The peculiar phenomenon of self service checkouts

Dear all,

Well it’s another day in the office today as I try and practice, write and plan my life. But there’s been a fair bit of giggery since my last outing and a fair bit of time on the road. Oswaldtwistle was a cracking little gig with UFQ and a first experiment into wearing a fingerpick. Yes I have had to consider succumbing to the dark side as my fingernails are beginning to show the wear and tear of such constant playing since I was 13. Don’t worry I’ll always be a clawhammerer…just it might be a fake nail that does the playing.

Anyway, then I went for a little three day holiday to my parents house in the Lakes (always lovely to have time with them although my dad was unfortunately in Dubai) and then to my old home of Newcastle where I saw the outstanding Pons Aelius who delivered an absolutely superb performance. I actually wrote this on my facebook the morning after about the folk degree I did:

I was fortunate enough to do a degree in folk music. From the age of three, Scottish and Irish folk music in particular has been a constant love of mine and to study it with such terrific players of my own age, playing sessions in all kinds of ridiculous places, going to gigs, trading tunes etc was a wonderful time. I was reminded of it last night as I was back in Newcastle for a night and went to see the phenomenal Pons Aelius at the Cumberland Arms who were quite simply fantastic. They represent those who’ve only just graduated, I saw quite a few folks like me who graduated some (scarily long) time ago and I even saw a cracking young banjo player who I actually taught while I lived in Newcastle who is about to begin the degree too. It has its faults, and it might be fair to say it goes up and down but the folk degree is overall a wonderful thing and I am very grateful to have done it. And if you get the chance to see Pons Aelius then bloody well do it because they are bloody marvellous.

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Next up it was to Birmingham to play on BBC Radio with the Urban Folk Quartet which was a lot of fun and an interview with the wonderfully barking Sunny and Shay! This was ahead of two wonderful quartet gigs firstly in Birmingham at the MAC and then a truly stonking gig in Bristol at the Folk House which really was one of my favourite gigs of the year so far. Then I headed down to Cornwall for a bit of rehearsing for a rather exciting new project…details to be revealed soon!

Coming up this weekend is more clocking up of the miles as UFQ head to Maldon, Moreton and then I go up to Todmorden to play with none other than the legendary Alistair Anderson. Then soon it’s time for my tour! Tickets available do please come and see me…

26 Apr Bridlington Folk Club, Yorkshire

29 Apr House Concert, Kirkby Fleetham
Please email/message for details

30 Apr Ropery Hall, Barton-upon-Humber

01 May Plug and Play, Penrith

04 May Cecil Sharp House, London…/shared-even…/3086-dan-walsh

06 May Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford…/met%20studio%2…

08 May Riverhouse Arts Centre, Walton on Thames (lunchtime show)

12 May Bromsgrove Folk Club

13 May The B Bar, Plymouth

14 May Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge

18 May Coronation Hall, Ulverston

19 May House Concert, Edinburgh
Email/message for details

20 May Mining Institute, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

21 May Willow Gallery, Oswestry…/

25 May The Musician, Leicester

26 May CB2 Cafe Bistro, Cambridge

27 May Hales Club, Market Drayton

28 May Blossoms Gallery, Aberystwyth

29 May Geldeston Locks, Norfolk (afternoon)

29 May The Sunny Sailor, Maldon (evening)
01621 856503

30 May Chester Folk Festival

So then I popped into a supermarket earlier and stumbled upon one of those peculiar little things – the supermarket self service thingies. They are quite the most exasperating things known to man and yet so many English people (including me) use them. You put your own bag in the bagging area and it can’t read the bag so you have to get one of the poor sods who work there to sort it out. You then scan your items and the first couple are read ok but then you need to scan some vegetables. You put them on the reader and search for the correct vegetable from the menu and then put it in the bag. The machine beeps again because the weight doesn’t appear to match so once again you get the attention of the poor sod who is busy helping another customer whose creme egg won’t scan and then another customer who has bought a light item that the weight machine thing can’t comprehend. Poor sod helps you out then finally just when you think the experience is drawing to a close you scan the bottle of wine you’ve bought to have with your meal and then of course poor sod has to return and verify that you’re not even worth ID-ing anymore. Finally you pay and tootle off. Now what I find curious about this whole experience is it essentially designed for three main reasons (the latter two being foremost in most people’s minds):

1) to avoid having to queue when you haven’t got many items in your basket
2) to avoid having to talk to ANYONE
3) the company can have fewer staff

And in actual fact the three reasons are utterly negated:

1) you spend an awful lot of time waiting for poor sods who work there to sort you out when the machines don’t work (with the added ‘bonus’ that you get that level of annoyance that only comes from technology not working)
2) you end up having to talk to staff because the poor sods work there sort you out when the machines…you get the idea
3) they seem to employ more staff than they actually otherwise would because the machines don’t work

A curiously English phenomenon.