Mad as a fish

I was clearing out some old paperwork and came across the documents I had printed off when I used the aforementioned ‘Mad as a fish’ as my Internet service provider (ISP).

For the benefit of anyone under 30 struggling with the concept of what paperwork means, back in the day when you subscribed to or contracted with any kind of service you always got a pile of paperwork. It’s worth adding that all but the most diligent wouldn’t actually read it, but dutifully filed away…or for the less organised, shoved in a drawer somewhere.

I can’t quite remember why I signed up with them back then. I have long since moved on through quite a few other ISPs but not with quite such ‘off the wall’ names. It might have been the quirkiness of having a slightly strange e-mail address such as ugly.ocean-monster@madasafish.com . Although cyber crime and phishing e-mails (no pun intended!) weren’t really widespread then, even in those days it would have been a warning sign to get a random e-mail saying Dear Ugly Ocean Monster, it appears that your car tax Direct Debit has failed, please connect to this site and give us all your personal data so that we can hack you etc. Let’s face it…how many Ocean Monsters have cars, or can drive?

As I wrote on a previous blog, call me baked potato I am actually a big fan of having a random e-mail address or two to use when you are absolutely forced to give a contact e-mail for an unfamiliar on-line retailer or booking service even though deep down you know at best this address will be spammed with rubbish and at worst there will be attempts to scam you.

In fairness to fish, and using the context of ‘don’t get mad, get even’ rather than any kind of Mad Professor behaviour or other suggestion of not quite being in line with everyone else; most fish I have come across have been pleasant and very even tempered and if I recall Mad as a fish were quite good on customer contact and service. Glad to see that they still seem to be around.

These days many people tend to sign up with mainstream providers – in the UK it is often Sky, EE, BT (the original and largest fixed line and phone service provider) ; in the US it’s Comcast and Verizon and a whole host of other big names. If you live in China I think its just two providers . That’s some duopoly!

However in Switzerland , amongst the advantages of living in a country that is very good at Chocolate, Mountains, Trains that run on time and watches that are on time too but have eyewatering price tags, they had a start up ISP called Twifi which generously offered free WiFi for 18 years for anyone who named their child after the company. If you had a daughter is was to be Twifia, if it was a son, Twifus. All you had to do was send them a verified copy of your child’s birth certificate.

Such offers don’t seem to be available in the UK much to the relief of children whose parents signed up with Cuckoo Internet!

Our children were from an earlier era, and it was really just energy providers that were proliferating.

Thankfully for them such marketing campaigns hadn’t existed from the providers we had signed up with, otherwise we might have been proud parents of Octopus and Bulb..the big name providers of the time!

What’s in a name?

My parents generation, probably like all generations, would from time to time have a bit of a moan about things. Actually, lets be careful here as we all find ourselves turning into our parents in various ways whether it is looks, temperament, idiosyncrasies , dress senses or driving habits!

Anyway my father would from time to time comment about how the world was becoming very depersonalised – small shops being swamped by large supermarkets, characterless motorways with no landmarks and so on. He did have a point here…I recall finding myself driving along a motorway on a work business trip that was one of many trips over a short period of time and gazing out of the car window (I hasten to add I was not the driver!) and having a mind-blanking moment about where on earth in the country are we? For those not so familiar with our UK motorways , they often have high grass banks and you see nothing of where you are passing for miles at a time – exit signs are the only clue!

Things have moved on (although obviously not on the motorways) in that the clever marketing people now want us to feel warm and fuzzy and upfront and personal about everything. I have a parcel delivery due later today and the courier company reassured me with a message that John Higgins would be with me between 17.32pm and 18.32pm. I am assuming he will be delivering the parcel and they are not just sending one of their employees round for a welfare visit?

I have recently been having a rant with my credit card provider and all the conversations, at least from their side(!) are very first name and friendly – sincere Steven from Customer Care has called twice, Michael from ‘escalations’ team and level headed Laura whose job it seemed was to call me about my complaints about the lack of service from sincere Steven and escalation Mike and re-assure me that she was on my case.

She told me more or less on our last call that her life has no higher or more important priorities than me and my banking needs at the moment. This concerns me slightly as her household may be expecting some contribution from her in terms of Christmas shopping, tree decoration or mince pie making or whatever her role normally is in such festivities and to me I think these are of greater need for focus in her life rather than an erroneous charge on my account.

And then of course there is Starbucks…it is impossible to order a coffee or hot chocolate with anonymity…I am not a huge customer of them normally and it is usually more when I am in the US for work related travel that I frequent them. When asked my name I always say , my best House of Windsor accent ….’Prince Charles’..there is never really any reaction from the order taker…other than mutters how , how will all this fit on the side of the cup? But when it gets shouted out to a crowded coffee shop, that is when the fun starts!

Enjoying this blog? …you know its just written for you ‘insert name here’

…oh and finally an update on the parcel, John hasn’t made it yet but I have been told of his exact co-ordinates. I have noted these in case things deteriorate and I need to give the info to the local mountain rescue team.

Just living the dream or living in Hope?

In the UK we have a good selection of town and village names that will bring a smile of amusement to those that chance upon them. One of my favourites is the village of Ugley. Inevitably it’s various organisations and clubs prefixed with the village name periodically feature on the internet..top one being the Ugley Woman’s Institute.

All credit to the village hall who embrace this strangely found fame!

The Woman’s Institute or WI for those from outside the UK is essentially a social club for middle class ladies of a certain age ! At one time considered a staid, safe and reassuring bastion of jam recipes and flower arranging, but more recently epitomized as risque from the film Calendar Girls based on the (true ) story of when a WI in North Yorkshire did a nude calendar photo shoot to turbo charge their fund raising for cancer research! Who says village life is dull!

Anyway added to my list of favourite village names is Hope where we went walking a few weekends ago. Wouldn’t we all like to live in Hope? In reality most of us do……

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Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard


Although my parents and teachers always told me they didn’t have favourites and favouritism is basically a bad thing,  I do break the rules when it comes to street names.   Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard is definitely top of my list.  Its actually a street in San Francisco, perhaps not surprisingly. 

Nobody has ever really been able to explain where the name derives from – I get the Beach Blanket bit. I could also almost accept the Boulevard part as well,  although as far as I can recollect,  it doesn’t really resemble  Boulevards as one thinks of them in Paris or Berlin i.e.  a wide street with majestic buildings, often trees and sometimes side carriageways.  Let’s not even start on the Babylon part…… but despite all that I love the name.  I believe there is a quite a famous stage show of the same name and also now a couple of restaurants in London as well also using that name.

As with any favourites,  it is good too to have a second choice or backup…for me that street is Wych Elm Rise.

I haven’t really researched if there are multiple variants on this in different towns.  

This one is is in middle class, leafy Guildford in Surrey, England. Well one would expect Elm trees to feature in a leafy town!

Guildford gets many adjectives and descriptors. A town in the Stockbroker belt is one of them – the town certainly has more than its share of well heeled commuters at the station each morning heading to their city jobs on the train.


I realise that anyone not an native English speaker is probably now lost in a web of confusion with all these adjectives – ‘well heeled’? we could just say wealthy but the etymologists will show a link to good shoes being a sign of prosperity; leafy, we could just say nice streets with trees and so on.  But of course the English language at times is designed to confuse! 

 Only yesterday one of my very ‘English fluent’  German colleagues asked me why my ‘out of office message’ on my e-mail said I was taking a days annual leave.

To him that was a complete contradiction – I am  taking  a day off not a year off!

So back to Wych Elm Rise – why do I like that name?  I used to live on a road adjacent to it (called Warwicks Bench…but that’s another story)   and when giving a friend directions to find the house,  on hearing the Street name he was convinced I was giving him a crossword clue (14. Across.   Scottish origin tree on slope,  11 letters).


I could very easily do a top 10 of favourite street names, but for now I will just leave you with number 3.  Nothing at all cryptic or exotic about this one.  It is Hill Street in Glasgow (and I’m sure there are many other Hill Streets in the world)

I had to walk up this hill every day to go to  secondary school and it often vexed me that the great Victorian city planners of Glasgow (which unusually for a UK city is based on a grid system like so many US cities) couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative!

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