The Doggy Paddle Crew

One of the advantages of a good local pub is that even when you are not in it, you get added to a list...

The local in Coleford, The Dog House MicroPub is not the sole reason we moved to the area, but as with all the pubs in the area it certainly helped the decision along. The Dog House has no keg or draught lager, between 3 and 6 real ales straight from the cask, the same amount of ciders and bottles as well. No music, no TV, no wifi and no mobile signal so the only option is to talk to the others in the pub.

One night a few months ago when I was out for work, Debbie was in the pub and by the end of the night my name was on the list for the pubs entry into the Monmouth Raft Race. Only 6 1/2 miles down the River Wye on a Sunday, sounded ideal. Then the stories of being egged and flour bombed from the bridges en route emerged, along with the realisation that 6 1/2 miles was actually pretty far.

I could bore you with all our team talks, practice sessions and tactics but there were none. At 12 noon last Sunday we were still not sure the raft even floated, let alone be secure enough to get us to the end... Instead, some pictures of what was a great day out - and at the end we all agreed to do it again next year - I blame the beer for that decision.

However, with no training or noticeable skills we came 13th out of 99 with a time of 1hr 40 - so the 90 minute mark is within shot for next year. Also raised a lot for charity and had a cracking party in the Dog House on Sunday evening.

Last night...

Not the Strokes song, but some details of something I was a part of last night.

I have removed much of the specifics, and any references that could identify anyone except me, but wanted to share as I was really stuck as to what I could actually do.
With no phone, no response from the emergency services, with a clearly vulnerable, inebriated and seemingly quite scared man what more could I or should I have done?

The kindness of people who stopped, but were unable to add anything, and my over-riding fear that if I left him he would quite potentially fall into the road again made for a long and subsequently sleepless night for me.

What follows is close to the contact I made with the local police this morning - if anyone thinks there is another agency or group I should let know please let me know.

____________________________________________________

I am not really sure what can be done here, but I wanted to log a report of an incident (not a crime) from last night

I was visiting some friends in town last night and staying at the ***** Hotel on *****

When walking back to the hotel having left The *** Pub at about 11PM a car hooted and shouted out of the window that there was a man in the road – this car drove off an I never saw it again.

I saw a man clearly struggling to pull another man out of the road, at this stage I was unclear as to any events that had lead to this.

It transpired that the younger man, who had been cycling past, had seen the other man in the road and had pulled him out of the road, so I crossed and helped the older man, mid 30s, on to the pavement.

He had cuts and bleeding on his hands and elbow that I could see, and some blood on his face but no sign of cuts there.

He was clearly very drunk, and said he was deaf, but appeared to be able to hear.

He asked us to get him a taxi home to ***** which me and the other man were going to pay for as he had no money on him.

It was clear he had at least urinated, and defecated, so a taxi that did come wouldn’t take him.
He had a fishing rod and landing net with him.
His jeans were absolutely sodden from the knees down, and he was wearing an **** Football top.

I said we would call an ambulance or the police, but he was very agitated at this and didn’t want this.

At this time I realised my phone was dead.

He was unable to stand when trying so walking home was not an option.

The younger man called 999 and spent about 10 minutes on the call explaining the situation and where we were (***** at the ***** junction)

The younger man now left on his bike, I didn’t see him again or know who he was.

Over the course of the next 2 hours I sat with the man on the pavement, and he was clearly in distress but it was hard to understand why.

At various times while talking he referred to his **** dying, his *** dying, his *** having (an illness) and made many references to “My brother is going to beat me up when he finds out what I have done” but would never elaborate on what he had done or was referring to.

There was no extra detail on when any of these events had happened.

He also made repeated comments that his partner had been cheating on him, and this was something to do with Facebook.

He had been drinking in The ****.

A taxi stopped and the driver made a call to the emergency services.
A lady driving out of **** also stopped and called the services, and she was given a reference of **** having spoken to ****.

I did not know any of these people and none returned.

After a couple of hours, I think about 1.30, he tried standing again, and by leaning on me we were able to walk slowly towards ****.

He was continually saying he was scared his brother would be at home and he would be beaten up.

We got close to *****, and he then stopped and said I had to go, I couldn’t go to his flat with him, and I was to leave.

He was very agitated now and quite aggressive.

He seemed balanced walking and he walked off.

As I had no phone and it was now very late, I walked back to the hotel and arrived there just before 2AM.

The name he gave me was ********.

Aside from the fact that at least 3 calls were made about a man who had been found lying in the road, possibly run over (he could not remember how he got to there) of which I don’t know exactly what was said as I made none of the calls, I did have the very strong impression that there was something else that he was stopping himself from saying, related to the constant comments that his brother would beat him up when he found out what he had done, and his absolute fear whenever a call to the emergency services was being made.

I don’t know anything else about him or anyone else that I spoke to or saw during this time.

I don’t know what, if anything, can be done on such little information, but wanted to pass this on should there be any incident linked to ***** either last night or this morning.

 

Well done everyone.

Cameron, Farage, Boris, Gideon, Darling, Gove, Daily Mail, The Sun, Murdoch and so on.

Well done. You did it.

You pushed and pushed, lies and hate.

Britain First held a camp recently where stabbing practice was one of the activities. 

Jo Cox murdered in an act of terror, same as when the IRA used to kill politicians, same as the killers of Lee Rigby, same as the 7/7 bombers.

You couldn't resist driving a campaign of fear and hate. The Remain and Leave equally as culpable.

The day Farage unveils his new poster showing a stream of desperate people fleeing a war zone and pretending that is somehow something to do with the EU an MP gets killed.

A mother, a husband, a friend, a charity worker, a normal person trying to do her best killed because you are all liars.

I hope you never sleep again you bastards.

It isn't simply a Green & pleasant land

Junior doctors, abandoned refugee children, homelessness and foodbanks. War and famine, terror and extremism. Fun times...

But it is BHS and Philip Green that I just had to add more letters than a tweet allows just to get it off my chest.

It seems clear that there are many questions around his ownership time of BHS, obviously all actually owned by his wife under a myriad of tax efficient schemes off shore. Not saying he has done anything illegal, but what he has done baffles me.

It looks like his businesses made something in the region of £400 million from BHS, and that company is just about to cease to exist, with thousands of redundancies and even more thousands looking at reduced pensions. I can't grasp why anyone would want to actively take such a course of action.

£400 million or even £40 million makes almost no material difference to Mr and Mrs Green and their life. Amazing to talk about numbers of such scale in that way, but it is probably the same as £40 or £400 to me. I could get a nice meal or buy a new mower earlier than I actually need to, but in real terms no difference would be made to my life.

Pure greed and impacting thousands of, mainly, low paid workers who rely on their retail jobs to live.

But it is not just him. He didn't write every contract, work out every legal loophole, decide how to move the money around. Hundreds if not thousands of consultants, accountants, lawyers, bankers are totally complicit in these events - more than likely many of them looking for ways to make more money, faster from BHS.

We all need to make a living, but as above, I genuinely can't even begin to grasp what benefit this piece of work has done except destroy a business and lives.

All in it together - remember he was employed by the Government to look at efficiency. He seems quite efficient enough.

DiY The YouTube Way

One of the tasks we always knew needed doing as soon as the weather got a bit better was to build a log store, as we have been keeping the logs in the brick built shed, and they don't like that as no air circulation.

So last weekend, sunshine predicted we were ready to go - all the wood in place, a new saw and a nail gun purchased, and obviously it was raining when we got up on Saturday... But, the sun came out, and with a plan I had drawn on a post it note and more tools than I have used before, we started.

Amazingly it all sort of worked, a lot of learning as we went, and a few moments of inspiration, but by Sunday lunchtime the store was built and in place, just needs a lick of paint when the fence gets painted and all done.
Measuring, sawing, angles, struts, nails - and the result was a solid store that will certainly not be stolen and hopefully not fall down.

Anyway, Debbie was taking pics during the day, so prepare for many unflattering pictures of me and a soundtrack from The Divine Comedy and here is what happened...

When looking for ideas on how to build it, I stumbled on this, from Big Brother 1 - Craig Phillips builds one in 6 1/2 minutes - took us about 6 1/2 hours, but it is 3 times the size and he had help!!

How I Got SuperFast Broadband - eventually

Regular listeners will be well aware of the issues in getting a useable broadband service that I have had over the years. The various parts of BT and their inability to tell the truth, MPs unable to answer questions, local council saying it was there and so on. Years of chasing and time wasting to never get anywhere, and working remotely on a sub 2Mb connection that would go down daily as well. 

We had to have two phone lines and broadband services at home to make it mildly useable, but things like Netflix and streaming music were but a pipe dream for us. I ended up using my phone as a hotspot to get a service when critical work was needed.

Just over a year ago a random blood test at the doctors set us on the road to getting fibre and all the fun of actually using services like the rest of the world.

Diagnosed with Type2 Diabetes was the wake up call I needed, and changed my outlook on many things. Importantly some small diet changes and a bit more focussed exercise meant a loss of about 4 stone within 6 months and my last blood tests were all excellent, so that side is not a concern now, but the diet stays healthy (most of the time).

This does link to the broadband in a minute.

Along with the healthier lifestyle, we also decided it was time to move, and over the year narrowed down the area we wanted and started spending almost every weekend in and around the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley house hunting. We found the house we wanted, and I will reduce the entire buying / selling / moving saga to the simple comment that it is hell to go through, and everyone involved seems fairly incompetent and expensive.

However, a month ago we finally moved in and it is wonderful.

The small piece of front garden outside my office is as big as our entire garden used to be, and the size of the garden actually scares me a bit at the amount I am going to have to do come the spring.

Most of my Christmas presents of books consisted of titles such as "Eat for Free" and books on foraging, gardening, growing vegetables and making home-brew and foods. We are not quite going full Tom & Barbara yet, but looking forward to a lot of learning and a great deal of new challenges in the coming years, not least of which the fence painting. Plans of bees and chickens are there, along with moving to a far healthier and cheaper food experience.

The forest is amazing, and we made it 3 weeks and a day before leaving the gate open and waking at 1.30 AM to the garden light on with a flock of sheep wandering around the garden. Lesson learnt there with thankfully no damage as there is nothing in except grass yet! Deer are common, and last weekend we saw our first sounder of wild boar who thankfully ran away as they are huge. 
We also had to buy an emergency 4*4 as the drive is actually a forest track and my car decided to lose a wheel on Christmas Day so with my flat cap we are now full on country folk...

Oh, and the village is fibre enabled, so thanks to the NHS we now have broadband at speeds we used to dream of.

2016 is going to be an interesting year.


The Hospitality Trip Up

Seeing this which was posted by Rick Stein has prompted me to expand, on a conversation I have had with many in the trade over recent years.

Firstly I must say Rick Stein is my favourite "TV Chef" and his books are the ones I use when cooking, especially the Indian one (not an advert...)

So, tell us not Trip Advisor. Sounds like a sensible policy and request, and based on the situation certainly makes you think that that should be the default start. If I am out with Debbie, or just an "informal" meal with friends like a pizza or a curry and something was wrong I, and I would expect anyone I was with to raise any issues, and almost always they have been managed well. If they aren't that is then absolutely fair game for Trip Advisor. For reference one of the worst reviews I have ever left a restaurant was for a Chinese in London, a Michelin Starred restaurant where I experienced appalling service, even when complaining.

However, and this is the tricky part.

When you are out in a group - be it family, friends or work, and 6 or 8 are all eating, it is a totally different dynamic on raising any issues with the food or service, especially if someone else is paying.

One person has an issue with their dish in a table of 8, do you sit their and suffer it politely, or do you complain. If you complain, does the restaurant take away every piece of food on the table and prepare it all again for the whole party, or just leave you to keep saying "No, you all carry on" and then eat your dinner ten minutes later? As I said, not an issue at all if just a pizza after a few drinks, a far bigger dilemma if celebrating a family event, or on a tight timescale.

Therein lies the issue. Do you want to risk disrupting everyone or just sit through it?

After finishing do you then explain to the waiting staff what the issue was to have it deducted from the bill or again, just leave it as it impacts on the whole party then, not just your specific issue. Is it just the "British way" to smile politely and say all is OK and then moan later on, or is it actually taking into consideration the rest of the party you are with?

Does it, and should it, make a difference based on what the food costs - are you more or less likely to complain in a pub for Sunday Lunch or a Michelin Star restaurant for a special occasion?

I would be interested in any comments from those working in the trade now - as clearly with review sites like Trip Advisor it really does change the relationship between the diners and the team on site, and the expectations on what should happen if there should be an issue.

Like many I use Trip Advisor a lot to find hotels and places to eat - and it is easy to tell the constructive reviews from the moans for no reason, so I find it a valuable resource, but I also see the pitfalls and risks for any new venture now.

Modern life eh. tricky - and let's not get into the tipping point now...

5 More Years

25% more than the Americans get, with almost zero chance of that changing. Anyway, just to get it all off my chest, not a well thought out or planned bit here, just rumbles interspersed with grumbles on what I think about some of the parties. No intention of not showing bias at all, these are my views, not facts...

Conservatives - Smashed it. Regardless of my absolute hate for Cameron and Gideon, they absolutely rinsed everyone else. A lot of help from Murdoch (I have been reliably informed Cameron is not speaking to Murdoch, and hasn't for some time). However, telling Scots to vote SNP and telling the English that the SNP / Labour coalition would be the end of days worked. Totally transparent, but it worked. Majority, no coalition, no need to actually carry out any of their pledges and 3 other leaders resign by lunchtime. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Labour - Biggest fault, Red Ed wasn't actually Red. Elected to be more left, he went even more Tory Lite, and even many Labour supporters just couldn't get behind him. Being called a North London Geek (which means Jewish for clarity) and having Murdoch out to destroy him as well left him almost zero chance. 
For them to come back fighting - get some real policies and beliefs and fight for them. Something like:

  • Cancel Trident
  • Renationalise the railways
  • Halve and then remove tuition fees
  • Free prescriptions
  • Tax all businesses correctly and in full, and send defaulters to jail or close them down

Those are for free whoever takes over, take it from me, you would have won with those as pledges.

Lib Dems - I knew Clegg was going to be a liability, but not that he was that toxic. Personally he deserves it, and party wise, they need to get him to resign his seat and disappear. There is no chance for any comeback while he is still in the Commons, his time is done totally. They lost their deposits all over the place, shocking that he wasn't forced to not stand and a new leader in place long before the campaign.

SNP - Winners. They own Scotland. No surprise after the referendum and the actions and words of the 3 main parties there. Did they all think the Scots would just move on? The SNP either need to get with Labour and make friends or we may not see a Labour govt again.

UKIP - Hahahahaha. Excellent that even Farage couldn't win. The self centred ego that is Farage already saying he may come back. He likes it when newspaper owners give him a million quid you know. Does almost nothing in his actual paid job as a Euro MP apart from claim his allowances and expenses. He tricked so many people, and will try again, 7 times he has tried for a seat as an MP and failed. Even the most persistent boy knows that the girl will not say yes after asking 7 times. Go away now.
As for the coverage they got, there is now no need at all to give them anymore airtime than the Greens, at all, ever. He doesn't need to be on Question Time every other week, no need for articles of him gurning in pubs any more.
Not wanted, not welcome.

Others - Meh. Being elected to seats you won't go to, voting on religious grounds and Bercow getting in on a technicality all need reviewing.

Reform - I was reminded earlier of the referendum in 2011 to change the First Past The Post system. Nearly 70% of those who voted, voted to keep it as it as. Don't say you didn't have a chance - you wasted it 4 years ago.

Back to work then. Good luck.

Pensions Revolution (time bomb actually)

Monday sees the biggest shake up to pensions law in the UK since, well pretty much since pensions were invented. Instead of now guaranteeing you an extra income for life once you retire from work, you can now cash it all in and buy a boat.

But it's our money cry all the people who will be cashing in their pots and expecting that the value of their fund will be the same as the value of the cheque going to drop through the door a week after they sign the paperwork. They will then be amazed that it is not only taxed, but also reduced quite dramatically with other costs and charges. And that will just be the legal and honest companies.

Already, in fact for months, I have been receiving SMS and emails like this, as soon as the PPI ones started to dry up these pensions ones appeared.

Even with a freephone number, this looks almost as legit as you could, and that is the point. Even if you are not with Aviva there is a small temptation to call to question where they got the number, after all the call is free.

And rest assured, I am sure they will be able to offer all callers, with Aviva or not, something pension related which in essence means you will have a lot less money thatn you would have otherwise.

On the news yesterday there was a report of how in Australia, where this change was made 20 years ago, there are now generations of pensioners with no money, not because of scams directly, just because they have spent it all. 

The issues with this entire concept are huge, and if you think the billions the banks have paid out in PPI seemed like  lot of money, wait about 15 to 20 years when this one gets big. In absolute simple terms once you have spent all the money you will have to rely on the state, so instead of cutting costs this is just building a massive debt with no way of ever recovering it for the state.

Add into this the illegal and immoral companies that will actually be scamming people, and then the legitimate and within the law firms selling people a pile of cash for far more than it looks, and all I can say is that the lawyers must already be counting their bonuses that will come from the back of this.

It actually beggars belief that Labour agree with this policy, which is purely there just to entice "older" voters to vote Conservative, and get people who make poor financial decisions to just get the government to bail them out. Since the Equitable Life policy holders decided that although they had received rates that were impossible to maintain for decades, as soon as they were dropped they wanted laws changed and the state to cover the differences, I have been unable to understand why this becomes the states responsibility. 

Like banks being too big to fail, it is really just a money making machine for the select few - any one, be it a government or a cold caller offering you money for nothing should be avoided at all costs.

Anyway, I look forward to my pensions being raided as I retire to pay for this mess.

Give us your money for..... ??

Todays post included this leaflet on behalf of Chris Adams, the Parliamentary Candidate for the Kippers in Aylesbury. Asking for money, which I don't have an issue with as political campaigns are not centrally funded, and an hilarious "survey" that I will be returning, well it is a freepost address. 

Inspired by this I decided to use my lunch hour to find out more about Chris Adams so I can make sure that my £2500 advertising bus will be put to good use. The odd thing is that he seems very hard to find on line.

He recently deleted his twitter account, from what I can see of the facebook account it is just a regurgitation feed for UKIP posters and links. So I went to the official UKIP Aylesbury website, as clearly all I would need to find would be there.

Weirdly, when there is an election in two months, the candidate has this much to say for himself.

He recently deleted his twitter account, from what I can see of the facebook account it is just a regurgitation feed for UKIP posters and links. So I went to the official UKIP Aylesbury website, as clearly all I would need to find would be there.

 

Vote for me because I have a purple tie appears to be the sole message.

As I had a bit more time on my hands... I had a look at the election results for the Aylesbury Vale District Council from 2011 (linked here) as I wanted to see if I could find out more about the "Political Classes" that he is fighting against. First thing that jumped out at me was the number of candidates over the Vale with the surname Adams. I am sure it is just a coincidence as UKIP seem confident that they are offering something new and not the same old political elite, despite seemingly wanting to have one family running Aylesbury Vale if they could. Also worth a quick mention that the councilor promoting the leaflet through the door today was elected as a Conservative, with a large Conservative majority but decided to change to UKIP and not bother with an election to see if that is what his constituents wanted. Worth bearing in mind when you vote for change from the political elite.

According to the official UKIP Aylesbury website there is not a single special event planned from now until Election Day for UKIP - do they want to get elected, or are they hiding for a reason? It can't all be down to the fairly funny but innocuous article in Private Eye about Chris this week can it? 

Je suis Charlie, unless I disagree with you, obviously...

As memorials and marches continue over Europe after the horrific and senseless murders in France this week, the on line and poster making folk are making the "je suis charlie" message heard loud and clear to all.

A simple and poignant message that at it's core means that we support the magazine almost all of us had barely heard of before, but we support their rights to be satirical, to take the piss out of politics and religion - to be funny and thought provoking. The key message is not whether anyone agrees with that the cartoons were funny, or offensive, badly judged or biting satire. The point is that the publishers are allowed to publish. No laws were being broken, no threats were being made, it was a magazine with a very small circulation and very few people had in real terms seen any of their cartoons.

Now we have almost all seen many of them, and yes some are very funny, and overall most are nothing to do with Islam. Their targets were anyone, any religion, any country, any politician, but sadly there seems to be far too many people now incapable of understanding this and taking extreme views, leading to multiple murders and perversely leading to more people seeing the cartoons and laughing at them than would ever have happened otherwise. Like any rational person I struggle to understand what though process anyone goes through to kill people believing that is what their god wishes to happen.

I am not going to focus on the events though, just the issue of freedom of speech that this has dragged up and the implied agreement of people using the je suis Charlie phrase.

It does seem that a worryingly large number of people and organisations struggle to understand what freedom of speech is. In simple terms, like the cartoons, you don't have to like or support what the person is saying, but you have to allow them to say it. 

So freedom of speech means racists are allowed to write racist stuff, look (or rather don't) at some of the White Power areas of the internet and you will feel physically sick, the same as what I assume the ISIS areas and websites are like. And here is the nub, there are people tweeting #JeSuisCharlie and even having their avatars as those words while saying websites should be taken down, signing petitions to have people sacked for making jokes or being idiots, reporting people to the police for all manner of non-crimes.

What thought process is that that says "I am in favour of free speech apart from Katie Hopkins or Ched Evans website"? I am not a fan of either of those entities, but they are allowed to speak and show themselves for what they are.

Remember the last election when the BNP were growing in popularity, until Nick Griffin was given what we wanted and invited on Question Time. Many people campaigned and protested about it, but he was shown to be the idiot that he was and was consigned to history. Not letting him speak was actually his key point as it meant he had power, letting him speak ended him. 

Don't ban words, argue them to prove them wrong.

Serial

No, not the cafe in London selling cereal, but the podcast.

**Warning** This is all spoiler and details that you may not want to read if you haven't listened / finished it yet.

The weekly podcast from the USA, re-investigating a murder from 1999, using original interviews and transcripts, evidence from trial and new witnesses and interviews along with many fresh pairs of eyes to review and establish if the man convicted of the crime should have been, and should be in prison.

Like many people, I saw the mentions of this new podcast appear, and grow on twitter to the point I thought I better find and download it. I didn't pay any attention to the site or background, and actually assumed it was fiction for the first few episodes I listened to. Finding out it was a real case changed the way I was listening to it, and like many I started to try and think how I would have seen the evidence if on a jury.

The episodes carried on with finding and revealing new information, and the reviews of old facts that seemed to have never been followed through or checked at the time. The absolute inability to find out if there had ever been a call box at the Best Buy for example, showing that what we assume is black and white is often far from it.

Confusing alibis, conflicting stories, odd mobile phone records and use all building up a picture where the assumption of guilt or innocence changed from episode to episode. 

What changed dramatically for the makers, and clearly influenced the later episodes, was that the new world meant that all the people involved at any level in the case were being publicly identified, and the details of the case were being discussed on global forums - the world turning into a detective agency to seek the answers that were eluding the makers.

They had to start referencing information and details that they may not have seen or followed up, the dynamics of the podcast changing. Especially when spoilers started to appear about re-trials and appeals in the new year.

It is hard to second guess what the makers thought would happen. Unlike a documentary on TV or a newspaper article / review of cases, this was a continuing process. Hours of details and information to absorb, far more than a few thousand words in a magazine or a 30 minute show. This was a totally different concept and process, and one I always felt mildly uncomfortable that it was seen as "entertainment". After all, Hae is dead, not a character from a book, but a real person. Adnan is in prison, locked up, if he is innocent that is a large chunk of his life gone forever.

And that is it. As it was and is real life, it hasn't ended yet. DNA samples to be checked, will that be the key to establishing guilt? A potential serial killer in the area at the time? Jay? Will we ever really know the truth - it would be nice to think so, as currently there are a large number of people with very different stories and versions of a time in the last century that ended with a young girl being killed. It seems, to me, that almost everyone involved is lying about at least some of the details - will we ever find out why?

Adnan is either a victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice, or an outstanding liar and killer - roll on the DNA test and hopefully conclusion for all the family and friends and individuals involved.

Whatever it is, I miss the "mail c-a-himp" introduction weekly on a Thursday :-)

 

There is some good news...

However hard that may be to comprehend when looking at the papers and TV news (this pretty much applies to any day, not just this morning).

I have seen & heard so many people only focusing on the the bleak and inevitable shootings / bombings / murders that have happened and will happen in future, it seems amazing that as a younger man my parents worried about me going to London during bombing campaigns, but we all still went to football and gigs. 

Anyway, not going to get dragged into this.

As you will remember, I am sure, I did a sponsored thing where I only drank tap water for a week. No beer, wine, coffee, tea etc. Links to the start here and end here

Well, the good news is that the results are in - and thanks to all of the generous people on the internets I am so pleased to say that the hundreds of pounds I raised, which you donated, now means this:

  • Women in the Baiga tribe won't have to walk miles to collect water, several times a day.
  • Families in Odisha will now have an individual household tap connection, toilet and bathing area, helping to improve sanitation practices and give safe clean water to families
  • Children in Andhra Pradesh will be able to drink water without fear of getting fluorosis, a skeletal disease that particularly affects young children and the elderly.

Yes, you did this. You made lives better for people you will more than likely never meet. Remember that over the festive period.

Almost everyone on this planet is a good person.

Delivery attempted....

This morning, as often, I had to check on progress and whereabouts of deliveries due, and as all too often there is an issue now with a box of beer that should have been delivered last week. The courier can't answer any questions on the whereabouts as I am the recipient not the sender, and so another day drifts off into a whirl of emails, webchats and phone calls to get my order sorted.

This time the culprit is MyHermes, who are my least favourite courier I have to say. Their standard method of delivery is to throw the parcels over the back gate into the garden, this has happened even when I am in. Our neighbours are also almost always in, so leaving with them should be no issue, as the Royal Mail postman never seems to have any issues.

A quick comment on line has lead to loads of comments and issues about many companies, the two worst seem to be MyHermes and Yodel. Streams of tales of delays and lost & damaged deliveries, trying to re-arrange deliveries and get any form of sense from the companies - it seems the national obsession is moving from the weather to "where is my delivery".

We all know that the suppliers want to use a cheap service, but there is a definite line being crossed, and my comment and new policy is to ask which delivery company will be used, and if MyHermes or Yodel to not place the order. It is the only way!

In a previous role my director often used the phrase "We are all in a race to the bottom" as a way of justifying the ever worsening products and services we offered. The race was one way though, just to get the lowest possible price from all suppliers, with no thought of what the customers actually wanted.

You get what you pay for, and that is never truer today. The cheapest option on line when looking at identical goods is not going to be the best, in any way. We all know that, and the choice is there. Choose a very cheap option with free delivery and you will experience issues, choose the expensive one with timed deliveries etc, and it may cost a bit more, but the service is likely (but not guaranteed) to be better.

If ordering a box of beer (for example...) I want it to turn up at a time convenient to me, not a delivery that is the cheapest option for the supplier. I want a good service, and I understand I may have to pay a pound or two more for that, but hardly any company seems to even make that offer these days. Companies seem to be losing track of the customer, everywhere is a survey about service and delivery on everything you do, and yet the absolute basics seem to go missing until you threaten to leave or cancel the order, when suddenly the good service appears.

As I have said many times, it is almost never the fault of the person on the end of the phone or webchat, so be nice to them, it is a cost saving decision made with no thought of the impact on customers or other parts of the business. On a side note there was an article in the paper earlier this week that agents in call centres give better service and deals to people who are nice to them. Anyone who has ever worked in customer services knows this, and yet it still seems to be a surprise to many. Rest assured if you shout and swear at the person on the end of the phone you will not be getting good service!

So the answer seems to be, as usual, use your spending power wisely. I will, sadly, be cancelling a regular order with one beer supplier, as I can't be bothered to have grief every month, which as I have had three months in a row now is just too much.

Not ordering from companies and telling them why is all I can suggest, or get used to an endless circle of blame and finger pointing while a courier who is offering a service at a price that anyone can see can't be sustainable, delivers your parcel to someone the other side of town, and then makes it your problem to sort out.

The Business Edition

Business in the loosest possible sense of the word, and actually even the word sense seems totally inappropriate.

Anyways, a couple of news stories today to make you wonder what world we are creating, and IS don't even get a look in. 

Firstly, at a Spurs football match last night there were three different pitch incursions, each where the man involved was wearing a shirt for a (not) well known brand of headphones, and also seeming to be filming themselves while running around and being a nuisance. Now, pitch incursions happen, sometimes too much Stella or marching powder makes people act in a way they normally wouldn't. This was different though, these people were filming themselves committing a criminal act, and within minutes of them doing it footage of them before the game and on line messages from a variety of sources were found - you can't hide in the digital age.

So, a very brief summary of what happened (as I see it, I am not the police) and a run down of winners and losers.

  1. THFC. The club has official headphone partners, well, that is what a global brand does, so nothing odd. However they will be the biggest losers here, UEFA could and probably will fine the club, mainly as even after the first one the stewards still seemed incapable of stopping anything. At worst this could also mean a game having to be played behind closed doors, some quite serious financial implications.
  2. Bassbuds. The headphone people. Despite saying they were appalled by this activity, their official twitter feed referenced the people responsible for this before the event, so had at least some involvement. More than likely this would have been some marketing bod deciding to do some edgy viral marketing and picking an on line video channel who claim to be famous for "pranks".
    Losers as they will have lost any contract and credibility with Spurs, and I assume other clubs, their merchandise missing from the Spurs website already. Winners in a way as now people have heard of them.
  3. Trollstation. No, me neither. But now they are famous, and their hits are rocketing. They were behind this, and as the three pranksters were all wearing shirts from bassbudds, it would indicate they were paid for this activity. So winners as they are now famous, albeit in a bad way, but that is what they did it for. They have shown they are the people to contact for "pranks and bantz" style guerrilla marketing. No call for it you say, hmmm, look at your TV and think again.
  4. The 3. Three grown adults who filmed a criminal act, in advance and at the time, for probably no money. No official contract will exist anywhere, they will have got the T-Shits from Big Dave before the game, and their 15 seconds of fame will now have a post-script of a criminal record, football bans and the legacy of being idiots. Losers in the highest sense.
  5. All the rest of us. Losers, as this is the natural progression from selfies to youtube and vine to co-ordinated "pranks" like this. Back when flashmobs were mildly entertaining this was seen and stored by a marketing student. That person now runs an agency getting paid for this, and although will get hung out to dry by their headphones, they should make this a success.

There you have it then, the winners are the villains of the piece. Funny old game.

Secondly, and intrinsically linked, #BlackFriday the sales sensation from our cousins in the USA. This is Boxing Day for us, when our sales happen after our biggest holiday of the year. This may be a shock to many people, but Christmas and Boxing day is a very UK event, like Thanksgiving is a very US event and holiday, they don't translate well. I am always surprised by people who don't understand why many countries and cultures don't celebrate Christmas, it is because it is a Christian festival, not just shopping.

Now the joy of Black Friday is here, and in the best use of it, it seems to be scheduled to last for a few weeks rather than just the day as its name suggests. In the true spirit of the season, retailers are selling off all the stock they were going to discount by 50% anyway, they now put a sticker on it saying the magic BF words and discount it by 20% and clear their entire stock in a day. Genius skills of capitalism and marketing there.

To make sure it is an event, unlike when the Harrods sale used to have people queuing for days to get a TV or a fur coat for a quid, it is now Tesco and Asda starting at midnight. Oddly this lead to people fighting over TVs and coffee machines at one in the morning, who would have thought.

To close, this is from the BBC website, and is only some of the issues dealt with in Manchester during the night. This is people in supermarkets remember.

Keep spending.

62p an hour

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Another PR disaster for politicians who chose to wear the feminist T Shirt in the last week as the Mail on Sunday lead at the weekend with a story about sweat shops and where these garments were made. The figure of 62p an hour was discussed on all the rolling news channels and on line as a disgrace and appalling, with no context behind it whatsoever.

For the avoidance of doubt I am against sweat shops and exploitation of workers whether in the UK or anywhere else.

Anyway, moral indignation about the pay for the workers in this particular factory abounded, and nobody as far as I saw added any context behind this pay. On average a 10 hour day, so maybe £6 a day as a wage, six days a week and you get in the region of £150 a month. 

This may sound odd, but in many places in the world that would be seen as a reasonable salary for a family to be able to live on. Not living like we do in the UK with iPhones and Sky Sports, but far from being homeless and starving. It is hard to actually put it all into a clear measure as food and housing are obviously totally differently costed and paid for in different regions of the world as this link shows. 

The issue is clearly partly with what the workers are paid, but nobody seems to be questioning why they are being sold at £45. Surely the company buying them aren't under the impression that the workers are being paid £10 for each shirt that they make?

It does seem to be a low wage in Mauritius, and I am in no way trying to justify that, but the story could just as easily be "Politician uses XYZ company for their mobile phone who have their call centres in Vietnam where agents are paid 50p an hour" and would you know if that was a good wage or not?

Companies outsource and off-shore because it is cheaper, no other reason. All the commentators on this story (including me) typing their outrage on electronic devices made in similar factories is a confusing image of what is "right and wrong" when it comes to this area of global work.

High Speed To Nowhere

Not a moan about HS2, although when that becomes an election issue it should be fun in the Home Counties, but yet another gripe about BT.

BT Group, which comprises BT Retail who you get your phone from, BT Wholesale who sell wholesale services to other providers and BT Openreach who "own" all the cables and such. But, all one company, one share price. They have to trade in this way to make it fair for competitors like TalkTalk and Sky, and what this means is that people in BT Retail have no idea what BT Openreach are doing, which helps exactly nobody in anyway at all.

My Broadband at home is and always has been appalling, and I know the technical reasons why but that doesn't stop my frustrations. I have two phone lines and broadband connections at home as one is just not good enough to run a couple of PCs and tablets etc, and as for downloading catch up TV and box sets, simply not possible.

So imagine my joy when a few months ago outside the house there were Openreach vans and men all over the place, digging up roads and going down holes - it could surely only mean that fibre was being installed and we would be able to download an album in less than an hour and maybe watch a youtube video without waiting 20 minutes for it to start. 

I went and checked with the guys, and yes, it was all being installed, and all ready to go very soon they said, so I went on line and checked, but nothing could be found. Since then I have spent the last couple of months trying to get sense out of BT as to when we will get fibre, with absolutely no success. Even today according to the Openreach site the exchange is "under review" which means my cabinet is being assessed to see if it can be upgraded, despite the fact it has been.

BT Retail can't even say that much, all they can say is to register on line and I will be updated as and when there is any change.

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A couple of weeks ago people arrived again and put stickers on all the new cabinets, as shown in the pic. 

Pretty definitive really as to what they are saying. All nice and clear, with the Openreach logo all confirming fibre is here, but it is still not possible to order it at all. For clarity, all providers except Virgin have to buy it from BT, so nobody can do anything or sell any services until BT decide to update their systems.

So far just a standard moan about BT, but that is not actually my issue. If it was just BT being inefficient it would still be annoying, but as a private company they can do as they like really - as broadband in the UK is not guaranteed or regulated they can pretty much lay whatever cables they like. On the pic if you look closely it references Connected Counties which is the local agency set up to roll out "rural broadband". This is funded by the state to roll out high speed access to rural areas.

I live on an estate that is ten years old in a major town. Not at all sure how that classes as rural, but what it means is that BT have been paid by the government to install this service, with no need to ever pay the money back, and yet they still can't manage it well. If you look at the list linked here - Openreach - you will see that BT have every single contract, so are getting paid by the state to do what is actually their business.

That is why I am annoyed. To use the service as and when it ever gets agreed by the various parts of BT that they have installed it I am going to have to pay BT for it, even though tax money has paid for the install to be done. Like the railways, this is nothing like privatisation as most imagine it - multi billion pound profit making companies being given state handouts, and managing it badly.

Not a bad deal for BT really.

 

Kippers - If you snooze you lose

I really didn't want to bang on about UKIP, so this will be very short...

Quote from Nigel Farage this morning - "Something big is happening here. People want change, they have had enough of career politicians in three parties."

People have had enough of career politicians so much that they just elected their incumbent MP who now has a purple tie.

Farage is launching a peoples army, apparently, but apart from his fun persona with beer and fags, he is nothing like what he wants people to think. He is an elected MEP, making the most of all the expenses and allowances he is entitled to while barely attending, and making light of the fact that he doesn't. He is an ex City Broker, following in his fathers footsteps. A true man of the people, and nothing like any other politicians...

However, he has the momentum, and also the envious position of being able to say anything at all he likes, their manifesto can be pure jokes, as he will never have to live up to any of his promises as he will never be in power.

The main issue is that the 3 main parties now find themselves in an unenviable position where their leaders are their millstones, where Farage is the opposite, he is a leader of "worth" with no credible party. If Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories don't change their leaders, and very soon, there will be a very interesting hung result after the next election.

Clegg has no credibility at all, even the thought of people voting Lib Dem with him there baffles me, and Milliband - the supposed "left wing" brother is outstandingly good at acting like a man who wants to win an election in no way at all. Gaffe prone in almost every way, and with no clear policies covers those two.

The outcome will be split enough to make running a Government impossible, and that means one thing for sure, Cameron will be gone and Boris will appear as the saviour of the Conservatives, and if you think Cameron is extreme, just wait until you see what Boris is really like.

Going to be an interesting few months ahead.

I will say one thing though, at least Mr Carswell resigned and was elected by his constituents in his new colours, not just changing parties and carrying on as before like so many others lower down the political ladder.

Genoa

As part of our recent trip to Italy we had a couple of days in Genoa, and a few things really jumped out at me. 

It is a very busy and huge port, incredibly industrial, but has a great "old town" with small alleys and wonderful eateries and bars. It also has a red light district that is far bigger than Amsterdams more famous one, either that or a lot of ladies really get dressed up to stand on their doorsteps smiling at passers by.

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As with all Italian towns and cities, it is not short of a church or two, and we looked in a few as we wandered around. One that caught my eye from the guide book which was the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, and specifically the Museo del Tresoro which is part of the same building.

Not his actual head here, that would be silly

Not his actual head here, that would be silly

Down the dark corridor we went and among the treasures, in a surprisingly small room were - The Holy Grail (broken), the plate that Salome received the head of John The Baptist on and also a silver chest which has the remains of John The Baptist.

Now I am no marketing expert, but if you look at how many people go to Turin to see the shroud, which you can't actually see, I would think Genoa would make more of a fuss about having some of the holiest relics there.

Not since I was in Jerusalem trying to decide which piece of the True Cross I should buy have I felt so religious..

John The Baptist is inside here, apparently...

John The Baptist is inside here, apparently...


Water update

Still not poured ice water over my head, but I did complete my challenge of only drinking tap water for a week.

I can't even begin to thank all those who donated so generously to the cause and Frank Water - in all seriousness and with no bullshit, every one of you has saved at least one life. The access to fresh, clean and safe water is something we take for granted, but as I have said so many times, to witness people drinking and washing in water that is green and brown really does test your limits as a human.

People you will never meet or know will have a better life, and I really can't express my happiness at the generousity of friends and strangers alike.

So, just a quick review of the week.

I had a few beers on Sunday evening in preparation of having a week of tap water... and woke up Monday feeling fine. Debbie had a coffee and juice, I had water - and that is pretty much how the week went! No beers, no wine, no juice, no coffee or tea, and to be honest it was the coffee and juice at breakfast that I missed the most over the week. 

A headache from Monday lunchtime until Sunday was not expected or welcome, the feeling of being really hungry to not wanting anything at all to eat as the days moved by was quite weird. Without being too graphic, my urine was strong and dark all week, despite drinking pint after pint of water, and I constantly felt thirsty. Keeping me grounded was the fact that my thirst was solved by walking to a tap, not walking miles or drinking contaminated water.

I made it through #PizzaFriday with no issues, and even Saturday afternoon passed with no massive desire for a beer. Sunday though was a different matter. A walk in the country side around some gardens and lakes, followed by a drive home through villages where pub gardens were full of people enjoying a beer in the sun - I have never fancied a pint so much. Had Debbie not been there I can assure you I would have cracked, but she kept me straight - mainly by refusing to stop the car!

And that was it - Monday I went back to a couple of espressos to start the day with some fruit juice, and after work I stopped at the first pub I passed for a pint - which happens to be the Wetherspoons on the M40 services at Beaconsfield. Annoyingly they didn't take my 50p off voucher, and only had London Pride, but I felt it was needed :-)

Thanks again to all - and just in case you fancy boosting the total just that little bit more, the link is here - Click me to donate :-)

For those wondering how grey my hair is getting - here is a pic of me drinking beer.

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