Notepad on Life

August 26, 2017

Two things that damn Britain, conveniently eclipsed this week

Filed under: business,Consumer,politics,Religion — - @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , , ,
Pic courtesy of Claudio Sepúlveda Geoffroy

Maybe this is why we fixate on the mundane interaction of planets.

Because no-one’s re-creating 1930s Germany up there.

No-one’s making a mockery of ‘rest in peace’ up there, just so that businessmen can get to their destination 15 minutes faster than previously.

And while no-one’s saying that eclipse specs are stylish, they’re still a better look than holding your nose.


December 29, 2016

I want your best quote, insurer, not your opening gambit

Filed under: business,Consumer,Finance,Motoring — - @ 1:25 pm

pic courtesy of Gerry Balding

“Sorry to hear that, Mr ********. Can I just ask why you’re cancelling your cover with us?”

“Yes: the renewal quote you sent me was undercut by another firm by 38 pounds. I’ve taken out cover with them instead.”

“Oh…right…Actually, it’s a shame you didn’t get in touch with us first, because we could have probably undercut that, depending on whether any circumstances had changed.”

“But how’s that? You’d already sent me a renewal quote. I assumed that was your best offer.”

“Weeeell…not necessarily…”


Now, I’m not so naive as to have been completely taken aback by this conversation, when renewing my car insurance recently. What did surprise me is the way no attempt was made to mask or even obscure another painful truth about the financial services sector. You know, the sector whose TV ads are often based on the premise that they are your best friends.

Those renewal quotes aren’t their best offer, after all. Just the most they think they can get away with.

Which  is what friends are all about, of course.

December 4, 2016

Dear Amazon – a way out of this crapstorm…

Filed under: business,Consumer — - @ 1:48 pm

20982664928_d04c87d2a7_mAs one of journalism’s  hardy annuals – working conditions at Amazon – makes its latest re-appearance, it would be easy to sit back and hurl mud at a nice big, juicy target.

No such knee-jerk opportunism here, though. In a bid to be fair to all sides, I simply suggest that adding the following delivery options to the Amazon order form would empower the customer, suggest a company that takes criticism on board and allow all of us to stay true to whatever level of compassion we possess. Sorted.


In light of media reports on Amazon’s expectations of its staff, please execute my order in accordance with the following instructions:  

blank-square More power to you. I’m only disappointed there was no mention of whips and electrodes to speed things along. I’d like my delivery yesterday, because as you suits are always saying, there’s no such word as “can’t”, right?

blank-square I’m not saying the super-fast service isn’t great but, well, I have a conscience, you know. This stuff doesn’t sit well with my Amnesty membership. Just get it to me within five working days and we can all stay friends.

blank-square On the-clock bowel movements? Seriously? I nearly choked on my spliff. This is way too heavy, man, so I’m reaching out to my brothers and sisters at the coal face. Fifteen days will be cool. Now please; y’all just breeeaathe and smell the freakin’ roses.

blank-square I am [delete as appropriate] (a) a trade union leader, (b) heavily into old-timey mail-order shopping, or (c) of the opinion that companies worth £200bn have some wiggle-room when it comes to chilling the hell out. I allow 28 days for delivery. 

[pic courtesy of Damian Gadal]

May 17, 2016

Movie genres can leave you short on credibility

Filed under: business,Cinema — - @ 10:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

All right, so sub-prime mortgages may not be prime cinematic material, and some people may regard the trigger for even a global depression as being about as interesting as the reproductive cycle of anteaters.

Nevertheless, I was crestfallen. Having just watched The Big Short – the film of Michael Lewis’ book on those very topics – marvelled at the ease with which Steve Carell switches from comedy to a serious role and come away thinking that not even Wall Street was this good, I messaged a friend in LA to ask if he’d seen it.

He’s a lawyer, an MBA, and has run numerous businesses in his time. Surely he too will have been buzzing at this tour de force of financial intrigue?

“We started to watch it but it started off so slowly we got bored with it to be honest,” came the reply. “I might give it another go…”

I suddenly felt a little pathetic.

On the positive side, it was a lesson learnt, I suppose, on the need to be selective when going public with your enthusiasm. There might be a certain free-spirited cachet to being the only guy in the room who likes a movie about war or the Mob but when it’s about credit default swaps and the housing market, you look more like the bloke who drinks on his own a lot.

Oh well; make of me what you will…



September 6, 2014

One size does NOT fit all, business people: use your brain…

Filed under: business,Travel — - @ 12:11 pm
Tags: ,
Just had an accommodation confirmation email from This is what happens when you run your business to a strict template, divorced from human touches like common sense and proportionality:

“It’s time to get excited about your trip to Motherwell!”

Really? I’m tempted to book a room in Chernobyl just to see if this lunacy gets any worse.

And before any Motherwellians grumble, I would have laughed just as much had the reference been to my own home town, which is neither Malibu, Sydney, nor Gstaad.

July 10, 2013

Lawyers ask all the wrong questions

Filed under: business — - @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , ,
Great Old House

Great Old House (Photo credit: santanartist)

All those questions the buyer’s solicitor raises when a house is being sold.

Page after page. Drains, boundary disputes, troublesome neighbours. Yet nowhere in all that interrogation do they ask about the good stuff.

“Please confirm that there is a creak in one of the stairs so unfailing  that it will eventually acquire a soothing, reassuring tone, as if it were the heartbeat of the house.”

“Please advise how often  the buyer will stop in the hallway at the height of summer and marvel anew at how 19th century houses stay so cool at their core, even on the hottest days of the year.”

“Please confirm how many times a year our clients are likely to sit in the garden, feel the day’s heat subside gently around them, enjoy scent from the flowers, music and laughter from a barbecue five doors away and come to the conclusion that these moments alone are pretty much worth the entire purchase price of the property.”

But then maybe it’s more fun that we discover these things for ourselves.

May 2, 2013

Lying from the outset – ever wondered why you need a dating agency…?

Filed under: business,Relationships — - @ 1:05 pm
Tags: ,

Finally, I called their bluff, all those firms sending me Meet single 50s in your area spam.

Scanning my available, er, peer group, I realised that anyone doing this for real will need a standard email template on hand if he is not to be driven to the edges of madness:

Dear ……,

Thank you for your application.

Fifty-… my backside. Goodbye.


AndImBradPitt, Cambridgeshire

March 27, 2013

“And how far up our own rear ends do you see us being in 10 years’ time…?”

Filed under: business,Education,school — - @ 9:00 am

A friend is ecstatic and rightly so.

Bucking the trend of graduate unemployment with some style, her daughter has secured a position that is hers the moment she graduates this summer.

Amid the congratulations, however, there is one slightly jarring note. She was apparently interviewed by a group of no fewer than five people.

For a teaching job at a primary school.

Interview panel or ego trip?

You decide…

September 19, 2012

African strikes sound better than ours

Filed under: business,foreign — - @ 8:50 am

It’s a very minor footnote in a very serious issue but as Older Son and I watched TV news coverage of the South African miners’ strike, he drew my attention to how good the striking mine workers sounded as they sang their songs during a protest march.

“If you’re going to strike, that’s how you want to sound,” he suggested.

You can hear a sample at the 15s mark in the following clip and I have to say I take his point. How lame does ‘What do we want…?’ suddenly seem in comparison?

The protest went from the moving to the mad not long afterwards, as we watched the strikers, most brandishing sticks or machetes, shuffle towards their destination. Suddenly, there appears in shot one miner who either can’t run to a machete or else is trying to make a class statement.

He is waving – I kid you not – what looks suspiciously like a 5-iron…

September 10, 2012

More corporate bilge – Mars

Filed under: business,Consumer,food,Health — - @ 9:00 am
Mars (chocolate bar)

Mmmmm, feel the health… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I can understand Mars wanting to keep a discreet distance between themselves and Scotland’s beloved fried Mars Bar – although Oscar Wilde’s line about there being no such thing as bad publicity springs to mind – one wonders what the point is, when the way they go about it leaves them wide open to ridicule.

“No application for a protected geographical indication has been filed to date,” sniffed the company’s nameless ‘spokesperson, when asked about a request for EU protected status by the fish and chip shop that claims to be the delicacy’s spiritual home.

“Should an application be filed, unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to support it as deep-frying one of our products would go against our commitment to promoting healthy, active lifestyles.”

Earth to Mars, Earth to Mars: you make chocolate bars, for crying out loud. What ‘commitment’ would that be, exactly? Unless this is a belated attempt to justify the way in which we all get a lot less Mars Bar for a lot more money these days, compared to the chunky slab of the 1970s.

Britain being the paranoid, bureaucracy ridden mess it is nowadays, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s all been taken care of with a piece of paper. The fish bar must now display a disclaimer on its walls. And on the menu. And tattooed on the proprietor’s right buttock. All right, I made that last bit up.

“I suspect Mars is concerned that the deep-frying of its products is not in line with its policy of promoting a healthy lifestyle and it is keen to take steps to protect its own brand,” said an intellectual property lawyer.

Yet if ‘protecting the brand’ entails making its custodians look like yet another bunch of pathetic, twitchy corporate nitwits, the overall gain is where, exactly?

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