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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Return of the Pink Panther

I've been having a look at the statistics behind my blog. They make fascinating reading.

My readership seems to change over time. Overall, since I began this blog in 2010, most of the page views are from the USA. This is not really a surprise since it's a big place, they invented most things blog wise and they appreciate good writing (sic). Second in the all time totals is France, ahead of the UK.

France is way ahead in page views in August with more than the others in the  top ten taken together. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are 2nd and 3rd this month with the USA in 4th ahead of the UK in 5th place. This week France is well ahead of Russia in 2nd place and the USA and UK are low down on the list.

Why France? My half sister lives there but I can't imagine she'd show much interest in my ramblings.

I was wondering if I was seen as a bell weather of English public opinion by those in  the Elysée  Palace. Le President reads my posts and the French Government decides its foreign policy - well I did vote for Brexit when most of the experts and commentators here were saying we'd vote to remain in the EU. A friend of mine is on holiday in Provence with his wife and her family but even so I don't think they'd account for the volume of clicks from France.

Would the "snoopers" register in my statistics? Is the  Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d'Information reading my posts to find out when I'm next planning to disrupt the Parisian Metro or sabotaging the French wine industry by pointing out that French wine is still too expensive and a bottle of Lidl's Chilean Cab Sav  is worth two of Chateau Lafit? What would Inspector Clouseau make of my musings? Is Jason Bourne listening in somewhere in the 18th arondissement? If so, am I on his hit list?

Jason if you're reading this I'm one of your most loyal fans: I've all your films on DVD and I'm lobbying Netflix to add them to their streaming service.

I try not think about my Russian audience. I've double checked and as far as I can see I've not said anything too disparaging about President Putin or the Russian Mafia. I certainly don't support Chelsea or any other English football club owned by exiled Russian oligarchs- honest!

I can't image any imam in Saudi Arabia or the UAE knocking up a “fatwā”or two in response to any of my posts. But to be safe I writing this facing Mecca.

Even though it doesn't register on my list it wouldn't surprise me if one of my fans was the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim Jung-un is known to be a keen follower of degenerate Western fashion and I suppose you don't get any more degenerate than a blogger platform owned by Google. If the beloved Kim is an occasional reader of my humble blog  may I suggest he peruse my post of May this year?  "Farmer Giles of Ham" which describes in some detail the workings of a proletariat agricultural collective - an "allotment".

That leaves the good old US of A.

"Hi there. ol' buddy!"

 Let me point out straight away that I had nothing to do with the EU's ruling that Apple owes the Irish Government 10 billion Euros. I am a great admirer of Apple and all those super efficient and ubiquitous American IT and social media companies. I'm fairly laid back about you CIA guys inserting a back door in my iPhone, laptop, PC and networking software. You need to know what people are saying about you: I understand that.  Especially now that one of your Presidential candidates is attracting so much ridicule. Quite frankly if I had my way I'd leave world wide security to Captain America, supported by Thor and Iron Man and possibly the Hulk. After all America is threatened on all sides by nefarious wrongdoers and do-gooders.  You simply can't rely on the Second Amendment.

Anyway, I pleased whoever reads my posts. Who knows in 5 years time some security chief on  Proxima b might be tuning in to one of them....

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Jumping Jack Flash

God it's "A" level results day. How I hate it. At a time of year when there's bugger all in the news, just a few gold medals in the Olympics and the usual murderous conflict in the Middle East, we're treated to stories of mega brained 15 year olds gaining 6 A*s and a professorial post at some prestigious Oxbridge College.

That and interminable pics of nubile teens jumping in the air waving their result sheets. Not content with boring the arse of most of the less academically equipped citizens, we have to listen to smiley mummy's kids telling us how cool it is to be billions of pounds in debt, with a place at Bugdon in the Marshes University of Graphic Arts and Hand Waving.

You can guess from the above that I'm a member of the older generation. Which is ironic. I was in Grovenor Square in, whenever it was. I was in support of the LSE sit in, and I fought the law but the law won. I was revolting when it wasn't cool. Tripping out - I was your man. All along the Watchtower (not to confused with Jehovah Witnesses) man. Anyway all this emphasis on "A" level results freaks me out, because....

I feel incredibly guilty. My "A" level results were piss poor, yet I was able to study Maths & Physics at King's College, London. I didn't pay for my tuition and I received a living grant. I didn't have to work as well as study. My degree meant that I could walk into any job; even though work and me were totally alienated.

I ended up in the Civil Service after trying computing, insurance, copy writing and social work: all hugely unsuccessfully. Accommodation wasn't a problem: cheap rents, nice areas - Hampstead, Belsize Park and Gospel Oak and then a mortgage on a three bed house in Hackney.

It was all incredibly unplanned, unthinking and easy.

Poor "A" level results: poor degree: lots of opportunities to find the right job slot and a home owner. It sounds a bit unfair when you hear what today's kids face.

Except I never expected any of it; I didn't think any of it was what I deserved. I felt lucky and grateful. I didn't believe I was entitled to anything.

Which makes it all such a gas.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Being married gives one one's position like nothing else can." Queen Victoria

I went for an interview yesterday: at the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A to those in the know). No seriously I did. A couple of weeks ago I filled in an application and last week received an interview date and time. Tuesday 16th August, 14:00 to 17:00 hrs. Impressive don't you think?

Well to be honest, it's not a full time salaried job, it's not even  part time paid. It's as a Volunteer - a Visitor Experience Volunteer - half a day a week for a minimum of 6 months. In the interview e-mail one was encourage to visit the Museum and experience a "Visitor Experience" before the interview which seemed a good idea.

Monday morning found me at the underground entrance to the V&A: you reach it by the tunnel from South Kensington tube. And a splendid entrance it is, all very bright and shiny and full of Victorian promise. After having my bag searched by a very nice young man I headed for the galleries  and on the way came across this vision of beauty. She looked like a Pre-Raphaelite painting and she had a V hanging from her neck. "Are you a Volunteer Welcomer?" I questioned, "I am", she replied. "I hope  you don't mind me asking", I continued, "I've an interview tomorrow for a volunteer job like yours can you tell me about it, please?" And she did. I learnt that she worked every Monday from 10 to 13:15. That she arrived at half past 9 so she could be briefed ahead of her shift. It was a very satisfying job, with people asking you all sorts of questions in all sorts of types of English ( I recalled the job ad did say knowledge of a second language would be an advantage). The people she worked with were fab! ( I put that down to the new exhibition at the V&A in September about the late 60's). It was a groovy place to work in, all those galleries and stuff. She thoroughly enjoyed herself. I thanked her and made my way into the body of the V&A.

It was extremely busy, everyone snapping at this statue or that piece of silver. Artists studiously sketching the many busts and statues. The shop full of hugely expensive replicas and items that appeared to me  to have very little connection or no with the Museum or its works of art. I suppose the management know what they're doing.

I didn't go to the cafe - been there before it's very, very smart, so went into the central garden where they were selling teas, cakes and beers. I decided that rather than spend a huge amount on some flaky beer there I'd pop into a local pub later. But before leaving I perused  the "Rise of the French" gallery. The Sun King, Versailles, Madame Pompadour - that sort of thing. Pretty impressive I can tell you. I was especially interested in it all because the previous week I'd seen Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" which was set around the same period.  That's a great, if long film. As I watched it I reflected on life. When I first saw it 40 years ago -it was too slow and too long. Now when my allotted years are rapidly diminishing, it was neither too long nor too slow. Strange that: you'd have thought it should have been the other way around.

Yesterday afternoon arrived and I arrived at the Main Entrance. I went up to the enquiry desk and asked directions to the interview suite - sounds so much more classy. The volunteer Visitor Experience person took out a map and showed me the way. When I asked if I could keep the map I sensed a reluctance to hand it over. It was only later did I recall that part of the job description was to ask for a £1 donation for the map. Well, she'd not passed muster there: but I didn't report her.

The interview suite was crowded with loads of people, all of whom were to be interviewed. They were mostly women, mostly young and mostly to my eyes at least extremely attractive.  We were ushered into a large cavernous room. A stout Spanish lady with a pronounced accent then told us the order of play. I'm afraid I didn't catch a single word - the echoing room and the heavy accent defeated my aged ears.

I quickly realised that the first thing we had to do was to talk to our neighbour and find out all about them in two minutes and then tell the rest of the gang all that you'd learnt about that person. How I hate those games. Anyway it passed off without a hitch. Then we were told to split into four groups. When we'd arrived we'd been given a name tag with a number on it. I was a number "2" and all the "2"s went into one corner and the "1"s, "3"s & "4"s to the other three corners of the room. There one of the interviewers presented the group with a problem - a problem visitor to the Museum. How would we deal with them. We had 4 such exercises. How I hate such games. As far as I could figure out - no matter how obnoxious were the visitors you had to be really nice to them and strongly resist the temptation to slap them across the face and kick them out. I thought I constrained myself pretty well, although one of the interviewees did appear to adopt a hospital matron approach which I didn't think the interviewer thought was quite right.

After that torture we went back to our seats. The final exercise involved the four interviewers each interviewing each candidate for one minute at a time. Think speed dating without the drink or sex. It did however give us time to chat to our fellow interviewees. One was an ex solicitor, she'd worked for the Treasury Solicitors, got married, had kids and became an artist - usual career path. She did her art at home and also volunteered all over the place. She lived in Muswell Hill so we were onto house prices and loft conversions in no time. The guy on the left Joe was a computer expert having graduated in that science, but hadn't found full time work. He appeared to spend all his time volunteering. It was his way of interning and getting to be indispensable: hoping that would lead to a full time permanent job.

And so to the speed dating: out of which I don't think I did well. No chance of a second date. We'll hear in 2 weeks time and  if we're successful a training day and thence walking the floor, smiling and being extremely helpful.  Well the V&A is a lovely Museum