Sunday, 26 April 2009

Busy making and mending

I have not posted here for a while - that's because I am focusing my attention on other things. Firstly there's Make it and Mend it (or MIAMI as we often call it).

If you are looking for inspiration for living more creatively and sustainably come and join us

Here's some recent posts
Come and join us on the blog or the website

Otherwise you can catch up with my latest musing on marketing matters and helping businesses grow in the recession on the blog at ANT

Some recent posts :

  • Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice
  • 15 Key Principles for wining in a recession
  • Wittering on Twitter
  • Out of Balance - lessons for leaders on steering the course

Looking forward to you joining me in either or both these.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

I am doomed

I was strap-hanging (again) on a very crowded Piccadilly Line train yesterday, surrounded by people off the Eurostar and en route to Heathrow. In fact they were en route to everywhere, as both Victoria and Jubilee lines were closed. A girl of about 18 offered me her seat. This is it: I am doomed. I am not even 55 and already I am in the old people bracket.

It probably serves me right for laughing at my brother (a year younger) when he told me the cashier at the Streatham Odeon assumed he wanted a "Senior" ticket. I said I would have said yes please and saved some money, but after yesterday I'm not so sure. Mind you I have been putting a lot of weight on, so maybe I could console myself by thinking the girl thought I was pregnant. Either way I need to get my hair done and spend some time in the gym.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Life imitates art

Strap-hanging into town on the District Line, my mate was telling me about David Lodge's latest novel, Deaf Sentence, a work inspired by the author's own onset of deafness.

My friend started to explain Lodge's contention that "blindness is tragedy, deafness is comedy", but serendipity struck to illustrate her point. A cringe-making, annoying and very loud mobile phone ring tone rang out: the sort that you put on your phone when pissed and a bit bored then die of mortification when it goes off in a public place. We turned round to see who was the guilty party, expecting them to quickly quell it. But no one answered it, and it rang out loud and proud into the carriage as four, evidently unconnected, people sitting side-by-side, each plugged into their iPods, stared blankly into space, oblivious to the dirty looks of other commuters. We dissolved into laughter and agreed deafness is indeed comedy.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

What's in a bonus?

I have just read about the employees of Northern Rock getting bonuses for their part in the bank's progress towards repayment of the 25 billion quid we stumped up to bail it out. The bonuses are averagely two grand or 10% of salary: loose change to the bastards who caused all this mess.

I'm not going to debate the rights and wrongs of Northern Rock employees' worthiness of a bonus. Instead, I am interested in the words of the union representative who is defending the bonus payout, on the grounds that "staff have had to endure a difficult working environment, including a freeze on their normal bonuses and promotions for some 18 months".

What stopped me short were the words "normal bonuses". It seems to me that the original meaning of bonus as "an unexpected but welcome event" has been lost and instead bonuses have become part of annual salary entitlement. One of the Sunday financial pages breathlessly reported, as evidence of the increasingly tough conditions applied to mortgage-lending, that several lenders will no longer include annual bonuses when calculating maximum borrowing levels. The surprise should be that they ever included them. When bonuses were first conceived they were earned on exceptional performance of either or both the individual or the company. How then can a bank or building society possibly know how a prospective borrower is likely to perform in his or her job! Do they have access to borrowers' perfomance appraisals? Do they study company reports and broker's predictions for the employer companies of prospective borrowers. Of course not. It is yet another example of the profligacy and irresponsibility the banks have been showing for years.

We all know the bonus culture has been out of control. But it's not just in the amounts some of the evil bastards were getting (and in many cases still are), but in the way that if you are eligible for a bonus it is assumed that you will get it. It has become just a lump sum portion of normal compensation packages. This can't be right? Whether the bonus is for £200 or £20 million, shouldn't it only be paid for exceptional delivery above and beyond the the requirements of the job?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Little Emperors

A couple of days ago I was walking along the Fulham Road with a friend. A school bus pulled up in front of us and a teacher sprang out, ahead of a seemingly unending stream of teenage boys and their baggage. The party blocked the pavement, forcing my friend and I to stand and wait until every child got off the bus, while the teacher barked out intructions: "Straighten that tie" "Tuck that shirt in" (all of which were completely ignored by the boys), but totally failed to say what I would have thought was obvious - "Hold on a second and let these ladies get past". Eventually the last boy jumped off, the teacher stood aside, the bus pulled away, and we were left in front of a pavement still blocked with a gaggle of boys and their sports-bags and had to walk in the road to get past. The teacher thanked us for our patience but it didn't seem to have occurred to him that it was the boys who should have shown some patience and stood by to let us pass.

Then on the tube last week. It was very crowded and a seat in front of me became vacant. I was about to sit down, when saw a woman holding onto a young child. The girl was about six and the woman looked tired, so I stepped back to let her take the seat, assuming she would sit with the child on her knee. But no. Children these days don't like to share seats. The woman thanked me, then plonked her daughter in the seat and remained standing herself. I was pissed off as I had no intention of giving up a seat to a perfectly fit and healthy child and recalled all those childhood years of giving up my seat to anyone older.

Are children today less sturdy, less capable of maintaining their balance when on public transport, less strong? Or is it that children today are less polite, more indulged by their doting parents and totally unrespecting of adults.

A hell of a lot of parents today seem terrified of their own children. They act as though desperate to make their children like them and this engenders a fear of telling their kids off, so they end up pleading and trying to reason with their errant offspring. This is creating a hostage to fortune and is based on the erroneous assumption that if you are always nice, your offspring will love you more.

But then what do I know?

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Con Trick of "Consumables"

Whilst it may have taken me a long time to cotton on to the fact that ink costs more than printers and that most things that used to be free like television (licence fee apart) now mostly have to be paid for, I realised this week that this fact of modern life has assumed ludicrous proportions. I moved house earlier this year, after painful months of major works, including a new kitchen. This week a card landed through my letterbox addressed to me by name and reminding me that it was time to buy a new cartridge for my kitchen tap. Now I already have a water softener and I have to shell out huge sums for big blocks of salt to keep that fed, so what on earth is the cartridge on my tap for?

I peered under the sink, which is a spaghetti junction of pipes (the picture above shows just one corner), and lo and behold there was a white cartridge nestling there, connected by a blue plastic tube to the underside of the kitchen tap. But why could I possibly need this when I have softened water and drinking water via an enormous American style fridge freezer?

I went online to the card-sender's website and discovered my taps are designed to filter out smells and unpleasant tastes and will save me a fortune in bottled water. Well I don't buy bottled water. In restaurants I ask for tap and apart from the occasional bottle of fizzy I have always been happy to leave my fate in the hands of the local water authority (after all they charge us enough for that privilege). It turns out that I will require a replacement cartridge every six months and this will cost me around £64 per year as well as approximately 5 minutes of my time to replace the cartridge, having first isolated the water supply to the tap. In other words, someone else has found a way to extract money from me for something I did not know I needed and certainly know I do not want. It will also require me to go out and buy the necessary spanners to make my way through Spaghetti Junction, which knowing me I will cock up and then I will have to get someone in to fix the resultant leak. I can already feel the stress coming on. If I do nothing and just leave the old filter in place, the website warns me that harmful bacteria could be building up inside it. This means I will doubtless need to get it removed and the pipes reconnected around where it was. So I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. Maybe I should just risk the salmonella? Any suggestions?

Monday, 15 December 2008

West Ham Warriors, or Why men are strange creatures

Yesterday I braved the cold and damp weather and took my usual seat in the Lower West Stand at Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea yet again fail to win at home. I was absolutely freezing despite layers of clothing and was amazed to see across the pitch in the away supporters corner, four West Ham supporters naked to the waist. I presume they had pulled their shirts off to celebrate their team scoring the first goal (although it is possible they had been semi-naked since kick off and I had not spotted them until then). Anyway they stood there, like four neanderthal warriors, separated from their bear skins, on their feet leaning over the barrier, all through the match, seemingly oblivous to the cold.

I am still at a loss to understand what it is that persuades men (and it is always men it seems!) to do something that is so obviously against their own interests. Yes, there was doubtless a plentiful supply of alcohol coursing through their veins, but there was a pint and a half in mine and it didn't stop me shivering through my thermal vest, t shirt, sweater and heavy fleecy lined jacket. It must have been excruciating. To choose pain in that way seems so masochistic as to be borderline insane. Maybe it was one of those heat of the moment things - one whipped his jacket and shirt off, the others followed suit and then a macho 'if-you-can-do-it-then-so-can-I' standoff took place for the rest of the ninety minutes?

This would never happen with women. We'd look pityingly at whoever was mad enough to do something like this and let them get on with it from the comfort of our designer thermals. I am not including here Geordie women, whose standard Friday night midwinter outdoor attire involves bare legs, bare arms, white shoes and lots of exposed bosom - they are in a class of their own and it's definitely genetic. Whilst the majority of Manchester United supporters are renowned for coming from the home counties ("You only live round the corner!" being a favourite Chelsea chant when we host them), I was not aware that West Ham had a niche following of northern lads. I thought. like us at Chelsea,they were a bunch of southern softies! These four WestHam guys looked they were participating in a public audition for Braveheart II.

Anyway they provided the only entertainment for me to lighten the loss of another two points squandered at home. Zola, la lo lala Zola.