Archive for June, 2009

This is a test to speed up my blogging

Mainly I want to see how the formatting comes out as I am using a program to speed up the blog in Office 97. Yes, I have had to dual boot with Linux as I need too many Windows programs for my newspaper.

Ampers

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£25,000,000,000

Twenty-five billion pounds!

“Treasury figures show that welfare payments will exceed income tax receipts by almost £25 billion. Normally, income tax receipts comfortably cover the benefits bill.”

In 2008/09, gross income tax receipts were £152.5 billion. In the same year, social security benefits cost the Exchequer £150.1 billion.

In 2009/10, the Treasury is expecting to take in £140.5 billion in gross income tax receipts. Social security benefits are projected to be £164.7 billion.

The disparity between tax revenue and welfare costs was identified by Andrew Brough, a fund manager at Schroder Investment Management, who suggested that the amount of money spent on social protection could soon exceed that raised from both income tax and national insurance.

Something, somewhere, has to give. Or, in this case, stop!

Now read the rest of the article

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Slow down of service

Greetings to my blogees,

As the days approach to my seventieth birthday (19th July) many readers will have noticed a slow-down of my blogs. No, this is nothing to do with nature’s way of telling me to slow down as I will tell you below.

I live in London N3 in an area known as Finchley. Fifteen years ago I lived in the next town called East Finchley where I started up a newspaper called The Archer and, although I left the area I follow its progress, and it is still a force as a community newspaper which pleases me immensely.

I am now starting a newspaper in Finchley, N3. We are calling it The Finchley Arrow with a strap line of “…straight to the point!”

If you click on the above link you will see where we have got to-date. At present our web address points to a Google Group but we have found a web builder who has offered to build our website for us. However, we still need a designer to design the actual pages.

Royal Mail have given me the number of letterboxes in the area, and showing a breakdown between the three sub-areas (N3 1xx, N3 2xx and N3 3xx) of both resident’s and businesses’ letterboxes. Although this will be an electronic newspaper, we still have to leaflet the area every three months. Our initial leaflet calls for helpers and will be delivered here next Friday. When I started The Archer I only sent out 1,000 leaflets and within six months had a team of fifty volunteers. Times are tougher nowadays but I am expecting at least fifty helpers within a few weeks of the delivery of our 10,000 leaflets.

Our first issue comes out at the end of the last week of September, so after that I hope to have more time for my blog. This doesn’t mean I won’t do at least one or two each week between now and then.

Also, after we have got the second or third issue out, I will refer to my notes and write an article of exactly how we all went about this. The idea being that others could follow suit and start community newspapers in their locations. It would be nice if they could keep the word Arrow in their name so we get some sort of brand recognition. The Barnet Arrow, The Streatham Arrow, The Richmond Arrow and so on. Each independently run, no royalties, just enough to carry some strength of brand advertising.

Ampers

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I haven’t washed my hair for longer than two years!

The following is from a London Evening Standard article and shows that Prince Harry is nearly as wise as I am”

Hair gets down and dirty
Alice Hart-Davis
10.05.09

Prince Harry hasn’t washed his hair for two years? Eeuw! Or is he just cleverer than the rest of us, with the perfect, credit-crunch, no-care hair-care solution?

It sounds revolting, and he’s not the only famous name who’s doing it, judging by recent pictures of Alice Dellal, Alexa Chung and the Geldof girls, who all look like they could do with a good wash and blow-dry. But skipping the shampoo isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

“Sebum, the oil we secrete to lubricate our hair, is anti-viral and cleansing,” says Kensington hair maestro Valentino, who has had phases of not washing his hair for years on end (at the moment, he washes it around once every six weeks).

“When you wash your hair, you upset the natural pH [acid/alkaline balance] of the scalp and that has a knock-on effect on the whole body.”

You can read the whole article on this page.

Ampers.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/health/article-23685574-details/Hair%2Bgets%2Bdown%2Band%2Bdirty/article.do

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We should rethink our immigration strategy

We should treat immigrants like we treat our own university students–make them pay for our largess!

I have been trying to come up with a serious idea which our trendy lefties would find difficult to argue with. They will scream abuse, yes, but could they come up with a good argument against my plan that ordinary people would accept?

The plan must preserve life i.e. nobody should starve in our country whether they are prepared to work or not. And we should charge charities with looking after the claims, not our own government who can’t even boil an egg!

So, for the first five years, all immigrants will not be entitled to free hand-outs unless they are prepared to either work for it, or accept it as a financial loan.

This was my original idea but the flaw in it would be that the immigrant’s might never work and we could never get the money back, and they would continue to ride on the backs of others.

So I amended it and instead of five years, lowered it to three years and any work qualifying for this period would have to be work in a commercial company, not a false government made job.

So, until they have worked for three years in a commercial firm they would have to borrow the money.

However, once they had “borrowed” a certain amount, say two thousand pounds, they would have to work on a government sponsored plan cleaning streets, cleaning graffiti, or mending roads. 

As this is a government sponsored job, this work would not only not count for their three years, but would only pay the statutory minimum wage. When they have paid the two thousand back they could start again, looking for a proper job, but once they were in hock up to two thousand they would have to work on the government sponsored scheme again.

Nobody would starve, the shirkers would forever be in hock and forever working it off, so would probably go back home, the genuine asylum seekers would probably find work and become a part of the fabric of our society.

Another idea I had was to charge non-English speaking people 50p out of any allowance they were entitled to for (up to) each A4 page (one or two sides) of any official information if not in English. 

This would (a) give the immigrant added incentive to learn English and (b) make it economically worthwhile for us to print it in 60 languages.

Ampers

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Beans to cup coffee machines

My coffee machine gave up the ghost and, after I have told you of my problems, I will treat you to a wonderful story of an efficient British company who know what the Internet is all about and what people expect of a company selling on the Internet.

Three years ago I purchased a Gaggia ‘beans to cup’ coffee machine (£725) from Fenwicks of Brent Cross. I managed to negotiate them down to £575.

However, after a few weeks it went wrong and I had to package up this huge, and heavy, machine and return it to Gaggia’s UK depot. They flatly refused to exchange it, repaired it and sent it back. During the first year of guarantee it went wrong a further three times and each time Gaggia refused to replace it. Finally it worked OK but now, after three years, it has gone wrong again and I am so fed up with the company that I dumped it and looked for a replacement.

First of all I Googled for reviews of ‘beans to cup’ coffee machines and found a website called simply Coffee Machines . They advise but don’t actually sell the machines, although I suspect they may have some sort of deal with Amazon.

I looked through the manufacturers and decided on a De’Longhi. After going through the model numbers, I decided that the lowest priced machine which did everything I wanted was the ESAM5400 (£560).

Open letter to the Gaggia CEO:

Dear Sir,

I have just purchased a De’Longhi beans to cup machine. The reason your product wasn’t chosen was a logical one. i.e., I had bought one earlier and I have had a taste of the service your UK people offer. It may be good enough for your Italian customers but was found deplorable from an English point of view. I shall never purchase, or advise anyone to purchase, a Gaggia again.

Yours, not very sincerely,

Andrew Taylor.

I checked with John Lewis as I thought it would be convenient to take it back if it went wrong, but they only had two, one a cheaper model (£360) and another much more expensive at £860. Alas, they wouldn’t buy in the one I wanted as a one off.

I then checked Amazon and had a really pleasant surprise. They were selling this for £460, a hundred pounds cheaper. Great I thought, but I don’t like making a quick decision, so I searched the Internet and found a company in Devon called Paysan Limited who were selling this machine for £360. Wow I thought, this looks good, but being a wise seventy year old owl, I thought I would check them out by asking a question via email. Which I did. They actually rang up and put my mind at rest.

OK, I thought, they passed that hurdle so I’ll take a chance. After all £200 off seemed rather a lot from a £560 price, and also it was a hundred lower than Amazon. Maybe they charge a lot for delivery? No, delivery was free. Better and better I thought. Then I learned that they offer a two year warranty which pleased me no end, I can telly you!

So at 1:23 yesterday I placed the order (the PayPal invoice stated the time was 13:23:23) and was informed delivery would take up to five days. Reasonable, I thought, after all the delivery wasn’t an extra.

This morning I was rudely awakened by the DHL delivery van with my coffee machine. I certainly didn’t mind and anyway, the delivery guy was a fellow African and we share the same African sense of humour – and he is used to me taking deliveries in my dressing gown! But I was still amazed at such a quick service from Paysan!

Beans to cup machines are a little more complex to operate than ordinary household machines so it is worth reading the manual before even starting. There are things to do before making your first cup so don’t try any short cuts. It took us the best part of an hour to get acquainted with the machine, but after that the coffee came pouring out and was delicious. The next step is to acquaint ourselves with the cleaning as a lot of the insides need to be taken out and cleaned. A chore once a week or once a month depending on the make, but well worth it to keep the fantastic taste alive.

This machine can use coffee beans or ground coffee. You fill the water container, put the beans in the hopper one end and you are set to go. Once you have set it for your favourite settings, they are set until you change them so, to make a cup of coffee any-time, we just walk into the kitchen, put a cup underneath, press one button and by the time we get the milk out of the fridge, it is ready.

With ground coffee, just put a spoonful in the hopper and then follow the above.

We use both beans and ground coffee. Beans are used if we have a dinner party, but normally we use a very good strong ground coffee which we buy from I.K.E.A. (the furniture people) as they have a small supermarket by their checkout.

A 250 gram packet is £1.15. The nearest to that strength and quality in Tesco used to be £2.80 but it is probably more now.

When we want beans we usually go to the Algerian. They are, and have been in Old Compton Street since 1875. When I buy my coffee I describe the taste I am aiming at, they make up a blend which usually matches my request accurately.

If any reader would like to know more, my email address is somewhere in the right hand column.

Ampers

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Don’t be vague, ask for Hague

Yes, alas, I am old enough to remember the old Haig whisky adverts!

But this speech, by Hague, in parliament had me in stitches. Stand aside Jack Dee, stand aside Jasper Carrot, if William Hague turned his talents to being a stand-up comedian, you’d lose your position over night.

Make sure you are not holding a coffee, or anything with hot liquid in, and enjoy…

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