Monday, 7 November 2016

Why Women SHOULD Take Responsibility For Their Actions

Before I get on to my main topic I just want to make it clear I DO NOT condone cultures or attitudes that consider women to be nothing more than objects of man’s desire and use. On a day to day basis all women, of whatever age, should be treated with respect and as equals. There are some parts of the world which are better at doing this than others. Some cultures that still think women are lesser beings. Some cultures that claim to support equality but still treat women as objects to be used. This is wrong and will always be wrong. But here comes the big BUT…

No matter how civilized we consider ourselves we have to understand that we are still basically animals prone to the programming of nature. Now when the human body was designed by nature however many thousands of years ago, there weren’t very many of us to start with and nature deemed the whole planet needed populating. Lifespans were short. Even today not many mammals live much beyond thirty or forty years in good circumstances. This is why puberty and sexual maturity happened in the early teens. Unfortunately while we have progressed and developed morals and codes of conduct, our bodies are stuck with the original programming and haven’t updated. Unlike electronic products there is no way to upload amendments to the base code. There is a, sometimes overwhelming, desire to have sex and produce the next generation. That is the only reason for sex, according to the base code. Apart from Bonobo’s, humans are the only animals that indulge in sex merely for pleasure.

Women expect to be able to wear whatever they want with impunity. Fair enough. But with the base code in mind don’t be surprised if you dress like a tart you are treated like a tart. I make no apologies for being totally blunt here. I’m sure not many women go out with that intention, but you get what I mean, I hope. Why do women wear pretty and attractive clothes if not to feel pretty and attractive. Fine. I have no problem with that but if you are pretty and attractive you will get attention, unwanted or not, from other people, usually men.

So we move on to my main point. Date rape. By this I do not mean rape committed by men who have used drugs to make a woman ‘available’. That is premeditated and full blown rape as bad as any other sort. Stalkers, rapists, people who prey on women, these should be prosecuted, strung up by their delicate parts or castrated on the spot! What I am talking about is the sort of rape that happens when people go out for an evening of drinking and get so paralytic they no longer know what they are doing.

In a decent civilized society a sober, well-mannered man, on finding a woman passed out through drink would try his best to make her safe, get her home, protect her. Unfortunately in such circumstances the man is most likely to be inebriated as well, in which case the base code might well kick in and he will want to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m not excusing his actions, just trying to explain it. Having explained it, I’m not saying it is acceptable, but it happens.

On a night out a couple might meet at 11 o’clock and agree to sex. By midnight the woman might have changed her mind for whatever reason. Could be that by midnight the man is incapable! Could be that she has realised he is not worth her attention. But if she then carries on drinking to the state of unconsciousness or incapability she leaves herself open to whatever happens next. She cannot then turn round and say ‘I didn’t mean it when I said yes. I really meant, maybe or no.’

I’m certainly not suggesting that the man has an automatic right to do whatever he wants. What I am saying is, even when going with friends for a fun night out, all women should take responsibility for what they consume. I’m not saying don’t drink. I’m saying don’t get falling down drunk. It is possible to have a good time without getting totally lathered. In fact, it might be even better because you will remember it!

Rape is not the only crime that can happen to a woman when she is drunk. Muggings and other forms of assault happen. And this is not even taking into account the damage it does to health and the risk of actually dying because of drink. There is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing a mother who has lost a child who has choked on their own vomit due to drinking.

And there is loss of self-respect. I belong to the generation where women were not seen to get drunk. I’m not saying they didn’t. But it was unseemly. And to me that is something we have lost. It would seem that in our struggle for equal rights with men, the right to go out and get totally rat-arsed is one of them. Personally I think that has brought us down, not raised us up. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Is This How Marketing Works?

Before I go any further I want to say I have NO marketing experience, have never worked in the marketing department of any company nor have I worked in advertising. This is how my imagination sees a new product being launched. The product we are talking about is toothpaste. I will not identify the brand or the product within that brand, but the following is based on something I bought.

Around a table representatives of Research and Development Department and Product Support are
gathered to discuss the pricing and benefits of a new product.

PS: It’s great to have a new product to add to our range of twenty different types of toothpaste. Please tell us about this one. What is special about it?

R&D: This is our latest Super Duper, cure all problems, toothpaste.

PS: Great. What is so special about it?

R&D: It does everything the other toothpastes do but better. So we can charge more.

PS: Does it cost more to produce?

R&D: Well, actually, no. It’s pretty much the same.

PS: That’s no good, we have to have a fairly legitimate reason for charging more.

R&D: We solved this by asking our packaging supplier to come up with a new type of top. Instead of a simple flip cap, or a screw top with a pull-off piece of foil over the opening, they have made a sealed cap that needs to be inserted into the lid to release the seal the first time it is used.

PS: Ah! Like one of those tops that needs to be pierced.

R&D: Oh, no. this is much more complicated. The cap has a serrated edge to it which you insert into the top of the cap to match up with inverted serrations which you then twist to remove the seal.

PS: I see. And we tell the customers how this works on the packaging?

R&D: No need for that, we need pretty pictures on the packaging to show how clever the toothpaste is at cleaning your teeth and preventing sensitivity.

PS: And for this we can charge more?

R&D: Yes, the tops are more expensive to make as they need twice as much plastic for a start, let alone the engineering involved in making the serrations and the release mechanism.

PS: Great. Because it is more expensive customers will realise it is a better product. It is a better product, isn’t it?

R&D: Well, it’s toothpaste. It does pretty much the same as any toothpaste if used correctly. Seeing as how most people don’t use toothpaste correctly, it doesn’t really make that much difference. But we can charge more for it and that will increase company profits.

PS: It says in the test results that some people have complained that they have a strange sensation in their mouths after using it.

R&D: Probably down to the chemicals in it. But we can use that to say that it gives a tingling fresh feel to your mouth after use. People are suckers for gimmicks like that. Most toothpastes don’t leave you feeling anything, but if your mouth is tingling after use you know you have done a good job!

PS: Brilliant. So let me just recap. We have a new product that isn’t really any different to the twenty other products we already have, which costs the same to produce but has more expensively engineered packaging so we can charge more and which leaves a chemical reaction in the mouth after use which we can explain away as a magic formula for showing the toothpaste has worked. Great. Can’t see any problem there. Let’s go for it and start getting the marketing people involved! 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

New Book out now

If The World Hadn't Changed is my latest book out now at all the usual places.

For full details see its own page, then buy it, sit back and enjoy. You might want some tissues handy.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Are Shops Getting Too Big?

As another long standing British High Street store is under threat while people complain that the High Streets are dying, I wonder if it is because too many stores are trying to please everyone.

Shops that were once mere grocery stores now sell everything from clothes to electrical goods. I’ve bought a television in Morrisons. Now Sainbury’s are selling clothes. While I like the idea of not having to go to the butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fishmonger and delicatessen to buy my weekly groceries, I don’t want to be lured into buying other things at the same time. If I want new clothes, I will go to a clothes shop. If I want new shoes I will go to a shoe shop. If I need a new TV I will look in Curry’s or Argos. These are the shops that used to be on the High Street. If they are not there now it’s because people aren’t using them.

I was watching people being interviewed in the street after the announcement that BHS had gone into administration. Most people seemed sad but there were also comments like “I can never find anything I like.” Well, maybe you are looking in the wrong shop or you are too fussy. I rarely come out of BHS without at least one thing I didn’t go in for.

And that brings me to the point that major stores are trying to be everything to everyone in their search for customers. It doesn’t happen. I recently went into a large M&S on a retail park, the first time I had gone to an M&S since the small store closed in my local town. I felt overwhelmed. It was so big, so many things from which to choose, it was almost impossible to find anything because there was too much choice.

The fact is young people wear different clothes to older people. Quite possibly people in the North have different needs to people in the South (I’m thinking weatherwise here. It’s much colder the further north you go from London). By trying to entice younger people into a shop that caters for older customers you alienate those older people, without necessarily getting the younger ones who consider it a shop for oldies. Likewise, you won’t get older people looking in shops for youngsters. Trying to cater for everyone is costly and a gamble.

This massive shop I was in didn’t have any more cash points than my local BHS, and wasn’t as busy as the now defunct M&S, so despite its size I’m not sure it is doing any better. Maybe it was the time and the day, I don’t know. I hope for their sake it does get busier. In such a large store I expected to see two or three points to pay for your goods, but there was only one with only about four or five tills, and no long queues.

And then there is the cost of providing all those items in multiple stores. I know there is supposed to be economy in bulk buying, but if you end up buying too much as a retailer, what happens to all the things that haven’t been sold at the end of the season. Are they binned? Donated to charity? Sold on to market retailers?

Tesco learned to its cost that having too many choices does not always work. Giving the customer choice is one thing. Giving the customer five types of the same thing is something else entirely. So no doubt the smaller producers will lose out to the big brands because they are no longer wanted.

Internet shopping is being blamed for the demise of many stores, and in some respects this may be true. It is easy to find things on the internet, especially unusual things. I spent all of one Saturday afternoon trawling through my local shops looking for something very specific and couldn’t find it anywhere. Got home and went on the net and found it within minutes, if not seconds. But there has always been an alternative to buying clothes in shops. I bet there isn’t a home in the UK at least that didn’t at some point subscribe to a catalogue store like Kays or Freemans. That was the internet of the past, where you could get an endless choice in multiple sizes all delivered to your door. Such catalogues still exist, possibly even more, plus they have an online presence, too.

So are we heading for a completely shop-free world. Do we even need to go out to the shops? Personally I’d be happy not to but I’m weird that way. But to keep shops going people need to use them. It’s no good saying ‘it’s a shame’ when a shop closes if you haven’t supported it on a regular basis. Shops are there to sell things, not look pretty and fill a space. A small shop cannot give the same choice as a massive store on a retail park. It is not possible to cater for every taste in one place, so BHS, M&S, HM, and all the other retailers, make up your minds who your customers are and try to please them. Not an easy task, I know.

Where will I shop? Well, I’ve probably got enough clothing to last the next twenty years and I’m happy to wear the same thing year in, year out, so I’m not really bothered. I’d just like to put my winter stuff away and wear something light and only have one layer instead of three!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Meet the Author!

My sister-in-law came over to take some photos of me for promotion purposes a couple of summers ago. I still look pretty much the same. Still got the skirt but the tree has gone!

This is Mutley. Like all dogs she wanted to get in on the act.

It's not often you can get out in the garden in England but this was a nice sunny day for a change. Even had a skirt on so it must have been warm. Never been able to figure out why garden centres have so much garden furniture for sale. Never really figured out who actually bothers to buy it, but that's another blog!

At one time I belonged to a recorder group. Believe me a group of recorders can sound really good when the instruments are not being played by 8 year olds.
They invested in this huge instrument (can't remember what exactly, it was called) and I gave it a go but must admit I never mastered it.

Looks like I'm doing some editing.
Looks like it but I'm just posing!!

Ah, that old netbook. Brings back some memories. Use a Surface now. Love it.

I TOLD you I was working. Where's my cup of tea?

Mutley again. Thinks she is the centre of attention.

Have no idea what I was laughing at. Probably Mutley attacking the photographer!

This is a very dangerous position to be in with Mutley. You NEVER want her rear end facing you.

Well, I can't think of anything else to say. Hope you have enjoyed the trip around my garden.
Now let's see if any of these photos pop up when I post things on Facebook!

Interesting Stats

I'm just killing time here to see if my attempt to get some different pictures stored works. Although you can upload pictures for posts and then use them again because they are stored, I have no idea if you can store them without using them. So you might see a post that just consists of pictures of me. Don't spend too much time looking at it.

I had a look at my stats for this blog and it proved very interesting and a little confusing.

First I looked at the stats for 'all time'. I was impressed by how many people looked at my blog from the US, thanks guys. You came out top.

Surprisingly Russia and China came third and fourth, that was a surprise. Better be careful what I say!

Strangely in the All Time stats there was no sign of Spain, which surprised me because I know my good friend Mike Church, often looks at my posts and he lives in Spain.

But then I went on to the stats for last month and there was Spain. And top of the chart Israel. Yet that country doesn't show up anywhere else.

Interesting stuff. Must look more often. What it does show is that my humble ramblings are seen all over the world, including Indonesia, Ukraine and some other really surprising places. Thank you all for taking the time to look at my work.

I'll add a photo here, just to get it stored!

Monday, 4 April 2016

We Get What We Deserve

As the steel industry collapses around us and people bemoan that we have lost coal and all sorts of manufacturing to cheap imports, I ask if we have brought this upon ourselves.

Over the last few years we have demanded cheaper and cheaper goods in our stores.

Supermarkets are in competition with each other to sell cheaper food, at a cost to the farmer or producer. We moan about cheap labour being brought in to pick fruit grown here, but we won’t work for that rate ourselves, yet we want the fruit as cheaply as possible. And we want everything, now! Gone are seasonal products. Gone is the joy of waiting until summer to have strawberries for tea, you can have them at Christmas if you want. But only if they are cheap enough.

We want cheap clothes and shoes, so shops bring stuff in from places where labour is cheap, because we can’t make things for the same price.

Fifty years ago my mum used to work in a London sweatshop (you couldn’t call it anything else) and made dresses for Marks & Spencer. Everything was made to the highest quality, all the dresses had proper hems not just a running stitch around the bottom. Even in those days competition was stiff for the cheapest products. Even in those days the skills needed for making clothes was being forgotten.

Once upon a time, not long ago, the area in which I now live was the centre of the UK hosiery and shoe business. Both industries lost out to cheap imports. You can probably buy tights and pop socks at the same price as you could ten years ago.

Where wages are reasonably high we have become a throw-away society. Cheap clothes that are worn a couple of times are easily replaced instead of treasured for years. Too much food is bought because it was cheap and didn’t really break the bank, so it doesn’t matter if it is thrown away; except it does because it has cost farmers and fruit pickers money to produce it in the first place. Gadgets are bought and replaced with a click of a button on the internet. Shipped in from China, Japan, India or Korea. Nothing is made in the UK.

The mantra of “Go compare” has replaced value for money. And there is a difference between those two even if they sound the same. We are encouraged to seek the cheapest rates/deals/products in every walk of life. To some extent this has always been so, but now it has become so intense it risks wiping out the profits of every industry on which we depend. Business is simply that. Business. It is there to make a profit for its shareholders and for future development and although that has become a dirty word to some, without profit there can be no tax gathered from it. Without tax the infrastructure of the country is dented. Without infrastructure the country cannot survive. Pensions depend on profits from shares and investments. The future of our food and welfare depends on being prepared to pay the correct price for the things we need and allowing business to make a profit instead of a loss.

Our future also depends on said businesses paying their dues, too. Stop all the legal tax avoidance that has been going on for years.    

Sunday, 6 March 2016

What has Women's Lib done?

Now I want to point out before I start this blog that I respect every modern woman who is fighting for equal rights today and don’t want to lessen their achievements or their aims. What I would like to do is point out to some of the younger people amongst us what it was like for women when I was young and what equal rights has meant for us.

Suffragettes had already won the right for us to vote. Women could train as professional people although not many did. But I’m talking about the day to day equal rights that women did not have.

The marriage vows used to say ‘love, honour and obey.’ For those who took the vows seriously and not as just something to say to get married, this was a very restrictive vow. An example of what this meant is illustrated very well in the Doctor Who episode The Wire, where a very mean spirited man rules the roost. This vow was changed to ‘love, honour and cherish.’ Not sure when but it was in my lifetime as I can remember the debate about the change. Quite a debate it was, too!

When a couple got married the woman took on her husband’s name. In all formal communications she was addressed as Mrs John Smith. Even the Guide Association adhered to this right into the 1970’s. Imagine that. The second half of the 20th century and women were still addressed as if they were the property of their husbands. No wonder women were campaigning for equal rights.

A woman’s income was not taken into account when applying for a mortgage or other major loan. It was expected that women would stop working to raise children. Even if the woman earned more than her husband, her salary would not be counted. It was the husband who bought the property, not the woman.

And the thing that everyone is familiar with – women got paid less than men for doing the same sort of work.

So this is where we were in the nineteen seventies.

Have the changes made a difference and have we benefitted?

Obviously it is great that women are no longer considered as merely an appendage to their husband. Equal pay for equal work is equally valued although it is still not universal.

But not all pushes for equality have been good, in my humble opinion.  Looking back, it seems to me that the massive increase in house prices started when people could get bigger mortgages because two incomes were allowed. I was on the cusp of this change. We bought the house that was to start our family solely on the basis of one income and have stuck to that policy ever since. I must be one of the last generation to be able to say I gave up work to have a family and have never done more than part time work mainly because I was bored not because we needed my extra income.

I never wanted a career (apart from writing) so I was lucky. I never needed to work thanks to a hard working husband who actually loves working and doesn’t want to retire. But I do feel sorry for all those who have to work in ordinary jobs, the office workers, the shop assistants, the receptionists, the call centre workers, the people who keep things going for the high flyers, who now have to work all their lives to help pay the bills, where once they could take a break while the kids were growing up and maybe go back for a second chance later in life.

Being a working mum and then expecting everyone to lend a hand looking after the kids is something I never had to do. I suppose it is the way of life these days. The current government seems to frown on stay at home mums. But then again the number of stay at home mums is dwindling as mums can’t afford to stay at home. I have never been a great advocate of maternity leave, which may be surprising. I believe that if you decide to have a baby then you should be certain you can afford to have it without returning immediately to work. By immediately I mean within six months to a year in which time you get a certain amount of pay plus a guarantee that your job will be waiting for you when you decide to go back. Obviously there are lots of unplanned babies, so that makes things more complicated, but you can understand some employers being reluctant to take on women if they might have to pay for them not to work. And it’s the ordinary jobs I’m talking about again, not the high flyers.

Society is changing. Women need to work while they are also raising families. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. Mixing in nurseries can be good for children, it helps them to socialise. But it gives less time for them to learn from their parents on things like moral values. It makes it harder for children to relate to parents. Their carers are the people who tell them what to do, why should they listen to parents who do little but get them up in the morning and put them to bed at night? It is possibly too early to say how these children will react when they reach adolescence and adulthood but this could be the reason for the ‘entitlement’ culture that is growing as parents give their children everything they demand maybe subconsciously trying to make up for not being there in the early years. I’m not a psychologist so I’m probably talking rubbish but it is something to consider.

I do think dads should be allowed a limited amount of paternity leave. New mums need help and it can be a very lonely place in those first months. Maybe dads should have every Wednesday off for the first couple of months so that mum is never left alone for more than two days at a time. This may help reduce the incidence of post-natal depression. Just a thought.   

All in all, I do appreciate the steps that have been taken in equality. But I do feel women need to make up their minds just exactly what they want. We need women to have children, otherwise our species will die out. It is a fact that this job cannot be given to anyone else other than a woman. It is time to think that this as equally important as building a house or working in a shop. Maybe it is time women were paid to have children, freeing up thousands of jobs on hold because of maternity leave and re-establishing the pattern of young people taking jobs until they started a family then giving up their jobs for young people to work, or for older people to return after the family raising break.

Just my thoughts. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Great British Benefit Handout - Myth

My last post was tongue in cheek. This one is not.

I really hate and despise TV programmes such as Great British Benefit Handout and Benefit Street, and equally hate and despise the people who produce and appear in such shows. These people are NOT the norm for people who are claiming benefits in this country. Yes, undoubtedly there are some who use and abuse the system, there always have been and there always will be, it’s part of human nature. But the vast majority of people on benefits are those who genuinely cannot find work or are not fit enough to work.

Those who suffer possibly more than others are single, middle aged people. These people may be single for many reasons, bereavement, failed relationships, have spent years caring for parents, or simply they are people who are happy to live alone.

Not all benefit claimants are uneducated workshy layabouts. Some have degrees. Some have worked for years in industry or commerce or the civil service, but have been put out of their job because factories have closed down, commercial firms and councils of all sorts have had to cut staff and it’s usually the more expensive, experienced staff that are offered redundancy. Middle aged people again, who can’t find the expected alternative job because what young inexperienced manager wants to take on someone who knows more than them?

I’ve just gone through my bills and worked out how much I would be paying if I paid them weekly.

TV £5.60  - more expensive if you pay weekly than monthly, quarterly or annually.
Water - £10 is the minimum you can pay weekly if you get a nice adviser on the contact line.
Power – My power bill works out to £27 per week, paying dual fuel by direct debit which gives me discounts. Many people on benefit have to pay by pre-payment meter, the most expensive way to pay but they can choose how much to put on the card, which probably won’t keep their homes as warm as mine.
Council Tax - £28. I have no idea if this equates to a cheap or expensive area. Probably middle of the road.

This adds up to £70.60 and I haven’t bought any food yet, or clothes.

Anyone claiming housing benefit has to pay Bedroom Tax (I refuse to call it anything else) of £12 per spare room per week, even if there is no alternative accommodation available for them to rent.

Benefit for a single person is £72 per week.

So every week single people claiming benefit are having to make the choice between heating their homes or eating if they want to keep all their commitments up to date.

There is no money to run a car. There is no money for bus fares! Yet the DWP expects job seekers to go out every day to canvas firms for work. They expect job seekers to submit application forms and CVs unsolicited to places, yet there is no extra money to pay for paper and printing let alone stamps. They expect everyone to use the internet to look for jobs even if they haven’t got a computer and cannot afford the bus fare to get to the nearest library. It would be something like a £6 round trip by bus to my nearest town, and probably just as much if I were travelling in a city.

This is the Great British Benefit Handout. This is why there are so many food banks. This is why those who are too proud to seek help are literally starving in an affluent country.

This is what makes me angry.

Of course, this would not make sensational television. It would not put benefit claimants in a bad light and make them scapegoats for a failing government. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Don't Let Valentine Get You Down

I am writing this for all the people who have not received cards, flowers or chocolates. Do not despair. It doesn’t mean no one loves you if you are in a relationship, it means your loved one has more sense than to spend money on overpriced things that he/she could buy any day of the year for much less!
    Yes, I’m being my usual cynical self. I have known my husband for well over forty years and we have never given each other a valentine’s card or gift in all that time, yet I am secure in the knowledge that things are good between us and always have been. He brings me cups of tea in bed if he is not out working. He makes me breakfast in bed most Sundays. He never moans about the time I get up in the morning!
    When I was at school, St Valentine’s Day was a laugh. We waited to see if we would get a card from an unknown admirer and that was the point. It was supposed to be a surprise, not something from someone we already knew loved us.
    Since Valentine lost his sainthood it has become nothing more than a commercial opportunity, just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Halloween. I won’t put Bonfire Night in the same category because that is surprisingly low key considering how long it has been going. (Did you know it used to be law that you had to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes?) And I won’t mention Christmas which is the biggest commercial opportunity of them all with many businesses depending on a good Christmas for survival.  
     Now instead of a simple card, gifts and treats are expected, not just for new lovers (you can expect them to be overly indulgent) but everyone is encouraged to take part.
     So how does this affect people uncertain of their relationship? I’m sure there must be floods of lonely tears shed when that card, box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers does not turn up. Let alone when someone is not whisked off for a romantic meal.
     The people I feel sorry for are those who were born on the 14th February. Almost any other day of the year they could go out for a meal with family and/or friends on their birthday at no extra cost. But on or near Valentine’s Day ‘special’ meals are put on in pubs and restaurants which are often more expensive than normal meals, especially if the day falls at the weekend as it does this year. My local pub is making Valentine’s Day last all weekend, with a special meal on Saturday and Sunday.
     Maybe it sounds like I’m complaining unnecessarily. But what I’m trying to get at is you don’t need one particular day to show that you care for someone. You can buy them chocolates or flowers any day of the year; you can treat your loved one to a meal any time. And the more unexpected it is, the more appreciated it is (unless your partner thinks you are guilty of something, of course! Ouch, I just bit my tongue). And you can show them your love without spending a fortune just by the way you behave. All year, not on just one day.
    And having one day when everyone is celebrating having a loved one with them, it brings to mind all the loved ones who are no longer with us, bringing grief instead of joy.
    So all in all, the only people to really benefit from Valentine’s Day are the retailers. So as my daughter said in a Mother’s Day card she sent me a few years ago, 
                                                         Happy Hallmark Greeting Card Day!