Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Good News Journal (3) -- localisms

I think this is a great example of localism, entrepreneurship in general and how, in particular, many mums start their businesses. We see an unmet need that our child/ren can benefit from our taking the plunge.

Mother desperate to make sure her children and their classmates eat healthy lunches after canteen closed launches her own catering firm and becomes school's new cook

Localism: The problem with big business is they can only take profit if they trade on a big scale. With the scale usually comes a drop in care and quality.

I now do some work locally. I walk to work. I am not paid a lot of money. But I do good work (at least I think so). Fellow human beings benefit from what I do. I don't mind the low wage too much.

Entrepreneurship: I meet too many clients who say they or their children are highly qualified 'but there are no jobs'. So they get on to JobSeekers Allowance and wait for an employer to come calling. Even if this means subjecting themselves to the fortnightly humiliation of 'signing on' at the local job centre.

Why not start their own business? Not enough capital? Group together with mates and start a business. There are also start-up loans available for people on benefits. Or used to.

Combining the two means that people who need work can meet the unmet needs of the local community, which this mother and her friends have done.

What is there not to like?

The only thing is IF she or her co-workers are or have been on Child Tax Credit and/or Income Support, they would have to make sure that they have declared this 'change of circumstances' to the authorities.

Monday, December 01, 2014

No win, no fee: What's the catch?

Based on what my numerous clients at the advice agency have told me, it appears that one mode of operation goes like this (note: there are other ways they make money):

'Conditional solicitors' advertise their 'expertise'. Ninety-year-old happily watching her day-time TV sees an advert. O yes, she was injured in a public place, why not give these people a call. Nothing to lose, she thought.


Solicitors assure her that they will look after her. She's likely to get £x000 in compensation. She signs a piece of paper giving them exclusive rights to act on her behalf. No-win, no-fee. Happy, she hobbled off.

About nine months later she comes to me. Her solicitors do not seem to be doing anything. When she chases them up they make unhappy noises and are rude. They won't let her deal directly with the people she is complaining against. They keep telling her she has to wait.

Crucial question this: "Can I sack these lawyers?"

I check my 'rule book'. Of course she is fully entitled to sack them. But what she is likely to have to deal with is a demand for payment for "work that has already been done". At perhaps £250 an hour.

Poor lady, "I'm 90 years old. Who knows where I would be in another nine months' time?"

Perhaps that is what these lawyers are banking on: the lack of time (not patience, mind you) of older clients.

Other clients have told of how these lawyers would only try to get a derisory sum in compensation which means that the client gets next to nowt. If they complain and asked to switch lawyers, again that signature that has transferred rights to the lawyers is waved in their faces.

"Work had already been done" on their behalf. Someone has to pay for this time. Switching lawyers will mean a bill that can be quite arbitrarily set. It is a licence to print money.

So, beware. Tell your friends, and especially older relatives, not to be tempted by those daytime TV commercials. These solicitors NEVER lose.

If they win your case, they get your money. If they do not win your case, they can still have a claim over your own personal money.

For redress, go to: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/

And more horror stories about what these lawyers could do to vulnerable clients, such as withdrawing their services when the 'evidence has changed':

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Good News Journal (1)

Some time ago I said I wanted to start a 'good news newspaper'. I'm sure others have already done that. So, here is a story that warmed my heart. Except that that there is often more to good stories. Some years down the road, we may learn that all is not what it appears to be.

Never mind. For now let us just enjoy:

Chinese millionaire builds free luxury homes for entire village where he grew up

The timing was also serendipitous as I had watched on 'catch-up' TV a programme about Tatler. This programme featured rich Nigerians in the UK, multi-millionaires. My meandering thoughts were just going: if only these multi-millionaires could spare a million or two for their fellow countrymen, how different would Nigeria be?

Extrapolating this argument I think of all the ultra-rich Chinese and Russians which are flooding the west, buying up land and homes. What if -- WHAT IF -- each of these would just spare a million each for their fellow countrymen. What a huge difference would that make?

This Chinese millionaire story is, I believe, not isolated. I have read previously about Chinese migrants who had done well and returned to their ancestral villages to rebuild village halls and so forth. It is just that this one man was able to do this on a much larger scale.

“I earned more money than I knew what to do with and I didn't want to forget my roots,” he said.

Zinging around in the air also were the accusations of rape against Bill Cosby. The singer Pharrell Williams -- commenting on the shooting in Ferguson -- implied that he was very much inspired by Cosby. He is entitled to that opinion.

I have long wondered why it is that there are not many more 'Cliff Huxtables' on TV and in real life. It seems to me that some people 'get it', worked hard, made good, and then move out of the area where they lived and that is that.

Pharrell said something else (apparently at a previous interview with Oprah Winfrey) that 'the new black doesn't blame others [sic] races for our issues'.

Talking to a Christian leader from the Caribbean some years back, he alluded to how some black people blamed their plight (of whatever nature) on their history of slavery. Growing up Chinese my world was full of folk tales of how diligence will always triumph over adversity.

If there is a will, there is a way. We can turn a block of iron into a fine needle (只要功夫深,铁杵磨成针). Or there was the 'foolish man' who moved a mountain that caused him great inconvenience (愚公移山).

That was my privileged heritage. It taught me the 'can do' attitude.

I wonder what the young people in Ferguson and similar towns learn of their own heritage. Is there any cultural capital from which they could draw to think the Pharrell way?

And when people in Ferguson do become successful and wealthy -- as surely at least some of them do -- how many would move away, or how many would return like the Chinese millionaire to make a difference?

Recalling the ostentatious wealth of some of the newly rich, what could you do with ten million which you cannot do with nine million?

Monday, November 24, 2014

PPI: Please Pass (on) Information

I was reminded to write about this after reading another news item today about PPI.

Just last week I had an elderly client at the advice agency where I do some work present a letter demanding some £700 for getting his £1700 PPI claim back.

Seven hundred eye-watering pounds for something the Client could have got for free. All he needed to do was complete a form to churn out a letter. Go to websites like Adviceguide, Moneysavingexpert and Which.

Worse still, this "claims handler" alleged that the bank had duly refunded the Client and so the Client should cough up the commission within seven days, or risk having bailiffs at his door. The bank however tells the Client that this claims handler is not even a registered claims handler. O dear!

Meanwhile poor guy gets sucked further and further into debt while his blood pressure goes higher and higher. Were they a bogus company simply trying to frighten an old man into giving them £700? Who knows?

If you know friends, family or neighbours in this situation, ask them to seek help as soon as possible. Citizens Advice is a good stop. Older people could go to Age UK. There will also be other local not-for-profit groups willing to help.

For information about what to do with unwanted cold calls and texts (England only): http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/news/news-archive/whats_new_dec12_how_to_deal_with_unwanted_ppi_texts.htm

Help with dealing with nuisance calls, live and automated (not just PPI):

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Picky about Pixie

This has nothing to do with anything organic.

On Facebook I read huge number of comments about people who cannot 'warm' to Pixie on Strictly Come Dancing.

Well, glad I am not the only one who finds something about her so annoying. This is the opposite to 'something about Mary', as in the film starring Cameron Diaz, where there is something about Mary that makes her so lovable.

I am not bothered with the argument/gripe that she had had dance training. She clearly has the benefit of 'muscle memory' to help her dance so well. She IS a delightful and competent dancer. If I was watching a programme about celebrities who dance fabulously then she will be loved. Full stop.

I know little (ie not a lot!) of Pixie Lott except that she's a singer. I do not know what songs she is famous for, or the genre of music she sings. OK, I'm not really into popular music these days.

Why don't I like her? There seems to be something 'put on' (fake) about her. The way she speaks with that constant tilt of her chin comes across as being somewhat 'affected'.

Everything about her seems to be so 'put on'. She could master her dance steps in no time at all. She makes dancing look so easy, but of course it will be suicidal to admit that, so she makes it out that it is not that easy at all.

Then I noticed (perhaps I blinked and missed) that whenever her name is called to go into the next round she just looks relieved, but not a word of 'thank you' to the people who voted.

This gives me the impression -- and it's only an impression -- that she thinks she is by her own talent good enough to make it to the next round. She does not need the support of the voting public.

Natural talent, affected mannerisms and 'I really do not need the voting public': This sums up why I cannot warm to Pixie.

That's just me being picky. I am almost certain that she is a very nice person once we get to know her and she has her inner circle of friends who would go to the ends of the earth for her.

Herein lies the problem with most people in the public eye. There is a need to compartmentalize the private from the public: the problem of the façade (ie illusion). Cut the poor girl some slack.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Is it better to use tissues or real handkerchiefs?

I had just realized a link from www.organic-ally.co.uk is not working properly. This is because the original article is now being protected by a paywall although the original article was published before the paywall went up. The critical details are here:

By: Anna Shepard Eco-Worrier
Published at 12:00AM, February 23 2008

Q Is it better to use tissues or real handkerchiefs?
A Hankies all the way. Kinder on the nose, they also save trees and reduce landfill. A tissue is a one-use-only product. Needless to say, if you don’t use the recycled variety, you are using virgin fibre fresh from the forest, which requires a significant amount of energy to transform into a silky-smooth tissue.

Under Health and Safety regulations you can’t recycle tissues as they are considered contaminated. Composting them is the best disposal method, but I know that when I have a stinking cold the amount of tissue I get through would overwhelm my wormery.

According to the European Tissue Symposium, an average European will use 13kg of tissue (including toilet tissue) a year, which is the average weight of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.
This only highlights the merits of a lovely organic cotton hanky (try organically.co.uk ; boxes of eight from £12.99). Some people may be a little squeamish about carrying a bundle of germs in their pocket all day long, but they will quite happily ferry filthy tissues around, which is essentially the same thing.

Then there’s the matter of washing your hanky. Depending on how, erm, congested, you are, you may prefer to soak your dirty hanky before putting it in the wash. I bother to do this only when my sinuses are really playing up; the rest of the time I have no qualms about dropping a hanky in the washing machine with the rest of my clothes.

My mother has an ancient saucepan she reserves for boiling hankies, although, worryingly, I’m sure that I’ve seen her using it for boiling eggs. But there’s no time for hygiene obsessives when it comes to being green.

I’m lucky enough to have inherited some of Grandpa’s trademark red spotted hankies. He would never have been seen mopping his nose with a paper tissue. Regardless of the waste implications, it was a question of style.

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article2143660.ece

Monday, October 20, 2014

Going mad over fabrics

My family and I went over the pond in the summer to attend my niece's wedding on the Pacific coast. I took the opportunity to shop for fabric.

Since I've lost my main source of organic cotton fabric I have been eyeing suppliers overseas. But this particular one does not ship abroad without a great kafuffle. And it's expensive.

So I ordered fabric which was delivered to my brother and picked it up on one of the several occasions we met up.

While cutting the fabric I was suddenly brought back to a floral pink (yes, I'm afraid) that I remember I loved so very much. My eldest sister worked in an import-export business and she had samples of everything under the sun that a little girl could want: buttons, fabric swatches, make-up, etc.

I remember a book of swatches which I took to school when I was about nine years old. I had to show my teacher that beautiful swatch. The fabric Miraleste (the orangey one) is a bit like the swatch from this memory.

Anyway, these have finally been made up into good size hankies. The fabric is so fine that although it appears to be large, it does not take up any space at all.
More colour hankies to come. Look out for them!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One egg, three uses

I am becoming more like my mother every day.

My son is heading off back to school today. I had offered to make him pancakes, but a meeting got in the way. So I thought, "Ah! Pancakes for breakfast then."

Of course, being the efficient person that I am, I thought, "Ah! Prepare the mixture the night before."

Which I did.

Mixture done and stashed in fridge for the next day, I then put a finger into the egg shells to scrape off whatever egg yolk was left and ... just like my mum used to do ... smear it on my face.

You can feel the skin tighten. After a few minutes I washed off the eggy film. Has it been any good for my skin. Dunno. But it cannot be bad.

If you google egg white face mask, you will come up with loads of ideas and info about this very natural and nutritious face food.

That's (1) pancake mixture, (2) face mask and then

(3) after removing the membranous bit inside the egg shells I let them dry overnight. When dry I broke the shells into bits. This will later go into the garden to (a) hopefully deter the snails and slugs and (b) add additional nutrients to the soil.

My mum would have been so proud. One item, three uses.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Sanitary Pads

I tried ways of making a viable reusable organic cotton version but they were not very successful.
So very please to read about this:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cotton Reports

Wow! I've been away from this blog for such a long time. Been writing my more political ones elsewhere, I'm afraid.
Anyway, this week, several reports on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours on 'sustainable cotton'. Might be worth catching up. 
Working in the cotton industry
Fast Fashion: Affordable or Exploitative?
Cotton imports