Monday, 30 August 2010

Why do only fools and horses work

Many moons ago, OK then, two months ago when I started this whole blog nonsense thing I said I may describe where I work and who I work for and after much thought I couldn't really decide on what to write. Because for the simple fact of the matter is no one would ever believe it unless you worked for them, even if just for one day.

First of all, let me introduce you to the staff at the branch I currently work at. There's me, G-Cup - the useless service manager. We'll call the owner Ronnie Kray. His son, Big D (so called because he looks like a capital D in profile) works there between 9.00 am and 9.02 am. Ronnie's other son Gene Wilder (or Arnold J. Rimmer, depending on the hair cut) runs the other branch, and Osama Bin Laden's twin brother manages aftersales at the other branch.

In our showroom we have Lofty the sales man, Murray Walker, the dealer principle who has apparently raced or rallied everything there is to race or rally. On the spanners we have Gareth the DET and resident Freddie Mercury lookalike champion 1986, 1987, 1988, 1993, 1994 and 2005. We also have Welsh Bastard, so called because he's, um Welsh, and according to Big D, a bastard. Then we have Betty Mary Jodie Murder She Wrote, the shit head apprentice who is a little bit simple. And he's training to become a vicar. No he's not, that's made up.

Not at all interestingly enough, I started at the other branch literally some years ago. I was employed by Bin Laden's twin brother. Except he doesn't wear a turban. And he's not from that neck of the woods. He lives in a cave somewhere near Four Lanes. Anyway, apart from Big D telling an American who came into the petrol pump station at one of our sister sites that "You still haven't fucking caught Bin Laden yet have you? He works for Fiat" after the 9/11 incidents, not much interesting happened.

Fast forward literally some more years, I get posted out to the new purpose built showroom for Alfa Romeo. Big D is now working (and I say working in the loosest possible sense) at this site. Wonderful. So was a pretty useless trainee sales "representative". He was (and still is by all accounts) ginger. And a tosser. For arguments sake, we will call him Ginger Tosser. Now, he was 17 years of age, had been absolutely everywhere, done everything, abseiled down the Twin Towers when they were being flown into etc... - you get the point. Big D and Ginger Tosser never really got along particularly well. This fact was galvanised when Big D was seen chasing Ginger Tosser around the dealer forecourt with an Air Rifle exclaiming "I'm going to kill you, you fucking ginger bastard". That was interesting scenario number 1.

Most of the other scenarios involve Big D, but let us get Ginger Tosser out of the way. Here was a young man (so we were told) with a questionable fashion sense and was extremely economical with the truth. He was also economical with any form of common sense. Including reversing a car (equipped with parking sensors) into another car. Supposedly he couldn't hear the parking sensors. Or crashing his car into a hedge driving in a supposed straight line going uphill. Then deciding he's going to quit his job as he can't take orders from me or the general manager, realising he's buggered up and goes pleading to Gene Wilder at our other branch for, yes you guessed it, a job. Then he leaves that and works for a rival manufacturer's dealership....for three weeks before he was fired. That month that particular dealership suffered it's worst ever customer service feedback in its illustrious 80 year trading lifespan. More recently he decided to "try" and "work" for our Fiat site once again and this lasted all the way up to when he thought it would be a good idea to steal the bosses daughter's mobile phone. Which just goes to show how stupid he really was/is.

Anyhow, the scenarios involving Big D are much more amusing, especially in hindsight. I would try to give you a little background information on Big D, but I cannot find the words. You need to see him to believe him. Let's just say he has mental problems. The next scenario below is interesting as he was arrested, which was a problem as Big D is on a suspended sentence. This was for driving at two homosexual men who were "at it" in their car in a layby near Truro whilst shouting some obscenities about gay men having sex. Quite what Big D was doing in the same layby is neither here nor there. It went to Court with Junior representing himself, and all was going swimmingly until he said he'd do it again. Nil point.

Ginger Tosser, once again, was involved in this scenario. He contacted the Police as Big D went to "hit" him. Police arrived on site whereby it took 4 people to arrest Big D, which he promptly rugby tackled one of the coppers and would not let go of his legs once gripped. So he gets carted off to Camborne nick for the rest of the day, then Ginger Tosser decides to drop the charges as they were as limp as an impotent man who hasn't taken his Viagra.

Two weeks later, the police arrived again. Now, bearing in mind, because of Big D's so-called problems he looks like he is grabbing hold of his meat and two veg, but it's the way he stands. But on this occasion, the police were called because an elderly lady had reported a man carrying a bucket and conducting a lewd act in public. In short, there was a man wanking into a bucket on the forecourt. So, the police arrived, and Camborne nick must have wondered what lucky (or unlucky) sod they could dispatch this time. After interviews, it transpires, Big D was carrying a bucket and walking as he normally does. 

I also think these fragments are worth an honourable mention:
- Driving an Austin Metro off the pier in Penzance for the sheer hell of it.
- Driving a VW Beetle into the river to "see if it would float".
- There is a wood and string bridge down near Penzance that you'd think twice of walking on. To drive a Yugo 45 on there and park and partake in afternoon tea is something else.

Of course, there would also be the weekly round of golf, which would include myself, Lofty, Welsh Bastard and Big D himself. What would normally happen is Big D would be on course for winning, Lofty would be on par for coming second and myself and Welsh Bastard would be clubbing for last. The thing is though, Lofty's game improved throughout the season, as did Welsh Bastard's. I would consistently finish last, which meant Big D was in limbo somewhere. Only he wasn't. I was beating Big D, which wound him up more and more. Whilst he was getting more and more teasy, we were falling about the place watching Big D turn into an amplified Basil Fawlty.

But come here, there's more. Like mentioned before Big D's father, Ronnie Kray, owns the business and the next scenario involves him. This really could only happen in Cornwall, especially at our dealership. Picture this, Jaguar XK140. Beautiful old classic car from the 1950s, we had one for sale and sold it to a gentleman who wanted to do a part exchange. Nothing unusual there, until you realise what the part exchanges were. A sit-on lawn mower and a knackered old tractor. Steptoe and Son have nothing on us.

Far more amusing was Ronnie's drunken heckling at the launch of the Alfa Romeo MiTo at Twickenham rugby ground. Annabel Croft, the television presenter and former tennis player, was the host of the evening and she seemed a very pleasant person. Ronnie knew nothing of what she did, so bluntly asked "Who are you? What do you do? Nice legs dear", in a kind of Albert Steptoe dirty old man sort of way.

Whilst the rest of us got carted away to have a tour of the rugby grounds and changing rooms etc at Twickenham, Ronnie stayed behind swiping multiple free glasses of champagnes and trying to chat up whatever waitress was available at the time. He also spent the night trying to woo the very pretty blonde ladies supplied as hostesses for the evening by Alfa Romeo. Anyway, meal time had arrived which was this Nouvelle Cuisine nonsense which looked beautifully presented but had all the taste and hunger fighting properties of tracing paper. Then the guest speakers came out to, well, speak. The managing director of Alfa Romeo came out with all his random bullshit that MDs are programmed to do, with the back chat of Ronnie sounding pretty much like "Fuck off, you're talking shit, you don't know what you're on about". Some other Alfa representatives came on, again to the sounds of "Fuck off" and "Get fucking real". Then a guest speaker none other than the snivelling twat (my words) Seb Coe came on, not to talk about the new Alfa or anything like that, but to stick his hand out for money for the 2012 Olympic games. He was greeted by quite a lot of hostility from our table, most notably Ronnie who chanted "You're not getting any of our money you overpaid prick. Pay for it yourself". Obviously with a skinful on board it was time to go as the bus was waiting for us. The bus was, but no sign of the driver for about 20 minutes. Ronnie declared he would drive it back to the hotel but after taking five minutes to get out of his seat only to topple back down into it, he didn't bother.

The thing is, the bus journey very nearly didn't happen for Ronnie. Alfa had offered to pay for a taxi for Ronnie, not to the hotel but back to St. Ives. You really would have to see it to believe it to work here. This job of mine was going to be a stop gap for 6 months. 9 years later I'm still there. Hey ho.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The X Doctored

So here we begin another season of X Factor, so another season of brainwashing nonsense. But hang on, it has caused some controversy. Can this be true? Two of my Room 101s have come together to create a complete and utter farce really.

Now, don't get me wrong, the X Factor is a show I frequently ignore and really want nothing to do with. Even with being a big Paul McCartney fan, I still didn't watch it when he appeared on it. But then this morning, to my amusement, there was the news headline "X Factor accused of doctoring singing voices". But I had to take a look. Sour grapes, some might say. Until, that is, a spokesman for the TV "show" admitted that the vocals for particular contestants have been enhanced to make the "singing sound better". So, what we are being told is basically the producers of the show are using Autotune. Which is a cop out way of covering up the fact that some of the people in this corporate conveyor belt of so-called talent cannot actually sing. They are then told that they are through to the next round because they are "really talented". Which clearly they are not because their own singing voices have been enhanced with electronics to make it palatable. And that voice that has caused the controversy is quite clearly synthesized.

I'm still not sure what annoys me more. The X Factor? The smug arsehole Simon Cowell? Or is it the fact that it has sunk to an all new low that we are literally listening to robots singing. Singing is a talent in its own right. It's an art form, whether you are pitch perfect or not quite. But using Autotune at a live concert, or even on a TV talent show that relies on people singing, has rendered both outputs pretty much useless. It certainly cannot be classed as a truly live performance. There are plenty of vocalists out there that can't hold a note particularly well or there are those that don't have a particularly good intonation. Bob Dylan couldn't sing for toffee. Johnny Cash is another that wasn't particularly tuneful. But both thankfully did not feel the need to hide behind bloody Autotune. True, Johnny Cash is sadly no longer with us, but Dylan still is and is still touring and going strong without the use of enhancements. But in any case, they had more than just singing. They had emotion, charisma and the knack to pen a good tune and a good set of lyrics as well. I use those two examples as Simon Cow Bell decreed that neither Johnny Cash nor Bob Dylan would ever make it past audition stages of X Factor. Which is fine because I'd rather watch five hours of the legendary Johnny Cash (who had the so-called X Factor long before Simon Cow Bell was a twinkle in his dad's eye) than an hour of electronically enhanced, charisma-free conveyor belt twaddle, who excepting a select few, have done nothing since winning. So when you are queueing to electronically download the Christmas number 1 contender, remember the singing may be done by a robot and it will be as electronic as your download. So go buy something else.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and everyone has different views as to what entertainment is, and mine certainly isn't watching a TV talent show selling live singing that is in actual fact only slightly live with electronic enhancements. Some people like it, which is fine. Just don't include me in it. I'm just happy that in these times there is some light relief - rock legends Iron Maiden topping the album charts with their latest album The Final Frontier. Bruce Dickinson, a singing force to be reckoned with and not an Autotune gizmo in sight! Bliss.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Beetle Drive

Today of all days I have had the task of driving a "new" shape Volkswagen Beetle home with the idea of delivering it to another dealership tomorrow morning. As the main roads were pretty crammed I thought I'd take the country roads and through the villages then back on to main roads and make a mini road test out of it. This would put it through its paces a bit.

So, the road test begins. Or rather it doesn't because the car will not start, so out with the jump back and its engine bursts, if that is the phrase, into life. The first thing that strikes me is the door. Because I hit my head on it, but that is another story. No, the thing that strikes me is the shape of the car which is one of those marmite love-it-or-hate-it shapes. To me it's like marmite, and I hate marmite. The shape, naturally, is reminiscent of the the old Beetle, which means it looks like it was designed by a 6 year old with some crayons.

Now, the old Beetle is famous for two reasons. Never actually being named "Beetle" by Volkswagen and being designed by Hitler. The newer one is famous for actually being named "Beetle" by Volkswagen and not being designed by Hitler. So we have one plus point already, but hang on a second. Not being designed by Hitler does not make this a good car. The original VW Type 1 (the correct name for Beetle) was designed as the People's Car (which translates into German as Volks Wagen). The current shape is nothing more than a rebodied Golf, but with an over-inflated price tag. It certainly isn't a "People's Car" per say. More fashion accessory, but one that went out of date quite some time ago.

So, the exterior is childlike at best and ugly at worst. So what is the interior like? Well, this particular model of Beetle has leather seats which you can find a comfortable driving position in quite easily. But comfort in the rear is severely compromised due to the sloping roof. The only way to travel in comfort in the back of a Beetle is to cut your head off. The dashboard itself is the size of a small country and appears to be made out of the same plastics they use to make DVD cases, only less robust. What does surprise me is that with the huge expanse of dashboard, the buttons are scattered all over the place. Two of which are on the door, they operate electric motors that open the fuel filler and the tailgate. I'm used to Italian cars so finding switches underneath the seat, behind the sun visor and outside on the number plates are no problem to me, I just kind of expected a little bit more ergonomic sense from the Germans. The world-renowned German sense of humour is present though, with a dashboard mounted vase and flower aimed at those those "Peace and Love" hippies out there. However, in reality those people now drive a Prius.

The steering wheel, though, is in the correct place. Which is strange because it has absolutely no say in the direction of travel. Really, you can expect more communication from BT than from the Beetle's steering set up. The ride is good, with soft damping but ultimately this set up borders on soggy and compromises the handling as a result. At best, this is a rather ordinary handling car. Having said that, it is to be expected as it uses a bog standard Mark 4 Golf chassis, which even as a GTI the dynamics were as sharp as blu tack. I'm led to believe that the convertible is even worse, so please never insist I drive one of those. Please. I'm too vulnerable to be called a tosser and actually hear it with the roof down.

The drivetrain, like the chassis is pure Mk4 Golf. This means means unlike the old Beetle, the engine is, for once in the correct place and not out at the back. It's a 2 litre 8 valve unit which is a bit of a lazy sod really. I mean it's got the performance (just about), it's just so leisurely in the way it gets there. It's coupled to a rather clunky, baulky 5 speed manual gearbox which inspires gear changes like S Club 7 inspire Bob Dylan. Which is a little bit of a sorry state of affairs when you consider the gearbox is better than the brakes, which take a 5 working days to bring you to a stop. Which it did in my drive way eventually.

So, to tally up the scores:

Styling: 1/20
Performance: 9/20
Handling 6/20
Ride: 9/20
Comfort: 9/20

So out of a possible 100, the Beetle scores 34. Oh dear. So, would I ever own a new shape Beetle? Work out the maths yourself. What's more, the horror stories over the lack of reliability (remember these are Mexican and Brazilian built VWs, not built in Germany), electrical problems, brake and transmission problems and general poor build quality, coupled to that styling and the well below par driving experience sum up a car that's best avoided at all costs. Save your money and buy a Fabia instead. They're better looking, more practical, better to drive, fantastic value and far more reliable. Ironically, the only current "Volks Wagen" in the Volkswagen Group's lineup is made not by VW themselves, but by Skoda.