Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Some of the emails I get sent are priceless and simply have to be published on my blogs. If you are, shall we say ... of a certain age, then you too will identify with this.

And we never had a whole Mars bar until 1993"!!! 

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank Sherry while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos...
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, bread and dripping, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can ... and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.
Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos.
Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on a Sunday, somehow we didn't starve to death!
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers and Bubble Gum.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter, milk from the cow, and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, nor 999 channels on SKY, no video/DVD films, or colour TV, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

Friday, 16 December 2011


This was recently sent to me and it is worth reading the contents because this scam can be used against any of us. 

I bought a bunch of stuff, over £150, & I glanced at my receipt as the cashier was handing me the bags. I saw a cash-back of £40. I told her I didn't request a cash back & to delete it. She said I'd have to take the £40 because she couldn't delete it. I told Her to call a supervisor. Supervisor came & said I'd have to take it.. I said NO! Taking the £40 would be a cash advance against my Credit card & I wasn't paying interest on a cash advance!!!!! If they couldn't delete it then they would have to delete the whole order. So the supervisor had the cashier delete the whole order & re-scan everything! The second time I looked at the electronic pad before I signed & a cash-back of £20 popped up. At that point I told the cashier & she deleted it. The total came out right. The cashier agreed that the Electronic Pad must be defective.

Obviously the cashier knew the electronic pad was defective because she NEVER offered me the £40 at the beginning. Can you imagine how many people went through before me & at the end of her shift how much money she pocketed?

 Just to alert everyone. My co worker went to Milford , Sainsburys last week. She had her items rung up by the cashier. The cashier hurried her along and didn't give her a receipt. She asked the cashier for a receipt and the cashier was annoyed and gave it to her. My co worker didn't look at her receipt until later that night. The receipt showed that she asked for £20 cash back. SHE DID NOT ASK FOR CASH BACK!

 My co-worker called Sainsburys who investigated but could not see the cashier pocket the money. She then called her niece who works for the bank and her niece told her this. This is a new scam going on. The cashier will key in that you asked for cash back and then hand it to her friend who is the next person in the queue.

 Please, please, please check your receipts right away when using credit or debit cards!
 This is NOT limited to Sainsburys; they are one of the largest retailers so they have the most incidents.
 I am adding to this. My husband and I were in Sainsburys and paying with credit card when my husband went to sign the credit card signer he just happen to notice there was a £20 cash back added. He told the cashier that he did not ask nor want cash back and she said this machine has been messing up and she canceled it. We really didn't think anything of it until we read this email.

 I wonder how many "seniors" have been, or will be, "stung" by this one????



Thursday, 24 November 2011


This morning I saw an excellent advert on TV from Lego. Now my 6 year old boy loves lego. He'll sit there for hours putting the little bricks together, sometimes building meaningful models, other times just building a wall or laying them out in colours. Whenever we're up town he always wants to go to the Lego shop to see the latest Harry Potter or Star Wars model. Up until this morning, I wondered why the little plastic bricks were so expensive and how can they justify the prices they are demanding for their kits. (The Harry Potter nightbus will cost £25 for example and the Star Wars Millenium Falcon is approximately £130) After all, they are just plastic bricks aren't they? 

But, this morning, I saw their latest advert - It brought home to me in a very good example of selling benefits rather than features.  A message where they have positioned their brand correctly and at the right place.  One where price becomes irrelevant and they can demand alot more for the value that they are offering. It's a very strong message, that Lego aren't just selling plastic bricks, but their selling an experience.

Take a look at the advert, it's shown on my blog click here to view it and then think about how you could position yourself, your business and your brand in this manner so that you can charge what you are worth.
As always, If I can help with anything, please give me a call 

Trevor Nicholls

01908 760800

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


This is a scam that is believed to have been passed on by the Police regarding a call people have reported receiving form someone claiming to be a 'representative' of British Telecom, informing them that because of an unpaid bill they must make an immediate credit card payment of £31.00 to avoud a reconnection charge later of £118,00. The scam caller doesn't flinch when people have told him they are not with BT, and merely claims that other companies have to pay BT a percentage for line rental!

When one person asked the guy's name - he gave the very 'English' John Peacock with a very 'African' and a the a rogue phone number SIMILAR to the genuine BT Business freephone number.
Obviously the fellow realized his story wasn't being believe, so offered to demonstrate that he was from BT. He was asked how? The call recipient was told to hang up & try phoning someone - and he would disconnect their phone to prevent this. AND HE DID !!

The phone was dead - no engaged tone, nothing - until the caller phoned again. Very pleased with himself, he asked if that was enough proof that he was with BT. The unsuspecting person asked how the payment was to be made and he said credit card, there and then.

The person that was called said that he didn't know how he'd done it, but had absolutely no intention of paying him, because he didn't believe his name or that he worked for BT. Not surprisingly, the caller hung up. The person who had received the call dialled 1471 - number withheld, so then phoned his fictitious 0800 number - this was not recognized; so he next called the police to let them know. I wasn't the first! It's only just started apparently, but it is escalating.

The police advice was to let as many people as possible know of this scam. The fact that the phone does become disconnected may probably convince some people that the caller is genuine but it's not.

This is how it is done: This is good but not that clever. The caller gave the wrong number - the genuine number to get through to BT Busines is 0800 800 152 (but the scammer added another '0' before the second '800'). The process of 'cutting off' the line is very simple. The caller stays on the line but presses the mute button on his phone which prevents you from dialling out - but the scammer can still hear you trying (because the person who initiates a call is the one that needs to terminate it). When you stop trying he cuts off and immediately calls you back. You could almost be convinced!

The sad thing is that it is so simple that it will certainly fool the elderly and vulnerable and the BT claim is being used - not to get the cash from you - but to obtain your credit card details and security number so that it can be used to make larger purchases.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


I was talking to somebody a few days ago about Hong Kong and wanted to relate three amazing occurrences that took place during one of my many visits to the former Crown Colony. Each concerns the incredible memory capabilities of some of the local Chinese that I encountered. Considering how we Gweilos (white devils) must all look similar I fail to understand how I managed to remain in their memories.

The first instance occurred in 1989 when I arrived in Hong Kong for the first time as part of our honeymoon. On that first visit we went to an area known as 'The Lanes' in the Central district on Hong Kong Island and bought a lovely Suzie Wong dress for my wife. She has never worn it - but that's another story. About six years later we managed to locate the dress stall with some difficulty; as we wanted to buy a similar dress for one of my wife's friends. To our amazement the stall owner immediately recited day and date when we had bought the first dress as well as the size and the colour. He also recalled that we had been on our honeymoon. To this day we cannot explain this.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


Ten years ago this week, we witnessed the loss of thousands of lives during the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

As Muslims we look back with sadness at what happened on September 11, 2001, it was undoubtedly an evil and criminal act of monstrous proportion. Muslims the world over have nothing to do with such an act of hate and destruction that drove the 9/11 bombers. Our prayers today are for the three thousand innocent lives lost, and thousands of other innocent men, women and children who have since lost their lives elsewhere as a result of the senseless wars unleashed in its wake.

On this anniversary, we recall with regret that this attack has been used to falsely accuse our cherished religion of Islam – a religion of humanity, being a target of irrational anger and hate, setting a global course of retaliatory action with little respect for human life, national sovereignty and rule of law. Terrorism is a crime and the perpetrators are not representatives of any faith, colour or race.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years but one thing remains the same: ordinary Muslims have continued to live by the values that have always made them decent, hard-working and community-oriented citizens. These were the values shown at the recent riots, where Muslims joined with people of all faiths and none to restore normality in our communities.

It has been a sad decade but has ended with grounds for optimism. It began with wars, more terror and even more lives lost. But it ended with Muslims in the Arab world demanding peace, democracy and the freedom to live their lives without fear and intimidation. The Arab Uprising was the best repudiation to the terrorists of 11 September 2001.

As we express our sympathy and solidarity to the families of all those who have lost their lives and suffered in 9/11 and since, let us honour their memory by rejecting the divisive agendas and placing our faith on our cherished values of global justice, freedom, and equality. We must redouble our efforts to achieve enduring solidarity amongst our diverse communities.

The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK's largest Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
For further information please contact the MCB:

The Muslim Council of Britain 
PO Box 57330
London,E1 2WJ
Tel:  0845 262 6786   
Fax: 0207 247 7079 

Friday, 2 September 2011


This is a most concerning book that every airline passenger should consider - but will be afraid to read. The contents should make anyone think twice before taking a seat on a commercial airliner and it certainly will force many passengers to be more discerning over their choice of carrier particularly if the culture exposed in the book is taking place elsewhere.

John Warham's account of the pressures his employer, Cathay Pacific Airways, had imposed on their pilots shows how absolutely deplorably the CX management behaved. The book clearly defines just how the 'number crunchers' dictated that commercial considerations should override flight safety issues and the welfare of Cathay's loyal employees and customers.

I was once proud to be a Cathay Pacific regular flyer's club Gold Card member during the period covered by the book. In fairness the airline looked after me superbly well but most passengers could not have known about what was really going on behind the scenes. I had been aware of the action taken by the cabin crews and later heard about the pilot dispute that ultimately led to the dismissal of the 49ers in 2001, but I never knew any of the details. Perhaps this was because at no time was I ever inconvenienced and the airline did a wonderful job of deliberately keeping their customers in the dark over the causes of the dispute, at least in the UK. I was invited on to the flight deck on several occasions but there was never any talk or indication of any pilot unrest and as far as I was aware, despite accusations from their management to the contrary, the pilots only ever demonstrated that they had the company's interests at heart. I only learnt about the reasons behind the pilots concerns in John Warham's book. As far as passengers were concerned - it was business as usual and Cathay Pacific certainly did a great job to paint a reputable picture of their airline to customers, although it seems from the evidence contained in this book, they were stretching the truth.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn. The BBC is interchanging footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of roiling infernos that were once shops and houses in Croydon and in Peckham. Last night, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Wood Green were looted; there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries, and it will be a miracle if nobody dies tonight. This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s inner cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox, and on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

Read the full story on Penny Red's Blog


The most poignant scene that came out of the dreadful violence of the last week has been the highly emotive and dignified speech made by Tariq Jahan, the father of Haroon, one of the three men senselessly mowed down in Winson Green, who called for sanity and to urge people not to seek revenge for the tragic events that resulted in his son's death. We must all learn something from this. 

The rioting that occurred across our nation has been dreadful and can never be condoned in any way.  We must make every effort to ensure that the scenes we witnessed in Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Tottenham and many other parts of the country, including some that never made the headlines, will never be repeated. In view of the scope and extend of the violence it is a miracle that so few have been killed or seriously injured but hundreds have become the innocent victims of indiscriminate vandalism and arson that cannot be tolerated.
The debates will continue long into the future and differences of opinion will prevail over the causes of the shocking devastation and the ways that we should be dealing with mindless acts of violence. But the rioting that took place has long been expected and there have been plenty of warnings that civil unrest of this magnitude had been festering just beneath the surface for some considerable time. Community leaders from areas that are particularly vulnerable have been telling the authorities of this but as usual nobody was prepared to take any notice. 

Monday, 18 July 2011


The idea of floating airports has been around for a very long time in one form or another and   some still believe the idea could provide a solution to a region’s air traffic problems. Here I look at the history of the Seadromes concept and how they continue to be a consideration.

Below: Diagram for the proposed floating airport near Schipol

In July 2007 various publications reported a two-year old proposal by a far-thinking Encinitas, California lawyer who was attempting to revive the idea of offshore floating airports. The company he formed, Ocean Works Development planned to build a 2000 acre platform, costing US$20 billion, 10 miles off the San Diego coast at a point where the Pacific is 350 to 1000 metres deep. The idea was the brainchild of Cambridge educated Adam Englund who intended to install a superstructure in the style of a massive oil rig, with a pair of unobstructed runways. Englund claims to have gathered a team of forty collaborators consisting of ‘pilots, naval architects, maritime engineers and finance types’ to support the project known as O-Plex 2020. The elaborate plans include the main landing platform above four dedicated decks to provide hotels, shops, restaurants, conference centre, research facilities – even a university. The structure has been devised to offer real estate space covering an area of 200 million feet².  The idea was fired by the San Diego Airport Authority’s failure to find a suitable site to build a new land based airport.  At the time Englund said: “the offshore option is the best and apparently the only viable one for San Diego.” A number of experts agreed that the plan was workable, among them an oceanographer who believed ‘a floating airport is every bit as achievable as putting a man on the moon.’ The project of course also has its critics who consider the idea to be more delusionary than visionary.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


It was announced yesterday that the number of unemployed has dropped yet those claiming Job Seekers' Allowance has increased. This sounds like a bit of a conundrum to me and suggests this is another attempt by the Government to cover up the truth. Do they really know how many people are now unemployed? I don't think so, and this is because thousands will either not be claiming Job Seekers' Allowance or, more to the point, they no longer qualify. This includes plenty of well qualified middle-aged men and women who are being ignored by employers yet are unable to claim Job Seekers' Allowance once they have been out-of-work for more than a year. 

I believe employers are largely to blame for the high number of professional people who cannot find work. Ageism, in spite of legislation devised to prevent it, is still rife and it easy to use any of many excuses to mask the real reason for dismissing a job application. The majority of unemployed senior people will concur with this view and will be familiar with 'too experienced', 'the standard of applicants was extremely high' or 'you do not quite match our requirements' as being tantamount to being 'too old'. But there is another issue. Experience usually comes with age and this means that thousands of extremely capable people are being by-passed by companies because of a fear factor. The chances are that when an experienced older person applies for a job his or her application will be scrutinised by somebody much younger. A more experienced applicant can present a challenge to  less experienced employers that could create a situation that undermine their authority. This may be intentional or psychological - but often those that short list job applicants feel it may be better to cast aside anyone that could pose such a threat. There is evidence of this all around. We only need look at just one aspect of business - that of customer service - to see how poor it has become in many organisations. It is my belief that this is because the leadership in many companies is appalling and that many of the people they employ lack the experience or training to do their jobs properly.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Alex Hay, the former golf professional, BBC golf commentator for 26-years, author, artist, raconteur and former managing director of Woburn Golf & Country Club. 

Alex’s banter with Peter Alliss and his special brand of humour and extremely entertaining after-dinner speaking was legendary and his knowledge and skilful broadcast deliveries led to him being known as the ‘voice of golf’.Born in Edinburgh in 1933 Alex was educated at Musselburgh Grammar School and took a job as an apprentice golf club maker before becoming assistant professional at Potters Bar Golf Club. He went on to become the club professional at East Herts, Dunham Forest and Ashridge before moving to Woburn where he shone, eventually becoming managing director, a post he held until his retirement. 

I was privileged to know Alex, his wife Ann and son David very well and had huge respect for him in a personal as well as a professional capacity. He generously helped my business to progress enormously and his personal recommendation was instrumental in my long-term appointment as official photographer to the Dunhill British Masters Tournament. I admired his wit and even though I had heard most of his stories many times over they were nevertheless always delivered with great candour, laughter and timing. Many of his golfing tales are recalled in his excellent autobiographical book Ripening Hay (Partridge Press 1989)

Alex was 78 and had been suffering from pancreatic cancer. My sincere thoughts are with Ann, David and his other son, Graham at this difficult time.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Well done Paul Scholes for making public what the majority of football fans have believed for a very long while. In a Sunday Telegraph interview today the retired Manchester United star who last played for England in 2004 said "I got fed up" and went on to criticise some of the prima donnas of the squad by adding "When you are going to a team, and you want to be a part of a team and playing well, and there are individuals who are after personal glory ... when there is a simple pass of 10 yards, they will do things to try and get themselves noticed". He used Jamie Carragher as an example after he admitted it mattered more to him to lose for Liverpool than it did for England.


While wandering around the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (the worlds largest) last week I met Mr and Mrs Messina a charming couple who had invented a simple, yet highly effective, device known as the Slug Bell. This is a cheap, low cost and attractively colourful little gadget that is used to 'feed' slugs with deadly pellets to rid them from your garden. 

The Slug Bell was designed as a safe, environmentally friendly and efficient way of keeping toxic slug pellets out of reach of animals and children and was devised after Mike Messina had become ill after eating part of a slug pellet that had remained on a lettuce that had been thoroughly washed several times. 

With prices ranging from £8.49 to £9.99 the all-metal Slug Bell represents excellent value for money. The product consists of a simple spike that is placed into the ground that contains a small mesh feeder partway up the spike that is used to bait the slugs. Pellets are placed in the bowl and the hungry slugs, attracted by the odour given off from the pellets, have no trouble climbing the spike to devour the bait. A small bell-shaped hood, available in an array of patterns and colours to blend in with your garden, is then placed on top of the spike to hide the slug pellets from prying pets and children and to provide protection from the rain. 

Slug Bells are already in use in the gardens at Highgrove and Mike Messina proudly showed me a letter sent to him by a member of HRH Prince Charles's staff praising the value of the products. Mike has also been interviewed by researchers from the 'Dragon's Den' programme.

Slug Bells can be purchased on line from the manufacturers.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


A few years ago I was privileged to be invited by Red Bull to a wine tasting at my favourite Thai restaurant, the impressive Blue Elephant in Fulham Broadway. It was organised to promote Monsoon Valley Wines that are produced in Thailand by the Siam Winery owned by Red Bull. Until then the thought of drinking wine made in Thailand went somewhat against the grain. But then, why should it? The winemaker had a fine French pedigree, and coincidentally had worked for a friend of mine, the wonderful chef Peter Chandler, owner of Paris House restaurant in Woburn who sadly died two years ago. 

The extreme temperatures of the Thai climate means vines can be grown with a high concentration of fruit. These are produced in two areas; in the hills around the coastal town of Hua Hin and on floating vineyards near to Samut Sokorn, 30 miles from Bangkok, in the Chao Phraya Delta on the Gulf of Thailand. The local grape varieties are Malaga Blanc and Pokdum - the latter, when blended with Shiraz and Black Muscat produces an excellent red. The wines, produced by the Siam Winery, are not at all bad and are an admirable compliment to spicy Thai food.  The wines are available in many Thai restaurants and I suggest that you give them a try if you want to be suitably impressed.

This brings me conveniently to another story that I became aware of this week  with the announcement that Moët and Chandon has invested in 163 acres of farmland at Ningxia, a region of China located south of the Mongolian steppe and Gobi Desert.  This is one of the poorest areas of China but the renowned Champagne producers will be bring added benefits to the economy by planting Pino Noir and Chardonnay vines that will produce China's first traditional method sparkling wine. Wine experts have said that the terroir of Ningxia closely match that of Rheims, although the Yellow River flood plane is very different to the soft water of the Marne. The company has a purpose-built winery that is jointly owned with Ningxia Nongken a local state owned agriculture company. Planting is due to begin in April or May next year and the first wines will be ready in three years although they cannot be called Champagne as to lay claim to the name wines must be produced in this region of France. 

The Chinese drink about one million bottles of Champagne a year despite it being heavily taxed and the overall consumption of wine in the country more than doubled between 2005 and 2009 to over one billion bottles a year. Once available, the local brand will allow more Chinese to enjoy a quality sparkling wine and Moët believes that it will encourage new drinkers to progress through the range of sparkling wines to eventually invest in Champagne.  

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


It is interesting; I had an exchange on Twitter with Jack Schofield who describes himself as a 'tech journo who covered IT for The Guardian'. I told him that he had been largely responsible for my development as a writer. After writing this Tweet I paused for thought and began considering people who have had the most influence over the way my life has panned out.  

Jack had been the editor of a magazine called Photo Technique during the early 1970s at a time when I took the plunge to start my photography business. I had been exceptionally well trained as a wedding photographer by Ron Hayward, who managed Wilkin Studios in Enfield. Ron had become my mentor and friend and it was entirely due to him that I became a professional photographer.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Most people are capable of stringing words together to produce a reasonable piece of text but this does not necessarily mean that the copy they write is capable of reaching their targeted audience in the appropriate 'voice'. As we know, being able to communicate in the most effective way is often dependent on choosing the right words to persuade readers to react. When writing web content, key words embedded in the text are especially vital to optimise a site if it is to have any chance of being recognised by the search engines.

A fundamental mistake is that many writers fail to consider the needs of their audience. They tend to overload their text with references to I, me or we instead of addressing the reader by the second person pronoun - you.  This is symptomatic of DIY efforts by SMEs to create their own marketing communications - but they often unwittingly adopt a tunnel visioned approach caused by being too close to their business. Often they fail to distinguish the wood from the trees by not identifying the key features of their business that will be of most interest to their target audience. But writing about oneself is never easy. Trying to divorce yourself from your business ideals makes it almost impossible to write about it in an unbiased way. For this reason it makes perfect sense to employ a professional writer who, although speaking with your voice, will be able to put your messages across in a far more balanced way. 

Small and medium sized businesses frequently miss out on opportunities to gain good publicity by ignoring the potential that well-written press releases, newsletters and blogs have to offer. Businesses frequently have plenty of positive things happening within their organisations that, for one reason or another, they are not always conveying to their potential customers. Usually they are too busy or do not feel able to blow their own trumpet by conveying their good news in sharp, interesting and appropriately targeted marketing communications.  

Instead of missing the boat - most businesses can benefit by hiring a professional wordsmith to produce their written marketing communications.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


The football season is thankfully nearly over but what concerns me most is that there will be another one along very soon. It is a time for reflection and for the first time I am starting to doubt my sanity by bothering to get enthused as I anxiously await the next game.

I gave up watching England ages ago ... although I did try to become enthused during the World Cup but now it looks like Arsenal are going to be devoid of my support because I simply find them too frustrating to watch. I have been an ardent supporter of the Gunners for as long as I can remember. I went to my first game in 1958 when they beat West Bromwich Albion at Highbury 4-3. That day, Jackie Henderson scored twice for Arsenal, David Herd once and WBA put the other through their own net.  After that I didn't get to Highbury again until 1963-64 when my mate John Cochrane and I became old enough to go on our own. Previously my cousin Harry had taken me to Spurs but I was angry when, at the age of 11 my mother would not let me go to see them play Moscow Torpedo because it was a school night. Then, during the amazing 'double' season of 1960-61 I went with another cousin, Pete, and his mates during the days when we would need to queue at the schoolboys' entrance. However, my support for Arsenal never left me as I watched them suffer in the mid positions of the old First Division league table. On the night that Arsenal won the League Championship, ironically at Tottenham as the first stage of their 1970-71 'double' - I was unable to get in the ground and spent the evening with a girlfriend moping in a coffee bar in Tottenham High Road. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Along with other sports lovers everywhere I was saddened to learn of the death of Severiano Ballesteros at the age of just 54. He died from a brain tumour first diagnosed three-years ago. He was a terrific golfer, a professional's professional, and a truly great character. His passing will be a huge loss to golf and sport in general. 

I have my own fond memories of Seve. From 1986-1994 I was the official photographer for Dunhill at the British Masters Golf tournament held at Woburn Golf & Country Club. I met him for the first time in 1986 in the tent assigned to my team on the 1st tee at the ProAm event that preceded the main tournament. Seve had been teamed with Tim Brooke-Taylor, the former Goodie, who was naturally apprehensive about how his golf might stand up to scrutiny playing in the same foursome as the great master. Tim had cut his hand while searching for a ball during his warm up on the practice ground and as my wife applied first-aid to his injury they were filmed by TV cameras causing Tim further trepidation. Seve won the Masters that year and returned several times more, winning again in 1991. 


While tuned in to Radio 5 Live this morning as I slowly cruised through the M1 roadworks in south Bedfordshire, this weird little calculation was phoned in by another listener that I thought was worth sharing.

The roadworks has no connection to the story but is merely to set the scene and to emphasize that you can pick up the most useless pieces of trivia no matter where you happen to be! Apparently if you add the LAST TWO DIGITS of your date of birth to the age you will be NEXT birthday it will come to '101'. Now I tried this with several people I know and it was always correct. For example, if you were born on say 1 June 1961 you will be 50 next birthday. Add 61 to 50 - what do you get - 111. Peculiar isn't it?

I confess that I have not tested this out on more than a few people - so I will now sit back and wait to hear from anyone who can tell me that it doesn't work for them. I think it is interesting so please give it a try.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


I am quite certain this sort of thing happens to many hapless people and it is the sort of thing that you read about in the newspapers. What I cannot understand are the reasons why a few people feel they have the right to totally upset the equilibrium of other peace loving citizens by their selfish and hostile behaviour. It is the kind of thing we are used to seeing on The Jeremy Kyle Show when one family imposes will unfairly on another. But these aren't uneducated yobbos but adults who simply want to get their own way at everybody else's expense.

In this case I am of course referring to The Neighbour From Hell!

Sunday, 1 May 2011


Fallowfields Hotel and Restaurant has always had an excellent reputation for food and hospitality.

They have just announced the arrival of Shaun Dickens as Head Chef. Shaun's sparkling career has taken him to a Who's Who of Michelin starred restaurants; with three years at Oxfordshire’s own Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (two Michelin stars), two years at Per Se in New York (3 Michelin stars) and L’Ortolan (1 Michelin star) where he worked with Alan Murchison for the last two years. Additionally, he spent short periods with Gordon Ramsay in London and New York, Michelle Roux Junior at the Gavroche and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniels. In 2009 Shaun was a finalist of the Young Chef of the Year Competition, and in 2010 won the title for the South West Region and came 3rd overall nationally.

The world of Michelin seems open for Shaun, almost wherever he has chosen to go. So, why did he choose Fallowfields? "I am at a point in my career where I needed a project", says Shaun – "and Fallowfields, with its farm, orchards and kitchen garden, is a chef’s dream turned true. So when I saw Fallowfields was looking, I just knew this was the job for me". There was a sense of passion about Fallowfields that struck me when I first came, that matched my own – you could feel it - and with the passion that I as chef will bring, the future of Fallowfields is unlimited. The journey starts here, today the 26th April.

Anthony Lloyd, owner of Fallowfields commented: "This is an unparalleled opportunity for a good business to become a great business. We are food led and Shaun’s arrival has been anticipated with much excitement in the last few weeks. Right from the days when my wife Peta cooked in the kitchen on an Aga and we planted our vegetable garden and orchards and then starting the farm three years ago, Fallowfields has almost been sitting waiting for a talent like Shaun to come along to make it come alive".

Thursday, 10 March 2011


If you are considering going to India be very careful who you fly with especially if you intend to fly internally within the country. The rapid airline growth in India has apparently led to a pilot shortage but some have found their own way of solving the problem. 

According to The Times of India this week Captain(sic) Parminder Kaur Gulati was arrested in Delhi after causing damage to an Airbus A320 at Goa while flying an IndiGo Airlines. IndiGo is one of the sub continent's burgeoning companies but passengers onboard one of their company's aircraft would have been shocked to know that the woman pilot at the controls of their aircraft was in fact flying on a fake licence. The rapid 'explosion' in air travel in India could have been for real and it is probably m ore luck than judgement that a major disaster had not occurred. Captain Gulati, aged 38, had flown for the airline as a co-pilot since 2007 but she had failed her examination on air navigation and not turned up to take her paper on radio aids and instruments - vital if you are in charge of any aircraft especially one as sophisticated as an Airbus. Gulati was reported to have landed aircraft badly 10-15 times although this was denied by her employer. But she should have known better than to forge her licence because she is the wife of Indian police officer. She was found to have forged a mark-sheet to show that she had passed her exams when in fact she hadn't. The Director General of Civil Aviation in India who is meant to regulate the industry discovered that Gulati's commercial pilot's licence issued in January 2009 had been based on fake examination results. Her case might just be the tip of the chapatti because the DGCA is believed to be investigating two other similar cases. One of these is said to be another IndiGo pilot who was suspended from flying on Sunday, the second is said to work for MDLR Airlines.


To think that I voted for Cameron. But I am now left doubting my sanity and it is starting to dawn on me that very few politicians have a clue about what they are doing. His threats of imposing a 'no fly zone' over Libya is starting to mirror what that former war-monger, Tony Blair did in Iraq. 

By making all of these devastating cuts to our military capabilities, how can Cameron continue with the belief that Britain is a major military power capable of enforcing our will over other nations? It is time that we kept our dirty noses out of other people's battles more especially as we no longer have the muscle to back up our threats. Perhaps Cameron is starting to believe that he has been rather hasty in cutting our military's strength and prowess? 

I doubt if any of us are enjoying the events that are unwinding in Libya and Cameron was sabre rattling when he appeared on the BBC One Show  to tell the audience that "We have got to prepare for what we might have to do if he (Gaddafi) goes on brutalising his own people. I don't think we can stand aside and let that happen". Big words from a prime minister who has already committed to sacrificing our Armed Forces by sending out redundancy notices. It appears Cameron is attempting to rally other countries to his idea of preventing the bloodshed in Libya from continuing in much the same way as Blair had done over Iraq. We only need to look at that major blunder to see where this could all be heading. It is time that we started to mind our own business and stop committing what is left of our resources by poking our noses into the affairs of others. The main issue to consider here is that if Cameron enforces a no fly zone he will effectively be declaring war on Libya.  Maybe he should concentrate his mind on the growing problems of our own country instead of thinking about committing our depleted troops to yet another potential theatre of war that we simply cannot afford.

And, if we do commit, what is he going to send? We haven't got much of an Air Force left and we could have even less if Gaddafi was to shoot down some of our remaining aircraft. We have already seen one major cock-up after Hague sent in the SAS on a mission that nobody appears to have quite understood and he can count himself lucky that we got our men back after they had been captured. The last thing Britain needs is to become embroiled in another war.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Watching the BBC’s excellent Madagascar programme the other day reminded me of a visit a couple of years ago to Woburn Safari Park with a friend of mine who was making a film for the Bedford Estates. Part of this involved visiting the Lemurs. We were assured by the keeper that these sociable animals posed us no threats. Nevertheless we entered their enclosure with trepidation but we soon were made welcome by these interesting animals and within moments one had decided to jump onto my shoulder and proceeded to sit on my head. They really are the most amazing creatures, full of character and extremely inquisitive. 

We spent a good hour with these wonderful primates and they seemed to enjoy our company as they continued to climb on us and sit on our arms, legs and shoulders. But, as soon as the sun made a break through the winter haze they started to line up, outstretch their arms in unison as if performing some kind of ritual, and lap up the rays. Getting to know Woburn’s various kinds of lemur was a fascinating and rewarding experience.

Friday, 11 February 2011


I am at the end of my tether with Orange. Over the last few days I have been unable to receive any emails on my Broadband setup and I understand others are experiencing the same problem. This is the latest in a whole catalogue of complaints I have made to Orange over faults with their system over the last six months but it is difficult to move my service provider because I have to change so many resources including my Blackberry that are used to promote my email address. Last year the system kept emptying my inbox of all mail and then in their wisdom Orange has told me that I am on a 'pay as I go' account and, despite a week long exchange of emails, this still has not been resolved.

Calling the help line is a thorough waste of time and effort and I can feel my blood pressure rising.  If you call from a landline or mobile it can be expensive to boot just to get Orange to provide the service I am paying for. The call centre ... guess what ... is in India and without being accused of causing a racial issue, I have found that many of the operatives are extremely difficult to understand. Although I have been aware of other subscribers that are experiencing the same email problems, nobody at Orange is prepared to admit that anything is wrong. I have been told they will take 3-5 days to investigate the problem that they are not admitting exists, and when I explain that having no emails is like losing a limb they merely repeat over and over 'that they will investigate in the next 3-5 days' as if it had become their mantra. Yesterday I was prompted to ask whether I was actually talking to a person or robot, but the call centre operative missed the point and now, as we roll into the third day I am receiving spasmodic batches of emails during parts of the morning, things come to a grinding halt during the afternoon.  Now that the weekend is here I guess I will not even get this barrage of day-old correspondence.

I have resorted to writing several emails a day to customer support (now that is a joke!) using my msn connection but it takes the a day or more for Orange to respond and then all they will tell me is that they either have no record of my account (I had inherited Orange after Freeserve was taken over) or the engineers will be looking into the problem. As the same person never deals with an issue, for much of the time you have to go over what you have said previously.  I have written several letters to their CEO who hides behind his customer relations team, who delight in saying that the CEO does not read customer letters. Well he bloody well should as he might discover just how diabolical his company's customer service is.

It is all extremely unsatisfactory and frustrating and in the end I guess I will have no alternative but to change service provider with all the inherent problems that will entail.  

If anyone out there can recommend a reliable email provider please let me know.