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Eleven and a half years ago, a few months after we met, my wife and I booked a weekend in London – a quiet hotel on a November weekend. I had no idea of the surprise she would spring upon me.

Sitting on the corner of the bed, she produced an envelope and gave it to me. When I opened it, I discovered she’d booked tickets, for that evening, to see The Lion King musical at the Lyceum Theatre. This beautiful venue was built in its current form back in 1834, and the history of the site actually dates back to 1765. To attend the Lyceum Theatre is to attend (like with many London theatres) a piece of history.

The Lion King has been showing at the Lyceum since September 1999, and has been seen by over eight million people and made over £289 million. World wide, the musical has made over $6 billion, which is simply staggering.

But what did I think of this award-winning production? Well, it’s no secret that I am a huge Lion King fan (I mean, the Timon pictures should be a clue), and the film is one of my all-time favourites, so the musical was always likely to achieve greatness in my eyes, and it did. The songs are as epic as they are in the film, with new additions and scenes that ‘fill in the gaps’ and provide a little more depth to the story. I freely admit to being tearful whilst watching the show (The Lion King always does that to me), from sheer emotion. This was a breathtaking production, a work of art that was bold enough to strip away the conventions of theatre and expose the workings of the set and props, to revel in the beautiful costumes and puppets instead. It’s amazing how quickly you forget you’re looking at a man manipulating a puppet whilst watching Timon, Pumba and Zazu.

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You might be wondering why I am indulging in memories of something I saw all the way back in 2004. The truth is, I’m reminiscing no longer. On Valentines Day my wife sprung another envelope upon me, with three tickets to return to the Lyceum and once again take in the majesty of The Lion King – and this time, we would be introducing our daughter to this amazing spectacle.

Seeing the world through your child’s eyes is a magical experience anyway, but getting to show her first-hand the memories you treasure is an indescribable joy. Like her father before her, my little girl was enchanted by the display of colour and music on the stage, and her enthusiasm for what she saw led to her proclaiming she wants to see it again – as soon as we’d left the theatre!

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I need to say thank you to my wife, though it’s too tame an expression to describe the gratitude that I feel. She has given me an experience that ranks among the all-time greatest ones of my life and given that same experience to my daughter. She is a wonderful woman and I hope I can do her justice.

This meerkat is very happy!

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So you think you’re right do you, Mr customer?

On Wednesday I had the dubious pleasure of once again dealing with the false and stupid mantra ‘the customer is always right’. This poisonous idea led a customer to expect that we compensate him for potential loss of earnings and fitter work.

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I mean, seriously?! There are so many reasons why this guy is wrong.

Firstly, he’s organised delivery of his goods for the same day that his fitters come round. All well and good, and time-wise maybe he didn’t have much choice, but this is hardly our fault – in fact, the Ts & Cs of our business advise customers to get their goods in a day or two early (earlier if possible) to check for damaged, incorrect or missing items. It’s unfortunate, but errors do happen, so it’s prudent to build in flexibility to your schedule.

Secondly, what would Mr I-Want-Compensation have done if the order had arrived late in the evening? His delivery was in the morning, but the company offers zero guarantees of this. We can’t influence this at store level and the delivery window is potentially any time between 8am and 6pm. This relates to issue 1 – forward planning, something this guy clearly doesn’t think about.

Thirdly, we were able to correct his issue within a day. In this industry, that is incredible. He’s acting like he’s going to be out of pocket to the tune of huge sums of money if delayed by 24 hours, and was moaning about the poor customer service, when in fact with other retailers he might have not only waited longer for what he needed but might have even had to pay for the new part (with a refund scheduled for later).

Finally, what company out there will actually compensate for fitter costs and loss of earnings? The latter is arbitrary – the customer can spout figures and there’s little means to verify them, therefore most (if not all) businesses won’t hear such an argument. In respect of fitting costs – well, we suggested he have the fitter source the missing part from a local supplier (yes, it was that simple), and we’d refund him what he’d paid us. Easy right?

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Nope! Apparently this wasn’t feasible, though the customer declined to elaborate as to why.

So, to sum up, Mr Customer didn’t forward plan, didn’t take up an option to resolve the issue that same day, wasn’t happy with a next-day resolution and expected compensation to the tune of whatever arbitrary figure he plucked from the sky.

And people wonder why I rant about customers.

Interestingly, his wife came in to collect the part and drop off the incorrect one when I was off work yesterday, and didn’t say a word about my conversation with her husband! What a shock.

I shouldn’t be writing this post. I should be walking away from it and saying ‘it’s really not worth it’. Really, for the most part, it’s not worth it. It’s a silly little dig that’s irritated me, made by someone who has (in my humble view) a warped sense of reality and priorities. I should not be giving them my time or effort. Yet, I also know that I will be doing exactly that.

Why, I hear you ask? Because that’s how I’m wired. I don’t like letting ignorant remarks go unchallenged – especially when it comes to the subject of parenting, and the remark in question has come from someone who is not a parent.

What’s the remark in question you say?

3) TPM is barely violent and it is largely kid-friendly.  Titan A.E. on the other hand is extremely violent and is even much more violent than Independence Day!  Titan A.E. is NOT AT ALL kid friendly yet some stupid parents let their tots watch Titan A.E. between the ages of 4 and 7!

I spied it on a long-winded rant someone had written on Deviant Art about Jar Jar Binks and a character called Cale Tucker from a film called Titan A.E. The article’s author has a passionate and (in my view) thoroughly misguided hatred of Titan A.E, to the point where he writes about how the film will be killed by other films (yes, he really does put it in such language.

wpid-wp-1446741446606.jpg(is it even possible to hate a film so much you want it ‘dead’?)

In the link above, I mentioned how I would be happy to let my daughter (four at the time of writing) see Titan A.E. It is not explicitly violent or sexualised, and does not contain bad language. It is far tamer than say, Independence Day (which has people fleeing for their lives in a state of mass fear and panic, not to mention millions killed, whereas it is never established that earth is still heavily populated in Titan A.E, and in fact, the presence of many large colony ships at the end of the film would point to an earlier mass evacuation, whilst the film’s prologue strongly supports a successful large-scale evacuation taking place). It is arguably less violent (if we define violence by sheer body count) than Star Wars, which has featured planetary destruction and large wars throughout the franchise, and even less violent than Star Trek (the Dominion War after all, involved untold millions killed, and the Borg gave billions of not trillions of beings a fate worse than death).

Timon7(wait, my daughter will want to blow up earth because she saw it in a film? Riiiight…)

I am digressing slightly. I for one have no trouble with my daughter watching Titan A.E. I have no problem with her watching Revenge of the Sith (in fact, she quite enjoys it, and she enjoyed The Force Awakens too). She is not about to become a megalomaniac bent on mass murder because of any of those films. Why? Because she is grounded by my wife and I, who are teaching her right from wrong. She is also not daft enough to confuse obviously fantastical films with real life, and can separate film action from the real world already (something most of us can do). If anyone out there is crazy enough to believe that the average kid will confuse sci-fi with reality, that’s down to their own skewed sense of the world, and I would advise them that they are using their anger toward a movie to mask something more profound that they are burying.

Whether they read this or not, I have no idea. If they do, I hope they stop to consider that unless they are a parent too, they are in no way qualified to judge me or any other parent. I know my little girl. I know what the right messages are for her and how to deliver those messages.

I’ve been busy lately. Busy completing a few pages for the main site that have been sitting in draft limbo for quite a while, or in some cases non-existent – drafts done in my head but not actually put to paper, so to speak. It feels good to finally get some momentum going!

The focus I’ve been working on? My Stargate pages. I’ve finally added my pages about the Goa’uld and the Ancients, and I’m looking to start my page on the Wraith pretty soon. From there, I might delve into the technology of the Gateverse – we’ll see.

I’m also starting work on a series of pages about a long-standing passion of mine – astronomy. This section is still some way off completion, but when finished it will hopefully offer an insight into how awe-inspiring I find the planets, stars and the universe to be.

I look forward to sharing those pages with you!

This morning I pondered the situation that Leicester City FC find themselves in, and I touched upon their remarkable season. Tonight, I’m looking at the other big story of the 2015/16 Premier League season – Chelsea.

It’s not unheard of for reigning champions to experience a downturn in fortunes, but the scale of Chelsea’s decline is unlike anything that I can think of in in, especially in the modern Premier League era. When David Moyes oversaw the collapse of Manchester United from champions to 7th, it was seen as a shock, but one with extenuating circumstances – Sir Alex Ferguson’s sabotage of Moyes (and yes, I consider that to be the case), and Moyes’ own ineptitude, led to that particular failure. With Chelsea, the circumstances are quite different.

Jose Mourinho, who has led teams to success across three countries and who had under his command a strong squad of well-drilled players, was somehow unable to motivate his team this season, losing his job after a dismal run of 9 defeats in 16 games. For a side as wealthy as Chelsea, with the same, talented manager who had won them several titles (and indeed, the previous season’s title) and the same squad of strong players, to collapse so completely, is remarkable – it is unprecedented.

Since Mourinho was dismissed and Gus Hiddink stepped in as caretaker, Chelsea’s results have gradually improved but not significantly so. Their chances of European football next season are now gone, and if I am honest, Chelsea’s miserable season is a source of great comedy to almost every neutral fan up and down the country.

This is certainly a season of incredible contrasts!

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As the 2015/16 season rumbles on, this remarkable season took another twist on Saturday with league leaders Leicester City (yes, you read that right) beating challengers and fancied favourites Manchester City in their own backyard, moving six points clear of the blue half of Manchester (they are five points clear of Spurs and Arsenal, who both went ahead of Man City with wins of their own over the weekend).

It wasn’t simply that Leicester defied expectations by winning – it was the manner of their victory. They were at one stage 3-0 up, comfortably dealing with City’s attacks whilst playing with such energy and purpose that their own efforts proved too much for City to handle. A consolation goal for the home side did nothing to dent the impression of a dominant performance and result.

Leicester have been there or thereabouts since before Christmas, and everyone (myself included) has expected them to drop off as the pressures and strains of a title campaign begin to mount. Claudio Ranieri, their manager, has talked down ideas that Leicester are contenders, much less the favourites that some media sources are now suggesting.

Yet the fact remains, they are top, they cannot be deposed even if they lose their next game (away to Arsenal), and they have arguably an easier run in than their rivals.

So, it begs the question, could they do it? Winning the title, given their comparatively shallow resources, would have to go down as the biggest shock in modern English football, and what would make it all the more remarkable is that this time last year, they were mired in a relegation dogfight. I for one want them to win it – at what point do we say they can?

The title aptly sums up the working day I’ve had. Today has been a case of running to simply stand still.

It began with a refund, which immediately put me on the back foot. From there, I enjoyed a decent enough sale… And from that point onward, it was bitty enquiry all the way home.

Some of it might well lead to further sales – in fact, I’m almost sure of it – but one woman decided to faff around for ages, uncertain of what she wanted and unable to take suggestions. In the midst of all this the phone rang virtually nonstop – here’s a hint: if I don’t answer it the first couple of times, immediately ringing back another twenty or so times isn’t likely to suddenly make me unbusy.

The enquiry-driven nature of the day culminated with one customer outstaying his welcome (he was still faffing about ten minutes after I was meant to close), and I foolishly decided to respond to the voicemail – big mistake. The end result? I eventually left work nearly 40 minutes after I should have, all because today, people were seemingly more concerned with being counterproductive than actually working with me.

Stupid people.

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Bear with me here. I have many reasons for the title of this post, though even as I type the words I find myself in a bit of a whirl, and I am trying to focus my efforts here.

For Christmas my wife got for me a book about the history of Ancient Rome. So far, I haven’t read a great deal of it (I only started reading it the other day), but this insightful book is giving me inspiration toward my Rome-based stories.

Beyond that, Mary Beard’s book (SPQR, which stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, translated as The Senate and People of Rome) serves as a thoughtful look into Rome’s complicated ideas about itself, with its contradictory writings about its own history and place in the world. In the eyes of the Romans who Beard bases her work on, they saw Rome has at once both glorious, powerful and a beacon for the people, and also as an empire whose founding was based upon some dark and troubling ideals.

I’m less than a hundred pages in, and already the parallels between Ancient Rome and modern society are very much in evidence. In electoral campaigns those who vied to become Consuls (among the most powerful positions in the Republic), donations verging on bribery were common, and what would be called smear campaigns in today’s terms were hardly unusual. Debates over execution without trial, about fabrication of evidence, and passionate public speeches to whip up support for what would be considered anti-terrorism laws today all took place, as did debates over citizenship. Sound familiar?

In many ways, the ideals and policies of Rome are the same as those we have in the Western world today. The only difference between then and now is the technology we wield. The ideas, the values and the introspective justifications… they can all be found both then and now. I am barely into Beard’s book, and I feel the more I read it, the more I feel I can emphasize with the peoples of Ancient Rome.

1. I don’t like sweetcorn. Never been especially fond of it, but as I’ve gotten older I actually like it even less. I’ll forego an entire sandwich if I discover sweetcorn in it.

2. I have double-jointed thumbs.

3. My hair might as well be an independent lifeform.

4. I’ve had my photo taken with William Shatner. It was a proud moment!

5. Roast lamb is the pinnacle of roast dinners.

6. I would describe myself as politically centre-left.

7. If I were to say I loathe Manchester United it would be an understatement.

8. Most of my accents sound nothing like what I’m aiming for.

9. I can stuff a lot of marshmellows into my mouth.

10. As much as I dislike sweetcorn, I detest mushrooms. They look bad, smell worse, have a dreadful texture and taste vile.

12. I prefer a real book in my hands rather than an ebook.

13. Wasps are horrible creatures.

14. Ales beat lagers in most circumstances.

15. I like Marmite.

16. Bananas are my favourite fruit.

17. As a kid I had a recurring dream about a giant hand reaching into a tunnel that I was in and taking me away. I usually woke up just as I was being grabbed.