Monthly Archives: March 2013

‘Just’ Jobs

In another lifetime I was a bit of an artist. I rarely have time to paint or draw now but used to make personalised greetings cards for people and was a prolific badge-maker. The drawings were reasonable but obviously any arty type activity takes time.

I used to like to help people and designed many a worksheet for teachers. What annoyed me in the end was the assumption that I would make these creations at a few minutes’ notice, with use of the word ‘just’. 

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a map on here?’

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a World War II tank for me?’

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a card for my mum’s birthday?’

I have never been good at using the word ‘No!’ and so for years I would smile, nod and say ‘Oh, yes! No problem.’ 

I called them my ‘just’ jobs and that word has haunted me ever since.

Now that I am older, you might think I’d have gained some common sense and a bit of self-respect? I’m afraid not. I still find myself saying ‘Yes’ to all sorts of things when inside my head I am screaming ‘Nooooooo!’


What on earth is SPAG you may be asking? Well, if you are a teacher, you will know the term almost intimately. It stands for ‘spelling, punctuation and grammar’. My family members have, on occasions, disowned me for correcting people’s English. They shake their heads and look terribly embarrassed. Well tough! Because I happen to think that the quality of our language must be protected.

We all have our favourite dislikes but here are some of mine:

  • their, there and they’re
  • to, two and too
  • past and passed
  • ‘he must of done’ instead of ‘he must have done’
  • even worse ‘I must of drank’ instead of ‘I must have drunk’
  • the misplaced apostrophe
  • use of US terms like ‘gotten’

There are many more but probably my most hated abomination, which seems to just happen up north, is the past tense of treat. So many people in my part of the world say ‘tret’. It makes me want to take them by the throat and throttle them.

Maybe I have anger issues?

(I checked this blog through 5 times to make sure I didn’t make any SPAG errors.)

If you find one, feel free to send me a virtual throttle!

Customer Service

Never has so much money been spent on training people in customer service – and never has it been so poor. My own personal experience in recent months has shown me the very worst of systems designed to help customers with difficulties. First of all, I find it incredible that so many companies don’t communicate by email and that the only way you can contact them is via phone call or letter.

The phone call presents so many problems. First of all, you have to pay to use their premium number – especially if you have to fit your call into a busy working day and have to use your mobile. Then you have to negotiate the options at the beginning of the call. This sometimes leads to another set of options…and another. If you are very lucky you will get to speak to a real person. Or you may be plunged into a telephonic void and have to start again. There is nothing more depressing than finally getting the ring tone to be told you are in a queue and your call is the 9th to be answered.

The ‘new thing’ is the system that detects what you want when you speak to it. I tried this last week on a call to a train company. You tell the answering machine what you want. You tone down your regional accent and try to speak Queen’s English. My call went something like this:

‘I’d like a refund on my Oyster Card’

15 seconds of silence

‘For details on emissions, please refer to our website’

Back to the drawing board.

This could be a long blog – but maybe I’ll save location of call centres, lack of inter-departmental communication systems, rudeness of call centre staff, lack of product knowledge and systems for another day.  

One thing is for certain, when I have a good experience of customer service I tell everyone about it. But I also tell everyone when I have bad service.

Blowing your own trumpet

I am quite new to twitter but already I have been struck by a strange phenomenon. I have spent quite a while looking at other people’s timelines, searching for some interesting people to follow. One thing that surprised me was the ‘look at me’ mentality in which people retweet a complimentary tweet to all their followers. I find that really strange. It’s a bit like the twitter equivalent of standing on a soapbox and shouting out to all and sundry how brilliant you are. Or maybe if someone sent you a nice letter, pinning it to your front door so that all passers-by could read it.  

In my opinion, this sort of reaction tells me a lot about the person tweeting. Not sure I would follow, for that very reason.



Noise is annoying. But some noise is more annoying. The noise of personal entertainment enjoyed without the use of headphones is most annoying. You know what I mean, don’t you? The person on the train playing their tunes out loud so we can all enjoy them. The child intently playing that irritating game on the iPad / DS / mobile phone where the noise seems to be on an incessant loop. The person entering data on their device where they have activated key press sounds. All intensely irritating.

Have they not heard of headphones???

The worst place is on a train, of course because you are the captive audience. Yes, I know you can book the quiet coach and I have done – and still had the irritating noise to contend with. Every train journey has its irritations and one of the worst is the person who takes non-stop calls on the mobile. Why do they ALWAYS shout? We do NOT want to follow your every conversation. We do NOT want to hear you say ‘I’m on the train!’ We do not want to hear your repeated ‘Hello? Hello? Hello??’ as the train enters a tunnel and the ‘I lost the signal. We went thorough a tunnel’ when you call them back. We do not want to hear your stupid ring tone or text tone that sounds like someone burping or farting.

But we are British. We have a stiff upper lip. We do not complain but sit there silently fuming in a very British way. 

Inconsiderate driving

You’ll all have been there. You are driving along and there’s a point in the road where two vehicles can’t pass. You wait and flash your lights or show in some way that you are giving way to the oncoming driver. Most of the time you will get a thank you. But occasionally, you will get no response as the other driver cruises past, ignoring your good manners and consideration. It makes you think that next time you will just motor on through regardless and make them wait. I have to admit that I am generally mild mannered and kind but once I get into a car I sprout devil’s horns and go through a Jekyll and Hyde type of transformation. What is it about driving that turns us into monsters?


It is great to read in the news that numbers of smokers in this country are falling. I can’t think of a single thing in the world that is more pointless than smoking. As a student, I tried it but never inhaled and really didn’t enjoy it. In my whole life I think I probably smoked less than 20 cigarettes. However, for health services and insurance purposes, I am counted as an ex-smoker. This niggles me as everything about smoking makes me cross. It looks ridiculous (not cool, as some think). It smells awful. It damages the health of those who do it and, more to the point, that of those around them. I celebrated when it was banned in public places. However, now, on entering my local shopping centre, I have to hold my breath as I squeeze my way through the smokers who congregate at the doors. Even worse, I am a regular visitor to my local hospital and despite notices that smoking is not allowed anywhere on the land surrounding the hospital, there they all are, smoking by the entrance doors. Some in wheelchairs. Some with leg amputations. Some on intravenous drips. Sucking on their silly white paper stick, mouths like cats’ bums, blowing their fumes over those trying to enter the doors. The cost on our stretched health services is massive but government makes so much money from it that they turn a blind eye. Yes, smoking is right up there on my whinge list……