Saturday, 15 March 2014

Retail Therapy, Cream Cakes And Predictability.

It's become something of a tradition when i visit my Dad, that on a Sunday afternoon just after dinner, we dig into a box of cream cakes that i have bought in town earlier that morning.

Now what could be simpler than driving into town, having a coffee and a browse in the bookshop, followed by a short visit to the supermarket for a box of cream cakes..? In the normal course of events, nothing. This being me however, i found myself in an awkward situation that i had no idea how i got myself into before it was too late.

On arrival at the supermarket, i found that they had moved the aisles around and sorted the food out into different places in a smart and customer friendly strategic manner, as per the newest retail management practice manual, Page 62, entitled 'Regular Customer: Confusion and Mind Games.' The downside being for me, that i couldn't find the damn cream cakes.

Now i know the reason for moving stuff about in supermarkets is to confuse the customer and make us wander around the whole building in search of what we came for, and hope that we will pass the aisle with dustpans, plastic gizmo's and wet wipes, we will see them and exclaim, "Hey, you know what? My kitchen floor is filthy, i may need that dust pan and the wet wipes… i shall buy them forthwith." As if customers actually do that… Eh..? They seem to think we are utterly predictable, malleable and sheep like.**

Well i'm wise to them. Cream cakes is what i came for and cream cakes is what i am leaving with. Nothing more and nothing less.

I spied a loose gaggle of supermarket employees at the end of the aisle, helping those who have become stuck at the unmanned, self service checkout tills that needs a person to be there, in order for people to use them properly. I approached and without a second thought, tapped the nearest of the four employees on the shoulder and politely asked...

"Excuse me, i'm a little lost, but i expect YOU will know where the cream cakes are..?"

An innocuous question i think you will agree, but not when you have inadvertently picked out the largest of the large female employees and basically said that due to her size, she will obviously know where the cream cakes are.

I swear i didn't see her as that, It was not what i was thinking. As normal i was not thinking at all, i just picked the nearest employee of the group and that was it. A hello, followed by a question followed by disaster.

She glared at me. I swallowed hard. The situation was now dawning on me as to what i had just done, and however misconstrued my intent, i was now on the receiving end of a very hard eyeballing.

"Second refrigeration unit on the left, next to the milk and cheese." She said, foregoing the usual 'Sir' at the end. I let that go, now was not the time for impertinent questions and a lecture on the finer points of good customer service.

"Thanks… I… Errr… Thanks." I left hurriedly for the milk, cheese and cream cake aisle and could feel the daggers behind me. No matter, i made it unscathed and intact to the cream cakes and found what i wanted. There was no way i was going to retrace my steps to the self service checkouts though, so i made my way to the main checkouts.

Having wandered through the aisles, I approached the checkout with my cream cakes, two bottles of South African Pinotage, disinfectant for the toilet, a box of cereal and a plastic gizmo.

Hang on… I don't usually pass the red wine / disinfectant / cereals / gizmo aisles on the way out… Oh, the utter, utter bastards.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

** The author would like to point out that he is in no way predictable, malleable nor sheep like.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Alfresco Dining And The Plastic Sachet Of Doom.

Finding myself at a local hostelry with my good lady, i thought it would be remiss of me not to indulge in a flaggon of real ale or two, along with a fish and chip dinner in the afternoon sunshine. It is after all, what sunny afternoons in the UK were invented for.

The hostelry in question, one of the now ubiquitous pub chains along the lines of 'The hungry donkey,'  'Big plate,' or 'Gut buster pub,' that pervade our once independent village squares and town high streets, was a pleasant enough place. They did however, insist on antagonising me for no good reason.

Having ordered my fish, chips and mushy peas, i got down to the business of filtering the as yet unidentified flaky bits from the bottom of my glass of real ale through my teeth, a real British tradition i think you will agree. The waitress soon arrived with a small original 18th Century antique faux wooden bucket, containing our knife, fork, napkins and what can only be described as a slack handful of condiments sealed in small, plastic sachets. Oh, the ambience of fine dining, pub chain style.

Our food arrived suspiciously quickly, but looked and smelled as it should so i banished any thought of ready meals from my mind and looked for the salt. As it turned out, the salt was at the bottom of the 18th century original faux wooden bucket, just next to the 'Made in China' stamp. They were in teeny tiny paper sachets which when opened, deposited small amounts of salt into your lap and onto the floor.

The vinegar was a bastard. Sealed in tough, rubberised plastic sachets, they were a test worthy of the Crypton Factor, in that if you did manage to open them, any attempt at removing the contents therein resulted in an arc of vinegar over your shoulder and into the eyes of the person on the next table... A small child in my case. I think i got away with it.

"Is everything to your liking?" Said a waitress.

"Yes, yes... Everything is just fine thank you..." Said I, as my missus rolled her eyes as if to say... "Here we go."

Having opened 3 sachets of salt and two of vinegar to my taste, a small gust of wind disposed of the empty plastic and paper on my behalf, over to the far end of the beer garden.

Next up was the Tartare sauce... Three sachets should be enough. Placing the first sachet of plastic between my teeth i managed to split it in two and dribble the sauce over my fingers and leave a small piece of plastic wedged in the tight gap between my two front teeth, dangling a half empty sachet from my mouth.

"Is everthing to your liking?" Said a passing waitress for no other reason than she happened to be passing. I think they are trained to say this to any person who is eating.

"Yeth, yeth... Efferthink ith juth thine thank you..." Said I, with my stiff upper lip.

As i licked at my greasy fingers, my better half had deftly opened the remaining sachets with the aplomb that only women married to stupid men can do, and deposited the sauce in a neat splodge at the side of my regulation, oversized pub chain plate. She looked at me as if i should be sat in a kiddies high chair, wearing a bib.

"Is everything alright..?" Asked yet another passing waitress. Whether she was asking as a result of boot camp training or at the plight of a grown man with plastic stuck between his teeth and tartare sauce on his fingers, i did not know. Nor did i ask.

"Can I hath a thooth pick pleath..?"

"There should be some in your bucket..." Said the waitress.

There was indeed some toothpicks at the bottom of our faux wooden bucket. small plastic ones, sealed in a paper sachet.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Friday, 7 March 2014

An Unexpected Evening Of Light Entertainment From Glastonbury...

"Can you turn the amp down a bit on that Lute..?" Said William Shakespeare famously to one of the two gentlemen of Verona, during the battle scene in A Mid Summer Nights Dream... And I can sympathise with him.

I've often thought about the type of people who go to rock concerts, music festivals and the like. You see there I was, watching 'Murder She Wrote' on the telly with a cup of tea and a hobnob, when I inadvertently sat on the remote and turned over to some godforsaken teenage 'music' channel.

"Hellloooo Glastonbury..!!" Yelled an inappropriately dressed, tattooed young lady from the stage.

"Whhooooo..!!" Came the reply from thousands of youngsters who were quite obviously out well past time on a school night.

"Whhoooo..!" They shouted again, having lost the ability to say anything remotely coherent.

"Here's one you all know..." Shouted the scantily clad lady on stage, as she started to 'sing' in what only be described as 'not singing.'

"Whhoooo..!!" Screamed the crowd as they obviously recognised the 'tune' and started to sing along whilst bouncing their heads in time to the 'music.'

I began to think that the singer was being rather presumptuous about the song being one that we all knew. I had never heard of it before, and it certainly doesn't appear in my collection of vinyl LP's and singles. I know, I checked. I also checked my small collection of these new fangled CD's... Nothing. But then I stopped listening to popular music when 'The Jam' split up and the Army cut all my hair off, gave me a rifle and pointed me in the general direction of the Soviets... Just for fun.

Another "Whhoooo..!!" blasted out from the telly, bringing me out of my Cold War memories as the singer shouted out to nobody in particular... "Are you ready to rock..?"

I should say so. At probably a few hundred pounds a ticket, I would most certainly be 'ready to rock' but only if I could bring a deck chair, my own spam sandwiches and a flask of something warming against the chill. Oh, and a place at the back, near the car park next to the beer tent.

Bloody noise... And if those kids aren't back home by 10pm, they should all be grounded for a month. That'll learn 'em.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Does This Look Infected..?

Here's a little tip for you all:

If you get to the point where an injury, no matter how small, makes you ask someone else if it may be infected... It's infected.

This happened to me the other day as someone, let's call him Dave, decided to ask me, a renowned non medical person of some repute, whether his bright red, pus filled, angry looking cut on the back of his hand was infected.

I looked at it. It was as obvious as when Sigourney Weaver said to the guy in 'Alien' just as a creature burst from his chest... "I would get that looked at if I were you... I've got a tube of Savlon.."

Listen up. The give away to an infection is soreness, redness and pus. The best way to treat it is to do something about it before you get to the pus stage because there may be a very real chance that you will progress to the next stage of untreated infection...

A short course of hospital food, then death.

It's no good waiting for my opinion on the rate of Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection and consequences, as the blood specked, oozing pus seeps into your shirt cuffs is it..? Why are you asking me..? And why are you showing it to me at lunchtime over a panini and coffee..?

I fully expect to see this post picked up by a medical professor and published in the next edition of The Lancet, where GP's will see it, stroke their chins and declare... "He's right y'know.."

Until then dear friends of mine, stop showing me your obviously infected wounds and go to the Doctor, or buy a tube of 'InfectaGo' or something similar... Because that pus has just put me right off my melted cheese panini.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.