Friday, 30 March 2012

Welcome to Rip-Off Britain

The main item on all news broadcasts and in the British media over the past few days has been the impending fuel tanker driver's industrial action, and the possibility of pumps running dry over the Easter period.

What was the reaction from our illustrious condemnation of a Government? They initially planned for members of the armed forces to be trained to take over the tanker driver's jobs, so that the supply of fuel would remain constant.

Francis Maude
Totally out-of-touch Conservative minister Francis Maude, suggested that we fill jerry cans with petrol and store them at home for future use, in case of a shortage. The fact that keeping this amount of petrol goes against all safety advice seemed totally lost on him.  

It has to be said that the Government has now distanced themselves from this ridiculous advice, but amazingly, "village idiot" Maude still keeps his job!

Maude's thoughtless comments have now sparked panic buying of fuel across the country, with long queue's appearing at many petrol stations and some totally running out of supplies.

I notice today that my local petrol station not only has cars queuing, but has also hiked up the price by 4p a litre overnight. A litre of unleaded now retails for £1.48, whilst diesel is 3p more at £1.51  A more obvious case of opportunist money-grabbing I have yet to see.

It doesn't seem 5 minutes since we were all bemoaning the onset of a litre breaking the pound barrier and here it is totally through the roof. 

As pretty well everything in the shops is transported by road, it will consequently mean higher prices, but do our leaders care? Of course they don't - it's not going to affect them now is it. 

The Unite union has today ruled out a strike over the Easter period and are to join conciliation talks. They have warned that if these break down, a strike would be likely after the holiday period.

Meanwhile Great Britain just spirals totally out of control, with a Government who truly haven't a clue what they are doing and are devoid of any constructive ideas to get us out of this mess. We certainly aren't very "Great" anymore.

So it's a warm welcome to all of you, here to Rip-Off Britain. We hope you enjoy your stay, but please remember to turn off the lights and leave the keys under the mat when you leave!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Royal Mail Announce Record Price Rises

A UK Postbox
It has been announced that the price of a first-class postage stamp here in the UK will rise on the 30th April 2012 to 60p, from its current 46p (a 30% rise). A second-class stamp will also go up, from 36p to 50p (a 39% increase).  All other classes of mail will follow suit and suffer an hike in price as well.

The regulator has lifted the restrictions on prices and has allowed the Royal Mail to set its own prices. Apparently the future of the service was at “severe risk” without the relaxing of the controls.

Over the next seven years, the price of second-class stamps will be capped at 55p but this limit could rise with inflation each year.

Postman Pat will be utterly dismayed
However persons receiving Pension Credit and Employment and Support Allowance, or Incapacity Benefit will still be able to purchase 36 stamps at Christmas to send greetings cards at the same prices as last year. If they have more than 36 friends they’ll have to stump up the same as the rest of us.

"We know how hard it is for households and businesses when our economy is as tough as it is now. No-one likes to raise prices in the current economic climate but, regretfully, we have no option," said Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail.

She went on to say: "Royal Mail provides one of the highest quality postal services in Europe for among the lowest prices for both consumers and business."

So is this another forerunner of the total privatisation of the Royal Mail? - Quite likely!

Will these price rises be reflected with a 30%+ rise in the efficiency of the service? - Highly unlikely!

Can I hear the Royal Mail's death knell beginning to toll!

Friday, 23 March 2012

The PPI Claim Circus Goes On

It was reported on the 6th March 2012, that UK banks had been instructed to write to millions of their customers, explaining to them how they may have been mis-sold Payment Protection  Insurance (PPI)  
(please click here for a consumer factsheet explaining the concept of PPI)

As the infernal advertisements being shown on TV by legal firms offering their services for compensation claims, PPI was mis-sold if the customer did not need it, want it or ask for it.

PPI, also known as credit insurance, credit protection insurance and loan repayment insurance was a product offered by financial institutions to enable their customers to continue re-paying their loan and/or credit agreements, should face any cicumstance preventing them from making the required re-payments (such as unemployment, illness etc).

The Financial Services Authority insisted that these letters be jargon free and should also:
  • explain that the letter is important
  • explain how they may have lost out financially and could claim for compensation.
  • be written in a language, free from jargon and marketing.
  • point out that there may be a time limit involved.
Meanwhile, the TV adverts and the cold calling telephone calls continue in abundance.

For example, I have received 2 calls this afternoon, both from the same company, offering to reclaim my PPI payments. Apparently they have information that I qualify for compensation and if I answer their questions, they could put in a claim for me (less the relevant costs of course).

So how does this work exactly I ask? I have not had any loans, credit agreements, credit cards etc throughout the 6 year period they are talking about, so where exactly do they get their information from?. 

When I put this to them, they end the call by hanging up very quickly. 

It is clear they don't have any information whatsoever and are just cold calling. 

You would have thought that the directive to banks to write to their customers, who they believed might be in a position to claim, would have at least slowed the commercial bandwagon down. But not a bit of it, it seems.

So whilst the British banks are at least resigned to paying out what is due, it is truly encouraging to see the integrity of some of the advertising, so-called legal companies,is as high as ever!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Harry Potter Actor Jailed

Jamie Waylett known the world over for playing the part of Hogwarts School bully Vincent Crabbe, has been jailed for 2 years for offences committed during the 2011 London riots.

Sentenced at London's Wood Green Crown Court, Waylett from the north London suburb of Hampstead, admitted to drinking from a looted bottle of champagne and was even pictured on numerous occasions holding a bottle full of petrol with a rag as a wick. Even though it was accepted that he had no intention of throwing the "device", he was found guilty of violent disorder.

22 year old Waylett had previously been in trouble with the Police, having been convicted for possession of cannabis, when being found to have grown 10 plants in tents at his Kilburn home. At that time he expressed his sincere apologies to all Harry Potter fans, cast and crew, but his "misfortune" continued to spiral out of control.

In mitigation, Waylett's defence lawyer Emily Dummatt informed the court that the actor had struggled with his fame, becoming a "withered actor by the age of 22". She went on to say: "Although he had the good fortune to be in the Harry Potter films, it turned out to be not so good fortune."

He will be eligible for release after a year behind bars.

Will the Olympic Torch Relay be Coming Near to You?

The 2012 London Olympics gets closer and closer and today the full route of the Olympic flame, when it tours the length and breadth of the UK, was revealed.

In a 70 day, 8,000 mile journey, the Olympic flame will travel to within 10 miles of 95% of the country's population. 

Dressed in Adidas designed outfits of white with gold piping, emblazoned with the games logo on the chest, 8,000 torchbearers will bring the flame to all parts of the UK and it will even travel outside the country to Dublin for some inexplicable reason. 

The journey will start at Land’s End on the 19th May, ending up at the Olympic Stadium in the London East End suburb of Stratford, during the opening ceremony on July 27th.
The Olympic Stadium

Throughout its 70 day journey, the torch relay is apparently designed to ignite interest in the games, but is this really the case? Many people I speak to are totally apathetic about the Olympics coming here at all and the latest opinion polls show more than half of the UK's population have no enthusiasm for the games whatsoever.

The ticket sales website was a colossal disaster from beginning to end and the news of the high percentage of tickets being put aside for corporate use has helped little in encouraging support.  

An average daily figure of 115 people will carry the torch on its relay and the organisers have confirmed that the route will take in many famous sports venues, historic sites and places of outstanding natural beauty on its journey

To check whether the torch will be coming near to you, click HERE to be taken to the interactive relay map site. 

Upon entering my postcode, I discovered that the flame will get as close as 8 miles from my house on July 8th

Somehow however, I don’t think I will be bothering to go and see it.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

“Beware the Ides of March!”

“Beware the Ides of March!”

This is best remembered as the cry emanating from the soothsayer in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, which ultimately resulted in the death of the Holy Roman Emperor. According to the play, Caesar met his end after being stabbed 33 times (three and thirty wounds).
La Morte di Cesare (Death of Caesar) by Vincenzo Camuccino - on display in the Italian National Gallery in Rome

The “ides” comes from the Latin word “idus” meaning “half division”, in relation to a month. The word was commonly used for the 15th of March, May, July and October in the Roman calendar.

It is believed however that Caesar was only stabbed 23 times (the extra 10 were presumably for some kind of Shakespearean dramatic licence).

On the ides of March in 44 B.C. a group of approx. 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus enacted the deadly deed, condemning Caesar to a somewhat bloody end.

Today is the ides of March, so it’s best beware I suppose (not that you see too many soothsayers around these days, or Holy Roman Emperor's come to that!)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

UK Jubilee Towns Win City Status

City status has been awarded to Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph (in North Wales) to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen in 2012 

The 3 towns beat off competition from 22 others, including the likes of Doncaster, Bournemouth, Luton and Milton Keynes to gain the coveted City status. This status however is only an honourable award, confering no additional status, power or function.

Perth City Centre

Only 1 city was expected to be awarded status, but in order to recognise the significance of all parts of the UK and the high quality of all the bids, a new City was created in England, Scotland and Wales.

St Asaph Cathedral
City status is rarely awarded in the UK with only 14 new City's created throughout the 20th century.
In 2000, Brighton, Inverness and Wolverhampton acquired the status to mark the new millennium.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The War of the TV Talent Shows

We are soon to have a battle royal on our Saturday night TV screens here in the UK.

Simon Cowell's Britain's Got Talent returns for another run to ITV, whilst the BBC goes directly up against it with the UK's version of the smash US hit The Voice UK.

The Voice UK is a singing competition, based on a Dutch format, created by John de Mol. Being produced by Shed Media (who also produce the school based drama Waterloo Road for the BBC), it is a talent show with a new twist. 

The shows judges or coaches, including such stars as Sir Tom Jones, Jessie J and, will hear the contestants sing with their backs turned to the stage. Their choice of artists to coach will depend entirely upon the performers voice and nothing else.

It is thought that the winner will receive £100,000 and a lucrative record deal with Universal Republic.

Meanwhile Britain's Got Talent returns to ITV with 2 new judges, Alesha Dixon who has defected to ITV from the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and comedian David Walliams. 

The difference in the 2 shows is that BGT not only caters for singers, but welcomes anyone with any sort of talent, be it dancers. comedians, impersonators and of course singers are still welcome to apply.

Simon Cowell will be anxious that ratings are at least kept to the same level as in previous series. The last series of X-Factor suffered at the hands of Strictly Come Dancing, which had a boost in weekly viewing figures. Many believe this was due to the fact that Cowell did not act as a judge on the series and wasn't totally hands-on as before. 

For the upcoming season of BGT however he is back and will not accept seeing the BBC's upstart show make inroads into his audience figures. 

As both shows go up against each other at the same time - which will be the first to give ground and consider moving its time slot?

Are the days of Britain's Got Talent numbered?

Can the BBC really compete when it comes to reality shows?

The conflict between the two shows will be ruthless, the media coverage unrelenting and the sniping, spitting and snarling unmissable.

Bring it on - I can't wait!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Coke and Pepsi Change Their Recipe

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola are altering the recipe of their caramel colour across the US, to avoid having to label the product with a cancer warning. 

In a move to comply with new Californian regulations, both companies are changing an additive called 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI), which has been targeted by consumer group Center for Science in the public interest, claiming the chemical causes cancer.

The change has already been implemented in the state of California and will be brought in across the US soon. It is unclear whether it will happen here in the UK.

The Coca-Cola company have directed their caramel supplier to modify their production process to reduce the level of the additive.

The actual fomula of the drink is kept secret, and is rumoured to be guarded 24-hours a day in a vault in Atlanta.

Cola drinks have other uses than being a tasty beverage. To find out what they can be used for, please click on the following article link:

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Sarah Millican Television Programme

Premiering tonight on BBC2 is the Sarah Millican Television Programme.

Sarah is an English stand-up comedienne who won the Best Newcomer Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008 (yes I know - back to those damned awards again!). 

Based around her divorce, the Sarah Millican's Not Nice show played to rave reviews and she has returned to the Festival every year since (she has stated she will not return in 2012 however - not as a performer anyway).

To read an interview she did with the Metro newspaper explaining how her divorce got her into comedy, please click HERE

in 2010 she received a nomination for the top comedy award, but lost out to Russell Kane.

Sarah Millican
Growing up in South Shields in England's far north-east, Sarah had not even entered a comedy club until her first nights performance.

Over the last couple of years she has been making many appearances on TV in panel games and general prime-time entertainment shows such as the BBC's magazine programme The One Show.

Sarah Millican's observational style of comedy gives a refreshing, if somewhat controversial view of the world. catch it if you can (or set the Sky+ or V+ box).

The Sarah Millican Television Programme - 10.00pm, airing weekly - starting Thursday 8 March on BBC2.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

TV and Movie Stars from Yesteryear

I was watching the latest episode of the US crime drama Rizzoli and Isles on Alibi TV and was pleasantly surprised to see 2 of the actors appearing were well-known from years back

If you haven't caught the show yet, it is the story of a Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli (played by Angie Harmon) who works extensively with Medical Examiner Dr Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander).

Both characters were devised by best-selling US crime author Tess Gerritsen (if you haven't managed to read any of her books, I can truly recommend them).

First of the actors appearing and not looking much different to 30 odd years ago will be remembered by the words "goodnight John-Boy". Yes, none other than Richard Thomas who played the oldest son of the Walton clan back in the 1970's and onwards.
Thomas as John-Boy Walton
Thomas is now into his 60's and, as I mentioned earlier, doesn't look that much different from all those years ago.

The other star from yesteryear was the English actress Jacqueline Bisset who is best remembered for her roles in Bullitt (1968), Airport (1970), The Deep (1977), and Class (1983). She also starred in the TV series Nip/Tuck in 2006.

In Rizzoli and Isles she plays the mother of Dr Isles which can only be assumed to be a recurring role of some kind.

Bisset is now 67 years young and looks absolutely stunning as the image below (taken in 2007) proves.
Jacqueline Bisset

Both actors still look really good which means they have either been lucky enough to age well or have been successful enough to pay for aging well.  

Rizzoli and Isles is shown on Alibi TV here in the UK. Please give it a try - I think you might enjoy it.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Passing of Davy Jones

The news of the death of  Davy Jones, member of the 1960s manufactured pop-group the Monkees, has by now been widely reported on all media.

The only British member of the "prefab four" passed away after suffering a massive heart attack in his sleep, at his home in Indiantown, Florida.
Davy Jones Performing in 2006
Born in Manchester, the 66 year old first came to prominence appearing in the long running UK soap opera  Coronation Street, playing the part of Ena Sharples' grandson.

At age 14, when his mother died from emphysema, he gave up acting to train as a horse race jockey - his diminutive size being an asset in this change of direction. His love affair with horses and racing remained until his death.

This change of career was not to last long however as he took the part of the Artful Dodger in a London West End production of Oliver, before taking the role to Broadway and being nominated for a Tony award.

In 1965 he was cast as a member of the legendary Monkees and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jones is the 2nd high profile music star to die within the last month, after the passing of soul diva Whitney Houston.

In an interview with BBC Radio a year ago publicising a reunion tour, he stated that his own favourite Monkees song of all was the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned Pleasant Valley Sunday. 

Sung by Mickey Dolenz, with a memorable Mike Nesmith guitar riff, it was probably my favourite also.
The Monkees - Pleasant Valley Sunday

As a footnote, in 1967 the Monkees outsold both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones put together. 

Their TV show, shown worldwide, was great fun, the records were of a high, polished production standard that had not been heard previously. 

At the time, the Monkees and Davy Jones truly had the world at their beck and call.

RIP Davy, you will be missed.