Theme Park Etiquette, Continental Differences and a Question of Rucksacks

Day 11

You know by now that I’m in Disneyland Paris, and that I’m having a whale of a time, so I’m not going to go into the minutae of my experiences today – essentially, if you love Disney, you’ll love Disneyland, and if you don’t, well – then, you won’t!

So, even though today included Peter Pan, a trolley bus ride, the sleeping dragon,  Animagique, Armageddon FX, The Backlot Tour, Stitch Live, Ratatouille, Crush’s Coaster, RC Racer, Slinky Dog, Monsters Inc, The Tower of Terror and Phantom Manor, I’m going to focus on other things…namely, theme park survival and bloody Europeans.

(Disclaimer: I realise that I am English and from Great Britain, and am, therefore, European, but this is about continental Europe, and “celebrating” the difference.)

(Disclaimer 2: I am possibly being a tad xenophobic here. Please don’t be offended. Some British people are terribly shitty too… It’s just that mainly, it was Europeans that I came across today.)

Having been to various parts of France several times, and visited, amongst other places, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Hungary and Corsica, I don’t feel as though I’m a complete stranger to being amongst Europeans. Equally, I have been to Disneyland in California, Disney World Resort in  Florida, and am currently on my 5th visit to Disneyland Paris, so I am fairly well versed in the art of a Disney survival.

However, I still get just a little hacked off at the bloody rudeness that seems par for the course in a Disney Paris day.

Look, I know that Europeans don’t have a concept of queuing in the way that we stoic English people do, and I can tolerate the pushing in and the laissez-faire attitude that prevails, to some extent, but after almost two weeks in France ( and three days in Disney) it is starting to, frankly, get on my jolly well nerves.

Thing is, you can forget all about the concept of “personal space” when you’re here, as it doesn’t bloody well exist. That piece of the universe that you are (albeit temporarily) occupying? It’s not yours. It’s, basically, fair game. And just because your actual body is in that actual space, don’t for one single second assume that you are entitled to remain in it, because you’re not. People can, and will, attempt to occupy that same space at any and all times (and here’s the mind blowing bit to an English person like myself) whether you are in it already, or not. So you can either vacate it, or share it (physics notwithstanding), the latter option usually requiring some kind of time travel, or quantum leaping or something. Because these people will mow you down if you don’t move. And they won’t give a shiny shite. 

And, quite honestly, I have moved on from my ever-so-polite “excuse moi” requests to strangers, to a full-blown “fekkin move” demand.

So, just in case any of the continental Europeans who I met today are reading this, here’s some advice for you from the black-haired, quite angry looking, middle aged woman with the passive-aggressive muttering:

1) If you want to get past me, just say “excuse me” or “pardon” or whatever it is in your language, and I will happily, gladly and even joyfully skip out of your way, and allow you to pass. You will smile, I will smile and the world will seem that little bit lighter. Don’t, however, walk into me and keep on moving, as though you haven’t just barreled me over; don’t knock me out of the way with your bloody rucksack/balloon/bag/other; don’t – ever – run over my feet with your pushchair and continue to roll, as though it were a tank or similar; and don’t flick your fekkin fag ash over any part of me.  For these things, in any and all combinations, only serve to piss me off, to piss you off and to increase exponentially the headache-to-Brit quota in the park. The world is nicer if we simply acknowledge each other

Addendum to point 1: if you have done any of those things accidentally, simply say “sorry” or equivalent, and don’t just storm off as though it was me that was in the wrong simply by existing/breathing.

2) If you are waiting to go into the toilet cubicle, then please stand away from the frigging door. That way,  I can get out and you can go in and the earth will continue to turn. If you don’t move away from the frigging door then we have a bottleneck situation, where I can’t leave, you can’t enter and there’s just no point in either of us existing any more. This also goes for all of you people who want to board the trolley buses while I am exiting, and anyone standing in a doorway or exit. FRIGGING MOVE, YOU MORONS.

3) There is a special place in hell reserved for you people who are walking along, contributing to the healthy flow of pedestrian traffic, and who suddenly stop. If you’re going to stop, either take a cursory glance around to make sure there isn’t someone directly behind you (there usually is), or move to the side, safe in the assumption that in Europe’s busiest theme park, there is a small likelihood that you will not be on your own.

Either way, if you suddenly stop to look in your bag/talk to someone/take a selfie/other, then do not look at me as though I am the devil incarnate, when I walk into you. It’s going to happen, isn’t it, you twat?

4) if you want to photograph fekkin everything something, then just make sure that you’re not walking across and in front of someone (see points 1 & 3). Especially don’t take videos by criss-crossing and weaving your way sideways to the flow of traffic. This makes you a bellend, and I am likely to photobomb you, in a very British way.

5) And, in its own special category: rucksacks.

Right, I have a question for you. This is for anyone who it applies to, and specifically to the many people I saw today. What the hell is in your rucksack?

Seriously, though? I’m not talking abou small rucksacks, or bags – obviously it’s sensible to have a bag. I’m talking about full-on, luggage-style rucksacks. What’s in them? It’s not food. Bags are X-rayed before they come into the parks, and I’ve seen several people forced to throw picnics away at the gate. It’s not jackets, caps, sunglasses or cameras, because serial rucksack offenders usually have those as well.

What is in them? Are you people setting up tents or something?

On this holiday, there are 3 of us -I have a small handbag with the tickets, sunglasses and a camera. The husband carries Smallboy’s tiny rucksack. It has wet wipes, sun cream and water. We carry money on our persons. We wear our hats.

What else do people need, in such vast quantities?

Some families have several rucksacks. Look:

  Three rucksacks. Three adults and two children. Cameras, hats and jackets stored separately. What is in these beasts?

  

Two adults. Two rucksacks. No kids. Wtf?

 

What is this guy hauling? 

Genuinely interested in finding out.

The other thing about rucksacks is that they virtually double your body mass (I’m sorry for going on about this, but it has really become something of a mission.) People don’t seem to realise that they are manoeuvring around as wide-loads, with the rucksack. You can’t just be swinging round willy nilly – you’re going to smack someone in the chops. And in a queue situation, your rucksack is literally increasing thg queue time for the normal people. Not to mention the fact that you people can’t get though the barriers within the queue, without a massive amount of fuss, and getting on the ride and sodding storing the thing takes an extra 30 seconds per rucksacker. Multiply this up and the 70 minute queue time becomes 85.

So, be prepared to provide me with a detailed inventory of contents, or leave the frigger at home.

6) Queueing. Yes, these European Theme Parker’s queue jump. Yes, we knew this in advance. Yes, we realise it’s cultural. But, frankly, I cannot get my head around the fact that it’s anything other than bloody rudeness. If you see someone standing in front of you, who has been waiting for longer than you, then it’s their turn first, you ignorant shite bag. This goes for rides, toilet queues, parades….anything. Simply seeing a teeny weeny space in front of someone, and assuming you are entitled to fill it (see point 1) makes you a knob.

Quite honestly, the melee of people waiting for the entrance turnstiles to open, was akin to some kind of battle field or Black Friday sale. If we all wait our turns, life is smoother.

7) And, while I’m at it, there are more than two speeds. Slower-than-a-snail and Lightning-McQueen’s-faster-brother are not the only options. It is perfectly acceptable to walk at a tolerable pace. The afore mentioned two speeds, are largely to blame for points 1 and 3 above.

8) PDAs

Look – I like a bit of love, me. I’m not a cynic. But there is a time and a place, people, for gratuitous displays of carnal desire. The queue for the Tower of Terror at 4:20pm is neither of those things.

I was queuing on my own (the husband stayed with Smallboy, who was categorically NOT going to go anywhere near that ride) and had a French couple with three kids in front of me, and a Spanish couple with one child behind me. Those two couples were constantly going at it with the full-on tonsil tennis. Twice I had to move the couple in front on, and how the couple behind me managed to hold off without booking themselves a room, I just don’t know. I’m happy they were in love. Really. But, I don’t need to see the bulge of a guy’s tongue from the outside of his wife’s cheek. And as for the roaming hands – I felt like I was in some 18 movie audience, with a row of horny teenagers. But the worse part of it was, the French couple’s youngest daughter (presumably in the absence of any parental attention) felt the need to entertain me throughout the queue. She danced, she sang, she jumped up and down, she span, she swang, she chatted in French… It was hugely annoying, particularly as I’d managed to bag half an hour off from my own little bundle of firecrackers.

So – PDAs? Non!

And now I have resolved all of the issues that have been weighing down heavily on me in the 28 degree heat, I feel as though we are all closer as a continent.

Bon Nuit, Europe…

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General Sexism and Bashing Heads Against Walls

 

I’ve been a bit quiet of late, and that’s primarily because I’m engaging with a bit of online debate on various forums; most of which is to do with the casual sexism that is so rife in everything we see, hear and do in the United Kingdom.

I thought I’d write myself a pocket guide to dealing with misogyny, and hope that it allows me to let off enough steam that I can stop engaging quite so much, because it’s frankly tiring and repetitive, and it makes me despair for what I am dealing with.

I would like to start by saying that I NEVER seek to to “make other people agree with me.” That is not my intent. Rather, I comment and debate on various threads, in order to engage and discuss issues that matter. I am happy to hear other sides, and am happy to put my viewpoint across. Too often, however, it descends into name calling and personal insults, and it is at that juncture, that I realise that the point is all but lost.

These are all examples of recent “debates” I have fallen into the trap of getting involved in.

1) On the Morrisons Facebook page, a reader posted a photograph of the toy aisle, in which boys and girls toys were separated and advertised with a gender divide. Not news, of course, and pretty much prevalent across most high street stores. A debate ensued. I made the point that I felt the gender divide – where girls’ toys are all sparkles, tiaras, dolls, prams, make up, shopping trolleys, kitchen items and pink lego, and boys’ toys are all dinosaurs, construction, vehicles, monsters, aliens, gunge and guns – was unnecessary. I (politely) advised that I felt it was unhelpful to segregate and market certain toys at different genders, because children will basically play with anything, and rightly so. I said that I didn’t like the message that it sends to children – “these are your toys, and those toys belong to the other gender” because it embeds the notion of the gender divide at an early age, and I gave an example where, at my son’s nursery, a boy had a doll and pram removed from him, whereupon it was given to a girl, and he was taken to the cars section.

A couple of people agreed with me, but for the most point, the vitriol and hatred I received made me wonder if I had inadvertenly posted that I was planning to kill, cook and eat some babies. I was told to “grow the f*ck up”, “stop projecting [my] own inadequacies”, “shut up and grow a pair”, “leave kids alone to be kids” and was also advised that I was a “rampant lentil-weaving feminist”, an idiot because it’s “adults what buy toys , not kids, you tw*t” and that there are “much better things to be worrying about”, and one kind soul made my point for me, stating that her daughter “loved to dress as a builder, and likes other boys’ toys. What’s wrong with that?”

Precisely!

Because although many of them failed to see it, we were actually ALL saying that children should and could play with anything and everything that came my way. Which was exactly my point in saying that gender marketing was unnecessary.

2) I commented on a thread by a local radio station, which asked if Page 3 was “cheeky fun, or pornography”. Most replies ran along the “cheeky fun” line, and I responded with a short statement saying that Page 3 IS pornography and unnecessary and helped to embed the notion in our society that women are there to look at, and not be listened to, because Page 3 is in a newspaper, which I feel is inappropriate. I followed it up with a quick “I’m not debating about the existence of porn, I am merely stating that it should be removed from a newspaper which markets itself at the family demographic”

I was attacked left, right and centre. I was told by one respondent that he had “fought for King and Country for 18 years, and he did that to protect the right of women to do whatever line of work they wanted”. My response that we actually have a Queen and haven’t had a King since 1952 didn’t go down too well, and neither did my question “what about my right to not see porn in a newspaper?”

I was told that I was jealous (I’m not), campaigning to remove something which is our country’s heritage (it’s not), and that I was a “do-gooder with too much time on my hands”

I was also told, by several people, that if I don’t like it, then I shouldn’t buy it – which clearly misses the point, because it is the existence of Page 3 which I object to, and which continues to objectify women in our society. I provided links to the No More Page 3 campaign, and to the #EverdaySexism project, and also links proving a correlation between Page 3 and some instances of sexual violence. I was called a “sad woman” a “f*cking idiot” and a “silly b*tch”

3) I saw a lovely photograph of a steam train, posted by my friend. It had a description on, advertising the fact that “even women” work on trains, and that a woman named Steph was the new fireman on the train. These were not my friend’s words, but I commented on the page, and mentioned that I felt it was a shame that it had to be pointed out that “even women” can work in this industry. I also asked, politely, why she was referred to as a fireman? I was met with a wave of misogyny that really shocked me.

I was told that the job description was part of the heritage of our country, and no “lady” has a right to change it – and the “ladies” who worked there didn’t want to, so why was I getting het up about it? I was told that women can do the job as well as men, and they were merely pointing that out (erm…thanks) and that men who work in hospitals as “ward sisters” don’t get all militant and “foot-stampy” about the job title, because men don’t react like women.

I replied to this by saying that I felt it unnecessary to include a gender description in any job title, and I would support anyone – male or female – who opposed it. I also commented that men in general tend not to react to sexism, because it isn’t directed against men in the same way it is, and always has been, against women.

Another poster told me that it’s “just language” and I shouldn’t get annoyed with language. I replied that I wasn’t annoyed, but that there is still a gender pay-gap and employment opportunity disparity in this country, and opinions like the one published were all part of that problem. I was then challenged because none of them believed in the slightest that there is a gender pay divide because “in all my years of working in public and private sector, I have never known women get less money than men”

Within two minutes, I posted 5 links to support these facts, which I found on google, published by The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the BBC and the Guardian. I then found a piece on the pay divide in professional sport and posted that. I mentioned that in graduate professions particularly, and including politics, science, engineering and business, the pay gap is very real.

The response to this? “When you’re in a hole – stop digging.”

My favourite bit, though, was the man who told me that there were lots of “feminine ladies” who worked alongside him on the trains. How lovely for everyone concerned.

These are but three examples. There are dozens more.

I find it interesting that the people who argue with me, tell me that I’m wrong, even when I explain to them why I feel the way I do, but they cannot tell me why they think the way that they do.
■The people who want to keep gender divide marketing just tell me I’m being silly and they’ll buy whatever they like – fine. So let’s get rid of it, if there’s no reason to have it
■The people who want to keep Page 3 tell me that it “doesn’t do any harm”, and say that it’s their right to look at it. – fine. Look at it from the top shelf
■The people that feel that gender-descriptive job roles are OK and that there’s no issue just told me I was wrong when I explained I felt there was. One of them did tell me that the job-description was part of the heritage of the industry, which is a historical indusrty, and something that they wanted to preserve. I disagree, but at least he had a coherent reason. However, when I presented them with facts to back up my opinion, I was just told I was incorrect because men don’t complain – fine. That’s their business. This is mine, and I feel like righting wrongs.

Very often I am flogging a dead horse, but I still think that my opinion has value, because I back it up with reason and fact. That doesn’t mean that I expect the world to agree with me, change their minds, or tell me I’m right. I just expect people to understand what I am saying, and accept my responses when I answer their challenges. I also welcome debate from people who hold other opinions to me – but I rarely get it. Because most people deny that it’s an issue, ignore the facts that I give them, or completely misunderstand my point of view.

However, if one side of a debate can only fall back on insults, aggression and refusal to acknowledge that there is even a debate to be had, then they are part of the problem that they don’t believe in.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20223264

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/nov/22/gender-pay-gap-falls-full-time-workers

http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/equal-pay/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/9915125/Gender-pay-gap-Female-graduates-dont-value-themselves-as-much-as-men.html

http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/home/research/articles-and-reports/equity-issues/pay-inequity

First World Problems…When Complaints Bear Fruit!

As you may have noticed, I can be a bit publicly moany. But sometimes, being a bit publicly moany can actually get results, whereas being a bit privately disgruntled gets you nowt.

I thought I’d share a success story. The names have been altered, to protect the innocent me because I don’t want to get sued

Here is a little email that I sent to a Generic Mobile Phone Company:

Hello there Generic Mobile Phone Company:

How are you? Well? Good.

I’m not so good.

Allow me to explain:

The reason I’m not feeling so hot at the moment, is because of something that you (not you personally; you, The Company you) have done. And I just feel that I should let you know about your customer “service”. You may have noticed that I used quotation marks around the word “service.” It’s to highlight the irony. Because, service is sadly lacking in some parts and is shoddy, at best. As a positive (I was always taught to follow negatives up with positives) you (you, the Company you – I can’t review you personally) are excellent at selling. You genuinely can’t do enough for me, Mrs Customer, at that crucial stage where I am about to sign up for a commitment to you (you, the Company you.) But, once the selling is done, it all goes a bit downhill, doesn’t it? Once I’ve signed over a bit of monthly salary for two years, and you’ve got me – what then? If I dare to have a problem…well, that seems to be a different kettle of fish entirely.

Allow me to explain:

One day what happened was this – my mobile became unusable. I was unable to download anything, I was unable to purchase anything, and I was unable to get online. And then, suddenly & for no reason, after 3 months of ownership, the screen went completely black. So I took it into my local shop who sent it off for repair on 21st March.

I was comfortingly told, that I would have my phone back within 14 days, unless there was a big problem, but I would be kept informed at all times.

14 days came and went, and I was left uncontacted. If you know me (which you don’t) you’ll know that this is the sort of thing that makes me make this noise: “Grrr”

So, I waited another 3 days (just in case you were operating on some sleepy European time-scale.) But, after 17 days, of being phone-less I had heard nothing. So, what I did was this – I called the shop and explained that I wanted to know what had happened to my phone. The woman on the phone “listened” (there are those quotation marks again) to everything that I had to say, and then “helpfully” (do you see the pattern?) told me that my phone had ben sent away for repair.

I knew this. So I tried to progress the conversation.

I asked for any update on how my little patient was doing, and she told me: “It’s nothing to do with us – we don’t have it”

I knew that she didn’t have it, because I understand the concept of “sent away.”

Eventually, and after much cajoling on my part, I wheedled a contact number out of the woman who took my call, and I even got my repair number, although she did sullenly tell me I could obtain that myself from my paperwork. I mentioned that I was on the phone and it would be easier if she could just tell me what it was, and she said “I’ll have to boot it up and it’ll take ages. Do you want me to have to do that?” I did. I allowed her to boot it up. I thought it would be the most convenient for me. The customer. The paying customer.

Obviously, having to respond to a customer’s request during her paid working hours ruined her day, but I fear that I simply do not care…

So, armed with my spanking new contact number and my individual repair number, I decided to call your “repair hotline” (that is what you, The Company, call it. It is not an accurate name)

I tried to phone your fabulous repair “hotline” on no less than 18 occasions. Each and every time I called, I was advised by your robot that I was in queue position “1” and each and every time I called, something very strange happened – my call was cut off on each occasion after 4 minutes and 40 seconds, and I was simply told to email you from my phone as an alternative. I can’t email you from my phone – you have got it. Which is why I’m trying to phone you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read Joseph Helier’s rather excellent classic work of fiction “Catch 22” – this strikes me as a modern-day (albeit more simplistic) interpretation of the conundrums faced within that novel. If you haven’t read it, may I suggest you do. It’s very good.

Right – back to this communication, and my reason for initiating it:

Generic Mobile Phone Company:– I just want to know where my sodding phone is, and if there’s any chance I’ll get it back within a reasonable amount of time, so that I can (if I wish) email, phone and take photographs using the phone that I am still paying a monthly charge for (bravo on that, by the way. Bravo.)

In terms of your customer “service” – do you know, (or care) how frustrating it is for a customer to have their call constantly cut short? Why do that? Why put me in position 1, and then snatch the promise of speaking to an actual person clean away from me? 18 calls at 4 minutes 40, is over an hour and a half of my life, that I will never get back. And that I am paying for. I am also without a mobile phone, which is a huge inconvenience. I am resorting to putting my sim into an old handset, which doesn’t really work properly (touch screen doesn’t respond to touch – NATCH) for emergencies, but this is proving fruitless also.

Look, Generic Mobile Phone Company. I just want my phone back. Or at least an approximation of when it’s going to happen. Or the opportunity to speak to someone who knows where my phone is.

Who’s going to help me out? Come on – there must be someone.

I would also like to take this opportunity to explain why I have emailed this account instead of using your contacts facility. Your online contacts page doesn’t really give me enough of an opportunity to explain myself. If it was more accessible, then I might have just sent you a brief complaint and left it at that. But the fact that you make it virtually impossible for anyone to send you any negative queries just makes my blood boil. It gets my sarcasm going. And then this happens. Do you see?

With that in mind, may I suggest that a) 3000 characters is nowhere NEAR enough to enable me say what I really think and b) when you ask how I would like you to respond to my request, in this instance offering me the choices of “text” and “call to mobile” is, once again, a little shortsighted. If you respond to my complaint with a “text” or a “call to mobile”, then you (the Company, you) will get to read it before I do. That just seems silly.

So that’s why it’s this way, rather than try to utilise the rather difficult-to-access complaints procedure on your website

May I also take this opportunity to “congratulate” you on your fine “Question and Answer” section. When I asked “How Do I Make A Complaint” you suggested I meant one of the following:

How to make a complaint against a third party provider

How to make a complaint regarding nuisance texts

How to make a complaint regarding nuisance calls

Complaints about online billing

…but nothing about how I might make a complaint about you….. I do hope I’ve found a way…

Yours in eager anticipation

Bectora Morrisio

My Reply:

Thanks for your email Bectora advising me that you would like to know your repair status.

I’m sorry if you still needed to get back to us about this matter and I know how important it is for you to know the progress the repair. I’ll be more than glad to sort this out for you.

I can understand that you preferred to receive an email response however, I feel that your concern can be best resolved over the phone and you might have follow up questions about your account. Hence, I’ve decided to try to call you on this numbers 079******93 and apparently, I’m unable to get in touch with you.

Bectora,, I appreciate your comment about our customer service, rest assured that this will be taken care of immediately. I will send your feedback right away to my manager so he’ll be able to cascade this to our next level of support and will be addressed right away. It will be cascaded to everybody so our service will be improved in the future.

I’ve consulted our repair team for you and I was advised that your phone was received on 25 March at around 12:36. Once it has been received it may take up to 14 calendar days to be repaired and returned to you.

Furthermore, you may get in touch with our repair centre through this helpline number
************* so you’ll also be advised what exactly the progress is about your phone. However, you can still always monitor your repair status through our website by clicking HERE

Moreover, as gesture of goodwill, we’ll compensate the number of days you’re unable to use the service and I would also like to offer you one free month of phone usage as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience that you have been caused just please get back to us once you receive your phone back so we’ll be able to effectively add the credit on your account

If you wish to further discuss this matter, you may reply to this email with your alternative number and the convenient time to call so I can arrange a call back for you.

Thanks again for your email Bectora,I hope this puts your mind at rest and I’ve explained everything clearly for you.

If you have any further queries, please feel free to reply to this email

****************************

Result!

Will You Never Learn, ADT?

Oh ADT – what were you thinking? Didn’t we already have this discussion last year? Didn’t we resolve the situation to everyone’s (my) satisfaction? Didn’t we sign off on the dotted line with a big fat “case closed”?

I say we did. Which then begs the question: “What the deuce do you think you’re doing now?”

Remember, dear ADT, in the Summer of 2010, when we met? My first – Mr ADT Salesman, you pattered your way into my heart with promises of free intruder alarms and low-cost monitoring. I relented. I gave in. I couldn’t resist the tiny monthly fee, the gratis shiny alarm box and the prompt and free installation.

Remember how we laughed, Mr ADT Engineer, as you installed my alarm, and I told you about my former professional relationship with Mr Chubb Alarms. Remember that heady conversation where you pledged that you would “never be able to pull the wool” over my eyes, as I knew all about the pitfalls and detractors of alarm companies.

Remember the signing of the paperwork? That special moment where I read the small print, and noted that my monthly fee was a 2-year commitment, and that when…nay… if…I wanted to end our relationship at the end of those beautiful first days, then I could – with no remorse, no recrimination and no pleas to stay. I could walk away with, as a memento of our time together, my lovely bells-only alarm box.

Remember how I said how much I admired the deal? How impressed I was at your generosity. We even talked about how, if I moved, I would get a new box. A shinier one, and at no cost to me.

ADT, I felt wanted. Valued. Desired.

But then, it went wrong, didn’t it ADT? It just went wrong.

The honeymoon period was over, and the box began to show faults. I called you – more than once. Do you remember, Mr ADT Call Centre Man? Do you remember how I told you that we were in line fault? That our alarm was no longer being monitored? Do you remember how you denied it at first, and then admitted it? There was a fault.

And it was yours.

You had left my line unwatched. Unloved. For five lonely months. You claimed that you had written and tried to call – but then I discovered the truth. You were sending letters to another address. The correspondence meant for me had been going to another – on my own street.

At first you tried to laugh it off – tried to tell me it was an honest mistake. But we both knew, right then, that this was the beginning of the end for us. Do you remember, Mr ADT Call Centre Man, how you offered me a paltry one month’s free monitoring? As if that would compensate for the hurt I had suffered. You then stood down – you realised your fatal error, and you offered me a full refund of those wasted months. You offered me compensation for the following six months.

I accepted your offer.

You lied.

There was no compensation. No refund came my way. And, to add insult to my poor, injured alarm-pride, you sent me letters telling me I owed you money.

I OWED YOU!?

So I spoke to Mrs ADT Supervisor. I explained everything about the breakdown of our relationship. She held my hand through that terrible, dark period of not-knowing. And she made things alright.

The money came into my account. I terminated our arrangement. I told you I never wanted to see you again. The box remained on my wall – a bitter reminder of what might have been. No monitoring. Just lonely bells.

Months passed and I started to heal. When I set my alarm, there was no message of line fault. No plea to call an engineer – just an alarm, and gradually I forgot the pain of those months before.

And now – ADT – now this? Now you send a letter, telling me that you want my box back. That it doesn’t belong to me, and that you only let me have it whilst our relationship included monitoring. You tell me I must pay, or you will remove it.

And do you know what I say to you? I say this: “Screw you, ADT.”

You have taken enough from me.

I will not allow you to remove the last vestiges of my dignity by scurrilously unscrewing my box. For it is, mine, ADT. It is mine.

Do you remember, when we signed that form together? Me and you, Mr ADT Salesman? Do you remember what it said? It said that should our monitoring relationship falter after 24 months together, then the box would belong to me.

I know that’s what it said, because I found it and read it earlier on tonight.

So, my darling ADT, you can take your indignant letter and your passive-aggressive direct debit form, and you can shove them up your bells

The box is mine, I owe you nothing and I am free.

A Side Order of Sexism With Your Evening Meal?

I heard this today:

A: “She’s got an arse that could swallow up a G-string”

B: “I’d smash her. As long as I didn’t have to look at her face”

A: “Or listen to her talk”

Sadly familiar, yes?

And possibly surprising when I tell you that it wasn’t a pair of sweaty oafish idiots in a greasy spoon, leering at Page 3, but a couple of well-dressed, middle-class, well-educated 15 year old boys, watching a female classmate innocently walk down the road in front of them.

I know that the “G-string” comment wasn’t an original thought, but rather came from the charming penmanship of Jay-Z in his misogyny-fest “Run This Town.” I can’t work out if it’s better or worse that it was a quote.

I don’t even know where to start with this. Appalled that the two boys – both of whom I know – could possibly think that their sentiment was acceptable. Appalled that the lyrics in the afore-mentioned song actually go like this:

“She got a ass that’ll swallow up a G-string,

And up top, uh, two bee stings”

and appalled that this isn’t news. Because conversations like the above are still commonplace even in 2013.

Why haven’t we improved at this, as a nation and as a society? When I was a child in the 1970s, the world was a very different place; “Comedian” Jim Davidson was allowed to perform a caricature of a West Indian man, hilariously named “Chalky White” complete with grotesque accent, and exaggerated facial expressions.Disability awareness was non-existent, being gay was an instant ticket to give to people to cover their asses. Literally. And women were chefs in the kitchen, mothers in the parlour and whores in the bedroom.

Time has moved on apace. It is no longer acceptable to be racist or xenophobic. It is absolutely not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities, and gay people are people. Their sexual orientation is none of your damn business.

So why? Why is sexism, objectification and discrimination against women still socially acceptable? More than that – still promoted by the media? Why is it OK to make judgements about women because of the way that they look and on no other criteria? Why are sexist jokes about rape and abuse and violence still broadcastable and laughed at? Why is my lack of male genitalia a consideration for anything?

Even at the recent Oscars, host Seth Macfarlane sang an incredibly bizarre choice of comedy song to open the event. The content was “boobs.” Boobs in films. Reducing the work and skill and integrity of Hollywood’s finest (some of whom were, admittedly in on the hilarity) to whether or not they got their baps out for the camera. Puerile, juvenile, jokes for the boys as it was, the biggest mistake within the controversy, was the fact that in a peak of lazy songwriting, Seth managed to include a number of films where “boobs” were seen because the film was about the character being raped.

Still – a gag’s a gag, eh Seth? Way to reduce the impact of abuse, domestic violence and terror to a cheap laugh.

I have promoted the rather excellent No More Page 3 campaign a few times. It is interesting to read the comments from both supporters and detractors on their Facebook page. The issue certainly isn’t black and white, and opposers often have well-thought out comments to make. All of which are usually addressed by one of the fine women in charge of the site.

I support the campaign, because I cannot believe that this abomination exists in this 21st century world. I don’t care about the “side order of boobs with my porridge” argument, because I don’t buy the newspaper and read it with my breakfast. I don’t buy it, because I think it’s crap, not because of Page 3. But the point is, it is printed in glorious technicolour every single day, just so people can leer. In a newspaper. IN A NEWSPAPER. It is completely and utterly socially acceptable in our society, for men (or women?) to openly and outwardly leer at a picture of a semi-naked woman, and comment on what they would do to her, without fear of recrimination or embarrassment. In a society where people stare awkwardly at women breastfeeding their babies, and where restaurants ask nursing mothers to leave dining areas as it upsets other patrons.

Whatever your thoughts are on the removal of soft pornographic images from a well-read family newspaper, consider this: if there was a picture EVERY DAY on Page 3 of a disabled person, with a silly comment next to it, for no other reason other than the fact that they were disabled, or a black person posing – for no other reason other than the fact that they were black – if they were printed on a daily basis, with no connection to news, events or lifestyle, wouldn’t you stop and think: “why?”

Now, ask yourself that question about the fact that those Page 3 pictures exist just because they’re women. I bet I can predict your answers. I bet you’re not impressed with them.

I’d love to know what they are – please feel free to comment below?

Facebook, Banality, Wit and Worrying

I have entered a potentially dangerously boring phase of my life – and you might be a future victim of it.

Allow me to explain;

I have always prided myself on my ability to communicate interesting things with relevance and humour. Not everyone is going to agree that this is the case, but by and large, I try and talk about interesting things in a way that people will engage in. It’s my thing. If you ask my nearest and dearest what my defining quality is, some will say I’m a performer, others will say I’m a bit of a (lapsed) comedian, but most will say I’m a writer.

I have spent long hours over many years, honing and perfecting a style of writing that I hope engages people, and ensnares them into reading whatever it is I have to say. I’ve never really been dull on Facebook, and have never posted a picture of my dinner with the words “nom, nom, nom” next to it. I’ve also never written “going to bed” or “my son used the potty today” or “nearly summer” or any kind of approximation of those violations against wit. I’m more likely to utilise colourful language to explain a dispute with an alarm company, or choice allegations against a poor tour operator. Or make a joke. I make a lot of jokes, and none of them are copied and pasted, unless I am quoting Monty Python, which is not a sin.

But this is all changing, and it is for two reasons.

1) My sister gave birth last week to my first nephew. I am overcome with emotion about this and.. I can’t help sharing it with people who probably don’t care

2) I am on a diet, and doing really rather well. I have refrained from posting my “results” thus far, and have not yet resorted to the attention-seeking “lost 4lbs whoop whoop” kind of bollocks that I’m always reading…but I’m dangerously close to doing so and will, no doubt, soon be sharing it with people who probably don’t care.

Facebook is mental. It’s just a place where anyone with access to the internet can show off a pile of random crap to all and sundry. Some conversations that people have on Facebook, completely enthral me with their banality and stupidity, and right at the top of my Facebook fist-itching hates, are:

  1. Photographs of someone’s boring wanky dinner, described (as mentioned) by “nom” or “yum.” Especially “nom.”
  2. Boring, boring, boring commentary-style statuses, whereby “friends” narrate their every dullsville move throughout a given time period
  3. Enigmatic, moody attention-seeking postings along the lines of: “So fed up by it all.” or “Well, that’s it. Don’t mess with me, because you’ll regret it.” These are inevitably followed by baa-lamb responses (usually around 7-10 in number) of “what’s wrong, babe?” “what’s up?” “what’s happened?” And let me tell you, if you – the status originator – then respond with: “I’ll inbox you,” then you will move several notches up my shit-list.
  4. Poor grammar and spelling. This includes bloody text-speak, and “lol.”                                                                                      YOU ARE NOT LAUGHING OUT LOUD. AND I WOULD WAGER THAT YOU HAVE NEVER EVER IN YOUR LIFE ROLLED ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING. AND IF YOUR ARSE IS STILL ATTACHED TO YOU, YOU’VE NEVER LAUGHED THAT OFF EITHER. This section also includes those of you who write a couple of angry sentences about something or someone that has pissed you off, and then end it with “rant over.”  Point 1) It probably wasn’t a rant – we know a rant when we see one. Point 2)  If you have to tell us it was over, then it was a bad rant, and probably wasn’t one anyway. See Point 1.
  5. The constant posting of stupid copied pictures and “thought of the day” type crap. I don’t mind something funny or relevant or newsworthy, but I am so sick of “don’t forget who you trod on, on the way up, as they’ll be there to meet you on the way down” kind of crap. Yawn. If you can’t think of something intelligent, poignant or impressive yourself, then just post a picture of a cat yawning.
  6. Pictures of cats yawning
  7. Racist or sexist or inciteful or offensive or insulting or disablist lazy Daily Mail type shite.
  8. Constant updates on the progress of your children. They are amazing. To you. You honestly don’t need to tell us “I love my boys” every 5 minutes. We’ll just assume that you do
  9. People who post c&p statuses where you are supposed to feel guilty if you don’t repost it immediately, because it is in aid of cancer/babies dying/autism or whatever. These end in “99% of people won’t post – will you?” …     “No” would be the short answer. This also includes the rounds of “Facebook is changing its privacy settings…please read on if you don’t want your privacy compromised…” bollocks. It is untrue. www. snopes.com. Seriously.
  10. People who post EVERY SINGLE PHOTOGRAPH THAT THEY EVER TAKE. Even if they’re blurred, upside down, identical to the last 6 that were posted, of nothing, and crap. This includes people who pout. Sort through your photos, people.

I could go on, but I don’t know if anyone is still here? The thing is, I use FB all the time. And I’m probably more than guilty of other people’s pet hates, and no doubt there are people who block me from time to time, because they can’t be arsed with my moany campaign statuses. But if there is one thing I can’t stand, it is hackneyed, trite, unoriginal banality, and I have a (fairly low key) one-woman mission to inject a bit of humour into a Facebook day.

Well, I did. Until now.

So, please, those of you who are friends with me on FB – do enjoy my upcoming regular updates on my nephew’s bowel movements, and how cute and small he is. I will accompany them with photographs. And, in a couple of months, you will have my weight loss progress to look forward to, because I’m holding the announcements in by the skin of my teeth only.

I know you’re not really interested. I’m not interested in much of what I read on Facebook either. But, we’re there and we’re using it, so it’s going to happen. Read it, roll your eyes, and mourn the passing of my witticisms, because …here comes boring.

Rant over.

No More Page Three

One weekday morning, a little lad,
Who wanted to be just like his Dad,
Sat down for breakfast, toast on plate
His Dad he tried to emulate.
So he reached out and picked up The Sun,
Transition to adulthood begun.
He turned the paper, page one…page two..
And then page three. Well, wow! Who knew?
“No need for sneaking on the internet,
No scouring mags for a hot brunette,
No need to hide stuff under the bed
Because this is right out there instead
And as it’s printed in daily news
That MUST mean it’s safe for views.
It’s right there, getting daily hits
So that means it’s FINE to ogle tits,
And if Mum should wander near
I’ll pretend I’m looking at the news stories here,
Because as a handy little motif
They’ve also printed “news in briefs”
So if I should be caught ogling these birds
I can pretend I’m reading their insightful words.
Of course, I doubt the words are theirs
What do lasses know of world affairs?
If all the paper cares about
Is what they look like with titties out,
Then why should I believe that they
Ever have anything of interest to say?
No, because this is in daily print
It’s fine to leer at this bint,
Other men can’t think too much
Of these chicks – they’re there to touch.
If porn was dirty or a private affair,
Then it wouldn’t be printed so boldly there.
No, this must mean that it’s alright
I’m so lucky. Tits in daily sight.”
And so the little lad grew older
And with the ladies grew ever bolder.
Page 3 featured in his daily life,
Even when he “took a wife”
She didn’t much like the tits on show
But it was in a newspaper, so
She didn’t feel she could complain
He’d moan about her nagging again.
So each and every weekday morn
She accepted with her breakfast, porn.
And so did her kids, who didn’t think
That tits and news have no link.
Until one day, after years of thinking
Support for Page 3 seemed to be shrinking.
A group of people who’d had enough
Of being labelled as tits and chuff,
Worked on a campaign to stop the boobs
From appearing in the daily news.
They still championed femininity
But advocated it in privacy,
Nothing to do with porn being banned
Just about Page 3, they made their stand.
It’s all about objectification
Which is embedded within our progressive nation,
It’s all about how women are viewed
And how leering and perving is downright rude,
It’s baby steps towards a state of equality
And not seeing sexism as merely frivolity,
It won’t change the world overnight
But a step in a direction overdue, and right.
So boobs aren’t news – find your pictures elsewhere
And women aren’t commodities at which you should stare.
We are all equal unless it’s otherwise proved,
No More Page Three – take the boobs out of news!