Sunday, 29 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - Day 15

A race against time tonight for the challenge between Joe and Stuart. The winner gets to stay but the loser leaves the jungle immediately. Ant and Dec explained what to do, but it seemed dead complicated to me - I’d have had to write the instructions down. On paper Joe should have won it, but poor tactics getting the combination meant he never got off the ground. Win for Stuart and a welcome return to the Jungle.

Can we lose the vile Kim Woodburn - please stop voting for her!

The Pink Party

Saturday was the highlight of the social calendar when I went to Miss Pink’s party. All of Newcastle society was there, apart from one or two notable exceptions (well they are getting on a bit and the party did go on quite late).

Normally Miss Pink is in housecoat and curlers at the start of the party as it takes her a while to get ready but this year she was dressed and in full make up right from the start.

This year’s theme was 80s and appropriate music supplied accordingly.

Phil turned out to be a walking encyclopaedia on tunes, singers and dates and was able to settle several arguments over who sang which song and when. Turns out Phil used to be a milkman in his youth (I never knew that) and retold lots of stories of his time on the milk cart and how upset he was when the horse (called Champion) was finally retired to make way for a new motorised milk float. Whenever I see a bottle of milk - I will think of Phil (Can you still get bottles of milk?)

Cocktails were the drink of the night and Miss Pink was very industrious in making cocktails for all. She had planned to serve drinks out of coconuts, and to do this she had bought a bag of mini coconuts from Asda - I didn’t know you could get mini coconuts but they did fit in the glass very neatly. Or at least they would have done if all had gone to plan. Miss Pink made a rare visit to B&Q to buy a junior hacksaw and used this to try and take the top off the coconuts. Unfortunately after 15 minutes of effort and one ragged edged coconut later - she gave it up as a bad job.

Still the hacksaw came in handy for chopping up the pineapple and she did produce a fantastic cocktail - and that’s from me that doesn’t like cocktails.

Evening went as these things do - with everyone in the kitchen - why do people do that at parties?

There was one, well lets call it an incident (actually there were two but I am sworn to secrecy on the second one) where someone dropped a full bottle of beer on the kitchen floor - smashed to smithereens - embarrassingly it was me - why is it always me?

Anyway a good time was had by all - but suffered for it the next day!

X Factor - Take That\Elton week.

Poor week this week considering there are only five left and it is the semi- final next week. It’s a bit worrying that they are singing ‘group songs’ at this stage in the competition, maybe they are not that good after all. I still like Stacey, but think Simon has decided against her as he will never be able to do anything with her in America - no one outside Essex can understand a word she says.

Not a fan of Alicia or Rihanna - no plans to buy their new tunes. Was Rihanna the one that did Eurovision? Or was that someone else?

Sorry Olly - I think you are losing it - Performance of the week again from Geordie Joe.

The result went as expected this week and Lloyd finally left - sorry Lloyd your not that good a singer, you’re a better singer than I am - but then I’m not on the X Factor.

Friday, 27 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - day 13

Jimmy got the bush tucker trial (not the bush trucker trail that Sabrina insisted on calling it) and had to climb across a high wire and smash stars, with a bit of a bungee jump at the end. If I had to do a challenge - and I wouldn’t but if I had to, it would be this sort. No way would I do one that involved eating bugs. Jimmy’s not ht fittest celebrity in the camp so it was probably a mistake to have him do the trail - and the nylon leotard wasn’t a good look. Still he managed five stars but I reckon Sabrina would have scored a lot more.

The so called ‘intelligence test’ turned out to be nothing of the sort, more a ’guess how many people in a survey said’ test a Family Fortunes sort of thing. Complete waste of time picking teams just to guess a number! The tie breaker was ’calculate the combined ages of the stars in I’m a celebrity. Both teams got the same number but were still wrong. Looks like the celebrities have all been taking years off their ages!

Sam was the third person to be evicted. Funny how long it took me to remember who the first person to be evicted was! (In case you have forgotten as well, it was Lisa).

I’m a Celebrity - day 12

Just how many Hollywood greats does George Hamilton know! I guess we shouldn’t be surprised as George has been Hollywood A list for decades. It was interesting to hear his experiences of the stars (from a time when you had to actually do something and be good at it to get the title ’star’).

A bit uncomfortable for me to to watch as the mention of Hollywood always brings to mind an embarrassing incident at a fancy dress party many years ago. The theme of the party was ‘Hollywood stars’ and you had to come as a Hollywood star, I forget who I went as, some popular star of the day, Robert Redford I think.

Anyway I was chatting to this chap and I said I just had to compliment him on his fancy dress - it was the best Sid James I had ever seen. He was livid!

How was I supposed to know he was meant to be Burt Lancaster!


Of all the words in the English language, what word has the most definitions?

‘Set’ has 464 definitions - the most of all the words in English. ‘Run’ has 396 definitions ‘go’ 368, ‘take’ 343 and ‘stand’ 334.

How many ping pong balls would it take to re-float the titanic?

It would take 1,354,432,405 ping pong balls (33.5 cu cm2.7g) to float the titanic (41,730,498,040g). The calculation is: Titanic weight/ball volume - ball weight)


Why do some people just stop as soon as they get off a shop escalator to look for the department they want? Totally oblivious to the fact there are 20 people behind them all about to reach the end of the escalator and about to fall on top of them! They get so cross when you kick them in the leg to move them out of the way!

Thursday, 26 November 2009


How many brain cells would fit in a grain of sand?

One million brain cells fit in a grain of sand. If your cells were the size of sand you’d be 18m tall. There are seven quadrillion atoms in a cell.

What footballer scored a hat trick for his country but never scored for his club?

Geoff Hurst scored a hat trick for his country but never scored for his club. He played one county cricket game for Essex but scored no runs.

Windows 7

I had wondered about upgrading my home PC to Windows 7. The general advice was that Windows 7 isn’t a necessary upgrade and if you are running XP it probably wasn’t necessary. If you were running Vista it was probably worth it to reduce start up times and remove some of the annoyances of Vista.

Although I was running Windows Vista I decided that I would upgrade to Windows 7. I was told there were two options either just upgrade your operating system or completely replace the operating system. I was advised most people replace the operating system as this removes old unnecessary files. Either way I was assured that it would be trouble free.

I decided to replace the operating system. It wasn’t too bad - but it wasn’t as trouble free as suggested. Specifically:

  • itunes was a bit difficult (as expected, as it always is when you move from one system to another)
    Some software programs seem to have disappeared forever; not too bothered as probably never used them and were just taking up space;
  • Needed new driver for printer I only bought a month ago - Epsom were particularly bad at supplying this. It took a bit of investigation to locate where driver downloads for my printer were on their website and when I did find the right location it only had drivers for 64 and 86 bit computers, not the 32 bit I needed. My first email to Epsom too 24 hours to get a response that said yes they did have a driver for my printer and then went on to give me full spec for the printer and would I like to buy one. I responded saying that I already had the printer, which was why I needed the driver, (I wonder why they thought I wanted a driver for a printer I didn’t have!), and instead of just telling me they did have the driver - could they tell me where it was! They did reply quite quickly with the location and advice that said to be sure to download the version x86 version to get the 32 bit version. I have to ask why call it 86 when it is for 32? In the meantime I found a site that offered free downloads for all sorts of drivers - it sorted my issue in less than five minutes.
  • If you have Vista be aware that Windows 7 does not come with Microsoft Works, spreadsheet, portfolio etc so you might have to check PC manufacturer about how you get word processing back onto your PC. I had installation discs from when I had XP so could load them from that, but it might be something to check out before you upgrade to Windows 7

The hovering over icons and ease of opening of windows which they go on about as a great experience is just annoying. I think there must be knack to it!

Is the upgrade worth it? Not sure its early days, first impression it just seems like fancy ways of doing what you could do anyway.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


A new series of answers to questions you didn't know. Tell me the questions you have always wanted answers to.

Where did the drink ‘punch’ originally come from?

Punch comes from India where it was a drink with five ingredients - arrack, sugar, lemon, water and tea.. The word punch comes from ‘panch’ meaning five in Hindi.

What was the longest note held in a top 40 hit?

The longest note held in a UK hit lasts 20.32 seconds by Morten Harket of A-Ha in Summer Moved On. It got to number 33 in 2002. Bill Withers reached 18 seconds in ‘Lovely Day’.

How Heavy is the Internet?

by Simon Chester on June 1st, 2007

A recent piece in Discover Magazine sets out to weigh the Internet.

How heavy is information? Most of us know that computers represent all types of information–e-mails, documents, video clips, Web pages, everything–as streams of binary digits, 1s and 0s. These digits are mathematical entities, but they are also tangible ones: They are embodied and manipulated as voltages in electronic circuits. Therefore, every bit of data must have some mass, albeit minuscule. This prompted DISCOVER to ask the question: How much would all the data sent through the Internet on an average day weigh?

What do you think the weight of the entire Internet traffic might be? A mountain? A car? A brick? A feather? Heavier than all of that? Lighter than all of that?

The physical objects that move through the Internet never go very far. What really goes the distance—what carries the weight, for our purposes—is the bit pattern that represents each packet, which gets continually rebuilt in the electronic memory of system after system as information traverses the network.

If we can work out the weight of the bits associated with a piece of information when it is assembled in a computer’s memory, we are halfway to figuring out the weight of the Internet.

75 percent of all traffic on the Internet is due to file sharing, with 59 percent of that file sharing attributed to people swapping video files. Music tracks account for 33 percent of the file-sharing traffic. E-mail, it turns out, accounts for just 9 percent of the total traffic.

And that total is… a staggering 40 petabytes, or 40 x 1015 bytes: a 4 followed by 16 zeros.

Every shade and aspect of human life encoded as 1s and 0s.

Taken together, everything that moves across the Internet in a single day weighs roughly the same as the smallest possible sand grain, one measuring just two-­thousandths of an inch across.

The Girl from Tiger Bay

Last night BBC was showing the Alan Yentob documentary on Dame Shirley Bassey as she worked on her new Album (The Performance). Bassey belongs to the old school of singers that believe that even if you don’t write the songs you can still make them your own with a great performance. Whether you’re a fan or not, you always know when Shirley has sang a song, who else can sing Goldfinger and Diamonds are forever - although Dizzee Rascal had a go at Diamonds are forever.

The album is hit and miss with songs by KT Tunstall, Manic Street Preaches Gary Barlow and others (full album list at the end), but The Girl from Tiger Bay is worth special mention and if promoted right I think she could do well with that as a single.

Yentob clearly a fan did a good job of getting close to the reclusive Miss Bassey. We saw her working in the recording studio with producer Dave Arnold and her music director Mike Dixon. She said it worked very well, but I’m not so sure don’t think Dave Arnold enjoyed the experience so much.

It was the first time I have seen Shirley Bassey in a cardigan - I don’t know what I expected Shirley Bassey to wear to the recording studio, but it wasn’t a cardigan. Another illusion shattered, I thought she always wore sequined dresses.

Definition - se·quin
1. A small shiny ornamental disk, often sewn on cloth; a spangle.
2. A gold coin of the Venetian Republic. Also called zecchino.

Almost There [Tom Baxter]
Apartment [Rufus Wainwright]
This Time [Gary Barlow]
I Love You Now [Nick Hodgeson]
Our Time Is Now [John Barry/Don Black]
As God Is My Witness [David Arnold/David McAlmont]
No Good About Goodbye [David Arnold/Don Black]
The Girl From Tiger Bay [Manic Street Preachers]
Nice Men [KT Tunstall]
After The Rain [Richard Hawley]
The Performance Of My Life [Pet Shop Boys]

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Scottish Empire

There was, for short periods before Scotland and England unified in 1707, but to call it an "empire" is pushing it a bit. In the 1620s, Scotland gained a toehold in what is now known as Nova Scotia, but it was captured by the French, who also had designs on the area's rich fishing grounds. In the 1680s, 700 emigrant Scots established a colony in New Jersey, before merging with their English neighbours 20 years later. Scottish dissidents built a settlement at Stuart's Town, Carolina in 1684, but were quickly wiped out by the Spanish.
In the 1690s Scotland attempted to set up a free port and colony in the New World. They chose an unoccupied, inhospitable spot on the isthmus of Panama, called Darien.

The narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic and Pacific was a halfway house between Asia and Europe. William Paterson, the Scottish merchant who dreamt up the Darien scheme, envisaged a free port called New Edinburgh, in Caledonia, becoming the world's greatest trading centre. Having helped set up the Bank of England, he persuaded Scotland's moneyed class to buy into the project, raising half a million pounds - about half the nation's available capital. The adventure began in July 1698, and ended in disaster 14 months later. During that time, 11 ships carried nearly 3,000 settlers to Darien, but most fell victim to tropical disease, heat, humidity, and the Spanish military, who saw the area as theirs. The settlers used up valuable resources by stocking their ships with items such as wigs, woollens and stockings.
A few survivors limped home, and 300-400 resettled across the West Indies, but the damage to Scotland's treasury and self-esteem was immense, and the disaster almost certainly hastened the union with England seven years later.

Few outsiders venture there because it's so inaccessible. The Spanish abandoned the mosquito-blighted Atlantic coast when Panama City was founded on the Pacific, and the area has now been reclaimed by jungle. The road runs out at Yaviza, after which you need to hire a local canoe, a piragua, to negotiate the waterways feeding into the former Bay of Caledonia, through the Americas' second-largest tropical rainforest. In 2003, an expedition by Bristol University and the BBC uncovered part of the New Edinburgh township and Fort St Andrews, and reclaimed tools, a communal oven and a pocket sundial. Remnants of the Spanish offensive included cannonballs and a grenade.

Not quite. Thomas Drummond, a Darien survivor, took the rest of the Scottish fleet to Africa, hoping to establish trading posts along Guinea's coast. That failed too, so he headed for Madagascar, but his ship disappeared in the Indian Ocean. Dreams of a Scottish empire sank with him, but after unification Scotland played a pivotal role in the expansion of the British Empire. And it wasn't the last of Darien.

Mercifully, they turned away. But in 1736, 177 Scottish highlanders were granted land in Georgia to protect it against the Spanish. Initially named New Inverness, they built a fort and held the line. They renamed the settlement Darien, which survives today as a flourishing shrimp fishing centre.
Extract from Frank Partridge

Posting comments

You can now leave a comment on items in my blog. Click on the comments link under each item and follow the instructions - you might have to select anonymous for the ‘Comment as’ bit.

Look forward to hearing from you and any suggestions for:

Origins of Expressions you have always wondered about;
Questions no one knows the answer to; or
Anything else you think should be investigated

I’m a Celebrity - Day 9

Well it all happened last night, Katie walked out and went straight to her hotel and chucked her boyfriend after he had travelled 12,000 miles to propose.

And I missed it all, will have to wait for the highlights tonight or catch up on ITV Player.

Lucy Benjamin was the first to be evicted and was interviewed on GMTV. So many questions, what was Katie like, how did Katie get on in the jungle, was it fair Katie got all the trials to do, and so it went on. I was waiting for Lucy Benjamin to say, ‘Why don’t you go and ask Katie!’ After all it was supposed to be her interview and all they asked about was Katie.

Still, back to Katie. I’m not sure how it is a shock that Katie has walked out after a week - I knew before she went in that she was only staying in a week. sometimes I think the media forget what they have already told us.

Katie says all she could think about in the jungle was Pete and that is why she has chucked Alex - also she is fed up with Alex making money out of her - after all that is Katie’s job. But you wouldn’t think she would mind him making the odd fiver would you.

So is it all back on with Katie and Pete - I don’t think so. On the positive side that means Alex is back on the market and is a bit of a catch - apart from the cross dressing thing, and the fact he has been with Jordan and doesn’t have any money … actually maybe he isn’t such a catch after all!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity ...

...or the Katie Price show as it is now called.

Katie’s challenge today was called ‘Calamity’ but she said she didn’t even know what calamity meant. That explains why she was so puzzled watching Doris Day in the film Calamity Jane!

Well done to George on the challenge - two seconds out!

Another trial vote and another vote for Katie - this is getting a bit embarrassing. She says she wont do any more trials - think she has a point, everyone else is getting a free ride.

X Factor result - George Michael week

Great appearance by Susan Boyle, (although I notice she was given ‘diva‘ status by the voice over - I‘ll decide when diva status is awarded thank you very much).

Whatever you think of her she has done it all in six months. From unknown to storming America, doing Oprah and all the big network shows, having a breakdown and going into rehab at the Priory - and she hasn’t even released a record yet.

The singing is great but I am not sure she should be interviewed, I always worry about what she is going to say!

Never been a big Mariah Carey fan (don’t tell the gay council - it’s a sacking offence). Why have Mariah when you can have Whitney! At least this week they got the running order right and put Susan first with Mariah top of the bill.

The Whitney\Cheryl week they had it the wrong way round and had Whitney on as warm up for Cheryl - sorry Cheryl I love you dearly but you are no Whitney.

OMG Olly in the sing off - if he doesn’t get through it has to be fixed for John and Edward to win.

Well Olly survived to sing another day. It’s just as well that the song he sang was only for the judges and was not for the public vote - poor song choice and probably his worst performance.

Next week two songs each and no Sunday show.

Miss Pink Party

Its Miss Pink's birthday again and have been invited to the annual soiree.

This year‘s theme is 80s. What to wear shouldn’t be a problem for one or two of our acquaintances as I have seen them wearing a few dodgey outfits over the years that look like they have been around since Adam Ant was top of the charts.

It doesn’t seem a year since Miss Pink’s last birthday doesn’t time fly, and now she is 28 - sorry pet 27.

Quote of the day

... 'killers have been going around killing'.

To be fair, that's what killers do!

Susan Boyle

Not a great fan but the long promised album is released this week, don’t know what is on the album, apart form of course ‘that song’ and Wild Horses. You have to hand it to Simon Cowell - who would have thought Susan Boyle would sing a Rolling Stones song.

Will I buy the album - probably

If you haven’t Susan sing Wild Horses live check out her performance on America’s got Talent

And the original from 1976 by the Stones

X Factor - George Michael week

After a couple of poor weeks at last a week with the promise of some good performances - but a difficult category for all.

What was Cheryl wearing - she looked like Minnie Mouse.

Anyway first up was Lloyd, surprisingly still here after several better acts have lost out to the public\judges’ vote. But then so are John and Edward!

His version of Faith was ok - but would I go out and buy it when I have the original? I don’t think so.

Lloyd has also been given a new hair do - bit more grown-up than his previous style. Was it meant to be 80s style or are they trying to make him a bit more sophisticated to help against the competition. Or did he just fancy a change? These are the important questions that we need answers to. Seems a pity to do all that just as he is about to leave!

I was wondering which song they would give Stacey to sing as George’s songs are all so clearly identified with a male singer. ‘I can’t make you love me’ was a good choice, but a bit of a cheat as it is a Bonnie Raitt song. I like Stacey but I don’t think she pulled it off - see below to links to see how it should be done.

For me Danyl did his best song of the series - but then there was a bit of a rumpus over who was going to get this George classic. Danyl won and did it well.

Olly gave us one of my favourites Fast Love, although of course he couldn’t add the Patrice
Rushen sample in the middle.

Geordie Joe - best song of the night - but did they have to show him walking down a back lane with a rotten old sofa in the background.

Who goes this week? Can Lloyd or John and Edward survive another week?
See how it is done

George Michael - I can’t make you love me.

Bonnie Raitt - I can’t make you love me.

Patrice Rushen - Forget me Nots

Friday, 20 November 2009

Confusing Question

Someone just asked me 'have you got an orange blackberry?'

Expressions - 3

Seafaring Exprerssions - 2

No Room to Swing a Cat -
The entire ship's company was required to witness flogging at close hand. The crew might crowd around so that the Bosun's Mate might not have enough room to swing his cat o' nine tails.

Taking the wind out of his sails -
Sailing in a manner so as to steal or divert wind from another ship's sails.

Start Over with a Clean Slate -
A slate tablet was kept near the helm on which the watch keeper would record the speeds, distances, headings and tacks during the watch. If there were no problems during the watch, the slate would be wiped clean so that the new watch could start over with a clean slate.

Taken Aback -
A dangerous situation where the wind is on the wrong side of the sails pressing them back against the mast and forcing the ship astern. Most often this was caused by an inattentive helmsman who had allowed the ship to head up into the wind.

At Loggerheads -
An iron ball attached to a long handle was a loggerhead. When heated it was used to seal the pitch in deck seams. It was sometimes a handy weapon for quarrelling crewmen.

Fly-by-Night -
A large sail used only for sailing downwind and requiring rather little attention.

No Great Shakes -
When casks became empty they were "shaken" (taken apart) so the pieces, called shakes, could be stored in a small space. Shakes had very little value.

Give (someone) a Wide Berth -
To anchor a ship far enough away from another ship so that they did not hit each other when they swung with the wind or tide.

Garbled -
Garbling was the prohibited practice of mixing rubbish with the cargo. A distorted, mixed up message was said to be garbled.

Press Into Service -
The British navy filled their ships' crew quotas by kidnapping men off the streets and forcing them into service. This was called Impressment and was done by Press Gangs.

Touch and Go -
This referred to a ship's keel touching the bottom and getting right off again.

Scuttlebutt -
A butt was a barrel. Scuttle meant to chop a hole in something. The scuttlebutt was a water barrel with a hole cut into it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. The scuttlebutt was the place where the ship's gossip was exchanged.

And my favourite expression …

Cut of His Jib -
Warships many times had their foresails or jib sails cut thinly so that they could maintain point and not be blown off course. Upon sighting thin foresails on a distant ship a captain might not like the cut of his jib and would then have an opportunity to escape.

Why Christmas is so stressful – 2

The Christmas present

This is a bit like the ‘Christmas card list’ problem only more expensive.

I don’t mind buying presents for people if fact I quite like it – but having to do it because it is a particular time of year and understanding the rules around giving Christmas presents can make present giving stressful.

Understanding the rules can help:

· You can give a present to anyone you like, but you need to be fairly sure they plan to give you one in return, getting it wrong can
o be uncomfortable for the person receiving the gift and force them to have to go out at the last minute to get you something in return
o cost a lot of money with nothing to show for it!
· You need to follow price equivalence – the value of the present you give should be more or less the same value of the present you receive

But this can lead to an unintended result. Let me give you an example. I spend £50 on some cuff links for a friend; my friend buys me a bottle of aftershave for £50 in return.

On the face of it this seems like a fair exchange, but if I don’t like the aftershave and my friend doesn’t like the cuff links, then I have spent £50 on a bottle of aftershave I will never use and my friend has spent £50 on cuff links he will never wear.

This problem is then perpetuated as next year my friend can’t think of anything to buy me so he buys me another bottle of the aftershave he bought me this year because I said I loved it and I can’t think of anything to buy him so I get him another pair of cuff links. This can go on for years until one of us finally cracks and either admits we don’t like the present or we suggest we stop buying for each other.

Multiply this by all the people you buy presents for then you could end up spending a lot of money on things you don’t want.

Point to ponder

What is the worst Christmas present you can receive?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Quote of the Day

‘Does the fire exit take you outside?’

No is doesn’t, it is part of our new more stringent redundancy scheme!

The Carpenters

Liking the Carpenters in the 70s was a big no no, far too uncool, but Karen’s voice did make the songs memorable – and who doesn’t know all their biggest hits. So I was interested to see how their songs held up 40 years after their first hit in 1969. Were they great songs or was it Karen’s voice that made them so special?

So last night we had a range of singers giving us their versions of Carpenters classics. By and large it was pretty average. Jamie Callum and Kimberly Walsh singing ‘Rainy days and Mondays’ was embarrassing and even though I am a great fan of Chrissie Hynde she struggled a bit with ‘Superstar’ (Bette Midler does it better). Ronan (and I am not his greatest fan but he has gone up in my estimation over recent events – but Ronan – change the hair) gave a surprisingly good effort with ‘A day with out you’ , and the Noisettes – what the hell was that all about!

Note to the Saturdays - Please don't record 'Mr Postman' it was a poor song first time around and your version didn't do anything for it - even Karen Carpenter couldn't make anything of this song.

Best performances? Beverly Knight ‘Only just begun’ and of course Dionne with ‘Close to you’, who did want to remind us Burt Bacharach wrote for her and she sang first. Did I detect a slight note of bitterness?

I’m a Celebrity – day 4

Katie’s back and being her usual annoying, compulsive viewing self. Second trial in two days – who would have thought people would vote to have Katie do all these trials.

But our hero struggled through on to triumph whilst along the way tackling difficult mathematical conundrums like ‘solve this equation 8 divide by two minus 2’. With barely a moments hesitation she worked out the correct answer. I felt so proud.

And an early exit for Camilla. Strictly No Dancing.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Quote of the Day

"2010 is before 2011"

I must write that down!


When is someone going to move that puddle outside the One office building?


What is the difference between dominant and recessive genes?

For most genes you have two copies of each gene that you inherited from your mother and your father. Each copy of the gene could be different. For example one copy may give you blue eyes while another may give you brown.

So, what colour are your eyes if you have both the brown and blue eye version of the eye colour gene? Brown. This is where the idea of dominant and recessive comes in. Dominant means that one of the versions trumps the other. In our example here, brown is dominant over blue so you end up with brown eyes.

The way people write out dominant and recessive traits is the dominant one gets a capital letter and the recessive one a lower case letter. So for eye colour, brown is B and blue is b. As I said above, people have two versions of each gene so you can be BB, Bb, or bb--BB and Bb have brown eyes, bb, blue eyes.

Versions of genes are often dominant because the recessive version actually does nothing. In the eye colour example above, the brown version of the gene makes a pigment that turns your eye brown but the blue version does not make a blue pigment. Instead, it makes no pigment and an eye without pigment is blue. As you can probably guess, if the blue version of the eye colour gene made a pigment, then you'd get some mix of brown and blue. There are some cases like this for people. One of the easiest to understand is hair.

There are two "hair type" genes, curly and straight. If you have two copies of the curly version, you have curly hair and if you have two copies of straight hair version, you have straight hair.What kind of hair do you have if you have a copy of each? Wavy. Each of these versions contributes something so that you get a mixture of the two. You would write this out as CC is curly, SS is straight and CS is wavy.

In terms of what to talk about in your class, the hair type example I discussed above is a pretty good one for incomplete dominance. Maybe ask the class what kind of hair they have and what genes that means they have. You can also ask them about their parent's hair type and whether their results fits the model.

For pure dominant and recessive traits, I've listed a some below:

  • Bent little finger: The dominant version of the gene causes distal segment of little finger to bend distinctly inward toward the ring (fourth) finger.
  • Mid-digital hair: People lacking hair in the middle segments of the fingers have two recessive versions of the gene.
  • Tongue rolling: People with a dominant allele can roll their tongues into a tube shape. People with two recessive versions are non-rollers and can not learn to roll their tongues.
  • Ear lobes: Recessives have attached ear lobes. People with a dominant version of the gene have detached ear lobes.
  • Thumb crossing: In a relaxed interlocking of fingers, left thumb over right results from having 1 or 2 copies of the dominant version of the gene. People with 2 recessives place right thumb over left.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - Day 2

Only saw the last 10 minutes tonight - who could have guessed Katie Price would be voted into tomorrow night challenge!

Quote of the Day

I know you believe you understand what you think I said. But I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.

Why Do We Yawn?

Rather than being a precursor to sleep, yawning is designed to keep us awake, say US researchers. But why does seeing someone else yawn make you to do the same?
Yawning is an involuntary action that everyone does. We start before we are born and most creatures on the planet do it - even snakes and fish.

New research suggests rather than being a precursor to sleep, the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain so it operates more efficiently and keeps you awake.
The theory could explain a puzzling question about subconscious human behaviour - why many of us yawn when we see or hear another person doing it, or even read about it or even just think about it?

The brain cooling theory says that when we contagiously yawn we are participating in an ancient, hardwired ritual that evolved to help groups stay alert and detect danger.
It's not copying another person's sleepiness, say scientists at the University of Albany in New York, who are behind the latest research.

"We think contagious yawning is triggered by empathic mechanisms which function to maintain group vigilance," says Dr Gordon Gallup, a leading researcher at the university.

'Herding behaviour'

The belief is further supported by the observation of University of Maryland's Robert Provine that paratroopers report yawning before jumping.

But there are other theories. It's been suggested contagious yawning could be a result of an unconscious herding behaviour - a subtle way to communicate to those around us, similar to when flocks of birds take flight at the same time.

Another theory suggests contagious yawning might have helped early humans communicate their alertness levels and co-ordinate sleeping times.

Basically, if one decided it was time to sleep they would tell the others by yawning and they would do it in return to show they agreed.

Chimpanzees also suffer from contagious yawning, according to researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. They are thought to be the only other creatures, apart from humans, who do so.
The rest of the animal kingdom - including birds, snakes and hippos - yawn for other reasons. Dogs yawn to stay calm in certain situations, says Turid Rugaas, author of On talking Terms with Dogs.

Anyone who gets to the end of this article without yawning may wish to think of themselves as a medical aberration. In fact, only about half of adult humans are prone to contagious yawning.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

X Factor - Queen week - 2

Not a great fan of Shakira - what was she wearing? It looked like there were bits missing. It looked a bit like the outfit Cheryl had on a few weeks ago when she sang her new tune.

Cheryl's hair was much better back to normal.

So Lloyd survives again. Am I disappointed Jamie has gone? Not really, although I have to say in the sing off, Jamie did give the best performance.

X Factor - Queen week - 1

I see Dannii is back on the end seat - why can’t they leave her in the middle with Cheryl it works much better.

Not loving Cheryl’s hair this week - you don’t suit it swept back off your face pet.
What are they doing to Jamie’s hair - it gets shorter every week.

The performances

A difficult ask this week, no one can sing a stadium song like Freddie. Well they had a go but in the main not a great show - it only served to prove the pure quality of Freddie Mercury.
Best performances? Stacey did great version of Who Wants to Live Forever and Joe had a good shot at Somebody to Love.

Who goes? I think Lloyd has really reached the end of the road.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity 2009 - 1

Well its starting again, question is can anyone be bothered to watch it. Possible clues to low ratings is the desperate move of bringing Katie Price back to the jungle. Will I watch it? Probably - but not when they eat creepy crawlies - that’s disgusting.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Why is Christmas so stressful – 1

The Christmas card list

I was recently discussing Christmas card lists with a foreign friend. My friend had never heard of such a thing and asked me how it worked. I explained ‘You make a list of all the people you know, family, friends etc and then you write them each a card to say Merry Christmas. You then either post or hand deliver the card.

Your friends and family do the same. When you receive a card from them you make a mental note to keep them on your list for next year.

If you don’t receive a card from someone you sent a card to, then you cross them off your list, and next year you don’t send them a card. If next year they do send you a card, then you put them back on your list for and following year you do send them a card’.

My friend was looking at me as if I had gone mad.

I continued ‘these are the general rules, but there are complications’.

If someone you hadn’t planned to send a card to sends you one, then you send them one back, but have to wait a decent interval before sending the card. This is so that you can both pretend that you were going to send them one all along but just hadn’t got round to it.

If the person sending you an unexpected card leaves it until the last minute (for example they give you a card on Christmas Eve), then this can be seen as being quite provocative as it doesn’t leave you any time to give one back and makes it difficult to decide if you should put them on your list for next year.

Then there are the cards you receive from people you haven’t seen all year but their message ends ‘we must see more of each other next year’. This can be quite dis-heartening as you have spent all trying to avoid them and had absolutely no intention of attempting to meet up.

Tips for sending cards

· Buy cards that are all the same design – this stops people comparing cards you have sent to see who got the best one
· If you do send cards with different pictures on the front – don’t send the one with the candle on – everyone hates that card as they know it means they occupy last position in your affections
· Don’t send cards with glitter on them – they are just not nice
· You can write the same message on multiple cards – just make sure that people who are likely to see each other’s cards have different messages
· Don’t lick the envelope to seal them, use a sponge and water – why? Don’t ask!

My friend was taking notes by now and had a few questions:

‘Why do you send cards to people you never see?’

‘I don’t know’

Why do you send cards to people you see every day?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you send cards to people you don’t like?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you do it?’

‘I don’t know’

Expressions - not a sausage

Not a sausage = nothing at all.

I caused a bit of merriment in a meeting last night when I used the expression not a sausage – no one had heard it before. Its not one of my favourite expressions but it is quite descriptive.

It comes from cockney rhyming slag for cash: sausage and mash = cash; not a sausage = no cash = nothing

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Quotes of the Day

There must be no silent voices. (If they are silent how you do know they are voices?)

I’m doing a Waterfall approach at an Agile speed (or was it ‘I’m doing an Agile approach at a Waterfall speed?)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A night at the Cinema

I was invited to join a few colleagues at the cinema the other night. I thought this was a very thoughtful invitation but as I am not a great cinema goer it did get me to wondering when I was last at the cinema – or the pictures as we used to call it.

The last film I can remember seeing at the pictures was either:

· Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – I still have no idea what it was all about;
· Halloween 20 – not really into horror but a bit of nostalgia after seeing the original at the time; (but I might have seen this film on the TV – I can’t remember); or
· Runaway Bride Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, probably the worst film in cinematic history I thought it would never end.

Given this past history I started to go off the idea, and then I remembered the actual cinema experience is not that enjoyable. Films are advertised with a particular starting time, but then they keep you waiting at least 45 minutes while they show endless adverts and trailers. I quite like the trailers though as they seem to show the entire film in about three minutes – saves me coming back to watch the whole thing.

And then there are the bits where they keep opening and closing the curtains (do cinema screens still have curtains?) but then nothing happens and you have to sit and listen to complete strangers around you talking about people you have never met.

I find all the false starts and not knowing when the film is actually going to start very stressful.

Then I remembered, the last time I was at the cinema I did have a bit of a tussle with the young lady sitting next to me. It took her four attempts to decide whether she wanted to sit in the seat next to me or whether her friend (Tanya) should sit there. I wouldn’t have minded but she nearly had my eye out twice with her umbrella.

After she had settled she decided that she was going to strike up a conversation with me – I have no idea why, I didn’t give her any indication that I wanted to chat.

She gave up after a while when she realised I wasn’t really in the mood for chatting, I think it was just after I said I thought she had a look of Jackie Pallo and was she related – but she said she didn’t know who Jackie Pallo was.

Things got worse as she spent the whole time the film was running getting up and down to buy more food. Sweets, crisps, nachos, a drink – ‘coz them nachos were dead salty’ pop corn, an ice cream, another ice cream ‘coz its dead hot in here’, a cheese and onion pasty – no idea where she got the pasty from, I think she found it in her handbag. At the end of which she announced to us all ‘Tanya I feel dead sick!’ I finally snapped ‘I’m not surprised’ I said ‘you have been up and down and eating non-stop for two hours’! She was livid and apparently, she informed me in a loud voice, it is none of my business what she eats at the cinema – how rude!

All in all I decided to give the cinema a miss.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Phrase of the Day

Screen Real Estate - any views on what that is supposed to mean?

–ise or –ize?

There is a suggestion that the use of a ‘z’ in words like nationalization is somehow wrong, or American.
It must be admitted that there are words with a ‘z’ in them that are purely American, like advertize, or maybe just wrong, like surmize. Sometimes it is simply error — a word whose spelling is not known, and whose correct spelling is not sought, is arbitrarily given a ‘z’ in the honest but mistaken belief it is correct. Sometimes words with a z-form in American represent an older (perhaps Elizabethan) form of English that made its way to the USA before the language was standardized in England. More likely, the American ‘z’ is one of Noah Webster’s attempts to ‘standardize’ or ‘improve’ American usage of English when he produced his famous dictionary in 1828 in which his decision to make deliberate and extensive revisions of spelling was aired — he has been described as a great spelling reformer. Webster evidently decided to use a ‘z’ wherever he considered the pronunciation called for it.

This polemic is nothing to do with the Americans. If we overlook the various words that the Americans deliberately choose to misspell, the majority of words that take a ‘z’, or an ‘s’ that is pronounced like a ‘z’, seem to fall very clearly into those that must take an ‘s’ (like compromise, where the derivation is –misser), those that must take a ‘z’, (like prize), and the rest, about which controversy apparently rages.

It seems that in books printed in England the use of the ‘z’ overwhelmingly predominated until the Second World War, though on a far smaller scale the ‘s’ can be found used by some printing houses, even in Victorian times. Textbooks set out the correctness of using ‘z’, some of them setting out in considerable detail the rationale for use of ‘s’ or ‘z’ depending on origin. After the Second World War the ‘s’ alternative is more frequently offered as a possibility and some house style manuals (though not Oxford’s) indicate a preference for ‘s’ — not because of any suggestion that ‘z’ is wrong, but because ‘s’ is now tolerated and it avoids having to remember which usage is which.

Recent manuals and dictionaries seem to have given up on the prescriptive use of a ‘z’, though it is usually offered as an alternative where correct.

It seems to me, summarizing, and using a ‘z’ correctly and non-Americanly, that:
On the whole the ‘z’ alternative has nothing whatever to do with America;

  • The ‘z’ is etymologically correct (where used properly);
  • The ‘s’ principally came into use by those believing it (apparently wrongly) to be correct by analogy with similar words that were current in French, when in fact the English use developed in parallel and came via Latin from the Greek, retaining the ‘z’ throughout (for example 'the realization' in English compares with 'la réalisation' in French) - in some quarters during the early days of English printing French [recently the language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy] was regarded as posh;
  • The ‘s’ took hold in comparatively recent years because it was regarded as acceptable (because of the foregoing reason) and because of the hopelessness of training uneducated people correctly to grasp the correct occasion to deploy a ‘z’ or an ‘s’. Note Tillotson's House Stylebelow where they opine that use of 'z' is correct but they have decided to adopt the 's' because it gives rise to less trouble...
  • As the use of the ‘s’ caught on, dictionaries had to follow the trend, and are now quoting it as ‘correct’. It is arguable, but dictionaries do not necessarily promote correct usage, but follow prevailing practice (which is then taken as correct, creating a spiral of decline).
    For myself, I am very happy to keep using a ‘z’ where it is appropriate, and I do try hard to get it right but must admit to being inconsistent sometimes. This, of course, invites people to pick me up on it, whence I refer them to the Oxford English Dictionary (the big one) and that generally ends the matter.
I suppose even after being presented with the facts there will be people who will persist with the ‘s’ option, and that’s up to them — nothing more I can do. All I ask is that people determined to use the ‘s’ do not regard those using the ‘z’ as using Americanisms!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

X Factor - Movie Theme Week - the result

Not a great show tonight Leona singing her new tune - bit disappointing and I’m not really loving the Black Eyed Beans.

Lucy and the twins in the sing off. Lucy sang Whitney and Jedward sang Robbie.

Rock DJ wasn’t that bad but it is always a mistake to sing Whitney - only Whitney can sing Whitney, but the results were already in so it didn’t have any effect on the final result.

I thought the judges wouldn’t miss an opportunity to lose Jedward - but they survive to sing again.

X Factor - Movie Theme Week

This week is movie week. After a couple of poor weeks (rock week and big band week) I was hoping for an improvement.

There must be thousands of songs that starred in films to choose from but what a disappointment, the same old tired songs were trotted out to be sung by contestants that had little enthusiasm for the songs they were singing.

Stacey launched the show and much as I like Stacey (I can’t understand a word she says but I do like her) she is no Dusty Springfield.

Son of a Preacher Man was released in 1968 so we started the show with a song 41 years old.

Moving further back in time we got Twist and Shout from the Beatles first UK album released in 1963 and then more backwards time travel to Stand by Me from 1955.

The ‘newest’ tune I heard was Purple Rain a mere 15 years old - and I have never liked that song.

By this time I had lost he will to live and gave up - who goes on Sunday night? After that show - I hope they all do.

Well apart from Olly....

Friday, 6 November 2009

How to Wear a Shirt

An occasional series giving advice on important matters.


Recently I’ve heard that it is wrong to tuck button down shirts into jeans. Since I always tuck shirts into jeans, it really bothers me. So, should the shirt be tucked or untucked?


As everything else in world of fashion, it always depends. It depends on the type of shirt, on your height, on occasion you wear it, on how you wear it, on how old you are, etc.

If the shirt is European cut, which is slimmer, fitted, our suggestion is to wear it untucked. On the other hand, if the shirt is classic American style button down, our suggestion is to always tuck in, preferably with classic 501 style jeans. Never tuck into low-rise jeans. It would look really bad. Also, make sure that shirt is not too long when sporting untucked look.

If you are thin, tucking in is a must. Tucking out will make you look only thinner. On the other hand, if you are very short, tucking out won’t help much, either.

In general, more formal occasion – tucked, more casual – untucked. Older you are – tucked, younger – untucked. Classic jeans – tucked, low-rise jeans – untucked. On the other hand, since anything hardly can be generalised, wearing tucked or untucked shirt is more a matter of achieving a certain “look”. Either of this isn’t wrong considering what kind of jeans are you pairing you shirt with, when you are wearing it, how you are wearing and what look you want to emulate.

Moving Times ... again

I have been in One Business Park since March 2009. I started off on the second floor, was then moved to the first floor and have just been moved again, this time to the ground floor.

As the next floor down is the covered staff car park I am not anticipating any further moves – unless of course my next move is to car park attendant. Thinking about it, if they throw in a wood burning brazier, tea making facilities and a portable TV I might give it a go.

My new office has all the charm of budget airline aircraft hanger. The room is vast, cavernous and draughty. My desk is made of cheap laminated mdf with a design that purports to be wood. I am sitting at the furthest point from the door cocooned in a desolate corner, where the only aspect is a rotten car park and the backwards visage of Tetley’s brewery.

My first day in my new location was greeted with blazing sunshine. In normal circumstances would be most welcome – but as the windows have no blinds it meant it was almost impossible to see my PC screen. I don’t anticipate this being much of an issue as it has rained every day in Leeds since I started coming here in March.

This inconvenience has now been remedied with some old wall paper blu tacked on the window – this just adds to the overall ascetic appeal of the room.

A ray of hope – today I did see someone measuring the windows for blinds.

There are no tea making facilities on the ground floor so to get a cup of tea you have to set off about 5 minutes before you want one, negotiate locked doors and a flight of stairs – I am sure I will get used to it. Or maybe I need people. There is talk of a kitchen being built on the ground floor – can’t wait!

The printers are still on the first floor – but I assume this is temporary. It might even be a good idea to leave them there – it really makes you question whether you need to print a document if you have to walk a long way to get it!

New neighbours moved in today and after a while I could hear this constant beeping noise – I couldn’t work out what it was at first - it turned out to be a work colleague translating the bible into Japanese so he could email it to a friend via his Blackberry.

I notice the man is out today fixing the lock on the door – we can’t have broken it already?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Apes or Monkeys

The debate continues with the question is a Gibbon a monkey or an ape?

Primates are divided into two groups, prosimians and anthropoids. The prosimian group is comprised of lemurs and tarsiers, and is considered the more primitive group. Anthropoids are further divided into three groups: monkeys, apes and hominids, including humans.

The monkey subgroup contains over 200 different species of monkey, including baboons, tamarins, macaques and capuchins. Monkeys are also divided into geographical groups, with Old-world monkeys inhabiting Africa and Asia, and New-world monkeys living throughout Central and South America. Apes are also divided, but along terms of size. Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans are called “greater apes” because of their large body size, while gibbons and siamangs are often referred to as “lesser apes.”

While both monkeys and apes share certain physical features such as forward-facing eyes and flexible limbs, there are several physical differences between the two groups. No ape species possesses a tail, while monkeys do. Monkeys are much more used to life in trees than apes, and use their tail as a fifth limb. Additionally, monkeys are not capable of using their arms to swing between branches, as apes can. Having a tail makes monkeys ideally suited for life in the treetops, while apes seem to have evolved to live comfortably on the ground or in trees.

With the exception of the gibbon, apes are considerably larger than monkeys. They have broad backs and arms that are longer than their legs. Most monkeys feature chests that are longer than they are broad, and have an arm-length equal to or shorter than their legs.

The greatest differences between monkeys and apes are believed to lie in intelligence levels. Monkeys are far more similar to the primitive prosimians in brain capacity and capabilities. Apes are closer to their human counterparts, able to learn forms of sign language, use tools and display problem solving skills. It is believed that apes, particularly chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, are much more similar to humans than they are to monkeys. Some ape species carry a 98% genetic match with humans, while monkeys are considerably less similar.

Expressions - 2

Seafaring Expessions - Part 1

With a long seafaring tradition Britain has a lot of expressions reflecting that way of life

As the Crow Flies
When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.

The weather side of a ship is the side from which the wind is blowing. The Lee side is the side of the ship sheltered from the wind. A lee shore is a shore that is downwind of a ship. If a ship does not have enough "leeway" it is in danger of being driven onto the shore.

A sudden unexpected rush of wind from a mountainous shore which allowed a ship more leeway.

To Know the Ropes
There was miles and miles of cordage in the rigging of a square rigged ship. The only way of keeping track of and knowing the function of all of these lines was to know where they were located. It took an experienced seaman to know the ropes.

Dressing Down
Thin and worn sails were often treated with oil or wax to renew their effectiveness. This was called "dressing down". An officer or sailor who was reprimanded or scolded received a dressing down.

The bottom portion of a sail is called the foot. If it is not secured, it is footloose and it dances randomly in the wind.

First Rate
Implies excellence. From the 16th century on until steam powered ships took over, British naval ships were rated as to the number of heavy cannon they carried. A ship of 100 or more guns was a First Rate line-of-battle ship. Second rates carried 90 to 98 guns; Third Rates, 64 to 89 guns; Fourth Rates, 50 to 60 guns. Frigates carrying 48 to 20 guns were fifth and sixth rated.

Pipe Down
Means stop talking and be quiet. The Pipe Down was the last signal from the Bosun's pipe each day which meant "lights out" and "silence".

Meaning something is filled to capacity or over loaded. If two blocks of rigging tackle were so hard together they couldn't be tightened further, it was said they were "Chock-a-Block".

In 1740, British Admiral Vernon (whose nickname was "Old Grogram" for the cloak of grogram which he wore) ordered that the sailors' daily ration of rum be diluted with water. The men called the mixture "grog". A sailor who drank too much grog was "groggy".

Three Sheets to the Wind
A sheet is a rope line which controls the tension on the downwind side of a square sail. If, on a three masted fully rigged ship, the sheets of the three lower course sails are loose, the sails will flap and flutter and are said to be "in the wind". A ship in this condition would stagger and wander aimlessly downwind.

By and Large
Currently means in all cases or in any case. From the nautical: by meaning into the wind and large meaning with the wind: as in, "By and Large the ship handled very well."

Cut and Run
If a captain of a smaller ship encountered a larger enemy vessel, he might decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and so he would order the crew to cut the lashings on all the sails and run away before the wind. Other sources indicate "Cut and Run" meant to cut the anchor cable and sail off in a hurry.

In the Offing
Currently means something is about to happen, as in - "There is a reorganization in the offing." From the 16th century usage meaning a good distance from shore, barely visible from land, as in - "We sighted a ship in the offing."

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Professional Grump

Are you a professional grump?

An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.
In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.
While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine.

The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain "promotes information processing strategies".

He asked volunteers to watch different films and dwell on positive or negative events in their life, designed to put them in either a good or bad mood.

Next he asked them to take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

Those in a bad mood outperformed those who were jolly - they made fewer mistakes and were better communicators.

Professor Forgas said: "Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world."

The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style". (From an article on the BBC website).

As a happy go lucky type myself I am a little surprised at this research, perhaps I need to be a little more gloomy!

Quote of the Day

‘At some point every day we will always disagree on some things’. Not sure I agree with that.

And Finally

When I checked into my hotel last night – the lady checking me in asked ‘Do you have any special requirements for your room’? Bless her, I think she was new.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Hotels in Leeds - 2

The Metropole

The second of an occasional series of my hotel experiences in Leeds.

The Metropole or ‘the Met’ as it is known is a grade II listed building in the business area of Leeds. The Met’s Victorian ornate terracotta façade is not really to my taste but built up an expectation of comfort and perhaps a certain amount of style inside. This expectation was quickly dashed.

The reception area is dim and although not as dated as the Park Plaza did have a 70s feels to it – however the tiles floor did at least look as though it had been laid recently. The rest of the reception had the all too familiar dated hotel lobby look.

I had heard that the hotel had been refurbished recently, but only the first two floors, and the higher you went, the worse the room – so I was a little disappointed to get a room on the fourth floor.

The room was allegedly a twin room, but was pokey with barely sufficient room between the beds and the wall to be able to walk around comfortably.

The bathroom was gloomy, the 40 watt light bulb did its best – but the result was dark and dingy. There was one small self in the bathroom – at the opposite end from the sink, this meant a constant walk back and forwards to fetch and use razor, tooth brush etc. Not very convenient.

The local council start cleaning the roads outside at around 4am. This is the signal for every truck to roll up and down the streets outside the hotel, so don’t expect any sleep after 4am.
The breakfast was the usual self-service arrangement to be expected in any hotel. Having breakfast was the most entertaining part of my stay, but there were a few points of concern.

The dinning experience

The young lady escorting me to my seat asked if I would like some tea, which I thought was very nice of her but when I explained I didn’t drink tea in hotels as apparently they make it with something called a ‘teabag’ ….and why it is called a bag I have no idea, a bag has an open end through which you can place or remove an item – the ‘teabags’ I have seen have no open end so are not bags, they should really be called something like ‘sealed paper containers of tea, through which a certain amount of infused tea from leaves can flow’.

(I accept this is a rather lengthy name, but I am sure someone in the advertising field could come up with something a little catchier).

As I explained this to her I could see her eyes glaze over and she seemed to be counting the hours till she could end her shift! But really, if she didn’t want to know if I wanted a cup of tea she shouldn’t have asked.

There was further trouble ahead when she asked if I would like some toast. It is rare that this hotel still makes toast for you – there is a growing trend towards the guest have to make their own. I have no idea what that is all about – the next thing they will expect guests to carry our own bags to their rooms! Anyway I was pleased with the offer to make me some toast, I asked for wholemeal and she happily replied that they did indeed have brown bread. I had to explain that brown bread is not wholemeal bread; it is white bread with brown dye added and is not the same – same glazed look!

The next difficulty was the cereal bar – I have mixed feelings about being presented with rows of boxed cereal, at least you know it is clean and fresh, but I think I prefer my cereal decanted into glass containers. I am nothing if not heroic so I took on the challenge and remained undaunted by the packaging. I did try to open a box, but the table was poorly laid out and there was no space to place a bowl to empty cereal into. I had to take everything to my table and then return to the cereal bar to put my empty box in the litter bin. They could do with an additional small side table next to the cereal bar to assist guests.

The orange juice can be a bit of a challenge, I asked the young lady – or perhaps I should say ‘Debbie’, as by now I think we had built up quite a friendship – if the orange juice was fresh. She said it was very fresh as she had poured it out of the box herself that morning. Yes well, there is a view that that is what constitutes fresh orange juice is but in my mind fresh orange juice means it has come out of an orange – the stuff being served could only claim to be ‘orange coloured’ and ‘orange flavoured’.

All in all the breakfast wasn’t too bad, I have had worse.

I spent four days in the Met, but alas I think my new found friend and I have fallen out, by the end of my stay I had the feeling she was avoiding me. Having said that, I think she was having a difficult time as I did overhear her telling a hotel colleague that she thought one of the guests was a trouble maker – but I have no idea who that was.

Would I stay there again? Not for a gold clock.

Hotels in Leeds - 1

The Park Plaza

I thought I would give some feedback on my recent experience of staying at the Park Plaza in Leeds. I am not making a complaint – only an observation on the accommodation provided.

· The décor is cheap and nasty
· The staff wilful and surly
· Check-in is slow and difficult
· The carpets are dirty and stained
· The air conditioning is so loud the people in the next building asked me to turn it off as it was keeping them awake
· The last time I saw a TV of the make and model in my room was sometime in the early 1980s
· Operating the taps\showers in the bathroom took a degree in mechanical engineering;
· The dining room – if that is what it was – is an abomination. I thought it was styled in 70s Retro Chic but on closer inspection I realised that it is the original styling and has not been changed since Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep was number 1 in the charts
· I felt as though I was trapped in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’ and although I am a great admirer of Mr Mick Jagger and ‘This will be the last time’ is one of my favourite tracks (having seen the original performance on Top of the Pops in the early 1960s I was not expecting to hear it while having my breakfast
· The clientele made the whole place feel like a half way house and that the hotel was in fact an out reach post for War on Want
· The food was basic and uninspiring:
o The pineapple was diced not peeled
o The melon was sliced but not skinned
o The strawberries were cut but not hulled
o My bread roll was cold and had clearly been frozen
o Cutlery was dirty
o Seating uncomfortable and dirty

I was also surprised to be asked for a credit card when I checked in - I said that the accommodation was paid for and I did not require anything else - I was told it was hotel policy to take card details. I said it was my policy not to give my financial details to anyone that did not need to have them. I asked about using my debit card and was told they would take £50, but they did point out that if I did not spend anything they would refund the money. Which I thought was very nice of them.

I am well aware this is common practice in some hotels - but I have stayed in several hotels in Leeds and none of them have asked for my card details.

I could go on – but you get the picture.

After staying there one night I feel dirty and unrested. The whole experience leads me to declare the Park Plazza in Leeds the most dreadful hotel I have ever stayed in.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

X Factor

Oh no Rachel has gone - I was just beginning to like her great song this week - although I don’t know what Dannii had her wearing.