Tuesday, 16 March 2010

They think it's all over

On Saturday I listened to the annual "Calcutta Cup" match between England and Scotland on the BBC - not because I'm interested in rugby (I'm not) but just because I could.

I pause to observe en passant that rubgy players appear to wear gay swimming caps and golfing gloves nowadays. They didn't when I was wee. Nor did cricketers wear helmets. Firemen wear helmets. Golfers wear golfing gloves. Swimmers can even be forgiven for wearing swimming caps. But not rugby players. Nor should they wear shirts emblazoned with bits of the periodic table, IMO.

I've digressed - where was I? Oh yes, the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of these great British institutions, I would defend to my last breath. Like the monarchy. And Caledonian MacBrayne. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Despite what Brussels thinks. We'll fight them on the beaches (although I'm actually quite pro-EU).

The BBC is funded by what's known as "the Licence Fee". It's a tax on television sets. In the UK, if you have a TV in your house, then you have to have a TV Licence costing £142.50 a year. Money well spent in my book because, in return, you get the BBC free with no adverts. This includes all the top class sport like the rugby (yawn) but also Wimbledon, World Cup, Olympics etc. Most importantly of all, the World Darts from the Lakeside Country Club, Frimley Green, Surrey - a British institution and if that's not public service broadcasting, then I don't know what is.

Above is what I got when did a Google Image search for World Darts. Nobody chucking an arrow at a board, but they know how to have a good time, do darts followers. And while we're on the subject of darts (which we're not really), I must mention my all time favourite live TV cock-up when the host of a quiz show accidentally read out the answer but the contestant still got the question wrong. It was on a show called "Bullseye" loosely based around darts. Contestants appeared in teams of two, one of whom threw the darts and the other of whom answered general knowledge questions. To the latter, the host, Jim Bowen, always said "So you're the brains of the outfit, then?"

Despite my better judgement, I've tried to "embed" a Youtube vid of Jim Bowen on Bullseye - did it work? Anyway, one night, Jim solemnly reads off the card "In which state was President Kennedy assassinated? Texas." and the brains of the outfit replied "Was it California, Jim?"

Anyway, where was I? The Licence Fee causes periodic political hooh-hahs in Britain with some people saying "Why should I pay a tax for two channels of the BBC when all I want to watch on my TV is 321 satellite channels of wall to wall CSI Miami, CSI New York etc., ad nauseam. To which I respond that people who want to watch 321 channels (or even 6 or 7) should have their knees stapled together. Too much choice is a bad thing. The BBC is a good thing - darts and all. (Although Bullseye wasn't on the BBC.)

The Licence Fee is how it works in the UK but abroad, the BBC becomes complicated. The technology does, of course, exist to beam all its content, from the darts to Mr Darcy, worldwide via the Interweb if you've got a broad enough broadband. But, in a sinister "we know where you live" sort of way, a lot of the good stuff is blocked if you try to log on furth of England's green and pleasant land.

(Pic above is what I got from a Google image search of "England's green and pleasant land". From the Daily Mail. Bless.)

I think the argument runs "it's free to the British Licence Fee payer but not to Johnnie foreigner". Which is an argument I'd normally line up behind if it weren't for the fact that I live amongst the JF. But is the BBC not missing a bit of a trick by not making the JF wedge up for the privilege? I'd cheerfully pay £142.50 for a country member's subscription. And that's considering our bandwidth out here is thin enough that all we can realistically expect is radio and even that has to "buffer" (it means it pauses) quite a lot.

The fact that the BBC appears to have missed this marketing trick means I don't feel so bad about having subscribed to Tellyport for €2.99 a month. Basically (but don't ask me how) they disguise my foreign location and allow me to listen online to the stuff normally reserved to onshore Brits. Like the rugby. Top tip to BBC bosses: I'm paying someone else £36 a year to do this "underhand" but would prefer to pay you £150 (or more) to do this legit. Capice?

The score of the Calcutta Cup match, incidentally, was a draw, 15-15. I can't remember why the trophy is called the Calcutta Cup and I'm not interested enough to Google it. I am however very interested in football and come this June shall be watching every single match of the World Cup by turning the Portuguese commentary on the TV down and turning up the BBC commentary through the computer via Tellyport.

Although, if the computer has to pause to "buffer" too often, the game will be over before the commentary is. Could lend a whole new meaning to "They think it's all over ..."         

Monday, 8 March 2010

Oops, we did it again

The Scottish soi disant Government has really done it this time.

I had been planning to write about the dark day for the constitution of the United Kingdom represented by the SsdG's launch of a consultation on a bill to hold a referendum on independence - yes, you did hear right - a consultation on a consultation - but this has been overtaken by a further outrage.

This time, the culprit is one of the few SsdG ministers not to be named after a fish, Stewart Stevenson.

Stewart is what we call in Scotland a pie-face. By which we mean that his mouth bears the same proportion to his face as the orifice in the lid of a Scotch Pie.


Actually, it's priceless on the SsdG's website: on the "images" page of the Ministers, they've obviously placed two photos of each, one looking serious and sepulchral and the other looking cheery and jaunty. Go and have a snigger for yourself here but the picture above was of Stewart with his face crinkled into his infectious smile. This is the one of him looking magisterial:-

Note in either case the continuing resemblance to a ...

Anyway, Stewart is the minister for - well, we're not entirely sure what for because, in his own words, he is:-

As you can tell from the comma after "Infrastructure", there's been a misprint and something amongst his responsibilities has been left out. Well I'm in a position to tell you what it is.

Global Domination.

Imagine how I spluttered my morning cuppa over my desk this morning when I logged on to the news section of the SsdG's website to read in an innocuous enough sounding piece about planting trees the following quote from Stewart:-

"Tackling climate change will require a huge international effort and this tree planting initiative will make an important contribution to reducing global emissions. ... Scotland is leading international action on climate change and ...

Now wait for this and make sure your mouth isn't full of tea ... ready? Here it is ...

... the rest of the world must follow our lead."

I'm not kidding! He did actually say that. You can read it here if you don't believe me.

Talk about the mouse that roared. They'll be quaking in their boots in the BRICs

You can picture Mr Singh, prime Minister of India, on a conference call to his cohorts: "Now look here chaps, we managed to pull the wool over little Obama's eyes and bugger up the Copenhagen Conference but the game's a bogey because the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure, Something Else and Climate Change of Scotland is on our case ..."

Meanwhile, Stewart has clambered aboard Adhar Feachd Aon:-

... and with a vomit stained Calmac ferry seconded to the People's Navy in close attendance, has puttered off to engage with a key stakeholder in the shape of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil. Our pastry faced hero is confident that a little speech he has penned en route comparing the Amazon basin to the bonny (and shortly to be tree-clad) banks of Loch Lomond and extolling the virtues of the re-cyclable wheelie bins the roll-out of which in Cumnock is currently being consulted upon will be enough to halt the felling every milisecond of an area of tropical rain forest the size of North Uist.

Alas, Sr. Lula da Silva, having been informed by the British Embassy that nobody of the name of Stevenson is accredited to the Court of Saint James, declines to engage with Stewart who in consequence is left looking a bit of a - well, Scotch Pie - in the arrivals lounge at GaleĆ£o Airport.

Instead, Stewart writes His Excellency a letter:-

"Dear Luis

You don't mind if ah call ye Luis? We've came tae Brazil tae engage wi' yiz as a key stakeholder and ah'm sorry ye werenae available tae engage wi us because the de-foresting of the Amazon Basin is just pure raj and at odds with our developing vision of a socially inclusive fairer society I just cut and pasted that bit and we need tae have a consultative consultation to develop a shared vision in consultation with other key stakeholders including the North Bute Transport Users' Consultative Committee. And China. Only after we've engaged wi' them, mind. Anyways, ah wiz wantin' tae say yiz must follow our lead but Nicola thought that wiz too prescriptive and a partnership approach would be better. OK? Ah've enclosed some pictures of recyclable boxes you can put your newspapers out in - might come in useful in some of they favelas around Porto Alegre.

Yours aye

Stewart Stevenson
Minister for Transport, Infrastructure, Consultative Stakeholding and Climate Change."


A party turns up to impale a key holder on his own stake.

Personally, I'd rather Stewart Stevenson was locked in a room to suffocate on his own carbon emissions.