Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Beginning and The End

I'm calling time on this blog.

This will be the last post here and instead I am rebooting My 100 Goals at my website: http://www.dragonlake.co.uk

I'm kicking off with a new series of posts based around writing 100 words a day for 100 days. Find out more at Dragon Lake!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Flood and Fire

We were out over the weekend and came back to find the front of our house flooded again. A short burst of torrential rain and the drains were unable to cope:


A couple of years ago many parts of Cumbernauld were flooded during a freak rain storm, our house included. The council did clear the drains afterwards and that helped but did not stop flooding completely.

Our neighbour was out digging a trench and I hurried to join him. Tree roots were hindering him and I took an axe and saw with me. After two minutes I was covered in mud as I'd attempted to chop at roots which were under water. (Friendly advice: use a saw if trying to cut a root that's under water!)

It took several hours but we dug a trench on the common land which allowed the worst of the water to drain down the hill.


The picture below shows the view from our side of the fence after the water had cleared. The slope down to our houses runs down to the fence and on the other side is land of uncertain ownership - possibly owned by North Lanarkshire Council.

The land rises to a full 12 inches higher than the lowest point of the courtyard outside our house and an inch or so above the point where water can start to flood through our door.


The experience reminded me of the need to clarify who owns the land; gain planning permission to install a suitable field drain; and chase the council up to clear the drains again.

Not how I'd planned to spend part of my weekend but life throws curve balls...

Like this morning. I'd arranged to meet someone at 10 AM. I turned up on time but as I drove into the car park underneath Cumbernauld town centre, I saw dark smoke billowing from a car.

I stopped, checked no-one was in it then called 999.  Some other men came over and found a fire extinguisher but the fire appeared to be underneath and inside the engine.


I was now late, but could hear the fire engine on the way. I had to move my car out of the way and left the men who were able to direct the fire engine when it arrived. It was clear the car was going to be a right off:


Not good for the owner...

I had committed to posting one crazy idea to fix the economy every day, but as it is taking me longer to research the posts I'm struggling to meet this commitment. I only managed two last week and am conscious that I'd made a previous commitment last year to spend more time with my family. I keep getting too caught up in the writing.

I'm currently between contracts and if I'm able to, I will post daily but as a minimum I will scale back to one post a week from now on.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Crazy Idea 30 - Kill Santa!



With six shopping days till Christmas (our capitalist overlords wouldn't want you to stop shopping on the Sabbath) here are a few fictional Christmas headlines to mull over...

"Vicar tells children the truth, capitalist parents react with fury!"

"Impoverished single mother admits she saw a glimmer of hope."

"Santa's around the country call for Vicar to be exiled to the South Pole."

It's not been a good week for Santa.

On Wednesday Santa was arrested. (CI030A)

On Thursday parents and children were told Santa doesn't exist. (CI030B)

You could almost imagine Santa had been subjected to extraordinary rendition.

I imagine the CEO's of quite a few companies chuckling to themselves as they realise that no matter how bad austerity gets, parents are so invested in the fictional world of Santa Claus that they don't want their kids to know the truth...

I'm all for feasts and festive celebrations. But there is something dark and evil about the greed that consumes us at this time of year.

When our kids were little we tried very hard to avoid lying to them about Santa. If they asked the question: is Santa real, we'd turn the question around and ask them what they believed. But we never directly told them that the jolly fat man didn't exist.

We shouldn't have been surprised that when one of our children found out the truth they were furious with us.

The BBC quotes 'A parent on Facebook' who said the Vicar had '"spoiled the magic" of Christmas.' Call me Scrooge but if the magic of Christmas is only about maintaining a fantasy that encourages us to get into further debt I'm quite happy with killing off Santa.

Parent Dish refers to a study by Asda (reported in a 2012 Daily Mail article (CI030C)) asking the vital question: Why are parents spending so much on their children's Christmas presents? (CI030D)

According to Asda, 'the average parent splashes out no less than £312 on Christmas presents per child.' Parent Dish goes on to ask: 'If these children get showered with such riches now, what are they going to expect for their 18th birthdays?'

According to Wikipedia there are 11.1 Million children age 14 and under in the UK. If the Asda survey was accurate we could be spending roughly £3.5 Billion on Christmas presents each year... (CI030E)

This is despite estimates that one third of all children in the UK live in poverty... (CI030F)

What if we were to kill off Santa? What if we were to abandon the excess of our Christmas celebrations... According to a different survey by InSinkErator quoted in the Daily Mail online, 'The day's feasting will create an extra 50m bags of rubbish, or £600m of food. As a nation we'll spend £3.3 billion on food for the Christmas table this year.' (CI030G)

600 Million pounds worth of food thrown in the bin?! Surely that can't all be brussel sprouts...

Even Money Saving Expert suggests that giving less may be wise. (CI030H)

There would be winners and losers if parents were to stop spending so much at Christmas. The winners may well be the parents themselves, even after the kids tantrums have ceased. Wouldn't it be wonderful to enter January without an even greater debt burden around our necks?

The losers may well be retailers and suppliers. Is it possible though, that the long term health of our economy would be better served by moving away from a system that encourages spending on cheap plastic and expensive disposable electronics to a more sustainable one?

Or is this just another crazy idea?

I'm taking a two week vacation from these crazy ideas so I can recite Bah Humbug while hypocritically indulging in feasting and present giving.

Of course no-one really wants to kill Santa, but if you were to "accidentally" knock him off your roof, whatever you do, don't put on the red suit or the Santa Clause will get you! (CI030I)



Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals. There's a short bio here.

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References:
(CI030A; BBC; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-30532016)

(CI030B; Evening Telegraph; http://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/news/scotland/santa-arrested-after-glasgow-statue-stunt-1.741919)

(CI030C; Parent Dish; http://www.parentdish.co.uk/christmas/why-are-parents-spending-so-much-on-their-childrens-presents/)

(CI030D; Daily Mail; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2221432/Christmas-2012--Toy-sales-expected-soar-72-week-parents-spending-average-312-child-says-Asda.html)

(CI030E; Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom)

(CI030F; Barnardo's; http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/our_work/child_poverty/child_poverty_what_is_poverty/child_poverty_statistics_facts.htm)

(CI030G; Daily Mail; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2070269/Families-spend-133-70-household-Christmas-day-food--throw-fifth-BIN.html)

(CI030H; Money Saving Expert; http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/christmas-savings)

(CI030I; YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t067u2Jnks0)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Crazy Idea 29 - Forgive!



If we want to fix the economy then we have to be willing to forgive. I started writing this series in anger but anger is not going to provide the foundation we need to build a strong economy.

You’ve probably heard this statement: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (CI029A)

It’s an interesting statement. There is occasional truth in it, yet not everyone who fears becomes angry. Not everyone who is angry hates.

Before the summer of 2014 I opposed Scottish independence. Having lived in England for ten years and experienced great friendship with many South of the border, I saw no reason to separate the two countries. Having been brought up in Scotland I associated Scottish Nationalism with bitterness and hatred towards the English.

Yet I was angry myself. Angry at perceived injustice in the UK. Angry at greater and greater inequality between the wealthy and the poor. Angry at a government that operated for a few rather than the many, who were unwilling to fix the root causes of our economic problems.

It is possible that my anger was partly out of fear. Fear caused by always feeling I couldn’t afford to provide for my family. Fear that I’d never be able to get on top of debt or progress in my career.

At times I’ve allowed that anger to run into hate. Hatred towards our Prime Minister. Hatred at a Coalition that has punished the poor for problems caused by the rich and middle class.

But hatred is not going to solve the many problems our economy has.

Have you ever experienced hatred? Someone abusing you physically or verbally. If you have, how did you respond?

Did you want to respond with kindness to those showing you hatred? Did you want to respond with patience, with gentleness?

One of the hardest choices any of us can make is to respond with kindness, patience and gentleness to those who show hate towards us.

There is no guarantee this counterintuitive act will improve the situation. It is even possible that such a response will make things worse, not better.

Yet millions have found such a display of love is the best response to hatred. Why? Because it releases us from the cycle of violence. It frees us to act without being governed by anger and hatred ourselves.

One of the analogies used by some in the lead up to the Scottish referendum was that of a divorce from an abusive partner, Westminster being portrayed as the abuser.

Being a victim of violence, hatred and/or anger are justifications for leaving an abusive relationship, whether on a personal level or national. But while it may not be easy or even possible to forgive the perpetrator of such abuse in the immediacy of the act, forgiveness is vital if the victim is to truly be freed.

Without giving forgiveness, the victim may end up becoming the abuser themselves. The victim may end up in a similar abusive relationship. Fear and anger and hatred have a way of spawning. Forgiveness can stop them in their tracks.

The economy of Britain is broken. We have a choice. We can live in fear of the consequences of our own bad decisions and those of our government. We can live in anger against ourselves and those who have caused the problems. We can choose to hate: hate politicians, hate the rich, even hate ourselves for our own mismanagement of our money.

Or we can choose to forgive, release ourselves from emotion that will cripple us. Allow ourselves freedom to choose a different path. If you want to fix the economy it’s your choice. What will you choose?


Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals. There's a short bio here.


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References:

(CI029A; Yoda Quotes; http://www.yodaquotes.net/fear-is-the-path-to-the-dark-side-fear-leads-to-anger-anger-leads-to-hate-hate-leads-to-suffering/)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Crazy Idea 28 - Cut up your credit cards


 Christmas... The time when, along with New Year and the summer, far too many of us borrow to buy what we don’t need and can’t really afford.

If we have to use our credit cards, for many of us, the question should be asked – do I really need this?

If you’re placing a deposit on a holiday in the sun then your initial answer may well be: If I didn’t need this then I wouldn’t have paid!

Yet you didn’t pay, you borrowed. You promised to pay in the future. With interest.

It’s not just our government that has a debt problem. We, the people of Broken Britain, have borrowed too much for too long. We’ve bought into the marketers dream world that we deserve new every year, the latest model, the plushest sofa.

Why repair when you can replace?

Why save when you can get interest free credit that grows and grows until suddenly you are paying far more each month than you can really afford. But did you really think you weren’t paying interest? They are taking their fee from you one way or the other.

And then there are the kids...

I’m no better than anyone else. I’ve allowed myself to be bullied by peer pressure, by the message that goes out from the high priests of consumerism that each and every one of us must ensure our children have the perfect Christmas.

But would it really damage them, or us, if we went without? Are we so distrustful of our children and spouses and partners and friends that we believe they would not understand when we can’t afford to keep up the act?

What lesson are we teaching? That the ostrich is the creature to aspire to? Burying our heads in a quicksand of debt.

Last year my wife and I admitted that we were not in control of our money. We’d become lazy. Our incomes had increased and so had our spending yet we hadn’t taken stock to see whether our income was still greater than our expenses.

When we looked at our spending I was ashamed. Our income had gone up but we had frittered that increase away. Our savings had not increased in line. Our debts were far higher than we liked.

My wife went on a CAP Money course and we started to follow the advice they gave out. (CI028A)
 
It was tough going. We set up our budget. Managed to balance it only by cutting out all the non essentials.  We even managed to fit in savings goals. For several months we stuck rigidly to the plan. No unplanned luxuries. Nothing that wasn’t on the budget.

CAP recommend documenting all income and spending. Breaking that down into weekly and monthly and annual amounts as required. CAP advise setting savings goals and if you've been on the course, they provide a handy website where you can enter all your income lines and expense lines and see each week or month whether you are in the red or the black.

And it all helped. Our finances started to turn around. Each week we spent an evening going over our spending and updating the budget as necessary. We allocated a strict amount to spend each week on groceries and petrol and clothes. We also managed to carve out some money to spend on us as a family. Trips to the cinema, ice-creams, cake... At £20 a week between five of us it didn’t go far and we’d avoid spending money some weeks to enable us to afford some of the more expensive family treats.

We didn’t cut up our credit cards but we did stop using them unless we had transferred money to a savings account to pay off the bill.

Following the CAP plan helped us turn our own personal economy around. Can you imagine the effect on Britain if we all took control back of our spending?

It's never a favourite topic of conversation but there are too many of us worried about money, worried about our debts.

Check out this headline from The Telegraph in May 2014: "Household debt is Britain’s hidden timebomb" (CI028B)

In August 2014, This Is Money wrote: "household debt more than quadruples since 1990... by 314% to £1,437bn" (CI028C)

A couple of months later and The Money Charity are writing: "People in the UK owed £1.459 trillion at the end of September 2014. This is up from £1.430 trillion at the end of September 2013 – an extra £572 per UK adult." (CI028D)

Our personal debt as a country equals our National Debt. If we want to fix the economy we need to start with our own debt problems. The CAP Money course is a great place to start.


Do post your own crazy ideas or feedback on mine in the comments below and sign up to my mailing list below to be notified of future posts.

Why should my crazy ideas have any relevance to the economy? I'm the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab, a novel that imagines a fairer future for Scotland where the poor are empowered to change their destiny. I'm director of my own limited company: Goal 31 Ltd and I've over seven years experience working for government and financial organisations. Also, just like you, I'm a taxpayer and for some crazy reason I think that entitles us to have an opinion and for that opinion to be acted on by the government.

As I wrote at the start, I am making my 100 crazy ideas freely available. It seems unjust to propose ideas to fix the economy and then prevent people from freely reading those ideas. 100 Crazy Ideas to Fix the Economy will be published once the craziness is complete.

I can be found on Twitter: @my100goals or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/my100goals. There's a short bio here.


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References:

(CI028A; CAP Money; https://www.capmoney.org/)

(CI028B; The Telegraph; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/10817959/Household-debt-is-Britains-hidden-timebomb.html)

(CI028C; This Is Money; http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-2724894/Families-red-pose-threat-UK-recovery-household-debt-quadruples-1990.html)

(CI028D; The Money Charity; http://themoneycharity.org.uk/money-statistics/)