Gawping

gawpDo you gawp?

Gawping is rampant in the UK. It’s everywhere. It’s like a disease. Gawping is something that needs to be stamped out before it gets out of control.

What is gawping?

Gawping, or gopping, comes from the verb to gawp; a gopper or gawper is someone that gawps. In my experience you find goppers or gawpers in most places north of the Watford Gap especially at weekends when they are most prolific. They can be found in town centres, supermarkets, out-of-town shopping centres, on the road, tourist spots, and areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as places where people gather such as festivals, fayres and shows.

Gawpers can be compared to when you’re happily tootling along a twisty bendy uppy downy country lane and a tractor pulls out in front of you and the next overtaking spot is 5 miles down the road…On the other side of a hill…With a growing queue of traffic behind you.

You can usually spot a gopper by their gait as they tend to shuffle zombie like aimlessly about the place. Gawpers are social animals too, they tend to gravitate in packs especially in areas where people are either in a rush or have a better idea of their destination. Sometimes goppers will be armed with small children, pushchairs or trolleys and will frequently congregate in places where there is little room for overtaking.

Genera of gopper

gawpingGawpers are a pest to society. They can cause delays on public transport, on the road and even in situations where expediency is crucial to preservation of life.

Consisting of both genders, all ethnicities and cultures, it has been reported in recent times that gawpers come in two distinct types, the gormless and the attitude. The gormless gopper is a harmless irritant. They will eventually become aware of their goppishness and correct their behaviour, and, in some cases, often apologising.

However in poorer areas of the UK and in parts of the UK where people tend to think of themselves as better than everyone else (typically Conservative heartlands), a new species has been spotted. Often accompanied by small children or tattooed gorillas, this type of gopper can become aggressive when approached. The aggressive gopper will often have a swagger about itself and can be heard growling the words “Wanker” or any similar vulgar term. They tend to have an air of self-importance and may express opinion about their “right to be there”.

This behaviour should be monitored and reported to authorities immediately as, if left unchecked, their type might become rife and spoil society for the rest of us. Wild Goppers have, in some instances, been identified with far right political movements that use skewed ideals of British values to further their foolishness and they often fail to understand or refuse to accept that polite gentlemanly or ladylike behaviour and courtesy is tantamount to British behaviour.

Gawping causes

115123381This is a moot topic. Some believe gawping has something to do with a decrease in self-awareness brought on by isolation and the rise of social media affecting how humans interact with each other. Others believe that it is a virus or some divine punishment while some learned professionals debate whether the rise in gawping has risen due to the proliferation of hand held electronic devices such as smart phones and tablet computers.

Indeed, a vast majority of gawpers (or goppers) have been sighted equipped with smart phones often leading to the discussion that the word “Smartphone” itself is actually a misnomer.

Moreover, pre-handheld technology era sightings of the gawper regularly occurred in bookshops and magazine stalls where the male could be found blocking the aisles whilst thumbing through the pages of a magazine. Of course, nobody is entirely sure. Some even argue that gawping is solely a male thing yet there are examples of female gawpers frequently reported.

Professor Knobsock, head of Gawping Studies at Madeup University said: “Studies have been conducted with gawping and attractive vistas for example. One might expect that gawping levels increase in the presence of something attractive or beautiful be it scenery, art or personage but this is not always the case. Frequently it has been shown that gawpers are an entirely separate genus of homo sapiens sapiens and that can only mean that it is a result of government experiments or that simply there is no hope left for humanity.

I see gawpers what should I do?

PAY-Burgler-caught-on-CCTV-at-a-couples-house-in-DaventryIf you see a gopper (or gawper), you should take care to note which genus the gopper is. Harmless or common gawpers can be asked to move or gently nudged out of the way with a shopping trolley in the back of the heels. Wild and vulgar gawpers should be hastily overtaken at the earliest opportunity, preferably with as wide a berth as possible.

Being rude or impatient with gawpers can result in altercations, and it should be noted that being rude or impatient is unBritish. UnBritish behaviour around the Wild Gopper can result in the attraction of unwanted behaviour or result in even more unBritish behaviour from the Wild Gopper.

If your local area becomes overpopulated with gawpers then it is suggested that you relocate or try to establish some sort of educational programme in your local community. Failure to address the issue of gopping (or gawping) in your community may result in infection or thermos-nuclear eradication by authorities.

I am a gopper what should I do?

Be more considerate to your fellow pedestrians. Step aside. If someone wants to pass, don’t snarl or look gormless, politely say “I’m sorry”, step aside and wait until those behind you have gone. Then reflect on why you’re such an inconsiderate useless waste of space. Preferably somewhere out of the way of others. Then, when you have reflected upon this, realise your best place is at home, on the sofa in front of the TV or Facebook where your gopping behaviour has a lesser effect on society.

Trendy

At the weekend the wife, an out-of-town friend and I nipped out to the lovely town of Royal Leamington Spa for a mooch around the Peace Festival.

IMG_1025
Leamington Peace Festival 2015

The Leamington Spa Peace Festival, for those who don’t know, is an annual rain causing event held in the Pump Room Gardens and features all manner of new age nonsense such as yogurt weaving, kaftan liberation, tofu swallowing and vagina floating.

The food sold there is mostly vegetarian to vegan on the omnivore spectrum. Free range falafel chocolate bars, organic gravel soaps, crunchy compost on a stick and fair trade mong bean ice creams abound. That kind of thing.

As well as hearing local folk bands and pan pipes, it’s also a good opportunity to see the latest trends of the anathematic capitalist hippies are pushing onto today’s youth. For example, stove pipe hats seem to be entering a renaissance, gong showering is breaking into the wavy world of healing and knotted dyed rags are this year’s rad hair fashion (again).

An aging hipster
An aging hipster

With hipsters now denying their own existence in a Schrodingeresque fashion (you’re either a cool cat in a box or not, depending on who is observing you), goths morphing into the less threatening emo collective and  neo-nerd-geeks becoming vogue thanks to Big Bang Theory the time is right for a new collective. One that is so trendy and beyond cool that it is off the spectrum entirely, but one whose emergence will be unobserved until it has spread to a point where it becomes commonplace.

Of course it’s not just teenagers and infantilised twenteenies trying to be trendy. While beards may no longer be the fashion and half-mast trousers and arse showing waistlines have gone the back into the wardrobe for several years, the smart Sunday shirt wearing, middle class middle age organic free range grass eating daddies of the world appear to be taking their midlife crisis to the high street. Quitting their well-paid, high stress jobs and opening cafés using the stylistic ideals of designer hipsters to influence their décor.

At least, that’s how it appears from my visit to the overly trendy café, Bread and Butter on Regent Street in Leamington Spa. In what appears to be a former butcher’s shop a couple of doors down from the fishmongers, Bread and Butter just oozes huge blobs of “I’ve been to that London and seen how the well to do spend their leisure time”. I was reluctant to go in but guests take precedence and so began an experience I am about to recount.

Stepping through the door, it is difficult to see what’s going on due to the low level lighting. Windows provide free light and white tiled walls help reflect it around the important areas mostly to the till area which is sat on a thick wooden counter.

Autumn leaves artistically strewn near garden furniture

Garden furniture, the crap type that rotund people will find difficult to sit on comfortably or safely, are the choice of the day, enhanced only by artistically and purposefully strewn autumnal leaves on the floor. These, it has been debated, appear to be swept up of an evening, sieved to remove dust and detritus before being replaced after the floor has been mopped, cleaned and dried. Wankery.

Menus come in the form of a sheet of A4, minimalistic in choice, as per instructions from Blumenthal and Ramsay, but in a way that is limiting to the consumer.  Old favourites ruined by the addition of wankery. A bacon club sandwich with wanky bread and avocado. Wanky salad, served with wank. Poncey toasties with cheese and a selection of teas that would ordinarily cost you about 30p to make yourself in a mug sold at the exorbitant price of £2 for a mingy scale model cup.

I had the “slow roasted” pork  bap which came garnished with stale musty tasting crackling. This was obviously a new definition of “slow roasted” as to me, slow roasting means that the meat is succulent and melt in the mouth. I’ve chewed shoes less tough. Supposedly reasonably priced at £6.70.

During my years of eating out and writing about my experiences in the food world I’ve always said that you can’t make a restaurant or café trendy and popular by charging a lot of money for a small portion of food. Sure, you’ll get some tossers who think “Hey! This is so trendy and cool I’m going to come here every day because £6 for a stale pork butty is the lifestyle I want to lead”. But these people, like the hipsters they gave birth to, are dying out.

IMG_1026Although a greasy spoon café has its place, I’m not calling for that, I’m calling for some balance. Wankery has had its day back in the noughties when we found it ironic and amusing. Wankery today is just a road to disaster and mockery. Just as sticking the words “Organic” and “Free range” before every item on your menu is passé so is bringing the outside in, tiny portions and over pricing. The people you think you’re appealing to have grown out of this kind of approach and, much in the same way as faux-Victoriana and retro tea rooms have faded from popularity, so will wankery in décor. If it isn’t naturally worthy of brown leaves being tastefully placed on the floor, then don’t do it.

As we left and made our way back to the car, I observed corduroy trouser, gingham shirt wearing, late thirty something middle class graphic designer dad with his stay at home on an allowance yummy mummy  what lunches and writes crap fiction wife pushing  their child-with-a-neo-trad-name-like-Edna in its free range organically padded for their own safety comfort five wheeler monster stroller making their way into the café. Exactly the kind of clientele the café is trying to attract.

Would I go again? No I wouldn’t.

Get out of my way

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner child of the urban zoo or maybe it’s because I’m an impatient fucker but sometimes people that dawdle really get me wound up to the point of rudeness. It takes a lot for me to get wound up so much I actually say something. Classic example is when in a queue in a shop and the person holding up the line (traditionally an old woman or something) is just holding up the line for no practical purpose. Or when after waiting for ages to get served at the bar only for the bar person to answer the telephone and have to spend the next 20 minutes looking for the manageress before getting back to serve me (“Oh I’m sorry, pint of what was it?”)

One of the things I noticed about living in Barnsley (and I’ll probably upset a teaspoon of people with this) was how nobody seems to be in a rush to get anywhere. Ok it’s not like your stereotypical Jamaica where everyone is sat round watching the world go by and generally taking their time. But its not far off it. Sometimes this can be really annoying and detrimental to health.

I used to get half an hour for my lunch. This gave me ample time to nip up to Secret Asda for the cash point or to grab a sandwich and get back to work before I’d taken a huge chunk out of my lunch half hour. One day I made errors. The first being “Should I go into Asda buy myself a sandwich, pay for it on my debit card and then get £10 cash back?”. I’m not fond of paying for things under a fiver on my debit card cos the shop gets charged and they hike their prices up or you have to pay a supplemental charge. So instead I opted for the cash machine.

As I drove into the car park I observed a workman making his way to the cash point so I adjusted my parking destination appropriately and calculated accurately the time it would take me to walk from the car to the cash point (allowing for people coming out of the shop) and coincide with the man finishing with the cash machine. Only I must have miscalculated. I got there and the mucky bugger was still there pressing whatever buttons he could. 5 minutes elapsed and I felt my lunch half hour draining away like the fullers earth of time. He was quite a burly stocky man so I kept my mouth shut incase he lamped me one. But I could feel the words “Are you composing a fucking symphony with all them button presses?” forming on my lips and tongue.

Fortunately he moved away and I noticed on the screen the words “Transaction Cancelled”, either the machine was broke or he was just an airhead. I gave him daggers in the back just to make sure he realised I was not pleased with his time wasting but he must of had hard skin or been totally unaware of other people because he didn’t actually look at me or say “Sorry for being a slow fucker” or owt.

Anyway, I gets me money and scurry into the shop. Grab a sandwich (Wiltshire Ham, Vintage Cheddar and Pickle baguette) and made my way to the check out. I had eaten approximately 8 minutes into my lunch half hour. It was then that I espied the queue. Only one checkout was open (it was a small Asda, kind of like Tesco Local or Jacksons by Sainsbury’s or Spa or Circle K or whatever) and it was manned (or womanned) by the elderly shop assistant. The elderly shop assistant is old. That is why she is elderly. The elderly shop assistant takes about 20 seconds per item to scan them into the barcode reader. Something like this:-

*pick up item*
*look at item*
*look for barcode on item*
*Straighten out item*
*look at item over rim of spectacles*
*hold item up to light*
*squint at item*
*look for barcode scanner*
*look for barcode*
*check item again in light*
*Squint at item again*
*swipe barcode on item past scanner*
*check item on display*
*hold up item to light*
*squint at item a third time*
*poke item*
*place item down*
*pick up other item*

This ritual takes place for everything she puts through. Sometimes she’ll even pick things up she’s already scanned and compare the items raised up to the light and all squinty.

Anyway, she had a queue of 3 people and the three people in front must have been doing their monthly shop cos they had shed loads of stuff. I could feel myself getting more and more wound up. Fortunately the next cashier desk opened up but before I could swap queues 2 people nipped in in front of me. That was fine, I thought, because these people only had a couple of packets of biscuits and some milk between them. But no! How wrong could I be? The first person knew the cashier personally and stood gossiping for 2 minutes while labouring to put a carton of milk into a plastic carrier bag. She then asked for a packet of ciggies. Ciggies need to be got from behind the counter that the elderly shop assistant was on but the other shop assistant stepped down from her chair, walked over and picked up the ciggies. I half let out a sigh of relief when the first customer had gone. All the while I’m watching my original queue dwindle.

By this time I’m twitching, my lunch half hour was draining away to a measly lunch quarter of an hour. The second shop assistant swiped the biscuits and the second customer then asks for a “Lucky Dip”. A Lucky Dip is a method for the government to make a shit load of cash by getting the general public to part voluntarily with their hard earned cash for a string of 6 lottery numbers which, as the lottery numbers are preselected a month in advance, won’t come up as winners, but might just give a false impression of hope. The lottery machine is on the same cash desk as the elderly shop assistant who at that moment is scrutinising a packet of Tampax. So shop assistant number two steps down again. Walks over to elderly shop assistants till, does the lucky dip thing and walks back to her cash desk. The elderly shop assistant then presses her bell.

1st Shop Assistant: Ooh Beryl. What code for these ‘ere? (Holding up a bag of mystery fruit)
2nd Shop Assistant: Oooh I don’t know aren’t they under 14?
1st Shop Assistant: I don’t think so they won’t scan right
2nd Shop Assistant: They never scan right those you know. I’m sure they’re under 14.
1st Shop Assistant: Do you think they’re under 14? I thought they were under 14 but they just won’t scan. Do you have a code for them Beryl.

By this time fiery death rays are leaping from my eyes and cutting down anyone who will look at me with fatal consequences. The man by the apples….dead. The kids pinching chocolate from the gondola end….dead and steaming. The innocent man passing the front of the shop window…..dead. The man in front of me….slightly scarred.

Eventually (probably 20 seconds later though it felt like 20 minutes) Beryl returns to the cashier desk.

2nd Shop Assistant: That’ll be £3.24
2nd customer: Can I have 20 Berkley Mentol too please?
stegzy: Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

So Beryl gets down again and gets the cigs from the shelf. Meanwhile I am burning a hole into the back of 2nd customers skull and mentally projecting images of me stamping on his fucking fat face leaving the word “Clarks” impressed across his nose.

Eventually I get served. I part with my cash and have my change counted out to me (twice because “Beryl”, I discovered, has a problem counting). I eventually enjoyed my Lunch 10 minutes.

This whole episode then made me think. Are people actually aware of when people around them are in a rush?

People on the bus – Making the world a better place – Part two

So I’m driving home from work and I’m listening to the wireless and the Home service Radio 4.

People on the bus
Nobody talking

The programme being broadcast was about a newspaper editor from Zimbabwe and how he is adapting to life as an asylum seeker in the UK. One of the main differences, he pointed out, between Harare and the UK was how people didn’t seem to talk to each other on public transport.

Now surprisingly, this guy lives in Leeds which is a good deal away from London where I believe such practices as ignoring ones fellow passengers is common place. It kind of shocked me and my Northern mind set because I’d always thought of the south as being a bit….well you know….”insular” when it comes to talking to complete strangers. Indeed, I’m quite happy to sit there with my earphones in (sometimes without anything attached at the other end) to avoid the weirdo on the bus or being assailed by some elderly person wanting to tell me about their gout.

And that got me thinking.

Sometimes I don’t mind talking to complete strangers on the bus or in the pub or where ever. Sometimes it’s nice to get chatting about things. Why don’t we do it more often? What stops us? Fear of a stabbing? Fear of being converted into some mind numbed zombie from a Nigel Kneale story? Wasps?

I think the main reason for our inherent phobia of talking to people on public transport is fear of extreme views. Nobody likes to be trapped by someone spouting vitriolic hate or outlandish views. A case in point could be the time when Jim and I went to the Brewery Tap at the Cains Brewery in Liverpool.

We  got chatting to a seemingly jovial chap at the bar. He seemed ok, typical of the populace of the city. Friendly banter, John Lennon anecdotes, Billy Butleresque memories. However, the chat swiftly switched from idle scouse chit chatty banter to a strong antisemitic nationalist rant where one would have expected the gentleman to start waving his arm about a la Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally.

Then another case in point is the guy who once cornered me on the 78 and started talking about how the government controls the populace through the covert use of prescription medication.

Nutters.

So yeah, I can understand that people don’t really want to talk to each other on the bus for those reasons in illustration. But surely not everyone is like that. It seems people’s first reaction to someone talking to them on the bus or train or in the pub is one of suspicion and distrust.

This is my bus
This is my bus

Who is this weird person? How dare they talk to me? Are they going to knife me? Might they not try to  bum me? Or maybe stick me in a dark cellar where I will be forced to eat marmite and parsnips until the day I die?

I know I’m not likely to force anyone into eating parsnips or marmite. I don’t even have a cellar. I suppose that coupled with the fear of being attacked by marmite wielding weirdos comes the fear that they themselves would be labelled a weirdo. Fear, as they say in Dune, is the mind killer.

Then I thought, what is needed is a kind of badge system. Like say a green badge for “I’m happy to talk to anyone” and a red badge for “Fuck off weirdo”. So those with green badges can sit and yatter away to their hearts content and the red badge wearers can scowl and frown and listen to their music or whatever without interruption. It could even be a registered thing so that should you like talking to someone then you take down the number on the badge and look them up on the internet when you get home or what ever.

There could also be a voting system like say badge wearer #473083 is very interesting and like prawns so people who like to talk about prawns (there are a lot of people that do) can look out for #473083 on their travels. Furthermore, one might get talking to #23932 and find out they are one of those religious zealot types that want to turn everything into some discussion about Jesus or whatever. You know, like :-

Person #48909823 – “So do you like tea?”
Person #23932 – “I do. In fact in the book of Ba’at chapter 30 it says ‘And the lord didst partake in tea and verily there was much rejoicing’. I like tea almost as much as I like Jesus. Jesus can be your friend. Oh yes he can. Do you know Jesus? He is your friend. He is you know.”

So the person #48909823 could go and say person #23932 likes to turn everything you talk about into something about Jesus and then people who prefer to talk about Jesus all the time can talk happily to #23932 while those that don’t can talk to whoever else.

What do you think?

Of course such a scheme would require some more thinking out. But I reckon it would work well. Especially with the technology of the day.

This is, of course a giant leap to make in a society which we need to make happier and better. I suppose we can make a start by chatting, at least once a day, to a complete stranger. Just be nice. Don’t say anything controversial or boring. Just something brief, engaging and relevant to your situation. Say it with a smile rather than a frown. Or perhaps just say “Hey, Do you know Stegzy Gnomepants? He writes on the intarwebz”

Next time I will tell you more about how we can make the world a better place.

 

Making the world a better place – Part one

Love you Jim xx
Bloody hippy!

Bloody hippies. Sitting there in their kaftans with their long hair and beards, weaving yogurts and floating vaginas. Why can’t they be pissed off and angry like everyone else.

Yes. Why not? I mean its such a lovely world isn’t it. People hating each other, blaming each other, being nasty to each other and complaining about anything to anybody who will listen and then complaining further when people don’t listen.

We have just had elections. Elections where every person who is angry with the current state of affairs in Europe and the UK took out their frustrations on the government by either not voting or by voting for far right loons. Great job! I’m sure we’ll laugh about it when jackbooted fucktards come a knocking to evict us from our homes for none compliance.

 

empty vessels
Some noisy things

Of course there is a saying. Empty vessels make the most noise. Indeed,  this saying when applied to the current political landscape seems to ring true. Furthermore, this saying applies across all aspects of society. Just look at any newspaper (or news website) and you’ll read about how bad things are. How people in power are horrid. How people who do things do things selfishly or for the rubbing of their own ego, gain and gratification.

But what’s the one thing you don’t read about?

Nice people.

People doing good things.

Years ago, and I think I’ve already written about this before, people with lots and lots of money would look about and say:

“Fuck me, I have so much money from building railways/transporting slaves/eating jam <delete as applicable> I don’t know what to do with it!”

Then, armed with wads of cash they would do good things like building churches, hospitals, libraries, club houses or starting mutual societies and cooperatives. Benevolence. Generosity. All for eternal recognition.

 

This was actually built in memory of some bloke who died during a fox hunt.
A monument

In the UK at least, one only has to take a trip into their nearest town and find monuments to people who have donated or sacrificed something for the benefit of others. Did people moan about that then I wonder? Did the newspapers of the time bemoan the fact that some great benefactor donated land for use as a municipal park? Did people tut and mutter about it? Surely that land would be better used as a factory? Maybe? Who knows? I can’t be arsed to do the research but I imagine it wasn’t like that.

These days, being nasty gets you fame. Being awful and frightful gets you instant celebrity status, or so it seems. To me it seems that being awful and frightful is de rigueur . Think about it, companies don’t have compliments departments do they? Why is this? It is because there is more benefit in providing a shit service and employing people who spend all their day depleting their self-worth levels by listening to people blame them personally for the lack of service or whatever. I know, I used to be one of those employees.

So how can we turn the world into a better place? How can I get people to be nicer to each other? How can I get recognition for good deeds done to humanity?

 

You’ll just have to come back later and read all about it.

Sunny Days

As the sun gets stronger through the year and the days get warmer and brighter, our thoughts turn to outdoor pursuits. Walking, picnicing, nose picking, porn foraging and, most popular of all, barbecues.

Now, I’ve got a thing about barbecues. I used to love ’em. Nuked meat Russian roulette. You either get a charcoal cinder or a black and crusty raw and bloody surprise. Love em.

However these days I realise the horror of having barbecues. The hours of slaving over red hot coals ensuring your guests have ample mountains of food (most of which you’ll either under or over accommodate for) knocking back beer after beer in an attempt to keep up with the guests who are getting merrier by the minute because they are sat down in comfort while you serve their every whim.

Then you get to sit down. You get the cold soggy left over bits that nobody wanted. The suspicious looking burger. The dodgy looking kebab. The insidious looking chicken wings or quarters that will no doubt still be raw in the middle even after being on the heat for what seems like 30 years. The limp lettuce. The flaccid overcooked sausages. All the good, tasty looking bits have gone. Your feet ache. You’re not as pissed as everyone else there. It’s clouding over. People are starting to make “Lets go home now” motions.

Yeah. Thats fun.

Isn’t it?

No. The thing I like about barbecues is going. Sitting there while my host slaves over hot coals. Getting merrier and merrier because I’m sat down chatting old toot with the other guests. Getting plied with food, nibbles and drink by my host and his/her partner. Relaxing. Enjoying the time. Getting the nice juicy steak. The right looking sausages, the burgers that don’t look too over or under done. The chicken pieces that aren’t still squarking. Getting them all for myself. Leaving the other less attractive bits to the chef or what other poor sod turns up just before I get to go home.

Then once my gizzard is full and I am fully sated with beer and meat. I can then yawn. Make some shit excuse about having an early morning, and go home. Leaving the host to clear up.

Yeah. I like barbecues.

From the Archives:- Saying Goodbye

Goodbye, I’m told, is the hardest word to say. Certainly, in recent times at least, I’ve had difficulty saying goodbye. Not because of some hideous speech impediment or because I’ve had a mouth full of pizza, but because emotionally it has proven difficult. That said, I’ve also said goodbye with as much ease as taking my socks off.

bye

 

Every morning, with the last slurp of tea still fresh on my lips, I bid the girlfriend farewell with a peck and a dash for the door. Sometimes it’s a “See you later”, others a “bye” or a “ta-rah”. Maybe I will see her later, maybe I won’t. I might fall down a forgotten mine shaft (Now what ever happened to that mine shaft I used to have?) and never be seen again or maybe it’ll be her. I can never be sure so I suppose, out of habit, manners and education, I bid adieu in case I’m never seen again. A kind of closing statement. A full stop (or period if you’re over the other side of the planet (Do you know? When Merricans say period I immediately think of women menstruating….yeah it isn’t nice).

An end.

Other people don’t tend to be so lucky, the bus driver, the shop keeper, that weird bloke with the funny smell that lives down the street, they all tend to get smiles and grunts. Maybe peppered with a “ta” or a “nice one”. Is this because I feel these guys don’t deserve a farewell? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been on the receiving end of a broad spectrum of endings. Especially through the variety of jobs I’ve done.

 

 

In the helpdesk for example from:-

goodbye

stegzy – and that’s how you fix it
Person on other end of phone – Thank you. Bye.
stegzy – Bye

to

stegzy – and that’s how you fix it
Person on the other end of the phone**Click** brrrrrrrrrrrr

stegzy – Twat.

or

stegzy – and that’s how you fix it
Person on the other end of the phone – well that’s bally well not good enough!
stegzy**Click** brrrrrrrrrrrr

I suppose it would be not only discomforting but unusual if, when saying goodbye, everybody took the same amount of time as is taken in the last hour of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I mean can you imagine?

stegzy – Goodbye
Bus Driver – **hugging stegzy** Goodbye old chum, what happy adventures we have had
stegzy – But we only went 5 stops
Bus Driver – Indeed, but what an adventure. I’ll miss you
stegzy – I’m only going to the off licence to get some cigarettes I’ll be getting this bus home.
Passenger A – **hugging Bus Driver and stegzy** Ha! What a wag. Goodbye old friend. May you meet fortune face on
stegzy – Jeez you’re a bunch of weirdos
Passenger C – Ha! Farewell fellow travellers!
Passenger D – Get a bloody move on, I’ve got to be places!

Be seeing you!

 

Sometimes it needs to be quick, more like

stegzy – See ya **gone**
Person A – See y…oh you’ve gone.

 

 

Personally, when I’m going somewhere I’d rather it be a small goodbye than some re-enactment of the Waltons. I mean, I’m going, I need to be somewhere, hurry up! Let me go! Mrs Gnomepants, on the other hand will spend ages saying goodbye, sometimes saying goodbye, only to start another 1 hour conversation and then have to say goodbye once again. It’s not unusual, as Tom Jones said, for Mrs Gnomepants to take 5 minutes saying goodbye on a telephone conversation to her sister. Surely all that is needed is “Bye” followed by a reciprocated acknowledgement of the end of the conversation.

 

Goodbyes though eh?….we’re a peculiar bunch aren’t we?


This entry first appeared on Livejournal in September 2008 and has been edited to reflect changes in circumstance

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.

Horse

You probably won’t remember, in fact I probably didn’t relate to you, that the smelly old man downstairs was carted off to the knackers yard last year because he got stuck in the bath.

tin-bath-by-the-fireBriefly, for those who don’t remember, I was “home alone” and heard some banging that I initially thought was someone doing some DIY. It wasn’t until 11pm when the banging continued that I realised something was amiss. Nipping outside I managed to determine that the banging wasn’t some late night Tommy Walsh but probably the old man in the flat below had come into some sort of mischief. The police were called, who in turn called an ambulance and, long story short, the old man was prised out of his cold bath, bundled into an ambulance and shoved into some sort of “sheltered housing” wherein he now shits and spits where disgruntled Polish nurses can clean up after him. No doubt they also force feed him pureed parsnips in some sort of perverse preparation for my turn in the Old People’s Home Of No Return.

Since those heady days of loud televisions, constant coughing and infestations of rats, wasps and mice we have had some new neighbours in Gnome-cake Towers. A young-(44)-ish mother and her teenage daughter. Out goes the loud telly and farting and in come the late night Mother-Daughter arguments, door slamming and complimentary sobbing.

Last week, Mrs Downstairs went to Ireland. It transpires that previously they (or at least she) lived in some remote part of southern Ireland wherein the nearest neighbour was some distance away. Mrs Downstairs returned to the Emerald Isle with a van in an attempt to fetch the remainder of her stuff, which I assume was in storage.

This left Teen alone.

barrymore_lA whole week with no shouting, no loud telly but just the occasional slamming of badly council fitted windows and doors. With Thursday being the exception when, Teen being a teen, a small soiree took place. Five girls, the Glee soundtrack, cigarettes (possibly some dope) and a bottle or two of Blue Lightning or White Nun or whatever underage beverages are of choice today (In my time it was kiwi MD20/20).

Fruitcake was getting a bit tense by about 10pm when the noise hadn’t abated but by 10.20 the doors were banged and I assume the teens reduced their noise with some consideration culminating in peace and quiet returning to Warwickshire at about 10.40pm. By morning, the only sign of late evening revelry was a couple of fag buts and an empty bottle, possibly Tesco’s Value Turpentine substitute.

In the mid morning I saw the Teen. Smiling sheepishly at me, as she does, she politely said hello. I asked her how her party went the previous night. She replied with apologies and platitudes for any noise and explained that her mum was away in Ireland and was back later that afternoon. We chatted lightly and, using my journalistic skills, I managed to glean further information from our mysterious new neighbours while pointing out that the scary tapping she had heard at night was Quincy the cat trying to get out of the cat flap and the hint that the walls were like paper.

A penny seemed to drop.

I let it lie there.

Spin forward in time in one of those wibbly wobbly screen dissolves to today.

There comes a tap tap tapping at my chamber door. No, not the Raven, but Mrs Downstairs. Chip on her shoulder apparent immediately. Not something I had said or done rather something that Mr Gardener-Nextdoor had obviously said to her regarding the mass of branches felled from the tree out at the front which had lain their since the Autumn.

Promises were made. Promises backed by annoyance at having been told off by someone who seemingly has no business complaining about piles of decaying leylandii. Excuses given. Given to both the right person and the wrong person.

Mentions of the back garden.

Did I mention the back garden? No it seems I didn’t.

Back gardenDuring the summer, house clearance people came and cleared the old man’s flat out and demolished and emptied his two sheds. Apples were thrown about the place, larks were had and a couple of trees and a fence saw their demise. Before the new people moved in, the garden looked rather good, if not still a little overgrown.

Wibbly wobbly screen dissolves again.

Now, it seems, Steptoe and son have come to some arrangement with Mrs Downstairs. Instead of useful stuff from storage, the silly bint has brought, what can only be described as, a scrap yard over on the ferry. Perhaps she emptied the wrong lock up. Who knows.

As I said, apologies were given about the kip of the back garden. Promises made regarding the imminent arrival of fencing material, a six foot gate and some tree felling. Apologies regarding any noise.

In return I listened, placated and smiled reassuringly while inserting titbits into the conversation regarding reciprocal noise, door slamming, rampant terriers and nosey busy body neighbours. Seeds were sown. Hints were dropped. Deals alluded to.

On her side? Promises.

As I frequently say “Words are but wind”

Developments, like photography,  remain to be seen.

Hairdressers I have known

People ask me “stegzy How do you get your hair to look so fine and bountiful?”

“Easy” I reply “I leave it the fuck alone”

Some people are shocked by such a response and end up moving away muttering to themselves under their breath but others quiz me further until I move away muttering to myself. I’m a firm believer in letting nature take it’s course. Nothing goes on my hair other than water, the occasional bit of shampoo, air and a bit of finger grease. I wash it when it feels mucky. I tend not to brush it vigorously and I never apply any gels, oils, creams or poultices. I leave it the fuck alone.

The same goes for having it cut. For really special occasions and that I’ll have it cut if it is required. So I go for the natural look. Nothing artificial goes on it, plain and simple. Though it hasn’t always been that way. Indeed, there was a time when I used to frequent hair dressers or barbers on a regular timetable. I’d happily part with my £5 for 20 minutes under the scissors of (an often) camp chap while they gave me a short back and sides a la my dad in the 1950’s. Of course I didn’t know any better. Easy money for no work at all imho. (Apologies to any hairdressers that read this)

Initial Visits – Norman

I can’t remember my first excursion to a hair technician. I imagine it was probably what used to be called Norman’s. Owned, surprisingly, by a chap called Norman, Norman’s was a traditional barbers shop. As far as I can remember it has occupied the same little shop at the Grange Lane crossroads in Gateacre in Liverpool. It could be that a barber has occupied that shop since it was built. I have no idea, but I do know that I’ve only ever known it as a barbers shop. The shop may have had a red and white barbers pole on the outside and it may have had a horrid interior. It was so long ago I can’t remember.

Norman was a typical scouse bloke. He was always cheery but he had a reputation as being a bit “close to the scalp”. Indeed, such was his reputation as a scalper my friend at the time Guy would often relate to me stories about how Norman had decapitated a man during a Number One all over.
Such stories were unfounded as Guy frequented Tuzios in Hunts Cross and Tuzio had a reputation of bumming little boys in the back room (again unfounded).

What I do remember of the shops interior was that the barber’s chair was an awful cranky uppie thing upon which Norman would place a plank of wood for small boys to sit on. Upon the walls there were black and white photographs of men with various stylish hair styles. None of which I actually saw being achieved by or asked of Norman. The pictures had you wanting to be stylish and they had you wanting to be swarve because the guys in the pictures were obviously swarve and stylish. They probably drove fast cars, wore white socks with their black brothel creepers and generally lounged about looking cool. Though they were probably not.

Norman continued to be the barbers of choice for several years of my childhood. Ceasing to be such by the time I was in my early teens and my eldest brother decided that the side parted mummy’s boy geeky look was probably not doing me any favours.

Millionhairs – Corny 80’s hair

My eldest brother used to insist that shellsuits were the dogs knob of fashion and that the brighter the colours the better. Indeed he also advocated the vogue of spiky Bros like flat tops and copious amounts of styling gel. My eldest brother was also insistent that a VIC 20 was far superior to a Spectrum 48k and that XR3i’s were better than Capris. In effect my eldest brother was a victim of the 80’s in a big and embarrassing way. He lapped up the latest trends like a dog laps water after a very long walk.

So it comes as no surprise that as a susceptible teen I was taken by him to a stylish hairdresser rather than a God awful barber like Norman. He whisked me off to the clichéd Millionhairs in some dirty back street of St Helens in Lancashire (near where he lived). The hair dresser, whose name I forget now, was as camp as Butlins, Pontins and Stalag Luft 44 all merged together and sprinkled with a bit of Xray and baked in an Auschwitz case.

The exterior was nothing special. No barbers pole this time. The inside of the shop was like something out of an 80’s cop show. All pampas grass, plush leather couches and the like. I was given a diet coke(!). I had my hair washed (first time at a hairdressers ever). I had it styled, sculpted and preened. I felt great. In fact when I got home my mum looked so pleased to see her new style boy with his turquoise track suit and gelled Bros hair cut.

But try as I might, even with all the Brylcreme in the world I could not make my hair go like it did that day. It would flop, go too crusty or make my head itch. Furthermore, this new look did me no favours and in fact the taunts got worse. Bollocks to that.

Herberts of Liverpool

My brother moved from St Helens to the newly growing new town of Runcorn. What an awful place that was too. As a consequence of him being away from the town of St Helens it meant that having my hair cut again at Millionhairs would prove to be tricky. Instead my dad encouraged me to try Herberts in Liverpool. What a fucking travesty that was. I had my hair cut by a trainee. I looked a right sight.

The more observant of you will probably know Herbert as being a bit of an E-list celebrity. He had a TV show in the 80s/90’s and has a reputation as being the best hairstylist in Liverpool. Pity about his trainees really. I think my experience there was so bad I’ve blocked it from my mind entirely. In fact whenever I see Herbert on the telly I start rocking back and forth, humming to myself while foaming at the mouth. I think I even went back to Normans a couple of times.

Boy’s and Curls

Dear God. It gets worse. The Eldest brother (do you see a pattern here?) moved once more, this time to Belle Vale in Liverpool. Being nearer to the family home meant that his choice of hairdresser was the choice we all had to make. So it was Boy’s and Curls.

Boy’s and Curls was originally a barbers shop. It was were all the Netherley scrotes and Lee Park Scallies went to get their nit infested heads shaved. Worried about the reputation of being a nit shop, Boy’s and Curls reinvented themselves as a stylish boutique with black and white checkered flooring, bright lights and mirrors but held onto that “Come ‘ere lad while I chop some of your girly hair off” feel. But trapped like a rat in a corner I would reluctantly attend the shop at the bequest of my mother. “Goangetyeraircut” she would screech at me.

Old habits die hard – His and Hairs, Sheffield

Then I became a student in Sheffield. As my 20’s are now mostly a fuss of misshapen memory I will relate what I can remember of my one and only hair cut in Sheffield.

I’d been away from home about a month when my mum said to me that I must remember to get my hair cut. I mulled over this for weeks until one day I’m doing my laundry and I noticed that the shop next to the laundrette was a Unisex Salon.

Having made a foolish mistake in the past of going into a Unisex Salon and expecting the people there to cut my hair only to be told “We don’t do men” I thought what harm would it do to nip in and ask while I waited for my crusty bedsheets to finish their wash.

“Do you cut men’s hair?” I asked and was answered by a fit of giggles and a rather jovial Jamaican woman hairdresser. I had my head pulled from side to side, the ends of the scissors stabbed into my scalp and I’m bloody lucky to still have ears I can tell you.

Fortunately the last I heard about that shop was that it had caught fire. Bloody good job I say.

The present day – From Tony & Guy to Highlights

So as you can guess, my experience with hairdressers and barbers has been one of chaos and discomfort. In the early 90’s when I’d returned to Liverpool I met Min. Who told me that he hadn’t had a hair cut for years. I idolised Min, he was the youth I wanted to be. Carefree, pot smoking, rocker type. His hair was so long it put Rapunzel to shame. Using my new found confidence I put my foot down and refused to get my hair cut.

Of course refusal is often fraught with times when you just give in to protests of “Get your hair cut”. So in order to maintain a quality head of hair I only allow highly qualified stylists near my bonse, meaning I have to go to Toni & Guy’s. Indeed, I had to have a couple of knots cut out before then and a visit to Highlights in Grimethorpe was called for on the recommendation of Mrs Gnomepants. But I resent paying large sums of money for hardly any work. I find it obscene that some people (mainly women) will gladly fritter away upwards of £50 for less than an hour under the scissors. Indeed, if such people would like to save half that money, come to Brierley and I’ll cut your hair for you.

And so drawing this post to a close (thank God I hear you cry) I’d like to thank Carole for the excellent trim she gave me a couple of months ago. She did a damn fine job. For free. And in less than 20 minutes.


This post originally appeared on Livejournal in 2008