January 2009 Archives - wibbler.com

The Fine Art of Complaining

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complaint deptThere’s something very entertaining about a person driven to the edge of insanity by events. Basil from Fawlty Towers, for example, was watchable mainly because viewers couldn’t wait to see what rage he’d fly into next.

In the news in the last few days is a letter written to Richard Branson, tearing strips into Virgin Atlantic’s food service. Branson so enjoyed the letter he phoned the guy up to thank him.

I’ve stumbled on a few more excellent complaint letters that have raised hoots of laughter:

New Zealand Traffic Infringement Department: “I wouldn’t be too disappointed if we agreed to let this one go.”

NTL Letter: “You irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twats.”

Continental Airlines: “Does your company give refunds? I’d like to give me money back and start over.”

O2 Phone Insurance: “Perhaps you were in a slightly different timezone.” (alright, I wrote this one myself…)

Got any more?

Boriswatch, the BBC, a large camera and some thongs

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I’m pleased to report that one of my sites, Boriswatch, is doing spankingly well at the moment, and just last week I hauled myself up to London to appear on the BBC News for a piece on “Boris watchers”. It was the 3rd time I’ve been interviewed, and happily I’m getting better at it. The first time, for an End Of The Year show in 2004, saw me taken down into the basement of a plush hotel in London, and without any training whatsoever I managed to spill a few uninteresting comments out. The key, I found, was to forget you’re on camera, which is a little tricky when there’s a large light umbrella, a huge camera and several television executives staring at you. My cardboardy performance was something I didn’t publicise, and is hopefully long gone. The second one, for ITV, was a far more successful affair, with Boris Johnson commenting on the site and ITV receptionists pictured wearing Boriswatch t-shirts. I managed – in my shy, retiring way – to play a DVD of the performance on the Training Room projector at work.

Which brings us to the latest interview, with BBC London the weekend before last. It pitched me (a pro-Boris, in case you hadn’t realised) against a couple of anti-Boris fellow geeks, who seemed to be full of conspiracy theories and smarting at Ken Livingstone’s loss. At least, that was what I was told by the BBC interviewer, although I’m sure they came across far better that that on camera.

The BBC Marylebone lobby

The BBC Marylebone lobby

I arrived at the plush office in Marylebone a little early, and sat in the cafe next door, fevourishly researching the notes I’d made on the train journey. Over a muffin and pineapple Snapple, I noticed the place was full of media types, all with loud opinions on politics and celebrities. At 1pm, I sauntered into the BBC office, passing the security guard with remarkable ease. As I sat in reception, the internal BBC channel played in front of me, spooling out how wonderful the Beeb was. I continued watching as I got out a packet of extra strong mints, enthusiastically ripping open the packet and immediately dropping them all over my jacket and the floor. Mints rolled in all directions around me, and of course it was at immediately this moment that the videographer rocked up in front of me, asking my name and directing me down the corridor. I attempted to explain, but it was clear nothing would retrieve my dignity and I followed him up to the filming room.

The room, when we got there, was dark, save for an extremely bright light focused on the chair I would be sat in and a large projected image of Boriswatch on a screen. The interviewer arrived a couple of minutes later, and within a further couple of minutes the interview began. They don’t hang around, these reporters.

Feverish note revision

Feverish note revision

I tried to remember everything I had scribbled down earlier on the train, and prepared myself with the three pieces of advice I’d been given during my other two appearances. One, speak unnecessarily slowly (people watching won’t be used to any particular drawl); two, repeat the interviewer’s question (so that the whole Q and A can be shown without revealing the interviewer); and three – push your head forward further than normal (to reduce any additional chins).

And so it was that I talked about “the other site”, explained why I run Boriswatch, conducted a staunch defence of Mayor Boris, said what I had to say to Boris critics, and promoted some Boriswatch merchandise. The merchandise, if you watch the video below, is virtually the only part that made it to the final piece. The moment I mentioned the word “thongs”,  the interviewer and cameraman dissolved a little, and it was a wonder I got to the end of the sentence before following them into fits of giggles…

It was all over in 15 minutes. Everyone was very friendly, and as I was guided down the stairs by the interviewer I got a small tour and potted history of the relatively small place. It is one of the oldest BBC offices in London, hosuing abour 100 people. It was under siege during the Ross/Brand affair a few weeks before – “we got a taste of our own medicine”, the interviewer wryly noted – as it was the location for the important Sack Brand meeting by the governors. bbclondonDownstairs is the location of the entire BBC London operation, including all the researchers and the BBC London studio, which is barely bigger than Londoners see on screen every day. If you ever listen to the traffic news of London 97.3 radio, the reason there is always lots of background noise is because the traffic guy’s desk is right in the middle of the packed office floor. It really is very small indeed, which is the main reason they are moving to gleaming new premises very soon.

Three times on the following Tuesday it was broadcast, prompting 12 text messages and 7 emails within 10 minutes of the first broadcast, which coincided nicely with a particularly crucial presentation I was giving. The general consensus is good, but I seem to have an even posher accent on screen. I didn’t know that was possible.

So, here it is:

Linkblog – December 14th to January 24th

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Links between December 14th and January 24th:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here: http://www.wibbler.com/tag/linkblog/

In search of the Sheriff

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Sheriff of NottinghamIt’s Sunday evening, and I’m in Nottingham. The rain is gently pattering on the window, the Pizza Hut sign is faintly visible across the road, and I’m catching up on *stuff*.

This is the second of my four half-week stints in Nottingham. Sometimes, my day job takes me to interesting places – Dublin, Shannon, Munich, Zurich and Edinburgh, for example. In fact, in one memorable 4 day trip I took in all of those cities except Zurich. Sometimes, however, it’s a small hotel in Nottingham. My trip last week consisted of freezing weather, rubbish restaurants and an interesting episode where I found a human hair in a battered onion ring. I’ll pause here for you to take that last horror in.

Still, it gives me time to catch up on my “other” job, namely being an online geek. I currently have a small plethora of websites on the go at the moment, and it seems to be growing every month. It’s a nice little sideline, and one which has recently put me on the BBC! Fun.

The rain is now gathering pace, and I have a meal to eat. I’m sure after that, I’ll find some more geekery to perform…