Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Shopping Trip

This morning I went to Tescos for the regular commute around the store with my trusty trolley.

As with any journey, preparation is important – Do the trolley wheels all go in the same direction? Do they have an annoying squeak? Is the route sorted out? My trolley didn’t have sat-nav but even if it did, it wouldn’t be much use typing in yoghurt, then Spam, then cheese, then corned beef because I would be going backwards and forwards through the store all morning wasting petrol energy. No. My preparation is a lot sadder but very efficient:

In the olden days, when Mrs.Metro wrote out the shopping list, I would re-write the list in an approximate order of where the things were in the store. Then, being a technophile, I decided to give each item on the list a number depending on whereabouts in the shopping journey it appeared – low numbers for shampoo near the entrance, middling numbers for Dolmio Sauce in the middle of the store and the highest number for the Bag For Life which is at the checkout. Using these numbers, I started an Excel sheet with columns for quantity, items and codes. Taking Mrs.Metro’s list, I put in the quantities and add in anything that we haven’t bought from there before. Then a simple sort puts everything with a quantity > zero at the top, then it’s sorted again by code. This gives me a shopping list printout which guides me through the store in the quickest possible time.

Armed with my list, I can then set off – straight towards the first item on the list, mouthwash – at a respectable pace passing the slower moving shoppers along the ends of the aisles, then a sharp left at toothpaste and a sudden halt at the mouthwash while making sure no-one was directly behind me.

Once you’re in the narrower aisles, you obviously have to be more careful with your speed, especially as lane discipline seems to go to pot with people driving down both sides, overtaking and undertaking, stopping without warning and parking in the middle of the road aisle. Some inconsiderate shoppers will park their trolleys sideways, blocking the width of the aisle, while hanging on to the trolley with one hand and closely peering at some small-print instructions on a box of non-bio washing powder they are holding with their other.

When checking ingredients myself, or sorting through the Granny Smiths to find some without marks on, I always ensure that my trolley is parked tight in to the kerb shelving, preferably next to something that nobody ever wants to buy – like tofu.

Another thing to watch out for is emerging from junctions. The view is often obstructed by cages full of cardboard, that I hope is going to be recycled, or by the sad woman proffering free samples of curry paste. You always have to emerge slowly in case someone like me is speeding along the wide aisle down the middle of the shop – carnage can ensue from a high-speed collision between two heavily-laden shopping trolleys.

Which brings me, rather neatly I thought, onto the subject of weight distribution within the trolley. Experience of getting children, related paraphernalia, suitcases and travel fridges into car boots has served me well. I tend to pack my trolley with heavy goods together, delicate goods together and cold stuff together and I can get a great deal in there. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I tend to put the heavy stuff, like beer and large coke bottles in the small compartment at the front of the trolley – this does have a very adverse effect on handling so I have to be extra careful after I’ve visited that particular corner of the store – cornering can be very tricky – even on the modern trolleys which will usually turn on a sixpence.

The final stage of the journey, is to the checkout. As you approach from the distance, you need to decide which lane you are going for – some will be clearly marked as “Card Only”, “Ten Items or Less” or ”Manned Booth”. Take a quick check to see if there are any problems in the lane ahead such as a particularly large load or a particularly doddery pensioner, check left and right on case somebody else is heading for the same till then approach at a safe speed. You may want to earn some feel-good points and a nice smile by allowing the pretty girl carrying just one loaf of bread to go in front of you – or you may not – after all, she can use the 10 Items line.

When you get to the toll booth till, if you are in Sainsburys, they will say, “Would you like some help with your packing?” or, if you are in Tescos, they will say, “Are you all right with your packing?” Notice the difference? If you are packing for yourself, put the fruit and veg in the middle of the conveyor because they have to slow down to do that to get it weighed. This gives you more time to deal with the stuff flying down towards you as you try to get the coke bottles to stay stood up while you put the orange juice cartons in the same bag.

Finally, you can pay, making the usual comment about how expensive everything is nowadays. Take your “Computers for Schools” vouchers and check that she’s added on the extra Clubcard points for bag reuses. Have you noticed how every time you swap one of those bags, in every different store - Tesco, Sainsburys, Co-op - the checkout operator always has to ask the person at the next checkout how you do it? The Tesco code is 180.

Well, that’s the shopping done for another week - it’s Sainsburys turn next time.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Wirral Easter Egg Run 2010

I'm not usually into bikes but I do enthuse about this. Every year, just before Easter, motorbikists gather from all over Britain to ride through the mean streets of Wirral...
Literally tens of thousands of bikes are involved and the procession lasts a couple of hours. Some of the particiapants dress up and this year we had an Elvis, Laurel & Hardy and clowns together with the usual bunch of rabbits and chicks. It started about thirty years ago when a local group of bikers decided to do a charity run carrying Easter Eggs to the children at the local hospital. Today all sorts of people are involved including Hells Angels, scooter clubs, old men on classic bikes and fat blokes on quads. I reckon even the Police enjoy it, if nothing else, they get to hand out Think Bike and BikeSafe leaflets and flags.

Second Race and a Big Improvement

There was actually some proper overtaking at the Australian Grand Prix! I've only watched the highlights - I couldn't be doing with getting up early, especially after the Bahrain race and especially with the clocks going forward this morn.

Assuming it was a mechanical fault, Vettel was very unlucky again - he could have been runaway championship leader by now. Jensen did a very good job but I still rate Hamilton more - looks like he was victim of a tactical mistake in this one. Ferraris still looking very good and Schuey still needs a bit more time to get up to speed.

A bit of rain helps as well.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Just When I Said There Are No Manufacturer Teams Left in the BTCC...

...this happens! This is good news. Plato against Neal always leads to interesting arguments. Chevrolet will be guaranteed to win the manufacturer's title (because they are the only entrant!) but maybe it will encourage others back.

Neal's new car in its new livery looks suspiciously like a manufacturer entry as well:

It's actually being run by his father's Team Dynamics but obviously with a lot of support from Honda Racing.

Who Are You Looking At?

This story is nothing too new. We've had one of these spy cars on The Wirral since last Summer. People have been complaining about it on many counts including it being used to look into bedroom windows and parking illegally to take its photos. The whole legality of the fines were brought into question recently when a local couple had their fine overturned because there were no warning signs stating that their car could be photographed. What shocks me most though, is the cost of the car - I mean just look at it...
£70000 for that!? Allowing £10000 for the Smart (I got that figure from my Top Gear magazine - the Smart website was useless for that info) that leaves £60000 for a length of drainpipe and a Kodak Instamatic - somebody somewhere - probably us Wirral Council Taxpayers - is being ripped off.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

F1 - Well, That's The First Race Over.

It's still early days but it's looking promising for Ferrari, Red Bull and Mclaren. Obviously, Ferrari have to be happiest with a one-two finish but Red Bull were unlucky with Webber having problems dropping him down the starting grid and the very likeable and talented Vettel falling victim to a failure in their fancy new exhaust system.

It was pleasing to see Massa do so well as well. Button, as expected was outshone by Hamilton.

The other teams will have all learnt a lot from today but from a viewer's point of view, the removal of refuelling has not, so far, at least, made things particularly exciting - not a lot of overtaking apart from of faulty cars.

As I say, it's still early days yet - let's hope for some action when Alonso, Schuey and Hamilton are all fighting for the same bit of road.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

BTCC Driver Tom Chilton Joins The Sun

BTCC Driver Tom Chilton Joins The Sun

OK, let's break that down shall we?
BTCC - Brilliant!, Tom Chilton - OK, The Sun - Crap!

I've been a big fan of the British Touring Cars Championship for many, many years now. I regularly went to the Oulton Park rounds and still would if my family shared my interest and I also saw them in Ireland when they raced there.

My interest grew as I became more and more disillusioned with Formula One. As a child, the British and Monaco Grand Prix were the highlight of my sporting year, seriously overshadowing the FA Cup Final or Five Nations Rugby (it was pre-Italy) both of which were important to me. But, as the Seasons rolled on and the commentators said at more and more circuits, "This is not a good circuit for overtaking" I discovered the BTCC - a competition where overtaking, and even barging-out-of-the-way was a regular event. This was helped by great, cantankerous characters - John Cleland stands out:

The racing was at it's peak towards the end of the last Century with factory teams from Ford, Volvo, Renault, Audi, Alfa, Nissan and more taking part.

Since then, the factory teams have all pulled out - Vauxhall were last to leave last year. This has not proved to be too much of a problem though as the independent teams have filled their places very neatly and the characters still exist - I love the inter-play between Matt Neal and Jason Plato - you can tell they really don't like each other very much and that is brilliant.

Formula One has improved a lot as well since Lewis first appeared - and here the entertaining needle and banter is between Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard presenting for the BBC - still needs more overtaking though.

Tom Chilton
Tom started driving in the BTCC at the age of six. OK, maybe slightly older than that but too young to be any good and too immature to understand what was required. I'm probably a bit jealous here because I never had chances like that when I was a teenager although it would have probably terrified me at the time if I had.
Since then, obviously, he has matured and had a few race-wins. Last year he was unlucky in that he had a particularly uncompetitive car for most of the Season - only coming good at the very end.

He fancies himself as a bit of a playboy and has appeared nude in Cosmo and appeared as a contestant on that game-show presented by Paddy McGuinness where 30 women check out blokes for a date. I'm not convinced he's had the success yet to warrant the playboy status. I've read his article on the Sun Website which wasn't easy because there was a fault either with their page or my laptop so it kept jumping to some weird search error. The article was somewhere between mediocre and OK which is all you need for a tabloid and I couldn't get his "cheeky video" to run at all.

The Sun
Living in Merseyside, I'm supposed to hate The Sun for the lies they printed about Hillsborough. As it is, they did eventually apologise and you have to remember that the team working there now have nothing to do with the ones who published the lies - it's a bit like punishing someone for what their grandfather did. I wouldn't expect their circulation to start rising in Liverpool, though, the hurt was felt very deeply but I would like to see a Scouse boycott of Radio 5-Live, it is there where the original perpetrator and still Hillsborough-denier Kelvin Mackenzie is allowed to ply his trade.

The reason I don't buy The Sun is the same reason that I don't buy any tabloid newspapers - they are all aimed at gullible people who can't read very well. They publish gossip about people I don't care about like Jordan or Mufti from The Sugarbabes, they publish opinion as though it is fact, and they try to scare the public about things they need not really be worrying about (TV News is bad for that too).

So there you go - three articles for the price of one!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Aston Martin Cygnet

Nooooooo! This is basically a Toyota iQ, built in Britain, with a leather interior, Aston grille and £30,000 price tag.

I can see the logic in that Aston need something with good emissions and economy to offset those of the barges in the rest of the range. They may even be able to tempt away some of the Chelsea Tractor drivers who like the idea of an Aston badge and have to drive through the Congestion Zone to get Tarquin to school.

The Cygnet will have Toyota engines. I don't know if they'll actually have Toyota written on them or not - I'd want "Aston Martin" written on the engine block of any Aston I owned.

The iQ is undoubtedly a very cleverly designed vehicle - not big enough to take four full-sized rugby players like their advert implies - but still very well packaged nonetheless. It costs about £10K to £12K so if I was in the market for a small car, I'd go for a Fiesta instead, or, if I was in the market for a very small car, then maybe an Aygo although that is one sector I don't see myself venturing into for the next forty years or so.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


I saw four 10-Reg cars today. I probably saw ten 04-Reg cars as well but I wasn't really looking out for them. I didn't see any 10-Reg's yesterday but then again I'd forgotten they were out. I think most people would have forgotten they were out unless they were actually getting one.

The new registrations coming out twice a year certainly makes it less of an event than when you had to wait for the First of August. I remember the excitement as a child seeing a Ford Capri or Morris Marina sporting the new plates but, then again, I suppose I always was a bit of a saddo.

I'm not convinced that the same pride exists today in showing off a new car on new plate day - a lot of people simply do not understand the format of the current style of plates even though it isn't that complicated: The first letter represents the region, S for Scotland, Y for Yorkshire, E for Essex, K for Northampton etc. The second letter represents the office within that region. The two digits represent the year if registered from March to September or 50 plus the year if registered from September to March. Then, finally, the last three characters are random letters.

I looked at the DVLA site a few weeks back at buying DA10WEN with a view to selling it at a massive profit to any of the many Welshmen out there called Dai Owen but the DVLA have that one reserved.

Apparently I can have DC10WEN for £399 though.

I've never actually wanted personalised plates myself. M3TRO is gone anyway, probably on an Austin Metro, but why do people think that 3s look like Es? These are the same people who will pay absolute fortunes for some ridiculous examples.

TO55ERS isn't available either.