A Driving Instructor's Blog

Movies & TV

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For the cerebrally out there, this is an old, old, OLD story from 2010. BSM is now owned by the AA.


Well, I watched the segment which dealt with the BSM complaints – and I should also point out that the hits to the stories on this blog concerning BSM have gone into orbit!

It was a total non-event in the end. It was simply three complaints by three people about the service they’d received from BSM (with the distinct impression that certain details had been suppressed to keep the story as juicy as possible). Of course, those people had valid points on the surface of it all, but if BSM is teaching around 10,000 to 20,000 people at any single time (or 120,000 a year, as BSM claims) then three complaints is absolutely insignificant.

You can watch the segment by clicking the Watchdog image above, then by viewing the latest programme (11/11/2010, available for 7 days). The BSM bit starts at 27:53 into the show. [The video expired years ago.]

It begins by introducing BSM as the largest driving school in the country, nearly 100 years old, 120,000 pupils a year, higher-than-average pass rates, and so on. Then it does some contrived stuff about hill starts and parking. Finally, it starts on the complaints:

  • one guy paid £1,700 for 70 hours of lessons and absolutely wanted and needed to pass.

So, you immediately think that this is going to be about people not being trained properly. However, at no point is his training questioned. It turns out that the car’s tax was out of date when he turned up at the test centre and the test couldn’t go ahead. Cue: a didactic lecture from the presenter about the law regarding road tax, and indignation (“shock and disbelief”) from the candidate for the camera about how you don’t expect this.

At the end of that complaint the presenter makes the comment about BSM “at least sending a car to the test centre on the day” (i.e. everything got sorted out). This led on to the next complaint, where the candidate apparently had to turn up at the test centre on their own.

  • A young lad had a test booked (by his mum) and when he turned up there was no instructor or car.

The guy called his girlfriend, took the test in her car, and passed. BSM said that the instructor had texted to say he couldn’t make it and that another car would be there instead. The programme does not pursue this in any way whatsoever. Instead, it goes on about his mum, who apparently “had a hard time” getting her money back (she did get it back, albeit with an administration fee charged).

After a few wise words from his mum about BSM not caring and being arrogant, we are then informed that “many drivers don’t actually work for [BSM]” and that maybe this is why BSM “refuse to take responsibility”.

They suggest this may be why they have received other complaints – like the next one.

  • A woman had had three instructors.

She argued that this was a problem because “he needed to understand her, and she needed to understand him” and that there were “breaks in her learning”. Her husband sits alongside nodding sagely as she talks about styles of learning.

This then leads on to the claim BSM made on its website that someone passes “every 6 seconds” with them – something they have already admitted was a mistake and is not correct. That doesn’t prevent Watchdog from calling in a fully qualified mathematician and whiteboard to prove that this claim is impossible (I say again: BSM had already acknowledged that fact). In any case, the mathematics the “expert” used was flawed on a number of fronts – not least because BSM might be the biggest single school, but it only represents about 6% (at best) of the total number of ADIs out there. Pushing that to one side though, even if BSM represented 100% of all ADIs then the claim was shown to be impossible (one more time: BSM had already admitted that this claim was in error).

At the end of the segment, it appeared that the first guy took his test – with BSM – and he passed. BSM said that they do dispute some of the details of the other claims made. I’ll bet they do. What with Watchdog geeing people up for the cameras.

BSM certainly isn’t perfect, but no one else is either. It is not uncommon for ADIs (whether they are independent or franchised) to screw up. The car breaks down, they have an accident, a family member is ill or dies, they wrote something incorrectly into their diary… it happens to anyone and everyone at some stage.

Car tax out of date? It was a mistake, and one I’m sure BSM doesn’t do deliberately – or regularly.

Having pupils turn up to test separately is unforgiveable – unless that’s what the pupil wanted, or if the pupil booked the test against the instructor’s wishes. I had one once who wanted to turn up at the test centre because he couldn’t afford the extra hour before his test! And more than once I have had pupils book tests against my advice, and then find themselves looking for another instructor. I wonder what they’d say if Watchdog got on to them?

Pupils having more than one instructor? Well, the woman in the Watchdog showobviously considered herself an expert in the training field and wasn’t ashamed to say so. It is common to find serial instructor-hopping pupils who fail to see that the problem is with them, not the ADI. Occasionally, a pupil just won’t gel with you and they’ll go elsewhere – they often can’t handle not being perfect and look to blame their instructor for their own weaknesses. You wouldn’t believe some of the tales you hear from them about “my last instructor”, but very few identify themselves as the issue. The woman in that clip would probably find herself looking for instructor #4 if she was one of mine. She’d have driven me mad. I reserve the right not to have to put up with complete arseholes, and if I get a pupil who repeatedly thinks they know better than me, and if I can’t stop them doing it (and believe me, I can be blunt), then they’ll find themselves looking for another instructor!

I think the “6 second” claim was pathetic. BSM admitted it was wrong before the show aired, and Watchdog gloated “but it took us to point it out”.

None of the complaints were absolutely specific to BSM. They could (and do) potentially happen to any ADI. Mistakes, mistaken claims, lying pupils, know-it-alls… all of them.

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I’ve mentioned annoying TV ads before. There was the Alfa Romeo one, then the Audi one (and we all know how Audi drivers make you want to puke before they even get up in the morning, because the only reason they have an Audi is to go fast and drive dangerously), and the one for The Natural Confectionery Company.

This one from Heinz (for Tomato Soup) has just taken pole position. It consists of 30 seconds of sickening people (including kids) blowing with wet lips on spoonfuls of tomato soup.

I really cannot believe that people actually get off on seeing children playing with food (or even eating). But any advertisement to do with irritating noises – especially ones associated with food and involving kids – leaves me completely cold. How the hell is seeing a bunch of posers spitting on to tomato soup – a food which is right on the edge of palatability in the first place – going to make it sell more?


I just edited this to ad a new video player, and I had truly forgotten how annoying it really is. Heinz must have been crazy to approve it.

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This is a bit of bad news – comic Norman Wisdom has died at the age of 95 after a series of strokes.

Norman Wisdom

Norman Wisdom

This is one of those times when phrases like “comic genius” and “legend” cease to have any real meaning. Wisdom really was a comic genius and he will easily take on legendary status now he’s gone.

I remember watching his films during the summer holidays, and I never miss a chance to watch them now. He still cracks me up whenever I see him.

His style was slapstick, but never crude or vulgar. His most famous character was Pitkin, the downtrodden nobody who was always at odds with the establishment. Along with his accidental trip (which he apparently did in front of the Queen when he was awarded his Knighthood), he made millions laugh from the 60s onwards.

He was a national superstar in Albania, of all places, and he is being mourned over there. Albania showed his films at a time when all other western movies were banned.

As an update to this story, I saw an advertisement in today’s press for a boxed set of his films. Mine’s on order.

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Knowing - PosterI saw a great film last night on one of the movie channels.

It’s from 2009, and it is called Knowing – starring Nicholas Cage. To be honest, the only reason I started watching it is because it had him in it. I’m not particularly “into” any specific modern actor or actress, but I do admire some of Mr Cage’s films – 8MM in particular, though most definitely NOT The Wicker Man (it was sacrilege to even think about improving on the original of that).

Anyway, Knowing seems to be one of a rush of films trying to capitalise on The Da Vinci Code principle (find some sort of code from the past, decipher it, make a movie around it). I haven’t watched The Da Vinci Code all the way through – it’s rubbish, and the original story by Dan Brown plagiarises a book I read years ago called The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail. What with 2012, and morons all over the world accepting it as fact (like they did with the Brown story), these “Code” films don’t do a lot for me.

In a nutshell, Knowing starts 50 years in the past. A group of schoolkids is asked to write letters to seal in a time capsule, and one troubled young girl just writes two sides full of numbers. When the capsule is opened in the modern day, the letters are passed out to kids at the school – and the one written by the girl ends up with Cage’s son (who is also troubled). Anyway, Cage sees it and recognises a particular date and incident (an event, and the number of people killed). He then goes on to identify a whole series of other dates, and recognises the accuracy of the death toll in each case… but then it moves into future dates, which also turn out to accurately predict various events and death tolls. He realises that other coded data reveals the locations of the events. Then there is the final date…

Mixed in with the events Cage is investigating are the mysterious strangers, who are not of this world… but precisely which type of “world” they are from is kept ambiguous.

There is not a happy ending.

It’s a great film, in my opinion – by “great” I mean great to watch. Good acting (by most), good special effects, and suspenseful storyline. Definitely worth a look.

I downloaded an HD copy from my favourite video download site for a very reasonable $3.00, and I was amused by some of the comments people had left (spelling as written by them):

“This movie really scared me. I believed in their thoery which there is a possible the can to do that. I’m not sure the terms they’re using but totally I believe in this one… theres one part of this movie it is so fictional, and made me laugh a little. I think the writter want to show that still despite of this big tragedy in our world we need to believe there are still hope on something because thats what we are we believe and hold on something to survive. But it is great. nice one.”

And:

“Overall this movie is one big invitation to open your mind and consider a very different view on reality. The ending reminded me very much of the deeply inspiring channelings from Operation Terra. Please google this if you are prepared to challange your views on reality and if you want to discover the deeper dimensions of this filmographic masterpiece.”

If extraterrestrials (or deities) ever did decide to save some seeds of life from this planet and put them somewhere else, it is very clear which weeds they would probably not bother with!

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BBC 2 has a show called ‘Victorian Pharmacy’ (available on iPlayer), where they look into medicines of the Victorian era. I watched it last week for the first time, and have been unfortunate enough to turn it on again now while I wait for something decent to start (The Matrix is on at 10, so I’ll watch that for the hundredth time).

Victorian Pharmacy On The BBCI should point out that my direct experience of pharmacists over the years has been that they often believe they are only one step removed from being doctors, they look down on non-pharmacists (and aren’t ashamed to show it), and they think they’re a lot smarter than they actually are. That last one is the most enduring memory of them from my many years working in industry.

Several stick in my mind, due to their complete lack of any form of technical understanding. When I did my degree in Chemistry I had to do a module on pharmaceutics, and it was so boring. There was very little technical content, and much of it was about having to remember things. OK, I admit that the definition of pharmaceutics does imply knowledge of pharmacokinetics and the like, but it isn’t very detailed. I suspect that some pharmacists who really are up to it go on to specialise in these things, but that doesn’t appear to apply to any that I’ve worked with.

All credit to them: it gets them jobs (some high street stores won’t appoint a shop manager who isn’t a pharmacist if the store contains a pharmacy – even though being a good pharmacist and being a good shop manager are poles apart). They are very much a closed shop – I suspect Masonic influences in there somewhere.

But I digress. The BBC has decided that science of any kind can only be presented in semi-dramatic form. That means dressing up and pretending you are something else – in this case, Victorian. Even if those dressing up are real people and not just actors, those chosen have to be photogenic in the BBC sense of the word. They also have to be overtly extrovert, and up for anything. So this programme has a grinning gargoyle pretending to be a Victorian Pharmacist, a clucking old hen pretending to be… well, I don’t know what, and a spindly youth pretending to be a Victorian spindly youth. I believe that they are all pharmacists.

I just turned it off because the old hen is one of those people who laughs with that annoying old-person-appearing-on-TV laugh after every comment. The programme seems to be half-serious (in its own eyes) and half-taking the piss out of the Victorians for daring not to know what we know now.

Oh, for the days of the old Horizon or Open University shows – when scientific content was information based.

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While I was on the Mars Rover/NASA/JPL site looking at those dust devil clips, I noticed a Google Ad. It linked to this site (it’s now dead).

For anyone who doesn’t know, 2012 was a film released last year – IMDb summarises the plot as follows:

Dr. Adrian Helmsley, part of a worldwide geophysical team investigating the effect on the earth of radiation from unprecedented solar storms, learns that the earth’s core is heating up. He warns U.S. President Thomas Wilson that the crust of the earth is becoming unstable and that without proper preparations for saving a fraction of the world’s population, the entire race is doomed. Meanwhile, writer Jackson Curtis stumbles on the same information. While the world’s leaders race to build “arks” to escape the impending cataclysm, Curtis struggles to find a way to save his family. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes of unprecedented strength wreak havoc around the world. Written by Jim Beaver

When the geologist Dr. Adrian Helmsley and his team discover that the core of Earth is heating due to solar radiation, he advises the North American President about his findings. The American Govern collects money from the worldwide leaders to build arks to save them with necessary people to rebuild civilization. Meanwhile, the unsuccessful writer Jackson Curtis discloses that the world is near to end and tries to save his son and his daughter from the tragic end. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Geophysicist Adrian Helmsley officially visits India’s Dr. Satnam Tsurutani, his pretty wife, Aparna, and their son. From thence, he is led to the world’s deepest copper mine, where he finds evidence that the Earth’s crust is heating up faster than expected. He quickly collects evidence, and presents it before the President of the United States. Expecting the news to hit leading media, he is instead stunned when he learns that the powers-that-be have no intention of publicizing this catastrophe, and are intent on saving wealthy families that can shell out a billion Euros per family on four mammoth arks – without realizing that if the Earth is indeed headed for the prophetic self-destruction on 21 December 2012 – how can arks and it’s wealthy inhabitants survive?

As an aside, there are definite similarities to Ben Elton’s storyline in “Stark”. But 2012 also makes reference to the Mayan calendar (which predicts the end of the world on 21 December 2012) and other related stuff. Basically, the film is another Dan Brown/Da Vinci Code type of affair. Pure fiction, but dragging in fact and pseudo-fact.

Back to this link (it’s now dead), though. On its homepage, it says:

For Immediate Release: This is not another “sky is falling” warning like y2k… It’s not some made up event by conspiracy theorist (sic). And it’s certainly not something dreamt up for a Hollywood movie…

“2012 Is Real”

And Mainstream Media Does Not Want You To Know About It…

Why all the capitals, colours, and superfluous punctuation? Well, I guess the type of person most likely to be attracted to this sort of thing understands things better if it looks like it is made out of glitter and raffia glued to big pieces of cardboard. And, incidentally, the Y2K thing never happened because a lot of people worked to make sure it didn’t – if they hadn’t, there would have been problems.

I like the testimonial on the homepage:

“This information is beyond incredible! I was worried that I was going to get another book about 2012 that was hard to understand with the lack of evidence. Instead I received a package that blew my mind away with highly researched material that simply hasn’t been discussed before. James Sayer is the one guy who knows his stuff about the coming events in 2012. Even if you don’t believe in 2012 I still recommend everyone read this…

John Dale
Wiltshire, UK

I hope that’s not his real name. No one could be that stupid, could they? But if his ringing endorsement makes you think there might be something to all of this, the bottom of the homepage says:

You’re just moments from…

  • The real truth about Goverment Coverups, Swine Flu Pandemics and known natural disasters that are headed our way…and how people with power are not telling you everything they know…
  • Learning how you can help turn what many believe to be the darkest period in history into the most enlightened. Could universal racial harmony really be achievable?
  • The truth about the Sibylline Books and the end of the world. And how so much faith has been put in texts that turn out to be a fraud…
  • Discovering the massive “phantom” that’s hiding right behind the sun. Is it Niburu? Planet X? Something else entirely? And how will this change your survival plan?
  • An multi-pronged survival plan. Will it be Adam and Eve all over again? If so… do you have what it takes to start over for humanity?
  • The I-Ching Prophecies… Mayan calendars… Hopi Indians teachings… Aztec calendars… On what subjects are they in sync? This might blow your mind!
  • Unearthing the truth about “The Fifth Age Of Man” and whether 2012 is an ending… or a much needed new beginning for us all.
  • Realizing “The Age Of Aquarius” isn’t merely a Hippie anthem, but a time in history we’re already in. And how does this coincide with “The Age Of Completion”?
  • Discovering how you’ll deal with simple things like drinkable water… breathable air… even going to the bathroom in 2012. It may not be pretty… but you’ll have to know this stuff!

If there was an award for how many different – and completely separate – themes you could mix together at once, this guy would win hands down. But it gets better.

2012 Countdown Logo

2012 Countdown Logo

If you head on past the first page, even more crackpot claims are made – and you find that Christianity is involved in this, too. The author seems to believe every single story he’s ever heard, and has woven them into this unifying theory of his. It becomes clear that he has a series of books and CDs/DVDs – these are apparently worth $259.80.

Go to the third page to sign up, and you discover you are getting a real bargain: only $49.95 – a saving of $20.03 on the normal price of $69.99! Oh yes – this is for instant and unlimited download access to the entire package (you aren’t actually getting the books or CDs/DVDs).

The one thing burning in my mind is this: if 22 December 2012 is going to be the shittiest day on record, and if this guy is expecting to get the keys to the executive washroom in heaven, valhalla, or whatever paradise he thinks is out there, why doesn’t he give this stuff away instead of selling it? I mean, what will be the point of money if we all end up back in the Stone Age?

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Sky TV (well, GOLD on satellite and cable) has been showing these since November (that’s November 2009 – I’m noticing hits years later! This post old!)

It’s bad enough seeing them at the start and end of each commercial break (and we know how there is a commercial break every 5 minutes), but when I think I’ve got to put up with them until January… Aaaaaargh!

And that woman. “Oh, ya! Oh, yah!” And the other one “let’s party”. Damn Schweppes!

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When you do a lot of driving you listen to the radio for traffic news. But I wish I knew who it was who comes up with some of those adverts!

They’re mostly just stupid, but every now and then you get one that is just so annoying you want to scream.

A couple of years ago – around Christmas – there was one which had children and babies coughing to the tune of Jingle Bells, or We Wish You A Merry Christmas, or something like that. Nasty, wet, catarrhy coughs advertising some childrens’ cough syrup.

Then there is anything to do with Kelloggs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Listening to and watching actors big up the basic function of eating is annoying at the best of times (even Del-boy, Rodney, or Uncle Albert eating in one of the best and funniest UK sitcoms ever – Only Fools And Horses – is bad), but when you just have to listen… aaargh! Those Kelloggs ads are infuriating – just an excuse to have actors hamming it up by talking with their exaggerated mouths full. You can just imagine the milk running down their chins (and don’t get me started on TV adverts which involve children eating).

One of the latest ones is some idiotic ad for Volkswagen which has the actor mooing loudly (in a kind of accelerating car-kind of way). God only knows what the point is, or what car they’re advertising (because I don’t let it get anywhere near telling me before I turn off or change channels). This follows hot on the heels of a recent safety ad for motorbikes where the actor is saying ‘one-two-three-four’ in a similar way. It hurts your bloody ears. Like I say, the radio goes straight off when one of these comes on.

There’s another current one about tax credits and how to claim money if you earn less than a certain amount. They have this telephone conversation between the agent and a client, with the agent asking three basic questions: ‘Do you work more than 30 hours a week, are you 25 or over, and do you earn less than £17,000 a year’. The client is 26, works over 30 hours (with a snigger), and earns £9,000 (what a loser). The agent then tells him ‘it’s just what you’re entitled to’ – pronouncing the word ‘entitled’ as ‘en-ti-tooled’. Aaargh again!

And there’s a new one today – it’s just telling you about changes to the education system: a few paragraphs of information. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Except that the advertising genius responsible has used about 50 different people to say a few words each, and since all the voices are different – obviously to try and encompass ‘yoof culture’ in its entirety – you can’t focus on what is being said. Listening to it is like getting cramp in your brain.

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