Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

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GeneralFriday, December 25th, 2015, (9:00 am)

Christmas Card 2015

And a Happy New Year too! :-)

GeneralTuesday, December 22nd, 2015, (6:00 pm)

It’s Christmas time again, and while for the last few years that has usually meant hot summer days for me in Australia or New Zealand, this year I am spending Christmas in Paris. So with the season in mind, I decided to take a look at a few alternatives ideas and innovations on our beloved Christmas tree, surely the essential component in any Christmas decorations.

Christmas Trees

Back when I used to live in the UK I had a Christmas tree that stood at about about knee height. It came pre-decorated and just needed to be taken out of the box and plugged in. It was quick and simple and required no effort or imagination. Perfect for me because while I love Christmas, I’m not a big fan of time consuming decorating.

Christmas Trees

When I was a kid, before my sister fiercely took over decorating the Christmas tree as a task only she was allowed to perform, my Mom and Dad used to do the honors. The house would fill with the smell of the pine needles that would herald the beginning of another holiday season.

Dad would decorate the rest of the house while we were upstairs in bed, and thats when I would learn all those wonderfully fizzy swear words that I’d hear him saying as the paper lanterns he carefully pinned to the ceiling would fall down one by one.

I’m glad we had a real tree. I like the trendy and imaginative alternatives, but a tree made of books, bottles, or palm tree leaves doesn’t have the same aroma as those giant trees I used to sit by as I tried to guess the contents of the presents beneath its needles branches.

Christmas Trees

Of course, there are many alternative ways to create a Christmas tree. Just the other day I saw a giant tree made entirely of disney character soft toys. As much as I like a real Christmas tree, I also like alternative Christmas trees that show a flare of imagination.

Christmas Trees

Weirdly enough, Christmas always seems to be a time when good taste can be briefly put aside. People take pride in doing terrible things to the outside of their homes with fairy lights and displays of electrical nonsense that would be almost unforgivable at any other time of the year. But what about the taste violations taking place inside homes across the land?

A friend of mine once proudly displayed a large pink and glittering Christmas tree that twinkled like the sparkles on drag-queens make-up. But even that cannot compete with the terrible rainbow Christmas tree that has surely caused as many gasps of horror as it has delight.

Christmas Trees

In my own apartment I tended to go for a more low budget approach to Christmas trees. But low budget doesn’t mean low imagination as these budget Christmas trees show us.

Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

Then again, some people are just lazy!

Christmas Trees

However, there is always that showy person in your neighborhood who has to create something so absolutely ostentatious that people come from miles around to see it. Like this example of the most over the top Christmas tree I have ever seen, and it’s right here in Paris.

I mean come on, did it really need the search lights on the top?

Christmas Trees

GeneralTuesday, December 1st, 2015, (1:38 am)

Back in 2006 when I started this blog, the iPhone didn’t exist, there was pretty much no facebook, and Tweeting was still something only birds did. The cool people talked about their Myspace and platforms like Xanga and Blogger.com were hives of textual activity. People weren’t afraid of reading the ramblings of strangers from the internet, the idea of ‘texting’ someone just sounded strange. Now, nearly ten years later everything has changed.

Hello Strangers

Today nobody reads blogs posts much anymore. Instead they “Like” things they see on facebook, a platform that turned blogging into posting in the same way fish are turned into fish fingers. Easy to produce, easy to consume, and easy to forget.

Of course, I can’t very well complain that nobody takes the time to read my blog when I have clearly all but abandoned this place, despite my good intentions. Trust me, there have been many times when I have sat here, a ‘blank page’ before me, wondering what to write in the same way you might wonder what to say to that person you should have called so long ago.

So I’m just going to say “Hello Stranger,” and pretty much leave it at that. If you’re out there maybe you’d like to say hello back?

GeneralFriday, June 19th, 2015, (2:57 pm)

It’s surely a long accepted fact that banks are pretty much evil? They caused the global economic crisis then held their hands out and demanded huge bailouts without showing a hint of shame, regret, humility or even embarrassment. Who among us hasn’t felt at least a little screwed by a bank at least once? If only we could charge them dumb fees like they charge us, right? Well, I think we can, in fact I have, and they’ve paid!

Male them pay

I’ve not lived in the UK now for some years, but I still have a UK bank account just because it’s handy. I use Smile, the internet bank of the Co-op. I chose them because out of the collection of slippery not-to-be-trusted UK banks to choose from, they seemed like the least evil.

Truthfully, if I had planned my exit from dreary shores of the United Kingdom a little better, I would have picked another bank, one whose overseas card usage and currency conversion charges weren’t as objectionable, but I’m rather stuck with them now.

Over the years since I’ve left Smile have given me little reason to smile at all. Banking isn’t exactly something any ordinary person finds reason to look happy about. Dealing with your bank is rather like dealing with your need to use a toilet. It’s just a fact of life and there’s no need to dwell on it, so to speak.

Bank chargesI travel a great deal, and I’ve managed to train my bank not to constantly block my cards, which they have done many times, sometimes leaving me in really quite awkward situations. However, my recent arrival in India set off some program somewhere that immediately stopped my bank card.

Now I know, this is hardly the end of the world, but its annoying a time consuming to remedy, especially since I had gone to the trouble of writing to them informing them of my travel itinerary and I had also called them prior to my departure.

So this time I did what I’ve taken to doing with companies that levy charges against their customers. I charged them!

In a secure message I informed the bank that they were already aware of my travel arrangements, and as such I would be charging them a £25.41 inconvenience fee.

This is not the first time I have done this. I’ve charged my car insurance a processing fee for when they made me refill a form I had already done, I charged my gas supply company rent for putting their gas meter in my living room, and I charged another bank a handling fee after they deposited a large sum of money in my account by accident some year ago.

They all paid! To be clear, not one of them accepted the charge. However, all of them made a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the same amount, or very close to the amount, of my fee.

I even called out Qantus for their ‘convenience fee’ when I paid online for a flight using a card. This was in addition to the already high card processing fee! It was the only way I could pay, so it wasn’t like there was a more inconvenient choice for me. I pushed them on this and they simply dropped the fee.

Why should bank charges be a one way street. Not long ago I stood in line at my bank in Melbourne, the single bank teller was having a friendly conversation with the lady at the counter while others stood anxiously in line anxiously watching their lunch hour slide away into that bottomless pit of admin.

As I stood there I pondered for a moment what might happen if everyone in line charged the bank for their time in the same way the bank often charge for a ‘counter service.’ When the teller told me there would be a $6 counter service fee I told him that my fifteen minute wait was chargeable. He looked at me and laughed, then waived the fee, “this time.”

So while this might not be the most interesting blog post ever, I just wanted to use this platform to encourage you to apply a fee to your bank, insurance company, or whatever greedy organisation causes you to have to go out of your way to address something. Its your money were talking about, you might as well try!

GeneralThursday, January 1st, 2015, (1:12 am)

Happy New Year 2015

While Christmas feels a little strange in shorts and a t-shirt, I do really like New Year being in the middle of summer. So from the summer of 2015 to wherever you are in the world, Happy New Year everyone!

GeneralThursday, December 25th, 2014, (12:55 pm)

Christmas Card 2014

That pretty much says it all.

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