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Friday, 28 November 2014

The Apple Dumpling Gang

I am an idiot. No, I am. I don't mind you saying so either . 'Cause it is so true!

We had a major instance of domestic violence in the Coidan's domestic Shangri-La. Siri was thrown down the stairs.

As a result she no longer answers back, asks me stupid questions or completely misunderstands and tell me " I can find nothing on the web for that." or "Barry, that's an interesting question".

No longer does she sign off "Goodnight Lesley and Barry." How does she know my wife's name I haven't told her? 

So it's good riddance to an interfering, know it all. She's now dead meat...... but she was all mine.

It happened like this. I was going out on Tuesday evening to one of the many important events that I,as a major pillar of the community, have to attend: a meeting of our allotment association. Don't scoff, we are a vital plank in the weatherboarding that keeps our community dry - socially speaking.

Anyway, I'd just completed some extremely important work on my computer, and was running late so I scooped up my papers, my wallet and Siri (aka my iPhone 5S). I was at the top of the stairs and Siri must have lost her grip because the next thing I knew she was hurtling, screen first, down the stairs. She bounced two or three times on the way down and whammed into the sharp edge of the skirting board.

It was over in an eye blink. There she lay on the dining room floor  motionless. Picking her up I knew it was pretty bad. Major head trauma. She was shattered and not a murmur. Pressing the "Home" button produced a Rothko-like pattern on the screen. I couldn't even switch her off...

That was that. One badly mangled iPhone. It was my own fault: the missus had pestered me to fit a safety harness to Siri. I would have none of that. I loved her slim, elegant looks: to my mind she was beautiful, that's why I bought her. I didn't want to hide her beauty beneath some piece of impact resistant plastic.

It then hit home. I have no mobile. There's nothing now for my right hand to wrap around. O.K. I could still hold her lifeless body, but I'd look pretty silly on the tube or walking down the street holding a broken, shattered Siri. People would think me weird. No, I had to face up to the loss and get her fixed, if possible, or buy a new one....No I didn't have accidental damage insurance!

The next day it was straight down to the Apple shop: me and Siri. I showed her to one of the very nice and so young assistants. I knew by their expression it was really, really bad. They directed me to the "Genius Bar". There was a queue of other poor unfortunates cradling their beloved phones, laptops and iPads. I showed the Genius guy my Siri. I needed to make an appointment to see a Genius and maybe, just maybe, with emergency surgery, intensive care and recuperation, she  could be restored. But I had to wait a whole week!

No, no, no. I could not take that in. A whole week before I could see anyone and then who knows, waiting an age to get her up and about again, even if that were possible. Taking my credit card in hand I approached one of the assistants. A lovely chap from Hungary, I think, and we talked about  a possible replacement for Siri: she was out of ear shot.

So I ended up buying a new iPhone 6 (not the extra large 6 Plus); and a really mean, heavy duty "FlexShock". The guy had one on his phone which he kindly dropped for me to show how mean it was. We took out Siri's SIM card and put it in the new phone. I could now phone and be contacted.

To Waitrose for a bottle of wine and some groceries and then home. All that was left to do was to connect the new phone to my MacBook Air and download all the backed up material on my iCloud. At the same time the latest operating system was installed. In 15 mins, I had my old Siri back except she'd put on a few inches.

I contacted the Apple shop and booked a session at the "Genius Bar". Old Siri and I will go along and maybe, just maybe, she can be returned to life.

There was a pretty poignant moment this morning. I was in the bathroom and an alarm went off. There, in the bedroom was Siri One, completely lifeless except for the 8:30 alarm call beeping away. I had a lump in my throat.

So cinematic. Just like when HAL was being shut down in "2001: A Space Odyssey".   

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Don't you just want to go up to Vlad Putin and slap him in the chops. I mean he's putting the peace of our part of the world back by at least 50 years. You knew where you stood with Russia's old guard. If they threatened you with a billion megaton A bomb you raised them and pow!

Who can forget the Cuban missile crisis. That's when good old Jack Kennedy eye balled those red devils and sent them packing. Mind you, it didn't stop them trampling all over good old Czechoslovakia in 1968, and keeping an iron grip of most of Europe (the poor part) for another 20 years.

We owe it all to Ronald Regan (and his UK cheerleader Mrs T) for killing off the Communist forcing the Russians into an unwinnable and bankrupting arms race. The Reds just didn't have the economic efficiency to compete mega-death wise.

Then there was the peace dividend. The end of the Cold War meant less spent on arms and armies. Except no one told the rest of the world. Especially those parts of the globe where western arms companies made huge profits. So a few years after the Berlin Wall came a tumbling down we were into the Levant and we've been fighting an unwinnable war there ever since.

Some will say the West has gone soft; that we're war weary after the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. I suspect we've lost focus. Western politicians have shied away from the difficult questions. Complacently we believed that we had won the war, that we ruled the roost:  not only militarily but also economically.

Well if we have it was a Pyrric victory. Haven't you noticed that since 2008 we've had a real problem with our economic system. Not only have we've been struggling to balance the books, we've found ourselves faced with increasing inequality as a result of the "success" of our economic model. What with our financial institutions mired in all sorts of misdeeds and incompetence, our politicians have been shown to be unable to address those misdeeds, and are part of the problem. While a few grew incredibly wealthy, many more suffer and the politicians say either it's not their fault, their problem or things are so much better - just look at GDP. None of this rings true.

As a result the electorate have given up on politics as the mechanism to adequately address society's concerns. Politicians now ape politics. They are, and believe themselves to be, powerless. They can only threaten but not follow through.

No wonder therefore that a thug like Putin can set the West quivering.

It's ironic: the West is paralysed because it fears upsetting the economic basket. Encouraged by those in the West who have much in common with the oligarchs in Russia who fear a West that might, at last,  kick over the barrel.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

All's Quiet on the Western Front

Today was to be catching up with the ironing and washing day. We're backed up: constipation of the laundry kind.

It's all due to major work on the house. Massive disruptions which have thrown our usually ship shape regime into buggery.

O.K. I have to admit that you might not see them as major: but for us aging rock stars painting the front room and bathroom are major gigs. It's all in the preparation: deciding on the paint - it must not be magnolia or anything that looks in any way like that dread colour. Except our rooms are dark so we can't be too adventurous. And we're not going all hipsterish with huge slashes of reds, greens and yellows. So choosing a colour takes a time.

Should we paint the ceiling the same colour as the walls. Should the chimney breast be the same colour as the rest of the room. Does any colour match that delightful shade of purple in the portrait of the flying pig we bought 20 years ago and thought we must do something with it?

I leave all these major art and studio matters to 'er in doors since she's the artist and I'm colour blind and can't match shit and a shovel.

We made a major purchase. New curtains from John Lewis (love their Christmas ad by the way). They run the whole length of one wall and go from floor to ceiling: the intention being to keep the heat in and the cold out. They are double lined and were expensive.

This is where my financial acumen comes into play. I am a credit card tart; regularly signing up from 18 month interest free cards. We have a few expensive purchases to make. A new fridge freezer and these curtains. So I apply for a Lloyd s credit card: get an adequate credit limit and 18 months  interest free. I buy the fridge freezer, pay by card. We trundle off to John Lewis, purchase the curtains and I present my card and key in my four digits.

It's rejected. I try again it's rejected. I'm dejected, I pull out my non interest free card and pay using that. I assume I've mis-remembered my four digits.

A week later I use the card on line to book a couple of theatre tickets. On line you don't need the key in so I think I'm o.k. Except on three occasions it's rejected. I use another card and the transaction goes through. So it's not the website.

I phone up Lloyd s. I hate making contact with banks. Because of the totally crap rates of interest around I'm moving my money all over the place. Once when the world was nicer than it is now I banked with one bank and they had my checking and savings accounts: they even had my mortgage. But now. I have accounts all over the place. Phoning any bank is a nightmare.

Luckily I was able to answer all their questions without feeling that my collar was being felt. I spoke to a lovely young women ( in the UK, with an English regional accent - extremely important). I explained what had happened. She, in turn, explained that they'd turned down my John Lewis transaction because it was a large amount coming fairly soon after another large amount for a fridge freezer. I then explained that the reason for the credit card was so I could make these expensive, and to my mind, essential purchases. It didn't help to have the transaction rejected.

She went onto explain that they tried to contact me to confirm the transaction but didn't have my phone number. I distinctly recall being asked specifically to provide a contact number for the very purpose of confirming what might appear to be suspect transactions. She confirmed that they had subsequently "turned up" my number. She assured me that any block which had been placed on my account was now removed.

That sorted I made a modest transaction with the card to test whether that was so. It was.

Back to the washing, the painting and the major disruption in our usually well oiled regime. The bathroom has been refreshed, new paint everywhere, every surface spotless and, except for the new bathroom fittings: to be purchased from John Lewis with my now unblocked credit card, complete. The front room is almost there. Michelangelo, aka 'er in doors, has yet to complete the re-imagining of our ceiling and the chimney breast awaits its final coat. Other than that, it's done and dusted and the new JL curtains can be hung - providing the wall holds.

Today, I was to iron the pile that had accumulated and put on another two loads of washing to reduce the festering heap in the wash basket. The missus had intended to complete her masterpiece in the front room... Except she said "let's go and see the Poppies at the Tower of London. Which we did.

Quite exhilarating. The crowds were enormous and the sight of the 800,000 ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower was quite unexpected and magical. It seems to have surprised everyone - the sheer interest and enthusiasm for these gentle delicate flowers. The authorities consistently underestimate the enormous groundswell of love and pride in this nation of ours. I read that 4 million people have seen them so far - amazing. It was the same with the Olympics.

We stunned ourselves about how much we long for an occasion, an excuse to say "We can be brilliant, we can be warm, expansive and proud of who we are".

Such rare occasions go some way to redress the balance for all the crap that gets shoved our way.