"Create a super-pet by combining any three animals"

Plinky generally comes up with some interesting and thought-provoking subjects for subscribers to write about. This is not one of their best (by a country mile) but I've had a go FWIW. What do you think?

Rothschild’s giraffe

Confused. Well wouldn't you be if you were a third a Siamese cat, a third cocker spaniel and a third giraffe???

Imagine having the height of a typical giraffe, those long legs and a neck to die for. But the head and tail of a cocker spaniel, floppy ears and a merry, ever-wagging tail would look a little queer.

But can you imagine this animal always grooming itself, forever tying itself in knots as it tries to reach the parts that long necks will always have difficulty reaching, and incessantly 'talks' in an Oriental miaou noise.

And just think what peoples' reactions would be when they saw the Confused being taken for a walk (all cocker spaniels love to go for walks) and I imagine that a giraffe would find it hard to say no either. And Siamese cats like going for walks on leads if you train them young enough.

You throw a ball for your Confused and it gambols away across the park, scattering humans and their pets in all directions. I mean, I wouldn't want to get in the way of a beast that looks like a giraffe with a furiously wagging tail, let alone be its friend.

What would I call my pet Confused?

Mmm, 'Lonely' I think.

And that's probably why there is no such thing as a Confused.

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What's the funniest movie you've ever seen?

It was a movie of its day (early 1960s), but it looks very dated now. Nevertheless its still very funny and has a certain resonance even today.

Carry on Cabby, an early example ‘Carry On’ genre focused on the male dominated black cabs of a small English town. The black cab company is run by a workholic with no time for his long term fiance.

To cut a long story short she and a friend set up a glossy new taxi company to rival the black cab firm. Unsurprisingly all the drivers are female, the cabs brand spanking new, and they name the new firm Glamour Cabs which is certain to cause trouble …

Glamour Cabs launches and takes the town by storm. The two companies vie for the townsfolk’s business, and Glamour Cabs always seem to win the fares. Perhaps its something to do with the drivers flashing their stockinged legs at prospective customers, or their ‘modern’ cars, or maybe its the novelty of a new service?

The comedy comes shining through as the black cab drivers get thwarted at every turn as they try to outdo their rivals.

The film ends with a bank heist which ultimately leads to a Glamour Cab driver being taken hostage. The black cab company come to her rescue and the two owners decide to join forces, spelling the end – alas – of Glamour Cabs.

If you like Carry On films, I think you’ll laugh out loud at Carry On Cabby.

The film has an extra poignancy for me. It was filmed in and around the area where I grew up. Even though I was hardly more than a babe in arms when it was made, I recognise many of the streets that appear in the film.

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carry_On_Cabby

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Name a book with a strong setting

During World War II, the “Shetland Bus” would go across the North Sea to occupied Norway, to take supplies and saboteurs into the fjords under the noses of the Germans, and to take refugees to safety on the return journey. This is the story of those secret wartime missions.

Buses can’t ride on water. But the Shetland Bus did. David Howarth paints a vivid picture of the heroism and bravery of Norwegian folk during the Second World War.

The Shetland Bus fishing boats ran the gauntlet of German occupying forces in Norway to keep the resistance supplied with arms, equipment and the all-important communications radios that kept the Germans on their toes throughout the occupation, forever wondering where the resistance were getting their supplies from!

We may not have been on those little fishing boats crossing the violent North Sea between Norway and Shetland in midwinter storms, but the author paints a dramatic picture of the bravery of those souls that wanted to keep hopes of freedom alive for ordinary Norwegians.

Through fantastic tale-telling we can build an image in our minds of the Norwegian fjords surrounded by majestic deep-frozen mountains, little villages clinging to the fjord edge, and the amazed faces of village folk when they realise that the famous Shetland Bus has been near where they live.

You may not be into wartime tales (I’m certainly not), but this is one I think most people would find both moving and inspirational – and if that inspiration took you to visit Shetland or Norway, then what’s the harm in that? We can celebrate the liberty that the Shetland Bus eventually brought to Norway!

And if you do visit Shetland, look out for the Shetland Bus memorial in Scalloway town centre.

US readers: http://www.amazon.com/Shetland-Bus-Escape-Survival-Adventure/dp/1599213214/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

UK readers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shetland-Bus-Kjell-Colding/dp/1898852421

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See also: The Shetland Bus: on my soapbox

Setting the Scene: Where I Live

Sunrise in New Forest

The rooks took off from their rookery in the oak trees, cawing and calling to their mates as they wheeled to and fro across the eastern sky.

They had the whole of the New Forest to fly across, but instead they were headed east to the Esso refinery at Fawley on Southampton Water. Legend says that crows love the industrial complex there since it offers so many different vantage points to roost in.

The air grew silent as the last crows left and all that remained was the ancient oak trees standing guard over Mopley and the inhabitants of nearby houses on the very periphery of the national park.

Life had return to normal in the New Forest. Until next time the crows came to roost in the trees.

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My favorite place to hear music: The O2

I like the fact that it started out as the UK’s millennium festival exhibition centre (and a bit of a white elephant at that!) yet it has been (very) successfully converted into a massive entertainment venue.

Ten years on from its opening it is now considered cool to go there, shame it wasn’t so cool in 2000!

I was there for the first time in 2000 for the Millennium Exhibition, and my last visit there was a year ago this weekend when I went to see Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Tour.

  1. The O2 has an overall diameter of 365 metres, an internal diameter of 320 metres, a circumference of a kilometre and is 50 metres high at its central point.
  2. The twelve steel masts are 100 metres high.
  3. If you turned The O2 upside down, it would take Niagara Falls 15 minutes to fill it.
  4. Alternatively, you could fill it with 3.8 billion pints of beer or the contents of 1100 olympic-sized swimming pools.
  5. The volume of The O2 is equal to thirteen Albert Halls, ten St Paul’s Cathedrals or two old Wembley Stadiums.
  6. 18,000 London buses could fit into The O2.
  7. The O2 is as high as Nelson’s Column.
  8. The Eiffel Tower could fit inside The O2 lying on its side.
  9. 12 football pitches or 72 tennis courts could fit in The O2.
  10. Entertainment Avenue is the same length & breadth as London’s New Bond Street.


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Recruitment agencies: why I hate them

What is the purpose of a recruitment agency? Is it to bombard a prospective employer that happens to be advertising a role under their own steam in the news media? Or are they commissioned by an employer to find a great candidate to fill a specific role?

Or is it their overall mission to make the candidates who are mug enough to respond to an advert feel as little and insignificant as possible? To fail to recognise that those who are applying for a job quite possibly don’t have one at the moment, and might need a little help hand if not moral support?

I find dealing with recruitment agencies really quite soul destroying. They want my CV this way, or that. One wants it one way, another wants it completely different “because that’s what our clients tell us they want”. So I jump through hoops to give them what they say they need.

Then they challenge me on my skills and experience. I tell them that I only apply for jobs that I know that I’m a good match for. “What’s the point of wasting your time, and mine, in applying for something completely inappropriate?”. But they still don’t get it.

It’s impossible for a recruitment agency to know every nuance of a particular industry or niche professional role, especially website management in the public sector. They use sweeping generalisations far too often, and fail to see the value that a candidate with a broad range of relevant skills and experience can offer.

But the biggest problem I have with recruitment agencies is that you have no choice – very often – than to deal with them.  I would far rather apply direct to an employer than have to deal with an agency. If there’s a particular vacancy that you know you’re a great match for, but the agency rep doesn’t see it, you’re absolutely stuffed unless you can persuade said rep to submit your details to their client.

Not so very long ago I responded to an advert in The Guardian for a great social media job. I was referred to Execucare’s website which stated that if I wanted to find out more about the job I would need to register online. I started that process, but one field (mandatory) asked which company I was representing.  Well I wasn’t, I was applying for a job.  So I was unable to complete the form. I zipped off an email to said agency explaining that I was having difficulty registering on their website, highlighting what had happened and the irrelevance of the question to someone in my position.

Oh no they don't!

You would not believe the torrent of abuse I received back! Not just once, but three times. I simply couldn’t believe that they’d react like that to anyone, let alone someone experiencing a wee problem with their online registration form.

Moving on, so I’ve submitted my CV to an agency for a job I’m interested in.  The next thing that happens is an email to say that they’d like to talk some more, can I go and see them.  Er, I’m in Southampton, and you’re in London? So? Perhaps they’re just plain ignorant on how much train fares are these days (£71 day return from Southampton to Waterloo), and that’s a lot of money if you’re out of work, if not downright impossible to fund.

And when you do manage to get in to see them, you get five minutes (ten if you’re lucky) with the ‘consultant’, who asks you things off your CV that could have been posed by email or telephone. I guess they just want to see what the prospect looks like, but what purpose does it really serve, except to make the ‘consultant’ feel good? It certainly doesn’t do anything for my ego (or bank balance).

And there’s still no guarantee that your CV will be put in front of a prospective employer.

I could go on, there’s so much to get off my chest.  But you’ve probably picked up the general angst by now.

So, in conclusion, a big plea from me to all the lovely employers out there that need a web/digital/social media champion, please advertise and recruit yourselves rather than going through an agency, or better still just contact me direct and let’s talk!

The One Who Got Away

Sometimes they get away, but just once in a lifetime you get something back. I did.

It was after a not very accidental meeting at a coffee machine, way back in the autumn of 1987, that he got away.

I told him I loved him, and he told me he was very married and that there wasn’t room for me in his life. I suspect I would have run a mile if he’d said anything different!

We were but passing acquaintances, me admiring him from afar and him probably hardly aware of my existence, let alone feelings for him. But it wasn’t just a crush on my part, I really did love him, or at least thought I did.

Twelve months later we started getting a bit closer when we found ourselves commuting to London on the same train each morning. OK, it was rather more by design on my part than pure coincidence, but over time we became travelling companions. It always caused me a frisson of excitement to be near him, to be in his presence. But to him I was just a travelling companion.

Twenty odd years have passed now and we’re firm friends. His wife has accepted me as a somewhat unusual friend, obviously fully aware of my original interest. You could say we have a common interest: him. I think she rather likes having a special friend who she can gently tease for loving her husband. And I love every minute, I really do.

And then, six weeks ago, on a landmark birthday for me he said a couple of innocent words to me that meant so much, he acknowledged in a subtle way (directness is not his style) that he understands how much he means to me, that he was happy that I was happy that day.

I nearly kissed him. But that wouldn’t do at all … unfortunately.

PS: He took the picture, that’s his finger over my camera lens!

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