Anorak Man - Roland Beaney
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Check your insurance policy - December 2004
If you woke up in the middle of the night with your house on fire what would be the first thing you would try to save? Apparently your clothes would be forgotten, your fridge would be a long way down your list of "things to save" and your expensive antiques would be the last thing you would try to save. According to a survey by Lloyds TSB Insurance the first thing you would try to save is your computer. Apparently more than a quarter of the population would try to save their computer and other gadgets but only one per cent would bother about saving their family heirloom.
One evening in my hotel room the fire alarms went off and I scooped up all my electronic gadgets including my portable Radio and CD player before I disappeared down the fire escape. A sudden afterthought bought me back to my room for my wallet. For women I guess they would take their favourite Teddy Bear or Duck with them to safety.
Phil Loney the managing director of Lloyds TSB Insurance said, "Computers and gadgets seem to be taking over our hearts as well as our homes as they now double up as photo albums, record collections and diaries making their loss harder to deal with".
90 per cent of home owners now remember to include their computers and gadgets on their house insurance but more than half forget to include their expensive CD collection, valuable ornaments and antiques in their policies. Warningly ten per cent confess that they do not have any form of household contents insurance and a fifth have no idea what their home is worth.
It would certainly be a good idea to take a look around you and consider what you would lose if disaster struck. Losing all your property even if you save your computer and Teddy Bear would be a great loss without insurance cover.
Please send your comments and ideas for further articles to firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio Luxembourg - December 2004
If you were a teenager in the 50s and the 60s then you would have fond memories of Radio Luxembourg. The “station of the stars” as they used to call themselves broadcast on 208 meters from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and for a long time in the 50s and the early 60s it was the UKs only pop music station. The BBC had a very restricted offering of pop music, usually amounting to a few hours of Saturday Club or the Chart show on the Light Programme. At that time the BBC provided us with such great offerings as Workers Playtime or Music While you Work. Until the pirate stations started in 1964 Radio Luxembourg stood alone in broadcasting pop music with English DJs playing the top chart tunes. It had its problems though; because the transmitter was situated in Luxembourg the signal across the UK was not very good even though they used one of the most powerful transmitters in Europe. The signal faded badly and sometimes disappeared completely. It was also only a night time service so we were still stuck with the BBCs music while you work as a day time offering which was a collection of classic tunes played by the BBCs own orchestra. At the time the BBC couldn’t play much chart music per day due to the “needle time” restrictions that was imposed upon them. Many of Radio Luxembourg’s programmes were sponsored by record companies. Much of the music played was controlled by these companies and some smaller artists couldn’t get their music played at all. Also many of the programmes were 15 minutes long and this meant some of the records were badly chopped and we were lucky if we heard half of the tune. It was still a much loved station though and I have many great memories of it. My interest in Radio stations made me take a detour to Luxembourg during a holiday in Europe in the late 60s. We decided to try to visit the studio. After asking for directions we were directed into a park and we thought we had been sent the wrong way. Eventually we found the studio and there was a mean looking man guarding the main entrance. “No you can’t come in today” was his stern reply. We walked away feeling very disappointed. Then one of my friends decided to have another go. He returned to the entrance and tried a bit of persuasion. “Look sir, we have come all the way from the UK to visit the studios and we are big fans of the station”, “Ok, you can go in but keep out of the way.” We were allowed to find our own way into the studio and a guy told us to sit down and be quiet because they were doing a live interview. This was my first visit to a radio station to see how it was done and we really enjoyed it. We asked for a request to be played for our friends back home and were surprised to find how difficult it was to pick up the station back in the car. Yes, you could get better reception back in the UK than you could in Luxembourg.
The station broadcast for a time on the Astra Satellite but with the amount of Radio Stations increasing all the time over the UK found it difficult to get the sponsorship to continue. Eventually the English service closed and although there have been attempts to start it up again they have failed. Perhaps one day the sounds of Radio Luxembourg, Big L or Luxy as it was called at different times will grace our airwaves again but for now we have the memories.
Job Interviews - November 2004
I had a phone call recently from a friend who was interested in a job at my place. I gave him the application form and he completed it. He then rang me with a problem. Apparently he asked his boss for a few hours off for a job interview and was told no chance. He was then told firmly that if he went for a job interview he would lose his current job. Now that seems very unfair to me. No firm likes losing a good worker but how can anyone better themselves if their firm will not release them for an interview. Recently fish4jobs have been doing some research on excuses that jobseekers make when they attend an interview. The two most common excuses are calling in sick and a doctor’s appointment. But when fish4jobs asked bosses in the UK it was those two excuses that were likely to draw most attention. In the same survey it was also revealed that one in five UK workers have actually faked the death of a loved one at some point in their career to get time off to attend a job interview. Now before doing this you should consider whether it is worth all the guilt and effort. Bosses aren’t completely fooled anyway as one in ten suspect that the death of a family friend or a dentist appointment are suspicious excuses. Perhaps honesty would be the best policy and job hunters would be safer taking a day off as a holiday but as in the case of my friend honesty is not always the best policy if bosses take the same action as his did.
If you have any comments on my articles or have any ideas for future articles then please write to me at email@example.com
Free Air - November 2004
Once upon a time air used to be free but many years ago service
started charging us for the air that goes into our tyres. Many
of us asked
why we should pay for free air to pump up our tyres and the
say that the charge is for the equipment which is expensive to
maintain. Now is it worth huffing and puffing about whether we
a small charge to pump up our tyres? The RAC Foundation has
issue after complaints that equipment on Garage forecourts
not work properly. They point out that wrongly inflated tyres
to accidents and increase fuel consumption. Yet 1 in 3 of us
to check our tyres before setting out on a long journey and they
the motorists lack of care is not helped by reports that the air lines are often damaged, inaccurate, out of order and motorists having to pay to use them. The Foundation is now calling on all Garage owners to make sure that their equipment is serviceable and Trading Standards Departments of local authorities are being encouraged to carry out regular checks of their accuracy. Testing equipment is supplied free on motorway and other major petrol stations in France where statistics from Renault indicate that 6 per cent of all fatal motorway accidents are caused by the sudden failure of under inflated tyres. Charging for air has been commonplace for years with the justification that the costs for installation and maintenance are high but as this is a major road safety issue Garage operators could do a lot to restore good relations with their customers by providing reliable air equipment free of charge and the motorist will take advantage of it.
Shopping - November 2004
Shopping is supposed to be one of our favourite pastimes but it can be one of the worst for some people. My wife gets so angry with me when we go food shopping because I start yawning as soon as I get into the shop. I can’t help it but she seems to think that I can. The same thing happens to me when I take her shopping for clothes. Why can’t it be straightforward; go to the shop, try on a few styles and sizes, buy the one you want and then go home. Unfortunately shopping is completely different for women and it usually involves endless hours shuffling around different shops and then ages making up their minds. I often find myself slumped outside the ladies changing room wishing I was back in front of my computer. What takes a few minutes for a man can take the fairer sex ages. Perhaps the distance we walk helps my fitness but it’s the tiredness that overcomes me. It’s strange that when I walk into a computer of mobile phone shop my tiredness soon goes. I become wider awake in seconds. Shoe and handbag shops are a big no go area for me. Why is it that she can never find a suitable pair of shoes or handbag? I soon find a pair of shoes for myself, I try them on, pay and off to the next shop in minutes but for my wife it’s different. First she can’t find the style of shoe and then she says they are too hard and has to look for a pair that is softer. The next is the heel, not big enough and then after all that they don’t have her size so we start all over again and as for the handbags, wrong colour, wrong shape, wrong strap, don’t like the material and then its not big enough. My stress levels begin to rise and I disappear into the computer store to cool down. It is a busy time of the year for shoppers so enjoy Britain's favourite pastime and look out for a bargain or two. The sales seem to start earlier every year so there are bargains to be had and remember it helps to keep you fit.
Woolly Jumpers - October 2004
Whatever happened to the Loch Ness Monster? Nessie as he is affectionately known seems to have disappeared in recent years. There was a time when hardly a week went by without a sighting being reported. I really did hope that one day we might get a reliable sighting of him but unfortunately it never happened. I suppose someone will see him again someday after a few beers. Big Foot seems to be more popular these days from the USA, perhaps the beers stronger over there. I was told a story in my younger days that a duck’s quack doesn’t echo. So who worked that out? Someone would have to sit next to a duck in a well known echoing corridor or cavern, make the poor thing quack and then shut it up while waiting for the echo to return. Apparently this was done back in 1998 when a duck was borrowed from a children’s zoo and taken to a place with an echoing corridor. The poor thing in a rather shocked state was reluctant to quack and had to be carried by someone running to create the sensation of flight. The duck then quacked and it is reported that the quacks echoed. In case you wonder if they had nothing better to do then so do I. Another story that I constantly hear is about Ostriches. Apparently they are supposed to bury their heads in the sand when danger threatens. Now this story is constantly used in the press when they are describing someone that doesn’t want to know what is going on. So how do we threaten an Ostrich to find out if this story is true? The poor old thing has received a poor intelligence report over the years but if this is true then I suppose we should praise the creature for at least realising that the most vulnerable part of its body is its head. I am off to bury my head now so to close if you are wondering what you call a Camel with three humps – Its Humphrey and a German footballer that scores three goals is called a geriatric and yes, there are more sheep in Wales than people by more than 3 to 1. So if as is claimed there are Wallabies living in the wild in Wales then I suppose there should be a lot of woolly jumpers about soon. If you have some old stories you would like to share with us then please do not hesitate to share it with us by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the link on my website at www.woodleynet.co.uk
Wedding lists - September 2004
When we got married we produced a wedding list so that our friends could chose a present for us. We felt a bit uneasy about this but it was better than getting 5 alarm clocks or 4 electric toasters and our friends didn't seem to mind as it gave them some ideas. In those days lists comprised of oven mittens, cheese boards, glasses, graters, mixers, place mats, towels and bedding. Our parents bought us a bedroom suite. Most of the rest of our furniture was purchased second hand and the Television was rented. We also worked hard decorating our house room by room with the cheapest wallpaper and carpeting. When it was all finished we showed it all off to our friends and parents and we were so proud of what we had achieved.
Nowadays couples have higher aspirations and according to a study of 50 years of wedding lists by the store chain John Lewis couples now want more expensive items for their presents. Today they want plasma screen TVs, Camcorders and digital cameras. Additionally many couples set up a web site so that their friends can chose their gifts for them and the days of simple paper wedding lists seem to be numbered. Today couples don't want sheets and towels because they have been living together for some while and they already have a house with all the simple stuff. They are looking for luxurious and expensive items for their friends to buy them jointly.
So if you know a young couple who are getting married soon don't even think about buying them a pair of oven gloves or a set of sheets, ask for their web site address and be prepared for a shock. They will probably already have the toaster, sets of towels and they won't want the Pyrex dishes and mincers so popular 40 years ago. The days of young couples relying on their wedding presents to provide them with a start in life is long gone, today they want more luxury.
Ghost busting August 2004
Modern Luxuries - August 2004
What would we do without modern luxuries in our cars. I can remember going out in my fathers car that didn't have a heater. We sat in the back seat huddled up in coats, scarves and woolly hats and we were still frozen. When he eventually bought a car with a heater it was a real luxury. We all wanted to go for a drive in a nice warm car on a very cold day. Then in the summer it was like an oven in there, we had the windows and sun roof wide open and still we sweated. With the roar of the wind coming though the wide open windows you couldn't have a conversation and your hair was a mess with all the buffeting from the wind. To listen to the radio you had to turn the volume right up and people used to glare at you at the traffic lights with your hair in a mess and the radio pumping out very loud music.
Now many of us have air conditioning in our cars and you sit there looking smug on a very hot day with all your windows closed and fan roaring away blowing cold air around the car staring at the poor devils sweating with their windows wide open that don't have a cooling system.
We are becoming far too dependant on modern luxuries, I only recently bought my first car with air conditioning and now I wouldn't do without it and how far could you get on a very cold day if your heater broke down? There are many other things that we could not do without now that we didn't have a few years ago. The mobile phone with all the information stored on them now becomes a must for most people, the stereo system and radio that gives out the traffic news and now you can buy mobile DVD players so that you can watch a film in the back seat after you have got fed up with playing video games.
It used to be fun going on camping holidays with your tent or Caravan. You could pitch your tent in a field and enjoy the basic life with your chemical toilet and a game of Ludo or Snakes and ladders and join in a sing song around the camp fire. Electric in your tent was very basic and usually a gas lamp or candle was all you had. Now everyone comes prepared with all their modern gadgets including TVs. Lap Top computers and even a Satellite system hooked up to a 230 volt electricity supply.
I think we should all go on a holiday in deepest Hampshire without all these gadgets just to find out what a basic life is all about. Perhaps we should also find out what a real BBQ is like without these modern contraptions they use in the garden that smell awful but make the job a lot simpler. Now this sounds like a real holiday- Anyone want to join me?
Moving Home - August 2004
We all know that driving, work. marriage and even a football match can cause severe stress but according to a poll of 4,000 people by the Cheltenham and Gloucester house moving is one of the biggest causes of stress in our lives. People admitted to leaving bins full of rubbish, unwanted items in the loft and stripping out all the light fitting, door knobs, carpets and curtains.
I moved into a house and found the loft was full up with junk, everything from an antique sewing machine to a selection of Teddy Bears and lots of wooden furniture that had woodworm. In another house there was a big hole in the wall where the previous owner had removed a gas fire. In another property the owner had removed all the light bulbs and curtain rails, its a pity that they had not moved the old cooker because it was filthy and we had to pay to have it removed.
However people in the survey found some amazing and unexpected items when they moved into their new homes. A stuffed barn owl greeted one new owner and a collection of vintage "gentleman's" magazines greeted another. Another new homeowner found an Ouija board and another discovered a complete moleskin in the bathroom cabinet. One new owner was so pleased to find a nice shed had been left behind but then discovered that it was full of First World War ammunition. A fifth of the people polled said that they had found something "Weird" or "disgusting" after moving in and a third, like me had found their new home stripped of light fittings, door knobs and carpets. Many had to hire professional cleaners to sort out the mess that the previous owners had left for them.
Thankfully not everyone has such nightmares when moving home and there can be some pleasant moments. 22 per cent of the people in the survey received a moving in card from the previous owner and others have found a bottle of Champagne and a bunch of flowers on their arrival.
Lifestyles - July 2004
Lifestyles have changed dramatically since the 1950s. Women today may be juggling long working hours doing a full time job, looking after the family and working out in the Gym but amazingly women in the 1950s burnt up three times more calories than they do today. This is because housework and shopping in the 50s used up much more energy.
In those days women spent an average of three hours a day doing their housework, floors had to be scrubbed or washed on hands and knees and food had to be prepared and cooked without microwaves and the benefit of fast foods that we have today. Gardening was a chore without electric mowers or trimmers, have you ever used a push mower and hand shears to cut the lawn? and then there was the shopping. Women then would walk to and from the shops with heavy shopping bags because they didn't have their own car. Then it would take much longer doing the shopping because there were few supermarkets where everything is under one roof. You had to visit the Bakers, the grocers, the newsagents and the butchers and queue in every shop. You had to do this daily because you didn't have the benefit of freezers to store all the food in. Very little food was frozen anyway and it didn't keep very long.
Finally have you ever tried doing the washing without the benefit of a washing machine or dryer? I can remember my mum with her gas copper and mangle. What a struggle it was.
Despite all this women today still think they are fitter and healthier than their grandparents in the 1950s, in fact it has been proved that the 50s generation were a lot fitter and thinner than today's mums. So when you are stressed out looking after the kids, driving down to the shops in heavy traffic, mowing the lawn, doing the housework or even queuing at the checkout remember that your grandparents had a much harder time of it than you.
The justice system - July 2004
What is happening to the justice system in this country? Recently I've seen many reports in the newspapers that don't make sense. We pride ourselves in our justice system but we see stories like the nurse that was pulled over by the police for eating an apple at the wheel of her car. Now I wouldn't encourage anyone to do anything that may distract their attention while driving but how many times do people get pulled up and fined for smoking while driving. Surely that is far more dangerous than eating an apple which can be dropped in an emergency. Try dropping a lighted cigarette.
Recently there was a motorcyclist who faced a driving ban when he tried to warn motorists about a speed trap. On another occasion a pedestrian who thought he was doing his bit for road safety by warning motorists to slow down was arrested by police for tipping off drivers about a mobile speed trap camera they had set up further up the street. He was disqualified for driving for one month yet a busy MP has kept his licence despite admitting his fourth speeding offence and clocking up 12 points on his licence after his legal team argued that a ban would stop him serving the public.
Hayley Matthews was fined a mere £83 for killing pedestrian Mark Downing in a hit and run accident minutes after a motorist was fined £400 for hitting a tree. Traffic warden Samson Adeyano was fined for not issuing enough speed tickets yet a hit and run driver who has clocked up 17 disqualifications caused the death of a pensioner and received 7 years after his sentence was halved.
We often see examples of hooligans that cause trouble in estates and no one seems to be able to stop them yet normal law abiding citizens get picked up for minor offences.
Perhaps its about time that the police and courts put a stop to this lunacy before the public lose trust in them.
Health issues - June 2004
According to news articles released recently many people are obese. Personally I do try to keep myself reasonably fit by getting out into the fresh air for a bit of exercise. Last week I decided to take a rare look inside a sports shop to get some ideas to improve my fitness. Did they sell anything I wanted? No. I was surprised to find that they didn't sell tennis racket grips, elbow supports. water bottles or any sporting equipment at all except trendy sports clothing. If I wanted trainers, track suit bottoms and baseball caps all adorned with major sporting brand names then I would have been in luck, but when asking if they had any sports equipment the reply was, " No sir, you will have to go somewhere else".
I looked around at the customers, many of them were overweight and lumbering around in their posh trainers, jogging bottoms and sweatshirts with big designer labels emblazoned on the fronts. Do they really think they look fitter and healthier just because they wear the latest trendy sports clothing? Most of this gear will never be used for exercise, just for posing. Wouldn't it be better if they all saved the money they spent on trainers and sweatshirts and spent it on a few circuit training classes or at the swimming pool to fight the flab?
When will people realise that the most expensive branded sports gear will never help to remove those extra inches that have built up around the waist. They are just fooling themselves. So instead of posing around in your latest designer gear looking like advertising billboards, get on your bike and start doing real exercise and you will feel much better for it.
Where are the Police? - May 2004
In a recent article I asked for readers to send me ideas for a rant and it seems that many of you are seriously concerned about the lack of policemen on the streets and the poor service you get when you phone the control centres. Many people still fondly remember the days of the Bobby on the beat and the sight of our friendly local Bobby on his bike made people feel much safer. In the old days a phone call to the local police station that was open day and night always found the voice of your local Bobby eager to attend to any problems of vandalism or threats in your neighbourhood.
I don't see too many police officers on the street these days except at football matches and even then they didn't see my friend being insulted by a group of supporters surrounding his car and banging on his bonnet which was a frightening experience for him. The problem is that however many police you have on the street they can't be everywhere. It may make you feel safer but are we really? Today the police operate differently and use modern equipment such as cameras to watch over us and hopefully they respond quickly to any problems that they see. They also use control centres to handle all our calls and many local police stations are closed during the night. This works well some of the time but becomes distressing when you find your local station closed and have to ring another station many miles away and the call is not answered immediately.
Money is the main problem and the police have to make cuts to keep within their budget. We don't like the government raising our taxes but expect them to provide more policemen. You pay your money and more policemen will be provided. Unfortunately all the costs of vandalism and robberies cost the country a lot of money, money that could be spent on more policemen to combat crime. Its a viscious circle. However If the government gave more money to the police force would crime drop significantly and would we be prepared to accept higher taxes? If not then what should the police do to save more money.
Perhaps the amount of paperwork that is strangling our police force should be reduced, Perhaps the compensation claim culture that has increased in recent years could be cut to make life a lot easier for our police to operate and perhaps we should try to help the police more by reporting criminals. Lets hope that the police control centres are operated efficiently and perhaps a few more policemen can be put back "On the beat" with decent helmets on their heads. Lets work together to help our police to help us to reduce the crime figures.
What do you think should be done to improve our police force and reduce crime to make us feel safer on the streets? Please send your comments to - email@example.com
Is a Car a Fashion Statement - April 2004
Question 1 Why has the passion for sports cars grown so feverish in this country when it always seems to be raining? This craze is nothing to do with global warming making our summers warmer because the craze for open top "wind in the hair" driving started well before scientists realised that cars were punching a hole in the ozone layer. For a long time Britain was THE sports car manufacturer to the world with Jaguar E-Types and XKs, Austin Healeys, Triumph TRs and MGs. were what we were famous for. Now apparently convertibles sell here in vast numbers compared with other countries in the world.
Question 2 Why are there so many heavy 4x4 cars and pick ups on the road and why are they all sprouting bull bars or what they call Roo bars in Australia. Is our country turning into the Australian outback? When they drive up the M3 are they in fear of a collision with a steer or large marsupial? I don't think anything has changed but why do these drivers need to have this extra protection on the front of their vehicles?
The answer to these two questions is that its all down to fashion. Yes we all like to show off and if we can be seen driving off in our sports cars wearing ear muffs, raincoats and woolly hats on a freezing cold day then it makes us feel great and if we arrive in our 4x4 with our Roo bar covered with flies and midges then we feel much happier about life. Its a very dangerous way of making ourselves feel good though. Open top sports cars are not the safest places to be seen in and Bull Bars or Roo bars can cause a lot of damage if we collide with the neighbours humble family car or the poor cyclist. A few years ago these bars were widely publicised as being very dangerous. I hope this fashion dies out soon and then perhaps we can all go out without worrying about being shunted by one of these Roo bars and perhaps my neighbour with the sports car will not have to make a decision every morning about what car to drive to work in.
Shopping Trolleys - March 2004
I hate shopping trolleys, they never seem to go the way you want them to, I am always being nudged and pushed by them and they often end up in the local canal so I was particularly interested to see that someone has produced a list of categories for trolly operators.
The Dawdler - Ambles along with no idea of what they are looking for. Lateral vision is good but but awareness of what is in front and behind is poor so a sudden halt or deviation is always on the cards. You should stay well behind.
The Gossip - Draw up their trolleys in a cosy huddle, fold arms and start nattering in the busiest part of the store. Very soon there is total gridlock.
The Marie Celeste - They abandon their trolleys in the middle of a busy aisle and wander off. The trolly becomes a roundabout and nobody has any lane discipline or indicators.
The opportunist - When everyone backs off to allow an elderly lady through a trolley jam the opportunist overtakes and forces his way through.
The stylist - Spins the trolleys around like a joy rider. It all goes wrong when the trolley goes over a poor old lady's bad toe. A frank exchange of views takes place.
The bumper hog - He is in a hurry and dashes around in a panic paying more attention to the shelves and slams into a dawdler at full speed.
The speeder - Hates supermarkets and pushes around as quick as possible catching people on the heels. He tries to overtake and speed through gaps that are to narrow and slams the trolley into someone's finger. He never stops at the scene of the accident.
Do you recognize any of these terms? It could be you.
Safety in Packaging - February 2004
A few years ago I was sitting in a restaurant and after I finished my meal I was served a cup of coffee with one of those little milk containers. I was struggling to open the container. I held it in one hand and pulled the little tab to remove the foil and the milk from the container shot across the table and onto the floor nearly reaching the next table. I was so embarrassed.
On another occasion I was trying to open one of those cartons of orange juice when it exploded showering its contents all over me. Even milk containers cause me much grief. I keep breaking the little plastic tab. Have you ever tried to open these plastic containers when you have broken the tab? Its not easy. You ought to see me battling with the impenetrable plastic layers of cling film that they wrap CDs or tapes in. I end up cutting them with a knife and that is dangerous because according to a report in "Yours" magazine opening packages can lead to serious accidents. More than 67,000 people are injured opening packages every year.
So I am not alone with this problem but unless the manufacturers make it easier to open these packages many more people are going to be injured. So please manufacturers make it easier for us to open these jars, packages , milk bottles, containers and even CD packages before I do myself a nasty injury
Healthier lifestyles - January 2004
At this time of the year people eat, drink, sleep and watch TV far too much. We all need to enjoy ourselves but usually at the expense of our health and then all the work we put into getting fit and healthy during the rest of the year is undone in a few days. A balanced, healthy diet will make you feel better and protect you against illness. It can also help repair existing damage to your body.
So here are a few things you should try to do for a healthier lifestyle.
1. Stop smoking You will avoid one of the most important preventable causes of heart disease and cancer and you will help prevent those around you from the effects of passive smoking.
2. Cut down. Greasy fry ups, fatty meat, cheese and whole milk and save the fats for special occasions. Reduce the amount of caffeine that you drink to 2 or 3 cups a day. Reduce your salt intake. Cut back on sugar.
3. Eat more. There are plenty of tasty healthy foods about. Fruit, whole grain bread, vegetables, beans, pasta and other high fibre foods. Rice and cereals and fish are also good for you. Drink skimmed or semi skimmed milk and lots of water. If you feel thirsty your body is already de-hydrated.
4. Get more exercise A regular exercise routing three or more times a week would reduce your risk of heart disease and many other medical problems. Check with your doctor first and try to do more walking, skipping, dancing and swimming. The list is endless, even gardening, painting and washing the car can help. You don't have to run 10 miles a day or spend hours in the gym.
5. Stop excess drinking Reduce your alcohol consumption to below the safe limit of 21 units for men and 14 units for women. Yes you can still have a glass of wine or a pint of beer occasionally but if you are a 10 pint a night male drinker you could be in trouble or if you are a female strong lager drinker you could be in even more trouble with your health. Some alcohol though is better than non at all. .
6. Health checks. Make a point of arranging a health check to check your blood pressure or cholesterol and try to get it below 5.2.
Now think of all the things you could buy yourself with all the money you could save by not smoking, drinking or eating all those chocolate bars. A new car? its possible or perhaps a holiday in the sun or even that new carpet you have been promising yourself but couldn't afford. Work out how much money per week you could save, you will be surprised. There is no need for you to go hungry to be healthier, just fill your plate with healthier foods. Remember proper diet, rest, exercise and regular medical check ups can help to ensure a longer and healthier life and cholesterol can be reduced by up to 10 per cent by eating more healthily.
Motoring - January 2004
One of my pet hates when driving is to find myself stuck behind a vehicle with its rear fog lamps glowing. These lamps should only be used in thick fog yet many motorists forget to switch them off when the fog has cleared or use them in mist and rain and they can dazzle the poor driver following them. This said though I must say that I was surprised to read that a motorist was fined £30 for driving with his rear fog lamps on when a warning from the police would have been more suitable. The driver said that it was foggy 100 yards back but he had failed to switch them off promptly for the police who stopped him and questioned him for 25 minutes before issuing the ticket.
Another report it said that more motorists are being put into jail than ever before with 5000 more motorists clogging up the jails than burglars. According to the AA the number of drivers sent to prison to await trial has shot up by more than 400 per cent since 1992. Now the motorist has to share a jail with rapists and murderers for driving 10 MPH over the speed limit. I know the car is a dangerous machine but why are convictions for burglary going down while convictions for motoring offences going up all the time? Under the new Social Behaviour Act security guards, traffic wardens and council officials are being given police powers to hand out on the spot fines of up to £80. Also some insurance companies are putting callers through a lie detector tests. Never mind the thousands that don't have any insurance at all. so when will it be safe for the motorist to venture out onto the road.
Accidents are caused by bad drivers and instead of handing out fines, driving bans or custodial sentences they should be given driving courses to improve their driving standards and address driver behaviour and prisons should only be used for serious criminals.
Opinions - November 2003
Sayings - July 2003
Have you ever felt ill and told someone that you feel "under the weather"? "Sometimes you may end up under the doctor" you may have to "visit the Quack" and you might eventually "Kick the bucket". Have you ever wondered where some of these terms came from?
The term "Quack" for a doctor is an abbreviation of "Quacksalva" an old Dutch word for someone who stands in the street selling curing potions. The English language contains many references to the once bitter rivalry that existed between England and the Netherlands. Anything needlessly complicated was said to be "Double Dutch" and if we down a few whiskeys before we go to the dentist it gave us some "Dutch courage" and when we took our partners out for a meal we sometimes "went Dutch" by splitting the bill equally. The term to kick the bucket is a euphemism for someone dying but it comes from the last action of someone about to hang themselves by kicking away the bucket that they were standing on.
Languages are full of gobbledygook and the weather men on the TV are one of the worst offenders. Why do they say,"There will be standing water on the roads today" when they really mean puddles and why do they keep saying "Through the course of the day" when they could save their breath by saying "During the day". Why do we do the "Washing up" but when we wash the car we will be "Washing it down"
When my new boss saw his small office for the first time he said," I can't swing a cat in here" a statement that made every feline in the office shudder" but he was not that cruel because the Cat was short for "a cat o nine tails" which is a whip for flogging prisoners and this got its name because the scars its nine lashes left on the prisoners backs looked like a cats scratches.
Some other expressions used widely today, The "gaffer" was originally a contraction of godfather or grandfather and was first used in the 16th century and was meant as a term of respect for the elderly, wise man. Today the term is used affectionately to any boss or old man. In the days before diaries or personal organisers, gentlemen sometimes used the cuffs of their shirts to write down notes so we retain the idea that something spontaneous is "off the cuff" A "white elephant is an English expression for a gift that is more trouble than it is worth and it is of Siamese origin. White elephants were sacred and could not be used for work but by law they had to be cared for so it became the practice of Siamese Kings to give them to courtiers they were displeased with as a veiled punishment. It was supposed to be an honour but in practice they were now stuck with an elephant to feed that couldn't be put to work to earn his keep.
So our language is crammed with obscure phrases and strange expressions that have their roots hundreds of years ago and some new words and phrases are being added to the dictionary all the time. We should take the time to learn some of them and use them and perhaps be creative and make up a few of our own and "Bobs your uncle" perhaps language can be fun
On your own - June 2003
My wife was away recently and I had to look after myself. I arrived home from work looking forward to a nice hot shower. It was a hot day and I was sweaty and dusty. I went up to the bathroom stripped off and then I spotted it. There was an enormous spider sitting in the bath. I stood there for a few minutes frozen to the spot in fear wondering what to do. I was sure I could see its eyes staring at me. It was as though he knew I was going to have a shower. The problem is that they sit there not moving at all and suddenly they dart off at great speed up the side of the bath and then slide back down again. I have this fear of spiders or arachnophobia as the experts call it. What could I do now? I certainly couldn't kill it, (I am a vegetarian) I couldn't flush it down the plug hole, (It might come back up again) and moving it was definitely out of the question.
I am not alone with these phobias, most of us have one and many of us work hard to master them. Sigmund Freud had a phobia associated with travelling. Henry 111 of France was frightened of cats and John Bunyun lived in fear of church towers falling on him. Its comforting to know that there are many famous people with the same problem. So if you have a fear of sitting down, (Thaasophobia) a fear of small objects, (Tapinophobia) or a fear of stories (mythophobia) then you are not alone. I just hope you are not sitting in a plane with a fear of flying reading this article. Phobic's would hate that type of cheap joke but with so many sufferers its hard to discriminate.
Most of us are paranoid that something seen or unseen is out there waiting to get at us so if you know someone that is scared of spiders don't pick one up and thrust it into his face because he is probably working very hard to conquer his own fears.
Now to solve my problem of the spider in the bath, I had to put my sweaty clothes back on and go for assistance to the house next door. Red faced I rang the door bell and their daughter came to the door. I explained my predicament and laughing she ran into my bathroom picked up the spider, put it into a jam jar. She said, "That will do nicely for my dog, he loves eating spiders". I was disgusted and then felt really sorry for the poor spider but was grateful to be able to have my shower.
Diy Accidents - May 2003
Are you considering doing some DIY work around the house? Has your wife given you a list of jobs and repairs to do? This is the most popular time of the year for DIY work to improve the home and garden but according to the Royal National Institute for the blind you should be careful because more than 20,000 eye accidents are caused by DIY work every year.
We worry about being mugged in the street or about the dangers of flying yet the most dangerous place to be is in your own home. Every year in the UK there are around 3,000 deaths due to accidents in the home - more than on the roads. According to the DTI home safety network there are 2.8 million home accidents in the UK every year where the victim needs to visit an Accident and Emergency department for treatment. There are many more people treated by their GP and millions of minor cases treated at home. Also a million children seek hospital treatment every year due to home accidents. By far the largest number of accidents are due to falls and the second due to accidental poisoning by medicines.
A friend was given a number of jobs to do by his wife over the recent bank holiday. Firstly he slipped on the top stair damaging his wrist.. He then decided to strip some sealant from around the bath with a screwdriver and jabbed the screwdriver into his wrist. Luckily he is now ok but a visit to the local A and E at the local hospital made him think about his actions.
When you are up that ladder painting the windows, mowing the lawn or plumbing in your new washing machine remember that there are 70 deaths and a quarter of a million serious injuries every year due to DIY work in the home and 100,000 have to visit the casualty unit at a hospital. These accidents are mostly due to carelessness or lack of knowledge. According to a Mori survey the average person could only spot 5 out of 11 potential safety hazards on a stepladder. Half of the people surveyed had no idea what a RSD residual current device was or what they do. Many women know less than men about DIY and are more at risk that men but many men over estimate their ability to do some tasks and are determined not to be beaten by a job when they should seek more knowledge.
Read the instructions and spend a little more time planning out your task and most of all be careful because not only is your life and body in danger your wife and children's may be in danger too.
Rock Music with Passion - May 2003
It looks as though the days of Manufactured pop groups are over at last. . Figures from the British phonographic industry clearly show that these manufactured pop groups no longer appeal to the public and Rock album sales are now outstripping those of pop bands. At the same time S Club have announced that they are to disband.
A music industry source has said that the public has had enough of bands put together on TV talent shows. The British music industry has been suffering as these pop groups do not make it on the other side of the Atlantic. Perhaps the days will return when British music rules the world but only when we help our talented groups and artists to progress and we stop giving all the help to bands put together on TV shows.
Stars like Gareth Gates, HearSay and S Club were all manufactured in the TV studio and were aimed at young girls. Our music industry has had a dreadful time for a number of years so lets hope the public's drift back to rock music continues and the demise of HereSay and S Club is another sign that formula pop is going out of fashion.
Lets have a bit more passion in music and bring back the guitar. Music has become too pleasant and needs to get back to the basic Rock format. Its good to hear the old 70s rockers but they will not last forever. Lets hope that new rock groups will take over where they left off.
Driving Stress - April 2003
Stress is one of the major problems of our time and there are not many places that you can escape the pressures of modern life. It causes problems with our health, arguments and bad driving so I was very interested in a report from the Moto motorway service chain that I found today. They are introducing contemplation rooms into their service stations so that stressed drivers can relax and unwind away from the hassle of a busy motorway and the hubbub of the service area. They are simply furnished with plain seating, fresh white walls and subtle lighting in a calm quiet atmosphere and mobile phones are banned. The first of these contemplation rooms have been set up at Hilton Park on the M6 near Wolverhampton and at Trowel on the M1 near Nottingham. A further two rooms are being set up this spring on the M5 near Birmingham and Leith Delamere on the M4 in Wiltshire.
Service area operator Moto have launched these rooms as an aid to help over-pressured drivers relax. Women in particular are finding just how beneficial a little rest and recuperation is in a strictly non mobile phone zone especially during a long distance car journey with tired children... and husbands!
The idea for this came from a stressed driver who responded to a questionnaire from Moto. He asked if they could provide somewhere for drivers to chill out and stop their brains moving at 70 miles per hour for a few minutes whether they are driving a 40 tonne juggernaut or a mini.
These rooms should provide a little oasis of calm where people can unwind and return to the motorway refreshed. Initially it will be a drop in the ocean but lets hope this idea takes off. It is brave of Moto's to give the idea a try, anything that helps to relieve the strain of modern day driving and reduce accidents should be encouraged and I hope the people suffering worst of all will be able to find the time to relax and wind down for a few minutes.
Charity collecting - March 2003
Have you ever considered how much money we spend on things we have no use for? Did you ever purchase Billy the big mouthed bass fish who sings you a song when you clap your hands or did you come home last Christmas with an all singing and dancing Santa Clause? Perhaps you spent a great deal of money lighting up the outside of your house with pretty lights. How many of those ornaments and gifts you bought back from your holiday last year were really needed? I remember buying a tray with Micky Mouse on it and it still gathers dust in the cupboard. Did granddad really need that mug with "My teeth" printed on the side?
A recent survey revealed that £16 billion a year is wasted on goods that we have no use for. That's a vast amount of money, so next time you think about buying one of those useless items think again and try to use your money more wisely. Take a look around your house and see what things you can find that you don't really need, you will be surprised. Don't forget the contents of your handbag or the toolkit. I found a mobile phone stand with shoes on it and a spider pen stand, all completely useless.
You could donate your surplus goods to a jumble or nearly new sale and some money will be raised for the less fortunate.
If you have some spare time on your hands or want to support a charity please write to my e-mail address by visiting
Remember disabled people - March 2003
Summer is on the way. The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer and we are all looking forward to getting out in the spring sunshine.
Its also a good time to look at the garden to see what jobs need to be done but for disabled people its not always fun. Many of us don't give a thought to those overhanging trees and bushes that are a nightmare for disabled people. We are more interested in making our gardens look tidy and forget about our bushes and fences falling down over the pathways.
This year its the European year of Disabled People and issues affecting disabled people will be highlighted for the rest of the year. We can all help by being aware of the difficulties facing disabled people in getting around and try to make it easier for them by trimming bushes and repairing any fences or obstructions to make life more easier for them.
Be considerate too where you park your car because for a person with sight difficulties, using crutches or using a wheelchair it can be frustrating trying to manoeuvre between parked cars on pavements.
Please give a little thought to the people less fortunate and make it a better spring for them so that they can go out and enjoy the weather in safety.
Speed Humps - Feb 2003
In an earlier article of mine I complained about the humps that the councils are putting on the roads to slow us all down. This measure was supposed to stop accidents occurring and I asked if there were any figures to prove that the accident rate was lower in areas with these humps.
A report came out from Sigurd Reinton the chairman of the London ambulance service confirming that these speed bumps are responsible for hundreds of deaths a year. Apparently for every life saved through road calming more are lost because of ambulance delays. Now this is just for ambulance delays, how many more lives are lost while a motorists attention is diverted negotiating these bumps and how many more cars are going to be damaged by these man made obstacles?
You would think that after reading this report the councils are sending out gangs of workers to smooth out these horrendous obstacles but where are they? Its about time that the government commissions a report on these lumps of concrete and gives us some figures on how many lives have been saved or lost since the introduction of these humps. The same report could look into speed cameras to find out if they are really saving lives. It must be possible to find out if a stretch of road is safer since traffic calming measures have been taken and how many lives have been saved or lost.
If it is proved that these humps have not saved any more lives then the councils should save our money and spend it on a more worthy cause.
Lets think about the garden - Feb 2003
Are you one of those people that visits the garden centre once a year to buy a few trays of bedding plants to plant into your plot and then wonder why they get eaten by every slug in the area. You plant them and then after weeks of wet weather the sun comes out and it stops raining and you have to start watering them every day. The plants then become an oasis for every slug in the neighbourhood.
To prevent this you have to prepare your garden for these delicate plants or chose a different type of plant that does not suffer so much damage from these pests. Unfortunately the result of choosing these plants is another visit to the garden centre for boxes of slug pellets. This is not a good idea as I fear many garden birds are being poisoned by the use of these pellets. I can remember listening to the noise of thrushes tapping the shells of snails on a stone to break them open to eat the tasty morsel but these lovely birds seem to have disappeared from most of our gardens. Many people say the birds don't eat the pellets but what happens when the snail eats the pellet and the bird eats the snail. Death of the bird I suspect.
Good housekeeping in the garden is essential , remove all rotting compost and prepare the soil in the autumn by digging over to improve drainage. You could try the age old remedies of putting shells around the plants or jars of beer sunk into the ground for the slugs to drink before dying happily but these have to be topped up regularly because the beer gets diluted. You could buy plants that slugs don't like to eat. There are many types of plants and small shrubs that don't attract the slugs and you can ask the local garden centre to show you a selection of hardy plants that can be left out all over winter and they produce lovely flowers year after year with the minimum of maintenance. You could also take a walk around your local area to see what types of plants are growing well in the neighbours garden. Some may have excess plants and may be willing to split them up to transfer them to your garden.
So before joining the queue at the bedding plant stall have a look round the hardy plants, annuals, alpines and small shrubs and you may find some nice plants that the slugs and bugs won't be so fond of. Keep your plants growing well by giving them good soil and conditions. A sick plant will soon be overcome by bugs when a healthy growing plant will fight them off. Keep your garden tidy, remember there has been an increase in the rat population and they love decaying vegetable matter as well. Never put plants like Runner Beans straight into the soil but grow them in seed trays until they are high enough to make it difficult for the slugs to reach them.The slug loves the tasty tip just as it comes out of the bean.
This is the beginning of organic gardening and you should try to find the time to read a book about organic gardening to improve your knowledge. You don't have to talk to plants or play music to them but I am told it does help.
Radio Caroline - Jan 2003