Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Dispelling the myth of Brits being unfriendly

In some far-flung parts of the world there is a view that Brits are unfriendly. Based on our experiences last Friday I can categorically say this is not the case.
My evidence for this rather bold statement came in many forms as we travelled from deepest East Anglia to Hampton Court in Londonium.
It started at around 9am while SWMBO and I were waiting for our train to the capital. We were sitting on a bench at our local mainline station when a Greater Anglia employee, complete with flag, wandered over and wished us a good morning.
Good luck later, England, against Croatia.
Nothing exceptional, you may think, but over the next ten minutes he chatted away – finally wishing us a safe journey as our train approached.
Next was the guard on the GA train – a cheerful chap who kept us informed and amused during the 90 minute journey into the capital. Incredibly, it seemed that he really enjoyed his job.
It was a repeat performance on our South Western train out from south Londonium to Hampton Court.
Another railway worker with wit, friendliness and an obvious love of his job. Ditto on our journey back many hours later. Faith fully restored.
The only blip on British friendliness was the group of young men who boarded at Wimbledon on our way back. A bunch of drunk, foul-mouthed and loud louts who had obviously enjoyed a little too much Pimms at the tennis.
I’m not adverse to the odd Anglo Saxon expletive myself but, hopefully, never on a full train.

There’s an old adage that you get what you pay for. This was brought home to us a while back when the man who cut our hedges every autumn retired.
I looked through our parish magazine for likely replacements (we always try to shop locally) and asked the three companies/ individuals listed to give me quotes. All responded swiftly, but with wildly varying costs.
And then, as we were contemplating who to choose, the doorbell went. It was a young guy, with business-monogrammed polo shirt, distributing business cards for…… hedge cutting. I asked him to quote there and then.
As he was almost than £100 cheaper than the lowest of our three alternative quotes, I booked him.
All started well when he and a workmate turned up a few days later to carry out the task.
And then I saw their technique – monogrammed polo shirt man drove a pickup truck slowly along the hedge while his mate stood in the back, cutting the top of the hedge with a petrol-powered hedge cutter. There was not a single item of safety gear in sight. Unbelievable.
I paid them when they had finished and promptly went back to our original shortlist.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

No broccoli and an England win – back of the net

Wow. A double delight this week. Firstly I read that the current balmy weather and lack of rain means there might be a shortage of broccoli this summer.
Bring it on. That must be true – it was in the Daily Mail.
Secondly, England denied fans our regular crying-into-our-beer festival by winning a penalty shootout.
In case we need penalties again Sweden.....
Initially I was very upset. How dare the England football team deny me this ritual by actually winning a shootout.
Then the fog lifted and I realised exactly what the team had just done – won the World Cup.
Well, almost.
What is the most satisfying is the fact that the hand of God was on our side for once.

In my last post I mentioned that I wanted a sworn enemy a la Captain Poldark.
I said every man should have one and that ain’t right.
I am pleased to say I was flooded with applications – and here it is.
“May I apply for the position of sworn enemy please? Apart from the fact you an Arse fan I now learn that you are cruel to wildlife too. I feel I am well qualified for this position as I have had plenty of practice both commercially and more recently with relations.
Incidentally, I had three squirrels out on the patio and one of them briefly came into the kitchen............twice! I have no problem with them on the roof and in the front garden but not on the patio. I'm thinking of putting a sign up rather than the rather drastic measures you appear to be employing.”

Friday, 8 June 2018

How do we know our donations help people in need?

The total amount given to charity by generous Brits in 2017 was estimated to be £10.3 billion, according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), up slightly on the previous year.
The CAF says fewer people gave more last year as the number of people who gave to charity either via donations or sponsoring someone decreased from 2016.
SWMBO and I try to do our bit to help various good causes – monthly donations to a few causes dear to our heart; one-off events such as the Walk for Life and the Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk and volunteering our time. Nothing unusual in any of that.
But SWMBO, who volunteers one morning a week in a local Cancer Research UK (CRUK) shop, got quite a shock recently when a TV programme revealed that only 20p from each £1 raised by CRUK actually goes to the people and organisations the charity is trying to help.
Apparently the money actually doing any real good when you donate to Age UK is just 5p from every £1 raised.
Now we all can understand that these charities have overheads – staff to pay, rent to find etc.
But just 5% or 20% of people’s hard-earned donations actually doing any good is mind-boggling.
All charities have their paid staff, usually in impressive multi-storeyed HQs on good salaries, and all rely heavily on volunteers, be it to man shops, shake collecting tins outside supermarkets or be on the ground helping needy people.
I bet most of these volunteers would recoil in horror if they knew how little of what they help to raise actually ends up helping people.
One woman who popped into the local CRUK shop this week to pay in her sponsorship money for the Race for Life said, quite innocently and perhaps even frustratingly, that she had heard that a very large percentage of people undertaking sponsored activities for charity never pay their money in. Is it just me or isn’t this absolutely outrageous?
Mind you, that snippet of information probably explains why most charities constantly remind people to pay their sponsorship money in.
Which of course means they are spending even more money on staff, phone calls, stationery and postage – all money that should be helping people.
I'm ready for you, Mr Squirrel.

Yep. It's war (right). My battle with a squirrel who keeps attacking our bird feeders has seen me unarmed. But no longer. Eat water. Much more fun than SIL's (sister-in-law's) suggestion of getting a squirrel-proof feeder.

You can’t help but have noticed there is a new series of it ain’t right, and it ain’t proper, sorry, Poldark, starting this weekend.
Numerous TV shows over the past week have featured cast members plugging the fourth series of the life and times of ordinary, and some extraordinary, folk in Cornwall in olden days.
I admire that there Capt. Ross for one simple reason – he has a sworn enemy in George Warleggan.
Which, in a roundabout way, leads me back to the subject covered in my last missive – the bucket list.
I want a sworn enemy. Every man should have one. But I am suffering sworn-enemy-less-ness.
Now that ain’t right. Applications on a postcard, please.