Friday, 20 December 2013
One of my favourite newspaper columnists is Richard Littlejohn, and one of his favourite topics is the incompetence and stupidity of local authorities.
Let's face it, it's a superbly rich vein of humour that the buerocrats who think they run our lives continue to enhance without realising what they're doing. They pontificate about everything from CO2 emmisions, to recycling of just about everything and how you should do it, to their pet love of "diversity" and discrimination. Kent County Council actually has more hotlines for Gay / Lesbian / Transexual etc that for any other aspect of its services, but that's not the point.
My own local council in Eastleigh is much like any other local council. It's website tells me how wonderful it is and how much they concentrate on the poor, the deprived, the sexually otherwise oriented and illegal immigrants. Unfortunately I don't come under any of those catagories (except poor!), so I just have to pay wads of money and let them distribute it to whoever they feel fit.
Refuse collection always used to be the local authority priority, along with filling in holes in the road, now it seems to be biodiversity.... whatever that means!
There was a time when we had a weekly collection of refuse... full stop. Then we were given two wheelie bins. One was for non-recyclable refuse (black) and the second was for stuff such as plastics and paper. Fair enough, but we were also moved to collections for each type of bin onto a fortnightly basis, which means that the non-recyclable black bin can have maggoty refuse up to 14 days old which, while unpleasant for us, must be even worse for the bin men. The green bin for recyclable stuff, like paper and cardboard isn't so bad, but we have to be SO careful not to "contaminate" the recyclable bin with a cardboard pizza box, for instance. Instant £80 fine!
The trouble is many of the councils either put the whole lot into landfill. regardless of the bin colours, nd some even ship it to China..... out of sight, out of mind, presumably! So far none have used refuse to fill the holes in the road, but give them time.
Some 4 to 5 years ago they decided to give us large green sacks for garden waste collection. A great idea, but the council decided to charge us. For 3 sacks collected every week I was charged just over 50 pounds a year. That has increased to seventy pounds over the years. I have to admit the service has been great and I have been happy to fill my sacks with leaves and have them taken away every Monday morning to the leaves Happy Hunting Ground.
Then a note came through the door this week.
From the 1st of April (and I'm no fool) the council will provide me with a brown wheelie bin wich will replace the sacks. Each bin will take 30% more than a sack, but I will still need to have 3 bins to repalce my 3 sacks. Unfortunately they will now only be emptied fortnightly, but will still cost roughly the same as my 3 weekly bags used to. Effectively the council has doubled the price of an already expensive garden refuse service, that other councils give free.
I'll therefore have a whole family of 5 wheelie bins, plus a smaller one for food refuse (that I don't use) and two crates for glass and bottles. Trying to remember which day each of these (and now which week) these should go out onto our pavement is becoming a chore and I can't help thinking that elderly folk may get totally confused and put out garden refuse on a paper recyclable day. An instant £80 fine if ever there was one!
My life is now ruled by wheelie bins and differing collection days of the week.... and I know I'm going to get it wrong, so it's time to start saving!
Blog on, Dudes!
Thursday, 12 December 2013
Hi, Tertia here!
I've highjacked my author man's blog to tell you about my book, of which I am of course the star and try to get you to buy a copy.... let's be honest about it.
Leap of Faith was launched as an eBook and paperback by Crooked Cat publishing in late November and it reached #1 on Amazon UK for teen, dventure, Science Fiction and #2 for Detective books. Sadly it's now at #9, but, hey, that's not bad!.
As a pre-Christmas celebration it's available for a few days at 77p, or $1.26 in the States.
Hope you enjoy it! and as my author man would say
Blog on, Dudes!
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
MY INTERVIEW WITH CAROL HEDGES
My guest today is a British author of numerous books for children and young adults. Her novel Jigsaw, about a teenager's suicide, was shortlisted for the Angus Book Award and nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2001 and her excellent Spy Girl series which now comprises four great books.
Carol, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Usually it’s you doing the interviewing in Hedges Towers, so how does it feel to be on the other side of the blog?
It's great, Richard - and the lemonade is very nice. I see you got PINK lemonade! (Gets up) Oh, there seems to be an empty pizza box down the side of the sofa... I'll just put it on the floor for now. (Sits down).
Thanks. That was my tea! How did you get into writing and what was your first book about (published, or not!)?
I think I've probably been 'telling stories' as long as I've been reading! The two go together, don't they? I recall I used to make up Famous Five stories - with me, George and Timmy the Dog as co-heroes. My first published novel was called “Ring of Silver, Lord of Time”, and was a historical whodunnit based around the building of St Albans Abbey. It was published in 1992. I've since had 12 novels published - and a lot that haven't been.
You’re represented by the David Higham agency. Were they your first agent and how long did it take to get representation?
I started without an agent because, like many new writers, I was faced with the age-old 'you need to have a publishing history for an agent to consider you' problem. I was lucky: OUP took me on without an agent and published 3 novels. However, it soon became apparent that other agented writers had much better deals - so I decided to get an agent. A very kind children's writer called Tim Bowler made the necessary intros to David Higham, and they took me on. I've been there ever since. I must say though that having an agent is not a guarantee of publication any more. The recession has affected mainstream publishers very badly, and they have cut back drastically. Recently I've had novels rejected, even though I have an agent and have been nominated for awards.
Like me you write books for the younger generation. Have you always written for younger people?
Mainly. I wrote and still write a lot of short stories for adults - I've had one broadcast on Radio 4. But my novels tend to be for the 10 -16 age range.
Have you tried writing an adult book?
That's the one published today, but I'll tell you more about that later.
The Spy Girl series centers on a feisty girl. Was she based on someone you knew?
Jazmin Dawson is a mixture of someone I wish I'd been but wasn't, and my own daughter, who has many of Jazmin's traits. Jamin's relationship with Assia, her mum, often echoes the way my daughter and I got on when she was a teenager: we fought like cat and dog at times, but underneath, we loved each other very much.
Do you plan for the Spy Girl series to stop at a certain point or will you continue them until the ideas run out?
I'd love to see a 5th Spy Girl book published, but that decision lies with Usborne.
That's good to hear and I'm sure it will be published soon. Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?
As you know from my blog, I write in the sparse, freezing cold writing garret at the top of Hedges Towers!! It also doubles in real life as the third bedroom. I'm very flexible as far as routine goes. You could say my routine is not to have a routine. I try to write every day, but I don't beat myself up about word counts or set goals; life is stressful enough!
I totally agree! What projects are you’re working on right now?
I've just published my Victorian Gothic detective novel. It's called Diamonds and Dust, and is an affectionate homage to Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins - with a nod to Bram Stoker at the same time.
That's something to look forwqard to reading. You've helped lots of budding authors on your blogs, but what is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
Place backside on chair. Turn on laptop. Write.
One last question, Carol. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
Ooh - toughie. Well, I'd like to see Diamond Girl achieve publication. Either via a mainstream publisher, or as a self-published ebook. And I'd like to get Village Green status on our playing field. And, as my daughter recently married, I'd like to be a 'gran' . I think that's 3 goals, sorry. That's what happens when you're dealing with someone who failed O-level Maths!
Carol has an excellent blogsite at http://carolhedges.blogspot.co.uk/
She is on Twitter @CarolJhedges
and her books are available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=carol+hedges
Friday, 29 November 2013
A few weeks ago I blogged about bankers and rhyming slang. I thought that might be the end of it, however I remember that about a year ago I was warned by a friend of mine in the banking industry that there was going to be yet another scandal.
Surprise, surprise... he was right!
We had PPI mis-selling, endowments that failed to provide a nice little sum for retirement let alone meet outstanding mortgages, LIBOR interest rate rigging, pensions proving to be worthless, bonus and fat-cat retirement payments to people like Fred the Shred. And yet the buggers are still wallowing in our money and getting away with blatant theft, while claims management companies make money for doing nothing.
Go back and look at my previous blog before continuing to the latest (because it won't be the last) scam by these pillars of society.
This week it was announced by a government sponsored committee no less, that RBS had been deliberately driving viable small companies to the wall, then seizing their assets and selling them for a massive profit.
A Kent hotelier took out a loan from Nat West (a sub of RBS) linked to a complex interst switching device that he didn't really understand. He was told by his bank manager not to worry and that everything was fine. The loan was in the small millions, but the hotelier was keeping up payments and his revitalised hotel was pretty well ready to open when with days to go Nat West called in the loan for no apparent reason. They wouldn't budge and the hotelier was told to put his business on the market. He had no option, but the amount he was told to ask was 25% of the valuation an estate agent had put on it, and well below the amount oustanding on the loan.
Eventually the hotelier had to accept an offer from a property company that was even lower, meaning that to clear the loan he not only lost his viable hotel business, but his home and everything he'd established in his lifetime. He also lost his wife to cancer (who can prove a link!) and now supports his kids working as a labourer.
And the property company that bought his business?
You guessed... it was a subsidiary of RBS.
Is this legal? .... Seemingly.
Is it really theft? .... Bet your boots
Should those responsible be brought to account? .... Oh, yes!
Will they be brought to account? .... Probably not. Big payoffs and a pension probably.
Will the government do anything? .... Words and more words.
We own RBS. Will we have a say? .... Silly question.
Will the hotelier be compensated? .... Nowhere near enough, if at all.
Are other banks doing the same? .... Another silly question.
Lloyds Bank was initially a small family of sober individuals who looked after the farmers' market money when they took their cattle to Alsford in Hampshire once a year. They travelled with the farmers but never touched drink and were totally trusted. It was eventually agreed that instead of walking with the farmers carrying the money, the Lloyds family would stay in Alsford in a fortified house and keep the money in the reinforced basement where farmers could come and get it whenever they needed it. Everyone knew it was safe and the Lloyds family was paid a fee by each farmer.
Everyone was happy... until the bankers became too powerful and believed they were more important than their clients.
Grandmas are famous for keeping their money under the matress. Suddenly that doesn't seem so stupid. If I had any money left I'd probably do the same!
What's the next scam, guys?
Blog on, Dudes!