Diary Of An ADI

A Driving Instructor's Blog

Unicef logoI was watching TV just now, and an appeal came on for Syrian children asking for a donation of £3 to buy a blanket. I suddenly felt quite benevolent (actually, I do occasionally make donations, usually through DEC, and once or twice through crowdfunding websites). I usually resist formal charities like the plague – and I was reminded why, yet again.

I was just about to text and make my donation when I had a thought. A quick Google revealed that if you do text Unicef, you subsequently receive nuisance phone calls and texts every day, with absolutely no way of stopping them. The calls are trying to pressure people into further or increased donations.

Sorry, Unicef. Sort the problem out yourselves. If you’re so thick you can’t see the negative impact such behaviour has on your campaign, there’s no way I could trust you with a bottle cap, let alone £3 of mine.

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Coaching - the true purposeOver the last week or so I’ve noticed the sudden appearance in my stats of visits to the blog using the search term “applied coach approach”. Until the first one last week no one has EVER used that term before, now it is appearing multiple times per day.

I should also point out that – so far – I have not been spammed with it, but after a quick search it would appear that the DIA is selling a coaching course with this title, costing a little under £100. Better still, as well as being a standalone course, it apparently “builds on” the original Coach Approach course, which no doubt also cost somewhere around £100. I bet there are some dipsticks out there who have done both, as well.

You know what they say about a fool and his money.

Coaching is coaching. Once you’ve done one course and are using the techniques as necessary, unless it turns out that you’re desperately crap at it, any further courses only benefit those who are pocketing your cash. Incidentally, the coaching clip art I found for this article struck me as being very appropriate. It looks like someone trying to coach someone else up on to a toilet seat.

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Neat handwritingAs I mentioned in that recent story about the idiot who had allowed an it’s-a-fair-cop-I-did-it-where-do-I-pay £30 parking fine escalate into a £600-and-counting-here-come-the-bailiffs-again melodrama, I sometimes despair at the direction society seems to be heading.

When I write out my address on a letterhead or envelope (or when I complete any online form), it takes the format:

Mr Firstname Lastname

22 My Street North

The Estate

Cityname

XY12 2AB

You will note how each word is properly capitalised (and all of the post code). The advantage of such a clearly written address is that the blame for subsequently misdirected mail cannot lie with me, but rather with The Royal Mail, who seem to treat delivering letters and packages as something of a hindrance to all the other things they apparently do in their sorting offices. Indeed, they apparently have a failure rate of something like 1 in every 1,000 letters, and I firmly believe that most of these are mine, since I am losing an average of three or four letters or parcels every few months. And I also suspect that they aren’t making daily deliveries on my street, particularly where packages are involved (don’t even get me started on the speed with which they decide no one is home as you run down the stairs to answer the door and they’ve sprinted to the van and driven off, having left a poorly completed “while you were out” card on the door mat).

But back to addressing issues. In these modern times, it is very un-Teamworking to point out someone’s crap literacy, and as a result it has become common for people to use all capitals (ugly and messy), all lower case (ugly, messy, and stupid), random capitalisation (ugly, messy, lazy, and even more stupid), or any or all of the above with added txtspk (just stupid, full stop) when they post on forums, send emails, or – and this is where my point is heading – when they fill out online address forms.

Today, I printed out a postal label for someone after I sold an item on eBay. Their official eBay-registered postal address, if taken from the one I gave above, looks like this:

Firstname Lastname

22 my street north, The Estate

yname

CITYNAME

DEFAULT

Xy12 2ab

If it wasn’t for the fact that the postage labels are created securely I would have corrected it, but I can’t help wonder why someone would complete their eBay profile so poorly. It might get there – but if it doesn’t, it’s been played directly into The Royal Mail’s hands.

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Monty Python - GumbysThat could be a song title by an experimental, post-punk, alternative rock/dance band. Instead, it readily describes a woman from Birmingham who has gotten herself into debt over a trivial matter.

Don’t let the title of the Birmingham Mail story fool you. This is no miscarriage of justice or anything. What she did was crystal clear, and it begins with her parking on a yellow line – something for which she would have correctly been ticketed and fined for doing. If she’d have paid the fine immediately, it would have cost £30. But that was too simple. The following can be gleaned from the news report:

  • at the time of the offence, she didn’t have a parking permit for parking outside her home
  • in any case, she parked on a yellow line, which had nothing to do with the permit
  • it isn’t clear why she didn’t pay, even though she admits she was at fault – so the bill rose to £60 after 21 days
  • she “ignored things”
  • she hadn’t told DVLA of her change of address (that’s illegal, I believe) and correspondence was therefore being misdirected
  • bailiffs turned up at her old address 8 months later and only then did her previous landlord contact her
  • she set up a monthly scheme with the bailiffs and defaulted immediately
  • she continued to ignore the situation
  • the bailiffs turned up two weeks before Christmas with a bill of £400
  • her partner told them to take the car – worth £100 as scrap – but refused to hand over the keys just to be awkward
  • again, the bailiffs backed off, but are due to return this week with a new bill of £600

Even though her explanations are peppered with “I was at fault” or the like, she is still rattling on:

“This is my home,” said Sam, “And I am being charged over £600 for parking outside my home.”

No, you’re not. You’re being charged for parking on a yellow line and ignoring all attempts to get you to pay the fine. You’re lucky you’re not in court for failing to alter your vehicle registration documents (which carries a possible £1,000 fine by itself), particularly since it can be done very easily – if you actually have the log book in the first place, of course. Legally, failure to update your address leaves you entirely at fault for any fines and fees which accrue due to correspondence going astray.

But the bottom line is that this is an absolute non-story. For a start off, it is obviously sanitised to make it look one-sided (you can imagine the underlying attitude towards being fined for “parking outside my own house” which surfaced when the original ticket was first issued). However, Birmingham City Council has halted all bailiff action, and has given the woman the means to submit a declaration to the Traffic Enforcement Centre and have the charges revoked. All she would then have to do is pay a £70 fine, though I suspect she would even screw up that simple get out of jail free opportunity (in spite of having said she wishes she’d paid up earlier). She can still dispute it, and I suspect the effort on her part being necessary to close this off will prove to much for her to accept.

Of course, someone somewhere is going to have to foot the bill for all the leg work involved here, and taxation is something I assume that even people like her have to partake in. Hence the title of this article.

I think we have our first contender for the 2017 Darwin Awards.

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Sainsbury's Hugging Bear MugsHot on the heels of that last story about companies employing retards and allowing them to make business-shaping decisions, Sainsbury’s appears to have done it again with one of its Valentine’s Day crapola range items. They’re called Hugging Bear Mugs, and they come in pairs. You will note that – if you make the obvious connection based on visual appearance – they are both male.

Assuming that it’s true (a lot of fake news around now that fake news is in the news), you have to wonder any of the following:

  • who would be stupid enough to buy one?
  • who would be stupid enough to THINK someone would be stupid enough to buy one, and that they should become a stock item?
  • who would be stupid enough to think you could sell enough of them to make it a profitable line?
  • who would be stupid enough not to see the overt visual reference to male genitalia?
  • who would be stupid enough not to realise any of the above at any stage of the buying process, and allow the product to end up as an SKU?
  • Who would be stupid enough to recruit – and to continue to employ – people who made or failed to spot these crass decisions beforehand?

Apart from a few students – and admittedly, probably a few more than would have before, now that this has been in the media – you’d need the mentality of a Brexit voter and no class whatsoever to buy one.

What’s more, I would suggest that having it on display – in full view of children – is a breach of the UK’s obscenity laws.

It’s obvious what the mugs are supposed to be showing, and the covert message they are obviously trying to convey. It is unbelievable that Sainsbury’s could have got so many decisions so wrong in order for these to go on open sale.

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WeetabixI’ve written before of my still-recurring nightmares about Teamworking and the hell I had to put up with for the final ten years of my time in the rat race. Not that long ago, Sainsbury’s made the mistake of allowing “the Team” to become involved in things which were really none of their business, and which were well beyond their wit to consider the full implications involved. Of course, also of similar magnitude on the Stupid Scale was the Boaty McBoatface fiasco, and the “decision” to leave the EU.

It’s just what happens when idiots allow even bigger idiots to become involved in important decision making.

Weetabix has now had a go at demonstrating how stupid its staff are, and is just as guilty of not ring-fencing the situation as Sainsbury’s and the British Government (specifically, ex-PM David Cameron) were to protect itself from the subsequent and inevitable bad publicity.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Weetabix is a breakfast cereal which, in its most common form, comes as formed blocks of cereal. Like any 21st Century cereal, on its own it tastes like cardboard, and is only rendered edible – it’s actually rather nice – by the addition of milk and a little sugar sprinkled on top. Technically, it only remains “nice” for a few minutes before it turns into a gloop that is almost identical to wallpaper paste, but that’s a different story.

Weetabix staff appear to have held a brainstorming session at some point (this is by its own admission), and “the Team” came up with the idea of putting ham and poached eggs on the top! It’s apparently a “British version of Eggs Benedict”. Weetabix management is now frantically trying to underplay the negative reaction to it:

Weetabix admitted staff got “a ‘little’ enthusiastic” during a brainstorming session, adding it “seemed like a good idea at the time”.

“We hope we can put this behind us and still make breakfast work, perhaps with something more traditional like milk and fruit,” they added.

“This recipe is for those who like a little more adventure with their cereal.”

I don’t doubt that there will be some who go so far as to try it – and even claim it tastes good. But of course, some people voted for “Boaty McBoatface” and Brexit.


Incidentally, Weetabix management seems to be turning lack of control over its staff into a bit of a habit. I’ve noticed a few times now that there is a new advert for LIQUID Weetabix – a so-called “breakfast drink”. I have to avert my eyes when it comes on, as it makes me want to throw up. Gloopy Weetabix is bad enough, but a version which is manufactured so it is pre-gloopy (or conveys that image) is just obscene.

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Back to the Future - flying carI was on a lesson with a pupil today and I asked her how she was getting on studying for her theory test. I asked her to identify a pedestrian crossing we had just passed, and it was clear she was a little confused. Next time we stopped, I got my sketch pad out and went through the different types to show her how understanding them made answering theory test questions much easier than just trying to remember the answers.

We talked about Pelicans, Puffins, and Toucans. I mentioned how they’re named after various birds, but that in spite of people trying to make the connection, Zebra Crossings are much older and are named after Zebras and not Zebra Finches. That brought us to Equestrian Crossings, which I mentioned using the common name of “Pegasus Crossing”.

Who do you think would use a Pegasus Crossing?

I don’t know.

Think about it. What was a Pegasus?

A flying horse.

Good, and half of that might explain who uses them. Who might that be?

Flying cars.

My ribs are still hurting now. She realised immediately, but – at the time – she meant it.

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Navy navigator with sextantI picked a pupil up for a lesson tonight from his house. He’d already asked if we could finish at his girlfriend’s place over in Cotgrave, which I had no problem with. Well, I say that, but I did have some small reservations, which grew as the lesson went on.

I enjoy this job immensely, but there are two particular things which I have to admit I have nightmares about. One is to do with steering. I’ve been teaching for long enough to know that pupils can do things you’d think that no sane person would ever do. For example,  a few months ago a girl who was a bit unpredictable behind the wheel in the first place was steering almost full-lock around a tight mini-roundabout to turn right when the ball on her nose ring (which she fiddles with incessantly) fell off at the precise moment she needed to steer left into the exit road. Who would ever have thought that a rational human being would instantly decide to let go of the steering wheel with both hands and plunge head-first into the foot well to try and catch the ball before it hit the floor in this situation? And in another example some years ago, a pupil was driving at 50mph down a long, straight, well-lit 60mph road, with other cars visible several hundred metres in front of us doing the same, when he suddenly decided we needed to make a 90° turn to the left. There was no left turn there anyway (not even anything resembling one), and even if there had been we couldn’t possibly have managed it at that speed, and nor should we have attempted to do so. He could never explain why he had tried (I remember his exact words: “I honestly don’t know why I did that”).

The second thing that gives me the heebie jeebies is when a pupil asks to be dropped off somewhere different to the pick up, and before I’ve had time to look it up. This is made worse when I attempt to identify the location with them and they can’t tell me anything other than “I know the way”. Those four simple words convey an absolute encyclopaedia of possible meanings, such as:

  • I’ve only been once
  • I was asleep on the back seat at the time
  • And I was only four
  • My mum (or dad) normally drives
  • My mum (or dad) think they might have once heard of something called The Highway Code
  • My mum (or dad) think that they once passed their driving test, but now they can’t remember
  • I usually walk there
  • I usually ride my bike there
  • I’m aged 17-25 and beyond the end of my road (less if it’s a long road) I get lost
  • I got lost the last two times I came here on my own
  • I usually catch the bus

Young drivers are often so poor at navigation that they think 5cm on a map “isn’t very far” – even though they’re looking at a World projection printed on A4. With a big border. And cornering on two wheels with no signals (just like mum or dad) comes naturally. With all of this in mind, the conversation at the start of today’s lesson went something like this:

Where in Cotgrave do you need to be?

I know the way

Yes, but I don’t. What road does she live on?

Ummm.

[Groan] You don’t know the name of the road?

But I know the way

At this point, I jokingly explain much of what I’ve written above.

I don’t know how you “usually” get to Cotgrave, and there’s more than one way. Where is she near?

Ummm.

Is she near Ring Leas?

[A light seems to come on] Umm, I think.. ummm.

OK, we’ll head for Ring Leas and you can tell me where you’re going from there

It’s near Sainsbury’s

[I pause for a moment] But Ring Leas is nowhere near Sainsbury’s

I’ll know it when I see it

Yes, but I want to get there alive. We’ll head for Sainsbury’s then

We carry out the bulk of the lesson. Once we’ve done it, we strike out for Cotgrave along the A606 Melton Road. Just after the Wheatcroft Roundabout the conversation proceeds:

I normally take the next turn left

I know how to get to Cotgrave, just concentrate and you can tell me where you think you want to go later

I assumed that he meant he’d normally drive down Tollerton Lane (which is actually the fourth left from where we were), even though that would be a pointlessly longer way to get to Cotgrave. As we turned into Cotgrave Road (fifth left):

Yes, this is the way we come

But this isn’t “next left” like [I decide not to pursue it]… now concentrate on the road, it’s dark and narrow [and it’s snowing now]

As we approach Cotgrave:

It’s left at the Church

But Sainsbury’s is on the right

No, it’s this next road [pointing right at Mensing Avenue]

But the Church is a bit further down, and Sainsbury’s is on the right at the end of this road

No, there’s one here [Scrimshire Lane, second left, and on the right]

That’s the graveyard, the Church is on the left down there, and you said it was on the left. But this is the road she lives on, yes?

Ummm. Yes. I meant on the right.

[We turn into Scrimshire] Where does she live?

On the left just here [points]

What, down here? [Cherry Orchard]

No, down here [points left again]… where that car’s going [actually, into someone’s driveway]

You mean Ring Leas, then [which is just past it]?

Ummm.

So it’s down here? [I point at Ring Leas as we approach it]

No, it’s down here on the left

Several possible left turns later, we finally arrive – albeit about 1km beyond the point where our destination was “just here on the left” the first time.

Promise me you’ll buy a sat nav as soon as you pass.

I knew where it was

No you bloody didn’t. Not one of your directions was correct, and what do you think you would have done if you’d been driving on your own? You’d have taken that first turn back on the A606 and ended up in West Bridgford if you were lucky. Then you said it was “near Sainsbury’s” – it’s nowhere near.

It is

Sainsbury’s is over a mile away. Have you any idea how difficult it is to find an address when you don’t know a road name or house number, and are searching in a one-mile radius based only on visual recognition – in the dark? Your idea of this house being “near Sainsbury’s” is like saying “Nottingham is near Derby”. In global terms it is, but not if you’ve got to walk it wearing a blindfold!

Society is doomed, I tells ya!

And this is why I sometimes have those recurring nightmares.

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Heinz Ketchup bottlesI’ve seen this in various newspapers today (including online ones). The BBC refers to it as a “Ketchup debate”, but in reality there is nothing to debate. The silly saga has come about because an Asda branch in London has started stacking it in chiller cabinets instead of on the shelves with other condiments, as they have always done until now.

Irrespective of what the so-called experts have said in the articles, which is very little, ketchup is cooked during manufacture and packed into bottles while it is still at about 90°C. It is deaerated first to further reduce the risk of microbial growth, and it contains vinegar, salt, and sugar, which help act as preservatives. The bottles are sealed and cooled, so it is under a partial vacuum until someone opens it to use it. In effect, until the seal is broken, it is pretty much sterile.

To that end, unopened ketchup can – and should – be stored at room temperature, with no adverse effects. Storing it in the fridge is a waste of time and money, and since it uses more energy it’s also negative for the environment.

Once opened, bacteria and yeasts immediately get inside the bottle. It’s even worse if it’s café ketchup, because it will probably be a cheaper brand, and all the dirty scumbags who seem to frequent cafés will have poked their used knives inside to dislodge it (Heinz themselves encouraged this in one of their stupid adverts – ketchup used to be as thick as putty, but subsequent reformulations have rendered it more like thick soup, making knife-poking a pointless exercise).

Dirty practices, natural contamination, and cost-cutting and pseudo-health driven reformulations which have reduced the preserving power of ketchup, mean that it ferments in the bottle once opened – readily when warm, but even when stored in the fridge, though to a much lesser extent. Unless someone has poked something nasty into it with the knife they’ve previously had in their mouth, this fermentation is usually harmless. But it does mean that any ketchup stuck in the neck of a bottle is likely to leap out at you next time you open the lid. It’s happened to me a few times in the past, which is why I always correctly store part-used ketchup in the fridge.

As if this weren’t enough, Heinz themselves state you can store unopened ketchup in a cupboard, but you should refrigerate it once opened and use it within (I think) eight weeks, though eight weeks is a bit conservative in my experience. So what’s to debate? It’s more a case of letting idiots have their say (a lot like Brexit, really), even though anything other than the Heinz advice (or “remain”) is completely wrong.

That’s what’s the matter with the world today! People don’t get told they’re wrong, anymore. They just give dumb opinions which become part of general “knowledge”.

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Glacier - an ice age comethThe Sun is at it again. I saw a small item in today’s paper copy reporting that it will be -15°C by the end of the week, and that it will stay like this until the end of March. Oddly, the front page of the online version’s UK news has a story about how plants are blooming a month early, since spring is on the way.

I’m not sure quite what it is they’re trying to get at, since this winter has not been uncharacteristically cold, mild, wet, or dry. It’s been a bit of all those things, just like British winters tend to be.

It’s worth noting that the Met Office isn’t forecasting anything like what The Sun is. Neither is Netweather.


And this is why I wanted in on the ground floor! All The Sun’s blather about snow over the last fortnight came to nothing. Even places which had any barely saw more than a centimetre (for Brexiters, that’s about three eighths of an inch). And as for it being colder than on the dark side of the moon until the end of March, today the temperature ranged from lows of around 7°C to highs of 10°C, and the forecast – the proper forecast from the Met Office and not some two-bit amateur outfit using seaweed and pine cones – is for temperatures as high as 12°C into the middle of next week.

Fair enough, we have had quite a bit of rain today which, after all, is only unfrozen snow, but still not quite the new Ice Age that The Sun was assuring us was underway.

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