Photography update…

I’ve just treated myself – by means of borrowed money – to a digital SLR, an Olympus E500; an excellent camera.

Olymous E500

Browsing the Web, looking for information and opinion, I had a long-standing prejudice reinforced in no uncertain terms – with occasional exceptions, digital photographers seem to know bugger all about the basics of photography, and no matter how many bells and whistles your camera has, ignorance of the fundamentals will always give crap results.

This is a fairly typical example. A guy on a forum was wanting to know why his pics were blurred and his camera giving him mysterious messages (RTFM, pal!). His lens, he said, was set to infinity. How far away is your subject, asked a helpful reader (just before losing the will to live, I suspect). Oh, 8 to 10 feet.

OK – think about that; this pillock was snapping something within spitting distance, with a focus setting he could have used to photograph the moon! I mean, how stupid do you have to be not to know what “infinity” means, and how inappropriate it is to something 10 feet away?

Luckily, I started in photography, in my teens, with just a camera and the instruction sheet that you got with rolls of film for setting the exposure, which was remarkably accurate. I then graduated to using a lightmeter and, eventually, via a series of SLRs and compacts of varying degrees of sophistication, to my first digital camera six years ago (this represents a period of 40 years or so), so it presented no photography-related problems at all – I just needed to learn the technology.

These days, apparently, people are happy to buy an often vastly expensive digital and, starting from a position of total photographic ignorance, proceed to take terrible photos and to blame their camera when they don’t get the desired results. These numpties should be prevented, by law, from buying anything more complex than a Box Brownie – and they’d probably cock that up!!

By the way, RTFM = Read The Fucking Manual! Something almost no-one does and almost everyone should. Why? Well film cameras have three basic controls – focus, lens aperture and shutter speed (with maybe zoom as well. OK, many had a lot more settings, but they were just variations on the theme of the basic 3 or 4. Digital cameras have many more controls – sometimes hundreds more – my auto-focus Minolta 35mm SLR has a 44-page manual, in comparison, the manual for my new digital SLR runs to 216 pages, so while such a tome may be daunting, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with it (the first thing I did, even before my camera arrives, was to download a copy). Before taking any pic that actually matter, I’m going to play with it for a while, photographing anything and everything, to get the feel of it and familiarise myself with at least some of its controls. This, of course, is much easier than with film, as even the crappiest photos cost money to develop and print, but with digital you can just delete the rubbish, but not, I would suggest, before uploading them to your computer, to see what you did wrong. And don’t blame the camera for your errors – they don’t make mistakes, any more than computers do (assuming neither has a fault). People do.

Wirral pubs, an occasional series…

Occasionally we have a wander around some of the pubs in Wirral – a pastime that yields very mixed results. I covered a visit to The Harp, at Little Neston, in Harping on…, and more recently we’ve visited the Dee View in Heswall, The Shippons in Irby, The Irby Mill, Greasby, and the Travellers’ Rest, Higher Bebington.

The Dee View is a pub regularly lauded by the local CAMRA branch. As I said in Harping on…, my idea of a good pub is one you drop into at any time and be sure of a good pint (a good pub must be reliable in other words), and on that count many CAMRA-recommended venues fail miserably. But I digress, the Dee View is, potentially, a very nice pub, but it seems to be stuck in a time-warp, and not in a good way. When smoking was allowed, first thing in the morning, pubs stank, and often they’d be sprayed with furniture polish both to kill the smell (never worked!), and give the impression the place had just been cleaned (ditto). It was a bad idea then, and I wasn’t thrilled to discover that it still happens at the Dee view, as we walked into a fog of Pledge.

It’s a nice, bright and airy, one-roomed pub – as far as I could see, I didn’t explore as I was more intent on buggering off – but the pint of Black Sheep bitter was absolute shite, warm, insipid and, of course, tasting strongly of bloody Pledge! I’d have given it back if the guy who served us had lingered, but he cleared off smartly and was never seen again – we had the place to ourselves. So, we drank up and cleared off as well, and just as we reached the door, a young woman popped up as if through a trap-door, and asked if we wanted any more beer. Resisting the urge to barf on the carpet, we declined. It’s worth pointing out that, due to its location, on a hairpin bend on a steepish hill, parking sucks (we were the only customers, yet the tiny car-park was almost full), and it wasn’t helped by some wazzock taking up three bays with a 4×4, and another bay occupied by an A-board advertising the pub’s attractions. Presumably this was intensely ironic.

The Shippons, though, is a whole different ball game, but it’s a pub operating so far below its potential it’s unbelievable. The beer, Thwaites, is generally in very good condition, but the place is let down by abysmal management and by staff who, on the whole, couldn’t give a shit. On our last visit the staff were all clustered in a corner of the bar (the customers’ side, that is), talking, smoking, having lunch, or maybe breakfast, and generally pissing about. It has to be said that we were the only customers for the first hour (and this is often the case), so why do the management bring all the staff in so early? Bring in two, one to run the bar, and one to get the kitchen operating, and bring in all the others at, say, 12.30 (and if it gets unexpectedly busy, well, the manager and his wife can get stuck in – it won’t kill them). I see no point in paying staff to sit around idly; in fact, in a pub or restaurant, if you have the time to sit, or stand, around, there’s always something that needs cleaning – there’s no excuse for doing nothing. No excuse for bloody smoking, either. If there is just one customer in a pub, the place for the bar staff is behind the bar, not off skulking somewhere they have to be winkled out of to serve; you’re in a service industry, people, so let’s have some bloody service! The Shippons, by the way, never features in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, and it should, because the beer is almost always spot on and, if it’s not, there’s no hesitation in changing it, despite what you may read to the contrary at Beer in the Evening. I’ve never eaten there, the smells emanating from the kitchen being less than attractive (and why do the smells of food and burning pervade the bar – have they never heard of extractor fans?), and at Christmas the veg served with the Christmas lunches smelled more like a compost heap than food, yet people were shovelling it down as if they were starving!

The Irby Mill is about a mile from The Shippons. It does feature in the GBG – shame the entry is a couple of years out of date in the 2008 edition! This is a pub with a long-standing reputation for good beer, but I’m not convinced it’s still deserved, having changed hands several times in the last few years, to the overall detriment of the pub. On our last visit, a week ago, it had just been decorated and the whole place stank of paint. This did not improve the quality of the beer, which was so underwhelming I can’t even remember what we had. It’s changed hands yet again, and the new manager is intent on converting the back room (which represents at least 50% of the available space – it’s a small pub), into a restaurant. The excuse is that trade is slack. Trade everywhere is slack at this time of year, but at the Mill, in the summer, it is always full to overflowing with people mostly drinking, though, of course, the food trade also goes outdoors, during the day and through the long summer evenings. This summer, though, that’s not going to happen, as drinking capacity will be drastically reduced indoors, forcing everyone indoors into the tiny bar, so that anyone sitting outside and wanting a refill is going to be very hard pressed to even get to the bar. And as far as I can tell, based on what little information was available, no food will be available anywhere except the restaurant – very short-sighted. I have a horrible suspicion, given that there are already some excellent restaurants nearby, and they’ll lose the outdoor and bar food trade, that the Mill will be seeing yet another new manager fairly soon. I hope – this is a really crap plan. I’m also intrigued by the plans to rebuild and extend the pub to accommodate the grandiose plans – as far as I know, it’s a listed building. I’ve checked the council’s planning database, and no applications are shown from The Irby Mill – very odd.

And so we come to the Travellers’ Rest. This used to be a regular Saturday afternoon venue 7 or 8 years ago ( the constant hassle with taxis, and the smokiness of the place eventually proved too much), and we were very happy to see it hadn’t changed a great deal, except that it now focuses more on food than it did previously. The food looks pretty damn good, too, and it gets very busy (we left a virtually empty Shippons to come here – the trade is obviously there, the Shippons, through mismanagement, is missing out on it). We tried the Rhode Island Red bitter from the local Brimstage Brewery, and like other beers we’ve had from there, in other pubs, it was decidedly mediocre. The rest of the beers we tried were all in excellent condition, the only downside being that it’s now one of the most expensive pubs in the area, at £2.60 a pint for most of the range on offer. Oh yes, and they have absurdly high bar stools – we both have a touch of Duck’s Disease and we could have done with a box to stand on to get on the stools! Other than that minor hiccup, and a couple of twattish customers (there’s always at least one in any pub, it’s a universal law, like the one that says if there’s a drunken Scot on a train, he’ll sit next to you!), it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and, next time we go, we must try the food. The Traveller’s is covered in slightly more detail here.

Note for southerners and foreigners – especially Americans, who are easily confused ;-)  Here in the North of England, Duck’s Disease means one’s arse is too close to the ground.

IB50 update…

Well, I’ve finished my IB50 and bunged it back in the post. It is, without doubt, the most badly designed form I’ve ever seen, and almost none of it applied top me – Had I filled it in I would have certainly lost my benefit. I don’t think the design of the form is accidental, I think it’s deliberately designed to make it hard to claim.

Anyway, apart from some simple questions – name and address, DLA payments (which they should know anyway – DLA, that is), I typed eleven pages of information, every segment of which started with some variation on the theme of “None of these questions apply to me/intersect with the real world in any meaningful way.” the form was an attempt to prevent me providing in-depth information, and I wasn’t having any of it.

One thing concerns me, though. They ask for a list of meds, which is fair enough, then they ask for all the side-effects that you experience. So, hands up – how many of you suspect that this information will be used against you, when they tell you that the symptoms of your illness are nothing but side effects, and thus you don’t qualify for Incapacity Benefit? And this may very well be the case with illnesses like ME – I mean the allegation, not that the side-effects are to blame!

I’m lucky, despite the number of drugs I need (16), I experience very few side-effects (mind you, as I have never been drug-free since the age of 2, how would I know?), mainly nausea and constipation. Oh, and weight gain from steroids. None of those match any of the symptoms of what ails me but, if they did, I’d have damned well kept quiet about it. As I said in IB50 time…, these people (the DWP) are NOT on your side. Or mine.

You must always tell the truth, of course, when claiming benefits, but be selective. Tell the version of the truth that is most beneficial to you. You’re not in court, under oath, you do not have to tell the WHOLE truth! Unless, of course, you’d benefit from that.

I don’t doubt that, for criticising their stupid form, I’ll be summoned for a medical – though there is not the slightest justification for that. There is not the slightest chance I shall recover from my COPD, and every chance that it will kill me sooner rather than later.

However, unless they can come up with a doctor with in-depth experience of ME, COPD, osteo arthritis, depression and dementia (yep, I seem to be doing a Pratchett – ain’t life fuckin’ grand!), then they can shove it. I’ve fought this battle before, and won. I’ll fight it again if I have to.

Duffy – a triumph of hype over reality?

Am I the only person who thinks Duffy’s CD is, to a large extent, dull and uninteresting? Rarely has a singer been so massively hyped – for a while you couldn’t open a newspaper without finding an article about how wonderful she was, or about her Scouse/Wirral roots (Rock Ferry, babe, is two words), long before the reality of her CD hits the stores.

I haven’t bought a CD in years, as I download my music these days, yet when I saw the CD in Sainsbury’s I just tossed it in the trolley – I still don’t know why.

When I got it home it sat on the printer for a couple of weeks, as I had a horrible suspicion, which I didn’t want confirmed, that the few tracks played on the radio were the only good ones.

Finally, I shoved Duffy in the car’s CD player and went out for a drive. And I was transported straight back to the sixties! Not in a good way, either, but to the sixties when LPs had one or two decent tracks and loads of low-grade filler tracks.

OK – maybe I’m being unkind, but after all the hype I expected more. What I got was a couple of rather good tracks – Mercy and the title track – and a lot of uninspired and uninspiring music filling up the rest of the space (damn short CD too). It’s not actually, bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as it should have been, considering all the pre-release hype.

Duffy seems to have been lauded by the Northern Soul brigade (I was into proper Stax and Altantic- based soul, and a regular at Liverpool’s Mardi Gras club in the sixties), and I can’t for the life of me understand why. You can’t dance to this stuff – not unless it’s ballroom.

Basically, Duffy (the CD, not the person), is far too one-dimensional. It cried out for some variation in tempo that almost never arrived. There is clearly talent on show, but it’s not showcased. To me it says, yeah, I’m an OK singer (though she is a tad strident – tutoring would iron that out), and I can do better than this, but I can’t be bothered.

I think that there is some very good music lurking in Duffy (the person). I hope so anyway, otherwise, if this CD really is her at her best, her career is likely to be rather short. Mind you, the Streets have demonstrated that there’s a market for truly awful music, and Duffy’s way better than that, so maybe she’ll do well. Time will tell.

Her next CD, though, I’m downloading! It’s cheaper…

Update: Since writing this I’ve had a slight change of mind. Catching Duffy on the radio, one track at a time, I’m happy to listen – individually, the tracks are fine, if a little rough around the edges. I still think there’s not enough variation between tracks, when listening to the CD as a whole, to stave off ennui…

BT Sucks – Updated…

Having finally lost patience with the fuckwits at BT, who have owed me £36 since February (see BT Sucks – Big time) and flatly refused to pay up, while admitting that they owe it, I’ve sued the buggers.

This afternoon, online, I launched a County Court claim for its recovery so now, including costs, it’ll set them back £61. With any luck, it might cost someone their job, or at least a stain on their record that will blight their prospects – that’s a warming thought!

The next job is to type out a bulletin and email it to the newsdesks of as many papers as I can, for maximum embarrassment, ready to send out as soon as the papers are served on BT.

The bottom line is that they took money of mine to which they were not entitled, so I believe I have a right to have it refunded in a manner acceptable to me – cheque or credit transfer, I don’t care which. They want to reduce my next bill which, as I pay the same amount every month by Direct Debit, won’t benefit me. In real terms I’ll still be £36 short. Reducing the bill is just an accounting exercise, not real money in my hand (or bank), and that’s all I’ll accept.

For anyone owed money, by BT or anyone else, you can access the online process here and the minimum fee is £25, which you’ll get back when you’re successful (if you’re able to attend the court in person and do this – I’m not – you may qualify for waiving of the fees). Note I said “when successful” – if you’re not confident of success, it could cost you money. In my case BT have never denied owing me – they just refuse to pay up. I don’t think spending £25 has ever brought me more pleasure – someone at BT will be, at the very least, in deep shit tomorrow morning. Excellent!

The School Run…

The school run – three words certain to chill the heart of any sane motorist. Women – well, mostly women – driving with one hand while they do their make-up, and simultaneously talking without pause, either to their idle brat who’s quite capable of walking or getting the bus to school, or on their mobe (sometimes both!), and – this is the scary bit – NOT FACING THE WAY THEY’RE GOING!!! No, that’s not a exaggeration – I saw that and a lot more this morning.

As I say, it’s mostly women, but today I got caught behind a doting father doing exactly the same thing – apart from the make-up, and that may have been an oversight.

I go to Sainsbury’s about 7:45 0n a Thursday morning and, coming back, I’m spang in the middle of the bloody school run. OK, there are commuters on the way to work, but these are relatively few and most are heading for Liverpool and the Mersey tunnels and don’t get in my way (you only have to drive at this time of day during school holidays, to realise what a massive impact the school run has on traffic. And, of course, on pollutions levels.

My problem, whether these people drive massive 4x4s (that’s always baffled me – 4×4 what? – a 4-wheel drive car containing 4 fuckwits, usually!), or small hatchbacks, they all share a common failing – they leave their brains at home.

So, ladies – and the odd gent – a few tips:-

If the speed limit is 30mph, it might be nice to reach it occasionally – it’s the right-hand pedal you need.

If you drive a massive 4×4, with bull-bars and all the rest of the inadequate drivers’ psychological boosts, there’s not a fuckin’ chance in a million I’m going to let you barge in to the traffic flow – wait for a break like normal people. If you’re polite, drive a normal car, then there’s every chance I’ll slow down and let you in. Otherwise – fuck ya!

Signalling a right turn 5 yards before the junction is NOT adequate. OK – you turn there every day, but you’re the only one that knows this! Try communicating with your fellow drivers. Look, we’re communicating with you -see the finger!

Do not do your hair, your getting-fatter-every -day brat’s hair, your make-up or anything else. Face forward, stop pissing about and concentrate!

If the road past the school has a line of parked cars down either side do NOT stop in the middle and block the road – your pampered child won’t die if they have to walk a few yards extra from where you can park safely. You, on the other hand, are going to have to reverse all the way back to the main road because there’s a queue of cars coming the other way. Some are your friends from the school, and may well defer to you, but the guy in the lead car is already pissed off, having had a belly-full of brain-dead bimbos already, and he’s not having any of it. Tough. Back you go…

If you are leaving the Tesco car park, the fact that you have a brat in the back will not protect you from a well-deserved bollocking if you try to leave via the entrance! See those arrows on the road? They’re a clue.

To the woman in front of me this morning with a VIP on board sign in the back window – Very Idiotic Pillock? Please don’t put signs in the rear window, whoever you are, they obstruct your vision and make you look like a twat (but not as much as those guys with mini football strips hanging from their mirror – they’re in a whole universe of twatishness all of their own).

And for the woman I once saw drop off her kid at a nursery, then jump back into her vast people-carrier and drive all of 500 metres home, I have a question – WHAT THE FUCK?

Could I suggest – and I know that this might be a radical concept – allowing for the idea that most school runs are actually necessary, which I seriously doubt, can’t you all get together and arrange things so that you can all drive a car full of kids every day? And take it in turns? Everyone wins – two extra kids in the car (at least – bigger cars, more kids), means a lot of cars off the road, so there are savings on fuel and wear and tear and, most important of all, fewer of you dozy, selfish, incompetent buggers getting in my way!!!

And finally, for the people leaving Holy Name Church in Oxton, Wirral – Beresford Road is one way. Try going the right way, you witless, god-bothering tossers! And stop parking on both sides – a car can just about squeeze through – the emergency services haven’t a hope in hell. Jesus – no wonder you’re praying – your stupidity needs all the help in can get. Just a shame really that there’s no-one there at all…

Osteo arthritis and NICE

I see NICE is interfering, in its usual witless way, in the management of osteo-arthritis, something in which I have a vested interest.

They are emphasising Cox-2 inhibitors for OA They can keep them. The Cox-2 inhibitor track record of killing people is less than impressive, and a shadow still looms over the whole group of drugs. Plus, for me, they cause pain. My GP is still sulking becase I refuse to have anything to do with them, but why would I want a drug that causes more pain than I already have? Idiot!

There’s currently a big push towards exercise in OA – but they need to come up with better pain control first, as far as I’m concerned. And they also say they have to dispel the “myth” that pain equals damage – I can see that joining the long list of famous last words sooner or later; it’s bullshit. It’s all to easy to be fuckin’ glib when it’s someone else’s pain; perhaps, if there’s any justice in the universe, every member of NICE will die horribly. Happy thoughts are supposed to be good for pain – that’s one I’d be glad to dwell on! They’ll be telling us next that pain is good for us – is NICE a branch of the Catholic church, I wonder? My erstwhile, Catholic, mother-in-law (god grant she lie still!), was a great believer in redemptive suffering – the more so when it wasn’t her that was actually in pain. Stupid old bat!

That’s a LOT of elastic there – I’d have been hard-pressed to work that before OA, never mind now!!

As well as focusing on exercise and Cox-2 inhibitors, NICE are buggering about with NSAIDs, going for topical products (creams and gels), for knees and hands, rather than oral NSAIDs, which are hugely more effective than anything you rub on. No doubt they’ve negotiated a deal with a manufacturer to supply a cheap topical product, because NICE couldn’t give a shit about the patients, all the care about is the balance sheet. OK – I can accept that rubbing something on your hands might be effective – the joints are small and close to the surface. Knees are a whole different ball game, and as the second biggest joint in the body, I find it hard to accept that anything rubbed on the skin will reach into the depths of the knee. There’s also a pronounced downside – creams and gels smell. You can always tell the taxi driver with piles from the pong of Anusol – are OA sufferers also expected to announce themselves to the world in a similar way? I sure as hell won’t!

Nice have also discovered that large doses – 1,500mg of glucosamine sulphate does pretty much bugger all. I could have told them that years ago, and so could anyone but the most gullible – there’s a massive market for that, often combined with chondroitin, and a remarkable lack of research to support its claimed efficacy. Yet another quack nostrum in a market saturated with them.

I made a similar point the other day, and was sternly told that as long as some people thought they benefited, that was all that mattered. No it’s bloody not! There is absolutely no point someone believing that a product is beneficial (and the Placebo Effect is a powerful force), and that it eases their pain, but it won’t actually be doing them any good! They just think it is.

I am happy to accept that analgesia has no curative properties, but things like glucosamine are supposed to, but the evidence that it does is absent. Still, at least the troll at NICE have got this right.

So if like me, you regard NICE with the utmost cynicism – or even if you’re just curious, you can find their OA guidelines here.

4,000 years BC – but no Raquel Welch in sight…

Ken Ham, a loony-tunes creationist Aussie preacher, is used to the problems that arise from combining what he reads in the Old Testament and what scientists tell him. He has no difficulty squaring six days of creation and 6,000 years of Earth history with evidence from fossils and geological dating – for him, scientists who think the world is millions of years old are simply wrong. Terrific – one guy is right, the rest of the entire, world-wide scientific community is wrong. Dear – er – god! Send for the men with the butterfly nets…

This loser believes that the entire fossil record dates from Noah’s Flood, despite the fact that fossil ages are massively diverse – and there is no geological or any other kind of evidence that the world was ever covered in water – but if there had been a great flood, the fossil record would be in one very thick layer – because believing, as Ham does, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, precludes the possibility of tectonic activity that would have disrupted and spread the fossil layer. It’s quite obvious to any sane person that the world is vastly older than 6,000 years, and that tectonic activity is very real.

Ham says that Adam and Eve, and a whole shitload of monstrous and ravening dinosaurs, including T. Tex, were vegetarian pussy-cats and they all lived in harmony in the Garden of Ededn, despite conclusive proof that nothing remotely resembling a human being, or an Aussie evangelist, existed when the majority of dinosaur extinctions took place, 65 million years ago – conversely, there’s bugger-all evidence for dinos 6,000 years ago, either!

At a recent UK lecture, a woman who works with social services (let’s hope she’s not allowed anywhere near sane people), said “Why would God start the Bible with a lie?” Completely missing the point that god didn’t write the sodding bible – it was written and re-written, translated and re-translated over a long span of years, by mere men. Divinely inspired is what it’s supposed to be, not churned out on the word-processor of god! And divine inspiration, even were it true, means that men had ample time to fuck up what god meant, and put their own spin on it. But I guess a religion founded on the horniness of a travelling carpenter, and the subsequent cover-story, is capable of absorbing any amount of complete tosh.

The really scary thing about Ham, who’s based in the US, and whose organisation, Answers in Genesis are extremely influential, especially in the US, is that he’s perfectly serious and that a lot of people agree with him, and in May last year, the organisation built the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which has proven hugely popular. Now that just has to be good for an afternoon’s entertainment – if you can avoid laughing out loud. Just don’t piss off the local rednecks – they’ve only recently started to believe blacks (I don’t actually know what the current acceptable term is – they change it themselves so often!), are real people – so I wouldn’t give much for your chances if you made them think that the bible might just not be, ooh, entirely true. After all, look who they elected president. Twice! These people are capable of anything…

Afterword: To be fair to Kentucky, they embraced racial equality earlier and with far less bloodletting than, say, Missippi – like a certain Aussie, I bent the truth for my own convenience.

Harping on…

Today I went to a little pub on the Dee marshes, called The Harp. I mean little – it’s the sort of place where, if 12 people arrive at once, 6 have to wait outside. The reasons for the visit were two-fold. Firstly, birding, though the tide was wrong, and secondly, checking out the pub.

It’s a pub that the local CAMRA group is inordinately fond of, forever giving it pub of the month or year awards. Odd, really, because The Harp isn’t even in their area. Odd, also, because I have been calling in there at odd times for the last 30-some years, and I haven’t had a decent pint yet. Today was no exception – and the birding sucked too.

The place really is small. If it can hold 50 people, they’d need to be very good friends, yet the range of beers on offer would be better in a pub 5 times the size. The customers were exclusively, er, old. My friend and I are both over 60, yet we were the youngest people in the pub, except for the rather tasty, if elusive, barmaid, by a substantial margin. It was as if we’d bumped into the last shift from the local coalmine, having a swift pint or six on the way home, and they’d had a hundred-year lock-in.

Let’s go back a couple of summers, to the last time we went there. Fighting our way in through a fug of fag smoke, we bellied up to the bar and I asked the question I always asked when confronted with an array of beers in an unfamiliar pub – “What’s been selling?”, to which the gormless barmaid rejoined “What – you mean today?” “Yes!” – resisting the temptation to say No – last bloody Whit! “Dunno – only just come on,” was the unhelpful reply and, as it was well into the shift, I rather doubted that.

Looking around the pub, the only beer being drunk that didn’t look cloudy was the Guinness, and then only because you couldn’t actually see through it, so we opted for Tim Taylor’s Landlord, uninspiring but usually reliable and, yes indeedy, folks, that was cloudy too. Obviously they had no intention of breaking the pattern. Muttering typical pubby imprecations, mostly along the lines of Oh fuck me!, in tones of dismay, we found a corner, shovelled it down and buggered off back to civilisation sharpish.

Today, presented with an even more extensive array of beers, we opted for a Yorkshire brew called Copper Dragon (no, that’s nothing to do with a dragon made of copper – oh, you work it out, I’m busy typing), and took it outside to set up my scope and peer at the deserted marsh. Not a lot doing – a little egret, a few black headed gulls and a few crows/rooks. Not even the normally ubiquitous flocks of LBBs. So we mooched around, and froze, and drank our beer which, it has to be said, was less than wonderful though, admittedly, it was clear. What? LBBs? Little Brown Birds, of course, usually too far away to identify, OK?

So, turning a fetching shade of blue – it’s always about 5 degrees C colder there due to the mass of water in the marsh, and we always forget to dress for it – I tossed the scope and stuff back in the car and we went inside for a warm. There was a small, very old, dog in the bar, belonging to one of the customers. “She’s blind and deaf,” he said, when she sniffed around me but didn’t come near “Ah”, said I, quick as a flash, “I’ve known a few barmaids like that!” Just as the barmaid re-emerged from wherever it was she went to hide when people needed serving (I’m sure bar staff have access to an alternate dimension; I mean, where else could they bugger off to and not be found?), and we got another pint.

Now, I’d assumed, because a few more pints of the stuff had been served, and people were slurping it with every sign of enjoyment, that it had got a bit better. Er, no, not a bit of it. To say it was shitty would be offensive to shit – but it was clear!! Oh, OK, it wasn’t that bad – I’m just a fussy sod when it comes to beer – given the price of the bloody stuff, I expect perfection, and this was a long way from it.

We found a seat, were vaguely sniffed at by the dog, and joined in the slurping, interspersing it with uncharitable thoughts about vanishing barmaids and people who can’t keep their beer in good nick, when I suddenly realised that the glasses were quite astonishingly dirty, and a look round the bar showed that so were everybody else’s. In fact, compared to one guy who’d bought a soft drink – obviously he’d tried the beer in the past – our glasses sparkled. His looked as if it had been dipped in mud. And as people moved away from in front of the bar, we could see that the woodwork was liberally coated in a greenish film of mildew. Have these people never heard of cleaners, or glass-washing machines?

And this is the pub that CAMRA heaps awards on – it beats the hell out of me. Believe me, the granting of  a pub of the month or year award is no guarantee of good beer, not on the Wirral. The Harp, by the way, is in Cheshire, and shouldn’t be getting any awards from Wirral CAMRA at all, yet it has done for years, and for years I’ve been getting crap beer there.

So we cleared off, driving very carefully down the horrendously pot-holed track to the real world (the local council repair the track about every 10 years, and the next stormy high tide washes it all away again – very often this happens the same day). The Harp used to get cut off by spring tides, before the estuary went totally to hell in a handbasket, especially with an onshore wind – if it happened around closing time the customers would get a compulsory lock-in until the small hours – what a horrible fate to befall anyone…

We drove back towards home, detouring to Irby to visit The Shippons, a pub built on the site of old – yep, you’ve guessed – shippons (cow-barns, for the townies among you, not to be confused with byres, which are cow-sheds). They do have good beer, though, and today they had Melissa, who’s slim, blonde and gorgeous, and who stole my heart when I asked what had been selling, and she actually knew!! She even pulled a good pint – we’d found heaven, and there we stayed until it was time to go home.

And, not even in a spirit of enquiry, am I ever going to The Harp again – it’s irredeemably crap!

Grey’s Anatomy – WTF?

What on earth is going on with GA? Meredith Grey – scrawny, neurotic bimbo with bad skin and the morals of an alley-cat. It must be like taking a bicycle to bed, yet men are queuing up. Will someone please feed this woman? Still, she’d be easy to x-ray – just hold her up to the light!

Izzy – gorgeous as ever, and as wet as ever, too, but seriously unhinged (and who told Katherine Heigl she needed to lose weight???).

George – inadequate fruitcake but closet nice-guy. Tedious as buggery (er, that’s an English expression, nothing to do with gay sex – just thought I’d clear that up!). Terrible taste in women – he wanted to bonk Grey (that was a weird scene, Grey lay on her back – no creativity these Yanks – and you could clearly see her thyroid gland outlined under the skin of her throat; gruesome), and now he’s involved with a woman with serious anger problems.

Callie – George’s girl-friend, sort-of. Enough anger for an entire rugby team – way too touchy. Mind you – her and George, I’d pay money to see that…

Alex – still a cypher – will someone please write him something?

Preston Burke – another nutter. (Soon to leave the show – yay!)

Christina – possibly the only normal person there, apart from her association with Burke. Great body – yeah, I know that’s sexist – sue me!

And so it goes on. I missed series one, but two was great, apart from the absolutely insane ending! And these people are so wet you could grow cress on them! Series three, though, and I’m left with the distinct feeling that the US screenwriters rehearsed their strike on this series. It couldn’t be any worse if the cast improvised. I mean, did someone really get paid for having Izzy stand outside the hospital like a lemon for an entire day? And is such a witless loser really safe to be allowed near patients with sharp instruments. Stick to the muffins, babe; you can’t kill them.

So I’m left with one overwhelming question – why the fuck do I watch it? Unless it’s for the possibility, however remote, that somebody might force-feed Ellen Pompeo with pork pies! Trouble is, it’s horribly addictive, like rubber-necking at a ten-car pile-up. MInd you, it does have, (in the form of Addison Shepherd), one of the most beautiful women on television, Kate Walsh – soon to get her own GA spin-off series. Now that should be worth my time! Just so long as her gormless husband – Mc Dreamy (why do Americans think Mc is pronounced muck? It’s Mac, you losers!) – is left behind shtupping Grey; they deserve each other.