Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bear Grylls - aka 'Born Survivor'

Bear Gryll's has done several programmes which purport to show survival skills in a number of 'dangerous locations'. Well, call me a sucker but I've never watched such rubbish professing to demonstrate survival skills in all my life.
  • These programmes have exactly the same format. Each one shows him climbing up and down something steep. (Logs or trees will do if there is no rock) It is obvious from a safety point of view you should walk round such objects.
  • Jumping into freezing water. This is guaranteed to kill you in the arctic, alps or scotland in winter. (Unless you have a hotel at hand).
  • Eating the most ridiculous insects and animals/fish mostly raw.
  • Turning to the camera just before the next stunt and announcing, "only last month someone tried this and died", or something similar.
  • Getting covered in dirt at every opportunity.
  • Carrying around a water bottle even in wet, cold environments.
  • Out of camera shot he stays in a nice hotel and eats normal food. He may even like a beer or two.
In the episode where he was in the Alps I laughed when he claimed to have slept the night in a snow hole. The shot purporting to show him punch his fist & head through the top of the snow hole first thing in the morning had Bear Grylls announce "It snowed a lot last night", Anyone who has any experience of snow could see that the snow was old and was off-white. The next shot showed him walking over a landscape that was free of new snow - the rocks were bare (sorry Bear). And best of all, judging by the shadows, it was taken at about mid-day. He clearly had a long lie in at the hotel.

In Scotland he was shown jumping into a bog to demonstrate how to survive. Now I've spent many a winter in Scotland climbing and have never, ever, had this problem as they are either frozen or obviously visible. (To survive you have to take your clothes off before falling in as he demonstrated) It is certainly not on the Scottish Mountaineering Council list of required mountain skills. Ok I know he loves taking his clothes off but.... And we saw him again with that stupid water bottle. Does this man not know that Scotland is rather wet and always has plenty of safe drinkable water in every stream in the Highlands?

Another episode had him in the desert. In Morocco, I think, blurting out about how hot the temperature was and so on. Could he not recall his own advice from the episode when he claimed he was in an American desert that "You should never walk during the day, I must find a cave to wait out until the temperature drops at night"?

In another pointless stunt he crawled inside a (dead) camel's body cavity claiming it was an example of a survival skill He also has a fascination with his own urine. He just loves to pee. This time in large quantities all around his camel. "to ward of predators such as Jackals". The man's mad!!. How many Jackals have ever attacked a man inside a camel for god sake? I've seen plenty of Jackels sniff human pee and they runaway as soon as they spot you. Ask any wildlife camera-man.
He came out of the camel in the morning, shirt covered in gore and blood as one would expect. I wondered how he was now going to keep the flies at bay the rest of the day until I noted he moved off (after having consumed an ant for breakfast) Bear Grylls was wearing a very clean and fresh shirt. Obviously the camel he stayed in was up market and had excellent room service. I must pack a camel in my survival bag next time I go walk about!.

On second thoughts to keep both cool and warm Bear Grylls should take a tip from the Spanish Foreign legion handbook and dig a hole large enough to get into and cover himself up. This works well to keep you out of the sun during the day and out of the cold at night. (To avoid scores of readers attempting this on the beach next time your on holiday and dying you must keep your head out of the sand. (Cover it up with a shirt or dead camel)

To prevent further programmes, however, I'd suggest the added precaution of digging the hole with a JCB, at least six feet deep, tossing Bear Grylls into the bottom, urinating on him (to keep the jackals away), covering him up with sand and leaving the JCB on top for a couple of weeks just to make sure he can't get out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Royal Mail - a complaint

The Royal Mail does not fare so well. Last year I sent a small gold chain, which had been in the family for many years, to South Africa, a bequest to a niece from my late mother. I was dubious of it ever arriving in South Africa as soon as I noted you had to state the contents on the package. I asked for it to be insured and was told this was included in the price of postage, approximately £5. However as the object was probably worth more I paid for more insurance. It was now insured for up to £100. A small amount for a sentimental piece of family history but probably reflected its face value on an open market.

It never arrived of course. A quick on-line check showed it had only taken a couple of days to leave the UK and thus vanish into the hands of some thief in the South African post office.

I made my insurance claim and was asked again how much the item missing was worth. I told them and wrote to them giving my estimate for its value, (£100) which was what I had estimated and had paid to have ensured. A long wait ensued. Three months later I contacted Royal Mail and was told that they have an international agreement with South Africa which allows each country to ask for information about missing items. The deadline for responding had passed. However I was informed that they would make another request for information about my missing (stolen!!!) item as this was also a part of 'the agreement'. Another three months passed.

I contacted them again. I was again informed that they had still received no reply from South Africa, which was hardly suprising and that my claim was being processed. Another three months passed.

I contacted them again and was told that they could not allow my claim as I had given them a written estimate of the value. Pardon? "Yes, if you give us a self valuation we've no way of knowing whether you are correct so we don't normally pay out". But, I pointed out, that there was no other way of valuing such items. "Sorry sir, we only accept receipts showing valuations". I struggled to explain that getting , or having a receipt for an item of 100 years of age was highly unlikely as the shop selling the item was not likely to have the original record or, still be in business. I was also told that they don't accept self valuations as these are always viewed with suspicion . In effect this means that if you post something in the UK and you insure it with Royal Mail then in the event it goes missing you will not get your money back unless you have your receipt of purchase. I told them I'm not aware of any other insurer that asks for proof of valuation on paper before paying out. After all if your house burns down your not asked for receipts of all the items burnt. I got nowhere. However they would look into it further. Another few months passed.

I contacted them again. In the end I did accept 'a good will payment of £36. Obviously running an insurance business is a highly profitable enterprise for the Royal Mail as you make it very easy for people to pay for insurance and almost impossible for people to make a claim. Oh, and never, ever both contact customers or reply to anyone trying to make a complaint,

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Post - The postal service

An Post, the Irish postal service has many charms. There are only two letter rates. One for Irish destinations and one for everywhere else in the world. So it costs the same to post a letter to France as it does to Bolivia. However, what makes it special is our postman. When we came here ten years ago (1998) I thought it a good idea to inform the postman of my name. After all Irish houses in the countryside have no name, or number, nor are there street names. Before I had a chance to tell him he dropped a small parcel off for me. "How did you know it was for me?", I asked. "Just put two and two together", he replied.
As most Irish country addresses simply consists of your name, the parish name and local village, I though he might need some help, what with many O'Driscolls, several McCarthys a couple of Connells I must tell him that my partner's surname is also Connell. No need. Before I had my chance a letter arrived addressed to my other half. "How did you know?", I again asked. "I just put two and two together again". he replied.
It gets better. One day a gardening catalogue arrived. The label's address simply stated "Schull, Ireland". No name, no township. All was obscured. When I asked the postman how he knew it was for us, we were told that he'd noticed a few others correctly addressed for us previously and guessed, correctly that this too was for us.
Often when I'm around and about, the postman will recognise my car, maybe parked outside someones house, and drop the mail inside the car. You can't do that with postcodes and automated sorting! .

Walking in Ireland

Well as you all know Ireland welcomes visitors. Or does it?
This notice near the Cliffs of Mhor in Clare and the one below at Moll's Gap near Killarny in Kerry SW Ireland clearly reflects the growing trend amongst the new Irish landlords to ban walkers. In Ireland there are no public footpaths or bridleways. The waymarked trails and long distance paths of Ireland such as 'The Kerry Way', 'The Wicklow Way' and so on are all on a combination of public roads or across farmer's land which the farmer has allowed the walk to cross. Permission can, and has in a several cases been withdrawn. Unlike most European countries you have absolutely no legal right of access to hills, mountains or moors. And as this farmer shows, you are unwelcome. However in their bid to welcome visitors the farmers did propose a year or two ago that for the measly sum of €5000 plus an annual payment of €5 per metre of path crossing their land they would be only too happy to allow access. Luckily the government did not accept this.
So just beware, if you come to walk in Ireland you do so as a tresspasser!
For a more information on access problems in Ireland visit www.keepirelandopen.org