Thursday, 29 November 2012

You Madam, are clearly an Arse Hole

Yesterday afternoon,  I popped into the local sorting office of the Post Office to collect a packet that they needed me to sign for, but could not get when they delivered due to me being out. This is a common enough task I am sure and many of you will have also undertaken such a task.

Yet, while I stood waiting in the queue that stretched not only across the room, but into the next room and then through the front door outside into the cold, I noticed a sign on the wall. I am sure that you are no doubt well aware of the tedium that is a long queue and rather than strike up a conversation with someone who could potentially be a maniac, I chose to read  that sign. It was a a piece of laminated A4 paper and was typed in Bold large print and read as follows. 

Verbal abuse of Post Office workers will not be tolerated. Any such abuse will cause the counter to be closed and the Police to be called. 

It all seemed a little harsh, after all how many of us grew up loving Postman Pat? Are people really that bad tempered, rude and obnoxious that they can shout abuse at lovable Pat and his black and white cat Jess? 

When I am waiting in a queue I have noticed that time becomes strangely relative. Maybe you have noticed this too. While waiting in line to be served by what ever counter you are waiting for, keep an eye on your watch and see if time slows down for you too? It is an unusual effect of queuing and I am sure that Einstein also noted this. Outside, life continues at normal speed, but inside, time slows down and then when you step outside, it all jumps on you with a sudden leap forcing you to catch up with a jolt! 

When I finally got to the front of the very long continent crossing queue, I came face to face with the woman behind the counter, let's out of congenial politeness call her Postwoman Patricia, although she really did not have a cat, black and white or otherwise with her. It was however right at that very moment that I suddenly understood the need for the big bold  print sign. 

It seems that the Post Office are now employing people who have no understanding of basic manners or customer service. I was spoken to with such venom and bile that I was utterly taken aback and started to laugh. Which caused others in the continent spanning queue behind me start to laugh too. I remained polite through out our brief relationship of service user meeting service provider and not once was I given even the vaguest of half smiles or the slightest nod of fake good will. I am forced to ask what could have possibly caused such an attitude from some one who no doubt has a home and a family and maybe even a black and white cat? 

Was it perhaps the excessively long hours she was forced to work by an uncaring system of Governance, simply to be able to provide sustenance for her family? Maybe it was an uncaring management system that forces her to be placed in a position where she must spend all day indoors in a building that slows down time? Or just maybe, after a long hard shift of dealing with other human beings, she was simply tired and grumpy? I seriously hoped that by giving her the opportunity to be rude to me, she could go home and relax, probably by cuddling her precious cat, black and white or otherwise. 

So that was the post office, but what else do we deal with on a almost daily basis? Have you ever met a Chugger? Do you know what a Chugger is? Well, a Chugger, my dear reader, is a person employed by an agency for an hourly wage to stand on a busy high street and charity mug shoppers, no matter who they are. These are the people who charities hire at vast sums of cash to stand there in town, with their fake smiles of joy and then tell you what a terrible time what ever Polar Bear, Political Prisoner, Starving Child or Patch of Rain Forest is having right at that very second. In fact that very second that you are wandering about enjoying the richness of your own fat contented lives. They tell you this while they stand there, noble and brave, unafraid of the elements, the hunters, the torturers, the warlords and the loggers and try to make you part with your top secret bank details, so you can pay their charity some of your hard earned cash.

Now remember, there are some things that you really need to consider when dealing with Chuggers. Namely, how much of your charitable donation is going to fund Chuggers likes them? How much of your charitable donation is being paid out into a large salary to the Chairman of the board of the company that runs the Chuggers? Also bare in mind that some of these Chuggers will be on commission,  the more suckers they get to sign up to their very worthy causes, the more cash they can earn, so that they too can give it all to charity! Of course they give all of their wages to charity, because after all, they can survive on the warm glow of just smug self righteousness.  These people will also tend to step right into path and try to engage you in conversation. How do I know this you may ask? Because in this last week I have encountered these people and it left me feeling rather annoyed, both with my self and with them. 

My reason for feeling cross with myself is because I broke the golden rule of dealing with Chuggers, I acknowledged their existence. They work in packs you know, I managed to slip past the first and then was almost tripped up by the second, causing me to have to stop in my tracks. Yet it was the third who got me. As I tried to walk around him, he walked into my path and just kept coming. Now as much as I hate being rude, I could take no more after a day of bad news and worse officials. So as he closed in me I told him to Fuck off! This is not like me, I am a member of several charities and pay directly from my bank, having researched my chosen charity and then found them myself. 

The young man did not stop smiling as he continued to close in on me, but he did inform me quietly and while still smiling that big fake smile that I was in fact, an arsehole! Now, as much as this may be true and yes I can admit it, I did not need such a man dealing with my emotions on a day when I am barely able to deal with them myself. One swift word later and the man with the fake smile was silently think that I was an arsehole, but at least he then had the good grace to keep it to himself. However, the town council are aware of Chuggers and they know that they can be trouble. I know this because I phoned them up once I got home and made some inquiries. Chuggers it seems are able to work our streets by the good grace of our councils and they have conditions placed upon them.

So I have some advice for you if you encounter Chuggers who are annoying, make a complaint, talk to your local officials and get these annoying people off of our streets. Then because you are caring and do want to give to charity, go and research one. For me, I chose a couple of human rights charities that works world wide, a local wild life charity and another one that has meaning to me. It is not that hard to find a group that represents your beliefs and you know what? If you do this, you really do not need chuggers. 

As for the Post Office, maybe they do get people in there who are so rude and violently aggressive that it justifies the bold print sign, but does that really justify them being rude to all of their customers? 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Didn’t we have a lovely time…

Occasionally, adventures happen that are totally unexpected, unplanned and just seem to fall into place, take for instance the day that a dear friend to Curious Adventures, Jan, went to Plymouth with Jayne.

Our friend Jan is in Medical School, training how to cut people up, slice bits off of their feet and make old ladies walking a little better. To do so, she drives a hundred miles from home to Plymouth University and then a hundred miles back home again, every day, clocking up a thousand miles per week. As you can imagine such a journey on your own can be extremely boring, especially when you do it all of the time. So occasionally, Jayne scrounges a lift and goes on a trip to Plymouth, partly to keep Jan company and partly to see friends down there.

On this particular day, it started out grey and dark, but it blossomed into beautiful autumnal sunshine, the trees were hues of green, red and gold, the sky was bluer than a Goth girls veins and the laughter from the car was raucous. We left Curious Towers at just before six in the morning and took a gentle trip down the M5, gently cruising along chatting and being rather silly. The miles slid by and before we knew it, we were passing Exeter and joining the A38.

Driving along enjoying a damn good chat.
As we joined the A38, my tummy started to make complaints, a result of the medication that I am currently taking for a damaged shoulder. I am reminded of a clip from the film Train Spotting, when the main character comes off the drugs and suddenly he is no longer constipated! I felt the same sudden urge and expressed my concern to Jan. She quickly found a service station and we pulled into Kenford Services. I left the car with the clenched buttocks of the runny bottomed. Having been suitably ill, I then discovered that the toilet flush did not work. Somewhat embarrassed, there was only one course of action I could take.

Running away was rather difficult due to the pain in my shoulder, but I did the best that I could, with injury comes a reduction in movement and trying to run does involve using your shoulder muscles. Have you ever seen that half hearted run that people use when they cross the road? That was all I was capable of, but leaving behind the toilet of doom was my aim.

Back on the road, we continued our journey south west and marveled at the beauty of the trees that skirted the edge of Dartmoor. Finally the outskirts of Plymouth came into view at just after eight in the morning, we dropped off the A38 and descended the slip road to the Marsh Mills roundabout.

Seeing my brother Pauly and his wife Lorraine again was lovely, but seeing their beautiful cats, including the three month old Toby and nineteen year old Apricot was worth the journey alone. Apricot is a very beautiful and very vocal calico cat that is painfully thin and grateful for any affection she can get. Why is she like this you may ask? The shocking truth is that Pauly and Lorraine rescued her after her owners abandoned her and even made comments about doing unpleasant things to her. With the love of her new owners, she is recovering, she is growing some body fat again and most importantly of all, she is being loved with out condition. Most of the cats that live with Pauly and Lorraine are rescues, but Toby was a kitten from one of their own and he is lovely, a smoky grey bundle of fluff and affection.

Pauly, Gemma, Lorraine and Toby the Cat

There is however something that Pauly and Lorraine share with Curious Adventures and that is a love of adventures into the wild and unknown be it by mountain bike, by foot or even by four by four! So when Pauly suggested that he take me for a ride in his Toyota truck, I almost danced with excitement. Green lane drivers face a lot of misunderstanding, what people think is that they are brutal maniacs chewing up the countryside with Chelsea tractors. The truth though is that these small groups of enthusiasts campaign for rights of access to the places that many farmers want to deny access to such as old By-Ways, forgotten tracks and roads that are public rights of way, but have not been surfaced. Pauly told me of how some farmers will dump old ruined cars into these lanes or cut down large trees that block the tracks, just to try to stop access. He told me of angry farmers threatening drivers with shot guns and some of his stories were more than shocking just in the way that he had been spoken to. I thought I had experienced bad things as a mountain biker with people trying to limit access to the country side, but no one has ever threatened to shoot me!

Pauly and the truck

Pauly’s truck is a gentle giant, inside it feels like a luxury car, the large supportive seats are comfortable, but the climb up into the cab is surprisingly difficult. Once inside, and with the door shut you would not know that you were in a vehicle that can climb a rocky slope like a tank or can pull a burned out wheel-less car from a tiny lane. We dropped down a tiny twisty tarmac covered lane to a ford that stretched out in front of us for about forty or fifty metres, the water was flowing fast and looked worryingly deep. I was honestly hugely excited, driving a car through a river! What a buzz.

The water splashed up over the sides of the truck and we simply rolled across the river as if it was a perfectly normal road. The bow wave was impressive but what was to come was more than awesome. The truck climbed the slope from the river and then rolled onto a muddy track, the tyres gripped and with a deliberate slow bite into the mud and we started to progress up a track that on a mountain bike would have been damn hard work. 

Driving in the middle of a river with Pauly.

As we climbed the track, the truck gently rocked as it climbed over roots and rocks. I giggled like a school girl and gazed out of the window at the beautiful Dartmoor scenery. As we rounded a corner we came to a stop. In front of us was a rocky outcrop, a section of track that had been cut out of the bed rock, leaving chunks of rock the size of shoe boxes piled up on each other! It looked impassable. Pauly adjusted his gear box into a low ratio gear and we gently started to inch forwards. The engine quietly growled and it sounded like we should have been moving at about thirty miles per hour. Instead we crawled forwards at a walking pace and the wheels started to climb the slate boulders. The truck rocked alarmingly as it climbed across the rocks, but not once did this surefooted machine slip or spin its wheels. Looking out of the back window, all I could see down the leaf covered lane was two lines of compressed leaves. You could barely tell that we had passed.

We passed the rocky section with the exciting ease of a rock climber at a peak of fitness. I have found climbs that have tested me as a climber and I have used my strength and agility to overcome a difficult move with grace and control. This incredible truck did exactly that, with grace, poise and controlled power. Seeing it first hand was a huge amount of fun. From that point the top of the lane was in sight and we exited it onto a tiny metaled road. However, Pauly skilfully managed to turn his truck around and we returned the same way we had just come. To say I was impressed by his driving skill and the abilities of his truck is an understatement, yet what really impressed me was the comfort and luxury in which we made this journey. I really want to do this again, it is fabulous. 

Hanging out with my Bro Pauly.

If you want to try this too, go and look up your local four by four club, study your Ordnance Survey Map looking for these Green Lanes and most of all, treat the country side with respect while you enjoy it. Just bare in mind though, while many people object to four by four drivers going across country on Dartmoor, it has a dark secret. Dartmoor is a National Park. Yes, a National Park that allows live firing by the military, meaning that the moors are in places, littered with unexploded ordnance.

There are also several companies that have open cast mines stripping the china clay from the hill sides and the rivers run turquoise from the pollution of this industry. Farmers and land owners have erected fences and blocked paths. I have seen this as a mountain biker for years and trust me, when you try to ride your bike across a bridle way that has been covered in cow shit by farmers moving live stock, you quickly realise that many of these guardians of the country side are only out for their own gains. I may sound cynical, but in this day and age, we have to fight our corner for access to the countryside.

The Beast of Dartmoor.