Low cost my arse.

The last ten or fifteen years have brought us the delight of the low cost, no frills airline, famed for their little tiny fares to exotic climes. And so it was with high expectations that I navigated my way to BMI Baby's website. Not only are they a low cost airline and so much cheaper than BA, they are also not in dispute with their cabin staff and so there's a fighting chance that my holiday to Perpignan won't be spent in the terminal at Manchester airport.

So onto the website I go and duly find that for £34 per person outward and £46 per person return me and Mr Vicola can go to Perpignan and spend a week in the sunshine sipping beer by the sea and going brown in Mr V's case and well, slightly beige in mine. Then it asks me if I want to book seats together as they can't guarantee we'll be sat together if we don't prebook the seat. Lovely idea. Except it's a further £8.50 per person per flight for ordinary seat and £11.50 if you want the seats that mean you don't have to telescopically fold your legs backwards into your body cavity to sit in the space. Fuck it, it's only an hour and a bit flight and sitting separately means we're less likely to have had a row by the time we land.

Then we get to the baggage and check in section. Do we want to check a bag into the hold? Well unless I want to be wearing the same undercrackers for a week, which I don't, then yes, a bag would be good. So I tick the '1 bag and check in' option. £18.99 per person per flight. Because of course if my bag were not in it the plane wouldn't be bothering with the hold at all, it'd just leave it on the runway. And the people without a bag don't need to check in because the magic fairies tell the airline they're on the plane so I can completely see why I have to pay extra to alert the airline to the fact I'm on their aircraft.

Then I go to pay. I'm a bit peeved at all the extra costs and the fact that the website was so slow you could almost hear the Latvian immigrants peddling in BMI headquarters to keep the servers running but it was the 'please wait for the verification page, do not hit the refresh button, it may take up to 45 seconds for your payment to process' page that really gripped my shit. At least it did once it'd been there for 15 bastard minutes. So now I don't know whether I've paid for the flights or not.

I duly look up customer services and dial the number, where I'm informed by the woman on the line that this is a premium rate number and so from a BT landline I'll be paying 65p a minute, from  my mobile the cost will be racking up faster than Tiger Woods sex stories. The automated woman then goes on to waste more time telling me about BMI's website. Well thanks for the revelation darling but if I could get the fucking website to work would I be racking up the national debt of Moldovia on this call? No madam, I would not. Eventually I get through to someone who tells me that he's sorry my transaction didn't work out and he would get a member of his team to ring me back and take the booking over the phone. Utterly mystified as to why the man on the reservations line can't make a reservation but now fortified by a stiff gin and tonic I agree. With something less than good grace.

So the lady rings me back, we go through all the tedious details I went through on the website and it comes to payment time. 

Lady: So how will you be paying? Credit or debit card?

Me: Credit card.

Lady: Well that will incur the handling fee of £4.50 per person per flight.

Me: And if I only choose to pay for one of my flights and just gatecrash the other one?

Lady: Madam must pay for both flights.

Clearly humour is not dealt with on the call centre training course.

Me: So what if I use a debit card?

Lady: That will be £3 per person per flight.

Me: So what you're saying is that there is no way I can avoid getting ripped off at payment stage? Is there any charge for paying with magic beans?

Lady: Magic beans?

Never mind. The gin and tonic is wearing off so it's time to get off the phone before I get barred from BMI altogether. So I share my credit card details with the robbing harpy on the other end of the line. 

So, bearing in mind the amount stated for each flight, £34 outward, £46 return for each of us, the final cost for us both to get to Perpignan? £336 .27.

Low cost airline my arse. I've a good mind to write them a VERY sternly worded letter.

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Whne life becomes too tedious to be angry…

D'you know, usually I can find something to be annoyed about, however small, be it the uselessness of the eternally useless Useless Twat (it took me hours to come up with that nickname y'know), politicians and the fact that about the only revolting thing they haven't been caught doing is sexually interfering with a stoat during Prime Minister's Questions, the weather or other drivers. But this last two weeks, life has been so utterly tedious that I can't even get annoyed. I've filled in at least 70 million (possibly a tiny exaggeration but it's a lot) of crap subcontractor evaluation questionnaires and sent them out to people who won't bother filling them in and sending them back to me, as per our procedures. I've waded through the dullest audit report in the known universe to see what we need to address before the next world-shatteringly dull bout of paper pushing with the folks from Achilles, I've booked some courses for Useless Twat which is not my job but his but no, not even a twitch of anger (unless you count the fact that I've deleted his last three emails without reading them because he deleted mine without reading it, something I know to be true as it had a 'read receipt' attached and the gormless wanker can't even grasp Outlook etiquette). So I've come to the conclusion that sometimes, real life is so fucking tedious that it saps not only your will to live, but also your will to rant. How horrifying. I was not even raised out of my utter indifference by sending out an email without reading through it and then discovering that not only had I written "As DSE operators are required to shit for long periods of time at their workstations" but I'd also catastrophically mis-spelled 'Northern Counties' for the second time this year. One little 'o' can make such a difference…..

So what is the answer? How do I get my angry back? Answers on a postcard, preferably with a really vicious insult or a picture of yourself giving the one finger salute. My angry is AWOL and I miss it…..

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Looking out for news

A long time ago now, in fact when I was at uni ten years ago, I went to party of a friend who was going to go to the States for a year. There I met a bloke called Ben.

Ben moved up from Eastbourne to Lancaster to live with me and we went out for two years. When it ended, it ended amicably and we were the best of friends for a long time, so much so that he lived with my family for a while. During that time he joined the army and it was me that drove him to the airport to see him off to his new base in Germany. Our friendship came to an end when he met his now wife, who banned him from speaking to me. She had a few issues…

A year or so I got back in contact with Ben through Facebook and learned that he's still in the army. He's currently deployed in Afghanistan, Helmand in fact, which is where the UK is suffering its heaviest losses. The odd thing is that even though we've had minimal contact for a long time, every time I see a headline about another British soldier being killed out there I read through it, just to check.  If the article doesn't give a name then I look it up the next day, just to make sure. And if it isn't Ben then I feel a little tiny bit of relief, which I know is very wrong because it's someone's friend or family. So when is it, do you think, that you lose interest enough to not check and be concerned? And how much worse must it be for the families of the serving soldiers out there?

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Updated nursery rhymes for Britain today

Having recently spent some time with a friend's little boy and heard her singing nursery rhymes to him, it occurred to me that these little rhymes are now hopelessly out of date and are teaching today's sproglets nothing about living in modern Britain. This is no use at all, we don't want our kids growing up with a ridiculous romantic notion of the world (which I'm sure is against government guidelines, as most things are) and it's time to update the rhymes so kids learn about Britain today.

Georgie Porgie
Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry
This is technically known as 'sexual assault'
And explains why Goergie has been put on the sex offender's register until he's 50.

Twinkle twinkle little star
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are,
However if I want to find out I'm going to have to look it up on Google
Because the national curriculum no longer has time for science in between learning about socialism, diveristy and why James in 5B has 3 dads.

The Grand old Duke of York
The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
He then marched straight into an industrial tribunal,
Where he was charged with breaching the European Working Time Directive by not providing adequate rest breaks and welfare facilities
And done under the equality rules for not having enough women, transgender or ehtnic minorities numbered among his ten thousand.

Dr Foster
Dr Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain
But it was alright because on call doctors drive fancy-pants Range Rovers which can cope with most adverse weather conditions.

Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
This is what happens when you embark on an activity without proper analysis of ground conditions
And a full risk assessment.

Ladybird, Ladybird
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
They've been taken into care by Social Services
And are now learning how to pick locks and hotwire cars
From some miniature delinquents in a children's home in Dagenham.

Baa baa black sheep
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes, but I prefer to be referred to as a 'sheep of alternative coloration'
and I can't guarantee that my product is 100% free of any traces of nuts.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle
Will not only cause all your teeth to fall out but can also lead to obesity, diabetes, strokes, heart disease, the collapse of the NHS, the end of days and being referred to as 'lard arse' at school.

It's raining, It's pouring
It's raining, it's pouring,
And this is because of climate change, caused exclusively by your evil parents who don't like taking the bus because it's full of weirdos and people that smell of wee so instead use the Audi. If they don't cut this out then you're definately going to drown in the resulting 500ft tidal wave before you're 20.

Sing a song of sixpence
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,
Is not only against RSPCA rules on animal cruelty but is also a faff to make. It's miles easier to wang a microwave dinner on than piss about with pastry and live birds.

There was a crooked man
There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile,
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
However they aren't going to be living in it for much longer as the local council have issued a notice ordering the crooked man to tear down the house and rebuild as it didn't have planning permission and contravenes the building regulations. It will be replaced (at the crooked man's expense) by a nice, square-built semi-detached in a mock tudor style.
 

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Getting crafty in my old age…

And so once again that time of year is upon me, the time of year when the MIL (mother in law) and TT (her husband, henceforth referred to as 'The Twat', TT for short) pay us the obligatory annual visit. How that 12 month period flashes by. Since I knew it was inevitable that they would come, I suggested they visit while my parents are in India on holiday, that way they can use my parent's house to stay in so they can 'have their own space'. Mr Vicola said that they were very touched by our suggestion that they come, mainly because 'they weren't aware of your ulterior motive not to have them in the house'. If that was meant to make me feel bad, it was an epic fail sir, because I feel no guilt about the safeguarding of my own sanity. TT's snoring is enough to wake the dead and more than enough to ensure that I get no more than 20 minutes of shut eye a night. It's like chinese water torture with noise instead of liquid, you lie there waiting for the next ear-shattering snort to rip through the partition wall, there isn't even a rhythm to it, it's irregular. The dog lies in the hallway whimpering gently to himself, before eventually the pair of us, me and dog, retreat downstairs to check out what it is that people watch on telly at 4am. Ideal when you have to be up at 6.30am for work and not really conducive to keeping your temper in check and not responding to TT's rudeness or MIL's drama. Neither is TT's insistence on having the TV turned on full volume, because "how am I meant to be able to hear it at low volume". No idea, but clearly the man next door can because you hear that banging noise that's vaguely audible over the deafening shriek of Sky News at volume 99? That's him banging on the wall to tell us to turn it the hell down. We don't all live in a farmhouse in the middle of a field mate, some of us have to consider the neighbours.

Anyway, I digress. They agreed to come and stay for a few nights in my parents house, which I was fine with. You know, not looking forward to but at least accepting of. Until last Mr Vicola chooses to furnish me with the finer details of the visit. Which are:
1) They are arriving on Monday 5th, one of the sacred bank holidays which I so look forward to because I get a lie in and can watch crappy films all day while doing chuff all. And they aren't so much staying 'a couple of nights' as '5 or 6 nights'. 5 or 6. Count them. Many nights. Almost a week in fact. So that's almost a week where self-employed Mr Vicola can't work because he's expected to escort them around the city. Almost a week of having to go over and wait for TT to serve up dinner, pissed, at 10pm, ensuring that indigestion will set in at about 2am. Almost a week. Even the thought is making me twitchy.
2) Despite the fact that they have stayed in my parent's house before, the MIL has announced that she feels uncomfortable staying in someone else's house so Mr Vicola (note Mr Vicola, not 'the two of you') is going to have to stay there too. Leaving me on my own in our house. Well apart from dog, of course. Let me make this clear – she is not uncomfortable in someone else's house, she doesn't have enough regard for the opinions of anyone else to be uncomfortable. If she were that uncomfortable she'd have either insisted she stay in our house or put her hand in her pocket and paid for a hotel. No, this is something entirely different. This is another one of her mind games, stemming from the massive row we had in the car last summer and the reasoning goes like this: If she insists he stays with her, not me he will agree to do it, as he has been trained to do from childhood. I will then kick off with him, insisting that he stays with me because of course I cannot possibly function without a man in the house. He will then still stay with her, despite my objections because he's been trained that the only way to survive is with her approval, which is with-held if you don't do as she wants. Hence she has won and proved her superiority over me because he has chosen her approval, rather than mine. She has proved that she can still control him and that she's still the main woman in his life. See?

So instead of going with my default position of 'go ballistic about her fucking ridiculous games and get into another row about her behaviour', I decided to think laterally. And came up with an interesting idea: agree with it, in fact positively encourage him to go and stay with them.

This has two main benefits:
1) He has not chosen her over me because he's doing what I've told him to do. So all she has proven is that I am a most considerate and understanding woman.
2) My house is only going to have me and dog in it, and as such will be a little haven of tranquility and sanity that I can escape to any time I like. Bliss. I can watch telly in the bath, ring people and bitch about what's going on and sleep soundly with no snoring to disturb me.

So I believe that that would be 1 – 0 to me. I'm getting crafty in my old age.

Which of course does not mean that I don't hope they both come down with something and have to cancel the visit….

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Advice to our politicians in the run up to the general election.

Well once again that time is upon us. Just when we'd begun to forget the revolting display of poor grace, bad manners and pointless mud-slinging that was the last general election, another one rolls along and since the competition is promising to be more closely run, it promises to be even more stomach churningly ridiculous than the last one. In fact the shit-slinging has already started. So, in light of this, I'd like to offer a few pieces of advice to our politicos.

Stick to policies, not personalities.
Ever since Tony "I am Satan's Handmaiden' Blair ascended to power, politics has been less and less about what a government is doing or promising and more about the brand the PR people manage to weave around each character. Let me share a little secret – I personally do not give a fuck if David Cameron was brought up in the Queen's household, put to bed in a solid gold cradle and encouraged to spend his childhood chasing peasantry round the countryside on horseback. Neither do I give a rat's backside if Gordon Brown was brought up in a shoebox blessed by the Methodist Church, with 48 other poor-as-church-mice children and now spends his time hanging researchers by their feet from the chandeliers of Westminster in order to make it easier for him to beat them with birch twigs. I would make some comparison with Nick Clegg as well but frankly I know nothing about him and he's too nondescript for me to bother researching. What I care about is what Labour/ Conservatives/ Lib Dems will do about the fact that the country's finances are screwed, the government has vastly overspent and the books don't balance. I want to know when we're going to pull out of Afghanistan, not whether the shadow treasury minister is so posh that he learned Latin at school. I don't give a bugger about the individual ministers, they're interchangable and will be replaced as soon as they're caught in bed with someone who isn't their spouse or fiddling their expenses claims. I want to know what the party stands for and if the politician is opening his mouth to tell me that someone or other's wife earns loads of money yet he still claims housing expenses then he can just bloody well shut it again because I'm really not interested. Stop behaving like kids in the schoolyard and stick to the matters that count.

Stick to the issue and don't bore me with irrelevances
This election is looking increasingly like it's going to be fought on class lines and the latest crap about Lord Ashcroft is a perfect case in point. Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft has come out and revealed that he's a non-dom and hasn't been paying UK income tax on money earned abroad. Leaving aside the fact that I don't see why he should be paying income tax on money earned somewhere else, he's now come clean. What he did wasn't illegal and is being done by a couple of high placed Labour personalities as well. In other words they're all at it. So no, Lord Mandelson, we don't need a fucking inquiry into the matter. We don't need one because Ashcroft has come clean about his tax status and so that should be an end to it, there's no need to waste more public finances on an inquiry that will reveal what Ashcroft has already revealed. It may suit your class fight agenda to drag this out for frigging months but it's already grinding the gears of the public. Added to which, politicians rattling on about others not paying all the tax they should are on something of a sticky wicket, given how many of them were revealed to have flipped their second homes to avoid paying capital gains tax.

Cut the class crap
I've spent a week listening to ridiculous debates about fox hunting. Let's be clear – if something isn't done to curb government spending we will go bankrupt, the NHS is a mess, a large number of kids are emerging from state education illiterate and unable to count once they run out of fingers and we've run out of prison places. Do these people really think that I count whether or not red-faced colonels on horses should be allowed to chase the 'ickle fluffy foxes across fields as one of the most pressing issues in this election? Because if they do they're even more fucking insane than I thought. It's another tactic from the revolting spin teams at no 10 to rouse the rabble to the flag and paint the opposition as toffs who spend all day sipping claret out of the hollowed out skull of a tenant farmer. Which is ludicrous given that a cabinet minister earns £120k basic plus expenses so Labour's key figures have hardly stepped straight out of 'Oliver Twist'. The Conservatives have not yet let rip with their own spin salvo but I suspect it'll be on its way very soon and it'll no doubt piss me off. Let's be clear – I don't give a shit about class issues, especially since these days ALL main parties are middle class, not the traditional working class Labour, middle/upper class Conservative. Those days are gone and I don't need some tit with a qualification in PR trying to resurrect them for political gain.

The election isn't likely to be until May, that means a whole two months of this crap. Give me strength. Or, more pertinently, give me information, information on what you're going to do about the economy, the increasing state interference in our lives, the encroachment on our civil liberties, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lack of equipment and compensation for our troops, antisocial behaviour from feral kids. Just don't tell me that the Health Secretary's uncle is a bin-raiding alcoholic who once got nicked for stealing cider from Tesco. Because I really don't care.

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