Archive for December 6th, 2004

My friend in Nottingham…

No, not Keith – I actually have two friends in Nottingham.

This is John. John used to be in the Rhodesian army but now he is settled in Nottingham with his wife and children and runs a small company up there. He is also an instructor for “Lee James 4×4”, an adventure playground for 4×4 vehicles with drivers who yearn for the African veld (bush)!

Before I come to his main business I will tell you about the time when he took Pam and me for a spell of off-roading. He had a Camel. No it’s not the beast with humps but a Land Rover Defender which was, in the past, fitted out especially for the world class trophy runs that Land Rover competed in.

During an hour we went down and up 1:2 hills, drive around a rim which seemed about 45 deg. but was probably more like 30 deg. We went across a three foot deep river, over a makeshift bridge of logs and, by the end of it, we were both exhilarated! I was amazed that my wife actually enjoyed it and has agreed, almost with enthusiasm, for me to get a Land Rover Defender – if we can ever afford it!.

However, I digress. John also runs a company selling imported rugged, adventure style clothing from South Africa. Most of my casual clothing now comes from John. The brand name is Rogue. The clothing has a Rogue label visible and what appeals to me is the small print, it says “The original” before the Rogue on the label and I kinda see myself in that light! Alas, so does Pam!

I have three Rogue hats, two leather and one suede. Many shirts and pairs of trousers and two pairs of their boots. RB5s are totally waterproof right up to the top of the ankle as there are no eyelets and the sides of the tongue are all part of the boot so there is nowhere for water to run through the laces except straight out at the bottom and not inside the boot! The second pair of boots are suede and are what we call Veldtskoens, normally spelled veldskoens nowadays. A good understandable translation would be “bush shoes” although they are half way boots.

Johns prices are good and include VAT and postage. I even have a fly swatter they must have made from offcuts of the leather used.

John advised me to soak the veldskoens in water for twenty minutes, fully submerged, and then to go for a five mile hike afterwards. The thinking here is that, although the boots won’t shrink, they will mould themselves to the shape of your feet. I did this and they are the most comfortable of any footwear I have ever owned.

Take a look at all his other gear as well, tents, pots, including the famous South African ‘Potjie’ and other gear. Just follow the link below…


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A depressing pattern

This appeared on a Times Leader Page in August 2002, and it’s so true that it’s depressing!

There is a depressing pattern which applies, regardless of the party in power, to Britain’s position on any major political initiative in the European Union.

  • It is at first denied that any radical new plan exists;
  • it is then conceded that it exists and, at some point it is finally recognised that it has made such a difference, but it was always known that it would and voters were told so from the outset.
  • It is then noted that it exists but ministers swear blind that it is not even on our political agenda;
  • it is then noted that it might well be on the agenda but is not a serious proposition;
  • it is later conceded that it is a serious proposition, but that it will never be implemented;

… after then it is acknowledged that it will be implemented but in such a diluted form that it could make no difference to the lives of ordinary people …

I was about to add, by then it’s too late, but it was too late much earlier in the cycle!


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The Archer

About twelve years ago I had the idea of starting up a local community newspaper when I lived in East Finchley.

I did my research and costings but could not decide on the name of a newspaper.

One day when I was walking down the High Street towards the underground station I saw a statue on the station of a bowman shooting an arrow down the line towards the centre of London.

Ah! I thought, that’s it, I’ll call the newspaper “The Archer”.

I then put my thoughts together and whilst supping a beer with some friends, mentioned the idea to them. They all thought the idea terrific and said they’d help.

Funds, I said, we’ll need some money. So we had a whip round. Carole put in £5 – it was all she had on her at the time. Kevin and Noel put in a tenner and I contributed £20. After all, it was my idea so I should put in the most!

We contacted the local printer, Brysons, who agreed to print 1,000 A3 sheets, both sides and we launched our first issue in November 1992.

The limited edition talked of our idea of bringing the community together and at the same time asked for helpers in all aspects of the paper to agree to put in from one or two hours a month to one or two hours a week. We said the first issue would be the March 1993 issue and asked people to contact us.

We were amazed at the response and produced our first tabloid 8-pager on time.

By the time I handed over control of the newspaper in July 1993 I had a voluntary staff membership of fifty. Something I am led to understand the paper has never repeated. I had also established “The Friends of The Archer” which I believe is still in existence.

It is still going and one thing that pleases me is that my two main rules are still adhered to.

These were and still are; don’t be political. If you are, the advertisers will know that half the people will throw the paper away and won’t be willing to pay a high price for advertising.

The second rule was, and still is, don’t accept huge advertisements, no more than a quarter-page, and preferably, no larger than an eighth-page. Then the smaller businesses won’t feel their message will be drowned out. I thought that, as the businesses were part of our community, they should feel they were joining in.

You can see the Archer by following the link below.


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Moving house

I have moved house twice during the last ten years. The first time 10 years ago into a furnished flat and the second time into our own unfurnished home.

Having spent, in the past, a number of years in sales and marketing, at one time a manager of a sales force of 25, I thought ‘why not use sales techniques in my purchasing?’

So I grabbed a directory or two, and the yellow pages and typed a list of 550 names and addresses of Estate Agents and Letting Agents for the area I required.

I wrote to them all telling them the maximum I was prepared to pay (and this was low), the location, the number of rooms and any other amenities I required.

I didn’t expect, or want, many replies. I just wanted a flat. Because the price I put was low, and I told them not to respond if they couldn’t match the price, I did only get five or six letters back. Funnily enough, we only looked at two of the flats and the first was so ideal, we snapped it up.

The second time was three years ago. This time we were purchasing so we discarded the letting agents and sent out 220 letters – very much along the same lines.

This time we got about 25 replies, but the first place was so ideal, we snapped it up straight away, very much like the previous time.

There is another alternative. Traipse around all the estate agents in the area, in all weathers, filling in forms, and dealing with smart-alec salesmen.

Take your pick…


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An interesting man…

My friend Matthew called this morning for coffee.

An interesting man. I lived next to him when I used to live in East Finchley.

He dealt, from home, in second hand bikes, also selling them in the early days in Portabello Road and Brick Lane, and finally in Brick Lane only, until he ceased on his 60th birthday.

During those years he raised a family with two daughters and earned enough to send them both to “public schools”

I learned then that he dabbled on the Stock Exchange, buying and selling shares on a short term basis. I also learned that whilst he was selling his second hand bikes he had installed a Stock Exchange terminal in his study and had been using it for ten years! He had certainly kept that a secret from everyone.

He was an old boy at Westminster Public School and after university became a school teacher prior to his market trading days.

He is now 64 and enjoys his financial trading, and spends a lot of time in his St James’s club in which he has belonged for many a year. Certainly long before he gave up selling secondhand bikes.

Yes, a very interesting man…


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