Saturday, 26 December 2015

I've got the answer, but I still don't understand the question.

I enjoy crosswords, the crypticker the better, but there is one thing that really gets up my wick and on my nose: when I get the solution to a clue, but I don't know how to derive it from the clue. The whole point of crosswords is that the compiler is a devious bugger and the solver's task is to outwit the compiler by working out what he means as distinct from what he seems to mean.
Anyway, it's Christmas, so I will restrain my grumpiness. After all, without these compilers, I wouldn't have such an elegant way of wasting time.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Jeg pense dunque ich yest'

It seems that every product you buy these days has to explain itself in every language spoken in the EU zone. And then some. There's a story that a Senator for one of the southern US states opposed the teaching of foreign languages in schools on the grounds that “if English is good enough for the Almighty, it's good enough for our children.”
I don't propose to go quite so far, but it seems to me that it would be sufficient to give product instructions in just 4-5 widely-taught languages: English, French, German, Russian and Spanish, for example.
Icelandic? No disrespect, but every Icelander learns English as school. Albanian? Estonian? Lithuanian? Hungarian? Bulgarian? Catalan? Faroese? Occitan? Where do you stop?
When I was an Expert (official designation, not my vanity) for the Council of Europe, the language problem was solved very simply: you had to be able to understand three languages and be able to express yourself in one of them: English, French, German. It was smooth and efficient. Now, I suspect, in order not to “offend” anyone, the Council - and all the other European organs - provide simultaneous translation in 23 or more languages. What a waste of time and money!
I used to run an English language school on the south coast. The Fire Advisory Office said that the instructions for using a fire extinguisher had to be posted next to the device in all the languages represented by the students in the school. That meant at least twenty languages. By the time a student found their language, they would have burned to death. Another piece of bureaucratic nonsense.

All this ranting on my part was provoked by my attempt to find out how to operate a digital readout electronic weighing machine. Eighteen different languages I think it was. Worst of all, each sentence/paragraph was translated, so you had to trawl endlessly to find your little bit at eighteen line intervals throughout the text. A complete load of bollocks, pardon my French.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Now hear this - if you can

Donald Trump said that the US should not allow Muslims into the country "until the authorities have worked out what is going on", and immediately all hell broke loose. Recriminations and condemnations coming from just about every political leader in just about every country in the western world. I bet you too think Trump's remark is outrageous. He defended himself against his critics by saying he only suggesting something that FDR did after Pearl Harbor when he ordered the internment of all US citizens of Japanese descent.
I have thought about all this: Trump's demand, the backlash and the comparison with the internment of "aliens" (as we British called those we interned in camps in the Isle of Man), and I soon made up my mind on the issue: I don't give a fuck. First, Trump is a mouthpiece for a lot of people scared by recent jihadist events, but he's unlikely ever to be in a position of power. Secondly, even if he could implement his demand, it would be unworkable in practice. Thirdly, I have come to the conclusion that it's better to let people say what they want rather than try to silence every opinion that might offend someone. Fourthly, I am in harmony with Crocodile Dundee's reaction when he was reproached for not having an opinion on the great questions facing the world: "Who's going to hear it?"

Monday, 7 December 2015

Exit stage left, damn you.

I don't usually get upset by cliches. After all, they convey meaning even though in an unexciting way. But there's a cliche in TV programmes that is bringing me to screaming point. It's the walk-off-shot cliche. A talking head talks to camera and then walks off shot as if on the way to somewhere important, implying that it was very good of them to talk to us for a moment in their busy schedule. They do it again and again. It's as if they can't stand still when they've finished their spoken piece, they've got to scuttle off stage left. It's got to the point that I dread the moment when it happens, and I tend to shout "Where the fuck are you going?"
The walk-off-shot was a clever device when it was first employed. Now it's a cliche of the worst kind, the kind that gives a man colic. If Angela Rippon, Fiona Bruce, Chris Packham, Paul Whassname, John Thingy and the rest don't stop doing it, I shall...I'll....I'm going to.... storm off stage right. That'll teach 'em.

Whatever you're selling, I don't want it

I don't know anyone who doesn't get thoroughly pissed off with the inanity of commercials on British TV (I say British, but American is even worse). So many things about them are bad that I will confine myself to the things that really get on my nose and up my wick:

Using animations rather than real people: cheap and nasty, don't buy the product.
Portraying women as strong and men as wimps: sexist, don't buy the product.
Screaming instead of speaking, awful pop music: don't buy the product.
Repetitive themes/slogans that get on your nerves: don't buy the product.
Celebrities faking sincerity (Michael Parkinson, vomit). Don't buy the product.
Phony happy families, especially at Christmastime. Don't buy the product.
Janet Street-Porter. I don't think she does ads, but I just don't like her.
Ads with cute puppies advertising toilet paper. Wipe your arse on the dog.
Sexy women who aren't sexy; also poovy men. Don't buy the product.
Ads for beauty products. They don't fucking work. Don't buy the product.
Ads for legal services. Horrible people. Don't buy the product.

In fact, if it's advertised on TV, don't buy it.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Ils ne passeront pas-s words

Passwords are a fucking nightmare. Everything about them is unbeautiful, not least the fact that they are totally un-fucking-necessary. Why, when I want to buy a bag of budgie seed online do I need to create and remember a password (along, of course, with details of my age, sexual orientation and inside-leg measurement)?
And just look at their instructions: it must be more than x but less than y letters in length; it must contains at least one capital letter; and - the noirest of my bȇtes - it must (or must not) contain characters like !@£$%^&*. They make this demand and then they monitor your effort, condescendingly telling you your choice is weak, moderate or, grudgingly, adequate. Then, just when the budgie seed seems to be within your grasp at last, they ask you to create and answer two questions that give hints to your password if you should lose or forget it. Let's say your password is T6raVolt&6. What two questions would bring that to mind? Exactly.

And, to tear the last shred from your disintegrating morale, come the exhortations that you should [a] never use the same password for different sites; [b] change your password regularly; [c] never write your passwords down. So, if like me, your needs go beyond an occasional pack of red millet, you could, in theory, have 20-30 passwords, ALL DIFFERENT, not written down anywhere, and in any case destined to be replaced every few months, capitals, hieroglyphs and all. Well, fuk&-th6t for a g§me 0v solDieRz!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

You white/black bastard!

I was on assignment in Angola three times when the civil war was still raging. The most dangerous was when I was posted to Huila Province in the south. I was regularly stopped by FAPLA patrols, and even my UNDP Passport didn't save me from interrogation. I am tall, bearded and white - I looked like a South African UNITA-loving mercenary, I couldn't blame the FAPLA soldiers for being suspicious, and I didn't regard it as racist or unfair. Just a sensible precaution.

When a terrorist attack occurs in a major European city and ISIS claims responsibility, it would be understandable if the police stopped anyone of an Arab appearance to check on them. Of course this would produce an outcry of racist discrimination, etc, not only from the Muslim community leaders (what is their agenda, I wonder?) but also from all the civil liberties human rights etc organisations. So, while there is a lot of handwringing going on, and pious vows to “bring the terrorists to justice”, in reality the authorities in our countries do very little, and in many cases probably don't WANT to do very much for fear of being accused of illiberal behaviour.

Political Correctness is paralysing us, and it's time to shout out loud that the Emperor has no Clothes.  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


I think feminism in my little Fenland village is beginning to get out of hand.......

Dangerous cargo

I approve - don't we all? - of heightened security at airports and other public places, but I sometimes wonder if it's little more than window-dressing. Going through security in the States has become quite farcical in some ways. Because I have a pacemaker, I have a physical "patdown", usually by a nice filipino man who assures me in a soft voice that "I will only use the back of my hand for the more intimate parts, sir." So sweet.The shoes come off, of course, but nobody bothers to look at them. It's just ritual. And the last time I went through LA, the fingerprint bobby couldn't cope with the fact that the annular finger of my left hand is badly crooked. I explained to him that it was the result of Dupuitren's Contracture, but that didn't stop him spending twenty minutes - I don't exaggerate - determined to straighten it and get an imprint of the pad of the finger into his records.
Another thing that fascinates me is that they take the same information every time you enter the country. This means that they now have at least TWELVE Jake Allsop's on file, photos and prints and biodata, and all of them ME. If they ever set out to find me, they'd be running round like hot-arsed bluebottles.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Giving a hoot

You are driving along sedately when a vehicle coming from the other direction toots its horn. Who? Me? What? Trafficator not cancelled? Foglights left on? Too close to the crown of the road? What? I crane my neck to see if I have a muntjac wedged in the radiator grill. I check to be sure my doors are all closed and my seatbelt securely fastened. I even check my flies. Bafflement. Perhaps it was someone who recognised me? Perhaps it was someone who hates me because of the way I voted at the last election?
By now, I am a bundle of nerves. I hate mysteries. And I need to know what I was doing wrong. Because, you can be sure that I, brought up on a diet of cod liver oil and guilt, always assume that everything is my fault.

Then I try on a different thought for size: maybe the hoot wasn't directed at me at all. The bastard! How dare he ignore me?!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Not altogether guilty, m'lud

I have spent most of my fragmented male life admiring the female bosom, openly or surreptitiously depending on the circumstances. I must be the bane of feminists: the fascistic patriarch, reducing women to sex objects, a closet rapist, etc, etc.  Not true, but they won't believe me, they have the comforting security of the closed mind, why should they come out of their comfort zone?
In the meantime, I was greatly heartened to come across this photograph, in which one woman is clearly appraising the bosom of another. What was going through her mind? Approval? Envy? Disapproval? Disgust? Lust?
Personally, I will give her the benefit of the doubt: she was probably thinking what I would be thinking, though couched in slightly different language: What a fine pair of boobs! If you've got 'em, flaunt 'em! To which I would add, they constitute yet one more proof, pace St Augustine, for the existence of God.
So there.

Shirts, socks and silly labels

The logic of department store display policy is beyond me.
You get a rack of shirts, usually laid in a display cabinet with about seven shelves one above the other. So far, so good. But what I don't understand is why the SMALLEST sizes are on the TOP shelf, and the LARGEST sizes are on the BOTTOM shelf. In other words, a tall guy like me has to stoop to check the collar size, a shortarse has to stand on tiptoe. I asked the assistant why. "It's company policy, sir," he replied.
I used to buy my socks in packs of three, all the same colour. Then, for no reason, the store stopped doing those packs, and instead did three-packs of assorted colours. I wanted three burgundy-coloured pairs, I didn't want one green, one blue and one purple. I asked the assistant to make up a three-pack of burgundy-coloured socks. Can't do it, sir. Why not? "It's company policy, sir," he replied.
So, let's go to the local supermarket and stock up on a few ready meals. But, oh dear, the labelling. Everything you don't need to know is in HUGE LETTERS. The vital information, ie, what the meal actually is in MINISCULE.

Special Recipe
World-wide reputation
Beef cannelloni

You may wonder why they do it. "Company policy, sir," they reply. Actually, it doesn't matter because the next time you visit the supermarket, they will have changed all the displays around anyway, so the ready meals which were in Aisle 5 are now in Aisle 7 next to the detergents and the sanitary products. Why? Come on, you already know the answer!

Dead and Buried

The Village of Hadley in the County of Shropshire, RIP

I was born and brought up in this village. As children we had so much to explore and enjoy: two railways LMS and GWR; a branch of the Shropshire Union Canal; old mine workings (very mysterious, these); and lots of fields with ponds, ditches, hedges, derelict barns, and things you couldn't put a name to. A great place to be a child.
It's gone now. They destroyed it to make a bypass as part of a new town development called Telford, needed to take the overspill from the West Midland towns like Birmingham.
The Primary School that I went to, a churchy-looking building, is now a mosque; or it might be a Hindu temple. I don't know, and I don't care.  It's all alien to me now.
I went back to Hadley once. I will never go again.

Dirty business

Was politics always a dirty business? We are in the middle of a campaign for the next President of the United States, and is seems that the dirty tricks brigades are more in evidence than ever. Sober debate gives way to sniping, personal abuse and nasty insinuendoes, as they say in Liverpool. If you don't understand this cartoon, I admire you. But you can be sure it's saying something nasty but totally irrelevant about Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.  There are sound arguments why she would not be a good President, but the message of her personal inadequacy conveyed by this cartoon is not one of them.

Frame of reference

Why is this funny? Simply because there is a shift in the frame of reference. Postmen/mailmen deliver mail. That's their job. So when he says what he says here, he is shifting to another frame of reference: now he is a curmudgeon who's only concerned with his own comfort, not with doing the job he's paid to do.
This is the stuff of humour, but it is also the stuff of social dysfunction. Watch out for it, watch out for the many occasions when the social order is disrupted because someone doesn't play the game according to the rules any more. Sometimes it's funny, but in the long run, it's bad for social cohesion.
It's a good joke, though, isn't it?!


How can one not respect honesty? Tell me what you sincerely think or believe, and I must respect you for that. It is your right. But every right should carry a corresponding responsibility. In this case, in honestly expressing your opinion, it's not a bad idea to express in a way that makes your point rather than causing offence, because, if you cause offence, people will look at your finger rather than at the direction in which you are pointing.
All the same, I love this cartoon!


What bothers me about officially-sanctioned same-sex marriage is not that homosexuals (who seem to be among the last people in the western world who believe in marriage, the rest of us living in sin) should or should not marry, but that once it is legal, it then becomes illegal for me to believe that marriage ought to be between one man and one woman. In a queer way, the traditional intolerance of homosexuality has been replaced by an intolerance of anyone who has a different view. For what it's worth, I think these officials who in all conscience cannot preside over a gay marriage should have their views respected, just as a doctor may be excused from performing an operation such as an abortion which is in conflict with his deeply-held convictions.
I know that writing this opens me to flaming as a raging homophobe, but would simply confirm my point that intolerance is found at all points in the spectrum these days.

Fly tipping

We suffer in the fens from a blight called "fly tipping", where people will drive out to a remote part of the fen at a time when they are unlikely to be seen in order to dump their unwanted items, usually bulky things like refrigerators and mattresses. Sometimes the dump consists of a mountain of old tyres or ironmongery. In addition, the minor road verges of the fens are often festooned with all manner of detritus - drinks bottles, food wrappers and so on - thrown from the windows of passing cars.
That's the problem. Don't ask me what the solution is. OK, education, but the state of our education system gives me no cause for optimism.
What a way to start the week!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Introduction: the Old Scrote Mission

My first blog, Old Scrote's Home, was started mainly as a way of staying in touch with my family, half of whom are in California, the other half in Auckland, New Zealand. As they - and I - have grown older, and as means of communication have improved (Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, etc), the need for the blog has diminished,  I shall leave it open, partly for the vain reason that I like going back over the posts to remind myself what was in my head in those years.

The title of this new blog, Grumpy Old Scrote, really says it all. There are so many things going on in the world that get my goat or my dander up, and I don't mean only the obvious targets like political correctness and the ineptitude of those in authority. My hackles are raised and my nerves are got on by anything that, according to my mind, demeans us ordinary chaps.

Enough. Let the blog speak for itself. Comments always welcome,