Friday, 31 December 2010

Best of the Daniel Cure Blog 2010

Another year… ah well…

As you know by now, the natural holiday and chance to unwind over the Christmas and New Year period means that I become lazy, sleepy and generally apathetic to the need for updating this blog. As a consequence I am going to do what all the lazy, over-paid and un-imaginative TV executives do and compile a “best-of” to tide me over to the New Year.

So here they are, a short selection of some of this years contributions…including one particularly ironic entry on the topic of football.

Labour and the BBC
The BBC love Labour. They can’t get enough of them. Jeremy Paxman. Andrew Marr. Adrian Chiles. All socialists. Nick Robinson political analyst. Loves Labour. You watch any political news story on the BBC. Despite the fact that Labour are in power, the story almost immediately descends into anti-Tory conjecture. Watch Paxman getting all chummy with Ken Livingston whilst scorning and ridiculing Boris Johnson or Teresa May. In short, there is nothing they wouldn’t do to promote the merits of Gordon Brown and the Labour party whilst undermining every essence of the opposition parties…MORE

JK Rowling the Labour Party Donator...
You may have read a number of my article criticising JK Rowling for her heavy-handed political agenda on completion of the Harry Potter series. Her decision, for instance, to reveal the fact that Dumbledore was, in fact, gay AFTER the final book was published, pushed my opinion of her over the edge. To me, this smacked of someone who…MORE

I don't read newspapers...
I don't read newspapers. I don't have the time or the inclination. News is so instant now that the papers simply act as a source of conjecture and subjection. I am fully able to achieve such things myself (I don't even enjoy the speculative approach of the BBC and Sky, but there we are)…MORE

Hang the Parliament...
So, as usually happens in UK General Elections, more people voted for the Conservative party in England than any other party by a mile. And, as has been the case in recent times, it is the combined vote of the Scotland populace that props up Labour. What, I ask myself, have we done to deserve this draconian punishment? Is it payback for our annihilation of the Scottish armies during the Middle Ages? Is it in retribution for the demolition of Bonnie Price Charlie’s eighteenth century rebellion? MORE

The Dream Match - the greatest football game of all time...
The Champions League Final...

I rarely bother with these. Since the Premier League rose from the old Division One in the early nineties and English football was embraced back into European competitions, the very notion of "The Champions League" has been something of a ridiculous concept. Back when Tottenham Hotspur were actually consistently good, a team had to win their respective league in order to qualify for the old European Cup. Now, any of the top four sides qualify, which makes a mockery of the term "Champion." Anyway, Spurs are never in the competition, let alone the final, so my attentions tend to drift elsewhere...MORE

What would happen if...
I was watching a repeat of the somewhat controversial Channel Four documentary on the alternative line to the throne.

The idea is based on the fact that at some point during late medieval England, the line of succession took a dubious “kink” and true line was lost. Actually, that is far too concise a summary – the details were that Edward IV was not the true son of Richard Plantagenet the Duke of York and therefore should not have been able to legitimately claim the crown. The man who should have become king was (in the eyes of some) George, Duke of Clarence. Had that have happened, we would now be directing the Nation Anthem at King Michael, whose current location is Australia…MORE

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Quests of the Silver Knight – A Sneak Preview

You know by now– the progression of the Silver Knight sequel has been slow going this past year. However, we are nearing Christmas and a time of giving, which means I intend to provide you all with a snippet from the manuscript thus far (how kind). Picking up the action in 1455 and moving forward to 1459, this chronicle has Jack travelling farther afield than the fields of south east England. Journeying on Queen Margaret of Anjou’s order to the northern wastelands of Northumbria, to the castles of the Midlands, Jack also crosses the Channel and it is from this episode that I have decided to extract a small section for you…

* * * * *

Then, just as he neared the apex of the rigging, only feet away from the central mast, there was an almighty crash as the ship lurched between the onset of a huge wave and the powerful counter-force of the sea as its undercurrent almost took the ship out of its waters. It was at that very moment that the force finally became too much for the sail and, with an almighty noise, it tore from its hoists and shot across from the mast in an instant.
Jack looked on aghast as the sail began to flap pathetically, only for his attention to once again be diverted from beneath him as the vessel seemed to ground against something beneath the waters. As he clutched at the mast, the housing suddenly came loose and he felt himself swing alarmingly across the deck, knocking against the solid wood of the mast and bouncing from it as if he were a rag doll in the hands of a boisterous child.
‘God help me!’ he cried, as the ship lurched violently forward, sending yet another a torrent of icy, salty water crashing over the bow and down onto the deck.
His latest exclamation was born not from the threat of the weather, but something that arose ominously from the sea; a new, quite different form of devilry to those of the wind and rain. Ahead of him stood another two huge, jagged black objects that cast their horrors down upon him as another wave crashed overhead, splitting one of the deck boards in two. For a moment, he considered relinquishing his grip of what was left of the rigging and jumping overboard, for the vessel had become more of a liability than a safe-haven. However, he simply could not trust that his path would avoid striking against the ships listing bows, nor that he would not be dashed upon the apparent crop of deathly rocks below; his survival instincts, however, slim, were enough to keep him locked in his grip upon the ropes.
Jack called out in pain, his voice saturated with the vile salt water, and clutched wildly at what he perceived to be another mast rope, only to find that his vision had been impaired by the water. He briefly acknowledged the sensation of falling, then, a second later, there was a sickly crack as a large object called an abrupt halt to his suffering and he was quite still.
Darkness had taken a hold of him; the world had turned black.

* * * * *
There will more further extracts over the coming months...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Buy "The Silver Knight" for a White Christmas...

Much as I detest the flagrant commercial abuse of the Yuletide period (I think I saw the first Christmas related item back in June), I am sure you will forgive my impudence when I draw your attention to the fact that we are soon to be ensconced in yet another round of Christmas shopping.

Upon that note, what a superb time to be thinking of unusual and indeed unique gifts for those around you! Which is why I must quite unashamedly plug my latest novel, The Silver Knight...

I am sure your loved ones would enjoy reading the first instalment of Jack Templeman’s Wars of the Roses as they sit before the log fire with the crackle and cheer of merriment ringing in their ears and the slight discomfort of an unripe fig lodged deep in their ever-occupied bellies. The trials and tribulations of young Templeman will, I am sure, go down a treat with the aid of a large festive tin of Roses, bottle of wine, or dare I say, even a celebratory nut.

The promotional video to The Silver Knight is available on YouTube, whilst there is a full review and discussion available on Litarena. I also talk about the themes and content of the book on my website.

So, to purchase a copy of The Silver Knight (paperback copies start at £10.98), simply visit the online Lulu store at: (Alternatively, I can arrange signed copies on request)

You know you want to!

Friday, 10 December 2010

UK Customer Service – Rock Bottom

Those of you who know me will know that my patience has frayed considerably with time and that there is no better catalyst for my wrath than that of shoddy treatment at the hands of large organisations.

I’m no socialist. I am a capitalist. But by definition I am an advocate of the free market – free competition and the chance for companies to compete for business. Compete on price, on quality and…service. That’s right, service. And fuck me, if I haven’t had the need to scream on successive instances this year because of this.

Customer service is no longer a resource to help the customer. It is a set of self-righteous bullies who sit behind a desk and defend the actions of their pitiful organisation, only pausing to say “sorry” (and often this has to be extracted from them with seismic force) and that there is “nothing they can do.” Well, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to name and shame them. I’m going to write to the papers about them. I’m going to stand outside their stores and instruct people not to go in. I’m going to continue trying to sabotage their efforts at bettering their businesses and I will not rest until they go bust…Mwah ha ha ha ha….

Okay, sorry, I’ll take my valium. But you see, it drives me mad…here are some examples for you…

1. Morrisons and their mis-leading promotions
There’s history between me and Morrisons. A long and potted history. However, this has not stopped me from continuing to place my custom with them – I dare say for convenience sake rather than anything else, but still, a customer is a customer and they should be grateful. Only they are not. They are extremely ungrateful. For instance, I recently visited the Rubery store. Oh yes – that’s right, I’m going to name and shame – so for anyone interested, this is the large superstore next to the Great Park cinema in Rubery, South Birmingham. Avoid it like the plague! On browsing through the wine section, I found a bottle of Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape that was being sold for half price (£14 down to £7 or something similar). Great offer – tempting enough to place a bottle in my basket. The offer sign was very clear with no catches and was placed directly in front of the bottle. Owing to the multitude of thoughts buzzing through my mind, I failed to mentally calculate the total basket value prior to paying, but the pin machine was down anyway, which meant that I was only able to see a breakdown of the items once the payment had been made. And yes, you guessed it, they had charged me full price.

Naturally I questioned this with the cashier, but was told that I would have to raise it with Customer Services – located at the opposite end of the store. Trudging over to this counter, I found a spotty, specky, geeky wretch of an individual who reminded me of the cadet in Lindsey Anderson’s “If…?” When I plucked the bottle from my bag and explained the situation, he seized it and sprinted away, disappearing in the direction of the wine section. He returned minutes later and gave me his explanation:
“There are two bottles of this – the offer refers to the other bottle – this one is actually full price.”
“But this was the one on offer,’” I replied.
“No it was the other one,” he answered. “The offer label was next to it.”
“You mean you’ve just run down there and moved it,” I replied. “But it doesn’t matter as that was the bottle on offer – quite clearly.”
“Well you’re wrong. The other bottle had a green top.” He then proceeded to give me a very lengthy description of the mysterious other bottle.
“Look, I’m not interested,” I interjected, sighing. “This was the bottle on offer. If there is a mistake, then just give me the other bottle.” (I must be going soft)
“We’ve sold out of the other bottle.”
“Well that’s you problem. The offer was there – I’ve been enticed by it and you need to honour it. Now, give me my seven pound back.”
“I can’t do that.”
This conversation went on and on. I just hadn’t got the time.
“Right, I’ll have my money back,” I finally relented.
“Fine.” He reached into the till and selected fourteen grubby pound coins.
“What’s this?” I answered as he thrust them towards me. “I paid on my card. I want the money refunded on my card as it has come out of my bank account.”
“I can’t do that. You would have to go to the counter to do that.”
“But they’ve just sent me here,” I answered. “Are you taking the piss?”
On audible receipt of the word “piss” he decided to turn his attentions to the increasing line of disgruntled customers behind me. The change fell from his feeble, skeletal, Uriah Heap-like hand and onto the floor with a depressing metallic clatter.
“For fuck sake,” I mumbled, squatting down with my assortment of bags to gather up the mass of coins. Finally, as I gathered myself, I made a judgement that I still regret – that I hadn’t got time to pursue it further – this is of course what they want – to grind you down.
“Right,” I interrupted. “Have you forgotten one last thing?”
“What’s that?” he snapped.
“A magic word.”
“Sorry,” he hissed, with as much sincerity as a Snake Oil salesman.
“Right, I see.” Gathering my belongings, I turned to my audience and drew breath. “I wish you all the very best with this idiot – sorry seems to be the hardest word, but it beats having your money back. Who needs enemies when you have Morrisons?”
I tried to jut an elbow out as I strode away, desperate to “accidentally” knock the bottle off the counter, but to no avail…

My advice? Avoid this store and their cheating offers like the plague

2. Comet and their refusal to comply to consumer law
I’m going to keep this one simple. In February, we bought a TV from the Merry Hill branch of Comet – and if you’d like me to be specific, that is the Merry Hill, Dudley branch next door to Mothercare and it was from an arrogant, buck-toothed woman with a face like that of a horse being re-hooved. We bought it home. The cable was dodgy. It kept switching itself onto standby at random times. I took it back. They sent it to be repaired. It came back, it hadn’t been fixed. I took it back. She told me it would be fixed again. I told her that it wasn’t an old kitchen table but an electrical item that was fundamentally broken. She said there was nothing they could do. They took it back in to be repaired. The problem is still there. I went back and told them that I wanted my money back or a replacement under my guarantee. She said they couldn’t do that. I told her that I would take them to court for breach of my statutory rights. She said fine. I stormed out, threatening to have her hunted down…etc

You get the idea – Comet’s staff are a load of lying, arrogant arseholes who deserve for their miserable company to go bust. As bad as Argos are – at least they replace products if they go wrong. Comet have not heard the last of this…but if I can at least spare others from the pain of this shocking organisation then at least some good will have come from this experience.

3. Volkswagen and their crappy cars
I’m going back a few years now, but this one is so relevant that I simply have to get it in…
VW Listers – South Worcester. A guy called Andy Breakwell sold me a second hand polo. Complete lemon. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Flat spot on the tyre, faulty handbrake, tracking problems, panel repairs done badly, electrical problems, dodgy engine, loose exhaust pipe, etc etc…

They just were not interested. Every step of the way was a hassle – I had to fight, argue, threaten, bring others in to fight my cause… it was a nightmare. The scary thing was that I wasn’t alone. There were numerous people with car problems – be it vans, Beetles, Golfs, Passats – they were all bloody lemons, bought in good faith my customers awed by the plush sales area only to be fobbed off by the aggressive “service” staff as soon as the wheels started to fall off. And they did literally start to fall off. I think the lowest point was eighteen months later when my electric windows started to wind themselves down spontaneously at random times – always when the car was parked with the engine off. Like in the middle of the fucking night in the rain. The best art was that when I finally made contact with VW head office to complain, they told me that they were “completely satisfied” with their level of service. Well what a surprise!

Never, never, never buy a Volkswagen – and certainly not from Listers, Worcester. They used to be reliable – not any longer. And when they do go wrong, you’re screwed…

To anyone from these miserable companies who might read this with annoyance, irritation or embarrassment, please take it as an opportunity to pull your finger out and start honouring and serving your customers, without whom you would be buggared.