Chuck it aaaart

downloadMrs Gnomepants: So we might get our lovely period bath re-enamelled rather than buy a new one. Its a lovely original cast iron bath.
Ma Gnomepants: Why would you want to do that? Oh buy a new one instead.

and

Mother-in-law – Why have you made your own cake? You’d have been better off buying a shop bought one.
A bit later..
Sister-in-law phwarr this cake’s lovely
stegzy Oh yes. Its delightful. Really chocolatey and moist. I’ll have another slice there should be plenty seen as your mum would prefer a shop bought one.

Ma Gnomepants Get yourself a new vacuum cleaner
stegzy Why? Whats wrong with the one I’ve got? I’ve only had it for 4 years
Ma Gnomepants It doesn’t suck right. I think it’s broken
stegzy Mum…Its either full or the pipe is blocked. Bit of poking about Ah yes. Look a big ball of cat hair and paper blocking one of the pipes. And look, it sucks….Thats saved me £100

My mum and the wifes mum are part of what I call the “Throw away” generation. The throw away generation tend to be aged between 50 and 80. If something breaks, whereas their parents would have endeavoured to fix or mend the broken item themselves or have the item repaired by someone else, the “Throw Away” Generation simply chuck it out and buy a new one.

junkMy Dad was born on the cusp of the arrival of this generation. If a hole appeared in one of his socks he used to darn the sock and prolong its life by a further 2 years. Similarly if something mechanically simple breaks, my dad will take it apart and have a look to see if he can repair the thing. This attitude saved me loads of cash as a kid when my over used joysticks for my Commodore 64 would break. A simple twist of the screws and a blob of solder would often fix the problem. Likewise with bicycles, bits of furniture, plumbing, general repairs or whatever, if a simple patch and repair could be affected it would. My mum however, is the opposite. Even the slightest tear of fabric in something and it must be thrown out and a new one bought. Note I said thrown out. Rarely are such items given away to anyone other than family and even then prolonged usage would receive comments such as “Why don’t you buy yourself a new one?” or “I see John Lewis have a sale on “.

I suppose the post war years and the post rationing years promised that generation exciting and disposable things. Instant Car! Just add water! or Our sofas are made of 100% cheap and nasty non-biodegradable polymer based materials. SO cheap! Why buy one? Buy four! If one breaks…chuck it out! Hurrah!!. Their rationed parents and grandparents looking on in bewilderment. “Hey wow look Ethel! Dorothy has bought yet another labour saving device! Gosh do you remember when you had to spend all day Wednesday working on the mangle?”.

So we come full circle again.

Things break
I’ll have a look at the thing.
Assess if I can fix it.
Ask my dad if he can fix it.
Buy a new one but keep the old one for spares.
Get bollocked by the wife for keeping shite that I’ll never get round to fixing
Dispose of thing in recognised place of refuse disposal.

Even when in our house where we have separate bins for recyclables and compostables. After the olds have visited we tend to find things in the wrong bin. I think if Liverpool council hadn’t had a “If you don’t compost we’ll frown at you” campaign, the olds would still be chucking out plastics and glass to landfill. Although to be fair my dad has always separated his bottles and papers, but mum just puts anything resembling rubbish into the bin. I think my dad separates the bottles because when he was young he could take bottles back to the shop for the penny deposit and newspapers were always useful for a variety of purposes. Whereas my mum sees that as a bit lower class and although my mum comes from the roughest arse end of Garston, she sees herself as having worked her way up to near the top and is quite proud.

The wife’s mum tends to just lump everything into the same bin despite constantly being told by her daughters that there are greener ways to do things. Though to give her her due she does switch everything off at the wall when she has finished. Not something I can hold my hand up and say I do religiously and she doesn’t drive a car (my dad drives a petrol guzzling Ford Focus) so I suppose that off sets some of her carbon foot print slightly.

I read this…..Is it right? Are your olds part of the throw away generation? How about you?

Advertisements

Wet

I watched the last remaining survivors clinging to the life raft. They had been adrift for some time allowing the cold north easterly wind carry them through the mist. The waters were uncannily still and they observed little wavelets lapping at the shore of two distant islands.

Continue reading “Wet”

Watching

cctv_2I just had an air guitar moment. It was to In Motion Pt 2 by The Gathering. Thing is I was really enjoying myself and then I thought “OMG! Someone might see” so I stopped. Thing is I didn’t think “OMG! Someone might see” because I’m sat somewhere public with millions of people passing by. Nor did I think “OMG! Someone might see” because I’m sat in a place someone might catch me in the act. No! I thought “OMG! Someone might see me” because after 30 odd years I still think there might be a hidden camera somewhere.

Historically, for me, this began before CCTV became as wide spread as it is in the UK. Longer term readers might recall my telling of what my eldest brother said to me on my first day in school that being “You had best be on your best behaviour because I have hidden cameras about”.

That really set me up for life.

Followed by bumping into Mrs Thingie (friend of my nans) on the Isle of Man at the age of 10 and often having my mum confront me about things and events that there was no way that she could have witnessed (only later to find out one of her spies had seen me and told her everything).

This all proved to be the grounds of my really good behaviour. I’ve never stabbed anyone, never robbed anything (apart from that little ring of rubber that you attach face masks to snorkels with from a Hypermarché in France) , even when picking my nose I make sure nobody can see me. So not being an exhibitionist as such I conform and do as little to embarrass, offend or upset as I can incase somebody is watching or sees.

big-brother-is-watching-youTotally unfounded I know. I know that people have got better things to do with their time than scrutinise my every move and laugh at (note…I said at not with) me doing air guitar or whatever. I know that really nobody could careless and I won’t end up plastered all over the Sunday tabloids as being “That wanker that did the air guitar” or whatever it is I’m doing. But in the UK today, what seemed like an unlikely event in the 1970’s, CCTV and hidden cameras are everywhere. I’m not being paranoid or weird or owt…THEY ARE!! Just cos you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Ok they might not be there. But there is always the chance that they might be, so I adapt my behaviour accordingly. Likewise, being the person that monitors the internet and computer usage of the students here makes me more paranoid. WHO IS WATCHING ME? Probably  you or the CIA. Not that I care….

So I thought am I alone in thinking this….

Surnames

For some time now I have been fascinated by the origins of surnames (or last names if you want to be all modern and right on). My own surname Gnomepants stems from the Greek Gnomos Pantalonkikos which is a trade that was popular in ancient Greece. People would flock to ancient Athens and Crete to visit the numerous Gnomos Pantalonkikos and inspect their handicrafts. I think Plato said “My Gods! The Gnomos Pantalonkikos in my street is the best!”. At one time one of my ancestors would have been a Gnomos Pantalonkikos and we all know how important they were to the development of civilisation.

Butcher
Butcher (n) – to be a butcher
Heaton-Harris (n) - Wanksplat
Heaton-Harris (n) old Swahili – Wanksplat

So likewise when I come across unusual names I like to look them up (on google & wikipedia) in an effort to locate their origins. Today, I was dealing with a person that goes by the name of Spink. Now Spink is an unusual name from my perspective. I don’t know you might know lots of Spinks, in which case it won’t be all that unusual to you. I know several people called Grobinglops which is quite common though some would argue that they don’t know anyone called Grobinglops and they might find the name Grobinglops unusual. But anyway….that’s by the by. So I look them up and I think “oooh I wonder what their ancestors must have done. So for example someone called Colin Computersalesman would obviously have descended from a prominent Barrel maker. Likewise David Butcher would have been descended from a butcher, Barry Bumscrape – a tramp and Simon Quantumphysicist would most likely have been a quantity surveyor. You get the idea don’t you. Maybe you have a occupational surname too….I know that the likes of Sean Bean would be descended from a bean (maybe he was planted and grew) and Gordon Honeycomb would more than likely have been related to some ancient piece of a bee hive or something.

You get what I’m on about. So I looked up Spink on Wikipedia and I learnt a new thing. So I thought I would share that with you. According to Wikipedia (and yes I know that contrary to popular belief Wikipedia is not 100% reliable) a spink is the formal name for human meat! So at one time this Spink person would have come from a family of food. I can imagine them sitting in the tribal village during the harsh winter months.

Mr Chieftan – We’re so cold. All the meat and food has been eaten. What shall we do?
Mr Advisor – Well why not have a reserve of meat in the village. Fresh meat. How about that family over there? They worked hard in the fields this summer so they’re all nice and muscley. No sinew or fat on them. We could eat them!
Mr Chieftan – Who the Spinks? Well yes! I don’t like the way they look at me anyway

And so it happened, the villagers were eaten and a name gained a meaning.

Joseph Wiseman – Making the world a better place – Part three

I once read an article was about physical assaults on driving examiners, how they are on the rise and how the union of driving examiners says it’s all down to the culture of not taking No for an answer.

Pint glass
A pint in a pint glass

Having worked in the service industry for some years now I am all too familiar with this culture. For example:

stegzy – How can I help?
Self-opinionated Wankstain – I want you to help me put 3 pints into this 1 pint jug please.
stegzy – Er. I can’t it’s against the laws of physics.
Self-opinionated Wankstain – That’s not acceptable. I want to speak to your manager.

or

stegzy – How can I help?
Over important Fuckwit – I need you to help develop a transparent, dynamic and flexible framework strategy to empower our co-workers to heighten their productivitity using spoons and blu tac.
stegzy – Surely that will require several think tanks, a working group and a number of cross-departmental forums. It can’t be done!
Over important Fuckwit – Nonsense! You have to have several corporate lunches and at least a couple of away days to arrive at such decisions! You can’t just pluck something like “It can’t be done” out of the ether!

Or

Scruffy smackhead tramp – ‘av ya gorranny change der lah?
stegzy – no
Scruffy smackhead tramp – in dat case am gonnarav t’stab yer

Such is society today. No doubt brought on by the Culture of Now and propagated by the increasingly annoying “Everyone’s a winner” mentality and non-competitive environment they seem to be rearing children up in today.(I tell you this. If and when I have kids of my own they’re so going to be home schooled. None of this Hitler Youth conditioning that seems to go on in schools today). Some people, it seems, really do not expect to hear the word no when they ask for something.

Calc
Can I put OSX on this please?

From the simple:

“Can I put Mac OS 10 on this calculator?”
“No”

To the more complex

“Can I put Mac OS 10 on this calculator?”
“No”
“Why?”
“Because you can’t”
“Well find me evidence that you can’t because I don’t believe you”

and the more absurd

“Can I put Mac OS 10 on this calculator?”
“No”
“Why?”
“Because you can’t”
“Well get onto Steve Jobs and demand that he do something about it!”

And not just in IT, it’s similar in retail environs

“Can I have a pizza please?”
“I’m sorry this is a hardware shop”
“Well that’s not my problem is it?!”

And in Libraries

“Do you have a book on the history of pink rhino race meetings held in Milton Keynes between 1999 and 2003?”
“Erm. No”
“Well you bloody well should have! Call this WH Smiths!?”

DrJuliusNo
Do you know Dr No? No?

It seems we don’t like to be told no. No is not the answer we like to hear. However it is often the only answer available

“Which Doctor was played by Joseph Wiseman and starring Sean Connery in the film of the same name?”
“No”
“Correct”

I am of the opinion that all that is required is a large scale public celebration of the word “no”. Tshirts, badges and hats escribed with the word “NO”. The constant playing of “No Limits” by 2Untalented. Banners and kites. Hot air balloons and zeppelins. Feel proud of the word NO as a forbidding word. Embrace it with open arms. Take it to bed with you and touch it up. Say NO today.

Its easy isnt it?

Ok thats a bit simplistic. Its not that people dislike the word no. Its just people don’t like negativity. It is negativity that we should embrace. Use it to our advantage. Those people banging on about how we should all be POSITIVE in our actions and thoughts are basically fueling this epidemic of violence. We should be more negative. So next time the driving examiner says

I’m terribly sorry. You havent passed

Cheer for joy! Say out loud “Thankyou!”. If you feel necessary kiss the examiner on the lips. Remember you have celebrated bad news and that is a just cause. So you failed your driving exam! You can now go and sit in a pub all miserable and resentful. Alcohol consumption generates revenue. Revenue is good for the economy.

The next time the shop man says

I’m terribly sorry but I don’t want to serve you because your eyebrows meet in the middle

Don’t hit him. Thank him. Such negativity is good. Your eyebrows probably do meet in the middle and that is probably why people call you wolfie behind your back. Go home. Shave. Become self concious. Become reclusive. Let that anger, paranoia and resentment build up. It’s good for you! It helps raise the blood pressure which means your heart is pumping faster. Surely that is better for you than it just beating as if you were calm and at rest? Accept that you, like many other people, are disfigured by excessive eyebrow growth. The shop keeper isnt going to get your money. It is your money that he needs to keep the protection racket away from his counter which is probably already splattered with his blood and covered by his bruised body. The police are probably already investigating. Such negative actions create employment. Employment creates revenue. Revenue is good. Think negative. It’s good for you and society.

Instead of calling the bus driver a twat because he refuses to change a five pound note. Call him a patriot. His negativity is exactly what this planet needs. So you have to walk the nine miles home in the pouring sodding pissing rain. You will no doubt get some sort of pneumonia and require care in a hospital or somewhere. The care you receive will be provided by nurses. Jobs that will need to be filled. So you might lose a lung or become infected with MRSA. Just think of those lawyers you will be employing to fight for compensation. So the lawyers will take 80% of your award as a fee. 20% is awful! Blow it all on beer and fags. Keep them revenue coffers overflowing.

It isn’t your duty to be negative?

Be like an electron. Be minus 1. Be black and white and in reverse. Be negative.

They’re all out to get me

Sometimes I can’t help feeling singled out.

Of course I know it’s nonsense but I like to think that the reason some things happen is because of a greater conspiracy. One involving the “Powers that be” be that the illuminati, the Government, MI5, Tescos, the man in the post office that looked like Elvis or whom-so-ever is in favour this week and Me. Of course, if you know me well you’ll know I really dont believe half the shit I spout but I gain great pleasure from trying to convince people that the fruits of my overactive imagination are real. Again those that know me well join in and make even more outlandish suggestions. Those that don’t look at me bewildered, confused and even concerned for my mental well being. But I assure you as I said, most of the conspiracy stuff is utter bollocks and I know it.

Anyway, today I mentioned in a comment on one of poggs‘ posts about buses how whenever I’m waiting for a bus none will show yet when Im not you cant move for the buggers. Which made me think. I’ve never really written about this side to me. Ok some people love it. Of course others hate it (probably because they think I really do believe the shite I spout) some even become hostile, which I find sad.

So. After that windfilled explanation on with the show….Here for your delight and mind to chew over, are how they are trying to undermine me….why? I haven’t a clue….possibly because Im the real heir to the throne….

IMG_0441
Comes in threes

1. When I’m waiting for a bus or train :-

  • a) millions of buses or trains that I can’t get will sail past empty yet mine will always be chockablock and infrequent.
  • b) The bus or train I want will only come every 3 years even though
  • c) The line of buses I cant get will go so far down the road from the bus stop that the bus I want cant see me and will go sailing past on its merry way.
  • d) Some old myopic biddy (who is of course a secret agent for the sinister organisation) will flag my bus down and then wave it on because she doesn’t want it (without ANY consideration for others that may be waiting for it)

2. I’ll find some food/hair product I really like. Then mysteriously (like almost over night) it will disappear from the shop shelves. An example of this is Heinz Pepperoni Pizza. Yumtastic. Now you cant find them for love nor money.

3. I’ll find a restaurant that does really good quality food with really excellent service. When I take others to impress them the service is shite, the food substandard or its closed or changed management.

4. When in a rush I’ll always end up behind Mr “Slow and considerate” and in front of Mr “Im in a rush get a move on you twat”

5. Some fucker will go into my bag and discharge the battery on my MP3 Player the day I need to listen to it. The same fucker will do the same to my mobile phone when I’ve not got my charger.

6. Whenever I’m waiting for an important piece of mail. The postman (who is in the employ of the “sinister” organisation behind my persecution) will hold on to the post or accidently lose it on purpose.

Phone box Post box
People phone me

7. If I get excited over a particular TV listing, like so excited I cant wait and am bubbling with anticipation like a bottle of Grand Prix Mumm

  • Some fucker will call on the phone when its on
  • Some fucker will call round when its on
  • Some famous fucker will die and it will be rescheduled (or delayed thus fucking up any video settings)
  • Some fucker will do something tasteless and the program/film will be indefinitely postponed on the grounds of taste

8. If I get into a TV serial:-

  • Be assured that someone will distract me and drag me away during a crucial moment
  • I will forget (due to the mind rays that they beam at me) and miss key episodes
  • It will be rescheduled to a time
    • – when I cant be bothered to stay up
    • – thats abhorrent to God
    • – when I’m at work
    • – when I’m otherwise occupied

9. When I really fancy a cup of tea, a bowl of cornflakes or something milk involved, sinister agents raid my fridge or turn any milk in it sour.

10. The expensive electrical gadget I covet for months turns out to be a turkey when I finally get the thing. Either that or I’ll buy it and a week later it’ll be like 50p for 3.

There are more….but they’ve turned the brain rays onto me again and I can’t remember what they are….

This post originally appeared in May 2005 on Livejournal. It has been reposted here for new audiences. When they arrive. One day….perhaps….

How to be a good customer

Introduction

People often moan about customer service. “It’s shite” they say. “I’ve been waiting on this phone for 3 hours” say others. “They were a right miserable sod” say more still. The world we live in today is bulging with customer care helplines, complaints offices and faceless customer-vendor relationships, which, psychologists might say, is a detriment to our social development and often leaves the customer feeling isolated, singled out and victimised. Indeed, on the flip-side, customer service operatives will tell you equal amounts of stories about rude and sometimes apparently stupid customers. Furthermore, people that work in the customer service environment undergo rigorous training on how to pander and placate angry and awkward customers which, more often than not, can sometimes fan the flames of discontent. So, in an effort to redress the balance I intend to give you, a customer, a simple several part guide on how to be a better customer and get the service you deserve.

 

 Part 1 – Face to Face situations

1Dealing with customer service people in a face to face situation is increasingly rarer these days. This is because it is cheaper for companies to pay for faceless people cooped up in a giant warehouse connected to a telephone system than it is to have people man offices on high streets. Of course this is bad practice as the company never redistributes the savings it makes from such a system back to the customer but because a small group of people have been surveyed on your behalf and have said they prefer to deal with people over the telephone, this is obviously what YOU want too. Of course it rarely is, so if enough people demand a return to high street offices maybe the high street offices will return. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

If you are fortunate to be in a face to face customer service situation there are nine key things to remember:

31. Smile – Nothing is more disarming than a smile. Even if the person serving you is that horrid woman from number 46 who murdered your cat and called your mother a bad name, smile. They will be more unnerved than you. Keep smiling. You are there to give them money. They want your service. Not only for company profits but also so they still have a job. If you keep smiling you will keep them on their toes. Even if they are rude, unpleasant or it seems like they don’t want to be there. Smile. It wins.

42. Be polite – Rudeness gets you nowhere. Put yourself in their shoes. They’ve had a shit day doing shit work probably for shit pay. They probably don’t want to be there and probably would prefer to be sat at home watching Homes Under the Hammer or playing Guitar Hero. If you’re rude to them they’ll be rude or vindictive back. Plus they’ll think you are a twat. So be nice. Be polite. Don’t demand this or demand that. Ask nicely. With a smile. If they still refuse to provide the service you expect then that’s fine. Just ask their name and walk away. If they refuse to provide you with a name then walk away. Politely. Nothing unnerves an arsey sod more than asking for their name and as for walking away smiling and cheery….well that just gives them the willies.

53. Be prepared to walk away – If something is not going as you feel it should, perhaps there is fault in either their or your communication skills. In such a case, feel free to walk away. Keep smiling though. This tactic works with used car sales people and it works elsewhere too. If you are not happy with the service you are given then simply…go elsewhere. Yes it is a ball ache but if you go elsewhere they will be getting your business and the others will not. Indeed, you will find that if the same product or service is cheaper in your original choice, the competition may sometimes, try to match your original choices price.

 

24. Dash dash gnash gnash – If you are in a rush; don’t stand there flapping. Things take time. All things. It takes 3 minutes to boil an egg. Take it out of the pan too soon, you might die. Leave it in, you have hard white and yellow shit. Likewise, any bit of administration, filing, setting up of an account or procession of sale takes time. If you stand there flapping it won’t make people hurry up. Far from it. It can run the risk of them drawing things out. Plus the person serving you will think you are a twat. If you are in a rush to get something sorted. Wait until you have more time. If that is not practical, face up to the fact that you have procrastinated and it is you that is at fault, not the rest of the world. Accept your failings like the adult you should be. Alternatively, stamp your feet and cry like the spoilt brat that you are.

 

65. First Hour is free – Four words guaranteed to rile any customer service person “I Don’t Have time” because here you are. Stood in front of them. This is especially annoying to the customer service person if they’re already busting a ball sack to help you out in the first place. If you don’t have time, make time. If time is a premium to you, charge for it. If you do, you’ll soon find people will think you are a twat and your children, parents and friends probably loathe you too. If you genuinely do not have time, give the first hour for free. Then charge. Missing the start of Eastenders is not going to cause you mental distress.

 

6. Understand – If you are seeking advice, make sure you understand that advice before you leave. Nothing riles a CS rep more than a customer or client that does not listen and ends up coming back again and again with the same question. If you still don’t understand ask them politely for a demonstration or for them to write it down for you. If they refuse, go elsewhere if you can. If not…well….

7. Take it higher – If changing provider or vendor is not possible or impractical, take your displeasure else where. Remember, you should still be polite and smiley with no whiff of arse about you. Ask politely to speak to a manager. If they refuse, ask for the address of the head office. If they refuse still, calmly walk away smiling and look it up yourself. The Internet is like a huge answer page, you just have to know which puzzle you are doing before you can cheat. A good tactic to employ is to approach the manager’s manager. Often you will find that arsey staff are a result of an arsey or shite manager. Think and assess your situation. If the manager looks like a loafer, he probably is. If the manager is bronze and covered in bling, he’s a twat. Take your complaint to the next level by bypassing the manager if possible. Independent organisations, such as restaurants and shops tend to be managed by the owner. In this case, if you are unhappy, go elsewhere but ensure that you tell everyone you know of the poor service you have received. Indeed, if you find that you have received poor service in an independent place, another good tactic is to tell another customer, calmly and politely, how bad the service you have received has been. This can also work if you take a friend in with you who can pretend to be that customer. If you are dealing with a multinational, then addressing a letter to the CEO or to the Head of department can sometimes come up trumps. But instead of complaining about the poor serf that dealt with you, complain about the management rather than the CS staff. Because it is nearly always the management that are at fault.

8. Good for good – I’ve said this before a long time ago, if you have had good service – tell the company. Tell the person who dealt with you that you are pleased. Nothing pleases a CSR more than a compliment. If you have had good service write, in the first instance, to the management and, if possible, CC to the CEO because nothing pleases a CSR more than compliments from high up.

9. Don’t be a twat – Before you launch into a tirade about this that and the other, ask yourself, do you come across as being a bit or all of a twat? If the answer to that is yes, then congratulations! The first steps to rehabilitation is recognition. If you are comfortable with people you don’t know thinking you are a twat, then perhaps the best course of action is for you to go away and never interact with a single soul again. You twat. Everyone hates you. Even your cat. Perhaps if you weren’t such a twat things would go well for you. If you are uncomfortable with the thought that people might think of you as a twat, then it is simple….DON’T BE A TWAT. Easy! Was Jesus a twat? No! Was Mohammed? No! Was Buddha? No! Nice people get nice things, twats get all they deserve.

Be nice, smile, be polite and complementitive (yes I just made that word up).

Open the doors to a shiny new world where things go right most of the time. Sure things will go wrong sometimes. But that’s why we have CSRs and complaint departments.


This post originally appeared on Livejournal and Blogspot in September 2009 where it received little attention. As yet – Part 2: Telephone Customer Service  has not surfaced.  Some editing and sweary word removal has been undertaken.

Disclaimer: The majority of pictures used in this post were obtained via searches on Google images. Apologies if credits not given.

Further ruminations of holidays past

(An edited version of a post previously made on Livejournal in 2007. Now with pictures taken recently)

Recently I have been thinking about the sodden holidays we used to spend in my Uncle Nat’s cottage.

Uncle Nat sold the caravan in favour of a ramshackle husk of a cottage half way up a soggy Welsh mountain. This meant that instead of ending our holiday journey at Porthmadog we would travel the extra 20 or so miles to a remote and (then) little known area of North Wales called Rhiw.

The Cottage

My dad is very handy, DIYwise. So it came as no surprise that Nat would require his assistance when fixing up the cottage. My first journey to the cottage was on a rainy night in March with just me, my dad and Uncle Nat. My dad had a Ford Orion at this time which was a lot more comfortable than the yellow Escort of old but Nat had a lovely comfortable Volvo estate . Initially (and probably because we didn’t know any better) the route would take the same direction of the way to Porthmadog only continuing along the A497 through Criccieth, Pwllheli and Llanbedrog then a quick dash down the B4413 through Myntho and turning down the unclassified road behind the church in Botwnnog until reaching the telegraph pole with the crab on it and turning once again this time up a steep hill to the telephone box and post box which used to stand (until someone drove into them at high speed) at the bottom of the mountain driveway. The first night travelling was straight after school/work and as a result we were both very hungry by the time we got to Criccieth. So we stopped off at a fish and chip shop set back from the road and thus a new family tradition was born, Sausage, chips and Onion Gravy.

Sausage, chips and onion gravy you may think tastes the same the whole world over. It does not. I have travelled far (well at least to the tip of Cornwall and the craggy highlands of Scotland) yet no where have I ever tasted sausage chips and onion gravy as delicious as at that chippy. I defy anyone to tell me otherwise but unless you too have dined there then your opinion on such matters is moot. But since then I have tried to stop there when Aberdaron bound as a homage to the days of travelling to the cottage. Of course, traditions are meant to be forgotten and a further tradition would evolve which I will relate a bit further into this post.

Anyway, on arriving at the telephone and post box at the bottom of the drive it was clear that this would not be a caravan holiday. Far from it. For a start it was pitch black dark. Darker than dark itself. Had someone switched off the dark it would still not have been anywhere near as dark as it was that first night. The drive way was nought but a mud track and taking the Volvo up the mountain side would probably have tested the skills of even the most hardened rally driver. Even the Royal Engineers would have stood round scratching their head for a while trying to work out how to get the blasted car up the hill. My dad tried with the Orion on a future visit but was thwarted by gravity and lack of traction. Fortunately everything was not lost. With the cottage came a Land Rover (old style) so we would unload the bags into the back of the Land Rover and ascend the mountain through the pitch black using the power of 4 wheel drive. Mynnedd Rhiw really lived up to it’s Welsh name. (Mynnedd = mountain Rhiw = Steep).

Arriving at the cottage the coal fire was stoked into life to dry our sodden boots and clothes and I was introduced to the crockloft bedroom. A ladder in the living room led up to a door midway up the wall behind which was the bedroom consisting of two single beds and a very slanty “mind your head” roof in which a single frame window allowed the pitch darkness of outside to leak in. Hot drinks were consumed and the boys own adventure began with bedtime and the promise of mystery come the daylight.

Daylight battled with darkness and at 6am finally won the war. Fingers of light thumped through the little window like a hammer and woke me up. Accompanying the light came the faint sound of far off tractors and the not so far off sound of sheep bleating. I scurried down the ladder into the living room and switched on the old black and white portable TV so that I might watch some breakfast TV (either Wac-a-Day or something with Roland Rat). My disappointment at the black and white picture was soon joined by confusion as the people on the TV were talking in Welsh. I realised this was S4C (a channel my Nan used to watch regularly) but the confusion was brought about by the lack of any other channels. So remote was our location that TV signals refused to come there. Looking out of the window all I could see was grey. Grey and green. Through the grey was the black outline of the Land Rover and the occasional white blob. Closer inspection revealed these white blobs were sheep. The fog was bad but through the fog came the occasional blast of solar energy so it wasnt that bad.

After breakfast and a warming cup of tea I was allowed to go out into the mist (but not far) and explore what I could find. The neighbouring cottage had a swimming pool and the back field had a view of the slope down into the valley disappearing into the fog. Despite the outlook it was very exciting and on my return to Liverpool I told everyone and anyone that would listen about the cottage and how fantastic it was. My dad gave me a police issue whistle with the instruction that should I get lost in the fog or stuck in somewhere up the mountain then I was to blow as hard as I could on the whistle so that the Mountain Rescue could find me. I still carry that whistle on my keys. Just in case I get caught on the moors or somewhere remote.

We took several other trips to the cottage over the following years. Alternating the route through Porthmadog with a much quicker route along the A55 and the craggy North Wales coast. As the A55 route did not take us through Criccieth we would struggle to find a chip shop of equal quality. Instead it would take us past a Little Chef roadside cafe. For years I had wanted to stop at a Little Chef and our first stop was at the one just outside Conway near where the road goes through the tunnels in the mountain side. To celebrate my dad and I would always have the Early Starter Full English and to be a little bit different, a plate of maple syrup pancakes. This sustenance would put us in good stead for the continuation of the journey and heighten our spirits. Of course my Mum did not approve of greasy spoon cafes and so whenever she was with us we would be unable to dine in such salubrious surrounds, opting for sandwiches and juice at a road side table.

On future visits we were joined by Uncle Nat, Aunty Mary and their son Christopher (who, having spent a good deal of time there himself was able to show me where all the secret hidey places where and all the exciting nooks and crannies), my mum, my school chum Dominic Smith, my childhood friend Paul Midgely and my middle brother Chris. Furthermore my mum and dad would head off there for holidays with their friends Freda & Jim and Bill & Lil. So popular was the little cottage that we spent as many holidays as we could there. The cost took the form of renovations with my Dad doing what he enjoys the most – DIY.

On my third or fourth visit it became clear that the fog was low lying cloud. A trip into the nearest town, Aberdaron, revealed that while the mountain was shrouded in fog the rest of the world was enjoying glorious sunshine. That part of the Llyn Peninsula enjoys a micro climate of outstanding weather were when the rest of the UK is having piss poor weather and wearing cagools and wooly jumpers the Llyn would be walking round in shorts and tshirts enjoying the sun and the crystal clear waters of the sea. Indeed, this discovery lead to exploration of the locality by car and there upon we discovered some delightful parts of the world. Aberdaron with its tiny cafe and spectacular beach; Nefyn and Porthdinllaen with its golf course and pub on the beach; the various unspoilt beaches dotted about the coastline and Braich-y-Pwll over looking Bardsey Sound and the remote and holy Bardsey Island.

Braich-y-Pwll still to this day holds very fond memories for me. I try to take as many of my friends there as are willing to share the spectacular views, the peace and serenity of the locale. It is there that my father and I descended the unstable cliff top steps to St Mary’s Well, a natural fresh water well in the treacherous cliffside. In the well other brave tourists had cast coins of all denominations. Now to get to this well you have to be really careful. I get petrified when I go down there and I refuse to let Mrs Gnomepants go there knowing how unsure footed she is. One slip could result in certain death on the sharp and bastard rocks at the bottom of the cliff or failing that drowning in the nasty currents, swells and eddies of Bardsey Sound. Regardless, people to this day brave the journey and still, to my knowledge, cast coins into the well. On discovering the contents of this well, I am ashamed to say, my father and I fished about as best we could to raise £4 from its ice cold depths. There was still a substantial amount of coinage left there. I do not think anyone actually empties the thing as there were old pennies, shillings and farthings lurking at the bottom of the pool. Never the less we took our £4 and spent it in the cafe resturant down the lane.

Pen Bryn Bach is a fantastic restaurant. Owned by Roger, it specialises in locally caught fish. Years after the events I relate here I went there with Mrs Gnomepants and sampled their seafood mornay which is, as you know, my favourite meal ever! They used to do cream teas at lunch time but this practice seems to have ceased. But at the time of the great Well raid they did cream teas and the scones and cream were the best I have ever tasted!

Just as things were getting to be a habit, my Aunt Mary decided the prospect of having a stroke or diabetic event on top of a remote Welsh mountain was too scary for thoughts so, persuading Uncle Nat, the cottage was sold. It lay empty and nearly became derelict once more for almost 10 years after until about 1999 when somebody bought it and installed a tarmac road up to the cottage (the Land Rover having rusted away long ago). They also took down the wire fence my dad had placed around the cottage to keep the sheep out with a horrid wooden thing. They demolished the kitchen and built a new two storey thing and basically ruined the place fitting Velux windows into the crockloft and them nasty faux cast iron carriage lights on the gate posts.

Still, however, the area has a special place in my heart. I have begun my own traditions and discovered my own special places that I like to visit time after time. I try to visit when we can even if it is only for a day out from Anglesey. I hope that when I have children they too will hold the area in equal regard. I hope they too will be able to dine in Pen Bryn Bach and on Sausages Chips and Onion Gravy at the Chippy in Criccieth. But our family holidays became less of a family thing and I had nearly a ten year break from going away with my folks. Indeed, I had a break from going on holiday. It wasnt until 1998 when Mrs Gnomepants took me to Scarborough that a regular holiday period would once again arise. The following year I treated Mrs Gnomepants to the Solar Eclipse from the top of Braich-y-Pwll which inspired us to hire a cottage of our own there with Philip from Brighton and Stef from Cardiff in the summer of 2000 and again many times later breaking tradition briefly due to me going to university.

I rekindled my love for the area in 2010 when for the first time I went on my own. My fond memories clouding my judgement when it came to the weather as, following a couple of delightfully clement days, it turned nearly causing my tent to take off and glide towards the sea. I was there once more only this week, this time with old friend Nick. Nick hadn’t been to the area before and I hope that he ended up falling for the area as much as I already have. In fact, I challenge anyone to spend a week there and not fall in love with the place.

Thankyou for reading once more.

Holiday

I’ve been musing and fantasising about going to Wales, I got thinking about the way my Dad used to take us to Porthmadog in the 70’s and 80’s. Instead of taking the A55 along the north coast through Conwy and then down the A470 through to Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog we would scuttle down the A494 via Mold and through Denbighshire to Ruthin and Bala before gimbling down the A4212 which goes round the beautiful Llyn Celyn.

During this time my Dad drove a yellow MkI Ford Escort. It had vinyl seat coverings. Alighting from the car on a hot day would always result in cries of pain as you left the upper epidermal layer of your thighs on the black seat coverings. Regardless of this inconvenience, it seemed like we would always stop at Llyn Celyn and have our lunch while my mum told us about the village that was flooded to make the Llyn.

Lunch on such occasions nearly always consisted of cold bacon sandwiches on white bread with a thickish layer of butter or margarine. The sandwiches would be wrapped in silver or aluminium foil and they would be accompanied by a melted KitKat and a cup of warm milky coffee served from a tartan thermos flask. We would eat our lunch at the road side picnic tables and watch the rest of the holiday making public go past to their destinations. This seemed to be a traditional repast in the Gnomepants household as whenever my Auntie Joyce took us on picnics, the same fayre would be served (though more often than not accompanied by sweets and cake).

Our hearty lunch devoured, we would then continue on our route, down some twisty bendy B Road across the Snowdonian moors bypassing Blaenau and then down the A487, along the causeway (paying our 5p toll…heh) before pulling into Porthmadog itself to do the grocery shopping that would see us through the week of staying in Uncle Nat’s caravan.


In case you don’t know From Left to Right:- Me mam, our Carl (avec trainee scouser moustache), me (the little one at the front in the Paddington Bear tshirt), me dad (balding one) and our Chris (looking thin there, now he’s a bit chunky).

The caravan was near the fabled Black Rock Sands in a caravan site called Greenacres. Now it has its own swimming pools, luxury static caravans, security watch towers and special 4×4 Chelsea Tractor parking facilities, Cocaine snorting area and swinging club. Back then, in the 1970’s/80’s it was a basic caravan site with a small amusement arcade containing table top Asteroids and Space Invaders. If you wanted a swim you would nip down to the beach and paddle in the sewage outflow safe in the knowledge that nasty diseases and child snatchers hadn’t been invented. (Now you need to take a prepreswimmingpoolshowershower, a preswimmingpoolshower and a swimming poolshower before you are even allowed to look at the swimming pool, then you are required to have a postswimmingpoolshower, a postswimmingpoolshowershower and then remain in quarantine for a week incase you pass something on to one of the precious little darlings that people insist on taking on holiday). The sea was unimaginably cold. Well. I suppose you lot that live out near the flipping North Pole (robynz,zelest and think4yrself for example) would probably scoff at me saying that. But Cardigan Bay was bloody cold.

Of course, at this time nasty skin cancer causing ultraviolet rays and holes in the ozone layer hadn’t been invented and if it wasn’t for my fair complexion requiring me to wear a tshirt when I went swimming which although protected my torso, didn’t do much for the arms and legs. Added to that, I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers because I had ear problems as a child and wasn’t allowed to go in water incase I did damage to the surgery. Not that it did like. All that meant was I couldn’t swim very well until I was about 10. But I digress. Greenacres also had acres and acres of sand dunes to explore and views of the Carn Fadrun, the Snowdonian mountains and Harlech Castle.

Further along the beach cars were permitted to drive. Two things stick in my mind about this privilege, the first being my first ever “drive” of a car. When the beach was quieter my dad would take the Escort onto the beach and I would sit on his knee and turn the wheel while he operated the pedals. The second thing being that often people would park their cars on the beach then bumble off to the pub or somewhere further along the beach to enjoy themselves. This would frequently result in people forgetting to check the tidal times and hilarity would ensue when cocky holiday makers would return to find their car somewhere in the middle of Cardigan Bay. Of course you wouldn’t get that today. Pretentious wankers in their smart pristeine cars would probably have some sort of tidal early warning system hot wired into their brain. Also the “risk” of having a car on the beach would probably be too great and the council have probably stopped the practice of cars on the beach in case someone mistakes a Porche for a tube of Smarties and chokes. Or in case it incenses someone’s religious beliefs or some other PC crap.

Happy times. Irreplaceable times. These days Porthmadog is spoilt by the frightful hordes of frightful families in 4x4s and other fat arsed cars. Screaming overly spoilt and cotton wool wrapped kids, disenchanted husbands and hyper-fussy mothers who either don’t give a shit about their kids or give too much of a shit about their kids. Cafe Bars, expensive boutiques, surf shops, stinky burger bars and snooty retired pensioners trying to recapture their lost childhood in their autumn years. But I doubt kids today have as much fun as I did dicing with death and mistaking cars for tubes of smarties when I was their age. This year I would love to travel to Wales along that route described. Eat cold bacon sandwiches and drink warm milky coffee from a tartan thermos flask. I long to stand on the platform of the Ffestiniog Light Railway, inhale the steam from the trains and admire the view across Cardigan Bay. Relive part of the magic but not all. Before such practices are banned because someone might get offended or some boffin discovers that there is too much salt in cold bacon sandwiches or that holidaying in Wales is bad for the environment. Happy fond times.

Thank you for reading.