Anorak Man - Roland Beaney

Page 8

Home  Page 1  Page 2   Page 3   Page 4   Page 5   Page 6   Page 7  Page 8  Page 9  Page 10

Car parking wars - December 2005

Car parking has become a major problem on housing estates as more and more houses are being built and more families have several cars Many councils are increasing their resident only parking areas and most people want to park their vehicles inches from their front doors. Even though most houses have a garage drivers are very reluctant to use them preferring to park their main car on the driveway whilst their second car is parked on the road in front of their house. Their third car is then parked in front of their neighbours house. Their neighbour then arrives home with a car loaded with shopping with nowhere to park. I have never been able to understand why drivers lock up all their rubbish in the garage while their pride and joy worth many thousands of pounds is left on the road? Perhaps they can't be bothered to open the garage doors or they can't be bothered to move their rubbish out of the garage to the tip or perhaps they don't want to spend money on a garden shed. Perhaps one good thing that comes out of this is that more people now walk to the local shop in case someone takes their parking place while they are away. Isn't it strange that the car on the drive is used all weekend while the car on the road remains motionless. According to a recent report more and more home owners are sacrificing their hedges and lawns to make way for more off road parking space and apparently this is causing the value of their homes to drop.  Concrete doesn't absorb rainwater so the excess run off can cause localised flooding and other environmental problems. The MORI survey was commissioned by the RHS and the Horticultural Trades Association. Car parking wars are increasing but I hope we don't sacrifice our gardens to solve the problem. Concrete and paving slabs however pretty are not a substitute for grass and plants.

Weather forecasts - November 2005

Some people will not miss an episode of Coronation street but my favourite soap is the weather forecast. The storyline is always changing and I love to follow the depressions across the Atlantic until they dump their rain on us. The forecasts have become a little more accurate now. The rain may arrive a little bit earlier or later than expected but it usually arrives in the end. I get annoyed with some of the silly terms they use though. What do they mean by saying," There will be a lot of dry weather today"? It will either be dry or not, you can't have a lot of it. "Organised rain" is another annoying description, rain cannot be organised, all weather is disorganised. What is a sunny spell, one minute of sun cast by a witch? How many times have you heard them say," There will be a lot of standing water today". I think that means that there will be a lot of puddles, time to roll up your trousers and start paddling folks.

I don't like those new maps at all. I preferred the old ones with isobars that told us how much wind we would be expecting, they also told us from which direction the wind would be coming from and gave us a good idea of how cold or hot it was going to be. We now have a sloping green brown map which makes England look big and Scotland look very small. Are the darker brown areas supposed to indicate how much cloud we can expect or how muddy it is going to be? and do the paler green-brown bits indicate more clearer weather? It also makes me giddy when the camera scans the country. Its a bit like being in a plane with a drunk pilot at the controls. I loved those magnetic symbols that they used many years ago. Once the weather man put the sun symbol over the north of the country and it slipped down to the south coast knocking the rain symbol that was over Southampton into the channel. It was right, we did have sun.

Apparently the temperatures are going to plummet this winter and betting shops are taking bets on this years Christmas day being the coldest since records begun, a white Christmas is a mere 5 to 1. Now who said the weather is getting warmer?  I've heard it all before though. I remember walking to school with the snow up to my knees. Doing my paper round in arctic conditions and then they said we were going to have another ice age. Most of us turned up for school though and I always delivered my papers. Today a mention of snow in the forecast and we all go home early stripping the shelves in the supermarket bare of food on the way.  
Bring back the isobars and the frontal systems, lets have the old pressure symbols and the anticyclones and lets have longer weather forecasts. Get out and enjoy the snow while it lasts. I'll be following it all on the Atlantic weather map. We've been to the moon but we still can't do anything about the weather so we may as well make the most of it. Anyone fancy a snow ball fight? or have they been banned by some government department.

The file fairy - October 2005

I'm quite a tidy person. I keep all my papers in a filing system and spend quite a lot of time making labels and identification tags so that I can find my documents when I need them. So why is it that when I need a document I can't find it? There seems to be a bottomless pit in my filling cabinet that they disappear into. Recently I tried to find my birth certificate. I knew what folder it was in and it always appears when I am looking for something else but do you think I could find it when I really needed it? I searched everywhere and had to give up thinking it had disappeared forever. Reluctantly I had to call in my file recovery unit. This unit, namely my wife sprung into action when I left for work. Very soon my wife rang to say she had found it. How does she do it? Apparently it was in the file called, "car papers". "How did it get into there?"  It must have been the file fairy who comes out after dark and moves all my papers around.

Many years ago we were told that computers would reduce the amount of paperwork that we had to store but it never happened. We receive so much rubbish through the post today and now the fax machine produces more rubbish from firms trying to attract us to their business. I often receive an e-mail at work and within a couple of days I receive a hard copy. We seem to be sinking in a mountain of files and rubbish. Paper is still used as much as it ever was in fact since computers have become widely established they seem to generate even more of the stuff. I haven't seen a reduction of filing cabinets in my time and filing systems have become even more complex.

Perhaps instead of spending money on recycling paper we should be considering how we can stop computers, fax machines and photo copiers churning out so much of it in the first place.  If we did that then my filing cabinets wouldn't be bursting at the seams, I'll  be able to find my files more easily and as a bonus they won't have to cut down as many trees.

The cost of clothes - Oct 2005

I am not an expert in purchasing women's clothes but occasionally I have to buy them for a present for my wife. It shocks me to see the high prices that women are prepared to pay for their clothes. Why does a pair of women's shoes cost twice as much as a man's shoes especially when they are much smaller and use less material? It seems that the shorter an item of clothing the more it costs. What about the price of skirts? The very long ones seem to cost less than the very short, surely with the extra material that goes into them the cost should be the other way around.  The cost of haircuts is another concern of mine. Why does a man who is nearly bald have to pay the same price as a man fully laden with hair? I resent having to sit in the hairdresser for 20 minutes while a very long haired person has a number one and I get charged the same for about 5 minutes. While I am having a moan, why do designer firms charge so much for their clothes with their logo's printed on them? It actually costs more to buy a shirt with a well known designer label printed on it than it costs for a top with nothing on it. Sports stars get paid a lot of money to have a designer label displayed on their equipment so why don't they pay me.

New technology - Oct 2005

As we approach the end of another year I wonder what will happen in this fast moving world in another 12 months. Some of us have become so addicted to computers and technology that we begin to lead a different lifestyle. I managed without a computer for 45 years but after I bought one a few years ago I realised that my life had changed when getting up to go to the bathroom in the night. I started to check my e-mails before going back to bed. I then check them again early in the morning before going to work. Yes I really do crawl out of bed and stagger into the computer room before 6am. I was so tired I almost entered my password on the microwave oven one morning. I soon found that I was e-mailing complete strangers the other side of the world when I haven't spoken to my next door neighbour for months. You send e-mail cards to your friends for their birthdays and only regularly keep in touch with members of your family if they have an e-mail address. Most of the e-mails we send are jokes and when you eventually disconnect from the internet you get a funny feeling that you've lost a good friend. These days nearly every commercial on the TV has a website address on the screen so we can't get away from the Internet whatever we are doing. Mobile phones are just as bad. I have four of them; I don't know why I have so many. I have to remember six phone numbers. Sometimes I pull up outside friend's homes and ring them to see if they are in. If I leave my home without my phone I go back home to get it. How did I manage for forty years without one. I get so angry when I miss a call which usually comes when I am in the bath or asleep. I still have my first ever mobile phone and I just can't throw it away. I can't see things getting any better and I think next year will get worse.

Check the label - Oct 2005

Recently when I was washing up I noticed that the label on the dishwasher liquid said it was made with fresh lemons. Later when I used the lemon juice to squirt over my food I found that it contained artificial flavouring. So why do we prefer to eat the artificial food while we wash up with the real lemons? The labelling on items is supposed to inform us what we are eating or buying but some of it it is a bit confusing. I've been checking the labels on many products recently and I came up with a few surprises. On a hairdryer it said, "Do not use while sleeping" Not sure how many people dry their hair while sleeping!!  On a bar of Palmolive soap the label said, "Use like regular soap" On a pack of frozen dinners it said, "Serving suggestions, Defrost" - but it was only a suggestion. On the bottom of a dessert it said, "Do not turn upside down" whoops, too late. On a bread pudding, "Product will be hot after heating". Am I stupid? On packaging for an iron it said," Do not iron clothes on body", who does that? On children's cough medicine," Do not drive car after taking this medicine" Put the pedal car away children and drink your medicine.  On a well known sleeping aid, "Warning may cause drowsiness" Isn't it designed to do that then? On many brands of Christmas lights, "For indoor and outdoor use only", as opposed to what? On a Japanese food processor," Not to be used for the other use" I'm a bit curious there. On a tin of peanuts, Warning contains nuts. On another packet of peanuts, "Instructions, open packet, eat nuts" I really needed to know that. Found on a Childs superman costume, "Warning, this garment does not enable you to fly". Warnings are something we must take seriously so I am not being critical of this but it is a bit overdone and silly at times. The danger is that we may see so many signs that we will ignore them. Be careful and if you see more of these silly warnings please send them to me at

Freeview Is Here To Stay - Sept 2005

A friend showed me his new TV recently. I told him that it was a nice set but why spend all that money on a new TV if you only have 4 channels to watch on it. There are still a lot of people that can only get four channels when a small adaptor to bring in lots more free channels are so cheap and readily available. Freeview is the terrestrial digital service and adaptors to watch these extra channels are available in the shops for a little over £30. Most people should be able to afford one to improve their channel choice. If you don't want to pay out for a Sky subscription then Freeview is your answer. I bought one of the cheapest boxes at a well known superstore to try it out. It was a Duraband digital Freeview receiver and it cost £32.97 which is about the price of a month's subscription to Sky TV. It is a neat little box, a fraction of the size of the original On Digital box that I inherited after ITV shut down that service. The box was easy to set up. I plugged it into the TV using the scart and UHF aerial cables supplied with it and after switching on the TV the menu came up. You just had to accept the "first time installation" set up by following the easy start guide on the leaflet supplied and soon all the available channels were stored from the local transmitter. All the new BBC and ITV channels were available, a selection of general interest channels, E4, three news channels, a sports news channel, a couple of music channels as well as a selection of shopping channels and interactive services were available. You already pay a licence fee for the new BBC channels so why not watch them. I was keen to find out how well one of the cheapest boxes worked and I was impressed although I had to return the original box to the store because it was faulty. There is a Top Up TV service available on Freeview that costs an additional fee that includes Discovery, UK Gold and a few more channels but you will have to buy a more expensive box to view them. You can also buy a new TV with the Freeview channels included and this will cut out the clutter of the extra cables used to connect your box to the set. The interactive services worked well and the pages came up fairly quickly. If you want movies and sport then Sky is your only answer but if you want some more free channels then this Durabrand Freeview digital adaptor worked well. If you have any problems or comments about Freeview then please write to me at

Who remembers Tapioca? - August 2005

If you are aged 50 or over you will remember the horrors of being served Tapioca or "frogspawn" as we called it for your school dinners. If you are under 50 then read on because this will help you to appreciate food especially your school meals today. The school canteen wasn't my favourite place and on arriving you were forced into a long queue by the duty teacher who would rather be in the staff room enjoying a few minutes of peace than supervising a very noisy dinner queue. Its funny but the canteen seems to bring out the very worse manners in the kids. The poor harassed teacher would shout at you to be quiet but no one did. Once you reached the serving area you were confronted by an even louder mouthed dinner lady who would order you to take whatever was on offer and eat it up or else!  If you complained about the stringy meat, the overcooked cabbage, the undercooked potatoes and the soggy pork sausages you had an ear bashing by this very unpleasant lady that ensured you ate what you got and never complained again. After you forced down your main meal and your stomach was churning you re-joined the queue to collect your treacle tart or your jam roly poly smothered in a smelly, lumpy yellow slime that they called custard. If you were unlucky a concoction appeared from the kitchen in large bubbling vats which we really dreaded. It was called tapioca. That nasty dinner lady insisted that you couldn't leave the table to go out into the playground until all the contents of your plate was cleared. Your stomach was complaining but you still had to eat this awful stuff that looked and tasted like frogspawn before you could leave the canteen. Sometimes you ended up in detention for not clearing your plate. Sometimes the kid next to you would empty his plate onto yours and disappear without trace. You could try to tip your dish full of the stuff into a bag and disappear into the toilet but if you were caught you were in serious trouble. How I would have loved a plate of chips. At one time I believed that the stuff really was frogspawn and the thought of eating the stuff made me feel quite ill. I read an article recently that there are Tapioca factories in China and they use the stuff for building houses now. That wouldn't surprise me because it soon congealed on your plate and became a solid brick. After my early experiences in the school canteen I soon decided to buy a packet of crisps and experience the culinary delight by eating them in the playground.   

Lawns are Healthy - August 2005

Several years ago my Mother in Law decided to have her lawn dug up and paved to save herself the work involved in mowing the grass. As she was getting old she thought she would be reducing the work involved in keeping her garden tidy. It did not turn out to be a good decision because the patio was too plain and she wanted more colour so she then started to put pots and plants onto it. After a while the whole patio was covered in plant pots containing an assortment of summer bedding plants. This now meant she was spending far more time and money watering and tending to the pot plants than she originally spent of mowing and weeding the lawn. According to a recent report commissioned for a campaign called PlantforLife by the country's main horticultural firms we still love our traditional manicured lush green lawns despite the rise in trendy back yards full of designer patios and decking. We now spend £393 million a year on our gardens and the trend for low maintenance decking and paved gardens is now on the wane. According to a survey of 1000 adults the campaign also found that the smell of cut grass was the favourite aroma of summer followed by the scent of Roses. Experts also claim that tending to a lawn and seeing it grow can have a positive psychological effect on us and mowing the grass and gardening for a hobby is good for relieving stress. Now if you are considering digging up your lawn and building a patio or paving your garden then think again and don't make the mistake my Mother in Law made and make more work for yourself. A nice green lawn could be better for your health.

Anyone for Conkers? - July 2005

There are so many things that we did in our youth that would be banned today. Conkers is now not acceptable  because of the possibility of injuries and many trees are being cut down because a dangerous conker may fall on someone's head. In some areas bouncy castles have been banned in case Children hurt themselves. Then I saw a story about a footpath being closed by a council because someone might trip over the hoof marks as it is also used as a bridleway. Even window boxes are under scrutiny now as they might fall onto someone's head. With all this culture of safety it makes you wonder how we managed to survive our childhood with conkers smashing into our faces or a window box dropping onto our heads. I remember falling off a spinning roundabout onto concrete and also falling out of a tree but I survived it without breaking any bones. I wonder how many things on the list below that we used to do in our younger days would be banned now. I would be interested to hear if you have any memories of things you did in your young days that would not be acceptable today.

 Here are mine.

  1. Roll down a grassy bank making yourself so giddy that you feel sick.
  2. Make a mud pie with worms instead of raisins.
  3. Collect frogspawn out of a dirty lake.
  4. Ride a bike through a muddy field.
  5. Play doctors and nurses.
  6. Camp out in the garden overnight.
  7. Make and paint gnomes.
  8. Make little fairy cakes.
  9. Bury yourself or a friend in the sand. (Not completely)
  10. Make a den in the garden or a tree house.
  11. Climb a tree.
  12. Build a barrow and speed down a hill.
  13. Make a catapult or sling.
  14. Make a bow and arrow.
  15. Fly radio controlled planes over the park.
  16. Play hopscotch on the public footpath.
  17. Play cricket in the park with a hard ball.

Dressing down - July 2005

In a recent article I reported that children today tend to "dress up" in designer clothes when they go out to play so why is it when their parents go out they tend to "dress down"?  I went to a restaurant recently and I was surprised to see the clothes some of the other customers were wearing. Tatty Jeans, shorts and T shirts seem to be normal for dinning in these days. Gone are the days when people put on their best clothes to eat out. I don't wear a tie but I do try to put something reasonably smart on. I also remember when people took considerable trouble to look smart when they travelled. Most people turned up at the airport in clean suits and polished shoes or smart dresses. Nowadays flying has become so commonplace that people tend to dress down for it. Now, I wouldn't expect people to board a plane in their best clothes but shorts, sweaty T shirts and dirty jeans are ok for the garden but not for travelling in. It also shows a lack of consideration for other passengers. Businessmen manage to travel in suits and many foreigners look smart especially those wearing their national dress so why can't others do it?  We've already introduced Laws and regulations forbidding people to smoke, do we now need a dress code?

Christmas in June - June 2005

Christmas seems to come a little earlier every year. Having arrived at the longest day of the year I open the newspaper to find an advert inviting me to book for my Christmas dinner. There in front of me was a picture of the white bearded gentleman with his red bonnet. With the temperatures approaching 30 deg C the poor man must be hot. Can't they give him a rest until our summer holidays are all over? I have no interest in party poppers, Christmas Crackers, Turkey and Christmas pudding while I am eating my strawberries and cherries watching the Wimbledon Tennis on the TV and I really don't need to be told that I need to book early to avoid disappointment. To top it all I then received a well known card catalogue through the post with their Christmas 2005 brochure. Perhaps I better start putting the Christmas decorations up.

Gardening Horrors - June 2005

The country's first dedicated gardening channel, UKTV Style Gardens launched recently and to celebrate their launch they interviewed 1000 people on all aspects of gardening. Some 56 per cent of people interviewed claimed to be plagued by slugs while 48 per cent found cats to be a nuisance. 47 per cent found aphids were their biggest problem while 21 per cent had problems with foxes. With this in mind I thought I would come up with a few tips to protect your plants and keep them healthy.

Slugs    The solution for most people is to buy loads of slug pellets and spread them all over the garden but this method is not environmentally friendly and there are other ways to control these pests. As they do most of their feeding at night after it has rained you should go out after dark and pick them off. Put egg shells and grit around your tender plants and grow plants that slugs dislike such as verbascum, achillea and euphorbia. Ask at your local garden centre. You should keep your garden tidy and clear debris where they can hide under. Traps partly filled with beer can be a happy way for these beasts to die.

Cats    Sorry if you are a cat lover but they can do a lot of damage in a garden. There are a wide range of chemical deterrents available that will not harm them and you could also try a harmless battery operated device which emits ultrasonic frequencies. I know several people that hang out old CDs.

Aphids    If you have a small infestation try wiping them off the plants with your fingers or a damp cloth. I use a hose to wash many of them off. If you have to use an insecticide then use something that specifically attacks aphids and not their natural predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies. These should be encouraged. I water my plants in the greenhouse with a Systematic insecticide that is absorbed through the plant. This works particularly well to control white fly. Again your local garden centre will help you.

Foxes    Like rats these creatures will be attracted to your garden by food. Keep your rubbish in bins with a lid on and don't put out too much bird food at a time especially in the evenings. Preferably use special bird feeders rather than putting the food on the lawn. You can buy repellents from good garden centres. A specially designed fence could help but it must be at least 2 metres high with a large overhang at the top and 30 cm buried under the soil.

Silver hair surfers - June 2005

I though that younger and middle aged surfers got more out of the Internet but according to a study by Telewest Broadband they found that more than half of the over 50s couldn't imagine life without it. They play online games such as Bingo and Poker with people all over the world and even enjoy visiting chat rooms and dating services. These Cybergrans and granddads are using their computers for up to 14 hours a week and seem to have found a new lease of life finding old school friends and using the dating services. Many more are not online yet because they are put off by the technology or feel it may be too expensive. The poll of 3000 silver haired surfers found more than one in four are going online to look for long lost relatives or friends and using e-mails to keep in touch.  Many organisations have welcomed these findings especially Help the Aged.

 Video recorders - June 2005

The video recorder has been around for 25 years now but many people have never understood how to operate them. Even I lose some of my recordings and often I sit down to watch my favourite programme only to find that I've recorded the wrong channel. For this reason it has been top of a list of items which we find difficult to use for many years. Consultants User Vision carried out a survey and found many other items that people found difficult to use which included child car seat buckles, Central heating systems, digital alarm clocks, handheld computers, Digital cameras, Washing machines and Digital TV systems. None of them compare with the video recorder though with 6 out of 10 people still having problems operating them. It has now been superseded by more modern equipment but millions of people still own one and many shops are still selling them. I bought my first basic mono machine in the early eighties and it cost me nearly £400 but now you can buy stereo models for under £70. Now that Dixon's have decided not to stock them anymore lets hope its replacement the DVD recorder or PVR will be easier to use.  

Road Closed - May 2005

Most of us have been stuck in a traffic jam at some time. In a town it can be frustrating especially when you're late for an appointment. At least you can turn round and go home. On a motorway it can be a nightmare because you are trapped. One minute you're doing 70mph and suddenly you see those dreaded brake lights coming on. You're then imprisoned. There is no going back, no turning off and more importantly no toilets. It is at this time that you regret not stopping at the services you passed a few miles back.  I spend a lot of my time on the motorways especially the M25 and M3. Most of my journeys are completed without problems and I arrive at my destination on time. Occasionally though things go wrong. One night I left work and decided to take the A34 dual carriageway. Just as I turned into the slip lane I realised that I had made a bad decision. It was jammed solid. There were three other routes that I could have taken but there was no way back now. One hour later I was only a few miles away from my work and stuck fast. I could have been at home eating my lunch by now.  On another occasion I was stuck on the M25 in Surrey for three hours without moving an inch. At least we could get out of our vehicles and have a walk. There was a really friendly atmosphere. Trapped doctors and nursed mingled with airline pilots and lorry drivers. Occasionally word came that we might be moving a few feet but it never happened. Toilets were arranged alongside an enormous articulated lorry. You had to go sometime. Even prisoners are allowed toilet breaks. There was no way forward and eventually a policeman got us to reverse a mile back up the motorway to the exit we had passed three and a half hours before. Recently I was travelling along the M25 when the overhead sign flashed up a warning that the motorway was closed. I turned off and got completely stuck somewhere in the Surrey countryside. Every road was blocked. I was getting nowhere. Why is it that I always seem to get stuck where there are no toilets? A few days later I was returning along the same stretch of road when I again saw the dreaded sign, "Motorway closed ahead". I decided to stick it out after my last nightmare. After an hour I arrived at the services. I turned in and that was yet another bad decision. All the roads in the services were gridlocked. It took me two hours to get back onto the Motorway again. Annoyingly when you arrive at the cause of the mayhem nothing seems to be happening. Workmen are having a cup of tea, officials are still taking photographs hours after the accident happened and the vehicle is still stuck fast over the crash barrier. There should be a fast response service so that accidents can be cleared up quickly or barriers could be erected so that a few lanes can be opened until the offending vehicles can be moved, perhaps at night. When there is an accident on the motorway the side roads cannot cope with the amount of traffic so an effective way of managing this traffic will have to be found soon. A good start would be for someone to clear parked vehicles on the diversion routes and provide some kind of assistance to help some of the HGVs to negotiate the tight bends.

If you have been imprisoned on a motorway or have a funny story to tell about a traffic jam please tell me about it.  or visit my site at  

Clutter in Cars - May 2005

I once worked with a woman that sold all kinds of things as a sideline to her normal job. She used to give me boxes of clothing and fluffy toys to deliver for her while I was on my rounds. Sometimes I forgot they were in my car. One day when I traded my car in I parked my car alongside the new one and the salesman offered to help me to transfer all my possessions to my new car. He picked up a box and to my horror out fell several pairs of women's underclothes. I was so embarrassed. No amount of explaining that I was delivering them for my work colleague seemed to convince him. I was sure everyone was grinning when I returned for a service. That made me realise the amount of stuff we carry around in our cars. According to a recent report by motor insurance company Esure modern cars are now used as mobile storerooms. Not only do they contain 85 million CDs, 53 million cassettes and £69 million in loose change but they also contain gardening equipment, dog food and 1.9 million pairs of spare underwear. Thankfully items such as sunglasses, spare spectacles, tissues, first aid kit, tools, ice scrapers, car manuals and pens are among the more popular items carried in our vehicles. Mike Pickard the head of risk and Underwriting at Esure said that people are carrying more of their personal goods with them than ever before. He warned drivers that clutter could get in the way of driving and with so much on display the opportunist thief may target your vehicle. Keeping your car clutter free means you will be driving a safer car. Take a look into your car to see what you have been carrying around for the past few months. You may also save yourself a very embarrassing situation as happened to me.

War on Motorists - May 2005

According to Home Office figures the number of speeding offences caught by cameras and other means rose to 2.2 million in 2003 and the fines raised hit more than £100 million. Camera evidence led to 1.9 million fines or prosecutions an increase of 46 per cent. 2004 figures are expected to be about 3 million. Supporters say these cameras boost road safety yet in 2003 the number of road deaths was up to 3,508 and the highest level since 1997. According to the RAC Foundation the Governments road safety policy has failed and the increasing focus on speed cameras and the decline on traffic police could mean that offences such as drug-driving and careless driving could be going unchecked. Paul Smith of Safe Speed, who campaigns against speed cameras, said that the increase in the figures for road deaths was a disaster for speed cameras. Figures for wheel clamping and parking tickets issued by councils have also shown a sharp increase and prove that for the most part these measures are another stealth tax on motorists.

Happy Gnomes - May 2005

How many of us have a little happy Gnome in our gardens? At a very young age I was terrified of these little creatures with long noses, red caps and white bushy beards but today their constantly smiling faces always make me smile and realise that we should try smiling more ourselves. "Gnomes" is the title of a new book written by Vivian Russell and it is a really jolly book that befits these happy, smiling chappies.  Viviane says in her book that it is all about how you perceive them and the more you look at them the more you see. The first gnome was introduced by Sir Charles Islam of Lamport Hall as long ago as 1847 when he sent off to Germany for the porcelain figures and since then they have become an International symbol of luck, folklaw and magic. One of them was particularly lucky for Grandmother Jean Collop recently when she tackled an intruder by flooring him with one of her garden gnomes. Her aim was probably improved because she is a member of her local bowls club. The 70 year old lady scored a direct hit on the intruders head with "Fred" the gnome after the intruder climbed into her property through a skylight window. When the man, dazed tried to escape she went into her kitchen and grabbed a rolling pin because she didn't want to damage another one of her cheery creatures. I am glad my fear of these little men is now over and I always look forward to seeing pretty gardens decorated with lots of little cheery faced gnomes even if they have big noses. The book is available with lots of photographs for £10.99

Lets get dirty - May 2005

I can't ever remember buying designer clothes. Certainly I've never worn a shirt with the name of the manufacturer emblazoned all over the chest or the back. I could never understand why people would want to let everyone know who designed or manufactured their clothes. I may consider it if someone offers me a sum of money to advertise their ware. Of course the name of my favourite charity or football club is accepted and I have several of those. Walk along the high street though and you will see the majority of under 25s advertising all the modern designer labels on their tops, shoes, jeans and baseball caps. When I was a kid I loved getting dirty. I jumped into puddles, fought my way through undergrowth and rolled down the grassy banks. It was all part of growing up but according to a recent study by Persil when they interviewed 1,275 parents with children between the ages of seven to sixteen they found that 33 per cent of children admitted that they actively avoided playing outdoors because they didn't want to damage their designer clothes. According to 80 per cent of the parents they still encourage their children to go out and play but according to 72 per cent of the children they got told off when they got their clothes dirty and this influenced their decision to stay indoors more. Children today are much more fashion conscious than they were in previous generations and spend a lot more money on expensive clothing. Experts contributing to the Persil report called "Positively Dirty" say the pressure to wear the right clothes was inhibiting children's natural instincts to get dirty. According to a child psychologist kids are getting so worried about getting their clothes dirty that they stay indoors playing with the computer and cut themselves off from activities that are vital to their development. Yes it is nice to see youngsters taking an interest in what they wear and look like but I hope this new look will not make them into a bunch of "stay at homes" just to safeguard their expensive designer clothes. Let them get dirty occasionally.

A most valued customer - April 2005

We've all had those letters from catalogue companies telling us that we are one of their most valued customers. They usually tell us that they want to make sure that their best customers get the best offers possible as a reward for their loyalty. Well, I received a letter addressed to me personally from a well known men's clothing catalogue recently and I was most surprised to be told that they also wanted to offer me a reward as an extra incentive to try something new. Now I like to try something different at times but this time I felt that I had to refuse their offer to take a look at their lingerie and corsetry ranges for a special 20 per cent discount even though they said I would be pleasantly surprised. They even told me that I could try these items on at home for 28 days before I have to pay a penny!! Now I know I have to hurry because the offer is only on for a few more days but I don't feel that I want to hurry into trying on their excellent range of lingerie or corsetry even in my own home. Why would a male company address a letter to a man offering him this type of clothing to try on?

Are we safer with Road humps and speed Cameras? April 2005


A section of the A5 near Cannock in Staffordshire contains nine speed cameras in just a mile and a half.  This includes four cameras within 200 yards of each other. "Speed camera alley" as it is now called by many drivers is becoming a "cash machine" to raise revenue through fines. Drivers caught by the cameras are fined £60 and receive three points on their licence. A local resident who has been caught by the cameras three times in 18 months said, "The cameras are supposed to improve road safety but they've only made things worse. They are quite well hidden and many drivers only spot them at the last minute and slam on their brakes. There have been a number of accidents because of this". Speed cameras and road humps are increasingly being introduced around the country as a road safety measure but I have never seen substantiated figures to prove they do save accidents or whether they cause accidents because drivers brake or swerve at the last minute to avoid them. 
Worryingly, last year Kent police caught 1,145 foreign cars on speed cameras but admit that not one driver paid up. A spokesman for Kent police said, "It is of concern especially as Kent is the gateway to Europe that foreign drivers can get away without paying their fine."  It is a fact that one in every one hundred drivers are in foreign registered cars and there seems to be nothing that the authorities can do to get their cash. There is also evidence that British people who buy a second home abroad are using their French registered cars when they return to the UK to visit their friends knowing that they will not have to pay their fines for speeding or even parking tickets. In other countries speeding British drivers are made to pay on the spot fines and can even have their vehicles impounded and can end up in jail. The department of transport have admitted that "Technical issues" have prevented foreign drivers being pursued but added that new legislation to crack down on the loophole is in progress.
Many roads contain enough bumps in them already because of lack of repair and I wonder whether the cost of providing all the roadhumps and cameras which is considerable could be better spent on repairing the roads to improve safety. We also need is to get away from the idea that to fine a driver will make him a better and more considerate driver. What we need are better trained drivers. We need drivers that know how to handle their vehicles. Any person caught breaking the law or driving badly should be put through another driving test.

Are you an e-mail Junkie? - March 2005


Five years ago I was given my first e-mail address by a friend. I didn’t have a computer but it was a status symbol I couldn't resist. I gave my e-mail address to my friends and most of them were impressed. I also remember buying my first mobile phone and that became another status symbol. I wouldn’t be without them now. The first thing I do every morning when I get up is check my e-mails. I then make sure that I have both of my mobile phones in my pocket before I set off to work. According to a survey by Lloyds TSB Bank two thirds of 1000 adults surveyed said they worry if they leave their mobile phones at home and three quarters said they worry if they can’t check their e-mail inbox every day. Five per cent say they get seriously stressed if they can’t check their e-mails for a day. Some people suffer panic attacks and would even go home during working hours to retrieve their mobile phone. Mobile phones and e-mails have become an essential part of our lives now and yet only five years ago we wouldn’t have given them a second thought. One of the advantages of this modern technology is that we can keep in touch with friends much easier now. The price of phone calls to countries all over the world has fallen remarkably and you can text and e-mail your friends for little cost now and even send a picture or a movie clip to the furthest corners of the globe. The world has shrunk considerably since I was young when I remember listening to the Test match commentary from Australia on the radio. It all seemed to be a long way away then but the feeling I had a couple of years ago when I actually watched a Test Match in Brisbane was incredible. I never thought I would ever go “down under” to see a test match and then ring my friends back home on a mobile phone. Used properly this technology could become an asset but if not I dread to think in what state we will be in ten years time.

Lost property - February 2005

If you went to sit down on the bus and found that the previous passenger had left their false teeth on the seat, what would you do? According to a report by the bus company Arriva  its not only gloves and umbrellas that are left behind on their buses, false teeth, crutches and mobile phones are also popular items to be left on the seat in the rush to get off the bus. I really can't think why a set of false teeth would be left behind, do they fall out accidentally and don't they realise that they are missing? The bus company is trying to clear its stocks of unclaimed items and launching a campaign to encourage passengers to take all their belongings with them. The staff in lost property offices are used to handling the strangest of items, recently a false leg was handed in on the London Underground so if you do find a set of false teeth on your seat then do hand them in to the nearest lost property office because they will accept anything and someone will be very grateful to you. Also remember to take your own property home with you.

DIY, Is it dead - February 2005

Young people today find it very difficult to afford a mortgage to buy their own house but when we got married back in 1972 every penny of our hard earned cash went on our first house and that included a 10 per cent deposit.  DIY was popular and due to lack of money I soon learnt how to do most of the DIY tasks around the house. Painting was my first task and after a few days with a paint brush in my hand and spots of the stuff all over my face and in my hair giving the impression that I had some kind of deadly tropical disease I soon became an expert at making sure the stuff was on the walls on not all over me. Wallpapering was another task that I never thought I would be able to get to grips with but after a few days and a few disasters I managed to become a bit of an expert in making sure that all the air bubbles were brushed out and the paper was hanging the right way up. I even tried laying lino and carpets and soon I was putting cabinets up onto the walls. With the money I had saved I was able to replace some of the second hand furniture we had originally acquired with new and eventually afford a new second hand car before my old one died on me. I always felt very proud when my parents came round and I was able to show them what I had achieved. My wife used to cook a meal and we always sat around a table to eat it together.

Now according to a new BT study carried out to launch its latest phone book the age of DIY has died. Britons now spend £20 million a year on jobs they could do themselves. 85 per cent also find it difficult to do simple chores such as ironing a shirt, sewing on a button or putting up shelves. Almost three – quarters of people asked said they would rather pay out £38 a month to get someone in to do the most simple of jobs. People today would rather eat out or buy a takeaway and many of them admitted that they were unable to cook. Gone are the days when the family would sit around the dinner table together to eat their meals, most would rather eat their takeaway on the sofa watching the TV. In fact 27per cent of people have no idea on how to grow their own vegetables.  Only 15 per cent said they could bake a cake, preferring to buy one in the supermarket. Many call out a cleaner once a week and call out a handyman to do the most basic of jobs. It is not known whether this is all due to fading skills, a dislike of drudgery or simply lack of time but the fun of carrying out these tasks yourself and the sense of achievement that I felt when I had completed a job seems to be lost to many people today. BT seems to be cashing in on this problem because their new Phone Book now lists 8,000 gardening services and 5,000 domestic cleaners. Dog walking, parrot sitting and poodle grooming are now booming services.

 One in six people avoid the equivalent of two days hard graft once a month by calling out cleaners and food delivery services so maybe they could keep trim by burning off their calories in their home or garden by doing more work themselves.  

What's happening to our lottery money?- January 2005

When a Mountain Rescue Team sets out to rescue someone who has become stuck up a mountain it doesn't matter to them if the person they are rescuing is white, black, disabled, an ethnic minority, children or even an asylum seeker because they would all get equal treatment and be dealt with whoever they are. We are proud of our rescue services in this country and whoever we are we know that they would deal with us. Even the most hated person in our workplace would be looked after by the first aid person if he collapsed at work. That's why I was angry when I read the recent article about the Bowland and Pennine mountain rescue team  who were refused a lottery grant because they have not saved enough asylum seekers, people from ethnic minorities or older people. Apparently the Community Fund which distributes lottery cash under its name as the Big Lottery Fund rejected an application from a mountain rescue team for £200,000 because they had not specifically helped any of its six priority groups, so therefore "did not serve the needs of those at greatest disadvantage in society". Now I wonder how often they will find a disabled person or an asylum seeker needing rescue up a mountain but even if they did they would not discriminate against them. It makes me even angrier when I read of where some of the money goes to. The team are now having to resort to charity fundraising to build their emergency response base where they can keep their vehicles and equipment. The team also give talks on first aid and safety to schools and other groups and have been nominated for a Queens award for voluntary service. Recently the Lake District National Park authority decided to axe funds for guided tours because they attracted too many white, middle class people. This to me is racial discrimination in reverse. I hope that when one of the people that fall into this category decide to go up a mountain and then have an accident they don't become a victim of this strange and stupid rule. Lets hope that soon everyone will realise that we are all people and stop categorising us so that everyone will benefit from the money raised.

Home  Page 1  Page 2   Page 3   Page 4   Page 5   Page 6   Page 7  Page 8  Page 9  Page 10