Thursday, 31 December 2015

Is the Honours List still relevant?

The New Year's Honours List for 2016 has been published and as I was scrolling through it this morning, I was wondering, are the Honours still relevant today?

Do people really deserve awards for doing a job that they chose to do?  I am not including privately funded industry awards here, if you are going to be using your own company's money, award away, I am just talking about publicly funded awards.

Picking out some specific examples, the third name on the list, for a Knighthood, is a choreographer, receiving his award for 'services to dance'.  What?  Someone gets a knighthood for prancing about a bit in a leotard and leg-warmers?  It may just be me, but when I hear the word 'choreographer' I automatically think of Fame and Debbie Allen shouting at her dancers whilst pounding the floor with a big stick.  Is that really worthy of a Knighthood?

Staying with Knighthoods, a jockey has been knighted.  Yes, he has been Champion Jockey many, many times - fair enough, that is an industry funded award - but a Knighthood?  Did he carry the horses around all those courses?  No, surely the horse did the work, he just didn't fall off, well not every time anyway.

Awards are given for services to Transport.  Have the people who decided the recipients ever used Public Transport?  The people in charge should not be receiving awards, they should be forced to use their system every day during rush hour.

Services to the fashion industry.  Short of making enough clothes that people don't need to walk around naked (sometimes I feel they are failing at this), what other services are needed?

Services to football and drama.  Two well paid professions with enough awards already.

Services to entertainment and charity.  Again, entertainers who reach the Honours Lists are already very well paid, and should you be awarded for charitable works?  Does that not take away some of the charity?

Services to art.  A sculptor has received an award, would we notice if there were no new sculptures?

I stopped reading at this point, I felt there was no need to go on.

How do you feel about the Honours System.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Another angry post about comping.

I've posted before about how I get disillusioned about comping.  How it always seems to be the same people that win time and time again, and if your name is not on the approved list you will not win.  Now we have 'unboxing prizes' videos on YouTube alongside 'what I got through my letterbox' videos.  I could make a 'through my letterbox' video, but takeaway leaflets and bills are not that exciting.

The trigger for today's rant has been a twitter comp run by The National Lottery.

The lottery has now been running for 21 years - Happy Birthday!  And to celebrate this, as well as making 10 millionaires in the draw tonight, they are running a twitter competition to give away £1000 per hour for 10 hours.  There is a new tweet every hour which must be retweeted.  A winner is randomly selected from all retweets.  Or so they say.

A follower tweeted that they had entered every draw, as had I, and they had been made redundant a week ago and were worried about Christmas.  Really?  With five weeks to go to Christmas I would have assumed at least some provision would have been made by now, redundancy or no redundancy.  It's not like this is the first year we have had Christmas and it just kind of snuck up on you.

Well, lo and behold, they won that hour's draw and with a pretty much brand new twitter account too!

And yes, I know I have a separate comping twitter account but that was set up some time ago to avoid annoying my non-comping blog followers, and believe me, it has not been lucky!

And so I think it is time for another break, probably until the New Year.  I will still enter comps if I happen across them, but I will not be actively seeking them out.

So, to my fellow compers, good luck all and don't let the cheats get you down!

Monday, 9 November 2015

OIQFC 30th Convention - Southport.

I have just returned from a very soggy Southport where the 30th Official International Queen Fan Club Convention was being held.

The 30th anniversary convention saw a return to Pontins at Southport - after a gap of 19 years - and also saw the return of the goody bag.

Included in the goody bag is a pen, keyfob, car sticker and stick of rock.  There was also a raffle ticket to win a free trip to Montruex!  I didn't win.

As always there was a convention t-shirt available to buy, this year it listed all 30 convention locations on the back, much as a tour t-shirt does.

(Apologies for the weird photo colour, not sure what happened!)

We had three fab bands on over the weekend - The Deputies, Robby Valentine & the Queen Kings - as well as various special guests taking part in Q&A sessions.

This years also saw the long awaited return of Tug Of War, an event that has not been held for many years due to that awful pairing - Health & Safety.  Unfortunately, whilst many of us Queenies are able to stay up well into the early hours enjoying a convention water or two, a lot of us are getting a bit too fragile for something as physical as Tug Of War so there were only 4 teams taking part.

The only criticism from me was that the floor cameras were not used enough.  We couldn't see the children's fancy dress, nor the fantastic floor routine from a talented young lady called Cerys.  These could have been projected onto the screens so we could all enjoy them, instead of just the people lucky enough to get seats at the front (I started queueing well before 7pm but still ended up at the back each night) but the bands, who were up on the stage and therefore visible to all, were projected onto the side screens.

There was a charity auction - raising over £4000 for the Mercury Phoenix Trust (MPT), there were raffles for the fan club and the MPT, and collections for McMillan and the Poppy Appeal.  A two minute silence was held at 11am.

This year you could also purchase the hard to get hold of, beer, vodka and wine.

Much as I am ashamed to admit it, what ruined it for me was the people I was with, if they weren't moaning about each other, they were complaining about the lack of facilities in the chalet.  If they weren't complaining about that, then they were moaning about not being able to see what was going on on the floor, or that they couldn't hear what was being said.

I feel obliged to them as they have looked after me over the course of the last 15 years or so whilst I have been travelling up alone, but now I feel like I want to spend more time not being moaned at!  Hopefully they didn't enjoy this year's event enough to go again next year.  Selfish I know, but I need a break!

Plans are already being made for next year, who knows where we will be.....

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Most Haunted Live! is back.

After an absence which has been far too long, Most Haunted Live! is back for Halloween 2015.

The crew has changed with many familiar faces missing, but Yvette, Karl, Stuart and Fred Batt will all be there.

Tonight's show is from 30 East Drive, Pontefract, the house which inspired the film 'When the Lights Went Out', this is a location they have investigated before.

The questions we need answering are:

How long will it be before Stuart falls down the stairs?

Who's nostrils will we see up first?

How much will be thrown from off camera?

Now that Cath has left the team, who will get their hair touched?

Who will be wearing the sceptical scarf?

And the big question....

Will there be a horse on the stairs?

So grab a drink, get your Morse code app ready and settle down for two hours of fun.

Sleep tight.

Bohemian Rhapsody is 40 today!

This weekend marks the 40th Anniversary of one of the greatest songs ever - Bohemian Rhapsody.

According to critics, Bo Rhap was too long and too dramatic to ever be a hit, but thanks to Kenny Everett repeatedly playing a reel-to-reel copy on his radio show, 14 times over one weekend, it did become soar to the top of the charts.

The Comic Strip Presents.... used it in The Bad News Tour episode, the subsequent spin off single was produced by none other than Brian May.

In the 90s, the track was used in what was to become an iconic scene in Wayne's World.  This was to become the cause of many a strained neck or two.

When Lee Evans was asked to perform in France he had no idea what to do so created a sketch around, you guessed it, Bo Rhap.

Even The Muppets got in on the act.

With reissues in blue and purple for fan club members, there must be several million copies of the track on vinyl alone.

How many do you have?

Happy Anniversary Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Grammar School Expansion - Good or Bad.

In 1998, Labour passed laws banning the creation of new grammars - selective state schools - but allowing existing schools to expand if there is sufficient demand.

In my opinion this heralded the decline in education standards.

No longer were children streamed by ability, the era of the non-competitive-everyone's-a-winner had arrived.

Brighter children were, and likely still are, ignored, the badly behaved were allowed to disrupt classes and the teachers focused on the middle ground.

England is now due to have its first new Grammar for 50 years after an existing school is to be allowed to open an annexe on a new site in Kent

There are some very good Secondary Modern schools out there, but I can only think that allowing the brighter children to attend grammar schools can only benefit the country as a whole.

I know that in previous posts I have bemoaned the fact that I spent 6 years at an Independent Grammar, assuming that I would have turned out differently had I gone to a Comprehensive, but my home life would have been the same so I probably would have still been the miserable so-and-so that I am now.

Let the naturally bright and the children with the desire to do well attend the new Grammars.  Let them excel and stop holding them back!

Friday, 23 October 2015

I have changed the name of my blog.

Formerly The Diary of an ACCA Student, my blog is now called Rants, Raves & Random Musings.

I started my blog to document my studies, but it has become less a diary of exams and more a series of rants so I felt that the name was no longer appropriate.

I still need to do some work on the new header, but welcome all to my new (old) blog!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

So I bought The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up book.

I had heard a lot about this book from various social media sites and decided to give it a try.  I hate tidying.  I don't have the attention span to finish a task and generally, although I make a good start, end up just ramming things back into cupboards, so I thought if I can do it all in one go it would be done and out of the way.

The first part of the book is all about how the author came to the method that she currently promotes and teaches, I read through this but was more interested in the method itself.

The author claims it is very difficult to throw things away that you have bought for yourself.  For me the opposite is true, I find it easier to throw something away that I bought for £100 than it is to throw something away that someone bought for me, regardless of its monetary value.

There is a very specific order to tackle the tidying in, clothes being first and more sentimental items last. You are expected to touch every item and ask yourself  'does it spark joy?'.  If the answer is no, then you must discard the item.

But what do you do if very few of your clothes inspire joy, and by very few I mean some fancy dress outfits which make me think of happy times with friends, and my swimsuit.  After all, I can't dress as a Bad Fairy or Adam Ant every day.

To me, clothes are just something that I have to wear.  I feel no joy from touching them.  I have clothes that I wear for work.  I have clothes that I wear at home.  I have interview outfits and holiday clothes.  But they are just clothes.  

So do I get rid of them all?

Am I then expected to replace them with more clothes that will not spark joy, thus requiring me to get rid of them and then replace them, repeating again and again in a vicious cycle?

The author has now moved onto books and I have no answer as to what to do about my joyless clothes.

Have you read this book?

What do you think?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

I want to be more....

....outgoing.  My home, and particularly my bed, is my 'safe place'.  When I go to work, or if I have to go out food shopping I cannot wait to get back and will do so as quickly as possible.  Weirdly, when I get the chance to leave the city, or more importantly the county, I don't want to come home.

....popular.  I have some very good friends who I enjoy spending time with.  Unfortunately none of them are local so getting together takes a lot of planning.  And generally a fair bit of money when flights are involved.  i wish I had friends locally that I could just call up and meet with.

....attractive.  Not a lot I can do about this, but I can dream.  If I could solve this issue, the above one might solve itself.  Yes, I have a car, but do not have the spare cash to make the most out of it. (See 'popular' above).

....creative.  I have so many ideas for projects but know that I do not have the skills to carry them out. I used to be.  Years ago I didn't care what people thought about me.  I was fat and ugly, as I am now, but it really didn't bother me.  I would quite happily go out to a pub by myself, or to the cinema by myself, or to a restaurant by myself.  

I want that confidence back.

Why Right to Buy is so popular.

There has been a report in the BBC that 1 in 3 Councils have not replaced a single council house sold under the Right-to-Buy scheme.

With the amount of student accommodation and other private homes being built in this City and its surroundings, including green belt sites, I would imagine that there is no land for the Council to build on!

But it is no surprise that the existing council houses are being snapped up by their tenants.

According to the Right-to-Buy calculator created by the Government, my house is currently valued at £92k, which seems a little low for a fully maintained and updated house, which a Council property would be, it would probably be nearer £125k but for the sake of this exercise we will let that slide.

If I had lived here as a tenant for the length of time that I have lived here as an owner, I would qualify for a 55% discount on the price of the house, whether I had paid rent or not.

This would leave a balance of £41k to pay, and using the mortgage calculator on the same Right-to-Buy website, at even 5% interest this is only £240 per month, easily affordable to someone on full benefits.  A bit of google research shows that it is your ability to repay the mortgage, whether employed or not, that will get you the money.

The house would then be sold with between £50k and £80k clear profit which could then buy a smaller property out-right, or a similar property with a smaller mortgage.  And believe me, I have seen this done.

I have no problem with someone who has lived in a Council House but paid their own rent being able to purchase their house as they will have probably paid more than its total value in rent, but why should someone who has never lifted a finger in work, or collected a wage, be in a better position than someone who works full time but simply cannot afford a mortgage?

Right-to-Buy should stop for those not paying rent, it will reduce the need to provide more Council Houses.

And we wonder why the benefits system is so abused.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Migrants, not Refugees.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be aware of the current situation in Syria.

Much has been made on social media that the people leaving the country are 'Refugees not Migrants'.  They are not.

As I understand it, if you are a refugee fleeing conflict or persecution, you travel to the nearest country not involved.  Within the EU, the Dublin 2 agreement states that people fleeing persecution or war seek asylum in the first EU country they get to.  Looking at a map, this would be Greece or Italy, but that is clearly not where these people are heading.

Simply put, those who end up in places like the Berlin refugee centre are migrants since they have crossed through a number of other EU countries to get there.

The BBC spoke to one Syrian migrant who insisted he wanted to stay in Germany and as soon as he is settled he will send for his wife and children.  Well surely as a 'refugee' he would have brought them with him instead of leaving them to survive without him?

The problems at Calais, in my opinion, are also fuelled by a desire for people to access our free and easy (in the most literal sense) lifestyle and collecting donations to be shipped across to these migrants are only adding to the problem.

I know that I have a lump of granite where my heart should be - with regards to people anyway - but surely I am not the only one who feels this way?

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Chocolate Teapot Train Station.

After many years of discussion and planning, more discussion and more planning, Coventry's latest railway station is due to open.

Located on the Coventry-Nuneaton line, the station is meant to service the Ricoh Arena (home to Coventry City FC, Wasps RFC and location of many high profile concerts including Bon Jovi and Pink) and the adjoining shopping centre which contains such stores as Next, Marks & Spencer and New Look.

Photo courtesy of Coventry Telegraph

Firstly the opening of the unmanned station was delayed due to staff needing training to use it.

Now it has been announced that only one train that will be running per hour with a maximum capacity of 75. There is apparently a problem sourcing further trains.

Also, the service will be suspended for an hour following any major event at the Ricoh.

Initially the timetable was to be trains every 15 minutes, but according to London Midland, who operate on the line, they advised five years ago that this would not be possible.

The station has been built as part of an almost £14 million scheme to update the Coventry-Nuneaton line, a joint project between Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and CENTRO.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Who's on your freebie list?

Being chronically single I have no need of a freebie list, everyone is a fantasy, but in a typical Friday afternoon type conversation, the topic came up in the office today.

Emma Watson seems to be top of the lost for the males of the department.

One of temps announced that she was supposed to be in his year at Cambridge, but chose to go to Brown instead, then stared wistfully off into the distance for a while.

Other contenders were Angelina Jolie, Kylie Minogue and Cameron Diaz.

Us girls definitely had a longer list!

Nathan Fillion, more so in Firefly/Serenity than Castle.

Alan Rickman, but only as Severus Snape or The Sheriff of Nottingham.

Jimmy Nail, Dennis Waterman - these were the guilty pleasures of the older lady (me).

Jason Statham and Bruce Willis also made the cut.

Do you and your partner have a freebie list?

Who made yours?

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Farewell Coventry Co-Op, hello even more student accommodation (probably).

After nearly 150 years in the Coventry city centre, the Co-Op is due to close on the 24th October 2015.

From its humble beginnings in Cook Street in 1867 it moved to its current, multi-storey location, in 1956.

For many locals, born and bred in the city, the Co-Op is the first point of call for many things, from electricals (if you are a member of the Co-Op which costs £2 for lifetime membership you could get some great deals), to school uniforms, to suites and beds.

It was Christmas, however, that the 'Co' really came into its own.  Theirs was THE Santa to visit.

There was the sleigh, sitting ride behind reindeer whilst scenery rushed past.


The tinkling bells on the harnesses.

The exit into a decorated hut.

The authentic fat, jolly Santa.

The wrapped gift.

It was fantastic.

I went every year, my friends went every year.  My friends are now taking their children and grandchildren.  

But it will be no more.

According to the Coventry Telegraph a plea has gone out for someone to carry on the tradition and take over the Co-Op Santa experience.

So what will be built in place of the shop?  My guessing, and many people seem to agree, is that it will be yet MORE student accommodation.  

According to a report on the Coventry Council website, there are currently more than 4000 purpose built student accommodation units in the city, mostly in the centre.  There are also more than 8000 units on or around the site of the University of Warwick on the outskirts of the city.  There is extant planning permission for a further 3300 units across the city.

This does not include the recent change in plans for the former sorting office in the centre.

Nor does it include the great swathes of the suburbs where houses are converted to HMOs and operated by private companies or individuals.

I have posted before about students taking over the city, and the influx shows no sign of abating.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

My ideas for cost saving in the NHS

The cost of running the NHS is in the news again today, Monitor (the sector regulator for Health Services) have asked the 46 Foundation Trusts within England to review their finances due the expected deficit by the end of the current financial year.

We should stop providing free healthcare, other than emergency treatment, to non-residents.  Residency would be proved with an ID card which can only be obtained with proof of continuing employment.  Tourists would still receive cover as their insurance companies would be billed directly and automatically.

I have several friends in the Ambulance service - one of them told me a story of their dispatch receiving a call detailing a case of electrocution.  They arrived at the property under 'blues' to find the patient sitting drinking tea.  Asking when the electrocution happened they were told 'oh, about 3 weeks ago, but when I arrived in the country I was told I could get free treatment so I called 999'.

We are constantly being told that there is a shortage of doctors and consultants leading to vacancies in hospitals.  This is clearly not the case as those vacancies are able to be filled with expensive agency medics.  The Government should make the decision that with effect from the 1st April 2016, NO agency use will be funded within NHS hospitals.

Similarly with nurses and support roles.

Non-clinical supplies should be purchased from wherever gives the best price, not just from an 'approved list' of suppliers who charge 2, 3 or even 4 times the amount available on the open market.

Stop using taxis to transport notes and drugs.  No-one is discharged instantly, so there is time to have any prescribed drugs ready for the patient to take with them.  If notes need to be moved across sites, there are porters who would be able to do this using a pool vehicle.

Stop restructuring!  It costs millions to implement new structures which could go on patient care.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

I'm not having a good day.

It's been a while since I mentioned my depression, or at least I think it has.  But today has not been a good day.

I did not sleep well, waking up every hour or so until midnight, which was when I received a text with my exam results (we have to wait almost 2 months for the results so why they have to be sent out at midnight I don't know, another few hours wouldn't hurt), at 6am I gave up but felt more drained than I did when I went to bed.  I failed, by the way, but this was not unexpected.

I dragged myself out of bed and went to do the 'big shop', I had decided to try a different store today and it really threw me off my shopping stride - I seemed to buy half as much as usual, but paid twice as much.

The rest of the day has been a bit of a blur.

I have managed to wash my work clothes but nothing else.

I wanted to sort out the downstairs cupboard/junk room.  I haven't.

I should have gone and collected my prescription.  I haven't.

I needed to go to the bank.  I haven't.

I haven't attended to my vegetable patch for weeks.

All I have wanted to do today is sleep or eat or read or gamble or drink.

This may be a reaction to everything going on at work at the moment, or it could just be an escalation of my usual summer blues, or it could be a mixture of both, but I don't like it.

I want to go to bed and not get up.

I want to run away and not come back.

I just don't want to be here.  Alone.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Style XL - 18th & 19th July 2015

This weekend I was lucky enough to win weekend tickets to this event which was being held at The Paragon Hotel in Birmingham.

I've never been to an event like this before so I had no idea what to expect but I ended up really enjoying myself.

The function room was set up with a catwalk down the middle, this was lined with chairs, with round tables further back.

Vendors stalls lined the walls - Apples & Pears ClothingTopsy Curvy, Scarlett & Jo, Simply BeYours ClothingBon Prix (who I won my tickets with) and Curvy Kate - to name just a few.

There were pop-up changing rooms for trying things on and a pop-up Pin-Up Parlour offering haircuts, up-do's and make up.  I had my hair styled in Victory Rolls and I loved it!  I just need to learn how to do it myself now.

I loved watching the fashion shows and seeing the clothes being modelled.  I did miss one show as I was having my hair done at the time but saw all the others.

Alll the models seemed to enjoy themselves, despite being nervous - they were all friends, family and volunteers, no professional models here - and I think that made it all the more enjoyable to those of us watching.

There was a raffle to raise funds for MIND which I was happy to support being as Mental Health is an issue which affects me, and I was lucky again!  This time I won a Crabtree & Evelyn set.

I spotted several bloggers whose blogs I follow, but was too nervous to go and introduce myself, I wish I had done now.  I also wish I had taken more photos than I did.

I wasn't able to attend last night's session nor today's so missed a lot.  But I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the session I attended and will definitely be going again.

So come on Leah, when is the next one?

Silent Sunday - 19/07/15

Saturday, 27 June 2015

You know you have arrived back in the UK when....

....the operator for the extending walkway has to be found before you can get off the plane. takes an hour to get through Passport Control even as a UK citizen with an e-passport. spend that hour listening to a youth football team f'ing and c'ing with absolutely no concern from their guardians. spend a further 10 minutes after Passport Control waiting for your luggage to appear on the carousel only to find that it has been dumped in a pile in a corner with several others. pay £9 to travel 3.5 miles from the rail station to home by taxi.

Monday, 18 May 2015

I went to Birmingham, it didn't rain.

This weekend I was studying in Birmingham again, as I tend to do when I have a Saturday/Sunday study session I stayed over in the city, this time at The Ramada at The Mailbox (check me out, staying at The Mailbox!), a review of the hotel can be found here.

I was quite disappointed with The Mailbox, it seems to be 100s of overpriced eateries, acres of car park, Harvey Nichols and an Armani store.  Admittedly, there are a lot of renovations going on at the moment, so maybe another visit is called for once they are complete.

I did pop into Harvey Nicks, I say pop, it was through one of the eatery areas, down four flights of stairs, across the car park, up in a tiny lift and through a fire door, but I got there.  I had intended to go to Benefit to have my eyebrows shaped, but the one person who could do it was on a day off, so I ended up with a fairly standard threading which cost £17!

I had a nice wander around the canals.

And it didn't rain!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Things I don't understand, Part 1

This is going to be a random, but possibly lengthy, series on things that confuse me somewhat.

It will contain questions about anything and everything.

Such as...

During the winter, when there is snow and ice on the ground and it doesn't get above zero, you see (some, not all) girls out in tiny skirts and the highest of heels.  As soon as the sun comes out, so do the long maxi dresses and flat sandals.  Why not the other way around?

Why does everyone in my street get their taxi to stop outside my house between 2am and 6am and not outside their own house?

Why do I have to learn about Islamic Finance?  I live in the UK, which as far as I am aware is not under Sharia Law.  If I was going to practise in an Islamic country I would study the rules then.

Why does the supermarket checkout line I join always move the slowest?

Part 2 will follow soon.