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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who calls me? Spam numbers


Beautiful Ballachulish
The village of Ballachulish in Lochaber, HighlandScotland, is centred on former slate quarries. 

It’s a beautiful part of the world. Apparently. I’ve never been. But Today I got called at 10:10 am by this number: 01855 605 303

This is evidently a spam number. I know nobody in Ballachulish. I don’t tend to give out my mobile number when I fill in forms, etc. If I do, I always tweak one of the numbers so it’s not accurate.

Yesterday, I got called at 11:43am by 01943 593491. This is from a place called Guisely, based in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is situated south of Otley and Menston, it is a suburb of north west Leeds.

Also, a very beautiful little town. From the pictures I’ve seen, it has quaint limestone walls and small grey-stone buildings.

But once again I know nobody who lives there. And nobody who would want to call me in the morning. The mystery deepens.

On Tuesday, I was phoned by 01792 828958. This is a proper firm called Opinion Research Services. At least, it has a web presence. Now, nobody can be 100% sure that any firm with a web presence is actually genuine but it looks genuine. It has even put a helpful notice on its website:

“Our telephone interviewing centre based in Swansea makes calls from 01792 828958, 01792 674980 or 01792 348614. We understand that many people are reluctant to answer calls from numbers that they don't recognise, so we have prepared this FAQ page for people who receive a call from us and then search for 01792 828958, 01792 674980 or 01792 348614. It explains who we are, why we are calling and will hopefully answer any other questions you may have.”

Well, not really. I want to know how it knows who I am and how it has my personal mobile number. Anyway. Of course I ignored it.

Monday was also fun. At 11:57 I was called from Bridgend on 01656 360199. Again although I know a few people there, nobody would call me. You see the pattern here? Random numbers from across the UK, all calling at roughly the same time. I actually answered this one as “Newsdesk”. When they realised they’d called the national newsdesk of a major newspaper, they quickly apologised, said they’d remove me from their database, and hung up.

I bet they didn’t. I bet they passed me to Guisely and Ballachulish.

I had quite a few unwanted calls on Monday. Spammers 0843 724 0610 called me – I get this one quite regularly. In fact, it has its own entry in my phone book as “Spam”.
That evening, Opinion Research Services called me again.

I got spammed by Spam on Sunday, by ORS again on Sunday, by Morons last week – Morons being 0117 301 7723. They also have a special entry in my phone book.

ORS called me twice more last Friday, last Thursday, and last Wednesday.
I got a fun call from 0800 056 2422 on the 19th, ORS on the 19th, again in the morning from 0800 056 2422. ORS is starting to be a PITA (pain in the xxxx)

On 18th I got called by 01530 382 170. This is from the place called Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Coalville. This is accordingly a very nice place to visit in Leicestershire. It boasts several centuries’ worth of historical activity, Norman Castles and quiet English Pubs.

Overall, the past couple of weeks I’ve been blessed by such a national variety of spammers trying to do whatever – sell me PPI or talk to me about my accident claim. In fact, it’s risen so much over the past couple of weeks that I have to suspect either that my details have been passed on by one of my providers – I recently signed up with Amex – or someone has a grudge against me (perfectly reasonable) and has put my number on every single spammer’s website to punish me.

I can only assume I am being punished. And I probably deserve it. But just in case you get met with one of these numbers, I am informing you now to be aware. The scammers are everywhere, even in the middle of absolutely frigging nowhere. 

Friday, February 20, 2015


I am not sure how I managed it. I'm not sure how I got here. But I am sure of one thing: it is National Cat Day and therefore I must post pictures of cats.

Not just any cats. No no. Surprised cats.

You're welcome.

1) Derp. Yep, there's one in every family.
Photobombing Kitty Style

2) Help! Ray's turned Feral!
The Zombie A-paw-calypse starts

3) You serious? That's your new boyfriend?
I can't believe the horror 

5) NO WAY!
well I never!
6) Get it away from me!  GETTITAWAYFROM ME!!!!!
So. Much. Terror.
Death come swiftly I beg thee
8) Caption says it all

               HAPPY CATURDAY FOLK!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Valentines-Day Wash Out

I am exhausted. Getting to the end of the week seems a chore, a nightmare scenario each week. Going out in the evenings fills me with dread. Sleep evades me.

This is probably why I thought for once, on Valentine's Day, I might be able to have a little bit of a lie-in, at least until 9am. A romantic lie-in, I suggested. This is basically exactly the same as a lie-in but I thought if I threw the word 'romantic' in front of it, it might actually sound special and therefore acceptable as a Valentine's Day activity.

Well that didn't quite happen, as mom popped round to give us a little present and to collect hers, but as she didn't stay for breakfast, I thought I could catch another hour's kip until about 9:30. The intention had been to get up at 9:30, 10am and make pancakes. Then Mr Mermaid and myself could decide where we would be going for a day out. A nice walk in the countryside, maybe to a country pub, then back home where Mr Mermaid would have to do some freelance work.

I slept until 11am, and just about shook myself out of my stupor to create the below - Canadian style blueberry pancakes with Maple Syrup - while Mr M popped out to the shops.

I had just about enough time to make the pancakes and put the finishing touches to his gifts from me - wrapping his Penhaligon's candle, icing the enormous heart-shaped choc chip cookie I'd baked on Thursday, and writing on his card, which was also hand-made - when Mr M came back.

The feast was all we'd hoped. In fact, it was so good that we felt a little sleepy. After some lovely gifts from the hubby - a rose, some choccies and some Clinique make-up, I headed for the sofa, and fell fast asleep. I didn't wake up again until 4pm.


I was SO knackered, you couldn't even imagine. What a Valentine's Day wash-out! We managed to get to Tooting, to Honest Burger, and have a nice short meal, then come home again. An hour out of the house. Immediately upon entering, I made myself a cup of tea, re-entered my onesie and thereafter I lazed (and grazed) on the sofa again for a few hours while Mr M worked.

We did have a friend to put up that evening, as she was stuck for somewhere to crash for the night, so I made her bed, got a hot chocolate ready - and that is all I remember of Saturday. Hearing everyone's tales of wintry walks, pub lunches, days out on the Thames, shows or evening date nights has made me concerned for my physical well-being. Mental, too. I took a test yesterday on Facebook, probably one of those awful BuzzFeed things, which says my mental age is 53.


Frankly I am unsurprised, though I am shocked. I am always tired, always working, never resting. I do not want to go out with friends or with work. I want to stay at home and sleep. This week I am out three nights in a row and dreading it. It is the worst possible thing that could happen to me. I say no to going out on Saturdays because I just can't face how tired I will be afterwards. I literally do not want to do anything. Every time I get invited to something I groan inwardly.

So much for Valentine's Day, birthdays, Easter, etc etc. Might as well buy me one of those fat lady scooters now so I can just hum along to the shops and collect my pension.

PS  I also made a stack of pancakes for the office this week, cinnamon and blueberry American style (with the ubiquitous maple syrup). I think they went down well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Santa is a Terrible, Wicked Man

Evil Santa?
Anti-Santaism isn't just believing there is no Santa, but the thought that if there is a Santa, he is a malicious, malevolent being and to be despised above all beings.

The idea that one man, one supernatural being can willy-nilly make or break a child's emotional, mental and spiritual state at Christmas is obscene. Santa is a megalomaniac, an absolute despot, passing judgement on children who because of circumstance or upbringing are breaking his so-called 'naughty laws'. Who made him a judge over children? It's evil. There are children begging for help in this world, who are suffering from terrible diseases, abuse, wars, famine.

Santa has the power to help them at Christmas. But he doesn't. He gives expensive gifts to children who do not need them, and does not answer the pleas of the desperate, the needy, those dying of
starvation or from a lack of clean water.

What kind of a being is that, who would leave children in such a world? What a wicked, nasty character people believe in. He does not use his supernatural powers for good, but makes demands on people to thank him, to be grateful, to present their grovelling petitions to him so he can make some arbitrary decision over their lives.

If I were to go to the North Pole - and I wouldn't want to, personally the Tooth Fairy is much more likeable, seeking to give back to children who have lost something - I would say to Santa: "How dare
you? How dare you create such misery for thousands, millions of children around the world? How dare you leave children to starve on the streets of Calcutta or Brazil, when you could easily give them
food and shelter. Who gave you the right to decide upon whom to bestow your so-called Christmas spirit?"

No, Santa is not good. He is wicked, evil, despotic and a megalomaniac. He is a madman and I hate him, I hate his nasty little lists (who gave him the right to say who is naughty and who is nice?). If I saw Rudolph I would punch him in his bright red nose.

But wait.. What is this you are saying? 'Why? Why rail against Santa? Why all this aggressive spewing of bile against someone who does not exist? He doesn't exist, so it is impossible that you can hate him. You cannot hate him for what he has never done, because he never existed.'

Ah. You see, to rage and rave against a non-entity, something that does not exist, well that does not make sense, does it? It like is a man shouting into the wind, telling it to stop but achieving nothing.
It is the ranting of a person so full of hate that it simply does not matter that the thing he hates does not exist. It is the ranting of a madman, fighting an unseen assailant, battling only with the image in
his mind.

I do not really hate Santa, because he does not exist. I have no feelings towards him either good or bad. Seeing his face on billboards does not choke me up with rage, nor do I blame him for the suffering of millions of children across the world at Christmastime. If you were to question things logically, you would see how futile it would be of me to expend so much hatred on a myth.

If Santa does not exist, it is illogical to hate him and what he has done, or to accuse him of not doing something that he should have. To hate, to question, to accuse in this way actually gives form to him,
gives him credibility, gives him an identity. The very thing you hate and claim does not exist, now exists in the form you have created, but - and here is the kicker - only in your mind. Well done you. You've officially lost the plot.

But what if? What if it was not just a myth! What if Santa does exist? Well it would still be in your right to hate him for all those reasons outlined above. That is fair enough. But then you would need to give Santa the right to respond. And perhaps you may have to admit that you might have been wrong about Santa, after all, you were wrong about him not existing at all. But you would hate that even more.

You see, you cannot make a stand on the grounds that Santa is a myth, and does not exist, if you are so concerned about all the things he has done wrong. He's a myth. He has therefore done nothing wrong.

But if you persist in accusations and hatred of his character, person and being, then you cannot say you do not believe in him, or that he is not real, rather that you simply choose to believe your version about him.

A-Santaism therefore as a concept eats itself. The thing that gives it validity is that there is no Santa to believe in. But to justify this disbelief, one must actively hate, one must discredit the person, being, actions and thoughts of Santa, thereby making him a real concept. You cannot hate what is not there; you cannot tear down that which has not been built up.

Don't get me started on the Easter Bunny.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The peculiar incident of the cat in the daytime

Monty Baggins the angelic (?) cat
It started off so well.

Actually, not so well. It started off with me cleaning the windowsill of a (then) empty study overlooking the back garden.

From there I could see our Rum-Tum-Tugger, aka Monty the Cat, perched insouciant on the border fence between our house and the neighbours' on the left.

He was making rude noises at something small and fluffy on their lawn.

It looked like a grey owl, but turned out to be a small kitten, all fur and eyes the colour of ripening pumpkins.

Before I could utter a warning, he had leaped into their garden and was saying very nasty things, dark things, irascible things for which there is thankfully no discernible human meaning. But not for long - as a sudden jet of water sprang out from a hosepipe and he bounded back into the sanctity of our home.

Of course, I laughed out loud, which prompted three ladies sitting in the garden to look up. These were our new neighbours. Correctly, we were their new neighbours, and Monty had just attempted to rough up their kitten. What a bully!

But this was nothing compared to what happened one terrible, sultry, summer afternoon, back in '14.

It happened thus. Monty and I were doing nuttin while sitting inside and saw Rowdy cat (the un-neutered black and white tomcat) prowl into a neighbour's garden and pick a fight with Flea (the fluffy black cat who lives up the way).

They were at it hammer and tongs, dancing the steps of death, hissing and spitting and kicking each other in the face. They leaped over the fence into our garden, then in a few bounds entered Left Hand Neighbours' garden.

There was their grey kitty, still too young to be speyed but old enough to be on heat, lying in the sunshine. Within a few seconds, the two randy males were chasing her round the garden, making those weird, angry sexual sounds that only cats can make.

The ladies next door managed to get their cat in, and the couple to the left had managed to spook the black cat with a gentle squirt to the behind, but Rowdy and the black cat were still circling each other - now in our yard. This catfight had been going on for hours. It was getting out of hand. I looked at Monty. He looked at me. This was now time for the professionals.

They were still spatting by our gazebo. Thinking the coast was clear, and with Monty definitely raring to go outside and show these rug muppets what a real bruising was (he grew up in Streatham), I decided it would be a reasonable, grown-up, adult thing to do to don a cape, put Monty on my shoulders, and gallop out of the back door towards the two spatting cats while singing the Feline version of Ride of the Valkyries.

I called it ..... Apocalypse Meow, and it goes like this.

"Meow Mi-mi MEOW Miaw, Mew mi-mi MEOW Miaw, Mew mi-mi MEOW Miaw, MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOOOOOWWW."

Just in case you were wondering.

Anyway the two caterwauling kitties froze mid-yawl and looked at us in horror: the caped pink, two-legged beast (me) and the Ginger cat sitting astride her shoulders like the Colossus of old. And then they scarpered.

"Yeah" I shouted at their retreating forms. "Monty brought a Human to a cat fight". I think I even did a gangland sign.

Just then, heard a male voice shout with laughter "Well done Mermaid" ... and looked round to see pretty much all neighbours, left and right, looking out of their windows at me.

I will never live this down.