Archive for Room 101

Consumerism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

So, I buy a new webcam to use with Skype on my office Windows 8.1 desktop PC. Does it work? Don’t be silly… Clueless Advent support tell me that it’s not designed to work with Win 8, just XP, 2000, Vista, 7. I have to tell them that the product packaging states otherwise. It works fine on Win 7, but only the mic works on 8.1. No suggestions on how to resolve the problem, apart from a full Windows refresh. For a 12-quid webcam, with no guarantee of success? I don’t think so...

Meanwhile, I ordered a sparkly new smart TV, to be delivered today. Curry’s online order tracking facility tells me last night that it will be delivered today, between 3.30pm and 7.30pm. Does it turn up, after I organise half a day to ensure that I’m here to receive it? You must be joking… Do they call me to say that it isn’t coming? Are you kidding? Does their tracking facility offer any explanation, or even a revised guess at another date? No – in fact, it states that the order’s status has been reset to “in progress”.

Must be some new meaning of the word progress that I wasn’t previously aware of…

MEANWHILE – I have a Russell Hobbs iron that is subject to a product recall, because it’s among a range of models that is prone to spontaneously combusting (as featured on the BBC’s Watchdog program). They promise to provide a replacement, free of charge, and have the old one collected. I reported my piece of crap to them on 23 December. Three phone calls in the intervening period and a wild goose chase to a dead phone number later, I still have no replacement, and am using something that may scar me for life. Each time I ring them, it’s as if they’ve never heard of me.

Welcome to the UK.

UPDATE: The TV didn’t get delivered because it was on the wrong size van, apparently. Whut? Now having to wait until next Tuesday. They only book half-day slots, so I’ll be playing the dog-walk roulette. You just KNOW they’ll deliver while Leo and I are out enjoying the 75mph gusts on the prom.

Christmas? To Room 101 with it!

I hope that most people who know me generally wouldn’t consider me to be a Grinch-like character. But there is one aspect of me that is certainly up there with The Big G.

I just don’t like Christmas.

There, I’ve said it.

The fact is that I would dearly love to opt out of the whole charade, but I simply don’t know how to, without upsetting at least a few people. Christmas, it seems, isn’t optional.

I have no problem with the “peace on Earth, and goodwill to all men (and, of course, women and children of both genders)” aspect. In fact, it’s a principle that I try to live by all year round – I don’t save it up until December.

It’s the compulsory jollity that gets me down. I don’t want to dress in stupid clothes and drink myself senseless, thanks. I really don’t need to stuff myself full of the kind of foods that, in sufficient quantities, could induce a heart attack that would fell a hippo (tasty though they may be, brussels sprouts excepted).

I can do without the stress of choosing and buying crap gifts that the recipient neither wants or needs. Sending greetings cards by the dozen to people I wouldn’t know if they attacked me in the street seems utterly pointless. If we have any kind of relationship, let’s write in April or July, just because. But how do you stop without offending people? (Perhaps they want to stop too, but don’t know how to without offending me? Hint – Just stop, I won’t be offended, just delighted, I promise.)

Of course, the whole shebang has no relevance to me from a religious perspective, since I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth atheist who seriously doubts the existence of the messiah whose birth we’re supposed to be celebrating. It’s as relevant to me as Ramadan. Quite apart from which, many of the things that we have come to accept as symbolic of this Christian event are pagan in origin. In fact, the religious bit of it has become such a minor part of it, that I’m sure many people don’t even know about it these days.

As if this lot isn’t enough, it all starts earlier and earlier, usually some time in November or even October, and is pushed down your throat pretty constantly thereafter. By the time the actual day arrives, it’s a huge anti-climax, and I for one am heartily sick of the whole thing by then. And it’s all to do with making you spend yourself silly. The idea that I’m being emotionally hoodwinked into impoverishing myself for the likes of Amazon’s bottom line kind of irks me, you know?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to cancel Christmas. If you enjoy it, go ahead – knock yourself out. I’m quite happy to bemusedly watch it go by from afar, and otherwise have nothing whatsoever to do with it. But that’s almost impossible. There seems to be a cultural obligation to take part in the charade, or be marked as a sort of pariah.

One day, I’ll make the break completely. I don’t know how, or when, but I’m determined to do it.

(I quite like the idea of a winter family gathering, as they used to have before Christmas go really going, with a good meal and conviviality, without all of the above nonsense. Perhaps I can persuade those whom I hold near and dear to go along with this idea…)

New candidate for Room 101

In this age of advanced technology, you’d think it was possible to eliminate sticky labels that can’t be removed without leaving a gooey mess behind.

Clearly, it isn’t.

I volunteer at the Oxfam shop in Bangor each week, and I’ve been assigned to sorting books, CDs, DVDs, games and the like. A huge proportion of these come in with price labels, special offer stickers and any number of other self-adhesive tags that seem to have been fused to the case or cover with an adhesive that could stick anything to anything else. For ever.

These all have to be removed before the item is put out into the shop, and I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve had to spend scraping these bastard things off, and removing the residue with white spirit.

So – a heartfelt plea to producers of sticky labels: this is 2014. For the sake of my sanity, PLEASE make your labels peelable.

It’s not a lot to ask. Is it?

Room 101

Now that I’m over 60, I can legitimately exercise my right to indulge in the tyranny of old age. I can barge to the front of a bus queue, elbows flailing, with impunity. I may not have actually fought in any wars**, (although I was in the Cubs for a week when I was about seven) but it won’t necessarily stop me claiming that I did.

Anyway, I digress.

As part of my tyranny, I am setting up my own Room 101, to enable me to dispatch all of the trappings of the modern world that, as a senior citizen, I find irksome. I’m not saying I’ll be reasonable about it, I’m just casting a jaundiced eye.

I’m going to start modestly, by consigning bad grammar and sheer linguistic ineptitude into Room 101.

Now, I’m not claiming my own perfection, here; far from it. The idea of being a Grammar Nazi is also vaguely disquieting, but when I look at the standards of written communication, especially on social media, it makes me apoplectic and sad in equal measure.

For example, I am a member of a Facebook group that enables members to give and receive items, free of charge. Very noble, you might think. And you’d be right, except that many (and I don’t mean just a few – it’s the majority) seem to have been written by people who never went to school.

Here are just a few typical examples:

Hi,me n my partner are in neesd of a microwave,washer n kettle if anyone can help,were in caernarfon,thanks

Can I ask please has anybody got any lady clothes size 14 asking has lost lot weight need loose more don’t won’t to get new yet till got to my goel thank you so much for reading I live in pensarn thank you again

My cuzun has recently moved into his first flat but has hardly anything if anyone has any furniture or bits n bots it would be greatfully apriciated tia old colwyn

These are by no means the exceptions, they are close to the norm.

The education system in the UK isn’t perfect, for sure, but there is a responsibility upon its clients to, you know, try? Smartphones with their auto-complete are just making matters worse.

Our language skills are regressing. It may not be long before we can only communicate in a series of grunts, albeit transmitted on really sophisticated electronic devices.

So, to Room 101 with bad grammar and linguistic ineptitude.

** A fact for which I am grateful beyond words.