Monthly Archives: September 2012
This Crazy World We Live In
No 2 Four floors of madness
I could have subtitled this post ‘people with too much money to spend’ except that that would be neither accurate nor fair. But you do have to wonder. I certainly did when I stumbled across M&M World last Sunday. Now this is not an emporium I had visited before, indeed I was not even aware of its existence. All I knew about M&Ms was that they are sugar coated chocolate or peanut sweets that resemble Smarties.
I was also familiar with their somewhat grotesque ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow’ characters since they pop up every time I go to the movies. I’ve never been quite sure what they are advertising. I thought they were warning us to turn off our mobile phones but a quick Google tells me they are promoting film. Hence FTRC – From The Red Carpet. I’m all for anything that gets people into cinemas but please, why does everything have to be reduced to initials?
That was the extent of my knowledge of M&Ms. Until last Sunday when I was on my way to a cinema in Leicester Square. I was far too early. It was pouring with rain. I could have sheltered in a cafe but I didn’t really want a coffee and on principle I balk at buying the stuff at inflated tourist prices. Most of the shops were shut. And then I noticed that an enormous glass clad building near one corner of the square appeared to be open and doing a brisk trade.
Welcome to M&M World! How, I wondered, as I stepped inside, could you fill a shop with M&Ms? Let alone a whole building? I soon found out and should have guessed. Because of course it’s not just the little sweets they are selling. It’s merchandise. What stupefies me is not simply the four floors of stuff all branded with the M&M logo, but that people are actually buying it.
The toys and shopping bags, t-shirts and sweatshirts came as no great surprise. But boxers, baby-grows, bibs, wellies, pyjamas? Mugs for home or office and even mouse mats – if you really have to. But measuring cups, bowls, place mats, even salad servers? Dispensers are fun. I could even imagine why someone might buy one, though for my part I would never have enough M&Ms to fill one. It would be emptied so quickly there’d be no need for anything but hands. But I can’t see myself ever, ever wanting M&M earings. Or an M&M on a motorbike. Yikes!
Four floors of M&M branded merchandise! Call me naïve if you like, but I’m still reeling. (I will not use that horrible word that starts with gob and ends with smacked, though it does rather fit my reaction.) I’m surprised that I should be surprised, really. After all we have Disney and Warner Bros. merchandise. The Leicester Tigers and ManU all have shops. Everyone has shops. But they seem different somehow – based on much loved characters or sport or something. Not just candies, to use the American term, which is I suppose appropriate.
I have nothing against shops or merchandise. And I absolutely love sweets. My favourite bits of M&M were the floors lined with giant tubes filled with sweets in every colour imaginable, tastefully graded so that they changed from yellow to lime green to pea green to forest green to blues of every hue, then mauve, purple, red, orange, pink. I don’t know how I restrained myself. Maybe it was the anticipation of the popcorn that would inevitably accompany the film.
All around me people were filling little bags with the delectable colours and flavours. Which have gone way beyond chocolate and peanuts – there’s peanut butter, coconut, almond, ice cream cookie and much more. And that I could understand. What I don’t understand is how people can spend good money on this rubbish. Still I’m not the arbiter of taste and I’m sure some of the stuff I buy would raise a snigger or four. I must admit that the murals and framed ‘art’ around the place was so dreadful it was very nearly kitsch. But only very nearly.
This Crazy World We Live In
No. 1 People with too much time on their hands
Last week while demonstrating ways to find information on the Internet I came across a quite extraordinary blog – indeed the blog with the longest domain name in the world. There you can find the longest everything – the longest abbreviation, the longest running Academy Awards ceremony, the longest bridge, the longest time anyone has been buried alive (presumably they were still alive when disinterred!) The longest commute, the longest dog – dog! – and so on through the alphabet until you get to the longest wave ever surfed, the longest word and the longest zucchini (that vegetable beloved of scrabble devotees and people who compile lists. Oh, and people who like zucchini.)
I’m going to start with the longest abbreviation because it’s a contradiction in terms. Utterly, completely weird and bonkers. It contains no less than fifty-six letters far, far longer than even the longest of words. So here it comes …and yes I did notice that the letters do not correspond to the English translation. But it’s a Russian abbreviation. Enough said.
What does it stand for? Take a deep breath. It stands for the –
Laboratory for Shuttering, Reinforcement, Concrete and Ferroconcrete Operations for Composite-monolithic and Monolithic Constructions of the Department of Technology of Building Assembly Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for Building Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR.
Yay! I wonder what they called it for short? Any suggestions?
If you had to say all that every time you wanted to call them up on the phone or explain where you worked you’d probably have lost the will to live. Which brings me to Geoff Smith. Maybe he thought his name was just a bit ordinary so was prompted to do something a little different. Or maybe it was because of his mother. Whatever it was, it’s our Geoff who holds the record for the longest time being buried alive.
His ordeal began on 29th August in 1998 and ended 150 days later. While I question whether anything self-inflicted can be called an ordeal I can’t dispute the facts. Nor would I want to. Geoff it seems spent 150 days buried in a coffin 6 feet under the garden of the Railway Inn in Mansfield, England. Breaking the old record of 141 days and the European record of 101 days, which had been set by his mother 30 years earlier. I’m not sure why his coffin was painted to resemble a tiger – it will probably remain forever a mystery. Like why anyone would want to break the world record for being buried alive.
If I delved any deeper into this crazy blog I’d be here all day. So – you’ve got the link. Have an explore. If you have any time to spare that is – but I must say it is addictive. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.
No. 2 Ryanair.
Ryanair. “Probably” the most disliked airline in the world, barring possibly United Airlines. You’ve heard of United! That’s the airline that lost a child in transit, ignored her and refused to help her, even though they’d been responsible for her missing her flight in the first place. Yes, United may very well pip Ryanair to the post in the unpopularity stakes. However, had Ryanair lost a child in transit it would almost certainly have found a way to make money out of it, one way or the other. By charging it for taking up space, for instance. It would be bound to think of something.
Because, in truth, Ryanair isn’t really an airline. It’s a sort of one-way bank. In fact, Ryanair could well adopt the advertising slogan of Carlsberg. But not in a good way. “Probably” the most acquisitive and grasping airline in the world. “Probably” the stingiest company in the world with the worst customer service. “Probably” the most uncomfortable seats anywhere, ever. (They don’t go back, forcing you to sit in an upright position, making it impossible to sleep and giving you a crick in your neck that will cost you a visit to the osteopath.)
If you are retired and can hop on a plane at will you can visit a wealth of European cities for £5 or thereabouts. You don’t need much luggage for a day or two. Or, if you are fortunate enough to own a property abroad and can book ahead, you can travel really cheaply as everything you need is already at your destination. And you can re-stock once or twice a year by driving over in the car laden with goodies.
However, for many of us, Ryanair is an airline of necessity – never the airline of choice. Apart from anything else it’s guaranteed to raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels the moment you go on the website From the outrageous £18 extra to pay by debit card (you use the card once, they charge you twice – £9 each way), to the nail biting wait to see if they’ll decide that your luggage is 1 mm larger than their stingy allowance so they can gleefully charge you an extra £50 and upwards. To inchoate fury as you see smug bastards getting away with ‘hand luggage’ that must contain at the very least a small giraffe. (I still haven’t worked out how they get away with it. Maybe Ryanair know how to pick their fights.)
No sooner have the wheels left the tarmac than the rest of the malarkey begins. First we have the safety announcements, rushed through at a rate of knots, virtually incomprehensible so fast are they gabbled. (And “probably” a complete waste of time. You’d have to be pretty gullible to believe that, should anything untoward happen when over water, you’d have time to inflate your life jacket, let alone blow your whistle. As to coming down over land … best not go there.
Back to the on-board experience! No sooner has the safety thing been got out of the way than the sales patter begins. Starting with newspapers, followed by ‘beverages’, then food. Phew! No, not phew. We haven’t finished. Not by a long way. Next come the duty free, booze, perfume and gifts – but not all together. No, they are paraded one at a time to draw it out to the max. So now can I try to sleep? Not on your nelly. They still have to try to flog the scratch cards – scratch cards! Ye Gods and little fishes!
That was the outward journey. It was even worse on the way back. We were welcomed aboard ‘courtesy of Ryanair and …’ I didn’t catch the name. It sounded like J-Lo – an orange juice company I believe, not the the actress of the same name. The announcement was accompanied by the amplified sound of ice cubes rattling in a glass in what I suppose was an attempt to make us salivate and order shedloads of the stuff. This of course was followed by the usual sales pitches for all the aforementioned articles – now with the addition of oyster cards, travel cards, phone cards, museum and gallery cards.
The man would sell his own granny if he thought he could make a profit. There are some will disagree with me, like those property owners and retired people mentioned earlier. I’m not a spoilsport. I’m all for cheaper travel. But Ryanair is extortionate, inconsistent and nasty with it. Yes, Mr O’Leary, you do indeed make me ashamed to be Irish.