Saturday, 14 September 2013

The times they are a changing

I remember a time when customer service was king. When the staff in shops were smart, showing a good company image, when you were treated with politeness, after all, you were paying their wages. What has happened?

This morning I went to put some fuel in my car at the local Tesco petrol station. While I queue behind people doing their weekly shopping at the one checkout that is open (that is another story which I think I have covered already) some witless troglodyte is rearranging the cigarettes. There is no thought of opening another checkout, obviously the conversation between the staff members is more important than the secondary objective of serving the customer.


There was a time when shopkeepers wore a brown overall, do you remember that? The men always wore a tie, they were smart, tidy. Now it seems that the more piercings, tattoos, weird hairstyles and the more untidy you are the quicker you will be put in front of the customer. It seems that there is an agenda to scare off the customer. Maybe the plan of Tesco, Sainsbury et al is to do away with the shop entirely and just do home delivery.’ How dare these people come into our shops and take things! Let us tell them what they can have’

I have an urge to open a shop and show them how it should be done. Let’s get back to smartness, politeness, intelligence and all the other things that make us more human.

Or maybe I am just a little old fashioned.Picture0001[2]


Giant68 Smile

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Steam and Dust.

So we went camping. Again. Once more I loaded the contents of my house into the car and unpacked in a field. Every time I hope that this game of Tetris will get easier, but it never does. I carry everything to the car and rearrange it several times in the hope that it will fit better. I fail every time.

This time we went back to Dorset. We figured that we could visit the Great Dorset Steam fair on the Friday and then spend the Saturday sitting around the tents, maybe having a drink or several, and relaxing.


We set off on Friday morning for the steam fair, to travel 28 miles to Tarrant Hinton. 2 hours later we arrived in a dust storm, driving through fields where wheat had just been cut, that were bone dry, where the marshals were wearing dust masks and we couldn’t see the  end of the car bonnet. Once parked we faced a long walk to the gate and then a walk to the show. The site of the show is awesome. It is massive, being somewhere in the region of 700 acres. There was a pall of smoke, steam and dust over the area giving it the impression of a Victorian steampunk landscape. There were hundreds of steam powered traction engines, vintage trucks, row upon row of food stalls, beer tents, coffee bars, people selling everything from army boots (I did buy some of these) to parts for your steam engine.


There comes a point in the day when you realise that you are knackered. We had been walking for what seemed like days. We had covered more miles than there actually are on the face of this planet. I felt that we had walked across the universe. I had a new pair of boots, very comfortable, Mrs Giant68 had been on a vomit making fairground ride where she had been upside down, side to side and inside out, her face was a picture. I have never seen anyone quite that shade of green before. We were all covered in dust and sweat. I had been photo bombed, thanks Jill!


Time to find the car among the acres of cars. We were smart, we made a note of where ours was unlike the couple we saw aimlessly wandering around the fields muttering ‘I thought it was around here…’

I felt sorry for the person with the mkII Cortina who had left a window open and the car was full of dust. I felt sorry for some newly made friends who were having their first camping experience that night at the show.

We went back to the tents. We lit the bbqs and put the sausages and burgers on. Beer o’clock. But after a hot sunny day the weather let us down. Myself and Rob huddled under an umbrella trying to keep the bbq dry as the rain pelted down. Rob even managed to spill his wine, normally he would have been under it before it hit the ground but this time he would’ve needed to be a contortionist! Now we were two grumpy blokes in the rain. God help everyone tonight!

Saturday went as planned, just lazing around reading, drinking, eating ice cream. Nothing much to say really. Maybe one day I will tell more, like exposing myself to  the elements, unintentionally I hasten to add!

Next time I feel that I need to get back to my grumpy roots.



Giant68 Smile

Promise. Next time i will be proper grumpy.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Under a Greek sun

As you will know, if you read the last blog, myself and Mrs Giant68 have just come back from our holiday. We have been to Spain for several years, Egypt last year and booking a holiday for this year was a bit of a challenge. Like most people we have a limited budget and an unlimited set of criteria for the way we lower our stress levels, so finding the right place was difficult. Somewhere warm, somewhere peaceful, somewhere with no, or few, kids… There were a few other restrictions which were negotiable so not that important. Eventually the young lad in the travel agency came up with an apartment complex on Skiathos. Just in case you are interested, Skiathos is part of the Sporades island chain in  the Aegean sea. Sporades meaning scattered and is where our word sporadic comes from. See, educational as well as entertaining, I am a grumpy old man of many talents.


Outbound flight was a little early, involving us being on the road at 02:00, or thereabouts. Thanks to Little Bro for delivering us to the airport.

Due to the fact that all the accommodations are up dirt tracks, the coaches  transferring us from the airport dropped us off on the main road and then we had to walk the rest of the way, arriving at our apartment  before it was ready, and before our suitcases, which would arrive later on a small truck that could negotiate the dirt track. I could start to feel a grump coming on as I was now sweating profusely. The only comfort was to take my shoes off and dangle my feet in the pool. The water started to boil, I am sure Smile

The nearest beach treated people like sardines. This is not looking good, is it? But, the divine one must have smiled down on me, or maybe he just had indigestion, for the best beaches were a 20 minute walk through the woods, and although that walk was hot, the beaches were worth it.

Elias beach was a length of golden sand and blue sea, also rather a lot of seaweed at times but you can’t have everything. The seaweed was compensated for by the taverna that sat on the dunes which provided the coldest beer and the best chips. Seriously, the chips had been hand cut from potatoes and deep fried till they were golden brown, crispy on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. I had found heaven! To be fair, any place that would sell me a cold beer would have been heaven to me!


There were ½ a dozen tavernas in the resort, all serving the same food, more or less, so it was a case of just pick one and if we didn’t like it after eating there we wouldn’t go back. We gave Captain Michaels taverna a miss, didn’t look like he would qualify for a hygiene rating and we didn’t fancy the Spaghetti Viagra that was advertised on the menu. Also there was an open sewer next door and the smell made your eyes water!


There were young girls with small bikinis, there were older women with small bikinis, there were fat women with bikinis that threatened to give way like high tension tension cables put under just a little too much tension! But worst of all was the man we nicknamed Rod Stewart. He would appear at the poolside with his large wife, himself being rather slim and knocking on the door of the late 60’s. He would, typically, wear leopard print Speedos with a saggy bit round the arse. Not a pretty sight! It will live in my nightmares for months, maybe years.

There was Aspidistra the cat, I say Aspidistra because that is what his name sounded like although I may be wrong. There was also Loretta the dog, very friendly, dripped drool all over the place, you know the type.


There were times when I sweated so much it looked like I had just stepped out of the shower. There were times when I laid on the floor of the apartment  because it was cool. There were times it was difficult to sleep due to the temperature being in the 30s and the humidity being in the 70s in the early hours.

But there was Agustera bar. There was cold beer. There was the pool. There was the sea. And there was the Magnum Cookie ice cream.

There was also frozen yoghurt. We found this in Skiathos town. You take a tub, fill it with frozen yoghurt from the machine, various flavours are available, add your topping sand pay by weight. You do not realise just how heavy yoghurt can be until you get to the till and are charged 13 euros! I nearly choked, but at that price I was damned well going to enjoy it! 

Then there was the flight out. Preceded by the flight in, obviously. The runway on Skiathos is the shortest in Europe. As soon as the wheels of the landing aircraft hit the ground the brakes go on hard. I could imagine the pilot and co-pilot literally standing on the brakes and pushing with all their might in the hope that we didn’t roll off the end into the sea. The departing aircraft sits at the end of the runway with the breaks firmly on while the engines are wound up to full power. Then the breaks are released and the aircraft rockets up the runway. A whole planeload of people praying that it will take off and not roll into the water. The runway is on a slope facing upward, and have i mentioned that from above it looks like a penis? 

Maybe I will tell you more another time. Tales of how Mrs Giant68 could not go to the loo, but I could. Tales of things crawling over the roof of our apartment. The taverna with the cleanest windows on Skiathos…



Giant68 Smile

Back to what I am good at.


Today I am going to get back to basics. Today I am going to be awesome in my grumpiness. I have just come back from holiday and the holiday blues have settled in therefore I feel that you all should suffer.

I am going to hark back to an earlier blog about children and parents. Why do parents insist on taking babies and young children on planes to hot places and then wonder why those children get bad tempered and cry a lot? There always seem to be babies on planes, and they cry. They are uncomfortable, their ears hurt…


Toddlers start to understand the excitement of going on holiday. It is an adventure. But then their ears hurt. ‘if you swallow yours ears will stop hurting’ is heard around the plane. No they won’t. Small kids do not understand this. I am 48 years old and swallowing does not ease the pressure in my ears, I have to yawn. So the children, in pain and discomfort, will cry. The noise level rises. Now we are not just sitting in a metal tube full of other peoples farts, we are sitting in a metal tube full of other peoples children crying. Good start to anyone's holiday. parents then start to get annoyed, start to tell the kids off, ‘If you don’t shut up I will give you something to cry about’, yeah, that’ll work.

OK, so now we have arrived at our destination. The resorts are full of kids who just want to spend time in the pool or on the beach but are dragged round the sights. It is hot and sweaty and tempers are getting frayed. It seems to me that these parents are selfish. They want their foreign holiday, they want to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the clock tower where ‘Mamma Mia’ was filmed. Kids want an ice-cream and swimming pools and sea and entertainment.  But they will have their holiday and they will see the Pyramids in all their glory. They will see them while they are bad tempered because the kids are playing up again, but at least they have seen them.


What didn’t help my own mood was the fact that airlines are taxing my height. If i want to sit comfortably on a plane I have to pay for the privilege. I have bought my ticket, which gives me a seat on the plane. It doesn’t give me a seat I can actually sit though, as I am 6’8” I cannot get my legs in unless I place my knees just under my chin. For some years the airlines would hold back the seats by the emergency exits. They would not be given out until the last minute, partly due to people like me and partly due to the fact that the person sitting there must be fit enough to open the door, if needed. Therefore the passenger had to be seen before they could be deemed suitable to sit there. Not anymore it seems. With the advent of online check in it seems that anyone can sit there. Unless i was willing to pay £75 per person, per trip for the chance to be able to sit comfortably for the entire trip. There is a local airline that we have used to travel to Spain that plenty of legroom between the normal seats, and I didn’t have to worry. I imagine that this was due to the number of flights to that destination everyday. This meant that they could afford to remove a couple of rows of seats and spread the remainder  out. On the way to Skiathos I took the chance that I would fit. In the end it was a case of grease me up and shoehorn me in. Not particularly comfortable. On the way back I gave in and paid the money. Once i got on the plane i found that the first 10 rows had modified seats that gave everyone extra legroom. all me cynical, but i do not believe that everyone paid the extra money for those seats.

If I was vastly obese I could be made to pay for 2 seats. If I was vastly obese I would have the choice to lose weight so that I could fit into one seat. I am tall. II have no option to lose height. I feel that, in a way, the airlines are discriminating against me and all the others that are as tall, or taller, than me.  

I have returned from Skiathos. Lovely little Greek island in the Sporades. But it seems to have been taken over by people who understand little of personal space or, indeed,  manners. I can forgive the people of Skiathos for cashing in on Mamma Mia. There are tours to all the sites where 30 seconds worth of the film was made. On the whole these places are rather picturesque. And, let’s face it, we would all do the same. The Greeks are a wonderful people, in general they are polite and friendly and smile a lot. But there are other nations there that are different. Money is king and they are cashing in the state of the Greek economy. The beaches are full of them, the roads are packed with their cars, Porsches, Audis, and Big Merc MLs.

But on a lighter note, the runway at Skiathos, if you look at it on Google Earth, looks like a penis. And I did see a rather good T-shirt slogan while we were there: Angela Merkell thinks I am at work.Brilliant.


Next blog will, actually, tell you what a nice holiday I had with Mrs Giant68.



Giant68 Smile

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Charms the savage breast…

I have a strange relationship with music. I have an enormous collection of tunes ranging from opera through punk to hard rock, with a lot of cheese thrown in somewhere in the middle. But I always seem to listen to the same old things. And every now and then I will change allegiance to the next new album that has been released. Sometimes I get a kick in the head that reminds me of some of the music i used to listen to, and that happened yesterday.

I took Mrs Giant68 to a local live music venue to see the SAS Band. Run by a guy called Spike Edney who has worked with bands such as Queen, it has a changing line up called from a vast pool of enetrtainers. But the core of the band remains the same. Johnny Marter on drums, Steve Stroud on base guitar, Spike himself on keyboards and kazoo and Jamie Moses on guitar.

I believe that our musical tastes are influenced by our parents. This is why my guilty pleasure is stuff like ‘ I never promised you a rose garden’ by Lyn Anderson. My dads favourite. I can sing along to that and most Leo Sayer songs, Gilbert O’sullivan, John Denver…

But my favourite is always rock. The tone was set for the night when Jamie Moses tore the air apart with his rendition of Springsteen’s ‘Born to run’ Eardrums are now destroyed!

But as i said, sometimes I need a reminder of all the music I have enjoyed in the past. And tonight it happened. From his pool of entertainers Spike had called up Sweet, the glam rockers. Time has not been kind to their long flowing locks but by God! They can still belt out ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Fox on the run’, and I can sing along word perfect.


But, possibly, my memory of the night is of Benny Gallagher of Gallagher and Lyle. Songs such as ‘Breakaway’, ‘Heart on your sleeve’ and ‘When I’m dead and gone’ brought back a lot memories.


Madeline Bell, Kiki Dee and others didn’t shine quite as bright for me but I walked away thinking ‘Madeline Bell is 70 years old??? Bloody hell!!’

Jamie Moses finished the night off with something that they have been practising for years, the 21 riff salute. We have been attending their gigs for about 10 years now, and what started off as the 21 riff salute is now about 29. They have taken the greatest guitar riffs and stitched them together to form one piece. Absolutely fantastic, there are other guitarists who could do this but I don’t think as well. Jamie usually breaks most of the strings on his guitar during this and it is a bugger trying to keep count of the riffs…


My ears are still ringing and my legs are aching from the walk home, yes, I am a tight git for not paying for a taxi home!  But the words are still running through my brain and occasionally reaching my lips.

‘When I’m dead and gone…’

2011-12-16 21.33.11


Giant68 Smile

Monday, 13 May 2013

Getting wood.

I like coffee. In fact I love coffee. But it has to be served in a certain way. It has to be strong, relatively sweet and the temperature of lava that has just been ejaculated from the bowels of the Earth. At home this is easy to achieve, just boil the kettle, put the pod in the Tassimo (other coffee makers are available), microwave some milk and Roberts your mothers brother. Hot coffee. When i am out and about, i do go out and about every now and then, ok, I go out a lot, hot coffee is hard to come by. I think that health and safety, and the threat of being sued by some moron who wouldn’t understand the meaning of the steam being emitted from the mug meant ‘be careful’, has meant that coffee temperatures are tepid at the most.

coffee 1

I have found that I can ask for it to be served extra hot, which i do to some strange looks. I wonder sometimes if I will be asked to sign a disclaimer.

But the worst thing by far is the little wooden stick that you are expected to stir it with. If you take sugar or, in my case, sweeteners you need to get a bit of rotary motion in the fluid to enable the sweetness to mix properly. With a teaspoon, even a plastic one, with a vigorous flick of the wrist you can give the brown nectar a uniform sweetness right down to the dregs in the bottom. But with that ridiculous wooden stick you can’t get a decent swirl. In fact, with a latte the sugar, or sweeteners, sometimes stay in the froth at the top.

coffee 2

So, the solution, Mr Nero Costabucks, is a spoon. Mr Wetherspoon sometimes gets it right but even they are slowly moving to the wooden stick. Take a stand Wetherspoons. Be like Wimpy. Remember them? In a Wimpy you were served your burger on a china plate, and had a knife and fork. I know that they are mostly consigned to history, a bit like the dinosaurs, but a few still exist.



Giant68 Smile

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Food for your thoughts

I had this thought the other day. I was filling up with petrol and looking at the price. 134.9p per litre. Now if I put in 1 litre of unleaded how would I pay for it? I could pay with £1.35 but then they would owe me 0.1p, so how would they pay me my change?


Most, if not all, of us put in 20 quids worth, or whatever. So in those cases there is no problem. But what if you put your fuel in by the litre? 10 litres is ok, £13.49. But what about 11 litres? That would be  £14.83.9. Again, how does the change get paid?

There is an argument that says that the advertised price is only an invitation to buy at that price, so therefore if you don’t like the price you don’t buy it, but once the fuel is in the tank who is going to get it back out again? It is not like being in a shop where you just put the item back on  the shelf

I may just start putting my fuel in by the litre just to see what happens when I ask for my change.




Giant68 Smile

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Under Egyptian Skies, the outtakes.


There was this moment, which I should regret but I don’t, where I was particularly cruel to an old bloke. I am not proud of this, no, hang on! I am proud of it as it was damned funny. There was a gentleman on the boat who bore a remarkable resemblance to  the late actor James Mason. He had a blond wife who had a mobile phone that always seemed to ring when we were looking at monuments, and during those deep, quiet moments when you are trying to drink in the surroundings, dozy bint! But back to her hubby. IMG_0575

There was a pool on the boat. Not a big one, more a dipping pool than a swimming pool. During the heat of the day it was a pleasant place to sit and cool down. In fact, I got to know a new friend around this very pool. The boiled horse would sit by it trying to look sophisticated. Anyway… ‘get on with it!’ I hear you cry. This blog must be a bit like those stories that Ronnie Corbett used to do in that big arm chair, it just goes on forever with no rhyme or reason.


Anyway, this gentleman asked me one day how deep it was. I indicated a point on my chest at about nipple level, saying ‘It’s about this deep’. And he promptly jumped in. Now bear in mind that I am 6’8” and he was 5’ bugger all. I hope you can see what is coming here. He just vanished under the surface and reappeared some moments later coughing up the lungful of water he had inhaled. I don’t know who had more problems breathing at this point, him with a lungful of water or us who were laughing so hard I thought I might never breath again!

Cruel bastard? Me? Well if the cap fits…

There were some other moments which I may divulge at some other time.



Giant68 :-)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Under Egyptian Skies (part 2)


As I have been told off by people waiting for the second instalment of my holiday adventures I suppose I had better get blogging again. Happy New Year, by the way.


Quick pause at this point while I read the last Egyptian blog to remind myself what I wrote, and what I can write about now,

I have travelled a bit, not much by some peoples standards admittedly, but I have seen some amazing sights. There are also many more places I want to see before I shuffle off of this mortal coil. But there are some amazing places in Egypt. To stand in temples that were built thousands of years ago is, in some cases, breath-taking. To see camels in their natural habitat, Egyptians going about their business, makes a person realise that their world view is very small.


In the last holiday blog I wrote about the intent of every Egyptian to prize money from the tourist. And I made it seem as though it was a very unpleasant process, on the whole it was, but there were some cases where I didn’t mind. The crew on the boat were some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Ultimately, they all wanted a tip, I am a very cynical person as you may have noticed. But they attempted to get that tip by making sure that my every need was catered for. Our cabin was spotless, every day the stewards would fold towels into different shapes and leave them on the bed. It was a pleasure to go back to our room to see what they had left for us. The waiters in the restaurant soon discovered that at breakfast, if my coffee cup was empty and i was still sat there then it had to be refilled. I was bouncing off the walls I had so much caffeine in my system!


Our tour guide, Hussein, seemed to have a very laconic way of talking and this led to myself, Mrs Giant68, Hannah and Stuart taking the p£$$ out of him, mercilessly. One thing I remember was his description of the ‘Son et lumiere’ at Karnak: ‘It is boring, do not go there’.

I was dragged up to dance with a belly dancer. To be honest, when my belly gets dancing it takes a while for it to stop. I have watched the sun set over the dessert and the moon rise over the jungle. I took my Kindle thinking that I would do a lot of reading but I ended up putting it down and just watching the world go by. I took somewhere in the region of 1000 photos.


But, at the end of the day, I may never go back there. I enjoyed it immensely, but the recommendation is that after handling money, or being touched, you wash your hands. You can’t drink the water, alcohol is pricey, the food can be a little odd, etc. etc…



Giant68 Smile