The Boss – aka Springsteen

It doesn’t seem a week since I was playing in a muddy field on the Isle of Wight. The festival this year will be remembered for the rain and the mud – it was epic.

But as I blogged in the week there were also a few bands on too. And some good ones at that.

I was interested to see that the NME published their list of the best acts of the festival in the week by listeners and they suggested:

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Pearl Jam
Biffy Clyro
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Miles Kane
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
The Vaccines

Well, I’m with them on Bruce. He was amazing – belting out (literally) hit after hit interspersed with some new stuff from “Wrecking Ball’ for nearly three hours. This is a showman at his best – with an incredible stamina for a 62 year old. I last saw Springsteen (with the E Street Band) in 1993 – a period when I think he was at his best, or so we thought. They were the days of Born in The USA and Dancing in the Dark.

But last year ‘The Promise’ was released – music he wrote in the late 70′s but never recorded after a dispute with his record company. I love that stuff. It still sounds like 1978.

But the highlight of the set for me was ‘Because the Night’. A song he gifted to Patti Smith which gave her the springboard into the UK. This song is in my top ten soungs of all time, so playing it was a real bonus.

I have been asked by several people whether he is worth seeing, my response, he was worth the price of the ticket – £175….

Without doubt ‘The Boss’.

PS I don’t agree with the NME on all of their list – Pearl Jam were rubbish!

A finger of fudge….

….is just enough to give the kids a treat, or so the advert used to go. I was never a fan of the Fudge bar; partly because it wasn’t enough. I didn’t want a ‘treat’, I wanted food. One finger of chocolate was insufficient to satisfy a lean mean fighting machine…

Something strange has happened. Better than a Fudge was the ubiquitous Twix bar. Double the size of Fudge and biscuity too and with added healthy caramel. It would have been the food of choice for me (in a straight fight between fudge / twix). That is until this week, when I believe that the Twix has been on something of a diet. It has shrunk – significantly. No change in price, but definitely much slimmer. I would guess it’s the size of an old single twix bar, just cut in half. So that 50% off wasn’t the price – it was the actual chocolate bar!

I have been conned. And hugely disappointed. Followed by hungry.

Crisp manufacturers did this some time ago, the packets get smaller but the price stays the same. They think we won’t notice.

Well Mr Twix, we do. And I’m not happy. I now look greedy by having to have two lots of Twix, but I’ll do it in order to survive…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged diet, Fudge, Mars, Twix

Big Brother is watching you(r keystrokes)

There are some very clever people out there who know what you are doing. They can second-guess your next move, especially if you are staring at a computer screen and bashing away at a keyboard. We have known this for a little while. Some fraudsters were able to work out passwords from keystrokes (hence why some secure sites use drop down menus for dates and the like).

But there was a news this week that we Mac users pay more for our hotel rooms than beige box bashing PC users. We are prepared to pay up to 30% more than a PC user apparently. The reasons given were that we appreciate fine design and will pay extra for cutting edge technology. I’m not unhappy with that assumption, it is probably fair (for me).

But what is worrying is that the research was gathered from data mining – i.e. following your browsing habits including the type of machine you work on. The clever boys and grills have written algorithm which can spot the operating system you book from.

I do get concerned about the way in which this data is collected, usually surreptitiously. We don’t get the option to opt-out and the big computer firms just collect vast amounts of data about us. We have no idea really what they know. We do know that Google collected a lot of information about wi-fi networks when they prepared the street view images.

The real issue is that this ‘Apple’ premium fact could work against me? Presumably when I use a web site they could assume that I’m prepared to pay more because I am on a Mac? So, the playing field is no longer level. And the suggestion that the internet has widened choice may well have been a false dawn?

Silly plane rules or plain silly rules?

I always smile at the announcements on planes – that you can’t do a variety of heinous things – like control the plane with your digital watch or, heaven forbid, land the plane with your iPad. Everything must be firmly switched off – or placed in fighter-pilot-safe mode. If you sent a text you may well bring the plane down. And that would be a rubbish result.

The airlines have some crazy rules. But last week in America Southwest Airlines announced to a well-endowed woman who was due to fly from Las Vegas to New York she could not board the plane because she was exposing excessive cleavage. Staff deemed this ‘inappropriate’.

Quite brilliantly, the PR department sprang into action and said its ‘Contract of Carriage’ enabled it’s staff to refuse transport to customers whose clothing is ‘lewd, obscene, or patently offensive’.

But then the woman ignored the ruling of the airline staff, boarded the plane anyway and the flight took off as normal. A storm in a D cup presumably (sorry – couldn’t resist).

She later commented, “Lo and behold, the plane didn’t fall out of the sky…my cleavage did not interfere with the plane’s ability to function properly. To add insult to injury, the guy sitting in front of me on the plane was wearing a shirt with an actual Trojan condom embedded behind a clear plastic applique and had no trouble getting on his flight.”

Sometimes I do wonder about rules….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man!, Nottingham Tagged Cleavage, plane silly, silly rules, Southwest Airlines

Festival – Top Gear To Tips

I am sure you weren’t worried about me; I survived, Ray Mears like, the Isle oF wight Festival 2012. I was going to write a rant-y sort of blog about the inability of the organisers to spot the unfolding car-crash, but thought I would try to share some tips and observations for any festival- goers for the future. A sort of Public Service announcement – but in my pictures …

1. FOOD – don’t bother carrying it. It’s heavy and when you can have Jamie Oliver cook for you, it seems pointless. And anyway £7.50 for a salted beed sandwich is a bargain in anyones book? Wash it down with a £4 bottle of Bulmers. (TGTT – take a handful of wonga)

2. MARKER PENS – Beware the marker pen. And if your friends think it is funny drawing a penis on you need to think about some new friends. If you think it’s funny make sure it is not on your forehead – as Vim on Monday for back to work day isn’t so good. (TGTT – look up Vim – your granny used to use it).

3. SHOES – sensible footwear is optional. But your white disco dancing shoes may well have looked good on Mr Travolta when he was ‘Staying Alive’, but trust me this is not a cool look. TGTT – Rigger Boots. Essential.

4. TROLLEYS – The supermarkets are so kind, they only charge the first person £1 to ‘borrow’ their trolleys. So useful for carrying Beer and / or friends. TGTT – make sure you’re not the first to borrow – you don’t get to keep your pound.

5. JUST WRONG. Nuff said. TGTT – No.

6. LONELINESS – sometimes Festivals can seem a lonely place – with only around 55,000 other people it’s easy to seem isolated. If this does happen, there are usually lots of trees, who don’t want to get you pregnant or seek a long term relationship. TGTT – If in doubt hug a tree … aaaah. Oh and yellow moustaches are not cool – especially on girls

7. TRACTOR – If you can, remember to bring your own tractor. This helps immensely and saves you waiting for one of the hired hands to drag you out. TGTT – if you are towed onto the car park, treat this as a very bad sign.

8. ELF & SAFETY – no matter where you go, you must beware of the dangers around you. Here an impromptu pond has been turned into a potential death trap – so the fences have been ‘placed’ to show how you must beware. Stay away from the water children, you can drown in 3″ of water TGTT – That’s an urban myth, if you drowned in 3″ of water, you must have been trollied.

9. COMPETITIONS – don’t take on bets where they suggest that they have a bigger frying pan than you, they probably do. TGTT – Betting the locals is foolish.

10. WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER – especially if you have friends who are a bit smaller than you, some easily can disappear. The signs are tragic when it happens, a shoe here, a brolly there. TGTT – look after the small people.

11. MEN FOLK – should keep some dignity. It’s not big and it’s not clever. TGTT – mud wrestling is not for the UK.

12. MUSIC – It is why you go, so please don’t spend all of your time talking – listen, there are some talented people who have come a long way. Here Suzanne Vega performs in the rare bit of sunshine. TGTT – if you don’t want to listen to music, go and watch the football.

And finally… The students generally stick together. You can see them, they tend not to have a bag, but bring the all-important quilt and pillow – over their shoulder. When it rains this is not a good start. Also bright young things – a Gazebo is NOT a tent.

Just trying to be helpful….

Nottingham : Workplace Parking Levy aka Tax

I have noticed a new trend around schools. Lots of cars. And for long periods – not just around dropping off time. But there is another trend – the school staff car parks are virtually empty.

It turns out that the schools are caught by the Workplace Parking Tax and in lots of cases are asking the teachers to pay the charges. They aren’t so keen and so have taken to parking outside the school gates. Where it is free! And why wouldn’t you?

I have mixed feelings about the WPL. I can see the benefits of the tram system (provided it is cheap – it’s not at the moment). But the WPL is not an equitable tax. There is no marginal rate. At my work we exceed the 10 space count so get stung for our 14 spaces, but offices with 8 spaces pay nothing. That is wrong.

I have tried to establish the charging system for the new tram but it is not at all clear. It will run past my office, but a peak single fare of £2.50 is not good value for money. It needs to be cheaper.

Returning to the schools – I never really understood why they should have to pay in the first place – nor the Colleges. These are Public Institutions – being charged by another public institution!

I suppose we will be able to convert the car parks soon into playgrounds or playing fields?

I wonder how long is will be before the Council decide to get the double yellow line spray out…

Alternatively, the whole parking tax system needs an overhaul and review. Soon would be good, because I can tell you that the enquiries we are getting for offices particularly now come with an additional question – “do we get caught by the WPL”. All barriers to investment and job creation need removing. People don’t see the ‘big picture’ transport system. They see bottom line.

William Hill – interesting advertising?

I watched the England match in the week – the one where we convincingly won (with a pile of luck). I struggle to get enthused by football these days – there’s too much money in it. I think it is quite obscene, especially when you talk about what our England Stars earn.

So I was mildly amused by the advert put out by William Hill during the match break. The adverts are quite clever in that they offer ‘live’ betting prices – in this case it was a good offer of 5/1 for Rooney to score the next goal. The odds are stated as being 30 seconds out of date – which impresses me!

But the thing I smiled about was the strap line for the advert which implored us to bet – to get ‘behind our boys’. I can’t quite work this out. The suggestion is that we place a wager and the somehow boosts the team? I seem to think that betting works by making money for the bookie (my late father would have said that you never see a poor bookie – you only have to watch them leave the races in their helicopters!). And if we all bet on Rooney, the price drops.

So is this point? – we all bet so Rooney hears that the odds have shortened for him to score so he scores?

Didn’t think so.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Euro12, Football, Rooney, William Hill

How happy are you…

You need to do this survey, just for fun…

Its the (un) Happy Planet Index. It takes a couple of minutes to complete and tells you (in case you din’t know already) how happy you are in comparison to others.

So, at the risk of over-sharing, I don’t mind telling you my results…

I’m 34.6 Happy – but this is not good apparently as the UK average is 40.3. Oh dear, not a great start. I don’t know if this is out of 100?

But then good news – am going to hang around until I’m 87, where everyone else is popping their clogs at 85. Two years of quiet for me then?

My life satisfaction is 8, against the average of 7.12. I also score higher than average on the ‘doing well’ stuff.

Then it gets a bit messy on the green stuff. I’m not proud that I use up 5.28 planets. I’m allowed one apparently. The flying stuff makes me a bad person. Very bad.

So, other than me wrecking the planet it seems that I’m as happy as Larry….especially as I’m at a happy festival!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Happiness, Happy as Larry, Index, Survey

Nottingham – The story – the final bit?

It’s been a bit of a meandering week. BUt I started out by asking some questions which I readily admit I don’t have all of the answers to.

But I think we can generate a positive story around the things we have – Robin Hood, The Castle and our rebellious background. Lets trade on it. This is easy stuff to do. We have threatened it for years.But we need to do it now.

We need to grasp all of the positives and celebrate them. The City needs to embrace the Universities and Colleges.

We need to build on the success of the creative and Science sectors. Antenna and BioCity are critical components of our future visibility and prosperity.

The story we have to break though is crime and peoples perception of it. There is little point in papering over the cracks. We have to do something different. We have lots of NEETS (not in employment, education or training). We have to break this mould. We have to get the disenfranchised kids off the streets and into education, training and work. This is the way we can make a difference.

So what do we want to be known for? I suggest…

1. Our rich history – based around the Castle
2. Our creative Industries and connections with Art – through Antenna / The Contemporary
3. Our World Class Universities and their connection with the City
4. Our shopping – which needs some work!
5. We need to build on our transport links – but make sure they are not a bailer to growth (i.e. too expensive)

But perhaps most important of all, we need to stop talking about stuff and actually do something.

To that end I have an opportunity for us to work with Thinking Place – some leading lights in branding cities. If you are interested in this I would be happy to involve as many people as possible…

The Nottingham Story – part four – the business sector

The role of the business sector in the future prosperity of Nottingham cannot be over-stated. It is critical that we have a thriving services and business sector.

Obviously as the city thrives the roles of all manner of business advisors – Bankers, Lawyers, Accountants and Surveyors (!) becomes more important. This is all about jobs. We can have a greet business services sector – we have modest costed space, a pool of employable people and we are well placed geographically to get about the UK and abroad (with the excellent links from East Midlands Airport).

What is perhaps less obvious is the role the business sector will need to have to play in the City of the future. The City Council are facing more austerity measures – resources are stretched. What little money they have their will be some necessary priorities – Childrens Services and the other statutory duties placed on them. The role of the private sector needs therefore to come to the fore.

The business sector does not necessarily have more money – in fact times are tough for us too. But we do have a vested interest in how the City looks in the future. It is important that it prospers as a place.

We are used to working in a competitive market, more so, dare I suggest than those who work in Local Government. Our livelihood depends on us being ahead of the game. Coming second is not an option, if we don’t win we don’t stay in business. Some of that mental attitude needs to be applied to the City. We need to get ahead of the competition, if we don’t we lose.

And the really interesting thing is that my group of peers across the various sectors are willing to take up the challenge. We do at MIPIM (the annual property show in Cannes) and the Invest in Nottingham Club goes from strength to strength.

The business sector might well have to lead on the story in the future?