Monday, 4 April 2011

Broken Britain - 12: Two tales that expose why Britain will forever remain Stuffed….

I wondered how long it would take to get back to ranting and raging. Two recent stories that explain exactly why this (once-great) country will forever remain in the Doldrums: Attitude.

Part 1: Today (Monday 4th April 2011) our mailing prices increased, by a considerable degree actually - but that’s not what I am raging about. This morning I wanted to send some things to a friend of mine in the USA, air mail / small packet. And so I queued at my local Post office (for over twenty minutes, but that’s normal now) with my package. The lady behind the grill weighed it and quoted me £18.44.

I thought this was somewhat outrageous and she explained to me the reason it was so high was because it was “over the one kilo threshold” (whatever that was). She also made it clear to me that it might work out cheaper if I sent the items in two packages.

So I went away and re-boxed up the things in two packages and returned later to the same Post Office (with a 30+ minute wait this time) and the very same counter clerk weighed both and charged me £6.48 for each. That’s a total £12.96 (and a saving of £5.48).

If the Royal Mail were an independently-run business they would have gone to the wall pronto with that attitude. How do they get away with it!? [Because they can].

No wonder the Royal Mail is regularly holding its hand out to successive Governments for hand-outs to stave off bankruptcy (financially and in “customer-services”).

Part 2: This story happened just a few days ago.

I wanted to book a short trip away to Amsterdam and decided the best route was with what’s called the “Dutch Flyer” (a train/boat/train package from Stenna Lines that works out about £37 each way).

So I phoned up Stenna to discuss matters. “You can book over the phone if you like”, she informed me…”but we need two days notice”…… “or”, she continued, “you could always book online!…. But we would need five days notice for that one”.

I asked her: “Well, seeing as the journey starts at Liverpool Street Station” (local for me in the East End of London)…”could I not just turn up at the station and book my tickets there and then?”.

There was a silence at the end of the phone. Maybe I should’ve sensed this was going to go all pear-shaped. “Well…..”, she said…..“We’ve had this all before.....Technically, you should be able to get your tickets from them, yes. But, you see, it all depends on the mood of the people in theTicket Office that morning. If they don't feel like selling you the tickets, they won’t do”.

I then asked “what if I turned up at Ilford Station and bought the ticket there?” [After all, Ilford is just down the road from where I live and the train runs from Liverpool Street and stops at Ilford en route to the coast].

“I’m afraid the same thing applies”, the Stenna woman said, “It really does depend on what side of the bed they got out of that morning”.

At which point I said: “D’you know something? It would be easier for me to just turn up at Victoria Coach Station with my suitcases and get on the coach on the day. It would probably be cheaper too”. [I later checked, and it was cheaper: £66 return].

Is it any wonder that, with attitudes like these, this country is never going to pull its socks up and get out of the crud we are in. And thus I return to my past mantra: Nobody actually Cares anymore in this country - about anyone or anything”. This country is Fucked.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Another Cartoon featuring Me???

I have mentioned before that certain friends of mine have included me in their splendid cartoons (see: 
This week (on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, perhaps?) some chums drew my attention to another cartoon, dating back to 2008 which seemed to feature me by default!). It’s entitled: “In Which Jake Does His Best”.
[Again, click on the picture and it will open out to full size].  Enjoy:-

Did it predate me or I inspire them? - who knows, who cares. I enjoyed it.

It can also be found at:

Monday, 31 January 2011

Henry de Winter + BHS: an update

Just a short note to inform everyone that I have just updated my main blog regarding the legendary Sir Henry de Winter:

New links (including one to FaceBook) + a couple of extra photographs.

The latest news is that Henry has just returned from Bratislava where, after a few days rehearsal with the Bratislava Hot Serenaders, did a couple of performances (the latter being filmed) and then went into the studio for a few days of recordings. That is all I know. But here, at least is a photograph from that weekend:-

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cufflinks anyone?

OK, I admit it, it was love at first sight. From the moment my eyes came across this on e-bay recently, I have been going back to that page just to drool over it.

It’s billed as: CLASSIC SOLID OAK 30 x 4 TRAY CELL CUFFLINKS BOX - Made2Order

And the Cost? (gulp)…
[[Usual protocol: click on the pics to open out to its full version]]
£165 + £10 Courier delivery. Custom-made, they said it would take about eight weeks from order to delivery.

For what it’s worth, here is the (current) link: 

Perhaps it’s because my father was a carpenter & joiner I’ve learned to really appreciate well-made and skilled woodwork and craftsmanship. But then maybe that’s just an excuse because…there it was - and that yearning ache in the pit my stomach was clearly there and just grew over the weeks.

Eventually, today, I succumbed. and contacted the maker to make my order - And, surprise surprise, they said “just pay a £10 deposit and pay the balance nearer delivery date”.  How could I resist?

Here’s a few more details of the spec: 
Made from solid oak (Thickness of the wood will depend on what we have in stock and how much we have to plane it . But typically 15-20mm for the box, approx 10+mm for the lid and approx 8-10mm for the dividers)

Box dimensions
- Trays: 30 cells, 6 across and 5 deep (each cell is 35 x 35 and 30mm deep)
- Tray internal dimensions 260mm x 280mm x 30mm deep
- Tray external dimensions 280mm x 235mm  x 40mm deep
- Overall box internal dimensions 280 x 235 x 165mm - approx
- External dimensions 310-315mm long and 265-270mm wide and 190-195mm deep 
- Box is rounded at all outside corners and outside edges & corners.
- Trays are square edged and removable
- Matrix are square edged and fixed for ease of lifting out the trays….

The first question my friends asked me when I showed them what I was thinking of buying, was: “but do you have enough cufflinks to fill the thing?” [A total of 120 slots for you mathematicians out there]. Well, it’s fess-up time, I’ve been collecting antique cufflinks and accessories for about three decades now and somehow I think I might just have enough to fill the trays. Dammit, alright, I’ll come clean, I’ve probably got more than enough to fill the bloody box.

And I do feel that this is the kind of item that can only increase in value over the years (well that’s what I’ve convinced myself anyway).

But I don’t care. I shall just smugly sit here and wait for delivery of this little (er…big) beauty in about early April. Call it a belated Christmas present to self (or an early Birthday present -  it’s  March 2nd, in case anyone wanted to know!).

Sunday, 16 January 2011

And now I am appearing in a Photo-Story…

A chum of mine on Facebook asked me if he cold use some of my photos and insert me into one of his historical slide-show stories. I agreed (after all, this is not the first time I have been depicted in some fictional storyline: see my visage being portrayed as Jack the Ripper  here: ).

So here goes. I present to you …

Facing the Past: 1932 by Professor William Boxington

Professor Boxington must finally face a mistake from his past and correct it before moving on into the future... 

The telephone rang early one morning at the home of Professor and Mrs. Boxington in Arkham, Massachusetts. 

William Boxington, professor of esoteric folklore at Miskatonic University, was surprised by the source of the call. 

Mr. Ray Frensham, head Regent of Miskatonic University and Master of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, was calling to offer William the position of dean of the University! There had been so many mishaps and deaths in Arkham lately that the pool of candidates was quite small. Boxington ignored the insult and accepted the job.

Regent Frensham was rudely interrupted during the installment ceremony for Professor Boxington's elevation to dean of the school... It seemed that a particular dinosaur, from Professor Boxington's 1925 expedition to South East Asia, had not perished in the wilds after all! 

The Regent and fellow members of Miskatonic's educational board all dived for cover when the beast let loose with a mighty roar. 

Fortunately the Boxingtons never left home without being fully prepared. Too many adventures had taught them that harsh lesson! Mrs. Boxington quickly tossed her husband a rifle from her front row seat.

Professor Boxington caught the rifle and he chased the beast down the main street of Arkham, away from the University. Frightened by the automobiles, the monster realized it was time to fight or die. It turned to attack William. The creature was no match for the gun and was laid low. William felt bad for the beast but there had been no other alternative.

The following month, after the dinosaur had been carefully dissected and scientifically studied, Regent Frensham said with a little exasperation, "Well, William, as a professor or as the dean of the university, I can see you will always be in the thick of it! But please, really now, can we tone the adventures down for your new position? We would not want Miskatonic to get a bad name, after all!"

The Boxingtons, very pleased with events, moved into their new residence on the grounds of the University. Being dean of the school was defiantly going to have its advantages! Despite Regent Frensham's wishes, they knew that their adventures would certainly continue.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Shoelaces anyone???

I came across a rather bizarre website that is clearly a labour of love……

You know how some people get really obsessive about things like How Many Ways to Tie a Tie?

Well, this site just Has to be one of the most anally retentive ever: Ian’s Shoelace Site

The thing is, once you start reading it, and the more you get into it, it becomes curiously addictive.

Just go to it explore and indulge (for starters) in the 33 different ways to tie a shoelace. Revel in the Sawtooth, the Bow Tie (illustrated above), the Twisty, the Double Helix or the Hexagram.

Oh, and I’d better warn you, the list is growing regularly. Bravo Ian - whoever you are, wherever you are - your site has educated and informed and made me smile and be baffled in equal measures.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Blog is BACK! - (and now I’m a Guest Blogger too)

It seems quite frightening to realise that I haven’t posted up a blog here for three months.
What happened?….. A combination of things:-

- To be honest, most of the time I’ve simply been out there in the real world just living a life (it’s not bad out there, apart from the bloody weather), and besides I got a bit lazy!…

- media-wise it all got a bit frantic: after decades away from it, I sort-of fell back into doing bits of background artiste / extras work in tv and films…first on Midsomer Murders (the episode Noble Art that went out in October 2010), then on Pirates Of The Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides (yes, I did do a few days with Mr. Depp) and then, without a pause for breath, straight onto the latest Martin Scorsese movie The Invention Of Hugo Cabret working alongside Ben Kingsley (you’ll just have to wait ‘n’ see how much). I shall inevitably be blogging about these exploits in due course…

- I must admit I also got a bit ticked off with Blogspot changing a little their settings for posting up blogs - nothing major, just annoying little things that really piss you off and you have to pointlessly re-learn things all over again. [It’s a disease that notably afflicts sites like Facebook and MySpace: changing formats just for the sake of change; I guess these people do it to attempt to justify their exorbitant salaries. Hey Buddy, listen up, try this one: if it Ain’t Broke, DON’T Fix it!]

- and now (January 2011) Hodders, my publishers, want me to update and expand (considerably) my book Teach Yourself Screenwriting for a new edition due out in July/August, and to be retitled Break Into Screenwriting (a Teach Yourself book)…I mean, it's been a best-seller for fifteen years, just why they've decided to change things...what was that I said about ‘if it ain’t broke….’ ?

…So what made me apply the seat of my pants to the seat of the blogging chair again? Well, a few days ago my pals Matt and Enrique at asked me to contribute a guest blog to their site. 

They had noticed that UK GQ had done a “50 Best Dressed Men in Britain”.

And asked me to come up with my own list of Stylish Men.
I took a look at the GQ list and realised:
- a third of them I had never heard of,
- a third were somewhat scruffy buggers (to say the least),
- and only the remaining third were what you might call borderline acceptable.

I didn’t feel exactly stretched to come up with a riposte. So I just went to the local coffee shop, sat down for a bit and just created a list of chaps I know / admire / fancy who are on the cusp of ‘breaking bigger’ into the public eye whom I regarded rather stylish and classy.

And these are the ones that came into my mind, pretty much in the order they arrived:

I hope you liked them (and my reasons for choosing them). If you disagree with the names, tuff - I like annoying people. 

[Naturally, since publishing this list, I’ve thought of plenty of faces I have overlooked. Maybe next year]. The good news is that FineandDandyShop have asked me to be a regular guest blogger…in which case, I guess I had better get my s**t together…I have a few ideas. (Naturally, I will cross-post and cross-reference).

- And I guess I had better start blogging here again. Hold onto your hats…and bow ties!

…Oh, and I shaved my moustache off yesterday……