If the city doesn't make the right decision I will not be impressed.

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My nice new bathroom, hurrah!

Yay! After months of skirting round the tiles stacked up in the hallway to get to the stairs I've finally got round to getting someone to stick them to the wall. And how much nicer do they look in nice, neat, white rows than in boxes along the hallway? Lovely. Gone are the mock marble monstrosities that were there before with mock art-deco border, tiles which had more than a hint of 70s porn flick or middle aged bachelor pad about them. No longer does the bathroom scream "No woman ventures here" and "This room only contains man showergel and some toenail clippings", no, now the room says "In the bathroom cabinets you will find hugely overpriced designer bath stuff" and "For god's sakes don't use the shampoo in here when you run out of shower gel because you can only buy it in salons and she'll kill you". Oh yes, now I like my bathroom. Even though my red towels no longer match and I'm going to have to buy new ones. I'm very much looking forward to having a bath in it.

Tomorrow is my great uncle's funeral and I'm more than certain we are going to be treated to the unedifying spectacle of my aunt and her cousin vying for the coveted position of 'top mourner'. That's going to be fun. Who can act the most bereaved whilst simultaneously telling the assembled crowds how much they did for the old chap and how much the nursing home staff thought of them? I wouldn't be suprised to find them both piddling on the coffin in a bizarre scent-marking exercise. Why do people do that at funerals? Who gives a shit who did the most for someone, you're not supposed to do it for public recognition, you're supposed to do it because you want to help the other person. I tell you, my family can be truly nuts sometimes.

p.s. Brennig, can you tell me where your blog has moved to? The usual address just says 'error'.

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My little day trip.

Yesterday I had a meeting with some people at Millbank Tower in London so I decided to make a day trip of it. I mentioned it to my mother and she decided to come too. My meeting was at 11.45am so, for the price of a small family car we book tickets for the stupid o'clock train from Manchester to London and away we go.

The trip there was uneventful, the tube journey to Pimlico was uneventful. The walk to Millbank Tower once we established that the direction I thought it was in was in fact the opposite one to where the place actually was was pretty ordinary too although it was nice to walk along by the river in the sunshine. And so in I go to my meeting.

This went ok up until the point when I realised that the pass I'd been given by reception was not in my bag. It could be in the toilet, it could be in the ombudsman's HR department or it could be in the nice waiting room with the broken water cooler and the splendid view of the city. The upshot of it was that I couldn't get out of the building and had to be escorted out by the nice chap who conducted the meeting, who sneaked me out by sending someone to distract the reception girl while he whizzed me to the door and opened it so that they didn't give me a bollocking for losing the pass. Way to make a good impression? I should think so.

After a coffee in the nearby Tate Britain art gallery and a bizarre conversation with two old ladies we set off to the House of Commons to go and have lunch with my brother.  The security to get into the House of Commons is most impressive, you have to be scanned and all your belongings x rayed then you have to have your photo taken and be issued with a photo pass. We had to wait for my brother to come down and pick us up from reception so we stood around int he lobby for a bit and it was here that I noticed the policeman patrolling the security area. He was armed with a machine gun, 2 little guns (I don't know enough about firearms to say what they were), a taser, a canister of that spray stuff that makes people go blind and a truncheon. Impressive. He kept his finger on the trigger at all times and I sincerely hoped that he didn't have a cold because one tiny little little sneeze with his finger there could wipe out the entire lobby.

Eventually Mike comes down and lets us in. Well I say lets us in, you have to go through a revolving glass door which only works if someone who holds a security pass keeps their pass on the scanner. He let mum go through then decided to take the pass off the scanner as I was partway through, meaning I was stuck in the revolving door. Along with the unfortunate man behind behind me who had also got caught up in my brother's dodgy sense of humour.

We went for some lunch in the restaurant which cost about £4 each for  a full meal including dessert and a drink. It's subsidised by taxpayers y' see. We might not have enough money to get decent cleaners into hospitals but we do have enough to make sure that MPs don't have to pay full price for lunch.

After an hour or so my brother had to go back to work and so off we go. Where I promptly get stuck in another fucking revolving door because I didn't realise that pushing the stupid button once on the main door out will only let one person through. My how the well liveried doorman laughed. It's always nice to make someone else's afternoon more entertaining by making yourself look like an utter twat.

We then went off to the London Eye, the National Gallery (which appears to be full of pictures of either miserable looking people or naked fat birds) before heading off to the train to go home. And it was here that I found my new pet hate: People yelling into their mobiles on trains.

 

 

We got to our seats and sat down. In front of us was a German girl who seemed to belive that despite the phone clamped to her ear, she had to talk at the sort of volume that meant she could be heard on Berlin without the thing. Do you know how much I wanted to know all about Greta's new marketing deal and the meeting she'd just had with Graham? That's right, not at all but I wasn't given a choice as the dozy bint piffled on about precisely fuck all for 20 minutes until the signal cut out a little way from Euston. Just as I thought we were now in for some peace and quiet the pillock behind me decided that now would be a perfect time to ring everyone in his address book to talk about bugger all. And he was even louder than the German girl.

"ALRIGHT MATE, 'OW WAS THE FOOTIE ON SATURDAY? YEAH? FUCKING GREAT MATE. YEAH. 'AVE YOU GOT THE 2 PLY FOR RAISING THE DISHWASHER BECAUSE THEY'VE GOT A FUNERAL ON WEDNESDAY WEEK….BLAH BLAH BLAH.."

All this is uttered at a loud bellow. He's a large bloke with that kind of booming cockney voice that you usually see on town cryers during parades or sergeants on an army parade ground. After 40 minutes of contant phone calls I'm so annoyed that my teeth are beginning to itch. Mercifully at this point he decides to have a break from calling people to have a kip. The relief is short lived as it turns out he snores. Very very loudly, it sounds like an elephant with a head cold and it's grating along every single nerve I have. I put my iPod on to distract myself. No good, no matter how loud I put it on you can still hear him. Something has to be done. I'm British so I can't just poke him the chest and inform him that that the entire carriage is on the edge of their seat waiting for the next nasal eruption, that would be rude, the only thing I can do is to wake him up by some other means and the best way is, of course, a really loud fake sneeze. I let rip with a champion one, truly impressive and happy days, it works. He sits bolt upright and looks around, but what is this? His eyes are barely open and he's reaching for the fucking mobile phone again! For the love of god, nooooooo…….

He's off. And to add to the delight of this journey the German girl in front is back on hers as well. I'm beginning to have an inkling of what trench warfare did to the nerves as the two of them battle for supremacy in the volume stakes and I sit slumped down in my seat between the two of them, trying fruitlessly to combat the effects of auditory bombardment by reading the paper. Could things get any worse? Of course they could. In a brief lull between calls the train manager comes over the intercom to announce that there has been signalling failure in the Trent valley so we are being rerouted via Birmingham and will be running an hour behind schedule. Yep, that would be a whole extra hour of listening to Helga's tedious accounts of her life and Cockney Chap's excrutiating descriptions of work projects all delivered at a volume that would shake buildings. Fuckity fuck fuck.

By the time I got back to Manchester I was tired, hungry and my ears hurt. I am now going to write to Virgin trains and inform them that rather than having a quiet carriage where those who don't want to listen to people on the phone can go, they should have mobiles banned through the entire train apart from two 'noisy' carriages where all those inconsiderate twats that want to spend 3 hours bellowing pointless shite into phones can sit and yell over each other without annoying the rest of us. Now I remember why i don't do public transport – it's expensive, unreliable and I ALWAYS end up sat in front of, behind or next to a twat.  

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It’s just another perfect day in the Vicola House of Shit.

So I get up, after the worst night's sleep in living memory, wash my hair and then discover that the sodding hairdryer won't work. So I use the back up dryer that has all the power of a gnat gently breaking wind upon your sodden bonce. An hour later and my hair is finally just damp, rather than saturated. So I set off, in the rain to go and get the shopping in. It's not till I get out of the car and walk across the puddly car park that I discover there's a hole in my shoe and now my feet are wet. That's just fabulous.

After lugging the shopping into the house by myself and putting it away it's time to go to college. I've a sneaking suspicion that I've gone in entirely the wrong direction with my essay so I collar my tutor before class and get him to have a look through what I've done. Sometimes being right is not a good thing.

We get an early dart from college and escape nearly an hour earlier than usual, hurrah! However the laws of the universe must be balanced and for my good fortune, there must also be some bad fortune. In this case mine, again. I open the front door to be greeting by the most eye watery appalling stink. Oh happy days, the dog has crapped all over the living room floor and the whole house now smells worse than Satan's underpants. So I'm sitting in the living room, eating my microwave dinner and drinking my glass of wine in my reeking house, looking at the stains on the living room carpet and wondering when the comet is going to crash into the house or the juggernaut flatten to my car to finish off this marvellous day in the manner it began, continued and will inevitably end. It's just another day in the Vicola House of Shit. Literally. Sigh.

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Eh?

Reading the news I stumbled across this little story about the government's balls. Apparently they have spent over £12000 in three years on their individually hallmarked balls. Good to know our hard earned taxes are being spent wisely eh?

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Almost speechless. But not quite.

It's not often that I am rendered almost speechless by the mendacious bullshit that flows daily and inexorably from the doors of Westminster but today I was directed to an article by the most entertaining Devil's Kitchen. The hatchet-faced, horn-toed witch that you see above is none other that our esteemed Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith (for anyone who has been fortunate enough to miss her existence so far) and on Friday she took Labour's record for just making stuff up to a whole new level.

So, "what did the fragrant Ms Smith do that has got you so rattled?" I hear you ask. Well I'll tell you, On Friday Ms Smith announced although national ID cards are due to be rolled out in 2012, people are going to be able to pre-register for them because "I believe there is a demand, now, for cards – and as I go round the country I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long. I now want to put that to the test and find a way to allow those people who want a card sooner to be able to pre-register their interest as early as the first few months of next year."

Does she think we in this country are entirely fucking stupid? I think you'll find that the answer to this is a resounding 'yes'. The scheme is so bloody unpopular that the other 2 main parties in this country have announced they would scrap it altogether and the rumour is that the government have had to write clauses into the contracts awarded for the scheme that mean that should it all be dropped there wouldn't be punitive penalties to be paid. The fact is that the vast majority of people don't believe the scheme would work.

Those who support ID cards (all 6 of them plus the politicians who lift their policies wholesale form Orwell's '1984') argue that they will not be forgeable because they will use iris data that can't be forged. I say that's a shit argument. Does anyone know what the market value of an iris scanning device is? I don't but given that a plasma screen telly can cost you a few grand I'm willing to bet that they aren't cheap. So will your local benefits office have one? Nope. Will your bank have one? Nope. So as long as you can clone a genuine card and attach a different photo to it you'll still be able to claim benefits fradulently. So who will have the scanning devices? Police stations and airports. Fair enough but since the people who blew up London were British and the people who attempted to blow up Glasgow were in the country legally then an ID card wouldn't have prevented either of these events so I think it would be fair to say that the bastard things won't stop terrorism, at least it won't as long as people who live in this country continue to want to blow it up. Unless terrorists write 'Suicidal Jihadist Warrior' in the 'occupation' box on the form then they aren't going to get picked up via ID cards. And I'm not convinced that we have yet bred a terrorist stupid enough to do that.

So what is the point of ID cards? Your guess is as good as mine, it appears to be just another exercise in futile control-freakery from a desperate government that are gradually ramping up the measures until they are allowed to put a microchip in all our heads so that we can be traced, tracked and monitored wherever we go. The latest crackpot idea is that in order to get everybody registered for the ID cards, supermarkets will awarded contracts and will be taking details and fingerprints when you go to get your groceries so that everyone is processed in good time. No, you didn't just read that wrong. I would rather live off what I can scavenge from bins than allow a fucking supermarket to fingerprint me in return for allowing me the priviledge of spending money in their establishment.

ID cards are a horribly unpopular idea and for Ms Smith to announce that they are so popular that she will allow people to get one early because they can't wait is a blatant, obvious and frankly embarrassing attempt to save face from a Home Secretary who is on her arse politically. The public are gradually waking up to the measures the government are taking to try and control us and they aren't happy about it, especially since a number of the horrific measures have got little codicils added in that mean that they don't apply to MPs. So Jacqui, you keep telling yourself that people love your ID scheme, you've obviously got yourself fooled but don't for one nanosecond think that if you say it often enough WE will believe you. We aren't actually as fucking braindead as you think and come election time I sincerely hope we prove it.

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Robbing sods.

Today's 'Asshole Award' goes to the Ford garage who currently have hold of my car.

Sometime last week the wipers stopped spraying water when I pressed the button (and yes, I did think to check that there was water in there, as everyone I've told has asked) and after several days of having to stop every half hour to pour Volvic over the windscreen in an attempt to clear the soggy combination of grit and dead insects from the glass to allow me to see I thought it was probably time to get something done about it. No problem, I thought, the car is still under warranty, it's only 20 months old so I can get it sorted for free.

My first inkling that this may not be quite as simple as I first anticipated came when the man at the desk asked me if the car had been serviced and whether the service book was in it. No, it wasn't. "Well", he says, scratching his head in the manner of a plumber about to tell you that your life savings are going to be needed to pay to fix the lav, "we may need to see it". "Why", I ask? "Because", he says, "we may need…proof". "Oh whatever" I say because I'm in a hurry and am now late for work. And off I go.

2 hours later I get a call.

"We've found the problem. And a couple of other problems as well".

"Really? You found more problems? You do surprise me. Go on then."

"Well the first problem is that your wiper blades need replacing."

"No they don't, I replaced them 2 months ago."

"Oh….right…erm….well that must be a mistake on the form then. Ooops, erm…the other one is that your front tyres need replacing"

"How much will that cost"

"mumble mumble mumble plus VAT"

"Pardon?"

"£74 plus VAT"

"Well that's ok, for two tyres."

"Erm, that's per tyre."

"WHAT?? I only want tyres, not gold plated runners and a fleet of Arab stallions to pull it."

"Yeeessss, well you've got low profile tyres love, it's to do with your alloys."

"It's going to have to wait then isn't it. Because I am not currently in possession of £150 spare pounds. They're not illegal yet are they?"

"No, you've got another 1 or 2 housand miles left on them."

"Right, well we'll leave that then. What about the wipers?"

"Yeesssss….well you see love, it's like this…"

"Like what exactly?"

"The filter on the wipers from the tank is blocked and that's classed as an 'alteration' which isn't a warranty item. So it isn't covered by your warranty. And it's quite a fiddly job so it might take us a bit of time. And it'll cost you £61 plus VAT."

"Hang on a second. My Micra was 12 years old with 70000 miles on the clock when I got rid of it. My Peugeot had 50000 miles and was 6 years old. Neither of these vehicles ever presented me with a 'blocked wiper filter'. Ever. So you're saying that the parts on a 20 month old Fiesta are more knackered than a 12 year old Micra?"

"Erm. That one is, yes."

"My point is that it shouldn't be, because the car is not very old. Do you see where I'm coming from?"

"Yes. But it's still going to cost you £61 plus VAT."

For fuck's sakes. So I rang my local garage, the people I would have taken the car to had I known I was going to have to pay for it. They confirmed that yes, a blocked filter was possible but shouldn't have happened at this point in the car's life and yes, as I suspected, £61 plus VAT is a ludicrous sum of money to pay for what is a very simple job. What is it with main dealerships? Why must they always try and rip you off? I know bloody well that my wiper blades are fine for the simple reason that when I switch them on, the crap is removed from my windscreen. So don't try and sell me more. I don't need them. And don't assume that just because I am not endowed with a set of trouser potatoes that I am entirely devoid of any common sense or reason, assuming that will only lead to trouble and probably some variety of sarcasm explosion in your showroom. Not what you want when your salesmen are busy trying to flog new vehicles to people who don't realise that in 20 months time the damn thing will be back there having it's stupid wiper filter unblocked. Main dealerships are a haemarrhoid on the backside of society – fact.  

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