Thursday, April 6, 2017

A short rant about Google and Facebook, and where to have a quiet smoke and malt in peace and quite and - crucially - in public

In the spirit of modern man who will always bite the hand that feeds him (she doesn’t as she is busy elsewhere because he never lifts a finger), can I moan about the complete universality of being invited to ‘sign in with Facebook’? (NB This rant has previously appeared on my Facebook account and this blogging service is courtesy of Google.)

Wherever and whenever you want to sign into online account these days - to leave a comment on a newspaper article, leave a review on IMDB, get into your Screwfix account to buy a gross of 2in screws, log on to file your tax self-assessment on the HMRC website - you are invited to ‘sign in with Facebook’.

And if it’s not that, it’s Google - perpetually - inviting you to ‘accept its privacy policy’ (or something) which entails spending the best part of 15 minutes (if you can be bothered, which they hope you can’t) of confirming that you DON’T want your ‘activity’ to be tracked and, yes, you WOULD like to opt out of getting targeted advertising.

Of course, to you clued-up, plugged-in, digitised folk I sound just like an old fart who increasingly doesn’t ‘get it’ and should start designing his coffin now while Facebook still has a 20pc off all coffins offer, but I don’t see it that way.

If Google again and again ask you to re-enter ‘your preferences’, even though you have already registered them tens of times, you get the feeling that it hopes you will finally simply through in the towel and just click ‘yes, fuck me for now and in perpetuity, amen’ and have done with it.

I’m beginning to think those 1970s and 1980s sci-fi films with all their dodgy CGI about the world being ruled by two opposing but equally hostile global companies were spot on. I’m not about to declare ‘I have seen the future, so take me back to the past toot sweet’, but I do which Facebook and Google would stop trying to creep up my arse every five minutes.But this entry wasn’t about that.

. . .

About a month ago, I drove my son up from Cornwall to Liverpool so he could attend an interview at John Moores University (he was offered a place). I happened to mention on Facebook or something that I was there and out of the blue got a text from my German niece’s partner and husband-to-be (and father of her child — it is the 21st century so that is the order of play these days) asking to meet up. He was rather hurt.

He is in Liverpool for a year doing a Masters in, I think I’ve got this right, forensic anthropology, but I had completely forgotten about that even though I had been previously helping him find somewhere to live when he was due to study at Bournemouth University, but then was told he was going to Liverpool after Bournemouth kept playing bureaucratic silly buggers.

My son’t interview wasn’t until 2pm, so we all met up in the morning. My son and I had stayed in a hotel just around the corner from Mathew St where the famous Cavern is where The Beatles used to play, so we were right in the city centre. We looked at some landmarks, as one does, and then headed up to the university quarter. But my niece’s partner told me something about which I was very sceptical.

He said that while wandering around Liverpool city centre (which is rather higgledy-piggledy, in my view) he had happened upon a cigar shop. He doesn’t smoke, but went in to have a look - why I don’t know if he doesn’t smoke - and stayed to enjoy a cigar and a drink. That’s not possible, I said. For several years now it is illegal to smoke in pubs, bars, restaurants and public places. But he did, he said, and more than that he was served by a waiter in uniform who even provided crisps.

This puzzled me. So once I had seen my son off for his interview and dropped of my niece’s partner, I decide to check it all out: and, bugger, me if, apart from a few details, what he said was true.

The cigar shop is the Turmeaus Tobacconists and, in fact, apart from the Liverpool outlet, it has six others, four around Merseyside, on in Mayfair, London, and one — oddly — in Norfolk, according to its website in ‘the beautiful Norfolk countryside between Great Yarmouth and Norwich’ — well, why not, do townies really have to have all the cigar shops? The outlet in Liverpool was in the basement of the Albany Building in Old Hall St, and I went along to find out what was going on? And, dear reader, my niece’s partner’s account was true, well almost.

Turmeaus Tobacconists sell top-price cigars and a hell of a lot of them. To put it in context, the La Paz Wilde Cigarros smokes I buy online from Holland (and when I

am abroad, if I am abroad) though very nice and which suit me entirely, are cheap, machine-made shit compared to the Cuban and other high-end cigars Turmeaus sell. And being allowed to settle in and have a smoke? Well, yes, you can. And you can have a glass or two of whisky with your cigar if you wish. How come?

Well, I asked, and a very helpful Australian who manages the Liverpool outlet told me: they have a ‘sampling licence’ which allows prospective customers who want to buy a box of Cuban cigars (and who are, I should imagine, not short of a pound or two) to ‘sample’ the wares before they buy. Now writing that, the following occurs to me: I have long smoked cigars (though admittedly if not quite the cheap shit which in Britain are Hamlet and Castella, are still cheap shit compared to the smokes Turmeaus sells): surely ‘sampling’ implies ‘sampling’ several cigars to see which you would like to buy? But who in their right mind would smoke two, three, four cigars one after the other, not least bearing in mind that smoking one could, depending on its size, take you up to 30/40 minutes? Well, no one, I should imagine, but be that as it may.

There was quite a bit I wanted to know about cigars and so while being shown around by the manager in the cigar shop, I discovered that it isn’t true, as I had often thought and sometimes claimed, that the darker the cigar, the milder it is, and, conversely - well, I’m sure you are well ahead of me. And the ‘cheap shit’ I smoke - and thoroughly enjoy - is all machine made from tobacco sourced from several countries. And more too boot.

Having several hours to kill until my son’s interview was over, I decided to ‘sample’ a cigar and accompany it with a malt (and I know as little about malt whiskies as I do about cigars, though I do enjoy them). I told the manager that I preferred mild
cigars and asked him to recommend one, bearing in mind that I wasn’t a Rockefeller and could he point me in the direction of what I’m sure Asda (or Walmart) would call a ‘value range’. He did, and I choose a cigar — a ‘value range’ cigar — which cost just over £8. I could well have spent five times that sum on just one cigar (and perhaps bear in mind that a cappuccino at Starbucks will set you back at least £2.50, so don’t bundle me onto the tumbril and off to the guillotine quite yet).

So there you have it: my niece’s partner’s story was not cock and bull at all (though to be honest he would have no reason to spin a yarn, anyway). I sat in comfort for close an hour and enjoyed my cigar and a malt (and did get some crisps, although I didn’t eat any, a small but vital detail I’m sure you will appreciate). Pip, pip.

This entry might read like an advertorial but I can assure you it was not sponsored by Turmeaus. And just now, while concluding it, I thought I might treat myself to a trip to its shop in Shepherds Market at some point. Well, why not?

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