Monday, July 31, 2006

Sometimes we all love a bit of recognition

The gig last night was a blast.

I arrived at the pub to find that it was one of those mean looking football supporters' pubs. It had a St George's flag, a Liverpool flag, an Arsenal flag and a few others all hanging from the roof. A clear message to all that it is a football pub, a hard pub, one with attitude. And flags. Now these sort of places are usually as friendly as anyone could wish for, providing you win the punters over.

We took our stuff in and started to set up whilst being bombarded by the usual questions that we are all used to :

"What kind of stuff do you play?"

"Do you do any....?" Choose from Elvis / Chili Peppers / Kaiser Chiefs / Anything you fancy.

It did seem to bode well that the place was fairly busy at 8 on a Saturday evening, it looked like it would get busier and it did. Over the night it filled up with old but mean looking tattooed women, groups of twenty somethings and an assortment of glamorous women who were wearing not much in the way of clothing.

We kicked off with Little Wing. The guitarist started the intro and it became apparent that, at some point between last week and this week, he had decided to try to make it sound more funky than the last time. This idea was a good one, and would have been even better if he had told me what to expect. I lost track of all time, not a great thing for a drummer to do, but at some point I decided it would be best to just start my big fill before the rest of the band came in. I did, the bassist came in and the singer started to sing.

We are a 4 piece band and with a mere 4 beats in a bar we had all managed to choose a different beat to come in on. It was pure musical comedy as I tried to listen to Phil, the singer, and finally managed to establish a groove. Then the others kicked in and we were off. Phew, it was easily my worst start to a gig and I had a lot of ground to make up. I had a teacher once who said to me

"If you make a mistake just carry on playing as if you meant if and look confident. No one will notice."

Well I tried to look confident but I'm sure it sounded like the introduction to an old Genesis song, all strange time signatures and weirdly placed cymbal crashes. The biggest irony is the fact that I also play Little Wing in my funk band so I know it better than most other songs played last night.

After that things got decidedly better. Our first set was a mixture of songs from "The Bends" to "Dancing in the moonlight" but most of them were "listening to" songs, just to get the punters warmed up for the more dancey second set. The band played well, I felt like I was playing well and gelling with the bassist nicely and I didn't have to worry about playing too loud for the residents, as was the case last week.

We had our break and then launched into the second half. By now, most of the pub was in high spirits and they were all on our side. We got funky with Superstition, we got rocky with Purple Haze, we got all 80's with China Girl and we got totally Chilied on Dani California, Give it away, Hump da bump and Tell me baby. To finish it off and leave them wanting more we got anthemic with I predict a riot.

It felt fantastic. There were pissed up happy punters everywhere, people telling us how good it was and how much they liked the set.

It's tempting to say that I enjoyed it most because we played well as a band and because I know that I played well, apart from on Little Wing of course.

Yeah bollocks to that. We did play well. I did play well. The band sounded great.

But it didn't really matter.

They loved us. They told us they loved us.

Sometimes that feels wicked!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Make my way back home and learn to fly..

First gig with the new covers band last Saturday.
Second one with them this Saturday (which is nice).
Practice with Mimosa next Monday night.
Gig with Mimosa next Tuesday night.

It's just like being in the Foo Fighters, with slightly less money involved.

And a bit less fame.

And a bit less sex with groupies.

And less alcohol.

And far less talent.

But Taylor Hawkins probably doesn't have to get up early to go to work the next morning.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Favourite places - Triton Hotel

Full of poor quality tourists yet I adore the place. I haven't seen it since it was refurbished and renamed but I hope the character has remained. I first went there as a child sometime around 1979.

There's just something about it that captures me.

Thank you Mr Bawa!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What do you think of this idea then?

I read the post above with interest. It resurrected an idea I have had for years. One of those thoughts that comes up regularly and then hides itself away until the next time. It develops a bit then vanishes. It has followed this pattern for about 10 years and it pops into my mind whenever I read or hear about a newspaper having to publish an apology for printing something erroneous.

The idea is simply that, whenever a newspaper has to make an apology for printing something that is factually incorrect (usually libellous or slanderous), the apology has to take up the same amount of space as and be in the same position as the original article.

So, if the Daily Whatever covered its front page with an article revealing that Sven Goran Erikkson had been involved in a threesome with Jennifer Aniston and George Bush and this was later discovered to be incorrect, then the newspaper would have to devote its entire front page on the same day as the original publication day to an apology and correction.

I'm sure that Jennifer Aniston would be the only one who would have any complaint as it would do wonders for the reputation of the other two. The Swedish stud might be a little bit pissed off at being associated with Dubya in that manner but he doesn't appear overly fussy in his choices. By the time Dubya figured out where Sweden is, the matter would be long forgotten anyhow.

I can't see any downside to this idea.

Yes, in the event of having to print an apology, a newspaper might lose ad revenue. Yes, it might even lose readers. Yes, one journalist might not have something published because of another one's cock up. Yes, it may mean a newspaper could lose a lot over a genuine mistake that had been made in good faith.

And it just might make some newspapers think a bit harder before they publish something that can ruin an innocent party.

What do you think? Tell me if I've missed something obvious. I'd welcome some comments on this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Got no style? - The Fashion Police are gonna get you.

I have always been fascinated by those people that have no sense of style, not the ones who have got bad taste but the ones that just have no taste at all. Henceforth I shall elaborate.

I've got a old good friend who tends to wear dark, usually black clothes. He wears lots of silver jewellery and has beards, and things like that. A kind of gothic look would be the best way to describe him. I remember a period when he wore some vaguely colourful stuff, but he was quite loved up then, and women can have strange effects on even the strongest of men. Some men start to visit florists and some even spend less time on their hobbies. I have heard stories, although I cannot vouch for their accuracy, of drummers spending less time with their band.

Well this fellow began to wear vaguely colourful clothes. I am talking of colourful clothes by his standards, not by the standards that you and I have. When I would have been out in the street in a nice yellow stripe or a subtle yet bright blue, he was out there in a shade of grey most would consider wearing for the funeral of someone they loved dearly.

Needless to say the relationship soured and he went back to the really dark look sooner than you could say "Bauhaus".

Despite my lack of appreciation of his chosen look I can see that there is some kind of sense of style going on with him. It is not a style that I would choose, either for me or anyone else on this planet, but it is still a style, one which incredibly, he takes considerable time over.

Then I can think of another friend (also a musician) who just has mad style. He wears clothes that look unbelievably bad. There is no other way to describe him, or them. He is like an eccentric Professor, just without the intelligence. But his look is a chosen one too. A jumper with large embroidered wolves on it is one of his favourites as are red jeans.

I do have a sneaky bit of admiration for these types. They spend time and money (not a lot) on their appearance and they make an attempt to look good. They might even think they succeed in looking good and, whilst their style is not mine, I can respect their taste. However, if you ever see me in the street wearing clothes like that please take me to the nearest hospital as I will be in need of urgent treatment.

The type of person I can't figure out is those that just have no sense of style at all. Lately I've been wondering what goes on in their head. Are they so intelligent that they are too busy occupying their minds with serious things and can't be bothered with their appearance?

No way. Intelligent people with style do exist, mostly in France, but some are found elsewhere. Look at Ross in Friends as an example. A Professor of Dinosaurs who has a sense of style, albeit that preppy American look.

I am ashamed to admit that I do have some friends with no sense of style. This saddens me. I have always thought of myself as a tolerant person, one who looks beneath the surface and judges the other chap on personality, rather than shallow stuff. But, when I see someone wearing a dinner suit with flip flops or a short bloke in a double breasted suit, well, what can I say? Even I have my limits and friendships can only go so far.

They don't actually think about whether they look good, just wearing anything that comes to hand. They live in houses without mirrors and possibly no lights and spend all their money on books and computer things. Clothes are just something to keep them warm or to stop them getting sunburnt, because they all go bright pink when exposed to the smallest bit of sun. I reckon they even choose clothing because it is comfortable. Yes, I kid you not, unbelievable as it seems, it is true. There is no hope for these types.

I asked my best friend about this. He is a fairly style conscious chap and a bit of a ladies' man so I was interested in his take on it. He reckons these "styleless" people probably shop out of catalogues and just choose things that are practical. He's probably right but I think there must be some kind of genetic defect as well. There must be someone lurking in their past who can be blamed for this total absence of style.

How can you persuade a fellow to change his tastes if he cannot taste? At least the people with bad style can possibly change as they learn that they look stupid. I know it's unlikely but it can happen. This has led me to wonder whether the styleless ones actually have some kind of style but they figure so lowly on the scale that their score is virtually zero.

So, if we imagine a style scale of 0 - 10. I would place Jennifer Aniston as a 10 on the female side. I guess, in terms of sense of style alone, men such as Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Elvis might be up there in the 9 or 10s. I would put Axl Rose in at a 4, because he makes an effort but looks like a twat. I'd have my gothic friend in at about a 2. He makes less effort and looks worse.

Then, the total styleless ones I guess I'd have to put at a 0.0001 or something of that ilk.

I don't know who I'd award a zero to though.

Any thoughts?

Either way the Fashion Police should be out there pounding the street and hauling them in. I might just write to Tony Blair about this. At least it would get John Prescott out of the public eye.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's not funny and it's not clever.

I just went to collect my 10 year old from a birthday party and received the shock of my life. I like to think of myself as ready for most things at most times. A kind of Action Man. Well, I've got the height and the haircut anyway.

I wasn't ready for this and it shocked me so much that I could only glare open mouthed at the chap as he proceded to humiliate and embarass himself quite publicly.

I need to give you some background here; I am a firm believer in the benefits of a sarong. I have a drawer full of them and I wear one every night. They are one of the greatest assets to men's clothing ever invented, really. I wait with baited breath for the time when they become "en vogue" here in the UK. When that time comes I'll be everywhere in a sarong. I'll be out gigging in a sarong. I'll have to make sure the bottom of it doesn't get caught in my bass drum pedal but these things can be worked on and I am prepared for that work. On top of all that I call it a "su - rong", not a "serr rong".

But, and I mean it strongly, there are few sights that look worse than a Sudda in a sarong, even in Sri Lanka. When I see those tourists on the beach in their sarong, I genuinely find it unpleasant. There are so many ways for tourists to show their appreciation of the beauty of Sri Lanka, but wearing a sarong should be outlawed. It just doesn't look right. David Beckham may almost get away with it when he is going out for dinner in the south of France but you, Mr Average from average suburbia just outside London, are not David Beckham. And he didn't really get away with it anyhow.

You've guessed it by now. It was a regular English geezer, there to collect a child, wearing a sarong. That is to say the Father was wearing one, not the child. With those sandal type things, the ones made by Merell and Nike and the like. Sandals with air in their soles and made for action, like Jesus creepers brought up to date. They look good with shorts whilst climbing, or in Yala, but NOT with a sarong.

I clocked him immediately. Our eyes met. He had a split second's look of fear in his eye. He knew that I knew that he felt a prat. I knew that he knew that I knew it and I knew he was scared of, but also wanted me to mention it. I didn't. I let him suffer. I knew that he had been to Sri Lanka or Goa or Finland and he had bought one, I knew he had probably had many arguments with himself about whether to wear it in public. I knew that a tiny, miniscule part of me was full of admiration for his blatant disregard of all things fashionable. Most of all I knew his sarong was one of those House of Fashion nasties, not one of Barbara Sansoni's finest.


In Teddington of all places.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gig tonight.

Today I have mostly been practicing for my debut gig with the new covers band. It's a simple 4 piece outfit and they are all a nice bunch of chaps so it should be a laugh.

They're all Chili Peppers fans so I've had to learn a few new RHCP songs which are in the set tonight. The way I'm going I think my next move may be to try to get into a RHCP tribute band.

Tonight's set includes:

Under the Bridge
Give it away
By the way
Tell me baby
Hump da bump (crap title but great song)
Dani California

The rest of the stuff is your usual pub covers stuff; some Jimi, some Cream, I predict a riot, Superstition, you know the ones.

So, I'm practicing and warming up and listening to the Dhol Foundation to get "drum psyched".

Wish me luck!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sri Lankanisms - Number 1 in an occasional series

Being born and bred in the UK to Sri Lankan parents has meant that I have experienced the pleasures and diversities of both British and Sri Lankan cultures for as long as I can remember.

I have been fortunate to taste and become accustomed to Sri Lankan food and British food. I can savour the delights of a good British sausage with a dash of mustard and I can tuck into a lamprais with the best of them. I can jiggle my arse to a good Baila as well as any of my Sri Lankan cousins and I can hate Coldplay as much as the next man. I can fly a St George's flag from my car yet still wear a sarong at night and I can do a 100 mile round trip in the UK without using my horn yet drive down Duplication Road and horn like a local. I can use "horn" as a verb, yet I can think that the plural of fruit is fruit, not fruits. It is a rich and joyful heritage and I wouldn't swap it for all the tea in, well, the Isle of Man.

There are so many English phrases that seem to be used by Sri Lankans in their everyday language and yet are hardly used in "English" English. I am sure that many of the UK Sri Lankan bloggers and readers will be familiar with some of these "Singlish" gems but I would like to start by introducing you to my Mother's favourite one:

"Are you mad?"

In "English" English it would be used in the following context:

"I went to a psychiatric clinic today" says chap A.

"Are you mad?" replies chap B.

"No, I'm a psychiatrist" responds chap A.

This is just about the only context in which I can imagine the question being used in normal spoken "English" English. Of course there is a long debate, which I will save for another time, about whether being a psychiatrist and being mad are mutually exclusive. There are some variations on the general theme, but they all exist along the lines of chap B asking chap A if he is really clinically insane.

Now, to apply it correctly in Singlish it must be thrown into a sentence, preferably in a rather forceful way, without warning. Use it when the victim is least expecting it and use it to respond to a totally innocuous comment. The word "mad" must be stretched to sound like "maaad". Don't expect any kind of answer as it is not really a question, more a statement about the sheer lunacy of the person in whose direction it is aimed.


"I'm going to buy some vegetable oil" says innocent party.

"Are you mad?" replies aggressive antogonizer.


"I'll take the car" says IP

"Are you mad?"


"I'll have some more rice"

"Are you mad?"

To any non Sri Lankans reading this I urge you not to be offended when your Sri Lankan mate says this to you. It is not meant to be taken literally. They are not really questioning your sanity, it's just a friendly way of saying "You what?"

There you have it, now practice using it in everyday conversation and next week we'll talk about the lakh.

Have a good weekend all.

Sri Lankan Flavours

A few weeks ago I went to the Sri Lankan literature thing at Foyle's, one of London's oldest and most renowned bookshops. One of the many books I bought was a cookbook called Sri Lankan Flavours by Channa Dassanayake.

The recipes sound so delicious that I can virtually smell the food as I read and the photography is imaginative and colourful, so much better than many Sri Lankan cookery books I have seen, with their grainy images of lace tablecloths and those "salads" of tomatoes and cucumber arranged around some fried chicken.

The many pictures are not only of food but also of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan life. I am quite fond of loads of pictures of food anyway, but these other ones just make the book even better. On most of the pages there is a bit of text about an aspect of Sri Lankan life. It may be a short piece about gem pits or an article about the joys of roadside eating houses but it's all fascinating and makes for a superb book either as a working recipe book or as a coffee table item.

One of the paragraphs reads as follows:

"Keeping the beat

In traditional Sri Lankan culture, drums are used in festivals, ceremonies.......

.......young men take apprenticeships as eastern drummers or enter the world of music by following in their father's footsteps.....

.......Young drummers follow their gurus, or teachers......How long it takes to receive the blessing depends on their talent and personality."

This grabbed me. It grabbed me so much that I have now quoted from a book for the first time in my life. I'm not sure what the procedure is now. Do I track down the author to seek permission in writing to use his words? Do I contact his publisher to get permission? Do I just go ahead and quote him, with the assumption that all will be ok as I am saying nice things about his work?

I haven't got the faintest. So apologies if I've crossed boundaries that I shouldn't have, but it's all been done with good intentions, in fact, shedloads of good intentions. Also, I wasn't sure where to put the dots in the quote. I am starting to wish I had paid more attention to English at school. Feck.

My point is this. I am a Sri Lankan and I am a drummer. I was taught and inspired by my father, well inspired. But somehow I don't think the author was thinking of geezers like me who play in funk and rock / pop covers bands and kick out Chili Peppers songs on a Saturday night down the local pub.

Still, the idea is a nice one.

Oh, buy the book too. It's great.

I have to go now. I've got to finish learning "I predict a riot" before Saturday's gig.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hot in the city

Yesterday the temperature in London went up to 32 C and those weather chaps reckon it could hit 37 C today.

It's mad. The atmosphere seems charged, like it was in the Spike Lee joint, "Do the right thing".

You guys in Sri Lanka are used to heat like this and you live your lifestyles around it, but here we aren't really prepared for any type of weather. Air conditioners are working overtime, the sunglasses shops are minting it and sales of "The boys of Summer" and "Summer of '69" have never been higher. In some sort of amazing weird coincidence "Boys of Summer" has just started playing on the radio since I typed the last sentence, honest, I promise you. If I was Prime Minister one of my first important moves would be to ban the playing of those two songs, purely on the grounds of decency.

Sandals and flip flops are out in force, but usually just one pair per person.

London is buzzing with energy and heat and we love it.
In fact, it's so hot that I nearly wore my Birkenstocks to work this morning. I think that says it all.

By the way, no joke, but I think I saw an asteroid last night. It was about midnight and I was driving on the M3 towards London and I saw a blaze of green light in the sky. It was clearly a "tail" from something low and fast moving and the green light suddenly disappeared.

It was strange, but I did tell you the atmosphere was charged.

How's your home city today?

Monday, July 17, 2006

BMW update - Someone please tell me it's a wind up

11.45 AM last Friday - No news from the dealer so I called them. The way in which the call was taken startled me:

"Hello, can I speak to Fish Face please?"

"Who's calling?"

"It's Rhythmic Diaspora"

"Sorry". I am used to this, as I am sure many people with Sri Lankan names will be. You may be surprised to know that Rhythmic Diaspora is not actually my real name. I came up with it because I play the drums, hence the "Rhythmic" and because "Diaspora" is a word I only learnt recently and I now try to use as much as possible, to make me sound intelligent. So I repeat my name. The lady then hits me with an unexpected blow:

"And what's it regarding?"

This puzzled and rather amazed me, but I realise many will find my reaction a strange one. It was merely because I was calling the service reception chap at a large BMW dealer and I didn't think that there could be many reasons why people would call him. Clearly I wasn't his Mother calling to tell him he had forgotten his sandwiches that day, but maybe he is the sort of bloke who is swamped by calls from Americans who are trying to interest him in shady share deals.

I realised immediately that my response had to be quick, sharp and deviously worded in order to get past this gatekeeper. It had to be carefully considered and delivered in a tone full of confidence, one which told her that I demanded to be put through and would take no prisoners in my quest . I was up to the challenge. I was primed like Muhammed Ali ready to defend his title or Huggy Bear in one of the best Starsky and Hutches.

"My car". I squeeked, in a voice about 7 octaves above middle C.

She withered into a heap on the floor. Clearly my mind was too finely tuned for her. Her confidence was thrashed and she may well never work again. She put me through.

"Ah Mr Diaspora", said Fishy.

"We have got the new key and deduced that the key isn't the problem so we think it may be the antenna".

So it has taken them almost 3 weeks to figure this out. This would be acceptable to some if not for the fact that their colleague told me 3 weeks ago that it was either the key or the antenna. He told me to try the spare key, which I did, and if that didn't work then the problem was with the receiver / antenna. I tried it and it didn't work and I have been saying this for 2 weeks to Fish Face, but he has preferred to take 2 weeks to figure it out himself.

He then told me that, if it is the antenna, they would have to order one from Germany. This will take 4 - 6 weeks to arrive. I am involved in the transport industry and I know that it is easy and straightforward to arrange for a next day delivery from most parts of Germany to the UK, so this rather puzzled me too. His explanation was feeble, he muttered something about parts not always being in stock in Germany.

So I am now waitng to hear the result of further tests. Then I'll have a 6 week wait.

Update - I picked the car up. It is "probably" the antenna as

"we can only do what BMW tell us to do"

which means that they are not sure but they now have to try to eliminate or prove the antenna theory.
I have to wait 4 - 6 weeks for the part to come in and I will get on to BMW to complain about this, but I don't have much hope. I have already spoken to BMW about the whole saga and, surprisingly, they seem unconcerned about it.

Until then I'll have to manage with remote central locking that only works when I am really close to the car.

I guess there are worse things in life, so I shan't blow it out of proportion.

I am rather bored with this whole saga now so God knows how you must be feeling about it. I will try not to go on about it but I promise to let you know what happens if and when it gets sorted out.

It always amazes me that good customer service is actually quite an easy thing to give. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is just as easy as giving bad customer service.

Enough - Life goes on.

I just hate poor customer care.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Walking to the bottle bank

"Dad, why is the sun made of fire" said my 10 year old daughter.

"Errrm, I don't know really, it just is, I guess". I thought that should pretty much give her the necessary information.

"So does it ever rain in space then?" she came back with.

I was ready for her this time. " No, because the clouds are nearer the Earth, just near the surface in a way, so when it rains it just falls on the planet. Maybe on other planets too."

"Just as well really" she said.

"Why's that?" I said, trying to anticipate her next brutal assault on my intellect.

"Because if it did rain in space it would put the sun out wouldn't it?"

"Errm, try not to bang the bottles, otherwise they might break".

And then we smashed our bottles in the bottle bank. I enjoyed it but I think she felt it was a bit childish.

Kids eh!!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Look what I did yesterday

I finally did it.

I found a design that I liked immediately and that I thought I could live with.

And I got it done.

It was an experience in itself. The tattoo parlour was full of "geezers" all covered in tattoos. A kind of painted brethren. All the other staff were popping in to see how Danny, my geezer, was getting on. This puzzled me until I was told that I had chosen a particularly intricate design and they were all interested in how it would turn out. This filled me with a mixture of pride in my impeccable taste and fear that it would look like crap.

Danny did a great job and my fear was clearly misplaced. I'm massively chuffed with it. My only worry is that everyone says it is addictive and I don't want to end up covered in them.

I also learnt that the correct way to pronounce the word "tattoo".

It's "ta'ooo"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The BMW poor customer service saga continues

So, I took my car back to the dealer to get the key problem done today. I got my courtesy car, a BMW 1 series. Some people told me I should be grateful for that so I shall pretend to be. It is a lovely car, not underpowered at all.

If you read my previous rant about the problem you may just remember that the operating range for both the remote keys had suddenly dropped so that neither key would work unless I was standing next to the car. I ranted and I raved because the dealer had failed to fix the problem and also failed to correctly acknowledge it. Read all about it here:

About 15 minutes ago I got a call from Fish Face, the service chap. It went like this:

"Hello Mr Diaspora it's Fish Face from HR Owen. Are you going to be ok in the courtesy car until tomorrow as we have ordered a new key for your car which will be with us tomorrow?"

I was nice and pleasant to him and said that I'll be ok. I had to ask him why they have ordered 1 and not 2 keys as I took both keys in and I didn't want to leave with only 1 working key and no spare.

"Well I'm not sure as I haven't actually spoken to the technician myself, but I'll find out" he said, and promised to call me back. I found it astounding that he claimed not to have spoken to the technician yet but I left it with him.

He called me back 5 minutes later and said:

"They've only ordered 1 key because they are not sure exactly what is causing the problem and they want to eliminate the key. BMW won't pay for the cost of 2 keys if it is not the problem and, if it's not the key that is the problem then it's the BUS system."

"What's the BUS system?" I asked.

"It's the central computer system." our fishy service bloke responded.

"OK" I said "but surely if the problem was with the key then it wouldn't have occurred with both keys".

"Ah yes, but we need to eliminate that".

So, the gist, according to Fish Face, is that it may be the key but BMW won't pay for 2 keys under warranty unless they can be sure that they key is faulty. Fair enough, but I will be without my car for at least 2 more days because these experts can't find out what the cause of the problem is. I don't know how much to believe from Fish Face and I have decided to seek another dealer in the future.

My fighting sprit is waning, I just want the problem solved, I want my car back and I want the central locking to work as I walk up to the car, not just when I am standing half a millimetre away from it. Clearly all the computer diagnostics won't actually tell them why the problem exists and they have to use brainpower to attempt to solve this.

I think the brainpower thing may be the root of the problem here. I am no genius, nor do I pretend to be, but I told them 3 weeks ago that the problem occurred with both keys and therefore it is probably not caused by the keys. I think they are about to discover that for themselves. Frankly, diagnosing a problem by a process of elimination always smells of desperation, but I'll see how they get on.

Want an expensive car that makes your life easier with customer service levels to match?

Thinking of a BMW?

Computer says "NO".

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's your favourite fruit?

Mine's a Rambutan.

The ratio of eating time to peeling time is quite low but all in all it's a delectable little fruit.

What's the protocol regarding the hard outer layer on the stone though? That bit that always comes off when you don't want it to.

Do most people try to eat the flesh without that bit or do you suffer eating that to get the most flesh?

Do you break the outer skin with teeth or nails (or something else)?

They are one of the few fruits that I hardly ever see for sale here in the UK.

These things bother me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A funking good time.

I had a rather pleasant little weekend just.

On Saturday Mimosa had a gig at the Burnham carnival. There were 3 funk bands due to play on the music stage and we were the first that was due at 5PM. The music side had been organised by our good friends Barflyz and they were the headlining act, with us and another band as support.

I didn't know what to expect as I wasn't sure if Burnham carnival was some kind of tin pot fete on a village green or a huge event that brings together a whole town for a day. When I got there I realised that it was closer to the latter.

Satellite navigation was largely responsible for my prompt arrival. I am now a firm convert to satnav and wonder how chaps in far away places, like Wales, manage without it. The only thing I find disconcerting about it is that, on my system at least, you can't get a general overview of the journey you are about to embark upon. With an old fashioned map you can spend hours looking through pages, flicking back and forth, before you get a general idea of the journey. With satnav I tend to just follow the instructions as they are spoken to me by the kind woman. That often means that I just drive along, without the faintest clue where I am, and turn left or right, or do a legal U turn, when told to. It usually works but I prefer to have a rough idea of where I am going.

But it got me there and I parked up and proceeded to trudge across a field whilst carrying my heavy cymbal bag, my snare drum and my "drum bag", the one that contains sticks, drinks and stuff. People were everywhere. There were ice cream vans, kids doing martial art displays, bric a brac stalls, some particularly scary looking clowns and even a fun fair. Yes this thing was a large scale event and, when I finally found the music bit, I was excited. There were thousands of people and it looked like it would be the biggest crowd I have ever played to.

So we set up our stuff. I was lucky to be using my friend Fabio's kit so I didn't have too much to do. The setting up was interesting as it involved a generator, a 40 foot trailer and lots of musicians. It went surprisingly smoothly, the only snag was that we couldn't soundcheck so had to start "cold".

It was a nice, relaxed atmosphere. At 5 o'clock the sun was out, the crowds were mooching around, ice cream vans were making a mint, the clowns were scaring children and the martial arts kids were kicking everything in sight.

Deeper people than myself dream of writing theses, publishing books, winning Wimbledon, headbutting Italian players in the World Cup final, inventing new forms of energy and getting it all done before breakfast. But not me. From an early age I have dreamed of playing the drums and being in a band. I have realised that ambition now, well the being in a band bit at least. The other ambition I had was to do a gig whilst wearing sunglasses. I can now announce exclusively for you, the reader that I have now done that one too. I played the whole gig with my Aviators on. There were a few worrying moments when they slipped down my nose, and I did have to delay the start of a song in order to straighten them but I managed it with style and sophistication. Imagine the latin one from CHiPs playing drums for a funk band and you get the picture, although I didn't look as gay. Poncherello was his name, but I'm not positive on the spelling.

So, at 5, we started to play to a field full of people. At about 14 seconds past 5 I looked up from the drum kit and noticed that they had all gone. Airlines spend vast sums of money to find ways of getting a couple of hundred people off a plane in 5 minutes. They practice and practice, they have teams of stunt people to slide down chutes in simulated wet weather ( I know because I saw a programme about this on the Discovery Channel once). But the most effective way to get these desperate people off a stricken plane is clearly to get a 8 piece funk band to do a short set. This can also be done with 7 people if Tom, the sax player, is on holiday. Some of the sax parts will have to re done a bit, but it's usually ok.

Honestly, I kid you not, it wasn't really because of us, our music is not everyone's cup of tea but nor is it that bad. In their wisdom the organisers had decreed that the music would start at the end of the rest of the carnival. Presumably some old ladies in floral dresses and sandals had sat down over tea and scones, probably at the vicarage, and decided that the music should only start after people had gone. Otherwise they might stop spending money at the carnival to listen to the music. A dilemna that I can appreciate and I would have had much sympathy for if I had been wearing my "how do we raise as much money as possible for the Burnham carnival?" hat. Unfortunately I was actually wearing my "I'm a groovy drummer in a funk band" one so I wished we had been asked to start earlier.

Never mind, we played well, we had a laugh and we went. I enjoy playing live, whether it's to an audience of 25 people or even if it's to one of our poorly attended ones, it's a buzz. We chucked in an extra chorus to "Tell me", when Debby forgot to sing, we had a silent bit in the new one with no name when Rich, the guitarist dropped his plectrum and we had some missing bass drum notes in "Get it on" when Fabio's bass pedal didn't stick to my shoes like my own one does. After a 30 minute set we said thank you and left the 40 foot trailer (stage). Most of the audience consisted of the other bands due on after us and a few friends and families. They clapped politely. We mingled for a bit, as stagediving didn't look feasible, and drifted away. I did hang around to watch a bit from the next band, a funk quartet called Tonic.

I was glad I did as they were rather good, quite raw sounding and all very talented. The singer looked like Kylie Minogue doing a cowgirl thing, but sounded a damn sight better. They played to an even smaller audience than we did but they made the most of it too. I took a few pictures, chatted to a few people and then trudged over to the car park to be satellite guided back home. I felt sorry for the other bands on afterwards as, the way things were going, they may well have had more people up on stage than in the audience. Barflyz would have put on a good show whether to 500 people or 5 people.

All in all it was a great afternoon. The only improvement would have been a bigger audience.

And they say live music is dead. Pah!!

Friday, July 7, 2006

Book the manager

I watched the France v Portugal semi final last night.

Initially I was in a quandary about which team to support. I have no ties to either Country but I was tempted to go for Portugal because, if they then won the competition, I could at least take some comfort in knowing England were knocked out by the eventual winners. On the other hand it would also have been nice to support France just because Portugal did knock England out. Not supporting one team and being impartial wasn't a viable option for me as I find I don't get into the game as much that way.

I couldn't decide so I started to watch without making my mind up. Within 5 minutes I was a Frenchman. I was wearing a stripey shirt, a string of garlic hung round my neck, I wore a beret, was drinking red wine like there is no tomorrow and glamorous women were flocking at my feet because of my sexy accent. All the typical Frenchman's characteristics were upon me.


Because the Portugese team were a bunch of cheats.

They were diving and appealing all over the park. Scolari, their manager, was the biggest culprit. Not for the diving of course, but for the appealing. It ruined the game for me and millions of others. I wonder how I would feel if I were Portugese. I thought the ref did a great job of trying to let the game flow and he hardly got fooled by any of the dives but this is "gamesmanship" gone mad.

France deserved to win but, as a football match, it was a let down.

Scolari should be embarrassed by his team's and his own behaviour. English football has its problems but excessive diving, acting and appealing is not one of them. Nor is it three of them actually.

But, I have a solution that I reckon could work. On BBC1 Alan Shearer, Martin O'Neill and Gary Lineker were talking about the "gamesmanship" and O'Neill made the point that it is very hard for a ref to book or send off a player for this unless he is totally sure that they are acting. Alan Shearer said that one red card will soon stop the others doing it.

They are both right. One red card may stop it but it will also change the game. My solution is that the referee talks to the manger of the offending team. He would give him a minute to talk to his team to tell them to stop it. If the behaviour continues then the manager gets a yellow or a red card. As the person in charge of the team it is his responsibility to ensure the team acts correctly and, if he is not willing to do that, then let the ref send him off.

I have never seen this idea mentioned and the only downside I can see to it is if a punished manager were to complain by saying that he cannot actually control his players' behaviour when they are on the pitch.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Why I'm disappointed with BMW

Let me warn you. This will be a long post. It has to be. There is no other way I can get all the important bits in without making this an epic. So, if you want to move on and read about some teenage girl's love for McFly or some Singaporean kid's latest car magazine then go now. I won't be offended and I can continue, safe in the knowledge that the only people reading this are genuinely interested in BMWs, customer service or both.

The background stuff goes like this; I own a BMW 5 series that I bought new at considerable cost. It is my second one and also the second that I have bought from this dealer. I have all my servicing, bodywork and all the rest of it done at the self same dealership. Therefore I would have hoped that my custom is worth having for said dealer. I understand that it is also possible that my business is nothing to this dealer. Maybe, just maybe, I am small fry to them and, if that is so, then my thoughts of the M5 next will have to go out of the window.

So, my car was due for its first service a couple of days ago. About a week ago the remote central locking started to fade. What I mean by "fade" is that the operating range suddenly reduced drastically. Up until last week it had been a sad but true source of man pride for me that my remote would unlock the car from a pretty long distance of I guess about 50 feet, maybe even more. If you can picture the distance from the first floor window at my parents' house to the second or third parking place in the car park opposite then you'll know what I mean.

Overnight this changed to a range of a couple of feet and I literally have to be next to the car to use the remote successfully. Being the sad type of bloke that I am I knew from reading the car's manual that the remote has a battery inside it that is recharged whenever the key is in the ignition. I tried the spare key and the range on that had reduced too, even though it had been working fine up until recently.

Sa, last week, even though my car was already booked in for a service this week, I nipped down to my super duper BMW dealer to explain the problem. The nice geezer said that I should bring both keys in when it is serviced and they'll have a look and sort it out. He added that it was probably a problem with the receiver in the car. Fine, I thought. Job almost done. Incidentally, when I booked the service they asked me what time I'd like to bring the car in. I asked how long the service would take. They said about an hour so I agreed on 11 o'clock.

So, that's all the background stuff and, if you're still reading now, you must be my brother. So let me tell you this. Those sunglasses are mine and they don't suit you. Buy your own.

Anyway, yesterday morning I arrive at the dealership at 10.30, half an hour before the car is due. I get checked in, the chap (a different fellow to the one last week) takes my key and bungs it in a some electronic thing to tell him what needs doing on my car. A shallow type, lacking in intelligence, probably would have been very impressed by this.

I was very impressed by this. For about 4 seconds that is. Until he said "it's just due its oil service Sir"

"Yes I know" I said. "That's what it's booked in for"

"Ah" he said.

"Yes" I said. I then skilfully but subtly steered the conversation in a different direction, as I had detected that we were going nowhere.

"There is also a problem with the remote" I explained the whole story to him and told him I had brought both keys as the chap last week had requested. He appeared to listen intently then told me they would take care of it.

"Will you be waiting here Mr Diaspora?"

"Yes, how long will it take?"

"Oooh, well we've got 3 cars in the queue before it so I don't know, it could be a good few hours"

I should have spotted the 20 foot illuminated warning signs, but I didn't. The whole "what time will you bring it in?" question seemed rather pointless if they were just going to do it when they got around to it but I agreed with fishface that I would wait there and he would come and tell me if it was going to take longer than expected. I actually enjoyed the wait. I sat in their rather comfortable waiting area reading newspapers, drinking coffee and watching a parade of programmes about doing up your house and how to find antiques worth loads of money in your attic. Whenever I get the opportunity to just sit and do nothing I love it and wish I could do it more.

After about an hour and a half he wandered passed me and said that the service had been done and they were sorting out the key thing so it shouldn't be too long now. Another hour or so passed and then I heard a voice calling me.

"Mr Diaspora". I looked over to see fishface beckoning me to come over to his desk. This was a minor thing but it rather annoyed me. In the past, whenever my car has been there and I have been waiting for it, the person has always walked over to the waiting area and told me when it was ready and then walked with me back to their desk to sort out paperwork and admin.

Fishface had clearly decided that I didn't warrant the 10 yard walk so he chose to shout to me. Or the BMW efficiency chaps had analysed things and decided the 7.8 seconds that are lost in the walk would be far better if put to use in pissing off customers in other ways. So I trotted over to his desk.

"The service is all done" he said with pride.

"As for the remote problem the computer is telling us that the voltage is low and the key needs to be charged so if you could just use the key for a while that should take care of it".

"Which key needs to be charged?"

"Both", but he had hesitated and I saw a hint of bullshit in his eye.

"But one of them is my normal key that is used every day and that should be charged already"

"It's telling us that they need to be charged, they had a look at them and that's what our computer is saying".

This was all getting a bit Little Britain now and I was feeling very frustrated. I wanted a problem fixed and they had not done it.

"But how can they both need charging? One is my everyday key and the other has been charged too and was working perfectly a few weeks ago".

"That's what our computer is saying".

"Did you check the receiver?"

"No message came up for that, it's saying that the key needs charging".

Then his phone rang and he asked me to excuse him while he answered it. He did, then had a conversation with a mechanic about how to stop brake squeel and in future when he does it just book it down for an hour's labour. This concerned me as I had also told him when I got there that my brakes were squeeking and asked them to sort that out. It also annoyed me that he was having an internal phone conversation while I, a customer, was sitting and waiting.

He finished his call and I fully expected him to call his Mum to say he's be late home for dinner, but he thought better of it and came back to me. We continued our conversation about the remote locking but we got nowhere. He also mentioned that they had taking the top layer off my brake pads to stop the squeeling and they wouldn't charge me for it even though they should have. Most people would have been grateful for this act of kindness and bowed at his feet. I, having heard his conversation with the mechanic where he told him to book an hour's labour in future, realised that the mechanic had not booked the time and this caused a problem in billing me.

Still we got nowhere on the lock thing. I had to take him out into the car park to show him that both keys had the same problem. Then he told me to charge the keys and if that didn't work then they would have to book the car in to sort it out. I then asked him to call the mechanic and ask if they had tested both keys. He did but the mechanic wasn't cracking under this interrogation and we ended up none the wiser.

"The problem is that when we plug the computer in all sorts of things have to be reset and that takes a while so it's quite a long job".

By nature I am a calm person but I got really angry now. I realised that, in effect, the problem I had reported to them had not even been acknowledged. I knew that I had gone through the mechanisms involved in charging both keys yet all they would tell me was that the keys need charging. I told him that I was not happy and he finally agreed to rebook the car in for next week.

It gets downright farcical here. My car is booked in for next Thursday now, just to try to solve a problem with the keys. I am told this may take a day but more likely is that it will take 2 days so I have been given a courtesey car. This will be some pile of crap which I won't want to drive.

I am not happy.

I reported the problem last week. I did it again yesterday. I will probably have to spend 2 days without my car as well as the mild inconvenience of the problem itself.

I have always raved about the high quality of customer service at this particular dealership, but they have let themselves down. I don't feel valued when I report a problem only to be told that the computer disagrees with me. One of us is a customer and one of us is a tool to help serve the customer.

I have only written this massively long post in the faint hope that someone from BMW will read this and do something. If you do, please comment or get in touch somehow. You deserve to know. In the past few years I have spent a lot of money with you and all at the same dealership.

I demand better service.

Or next time I'll buy Italian.

You wouldn't want that would you?

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

A Country in mourning

We all thought we'd do so well. There were a few doubts but generally the quality was there and we knew the team would come together, pull off a couple of performances and win the World Cup. Well we didn't do it, but you know that already.

I am lucky enough to have watched England get knocked out of both major tournaments on penalties God knows how many times, but this one is the most hurtful. The strange thing is that people don't really want to talk about it much. People here in England that is. I expect the Portugese are chatting away merrily and laughing at Cristiano's amusing gamesmanship.

At the moment it is too hurtful and too recent to analyse too much. Occasionally a conversation breaks out but they are all short, depressing and full of contrasting opinions.

Did Rooney deliberately kick the bloke in the bollocks or was he just trying to evade the tackle?
Was Ronaldo's influence so great that he actually persuaded the ref to send Rooney off?
Was Rooney sent off for the foul or for the push on Ronaldo? ( I think I heard it was the foul)
Was the ref right to ask Carragher to retake his penalty?
How come Ronaldo plays for Brazil too?

There are hundreds more questions and thousands more answers but right now we are a Country in mourning and it's too soon to talk and smile.

I'll tell you something strange. Late on Saturday night I couldn't sleep so I started to watch some TV. At 3 in the morning the England v Portugal match was on 3 different channels all of which had started at a different time. I couldn't face watching any of them so I settled on watching highlights of the ODI. Although I knew the result I watched happily and cheered for Sri Lanka, as I always do in cricket.

Watching cricket makes me Sri Lankan.
Watching football makes me English.

Anyone want to buy a St George's flag?

Monday, July 3, 2006

Mickey, Minnie and Jerry. I am so, so sorry!

There was I in the middle of my deepest sleep, dreaming of drums and Jennifer Aniston when I became aware of a noise.

"Dad, Dad blah blah blah blah blah", the voice went. I managed to open my now perfectly lasered eyes and look at some kind of orange light being shone in my face.

"Aaah" I replied, in perfect Sinhala. I became aware of an orange stick of light that was talking.

"Dad, the cats have mmm blah nnn zz" said the stick.

"Aaaah" I repeated. As consciousness hit me I realised that the light came from one of those glow stick things, the ones you bend and they then emit some sort of light. I also realised that the voice was coming from the 12 year old daughter that was holding the stick. I also realised it was about 3 in the morning.

"What?" I said, instantly forgetting my Sinhala.

"Dad, I think the cats have got a mouse in our bathroom".

"Oh ok I'm coming". I get out of bed, rearrange my Barefoot sarong and follow the fully awake daughter towards her and her sister's bathroom.

Every Sri Lankan man knows that sarongs are one of man's greatest inventions, yet every year I mourn the fact that British fashion has not decreed that they are cool and trendy and acceptable for men to wear in public. David Beckham made a valiant attempt to change this but the public weren't ready. When they are, I will be one of the first "new men" down the pub in my Sarong. But, in the meantime, I shall continue to wear one only at night.

So, I am now almost awake, standing in my daughters' bathroom looking at our 2 cats. I have no fondness or affection for these cats. They hang around our house sneering at people, they lie in the sun and get their stomach stroked, they get fed at my expense and they catch birds, mice, rats and leopards and bring them into the house at 3 in the morning. But these 2 ignorant felines were crouched, as aggressively as they could manage, around a piece of floor. They looked about as mean as Ronald Macdonald on laughing gas and were a bit less scary.

On the floor was nothing. No mice, no birds, no leopard. Just the inner tube thing from a toilet roll. I picked it up to find a little mouse crouched inside it. At this point I must ask you, no beg you, to consider all the facts before you pass judgement:

  • It was about 3 am and I had been in deep sleep
  • It was a "school night" and I had to wake up about 3 hours later
  • My previous track record with animals is actually quite good. I have only killed a few, things like mice and rats and stuff and usually it was a case of him or me.
  • I am quite a good drummer

Now you have considered all the facts you will undoubtedly fully understand why I then proceeded to tip the chap into the toilet. He (or she) plopped into the water, probably in more ways than one, and then swam around for a bit and clawed desperately at the sides to try to climb out. For those of you that are not parents I must tell you that 12 year old girls are at that stage in life when they are fond of nature and animals. They also have little sympathy for Dads who are woken up to clear the house of wild animals.

So, at this point, I am faced with a mouse trying to escape, albeit unsuccessfully, from a toilet and a 12 year old almost in tears and shouting at me because I have performed such a cruel act.

Even if I say it myself I am blessed with a quick and calm mind. I thrive on pressure and in times of crisis I am your man. I thought quickly, sharply and efficiently, I said to my daughter

"Don't worry I'll flush the toilet and it will just swim away".

Curiously, after 3 flushes the mouse had not gone and the 12 year old had not calmed down. The thing was still desperately clawing at the sides of the toilet and getting nowhere. There was only one thing I could do and I wasn't about to baulk in the face of adversity. I plunged my hand in, grabbed the tail and ran down the stairs towards the front door, leaving a trail of toilet water and sarong. Fortunately the tail was still attached to the body of the mouse so mouse lover child opened the front door and I threw the chap out. I saw him run off, probably to be hit by a car a few minutes later.

That was it. We both went back to our respective beds, I slept for a couple more hours and got up and came in to work. That is when it started. As word spread daughters and their mother started sending me emails and texts saying how cruel I was, not only to try to flush it away but then also to throw it out into the street like that. I was told that it could have been a parent mouse or, even worse, a child.

So to Mickey, Minnie, Jerry and any other famous mice I would like to apologise. Of course I am talking about the silent Jerry, the one produced by Fred Quimby, not the one that talks, because you're just a pale imitation of the real thing.

I apologise profusely. I hope your relative is now ok. Look at me in a kindly manner please, I really did save its life you know.