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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Loving London Life

You know when you ask someone how they are?  Many people just give the same answer every time - their cat might have died but they're fine.  They just had an amazing blow job but they're still fine.

I normally think and give an answer.  Occasionally if I'm tired, in a rush, too many people have asked me or just don't like the person asking me, then I'll give the bland answer.  But I like to treat people's questioning of my health and happiness with respect, and give them a considered answer.

At the moment, it is noticeable how often I am using the words, 'good' or 'happy', or words to those effect.  Perhaps it is the sunshine.  But I don't recall using such positive adjectives this time last year (even before the referendum).

What has changed?  Quite a lot.  This time last year I was doing credit control in Bracknell, living in Bracknell.  Now I am doing web development in London, living in London.

I simply love being in London.  I have been threatening to move here since about 2005 and sometimes question why it has taken me so long.  Though I wouldn't have all the wonderful friends I have now, were that the case.  Definitely no regrets.

But still, it does feel like this is the making of me.

London is a tiring city.  Yet so energising.  There is always something to do - always something I want to do.  From walks in the many beautiful parks, to museums, bars, clubs, mini-festivals, restaurants, drag king nights - my to-do list is rammed.

Time is limited by work though.  It's a long day, working 9-6, with over an hour each way for commuting.  Rare is there an evening where there isn't something I want to do - rare is there an evening where I actually do anything though, for fear of not getting my 8 hours sleep (which never happens anyway).

But work doesn't feel like work.  There is a buzz walking through the city, I have a nice park to sit outside and in my lunch in.  There is a myriad of street food places to try - which I am promising myself I will when (if) I lose this belly - amazing looking food everywhere.


Work itself doesn't feel like work.  A comfortable office, very nice people, a few absolute hotties, free food and drink at times - the actual work I enjoy.  Well, occasionally it is frustrating, I can spend hours trying to fix the position of something - then make a semi-complex function in 5 minutes.  But the frustrating bits are part of the fun - the feeling of elation when I solve a problem, which was utterly non-existent in credit control.

Even the tube journey I am content with.  Air conditioning helps.  Normally I get a seat at some point during the journey if I position myself correctly (I always allow women or old people to sit down first).  And normally there are some hotties on the tube too.

In fact, I seem to fall in love several times a day.  And I am in love with London itself.

One is definitely happy right now.

Time to go straighten my hair and go for a walk.  Regent Street is closed to traffic so I'm going to take a wander down there - I might get myself a glitter moustache, there is apparently a Brazilian samba going on, and a steel band, then onto my roast dinner haunt in Farringdon which is allegedly a Time Out Top 5 roast.  Will it make my top 5?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Me & The Moment

I started writing this last night as I was waiting to see what was happening with the thunderstorms in the English Channel.

As I was spending a lot of time just staring at the lightning detector, I had time to ponder.  I guess I have plenty of time to ponder - over two hours a day commuting for example but maybe my tiredness and glass of vodka red bull were helping me direct my ponderation.  The question I was asking myself was, "how happy am I?".

For sure, I am enjoying my life right now.  Saturday I went to a Spanish festival of queuing near Tower Bridge - I could quite happily spend hours just watching that bridge, without being surrounded by beautiful Spanish women.  Yesterday I went to, erm, Essex.

Last weekend I had a Sunday afternoon boogie in Greenwich, the weekend before I went to watch us get relegated, I've been to Kew Gardens, I had my parents visiting - I am certainly filling up my weekends with lots of fun things.

The fun doesn't stop, next weekend I'm going to watch Raving Iran, have a political roast dinner, the weekend after is the general election on the Thursday, going to Bodean's (the BBQ place), going out somewhere undecided on the Sunday - there is the cricket at Lord's coming up in the not-too-distant future.

I am definitely taking advantage of the opportunities of living and WORKING in London.  I love it.  Why the Brexit didn't I move here earlier?

Yet I'm not as happy as I should be.  I feel that my underlying levels of happiness are not quite what they should be - and the main reason is my weight.  It is the one thing that can get me down very easily.  It is good to feel good about how one looks - beautiful hair and short shorts are not enough.

Being unemployed, I lost weight.  I went from 90kg to 85kg in a few months.  The detox definitely helped.  Since gaining employment, I have gained weight.  Significantly.  I am now 92kg.  7kg on in 7 weeks!!!  Oh and if you voted Brexit and are stuck in the past, here is a weight unit converter.

I am pretty annoyed with myself.  I know why it is - alcohol.

If I don't drink, I consume around 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day.  If I do drink, even just 3 pints, then I consume between 3,500 to 6,500 calories per day.  And the day after I consume more too as sausage rolls suddenly appeal more than salad.


Last week I drank on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - only two days excessively, but still way, way too much.

Getting my weight down to a healthy level has to be my number one priority in life now.  I have decided that if I don't get it back in the right direction over the next two months - ie approaching 85kg instead of 95kg, then I need to take drastic action.

Said drastic action will be giving up alcohol.

Yes.

Totally giving up alcohol.

Well, until I get down to say 78kg.

As much as alcohol is present in many of the good times that I have - I do believe that it is at the centre of any problems too.  Most definitely my weight.  Being nearly 40 - if I don't sort out being overweight, I expect this will become a health problem.  I simply have to do it.

I should be able to lose weight and still have the occasional beer.  But at the moment, it isn't the occasional beer.

The other priority in my life is, of course, my job.  I've settled in well, and feel like I am contributing now.  I don't complete as many tasks as the others, and sometimes are overwhelmed by requirements - but mostly I work out what I need to do, and how.

I did, for the first time, manage to annoy my boss on Friday morning - not on purpose either.  Innocuous but avoidable.  And I've also made one or two silly mistakes - but nothing you wouldn't expect from a junior developer.

Likewise, I have also done some pretty good work, and I have some good ideas for improving the website into the future.

I do still have to pinch myself about what I have achieved.  It was really quite stark last week, thinking that this time last year I was in an office in Bracknell, bored out of my skull, constantly moaning about the heat, being made to wear shitty shirts and trousers that I hated, getting abused by customers, rarely using my brain, and did I mention that I worked in Bracknell?

I did work with very nice people though.

Now I'm in a very cool office in London, doing a job I really enjoy, I can wear what I want - we even have fucking air conditioning!  Free cakes, free beer (hmmm maybe that might not help) - working in the centre of the universe, surrounded by good bars, restaurants - a tiny little park to sit in when it is hot and sunny.  Loads of beautiful women around...me being too fat to be beautiful in return.  An art gallery around the corner, the Barbican within lunchtime walking distance...Shoreditch 5 minutes away (albeit Shoreditch is about as appealing as Leicester Square nowadays).

I do need to book a holiday at some point - I need to go on an adventure some place new.  The Bernina Express looks like the trip for me.  Trains and mountains - what more could one want in the summer?  I also feel the need to meet one or two new people in London, to add something to my life.  Apparently drunk James wanted a girlfriend on Saturday night as I apparently messaged various women on Plenty of Fish.  Scary.  Thankfully none replied.

I  have also bought a new computer to upgrade my life which I am waiting to arrive - next will be a new mobile phone as this one is dying a death.  And some more short shorts.

Life is pretty close to what I have been aiming for - I am definitely achieving my goals at the moment and living the life I dreamed of (well, apart from the bit about a Spanish wife and living in Ibiza).

If I can put as much effort into losing my belly as I did into getting this career change, then I will be even happier.  But it might take quite the sacrifice.  And that will have to wait until I am past the excitement of drinking beer in the sun.

I am actually pretty happy.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Complaint: My Subscription To The Economist

The last of my complaints from last year that I've been meaning to put up for, oooh, weeks.  I was not amused by the price increase of my quarterly subscription and wrote to complain.

I have recently actually cancelled my subscription, due to unemployment, then two days later I was offered a job.  So I have signed up again on their 12 issues for £12 deal.  I wonder if I can do that every 12 weeks?  Hmmm.  That would be economical.

I digress, complaint incoming.

******

Good morning

I note with disappointment the quite significant rise in the subscription price.

I am sure that most subscribers to The Economist wouldn't have a clue how much they are paying for it, however there are a small fraction of us that are on low wages and every pricing increase is an economic decision that has to be made.

Given that I am from Hull, I appreciate that I probably am not expected to be reading anything more intellectual than the Daily Star (which is not even a good source of boobs nowadays), however something bizarre happened and I ended up semi-intelligent.

My teachers once even thought that I could be the first person from Hull to go to Oxford or Cambridge University since 1756.

I tried my hardest to be as dumb as possible - drinking every weekend by 14, in trouble with the police by the age of 13, a love of fires, vandalism and fighting lit up my teenage years (though I tended to end up on the losing side of fights).  Not to mention smoking copious amounts of weed at university and dropping out - of course, I didn't even get into Oxford Brookes, let alone proper Oxford.

Now I find myself in Bracknell, befriended by fools who actually want to leave the European Union to "get their sovrenty bakk innit".  I have the most brain-numbing repetitive office job which a robot could and probably will soon do - I have taken to writing letters of complaint on my lunchtime to test that I still have a grasp of English and can establish paragraphs without using copy and paste.

The Economist has become almost my only solace from a world of Kasdashians and ketamine.

It is very likely that I will shortly be unemployed for a spell, so I may have to heart-wrenchingly interrupt my roughly 10-year subscription to this wonderful newspaper and be left with conspiracy theory nutcases on Facebook for my only source of news.

I appreciate that you are not going to reverse your decision on the price of a subscription after reading a little self-defecating prose from a common grunt from Hull, but I do ask that you bear in mind that not everyone that subscribes to The Economist can afford a new Louis Vuitton handbag every day.

Kind regards
James Winfield

ps If you know anyone looking for a junior front-end web developer, please let me know.

******

Dear Mr Winfield,

Customer Reference Number:-

Thank you for contacting The Economist.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused in this matter.

We would like to inform that your subscription price is increased from £38.00 to £44.00 with your next payment due on 14th June 2016.

The price quoted is correct. The discounted rates previously available to your subscription no longer apply and currently we do not have any offer.

We would like to inform that the increase in subscription prices is not related to our new ownership structure. Our commitment to delivering high quality journalism demands a continual and significant investment.  We don’t want to compromise on our high standards so this requires us to review our pricing every two to three years, 2013 was the last time we reviewed our pricing and for customers paying the full subscription price we’ve kept the cost of their Economist subscription un-changed.

Should you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards

The Economist subscription centre

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Complaint: Goodbye Ocado

So last year I moved away from using Sainsbury's for a bit, as you may have seen on my earlier complaints.  And used Ocado - until they let me down.

******

Good afternoon

The number one priority for me on a food order, is that the chicken breasts last all week for my chicken salad. Or at least until Wednesday/Thursday of the week - my delivery date being Saturday.

It is why I dumped my true love, Sainsbury's, and started flirting with yourselves. In fact, I dipped my metaphorical willy everywhere, I even tried Asda.

So imagine my sadness when I received chicken breasts this week, with a best before date of 30th May.

And the last time I had a delivery from yourselves, the chicken just had 3 days to eat it.

I am going to have to go crawl back to Sainsbury's.

We've had some good times together, but you are not the one for me. Please can you also cancel my delivery pass. Though do keep your door open - we might have a little dalliance at some point as you do supply a wider range of fish.

All the best
James

******

Hello James,

Thank you for your email.

Oh no! Don't break my heart saying that I'm not the one. :(

I promise you that instead of crawling back to Sainsbuty's I can make your life easier and more enjoyable.

Bearing in mind that all the fresh produce I deliver never sit on my shelves as I receive them on a daily basis, from my supplier into my warehouse and straight into your fridge, I always have a product "life" on the webshop as my colleague previously mentioned which should make shopping and planning your meals easier.

Now, if you choose to give me another chance I will teach you a trick which will make our relationship a long lasting and enjoyable one. :)

Having a Smart Pass membership you should take advantage of the benefits and have 2 small orders every week to make the most of our fresh produce.

With that in mind I can offer you a 3month free trial Smart Pass and a £6.99 fee after that, but if you still think that our relationship is not worth it you can cancel the membership just before those 3 months will end.

Looking forward for hearing from you if you would like to give me another chance.

Your one and only dalliance buddy. :)

Kind regards,

Ocado Customer Service Team

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Compliment - First Great Western & My Lost Suitcase

I don't just moan.  I don't only complain.  I like to offer my thanks when I have received good service too.  And when I left my suitcase on the train the other week, I received excellent customer service from First Great Western.

Honestly!

******

This is not a complaint.  I repeat - this is not a complaint.

Having spent 17 years of my life living in Reading, First Great Western or whatever you are called now, do not tend to have the greatest (like my pun?!) reputation.

Perhaps somewhat unfairly, as I thought it was often the bottleneck at Reading station that caused a lot of problems - and given that it took 10+ years for the Labour government at the time to agree to expand and replace it, I know exactly who to blame for that.  Though I am also going to blame Brexit.

Anyway, two weeks ago, I was due to DJ in Reading.  I live in London now, and popped onto the train with my hand baggage and small suitcase, which I stowed overhead.

I sat there with my friend, having a nice beer as the houses, offices, flats, apartments, offices, Slough and occasional annoying pockets of countryside went by.  DOWN WITH THE GREEN BELT.

I got off the train at the other end, headed to the pub, whilst discussing which pub to go to, when I realised that I had left my suitcase on the train.

Bollocks!  I wasn't even drunk.  Just two pints of beer.  It wasn't like I was off my head on ketamine or anything.  Just two simple pints of beer.  And a couple of strawberries (I'm getting old and boring).

The train had long gone, on its way to Westbury (could have been worse!).  I went to the customer service desk (the ticket buying part), after a while they advised me to go to the helpdesk  at Reading station and wait.

I waited around 15-20 minutes for my Reading Station Customer Ambassador to become available - Varun was his name.

I explained my situation - my music and headphones were in my suitcase and I was due to start DJing at 10pm.  Not only that but that I am the only minimal techno DJ to ever play in Reading and that my 4 fans would be distraught if they were to go without their monthly selection of very long and exceptionally repetitive Romanian minimal techno tracks.

Varun explained that there was next to no chance that I would get my suitcase, the process was that it would remain in Westbury, and if I could not collect it within 48 hours (I think he said 48) that it would go to Bristol lost property centre.

Neither of these would be very helpful in terms of DJing, and being unemployed with a monthly income after rent of £80 (do you know anyone that needs a website building?), collecting my bag was prohibitively expensive.

He said he would see what he could do.

4 pints later, and a lot of worrying about how I was going to afford to collect my suitcase, and hell, whether I had actually lost it forever - I've already lost two pairs of expensive headphones during my DJ career (or more accurately they were stolen by chavvy scumbags), I had a call from Varun.  My suitcase was on the way back to Reading station.

So I would like to thank GWR/FGW/FDR/whoever for employing Varun and allowing him the opportunity to provide such good customer service.  Please do ensure that he receives my thank you, and if you can give him a pay-rise or a bonus, or some kind of service award for his endeavour that would be much appreciated.

I guess this exceptional service makes up for the time 6 years ago when I "accidentally" forgot to buy a ticket and got caught by your Nazi's at Reading train station, and fined £20.  I shall now no longer refer to your revenue inspectors as Nazi's.

By the way, I didn't play any minimal techno in the end, I played more of an understated underground house sound.  Something a bit like my mix here - https://www.mixcloud.com/jameswinfield/coal/

In summary, I know I blab on a lot:

1. Varun needs a promotion/pay rise/bonus/slap on the back.
2. I make websites and if you know anyone that needs a website please let me know.
3. I am also a minimal techno DJ - feel free to check out my mixes.
4. Your revenue folks are not really Nazi's.
5. Varun is ace.

Toodlepip
James

******


Dear J Winfield

It’s good to know we’re getting things right

Thank you for your form, and for your lovely comments about Varun in our team at Reading.

We work really hard to make sure we give our customers great service, and we set very high standards for our teams. So your comments have made our day.

We’ll let them know what you said
We will of course let Varun know what you said – he will be really happy to hear it, and that you appreciate the effort he makes.

Thanks again for getting in touch
We’re always pleased to hear when our teams are doing us proud. We hope you’ll be just as happy with our service the next time you travel with us. Also, thank you for the interesting form.

Yours Sincerely

Customer Support Advisor

First Greater Western Limited

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My New Job: The Important Stuff

I know what you've been thinking all week - what temperature is James' new office?

Well, you will be pleased to know that it is very comfortable, albeit bordering on slightly chilly around 11:30am.

It's a very nice modern office in Moorgate, our floor has a multitude of small companies, mostly, if not all, start-ups, including ourselves.  I work for Lovespace.  You can look into them yourselves if you are interested.  It is a pretty damn useful service, if you ask me, and exciting to work for a company with so much growth potential.

But enough about the serious stuff.  Lets talk cake.  Wednesday is cake day - this week's highlight was a very nice cherry Victoria sponge cake.  A veritable Henry VIII style platter to feast on.

For Mondays we get a continental breakfast - none of this Brexit bacon bullshit.  And Fridays we get beer.  Albeit I don't think we are allowed to drink it until after our company round-up Skype call at 5pm.  But free beer is free beer, even with a time limit.

Working hours are 9-6pm.  Longer than I'm used to, especially compared to my recent spell of unemployment, though weirdly I've found myself surprisingly energetic and focused in the evenings.

Tubes aren't too bad.  I've only stood up the whole way (45 minutes) once.  I haven't decided on my strategy yet.  The semi-fast tube that goes straight to Moorgate I will never get a seat on.  The non semi-fast ones I will get a seat on, but they also mean changing at Baker Street.  Where it is not easy to even get on a tube at 08:30am.  Yes, I was late on my first day.

I might actually consider moving nearby.  I'll see how the commute goes, but if I can live say 40 minutes walk away, that would be ideal.  I'm in no rush to move house, the ballache that it can be.

Everyone I have met has been so welcoming - I don't recall working for a company where I have been made to feel so welcome.  Some really interesting characters, and a focus on comradeship/community - half the company went to Paris last weekend, albeit many of them competing in a marathon.  They haven't dared ask me to join their next marathon.

It is casual dress, as seems to be increasingly common in London.  I haven't yet got out my purple trousers or anything - though I wouldn't especially stand out, given that there is a Ricardo Villalobos lookalike that prances around in leopard print trousers, from one of the other companies.  I am so envious of his trousers.  I haven't yet worked out whether to befriend him or to make him my office enemy.

I have just sent the whole company my top 5 Ricardo Villalobos tracks.  Yep.  Apparently they were interested.  I was careful in what I chose!  Though worryingly they do seem to have a penchant for karaoke.

Yes there are more attractive women in the office than there were in the Bracknell office.  Or the whole of Bracknell.  It is London, after all.  Though for my first day I was treat to the glorious image of a the top half of a guy's arse hanging out of his trousers in the glass-fronted meeting area in front of my desk.  Thanks for that.

Importantly, there is a ping pong table.  And a two-hole putting range.


Outside the office, there is a cricket pitch.  Although the lady on reception insisted that it was a rugby pitch, it is clearly a cricket pitch.  Maybe it was rugby during the winter.  I have not yet worked out how to get there though - it might be private land as I have not seen anyone on it.

A short walk away there is a street food market, selling foods from all kinds of countries that nobody that voted Brexit has ever heard of.  Well, nobody in Bridlington has ever heard of anyway.

Of course, myself being a passionate, cosmopolitan remainer, I went for the burger van.  And a damn fine chicken burger it was - cajun chicken breast, thick bacon, proper bread roll - about the size of my head.  And the wedges were amazing.  Were I not overweight and skint, I would be there every day.

When I worked in Bracknell I had a sandwich van, a Morrison's, a gastro pub with awful food, and an awful Harvester pub with appropriate food.

This is quite the contrast.  And not just in terms of food.

So far, so very, very good.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Complaint: Tesco & Some Crap Chicken

Actually a recent complaint this one!

******

Dear Tesco

Gosh do I have a 1,000 character limit? Wish me luck on that.

One night recently, I was drunk. Do you have one of those annoying friends that starts every story with "I was really drunk"? I'm going to have to get to the point pretty quickly here, aren't I?

So, I was drunk. And the last two times I had been to Chicken Cottage on the way home, I ended up with 4 pieces of dry, over-cooked, miserable southern fried chicken.

Being drunk, I came up with an idea - lets go to Tesco. And I bought a pack of Shazans Peri Peri Chicken Thighs.

Yes I managed to stay awake for the 45 minutes to cook them but I wish I hadn't. It was even harder to find any chicken on the chicken thighs than it is at Nando's (I tend to pour their peri-peri sauce into my drink to get my money's worth).

This was the most horrid, stringy, underfed chicken I have had in a long time. An absolutely awful product. Erm, very bad.

(You can imagine what a nightmare Twitter is for me).

Kind regards
Jame

******

Hi James

Thank you very much for taking the time to e-mail us.

To be fair, that was a pretty dramatic story, I'm sorry to hear our chicken proved to be the antagonist.

I don't suppose you still have the packaging, do you? If so, we can take some information from the packaging and refer them to our suppliers. This may help them determine how to improve the product in future.

Furthemore, if you don't have the packaging then don't worry. I'd rather you concentrate on ploughing through your hangover instead of routing through your bins on our behalf.

Either way, if you'd be kind enough to reply with the details of your full postal address I'd be more than happy to send you out a £5.00 Tesco Moneycard for the inconvenience.

Thanks again, and I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

James
Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre

******

Ahh a fellow James!


Do you ever wonder why more footballers do not have a first name of James?  Do you think there is something about the name James that makes one inherently useless at football?

I can confirm that I am useless at football.

My address is in my signature, and my photographs of the label are attached.

Kind regards
James

******

Hi James

Thanks for your reply.

That's a massive coincidence, as I have no clue, or interest (which ultimately makes me also useless at) football.

I don't think it's a superstition you should take too seriously though. I've queried this with some of the colleagues in my office who are familiar with 'playing at ball', and they've asked me to remind you of some of the modern greats, including James Milner, James Rodriguez (AKA Hamas), and don't forget the famous Jimmy Bullard.

Also, I've now sent you out a £5.00 Tesco Moneycard for the inconvenience

Kind regards

James
Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre

******

Hi James

Thank you for the wake-up call this morning, it was very sweet.

However having now read your e-mail, I am shocked to read that you are comparing such a nugget of disgrace that is Jimmy Bullard, with legends like James Milner.  Calling Jimmy Bullard a footballer is like calling Jimmy Savile a DJ.  He was however very good at picking up a very large weekly wage whilst injured at Hull City AFC and spending it all on cocaine and beer.  Whilst I have no problem with people spending their wages on cocaine and beer - it is not exactly as if every penny I earn is spent on avocado and charity donations, Jimmy Bullard was supposed to be representing the great football club that is Hull City AFC and supposed to be recuperating from a serious knee injury - yet he decided it was best to spend Hull City AFC's time any money sharing toilet cubicles with other men [allegedly says my lawyer].


I know that you were only trying your best, and have clearly been misled by your colleagues - your knowledge of football seems to be similar to my knowledge of pop music.

But please do understand, Jimmy Bullard is not one of us.  He is a Jimmy, like Savile, not a James.  Well, not quite like Savile, but a man...neigh...boy of disrepute.

Have a good weekend (or a good Monday)

Shabba.

******

Hi James

Thanks for your reply, sorry to wake you when I rang.

My colleague seemed horrified that you had so many negative things to say about Jimmy Bullard. I'm starting to feel like a middle man.

You're right that I have absolutely no knowledge of football, which is something I'm quite proud of!

I'm not a fan of sports in general, my passion at the moment is wrestling. Wrestling is the physical endeavour of a real man. The more spandex, the better.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us. I also enjoyed your YouTube video about eating pancakes with gravy. I took the time to give you your second 'like', and left a comment. Now I should probably do some work.

Kind regards

James
Tesco Customer Service
Tesco Customer Engagement Centre

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Complaints: Sainsbury's & Short-Dated Chicken Part 2

This is a follow-up from an earlier e-mail to Sainsbury's, when I was getting so fed up of them delivering short-dated chicken (amongst other things).  My original e-mail is here - it will help to put our love affair into context if you haven't already read it.

******

Dear Sainsburys

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.  I am heartened that you have not forgotten me.

I thought about your loving words for a week or so, almost like a love-struck teenager, unable to know what to say or do.  In the end, I thought that we really should go for another date, to try to re-kindle our love.

Actually, that's a slight lie.  Ocado gave me short-dated chicken so I came running back.  Though your words did much to sway me too.  And the voucher - albeit it did seem a bit like prostitution.  Not that there is anything wrong with prostitution.  It isn't my kind of thing, but as long as the seller and buyer are willing participants in the market, then I'm fine with it.

That'll be my economics degree sneaking through.

So Friday night I was so excited about our date the next day, and ended up drinking all night and getting home at 9am (much earlier than the weekend before).  I awaited my delivery - it was 21st May, to clarify.  I thought you'd be interested in the product dates:

Rocket - 21st May.
Satsumas - 23rd May.
Peppers - 25th May, which is fine, but they have soggy tops.  Still  80% edible though.
Asparagus - 22nd May.
Duck - 22nd May (cooked on 23rd and was gorgeous still so definitely no refund required).
Haddock - 23rd May (cooked last night - was just about ok so no refund requested).
Spring onions - 23rd May.

I don't expect everything to last all week but it is a weekly shop - some of it has to!

The most annoying thing was ordering a 120g bag of rocket.  It wasn't available - fair enough - so it was replaced with 1 x 60g bag of rocket.  Why not 2 bags, therefore equalling 120g as I wanted?!  Bizarre.  This meant I had no option but to walk to Morrisons after work - you know my feelings about her - I do feel that I am too beautiful to go down to that level.

I don't know where our love can go from here.

Perhaps someone is purposely trying to sabotage our love?

I'm going back to Ocado until they upset me.

Yours semi-lovingly
James

******

Dear James

I get butterflies in my stomach when your name lands in my inbox. It’s the sunshine in my days. However, when I read this email, I felt like my world had come crashing down. These are not the dates that I like to hear about. As well as the lack of rocket delivered? I feel as if the God’s of love are taunting us. Just as I thought we were getting back on track, we’re back to square one.

An economics degree and everything, you never fail to impress me. You deserve better than Ocado, and undoubtedly better than Morrison’s. I never thought that you’d stoop to that level, we really let you down.

Look James, let’s cut to the chase. I can’t deal with all this back and forth, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, you love me, and you don’t. It’s pulling on my heart strings. We need to sort this once and for all. We are destined to be together and you know it. A relationship like ours will stand the test of time. Though I understand, you need to be able to rely on us. Trust is the most important. Every relationship has its ups and downs but I know the only way is up for us now. I’ve contacted the store manager about the dates of your items so they can speak with the pickers. They’ll ensure the pickers are choosing the longest dates available for you, as trained. If this means hoking through the shelves, right to the back, for that extra day shelf life then that’s just what they’ll do. You deserve it.

I’ve sent you a voucher for £5.90 to cover the cost of the items you’ve mentioned. The voucher code is xxxx-xxxx-xxxx. Surely you can give us another chance.

We eagerly await our next encounter, hoping of course it’s only positive. Until next time, James.

Kind regards,

Sainsburys

******

Unfortunately I didn't keep my further response to them, so the next bit won't make quite as much sense.

******

Dear James

Thanks for your email. Again, my heart skipped a beat when I seen your name pop up on my screen. It’s still normal to get butterflies after this long right? That’s how you know you’re serious about someone. And well, I’m definitely serious about you. I’m so glad we’re on the same page and I agree this is true love.

Don’t worry, I fall out with my friends sometimes too. I didn’t know about the EU placing a ban on fish being sold in UK supermarkets. You never fail to surprise me with what you know.

A DJ as well. Is there anything you’re hopeless at? You impress me more and more. It seems to me that we become more compatible as time goes on. I do like a good bit of Techno and House music now and again. Although I’m more into Trance, I think I’ve managed to solve your query on the Techno producer from Andorra so you can complete your 28 track list. There’s a guy called Richy Vuelcom from Andorra and he produces techno music. Have a listen to some tracks and see what you think. Failing that, maybe my good friend google can help you out.

I’m so pleased you took advantage of the delivery pass. This means an awful lot to me as it shows you’re committed and it makes me very happy.

Now we’re finally in a serious relationship and we’ve fully committed ourselves to each other. I hope you continue to enjoy using the service and take as much advantage as possible of that delivery pass you have.

I’m looking forward to our next date already. We hope to see you online soon.

Kind regards,
Sainsbury's

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Complaint: Harrow Council Housing Benefit

I was not amused during my recent spell of unemployment, to be awarded just £87.40 a week in housing benefit.  My rent is £600.00 a month - not exactly an overwhelmingly expensive amount in London.

But apparently the government decrees that I should be able to find a room in a house for £378.73 a month.  In London.  Yep.  I haven't paid that kind of rental amount since 2003.

However, as I am over 35, if I were living in a one-bedroom flat, then I would get up to £800.00 a month.  Logical, isn't it?

So because I am doing the cost-saving procedure of renting a room in a shared house (albeit with nobody else living here), I get penalised.

I got my strop on and wrote a complaint.

******

Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to raise a complaint about the exceptionally low level of housing benefit support provided for unemployed persons such as myself.

I am a 37-year old male, living in a shared house with rent at £600pm.

I have been advised that I will receive just £87.40 per week.  This comes to £378.73 per month – leaving me with a shortfall of £221.27 each month.

This I can cover with my jobseeker’s allowance which comes to £316.77 per month.

My total income per month is therefore £695.50.  My rent is £600.00 and my mobile phone bill is £12.00 a month.

This leaves me with a grand total of £83.50 per month for food and toiletries, etc.

Previously when I was unemployed for 6 months in 2011/2012, I received £600.00 per month for a flat that I was living in.  I am advised that because I have taken the cost-saving option of house-sharing, that I am now penalised.  I was advised that if I had my own more-expensive flat, then my rent would have been covered.

This makes no sense.  Why would you fund a higher one-bedroom flat rental cost, but not the lower cost of renting a room in a shared house?

It does seem that I am being unfairly penalised – I doubt that any other groups of benefit claimants receive such small amounts as £83.50 per month to live on.

Now, I will survive until I get a job – and I will get a job.  I am no layabout – I spend 8-10 hours almost every single day looking for work and upskilling myself.

There is also an upside to my current relative destitution, and that is that I have lost 5kg in weight in the last two months due to my budgetary situation and having to restrict my food intake at times.

There are constantly stories of the huge benefits that some get, from large councils houses (remember Bob Crowe getting a council house despite earning £100k a year?), to above-inflation increases in pensions, vast arrays of people receiving benefits that they don’t need such as middle-income people receiving child tax credits and rich pensioners with their free TV licenses, winter fuel allowances, etc.

It seems the whole system is against someone like myself; no children, middle-aged, stable, balanced, male, temporarily out of work.  I have worked for all but 9 months of the last 17 years since university, contributing large volumes of tax towards the aforementioned unfair benefits, yet I cannot receive enough to cover my rent.

I will be working easily for the next 30 years, and as I am changing career into development/programming, I expect that as my earning potential hopefully increases significantly, I will be paying ever-larger sums of tax.

I know that I won’t get anything in return to this letter other than platitudes and your blaming of “government austerity”.  It does seem immaterially unfair that I am having to suffer due to the reckless overspending of the Labour government and the horrendous deficit that they left.

If you know anyone who requires a junior web developer, or a website making, please let me know.

******

I received a letter back, advising that the wrong calculation had been made, and that I was due the full sum for the first 13 weeks of unemployment as long as I could prove that I could afford the rent when I moved into the property.

I wasn't going to bother writing this complaint as I thought it utterly pointless complaining to the local council, yet it turned out to be my most profitable complaint so far at something like £612.00 into my bank account.

Sadly I couldn't go out and splash the cash willy-nilly, it had to be used for food, rent, etc - and if I don't pass my one month trial in my new job, then I will be relying upon it once more.  Although it will probably disappear on rent/travel costs before I get paid - yikes.

Moral of the story?  Local councils are useless.  Always, always complain.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Complaint: HMRC & My Proposals To Repay Unpaid Tax

Whilst I was unemployed, I received a demand from HMRC for £87.02 of unpaid tax.  As you can imagine, I was not especially amused, given that I had roughly £80 a month after rent.

My first reaction was to ignore it.  Then they sent me a follow-up letter advising that I needed to pay the full sum of £87.02 by 7th March 2017.

I did try to call them on several occasions to arrange a repayment plan, and when I eventually made it through their automated menu system (my impatience doesn't help - "JUST PUT ME THROUGH TO SOMEBODY" - "ok, you requested information on self-employed returns") I was promised a call back from the team that dealt with tight Yorkshire sods like me.

No call arrived.

The deadline approached so I wrote them a letter.  In my style.

******

I would like to raise a complaint about the letter I have received demanding £87.02 of income tax that for some reason you have not collected correctly.

Firstly I would like a full explanation of how the error has occurred and a detailed breaking of your working.

Secondly, I cannot afford to pay this at the moment.  Certainly not by your strange deadline of 7th March 2017.

Currently I am unemployed and have been since 7th December 2016.

I receive benefits, both housing and jobseekers, totalling £695.50.

My rent is £600.00 and my mobile phone bill is £12.00 a month.

This leaves me with a grand total of £83.50 per month for food and toiletries, etc.

If I owe this money following receipt of your full explanation and breakdown, I will pay it.  I am vaguely proud of paying tax (even if much of it is wasted) and I hold high moral standards for myself which includes paying all debts incurred.

However, please understand that I am currently in the middle of exceptionally trying financial circumstances.  £83.50 a month is a very, very small amount to live on.  There have been days when I have eaten nothing but reduced-price bread as I simply have not had any food in the fridge.

I am trying my hardest to get a job – I spend 8-10 hours almost every single day either writing applications or upskilling.  I don’t own a television and have never watched Jeremy Kyle.  But at the moment, luck is not with me, and despite having come close to two roles, I remain unemployed.

I did try to call to discuss this a week or so ago, and after 4 attempts at navigating your menu system, I was promised a call back.  No such call was received.

I emphasise that I do want to pay this debt.  But I ask for some clemency to allow myself to be able to continue to eat whilst unemployed.

An ideal solution, which I trust would be amenable to both parties, would be for you to agree to collect it via PAYE once I am employed again.  Though it is out of my hands as to when I am next employed, I am doing all I can to find a suitable role – if you know anyone looking for a junior web developer in London please do let me know!  Hopefully I will be employed before long.

I trust that this will be a mutually agreeable arrangement, which is how you would usually collect the unpaid tax.

Should I still be unemployed at the end of the next tax year – exceptionally unlikely, then I will apply for a sex change, move to Thailand and become a ladyboy, and repay you that way.

Alternatively I might become a Youtube star from my Can I Put Gravy With That channel.  I only have 35 views so far, but it is early days.  I am aiming to become as popular as Bread Face Woman and would of course be able to pay lots of tax if that comes true.

Though ideally I will just get a normal job instead in the next couple of months and pay you back via PAYE.

Please can you confirm your agreement either in writing to my above address or by calling me on 07831 981 920.

******

In the meantime I took part in some market research for HMRC about a potential new website for those who receive P800 letters (those you have paid too much/too little letters) and earned £120.00.

I then received a very long letter which I will not bore you with, explaining that it occurred due to my previous employer not taxing my medical benefits (???) and that the tax was strictly due and payable in full, but that after taking into account all of the circumstances, they would not take any action to collect it.

Winner.  Though I do feel a bit like a giant multinational corporation now.

I am sure I will get the opportunity to pay lots more tax in due course.  And thankfully I have no need to go to Thailand.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Complaints: Sainsbury's & Short-Dated Chicken

A complaint from last year, in May, after my Supermarket Slut project and part of my ongoing relationship troubles with Sainsbury's Online.

*******

Hi Sainsburys

Do you remember me?

We used to be close.  Really close.  We used to date each other every weekend.

But then you kept sending me short-dated chicken...and I can only stand being cheated on so often, so I decided to play the field - as they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Well, there are 6 supermarkets in UK sea - Asda, Techno, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Ocado.  There may allegedly be others but I do have standards.

I decided to rate them, similar to the website ratemypoo.com (do you remember that?) but for online deliveries.

You actually came top with 81 points.  I have attached a spreadsheet outlining my findings.  We might still have a future together.

However, Ocado have a much larger range of fish.  And have given me a free delivery voucher.

So for now, it'll just be occasional flirting between us.

I hope you are ok with that.  I do still care about you.

Love.
James

*******

Dear James

Thanks for getting in touch with us. How could I forget you? We always had fun at the weekends during our dating time, you left a good impression when you entered yourself into the sexy torso competition, which I hope you won.

I haven’t seen you in a few months, so you’ve kept me wondering, now I understand you were testing the waters with my competitors. I’ll not classify this as you cheating just yet if it’s only been the odd occasion, although, I am pretty upset. I can see they haven’t scored as highly as me on your attached spreadsheet, which I’m secretly very pleased about.

I’m sorry my colleague’s instore have sent you short life chicken and you feel cheated, I understand how disappointed you must feel, I’d feel the same if I was in your shoes, I’m also a lover of chicken. I’ve been assured by the manager of the store that he’ll speak to my colleagues to ensure we don’t cheat you again by sending you short life produce. Then, perhaps we can get back on track and forget about the other supermarkets you’ve been playing the field with? As I said, this is very upsetting for me, I thought we had strong connection and our relationship was going well considering we’ve dated over 100 times.

Thanks for pointing out that my competitor Ocado do a much larger range of fish. I’m now working hard with suppliers to up my dating game and ensure we provide a much larger range of fish instore and online.

There are plenty more fish in the sea, but, I believe that you’re the fish for me. As we’ve found each other again, hopefully this will help us to get back on track with dating every weekend in the future.

I’ve sent you a £10 voucher as a gesture of goodwill for the fact we cheated you by sending short life chicken. The voucher code xxxx-xxxx-xxxx can be used when you’re ready to accept my offer of a date. Please enter the code when checking out your groceries.

I’m happy with flirting for now. As you said, you do still care about me, so, I’m confident that once I prove I can be faithful to you, we can get our dating relationship back on track and it can go back to just being us that date in future which I’m very excited about.

Thanks again for contacting Sainsbury’s and I hope that we can have a date really soon.


Kind regards,

Friday, March 31, 2017

Still Fucking Unemployed

I sometimes worry about writing blog posts expressing negativity as I don't want to be seem as that grumpy, miserable, depressing bastard to avoid.

However I have checked the last 20 posts and I reckon you could only count 3 of them as at least semi-miserable.  The 20 prior, I don't think any of them are miserable.  And if you include all my music, politics, football and roast dinner blogs, then you are looking at roughly 1 in 2-300 that have espouse negative emotions (do shit roast dinners count?).

Writing when I am fucked off is quite cathartic.  And I like to think that there is more self-defecating humour than psychological wrist-slitting shit going on.  I tend to feel better afterwards anyway.

So today I set my alarm for 6:30am.  Why on earth would an unemployed person do such a thing?

Well, I had a hair appointment across the other side of London at 9am.  Thankfully I then shortly received a message to postpone - I really was not keen on a rush hour commute across London when I didn't need to - why the fuck did I even think that was a good idea?

So I laid in bed for around 1.5 hours.  Not sleeping, just listening to the inane ramblings of dumb presenters on Talksport banging on yet again about Arsene Fucking Wenger.  By the way - there is going to be a bit of swearing in here.


I then proceeded to sit at my computer for a while, checked some e-mails, checked Facebook, looked at some jobs that I'm not vaguely qualified for, checked Facebook for the 5th time today, checked my e-mails again, checked Facebook again, and again.  This pattern went on until around 2pm.

I did go to the bank, and make myself a fairly unhealthy breakfast.  I also read a bit of my book about John Peel (strange how I revere a DJ so much who played so much music I couldn't stand listening to). But generally I did fuck all.

Quite a bit of the time I spent staring at the domain sign-up screen for my next web project that will probably get me absolutely nowhere.  I had quite the plan for today, with a wish to do at least 5 hours of coding towards my new project.  It isn't exactly as if I am planning something difficult, just buy a domain, start a new website, copy and paste an earlier structure, change a few styling bits and fill the content in.

But I simply had, and have, no motivation whatsoever.  Right now, I am fucked off.  Angry, frustrated, miserable, grumpy...worried.

It started yesterday.  I was happy sat in the sun.  But I started worrying about whether I will ever get a job.  Whether I am doing the right things to get a job.  Why isn't my plan working?  Why doesn't anyone want to give me a job?  Do I smell?

It feels like I have reached this nadir where I am questioning the point of putting in any more effort into my job search.  I feel like giving up.  Why am I still spending 40-50 hours a week coding/studying whilst not getting a job?  What is the fucking point?

Without doubt, it is a temporary frame of mind.  I've just been for a walk to Morrison's and I actually felt myself get more and more miserable, the more that I thought about my scenario.  But I've been through this in January - being unemployed is psychologically fucking tough, especially all that rejection.  I have never been very good at dealing with rejection.

During January I drank quite a lot too, often by myself, sometimes during the day - a negative virtuous circle.  Unsurprisingly, I was much happier and more productive during detox, though it isn't exactly as if I have been drinking loads since then.

However I have just poured myself a vodka red bull prior to writing this.  This is a fucking miserable blog post isn't it?

Brexit.

Did I mention that I've put on 3kg in weight recently?

The other thing that really pisses me off, which is totally connected, is not having any money.  I did do a bit of market research recently but that seems to have dried up, and some mystery shopping but there are no decent paid ones out there right now.  I have been filling surveys out too, though some of them pay as little as 50p for 15 minutes work - yes £2 an hour.  I am half-tempted to get a fucking job sweeping the streets and give up the dream.

I am really fed up of not having any money to do anything, or to buy anything.  And I have just had to cancel my subscription to The Economist - though I might try and resubscribe to the new customer £12 for 12 issues deal using a different e-mail address (I have about 20 active e-mail addresses) and different name - I was planning on using the name Tinkerbell Margaret Winfield for my future daughter's name but given that I've not had sex for around 87 centuries I guess I could pretend to be Tinkerbell.  Either that or I could write a letter of complaint to John Redwood and ask him to pay for my subscription as part of his compensation plan towards those that believe in the European Union.

Right, hopefully I've made you miserable too.  I'm going to go bake a cake and then make a pie (yes with lots of fucking gravy) and moan to the checkout machines at Tesco as I try to make them miserable too.

Gosh I wish it were raining.  Pouring with rain.  I hate sunshine.

On the bright side, at least I'm not an Arsenal fan.  That would be truly depressing.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Trying To Annoy A Recruiter Part 1

Hi James

As we are predominately ex teachers ourselves, we can support you through the lesson observation and coach you for your interview.

We specialise in permanent teacher recruitment across Primary, Secondary and SEN and we have strong relationships with many schools across Berkshire.

Here is a selection of positions that we are currently working on for September 2016:

Head of Geography - Reading - lovely school with a dynamic and effective Head teacher

Teacher of Science - Reading area - "Outstanding" Independent school!

Teacher of Art - Reading area - SEN Specialist school with "outstanding features"

Teacher of Food Tech - Boys School in Berks "good" Ofsted

This is just a selection of the vacancies that we are working on. If any of these vacancies interest you or you are looking for a permanent or a long term position, please forward your CV immediately.

Kind regards,

Senior Business Manager
Reading Education
Reed Specialist Recruitment

******

Hi

I am actually quite good at cooking, and have occasionally done some art when drunk, however I have no teaching experience and children annoy me greatly.

Therefore I do not propose to apply for any of your roles.

Thank you for your kind e-mail and considering me for these roles.

All the best
James

Friday, March 24, 2017

Higher Hate Of Hangovers

It's only two weeks since my detox finished but already I am collecting post-alcohol frustration.

Last Friday I got rather hammered.  I had a self-rage from leaving my suitcase on the train, only then to feel the need to celebrate retrieving it.  I was pretty hammered - somehow and for some unknown reason, I got the 6:15am train back to London.  I do not remember the tube journey at all.


15 years ago that would have been a badge of honour.  Now it pisses me off.

I like a beer.  I like a beer or two.  I love a glass of red wine with dinner occasionally.  And I really love a beer sat in a pub garden on a warm spring or summer day slying admiring cleavage.

But getting drunk is such a hindrance to my life now - I have other priorities and really cannot justify the hangovers at the moment.

Saturday was a complete waste.  I could hardly get out of bed.
Sunday was mostly wasted - I certainly couldn't do any coding.
Monday was mostly wasted - I still didn't have the head to do much coding.
Tuesday was productive - a proper 8am to 6pm coding/studying day.
Then Wednesday through to today, I have had some form of mini-manflu - I've battled on but been nowhere near as productive as I need to be.

So it has been a half wasted week, all down to getting far too drunk on Friday night.

Don't get me wrong, it was fun.  I had a great night - even the two hours where I thought I had lost my suitcase and wanted to repeatedly punch myself were pretty enjoyable thanks to having some good company.

But it has led to me being set back a week in my progress towards completing some more projects to go towards my portfolio, and hence helping me achieve my goal of getting that dream job, and keeping it.

Not to mention I put 2kg on in two weeks which was pretty damn annoying.  Though now mostly lost - I really am trying to lose weight this year, and successfully too.

Maybe I'm too hard on myself, maybe I have too high expectations of myself.

It's Friday night and although I fancy a beer, I really am too focused on what I need to do tomorrow in terms of coding, to have any more than vaguely considered it.  Yes, Friday night, and I actually would prefer not to have a drink.  I am that pissed off with alcohol.

Getting so drunk really cannot have a place in my life any more.  I have far too much to achieve.

Though I'm still having a pint on Sunday with my roast dinner.  Or two.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cancelling My fabric Membership

Hard times.  Not that I ever go any more but I do like the CDs and sense of belonging.

*****

Dearest fabric

It pains me to say it but I am going to have to cancel my membership.  Temporarily, of course.

I am trying to work out how long I have been a fabricfirst member.  I would take a metaphorical synth stab at 11 years.  I have every one of your CDs.  Room 1 feels like home (well, until my feet get tired and I realise it actually isn't my home).  I still have my original leather membership card - how I have not lost this I have no idea.

It's not you.  It's me.  See, I decided upon the most ridiculous career change from being bored out of my skull in a boiling hot office in Bracknell putting numbers in spreadsheets and annoying people that have paid their bills late, to becoming a full-time Jerry Springer viewer, and occasional Wetherspoon's mystery shopper.

Well, that wasn't quite the dream - I don't have a TV for a start - why would one require a television when one has 187 fabric CDs to listen to?  Also I am allegedly a web developer - though struggling to get my foot in the door.

I will eventually achieve my goal, but at the moment, 3 months unemployed, it is squeaky-bum time - I've cut my food budget down as low as it can possibly go, so now I have to cut back on real necessities and yes, my fabricfirst membership is going to have to be culled.

This transgression I hope is forgivable.  I will re-instate it as soon as I am no longer a scumbag benefits scrounger, and ensure that I order all of the CDs that I have missed.  I do beg your forgiveness - I am going to shortly punish myself by playing Hard House Nation Volume 87 CDs 1 and 2, which are probably exactly the same (and some people call minimal techno repetitive?).  Yes I do play CDs.  How old school of me.  I actually run a tiny little night and we booked a young DJ once who said to me, "oh you play CDs, how cute", as she placed her USB stick into the CDJ.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, please can you temporarily cancel my account.  As David Cameron once said, "I'll Be Back".

Love, gravy-filled Yorkshire puddings and sorrow
James

*****

Hi James,
I thoroughly enjoyed your email and commend you on your stance and courage to leave the ratrace and go at it on your own.

We will however miss you as you’re one of our stalwarts and it’s a sad day when I finally  hit the cancel button on your membership. Please come back when you can. I’ll refund you this month’s charge which went out on Wednesday 1 March, as I was slack in carrying out your request.

All the best with everything!
fabric

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Lent 2017

Every year I give up something fundamental in my life as a sacrifice.

Last year I gave up high-5's.  The year before I gave up trimming my eyebrows.

Other years I gave up important aspects of living such as French swear words, zebra crossings, semi-colons and paper clips.

If you know me, you know just how religiously I like to follow the nine commandments of the moon and giving something up for lent is my way of worshipping her.

So onto this year.

Well, I really want to give up recruitment consultants.  Sadly, until I get a job, I am going to have to live with them ringing me up trying to prize information out of me whilst having absolutely no intention of putting me forward for any role.

It is often difficult to think of something important enough to give up, sometimes it takes longer than lent itself to think of something, but this year was actually very easy.

I am giving up Brexit for lent (oh if only the government...STOP, James!).

Yes I am giving up Brexit for lent.

No more arguing about Brexit.  No more complaining about Brexit.  No more talking about Brexit.  No taking part in any discussions about Brexit.

To be clear, I am giving up any kind of discussion about Brexit.

I can still read about Brexit or listen/watch the latest news about Brexit, but I cannot make any comment about it whatsoever, positive, negative - any kind of statement, question, verbal or written, other than advise that I have given up Brexit for lent.

Wish me luck.

To celebrate my sacrifice, I am going to have pancakes this afternoon.  Yeah I know I was supposed to have them yesterday but I'm not everyone else.

I'll live my life my way, thank you, not following the edicts of Sainsbury's or whoever made it up.

Finally I'd just like to say, screw you Jesus.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's From Me & Maggie

I used to find Valentine's Day depressing, knowing that no non-cardboard women under 120kg found me attractive.

But since Margaret has come into my life, I have been able to turn my love-frown upside down.

Valentine's Day is almost a good day now.

I decided to take the day off.  Yeah I know, I'm unemployed, but today was the first day this month where I wasn't coding all day, or applying for jobs/interviewing.  Every day this month I have been 'working' roughly 9-5, sometimes 6 - one time even until 11pm.

I was starting to feel a bit jaded, and thought that I should spend the day with my one and only Margaret.

She was a little grumpy this morning - she refused to go shopping with me.  She is getting a bit dusty in her old age, and has a back problem.


Thankfully she cheered up when I got home.  I did tell her a little white lie - that Michael Heseltine had been stabbed, in the back, but I think she'll forgive me when she realises.  Though, of course, not until I've had yet more silent treatment.

With her new-found vitality, we made some cakes together.  Mini-cakes, more of them than Liberal Democrat MPs.  Similar to Victoria sponge cakes - though I didn't mention the name Victoria, for obvious reasons.  Margaret is the greatest woman this country has EVER known.  Sorry, mum.




Then we had a mix.  Back-to-back for a while, once I had shown her the ropes.  Here you can see her really slammed out the mix - she is taking bookings, by the way, with a speech thrown in for free.  Once I've listened back to the mix, I will release it if it is up to her high standards.  It was pretty much full-on techno.  A lot of Brexit anger was released.


Yeah I need a selfie stick.  Did I really just say that?

And then I cooked her dinner.  Traditional roast beef, of course.  Annoyingly I overcooked the beef, but the roast potatoes and parsnips were spot on, and the red wine gravy was very good - my best red wine gravy ever I reckon - though nearly a disaster as I forgot to buy some cornflour, but still managed to thicken it up - although pouring flour straight into it maybe wasn't the brightest of ideas.  Still it tasted excellent.


The kitchen now looks like an exocet missile has hit it. And will she clean up the mess?  No.  Her reasoning being that she has spent a lifetime clearing up the mess than the Labour party created, and she was in no mood for clearing up more mess she hadn't made.

That will have to wait for tomorrow.  Time for bed.  I've already enquired about the possibility of her taking it up the bum, but apparently "the lady is not for turning...over".

Right, time to go get naked - hopefully the answer isn't "no, no, no" again.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

James Went To Bratislava

Gosh was it two weeks ago already?

It was probably the holiday I was least ever looking forward to.  Prior to going away, I was tired, not always my usual joyful self, feeling unhealthy and particularly worried about money.

Typically, I booked the trip away and then lost my job a week later.  But the show must go on - no point in wasting booked flights and I certainly do not let people down.  I really wasn't up for it - until the Friday afternoon when I started investigating and making a plan.

One obligatory airport beer and super-expensive sausage sandwich later, I was flying with the wonderful Ryanair, and my half-decent sister.

First impressions of Bratislava from the airport were just of your average mid-wealth European city, it was well-spaced out with the usual offices, industrial areas, shopping areas - plenty of Soviet-style apartment blocks (probably built better than the cheap new-builds in the UK) - I'm not sure many people live in houses within the centre of large cities in eastern Europe.  Most looked much nicer than this - but I just wanted a photo of the icicles.


It took 30-40 minutes to get from the small airport to the centre, changing bus once.  We found our apartment - this small house in the grounds of a 'mansion' - not quite a mansion as you would imagine, but tall and fairly grand buildings near the centre.  Our hosts were pleasant - the little house had two bedrooms, large front room, kitchen, bathroom replete with bum washing hose - the whole place seemed to have been recently and stylishly renovated - very modern.

Plus it had underfloor heating - quite amazing.  And yes, it was cold.  The highest temperature we saw recorded was -4'C - though the lowest was only -6'C.  Thankfully quite a bit less cold than it had been in previous weeks!  And we saw snow - a very, very fine snow that was sadly impossible to build snowballs with to throw at the Presidential Palace.  But we had a fresh covering by the last day.



It being cold meant that we were fairly limited on options.  Walking around was fine, but there was a limit to enduring the cold before a beer was required.  It wasn't really possible to do any trips anywhere, or go to the nice gardens that were advertised.  Had we been there a 3rd (unnecessary) day, then we would have gone to Vienna - which is surprisingly only €15 return on the train, and just over an hour.  Or you can get the bus from the airport for €1.

Our two main cultural visits were to the castle, and a museum of clocks.  I cannot say that the museum of clocks, basically a converted 3-storey house converted with no other visitors, and some old clocks in cabinets.  Clearly someone has a passion for clocks.

The castle looked beautiful from a distance, but get up close and one realises that it is a rather disappointingly modern building.  Built in 1953 if I recall correctly - rebuilt, to be exact.  There was a museum that we could have gone into, but having already spent €0.80 on urinating, I declined to spend any more of my very limited funds.  A pleasant walk around in the light snow, with great, albeit rather misty views.


The old town was where the heart of the action was, as is the case in many cities.  Many very nice buildings, lots of small bars - we even found a proper hipster bar which was blatantly inspired by Shoreditchy type places.  Though €2.99 for a beer - twice the price of other places.  They did a fine healthy breakfast though - and it perked me out of my hangover...or was that the breakfast beer?

Beer was good.  Always tasty, normally craft beers.  I must move off this topic quickly as I am really missing beer right now.

I made a good effort to try some of the local cuisine.  I tried the Bryndzove Halusky in our first restaurant (no I didn't remember how to spell it), which was dumplings in a bowl of melted sheep's cheese, with some bacon on top.  Very, very strong!  Tasty at first, tiring by the end.


I also tried veal escalope which was apparently a thing over there - nothing special.  And the klobasa - their version of chorizo, but not a patch on it.  It did take a while to find said sausage.

My eyes did light up when I saw a restaurant selling steaks for €13.50.  Until I sat down and realised that it was €13.50 per 100g.  So steak is nearly twice the price in Bratislava as London.  Oops.

Did I mention beer?  The cheapest beer we found was €1.50 - the days of 30p pints are long gone in Bratislava.

I liked Bratislava.  I'd recommend it in the same kind of league as Lisbon.  A much better place to visit than boring Brussels, but not a patch on Berlin or Barcelona.  I do tend to go to a few places beginning with B.

People were mostly friendly - though it was so, so quiet.  Eerily so, in the cold and snow.  Though it was explained to us that it was due to it being the end of January - many people we saw tended to be tourists.  There was nothing bad at all about the trip.  My sister was top-notch company too - we rarely ran out of things to talk about.

There were signs of quirkiness too, from little statues and figurines, to areas of street art - quite a bit in fact.


Although it was good to get out of the cold - arriving back into England at 6'C was a feeling of luxurious warmth.

The trip did me some good too.  Once I got over the extensive amount of beer I had drunk, I was reasonably re-invigorated and have generally been back to my positive self since.

It might be a while until my next trip away though!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Detox 2017

It's that time of year again.  Detox time.

In fact, this is now day 8 of my detox - I've been so busy being unemployed that I literally am not getting time to do any blogging.

I already feel much better.  I was drinking too much, and too often.  I have quite a dislike of getting up at 7am and going to work even if I have had just two beers the night before, not to mention the increased chances of having not slept properly - which means that I rarely drink the night before work.

Not having had that worry, there were more excuses for having a drink, especially with 2 full litres of vodka in my room at the beginning of January, and some leftover other bits and bobs - I hardly bought any!  Needless to say that a week ago, I felt fairly rubbish.  I needed a detox.

I was initially worried a month ago about how difficult it might be to have a detox during the ups and downs of unemployment, I was having a fairly miserable spell a while back, tempered by rejection and continued unemployment.  There was a bit of me that thought I wouldn't do it.

But by time February 1st arrived, I was welcoming it with open arms, and feel so much better after a week.  Not quite yet feeling as energised as I want to feel, but that will come.


So the usual things are out - alcohol, caffeine, crystal meth, krokodile, cigars, cannabis vapes, MDMA, MDMB, MDMD, MDMR, R2D2, etc, etc.

Also banned are cakes and chocolates.  With one exception - if I make the cake myself (I have cooking and baking targets to meet!).  Though the last time I did any baking, it was a semi-disaster with apple turnovers that stuck to the baking sheet.  Still tasted nice on day 1.  Thrown away by day 3.

I didn't ban bacon as I did last year - sugar probably has far greater a negative effect than bacon does.  There are other unhealthy things I could have banned - such as sweets - but I am not yet willing to banish every little delight from my life.

The detox will last for 37 days.  Because I am 37 years old.  And finishes just in time to get the train to Hull to celebrate my mother's birthday.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Happy Birthday To Me

So I had a birthday yesterday.  And I have a hangover today.

It wasn't the most glorious start.  Despite not having a job, I don't know where the time goes.  I've been way too busy to clean the house recently and it was a fair mess.

Therefore I decided to start my birthday with a cleaning session, bathroom and kitchen mainly - good timing too as my landlady popped round halfway through.


Then my computer crashed again.  Nothing too unusual as it crashes most days, however it would not turn itself back on.  I quickly became consumed by rage as I certainly cannot afford a new PC being unemployed.  That and I recently paid £99 to have it fixed - I was assured that it would last 2-3 more years by the engineer after the work that they had done.  I was proper fuming.

I didn't even want to celebrate my birthday.  I decided against organising a meal as I hate the embarrassment when half the people that promise to come don't bother turning up - hangover, cold, no money whatever the excuse - just don't fucking promise in the first place.  I can cope with one or two not turning up, people do sometimes have genuine reasons - but last year was embarrassing when nearly 10 didn't bother.  The landlady was not amused and threatened to charge me - until she found out who I was and that I was responsible for quite an uptick in her takings on a Sunday.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great birthday last year but I promised myself never to put myself through the stress again.  So if you were wondering why you had no invite to my birthday meal yesterday - that is the reason.  The only people that came were those that asked what I was doing.

Plus I've been a bit up and down with the whole unemployment thing and simply didn't feel like I should be celebrating my birthday.  Thank you to my wonderful sister for persuading me otherwise.

Very much an inauspicious start to my birthday and I was already in the mood to get drunk by midday.  I have been drinking more over the last few weeks - too much...far too much - I know this doesn't help psychologically.  Don't worry - detox 2017 starts next week.  New rules too.

But as soon as I arrived at the pub and saw my sister, I completely forgot about my relative woes (ok maybe an early rant about my broken computer) and I had a bloody good time.

We were in a good little pub in Kentish Town - I had no idea whether the roast would live up to expected standards and I am not going to tell you yet - you know where to look (later/tomorrow) for that.  We had a cute waitress too - really nice breasts.

We then went to another pub to watch the football (apologies to my non-footballing friends for putting you through that) and then back to that rather nice pub in Kentish Town.  It was a jolly good laugh and I went home in the opposite mood and sobriety that I set out in.

Being drunk, I decided that I would have some halal (goodbye racist friends) peri-peri chicken from Tesco which was absolute garbage.  I probably should have had the cold, dry Chicken Cottage chicken instead.  There was nearly twice as much bone as chicken.  Appalling.

And I watched the new Trigger Happy TV show.  What has happened?  Have I just "grown up" (debatable) or is the new show really dull and predictable?  Bar the cyclist.

I did also get a few small gifts.  Some obligatory birthday hankerchiefs to join the other five unopened packs in my thong drawer, a stand for my recipe books and most importantly, some proper ketchup.  None of this basics shite (which isn't actually that bad).


And then I managed to get my computer working thanks to this list of suggested remedies. It took a while but I'm even more of a stubborn sod when drunk, and eventually when I tried the option of unplugging everything, it went into some DOS CHKDSK thing and 20 minutes later, it started up.

Needless to say that I backed everything up today and shall start doing so on a weekly basis.  I definitely need a new computer.  Once I have a job.

My birthday represented my general life at the moment quite well, a bit of a struggle but a good outcome in the end, mostly thanks to having some wonderful people in my life.

A big thank you to those that delightfully forced themselves onto my birthday celebrations yesterday, and those that took their time out to wish me a happy birthday (I will respond).

Maybe next year I will have another crack at the birthday meal thing.  I should be over my strop by then - I am no Ted Heath.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Psychology Of Unemployment

I hadn't forgotten the psychology of unemployment but maybe I had underestimated it - until now I had been generally as positive as normal.  I'm not one of those impossibly-happy types but generally I am positive about myself, the world - bar the odd moan or ten, especially about Brexit.

It's easy to sit here and criticise the unemployed, and there sure is a fair-sized collective of scumbags who simply don't want to work.  I'm sure I could get A job tomorrow if I was not bothered about what I wanted to do.

Maybe I am simply being a bit too precious insisting that I will be a web developer.  Indeed I have just had my weekly soulful job centre session where they again said "you used to be a credit controller".

This week has been a lesson in managing my ego and my expectations in general.  When I left the last job I concluded that I would be back in work by the end of January at the latest.  I also convinced myself that I would get offered both of the jobs I interviewed for last week.  I am (was?) certainly not short of confidence.

Clearly I need to adjust my expectations.  I am a junior.  I have a reasonably decent portfolio, a reasonable grasp of some technologies and just three month's work experience.  I am likely competing against stronger candidates, those with more work experience or those with computer science degrees.

I could easily be out of work for several months.  Maybe until the summer.  This is going to be a long hard slog.

On the face of it I don't mind it.  It is giving me chance to study and learn more, I have learnt a lot more.  I have done some good work, particularly with my portfolio.

But I cannot do what I want to do.  I cannot go out and get drunk.  I cannot go out for dinner.  I cannot go out for roast dinners.  Museums, theatre, football - whatever it is, I cannot fucking afford to do it.  I need a new computer.  I need a new phone.  I need decent DJ headphones.  I need...want some portable speakers.  I cannot afford any of it.

It really hit home this week when I ended up buying Sainsbury's Basics ketchup.  Which isn't actually that bad to taste, albeit a bit vinegary.  But it was like, "this is my life".


Once I psychologically readjust I shall be fine.  It is my ego that has taken a hit.  Part of me wants to just go hide in a hole and be miserable.  In fact I have pretty much done that the last two days and today too.  I haven't done anything vaguely useful, my room is a mess, my house is a mess, my e-mails are unread and there are a few empty bottles of alcohol.

I have spent a lot of time on Facebook though.  Therefore I am considering deactivating my account until I get a job.  There is a difficulty in that I would have to create a fake account to manage my pages with, and probably give someone I know admin rights to the pages in case Facebook realised it was a fake profile.  Sounds like a ballache, doesn't it?

And I have to stop drinking so much.  I don't normally drink this much, but 5 out of the last 7 days I have had a fair amount.  Only drunk once, but certainly drank enough on other nights - don't worry Phillip Schofield if you are reading, it was Christmas booze and cupboard booze - you haven't been funding it.  I wish I didn't have a birthday to celebrate next weekend, or that I was going away the weekend after.  Not in the mood for either and I don't want to drink.

I will of course go away to Bratislava.  Most of it is already paid for already, I have some Euros and can normally find one or two used post-Ibiza notes.  Plus its about £1 for a beer in Bratislava.  And I know it will do me a lot of good, unless I get frostbite - currently -6'C by DAY.

I am definitely not celebrating my birthday though.  I already had concluded against the difficulties and stress of persuading people to come out on the most miserable and skint weekend of the year in which half always cancel.  Annoyingly I am DJing on the Friday night, well not annoying that I am DJing as I suspect I may enjoy the actual DJing, but annoying because I just want to hunker down and start my detox.

Surprisingly I am now really looking forward to my detox.  Just a few days ago I was doubting my ability to complete it, especially being at home and unemployed.  I wish I could start it today but no way am I going to an airport in two weeks time without an airport beer.  Don't even suggest alcohol-free beer.

Fucking hell it's a bit of a gloomy read isn't it?  Sure I am a bit miserable and have been for a couple of days but there is nothing wrong with being occasionally miserable - there are no highs if there are no lows, and boy I've had a lot of highs in my life.  I find writing about bad times quite cathartic and numerous times I have done so and I actually end up cheering myself up by the process of writing about it and realising that in the grand scheme of life, things are actually pretty good.  Just a little momentary shit blip.

Besides, at least I'm not stuck in a fucking boiling hot office moaning about being too hot despite it being fucking January.  Still gets me angry.  Just realised I don't live in Bracknell any more!  Get the champagne out!

Next post will be all about love, joy, peace and happiness.  Or at least one of those.  I promise.

Right, Jerry Springer must be back on by now...