Tag Archives: UK

RIP Top Gear

As predicted, the BBC have fired Clarkson. The current iteration of Top Gear is no more. Ah, me. All good things must come to an end. Well, maybe the situation is not so terminal, and a return to the slower paced days of someone like William Woollard is on the cards.

Chris Evans has already publicly declined the poison chalice of following Clarkson, May and Hammond. Which for Evans is a wise move. The chemistry of the three bozo’s is a tough act to follow, and anyone taking a new, PC sanitised Top Gear on will have to be really, really, good, or more likely be so blindly ambitious they don’t realise they’re committing career Seppuku.

The end of the show will, no doubt please the Politically Correct Puritan faction. Who of course know what is good for everyone, whether ‘everyone’ likes it or not. No doubt said repressives will not be happy until all television (and the Interweb) is as anodyne and unchallenging at the Test Card or worse.

You know, I’m wondering if news of the replacement show or succeeding presenters will turn into one of those tedious media soap operas where the BBC announces Top Gears return in a “Yes it is” oops! “No it isn’t” pantomime, until a daytime TV version with the budget of Gardeners Question Time finally hiccups and gasps into life for one truncated season to fade and die in TV hell on BBC4, sandwiched between Countryfile and endless reruns of Cagney and Lacey hosted by some nonentity ‘Dub poet’.

Update: On the other hand, if David Camerons 11 year old daughter and Guido Fawkes get their way, Clarkson may not be on the scrap heap challenge just yet. Time will tell. If popular support fails against the monolithic diktats of the Beeb, then it’s Requiescat In Pace Top Gear. It was fun while it lasted.

Nothing much to say

……and no real inclination to say it. Life trundles on. On the downside, I’ve just had to set the lawyers on a family member. A situation I’ve striven manfully to avoid, but they’ve been so dumb and plain obstructive I feel that a quick lick of the legal cat o’nine tails might bring them to their senses. If not, well, That’ll be their tough luck. Not that this gives me any satisfaction. We left the last chance saloon late last week and are now in the alley out back. It could get messy and expensive. For them, certainly.

Now excuse me, I have a trip to Paris to organise.

Workplace violence

In the wake of the Clarkson incident, I’m left wondering at how the UK’s workplace culture has changed, for good or ill, in the last thirty years.

For example; when I first started work, it was a common occurrence to be abused, struck, slapped or manhandled by managers or ‘senior colleagues’. It was part of the culture. You either learned to fight back, sometimes with words, sometimes in other ways, or you walked. There was no ‘constructive dismissal’, no lawsuits and the Unions have been as much use as a wet hanky. You were expected to “Be a Man” (Pray tell, what’s ‘manly’ about letting others push you around?) or “Take it on the chin” (Not this chin matey). You stayed and buckled under, or you walked. During my working life I have done a lot of walking. Probably to my detriment, but I wasn’t prepared to take the crap that was being handed out, so I walked. Bosses who thought they could bully or intimidate me didn’t remain my boss for long. Truth be told, I’ve had a string of bad or plain abusive managers and I can count the good ones on the fingers of one hand, excluding thumb. The good ones, who took the time and trouble to show how they wanted a job done got the best out of me. Those whose management technique simply consisted of shouting until you got it right by trial and error, didn’t. End of.

70’s, 80’s and even 1990’s shop floors could be rough places. Apprentices were routinely abused and beaten if their face didn’t fit, or they were slow bringing the under foreman’s tea, or looked the wrong way at the girl on the production line that someone else fancied. Or held a tool in the ‘wrong’ way. Eventually you found out who the abusive people were and learned to keep out of their way. But sometimes you got in their sights, and then there was no way but the highway.

These were people (Most of them are dead – the world is a better place) who could make the most notoriously abusive TV Chef look like Peter Pan. People with such poor communication, leadership and management skills they could not be called managers, more sheep with delusions of being Genghis Khan. And there was no pleasing them if they took a dislike to you or thought were ‘too big for your boots’. At the time I was too bright to hide my light under a bushel, too big to hide, and too dumb to not talk back, which often made me a target. Until I developed sufficient self defense skills and a sharp, sarcastic wit (And the wisdom of where to apply it) to keep me out of the more stupid workplace fights. I also learned that people who considered me a ‘threat’ would often try and maneuver me into a fight when they had a few mates handy as backup, just so’s they could give the big guy (me) a pounding, to establish their dominance. Because I was bullying them? No, that’s never been me. I don’t bully. Quite frankly the thought horrifies me, which considering some elements of my past, might actually surprise a few people. I think I became a target mostly because my abusers mistook my gentle nature for weakness, my preference for solitude and personal space as a slight. In other words “A docile git” and not automatically their best mate or toady. Nor member of a preferred clique or peer group.

That was then, this is now; physical abuse of employees is a big no-no.

This isn’t to say that there is no longer any abuse in the UK corporate workplace; it’s just changed form. Abuse is no longer so physical, the threatening behaviour from less than competent management (and fellow employees) is still there. Now it’s more sly; meetings (More like tribunals) convened to penalise staff members into compliance. False or petty complaints. Square pegs are still hammered into round holes, but now the intent is to redesign the shape of the HR hole so that no matter what shape the peg is, it can never fit. Initiative is a thing abhorred and avoided at all costs. Likewise innovation. Employees not properly trained because they’ll only leave and take their precious ‘skills’ with them. Also if there isn’t a box to be ticked, the task does not exist and must therefore not be performed under any circumstances. Non-compliance is not an option. Bureaucracy rules UK. At least this was my experience before we upped sticks and took our great leap of faith. Canada has come as a bit of a surprise because the work culture here is geared more towards cooperation.

Anyway. My last, terminal, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die final word on the Clarkson fiasco; no film set gofer worth their salt would have dreamed of not laying on some kind of hot food for cast and crew after a cold and windy day on set. They’d have shown some initiative, asked hotel management to keep a cook on standby, called a caterer, or at a pinch gone off to the local takeaway to bring back a serious curry, maybe ordered enough fish chips and pizza for the entire cast and crew. Anything but a cold spread and surly “Snot my job” excuse. And they’d have actually gone to the pub where the cast were, or at least phoned to ask people up front what they wanted to eat. Then nobody, drunk or not, would have had any excuse to go postal.

So they’ve finally done it

Well there goes Top Gear, one of the last decent reasons for having a TV licence in the UK. The forces of BBC PC conformity have suspended Jeremy Clarkson from the show and suspended the show’s current season. Did old JC actually punch someone out? Yes? No? We don’t know, and no-one’s saying. Well there’s a surprise. A row over the production teams failure to lay on a dinner and Clarkson being a bit of a knob? Was blood spilt? Dental repairs required? Not that we know. Storm, teacup. Build a bridge and get over it for crying out loud.

That’s that then. The Malvolio’s have won. Much good may it do them. Theirs may prove a Pyrrhic victory. Top Gear has been a big earner for the Beeb for some time and now that revenue will disappear. Foot, bang, ouch! Not that the entitled offence seeking faction within the Beeb will see it that way, they’ll just demand more from an ever-shrinking public purse.

What the anti-Clarkson set don’t seem to understand is that the reason Top Gear was so popular is the three stooge-like antics of Clarkson, Hammond and May. None of whom could carry the show on their own, but put all three together and the chemistry really worked.

Not that I’m surprised. This is the last in a long line of manufactured ‘scandals’ concerning Jeremy Clarkson. Like for saying there was a ‘slope’ on a bridge (which could be taken both ways – their bridge over the river Kwai was a bit wonky). Or for saying that he vouchsafed the dreaded ‘N’ word, when there was no real proof, just accusation from po-faced attention seeking race baiters when he recited a children’s nursery rhyme that has the ‘N’ word as part of its original version. He’s been in the PC crosshairs for some time. Some might observe that he openly courted the notoriety. As an aside; work on the shop floor with many people of African heritage and you’ll hear them say the ‘N’ word out loud up to ten times an hour and more. Clarkson (only allegedly) saying it (or even stifling it as a joke) once hardly compares.

Yes, Jeremy Clarkson is a knob and a boor, but that’s half his appeal. He’s an allowed fool, that’s why he’s so damn popular. All over the UK and English speaking world, men well past the first flush of youth, no longer in original Adonis-like condition (If they ever were), waistbands straining, hair follicles diminished and greying, could always laugh at the antics of Jezza, the Hamster and Captain Slow, silently thanking their lucky stars that they are not really like the stars of Top Gear. Laughing at the teams silly stunts like building a mock space shuttle out of a Reliant Robin (My particular favourite) or destroying Caravans. Racing an Alpha Romeo against an Amphibious Quad bike across Lake Como. Pitting a Nissan against the world famous Japanese Bullet train. Envying their access to the worlds finest supercars and seeing those hyper expensive vehicles, which the average non lottery winner could only dream of owning, as somewhat overpriced. Yes it’s got a whole heap of horses under the hood, but it corners like a greased pig on glass.

No doubt libelous accusations that Clarkson has all along been a Savile-like sexual predator will surface. I can, even from this side of the Atlantic, hear the motors of slanderous anti-Clarkson spin begin to wind up to speed. Allegations will appear about his misdeeds, and whether they have even the faintest grain of possibility or not, the howling paedo-mob will be handed their torches and pitchforks to descend upon a man whose only real crime is that he publicly does not represent a narrow and soulless point of view. If I was Clarkson, I’d be instructing someone like Carter-Ruck just on the off chance that such allegations might appear. Force the accusers into court and demand costs. This is something he might already have prepared for. Just because he plays a fool on TV does not necessarily mean that he really is one.

On the positive side, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of him yet. Which might upset certain people. Bless. Cue ironic laughter dopplering into the distance…….

Update: Clarkson has coughed to the assault, saying he was ‘a bit drunk’ at the time and ‘manhandled’ the offending assistant. Punch or no, that’s an instant dismissal offence. So, that’s that. The end of Top Gear. Well, they’ll fire him, but it might get a bit contractually complex as doesn’t he own the franchise or something like that? There’s also the observation that had his politics been left of centre, he would probably have gotten away with it.

Another update: What did I say about Clarkson becoming a Savile like target? A BBC ‘executive’ is reputed to have pointed the first finger.

Why I vote for……..

The silliest candidate available.

Apropos of Sweet Fanny Adams; when I resided in the UK, it was the Monster Raving Looney Party. Even my late mother used to vote for them. Mainly, she said, because the mainstream parties had grown so unrepresentative of the everyday folk, that having a complete self avowed barmcake schlepping down the corridors of power in clown shoes would be a definite improvement. Yes, you’d still get roads and bridges to nowhere, but mandatory caravans as second homes for MP’s, population limitation to 63 million and an end to the war on terror, along with repatriation of anyone who emigrated to the UK prior to 55AD, which is a bit of tough luck for all those Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots and other johnny-come-latelies thinking that it was safe to take a breather and revert to their native accent. The OMRLP are also firmly opposed to Greyhound and Whippet racing to prevent the country going to the dogs. Which can only be deemed a sensible policy. Dog track goers might disagree.

Why I used to vote the Monster Looney ticket was mainly because the UK’s three mainstream parties were, and are, far sillier than any nonsense the ‘fringe’ parties can come up with. I mean, never mind the economy, the Tories main achievements in this term will be Gay Marriage and Plain Packaging for cigarettes. Which, lets face it, are hardly mission critical issues. Although if UKIP get a larger share of the vote on May 7th, I may have to modify this statement. UKIP I feel, would reduce the overall silliness quotient of the UK’s Parliament.
Although……..

Meanwhile, back towards the topic; in IT, when we want to say a software application application is complete and utter pants, we call it “Counter intuitive”. So bearing in mind their total ineffectiveness, the LibLabCon of mainstream UK parties can therefore be designated “Counter intuitive”. So can those institutions terminally infected by the PC virus like the BBC. So that no matter how many times a right of centre French politician says “No, we’re not connected”, the bimbo interrogator insists “Yes, but you love that Nigel Farage bloke and want to have his babies don’t you?” Without letting said politician finish, or in at least two places, even start their answer. No wonder the man in the street is increasingly losing faith in mainstream politics. It’s got so bad even the Guardian has noticed although the ‘globalisation’ attribution is missing the goal by a country mile.

Here in Canada the Harper Government has, for all its many faults, remained a steady hand on the economic tiller. Economically speaking, I wouldn’t trust any left of centre party like the NDP or Liberals because they simply don’t have a clue and would have strode in lockstep down the road to economic disaster with our cousins south of the 49th parallel. Just so no-one would call them ‘racist’ for not seeing the current President in his true colours. For the record; my sole criteria is; never mind his skin colour, is the guy any good at his job? Which in Barack Obama’s case, the answer has to come back as a ringing and emphatic ‘No’. Neither was Bush Jnr, but that’s by the by.

So, Harper and Co will probably get my first Federal Canadian vote this 2015 because overall they are far less silly than the alternatives.

Now, gods…….

Shakespeare had it; why bastard, wherefore base? Indeed. History is liberally seasoned with those of us of (Cough) uncertain (cough, cough) parentage who have made good against the odds. Some would even say that condition can act as a spur for success. As far as I’ve been concerned it’s always been used as a sideways ‘shut up or we’ll tell everyone, slaphead’ or ‘Bill, don’t embarass your poor old Mum’.

As an aside to that topic, today I have found myself dancing a careful conversational Gavotte with UK lawyers and tax advisers. Dipping my toes in turgid legal waters to map out a fiscal path from A to Z. Not that this is a Machiavellian ploy on my part to asset strip another family member, more a sidestep to avoid being asset stripped. Both by family and ultimately, HMRC. The closest metaphor I can come up with is it’s like tapdancing through a minefield wearing outsize divers boots. Every leaden step becomes future threatening. Every decision must be taken only after consulting at least three sources.

When I’ve told friends and acquaintances of my difficulties, it’s interesting how quickly the old chestnut ‘blood is thicker than water’ is trotted out. In other words “Oo, you can’t call him out as a lying, cheating whoreson ‘cos you share some familial DNA.” Sorry chums but that’s just emotional blackmail, in effect saying that you can’t claim your rightful and legal due because you might hurt someone’s feelings and they’ll never talk to you again? Hmm. Now there’s a fine howdy-do and no mistake. What do I choose? Modest wealth and security for myself and my little clan of wife and stepkids who I have come to love as dearly as life itself? Or do I let my originating family, with whom I have little real emotional attachment actively prevent me from managing my own assets and leave me with a massive UK tax bill? No contest really. Hell, I’ve even emigrated.

‘Coming out’ to being a public bastard rapidly opens your eyes to the faults of others, especially when you suspect they think you’re some kind of total eejit, simply through the lottery of birth. Particularly when you think they’re going to screw you over. It’s also amazing how complex apparently simple matters can become. Especially when there’s a glint of gold in the air. So here I am. Do I, in thinking that there are financial and legal shenanigans afoot, cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of law? Or do I continue to solicit, beg, cajole, play nice and gently persuade the offending party, who has so far ignored requests to deal with matters to my satisfaction?

There’s the rub. Now if the letters speed, and my intention thrive………..We shall see.

Some things should not pass from memory…..

Just a quickie for all you youngun’s out in jolly old Interwebland. A small antidote to the doom and gloom about insane mass murdering death cults, inept Presidents, the dunderheadedness of bureaucrats, radical vegetarians, idiots who still believe against all evidence to the contrary that CO2 driven man made global warming is real, professional protesters and the general lack of worthwhile cerebral activity in the online world……

A pre Python Michael Palin introduces the legendary, the phenomenal, the so incredibly awesome Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band from Do not adjust your set (A 1960’s children’s TV show? Link to playlist here Oy gevalt already).

How can you not love a show that invented the ‘electric spoon’ concept? Which was so good someone had to invent one.

Well, they were more innocent times.

Orwells World

Friends, wossnames, countrymen. Lend me your thingummyjobbies. I come, not to praise liberty, but to bury it. That’s right. Freedom is dead, or very much on life support. Shakespeare himself might have done a quick rewrite to outline the situation (Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1, Mark Anthony’s speech)

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of truth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest concept
That ever livèd in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that drained this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of Twitter—
A curse hath lit upon the voice of man.
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Doth cumber all the online world.
Blood and destruction is so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That Mumsnet shall but smile when they behold
Their infants smothered by the nanny state,
All pity choked with accusation of sex crime,
Yet Freedom’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Whatsap by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the words of war,
That these foul deeds shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

I think Bill the Quill would have approved. Or what’s that whirring, buzzing sound from the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon?

Seriously. I woke up thinking this morning that the country of my birth has turned into a warped version of Orwell’s nightmare 1984. This isn’t me being paranoid, it’s so in your face it’s not true. Twitter storms have become the “Two minute Hate”. People are regularly arrested for “Hate speech”. Voicing legitimate concerns has become “Thought crime”. Constant warfare. Near ubiquitous CCTV. Surveillance of e-mail and web activity. Webcams that can be remotely switched on. I don’t need to provide links. The evidence is in plain sight everywhere. If you don’t see, then you ain’t looking.

The UK, now rebranding as Orwell’s World theme park. Try the Grauniad rollercoaster, where tribes of shrieking lefties throw shit and outrage at everyone. It’s a blast. Thank you for not smoking or drinking. Or thinking. Anywhere.

Where there’s a will……there’s a won’t

For anyone who has ever been a beneficiary in a will, or who expects to be, here is a cautionary tale.

Last year, as followers of this blog will be aware, my Mother died. Lost my dog on the same day, but well, that’s another hole in the heart. Now while my dog, being canine did not leave a will, Ma Sticker did, and a pretty penny it is too. Well it would be. If not for the Executor, my elder sibling. Who is being an idiot. And may be about to get a very nasty legal and fiscal shock. But first, let me fill you in on some family background.

Elder sibling and I share the same mother, but that is the total depth of our relationship. My mother married his father, according to family legend “Only because he had a car.” At least according to one of my cousins, who spent a gleeful hour at my mothers funeral letting cats out of bags, showing me a familial walk-in closet full of skeletons and reminding me that I am the family bastard. “But Bill, we thought you knew.” Was another family members semi shocked response to my statement of disbelief. Well kind of yes, and kind of no. Of course I was aware through a combination of guesswork, surmise and ‘why am I over six feet tall and built like a dray horse whilst everyone else struggles to get past a slender five feet eight’, but it’s a hell of a thing to get the news you’re a “Love child” straight from the horses mouth. Especially at your Mothers funeral. With all the gruesome details of how my mother was cheating on my brothers father, who did what, to whom and when. Cheers, cousin.

Well it’s true. I am the scion of an adulterous relationship. My biological parents were not married when I was conceived or born. I know this is no big deal any more, but autre temps, autre choses. It was back then. My only beef is that my parents, particularly Ma, continually bluffed and obfuscated on this topic while they were alive. Honesty on their part would have made my life so much more straightforward. Isn’t family guilt just wonderful dahleengs? There are so many things they should have done but didn’t because they thought they would get into trouble. Now belatedly I have to do the fixing myself. My birth certificate has to be changed for one. I’ve contacted the relevant court, and doing the changes means an expensive personal visit to the UK. Court fees and lawyers. Clucking bell.

What my parents’ misplaced guilt also resulted in is stuff like elder sibling going to private school and getting his university education fully funded while yours truly went to a bog standard comprehensive and a variety of technical colleges. He got the Gap year, I went straight to work at seventeen, all that jazz. Not that I resent these ‘advantages’ (if that’s what they are – I think they’ve narrowed his mind rather than broadening it, but that’s just me), it’s just that no-one seemed bothered to give me the choice when there was one. I was the one who took the beatings, both fathers not believing in sparing the rod. Such is life. You can play the ‘what if’ game until the cows come home but it won’t change anything. All you can do is not pass the bad shit on. There, having just talked to youngest via Skype, who is currently touring New Zealand, I think I may just have succeeded. So not all bad then.

So, that’s the background. I’m a genuine bastard son of a bitch, but you all knew that anyway, you cuddly little kittens you. Meanwhile, back on the subject. Legacies. Wills. Legal shizzle. Inheritances. Money. Moolah.

The good news is I stand to receive a goodly sum which will set me up for the rest of my days. If the Executor can get his act together. The bad news is, elder sibling is doing anything but. Getting anything out of the estate with him in the drivers seat is like pulling back molars with a set of nose hair tweezers. The will states the estate is an even split. No trusts, challenges or codicils. Probate was granted back in early October. All discoveries have been made and outstanding bills settled. No challenges, taxes paid, yet sibling wants to hang on to the major asset, which is a brace of rather pleasant little country cottages, officially valued at just shy of a very large sum indeed. He tells me he wants to ‘invest’ our inheritance jointly in those cottages and live off the rental income. I try to tell him they’re potential money pits which we should sell off, or we’ll end up losing money. I tell him I don’t want estate funds spent on them. I tell him he could make more money by selling up, splitting the estate and investing his share in more modern rental properties. Response? *crickets* La-la-la, he’s not listening. Even though he’s legally bound to execute the will and any losses he makes have to come out of his pockets, not the estate, for as long as he remains Executor. Which until the estate is fully paid out, he will remain. It’s not as though I’ve seen a penny so far, either. Despite there being significant liquid assets available ready for paying out.

As an aside; for those of you who need to make international currency transfers, here’s a piece of advice: don’t send it by cheque or in cash. Use a currency broker. Reason; you’ll get a much better rate of exchange from a broker than a bank, and they take care of all the money laundering restrictions. Broker transferred funds are available within 48hours, cheques take almost a month to clear. Canadian Banks also report cash transfers over $5000 direct to the tax man if they think the provenance of the source is a bit dodgy. They don’t like sterling cheques over CAD$5,000 either. Over a certain amount, cheques and money orders also get reported to the security services as possible terrorist activity. Believe it, the banks use special data mining applications to comply with these financial regulations. They can get fined millions if they don’t comply. RBS got caned a cool 5.6 million GBP a while back for not being careful enough. As did NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts. Oracle provide products for the very purpose of detecting money laundering. The only way round these restrictions is carrying large wodges of cash in your luggage, which is something the customs guys tend to frown upon.

Elder sibling does not ‘believe’ any of this. He refuses all my advice. I do not care. I just want him to execute the will and pay out my share of the estate a.s.a.p. before he manages to fritter half of it away. What he does with his own share is his business. Am I going to use my share of the money wisely? I think so, yes. I have an carefully selected Investment Fund Manager and Tax Accountant on standby. The additional question is, do I trust sibling? Well, funny you should ask that. No. His repeated failures to cough up and the way he is handling communication between us is ringing loud warning bells. I may have to lawyer up smartish. Which may prove expensive for both of us. Fortunately I have a top notch UK-qualified and based family lawyer waiting in the wings (Youngest). What I hope to gain, properly invested, will not only benefit me, but eventually our two reprobates and their families when it comes to check out time for Mrs S and I. As for who will get the job of Executor, well, it won’t be one of the beneficiaries. I’d rather pay a lawyer to do it.

You know, it’s at times like these I’m moved to reflect that I’ve never really had a close family and nowadays find myself wishing for even more distance. Maybe Canada was nowhere near far enough. The next galaxy, perchance?