Do They Know It's Christmas

December 4, 2008 -

John Heald

“Why can’t you be more like Alan and Danny?” moaned my wife this morning. I replied that the only way I could be like them was to smack myself in the face repeatedly with a frying pan.
 
However, it wasn’t that she wanted me to be as ugly as they are……oh no……..she wanted me to be more useful around the house. I mentioned yesterday at my continuing despair about today’s electronic devices and that despair deepened this morning as I was tasked to hang a picture in the Thingy’s room. …………sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?
 
But ummm…………it wasn’t as I will explain shortly. However, before the thousands of readers sit at home thinking what kind of idiot can’t hang a picture…….let me give you my defense.
When your brain goes wrong, you cannot save money by operating on it yourself.
Likewise, when the engine mapping system in your car goes berserk — and if it’s a Renault, Peugeot or anything else French, it will — you can either stand there and scratch your head or you bite the bullet and take it to Billy Bob’s garage and let them charge you a trillion dollars to fix it.
 
However, when a job needs doing around the house, most people think that they could save a dollar or two if they attempt a spot of DIY. ………………………..This is, of course, total and utter bollocks.
Take the simple job of hanging this picture. Anyone, you might think, can hammer a nail into a wall — but as I proved today…………………. it’s not that simple.
 
First, no matter what nail I selected, and no matter how gentle I was with the hammer, I managed to remove a huge chunk of plaster from the wall.  Imagining that the picture will cover the damage, I persevered until eventually, the nail was in and the picture was up.
 
But then along comes Heidi who tells me it’s not quite in the right place and that a new hole is required.  And so, eager not to remove any more plaster, I decided to use a drill instead.  Later, when I got back from the hospital, and someone had been round to fix up the wiring I drilled through, I gave it another go….a bit to the left this time. As instructed by the Mrs.
 
And eventually, after the drill bit thingy had skidded around the wall chewing up the paintwork, and a few doors, you have a hole into which you must now insert something called a Rawlplug.
This is impossible. It will either be slightly too small, in which case it will disappear into the cavity of your wall and be gone for good, or slightly too large, in which case you will attempt to tap it in with a small hammer, this will break the Rawlplug, and your attempts to get the ruined splodge out of the hole again will cause more plaster to come down.
 
Eventually, after half a day or so, you will have no wall left.  I swear to God that if every man in the land attempted to hang a picture this afternoon, by six o’clock this evening, not a single house would be left standing in the entire country.
 
My tip then, should you wish to hang a picture, is call a builder immediately……as I wish I had done. Yes, it would have cost me money and yes it would have been embarrassing to have to admit to Bob the Builder (or as we live in the UK and all builders are from Poland, admit to Bobski the Builderski) that I didn’t have the skills to hang a picture on the wall…..but I wouldn’t have cared. I could have sat here blogging to you earlier, with a cup of tea and not slaving over a hot hammer trying to hang a picture of the bloody Teletubbies on the wall.

Another job people imagine they can handle themselves is wiring up a television. Not that long ago, it was easy. You pushed a wire into the back and in just a few minutes, you would have it tuned in to the three available channels.
 
Now though, thanks to Tivo HD, the PlayStation and the invention of the DVD, anyone wishing to wire up a television must first obtain a degree in astrophysics or grow a beard.

As I mentioned yesterday, the TV in our living room is so out of sync it makes every program look like a Japanese horror movie. Today the screen just says “Video 1. No Sync,” every time I turn it on.
I have been round the back of course, in a manly “I can do this” sort of way, but when you are around the back you cannot see what the screen is showing, unless your eyes are detachable or your arms are 12 feet long.

And since mine aren’t, I always emerge after a very sweaty day or so in a forest of dusty spaghetti to find the screen says “Video 2. No Sync.”
 
Because the back of a modern television looks very much like the back of a space shuttle, my tip, should you wish to watch something important, is to call an electrician immediately ……….I just did and Edski the Electricianski will be here sometime between tomorrow and March.

Heidi has also been thinking about security and wants new locks put on the windows. She imagines that men can easily fit our own window locks. ……….”Yes,” I said……… In the same way that you might imagine you can easily circumcise your own son.
 
My tip, then, if you wish to keep the thieving scumbags out of your house……..is to buy a gun.
Smoke alarms. Anyone who does not have such a thing in their house is a mental. Or they will be, when the house catches fire and they are scrambling to get out.

It is extremely easy to fit a smoke alarm yourself and you do not need a specialist.
However, when its battery goes flat, do not imagine that you can change it on your own.

I did and my arms were above my head for such a long time that all the blood drained away and I caught gangrene. And then I tripped and fell down my stairs.
 
My tip then, when buying a smoke alarm, is to insist its batteries will last for at least a thousand years.
We are told in these dark and difficult times, when people are eating their own pets and burning their children’s teddy bears just to stay warm, that the most important thing is the environment.
And that as a result, you must insulate the roof of your house. There is an even better reason for getting up in the loft. If your roof is lined with a nice fluffy pair of pajamas, it will reduce your heating bills.

However, I do not recommend that you attempt to line your house yourself because if you go in the loft, you will tread in the wrong place and fall heavily into the bathroom.

This will negate the savings you were attempting to make. Because there’s no point trying to cut costs if it means you end up hopping through the Pearly Gates with a toilet brush up your bottom.

Everyone used to want to be a banker or a money broker….not anymore …… nope  …….the job everyone should want to have is that of a builder, plumber or electrician.

That’s because during these dark times of crunching credit every Tom, Dick and Harry will try to save money by doing the home repairs themselves………and once everyone has made a complete mess of everything, there will be even more work around……putting it all back together again.

Good evening everyone.
 
I want to say a big thank you to Tony who, in Stephanie’s absence, has been posting the blogs. There are lots of comments to answer and I will be doing those over the weekend. Talking of Stephanie, I am glad to tell you she is doing well after her surgery. Hopefully she will return to work soon and I am sure she would want me to thank you for all your kind words.
 
The comments continue to be such an important part of the blog thingy and as ever I will reply to each and every one that I am asked to do so. However, I did receive one or two today quite upset that I did not respond immediately. One even suggested that I stop “wasting every ones time with stupid comedy blogs and stick to sorting out people’s complaints.”

Well, obviously, I am here to help but please be patient with me and with respect, I really do not want the blog just to become a negative board.
 
Therefore, please keep your comments coming and I promise that within seven working days of you having written a comment marked “John, please reply”…….I will have done so.

One talking point at the moment is the fuel surcharge. I received a comment today from faithful reader Keith Overby who is frustrated at me for ignoring this subject and for that I apologize. The reason I had to wait in my reply was because if this press release that officially came out earlier today.

 
CARNIVAL CORPORATION & PLC TO SUSPEND FUEL SUPPLEMENT  FOR ITS NORTH AMERICAN BRANDS EFFECTIVE DEC. 17
  MIAMI (December 4, 2008) – As fuel prices continue to decline, Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK) has announced that it will suspend fuel supplements for its six North American brands effective for all voyages departing on or after December 17, 2008.  
 The fuel supplement suspension applies to the following brands:  Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn.
 A refund of the fuel supplement will be made in the form of a shipboard credit  for all bookings within the final payment period for departures on or after December 17, 2008.  All bookings outside of the final payment period for departures on or after December 17, 2008 will be adjusted to remove the fuel supplement and guests will be provided with a revised final payment amount.
 “As the price of oil has dropped to $46 per barrel, it has now reached a level where we are able to suspend the fuel supplement,” said Bill Harber, director of marketing for Carnival Corporation & plc. Harber cautioned that the fuel supplement could be re-instated if oil prices increase significantly. 
 The company reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests at up to $9 per person per day (except Seabourn, which would be up to $15 per person per day) should the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange Index) increase above $70 per barrel. 
“It is our hope that fuel prices have stabilized and will remain at a more rational level. The complete suspension of the fuel supplement makes the inherent value of a cruise even greater and that is increasingly important in the selection of a vacation in the current economic climate,” Harber added. 
 The fuel supplement for five of the six Carnival Corporation & plc brands is currently $9 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $126 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third, fourth and fifth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage).  Seabourn’s fuel supplement is $15 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $210 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third and fourth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage). 
 Carnival Corporation & plc is the largest cruise vacation group in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe and Australia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Ibero Cruises, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.
 Together, these brands operate 88 ships totaling more than 169,000 lower berths with 17 new ships scheduled to enter service between March 2009 and June 2012. Carnival Corporation & plc also operates Holland America Tours and Princess Tours, the leading tour companies in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. Traded on both the New York and London Stock Exchanges, Carnival Corporation & plc is the only group in the world to be included in both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices.
 

 
Now, I want to thank PA 007 for getting this to me so quickly and if you have any questions about this please let me know and I will answer them for you with the help of Bill Harber, Carnival Corporation’s director of marketing. It’s great news though and let’s hope that oil prices remain realistic for a long time to come.
 
In the next few days I will be planning more events and activities for the February 2009 bloggers cruise. I can tell you that one such activity will be a press Q&A session. This proved very popular last year and we have another large press group who are sailing again with us on-board the Carnival Fantasy.  They have all agreed to take apart again so we can ask this well-traveled group of professionals their thoughts on the state of journalism, the cruise industry and beyond.
 
Well, Christmas is here and it’s time to deck the halls with boughs of environmentally sustainable holly, ’tis fast approaching the season to be jolly. And while you’re at it, bring out the illuminated Santas, the amusing flashing reindeer and the nativity scenes.

Unless, that is, you live in the UK where it is illegal to utter the C-word. The village council where we live has decided to organize a multicultural Festival of Lights instead of traditional Christmas illuminations. ……..and while I have the total and utter respect for all religions………this is totally and utterly bonkers.
 
They have decided to call this season “Winterval” to cover the winter festivals of Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas. I would love to meet the chairman of the council who made this decision and kick him in the ding dong merrily on highs ……Anyway….lets talk about Christmas shopping instead before my head explodes.

Obviously we are all starting to buy our loved ones Christmas gifts…..sorry……I said the C word……..I meant Winterval gifts. Heidi showed me something on a website that she thought would be perfect for me.
 
It’s a gadget that helps you remember your personal identification numbers (or PINs). For a laughable £29.95, you will receive a pocket calculator type thingy, on which each key has the clear image of a different bank or credit card. So, you click on the symbol of your choice, type in the relevant PIN for your card or bank, and bingo, the thingy remembers it.

Of course, if your attention hasn’t drifted away, you might sensibly ask what would happen if this wonderful thingy were lost or stolen. Stacked with all your PINS, a potential thief would have access to every penny you have in the world, and be sailing in the owner’s suite on the Queen Mary 2 with his new Latvian bride before you knew the bugger was even missing.
 
Please. Do you think for one moment these clever people haven’t thought of that eventuality? The gadget is protected by a PIN……..Which you have to remember ………… good grief
Heidi and I have therefore decided not to send each other gifts this year and instead she wants to give the money we would have spent to charity………….and that’s fine with me….except……..and she will kill me for telling you this………we have been having a heated discussion today about which charity to give it to.
 
Heidi has been sponsoring a child in Africa for the last few years. She sends money every month to a charity that spends it on clean water, education and medicine……and I think this is absolutely brilliant. I meanwhile have always taken a policy of self-denial at Christmas and given money to the Salvation Army. However………Heidi received a brochure suggesting we should buy presents for random families in Africa. All you do is make a donation to Oxfam and it will send a gift down the chimney of a house in Mozambique.
 
You may think this is all jolly noble, and I’d have to agree if the presents were iPods or Miami Heat shirts or something the average African child might actually want.

But unfortunately we are talking about goats. Hundreds of them. Oxfam says this is a brilliant idea, and the brochure posts a quote from Elias Nadeba Silva, a farmer, who was given one last year. “I have great plans for my field,” he said, “and my family is very grateful for Oxfam’s help….But next year, no more goats, Okay? I’d prefer a laptop computer.”
 
Other popular choices from the brochure include cans of worms, piles of dung, catering packs of condoms and the materials for making toilets. Who wants that for Christmas? “Daddy, Daddy. Santa’s been! He’s been! And he’s brought me . . . a toilet.”

I can only begin to imagine the look of desperation on the little lad’s face. His big brown eyes full of overwhelming disappointment. Think about it. We’re told that we should never buy our wives or girlfriends anything with a plug, because this is bound to be something they need, rather than want. And exactly the same thing holds true the world over. No child anywhere wants a lavatory for Christmas. You need a lavatory. You want teddies and footballs and Eye Pods.
 
However……it will come as no surprise that I lost this particular argument and therefore today Heidi bought me a toilet and I bought her one as well…….and I guess thinking about it……..it’s probably going to be a very useful gift. Here’s the link if you would like to see what we bought.
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/ProductDetails.aspx?catalog=Unwrapped&product=OU3114WS
I feel pretty good about buying two of these ………but I bet you they would have preferred a new pair of Nikes.
 
Goodnight
Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.