Archive for March, 2007

Driving costs down

Why do we (or some of us… ie me) spend a fortune on cars?

In recent memory I have owned (and lost money on) a Land Rover, a BMW and two Mercedes.

A year or so ago, I bought a new 4×4 …. well, I am approaching that kind of age, after all, and the dealer gave me a good price, and I liked the colour, and they’re very safe you know, and the finance deals were very good……… (continues trying, vainly, to justify the purchase)

Having spent so much on a car, I began to worry about damaging the interior when doing odd jobs like taking lawn-mowers to be mended. So when a friend mentioned he was selling an old (R reg) Astra Van, I thought that it might be a good idea for carrying heavy and dirty things, to keep the new car pristine.

I have a new member of staff starting in a week, and as he will need use of a company vehicle, I put the Astra van in for a service and MOT. Total cost… 2 brake pads, one exhaust (rear section) and a new battery. On top of the 4 new tyres I bought when I got the van, it has cost me, to buy and maintain, in 18 months, less than £1200. That wouldn’t pay 2 months finance on the 4×4. Let alone the new road tax. The bodywork is still rust-free and everything works fine.

How’s that for great value motoring.

Leave a comment »

Money, Money, Money!

I have just recieved an email that is guaranteed to change my entire life.





Dear Beloved,

I am Mr. ECHE GEORGE from Equatorial Guinea the director in charge of auditing and accounting, I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us at the end of the transaction.

During our investigation and auditing in this bank, my department came
across a very huge sum of money in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customers who died along with his entire family in plane crash of Kenya Airways Flight 431 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in February 7th
2000. We have carefully extract the account information and have kept this secretly since them to enable us execute the transfer of the fund in case none of the decease relation came up for the claim. We have been planning for the completion of this project ever since and the proper time for us to execute the transfer is now.

This is the reason, I have decided to contact you and solicit for your assistance to execute the claim of this fund. You will be requested submit an application of claim to the bank as the next of kin to claim the
money for our own personal use as it happen that his relatives are not available up till now, I will still obtain a genuine legal backing with your name which will place you in the position of the bona fide next of kin to the deceased.

Furthermore, the amount involved is ($950.000.00) United State Dollars, if my proposal interests you then you will have to furnish me with your full name and address including fax and phone numbers, age and profession.

As soon as I received your reply, I will send to you Text of application form which you will fill and submit to the bank as his next of kin.
After due verification and clarification by the board members of the bank approval will be issue and payment made into your would be nominated bank account. Be rest assured that their is no risk involved as I have perfected and made the necessary arrangements to back you up in claiming the fund but you have to maintain the high secrecy which this transaction demands as the bank does not know that I am using you to claim the Money.

After the completion of the transfer, the fund will be share between you and us in this way 60% for me and my friends 30% will be for you, while 10% will be for expenses incurred. I will like to invest my own part of the money in your country base on your advice. I will furnish you with the details and application as soon as you reply this mail.  call me 0034-625-765-442 for more information.

Thanks as I await your reply.
Best Regards,





Talk about being lucky, just how could this generous gentleman have known that today was my birthday too!

30%… that’s about £165,000 at today’s exchange rate… Time to look for a new car… Hurrah!

Wait a minute.

Just a minute.

Take a look at

What a disappointment.

Just when I thought I was going to be rich. Ah well. Back to work tomorrow, I guess.

Another year older. Not one cent richer.

Leave a comment »

Back to Back

Well, I’m back.

I wish to disassociate myself from everything I wrote in the last posting….. as far as I am concerned, flying is something to be endured.

At least on a Thomas Cook Airlines Airbus A330.

As we took off, I looked out of the window. There was a field full of veal calves.

They were laughing. Honestly. Some were even rolling around on their backs, they thought it was so funny.

If veals were transported in the same conditions, the EU would prosecute. Human cargo, however, is just a case of “pack ’em in”.

Try this at home.

Set three dining chairs alongside each other, facing the wall. Make sure that the total width taken by the chairs is 50 inches overall. Sit in the middle chair, with friends on either side. You have the middle chair, and you have 16 1/2 inches width. That’s all. Now, making sure that the wall is only 6 inches in front of you, relax and enjoy the comfort for 8 hours. Get another person, ideally with a tea trolley, to bang your friends elbows constantly.

Now you get the full long haul charter flight effect.

You can’t extend your legs, because there is equipment housings under the seat row in front of you. You can’t lean to the side, because the corridor is so narrow.

Oh, and I forgot. After you sit down, you must sit for 45 minutes before you can count the 8 hours. This simulates a computer navigation problem.

Get another friend to reheat some leftovers in a take away container and drop them on your lap. As soon as you start to eat them, have this friend to pass you a cardboard cup of something that looks like coffee for you to spill. The taste doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s hot.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop now.

Sardines get more room, but I will stop moaning.

Right now.

I promise. No more moaning.

I have to stop moaning, because, a day after the flight home, my back is still killing me. So I can’t sit at the desk to type any more.


Leave a comment »

Up, up and away

Whilst it’s not really a blog, I have always enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s weekly “Ask the Pilot” column in Salon magazine. There’s a link on my sidebar if you want to read it too.

I first bought a paperback book which contained the first couple of years’ columns, and I have been an avid reader since.

In this week’s column, he writes that flying is, today, something to be endured, not enjoyed.


March 9, 2007 | If the feedback from my last two columns has taught us anything, it’s that people really, really don’t like to fly. With that on the table, try to imagine the following:

You wake up early for the 45-minute subway ride to Logan International Airport in Boston. The shuttle bus brings you to Terminal C, where you stand in line to be frisked and X-rayed before reaching an overcrowded departure lounge. Half an hour later your flight pushes back, languishes in a taxiway queue for several minutes, then finally takes off. So far this is nothing exceptional, but here’s the twist: The plane’s scheduled destination is, well, Boston. The jet never climbs to more than 10,000 feet. It makes a lazy circuit above the North Shore coastline, swings eastward toward Cape Cod, then circles west in the direction of Logan. Fifteen minutes later, the landing gear clunks into place, and just like that you’re back where you started. You disembark, with smiles and handshakes all around, head for the shuttle bus, and take the subway home again.

To most of you that doesn’t sound like a terribly fun morning, but what if I told you that once upon a time, not only did thousands of people willingly endure this, but they actually paid for the privilege? It was the late 1970s, and I was one of those people.

The flights were yearly fundraisers, hosted by different carriers on behalf of local charities. In ’78, I remember, it was the Boy Scouts of America. A year later it was the Jimmy Fund, an organization dedicated to pediatric cancer research (and best known for its partnership with the Boston Red Sox baseball team). People paid 10 or 15 bucks for a ticket. Flights left hourly, all day long, with each ride lasting about 25 minutes. For the airlines, maybe, it was an IRS write-off, but the crews worked for free.

At the time I was 13, maybe 14 years old, but this wasn’t just for schoolchildren. My friends and I, along with many of our parents and teachers, spent weeks looking forward to it. On board, the crowd would be a mix of first-time fliers, airplane buffs and regular people looking for an unusual way to spend their Saturday.

I did it three times. The first, in 1978, was on board an Air New England FH-227, a 50-seat turboprop. I still have several photographs, snapped through one of the plane’s giant, 19-inch oval windows, showing snaky brown marshlands and the contours of Revere Beach from 5,000 feet. (My camera was a brown Kodak Instamatic no bigger than a deck of cards. I took so many adolescent airplane pics with the damn little camera that I can vividly recall the feel of its thumb-driven film winder.) Seated just aft of the plane’s high-mounted wing, I remember the sight of the landing gear folding backward into the engine nacelle and the puff of white smoke on touchdown.

Next it was a TWA Boeing 707. That was a Jimmy Fund flight, and my first and only ride in a 707. While aloft, passengers stood in the aisle and were escorted, two at a time, onto the flight deck.

And the last one — I’m thinking 1980 — was with Eastern Airlines on an Airbus A300. Together with four friends, I splurged for two flights that day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, at $10 apiece. That’s what we did with our Christmas money. Eastern was the first U.S. carrier to fly the wide-body A300, which had two seats on either side and four across the center. We pressed to the front of the line in order to snag windows. By the time they closed the doors, every seat on that plane, middle rows and all, was taken. A popular local disc jockey sat in one of the cockpit jump seats, broadcasting live during takeoff and landing.

Much has changed in a quarter-century. For one, all three of those carriers are gone now: TWA into American; Eastern into Frank Lorenzo’s toilet; Air New England, whose planes were once as common around here as pigeons, into some obscure oblivion that even I can’t remember. And the entire premise, of course — shelling out cash for a flight to nowhere, and actually being excited about it — will strike most people as ludicrous.

A form of these flights still exists, albeit not marketed to the average citizen, and for considerably steeper fares. In Europe, agencies arrange trips for airplane junkies, who pay hundreds of dollars to experience a round-robin journey aboard this or that unusual airliner. But what’s missing is the public’s sense of awe, the shared thrill of going for an airplane ride. The first-time flier is today a rare bird, the enthusiastic flier all but extinct.


Well, I still get excited at the thought of a flight.

As a boy, I spent a year at a time looking forward to the annual family holiday, flying to Spain on BAC one-elevens and occasionally Comets.

The intense excitement returned a few years ago when I had my first transatlantic trip on a 747, and again more recently on a short domestic flight on a Dash-8 turboprop.

I still look up when a plane passes.

Maybe I shouldn’t get so excited… after all I’m 44, but I still watch fire engines go past, too.

I was that little boy. Sometimes I still am.


(I am off to Barbados on Tuesday morning, on a Thomas Cook 767. More blog entries in a week or so, when I get home, as I shall be banned from the internet while on holiday.)

Comments (1) »

It’s starting to happen

It was a fairly quiet January, this year. Apart from maintenance work, we didn’t see many potential customers.

 February was a bit better, quite a few people came for a look around, but nobody reached for their credit cards.

Now we are in March, things have started to happen. So far we have sold three static holiday caravans and taken the first bookings for the cottage apartments.

The cottage apartments are a new thing for us… the old cottage that used to be occupied by the warden and his family has undergone conversion to three one-bedroomed apartments, which we are renting for holidays and short breaks. I don’t  really know where best to advertise these, so far I have tried ebay which seems to be generating a bit of interest… I’ll have to suck it and see.

Another quote from Henry Ford….. “Half my advertising works well. The only trouble is I don’t know which half.”

To be honest, advertising is quite like throwing mud against a wall. Some might stick, but you never know how much. I got prices from local radio stations, and the prices ranged from £5000 upwards. There are so many internet directories, I don’t know which to use. I guess I’ll stick with ebay for now, and see how it goes. Even if I have to discount the prices, it beats spending thousands on advertising.

I’ve got a headache, but that might have more to do with having a few drinks last night (… a few ???? …) than worrying about advertising. Still, I’m off on holiday next week, so a bit of sunshine might do me good. After all, it’s been four weeks since my last break, and it’s been 7-day weeks.

Hopefully I will come back from holiday to find a pile of apartment bookings and a couple of caravans sold.

I doubt that I’ll be allowed near the internet while I am away, so bear with me. Next post probably 21st or 22nd February.

If you want to read about my holiday, you could do worse than click on

Back soon!

Leave a comment »

It worked for Sleepy……


the Sleepy Policeman tells how he gets lots of search engine traffic to his blog.

Apparently if you google “Fern Britten” he is the second result.

Perhaps there are some commercial applications to this strange google result that I could harness in order to increase traffic to my business web site. I could have a “Fern Britten” promotion which gives you a discount off the price of a holiday if you say “Fern Britten” when you phone to book……

Would “Kylie Minogue”, “Joanna Lumley” and maybe even “Jade Goody” do better?

All ideas gratefully accepted, and if one works, someone might just win a free limited whisky glass, as seen at

Am I allowed to use such blatant bribery on a blog?

Leave a comment »

Finding a name

I’m getting a bit tired typing all the time, so I thought I would register a snappy sounding web address.

 Something like www meldrew com or www ijustdontbelieveit .org or even www readme .net

So what did I settle for? After searching, I was suddenly inspired.

It’s a bit shorter, but not that much shorter. However, like a certain varnish, it does do what it says on the tin.

I still think the best url I have is but that’s another story…………..

Leave a comment »

Problems, Solutions, and a certain liquid…

7.30 pm. I’ve just got to do the daily health & safety checks in the leisure & fitness suite, and then I can go home. Out for dinner tonight, but I must remember not to drink too much.

I must remember not to drink too much…… I must remember to drink….. I must rememmmmm…….

Alan, the CORGI engineer, came today to look at the newly commissioned caravan. The hot water is only working some of the time.

I must drink to remember too much….. I must drink….. I must drink…..

It seems that the new electronic combi boilers are less tolerant of fluctuations in water pressure than the older boilers were. But apparently there have been some compatibility issues with certain shower taps, too. Don’t ask me what that means… I only work here.

 Alan has spoken to the boiler manufacturer’s service department and is to return tomorrow to hopefully fix the problem.

Anyway, today we are at least solving problems as well as discovering them… the lighting and the wi-fi are now working perfectly. As I suspected, the fault was related to the lamp post that was moved. It was re-installed with the electrical connectors buried in the ground alongside the lamp post, while the connectors should have been a couple of feet up inside the hollow column. One hour’s work and a new set of connectors, and everything is hunky-dory. Customers can use their computers, and they can go for a walk without tripping over in the dark. Maybe not both at the same time, though.

I must remember…. I must remember…. remember what?

An internet search has led to a supplier of damp proofing materials, and as soon as they come we can deal with the bathroom in “Foxglove Cottage”, which is the first of our three cottage apartments to be completed. It was finished in January, and within 5-6 weeks there was damp showing in one corner of the bathroom walls. At first we thought it was damp following cutting the wall open to install pipes, but it seems to be damp from condensation, made worse by a faulty extractor fan.

Solution… a new fan, more ventilation, and mould-proof emulsion paint from the good people at

The leak in the reception roof has been repaired, so it’s safe to leave papers on the counter without arriving at work the next day to find a pile of papier-mache where the post was.

There are still jobs for me….

There are two failed lamps in the leisure & fitness suite, so I need to order replacements from the electrical wholesaler. It will take about 5 minutes to fit them so that is nice and simple.

I must remember….. I must remember…. what must I remember….

The countdown is commencing….. I finish work next Monday for a week’s holiday. I just wonder how many problems will (a) arrive and (b) be solved before I go. More importantly… will (a) be bigger than (b) ?

I must remember…… I must remember…… No, I’ve forgotten. Time for a pint. See you at the bar.

Leave a comment »

Wi-Fi woes

Last year, we opened the cheque book and spent quite a bit of money on installing a wi-fi “hot spot” network covering the whole of the caravan park. Our customers can now access the internet from their caravans and the system has proved very popular.

While the system itself has been very reliable, we have had a couple of glitches that aren’t the fault of the system itself.

Regular readers will probably already know about Alan’s skill in locating pipes and cables with his spade…. towards the end of last year we lost the wi-fi coverage on part of the park when he cut through a cable and blacked out the car park lights .

The wi-fi repeaters at present take their power from the same circuit, although this is to change soon. Hopefully very soon. Just as soon as the electrician can make it, in fact.

During our “battle of the somme” we had to move a lamp-post to move a caravan past, and it now appears that it has not been put back correctly. It keeps blowing a circuit breaker, and this cuts the power to the wi-fi repeaters too.

Tomorrow morning, weather permitting, a little spot of digging is called for, and perhaps a small electrical repair, and then everything should be fine again. In the meantime, some caravans have wi-fi, but some don’t. Not the best start to the new season.

I can’t blame Alan this time…. he didn’t move the lamp-post.

Leave a comment »

The first shall be the last.

And here are the results of the first 2007 customer race.

Mr & Mrs Friday fell at the first hurdle. “We’re in England for a month, so we’ll get back to you before we go back to Spain”.

It became a two horse race, and things were neck & neck for a nailbiting finish.

Finally, however, Ms Saturday wanted to think it over, and said she would call on Sunday afternoon.

Mr & Mrs Sunday came at lunchtime, and reached directly for the Visa Card.

ker——–chingggggggggg !!!

Mr & Mrs Sunday are proud owners of a very well looked after caravan. The previous owner of that caravan is now able to trade up to a nearly new unit.

Ms Saturday is hoping that we may have another bargain in a month or so.

Maybe we will have that bargain when Mr & Mrs Friday come back.

Did anyone have a fiver on Mr & Mrs Sunday ?

Leave a comment »