Poppy

There was a time when nobody really cared if you wore a poppy or not, never mind what colour it was.

A time when, in the words of Ray Davies, “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls”, and it didn’t matter. Admittedly he thought it was a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world (except for Lola), but he wasn’t really judging.

An era where, offered a cheap flight to a country you’d otherwise never have visited, you’d jump at the chance rather than bemoaning the cost of specific items on your invoice.

A time where – and I use the phrase in the non-racial sense – everyone was less woke. Where the Mary Whitehouse attitude was an exception rather than the norm. Where people got on with their lives rather than getting involved in mass social media and Daily Mail inspired moral indignation and piousness.

Indeed, a more enlightened time.

Lest we forget.

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Bang

I’ve always liked Yorkshire and its people. Friendly, down to earth, straight-forward. Maybe that’s why I decided to support Leeds United when there are probably 20 or so top football teams geographically closer to the place of my birth.

But one particular bloke from God’s Own Country pisses me off every year.

By attempting to blow up our seat of government he paved the way for thousands of lunatics to explode incendiary devices hundreds of years later. And not just on the anniversary of the event. It’s started already today, a continuous display over 60 minutes shook our village scaring our dog, and no doubt many other animals for miles around.

How many of the participants in the event actually knew why they were there? How many would say they were ‘dog lovers’? And how many of the organisers, if I find out where they live, will have a black bag full of dog’s poo through their letterbox if they repeat the performance?

One day a year, almost fair enough – especially if 5th November falls at the weekend. But not before, and no repeat performances.

As a responsible dog owner I clear up my pet’s mess around the village. It would be great to have that consideration repaid.

Guy Fawkes, born York 1570, died Westminster 1606. Burn in hell.

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Stroke

Having a stroke really focuses the mind.

It makes you realise how much your loved ones mean to you.

It makes you realise that life is too short to fuck around.

And it makes you realise just how good bacon tastes.

I had a stroke a couple of months ago – nothing too major, just one of those ‘wake-up calls’. A nasty wake-up call admittedly, like when you’ve accidentally set your alarm clock to Heart FM.

On a Wednesday evening in late June I got up from my sofa to go to bed and couldn’t walk straight. Now this is not necessarily unusual for me, although it’s an occurrence that usually happens towards the weekend, when too much gin and/or Brew Dog have been consumed.

Also, the left side of my face was numb. I went to bed, expecting to wake up fine and dandy.

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I didn’t. I mean, obviously I did wake up – if I hadn’t that would probably been quite bad – but I didn’t wake up fine and dandy. I still couldn’t feel the left side of my face, and every time I tried to walk I pulled to the left, like a car with a near side front puncture. So I did what every sensible overweight middle-aged bloke would do.

I drove 35 miles to work.

Well, I thought it would just ‘go off’. When I got to work, it hadn’t. I stopped fooling myself and knew I’d had a stroke. But it was then I also realised my biggest mistake. I was in Bedford. The best hospital in the country was in Cambridge, in a direction I had driven 35 miles away from.

Now we all know that all NHS hospitals are staffed by amazingly dedicated and skilled people whose expertise mean that it doesn’t matter where you are in the country you will get first class care whichever facility you are admitted to. You’ve probably gauged by now that I wasn’t thinking very clearly at that stage, and I was determined that, if I was to be cured, it would be in Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital. I knew Addenbrooke’s; I’d been treated for minor ailments there before, and they had looked after my family through some pretty tough times. I knew nothing of ‘Bedford Hospital’, but it just didn’t sound right. I pictured an old building that, in a previous life, had been a lunatic asylum or leprosy clinic, with big wooden doors and doctors attacking you with syringes bigger than a baby’s arm.

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So, naturally, I drove 35 miles back home.

I then called 111 and they arranged to send an ambulance. But, where was the ambulance coming from? Sometimes, because of our location (in Cambridgeshire with a Hertfordshire postcode), they send help from Stevenage’s Lister Hospital.

Lister. Like ‘Listeria’.

What to do? Maybe if I drove towards Cambridge, pulled into a lay-by and called again I could guarantee my admission to Addenbrooke’s. All this wasn’t helping my blood pressure, and my Fitbit – yes, I’ve got a Fitbit, wanna make something of it? – had stopped recording my pulse rate, presumably not used to the challenge of such high digits.

I opened the door to the paramedics. “Where are you based?” ‘Upon arrival, patient seemed confused’. “Which hospital?”. “Addenbrooke’s, sir.” ‘Patient calmed down quickly and was fully responsive.’

Needless to say from then on I’ve received some superb NHS care. I’ve had more scans than a successful IVF mother, and treatment that couldn’t be bettered anywhere in the world. My family have, naturally, been fantastic.

When the paramedics assessed me they asked the obvious questions about my drinking, eating and exercise habits. I was honest with them. Just as we were leaving for the hospital one of them pointed to a picture of my granddaughter on our wall, looked at me, and simply said, “Lifestyle change, mate.”

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I’ve taken the patronising git’s advice.

I’ve cut back on alcohol, processed food, cheese and crisps. I’ve lost over 20 pounds and feel pretty good. It’s the cheese I miss the most, but the consultant I saw early in the week reminded me that life was for living, all things in moderation etc. In other words, don’t be a boring bastard and go and get a large piece of Applewood Smoked. That’s how I read  it, anyway.

And, as a treat, I’ve just eaten my first bacon for 7 weeks.

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So all’s well, considering. I was back to work within 2 weeks.

Now, if only I could kick the heroin habit………….

Brexit

Should we hold a second Brexit referendum?

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WTF indeed. The thing is we had a vote, the good guys lost, let’s get on with it.

Everyone had their own reasons for voting leave. One of these reasons may have been  racism, and another maybe based on an individual’s very personal circumstances. Fair enough (sort of).

But please don’t tell me you voted leave because you were ‘misled’.

Once in London, I saw ‘Caroline gives great blow-jobs’ written in the dirt on the side of a bus. Now I’ve no idea if this is true as I didn’t know the lady in question but, looking back, I give this statement far more credibility than I gave the ‘£350m per week to the NHS’ promise displayed on the side of the Boris battlebus. Why? Because in my normal, yet not overly intelligent brain, I know the former statement is possibly true, where the latter is extremely unlikely. Common sense.

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And yet. And yet, people believed it and are now whining that they were misinformed. If they had known ‘the facts’ they would have voted remain instead.

That’s the problem. Even idiots get the vote.

At general elections, do they believe every word of a manifesto? Do they believe politicians and their spinners are honest? If I paid to have ‘Yeovil Town will win the 2019 F A Cup’ posted on the side of a double-decker would they all be forming unorderly queues at William Hill’s?

Idiots.

Would they go into a casino and put all their worldly possessions on red, and when the ball landed in black say “Oh, I didn’t understand that I’d be broke, not be able pay the mortgage, and have no food”?

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As for a referendum on the terms of brexit – the electorate was confused by a simple yes/no question, what chance would they have of understanding something more complicated?

Anyway, I’m off to find Caroline. Well, you never know……

Onboard

A few years ago I was asked who in the business world I most admired. My reply, to the slight surprise of my questioner, was Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.

My reasoning was that he had a built a very successful brand with only one real benefit, that of perceived low cost. Yes, your £25 flight to Venice will cost you over £75 once you’ve added the extras. Yes, you won’t actually land anywhere near Venice, incurring additional costs to get you to your final destination. And yes, your walk to the Ryanair gate at Stansted takes 15 minutes and passes through 3 postcodes.

But still, we came. Most Ryanair flights I’ve experienced have been full, and that’s not counting the poor guys who have been ‘bumped’ due to overbooking. O’Leary has proved that you can treat customers like shit and still retain and attract customers, and that’s one hell of an achievement.

I seriously believe that after the current crisis, and despite all of the inconvenience and total disregard for their current customers and target market, that Ryanair will remain a successful airline.

However. Does anyone really believe the reason given for the substantial number of flight cancellations? Pilot shortage due to poor annual leave planning? Surely what’s really behind the disruption is the rationale behind all of Ryanair’s actions. Profit. Maybe their loss-leading routes are becoming too costly. Maybe the forecast for the next financial period was looking a bit low.

Or – and I’m not really qualified to comment on this but I will anyway – maybe there’s a more serious underlying issue.  The prospect of dangerously reduced profits? Cashflow problems? Time will tell.

Ask me again who in the business world I most admire and the answer will not be Michael O’Leary. Not with Sir Philip Green around…..

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Houses

‘NIMBY’ is an overused acronym.

I know that because I use it far too often myself; a knee-jerk reaction when I hear of protests against new housing developments or transport links.

We have a severe housing crisis in the UK and one of the only solutions is to develop land close to current amenities and infrastructure. Constructing new towns such as Northstowe helps, but it’s not enough.

I appreciate that some people are genuinely worried about jamming the local infrastructure and the pressure on local schools and healthcare facilities. No doubt some have a genuine fear around environmental issues.

But others see massive personal threats. House values falling pound by pound with every brick laid. An extra 2-minute wait in the queue at Spar. The risk of Johnny Foreigner infiltrating the bowls club. Here’s the response I received on Twitter to my accusation of NIMBYism on the topic of building a new busway linking Cambourne with Cambridge:

I am against because it will wreck what I and my family invested in. There are better options.

“Better options” somewhere else, I imagine.

Yes, developers may well be evil money-grabbing bastards, but we must make them bring facilities along with their cash-cow dwellings. That’s the role local councils should be taking, not automatically rejecting any plans put before them, safe in the knowledge that the village gentry will get behind them.

300,000 new houses are needed every year in the UK.

Everywhere is someone’s ‘backyard’.

Words

Merriam-Webster (lovely lady, by the way), has produced a fascinating feature which determines when a word was first used in print. Surfing through the years, it’s somewhat surprising how long ago some commonly used marketing terms were first used.

‘Direct marketing’ was first used in 1961, and it follows that ‘database’ appears a year later. ‘Big data’ dates back to 1996.

‘Case study’ dates back to 1914 – usually referring to medical histories – the year of the start of WW1. If only there had been a cautionary case study showing what would happen if you asked thousands of young men to go ‘over the top’.

‘Email’ was, of course, first written in the early 1980s, and ‘e-commerce’ in 1993. 1999 gave us ‘blog’ (and ‘clickbait!), ‘vlog’ followed just three years later.

‘White paper’ was first used in 1884, but it’s not clear when marketing hijacked it and removed the necessity of governmental origin.

The first known use of ‘social media’ was in 2004, the year of Facebook’s launch, despite platforms such as Six Degrees and MySpace existing earlier.

And the word ‘marketing’ itself? 1561.  Which makes sense as it was the 1600s when posters were first used for promotion, and the first newspaper published leading to paid advertising becoming available.

Incidentally, the word ‘guru’ was first coined in 1613 – a year that most self-proclaimed marketing gurus seem to be stuck in.

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