Friday, March 24, 2017

A man, a van and a pasty

A couple of years ago I considered the question "What makes a restaurant"; specifically, when is an eating establishment a restaurant rather than a cafe or a snack bar? I did not extend my research sufficiently far. For, whilst idly browsing on Tripadvisor for places on a forthcoming trip to Cornwall, the following caught my eye (and now it has caught yours, and it is fascinating, is it not?).

What grips the imagination is not just that a mobile van, selling only pasties and related products in a deserted car park in the middle of nowhere, can be ranked as a restaurant (or indeed that people have bothered to write reviews about it) but that it is 8th out of 20! There are twelve more eating places in this small town on the eastern fringes of Cornwall that are ranked below it. Is your mind boggling yet?

This establishment, which I admit does have some admiring reviews from local pasty-lovers, has the usual rankings

Since the only food offered appears to be pasties and similar filled snacks, they are presumably being rated compared to other pasty stalls, rather than, say, the 2 AA rosette establishment in town that is number 1 in the rankings. Fair enough. I wonder how you rate the service of a self-service snack bar?  Something like this, perhaps?

  • We walked up to the van and the man served us. Rating - 100%
  • We had to queue for a minute but then the man served us - Rating 100%
  • We asked for a hot pasty and he took one from the heated cabinet and gave it to us - Rating 100%
  • We had a choice of hot or cold pasty. Our server was very helpful in explaining that one would be hotter than the other and he recommended the local speciality, a half and half (one of each). This is the sort of attention to detail that you only get in top-end restaurants - Rating 100%
 Value presumably extends to comparing the prices against other pasties. But what do we make of atmosphere? Rated very highly by those in the know, so it must be on these lines:

  • The cigarette ends blowing around our feet as we stood in a puddle added a delightful touch of impertinence - Rating 100%
  • I enjoyed being sprayed with mud as one of the local youth hurtled by on a motorbike - Rating 100%
  • The fragrance of diesel emissions from passing tractors, far from clashing with the gravy oozing from the base of my pasty, reminded us of central Paris - Rating 100%
  • My companion was entranced to find a spray of flaky pastry from her sausage roll sticking playfully to her clothing - Rating 100%
  • Such fun for our kids to be able to run back and forth across the road whilst waiting for their food. We have no such facilities in Leeds - Rating 100%


To keep the boggling process going, here is a little snippet on the TA site for reviewers to consider
Typical questions asked:
  • Do you have gluten-free options?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • Do you allow dogs on the outdoor patio
I can imagine the inspector from TA (if there were such a person) brushing away a few last crumbs and striding confidently up to the man behind the counter.
"Good morning"
"Morning to you sir"
"May I enquire if your pasties, made as they are with the finest flour, are gluten free?"
"Aaar...mebbe. Mebbe not. There's them as knows and there's them as don'ts know"
"I see. Am I in breach of the dress code?"
"You're an outsider and we don't normally have truck with strangers and their strange ways. You're not a Revenue Man are ye? They don't last long round these parts"
"Umm,  might I let my dogs out on your patio?"
"Dunno. Are they from Devon? If so, they stays put"

Good luck with that report then.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Exclusive: We did not spy on Trump

Ramblings  wishes to retract the story published recently that appeared to suggest that in some remote way this organisation may have been associated with a surveillance attempt on The World's Most Popular Man©. This allegation was wholly made up and pretend. However, as keen followers of TWMPM, we shall not be issuing any form of apology or explanation, other than the above. In fact, we shall go further. The story was undoubtedly created by our enemies, probably the so-called blog Investigations of a Itinerate Ickenhamite and nothing to do with us whatsoever. So there is nothing to apologise for and we demand an apology, and substantial compensation, instead.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Exclusive: We spied on Trump

Undisclosed sources, speaking anonymously to unidentified reporters within the Ramblings organisation have indicated the possibility, under certain extreme circumstances, that someone might, at some time or other, have asked someone else (nobody is saying who but their name might start with a 'D'. or 'K'. Or another letter) to look into the options of finding out whether it might be feasible, given a fair wind and a decent start, to review the contingencies contingent upon an investigation into the likelihood of finding out whether so-called President D Trump is actually a real president or just someone who gets photographed in the White House a lot.

This shocking disclosure has shocked everyone who has read and believed it and proves beyond doubt that if you say anything at all - no matter what - some dumb American is going to believe it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dream a Little Dream

In an "exclusive", the Daily Mirror (a news site I have hitherto overlooked, and how wrong I was) features a story that Paul Burrell, one-time butler to Princess Diana, receives regular messages from her in his dreams. Burrell, who has claimed to be the Queen's right hand man (move over, Prince Philip) and who somehow found a considerable amount of Diana's possessions in his attic after her death, (and how they got there nobody knows), may think that being the recipient of the thoughts of an ex-Royal makes him special.

I've got news for you, buster. I regularly have deep and meaningful conversations in my dreams with
  • Jesus
  • Buddha
  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (three at once, cuts down the cost)
  • Kaiser Wilhelm I (such a nice man and not at all stuck up)
  • Napoleon (and nephew)
  • Fred Flintstone
  • The man who put shot the arrow into Harold's eye at the battle of Hastings
  • His wife, who knitted him his woolly hat
  • The Tooth Fairy
  • The Dandruff Pixie
  • The Itch-in-the-left-leg Gnome
  • Shergar (via an interpreter)
  • Lord Lucan (the Crimean war one, not the one who legged it)
  • The bloke who used to sell jellied eels at the corner of Commercial Road and Aldgate in 1921
  • Two women I don't know very well called Vera
  • All attendees at the football match between Newcastle and Leeds, December 1897
  • Several people who were going to the match but got held up due to extensive delays on the Newcastle to Leeds railway
  • The bloke who had a regular newspaper column bemoaning the constant delays and poor service on the Newcastle to Leeds Railway, and several of his readers

and so on.

Newspaper editors: All exclusive rights to this sensational story, plus loads of others I will happily make up report, can be yours. Apply to the address below enclosing SAE

Ramblings
Lies and yet more lies department
Fantasy House
Easy money for sod all Avenue
Gullible, Berks

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Avoiding the Loops

If you use Google then you may be aware of its social media arm, Google+.  Although I take not the slightest interest in it, it insists of sending me little snippets of information from time to time, no doubt in the desperate hope of luring me in so I will switch my vast army of followers away from other similar offerings. Now you might think: this is the mighty Google, it knows all about my browsing habits, it knows where I live, it might even know my inside leg measurement, my taste in toothpaste and the number of goldfish out on the estate [pond out at the back: Ed] that have survived yet another winter of dark and freeze (all of them, as far as I can tell). And so, as you continue to ponder, assuming that by now you have not dashed off to something more interesting - and who can blame you?-  then you might assume that the snippets would be fascinating and topical, based squarely on the things that I want to know about and relevant to my fast-moving, contemporary lifestyle. Alright, you might not assume that because you may well know far more about the algorithms used to match snippets with lifestyles than I do but for the sake of argument let us assume that you would. In which case, wrap a few braincells around this nugget which popped up when I rashly clicked on the notifications button that told me there was something new waiting.


India huh? Bully for them. I admire the way the country is progressing and wish them well but see no reason why such a story should be pushed to me in preference to the myriad of other news items that are available. I have never been to India and have no plans to go, and fond as I am of the offerings of my local curry house, it is a Bangladeshi establishment.

What on earth is a hyperloop system? I mean, I know I write about IT matters now and then and transport matters (from a commuterial viewpoint) quite often, but this one has me stumped. Is it a theme park? Is it a giant shopping centre with a parking system designed by Ikea where you go round and round for hours looking for the way out until in utter despair you buy the first thing you see? Or is just, you know, an ordinary loop but a really slick ad agency has zooshed up the image to give it that "hyper" look so sought after by us urban trend-setters?

But it doesn't really matter a toss. Whatever it is, it's not going to be ready for at least three years and the cunning use of "could" means the whole thing may no more than a design on the back of an envelope already lodged in a bulging waste-bin on its way to the East Kolkata Municipal Garbage Works.

You might, I suppose, be thinking 'Why doesn't he just click on the link, which is, after all, recommended, and learn more, to his possible advantage?' There is a very good reason for my inert mouse-clicking finger. One touch and and a whole row of flashing lights will be twinkling on the servers at Google HQ. "Got him" they will be saying (in computer-speak), "He likes India, he wants to know more hyperloops and he cares about things which may or may not happen in the next few years". Every frivolous news item about anything happening east of Suez, however loopy, will be coming my way. I do not wish this to happen. The link will remain unsullied and I will continue to have not the faintest idea why a hyperloop in India, which may or may not ever get built, is of such concern.

Readers - do you have your own hilarious Google sent me a irrelevant notification story? Send them in to the usual address and you could win £££.

Terms and Conditions apply. By £££ we mean any amount between £0 and £2. The use of the word 'could' has been approved by the Advertising Standards Authority and Google+. The Editor is having a tea break but his decision will be final if he ever gets around to making one, which, quite frankly, could take a long time. Don't wait up.

Monday, February 27, 2017

And the Winning Picture is? Er, 'old on a mo, I had it somewhere...

I mused a while back about what would really go on behind the scenes when auditors were called in to investigate affairs at the Vatican. I thought that was the end of that particular story but somehow it has struggled back to life, albeit in a very different setting. For last night, at the Oscar ceremonies in LA the stars were not the actors, directors or best boys (whatever they are) but the accountants, from the rather large firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers who somehow managed, in the finest traditions of Laurel and Hardy, to mix up the results for Best Picture. After the entire cast and crew of La La Land had made their tearful acceptance speeches and the rest were tearing up their invitations in disgust and preparing to leave, an amazing volte face from the beancounters behind the scenes resulted in Moonlight receiving this most prestigious of movie awards instead (cue fresh round of tearful acceptance speeches, I hope the supply of paper hankies lasted out).

Producers will be at their desks (or beside their pools) this morning, barking out instructions to get the exclusives on this sensational story which is certain to be the winning picture at next year's Oscars. I see Tom Cruise as thrusting young ambitious accountant Jim Price, with Meryl Streep as the wiser and more mature Eleanor Waterhouse who teaches him all she knows about how to count ballot papers whilst Julia Roberts plays the shy but brilliant computer expert Alice Alison Cooper whose bubbly and kooky personality so distracts Cruise that the whole count is nearly jeopardised - but there's a twist! (which I haven't actually thought of yet but give me time).

Here's a sample of my award-winning* screenplay.

Interior. Night. An office overlooking the glittering lights of LA. Price is hunched over a thick file of papers.

Price: Papers, papers, nothing but goddam ballot papers. God, I hate the accountancy business but I have to make it, I just have to.

Cooper steals up behind, puts hand on his shoulder

Cooper: Take it easy Jim. You know you can do it. I've been working on a brilliant new program to add up the papers but it needs your touch to make it work.

Price: I thought accountancy was all glamour and going to the Vatican to audit Cardinals. I never knew it was so tough

Cooper: You gotta believe Jim. 

Waterhouse prowls in looking mean.

Waterhouse: Are those papers counted yet, Jim? The Academy is waiting you know.

Cooper: He's so close Miss Waterhouse, so close. You don't know the pressure he's under.

Waterhouse: You think I never counted ballot papers? I've checked them with bullets flying overhead, I've checked them even though my parents were both dying of starvation, even when all the townsfolk begged me to stay to see off the bad guys, even when the asteroid was about to collide and I was the only person who could stop it. I've struggled against oppression and hatred to get papers checked. [music swells] I'm an accountant and I check papers, it's what I do. And before this night is out, Jim Price, you'll be doing it too!

Price: I will! I will count them.

Waterhouse: And here's how we make sure we get the right result, Jim. You put the winner into this envelope - marked 1 for coming first. You put the loser into this envelope - marked l for loser. Got it?

Cooper: It's so simple, it's beautiful. What could possibly go wrong?

Fade out.


* its only a matter of time

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Yahoo wakes up

A week, as Harold Wilson once observed, is a long time in politics. In the frenetic, always-on world of IT it is a vast amount of time. Imagine then my interest, if that is the right word, in an email that arrived this morning from Yahoo informing me that there may have been a breach of data security affecting my account in 2015 or 2016.  For I wrote about a very similar data breach some five months ago and took such steps as I deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of my personal data (almost none at all because I don't use Yahoo for anything personal). And now they have finally got around to informing me of another identical issue and apparently I am supposed to do something about it. Jolly decent of them or a flagrant contempt for their users and their security? [You don't want this to be an online poll, do you? It's tricky to set these things up, you know: Ed]