Monday, July 31, 2006

Epic Reading

I am finally reading Ulysses (by James Joyce). It’s a book that has been on my to-read pile for a number of years, along with quite a few others. This pile isn’t a real pile, it’s a virtual pile. If it was a real pile it would possibly be as tall as I am, but it’s not. It’s actually a scattering of books amongst my shelves and boxes. In some ways it is surprising I haven’t passed this book under my eyes before. It’s a classic work by an author whose other works I have enjoyed. On the other hand it is not surprising it’s been on the ‘pile’ longer than other books for several reasons:

1. It is 900 pages long!
To my thinking, books should be somewhere between 100 and 200 pages long. Any more and they had better be bloody good to be worth so many words. Whilst there are books in the third world (novelty publications section) that are positively starved of words!
2. I had hoped to complete both of Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad before I started on this one.
The Odyssey I enjoyed with its over-blown dramatisation something akin to modern journalism. But The Iliad, despite being translated by the same guy, and supposedly written by the same guy, just bogged me down and is currently on the virtual on-hold pile. The same pile that The Lord of the Rings has been on for 20 years. This is despite the fact I had enjoyed JRRT’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Hobbit. Mind you, I have now seen the first Lord of the Rings film and consider myself to have served my time and can probably move this book (actually, these books) books to the ‘life’s too short’ pile. An easy task as I don’t actually own a copy. So in fact they are on the virtual ‘my flat’s too small’ pile.
3. Have you seen how long it is?
The last horrendously long book I attempted was Harry Potter and the Siege of Troy, or whatever the fourth book was called. But that was written for adolescents and parents of small children and so was a very easy read.

So far the book is going well, but have that problem with all long books where you don’t look like you’re making any progress for the first few hundred pages. Keep checking here and over the months I’ll update you on the progress of my own odyssey into the mind of Mr Joyce. If all goes well, I may get up the confidence to dive into War and Peace. And if that works out, I’ll rent the video of the porn version, Whore and Piece By Layo Toolstoy.

Please do let me know what you’re reading.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Travel: ‘PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE’ follow up

Many of you may recall my run-in with the man from Westminster Council who hid in bushes and jumped out to slap fines on cars. Well I had a reply from those lying, thieving sons of hound-dogs, and all I can say is that NOW I am calm.

The summary of their letter was that my claim had been “fully considered” and that from their remote ivory tower (they’re not even based in Westminster) they have decided to still demand money. Because of the way these scams operate, I can either pay £50 now, or pay £100 after two weeks. If I wanted to contest this blatant criminality, I could only do it once the demand for £100 was received. It is received by the Owner of the vehicle - a car hire company. Now, full of righteous indignation - I had been lied to by the bush-lurker and the letter blathered on about ‘space being at a premium’ despite the fact there was a vast amount of space that day, a bank-holiday Sunday - I decided to see if the hire company would let me fight it.

Unfortunately, everyone wants in on the ‘PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE’ scam. The car hire firm upon receipt of one of these things, pays up and then forwards the cost to me PLUS A £30 ‘ADMINISTRATION COST.’ Jesus! Is everyone some kind of filthy, cheating scumbag?

With this in mind, the only course open to me was the following:
Step 1. Pay up the £50 pounds but in so doing, perform
Step 2. bend the ear of the poor customer service bod who answered the call and make sure they put something in any note3s field.
Step 3. Write a letter so snotty, it would have to be wiped with a hanky before it could be read.

However, the professional con-artists at Westminster Council know what they’re doing and step 2 was thwarted by the fact Westminster Council has an automated service for receiving payment - no human interaction necessary. And they canny scammers don’t even give you an option such as “Press 8 if you wish to register your indignation at our unethical money-making practices.”

Step 3 is in progress and I am currently snorting marshmallows in preparation for the letter, which I will include here when it has been complete. Providing it doesn’t spontaneously combust out of its own sense of indignation.