Monthly Archives: February 2006

Up To My Kness in Cow….

I’ve had a wonderful day reading items that bring smiles to my faces. One of the best being that good old McD’s are struggling in the UK. They are struggling so much that they’re closing 25 branches and making a further 50 into franchise branches.

Being someone who detests what McD stands for this is like manna from heaven. How can a company that advertises itself as the Restaurant of the 2006 World Cup claim to various EU VAT authorities that they should not be classed as restaurant? In so doing they avoid having to charge VAT on food purchased there.

Then there was the link on Dave’s log about the vicar protesting against Tesco.

I have already been mounting a one man campaign against Tesco and their purchasing habits. Its good to see that there are plenty of people out there who agree.

I don’t want to see a Tesco on every corner.

Living in rural Warwickshire 4 days a week I understand the pressures felt on rural communities when their local shops are forced to close. It’s bad enough that I have to make a 20 mile round trip to visit my nearest Natwest branch.

Yet the government does nothing to protect either the rural consumer or the rural producer. Even after Big Tone’s comment that Tesco had suppliers in an armlock nothing was done. Part of the problem is that the government is to sensitive to lobbying by interested parties and focus groups, usually selected to provide the required answers.

The major supermarkets are not interested in paying fair prices to farmers and other suppliers. They want them to take all the risks, to return unsold products and to pay on terms dictated by themselves. When they get reduced prices these are not passed on but used to increase their profits.

Yet it would take a major change in attitude by the government and the “City” to change things. So long as the City insist on ever increasing profits, no matter who suffers, nothing will change.

As Christians we need to take a lead in promoting Fairtrade. Yet Fairtrade should not just be aimed at overseas producers in poor countries but also at home. If you don’t believe me, then you talk to farmers who are struggling to make ends meet on £10,000 per year. Forced to plough under perfectly good crops because the carrots aren’t straight enough or the cabbages are to big. They aren’t allowed to sell these items on through markets or independent grocers.

In addition there is the green issue to consider. If we buy more items, that we could produce here, from overseas markets then the impact on the environment should be factored in. Food miles are an important factor to consider.

An interesting argument I read about the government’s poor policies on the rural economy, noted that as we run out of fossil fuels what will happen? If we’ve run down our agricultural industry where will we get the food from. What happens to the skills lost?

I can’t milk a cow. I have no idea on helping animals to give birth, other than what I learnt from watching All Creatures Great and Small on TV. I couldn’t plough a field. So who’s going to do it?

If there

Hi Ho!!!! Hi Ho!!!!!

What are hard, stressful day I’ve had.

Arriving at the office for 11:30. Going out to lunch at 13:30 and getting back in at 15:30, then only because we were evicted from the pub. Thankfully it was all in aid of business and increasing the company’s profitability. Tomorrow sees more of the same.

The odd thing is that we are not very busy with my main customer at present. I can go for 2 days a week without any serious work to do. Thankfully my other customer seems to plug the gaps.

My boss is onre of those reasonable people who is always happy when the money is roling in and we are making a good profit. He fails to understand, however, that if the customer is quiet then we are quiet too. The only time I really hear from him is when we’re chasing payment or I make a large profit on a shipment.

Its never: “Hello, how are you? How is your mother in law?” It’s always: “When are we getting the next payment? Do you know how much under budget we could be if you don’t generate more work?” Very occasionally I’ll have a conversation like last week. “Hi, I’ve just seen that you made a £3000 profit on this shipment. Is this correct? Oh, great. Just checking.”

As I get older, I’m getting more and more annoyed at this attitude to things. Customer service is not as important as making a few extra quid profit. We’re told that the customer service is our number one strength. It is important that we keep them happy but even more important if we can use it as an opportunity to leech a few more quid out of them.

As we strive to increase sales and profits we are promised personal rewards for the staff. Maybe that’s why we’ve only had 1 year in 5 when we’ve actually be given a share via the staff incentive scheme. It was 11 months last year before we were told that there were to be no bonuses. Instead of being honest and telling us that they hadn’t sorted out the incentive scheme, we were told that becuae the UK performances was not up to standards we wouldn’t get anything. The fact that the branch I work at made over £1m profit meant nothing.

If money is to be the sole motivation for business today, then the lesat they could do is reward the people who actually do the work. However, that isn’t in the best interests of the company. Yet they tell us that their staff are their no. 1 asset.

On The Wings Of Goat

Well another weekend has come and gone. It has been a lot less rushed and hectic than expected.

We took the Troublesome Trucks to the Community Farm on Friday. Though there were fewer animals than normal, due to the time of year, we still managed to feed the sheep, goats, cows and llamas; unfotunately, you couldn’t feed the pigs or donkeys. But it was very cold on the hills above Cwmbran, with very little cover.

We were also introduced to a new sport – goat tossing. First Wife saw this really cute young goat and called the boys over. Now, on the farm, goats associate people with free food. So an adult goat walks over and, as FW and the boys are cooing over the baby kid, it works its horns underneath, lifts the kid and throws it over its back. Kid flies in an arc and makes a small, pathetic bleat before landing in the straw.

Cries of anger from FW and the movement of mummy goat to suckle its shocked infant.

Saturday saw me get to see my best friend for the first time in 3 months. Those who attended the wedding will remember his unforgettable speech. He’s now left his job in Brussels and has moved back with his dad while he finds a new one. The great thing is that we get to see each other more often.

Unfortunately, First Wife was unwell, having angered the demons of cold by denying their existence. Therefore they struck her down with taunts of “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!!!”

This morning saw the reappearance of Preacher Tired&Emotional. Man this preaching work is tough….

You have to put the chairs out, get the hymn books out, welcome people, adjust the heating for the week’s meetings, organise the music, put the hymn numbers on the board and then take the service.

We did have some good fun though.

As our accompanist is no longer with us we have been relying on Pastor Chugabug to play hymns or the use of CDs. Unfortunately my replacement accompanist had to cry off due to illness, hope you’re feeling beeter sis.

So brother-in-law arrived with CD accompaniment. The running order was suitably amended and off we started. First disaster emerged as there was singing accompaniment on the CD and I suddenly realised that instead of choosing 513 I’d chosen 514. Same title different words. Also there was no intro on the CD, just straight into the hymn.

The children’s talk was a riot. I had 3 volunteers helping to illustrate gravity and God. Both are unseen but we accept that they are there. One of the youngest then proceeded to tell us about the difference between the Earth and moon, how gravitry works and several other facts. His gran was sat in the front row, shaking her head in despair.

Thankfully the sermon seemed to go well. I seemed to have more people paying attention, or at least saw signs of recognition. Maybe that was the case or the fact that I had amended my style, so that I tended not to read my notes but use them as a guide.

The downside to the weekend was watching Wales lose in the rugby.

Advice For The Young At Heart, Soon You Will Be Older

With the appending arrival of an acquintances 30th birthday, I thought it an opportune time to offer some advice or ageing. Being several years older than many others here I can speak from experience.

I didn’t hit a crisis when I turned 30. Things went smoothly. Couldn’t understand the fuss. At 31 it hit me. I had a month of falling apart. Regretting what I had, and hadn’t done, with my life.

Then I realised that, no matter what, I had no control over the ageing process. The solution I arrived at was to seize every opportunity that came my way. To stop worrying about events I couldn’t control. To remember that youth is carried with you throughout life; you just need to connect with it as often as possible.

Having told my wife of my choice of my next car, she has decided that I’m now having a mid-life crisis. Just ‘cos a 41 year old guy wants a 2 seat sports car does not equal mid-life crisis. Was this the case then I would be looking for a younger, fitter, blonde dolly bird to parade around with.

I just choose to embrace life; to do what I want to make me happy. If it means buying a Mazda MX-5 or a Flat Screened Telly, then so be it. Visiting foreign parts, and not killing the residents, also helps. Choosing to hire a more expensive car to travel around in is a bonus.

Making time for family and friends is another good addition. Learnng that work is there to help you make your life better and not to consume it was a hard lesson. Yet, working hard also helps to get the money required to not only improve my life but also to help improve the lives of others.

As well as all this is the one thing that sustains me more than anything else. My faith has got stronger as time passes. My desire to do work for God is even more rewarding than everything else.

Even getting married has been a blessing.

Don’t tell the wife, she’ll just get big headed!!!

Thanks to Tears For Fears for today’s title.

Life is what we make it

Well, I didn’t get round to the shopping last night. I think it was my fear of missing Corrie what did it. So I thought I’d blog now before I get sucked into anything else, like reading other blogs. I promise I’ll read you all later.

Working at home was also delayed.

When I woke uup this morning I had 35 pages left to read of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I decided to read this as the film Capote is based on his research for this book. I was not disappointed by the quality and its power to grip you. The great loss is that this was his last novel, written 20 years before his death.

I have always been aware of Capote but never got round to reading any of his work, other than the odd magazine article. I have missed a great deal.

The story tells the story of the murder of the Clutter family, in rural Kansas at the end of 1959, and the subsequent hunt for their killers. This looked like a lost cause as there were very few clues for the police to go on.

However the book covers more than just this. It covers the effect on the local community. It shows how the community lost its innocence, trust and old ways of living. It also follows the two perpetrators as they run from the law.

I won’t give the game away totally but I truly recommend this as a study of the human condition. It also raises questions about nurture and nature and the death penalty. You maybe amazed at the biblical support that backs up this punishment.

Now I’ve gone onto much “lighter” reading. A similar treatise on the human condition. This time its the story of an Auschwitz survivor. Nothing odd there then. Apart from the fact its written by someone who worked in the Sonderkommando for nearly 3 years.

The fact he survived is a miracle in itself. Most such people either, died within 3 months, gave up on life or were killed by the Germans prior to the destruction of the crematorium as they retreated.

Maybe I should consider something less “heavy” for my next book.

Home Alone

Having beeen abandoned by First Wife, while she visits friends in Swansea, I have been forced to fend for myself. Of course, now I’m married, things are not as easy as when I was single.

How are you supposed to find things if you have to look through full cupboards? With diabetes, how are you supposed to eat all those wonderful things that are no longer permitted? I mean the wife would never know would she….

Instead I’ve been trusted to do the weekly shopping. I’ve been given my list and been told I can buy anything else that I think enjoyable. When I suggested that a young, buxom blonde would be enjoyable I got one of those horrible looks. Anyone who knows my wife and myself would know the one I mean!

A perk is that I can watch football tonight and all those films I love but aren’t enjoyable for wife.

Well better finish my work and get on with preparing to go shopping.

The Chocolate Soup Dragon

I’ve been lucky enough to come home early this week. Unfortunately its because I have my annual diabetes check-up topmorrow morning. What fun, parting with more blood I’m sure I need.

The plus side is I get to work from home for the rest of the week. In fact that started even before I arrived home. I’m therefore monitoring some urgent shipments, logging and watching Arsenal v Real Madrid, while wifey washes up. At present the announcer is annoying me with his constant shouting over the PA at the ground.

I come home early but what does wife do? She arranges to go to Swansea to see her friends for the next 2 nights. Ok, she has to be there for training on Swansea but I could fade away from lack of sustenance while she’s gone. Food parcels would therefore be gratefully received.

Message for Ming the Merciless…

We would visit for Chocolate Soup but we haven’t been invited!!!

Au revoir, mon braves

We Built This City Like Milton Keynes

As if we hadn’t caused enough damage in Iraq already. News has broken that the city of Najaf is going to be redesigned by the brains that brought such delights as Milton Keynes, Smethwick & Telford to the UK. I can hear the people crying in the streets already.

If ever their were places to strike fear into the hearts of residents then these are the places. Soulless examples of urban planning bar none. Having visited all three, and spoken to people who live in them, I must say that I don’t envy the Iraqi people.

Will they even transport such delights as concrete cows ala Milton Keynes? Knowing how sensitive urban planners are to the local people who end-up living in their creations, I forsee fields of concrete pigs!!

I just hope that its remembered that Arab people enjoy a cafe lifestyle and they don’t end up with the city centre wastelands that we have, with everyone living on the edge of new cities.

In addition Najaf is the home to the Iman Ali shrine. One of the most holy places in the Muslim faith. He was the cousin of Mohammed and his death launched the Shia branch of Islam into existence. For those unaware, a Shia believes that an Iman can only be a direct descendant of the prophet’s family. Sunni’s believe that anyone can be a teacher of the faith.

To make things even more surreal we find that the UK architects chosen to undertake the redesign are not actually able to visit the city due to the current “difficulties” in Iraq. They are therefore working with a local team of Iraqu consultants. Everything is therefore being done by e-mail or phone.

This has to be a first for urban planners of any country.

Sunday Is A Day of Rest – Unless You Are A Christian Leader

Today saw us in our usual calm, Sunday mode. It was a very relaxing day with very little to do. Apart from taking the washing to the launderette, chapel, making lunch, preparing tea, youth, cooking the additional parts of tea and then attempting to make me look more like a certain balding person we know.

Unfortunately, Pastor Chugabug has been on tenderhooks all week as her mother-in-law is in the final stages of a serious illness. We were not aware whether or not she would be able to take the service this morning. Her mother-in-law is in hospital in Darlington, a good 5 hour car journey away.

They had already travelled up earlier in the week but been told to come back, as she had rallied. They have been on a state of high alert since Friday. We had one of the other deacons on standby, as I’m taking the service next week.

After taking the service this morning they were called away at lunchtime. Leaving First Wife and myself to organise the youth meeting this afternoon. Thankfully Quiet Man was able to assist.

Please remember Pastor Chugabug and her family in your prayers. For those who were there, she did the prayer at our wedding last year.

Everything went well. We bagan preparations for our Fairtrade service in 3 weeks time. We are using a short Tearfund film on TB to link into the main message of how Fairtrade can help to assist in alleviating poverty through providing a small element of wealth.

The children were left to think over the film and to think of how Fairtrade can help to make things better. They are slowly beginning to grasp the link between providing more balanced trade to help improve. Which has just produced the title for me – Trade Is Aid.

To provide a fitting example, we provided food from the local McD’s. I know they are Satan in clown’s clothing but we had little choice, given the short notice in changing plans.

First Wife now understands why I can come home from a youth afternoon and just want to fall onto the settee and remain immobile. Rhiannon, I don’t know how you can do this full time. You are a true hero!

Heart Attack & Vine

Today saw us visiting Oldrum to go browsing, in our own ways.

After buying a new floor light for the living room and having coffee in Starbucks, we went our separate ways. I went to the reference librarty to begin research for my model railway project and First Wife went to buy items with for our personal project.

Have you ever noticed that libraries are great resources of knowledge for every subject – except what you are looking for? That was my experience today.

I found books on trains, plenty of pictures of trains and general modelling subjects. However nothing on the stations and engine sheds I’m most intersted in. Eventually I found a book on engine sheds that was hidden in a separate subject area for transportation books. Why have 2 areas for the same subject?

FW wandered around buying things for our Flat Belly/Flat Telly competition. This revolves on us both losing weight/inches. The one that does the best pays less for the flat screen TV. If we both succeed then we pay equal amounts.

FW also discovered the same thing that I do when I go shopping. We both hate crowds; especially crowds of people wandering aimlessly and without focus. Why do people feel the need to do this? Is there a mental block that comes over people when they go shopping? Of course, the bigger the city the worse the problem.

Have you noticed how many Chavs there are these days? I came home from work on Thursday night to find one in my living room. Then I noticed it was FW in her tracksuit bottoms. Maybe living on a council estate has finally caught up with her…….

FW also overheard the following today. There were a group of Goths being raucus in the High Street and someone passing said, “They’re as bad as chavs”.

For those who don’t know, Oldrum is the Chav capital of South Wales. Our current musical representatives just add to this with their appearance. Yes, Goldie Looking Chain are from Oldrum.