Posts in Category: general

Green Flag: World’s Worst Retentions Policy ?

So I’ve used Green Flag as a breakdown service for the last 5 years, with multiple call outs for one horrid vehicle (but hey it’s my fault, it was American built: never again !) and had managed (finally) to get 3 years of no claims on my account.

Renewal request: £90 after no claims has been applied

Enter my details on their new customer site: £59 with ‘online signup discount applied’


Call and find that the phone menu lists an ‘if you are thinking of leaving’ option. Sounds good, directly to retentions !

Said the renewal quote was more than a new policy cost and I’d like to leave.

Security checks. Confirm no cancellation charge as policy hasn’t been renewed.

“That’s all done – have a nice day sir”

Total call time: 2 minutes 59 seconds.

Crikey. This is not the same as trying to get out of a Telecoms contract…

Well, at least I can try signing up again as a new customer !

I am not a fan of … but …

Ok, the secret to blogging more ? Reading Twitter, it seems…

This morning’s gem (from the amazing-in-everything Mark Gatiss):

For me this strikes me as part of the same problem highlighted by the also-excellent Charlie Brooker:

…The first face was Bob Hoskins, prompting a wave of respectful applause through the auditorium. He was followed by a photograph of the writer Eddie Braben.


Eddie Braben, of course, wrote most of Morecambe and Wise’s classic material…


So, whilst I happily say I’m not a fan of affirmative action (the fact it exists at all is a damning statement of how wrong our collective decision making is), this feels like something that can be very much more easily remedied for TV and Film writers as it’s obvious that some of the audience are forgetting that the actors are just playing a role and that it’s not real. It would be tempting to blame reality TV for this lack of knowledge, but despite writers names being prominently featured in the title sequence, that’s typically where things stop unless you enjoy using IMDB.

So, BBC, Netflix, Lovefilm – this is your time ! Rather than the dull online categories (and yes BBC iPlayer, I’m looking at you when I find that Arts doesn’t include Music when listing TV programmes… Hmm…) lets have a prominent ‘Writers’ top level heading. It only takes one curious person who enjoyed a drama to go and click to discover a trove of material, although it takes away from the current approach of the all-hail-machine-pesudo-AI ‘Recommended For You…’ and puts control back in the viewers hands.

(aside: this is perhaps no bad move, as for myself I now ignore ‘Recommended’ lists as they are mostly ads which are not even thinly disguised anymore for most part (Lovefilm, hmm…) and easily skewed by buying presents for others…)

So whilst we’re at it, let’s get more useful and have a ‘Strong, well-written female lead’ section – ok, the wording may need some work (but hey, I know where to find some Writers now !) so we can properly address the ‘hero bloke/simpering female’ formula.

Hmm, come to think of it, perhaps we need TwitterRebuttal as a new site, where ranty people have to write more than 140 words to go on about tweets that irritate them…

The Real UK Citizenship Test

A while ago, I noted that the initial UK Citizenship Test was a) hard and b) pointless – the recently proposed revision isn’t much better, but thankfully Twitter and genuine locals are on hand to offer:

The Real UK Citizenship Test

I can proudly state that I scored 10/10 on my first go, without cheating and reading the JavaScript… I am pleased that this test addresses much more fundamental and important questions for those looking to live here and attempting to understand the behaviour of the natives.

17 London Underground Maps You Never Knew You Needed – BuzzFeed

does this mean i have to return my passport ?

Oh dear.

“You have failed the practice citizenship test.

Questions answered correctly: 13 out of 24 (54%)

Time taken: 02 minutes 46 seconds “

Life in the United Kingdom – The Official Practice Citizenship Test does say it should take up to 45 minutes, but it’s flawed in so many ways it’s a joke. There were about 5 questions that were on subjects that I would want applicants to know something about and the rest were culled from the reject pile of I Want To Be A Millionaire.

(via Scaryduck)

things to do in cambridge

A friend at work has recently moved to Cambridge, and given that the weather has been improving a bit I put together a few things that might be interesting, and then realised that it wasn’t really specific to his needs and thought others might like to know too.

So first up, Cambridge Botanic Gardens. I should note that the only entrance I’ve ever known to be open is the one at the far end of Bateman Street near Trumpington Road (on their map).

The Fitzwilliam is the largest museum in Cambridge, but you will need to leave your bags at the desk when you arrive and I think they don’t allow photography. The Sedgewick is smaller and used to allow non-flash photography. Plenty of museum info all in one place.

If you walk along the river bank from Jesus Green (where they often have open-air Jazz in the Summer), past Midsummer Common (often full of cows, as it is Common Land and also where the November fireworks and various Fairs (and Fayres) are held) and up to Coldhams Common where you can cross the foot and cycle bridge to the Green Dragon which serves food and has a garden next to the footbridge, or you can carry on over the grass up to the High Street in Fen Ditton.

One note: in the UK if it really is an active Common then that means grazing is permitted (well, probably city residents: I’m not sure on the full bye-laws), so if you’re not on one of the paths don’t expect the grass to be mown, and do watch out for animal droppings (as it’s mainly cows grazing in Cambridge, they’re not that small…)

Fen Ditton has two pubs that I’ve been to, one is the Ancient Shepherds which is indeed in an old building (the original cottages date from around 1540 AD) but it’s not open all day, and the other – The Plough – has recently been turned into a Gastropub (more Restaurant than Pub); they will take you without a reservation if they have space, but might be worth calling ahead if you are certain you want to eat there.

If you just can’t stop walking, then you can go up the riverbank to Clayhithe (on the edge of Waterbeach) and stop off at The Bridge which is a Pub that concentrates on food. Can be busy at peak times, but more of a Pub vibe than The Plough. If you carry on up the road into Waterbeach then just as you get to the village (0.25 miles or so from the pub) you come to the railway station and can catch a train back to Cambridge (journey time 3 to 6 minutes – waiting for a train, well, urm, check an online guide for weekend train frequency !). They also have an instant ticket machine on the platform.

Also note that the footpath along the river switches sides using the footbridge by the Green Dragon, so if you want to go to Fen Ditton then that’s fine – you can say on the same side as you did on the way from Jesus Green, but if you decide to go for Clayhithe then you’ll need to cross the river before you get to Fen Ditton. After crossing the bridge by the Green Dragon turn right and keep walking past the end of the road, staying on the right. Rejoin the river a little further along.

If you’re staying in town, then although it’s a boring walk up a busy road (although you can get there from the far West edge of Midsummer Common on quiet backroads), then The Wrestlers on Newmarket Road does excellent Thai food (the Green Chicken Curry can be challengingly hot for a wimpy Brit like me, but I keep coming back for more !), and the last time I went The Hopbine (close to Midsummer Common and the Grafton Centre) also had nice Thai, although they do serve more English food than Thai.

dvd is the new cd (or: GB are the new MB)

It’s a purely personal milestone, but today marks the first time I’ve ripped a DVD (store bought) to a video file without watching the film itself. I’ve been slowly going through my film collection and encoding them so I can put the bulky boxes into a crate and store them out of the way – just as CD’s were a revelation in ease of use compared to having to clean and carefully place the stylus on vinyl, and just as DVD’s (in the early days) allowed direct access to the film without tedious rewinding of the tape, media files finally free me from needing to take up a portion of my living space with boxes that are rarely used.

Other reasons for undertaking this admittedly time consuming task now are a combination of cheap storage, a decent quality video codec (ie: given a standard def. TV output the artefacts are negligible), a CPU that can manage a real-time encode of a DVD, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Marketing Department.

Yup – DVD’s are now as annoying as VHS became: true, I don’t have to rewind the DVD each time I want to watch it, but with copyright warnings, country limited liability screens, trailers, language selection, flying company logos, sound codec splash screens and other trash, actually getting to the film itself is an arduous task. Especially as some DVD players allow skipping, and some don’t, others permit fast forwarding of warning but not skipping, and others are brutal enough to simply trudge on until the main menu appears (as an aside, using Apple’s DVD Player application was a joy, as it at least allowed a bookmark to be set anywhere on the movie, and for the default action on playing a disc to be a jump to that point. Why do home goods have to be so hidebound and unfriendly to the viewer ? Must be a trade agreement somewhere…).

So how much storage is enough ? Well, if you’re using H.264 to the AppleTV preset in Handbrake then allow around 1.6GB for an hour, so at today’s prices a 1TB drive is 75 UKP which will give me an estimated 900GB of storage, or 562 hours of film, or in more ‘iPod friendly’ headlines, 375 films (assuming 90 minutes per film) and that’s comfortably more than I have right now.

On a slightly related note, I did see a pre-loaded MP3 player being sold in a bargain shop yesterday: the audio was free with the player (I think: might have been the other way around) but it was under a tenner in any case, so thank you for the crap on my DVD’s, and the incessant paper flyers for Blu-ray, but I’ll wait for the HD movies to come on an SDHC card so I can skip this tedious ripping step and just ignore the marketing more quickly.

Update: Not 3 minutes after posting this I caught up with my RSS, and found that I am not alone

what the dickens ?

An extract from an email I’ve just received:

“As we are trying to have a carbon free Christmas this year…”

So, no Coal as a gift this year ?

Bah. Humbug.