This posting is brought to you by Beishon Magic Lanterns of Villeneuve-sur-Lot

There are two things paramount (among the many hundreds of things that concern me about software giants and ISPs) that I find creepily irksome. One is the tendency to do things without asking the customer; the other is remorseless selling – but without providing any ability to answer their brainless suggestions.

To explain simply by analogy, how would it be if you went down to your local supermarket, and as you walked in a sales assistant collared you to announce, “Hi! I just dropped some duck eggs down your chimney, because every day is Christmas at Tesbury!” You would recoil, I’d imagine. You’d probably think this sad person had suffered some form of brain trauma involving a leakage of intelligence via the ears.

But supposing that person then went on to say – wrestling you to the ground with a smile as he did so – “Don’t forget to stock up on steak, which is on offer this week at a staggering £3.50 per lb if you buy a whole cow!” and you then replied “But my freezer is tiny and I’m a vegetarian”, only to see  the mad person walk away muttering “No reply no reply no reply no reply”.

And suppose further still that you went to the service desk and explained what had happened, and the woman behind it said, “Sorry, that doesn’t match any of our standard questions, would you like to sit in one of our chat rooms here and ask other customers that question?”

I very much doubt you’d ever go to that store again. Indeed, I think it highly possibly that you’d ring the NHS mental helpline to report an outbreak of acute craziness likely to result in mass suicide once the cult was surrounded by the SAS or State Troopers, depending on your location either side of the Pond.

And yet nobody seems to apply these normal, everyday standards of discernment to the execrable behaviour of online suppliers.

Yesterday – after a particularly stressful twelve days of moving from an old life to a new – Microsoft downloaded a completely unwanted update I hadn’t asked for, and which they had no right to foist on me. After doing so, they insisted I restart the pc. After complying grudgingly, I found none of my programs would open.

This has happened so many times now, I know the procedure required to get things back to normal by heart. But the madness of it all is that I used a Microsoft-derived procedure to get rid of something Microsoft had supplied.

The bottom line of all this is there for any five-year-old of average intelligence to see: we order you about and then ignore what you say in return. This is not a supplier/customer relationship, it’s the forerunner of a master/slave relationship.

Later that same afternoon, O2 pinged my mobile phone (already dangerously low on PAYG funds) to remind me that I would lose out on some other daft offer or other if I didn’t top up before midnight. When I tried to do so by going to the O2 space, it said, “There is a problem, check your internet settings”. I checked them. I even re-entered them. I went back to the O2 space, and it said, “There is a problem, check your internet settings”. I can’t go on the Net to see how to do it online because (see earlier) and you can’t reply to any of their happy-snappy messages. This is because these clowns are like sharks: they have to eat, f**k and keep moving, or they die: any message suggesting the rest of us have a problem with that goes miles above what passes for the contents of their wooden heads.


Talking of wooden heads, as my only source of news at the moment is the television, I am finally beginning to grasp fully why the MSM plonkers are so keen to get the internet under some form of ‘control’. Mainstream news ‘coverage’ is exactly that: the covering of an event in multiple layers of banality. So for instance this morning, I watch as a white South African is charged with premeditated murder, and for some reason the BBC needs to have a bloke outside the courtroom coming to us live, and reporting that he doesn’t actually know anything more than we’ve already been told. What on earth is the point of that, beyond being yet another way to waste money…and make the BBC an even bigger target for the barbarians to bash?

At times however, the coverage goes from superficial to silly, and this is what still makes most news channels richly entertaining. Today’s example involved the shower of meteorite debris that fell on Russia. From the outset of BBCNews coverage, it was clear that neither the studio anchors nor the on-the-spotters in the field had the remotest clue about any detail at all. It felt like the producers were going out of their way to make this is as obvious as possible, as if that might somehow add to the tension. My tensions in other areas of life were in fact greatly relieved, because I laughed out loud at the exchanges between anchors and fielders.

“Can you tell us,” the first anchor asked, “what size and speed are involved here?”

“No” said the reporter, who looked she might be on a work placement scheme.

“I see,” he continued gamely, ” and do you know how much debris is involved?”

“No,” she responded, “but we know there was a blinding flash and a loud bang and then lots of things falling from the sky”.

“Ah,” said anchorman, “what was the loud bang caused by?”

“It’s not clear,” she answered, adding, “Could be when it hit the ground or maybe it broke the sound barrier or something”. She was trying to flesh out what she didn’t know. This was admirable, and encouraged studio robot to keep going.

“And the blinding flash?”

“That’s what we’d expect with a meteorite,” she offered.

How far could deskjob take this? What colour was it? What shape? Was it married? Did she know the security digits on its credit card?

But by now we had moved on to look at lots of black people standing outside a courtroom in Pretoria. The sum total of knowledge we gained from this bit was that the defendant was white and had wept. The people we could see were described as “milling about”. The court building we could see was described as “a court building”. It was like watching television that thought it was radio.

Back at the meteor shower, there was more: a lot of people had been frightened and some had been injured, but not badly.

France Telecom’s failure to fix my phone line after six days is far more interesting, but it has yet to feature on BBCNews. I was listening to a programme about Scott the other day…..he of the Antarctic. His wife apparently believed for years after he’d frozen to death that the explorer was just fine, and would turn up before too long. I have a degree of similar expectation as regards France Telecom, but I lack Mrs Scott’s unshakeable faith. My line was supposed to be fixed this morning, but it’s now 7 pm French time and there is nothing but the chilling silence of ether in my ear’ole.

So I am bored. I am more bored than a Texas oil well with a penchant for being infinitely bored. I have to be incredibly bored before I’ll turn to DIY, but it has happened at last. The thought tends to run, ‘While I’m here shovelling mouseshit, I might as well make this area better than it was’. So the kitchen has been re-art directed, the understairs tool cupboard now looks like a tool cupboard as opposed to a game of boot-sale rugby, and tomorrow I will start on mending the downstairs loo plus the salle sejour’s big occasional table. The main room’s occasional table is the Titanic of occasional tables, in that it is unfeasibly huge and listing very badly. It is a challenge.

The understairs thunderbox is also a challenge, but I flatly refuse to buy yet another (it would be the third) flushing mechanism: I am no longer in the business of spending vast sums to support Villeroy & Boch’s spare parts model. The first rule of DIY here is that, if at all possible, unnecessary monies will not be spent. The plunger design is absolutely daft, and so WonderSlog will design something better….less pretty perhaps; but far less likely to break. I’m not that keen  a survivalist, but a Northern postwar babyboomer is always going to hate waste.

More episodes will appear as and when France Telecom takes the problem seriously. Stay tuned. Do not hold breath. Do not get hopes up. Close the lid after use. Wash your hands. Keep Right. Drinkapintamilkaday.