The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

In praise of First Hull Trains and their Customer Service…

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Last week seems so long ago now, there is one less Monnery in the world, I have discovered how amazing Air Conditioning is, Alastair Cook has scored a few runs, all of these are important but I want to tell you a tale about how First Hull Trains dealt with my travel issues on Friday afternoon. Hat-tip folks, they dealt with it amazingly well.

So my sister got married on Saturday, this meant of course that the family had to come from far and wide to get to the wedding in Hull. I had my train tickets for the Kings Cross to Hull section of the journey, but also had the tickets for my other sister and husband as I bought them all at the same time so that we’d have reserved seating together. All well and good. I go to the railway station here in plenty of time and get my ticket into London. I notice that going towards Shoeburyness there were severe delays but they said on the London route all was well.

So I get on the choo choo, we get to Westcliff and we wait and we wait and we wait, we go up to Chalkwell and the same thing happens. My Hull train was at 13:48 and my train into West Ham was due in at 12:35, giving me ample time to get through London. At this point I’m starting to get annoyed and we get to Leigh-on-Sea and after another long delay, boom the train was cancelled. Apparently overhead wires had gone down between Pitsea and Benfleet and trains were having to share one line. The issue was what really happened is they kept the Shoeburyness bound trains going and just cancelled the London bound trains. Shit.

Now I won’t rag too hard on c2c for this because after living here for many years, the service has pretty much always been exemplary but on the one day I needed it to be actually working then it let me down. Sod’s law and all that. It was annoying mostly as I had other people’s tickets so I wasn’t just screwing me, I was screwing others. Those members of my family spoke to Hull Trains at Kings Cross and they advised that my sister and brother-in-law wait for me and they would sort things when I got there. I was ok about this but annoyed that their travel plans were disrupted by me.

So anyway eventually c2c put on another train that went around the Tilbury Loop and I would finally get to West Ham. I got to West Ham after my train to Hull had left from Kings Cross. So I was relatively relaxed as I couldn’t do much but then my sister text me to say that I needed to get my ticket stamped that it had been delayed. You freaking what? I of course did not have this and at this point had pretty much resigned myself to having to fork out for three new tickets as I couldn’t ask them to pay knowing it wasn’t at all their fault.

Upon finally arriving at Kings Cross my sister said she had spoken to someone who had basically said we’d need new tickets, apparently he was also rude and a jerk. Go figure. So anyway as the guy who had ordered the tickets I went up to the help desk and spoke to a young lady called Emma and I’ll tell you anyone who may read this from First Hull Trains – this young lady was absolutely brilliant. I told her the story, she saw on her computer that c2c had been having significant delays and basically told us that she would speak to the inspector/guard on the train and would get us on the next train and to come back 15 mins before the train was due to leave and she would take us there and inform the inspector/guard that our tickets were valid (despite being for a specific earlier train).

We came back and she took our tickets, wrote all over them that these tickets were now valid for the 15:48 because of delays on c2c and that the guard Paul knew about them. We got on the train and when Paul came round he asked if we were the three who Emma had told him about, we said yes, he clipped our tickets and got on his way.

I just wanted to note how good the service was and how much difference having someone sensible doing your customer service is. I didn’t speak to the guy my sister did (she doesn’t know his name – so whoever was on the Hull Trains customer service desk at around 13:30 on Friday 25th July) and she was quite upset but when I got there and spoke to Emma, I couldn’t praise her enough. It had been an extremely stressful morning and I was ticking but she listened, understood it wasn’t my fault and in turn did everything possible to make my ongoing journey as stress free as possible.

It says something when you get such good customer service that I feel compelled to blog about it but yet there was a tonne of stress going through not only myself but the other people who were travelling with me and within a few minutes she defused it totally.

So good job Emma and good job First Hull Trains.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 29th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

Equality in politics – why are women in politics seen as the end game?

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I have an opinion that more women should be involved and fully engaged in the world of politics. I am also of the opinion that more men should be involved and fully engaged with the world of politics. I think more gay people should be. I think more straight people should be. I think more working class people should be. I think more middle class people should be. I think more people who love Marmite should be. I think more people who loathe Marmite should be. I think you get my point. I want a world where people from all walks or life who have an interest in politics are fully able to get involved and feel as though they fulfill their ambitions and if not, that they at least have the opportunity to do so.

Because you see my view of liberalism is all about equal opportunities for everyone. No matter a persons gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, financial situation, views on whether exercising is better in the morning or in the evening, all these people should have the chance to do what they want, whether they succeed or not isn’t the end game, the fact they had the chance is. We can’t all be Prime Minister. We can’t all go into space. We can’t all put on the #9 shirt of Portsmouth FC and score a winning goal against the Scummers in an FA Cup Final at Wembley. Life doesn’t work that way but when I came out into this world all of those possibilities were feasible, if maybe a touch unrealistic, but the opportunities were there.

When it comes to politics, the world might not exactly be my oyster but opportunities lay ahead of me. If my reproductive organs were on the inside of my body and not dangling between my legs then those same opportunities would lay ahead of me. Now there is a question, a legitimate question, about whether it is harder for women than men and that is a question that needs to be fully explored but the fact is I don’t think anyone would say that being a woman, in this country, automatically takes away some of those same opportunities.

I saw a petition today that wanted a 50/50 makeup of parliament in terms of gender balance by 2025. I think that is a good target to aspire to but there is only one way to ever get that parity, make 50% of seats solely for women candidates of all parties and the other 50% for men. That is the only way that could ever actually be achieved. I’m not exactly sure this is realistic and nor do I think the public as a whole would support this idea.

I would love to see the House of Commons be more representative of the country as a whole but it doesn’t stop at gender. I think having MPs from all forms of backgrounds is actually a far bigger issue but it is less ‘sexy’ – pardon the pun. I look at the vast majority of MPs and I wonder whether they understand the struggles that effect every day people. The problem is many MPs say one thing but actually do another. It is very much a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ approach to life. TIn fact if I’m being totally honest I think the idea of a career politician is one that rankles.

It is just human nature that the more you are removed from a problem then the less effective you’ll be at recognising such a problem. MPs who have only ever known politics in their adult life will not be as rounded as individuals. For example how can you be the leader of what is traditionally seen as the party of the working classes when you are a multi millionaire and apart from one year as a researcher for a political TV programme and a sabbatical that included lecturing in the States, has only made a living from politics? Not knocking Ed (well I suppose I kinda am) but his knowledge of the real world is vastly limited. I’d expect the leader of the Labour Party to be one who had more of a solid grounding in what the problems were.

Sitting alongside him is a man who went to Harvard in Ed Balls and even Harriet Harman, who has an excellent grounding and has spent significant time in the ‘real world’ before becoming an MP in her early 30s went to a fee paying school. Now I’m not saying that the big three of Labour aren’t the best people for the job (they aren’t but this is not the reason) but for the party of the working man or woman, it could be argued that they don’t fully understand the struggles that people face day in and day out. If Labour are having these problems then you know the other major political parties are having the same.

The problem is how to get these people from different backgrounds who show the spark and enthusiasm to get involved to stick. Making politics more accessible is one of the biggest problems facing the political system in this country. To get elected requires an enormous amount of hard work, money and dedication. Points one and three are probably par for the course and we need to find ways to make the workload more workable for those who have to work regular jobs but money is a big issue.

Everyone moans about the amount that MPs get paid but how are you ever going to attract people to work as an MP for a small salary? I saw a radical left winger say that she thinks all MPs should live off a minimum wage to see what it is really like, she then in turn said that she had many offers to be a PPC. However she has turned of these down because she is making a significant wage elsewhere and doesn’t feel as though being an MP would be financially prudent for her at this juncture considering she has a child. So she wants MPs to take a what, 85% odd pay-cut but she herself doesn’t want to be an MP because she earns more money elsewhere. Sounds like another ‘do as I say and not as I do’ person. Does seem to be a lot of them around doesn’t there?

The answers are not clear but it is clear that the majority of people think as much as politicians as they do bankers or journalists. Lucky I never got into banking really or I really could have gone for the most hated trifecta.

The House of Commons should indeed be a good representation of the country as a whole, how to get there though is far bigger a challenge than just getting more women into politics. That is just one aspect and how that happens is something we all have differing viewpoints on. I have never subscribed to the all women shortlists idea as to me the idea of getting equality via inequality just doesn’t compute. I have been told repeatedly by women (and men) that they want to be treated as equals (rightly) but then some of them think they should get preferential treatment in certain situations. Equality is equality, it isn’t equality for 95% of the time and then inequality for 5%.

So we need to find a way to get more women into politics but we also need to find a way to get the House of Commons look and sound like more of a cross-section of society. This is a big job and one and I see no cohesive plan for reform of how we as a party deal with things, let alone how parliament deals with the stark problem. I would be happy if political parties were funded by the state and prospective MPs had a small budget that they could use – and not just in an election period. Now prospective MPs with money or from a rich local party can spend for years with no limitation apart from in that election period. This doesn’t encourage a level playing field. Would people from less well off backgrounds be more inclined to get engaged and involved if they knew the playing field was level financially? It is a question that I think merits some thought.

Politics at every level is less about ideas and more about money and manpower and that is where politics has gone wrong. The best and the brightest don’t always get in because they are straitjacketed by other reasons. I want the best and the brightest to be in the House of Commons. I want the best and the brightest to be in council chambers up and down the land. People shouldn’t get elected solely because of the logo next to their name on the ballot box. People shouldn’t get elected because they can outspend their opponents. People shouldn’t get elected because they have more manpower.

People should get elected because they are the person the majority of the voters feel will do the best job regardless of anything else. This may seem like pie in the sky stuff but that has to be the end game and until we know exactly what the end game is then how can we plan and prepare to reach it?

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Written by neilmonnery

July 15th, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Politics

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I deleted my birthday from Facebook to see who actually knew my birthday…

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So yesterday I turned 31. A case for much joy and celebration (I had a microwave meal for dinner and fell asleep in the afternoon for the second day running whilst watching the closing minutes of that days stage of the Tour de France – damnit) so as you can see, I really lived it up.

Anyway about ten days ago I decided to remove my birthday from Facebook as an experiment. Every year 40-50 people, many of whom who don’t speak to me at any other point in the calendar year, will wish me a happy birthday, prompted by Facebook. So I wondered who would know without that prompt.

Usually I’ll wake up to a few messages but only my mum had posted on my Timeline. This continued throughout the working day although one of my best friends from school had sent me a text along with messages from both my sisters. I thought this would be it but then just after five o’clock I got a happy birthday message from someone whom I solely know via the internet. This means in all likelihood that this fabulous young lady actually had my birthday written down somewhere (bizarrely enough she is one of the handful of people’s whose birthday I actually know off hand. I think she is the only person whose I know who I’ve never met). This followed by another of my best friends from school leaving a message on my Facebook wall meant it started coming up in people’s feeds and they had a prompt and ten or so more happy birthday messages came.

I did this essentially to write a blog post to see how much we all rely on Facebook for something like knowing whose birthday is when. I’m as guilty of it as most. I know most of my school friends birthdays from memory (and the important landline numbers still) but go beyond my school friends then there are very few I know. Facebook has become essential to most people for knowing when there is a birthday.

Also I used to find it strange (still do) that people whom I’ve not conversed with since school will wish me a happy birthday if prompted to by Facebook. I only say happy birthday to those with whom I actually speak with from time to time yet some people feel compelled to say it to everyone if prompted to by Facebook, I’ve got to admit I just don’t get this. I know many of us are Facebook friends with many people we haven’t seen since school but I’ve found many of these people who have wished me happy birthday in the past on Facebook wouldn’t have done so at school when I saw them everyday!

Facebook at times is a bizarre service. I got a couple of messages last night asking if it was my birthday as I had posts on my wall saying happy birthday but Facebook didn’t say it was my birthday and they didn’t know who to believe. That is where we’ve got to boys and girls. I think that says a lot.

So anyway, I’m now 31, things are the same as when I was 30. My sister still thinks I look like a young Novak Djokovic (despite being older than he is) and the only person with whom I spoke face to face yesterday was one of my neighbours to tell her that the paint job on my balcony was fine and she could sign off mine as completed. That sums up my world pretty well. This is the fifth birthday I’ve ‘celebrated’ in this apartment and it is probably the last. Where I’ll resurface next in still very much up in the air but this 32nd year might not be exciting but it might very well be extremely significant in shaping the rest of my life as I look to move from a tenant to an owner. Scary times indeed.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 11th, 2014 at 8:35 am

Posted in Random Stuff

Andrew Strauss calls Kevin Pietersen a c*** on live TV but keeps his job – what bull

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Oh an open microphone. Broadcasting is a strange beast. I have dabbled as many will know and whilst many may have sympathy for Andrew Strauss following events yesterday. I do not. For the record I am no big fan of Strauss but nor am I a big fan of KP. I don’t really have a horse in this race.

For those who don’t know what happened then here is the article from the Independent – Andrew Strauss ‘mortified’ and ‘profusely sorry’ after he calls Kevin Pietersen a ‘c**t’ live on air. The former England captain thought he was off air (Sky were on an ad break) but in fact they were still live in other parts of the world and decided it was a good time to call Kevin Pietersen the c-word whilst his microphone was on.

Sky quickly made an apology, tweeting the following, Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used and Strauss followed suit by stating I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen. I am mortified and profusely sorry.

Sources seem to suggest that this will be the end of the matter but that just rings hollow to me. I have been a staunch admirer of Sky’s cricket coverage for many many years. I genuinely think their team is the best in the sport and might well be the best in any sport I watch. They hired Andrew Strauss specifically because they wanted him, fresh out of the sport after his issues with Kevin Pietersen, to essentially give a good insight into the inner workings of the England dressing room. Sadly for them, all he’s done is not comment or criticise because he’s still mates with except everyone bar Kevin Pietersen, who he’s been happy to tear apart, this is unprofessional and poor broadcasting but it is still not an open personal attack, which now he has done.

If Sky really believed in their brand and product then they would fire him on the spot. In all fairness the fact they extended his original contract (which covered the two Ashes series last year according to reports at the time) seems highly questionable. His broadcasting talents are well below the standards of his fellow top tier of Sky cricket commentators. Strauss can’t hold a candle to the likes of Atherton, Holding, Bumble, Hussain, Warne, Gower and yes even Botham and his constant grumpiness that he’s watching cricket and not fishing. Strauss adds nothing to the team but yet he seems to be being molded for big things by the corporation.

He should be gone and even if they chose not to fire him, he should be taken out of the spotlight of their Test team sooner rather than later. The first test against India starts on Wednesday and if Strauss is involved then we’ll know what Sky think is more important, keeping Strauss happy or allowing personal vitriolic attacks on people. Andrew Strauss is perfectly entitled to his opinion on KP but he is not sitting around watching the game on his sofa with his mates, he’s being paid a good amount of money by a big company to professional broadcast.

If Sky won’t remove Strauss from the firing line then he should do it himself. Ask to be stepped down or offer his resignation. I doubt he’ll do either but Andrew Strauss has never come across as a man high on principles anyway. Many many people have been involved in many many broadcasts and knowing what you can and can’t say isn’t exactly rocket science. If there is a chance your microphone is on then it is best not to say anything that can get you into trouble. Strauss fell foul of this and because of what he said and who he said it about (given their history) then his position would seem to me to be untenable but Sky have a history of backing their people beyond where they should so come Wednesday I fully expect to see the previous England captain on my screen and it will push me further towards TMS even though I’d be loathed to not listen to Michael Atherton or Michael Holding, who are supreme.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 6th, 2014 at 9:30 am

Posted in Other Sport

Tagged with ,

What is Cllr. Flewitt’s end game?

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This morning (well this afternoon really…I would pretend that I was all up early and reading the blogosphere but that really isn’t my style) so anyway, this afternoon I read that Labour’s new young mouthpiece in Southend had composed a blog post entitled MARK FLEWITT, LAPDOG TO ATTACK DOG? (yes he used all caps) and if I’m actually being fair, it is a very pertinent question and one that has reared its head inside of my mind.

Because you see, I like certain things about politics and I hate others. One thing that I truly despise is people who say one thing when in power and when they get removed for whatever reason, suddenly say the complete opposite. Going the other way is something I find less deplorable as we can all be idealistic but sometimes the realisation of power and what you can and can’t do means you can’t do everything that you want to. It is bloody annoying still but going from power to opposition and moaning just rings hollow as my brain just screams, ‘well why didn’t you do that when you had the bloody power then…?

Matthew speaks about the possibility of building homes on a piece of land in St. Laurence, which is probably what Mark should be talking about as a councillor for the ward. However in yesterday’s Echo he also had another entry – a letter to the editor – entitled ‘Sort ghastly Greater Anglia line’ where upon he lambasts the line and tells Southend Council that they need to be on the side of the Greater Anglia commuter as they face frequent delays, old rolling stock and high price increases.

Now let me just double check something here, Cllr. Flewitt is a Tory councillor, right? The Tories have run Southend Council for all but what, six or so weeks of his 10+ year tenure on the council? What the fucking hell did he do for the Greater Anglia line commuters in the ten years when he had influence on the side of the majority and ruling parties? I’m guessing not a great deal considering he’s saying just how shit it is now and I’m guessing the quality of the line hasn’t suddenly plundered since May 23. The line has long been the poor cousin of the old Misery Line as c2c really has invested and will continue to do so. The Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria line certainly hasn’t seen such investment.

So whilst Cllr. Flewitt makes what is in fact a valid point, the fact he has wrapped it up in a shot at Southend Council leaves me shaking my head in despair. Why didn’t he and his fellow Tory councillors do something about it in their ten years they had with him as part of the administration if he felt so strongly about it? It is all well and good telling the council they should look at the line (fair comment) but when you’ve had ten years involved with the organisation who could help sort it and you’ve seemingly done bugger all then your words ring hollow. It galls me that politicians do this – and Cllr. Flewitt isn’t the only one, he isn’t the first and won’t be the last and lets be blunt, politicians from all parties do it and it stinks.

Most of the more vocal and well known Tory councillors have either left or been removed by the electorate. It is probably fair to say that Cllr. Flewitt is now the most vocal member they have left in terms of name recognition and media presence. It does seem as though he is setting himself up to be the voice of the opposition but I personally feel as though he should focus his critique and time on things that he didn’t have influence over for the past ten years (i.e. things the new administration are doing that the Tories didn’t and things they continue to disagree with) and not just to make political capital out of things that he could have influenced for the past ten years but for whatever reason, chose not to.

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Written by neilmonnery

July 3rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

Five year-old fights sexual misconduct charge for voluntary ‘depantsing’

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I don’t know where to start folks. Sometimes I click on a link to a news story and I just get filled with rage and want to go all vigilante on the idiots that I am reading about. This is very much what happened last night when I read about this story in the Inquisitr.

Here is the short version for those that can’t be arsed to click on the link. A five year-old from Arizona took his pants off in the playground at his kindergarten. The school reacted to this by making him sign paperwork acknowledging that he had indeed been guilty of sexual misconduct and have added to his permanent school file that he has been guilty of sexual misconduct during his school life.

What the fucking hell?

My actual response (and that of the Scot-come-Yank friend of mine that I showed it to) was simple. He’s fucking five. You know the courts are really big on honouring the signature of a five year-old who really knew exactly what he was signing. The school idiots claim that the student was fully entitled to have his parents there if they ask for them but as the five year-old didn’t ask for his parents then everything was above board. Let me repeat one bit of that sentence, the five year-old…he’s fucking five years old people. Five years old. If I teacher told me to do something at the age of five then you know what, I’d have done it. I didn’t get my rebellious streak until much later in my life. My Scot-come-Yank friend said that he hoped the signature was in crayon. I guffawed.

“Our school district uses consistent language for disciplinary infractions in order to provide clarity and track discipline data accurately,” Assistant Superintendent Jim Dean said in a written statement as he tried to cover his backside. See I’ve been kind there and called him Jim Dean not what I want to call him but I think it is fair to say my opinion of him and his actions are not exactly sky high at this point.

My favourite assistant superintendent also said ‘it’s just a label’ – yeah like having a sexual misconduct label attached to his permanent file wouldn’t hack him off. Like he wouldn’t want this to happen to his children or grandchildren. Some people are seriously so incomprehensible at times that you wonder how they are part of a balanced and successful society. The kid is I repeat five years old. Five fucking years old. We all know how mud sticks and labels like this would follow him through his schooling. Does he deserve that? God no.

Look if the teachers involved and good old Jim Dean got fired then I wouldn’t cry for them. Until they get in inside of their thick heads that they have acted in a wholly inappropriate way then then I have no hope for them. Maybe the Dysart Unified School District needs to look at the way it handles discipline. The poor kids mum believes that they didn’t take the kids age into consideration. Of course they didn’t – they just looked at the disciplinary procedures and followed them like lemmings.

Every single rational person I’m sure would look at this story and have the same simple reaction ‘he’s fucking five’ and despair at what is going on. The worst of it though is they’ve had two months to rectify their mistake and realise that they have boobed in a big way but instead of doing that, they have dug in behind their rule book and not looked at how ridiculous they all are.

So Jim Dean and associates I hope you twig just how dumb you are acting and reverse this ludicrous decision quick-smartish. However I fear that you won’t and five year-old Eric Lopez will be labelled for the rest of his school life as having admitted his guilt of sexual misconduct as a five year-old for voluntarily taking down his pants. The way the supposed responsible adults acted I’d just shocked the police weren’t called, the kid read his Miranda Rights and then hauled off to the police station in handcuffs.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 30th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Posted in News

Ipsos Mori June Issues – Immigration tops the economy for the first time

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Oh people. How you make me despair. The economy for the first time in recent history is not top of the list of issues that people think are effectively the UK (immigration has tied with the economy before) as immigration now has a sensational six-point lead in the latest Ipsos Mori issue index.

Ipsos Mori June Index

June Issues Index

This is undoubtedly due in part to the European elections and the amount of air time that UKIP have been getting. The more rubbish they spew the more people believe it and therefore the more airtime they get and therefore more people believe it and so on. It just goes on and on and the media’s determination to build up UKIP has led to more people worrying about our immigration policy than how the economy is doing. Just how backward is that?

I know on one hand you could argue that this is good news for the coalition parties, people aren’t worrying about the economy as much and therefore it gives credence to why the coalition formed in the first place. If come polling day in 2015 the economy is bouncing back nicely, unemployment going down and job creation going up then it is likely that both parties can look in the mirror and think they’ve done a good job.

Problem though is that if this polling data is accurate then people care more about immigration policy and I think it is fair to say that these people aren’t the type of people that are worried that our borders aren’t open enough. The isolationists are starting to makes their voices heard. These are the people that blame foreigners for their own problems instead of actually finding the problem. Do I blame foreigners for the fact I’m unattractive to the female species? No, no I don’t. Are foreign men coming over here and wooing females that I would have had a chance with? I doubt it. I’m just not an attractive man. Of course at this point I’m kinda taking the mick but I think you get my point (although my attractiveness and lack of it has been well researched and backed up by copious amounts of evidence).

People are worried about foreign people coming over here and abusing our benefits system. You know what, some do. You know who also abuses the benefits system? British people. Is it ok that British people abuse the benefits systems? Do they have more rights to abuse it because they were born here? Nigel Farage abuses the expenses system at the European Parliament and he is lauded for it. Other people abuse the expenses system in Parliament and they go to jail and the public derides them. It doesn’t make sense. It is like there is one rule for one set of people and one for another. It is a joke. It goes against the basic principle that we are all equal.

Ding, Ding, Ding – we have a winner! What’s this? You have won the award for hitting the nail on the head of the UKIP voter – they believe that we are not all created equal. People that are different should not have the same rights, when I say people who are different, what I really mean is people who do not share their philosophies and thought processes with. Of course not everybody that votes UKIP believes that but it is a general point.

Obviously I have a different viewpoint. For example the Ipsos Mori issues index has the NHS as the fourth largest issue facing the country today. You know another thing? If UKIP had its way and pulled us out of Europe and basically closed our borders then the NHS would collapse. There are so many EU and non-EU staff within the NHS that we should be eternally grateful that they choose to come over here and provide vital care for us. If I am in a traffic accident then I don’t care what nationality the doctors and nurses are and nor should anyone else. Caring about that is about as flat out dumb as you can get but heck people do. It beggars belief.

The point though is the media are fanning the flames. The majority of people in this country care mostly about the economy. I know this not because I’m spoken to every single person in the land but because it is sound logic. If people have a job and have money then they can afford food and a roof over their heads. That always has to be the first thing on the minds of any person. Whether foreigners are working here or claiming benefits here should never ever be the most important issue. Never.

This data doesn’t shock me although it does sadden me. The issues of the EU and immigration were always going to rise the more people heard from UKIP. The more people get told that something is a problem then the more they will believe it. I just hope the other parties don’t just lurch to the right because of this type of data. I fear that at least two of the parties will and that in itself will fan the flames even more. The more people get told something is a problem the more they will believe it and if UKIP, Conservatives and Labour all chase these votes then boy we are in for a depressing feeling in this country for many years to come.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 27th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Posted in Politics

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My weight loss story…

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I got fat. Not just jolly fat. I got fat. As those who know me in real life will know, I live alone, I work from home and I pretty much lived off of takeaways. This led to my weight slowly rising due to the fact I was eating terrible food and getting nigh on zero exercise as even my commute to work was from my bed to the PC (via the en suite) and that wasn’t the most taxing of walks.

It had reached the stage where I would walk to the supermarket and be drenched with sweat. Not just a bit of sweat on my brow but my t-shirt would be soaked through on the back and moistening up nicely on the front. I know, such a great look.

The top range of my BMI to be in the ‘ideal’ range is 12st 2lbs. I reached just over 14stone with my BMI hitting just north of 29, as those who follow these things will know that 30 is considered obese. I was on my way to being obese and I needed to get things under control.

A few years ago I got my BMI down to 22 from 27 in about a nine month period. Then I kinda reverted back to type and in the three years since I saw it rise from 22 to 29. Grim. So I needed to get it down once more so I made a few decisions. Firstly as some of you will know I was a caffeine addict. All I would drink was coca-cola which isn’t very good or either your teeth or your insides. For over a decade that is all I drank. In 2010 I changed this and would only have a cherry coke every so often and would instead drink squash. For four years now I have kept up with this. I can only imagine how my health and weight would be had I not made this change.

I bought an exercise bike and put it in my spare room and put a TV in there. The plan was I could watch something whilst riding the bike. I got it in December and it goes up to 32 levels. When I started I couldn’t even turn around the pedals around on level 32 and would be lain prostrate on the floor after 10-15 minutes on level 5 gasping for a drink to quench my raw throat and to stop the lactic acid that was pulsing through my veins. Slowly though I built up my leg muscles and my body stopped hurting and I could build up both the intensity of my workouts and the length of them. Six months ago 15 minutes at level 5 was hard work. Now 100 minutes on level 32 is how I roll.

That was however getting quite repetitive and I think my body was getting too used to it so I have started going out for long walks every so often. On Sunday I had a six to seven mile walk in the warm weather that I could really feel on Monday morning. A lot of that walk was uphill so I was using muscles that I don’t use as much as when I’m on the bike. This has been a problem – I have worked out nigh enough exclusively on the bike and really should be doing a variety of things to get many more muscles used.

Diet wise takeaway food was out but not much else has changed. I have started to cook my own food a bit more often but in general I still eat what I want to eat. In terms of snack food I can still destroy a six-pack of cherry bakewells without too much hesitation but when I do I know that those are the days I’ll work out the hardest.

So about six months on I am now south of 12 stone and my BMI has been in the ideal range for about three weeks now. Even at the end of the day I’m still in the ideal range (in general most people put on around two pounds a day just in food or water weight only to lose that weight overnight). I am proud of this. I’m still not to tip top shape – a long way from it – but yesterday I was walking back from getting the local rag and I noticed that I couldn’t see my belly protruding from my t-shirt and you couldn’t even notice the bump of it, that is quite a significant step.

I have no doubt that had I monitored what I ate more closely and had I been having a more balanced exercise regime that I would probably be at least half a stone lighter already. This is something I am going to work on over the next few months as I look to get down to south of 11 stone. I think 11 stone should be the northern point of my weight and that is what I’m aiming for. 11 stone would be a BMI of 22.7. So my aim is around there and hopefully this time around I won’t let it all slip.

Losing weight has many benefits but most of all it is the health issue. Yes I would love my body to look better but really that isn’t too big of an issue. The fact that I can sweat like anything just due to a light stroll was never ever a good thing. This was the primary issue to take on with this weight loss project and I can see that it is getting better (although still not exactly great).

Losing weight is not easy but if you have determination then it is eminently doable. I think my best advice to anyone reading this and wanting to lose weight is not to worry if you go through days or weeks of losing nothing or nearly nothing. I have had weeks where no weight has come off and found it disheartening but I’d look for reasons why and then try to sort out those issues. Another thing is you can do too much and eat too little. You need 1,500 calories a day inside of you so ensure you eat. I had days where I would hardly eat yet work out two hours on the bike and would wonder why I’d not lost any weight.

Discipline is important but isn’t essential. So you have a bad day and eat a packets of cookies and go to a BBQ and eat some burgers. Such is life. Just roll with it and carry on working out and your body will forgive you. If I can lose two stone in six months and still eat cherry bakewells and chocolate doughnuts by the bucket-load then anybody can lose weight.

Just keep positive and you can do it. I did and I’m starting to feel much better for it both health wise and also mentally with my own body image.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 24th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Others

World Cup – The TV Battle – BBC v ITV

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So far I have seen every minute of the World Cup bar a snooze during the first half of the Iran v Nigeria game yesterday. I also have read a lot of feedback on the presenters, pundits, commentators and co-commentators (otherwise known as summerisers to certain people who like a disparage me) so I thought I’d put my views forward for the seven people that might read this:

Presenters:

The BBC use a former Golden Boot winner, darling of English football, Walkers Crisps seller and all around Mr. Nice Guy. ITV use an overexcited 47 year-old Brummie. It really should be a slam dunk for the Beeb shouldn’t it? Well it isn’t. Gary has improved a lot since his shuttering start eons ago when he replaced Des Lynam as the host of BBC’s Football output.

There is nothing wrong with Gary but there is also a lot to say positively for Adrian (and indeed Matt Smith). Adrian’s style is certainly less relaxed than Gary’s but he certainly injects more of his personality. When they presented the pre-game show from the beach on Sunday afternoon, you saw Adrian in his absolute element and it was a thoroughly enjoyable pre-game.

Both the Beeb and ITV have more than competent front men. I have a feeling Adrian gets a lot of stick because a lot of people think that they can do better than him. Hosting live TV is not easy and I think he does an admirable job.

Pundits:

We’ll start with the cream of the crop – Thierry Henry and Lee Dixon. Henry has been the breath of fresh air that everyone expected him to be and shows why everyone is fighting over securing his services going forward. A Sky team of Neville, Carragher, Souness, Hoddle and Henry is pretty dreamy. Dixon is the class of the ITV field and we knew that going in once Roy Keane decided not to travel to Brazil.

Dixon anchors the ITV team and is the man who can put together some actual analysis and not just opinion. Something his fellow pundits seem to struggle with.

Away from the top pundits we have Rio Ferdinand who I’m just not warming to as a pundit, his defence of Wayne Rooney’s performance seemed to show that he is still too near to the team to be subjective. In what was a bizarro moment it was this exchange that shown Alan Shearer is not as awful as the popular opinion says. Shearer was adamant that Rooney has to get that effort on target in the second half and he wouldn’t let it go. Good for Alan.

Over on ITV we have Glenn Hoddle who has always been a more than solid pundit. I still don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten another crack at management – certainly at Spurs. Fabio Cannavaro seems to struggle speaking in English and Patrick Vieira is missing Roy Keane as they could have been a fiery pairing.

Of course there is also Ian Wright but he’s in the Robbie Savage mould of just being awful but keeps getting TV work. Robbie Savage had a stint at co-commentary last night and oy vey.

Commentators:

Guy Mowbray has been handed the gig as the top man at the Beeb again for this tournament but he is being dragged down by the choice of co-commentators he’s been stuck with. This is an issue across the BBC. Jonathan Pearce had an absolute stinker in the France game the other night getting all in a fluster regarding goal line technology. He needs to learn that silence is golden and a TV commentator doesn’t have to speak for every single second.

Over at ITV then Clive Tyldesley has been the top man since Brian Moore retired. There is nothing wrong with his commentary and he calls big moments well but I just yearn for Martin Tyler and/or Ian Darke who are both better but both commentating for non UK audiences once more this World Cup. ITV’s number two is the only one of these people that I have met during some work experience with 107.4 The Quay many moons ago – Sam Matterface. I still have very little idea how he rose from calling Portsmouth games on local radio to going to the World Cup as ITV’s #2 commentator but he has. He isn’t Jon Champion and he probably isn’t even Peter Drury but he isn’t horrific and is certainly better than Jonathan Pearce – although that isn’t saying much.

Co-commentators:

Phil Neville was given the chance to call England games after the auntie decided Mark Lawrenson was too dour for the top team. Then Phil Neville spoke and whilst what he said wasn’t actually that bad – the way he spoke was a real turn-off. The fact 445 people have complained to the BBC about him is a joke but it certainly wasn’t a great debut. Elsewhere the Beeb has Mark Lawrenson who is ok, Martin Known who certainly is not and the more than adequate Kevin Kilbane. They gave Robbie Savage a chance and er…yeah. I think the less said about that the better. Never again BBC. Never again.

ITV leads with Andy Townsend and whilst I think he gets a lot of very deserved stick, they might not have anyone better. They had Jim Beglin on staff for ages but got rid of him when he was in fact superior to Townsend and since then the likes of Clarke Carlisle have been given a chance to impress as they seem to really like the Matterface/Carlisle combination but I just don’t get it.

All in all I’d say the BBC probably has the better team and when it comes down to it I’ll watch the final on the Beeb I suspect. I think both channels can be comfortable with their studio outfit but when it comes to behind the microphone, the BBC has Jonathan Pearce who is a real turn-off but otherwise (bar Savage’s attempts) they are ok (I think Phil Neville will get better) but ITV just don’t have anyone bar Clive Tyldesley who I’d say was anything better than average.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 17th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Football,Media

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Nick Clegg & Ed Miliband photographed with a copy of The Sun – cue over the top reactions across the board

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Holy crap. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have been photographed with a copy of the countries most popular newspaper. Burn them both at the stake now. I mean seriously. Anyone who does that is surely not capable of representing the country. Sometimes politicos live in this ridiculous political bubble where we think we are right and that those who disagree with us are just plain wrong. That is part of politics that I truly despise.

Ed Miliband was snapped with a copy of the paper and got an attack from the leader of the Labour group on Liverpool Council. No surprise and probably fair game. Ed is not a stupid man and he knew that photograph would go down like a lead balloon and would piss off Labour voters in Liverpool. Here is the thing though, they still aren’t voting for anyone else so he can piss them off with no real consequences. Apparently he is ‘very very sorry’‘ for both endorsing the newspaper and being photographed with it. Why should he be? He is the leader of a national party, not just a localised party in an area that rightly despises the newspaper. More people who buy The Sun vote than any other newspaper. It is a big potential electorate for him and for the other party leaders.

The Green Party tweeted out a photo of Miliband, Cameron and Clegg endorsing the newspaper and saying that there was another way and that people should join the party based on the fact they hadn’t been photographed with a copy of The Sun nor seemingly endorsed it. Are they for fucking real? Seriously Green Party? What type of person bases their vote let alone membership of a political party based solely on their newspaper of choice? I’ll give you the answer to that question because I’m a kind fellow – a numpty – an absolute numpty. Surely people who join political parties have a wider scope of reasoning to do so that the newspapers that political leaders are photographed with? I didn’t see Nigel Farage endorsing The Sun yesterday – does that mean everyone should join them too? Idiots.

Ok I got sidetracked a bit there. Now to attack my own lot *cracks knuckles* – yet again we had the whole Page 3 issue come up on Lib Dem Voice with regards to this. I’m not surprised. When I saw it pop up on my twitter timeline I also knew exactly who the author was and what they were writing about. I also knew exactly how the comment string would go. If there is something that will unite liberals it will be an air of superiority as depressing as that sounds – we all know it is true.

So on to the article itself. Nick shouldn’t have endorsed The Sun’s England Football Team Special Edition because of boobs. Yes those two things that protrude from a woman’s chest to generate milk for babies is at the crux of this. Boobs should not be seen on page three of a national newspaper. Everyone knows my views on this, if you don’t like it then don’t buy it. The women are free to pose for the newspaper if they so desire. It is a free country. This is the type of issue where liberalism and equality come to blows in the eyes of some people. Still it isn’t really the issue today and I have written about it so many times and been told that because a) I don’t have milk producing organs on my chest and b) I’m not a parent means that I have two strikes against my name and have no standing to have an opinion on it. I do love liberals.

Gareth Epps in the comments said, ‘It is more than ‘not just a good idea’, it is insensitive, politically damaging and stupid beyond belief. Absolutely a ‘heads must roll’ moment.. Politically damaging? So showing support for the countries football team and posing with the most popular daily publication in the land is politically damaging? Stupid beyond belief? Do these people live in the same world that I do?

You see this goes back to the whole bubble issue. The political bubble is very much something that politicians are tainted with by members of the public but lets be honest – plenty of politicos are in the same boat. Liberals are probably the worst in our air of moral superiority. We pronounce this freedom for individuals to live their lives as they please but the moment someone decides to do so that is against one of our opinions we turn on them. This isn’t just about this issue but it is something I have noted for many years.

Personally I don’t buy The Sun. I don’t read it online. However I don’t care who does or doesn’t. I don’t judge people on their choice of newspaper. I used to buy the Daily Star for the train because it was cheap and easy to read. Do I think I should be judged because of that? People will say that I am but one man and no-one cares what newspaper I buy but Nick Clegg is the leader of a political party and should be more sensitive. Liberals don’t like The Sun and therefore he shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Yey 18% of people who identified as readers of The Sun in 2010 voted for the Liberal Democrats – doesn’t our leader represent those people as well as those of us who don’t buy The Sun?

In 2005 Labour were +10% compared to the Tories amongst readers of The Sun but in 2010 they were -15%. They is a 25% swing within five years amongst a readership of just over 3million at the time. This is why – rightly or wrongly – The Sun is important. Should Nick (or Ed) be lambasted for posing with a copy of The Sun? No way, no how. Yes they’ll piss off many people who don’t buy The Sun but many people do. On the doorsteps of everywhere except Liverpool will who posed for a picture with The Sun be an issue on the doorstep above the economy, immigration, the NHS, crime, green issues, housing, banking etc…? Of course it won’t.

So politicos it is time to get our heads out of our own arses and realise that a photograph of a political leader with the most popular newspaper in the country is not a big issue. We like to think it is but it really isn’t. The time when someone solely bases their vote or their opinion based on one photograph is a time that scares me. I like to think that humans have the capacity to use their brains and I give them the credit for doing so. If some believe that this photograph solely will crush either Ed or Nick in the polls or at the ballot box then I am disappointed that those people have such little faith in the people of this country.

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Written by neilmonnery

June 13th, 2014 at 11:25 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , ,