Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Earthquake, what earthquake ?

I am thankful that the earthquake so well publicised so well today was not felt at all in our part of London.

It was apparently felt in parts of London but generally seems to have been a non event down here. I guess we are fortunate to live in a country where the most signifcant earthquake in 20 years is measured in terms of numbers of fallen chimney pots rather than anything else.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A storm in a turban

I personally think too much is being made of the alleged smear campaign against Barak Obama by circulating a photo of him in traditional Somali dress (including Turban). Alarmingly I find myself agreeing with the Clinton campaign (a first time for everything !) that how can it be insulting for someone to be pictured wearing a national costume unless you devalue that nationality in the first place.

As seen above, our very own HRH Prince Charles is no stranger to unusual costume- although he's not wanting to run the country just yet !

I think the concerns over Obama are different and much deeper than unusual costumes.

For some reasons the Times has broken ranks from the media pack on at least 2 occasions to run critical articles on him.

This one deserves a read regarding the hidden funding from an Iraqi Billionaire given to the man who may well be the next president of the world's only superpower:

Mansion 'mistake' piles the pressure on Barack Obama

James Bone in New York and Dominic Kennedy in London
A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.

The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Antoin "Tony" Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.
It's worth reading on at the link above. All in all, mysterious loans from shady foreign businessmen doesn't sound very "new politics" to me....

A less than gracious city….. Sometimes

London is, I suspect, typical of any big city in the rough and tumble to be had on its streets.

People at a superficial level have no time for one another and can come across as very rude. Happily in the face of big challenges or emergencies the mythical "blitz spirit" (sometimes an overused phrase) emerges and we all help each other out.

However there are times when I think the rudeness is getting the upper hand and is worse than it used to be. Maybe I am just getting older to think like this!

Here are three recent examples:

1) In suburban London, near to where I live, a middle aged woman found a discarded training shoe on her drive. I was walking past on route to the station and watched as she methodically kicked it down the drive way and into the gutter. There was something mildly shocking about this at that moment. It seemed to sum up a wider social breakdown. While she would no doubt belong to the large group who bemoan the behaviour of "hoodies" and similar, here she was showing no respect for someone else's property. The tale behind how the training shoe had got on her drive way was unknown but it presumably belonged to someone. The priority here was not a lost trainer but the aesthetic integrity of her suburban house. It seems the tyranny of property makeover programmes is now limiting our ability to be good citizens. Twenty years ago or even less I suspect the same woman in the same street would have picked up the trainer and put it on a nearby wall so that if the owner passed by they could see it and collect it. Now the trainer gets kicked in the gutter.

2) Walking through the City, to work, a man in his twenties storms off a double-decker bus. He walks up the road a few paces and gives the driver a "one finger salute". There was apparently some dispute about not letting him off while the bus wasn't at a stop. The bus was sitting in traffic at the time. The rights and wrongs of getting off the bus are unclear to me but the solution to the dispute was rudeness- in this case a rude sign.

3) In a card shop in the City just before Valentines Day. The shop is crammed with people ahead of this rather cheesy commercial fest- albeit one that some of us are obligated on ! The atmosphere is tense as City workers jostle round a dwindling stock of "acceptable cards". A woman calls to her friend, "Why are you standing there ?". Her friend replies "Because I'm getting fed up of people elbowing me in the back everytime they go past". This is in preparation for a celebration of love in London.

I will end this brief series of social observations on a positive note. Walking through a local park, we pass a middle aged couple who have just stumbled across a lost glove. The woman picks it up. The man debates whether to run after a a group of women pushing prams. He decides against it for reasons of embarrassment as there is absolutely nothing to link the glove to the group. His wife suggests leaving it "on top of that red box". The red box in question is actually a special bin for "dog waste". Deciding against this they settle for placing it on top of a wrought iron fence so it can be clearly seen and kept out of the dirt. The effort is more than likely to be futile but it is reassuring that even in London some sense of community remains and not everyone is out only for themselves.

Rather childish but.......

with backers like this, you have to wonder. Here Senator Edward "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy makes an awkward slip of the tongue in referring to Barack Obama.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Don't touch the glasses

As someone who has stayed in quite a few hotels in the past I find the attached clip disturbing but while I am sure it is not a universal problem it is probably symptomatic of an industry where the staff are low paid and the guests high paying. The only real winner is the hotel owner.

Or as George Orwell rather better described it in " Down and Out in Paris and London" his semi-autobiographical work that described his experiences working in the French hospitality industry:

"Similarly with the PLONGEUR (general washer-upper). He is a king compared with a rickshaw puller or a gharry pony, but his case is analogous. He is the slave of a hotel or a restaurant, and his slavery is more or less useless. For, after all, where is the REAL need of big hotels and smart restaurants? They are supposed to provide luxury, but in reality they provide only a cheap, shoddy imitation of it. Nearly everyone hates hotels. Some restaurants are better than others, but it is impossible to get as good a meal in a restaurant as one can get, for the same expense, in a private house. No doubt hotels and restaurants must exist, but there is no need that they should enslave hundreds of people. What makes the work in them is not the essentials; it is the shams that are supposed to represent luxury. Smartness, as it is called, means, in effect, merely that the staff work more and the customers pay more; no one benefits except the proprietor, who will presently buy himself a striped villa at Deauville. Essentially, a 'smart' hotel is a place where a hundred people toil like devils in order that two hundred may pay through the nose for things they do not really want. If the nonsense were cut out of hotels and restaurants, and the work done with simple efficiency, PLONGEURS might work six or eight hours a day instead often or fifteen.

I once got a job offer from a hotel chain to work as an auditor. I am rather glad I didn't accept it.

Thanks to Iain Dale for highlighting this clip.

If I didn't already, I will re-wash any glasses I drink from in hotel rooms. Although the level of trust we have to place in the hospitality industry in general is frightening to think about.

It is with considerable satisfaction

that this blog, rather sleeping of late, made it to the first page of a google search on British Gas- in actual fact the number 1 unsponsored position.

This goes some way to make our struggles with British Gas Homecare and their woeful parts distribution centre in Leicester last year seem purposeful. I noted this evening that people are still writing in to BBC1's Watchdog on the subject.

Keep protesting people !,DGUK:2006-26,DGUK:en&q=british+gas+distribution+services

"British Gas Homecare- probably the worst service in the world !"

That's January done

Some people just seem to wish their life away.

I was talking with one colleague today who expressed sheer delight that we'd "got through January already". Quite what we were all getting through January to achieve was unclear but there was a reference to "soon be Christmas".

This is partly a joke I assume but there is an element of truth as many people seem to live their lives either "aiming for" the weekend, holidays, Christmas or similar. Whole oceans of time are endured for a short time on islands of apparent celebration.

How sad that whole months of our short lives are just seen as something to be "got through". There must surely be something wrong here ......

A slow pipeline

I am no expert on the Oil industry but I note with some frustration that the price of petrol on my local forecourt remains stubbornly over £1 a litre.

This is despite the fact that the crude oil price has largely been falling since very early in January and fell another 3 % today at under $90 a barrel.

I am sure the official argument is that oil refining is a long process and it takes a long time for price falls to filter through the system.

It is strange that that argument never applies in relation to price rises.........

Friday, February 01, 2008

Igglepiggle enters the Financial mainstream !

Yesterday when I picked up the FT at work I thought briefly I had been spending too much time in baby world watching "In the Night Garden". One of the characters from that programme,Igglepiggle, had appeared in the FT too !

In actual fact the FT journalist Jonathan Guthrie was going on to make a point about the dangers of name calling at work which can lead to legal action as it did by the actor playing "Tombliboo Ooo" on the set of In the Night Garden.

Amazing, watching baby TV can help make sense of reading the FT too !

Whatever next ? Gordon Brown will praise the environmental credentials of the Ninky Nonk (a special train to the uninitiated !). Come to think of it, the Ninky Nonk would be a big improvement on the services offered by South Eastern at present !

The dangers of talking dutty at work
By Jonathan Guthrie
Published: January 31 2008 02:00 Last updated: January 31 2008 02:00
Once upon a time three Tombliboos - Ooo, Eee and Un - lived together in the Tombliboo Bush. They played with their friend Igglepiggle, took rides in the Pinky Ponk and all loved each other very much. Then Ooo hurt his back, lost his job and complained that Eee had subjected him to homophobic taunts such as "faggot" and "bitch". Big hug? No chance. See you in court.

Tombliboos are innocent creatures with large bottoms and bobbly heads. But the performers who don costumes to portray them for the children's TV series In The Night Garden are more complicated. I witnessed some of the tears before bedtime at a recent employment tribunal. This highlighted the dangers that arise when a minority culture mingles with the mainstream one of the workplace.