Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Almost another year gone.

It's been hard work, stressful, testing, and tough. 

Plenty of mishaps, quite a few health scares (others, not me) involving nearest and dearest, some departures of loved ones, lots of trying situations, financial worries, and all the usual first-world problems that really pale into insignificance given other events going on in the world.

Suffice to say I have survived. Just.

But the focus for 2016 will be:
  1. moving the business on and growing it
  2. bringing in some much needed revenue
  3. sorting out the marketing and sales for my first book, and
  4. writing, publishing and doing the same for my second one
And somewhere in there is the small matter of family, social life, a semblance of training, and other events and commitments that keep me relatively sane and grounded.

So with that long preamble out of the way, I will be taking a sabbatical from the blog for a while. Not that I have run out of inspiration - unlikely, just ask OH, I have an opinion on everything apparently - but needs must and that means less fart-arsing around with fun-stuff-that-earns-me-nowt, and more energy into fee-earning hard-nosed business acumen stuff.

I won't be long. I hope.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Festive grumblings

It almost seems mundane to repeat the rantings of last year's Christmas circular letter.

So I won't.

Instead here is something completely fabricated. Or not. You decide.

Hello happy campers!

It seems like only yesterday that we were raising a glass to the new year, and yet here we are (almost) again. Well, I never!

The children have simply amazed us over the past twelve months. Mr Man came first in the extremely competitive annual cowpat-throwing county event sponsored by a local fertiliser manufacturer. Blossom auditioned successfully for the role of the tree in the West End production of 'Wind in the Willows', and Widget was named chief mascot for the local authority's allotment allocation selection committee.

We could not have been prouder. It brought a tear to my eye.

OH opted against climbing Mt Kilimanjaro again (it would have been his fifth time) and instead accepted the honour of leading a party of octogenarians in their attempt to scale the stairwell up The Monument. Alas, it had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour due to some unforeseen fatalities brought on by advanced ageing.
He is such a trooper, though. Undaunted by this hiccup he proceeded to learn a new skill and is now rodeo master at the local hippodrome, teaching children how to wrestle wild horses in his spare time.

My heart just flutters at the mere thought.

My own adventures this year have been very low key. A sole Channel swim and some base jumping is all I could manage, but then again I am so grateful for being given the opportunity to ride my bike across the Cuillin Ridgeline and give Danny MacAskill some valuable tips before his own attempt.

Such an honour as well to be nominated for SPOTY, but I had to withdraw given personal reasons and a clash of interests with another event that was taking precedence in my calendar.

So, on to another year. How exciting!

I hope this finds you and yours well, and if not, then so be it.

See you around the corner.



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The errant apostrophe

"What do you say when comforting a grammar nerd?
There, their, they're."

It is over ten years since Lynne Truss wrote her book, and yet every day I still come across instances of incompetent grammatical errors being displayed in the public forum by grown up, educated, and - I am guessing - fairly articulate individuals.

Just today I came across this (as part of a LinkedIn post): 

"[...] effort and time given by some Mum's and Dad's, who get involved in the coaching..."

Since when were random parents recognised as individual proper nouns?
And how does any inserted apostrophe make the singular, plural?

A very funny Twitter campaign started some time ago, appropriately by one of the star teachers of Educating Yorkshire (if you have never seen this, then do yourself a favour and watch it), to address this very issue and pet hate.

Every Wednesday, without fail, an avalanche of poorly written grammar would be broadcast to the wider world, the aim being - or so I thought - of educating those still in doubt about where to put that pesky little 'high' comma so that the meaning of your sentence did not confound your audience.

This was my contribution:


Alas, poor punctuation persists. And no, it is not a case of many individuals being dyslexic.

Now, if only there was an apostrophe-check program on computers. 
Or a random hand that would come out and slap fingers if the incorrect format was used, preferably before the < enter > button was pressed.

Hmmm. New business idea for 2016?


Saturday, 12 December 2015

As time goes by

It could possibly have something to do with the time of the year. Or maybe not. However the question remains whether it is just me getting days muddled up and thinking I am further into the week than is actually the case, on multiple occasions.

Last week I went through the whole of Thursday convinced it was Friday. It was only after posting an observation on Facebook ("... brought to you courtesy of Friday ponderings...") and having it queried by a good friend that I realised I was a day ahead of myself. It was already past noon by this stage.

Then on Wednesday just gone, I was convinced it was the eve of Saturday, and proceeded to plan - in my mind - what events were taking place (thankfully very few) that required my presence and/or attention over the weekend.

You can imagine how disappointed I felt when I realised, somewhere around three in the afternoon, that there were still two working days left. And I had a number of meetings and calls on both of them.

I suppose it is around this time in your life when you occasionally query whether poor genes will eventually get the better of you.
On my mother's side of the family there is a history of bad hips.
On my father's, senile dementia, prevalent in the female lineage.

So I guess I may someday end up going for a run, getting stuck, but being none the wiser. Or indeed just wondering why I am in the midst of Richmond Park wearing my knickers on my head, fairy wings and flip flops.

Small mercies.

Microchip might be the answer. Must tell OH.



Saturday, 5 December 2015

Perceptions of incompetence

If there is one thing that truly riles me it is poor customer service.
There is only another level worse than this: rude customer service.

This week I had two samples of the latter in the space of a mere morning.

Let me enlighten you.

Picture the first scene: an individual - let's call him Bruce - learns about my line of business and utters those infamous three words, "We should talk."

Out of courtesy I agree, he lives nearby after all, there is some vague common ground (very vague, to be honest) and we settle on a time and place near home.
He later asks if we can move to an even closer venue as he "is expecting a delivery".
Fine, not a problem.

Come the day, I turn up, wait some twenty minutes, send him a text ("I am here", no reply) and then head home as I have work to do. I figure he has been delayed and at worst our paths will cross as there is only one way to approach the venue from our respective residences.

Forty-five minutes later I get an email - via LinkedIn, of course.

It says, "Call me" and his number.

Excuse me? You requested this meeting, you have my contact details, yet I am to call you?

Another message follows. "Not sure why you arrived so early?"

Turns out I had it wrong in my diary. By half an hour. Mea culpa.
Before I can answer, he sends me another LinkedIn note with a cut and paste of our original email exchange - stating time and place - with a note: "Please see your message. And my reply."

Well, Bruce, let me educate you a moment here.
When it comes to looking for new business, telling prospective clients about the error of their ways, demanding that they call you, and then castigating them for being early hardly bodes well for the future, does it? Or do you find that being bolshy from the start is a good omen? Unfortunately it has shown me a side of your character that I had already glimpsed at, and do you know what?

Yup. < delete >. You are banished in all forms.

Now picture the second scene, a mere couple of hours later: I need to unlock a PIN for a card reader that enables online access to an account.

The online 'chat' assistance is useless (I will refrain from elaborating, suffice to say it took the best part of five months to get one card and one PIN to work when the original bank was taken over, most frequent citation from the phone help desk for their incompetence being "Our computer system is down/being upgraded/gone fishing") but amongst all the bits of documentation I find a guide saying that if I merely go to one of the bank's ATMs and follow the instructions, I can unlock it myself.

So I make my way to the nearest ATM for this bank, and yes, you guessed it, it was out of order.

Aha, I think. I'll go inside and see if they can deal with this over-the-counter.

There are two people serving. One seems to be faffing around while the other is working at a pace that would do a snail justice. There are three of us in the queue.

Eventually the lady in front of me is served. I use the term loosely as the bank staff person seems incapable of doing a simple transfer for her without additional assistance. Since her co-worker is still faffing, the lady is told she "has to wait" (no niceties, mind you) and to step aside - which she does, although understandably disgruntled - and it's my turn. There are now five people in the queue.

I step up, explain my dilemma and await for assistance.

I get a blank stare as if I had just stated that the Martians have landed outside and we are all being abducted.

A male co-worker steps in behind snail-pace woman and opens his mouth.
"What?" is all he can muster.

I step back slightly in awe at his manners, and re-explain. This is getting borderline tiresome.
"Use another ATM," he barks at me.
I tell him that the instructions are to use a bank-specific one for this particular issue.
"Nah. Use any one." And he retreats to his desk.

I am left standing by the counter, snail woman saying, "Next!" and wondering whether I have missed something.

I haven't. There are now eight people in the queue, including aforementioned lady who-could-not-be-served-either.

"Excuse me," I say, very LOUDLY, so everyone - including obnoxious male staff member - can hear me.

"Your customer service is disgraceful. You have not only been totally unhelpful, you have also been very rude to me and the lady beforehand (she nods vigorously and replies, also loudly, "Yes, very much so!" Everyone else in the queue is paying attention now). No 'please', no 'thank you', no 'madam', no helpful assistance, no common decency or manners. Have you ever heard of client care and satisfaction?"

Surly male staff member looks up. "Yeah, whatever," he replies, and goes back to flipping pieces of paper about his desk. Snail pace counter woman just stares at me - indeed the Martians could land and would probably refuse to take her at this rate - and faffing counter woman continues to faff. She is still dealing with the same client who is now on his third phone conversation with his long-lost cousin in Brazil.

I walk out.
It's times like these I love Twitter.

I'm sure they are. I should have added that I know of a fellow called Bruce who would also benefit from the same training. They could split the cost.


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