Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Paperbacks available

Two of my books, Shattered Dreams and Silent Love are available in paperback.
If you would like a signed copy either message me here or contact me on Facebook for full details.

Great gift for Christmas!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Education not Legislation

It was reported, today (26th August 2015) that assaults on women on public transport have risen to such an extent that an MP is suggesting the introduction of women only carriages on trains. This is a massive step backwards in many ways and should never happen.
    For decades women have campaigned for equal rights. From the suffragettes who sought the right to vote, the women of the 1960s who burnt their bras in protest at discrimination, right up to the women of today who are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, women have struggled for their place in the world to be alongside men. Now someone is saying they should be segregated, presumably for their own safety, much as they were in the Victorian era.
    This is wrong on every level but mostly because women should be able to walk the streets and travel on transport without fear of innuendo or assault. MEN should be brought up to understand that ALL people deserve respect and that includes women. Just because a woman is attractive, smiles at you or makes eye contact for a second, it does not mean you have the automatic right to touch her in any way let alone assault her.
    Maybe I’m looking at the past through rose tinted glasses, and I am sure there were exceptions, but when I was growing up this is how women were treated. It was all part of the courtesy that was shown to women. Undoubtedly wife beaters, rapists and other undesirables existed but I never felt threatened when travelling alone on crowded buses and trains in London.
    You cannot legislate away bad behaviour. Instead it must be made clear from an early age that every person has a right to their own body; that making inappropriate contact with anyone is wrong. No matter what age, what culture, what creed a person is, no one has the right to make suggestive remarks or gestures that put another person in fear.
    Men cannot turn round and say the sight of a woman led them to behave in an inappropriate way. Men should be in control of their own bodies; difficult I know, when it was designed before civilised behaviour was the norm, but there it is. I have never quite agreed with the Islamic view that women must hide their bodies so as not to incite men. This medieval idea was also prevalent in the middle ages throughout Europe and we have managed to see a women’s hair or ankle without immediately possessing her – most of the time!
    No matter how a woman behaves or dresses, when she is travelling she should feel safe. She should be able to stand next to a man in a crowded tube train without worrying about what will happen when she gets off. She should be able to walk to her destination without fear of being followed or attacked. No matter what the time is, whether it be during the work-a-day rush hour or late at night.
    The idea of women only carriages is totally unworkable. Most trains don’t have enough carriages at the best of times, let alone have spare ones for women only. And how many women do you think there are travelling at any one time? Quite possibly as many if not more than men.
    And women need to be educated as well. While I’m not offering it as an excuse or a get-out clause, men DO react to what they see around them. They shouldn’t, but they do. It’s nature taking hold, the thing that has kept every living thing on the planet producing the next generation.

    But above all else, respect should be the order of the day. Only by ensuing everyone understands this will we create a society where it is safe for everyone to not only travel in safety but walk the streets without fear.  

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Whingey Teenager Ads

Have you ever noticed that advertisements seem to go round in cycles? One agency picks up on an idea and then suddenly everyone is doing it – or maybe that one agency is using the same format for more than one client. There is a new one on the radio at the moment that is really driving me to distraction. I can usually filter out advertisements, even enjoy some of them, but this one is enough to make me want to turn the radio off and never switch it on again!
     Someone, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that the voice of a nagging whingey teenager is a good way to make people buy things. This is so wrong on several levels.
Nearly every parent suffers the pleading of children wanting things. The long drawn out Muum or Daad, usually on three notes, can I have…? whatever the latest gadget, gismo, musthave is. At one time the answer would be a firm NO or Maybe for Christmas. These days parents seem more willing to give in. Not sure why. Maybe a compensation for something missing in a relationship, maybe a guilt trip for not providing what the precious child wants. It is a constant, unending, trial that never seems to end.
     So what makes the advertising industry think people will respond to an advert of a child asking for something? As parents or grandparents, we hear enough from our own children not to want to hear it from someone else’s.
     And what products are suitable for this sort of campaign?
     The first one was for a mobile phone, or maybe it was a particular network. See, it was so effective I can’t even remember. But it was for something a teenager would want, something to keep up with her friends. So not only are poor parents being whinged at by their own children, they are getting it from the radio, too.
     The latest one that is really incomprehensible to me, is for a car. Same whingey teenager approach, ‘my friend has one, please, please can we have one.’ But since when was a teenage girl interested in cars. She goes on to describe the benefits – as if she would even know about the things she is talking about. It is worse than being told to buy a car by Jeremy Clarkson!
     I really do not understand the mentality behind this advertising campaign. It’s bad enough that children whinge and whine to get things from their own parents. Who thought this approach would work in adverts convincing sensible adults that they need to buy something recommended by a pleading child? Let’s face it, what do children know about the pros and cons of an item? Their friends have a bright, shiny new toy, that doesn’t mean it is the best bright, shiny, new toy. Have they done the research, checked technical reports, compared the reviews of technical experts? No. they have played with their friend’s bright, new, shiny toy and want one. This is how substandard, low tech, items become best sellers.    
     And then there is the assumption that everyone will give in to this whinging child. If I had my way I would take that said child and lock her in her bedroom until she learned not to ask in that whingey voice, that new things needed to be earned not given just because they are wanted.
     Or am I missing something here?
     I really hope this is not an ongoing style. I’d rather listen to the Go Compare man or the Meerkats!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Seasons in Order

Ok, the following blog may be a bit patronising but it is all said with a grin on my face and with no offence meant, BUT
    Does nobody understand how seasons work anymore? Are children not taught about seasons at school now? Let me give anyone in any doubt a quick lesson.
   There are four seasons in the year, at least in the UK and I think most of Europe. I know places further south have different climates and some places have things like the ‘rainy season’, the ‘monsoon season’ and things like that. But I am talking about the standard North European weather pattern here.
   In general each season lasts for three months. Sometimes it feels longer, or shorter, but that is often down to anticipation.
   At one time the start of a season coincided with the Solstice. The summer solstice occurs around the 21st June and the winter solstice around the 21st December, with Spring starting on the 21st March and Autumn the 21st September. Since the Met office poked it’s nose in the seasons have been accredited with starting on the 1st of those months.
   So summer does not start until June, and mid-June at that! It is no surprise that the weather in May is changeable. It is still Spring. It is still working up to summer. Spring is the time when the world gets ready for new crops. We need rain to soak the ground so that crops can grow. The warmer weather encourages new growth and we are treated to a much greener and colourful environment after the bleak, blank days of winter. But it is not summer.
   Summer comes with lengthened days and warmer weather. Like other seasons it lasts for three months and that’s it. Some people, mainly garden centres I think, would like you to think that summer lasts from Easter to Hallowe’en. But it doesn’t. You might get hints of it early in the year; lingering memories of it throughout Autumn, but it is not Summer.
   Having said all that, no one has told Mother Nature these things and sometimes it is quite possible to experience at least three out of four seasons in one day in the UK. Sometimes four out of four! It has been known to snow in June and be nice and warm in December. But don’t expect such things!
   Weather is controlled by elements over which we have absolutely no control. Whether we get a good summer or a cold winter depends entirely on what is happening way above us with the air currents that circulate around the world.
   So remember, keep wrapped up, or at least have an extra layer handy, until the end of May. When June arrives and it is officially Summer, that is the time to start complaining if you are still cold. But nothing is guaranteed, so keep those winter woollies handy just in case.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

It wasn’t until I moved to a small village in Leicestershire that I honestly became aware of the significance of this pneumonic for the colours of the rainbow.
    The battle in vain was the Battle of Bosworth Fields which took place on 22nd August 1485. Richard III and his Yorkists were on one side, Henry Tudor with the Lancastrians on the other. Henry won and was crowned, supposedly, as Henry VII in my village of Stoke Golding. I say supposedly as not being a native born Stoker I take the story with a pinch of salt. Probably true but we have no photographic evidence!
    After the battle Richard’s body was spirited away by supporters and ended up being buried at a monastery in Leicester. This monastery was later destroyed and all knowledge of where Richard was buried was forgotten until researchers worked out it was probably under what was then a car park. The skeleton was recovered, studied, tested, confirmed beyond all doubt that it was Richard and after much legal wrangling with York, who wanted the remains brought back there, it was decided it should be officially interred at Leicester.
    On the 22nd March 2015, the remains of Richard III were brought from the site where he was killed, through some local villages close to the battlefield and then on to Leicester Cathedral for a service. Thousands of people lined the villages and the route into Leicester to view the cortege. It was quite astounding.
Two armoured soldiers escorting the hearse through Dadlington
    A bit of history there for you, but that is not the point of this blog.
   What this story has brought to mind in me is that we can have history, people can turn out in support of a dead king hundreds of years after his death, but we, the English, don’t keep killing each other over things that happened in the past. Oh, you still get a bit of rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire, especially when it comes to football and cricket, but nobody sends suicide bombers into each other’s cities to wreak death and destruction over things that happened over 600 years ago.
    The Civil War divided the country between Royalists and the Roundhead parliamentarians. There are still people in this country who would like to see an end to the monarchy, but they don’t send in terrorists to blow anyone up. Although we still remember the gun powder plot, no one sets off anything more than a few fireworks. Battles are re-enacted for fun, but even those re-enactors don’t wish real harm on anyone.
    Maybe this is what makes the English so different to the rest of the world. We debate and argue about things. We condemn violence. Rivalry is usually confined to football fans. It is natural for one set of people not to get on with another set. This goes back to when we lived in enclosed villages and had to defend ourselves from the people in the next village who would mount raids to steal our cattle and women. But this was back in the Bronze age and we have moved on since then. We have learnt to tolerate other people, whether they share our views or not. I’ve yet to visit a town or city in England where the people say they don’t like their neighbours. The people of Liverpool don’t like those from Manchester. Nuneaton people deride those from Coventry. And everyone despises Londoners! Everyone thinks their town is the best. But we don’t try to force our views on others.
    When I watch the news from around the world I shake my head in despair when I hear of people fighting and killing each other over things that happened centuries ago. Whatever it was it happened. It is not going to unhappen. Fighting about it now won’t change anything only make things worse for the here and now. Don’t forget your history, but don’t live it. Learn from it and make sure it doesn’t repeat. Don’t hold grudges. Appalling things happened in the past but why punish the people of today for those actions? It is the world of today we should worry about not what happened in the past.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

We're All In

‘We’re all in.’ You must have heard it, the ads for the new Workplace Pension. Lots of smiling faces proclaiming that they will be part of a workplace pension. The fact that most of the people working for large companies are probably already in such a scheme is neither here nor there. I don’t know many large companies that do not or have not offered a pension to staff.
     The thing about this new scheme is that every employer is supposed to offer a pension scheme, even if they only employ one person.
      I looked up the details of the scheme, not that it really affects me as I am already retired. But out of interest I thought I would have a look at the website to see what I could find. Every employer has to offer a pension to staff earning over £10,000. Now, the bit you don’t hear about is that the staff don’t have to join, they can opt out, but the employer must not encourage them to opt out. ( - if you’re interested)

    Lots of thoughts come flooding into my mind here.
  1.  How many smaller businesses pay their employees more than £10,000 a year?
  2.  How many smaller businesses only employ part time staff?
  3.  Will people have their hours cut so that the employers don’t have to pay the pension contributions? What if some is earning £12,000 rather than £10,000?
  4.  Who is going to be managing these pension pots?
  5.  Will each company have to go out and find a scheme themselves or is it all going to be something recommended by the government?

     I don’t do sums so I’m not even going to try to work out the percentage costs of what these pension contributions will be. But with many firms running on tight budgets, with every penny accounted for in many paypackets, is this scheme a burden too far for many people?
     It is not going to help the low paid or part time worker, they won’t earn enough. It is not going to help the small businesses who employ people on good wages but running on small profit margins. These are probably people who just about manage to handle the necessary paperwork for HMRC let alone deal with pensions. So more work there for the accountants!
     And are these pensions transferrable as people move from job to job? Or will people end up with half a dozen different pension pots to draw on when they finally reach retirement age?
     It seems to me it is going to help the pension companies who will be getting money in from every Tom, Dick and Harriett. I wonder how many Tories have shares in pension companies.
     And apart from everything else, I thought the workers of this country already paid in to a pension fund. It’s called National Insurance. Isn’t this Workplace Pension Scheme just another tax on top of what people already pay? Or will it fail because people will opt out anyway?
     Can’t make my mind up whether it is good or bad, but on balance I don’t really like it and am glad I am already retired and don’t run a business that employs people.  

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Gissa Job

Anyone remember Boys from the Black Staff? Josser Hughes going round saying “Gissa job” to anyone who would listen? Well, the government is turning all long term unemployed into Josser, telling them that they must make unsolicited applications to any and every firm they can find in the hope of finding some work. Penalty for not doing this? Benefits suspended.
   Now there are many views of the long term unemployed, most fostered by the media who focus on the few that are abusing the system and boasting about living a good life on benefits. Programmes like “Benefit Street” which focused on the few making them minor celebrities, while ignoring the vast majority of the people living in the street whether they were on benefits or not. Or the newspaper coverage of the mother and daughter who proudly boast of being too fat to work and happy to live on benefits which provide them with more comfort than most people struggling on a low income can expect.
    But these cases are the minority. The headline grabbers. The true situation in this time of supposed recovery is that the vast majority of the long term unemployed would love to work but cannot find a job. There may be unfilled vacancies but they are not necessarily in the right place or require the skills the unemployed have. Whether this is due to poor training for the young or over qualification of the older people, no one has asked the question.
   People are being told to dumb down their CVs, so that managers don’t feel threatened by over-qualified applicants. Older people are struggling because younger managers don’t want to take on people who may know more than they do. When down-sizing departments, both in government, civil service and industry, the older people with experience, who cost more to employ, are the ones who are made redundant these days.
   There has been a big increase in the number of people becoming self-employed. This is fine if they have the resources to cover start-up costs, be that from personal finances or bank loans. But not everyone can or wants to do this.
So the long term unemployed are expected to send out fifty applications a week, random, not in reply to any advertisement. These applications must be printed, not hand written, so either the applicant needs a computer and printer or they have to get the applications photocopied. Either way it is likely to come out between 2p-4p per page. Then postage on top of that, First Class only is acceptable. Or if you can’t afford postage the applicants must hand deliver applications to businesses on High Streets or industrial estates.
   This is not just one Josser Hughes or Norman Tebbit on his bike, but hundreds, if not thousands, of people, so what is the likely response to these begging letters, for that is what they amount to. If they come in the post it is quite likely they go straight in the bin without anyone of importance seeing them. If they are hand delivered the applicants are faced with being told to go away, but not in such polite terms. How else are businesses likely to respond when they may get maybe one letter a day? If you need someone you advertise, you don’t want people constantly bothering you asking for a job.
   And if this doesn’t result in a job after a few months the unemployed will be forced to ‘work’ for their benefits. Now some people might cheer at this. I read someone suggest this not long ago, but they were suggesting maybe one day a week. This scheme requires people to work a full week, wherever they are sent regardless of distance from home. Failure to turn up on time for any reason –  suspension of benefit again. Serves them right, some might say. But what is the further implication of this. Supermarkets can get their shelves filled for free, warehouses can get their items picked for free. People looking for part-time work won’t be able to find any because all their jobs are being done for free, so even if you WANT to work it will be harder to find something to do.
    All this is aimed at the long term unemployed, people who have been living on basic benefits for a long time, who have used up all their savings, who might well be subject to the bedroom tax, who now have to pay for printing and postage for pointless letters, who will have to pay transport costs they cannot afford and who are told to ask for loans from friends and family.
   If this was going to save a substantial amount from the benefits bill it might be reasonable, but to be truthful, there are many other things that could save more money. The bedroom tax did not succeed in providing a vast number of larger properties for the homeless. In many places people are having to pay it regardless of whether there is a housing problem in their area or not.
   Instead of penalising the very poorest of our society the Government should be looking at how it spends money in the first place.
   Of course, with the election approaching none of this will be mentioned by the Conservatives. The focus seems to be on the NHS, an important aspect of our life certainly. But how long before the wards are being cleaned for free by the slaves of the government?
   Immigration is another point that gets lots of attention but is far less of a problem than is made out.

Why are there no protest marches against the bedroom tax and the way the long term unemployed are treated? Oh, I forgot, these people are all scroungers and unworthy. NOT!