Virgin On The Ridiculous

More unwanted junk mail

More unwanted junk mail

Every day I when come home from work, there is usually some junk mail waiting for me in my porch.

Virgin Media are installing fibre optic cabling for their broadband service in my area.  As expected, they want to let everybody know about it.  This has led to a never-ending supply of their junk mail landing on my door mat.

At first I would chuck their letters in with my pile of other papers, leaflets and junk mail and bin them.  But after a while I saw it as a form of bullying, as well as an annoying invasion of my privacy.

I contacted Virgin’s Social Media team (socialteam@virginmedia.co.uk) and they said they would stop all marketing going to my address.  But it still continues to this very day.

After a good dig on the internet, various ways can be found of stopping some junk mail being delivered to your address.  First amongst these is the ‘Mailing Preference Service’.  They will stop most items directly addressed to you.  But those annoying ‘To the Occupier’ letters give it the slip.  This because the latter is a loophole, as it is classed as unaddressed mail.

The opposite effect comes with Royal Mail’s ‘Door-to-Door Opt Out’ scheme.  This stops items without a postal address.  But it has a legal duty to deliver all mail with a ‘delivery point’, meaning to the address, rather than the addressee – which it sees as irrelevant.  Therefore it considers ‘To the Occupier’ as addressed mail.  So you can’t win!

The big problem seems to be direct marketers are self-regulating.  They take the attitude that their industry keeps a lot of paper, printing and distribution workers in employment.  They claim their industry contributes around £20M to the UK economy.  Royal Mail gets half of its business from this source too.  So they aren’t going to be very helpful in killing the goose which lays the golden egg.

On the other side of the coin, how much does it cost to dispose of the average household’s 455 items of junk mail a year? And how does it affect recycling targets this country is obliged to meet?  It seems very irresponsible to waste so much paper on something most people clearly don’t want.  It also begs the question, what kind of service can you expect from a company which refuses to comply with the simple request to stop delivering their junk mail to your home?

What Virgin doesn’t seem to realise is their junk mail is actually not serving the purpose it was set up for.  Instead, it’s having the opposite effect.  Many disgruntled people like me are so fed up with them, we wouldn’t subscribe to their service even if it was free.  They can carry on being a virgin – they certainly won’t be touched by the hand of this man.

Roving Mick Joins Adoption Campaign

letsadopt paintMany people visiting this website won’t have met me.  But a lot of you will have seen my face in Blackburn town centre.

This is down to me being the grey-haired bloke in the latest poster being used by Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Adoption Team.  I jumped at the chance of doing my bit for the recruitment campaign and hope it will encourage some of you to consider finding out more about becoming adopters.

Every year, there are around 50 young children in Blackburn with Darwen who need adoptive parents. They range from babies and toddlers to children up to the age of 8 – and occasionally older.

The good news is that most people are able to adopt and with Blackburn with Darwen, you’ll be supported by one of the best adoption teams around.

They have introduced a quicker adoption process, which takes around six months to complete and includes training in child development, forming families and the special issues involved in adopting.

Find frequently asked questions about adoption on their website:

www.letsadopt.co.uk 

For more information or an informal chat, get in touch with their friendly and professional team.

Blackburn with Darwen Council
Children’s Services Department,
Floor 2, 10 Duke Street,
Blackburn BB2 1DH

T: 01254 666 806
E: info@letsadopt.co.uk

 

Prime Reason To Visit The Barrel House

I finally got to visit the land of my birth after half a century.Prime Barrel

Larnaca is eight miles from my Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area birthplace.  It has a pub, not to be missed by serious beer drinkers, called the Barrel House.  Located centrally down a leafy street, between the American Academy and Metro Market, it looks and feels like a genuine British pub.  It was good to see the effort they are making in here and definitely worth your support and encouragement.

Panayiotis, behind the bar, certainly spoils you for choice of beers from all around the world and he was friendly, enthusiastic about beer and very helpful.  But tonight he was the support act.  Star of the show was Loizos, the man behind Cyprus’s Prime Microbrewery.

This family owned brewery is based near Aiya Napa and is the first microbrewery in Cyprus.  Loizos said he had enjoyed beers across Europe, including real ale in Britain.  Unfortunately the hot weather of Cyprus makes the process of producing cask ale very difficult.  But he said he is working on it and will get there.

“We only use natural ingredients because we believe that beer must be a 100% natural product. Chemical and additives are not and will never be part of our beer or brewing mentality”.

Prime source their hops from Britain and New Zealand.  Which is a nice connection for me, being a Cyprus-born Brit and my sister Carole, living in New Zealand.

The main event for Sylvia, my girlfriend, and I was sampling Prime’s beer.  First up for me was their Golden Ale.  At 4.5% it was the right strength for this kind of beer.  It tasted nice and managed to avoid any tanginess.  IPA followed, very good too and I was beginning to think I was back in a pub in breezy Blighty, rather than sunny Cyprus.  Sylvia had a wheat beer, which I moved on to next.  Other punters in the Barrel House hadn’t seen a pint like this before and questioned my sanity in drinking such a cloudy drink.  But this was the real deal and those of us who enjoy wheat beers know it is cloudy and you don’t drink with your eyes.

Unfortunately for Sylvia and me, this enjoyable tasting event in the Barrel House had to come to an end.  It was refreshing, in more ways than one, to see Larnaca has a great pub waiting to be discovered.  And now the island has its own great microbrewery with a nice selection of beers waiting to be discovered too.

Cyber Rovers

Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football.  Are your sure?

Can you imagine a future world, where Rovers fans only watch football on TV.  Where the growth of satellite TV and ‘streaming’ is making football more available for supporters to watch.  So the pub, computer and home telly becomes the only place fans ever see a match.

This Orwellian world is already with us (but don’t tell anyone).  So let us imagine our game’s hierarchy decide they want more of the money being paid to footballers and their agents going to them.  What’s to stop them creating their own cyber team?  Then using their football thought control to persuade us it’s a good thing.  Now they have the medium already.  Virtual teams wouldn’t need grounds, or fans inside them.  This would be great for health & safety.  No need to supply food or drink, or pay police or stewards.

Football games would become like ‘The Truman Show’.  Advertising could be taken to a new and sinister level.  Subliminal messages could be sent during play, as well as at half time.  Press your red button and you could even adjust your team’s performance or skill level.  A win, draw or even a loss could be your desired result.

And so our cyber game kicks off down the pub (behind closed doors is official FIFA newspeak – but there’s still plenty of canned noise).  After a delay to get in a few more adverts and a message from our sponsor.  It’s Rovers, with Shearer and Garner up front, playing a European game against Bayer Red Bull Philips.  These European fans seem to speak such good English:  “I’m lovin’ it” they sing.  Nobody understands this really as Rovers are already one up, with a goal by Shearer, from a Bryan Douglas cross.

While our players congratulate each other, all sorts of adverts are shown before the game kicks off again.  Several goals are scored for both sides.  But there are complaints from people watching this game about strange chants and singing changing from English into Mandarin Chinese.  A commentator apologises, saying it’s satellite interference from Shanghai Sports.  They are angry, saying Rovers broke a sponsorship agreement by not playing a Chinese player.

At the end of ninety minutes most viewers have some strange desire to eat turkey pizza and drink blueberry cola.  It came to them during a simultaneous camera flash.  But today’s match was played to a finish.  Our match ends with Rovers winning by just one goal – 7-6 – after extra time.  Today’s sponsor – Blueberry Pizzashop – was very pleased indeed.

This is fantasy football of a new kind.  Brainwashing with soap opera thrown in too.  But how would most football fans know anyway?  Do you control football?  Or does football control you?  Kick off time is when the clock strikes thirteen – anywhere in the world.  This could be football’s future.  So get down to Ewood Park instead, where the real thing isn’t just a fizzy drink.

Sally Sticky Fingers

Not this time!

We had a recent case in the news of an admin worker stealing money from the bank account of a resident of a local hostel.  The worker was in a trusted position and they abused their role over a lengthy period of time.  The resident had mental health issues, making the crime even more despicable.

Coverage in the local media was scant.  Only a small inside page column with an unidentifiable photograph.  Their article was mainly coverage used in their previous report.  There was not even a mention of this case on any of the local radio stations.

It seemed like everybody got the result they wanted.  The police, the bank and the hostel were all able to slap themselves on the back and brush this case under the carpet, saying justice had been done.  After all, a thief had been sent to prison and the victim would get back what money they all thought had probably gone missing.

Unfortunately our victim has mental health problems.  He has no idea how much money has been stolen because he put his trust in the admin worker for many years.  They will probably serve a couple of months in prison and return to their pious life and everything will soon be forgotten.

Our swindler used to be a pillar of the community.  Partaking of religion on a Sunday and praying for the kind of unfortunate souls they were to commit this heinous offence against.  Whereas our victim was despised by the community because of his circumstances.  Yet our victim has never harmed a fly and is often seen by many of us carrying out voluntary work in the town centre.

Maybe we should all shoulder some of the blame over what has happened to our victim.  We treat the mentally ill with disdain, blaming them for their own reduced circumstances.  In our area there used to be hospitals where they received professional care.  These were sold off for their land and property value, leading to many vulnerable people expelled into a society which saw them as an unwelcome burden.

Sadly we have seen terrible cases of exploitation by others, including the admin worker, currently inside.  Unscrupulous people will always home in on vulnerable people with mental health issues.  Perhaps the case of our victim is just the tip of the iceberg.  Perhaps this appalling case will make society look at exploitation of the mentally ill.  Or will everybody carry on regardless and have as much interest as the authorities have shown?

Opening Time At Blackburn’s Morri’s

Off our Trolleys

Sometimes on my way to work, and most Saturday mornings, I can be found doing an early shop at Blackburn’s Morrison’s. 

My most convenient time for shopping is their eight o’clock opening time.  It’s a strange surreal experience, joining the throng of workers and pensioners on a week day.  But the other way round on Saturdays and Sunday.

Around ten to eight a gathering begins to build up.  It’s always the same old faces, some of whom can be seen at this time seven days a week.  People start looking at their watches and peering through the glass as eight approaches.  A flash of white flannel comes walking down from the other end of the store.  It is a chap with his key to open these glass doors.  Everybody then files in, heading towards the aisles.

This where almost a line in the sand is drawn.  Nobody enters these aisles until the eight o’clock bell rings.  It is like Wildebeest on the edge of a crocodile-infested river.  Shoppers stand on this edge, as though a killer weather balloon is about to rise up from around the aisles to smother them if they cross the threshold.  Nobody dares set foot into this shopping area.  Figures in green can be seen walking around.  Nobody wants to be told not to enter the forbidden zone.

I watch all this from one of the benches across from the shopping trolleys.  Unlike the majority of Morrison’s early morning shoppers, I generally slip in via their Salford sliding door.  This always seems to be opened before those Railway Road and car park entrances.  It means I get to sit down and watch all this drama.

When the 8.00am bell clangs, it’s straight to the sell-by counter for me.  My legs get me there before the majority of Morri’s punters.  Most of them are unhappy about shelves being swapped around again.  And then it’s a quick walk round the store, before landing at an open till.  My timing is usually good at this time of day.  I often catch them as they just open.  Staff are still tipping bags of coins into their till trays and are nice and friendly.

I hate shopping, even worse than that – I hate paying for it.  So my visits here are as quick as possible.  Sadly, it’s a necessity for me.  But for a lot of other people, it’s what gets them out of bed and the highlight of their day.

Smoke Ban Blows Through Blackburn

Nemo / Pixabay

I went out for a few beers with my girlfriend on the day they banned smoking in England.  Tales of woe were coming from across the rest of the UK and Ireland.  But as somebody who has never smoked in his life – I was looking forward to it.

And so it was off to the Postal Order in Blackburn town centre.  The pub was only half-full.  But this was a typical day in Britain’s wet summer of 2007.  What was just as noticeable as the lower crowd inside was the vast amount of food being shifted.  It was like a conveyor belt of staff carrying platefuls of that day’s Sunday roast.

Unlike me, my girlfriend enjoys her fix of tobacco.  But being the gossip she is, there was a welcome surprise waiting for her outside the pub.  A whole new social life has developed amongst these fellow kindred spirits.  Smokers congregate together and swap stories about their persecution complex.  Great friendships are bound to be made here.

As for me, being a drinker of real ale – a CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) member to boot, the smoke ban is fantastic.  I could taste my beer without the stale smell of smoke wafting over my shoulder and into my glass.  No going home any more, smelling like an ashtray.  For many years, going in a pub and putting up with smoke was almost a rite of passage.  But over the years I began to realise I hated this noxious weed.  At least my girlfriend’s got the best of both worlds.  She can nip outside for a ciggy.  And now, just like me, she likes real ale too.

Unfortunately the saying:  ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’ has proved to be the case with the smoking ban.  Despite doctors and scientists telling us smokers make up barely a quarter of the adult population, down the boozer they are very noticeable by their absence.  Their disappearance from the pub has created a knock-on effect, leading to non-smokers also quitting the habit.  Obviously many other factors have reduced pub attendances, cheap supermarket booze being the main one.

Perhaps now is the time to welcome back smokers to pubs and clubs.  At the time of the ban, I saw no reason why a separate room couldn’t be set aside in pubs for smokers.  Everybody seemed happy with this, including smokers, non-smokers and bar staff.  But the powers-that-be decided it was going to be a blanket ban.  Now we have the ultimate blanket ban – trying to find a pub that’s still open!

Marina Needed in Blackburn

Tesco, viewed from the canal

Tesco, viewed from the canal

Blackburn seems to turn its back on one of its most important assets.  I love walking along the Leeds – Liverpool canal.  I’ve walked its length many times from where it enters Blackburn, at Whitebirk, to where it leaves the town, at Feniscowles.  It’s a town of two halves when it comes to following the towpath.  Heading eastwards, we pass mainly through an industrial landscape.  Whereas travelling west, the canal meanders through mainly residential areas of the town.

Blackburn is actually the largest intermediate town on the Leeds – Liverpool Canal and the only one with a population of over 100,000.  Yet it seems to be hardly noticed by its townsfolk.  An occasional walker, cyclists and anglers are often the only people you come across when taking a walk down the cut.  Perhaps what is most conspicuous by its absence is the number of boats to be seen along the canal.  That lovely put, put, put…. sound of the chugging narrowboat is hardly ever heard on this part of the canal network.

Try travelling ten miles down the canal, in either direction, it’s a different story.  Burnley has plenty of boats moored at Reedley Marina and more seem to appear as you head towards Yorkshire.  Chorley seems awash with canal boats.  There are boat yards both sides of the town, two as you approach from the Blackburn direction, at either end of their locks.  The reason for our lack of boats in Blackburn is probably due to no established mooring facility.  Only Eanam  and Nova Scotia Wharves have any space for a large number of boats to moor.  The nearest collection of boats moored together is at Finnington Lane, on the town’s outskirts.

What Blackburn needs is a marina.  This would not only provide safe refuge for boats, but could also help create its own unique community, such as is the case in Hebden Bridge.  Building a marina would create several short-term jobs and possibly lead to further permanent positions.  An ideal site would be the land along Gorse Street, incorporating the former Kenyon St and Esther St.  Sadly this parcel of land looks to be spoken for, possibly by the council or nearby Tesco.  Not content with taking away our greyhound stadium, it also wants to enlarge itself even more.  Unfortunately their boundless pursuit of building even more unnecessary identikit superstores will probably keep them turning their back on the canal, as they are doing already in Blackburn.  I don’t expect them to build a marina, but perhaps they could make amends for taking away part of our sporting heritage by clearing up their border with the canal and making it look presentable.  They could even build a landing stage and make money from passing boats.  It won’t transform Blackburn’s waterscape, ‘But Every Little Helps.’

Windmills of your Mind

Tilting at windmills, outside the Quarryman's

Tilting at windmills, outside the Quarryman’s

Noel Harrison the actor, singer and former Olympic skier recently passed away.  In my childhood, he accompanied April Dancer – ‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.’.  But I will always remember him for singing that memorable Michel LeGrande/Alan & Marilyn Bergman song: ‘The Windmills of your Mind’.  Used for the 1968 film: ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’.

It’s funny how some songs stick in your mind.  This is especially so since the construction of a dozen massive wind turbines on the south-east side of Blackburn.  These near 400 foot high monsters would be well-placed in one of my tall stories.

Not everybody is happy with them.  Some local residents have had TV reception problems and others find them a blot on the landscape.  But from my vantage point, outside my front door up Blackburn’s Revidge Hill, I find our new windmills a pleasure to behold and very therapeutic.  It needs to be a reasonably clear day, without too much mist, and then I can see their sails going round when the wind blows.  It’s even better on a sunny day.  I can see flashes of sunshine as each sail turns.  Considering they must be at least four miles away from my house, it is a brilliant sight.

Maybe wind farms are not the answer to our spiralling energy needs.  But I’d sooner keep looking out my front door at a dozen working wind turbines, creating green renewable energy.  No chance on Oswaldtwistle Moor of another potential Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima waiting to send us into nuclear oblivion.

New Bus Station For Blackburn

Dummy's guide to Blackburn Bus Station

Dummy’s guide to Blackburn Bus Station

Due to work on Blackburn’s new Cathedral Quarter, we now find our bus station has been evicted from the Boulevard.  It was right in front of the railway station and as good a transport interchange as you could ever find.  Sadly it is no more.  Fortunately our new bus station is being relocated on the old market site.  So it’s only a hop, skip and jump away from where it was before.

Our temporary bus station is on Brown St, next door to where its permanent successor is being prepared.  Unfortunately it is located within sight of four pubs, none of which sells beer.  Both Bulls and the Fleece are boarded up, whereas Daniel’s – named after the neighbouring brewery’s founder – acts as Thwaites’ training centre.  This pub used to be called the Waterloo, a fitting name for Blackburn’s town centre nightlife.  That’s what you feel you’ve met when you venture there for a night out and look for places to go.  Also adjacent to the brewery are two other redundant hostelries:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also boarded up, and the Veteran – now a bookshop.

So the weary traveller, arriving by bus into Blackburn, doesn’t receive a very refreshing welcome.  We must be the only town with a population of over 100,000 to have only a dozen pubs open in its town centre.  It’s also very sad when Rovers are playing at home, visiting fans don’t ask directions to Ewood Park any more.  They ask directions to the nearest pub instead.

Perhaps one answer could be for Thwaites to re-open either Daniel’s or the Fleece – or even better – why not both?  What better way to train potential landlords, managers and bar staff than in a proper working pub?  This is where Daniel’s really could kill two birds with one stone.  It would continue its training purpose, but could also provide a welcome amenity for the new bus station and its dry surroundings.  Get them in Danny!