Blackpool Council, Project30 Signs (aka Why I hate Councils #43)

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So, I’m walking home from my usual mid-week pub night, a few pints of Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter happier, and I come across something to break my mood.

A Project30 Sign

Well, not just one, but a total of three Project30 signs littering lamp-posts at the end of the driveways on my quiet little Blackpool street of about 50 houses.

What’s Project30 you might be wondering, and so indeed was I … for the signs themselves gave few clues as to their purpose, rather as can be seen below, only a website address for the viewer to visit:

A quick stumble back home, I boot up the PC, type in the website address and what do I find? An amazing ground breaking piece of news that justifies multiple expensive ambiguous and unecessary signs?

Perhaps the implementation of a 30 year plan to introduce futuristic hover cars to the town? Er… no!

Roadworks!?!

Yes folks, Blackpool Council would like to announce that they’re doing remedial works to my pavement and road surfaces some time in the next 12 months.

And there’s not just three signs on my street, there are dozens, maybe even several hundred of these on other streets throughout Blackpool.

Ooh… That’s a pretty logo and sign…

Er, how much of our money did that cost? Oh, you’re mending the roads? What do you want? A bloody medal? Mending the roads is your job is it not?!?

It doesn’t require a fancy logo, marketing, a website and expensive signs fitted at a rate of three to a street with about 50 houses. All it requires is a single slip of hand delivered paper to tell us what is happening and when on our particular street.

And I’m not sure if you idiots are aware, but not everyone has easy access to the internet, so whose ridiculous idea was it to make the signs into a teaser for residents to have to go and look up further information?

What Debt Crisis?

It’s the cost that irks me most though. I’m not sure if the morons at Blackpool’s town hall are aware, but like most of the Western World, the UK is currently running a huge deficit with no money whatsoever to spare on pointless fripperies.

The cost of metal is at an all time high and council services are being cut back left, right and centre to save money, so how can spending on such unecessary marketing be justified?

I know the popular theory is to blame the banks and the elusive 1%, but as these signs demonstrate, local and central government are just as much to blame.

Marketing?

Perhaps the biggest question should be “why should a Council be marketing it’s services in the first place”. After all, Councils forcibly collect tax-payers’ money to provide essential services to said tax-payers.

It seems somewhat perverse therefore, that they should then spend some of that money marketing those services to their captive consumers who, in reality, have no choice whether or not they wish to pay for them.

To quote the late great Bill Hicks, “if you’re in marketing, kill yourself”:

Take note though, this isn’t just limited to Blackpool Council. It’s happening time and time again in Council’s up and down the country.

At the Council where I used to work, at the same time as staff were being laid off and services cut, the then Chief Executive decided to have a new Council logo designed and added to every vehicle, uniform, letterhead, bill, website, rubbish bin and building.

In Conclusion

The world is going to hell in a hand cart. Please stop the ride, I wish to get off…

Google Instant vs Internet Explorer

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Well it’s now nearly nine months since my I Hate Google Instant!!! post and things are no better. In fact, if anything, it seems to be getting worse.

I’ve now given up trying to use Internet Explorer (IE) to do Google queries as I’m sick of having my browser freeze up completely as Google tries to constantly update my screen with interim premature results that have no relevancy to what I’m looking for.

No IE bashing follows…

Now, I know the populist view might be to blame Internet Explorer as an inefficient browser, but I’m sorry to disappoint you all by telling you that it works fine with everything else.

You’d almost think it was a conspiracy though. Are Microsoft trying to force me onto Bing or is Google trying to get me to use Chrome? Well, I’m happy to disappoint both of them. I’m now on Firefox using Google, which still slows to a crawl unnecessarily, but at least doesn’t hang completely.

Sadly, like many other people I can’t ditch Google as despite its recent pointless and irritating improvements, it is still the best search engine for results. Sorry Bing, but you need a lot more than a new name if you want us all to switch.

But what is it for?

Exactly! As per the last post on this subject, we return to the question that has been on everyone’s lips for quite some time, “what exactly is Google Instant for?”

If I wanted the results for half the word or phrase I’m looking for, then surely I’d only be typing half the word or phrase in the first place?

For Example

Let’s take the role of a potential customer for the company of Swap yer for a driveway? fame. So I’m looking for someone who does concrete driveways in the Blackpool area. Here goes:

  • C – pulls up Currys. Er, no I don’t need any electrical equipment thanks..
  • Co – brings up Comet. Hmmm… Didn’t I just say I don’t want any household electrical items?
  • Con – gives me Congestion Charging. Well, it might be useful if I ever go driving in London, but right now I’m in Lancashire..
  • Conc – results in Concorde. A Wikipedia definition? I know that the cost of a new driveway might be equivalent to what it used to cost to fly on Concorde, but I hardly see how it is relevant. Keep trying Google…
  • Concr – after a brief screen freeze, I get the Wikipedia definition for Concrete. Well, we’re getting somewhere I suppose. Did you know that the word originates from the Latin word “concretus” (meaning compact or condensed)?
  • Concrete D – gets me one of those awful internet directory sites promising to get me the best pattern imprinted concrete installer in my area, whilst bombarding me with Google AdSense adverts…
  • Concrete Driveways – I now get Paving Expert, a very interesting site with a forum, faqs and more about paving and pattern imprinted concrete created by former installers who now do consultancy work for large urban projects. Not much use for my humble dwelling!
  • Concrete Driveways B – and next is  a local patterned concrete supplier for the Bristol area
  • Concrete Driveways Bl – and finally Blackpool! Wahoo! We’re there.

Okay, so that’s eight wholly unnecessary screen refreshes before I get to what I was after, namely Concrete Driveways Blackpool.

And was it faster? Nope!! In fact, the slow down and occasional freeze means that it takes longer. So what’s the point?

No better than spam…

And here’s a thought. Spam (unsolicited email, not the meat of Monty Python fame) gets a bad name for a number of reasons, one of them being that worldwide it accounts for significant unwanted network traffic, making servers work much harder for no reward.

Well, could Google not be said to be doing the same? We’re not talking about advertising here, but worldwide, Google Instant must be using exponentially more bandwidth than is necessary and for little result.

Even customers I’ve spoken to whose browsers do not freeze have said that they largely ignore what’s happening on the screen until they’ve finished typing!

No solution in sight…

And after all this time, and the internet awash with blogs posts like this one, Google still hasn’t taken the hint and provided a foolproof way to disable it.

It can be disabled using Google’s settings screen, but that means it gets stored in a cookie which is lost as soon as internet savvy individuals like myself clear down their temporary internet files. i.e. every time my browser closes.

C’mon Google, please, please, please either get rid of this useless irritating gimic or give us a querystring value that we can pass to turn the damned thing off.

And relax…

Right, rant over. Time to get back to work.

A Few Impressive Driveways From My Travels

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Continuing my Holiday Huffing theme of recent posts, I thought I’d share a few photos of some impressive driveways that I’ve encountered on my travels.

Now, these humble access roads don’t use the pattern imprinted concrete method that my customer of Swap yer for a driveway? fame does, but they’re all a beauty to behold.

St Michaels Mount, Cornwall, England

Lets start with a driveway from my home country. The tidal access route of St Michaels Mount is swallowed up by the sea twice a day and getting a boat back is all part of the fun.

That’s after you’ve sampled some of the fine ale that is brewed on the island obviously…

Burg Eltz, Mosel Valley, Germany

Germany is one of my favourite holiday destinations and Burg Eltz in the Mosel Valley is a great illustration of why. This is one of dozens of fairytale castles that can be found along the course of the Mosel and Rhine rivers.

For best effect, don’t forget to traverse the Autobahns in a VW Campervan!

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The oldest building featured. There are miles of huge wide stone paved and gravel access roads into the various temples to be found to the north of Siem Reap in Cambodia, but this is one of the most impressive.

This is from Angkor Wat, a temple complex measuring approx 1km square!

Driveways or Not?

Now some of you might be saying, these are very impressive, but are they really driveways?

Hmm… What counts as a driveway? Does it have to have been created post the invention of the motor car or horse-drawn carriage to count?

Well…

Let’s consider the following:

  • The Oxford Dictionary defines a driveway as: a short road leading from a public road to a house or garage.
  • An Englishman’s home is his castle.

In Conclusion…

Et voila! Case closed. They are driveways and they’re all very impressive!

Swap yer for a driveway?

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Y’know, I’d always hoped doing web development for small businesses that the opportunity may arise occasionally to get paid in kind every now and then (i.e. with services rather than financial recompense).

Now for those with a less than clean mind, I’m not hinting at a website for a lap dancing or strip club. Tsk! Shame on you! I’m talking about things that need doing around the house!!

An opportunity arises…

So when I got a call for a quote from a local (Blackpool) business that does pattern imprinted concrete driveways, I got just a little bit excited…

And here’s the reason why. My driveway:

It ain’t pretty is it? Definitely in need of a little TLC I think you’ll agree.

I’d much rather it looked like this. An example driveway in Preston from the aforementioned local business:

Yes, I realise I’d also need to do a bit of landscaping to the garden, but sadly it wasn’t to be anyway.

So he didn’t want a website after all?

No, not at all. His website has been up and running for a while and is bringing in customers.

It all comes down to price y’see. Because my website design is just so damn reasonably priced and concrete driveways are far from cheap, a straight swap of our respective services just wasn’t on the cards.

Perhaps I’ll have to put my prices up?

It isn’t all bad though

Whilst driveways may be too costly, some of my other customer’s services are probably within reach.

Should I ever need financial advice, embroidered clothing, scaffolding hire, environmental health consultancy, piano removals, shot blasting, emergency boarding up services or perhaps wrought iron gates to adorn my non-existent driveway, I’d probably stand a better chance!!

In conclusion…

Well, at the moment, I don’t need any of the above. And I don’t want a cheap driveway that won’t last.

But that’s not to say I’m not still hopeful of swapping services rendered for a website at some time in the future.

Perhaps if there’s anyone out there considering a website for a cleaning business, it’d be nice to have my kitchen and bathroom cleaned for a year…

Log Cabin Envy!!

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It all began whilst on holiday recently with my family in Cornwall. We stayed in a beautiful self-catering holiday cottage, if you can call something with over 10 rooms a cottage that is!

Y’know sometimes when you go self catering and there isn’t a bread knife, decent sized frying pan, ironing board or other household item we take for granted in our everyday lives… …well not this place!!

The Kitchen Sink

I told the family to pack a few essentials just to be on the safe side, but there was really no need. This place had everything you could possibly think of, including the crowning glory and the main reason I chose it…

A POOL TABLE!!!

My life and that of several other males of our party was complete. Chilled beers, Cornish sunshine and a few dozen games of pool.

What could be better?

What Indeed?

Well, I’ll tell you what. If it lasted for more than a week, that’s what.

Y’see, I’ve always wanted a full size slate bed pool table of my own and this only served to remind me, as I near the halfway marker of my life, that my dream remains unfulfilled.

Enter the Log Cabin…

And then it got worse. An existing customer who does joinery and building work asked for a new page on their website advertising that they can supply, erect, fit-out and furnish log cabins.

“No problems”, says I. “Would you like to come and see the one I’ve put in my back yard?”, says he. “Ooh, yes please”, I foolishly reply.

Admittedly, he used his for an office, but it was a perfect size for the pool table I crave so badly. Okay, now I’m jealous…

Life Is Sweet

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a lovely wife, a nice house and a pretty decent sized garden so don’t start playing those violins just yet…

BUT… I don’t have the room or the money for one of these beauties.

I could lose a few of my carefully nurtured fledgling fruit trees, but that doesn’t address the more important financial question.

Five Year Plan

As the line from Wayne’s World goes though, “It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine”.

True, I may have to seek financial advice and consider getting another mortgage, but within five years I WILL be playing pool on a full size slate bed pool table located somewhere in a property I own.

Watch this space!

In Conclusion…

If you live in the Blackpool, Preston or Lancaster area and you’re looking for a web developer, give me a call.

Lord knows (and now you do too), I need the money!

Plumbing The Depths II

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A very quick one this time as it really speaks for itself. Following on from my previous post regards doing website development work for a Blackpool plumber, I just had to post a copy of a picture he sent me for inclusion on his website.

Look away now…

If you’ve just eaten or about to eat, I’d advise you turn off your screen now. The photo is of a customer’s unblocked drain and the rather unpleasant contents which were blocking it!

Eeewwwww!!!

I don’t know how much he charges for call-out, but whatever it is, he ought to get more…

There, told you it was a short one!

Holiday Scaffolding II

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Okay, so we know that it has to be done. Old buildings need to be restored, repaired and generally supported to prevent them falling down before future generations get a chance to enjoy them.

But why does the scaffolding always have to be there when I visit?

A Familiar Picture

You know the story. You’ve flown half way round the world to see something and get a photo to show off to your friends back home… …and when you get there, it’s covered in scaffolding.

It happens to me all the time. Well, not all the time obviously, as I’m not continuously on holiday, but…

Notre Dame in Paris? Scaffolding. York Minster in England? Scaffolding! Angkor Wat in Cambodia? BLOODY SCAFFOLDING!!

“Aw, come on, that’s not that bad”, I hear you say, “it’s still a beautiful picture”. True enough, but it is likely to be the only time ever that I visit it and wouldn’t it just look so much better without the scaffolding?

The Solution

Fear not, scaffold-a-phobes, for I have a potential solution. Provided the scaffolding is of a sufficiently small size, simply place a loved one in front of it for a comedy shot:

Not quite the same classic postcard / calendar shot, but at least we can pretend there was no scaffolding. Yes, yes, I know you can see it under her armpit! I never said the solution was perfect did I?

As an aside, if you’ve never been to Cambodia or Angkor Wat, it is well worth a visit, scaffolding or no!

Blackpool “Scaffolding” Tower

And with a fairly tenuous link, we move onto scaffolding in Blackpool, my home town and another infamous (at least within the North of England) landmark.

Blackpool Tower has had scaffolding on it for ages now whilst it is undergoing a major overhaul, thus ruining thousands of holiday-makers’ snapshots, .

That said, the overhaul will include a new glass observation deck where people can stand on a glass floor looking down towards the promenade. Provided their nerves will take it that is!

At just under half the height of the Eiffel Tower, that’s enough to make your legs tremble. Can’t wait to go up and have a look.

In Conclusion

Well, as the above shows, I’d grudgingly have to admit that scaffolding is a necessary evil, preserving and improving our historic buildings and tourist attractions.

But just once, I’d like to turn up to somewhere famous and not see any…

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