Piss up, brewery

Oh dear – I’m going to sound like some grumpy old man. Another rant:

I am trying to organise the importation of a consignment of plants from Australia from next week.
In order to do this, I must be registered with the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (part of the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs). I’ve always got on well with PHSI – they’re a grotesquely under-funded and under-staffed bunch who try their best to prevent another Colorado Beetle or Dutch Elm Disease type problem from wiping out horticulture, agriculture and our native fauna. Our local inspector in Chichester is a part-time copper and a great laugh.
Anyway, in order to make the application for registration, I need something called a TURN. This stands for Trader Unique Reference Number and is issued by HM Customs and Excise. For most businesses, their TURN is their VAT number plus an additional three zeros on the end.
All well and good if you are already VAT registered, but my business isn’t. So, I need to apply for something called a Pseudo-TURN. This is issued by HMCE to businesses and entities that don’t have a VAT number.
Following so far?
So, I contact HMCE and they kindly put me through to a chap who is responsible for issuing Psuedo-TURNs. I explain the situation and he sends me a form by email straight away. Excellent so far. However, in order to complete the form, I have to tell them the flight details of the plane carrying the inbound consignment as well as something called the Air Way Bill number (or AWB – anyone who has ever had anything to do with international air frieght will know what this is).
The problem is that I don’t have this information. I can’t get a Pseudo-TURN until I get the AWB and flight details. I can’t get the AWB and flight details until I orgainse the consignment. I can’t orgainse the consignment until I’ve registered as an importer. And I can’t register as an importer until I’ve got a Pseudo-TURN.
I explained this to the man at HMCE. Utter intransigence. He simply refuses to budge from their policy and push a couple of bits of paper to issue a number to me and free up the logjam. Thankfully, PHSI, as usual, are completely flexible and have agreed to register me as an importer subject to me supplying them with a Pseudo-TURN as soon as I have it, so we can now get things moving. But the head of importer registration at PHSI in York was, frankly, astonished at HMCE’s reluctance to do this. The whole system was introduced earlier this year in order to make life simpler. It’s failed to do that for me.

Hels has just looked over my shoulder and told me that this is all utterly boring and nobody will want to read it. Probably true, but it’s my site and I don’t care. So nerr.

The truth will out

I’ve lost count of the times that the Home Secretary has denied on TV, radio and in the press that there is a shoot-to-kill policy against suspected terrorists in London. Today, it has been revealed that the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, has effectively curtailed the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. In a letter he wrote to the Home Office explaining his reasons for this, he said:

Put simply, the only choice an officer may have may be to shoot to kill…

Will the Home Secretary now admit that there is a shoot-to-kill policy? Will Sir Ian stand down? Will the IPCC now be allowed to carry out a proper investigation?
Somehow, I get the feeling that we’re looking at no, no and no again.

Stationary stationery

I order my stationery from the very well-known mail order company that send you catalogues and brochures every ten minutes (top tip: unless you ask them not to send them!). Yesterday, I ordered a pack of 250 self-seal C4 white envelopes with no window. Today, I received 1000 self-seal DL white envelopes with window. They’ve said that they will send me the correct envelopes free-of-charge on Monday and that I can keep the incorrect envelopes.
I never use window envelopes. My normal usage rate of plain DL envelopes is satisfied by purchasing a pack of 50 from the local post office roughly once every six to eight weeks. So, what am I going to do with three-and-a-half years’ supply of envelopes that I wouldn’t normally use?

Tide’s out

looking west across the Taw-Torridge Estuary
Looking west across the Taw-Torridge Estuary from near Crow Point.
We particularly liked what the clouds were doing that day.

New variant spam

A new and worrying variant of comment spam has hit my site this morning – just a single spam comment so far, but it was sufficiently unusual for me to look at it closely before hitting the "delete" button.
The spam itself contains the usual "I think your site is great" crap and a link, telling me to scroll half-way down for a recipe. Now, this is the sort of thing that I might do, but I usually check that the link is not to some pr0n or cas1n0 site before clicking, particularly as the link has come from a stranger (and consequently went straight to moderation for me to review).
In fact, the link is to a legitimate weblog, specifically to this post. As you can see, I’m not the only one to have experienced this.
It seems that the comment spammer is trying to pollute comment spam blacklists by getting valid websites blacklisted. This would have the obvious consequence of rendering blacklists useless and reducing the value of anti-comment spam tools and plugins. This is a worrying development.
You can read more about it at The Net Is Dead. The advice is to carefully check comments left at your site and do not blacklist legitimate sites and URIs.
Personally, I find this all immensely tiresome. I had reduced the problem of comment spam to a minor nuisance, but now I’m back to getting 50 to 100 comment spams per day. This is not why I have a website – to wage a constant war on idiots is not why grayblog is here. A more timid soul might throw in the towel in the face of all this crap. It seems that waging this war is the price I must pay for subjecting you all to my words and pictures.
Some might argue that it’s a fair deal!

Dedicated followers of good coffee

Damien Hirst's bar in Ilfracombe
See us? We’re so trendy that when we stop for coffee and croissants in Ilfracombe, the only place that we’re seen in is 11 The Quay, Damien Hirst’s uber-fashionable bar and restaurant by the harbour. Daaaahrlings!

Actually, truth be told, we were getting rather windswept and damp on the quay and fancied somewhere warm to shelter for a bit, and this place looked rather inviting. But we liked the decor and the coffee was great. And very reasonably priced too.

Enormous balls

Eden Project
The domes of the Eden Project rise out of the American Prairie and merge into the grey sky. Or something.
We were really impressed by the Eden Project – it was a full day out for us, with Hels managing to keep energy levels going through the whole day in spite of quite a lot of walking up and down the sides of the quarry in which the whole thing sits. It is much more than a garden – it is an entertaining and educational attraction with a definite "wow" factor.