Category Archives: travel

Motorway behaviour – it’s just plain embarrassing

Here’s a question for you…

I can guarantee, from my observations, that not everyone knows the correct answer, which is, according to Driving Test Success website:

A two-lane motorway – keep to the left-hand lane for normal driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. Once you have finished overtaking you should move back to the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are permitted to use either lane.

Three-lane motorway – you should stay in the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower moving traffic. To do this you should use the middle lane. If you need to overtake several vehicles then stay in the middle lane. There is no need to weave in and out of the left-hand lane as you overtake individual vehicles.

You should only use the outer lane to overtake slower moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied with slower moving traffic.

When in either the middle or outer lanes, you must be prepared to move over, to the left or middle lanes, to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Indeed!  If only!!

Basically, whatever motorway you are driving on, these “rules” are simply ignored – by almost everyone!    Which still baffles me as to why our motorways are statistically the safest places to drive in Britain.  Research by the Road Safety Foundation, and published by the Telegraph back in 2013, showed that single carriageway roads seven times more dangerous than motorways! It’s there in black and white so it must be true!

In 2018 Erin Baker, writing for the RAC highlighted the 11 of the most annoying driving habits and at guess what people –  #1 was Middle Lane Hogging.  Despite police pledges to prosecute middle-lane drivers, nothing has changed.  There you’ll find the older person keeping plenty of space around him or herself, totally oblivious to the law and absolutely insistent that they have the right to be where they are and drive at the speed they want.  Or it could be the timid mouse clutching, terrified, to the steering wheel with a fixed gaze – forward – and in no other direction, at any time.  It could be a young guy lost in his music, a family having an argument – it could be you.  In fact it is highly likely to be a lot of you!  Just today I was heading back up the M40 from London and I spotted  a silver Mercedes Vito (registration beginning EN17 Z.. – and yes I do know the rest) in my rear view mirror, who was moving slightly faster than me, I was doing 70 (on cruise control) in the inside lane – honest I was! He slowly passed me – couldn’t have been doing more than 1mph more than me.  About a minute later I had to overtake someone in the inside lane and he appeared in front of me – going significantly slower than he had been previously – but still in the middle lane.  Why? Because he was looking down at his phone, possibly texting someone.  I overtook him, returned to the inside lane and within a minute he came whizzing past me, clearly having finished his “chat” and keen to catch up the lost time – he was doing well over the national speed limit (god I sound virtuous here – pass the sick bag).

That’s not an isolated example – in the past few weeks I’ve driven to the top of Scotland and back and can confidently state that it happens everywhere – people driving in the wrong lane.

In fact I’d go so far as to say we British are the World’s worst motorway drivers – although according to HotCars we don’t even make the top 20 – to be fair this is actually about people who just don’t seem to be able to drive at all…  India only makes #12 – and having been there that’s one place I certainly do not want to drive in!

OK let’s say we’re the worst in Europe – well we can until Brexit happens and then we aren’t in Europe anymore (Cameron you **** – thanks for ****ing it up for us – and now you think we’d be prepared to let you back into politics – think again you total numpty!).  The only place that comes close to us in terms of motorway bad behaviour is Germany, and then only in the rain – the rest of the time they seem totally sensible.  The best motorways to drive on are in Belgium (hey some of them even have their own Wikipedia pages!) and from my experience the most organised and responsive motorists are the Italians – strange but true.  In 2014 Autoexpress published a survey that showed us Brits thought that the Italians were the worst drivers.  And that may well be true in cities and on the twisty roads such as the Amalfi coastline – BUT it’s a different story on motorways.

At least they are predictable and in general they follow the rules.  The drive fast – true, they will let you know they’re coming – also true but unless they are in what many seem to be, a terrible hurry, they WILL stay in the slow lane – they do NOT hog the middle or other lanes.

The problem with drivers hogging the middle lane is then what happens…

  1. for starters on a 3 lane motorway this will lead to more and more people moving to the outside lane to get past them, this naturally causes the traffic to slow, as a concertina or ripple, effect builds up leading to what are termed “phantom traffic jams” – this is one reason why your are more likely to see an accident in the outside lane of a motorway.
  2. undertaking – passing them on the inside – usually accompanied by a long hard stare at them as you go by, possibly accompanied by a bit head shaking and/or finger wagging.  Go on, admit it – you’ve done it – I know I have, and whilst it’s perfectly permissable in the US it isn’t here – ok to be accurate – it is permissable here but only where the queue of traffic in the lane to your right is moving slower than your lane – but that is not the example I am describing here!
  3. overtaking and making a point.  This is the practice, especially on an otherwise empty motorway, of driving up behind a MLH (middle lane hogger) then dropping back and moving into the inside lane before flooring it and zooming quickly up the inside lane and at the last moment swerving to the outside lane to pass them before moving sharply left and back into the inside lane again.

Maybe it’s down to a lack of education – certainly all those years ago when I learnt to drive I didn’t drive on a motorway until after I’d actually passed my test!  Thankfully things are changing:

With the changes that came into effect in June 2018 road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.

“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”

But even then, according to the AA: “more than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that’s you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.”

Plus you then have to factor in the growth in the volume of traffic – which seems never ending:

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.

“The data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.”

The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.

And there’s more – the shift from shopping on the high street to out of town shopping centres not only started the demise of the traditional high street it also increased the number of journeys people take in their cars.  That trend has now been amplified by the shift to online shopping.  The consequent increase in the number of delivery vans on our roads has only fuelled the frequency of traffic jams.

For the last four years, van traffic has increased on average by 4.8% a year, and has been the fastest growing traffic type (in percentage terms) over this time.

Dear god is there no hope for us?  Well clearly there is – but you’re not going to like it, well if you knit your own yogurt, you’ll definitely hate it!

BUILD MORE ROADS!

Don’t spend £42billion (or £60bn as it might finally cost) on a crappy bit of railway – build more roads and help millions of people drive more efficiently as their cars can travel at the average speed it was meant to (c.56mph I believe) and give us more space just like driving in Belgium – ah bliss.

Scotland – beautiful yet bound to suffer from Brexit

When the clouds finally cleared, and the rain stopped falling horizontally Scotland shows you why so many love her.

Our recent trip around the country, from Glasgow to Dornoch, from there to the NW coast and back down to Auchiltibuie, then to Skye, then Pitlochry and our final stopover in Edinburgh, provided a mere glimpse of the abundant jewels that await.

The scenery is jaw-droppingly stunning (when you can see it! – see above..and below)

Castles in varying states of repair (this is Eilean Donan castle near the Kyle of Lochalsh), lochs of every size and shape (no we didn’t get a glimpse of Nessie) and every shade of ginger known to man (or woman) adorning the hillsides and trees.

I have to make special mention of the food. No deep fried pizzas anywhere. But beautiful, succulent seafood perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Lunch at Michael Smith’s, Michelin starred, Loch Bay restaurant in Stein, on Skye was a personal highlight – but then the Scotch Broth at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum was mighty fine too!

Ok this isn’t from the Loch Bay restaurant, c’mon, who photographs their food in Michelin starred establishments? You do? You’re weird!

Anyway its food that brings us to Brexit, well the hospitality industry to be specific…

At each of the locations we stayed the bulk of the team of people serving were not Scottish. A few were English but the vast majority were from Europe and predominantly eastern European at that. Even in Auchiltibuie at the Summer Islands Hotel the staff were a mixture of Spanish and eastern European. BTW do stay there. Accommodation was great, food fantastic, service impeccable and I reckon, in good weather, the views are to die for. And you might see this chap round the corner…

But my point is this.  Where are hotels and inns going to find the staff they need post-Brexit? Clearly the locals aren’t interested in working there…so who will be?

 

It’s not just me – the world has gone barking mad!

I blame the BBC – it was this article that set me off on this one!  We’re talking about emotional support animals. An emotional support animal or support animal, is a companion animal that a medical professional says provides some benefit for a person disabled by a mental health condition or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals are typically dogs, but are sometimes cats or other animals. So says Wikipedia.

“Recent studies, including one published by BMC Psychiatry, have shown that owning an animal can help relieve stress and boost positive emotions, and studies also show that interacting with animals can increase the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and lower cortisol levels, which helps us to calm down and feel more relaxed.”

Let me shout it loud – I am not against emotional support animals – in fact I really don’t mind how many you have – yes apparently you can have more than one!  I totally understand the power that the unconditional love that some animals are able to give their human “partners” is a wonderful, joyous thing, and that’s not just my view this is a great article written by Dr Hal Herzog covering the subject.

It’s not that I hate animals – I’d love a dog but then you’re locked into where you can go on holiday, having to pick up poo (hell, even my kids are long past that stage thank you very much) and vet’s bills!!

I just think that taking a miniature pony on a plane as an emotional support animal is barking mad – plain and simple.

The issue is that even the research, by BMC Psychiatry, highlighted above, isn’t sure just how helpful animals actually are in circumstances such as travel, and even though it suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions it also says in its conclusion that…

Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.

And there’s more – even accepting the positive side of using animals for emotional support there is a growing darker side to it – the whole issue of fakery!  That is [shock horror probe] people claiming that they have emotional support needs just so they can get their pet on a plane!  Apparently one woman even tried to get a peacock onto a United Airlines plane in January this year (2018).  The situation has got so bad that  a Facebook page was set up for service dog handlers – it currently has 1,700 members, and, as reported by NBC, in 21 states it’s now a federal crime in the US to falsely claim pets as service and support animals so they can be brought into restaurants, theatres and other public places!

Delta Airlines too has had enough:

From March 1, the airline will require that “all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance. In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.”


So to reiterate this point, clearly – it isn’t just me that thinks that there is a problem here. So?  What do we do about it?

Well the good thing is this – there are of course alternative solutions to having an animal, with all the disruption, defacation and disorder than can go with them, on your next holiday or business flight!

  • Perhaps a better approach would be for these poor individuals who are suffering from various forms of anxiety/depression/PTSD be permitted take the right drugs, those that increase oxytosin and lower cortisol levels, to get them in the right frame of mind.
  • Maybe learning some specific techniques can help – Hal Herzog’s article, in its postscript, goes on to describe how a therapist was able to teach one emotionally challenged individual some techniques to enable her to get on a flight – without any animals involved.
  • Or my personal favourite – just don’t get on the plane (with an animal)!!!

 

“Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet.”

Oh really? That isn’t necessarily the case – see this scientific article!

I can vouch for the fact that if I’m travelling to work, sadly using the A34 in Oxfordshire then my mpg performance drops dramatically compared to a run where the car is able to run at a speed closer to the legal limit.  And surely improving mpg is one, I’ll admit only one, measure of helping to damage the planet less. We need to get to and from work and public transport has declined to a point that unless you live in London you’re basically ****ed!

My point being that if cars were able to travel at, or even closer to, their most optimum speed the amount of petrol/diesel consumed would drop significantly.  So, taking that point to it’s logical conclusion spending £42 billion on making cars work more efficiently by providing better roads would benefit far more people than building a railway that almost no one will benefit from – except of course the shareholders of those companies who win the contracts to build HS2.  Less fuel used, less time spent driving to and from work = more time for actual working or for the family – ok I know there’s the negative that HMRC gets less income form petrol duty!

So, instead of ruining many thousands of people’s journeys on a daily basis thanks to traffic issues which are going to cost us nigh on £62 billion by 2016… (and this is just the value that people would put on their time – not the actual cost of their “wasted” time nor the cost of the extra fuel that is being used!)

In the UK, INRIX Roadway Analytics identified and ranked 20,375 traffic hotspots in 21 cities. The ranking was determined by an ‘Impact Factor’, which multiplied the average duration of a traffic jam with its average length and the number of times it occurred in September 2016. The cost to drivers due to time wasted in traffic at these hotspots, calculated using the DfT’s ‘value of time’, amounts to £61.8 billion in the UK by 2025 if congestion levels are not reduced.

…why not focus on these – the top 10 ways that Global Citizen reckons are the way to reduce climate change…

  • Rooftop solar – Elon Musk is big into this
  • Silvopasture – apparently this is as simple as planting trees in pasture land and letting cattle roam there!
  • Solar farms – like your rooftops only on a massive scale.
  • Family planning – tricky given that a vast majority of the under-developed world is Catholic and China’s just upped the children per household to 2!!
  • Educating girls – we’re talking mainly (but not exclusively) in the under-developed world as educated girls/women have less kids – although educating stupid men not to treat women as an inferior species would be a good start!
  • Protecting or replanting tropical forests – clearly cutting down the Amazon is just bonkers.
  • Plant rich diets – this means shifting away from the western style processed food diet – clearly a good thing but pretty tricky to sell.
  • Reducing food waste – absolutely essential.  The amount of perfectly edible food that we throw away is just obscene.
  • Offshore wind turbines – surely there are enough places that we could site these – without destroying the beauty of them.
  • Refridgeration management – we’re talking air conditioning in homes and cars as well as well fridges!!  Apparently the eradication of Ozone crunching CFCs has led to a repairing of the hole but sadly the replacement HFCs which get released at end of the fridge’s life can heat the atmosphere 900 times more than CO2!

Clearly governments have a big part to play in this, so to come back to the original headline of this post, governments need to take their collective feet off the motorist and plant them firmly on accelerators – those organisations that can stimulate innovation and future business, ‘coz that’s the only way we’re going to get things like these:

  1. home battery packs to store electricity generated from our roofs,
  2. wind turbines that can be fitted to homes and offices as well as out to sea,
  3. greater investment in planting more vegetation – everywhere,
  4. ways to convince people of certain religions that their dogmas aren’t right,
  5. getting “out of date” food to people and places that need it,
  6. packaging that can be recycled,
  7. home automation systems designed to minimise power usage
  8. I’m inclined to add in “drive less/drive smart” but only if there’s an equivalent improvement in public transportation
  9. tell Trump he’s an idiot and get the US to stay in the Paris agreement
  10. and finally tell planners to sort out the road network so we drivers CAN drive more efficiently!

 

A***holes not potholes

Today it wasn’t the potholes on the roads that I had to look out for it was the a***holes!

Now I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s best or most careful or considerate driver.  I’ve never tried to get an advanced driver certificate and intermittent “road rage” is a fact of life – a few seconds and it’s passed.  That said I do try to look out for other road users, (hell I even give space to cyclists and horses ffs!), I try to be aware of drivers who may need to change lanes on motorways and move over before they start to indicate and I also try to look ahead on non-motorway roads to see potential hazards….but unfortunately not everyone appears to do the same.

Let’s put aside here the cretins who think it’s fine to cruise down the middle lane of a 3 lane motorway or worse stay in the 3rd lane of a 4 lane motorway when there is no-one in the lanes inside them – for goodness sake just read the highway code – please!!

Let’s focus on A roads today.

My morning, 30 mile, journey to work takes me across country to join up with the A34 at Islip.  The first potential hazard comes where the road from Marsh Gibbon meets the A41 (Bicester to Aylesbury road) and at this time of year on a sunny morning it is dangerous – there’s no doubt about it.

You have streams of traffic going both ways, a railway bridge that reduces the visibility to the west and to the east the junction has been widened… Most of the traffic from Marsh will be turning right towards Bicester.  So following the highway code you position yourself towards the centre line of the Marsh road.  At the same time you raise your left hand to block out the sun which otherwise would make visibility non-existent..and then you wait for a gap.  Unless of course people decide that by adopting the correct position they can jump out from behind you in the queue and slide down the left hand side and completely block your vision – two people did that to me this morning – completely oblivious to my predicament – ****wits, the pair of them.

I’d travelled barely a couple of miles to Ambrosden before I came across the next pair of selfish, non-forward thinking idiots!  There are more roadworks (yes I know – what is it for this time?!) and single line traffic managed by traffic lights on the road out of the village towards Islip and this was compounded by today being “bin day”.  The section of road that’s down to a single file is only about 50 yards but towards the far end of that the bin men were working to empty people’s bins.  As I approached the traffic lights I could see that there was an almighty jam and there was only enough room for 2 cars to go past the lights – these two cars would have totally snarled the section of single file traffic.  So I pulled in at the point where you are supposed to stop when the lights are red – even though the lights were actually green.

It was clear to me that the bin lorry would be taking a couple of minutes to clear out of the way and the people coming the other way had been blocked off – so in fairness patience was the order of the day and let those people come through first…..

But sadly not to the cars that decided to fill up the space thus delaying everybody else…one was a white Renault I think but the other one was a silver VW Polo complete with an Exeter University sticker on the back – well sadly the standard of education at that august place has apparently fallen – considerably.  Don’t they teach students to “think” anymore?  Selfish ****wits – both drivers!

I applauded their decision to totally block the road  – ok I was being sarcastic really.  (I saw them again on the A34 at Botley….so their actions were really worth it – NOT!

Maybe the 4 drivers who I have come into contact with today, who have disregarded the safety of other road users might like to read one or more of the following pieces of guidance:

  • Think – THINK! provides road safety information for road users. Our aim is to encourage safer behaviour to reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads every year.
  • Confused.com – Motorway driving: How to stay safe
  • IAM RoadSmart – We make better drivers and riders

…but that aside just stay the hell out of my way please!!

 

 

 

Just take my damn money…please!

Look I’m all in favour of Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that the World wide Web should be free for everybody but sadly there are too many people out there today who insist on screwing it up by riddling the useful content with shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating advertising!  It’s got so bad that I’m coming round to the idea that for some things I’d actually be prepared to pay a monthly fee to make these damn pieces of time-wasting crap disappear!

..and don’t think I’m not talking about you Spotify – you’ve got the nerve to take my money and then send me crap about new releases by those artists who are able to pay you enough to invade my privacy on their behalf!

There are a number of aspects to this…

  1. what am I prepared to pay for
  2. how much will I be prepared to pay
  3. why online advertising is so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating.

Let’s start with the “What”:

The birthplace of the web was CERN – Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.  See that…the sharing of information.  And the definition of sharing is?

To allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses. 

No mention of charging for it anywhere is there?  That came a lot later when less pure minds that Sir Tim’s decided that all these people provided an opportunity to make money – and lots of it, shed-loads of it in fact – big huge aircraft-hanger sized shed-loads of wonga!  And like me, Sir Tim’s not a happy man, although his beef is probably purer than mine which is just about advertising.  He’s more concerned with the rollback of net neutrality protections, the proliferation of fake news, propaganda and the web’s increasing polarisation!

“Gas is a utility, so is clean water, and connectivity should be too,” said Berners-Lee. “It’s part of life and shouldn’t have an attitude about what you use it for – just like water.”

So what am I prepared to pay for?

Stuff that I want to consume – stuff that entertains me like music, (that’s why I pay Spotify each month for a service I can’t stream to my hi-fi because the quality is designed for mobile phones and my GigaClear 50MB broadband is so flaky – and the router is a piece of poo! – that streaming hi-res is a non-starter!) and I’ll happily pay Amazon for the ability to read a book while I’m on holiday (Agios Stefanos NW Corfu since you’re asking!) or maybe to stream a movie as part of my Prime subscription – that’s cool, I’m happy to do that.

I’ll even pay for knowledge or software that helps me to consume and to create – such as specific training or apps from Adobe or even bloody Microsoft’s Office 365!

But I won’t pay for news!

That should be part of Sir Tim’s original idea about sharing information.  The WWW is meant to be a tool to enable us ALL to understand what’s going on in the world, to bring us closer together (yeah well done Boris you twat!) and generally make the world a better place.   However I WILL accept a limited amount of advertising to get this as I realise that information providers (except the BBC and I already pay my licence fee £150+) aren’t charities – they need to make money to pay their staff!  But I won’t pay them a subscription as it’s not worth it – not to me anyway!

And how much will I pay?

Well, this is more of a case of how much am I already paying!!  If you total up your household outgoings on things like your TV licence, SKY, broadband, mobile phone data, Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc etc you’ll be amazed by the figure you get to.  I reckon I’m spending over £1,000 per year!  And I’ve cut back!  It’s easy to spend more than £1,500, maybe even £2k!!  OK, don’t be pedantic, I know that SKY tends to be delivered over satellite – it’s the overall cost of accessing content that’s important here!

As these things are pretty much standard across UK households today, and with the average take home pay of <£21k per annum, you’re likely to be spending over 7% of your annual income on this stuff – maybe as much as 10%.  Now 7% may not sound a lot but imagine if your salary was cut by 7% – how much harder would that make life?? Exactly!

The huge expansion of the digital world has made it particularly hard for some companies, notably newspapers, and apart from the rag that is the Daily Mail they aren’t really succeeding (The Mail was always full of small ads anyway so it was a natural development for them, and their readership).   And I’m not going to help them by paying to get past their firewalls while the likes of Twitter are around – it’s quicker, more opinions so you can read both sides of an argument and of course it’s free – except for the sneaky ads!!

In fact it’s Twitter, or rather another player in the arena of social media that provided the straw that has broken the camel’s back –  so to speak.

So I’m now at the stage where I would be happy to pay for access to certain social media applications (it begins with a “F”) in order to avoid bloody advertising – if nothing else I’m sure the saving in blood pressure medicine would offset it!! (Relax that’s just an analogy I’m not on beta-blockers or anything similar)

So, why is online advertising so shite, highly intrusive, extremely irrelevant and hugely irritating?

….to the extent that now I’ll even pay to avoid it!

Well let’s go back to a bit of online business 101.

First off, if you’ve got that great idea, you want everyone to know about it and the web is really helpful here, as it allows you to reach a lot of people.  Let’s say these people like your great idea and flock to it – hey presto you have what is called in the trade “an audience” or lots of “eyeballs”.  So whereas people used to have to stick posters up in the street, things developed as people could get newspapers to print stories about their great ideas which other people then thought, hey if they like that maybe they’ll like mine to so I’ll make sure information about my great idea is in there too.  Next came TV which offered an even bigger channel to the audience and even more people started to “advertise” their great ideas, although now there so many great ideas – they weren’t all great!

With the growth of the web a number of great ideas got really, really, popular – like billions of people popular!  And the people who owned these great ideas thought to themselves…hmm I can make money out of this – it’s called “monetization” by the way!  So they started to allow advertising on their great ideas.

Look at possibly the best great idea ever – Google!  Originally just lists of stuff that matched your search term. Then 3 “sponsored” results appeared at the top of the page.  Today?  Maybe on the first page you’ll be lucky enough to find 3 “natural results” amongst the 20+ “sponsored” ones – that’s what Google calls advertising btw!  And Google make a massively, gigantic shed-load of money from it – as do some other great ideas.

What they also do is get make of these ads pop up on other websites you might visit – and have you noticed the order in which websites load?  The site’s branding is followed by all the adverts and only then does the content you actually wanted in the first place appear – naughty, naughty!  In other words it’s highly intrusive and hugely irritating!

But what about extreme irrelevance?  Surely, you shout, they’ve got algorithms that make sure that the advertising you see is relevant to you!  It’s true that if you search for something via Google or Bing (does anybody actually use Bing? And what a stupid name!) you’ll be bombarded with ads for whatever that was for ages – EVEN AFTER YOU’VE BOUGHT IT!  How relevant is that?  And let’s not even go into the activities of travel sites that rack up the prices if you leave and then come back!!

OK time to get to the absolute nub of this rant!  Facebook, yes Marky boy this one’s on you, recently decided to make life difficult for their profile users.

“As of August 1, Facebook no longer allows third-party platforms to post to personal Facebook profiles. As a result, Hootsuite no longer supports scheduling and posting to personal Facebook profiles.”

They wanted to stop us using the likes of Hootsuite, WordPress et al to automate/schedule our posting to our personal profiles.  They still allow scheduling to “pages” just not “profiles”.  So what do I do?  I choose to create a page from my profile, and to be fair it didn’t take too long to achieve that but once I’d “published” it, the troubles started.

Clearly Facebook believes that if you’ve got a page you’ve got money to spend, so they put an “advert” on your news feed (which only you can see) prompting you to spend money promoting your page.  Now that’s fair enough, their business model is about making money so I let the first one go..and the second, and the third.

But when I realised that they were bloating my news feed with multiple – and here I mean it might be one of their ads every 3 real posts – adverts, on and on and on.  Different creative suggestions but loads and loads and loads.

Now in amongst the reams of “help” they allegedly provide there is absolutely NOTHING about how to stop this.  Basically I don’t think you can and frankly I’m, not prepared to hang around to see if they eventually give up, so I’m deleting my page – screw ’em!

I’m going to publish my content elsewhere, I’m going to prompt readers of my social media diatribes to read the content on other platforms and even though they won’t give a damn – I’ll feel a lot better – and that’s the important thing here 🙂

What would really help me, and I’m sure millions of other people, is if some philanthropist kinda person decided it would be really cool to provide an open source advertising free or a subscription based social media channel.  I’m pretty sure that it would have a rapid uptake.  If Camelot allows me to win the Euromillions lottery this Friday I promise I’ll have one built and if Sir Tim permits I’ll call it TimsWeb, or Tim’s Place or Worldies or something similar!

 

 

Not my kind of Summer Dream!!

More of a nightmare!! Poor service, slow service, food not as described, how’s that for starters?

OK finally got round to completing this one.  As regular readers of my various social media missives will now I love Agios Stefanos (NW Corfu)!  It’s my second home.  The mix of sun, sea, sand, scenery, food and friends – from home and from there, all work together to make a heady mix that soothes and stimulates the senses – at the same time.

But it isn’t perfect – and we all know that – even if on “some other places” you aren’t allowed to say so!!  It’s like the buildings – there are loads that they just haven’t got round to completing yet.  They have excellent, long term disputes about stuff – hey, the Avliotes by-pass has actually been totally completed – even down to 50kph speed limit that totally nobody respects!

The Greeks have a more relaxed attitude to life, although when they are speaking to each other you’d think the 3rd world war is about to break out – but relax, it won’t, it’s cool.

That said there are 4 things this year that aren’t perfect – there maybe more but hey; I didn’t experience them…anyway.

  1. The litter – guys you really, really need to sort this one out.  Even the temporary refuse stores you guys put in place to cope with things while the negotiations continue are overflowing – literally onto the road near to Kassiopi.
  2. The weed on the beach – not the lack of long haired dope sellers but the naturally occurring weed that just keeps on coming.  You need to be a bit quicker in rounding that up and disposing of it – the likes of Mistral and the Waves had their beach fronts blighted by build up of weed and then by the tyre tracks from the digger.
  3. Vehicles on the road – there are way more than just a couple of years ago.  Some of them, these new quad-bikes, are the size of small cars themselves and seemingly driven by complete novices with no regard for other road users. The parking coming into Afionas is now mental – one Sunday we simply turned around! And it’s not as if the restaurants up there are benefiting – the visitors weren’t in them!
  4. The service at Summer Dreams.

This last one was not good at all. It’s turned into a pizza place with a fancy new pizza oven clearly on display.  Unfortunately the service wasn’t as new and sparkling.  To start with when we ordered – one of our party likes chilli (a lot) and asked for extra chillies on his choice of pizza. It already had chillies in the list of ingredients.
When the waitress said “are you sure” he naturally replied Yes – this is man with a cast-iron stomach.  An hour later after we’d chased them for service and when the pizzas finally arrived the foreheads of 2 of the party showed signs of distress.

This was a surprise indeed.

On further investigation of the pizza we discovered that instead of extra chillies the tomato base appeared to have been replaced by lashing of hot chilli sauce! I mean of course the rest of us were howling with laughter but in all seriousness this was a reckless piece of work by the restaurant.  You either get your menu written up correctly informing the customer that this has chilli sauce on it and is already very hot or you start behaving responsibly.  This felt like someone trying to get their own back on customers.

Now ok it may have been a genuine mistake but it wasn’t the only one.  I ordered a pizza with Parmesan and rocket.  From my recollection Parmesan doesn’t melt in quite the same way that say Cheddar does and rocket isn’t invisible…

While we were waiting for our food to arrive I heard someone who had ordered a take-away asking where it was…and the poor girl behind the bar was not being helped by the other two waiting staff – they just stood around waiting for her to complete each individual order..

And with no expectations about service times being set by the waiting staff I’m sorry Summer Dreams but you do not get a recommendation this year.  Hopefully by next year you will have sorted things out – I’d like all my meals to be fantastic!

Duty free shopping – an exposé?

Good morning campers (something I’ll never do…camping that is!). This is just a tease for my next post 🙂

I’m heading off to sunny Corfu this afternoon, traveling with my partner AND only hand luggage (!) and this will mean that some shopping for essential items may be required at Gatwick airport. I fully expect to find some disparity between the prices charged on our friendly high streets and the supposedly duty free shops – so I thought I’d provide a few examples…

So watch this space 😉

Ok here’s a shot from Boots on the High Street in Weybridge. Let’s see what its like at Gatwick a little later 😉

Ok people it wasn’t as dramatic as I thought. I mean if felt like some really cheap unbranded stuff was very expensive but the little travel packs were the same price.

Now that in itself is a bit of a rip as its supposed to be duty free, so you’d expect things to be 20% cheaper!!!

And then deal at the airport is 4 for the price of 3. The offer on the high street is 3 for 2….. Hmmm that makes even more of a rip.

And here’s another thing, why can’t you buy P20 suntan lotion in 100ml bottles on the high street.

So the moral of this story is, don’t believe the duty free hype, it’s a bit of a con really..

Are you sure eSure?

You won’t believe this but this is on the eSure.com website:

esure has become one of the UK’s leading direct insurers through years of hard work and listening to our customers.

It’s the second bit that I find particularly humorous – actually it’s worse than that it’s a downright lie!

You may read my previous post on the subject of insurance – you lucky, lucky, people – well I’ve got an update for you, in fact a couple right from the horse’s mouth – although the quality of the content is closer to what comes out of the other end of the horse’s body!!

Regular readers will know that I specifically asked eSure for the details on how they had managed to calculate an increase of 20% on one of my car policies yet a decrease of 2.5% on the other.  Well as trailed they have replied.  Let’s start with Leigh’s response….

“We are writing with reference to the above numbered policy and further to your recent telephone conversation.

There are many reasons as to why a policy premium could go up after a change of vehicle. Some include the Brake Horse Power being higher than the original vehicle. The grouping of the vehicle also changes the price and could effect the premiums. Also if the new vehicle is no longer in manufacture, the parts could be harder to find and this would also effect the premiums. I hope this information helps you.

We trust this answers your query. If you have any further queries, please call our Customer Support Department on the number detailed above.”

I have responded to let Leigh know that as I hadn’t changed vehicle this explanation was irrelevant and inaccurate – I asked him again to explain the difference…

This time Liam responded, bless him, he must have been very very busy, or perhaps he couldn’t keep a straight face whilst typing, or perhaps he has ADHD…

“We take into consideration a variety of factors when calculating our insurance premiums, many of which you as a customer cannot directly influence.  As a result, insurance premiums can fluctuate when seemingly no details have changed and unfortunately due to underlying industry pressures insurance premiums have increased this year.

As a direct insurer we always offer the best possible premium from the outset and the premium offered this year is correct.

To help you understand, the cost and frequency of motor insurance claims being made, in particular personal injury claims, is driving premium increases.  We do appreciate you personally have not made a claim with us but insurance is a pool and as such these claims affect everyone.  However, those who have made claims would see significantly higher premium increases than”

As you can see he was unable to finish his sentence.  But Liam, dear chap, allow me to point out the failed logic in your response….If “these claims affect everyone” why hasn’t my other policy increased, after all you say in your very first paragraph “due to underlying industry pressures insurance premiums have increased this year” so I am at a loss to understand the logic you guys have used – can you explain?

The only factor I am see here that separates the two policies is the “no fault claim” – or rather as it actually was the “notification”.  I’m sure any “reasonable” person, such as the “man on the Clapham omnibus” would agree.  Is there a reason why you cannot see this?  The nice man at the AA was able to – so once again I ask you is it the impact of the “notification” that has increased my policy, and if so, how do you justify this when you already cover off the risk of being on the road by requesting the amount of miles I do and the reasons I might be on the road which have a time component (“drivetime”) that allows you to calculate an overall risk.

I challenge you eSure – I think you – and to fair the rest of the insurance industry – is ripping customers off by in effect “double-charging”.  How will you plead when this matter goes before the Financial Ombudsman, and how do you think he’ll react to your spurious attempts to fob me off which seem to be amateur in the extreme?

Insurance – it’s a rip-off, FACT!

Yep it’s true, your insurance company is a rip-off merchant – they all are – and if you speak to nice man at the AA he agrees with you!

Evidence?  Oh you want evidence do you?  Right then…

Just recently I received renewal letters (well actually I didn’t, I got a letter and some emails that said I would be sent them) for 2 car insurance policies I hold. Actuallyl I had to log in to my “account” and then download the pdfs of the renewal “invitations”, as they are called these days.  On that description – invitation is hardly the correct word, especially if you’re promised one via email or letter and they never arrive!!  I prefer the term “warning letter” as in if you do nothing we’ll just take your money!

I noticed that one of these policies showed an increase of 20% in the premium and further to that it showed the details of a “no fault” claim (there was no “claim” they were informed for information purposes only (a 3rd party company dealt with things) and it also stated in a box called “Recovery made” the word YES!  Now this was plainly wrong so I decided to call the insurer to try and understand things better…that was a mistake!

The very nice man on the other end of the phone simply couldn’t or wouldn’t give me a reason as to why my premium had increased by 20% – I have to say at this point that in a previous year I had been given reasons why the premium had changed so I wasn’t buying this lack of information.  Whilst this call was ongoing I also read the other policy renewal invitation and to my “surprise” it showed that the premium had actually fallen by 2.5%!  WTF!!! Naturally I enquired as to why this might be – all the while the nagging thought that the bastards had upped my premium because of this “no-fault claim”!   So I pressured for an answer, I want to have the details.

He said he would need to place me on hold, briefly, while he discussed the matter with his boss. Well it was a bit longer than “briefly” but eventually he came back and gave a list of factors that the underwriters had told him – inflation, the fact that my car was no longer made which made the parts more expensive, the rate of crime etc etc.  Given that the other policy had shown a decline it was a simple matter to rebutt the majority of these and the only obvious factor that might have had an impact would be the price of car parts – but since the car had stopped being made in 2008 this also seemed unlikely.

As it was clear, to me, that the increase was purely down to the incident in March of last year (interestingly this was before last year’s renewal which didn’t show a 20% increase – rather a significant decrease!) which presumably had finally filtered through their system and perhaps some form of “recovery” was indeed made – albeit not to my knowledge!!

I have asked them to supply me the details of why the think my premium should be increased by 20% and will in all likelihood pass the information to the insurance ombudsman for action.

So why am I taking this hard line and calling all insurance companies rip-off merchants?  Well that’s simple.

Well my next move was to tell eSure – yes it was them – to *** off and cancel both policies and then hit the search engines looking for a new deal.

Having entered all my details into multiple comparison sites ( I did try Direct Line but their premium was just a joke – how they can justify their advertising claims to Trading and Advertising Standards departments I do not know!) it seemed that the AA was the best deal.  I clicked to complete the deal on the AA site but I got a message saying that their system had thrown a wobbly so I’d need to call – so I called.

The very nice man from the AA took the quote number and got the details pdq.  He was able to tell me that the date I’d entered for the end of my existing policy was out by one day so he amended that and then said OK he had to things check against an industry database…..guess what…he informed me that the no-fault claim was there and then quoted me a price which was 20% more than the price I’d been quoted online!

I expressed my concern that the information on the database was causing the extra cost to em – and he agreed, said the same thing had happened to him last year and said he agreed with me that this was rather sharp practice.  So there we have it the reason my premium was increased.  I’m still going to see what bullshit eSure come out with to support their version of events and yes I’ll still send the information off to the ombudsman.

Why?  Well in a no-fault situation when you’re either happily driving along the road or as in my case stationary in a line of traffic you are not causing anyone any problems – it just happens that you are on the road.  Now when you request your policy you have to input how many miles you will be doing in a year and unsurprisingly the more you do the higher your premium – well that’s perfectly logical – there’s more chance of you being in an accident the more time/miles you spend/drive on the road.  So why isn’t this where the risk of a no-fault accident is covered off?

Well basically because they can get away with it – they are able to rip you off by effectively charging twice for the same risk – being on the highway and obeying all the laws!

Personally I think that stinks, I think it’s profiteering and it’s a total rip-off and I don’t believe that the insurance industry should be able to get away with it any longer – that’s why I shall be bringing this matter to the attention of the Financial Ombudsman – if you want to do the same here’s how!