Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas - And May You Shop Til You Drop!

Despite the weather, I trust everyone has been doing their patriotic duty by spending, spending and spending, to help the country out of the hell-hole it has found itself in since the election of Messrs Cameron and Clegg, Undertakers to the Nation.

As I am sure you will have recognised, supermarket shopping at this time of the year involves driving round and round a car park for 10 minutes looking for a parking space before squeezing into one that's far too small because some selfish bastard with a Y reg Vauxhall Vectra with rusty wings and a hole in the door has parked across two spaces because he doesn't want anyone to scratch his car. And you can't find a shopping trolley, apart from the one offered to you by someone with a weeping skin infection on their hands. And the store is full of miserable people buying mountains of food because fat Uncle Fred is coming with his retarded brood of mouth-breathers. And everyone is part of some infernal conspiracy to go in the opposite direction to you or stand in large groups blocking the aisle, engaged in inane monosyllabic conversation about Auntie Enid's prolapsed uterus or Kevin's piles. And everything on your list is sold out, but that doesn't matter because the queues are so long that several people have given up the will to live and committed ritual hara-kiri with a French stick. And when you do finally get to the till, it's is operated by an adenoidal teenager with the world's biggest overbite who is passing items through the scanner at the rate of one every total eclipse, and calling on the manager every 30 seconds because every item in your basket has a faulty bar code, but the manager can't help because he's cleaning up in aisle 3 because someone from the shallow end of the gene pool has had one of the supermarket's turkey dinners in the sadly misnamed restaurant and has contracted amoebic dysentry and didn't quite make it to the toilets...*

May you enjoy Christmas, and may 2011 be kind to you!

Best Wishes

Bill Blunt

* I am indebted to Mr Colin Blunt for his description of supermarket shopping.

Friday, 12 November 2010

One Track Mind

As I enter my dotage, I can only say a huge 'Thank You' to those good people at Sony for finally acknowledging that the listening public have been outrageously conned into buying into something your grandad knew (all along) was a myth.

I'm talking, of course, about 'stereo'...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Never Mind 'I' - What About Me?

I can't pretend I wasn't excited when I learned that the people behind The Independent were about to launch a new, national, daily paper. Whenever I'd been able to pick a copy up, I'd always rather enjoyed The Indie's take on the world, and always thought it rather a shame that its circulation never really reached much beyond Muswell Hill.

Even the news that, like some Premier League football club, it had been purchased by a Russian oligarch didn't put me off. As a (semi) retired journalist, I must admit I might have harboured a slim hope that my phone would ring, and I'd be offered a regular column in this new addition to the media stables - The i. Alas, it was not to be. I can only surmise that my reputation has preceded me, and that my barbed quill was thought to have no place in the anodyne world of 21st century journalism.

In my defence, I can only parade my CV - The Stockport Messenger, The Letchworth Chronicle, The Harpenden Times and Argus, The Birkenhead Beagle, The Stockport Courier, Beyond the Boundary, The Cirencester Journal, The Stockport Echo ... I could go on ... have all, at some point, carried my byline.

Quite why the people at The i have seen fit to spurn Bill Blunt is beyond me. As I am now drawing my pension, I am quite prepared to offer my services at an appropriate rate.

My son Jasper had an interesting take on the matter. 'Pa,' he said 'This new kid on the block is clearly aimed at the Twitter generation. They're not after cutting analysis and commentary.' Alas, I think he may be right.

However, I do applaud the tactical manoeuvring of the folk behind the new project. The Independent, with its circulation in free fall, is clearly destined for the knackers yard. The new i might just capture the zeitgeist. And at 20p, even an OAP like me can afford it.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

We're All In This Together...

After much trailing, Chancellor Osborne revealed the extent of the ConLib cuts yesterday.

We won't know the full impact of the cuts for a year or two, but all signs point to an increase in unemployment of around a million, destabilisation in the housing market as changes to Housing benefit kick in, and a cull of public services across the board.

Although we're told that 'We're all in this together', it seems as though some are going to be in 'it' rather more deeply than others. As the BBC noted yesterday:

I know where I'll be investing my dwindling pile of cash over the next few months, anyway.

Take a tip, and buy yourself a paddle, while you still can.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Family Loyalty

It's been a long (and not exactly hot) summer, and I've been diverted from blogging by one or two minor things that have kept me away from my keyboard.

The first was a move of house. That's right - Blunt Mansions is no more. In an economy drive brought on by the combination of hitting pension age at the same time as savings rates have plummeted to paltry levels, I've relocated the Blunt archives to a new home.

On its own, that wouldn't be enough to silence my pen. But sometime in July, I also got the call from young Ed Miliband, asking if I'd bolster up his campaign for Labour leader by writing a few articles in support. Apparently, his young staffers had identified that I was still a powerful opinion former amongst the crucial union electorate.

I must confess I've followed the Miliband family for a number of years. Their father Ralph wrote key textbooks on Marxist sociology, David and Ed entered Labour politics, and their more obscure uncles Steve and Glenn pursued reasonably successful careers in music.

I'm pleased to say that my tireless work writing articles for the member journals of The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, The Community and District Nurses Association and The Association of Flight Attendants may have been just enough to swing the vote for Ed.

He's still a mere youngster, who looks like he's got to grow into his suit, but when he does I've no doubt he'll be a powerful adversary for Cameron and Clegg.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Setting the Record Straight

England's humiliating ejection from the World Cup at the hands of our old adversaries means I am at last released (if prematurely) from my temporary contract as World Cup Correspondent with the Andover Gazette.

I've had to bite my blog-lip during this time, but our 4-1 defeat by Germany now offers me the chance to set the record straight about my thoughts on England's chances - before the history books are written and I am misquoted. I for one have always had my doubts about the capabilities of the current England players, their manager and his somewhat perverse team selection. These doubts were underlined by the predictably dire performances against the USA and the mighty Algerians, and a lacklustre 'victory' against the Slovenes.

I've never usually had much of a problem with sub-editors in my many years working in the local, regional and national press. But my experience in Andover has made me wonder whether it's perhaps time to hang up my quill.

My well-balanced and measured observations on England's chances in their campaign were regularly shredded by over-optimitic subbies who managed to twist my words to come up with a headline designed to keep the people of their fair town sweet. It wouldn't have happened at the Stockport Chronicle, I can tell you.

I hold no malice against the England players. I wish them luck as they come back to Blighty, their heads bowed in shame and embarassment. Chin up, boys! You've no real need to fear the future. There'll be an ironic (and lucrative) crisp commercial for one or two of you down the line - and that's worth more than a World Cup Winner's medal, I am sure.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Scrabbling for Victory

Regular readers of my blog may be surprised to learn that I am an afficionado of online Scrabble, courtesy of an obscure social networking site called Facebook.

On the whole, I put up a good fist of it and, over the last year, have won my fair share of games. But anyone who knows Bill Blunt will tell you it's not enough to win 75% of my games. I'm nothing if not a perfectionist, and I'll not be happy until my every opponent is vanquished.

That's why I've decided - unilaterally, of course - that anyone who plays me must agree that they can only win the game if they win by a clear 55 point margin. Should there be complaints, I'll point them firmly in the direction of Her Majesty's Government. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

As one of the foremost political commentators of my generation, I like to think nothing much has got past me over my forty years plus in the business.

But I must admit to being more than a little shocked to discover that election Returning Officers are paid handsomely for their troubles.

I suppose I imagined it was an honourary position - something done by a local authority official as an adjunct to their day job. As such, (to the extent I even gave it a thought) I might have expected they'd get a bit of overtime for having to endure the boredom of an election count. Perhaps, if they had the misfortune to be announcing the reults of a by-election where the TV cameras were in evidence, even an allowance for a new suit and a haircut, so they could look their best.

According to Wikipedia, the task of running the election often falls on the shoulders of a council Chief Executive or Mayor.

And, apparently, it's quite a lucrative affair. After the debacle of voters queuing outside polling booths in Sheffield, the council Chief Executive has decided to forgo the £20,000 he was due to.

A little rooting around on Google unearthed this little discussion, from Thurrock Council, too. Not a bad little earner, for a week or two's work - and they kept it pretty quiet, until now.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

It Is Now

The waiting's over. Our collective breath is unbaited. My colleagues in the printed media and satellite news can muzzles the hounds they let loose to savage Gordon Brown.

For all their efforts, they left him bloodied, but unbowed. I doubt Labour ever really contemplated an alliance with the Liberal Democrats. The very prospect was a car crash waiting to happen.

As it is, Labour are now well-placed as spectators of the crash, rather than passengers. On Europe, expect divisons. All the Liberals in all the phone boxes in the world won't be able to protect public services. Inflation and interest rates are almost certainly set to rise. George Osborne, as Chancellor, will be in the driving seat. Heaven help us.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

They Think It's All Over...

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the General Election result, the great British public are waking up to the fact that our next Prime Minister might be either David Camelegg or Nick Clameron.

My only observation is that we seem to have managed quite reasonably over the last three days without any conclusive government, and I wonder whether we couldn't just soldier on with the status quo for a few more years. Without anyone really in control, taxes can't be altered, services can't be cut and life seems to go on quite sweetly.

I'm sure that, in the fulness of time, the lust for power will overtake one or other of the party leaders, and they'll want to interfere with this curious calm we now find ourselves in. That will be a shame.

Still, whoever finds themselves in control will be in the invidious position of having to pacify the money markets. I, for one, hope it isn't Gordon Brown. Life under ConLib is going to be pretty awful... but I don't think we'll put up with it for long.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

With God On Our Side

As the ash settles from the volcanic eruption in Iceland, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been scrutinising the small-print of their travel insurance policies, to see whether the eventuality of a volcanic eruption has somehow been 'excluded'.

As I am about to take a brief holiday in France, I needed reassuring that, should that strange-sounding geological feature to the north of us decide to explode again, I'd have suitable coverage. Particularly since I'm not sure that my own interpretation of 'reasonable costs' would necessarily marry up with the one Ryanair are likely to use. Although I imagine I'll find it pretty easy to buy a three course meal in a decent bistro for the same cost as a sandwich and a bottle of water purchased in-flight on one of their trips.

The good news is that, as a confirmed atheist, I had the foresight to take out my cover with Direct Travel Insurance. From what I can gather, they've decided to classify the eruption as a feature of the weather, rather than as some weasel-worded 'Act of God'.

It's a bizarre world indeed when major insurance companies (and I believe AXA are among them) can determine that because (in their view) some universal deity has brought about a catastrophe they can get out of paying out their customers.

I'm sure there'll be devout Christians in the USA and elsewhere who'll be advocating a boycott of the satanic Direct Travel Insurances of this world, who obviously have a different fix on things.

As for me, I'll be saying a silent prayer of thanks to Direct Travel when I go to sleep tonight.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Coming Off The Fence

It's a brave man who accuses Bill Blunt of hiding his political colours. When the chips are down, a man has to nail them to the mast, for all to see.

That's why, after half a year of demi-retirement, I've decided to pick up my quill and dip it into the scarlet ink that courses through my veins. I'm throwing my not insubstantial weight squarely behind Labour.

Elections are not a time to wander down the middle of the road - that's an invitation to get run over. As we approach 6 May, I'll be Keeping Left.