Friday, 12 December 2014

Kevin's night of fire (and smoke)

'Twas the last meet up before Christmas.

Almost a full house barring the Aussie Solicitor (flown to warmer climes Down Under for the festivities, most wise) and the Wine Writer (ensconced at a wine and canapés soirée for year five parents, not so wise).

After much joking over the past years about how we have evolved from a simple 'wine-and-cheese-only' into a 'full-blown-sit-down-dinner-complete-with-starter-dessert-selection-of-beverages-mostly-alcoholic-and-cheese-platter-to-boot' bookclub, our gracious host the Lovely Radiographer decided she would lead by example to set the record straight again.

We were served beans on toast.

Well, very posh beans on toast.

Actually, decidedly delicious slightly spicy beans on soda bread toast.

Inspired by a recipe from a book ("the only thing worth photocopying before I donate it back to the raffle from whence I won it last year") and embellished by her enviable culinary skills, her food was scoffed back sooner than you could say "Kevinette".

And there was a cheeseboard. And dessert. And wine.

Did I mention we also had snacks and prosecco upon arrival? It's a tough job being part of Kevin, but someone has to do it.

Anyway, before we sat down to eat, there was much catching up to do and chatting about books, of course. Caught up in all the chaotic noise and banter (we are not the silent types), there was a sudden panic stricken moment followed by a distinct smell of smoke.

Burnt toast. Nothing major, soon remedied and, as mentioned above, of absolutely zero impact on Kevin's hearty appetite. We are a very committed bunch. And a serious bookclub.

The evening passed all too quickly. We did our annual Christmas book exchange (each Kevinette wraps a book up, new or old, puts it in a bag and then we all take turns to select one - very civilised) and then it was already time to head off back home.

With the Botanical Artist and Tough Mudda in the car with me, the conversation continued.
Well, mostly me making disparaging remarks about other drivers, but the banter still flowed as did the laughter.

Never mind that along our route we saw some amazing fireworks near The Oval and a people carrier by Battersea Bridge burst into flames as we drove past it.

The Kevinettes were pretty unfazed. Our main concern was whether the fire brigade has been called (probably) and whether cars blow up when the engine catches fire (they don't apparently, thank you Google).

All part of a normal Kevin outing: no smoke without fire, you see.
That's the way we roll.

flamin' beans baby!


Sunday, 30 November 2014

How not to win new customers

This is not a story about my own business.

This is a story that is related to my business.

This is a story about something pertinent to be being in business in the first place.

This is a story about how a single element can become a stumbling block when those dealing with it are unable to think practically.

This is a story about opening a business banking account.
Bear with me, it's a bit longer than usual.

So. Everything is done online nowadays.
I complete the forms, tick the relevant boxes, provide all the required information.
I receive a phone call the following week to review the details.

Bank: "Is your name Something-Hyphen-Other?"
LCM: "No, my maiden name, which is what I use for work, is Something. My married name is Other."
Bank: "Well, your application says it is Something-Hyphen-Other. Which is it?"
LCM: "I just told you."
Bank: "So is it Something, or is it Other?"
LCM (now getting confused): "It's Something. Other is my married name."
Bank: "Is there a Hyphen?"
LCM: "No. Maiden name Something. Married name Other. No Hyphen. You put that in there, not me."
Bank: "No we didn't."
LCM: "Well I haven't invented it and my application asked for both names, which I gave, and you have put the two together and added the Hyphen."
Bank: "Well, it doesn't match what is listed under your company name at Companies House."
LCM: "Yes it does. I have it here in front of me, I can see it."
Bank: "But there's no Hyphen."
LCM: "We're going round in circles here. YOU put that in there, not me."
Bank: "We have to follow a process. We will cancel the application and you will need to reapply. Using just Something."
LCM: "Oh? Right. Okay, I'll do that then."

Blame the hour, I foolishly agreed to follow this path. And reapplied. And just used my Something maiden name, as this is what I am known by in the business world.

One week on. Another phone call to review the details. Different person.

Bank: "So your name is Something?"
LCM: "Uhmm, yes. It is."
Bank: "But your company is registered to Something Other."
LCM: "Correct."
Bank: "But that does not match your business banking application? It has to match."
LCM: "I applied previously using both names, you added Hyphen, and told me it was invalid. I have now done as requested and you are telling me it is also no good?"
Bank: "We have to follow a process. Your name does not match that at Companies House."
LCM: "I'm delighted you have a process. You seem to vary it according to whom I talk to on the phone. My maiden name is Something, my married name is Other. What do you propose?"
Bank: "You need to prove your identity. Can you take your passport and your marriage certificate to your nearest branch for them to copy and certify?"
LCM (rolling eyes, wondering what is the point of online banking): "If that helps clarify and progress this application? Of course."

And I did.
Passport showing both maiden Something name and married Other name.
Marriage certificate showing both my maiden Something name and OH's Other name.
Copies made, HQ notified, details entered in their systems. Everything in order, told this was all that was required and the application should progress tout suite.

Tout suite my arse.

More days later. Another phone call. Different person. Again.

Bank: "Your company is registered at Companies House with Mrs Something Other as sole director?"
LCM: "Correct."
Bank: "But you are Mrs Something?"
LCM: "Yes. Other is my married name."
Bank: "We cannot accept that."
LCM: "WTF? I did as you requested, took documents to your branch, had them verified, certified, copied, put online in my application to prove I am who I say I am, and you now say you cannot accept it?"
Bank: "We have to follow a process."
LCM: "Hmmm. Interesting, I have heard that before, but somehow your process seems to shift sideways every time I speak to someone different. What do you propose now?"
Bank: "You need to contact Companies House and change your name."
LCM (almost speechless): "What? Why do I need to change my name?"
Bank: "It does not match your application."
LCM (takes cue for sarcasm overload): "So, let me get this right. You tell me you have a process to follow. You tell me how I need to complete my application. You tell me which name to use. You then tell me I have to prove my identity, provide evidence of my maiden and my married name. I comply with all of this and then you tell me I have to CHANGE my name at Companies House? What planet are you lot on exactly?"
Bank: "Your name as registered at Companies House does not match your application."
LCM: "Yes. It does. And I have proven it to you. And you have all the relevant necessary information on my file now."
Bank: "We have a process to follow_"
LCM (now fed up to the back teeth): "Do you know what? I appreciate you have a process. But one that moves the goalposts every time I speak to someone else from your organisation does not bode well at all for our future relationship, business or otherwise. So you can stick your damn process up your backside and delete my application from your systems because I am taking my banking elsewhere."

And I hung up.

And walked into a branch of a new 'can do' bank's branch the very next day and opened a business banking account.

It took all of an hour. Certified, verified, compliant, and valid.
And I only dealt with ONE person.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Of men and gadgets

Recently OH celebrated a milestone birthday.

He chose not to have a party or any sort of knees-up with close friends, but instead opted to invite his family (which is large) around for a "special late lunch" which he would cook on a Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, as opposed to Sunday, because he was training for a cycling time trial with a friend the following day and I was taking part in road race. Most considerate, quite frankly.

So far, so good.

He did in fact cook the meal (I was running round a pitch trying to settle disputes keep the peace referee between nine year-olds foraying into contact rugby for the first time, and was hence unavailable to assist in any manner or form) and a jolly fine one it was... albeit rather to his peculiar tastes of mixing seafood with lamb and pasta and veg and salad.

Or possibly that is because we arrived late and I ended up with 'a bit of everything' on my plate.


What does matter is that his attention to new gadgets does not abate with the passing of the years.

He 'gave' himself this:

An all-singing, all-dancing, all-whizzy-bangy-flashy-lights-and-fireworks new watch.

He is very pleased with himself because it:
  • has a compass (useful when he is lost in the supermarket)
  • has barometer (useful for challenging the weatherman on TV)
  • has an altimeter (useful when he is above his station)
  • measures the outdoor temperature (shorts or no shorts?)
  • has a storm alarm (don't ask - all I know is that it beeps incessantly at 2am...)
  • shows sunrise and sunset times (uhmm, doesn't common sense suffice if you need lights on?)
  • has a depth meter for snorkelling (this is someone who doesn't even wear goggles when swimming, let alone submerge his head)
  • has multiple date and time functions (because you can be in so many places at the same time, right?)

Anyway. Very nice, so glad he is happy with his birthday purchase.

I did point out that it is, in my books, not truly ingenious as it fails to:
a. tells you when we need milk;
b. do the laundry, or;
c. change a flat tyre on my bike.

Speaking of which, this was MY gift to him:

no, no, no, this is NOT a giant nut-cracker gawdarnit!

A roof-mounted bike rack. Times two. Much more practical.

And I got to use it first, the very next day.

Result. Even he loved it (although not more than his watch, I'll be honest).

Who said romance is dead?


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Something amusing (yes, yes, I know some of you have seen this already) from the home front.

School 'creative learning' for Widget.
Topic: the Tudors.
Option: write a quiz.

So he did.
First four questions were pretty good, showed that he had done his homework.

Then came the fifth one.
Cue his sense of humour.

You be the judge.

I am still laughing.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Pot, kettle, black

There was a poignant short letter in the FT Money section last month which caught my eye and make me smile, albeit rather wryly.

Having seen some of the 'demands' made by HMRC for payment of what it considers to be outstanding tax, how interesting that the Leader of this country should take such offence when the same request is levelled at him.

Now, I have no issue with persecuting individuals for tax evasion. It is illegal.

But tax avoidance that falls within the guidelines and boundaries set up by HMRC in the first place? I am trying to imagine the conversation that took place at some stage that led to the current status.

Prime Minister: I say, Georgie Boy, our coffers are looking a bit low.
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Leave it to me Gov, I'll get it sorted!

(moments later)

CotE: Oi, you! Tax lackeys! What's this nonsense with people paying too little tax?
HMRC: But sir, you said it was okay. We told them they were in line with the rules.
CotE: Rules? What rules? By jove, change the flipping' rules! Chop, chop, get a move on...

(later still)

CotE: Gov, Gov, I've sorted it! The dastardly tax avoiders shall be persecuted forthwith!
PM: Well done Georgie, you are a good lad. Clever tactics then?
CotE: Oh, bit of this, bit of that. Nothing like moving the goal posts after the event though... hopefully they won't notice that bit...
PM: Opportune timing you coming round Georgie, I've just had this damned tax notice come in from that blasted EU... Fix it, will you?

What was that infamous quote from a former PM? Oh yes.

I see this whole saga dragging on and on.

At great expense.

To the taxpayer, no less.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Google plus'd out

I'll just lay it out there for starters (mainly since time is too precious to dilly dally about):

does ANYONE actually know/use/understand/want Google+?

Let me commence from the beginning, although that might prove difficult as I cannot actually recall when this all kicked off - although I do know how it ended. Hang in there, I'll get to the point eventually.

Once upon a time, an acquaintance 'unfriended' me on Facebook under the pretext that this new sparkly all-singing-all-dancing thingy called Google Plus (henceforth g+) was more to their liking and allowed them to "select how they interacted with others".

In other words (although they never said so), "You are not worthy of my attention and I therefore am casting you out with the rest of the undesirables." A slightly skewed version of Darwin's law.

Good riddance. 

But, I decided to have a look myself, since others too were "moving to g+ as it is so much more user-friendly and adaptable"... blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda codswallop.

All I know is that some three years on I have finally had enough of stupid emails telling me that Conundra Facawalla, Similar Bollocks, Yukitori Shitzu and Watafuka Upstart have "added me to their circles".

I mean, who gives a monkey's arse? 
More pertinently, who the feck are these dipsticks in the first place and why the bloody hell are they adding me to anything?

So, without further ado - and here is how the g+ story met its maker - I have now deleted the LCM account. 

I doubt anyone will shed a tear.

It was empty anyway. 

Which makes me query all the more why so many sad bastards were still adding me "to their circles". Maybe I should have redirected them to my erstwhile (former) acquaintance.

I bet even they're feeling lonely now.

I know a great application they could switch to though...

(with apologies to Gary Larson)


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Musings of posts gone by

When I started out on this (blogging) journey, way back in July 2009, I had two reasons for taking it up: a) sanity, and b) amusement.

The company I was working for at the time had recently been taken over by another, and what initially appeared to be a fantastic opportunity and investment for all involved turned out to be, as ever, the biggest disappointment this side of the Tooth Fairy.

I renamed the takeover monster B'stard Company and started to write this blog with occasional digs at what we all (the takeover-ees) jokingly called 'The Cult' and some of the ridiculous processes that we were expected to abide by. It was based on facts but entirely fictitious. No names, no indications, no details, no breach of privacy laws were ever in question.

Readers and friends thought I must have been working for one of the big gawdawful investment banks. I wasn't, but it proved my point that there was nothing in any of the blog posts to pinpoint who anyone was or indeed which company I was talking about.

Either way, someone snitched (yes, I know who), B'stard Company got whiff of the blog, threatened all kinds of nastiness, we came to an agreement and I removed the blog posts they objected to.
Of course, despite the LCM tag, nothing is truly anonymous on the internet, so in hindsight I was extremely naïve to think they would find my alter ego storytelling as amusing as I (and many others) did.

Of course, it never ends there, does it?

Sanity is a fine line in my book blog. Whilst writing is a great medium for explaining (to yourself) or mocking things that drive you bonkers (hence point b) 'amusement'), more often than not the end result gets misinterpreted, as demonstrated in my reminiscing above.

Regardless of how you tell a story, regale an anecdote, describe an event, even when under totally fictitious pretences, there will always, always, be someone who deems that *they* are the individual you are writing about and take offence. Particularly when the blog post in question is pee-in-your-pants funny.

My erstwhile training companion BB puts it best when she states, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!"

Indeed. A little embellishment can add to the recounting what the actual truth may not.
And therein lies the dilemma for anyone who - in the past - has 'read' themselves into my ramblings.
They take huge offence and go out of their way to tell me so. Recriminations follow, accusations fly, some parties get the wrong end of the stick and there are inevitably bruises all round.
(Can I just add as an aside that any such individuals have been from a working environment who were told via a third party about the blog - it's a long story - and otherwise would never have even ventured on to the internet, let alone searched me out. Anonymity? Pah. Rubbish.)

The honest truth is this: all these people (mercifully few, in hindsight) have one thing in common.

They really are not that interesting for me to write about in the first place. 

You know what is funnier (well, to me at least)? 

Yes, you guessed it. 

They take even greater offence when I tell them this.

Sometimes you just cannot win.

And the point of this post? A lamentation of some really funny pieces of writing which, sadly, are no longer. Or maybe they were total rubbish, so just as well.


Yadda yadda yadda...