Archive for October, 2013

No Woman, No Drive

October 26, 2013

Full support to brave women in Saudi Arabia who today decided to take on the repressive, corrupt regime of the House of Saud.

And what did the brave women do? They drove their cars in a public display of defiance.

Muslim fundamentalists have attacked the women saying, the Koran forbids woman to drive a car.

Yeah right, and The Prophet drove around in a Mercedes.

Muslim fundamentalists call it a conspiracy by women.

It is not only the bastardisation of women in Saudi Arabia. The corrupt House of Saud are propping up the repressive regime in Bahrain, are responsible for much of the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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A sense of well-being

October 26, 2013
Brighton guitar shop

Brighton guitar shop

Brighton Infinity Foods Café

Brighton Infinity Foods Café

Sincil Street

Sincil Street

What makes one place better to live than another, what makes a viable High Street, what provides a sense of well-being?

The answers have been known for a long time, but we still focus on growth for growth’s sake.

In the US, each generation had a sense they were better off than the previous generation, but not any more.

Once people have progressed beyond a certain material level, where they are not starving, where they know they will keep warm, accumulation of stuff as an end in itself becomes pointless. In a finite world, it also has dire consequences.

When large corporations move into a town, they destroy. They have no sense of community. All that matters is profit on a balance sheet. They have low pay, poor working conditions, the classic McJob. The sense of place is destroyed when all towns look the same. Money is drained out of the local economy.

For a over a decade, New Economic Foundation has been publishing research on viability of town centres, on well-being.

More recently, Mary Portas has been saying the same thing on what makes a town centre viable.

Recently published research from the government, is also saying the same thing.

What therefore are they all saying, and why is no one listening?

We need variety, we need small businesses, we need sense of community, we need heritage, we need green space, we need art and culture.

When we look around, we can find places where this is a reality.

North Laine area of Brighton. Variety, individuality, heritage.

Sincil Street in Lincoln. A Victorian Street, though the street is much older, running parallel to the High Street, the street is a bustle from 10am until 4pm, more people on the street, than in the High Street. The High Street, Clone Town writ large, the same High Street Chains, as every other Clone Town. The one rare exception, Stokes on High Bridge, an indie coffee shop. Sincil Street has individuality, indie coffee shops, a couple of butchers, a baker, a market (though thanks to the crass stupidity of the City Council, the market is a shadow of what it once was), heritage, a sense of community. The City Council, rather than recognising the jewel in the crown in the City centre, has blighted Sincil Street, by earmarking for demolition for a shopping centre.

Market Rasen, a small Lincolnshire market town, has pulled itself up by its bootstraps by focussing on what matters: small shops, mutual support, community, cultural events. This has been achieved without any input from the local council, by local businesses, local people, working together in partnership.

To look at the opposite extreme, visit Aldershot and Farnborough on the Surrey-Hampshire border. Both towns have been trashed by crass planning decisions, a council in bed with developers and Big Businesses, to the detriment of the local community, a council that destroys heritage, a council that is practicing ethnic cleansing of local businesses, a council that has arrogant contempt for the local community.

Westgate Centre (Wastegate as local retailers call it), is ruining Aldershot town centre. The latest small business to close, was Paul’s Copy Shop on Thursday. He put the blame on the local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. As do all the other retailers who are suffering. There was once three copy shops in Aldershot, now there are none.

In Farnborough, planning consent has been given to destroy Firgrove Parade, destroying four local businesses (the few local businesses remaining in the town centre), and destruction of the only green space at the northern end of the town centre.

Planning consent granted to destroy the c 1720s Tumbledown Dick, a once popular live music venue, for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The green light given, we want to shift Farnborough downmarket, to increase the spiral of deprivation, drain money out of the local economy.

A 99p Store has now opened. A planning application has been lodged for an Adult Amusement Arcade, weasel words for a gambling den.

Not surprising, a sense of alienation, crime rates high, poor health high (especially obesity and type 2 diabetes). Those with the means, visit nearby towns, Farnham, Godalming, Guildford, anywhere other than Aldershot or Farnborough, or Farnburger, as it is now called.

Farnborough and Aldershot form case studies in how to destroy once viable town centres.

It will come as a surprise to most people to learn that in the 1950s and 1960s, Aldershot was seen as the place to visit. People came from Guildford to Aldershot. But that was before the ghastly shopping centre was built, ripping the heart out of the town, when Aldershot was still recognisable as a Victorian town.

High Street tax-dodgers

October 25, 2013
High Street tax-dodgers

High Street tax-dodgers

Of course Jersey has the right to say it isn’t a tax haven. Just as we’ve got the right to laugh at them when they do so. — Richard Murphy ‏

A joint investigation by Corporate Watch and The Independent has identified a number of High Street retailers who are exploiting a eurobond scam to avoid paying tax, which is costing the public purse at least £500 million per year.

High Street retailers identified, include Nando’s, Pizza Express, Café Rouge, BHS, Maplin, Office and Pets at Home. The companies all cut their taxable profits by borrowing at high interest from their owners through the Channel Islands Stock Exchange.

This has been raised in the House of Commons with David Cameron, he has refused to close the tax loophole.

David Cameron would rather wage class war on the poor and disabled with Bedroom Tax, cuts in welfare payments, cuts in disability payments, savage cuts to public libraries.

Once again, we see what David Cameron means when he says we are all in it together. It is just that some are more in it than others.

It is not only High Street retailer who are making use of this eurobond scam to avid tax. Corporate Watch and The Independent have also identified food companies making use of the same tax loophole: United Biscuits, which is behind major brands including McVitie’s, Penguin, Jaffa Cakes and Twiglets; Molson Coors, whose beers include Carling, Coors, Cobra and Miller; and Iglo Foods, which owns Birds Eye.

Upside-down management

October 24, 2013

If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that they will do a good job. — John Timpson

A common complaint of those at the bottom, is that those at the top, have not a clue what they are doing, though they claim all the credit and trouser a massive unlearned bonus when things go well, and often when they do not, and when things go wrong, blame those at the bottom, and yet still manage to pocket a massive bonus.

You cannot, at the top, run an organisation, as you would have to be all seeing and all knowing. That is why the Communist central control, planned economy, failed so abysmally.

Though it should be noted, that when things do go wrong, as with the banks, as with the Murdoch press, those at the top claim they did not know what is going on.

If control from the top fails, and in Argentina it spectacularly failed, with offshore owners fleeing the country with what they could steal from the business, leaving closed down factories.

If control from the top fails, why not try control from the bottom?

This is exactly what happened in Argentina. The workers scaled the factory gates and got the factories up and running, and did a far better job than the previous owners.

If it can happen in Argentina, why not elsewhere?

Let us look at a real life example.

Harris + Hoole is a chain of coffee shops, serving quality coffee. Unless you inquire a little deeper, you would not realises they were a chain, even less, 49% owned by Tesco. They do everything they can to have the look and feel of an indie coffee shop.

Well let us take this a step further, let them within certain parameters, operate as indie coffee shops. The only parameter would be the quality of the coffee. The role of the manager within the coffee shop, to ensure those working there got what they needed. And that customers were listened to.

They would order their coffee from head office, but be free to try other coffees, free to serve different coffees, for example to experiment with freddo cappuccino, as customers have advised would go down well in the summer. Free to extend their opening hours, free to organises live music, free to buy books to seed a BookCrossing zone.

The only restraint, apart from the quality of the coffee, would be to return a profit. But even then, if one year was bad, there may be a good reason, roadworks down the road and ways would be sought to mitigate.

Trust is important. No matter what systems you implement, staff will tell you ways to circumvent. Therefore do not bother. Do not impose systems that upset 98% of the good guys, to deal with 2% rotten apples. It is not cost effective.

Do away with point-of-sale information and point-of-sale tills. It generates useless data and justifies people in non-jobs

What role middle management, regional mangers? Basically none at least not in their current form.

Middle management to order people around. Nothing annoys people more, than some useless tosser who does not know what he is talking about, no experience of the job, ordering you what to do.

Middle management act as a filter between the boss and the workers, the boss is rendered clueless as to what is actually happening.

Middle management come up with dumb schemes. They do this to try and justify their existence and their over-inflated salaries, basically for doing nothing, often worse than nothing.

If we are to have middle management, their role would be drastically different. It would be to offer support for those at the bottom to do their job better.

Head office is now reduced to a handful of people as there is very little for them to do. Warren Buffet at head office has very few people.

One role of the head office is to visit the reaches of the empire, to see what is good is going on, see what people are doing, what do they need, what is best practice.

For example, the Harris + Hoole example, to provide not only quality training in coffee serving, but also about from where coffee is sourced, roasting, trips to roasters, maybe even trips to the countries from where the coffee is sourced. Why fairtrade, direct sourcing, organic, is important.

Dissemination of information.

What works in one coffee shop, may work elsewhere, it may not. They learn about it, are free to try it if they wish, but are under no obligation/

Pie in the sky?

Actually please note this is how Timpson shoe repair shops are run. Each shop free, within reason, to run as they please.

If a child walks into a shop, has not got quite enough money to have their keys cut, do you turn them away and lose the business? In a top-down businesses, the answer would be yes. In a Timpson, the guy running the shop, has the freedom to decide.

They can even settle claims, up to £500, without reference to anyone else.

The scheme at Timpson was put into place by John Simpson, grandson of the founder who founded Timpson shoe shops in the 1860s. He is now the chairman, and his son is running the businesses.

Contrast this with Oxfam and British Heart Foundation charity shops. Point-of-sales till, sales targets, useless information fed to head office, regional managers cruising around in company cars want to know if sales targets are met, if not why not. The only people best placed to determine the prices in the shops, are the volunteers working in the shops. If your books are £2-50 in a deprived area and the RSPCA charity shop across the road is selling the same books at 50p, then you are not going to sell many books. If your clothes are more expensive than Primark or Asda. If your CDs are more expensive than the local second-hand record shop.

Robbery at Guildford Station

October 24, 2013
grey-hoodie

grey-hoodie

grey-hoodie

grey-hoodie

Tuesday lunchtime, on Guildford Station, a youth in a grey hoodie, decided to order something from the little Xpress coffee kiosk and walk off without paying.

He probably thought he could get away with it. He did not take account of the oriental girl (Thai or Filipino) running the kiosk.

She shot out of the kiosk, chased him into the waiting room behind the kiosk.

Fearing for her safety, I followed on her heels, to find her haranguing the guy, demanding he pay her. He was swigging from a beer can, and ignored her.

I advised her to back off, and her and colleague to call the Police, and said I would go and talk to the station staff, and ask they called in station security and the British Transport Police.

We had ten minutes before a train pulled in, or at least before it left.

As I spoke with the station staff, I could see grey-hoodie was now out of the waiting room, on the platform, smoking and spitting on the platform.

As I headed back, I met the oriental girl heading my way. I said we needed to go back onto the platform, keep an eye on grey-hoodie.

Now there was a member of station staff on the platform. He ordered grey-hoodie to stop smoking (he had lit up another cigarette). I said, I was worried he would escape on the in-coming train, as no sign of police or security. He said no, if necessary, they would hold the train.

Photos taken of grey-hoodie, though I hope also recorded on CCTV.

Talking to the girl, who was slim and five foot in height at best, I said what she did was very brave and I was very impressed, but also maybe foolish as she had put herself at great risk.

Her response was, if I had let him get away with it, he would have tried it again.

The very least, she deserves a commendation for her action.

By the time the train pulled in, 1325 slow train Farncombe, Godalming then onto Haslemere and possibly Portsmouth, there was many people on the platform. Not a single one went to this plucky girl’s aid.

As the train pulled in, several police officers turned up. They spoke to me, I had boarded the train, as the doors were about to close and the train ready to leave. They asked to interview me. I said no, I said I had taken pictures, the girl had my contact details, please speak to her.

Share when you see a word

October 24, 2013
Share when you see a word

Share when you see a word

It took me a while to suss what was going on or what I was supposed to see or do.

When you have sussed it, please share with your friends, and ask them to do the same. But please do not tell.

I’ve seen some weird shit

October 23, 2013
I've seen some weird shit

I’ve seen some weird shit

Alice discusses her strange adventures.

Many thanks to Annie, Elaine, Keelan and H.

Top Story in Adriene’s Literary List (Thursday 24 October 2013),

Top Story in The Ana Valdés ‏Daily (Thursday 24 October 2013).

Farnburger

October 23, 2013
Farnburger twinned with McDonald's

Farnburger twinned with McDonald’s

Farnburger, The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, twinned with McDonald’s.

Excellent subvert, for the McTown of Farnburger.

Three weeks ago, the McCouncil of Rushmoor, granted planning permission to demolish The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

Lunch at Café Mila

October 23, 2013

theatre 8pm Friday 25 October 2013

vegetable soup

vegetable soup

coffee cake

coffee cake

coffee cake and fruit juice

coffee cake and fruit juice

tea and coffee cake

tea and coffee cake

Excellent vegetable soup.

A choice of stuffed butternut squash or stuffed mushroom. Last week I had stuffed butternut, therefore I chose the stuffed mushroom, but regretted my choice, I wish I had chosen the stuffed butternut squash.

I tried one of the fruit juices other than a zinger. It was very refreshing.

Coffee cake with a cup of tea.

New for Café Mila, theatre this coming Friday evening.

Top Story in In the World of Tea – Teasion (Saturday 26 October 2013).

Live music at Harris + Hoole

October 22, 2013
live music

live music

The problem was, I had to be in three places at once, I had hoped to make the last hour, maybe the last half hour. I probably would have made the last half hour, were it not for a thunderstorm.

A female singer, a guy on a guitar, both solo and as a duet. They were reasonable, had potential practice, practice practice.

Individual tracks and work in progress, soundcloud. Albums, bandcamp.

WordPress blog, twitter, and absolute must.

MySpace, spotify, iTunes, Amazon, no way.

Think you need a record label, well actually you do not, but if you really must, Any and All Records.

A must read: The 360 Deal, Rock and Roll is Dead, Music in the Digital Age.

I was told ten year old kids singing earlier.

Three irritating females, who decided it was ok to talk at the tops of their voices. Either you have the courtesy to listen to performers, or not, they obviously not, but then why be there?

Harris + Hoole have occasional live music in the evening.