News of Britain’s Royal Mail & some advice about social media 

A package with no return address that was addressed to an empty house sat around a London post office for a month, and since it was marked “Edibles,” someone opened it and found brownies. And you pretty well know what happened next: People ate them. 

Okay, full disclosure: It wasn’t just marked, “Edibles,” it was marked, “Edibles by Pablo Chocobar,” and in hindsight maybe someone should’ve guessed what that meant. Or maybe they did. Either way, everyone involved got high, especially the guy who ate four. 

Someone made a video of what happened next, and it went viral, which must’ve been satisfying. Then the people involved in the incident were suspended–reportedly–which must’ve been less satisfying. 

The Royal Mail said it would be reminding everyone of how to handle mail with no address for delivery or return. It promised to scold everyone involved thoroughly, just as soon as they stopped giggling.

Would you forgive me if I offer a bit of advice here? I know this isn’t an advice blog. I won’t tell you how to clean your house, your skin, your gut, or your mind. But we’ve stumbled into a subject I know something about, so here you go, kiddies, learn from me: When you just have to break the law or commit a fireable offense at work, don’t video it. Don’t take selfies. And if someone else videos it, stay out of the picture. Don’t grin woozily into the lens and say, “I ate four.” I know all of that is what people do these days, but it’s still incriminating evidence. 

Sheesh, the younger generation. You have to tell them everything.

Irrelevant photo: One of the first wild primroses of the year.

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On a more sober note,the Royal Mail is trying, maybe a little desperately, to be cutting edge and exciting (or at least that’s my interpretation), so it’s adding barcodes to its stamps. That’ll let people scan them and watch videos, messages, and information online.

How thrilling is that?

What kind of videos and information? Sadly, not videos of stoned postal workers wandering around London trying to remember what to do with all this paper stuff they’re lugging around. Instead, they’re offering exciting information about postal services, and when all the pieces of the new program are in place the sender will be able to choose a video for the recipient to watch, or even record a greeting. So far, though, only one video’s available. It features Shaun the Sheep. 

Will anyone care when it’s quicker, easier, and often free to send a video or a recorded message without the stamp? I’m doubtful. 

 

The queen’s jubbly

Some as-yet-unidentified business decided to cash in on Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee by ordering 10,800 cups, mugs, and plates with a hideous picture of the queen and a bit of jubilee wording. 

So far, so boring. But when they were delivered, the wording was, “To commemorate the Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II.”

Proofreaders of the world, unite. 

All the merchandise ended up on a clearance website, and if you’d been fast enough you could’ve bought the whole mess for £32,400, but they’ve probably sold by now. Why? Because the word jubbly was made popular by a sitcom character whose catchphrase was “lovely jubbly.” That and the sheer absurdity of the stuff are probably enough to make it saleable.

Now let’s backtrack: The queen’s what

Jubilee, and to explain it I’ll lift a quote from the royal website, which takes the whole thing seriously and is maintained (I assure you, based on no insider knowledge whatsoever) by someone who’s roughly as royal as I am: “On 6th February this year Her Majesty The Queen will become the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth.”

You’ll notice that they not only award the queen a capital Q, they also capitalize the T in the, since it’s close enough to the Q of Queen to pick up a bit of royal fairy dust. According to the convoluted rules of English-language capitalization, the T should be lowercase. 

Of course, they also capitalize just about every other noun in the sentence. Because, see, they’re really, really excited about this. And it’s all so very important. 

So important that the country’s getting an extra four-day weekend and a lot of encouragement to hold celebrations. The country’s also getting a royal jubilee pudding competition. (Sorry, the deadline’s past in case you were thinking about sending in a recipe.)

What’s a pudding? Um, yeah. Basically, a dessert, but the word’s hazy enough, even in British English, that the royal website needs two paragraphs to define it and ends up saying that, other than being sweet, it’s open to interpretation.

Hawley’s Small and Unscientific Survey reports that an awful lot of people are taking all this royal hoopla seriously.

 

Geography, soup, and general incompetence news from all over

Can we shift to politics for a minute? Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who’s supposed to be in charge of, you know, dealing with the rest of the world, wherever it may be, publicly mixed up the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. The exact quote is, “We are supplying and offering extra support into our Baltic allies across the Black Sea.” 

That gave a Russian official the opportunity to point out that the Baltic nations are called the Baltic nations because they’re on the Baltic Sea. Still, it’s an understandable mistake. The Baltic and Black seas are 700 miles apart, but they’re both full of water, start with a B, and are somehow or other associated with a highly fraught region, or possibly two, so what the hell. 

But setting aside all that annoying geography stuff, it’s reassuring to know that we’re both supplying and offering support. And that it’s going into our allies, not just bouncing off their outer shells.

You can see how helpful our support’s turning out to be.

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Meanwhile, in the U.S., Georgia’s Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene denounced Democratic speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi’s  “gazpacho police” for “spying on members of Congress, spying on the legislative work that we do, spying on our staff and spying on American citizens.” 

If she’s issued a clarifying statement, I haven’t found it, but the going theory is that she was worrying about being spied on by something along the lines of Nazi Germany’s Gestapo, not by bowls of cold vegetable soup. Although these days, you can’t rule anything out.

*

If you think being spied on by cold vegetable soup is too silly for anyone to believe, consider the survey showing that one in every four Americans thinks the sun orbits the earth. Less surprisingly, almost half of them–48%–don’t believe humans evolved from other animals.

The survey was conducted by the National Science Foundation and included more than 2,200 participants. But before anyone starts drawing wide-ranging conclusions about the U.S., one in three residents of the European Union got the earth/sun question wrong. 

The small print: In most cases, one in three is more than one in four, even though it involves smaller numbers.

You’re welcome.

*

In cheerier news, Northern Powergrid sent compensation checks to tens of thousands of customers who’d been left without power after a storm last November. So far, so ho hum, but 74 of them got checks for trillions of pounds. 

Unfortunately, Northern Powergrid blocked payment before the checks could be cashed. 

How’d they find out? Someone tweeted a photo of his check and asked if the company was sure it could afford it. The tweet went–you guessed it–viral, and he got a lot of attention, but you could argue that he tweeted himself out one or two trillion pounds.

The company’s mumbling about a clerical error and an electricity meter reference number being dropped into the slot where the refund amount belonged. 

It’s the kind of mistake that could happen to anyone.

 

The freedom of speech report

Last fall a Conservative member of parliament, Jonathan Gullis, suggested that anyone who uses the phrase white privilege should be reported to the Home Office’s anti-extremism program. He also said teachers who criticize the Conservative Party to their students should be fired.

“We need to start sacking people who are pushing their political ideology,” he said.

He, of course, is not pushing a political ideology. He’s just saying what everybody knows is right.

 

And finally, a report from Britain’s grocery store aisles

The pandemic increased the number of people ordering groceries online, and although it’s nice not to have to wander the aisles yourself (or some people think it is anyway), it does leave customers at the mercy of computer algorithms. 

What are people getting in place of the things they ordered? These examples come from the oddly named British consumer group Which? (The question mark is theirs, not mine. I deny all responsibility. Have you ever wondered how to make a possessive out of a name that carries its own punctuation?)

Two in five people who answered Which?’s survey had gotten odd replacements, including:

  • Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream instead of fish filets
  • Eggs from an actual chicken instead of a candy called Creme Eggs
  • Duck paste instead of duct tape
  • Scouring sponges instead of a victoria sponge cake
  • Sausage rolls instead of toilet paper (that’s not quite as insane as it sounds: they’re called toilet rolls; still, you don’t want to think about that one too much)

And more mysteriously

  • Cooking oil instead of milk
  • Tampons instead of shaving cream
  • Bleach instead of orange squash–a kind of dilute-it-yourself soft drink
  • And dog food instead of bread sticks

The people who pick the groceries off the shelves can override computer substitutions, but they’re being chased down the aisles by time targets and can’t always spare the minute it would take to dig into what’s happening, so they grab what they’re told and move on. 

Customers do have the right to reject substitutions, but if they’re like me they’ll sometimes agree to them before they’ve taken in the full insanity involved. 

64 thoughts on “News of Britain’s Royal Mail & some advice about social media 

  1. I always ticked the ‘no substitutions’ box when I did groceries online. One vegetarian and one carnivore would have been too confusing for the poor algorithms. I’m extremely glad now that I did. Goodness knows what they would have sent me instead of the double cream I wanted for my Christmas lunch in 2020.

    Liked by 5 people

    • No double cream? No problem. We’ll send the vegetarian two pork roasts.

      We’re also a vegetarian/meat eating household, and I once said okay to the substitution of haslet for something meatish, having no idea whatsoever what haslet was. I still don’t, except that it’s meatish, but I do remember my mind limping along well behind my tongue and asking, Are you sure that was a good idea?

      Well, no I wasn’t, but I’d committed myself and the very nice grocery guy had already gone to his truck to gather my boxes, so we bought haslet.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I had to look up haslet. It seems like a very useful way to make a small bit of meat go a long way. It also looks like something they might deliver if they didn’t have the loaf of bread you’d ordered.

        Fortunately there weren’t many occasions when they didn’t have what we ordered and it didn’t usually make much difference if we didn’t get it, but cream was a vital component of my Christmas lunch. Last year I got all the things that I thought might be difficult to get well before Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

        • We have a new community-run shop in our village and someone decided to to keep it open for two hours on Christmas morning. We were the only shop open for miles around and the place was mobbed by people who’d forgotten very basic things–milk was high on the list. Some of them could easily have been people who were sent haslet instead of double cream.

          Did you have to change your Christmas menu?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been lucky to have some great posties – some warm & friendly, some utterly hilarious, some out & out characters. Of course they’re balanced by the grumpy sods, but I’m sure it’s a job not everyone can or will love. I shall be seeking out that video immediately as we can all do with some humour right now.

    We still shop in person. Himself – as the chief chef – insists on it. I – as mere bottle washer – simply comply. But it does mean we don’t suffer from the amusing substitutions. I’m almost envious. Well, briefly, until I’d have to listen to ranting about the stupidity of people. While I agree with the view, there’s so much of it on display round about now – especially in the Cabinet – that I’ve reached overload. And that’s all I’m prepared to say about Liz Truss.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes indeed – many of the people arrested for The Insurrection were so proud of themselves they shared their videos. “Hubris” may have been invented by the ancient Greeks, but it is carrying forward beyond their wildest expectations. Or else people today are stupider than The Ancient Greeks.
    Well, shoot ! We still have a cup of QEII’s coronation from some long ago jumble sale. We will have to order a Jubbly Cup to match. (Not sure even big bidness in Tegsis or MissHippy would pernounce it Jubbly though.)
    The sixth grade social studies students (and I) sometimes mixed up the Aral Sea and the Sea of Azov. But most of them seemed to grasp the Heliocentric Theory of the solar system.
    Belated congrats on the Postal Awards !

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you. That award continues to be a source of pride in our lives.

      The sixth graders had the excuse of being sixth graders, not foreign secretaries. (Could we get to grade our foreign secretaries, please? It might help focus their attention on their work.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Remember those olden days when one didn’t understand the phrase about when one doesn’t know when to laugh or cry, it’s better to laugh? Sadly, I understand it now. :)

    In those olden days I used to think that segments like Jay Walking from the Jay Leno show were staged. One of them that I remember had Jay Leno asking folks (who clearly were willing to sign a release form airing this on national tv) what 2 states are not part of the 48 contiguous states? Guess what the (almost?) unanimous answer was? Canada and Mexico … I looked for that segment, couldn’t find that one, found this one instead:

    Liked by 2 people

        • I think you know what the bad news is going to be. I used to think that as a species we were fixable. I still haven’t quite given up hope but I have developed a few doubts. I’ve even started to wonder if the gods of evolution might’ve made a mistake when they picked our particular ancestors as the raw material for developing a species capable to evolving this far..

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Ah, MTG, that odd comment that makes one wonder whether she was more than usually discombobulated. The thing is, if the rest of the comment had made some sense, we could have figured out whether she was using the wrong word or trying to be funny, but since it doesn’t make much sense, there’s always the term “word salad,” which just about captures it. And the brownies…In grad school I ate four hash brownies at a party thinking they were, well, brownies. At every party after that, well into my thirties, if I saw brownies, I queried their contents before partaking. Don’t get me started on people who can’t name a country (even their own) when faced with a blank map. Have they time traveled from a flat world with monsters at the edge?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, those blank maps. I remember facing a lot of them–or it seems like a lot now; maybe it was only one but it was pregnant and now a whole family of them lives in my memory–when I was in school. They weren’t as terrifying as math, but I wouldn’t say I did well with them.

      Or maybe I should blame the brownies…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, good one.
    I can only add former cabinet member John Bolton told the world that Trump had thought Finland was part of Russia.
    DT was one of the guys with the nuclear codes (if he could remember them) along with Putin who does know Finland is not a part of Russia…yet.

    Liked by 1 person

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