Anorak Man - Roland Beaney

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Useless gifts - December 2008

How many times have you said, "It's just what I've always wanted—how nice." when your friend or loved one has wasted so much of their time and money buying you that ugly tie, foot spa, ice cream maker, battery-powered fan or butter knife

Long, long ago people were moved to give gifts by their own honest desire to make someone happy. What on earth happened? Nowadays, greedy businesses have stolen Christmas and birthdays and twisted these traditions into an absurd, money-oriented guilt-fest where otherwise rational people feel obligated to buy "presents" for each other. Since most of us already have what we want or need, we end up getting useless gifts that we have no use for. Have you ever received a gift and thought to yourself "what were these people thinking" either at the time or in retrospect? 

My wife opened a present and found a tin of anti wrinkle cream and it wasn't from me, honestly!  I received a pair of pointed shoes and a cardigan that had  gone out of fashion many years before and it seemed such a waste to ditch them. A bottle of whisky for a non drinker or a box of chocolates for a slimmer are also bad choices for presents. I rarely have to buy any deodorant because I receive so much as presents, do people think I smell that bad? Lat year I received so many calendars that I had one for every room. I really don't want any more pairs of socks, not for the next 10 years anyway and please, no more shirts. Also please check how much hair a man has before buying him a brush and comb. After the first week a friend had over 10 teddy bears and 25 outfits for their new born baby that were never used, all of them were eventually given away to charity. It was a nice thought but most stuffed animals are a bit useless when you think about it. I think most parents would want to buy their kid's outfits. Finally, why do most of us receive a clock as a present for our retirement? its not really something that we really need at that time of our life.

What can you do with presents that you don't want? usually they fill up your wardrobe for many years until you have a sort out and then they end up in a jumble sale. Whatever happened to all those cheese fondues sets that were given as presents in the 70s?  Do you remember dipping pieces of food on a long fork into the cheese? What about all those Teas maids that were a favourite present in the 60s, we seem to make do without them now. I can remember as a kid the joy of receiving a simple present, but now we feel duty bound to spend a fortune and much of what we buy is wasted. I love to give presents but unless they can give me an idea of what they want I will keep my money in the bank. Now, what am I going to do with all those diaries I received last Christmas?

I'm on the train - November 2008

I had to travel to London recently and used a train for the first time in years. It felt strange leaving my car at home as  I made my way to the station. I went to the ticket office and purchased my rail card for a very reasonable price. "Do not take a train before 9am", Said the man in the office. I walked to the  ticket barrier and I was reluctant to put my ticket in the slot in case it disappeared forever, but the nice man reassured me that all would be ok. I went down the steps to the platform and was feeling a a little lost. "I wish I was driving my car", I was muttering. The platform was not the most exiting place in the world with its dirty walls but the nice display above my head told me the times trains were due. The first train was a fast due just before 9am and the sign said that it would be three minutes late and sure enough it arrived exactly three minutes late. I wondered if I should board it but remembered that the man in the ticket office told me that I must not take a train due before 9am and thought better of it. My train arrived at exactly the time that was displayed on the board and I wondered how they knew the times so accurately, I would find out later. The train was almost full and I managed to find a seat next to a lady who was staring at her mobile phone, she did not move an inch when I sat down next to her and she spent all the journey staring into her phone. Was it a very long text message? I never did find out. Lots of people were using their laptops and soon mobile phones were ringing. A man three rows behind me answered his phone and everyone could hear his conversation, how embarrassing. He was heard saying,  "I will touch base with you tomorrow" then we went into a long tunnel and thankfully that ended his call. Soon we pulled into a station and came to a stop. Nothing happened and people who were trying to get off were looking a bit worried. A friendly train driver apologised over the loudspeaker and told us that he couldn't open the doors as the train had lost contact with the satellite. Puzzled looks formed on peoples faces but the lady next to me never moved away from her mobile phone, what was she reading?. Well, I've heard of leaf mould and the wrong type of snow on the track but not a satellite delaying a train. Then I realised how they knew the exact times of the arrival of the trains in the station as we were being watched by a satellite navigation system. How things have changed since I last boarded a train, no smoke coming out of an engine, no slam doors, no signs saying, "do not use the toilet in the station" or "Communication cord, penalty for use £10" The train driver eventually found the satellite and we continued on our way to our destination, the laptops were folded up and the lady next to me eventually made her way off the train still looking at her mobile, perhaps it was a picture of her boyfriend she was looking at. I was many miles away from my car facing crowds of passengers trying to find the underground station and that's another story.

The Ghost - October 2008

Many people claim to have met a ghost and share their stories of ghoulish deeds with us sending us all "balmy". So far I've not met one but I've spent a lot of time on board the Ross Revenge, a ship undergoing renovation and like many ships its supposed to be haunted. It spent many years at sea as a fishing trawler and after that it was a radio ship belonging to the Radio Caroline organisation. I've heard stories about the spooky happenings that make what little hair I have left on my head stand on end. I recently asked a couple of my shipmates to tell me of their encounters with the ghost on board the Ross Revenge..

Lee Shuttleworth, the ships cook "spook" first and  told me, "I've had several encounters with Harry (the ships ghost) over the years. My first one goes back to 2004. It was the weekend we started rebuilding one of the studios. I arrived onboard Saturday afternoon to find three guys had started ripping the studio apart and were working on a new bench and I joined in. As the day wore on the numbers onboard dwindled until by evening there was just two of us putting the mixer into place and reconnecting the wires. After our meal we shut the access gate so no one could come down to the ship. We also shut all the doors on the ship so there was no chance of anyone getting near, let alone onboard. Having finished all the work we were sitting in the studio having a beer and listening to the radio. Suddenly we heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I looked up just in time to see someone coming round the landing and going up the next set of stairs to the bridge. We went to investigate but there was no one there and downstairs the doors were all still bolted. On another occasion I was walking past the engine room and saw someone downstairs at the bench by the heating boiler. I thought it was my mate and went in to ask him if I could lock up but no one was down there. On another occasion, at the end of a summer bank holiday, I think it was August 2006. We'd been on board for a week and there was just three of us left. We were in the mess room having breakfast. We heard footsteps coming in the door, a shadow was cast into the messroom and we all looked up to see who it was but there was no one there. We then heard footsteps go off down the companionway towards the engine room and saw a towel, which was hanging on the rail, move as if by the draft of someone passing by it. More recently, on a Saturday night, we'd had dinner, and were partaking of the usual post dinner sport of sliding back a few cans of beer, Tim had recently arrived and had joined in the festivities, when we heard a bang, followed by someone stomping around above us on the back deck. We all rushed out to see who it was only again to find the decks, quayside, and surrounding areas totally devoid of people".

Peter Woods, one of the restoration crew told me of two notable experiences he had on board, "The first was whilst in the mess room last winter. I was sitting at the table on a Saturday evening in the company of the crew after Cow pie and chilling out with a few beers; I was facing towards the door, when I felt two firm finger taps on my shoulder which I thought was one of the guys having a laugh, but when I turned around there was no-one near me - they were all sat down. There was no-one on the seats beside mine either. Was it Harry? The second incident was in May when I was standing near the shop door (ex dog kennel ) I was talking to my mates mother on the mobile phone, reception was better there. She has been psychic for years, seeing and hearing "dead" people as large as life as we all appear to each other. During the course of the conversation she said she could hear a dog down the phone at my end, but I told her that there was no dog here or anywhere near the ship although there was one when it was out at sea during the 83 - 91 period. I realise she must have heard "Raffles", or perhaps there was a another dog onboard during the great northern trawler years ? I trust by these revelations I am not making a "spectre"cle of myself ! ...........ok I'll get me coat !"

Fangs a lot to both Lee and Peter for their stories. I wonder if Harry has any ghoulfriends?  think it is time to read a nice book called, The Haunted Ship by Yugo First.

Has anyone else encountered a ghost, I would love to hear your stories

Is E-Rage a Gr8  problem? - September 2008

Why do people chose to kick an object when things go wrong? According to a survey of office workers, owners and managers some people get so stressed that they actually kick their computers. The survey by Specialists ISP Eclipse Internet reports that e-rage is more prevalent in small companies because e-mail is set up and managed by unqualified staff. Their e-mail downtime is said to be more stressful than arguing with colleagues and customers. When you've written a large amount of text and it disappears from your screen during a power cut or freezes up I can sympathise with these people as it has happened to me. It all has to be written again but perhaps a lot of time is wasted by the burden of having to punctuate, spell and use the correct grammar in our e-mails. How much time would we save if we stopped worrying about all this and used the modern form of English as used by chat rooms and text messaging. Why do we have to use I instead of i and what's wrong with how r u, 2mro or L8 r  for how are you, tomorrow or later. Spelling and grammar has been evolving for centuries so should we worry if children use these new forms of spelling and should we worry if a word is not spelt rite? Yes, I realise the mistake but who didn't understand what I meant? A top academic recently sparked outrage when he said that all this should replace traditional spelling so that English could be "freed up" and we could all spell "logically" My first thought is shock and horror but then does it matter as long as we can understand the message? Perhaps change to our language is happening too quickly in this computer age.

A game of Tennis - August 2008

I was invited out for a game of tennis and I jumped at the chance because I hadn't played for a long time and needed the exercise. My wife was a bit more cautious about it and  told me to be careful.  I eventually found my racquet stored with all the old flower pots in the garage. That was not the best place to store it as it had warped badly since I last used it. I arrived on the court to find that my friend had bought along some young lads to join us. Its funny how you always feel sorry for the smallest guy and I soon regretted it. They all had posh metal racquets and mine was a 40 year old wooden one that was looking well past its best.  I felt very embarrassed but I thought I could prove that it was the player that mattered and not the state of the racquet. The session started well and my shots were improving all the time. I was beginning to enjoy it even though the legs were feeling the strain after a hard singles match. Unfortunately for me it all went downhill when I returned an easy shot to the small guy and he unleashed a fierce cross court shot that fizzed across the net and out of my reach. Determined to get to the ball I stretched out and felt a pain in the back of my leg and ended up on my back.  When I got home I was hardly able to put my foot on the ground and my wife was not very sympathetic and mentioned something about being too old for tennis. Later I was to find out that I had damaged my hamstring. A good excuse for not doing the washing up I thought. No, she then made me clean the windows.

Is Public Wi-Fi Safe? - July 2008

Public Wi-Fi access (free or paid) is a service that is expanding fast. I've been reluctant to use it but already some people can't manage without it. So when I go on holiday is it worth taking my laptop with me to check my e-mails and get directions on the road and are there be a lot of places where I would be able to use it. Also what about security on public Wi-Fi hot spots, are they safe and could I check my bank details in the local coffee shop without the threat of someone else seeing my account?  As we have been told many times we should be careful with our confidential details when we use our computers as it is easy for it to be seen on the airwaves.  There are a lot of Wi-Fi hot spots about now, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, airports, motorway service areas and many shopping centres so you should be able to find somewhere to connect to the web. Ultimately, we  are the first line of defence for staying safe and a little common sense goes a long way. Make sure you have a firewall set up and running. Keep your antivirus protection up to date and your sensitive data secured separately on a drive that is not connected to your laptop. Free Wi-Fi service is great but paid Wi-Fi may be a bit safer, offering better protection, since most have encryption in place. Ultimately a wired connection will always be the best option. But then again, wired or wireless--there are no guarantees. When accessing public Wi-Fi (free or paid), don't transmit anything that you wouldn't write on a postcard and send for the world to see, unless it is absolutely necessary. Remember no computer network is truly secure. It's always theoretically possible for eavesdroppers to view or "snoop" the traffic on any network, and it's often possible to add or "inject" unwelcome traffic as well. However, some networks are built and managed much more securely than others. I think I'll leave my laptop at home and enjoy my holiday or could I use my mobile phone instead to surf the web and send e-mails, that's another question I will look at later.

Downloading music - June 2008

According to some of the major stores the CD single has died and they have decided to stop selling them. I always thought it was a waste to use a whole CD for a single and most of the younger generation have not bought one for many years. They download all their music from Cyberspace and play it on their sub woofers without any sign of a disc at all. My first attempt at downloading almost failed when I paid 79p for my favourite tune and it disappeared somewhere on my computer. I looked for hours and eventually found it mixed up with my pictures. Then I had to find out how to copy it onto an MP3 player and Windows gave no hint how this can be done. I was told that I couldn't send or give the track to a friend because of copyright restrictions even though I can give my CDs away to anyone. The file stayed locked inside my computer for weeks until I purchased an MP3 player and studied the instructions written in 25 languages to find out how to use it. I was amazes at the amount of music I could put on such a tiny device. I still remember buying my first single with some money I had for my birthday, it was "What do you Want" by Adam Faith. I took it home and played it on my Dansette record player over and over again until my mum pulled the plug on it. The records came in paper sleeves with Decca, London, Embassy or HMV written on them and they cost six shillings and seven pence. I built up a large collection of records and shared them with my friends but now I risk being stopped by the copyright cops if I dare give my download to a friend to play. Most of my collection of  singles disappeared many years ago when the CD was invented and now I have to start my collection all over again with downloads. That's progress, I suppose. Most of us seem to remember the first record we bought so please e-mail me at with details of your first record purchase.

Identity theft - May 2008

We are constantly being told that identity theft is one of Britain's fastest-growing crimes. According to official figures published on  pilfered details of our bank accounts, addresses, dates of birth and credit card numbers cost the UK economy more than £1.7 billion a year. That's over £250 a year loss for every one of us. More than 1 in 4 adults have been or know someone that have been affected. Many years ago over £5,000 was spent on my credit card in the US and the first I knew of it was when I had a letter from my card issuer telling me that I had overspent. I was lucky because you not only lose your money but your credit ratings can be damaged, you could have problems with your passport and you could even get a criminal record. It can then become very difficult to correct the problems caused. It is amazing that people still throw away sensitive documents without shredding them. Bills, bank statements, letters from credit card agencies and anything with your name and address on could provide a criminal with useful information about you. Your computer also contains a goldmine of information which can be accessed by criminals from all over the world. Make sure you have decent software installed in your computer to make life more difficult for these people and don't make it easy for them by giving away your personal details on Social Networking sites like Facebook and Bebo. Many of us find it difficult to believe that while we are surfing the web in the safety of our own home that people are out there watching us. When you are closing the curtains at night remember that your identity can still be seen, protect yourself on the computer and then buy a shredder for your documents.

Sensible Risks - April 2008

Conkers could soon be making a comeback, hanging baskets may soon be less of a risk and Christmas decorations may make a return to the office. These "hazards" and many others had been banned in many areas over recent years but now some local authorities are getting together with the Health and Safety executive to stamp out scaremongering and encourage sensible risk assessments. The Sign up to Sensible Risk project aims to protect staff, employers and the public from real hazards, instead of trivial concerns that are taking up precious time and resources.
The HSE statement reads- "We believe that risk management should be about practical steps to protect people from real harm and suffering - not bureaucratic back covering. If you believe some of the stories you hear, health and safety is all about stopping any activity that might possibly lead to harm. This is not our vision of sensible health and safety - we want to save lives, not stop them. Our approach is to seek a balance between the unachievable aim of absolute safety and the kind of poor management of risk that damages lives and the economy".

I wonder if this means that Children will not now be required to wear helmets and goggles when playing conkers and the School Pancake Day race that was banned as a hazard last year will return. I'm not so sure about hanging baskets though after I walked into one last summer that had just been watered.  My face was covered with soil and I was soaked. Why do people hang them at head height over a pathway?

Sign-up to sensible risk was launched at the Local Government Association’s national conference on 3 July 2007.  The chief executives of HSE, the Local Government Association and a number of Local Authorities became the first to publicly sign-up to HSC’s ten principles of risk management

Local Authority Chief Executives can join the campaign by sending an e-mail to or if you are a local authority employee and would like to see your authority signed up to the campaign, why not get in touch with your Chief Executive and encourage them to join?

Growing up - March 2008

If you grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s no one realised the dangers of passive smoking, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors and cabinets and we had no helmets to protect us when we rode our bikes. We rode in cars with no seat belts or air bags and drunk water from the garden hose. We shared our soft drinks with our friends, ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it. We rarely became overweight because we were always outside playing!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back before the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us because we didn't have mobile phones. We would spend hours building carts out of orange boxes and then  ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into  the bushes a few times, we learned how to solve the problem. There was no school run and most of us had to walk or cycle to school in wind, rain or snow. We even had to go to school in the snow and when the boiler broke down we sat all day in our duffel coats. We didn't have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, video games or DVD movies, no surround sound, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms but we made friends when we played in the park. We fell out of trees, cut ourselves, broke bones and teeth and didn't claim compensation. We played in the mud and the dirt and didn't disinfect our hands every time we got them dirty. We made up games, rode bikes, played cricket, football and cowboys and Indians and even played conkers without a helmet! We actually played on the swings and didn't destroy them. Football teams had trials and if we didn't make the team we soon got over the disappointment. We were scared of policeman and if we did something wrong we felt humiliated when a policeman told us off. We soon found out that our parents actually sided with the law! That generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever and an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!  Now our lives are regulated for our own good. Is that progress?

Men's fashions - February 2008

The Kinks once had a big hit with a song called, "a dedicated follower of fashion"  That song was never written with me in mind. When I was at school I was the last one wearing trousers with turn ups. Eventually I cut mine off with a pair of scissors and my mum was non too pleased especially as they were then too short. But when turn ups came back into fashion I dug deep into my wardrobe and found an old pair of trousers with turn ups and  wore them with pride. Since then trouser fashions have changed regularly and I never know where I am. Tight ones, baggy ones, hipsters and now there are trousers that seem to have a crotch that goes right down to the knees and sometimes below. They wouldn't suit me. I saw David Beckham wearing a cardigan recently that was exactly the same as one that I had back in the 70s, in fact I've probably still got it somewhere. I had a lovely pair of green flash plimsolls a few years ago but I was told I had to get trainers to do my circuit training in. I hate trainers, in the summer they make your feet sweat and smell awful and in the winter the rain soaks through them. Reluctantly, I bought a pair and they remain in the wardrobe now. Vests seem to be back in fashion now but do you remember those string vests, whatever happened to them? They were supposed to keep you warmer by trapping warm air bubbles between the strings. Would anyone own up to having worn a string vest, well I did and I didn't like them. My wife uses my old vests to clean the windows with but you couldn't do a thing with a string vest because it was full of holes. I once owned a pair of winkle picker shoes and wore them long after they went out of fashion, in case you are under 40 they were the shoes that had long pointed fronts. I didn't look too good in them but they were a present and I felt I had to wear them. Do you remember see through shirts? you couldn't wear a string vest with them but I made sure I had a jacket on over the top. David Beckham looked smart wearing his cardi but did you notice that he was also seen wearing a tie? I thought they had disappeared like the cravats did years ago. Many men today dress up in a smart suite but with an open neck shirt, its just not on. Bring back the tie. Whatever happened to cuff links? every man had several pairs of them given to them as presents but did they ever wear them? Save them because they will be back in fashion one day. Now, whatever happened to men's tights? They were supposed to keep the legs warm under the trousers, yes, they did sell them but no I didn't buy a pair. Off to search for my old cardigan now to look like David Beckham. 

Computers - Jan 2008

When I started school I was interested in a large machine that sat in the corner of the classroom. One day I asked my teacher what it was and she told me that it was a calculator. She showed me how to use it and said that if I was a good boy I could play with it during the lunch hour. I was fascinated by it because it would subtract, add, multiply divide and do all my sums. It was one of the first calculators and was so big that took up a large part of the corner of the classroom. When I started work I noticed an office where everyone that went into it had to dress up like nurses. When I asked what they did in there I was told that it was the computer bureau and I was not allowed in there because I might contaminate it. I did remind them that I had a wash before coming to work and they all laughed. Later I was dressed up like a nurse and taken in to have a look. It was one of the first computers and it was massive. The office had to be a dust free environment and there were giant cabinets and machinery everywhere. They told us that computers would eventually cut out all our paperwork. Now I have a computer on my desk that takes up far less room than that first calculator in my classroom yet it is thousands of times more powerful. The computer has now replaced that well known chocolate bar that helps us to work, rest and play. When anyone aged 25 now was born a few of us were privileged to own a Sinclair home computer. Now, most homes have a least one computer that is two thousands of times more powerful than those Sinclair machines. I remember having ink wells on my school desk and getting my hands covered in the stuff and the fountain pens that would spring a leak and leave pools of ink all over the desk, thankfully we had blotting paper to mop it all up with, now what happened to blotting paper? thankfully the teacher soon let us use ball point pens, they got fed up with the ink stains all over the place. Now we type our letters or should I say e-mails from our Computers and they get to Australia in a few seconds or even earlier. We use them for work, we use them for rest and we use them for play and we also use them for learning. For many of us the first task when we got up was to head for the kitchen to make a cup of tea, now I head for the computer and check my e-mails. I thought that early adding machine meant that eventually I wouldn't have to do any more sums. I now realise how wrong I was and I still have to use my brain. They also told us that computers would eventually reduce the amount of paper we use. How wrong they were. They now churn our more paperwork than ever before, that's why all the trees are disappearing. They also lose all our personal records.

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