Tag Archives: rant


I started at primary school in 1969. All the weights and measures taught to me were metric. Yet I had to grow up in a world where some things were being measured using a logical system, and others by some system originally set out by the Anglo-Saxons. Britain had decided to metricate in 1966 yet why, nearly half a century on, are we still messing with our children’s brains by mixing measurement systems?

The EU referendum was apparently about “taking back control”. From what or whom was never really explained. We buy our beer and milk in pints (take a look at a milk container, and notice the bizarre measure in metric). Jam jars are still half a pound, but labelled as 454g. Two pounds of sugar is really a kilogram, but it’s close enough the unreconstructed imperialists don’t moan about it—probably because they are getting a quarter pound extra!

Has the EU forced us to drive in the right? Have we been forced to change all our road signs to show metric? I wish they had, but that’s another story. (NEWSFLASH! Our roads, railways, airports, docks and even homes have been constructed using metric weights and measures since at least the 1960s. Those countdown markers to motorway exit slips? They’re set at 100 metre intervals. SOS phones were always 1000 metres apart. We live in a world measured by the metric system whether we like it or not.)

Go to a DIY emporium and buy some timber. It’s measured in metric, but still effectively imperial. Chipboard comes in sheets 1220mm by 607mm, because that’s all but 4 ft by 2ft in old money. A 1.8m length of two-by-one is a 6ft length of 50x25mm… there I go again!

We were eventually persuaded to let diesel and petrol be dispensed by the litre. But let’s not forget those who insist that loose vegetables should be sold by the pound.

The thing is, even after all these years, I get confused by imperial measures. Ask me how many ounces to the pound, or pounds to the stone and I’m lost. Is it 12 or 14 pounds to the stone? Twenty ounces to the pound? Ack! I get inches, feet and yards, but how many feet or yards in a mile? How big is an acre? Don’t get me started on thousandths of an inch, gallons or fluid ounces either. You may as well ask me to weigh something using a sperm whale. By contrast, metric is logical. It uses base 10, and things divide up easily. The smallest practical measure of length is the millimetre; a thousand make a metre, and a thousand metres make a kilometre. The same with weights and volumes: 1000 grammes is a kilogramme, a thousand kilogrammes is tonne; a thousand millilitres make a litre.

The only other country that insists on sticking with imperial measures is the United States. Like us, they too appear to have voted to head back to the 1950s. In reality, we’ve been metric for decades—indeed, the metric system is an international standard used by every scientist out there, even in the good ol’ U S of A—but we continue to cling to imperial measures for some unfathomable reason. A thin veneer of something hiding a reality with which some people seem unable to come to terms. Brexit in a nutshell.

The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

This struck me when I read it.

We share so much, but we seem to understand each other less and less.

Source: The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

Read it in context of the whole post, too. Hopefully, you will agree as well. It’s something I have come to realise about the whole social media and, indeed, world wide web experiment. The more information freely available to everyone the less everyone seeks out the information that enriches and educates them. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.

I need to say this

(This is an edited version of a rant I did on Facebook earlier.)

Look, no-one is trying to derail Brexit. Get it into you thick brexiteer skulls that letting our sovereign parliament of elected representatives debate what the terms of our exit from Europe should be is a Good Thing. Isn’t that one of the things you all claim you voted for in that wretched referendum?

I didn’t want to leave Europe, but I am resigned to the fact it will happen. So, forgive me if I don’t want to let the morons grab the steering wheel while we all try to make the exit as beneficial to EVERYONE in the UK as we can.

We have to work TOGETHER. If we don’t, we are all utterly screwed. Understand that, and help make leaving the EU as painless as we can.

Thank you. Peace. Out.

Have we peaked?

This isn’t a terribly well organised or thought through post. I just wanted to get the idea out there, so please forgive the somewhat random nature of what follows.

I have come to the conclusion that our civilisation has peaked.

What do I mean by this? Since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the progress of Western civilisation has been steady. Yes, it took bloodshed to give us the rights we hold dear, but conflict has also driven progress, particularly in the technological sphere.

A couple of centuries ago, the Industrial Revolution brought mass production of goods, massive improvements in transport and cities that began to grow exponentially. We began to explore our world, to learn about its limits, and—sadly—to exploit much of it. Natural philosophers discovered gravity, how light works, and made the first stumbling steps into understanding the very building blocks of our universe. We looked up and out, beyond our own planet and dreamed of distant places.

In the 20th century, two global conflicts drove technology. We could fly in heavier-than-air-machines, we could dive below the surface of our oceans. We could destroy cities instantly. After 1945, things began to change socially. Here in the UK we created a welfare state, so no-one would need for a home or food if they should find themselves out of work. A national health service, free at the point of delivery and paid for through taxation, meant illnesses and diseases of poverty were virtually eliminated. Life was still hard, but it was getting easier.

We lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, it is true. A stalemate between two opposing forces, which came almost to blows on many occasions, yet which didn’t prevent society making progress. Civil rights, gender equality, all started in the years following the end of the Second World War. We put men on the Moon!

Yet, as I sit here, tapping away at this keyboard into the ether of another of mankind’s inventions, I can’t help feeling we aren’t making progress any more. Despite the evidence of science, religion is still here. Superstition still has a hold over many millions of our species. Diseases once thought extinct are making a comeback. A world population that’s grown by over four thousand millions since I was born half a century ago is beginning to take its toll on ecology and diversity of our home planet. We were warned about the harm we were doing to our planet, and now it’s virtually too late to stop its effects.

That was a bit depressing. Sorry about that.

I now think, despite iPhones and Internet and jet aircraft and microwaves and organ transplants and space stations, our society has peaked. I think the pinnacle was reached in July 1969, when three men left their home planet, landed on and explored another world, and came safely home to Earth. That, my friends, was the apogee of Western civilisation and Western science. Ever since, for better or worse, we have been in steady decline.

I don’t have an answer, even if I thought there was one. Was there even a question? As I said, this thesis hasn’t really been thought through.

I just want to talk to a human

I received a letter from my bank this morning. They appeared to be under the misapprehension I earn a fair salary, and they wanted to let me know my account would be changing from “current account” to “bank account”.

Yes, you read that correctly. A “bank account”. From a current account. A current account will change to being a bank account. I’m now almost confused as my bank appears to be.

What benefit this change would be to me was not immediately apparent. I would seem to retain the same services I already use, plus access to a high interest savings account, and some app to let me get real time balances and statements on my phone.

Great. That’s impressive.

There’s a phone number I could call to let the bank know I might not want this fantastic upgrade to my account. They called it an upgrade, yet it doesn’t seem to be any different to the account I already own, save they expect me to maintain the supposedly high level of income that prompted the original change. Some chance of that.

I picked up the phone, and immediately hit the problem that I don’t use phone banking and don’t recall the last time I had to set up a security number, or even what that number might have been. Of course, I got through the early bits about sort codes, account numbers and dates of birth, but stalled at the security number. There was no option to bypass the automated system to talk to a human being.

I hung up in disgust. I tried to find out if I could sort this out through my internet banking, but there’s not a clue about the impending upgrade there. Back on the blower.

This time, because I earlier punched incorrect numbers in at the security number stage in a failed attempt to attract the attention of a real human being, I was told the number I can’t remember was locked “for my security”. I was transferred to—a human being!

Why, for the love of Bob, couldn’t I do that from the top of the pyramid?

Anyway, we began the process of sorting things out. Hang on, I’m to be transferred where to do what? I don’t want a security number. I don’t do phone banking. I began to rant. I just wanted to deal with this impending change, not set up a system I will never use. I do use the internet banking occasionally, but mostly I smile and pass the time of day with real human beings in my local bank branch. I just wanted to talk to someone to stop this account change, please.

On hold—having been warned not to hang up while on hold. Rubbish music. Obviously some discussion was going on wherever on the planet the phone system is currently operated from about this annoyed (and annoying) customer.

The minutes ticked by.  Ice ages came and went. God got older.

Finally, I was passed on to a lovely chirpy Scottish lady, who dealt with my issue in about ten seconds. I’ve been on the bloody phone for nearly ten minutes, for crying out loud! It’s been costing me money!

Anyway, it’s all sorted now. I am writing it up to lower my blood pressure. All this frustration because I choose not to use phone banking, and therefore don’t have some stupid security number. Is it beyond the realms of reality for the system to let a caller choose to speak to a human being from the start? Really?


This has been bugging me for a while. I don’t know why I let them annoy me, but they do. What am I talking about? Mispronunciation.

Next time you have a conversation with someone under the age of, say, 40, listen out for the following pronunciations:

  • Shtupid
  • Shtudent
  • Shchool
  • Shtress
  • Shtraight
  • Shtation

It doesn’t appear to affect every instance of English language words beginning with “st”, but it is definitely spreading.

I know. I’m being pedantic. Change is inevitable. I do think some basic elocution lessons should be included in the shchool curriculum, though.

Is it really that difficult?

There’s been another round of updates and refreshes to the digital TV services here in Blighty. New channels have arrived, old channels have gone, and others have been shifted about. It seems the Freeview HD services have had a shuffle about; it seems the standard definition and FreeSat services are unchanged. As ever, I got the phone call from my neighbour to help her sort it out.

That got me thinking. Why should anyone need help to sort out tuning on their TV?

The answer, really, is quite simple: the manufacturers make it too complex.

Between us we have around five digital receivers of one kind or another. As things happen, they’re almost all from different manufacturers. Consequently, although they’re all aimed at the British market and designed to receive British free-to-air digital transmissions, they all have completely different and generally incompatible user interfaces.

Most people aren’t geeky. They buy a telly, plug it in, step through the initial set-up (which is usually painless these days—at least some things are getting better) and never bother to change anything ever again. When they get messages similar to the one above, it might as well be in Mandarin. I spent a good 20 minutes with my neighbour, stepping through two utterly different menu systems on her TVs in order to retune them. I don’t mind admitting on one of the systems even I was confused about where the tuning menus were. To make it worse, we haven’t seen the messages because we don’t have a Freeview HD receiver.

Would it be difficult for the manufacturers to come to some kind of agreement about making things easier? Why can’t tellies just pop up a message that says something like “I’ve detected some changes to the TV channels I receive. Would you like me to retune and set them up for you now? [Yes] [No]“. One message, one button to push. No hunting around the fiddly remotes to work out where the designer hid the Menu button this time, no fumbling around a software engineer’s idea of how a user interface is supposed to work, no confusing the bejeezus out of the elderly.

In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson “How hard can it be?”

BBC News – UK receives first F-35 stealth fighter jet from US

It has been a long and expensive wait, but Britain has now been handed its first Joint Strike Fighter jet, also known as the F-35.

Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond flew out in person to the searing heat of Fort Worth, Texas, for the official handover ceremony from its US manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

He says it is “the best warplane money can buy”. But it is an eye-watering sum – the current cost of each jet is more than £100m.

After watching Britain’s first F-35 take to the skies, Mr Hammond said “this is money well spent”.

He said it would give the RAF and Royal Navy “a world class fighting capability” with the ability to “project power” off the two new aircraft carriers now under construction, anywhere in the world.

Hammond, stop the warmongering. The UK is not a “world power” any more, and we shouldn’t be pretending we are. What is this “power” you want to project anyway? Planning on attacking Iran on the coat tails of the US are we?

Anyway, £100 million pounds for one plane, for an aircraft carrier we haven’t finished yet. I’m not sure we can afford a second plane, so I propose the RAF and Royal Navy sort out a time share on the one we have got. The US military-industrial complex must be rubbing its hands with glee.

My Summer Pet Peeve—Car Insurance


It’s that time of year when my car insurance is up for renewal. Once again I wonder why I play this game every year.

I probably don’t need to add any more here for you to begin vigorously nodding your head in agreement, but bear with me. I want to get this rant out of my system.

Car insurance, unlike home insurance, is a legal requirement in order to tax your car in the UK. You can’t avoid insurance if you wish to own and run a car. There is no get-out clause—unless you are a criminal and have no conscience. 

Now, having held a clean full UK driving licence since 1982, I have had to endure the annual chase-the-best-quote game for three decades. Frankly, I have had enough of it.

I don’t have issue with legally requiring someone to be insured. The idea is sound. What I do have an issue with is the fact that my premiums keep going up every year, even though I haven’t made a claim for nearly 15 years. I’ve even got a bit of paper to prove it.

(I know there’ll be comments from younger drivers who are penalised these days purely on their age and lack of experience behind the wheel. I certainly wouldn’t be driving today if I was 18 and needed to find a four-figure sum from somewhere just so I could be legal in my pimped 206. That’s not my beef, or my problem, frankly, so while I sympathise you must forgive my moment to rant.)

Surely, if I don’t make a claim, I should see flat or lower premiums every year. Why does it go up? Even allowing for inflation, a rise of over £50 on last year’s premium is extortion!

So, having got my latest renewal papers in, I girded my loins, hefted my bootstraps, tightened my belt and headed for the interwebz to do battle with the many-headed monster that is the UK Car Insurance Market. 

I tried the usual suspects. You know who they are, so I won’t name them here. I tend to head for the same one, as experience tells me they all come back with the same figures anyway. That annoying opera singer and the fleabitten residents of the Kalahari don’t figure highly in my quest, which leaves the cartoon woman with the dodgy hair-do.

The best quote came back, and it was a good £60 lower than my renewal quote. It also included breakdown cover, which was a bonus as I’ve just given my usual and long-time provider the elbow because they too got greedy. (Sshh! It’s actually the same company, but don’t tell anyone!)

Armed with this information, I called my current insurer and tried haggling. I named my price. To give them their due, they did their best. They shaved a creditable £45 off my renewal. 

Not good enough, though. It was still £23 too high. I wanted it to be closer to the price I gave them. They couldn’t match it, but they’re sending new documents out with the changed premium on it, which is something I suppose.

Next, I tried a local broker, since they’ve been bombarding me with literature for weeks now. They are currently offering some sort of cash-back, so I went through the routine with them. By some chicanery that I don’t quite follow, the quote (which was £140 more than my renewal) actually ends up being £75 lower, because I would get something north of £200 back in cash. I still don’t understand the maths which, from what I see, would confuse Barclays’ finest.

Next, I tried the big names via their web sites. They claim, after all, to be able to provide competitive quotes because they don’t use the comparison sites. The Big Red Telephone one made me laugh out loud with their figure, which is at least more than their television adverts manage. The other one lived up to their name by again quoting More Than my renewal. Allegedly, this also included a 50 per cent discount for my No Claims Discount, so the original quote must have been over four hundred quid! I don’t believe they intentionally named the company because they quote consistently more than everyone else.

I tweeted my disgust, and to their credit the latter actually asked if they could help. I gave them information. I am still awaiting the results. I don’t hold out any hope.

I have a few days to play this game. My renewal is not for a couple of weeks. I will await various bits of paper with the workings out, and will probably end up going with the lowest quote on the comparison site. Or the next quote down, which didn’t include free breakdown cover. I can get breakdown cover elsewhere anyway.

Oh, and if you inhabit the Twitterverse, I’ve started using a hashtag: #ihatecarinsurance. Keep an eye out. It might start to trend.