Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


In Uncategorized on 3 July 2012 at 11:42

Following the wake of the Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court tends to be much more low key and relaxed event. This year press day was marred, like much of the summer (sic) by heavy showers that according to forecasters will continue throughout the week. However, this never tends to dampen the spirits of the designers, gardeners and exhibitors who, like their plants, are a hardy bunch that can always be counted on to do their best to make every show better than the last.

As usual the quirky gardens competed with the classical; the sublime with the ridiculous; but there is always something to delight everybody and there is never a shortage of things to admire. The Floral Marquee was a magnificent blaze of colour and this year over ninety nurseries and growers put on a stunning array of domestic and exotic plants and blooms.

Of the gardens, I particularly enjoyed The Discover Jordan Garden that took its inspiration from the lost city of Petra. Of the others, The Russian Museum Garden used a theme that was connected with St Petersburg (although I have to say, this was lost on me) and The Italian Job was a masterpiece in geometric design. There were a number of exceptional designs under the theme of ‘Low Cost High Impact Gardens’ that proved how a small space can be converted by anyone with a fairly restricted budget. Of these, among the superb examples I particularly enjoyed Live Outdoors that demonstrated what can be achieved with a budget of £13,000, although this is still wildly beyond the means of many.

The RHS Flower Shows throughout the country are always well worth a visit. I always marvel at the innovative way designers can plan, plant and create such beautiful creations on a temporary plot of land that remains for such a very short period and is then removed once the show is over. We cannot underestimate the talent of these people and it is pleasing to know that the British do this in such an auspicious way.

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show continues until 8 July so you there are just a few days to enjoy this amazing festival of colour. I suggest you brave the weather and take a good look for yourself.


In Uncategorized on 18 December 2011 at 11:25

I am not a religious person but I was amazed at a story the great actor Brian Blessed related to interviewer Fern Cotton on BBC1 this morning (18 December). Blessed told of a private meeting he had with the Dalai Lama who told by him that he knew his brother was very ill and was to ‘pass on’ very soon. His Holiness explained to Blessed not to worry because he would be taken care of and he would be re-incarnated and be reborn at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Blessed visited the address that the Dalai Lama had given him in Canada some time later and was surprised to meet a young boy who, he  recognised as his brother as he knew him when he was a young lad in looks and mannerisms.

This is a fantastic story but because it was being told in Brian Blessed’s particular way, there is absolutely no reason to doubt his belief in the authenticity of the tale.

Facebook by Jan Todd

In Ideas, Networking, Uncategorized on 29 November 2011 at 15:24

I was sitting at my computer, as usual, checking emails and playing games, with friends, Words, that’s my favourite at moment, it’s like scrabble but it takes up so much time, great chunks of the day can pass before you realise it.

You can easily get sidetracked too, one minute your playing a game, then up pops an ad and off you go, just now one popped up for ‘Mohammed- An Arab Rug Trader’, apparently he’s having a closing down sale somewhere in Perth and you can buy one, get one free! Before you know it you are measuring your hallway and looking at colours to blend in with your existing decor.

Then there is all the ‘chat’, one friend always likes to use a lot of those ‘emoticons’, little symbols like smiley faces to express how she is feeling, sometimes it’s a sad face but lately she’s been using a lot of ’squint’ symbols or is it a ‘wink’? With my eyesight I ‘should have gone to specsavers’!

Now I am looking online for a Christmas gift for my Mother-in-law, she’s 80 but said she “would like one of those gold ankle bracelets “of all things! She said she didn’t want me sending flowers by interflora to the UK as usual but says that an ankle bracelet will be nice and light to post. I am not sure if she is aware of the connotations of an ankle bracelet? But at 80 I am sure she must be but still I think she will be safe enough!

I detect a whiff of ‘Old Spice’ aftershave…my husband is entering the room, I must remember to buy him something more alluring for Christmas, ‘Au Savauge’ or ‘  Hugo Boss’. I glance up from the keyboard guiltily. Once again I am back online shopping and before I know it I have ordered and paid for:

3 Aah Bras, extra large.

1 Bottle of ‘Hugo Boss”

1 Bottle of ‘Paris,’ for myself!

1 Gold ankle bracelet.

1 Pink wheelbarrow, for one of my granddaughters.

1 Rocking Horse, for another.

1 Metal detector for my Son in Law.

I look at the time, 3 o’clock and I haven’t even been to the shops yet to get something for dinner.

I’ll just finish this game of Words then I’ll close down and go out. But what’s this? My friend in Canada has sent me a message. She can’t sleep, so would I like a game of “Texas Hold- em Poker!’ I’ve never played before but hey I can learn!




In Uncategorized on 14 September 2011 at 12:27

If you are finding it difficult to stay awake during daylight hours you could be suffering from a common, & potentially dangerous, sleep disorder, but this can be cured by a simple treatment.

The following article in a slightly revised form was written for The Mover – the independent voice of the global moving industry

Although British truck drivers are regarded to be amongst the safest on the road there have been several fatal accidents involving heavy goods vehicles that have been attributed to drivers falling asleep at the wheel . In July 2006 a family of four were killed on the A34 near Bicester when a 30-tonne truck ran into a line of stationary traffic during the afternoon rush hour. The driver of the truck had been awake since 0430 and had started driving at 0700. He was found guilty of four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and sent to prison for three years and nine months. During his trial he told the court “something catastrophic” had occurred but he did not know what. Without knowing it, this driver had momentarily fallen asleep.

A few months later, a young car driver was killed on the M62 near Liverpool caused by another HGV driver who had fallen asleep. The victim’s family discovered a year later that there had been four other similar accidents in a period of four months from October 2007 involving HGV drivers that had resulted in the deaths of nine people.  After coming to terms with the dreadful events that had left the young man dead, during August 2008 the driver responsible, Colin Wrighton, began campaigning to raise awareness of the condition that had caused him to fall asleep.  On 25 July 2011 Mr Wrighton bravely spoke of his concern on the BBC Radio 2 ‘Jeremy Vine Show’.

The causes of these two major accidents could easily have been avoided had they been diagnosed correctly and were attributed to a condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea. This is a significant disorder that affects more than one in 50 adults, but is more prevalent in middle-aged men who are obese. In 2005 the BBC Real Story programme suggested that 41 per cent of HGV drivers have a sleep disorder of some form with one in six of them requiring urgent treatment for sleep apnoea, although most are unaware of that they are sufferers. The condition is characterised by heavy snoring that leads to acute sleep disturbances that causes fatigue and sleepiness during the day. The British Sleep Foundation (BSF) considers lorry drivers to be particularly at risk because they are often overweight because of the their sedentary working conditions, have unhealthy high-fat diets and work unsocial hours.  One survey showed that 38 per cent of lorry drivers had a body mass index of between 25 and 30 and more than 50 per cent were regarded as obese with a body mass index over 30. Experts estimated that 80,000 of a workforce of half a million truck drivers may be suffering from sleep apnoea without knowing it. This is a frightening thought but HGV drivers are not alone and sleep apnoea also affects train drivers, airline pilots and motorists who are equally putting their lives and the lives of others at serious risk. Read the rest of this entry »

Kai Tak Remembered

In Airports, Aviation, Aviation History, Civil Aviation, Hong Kong, Uncategorized on 20 July 2011 at 00:49

Hong Kong International Airport at Kai Tak closed for business on July 6 1998 to be replaced by the superb new facility built on reclaimed land at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island.

The two airports are like chalk and cheese; one futuristic, the other was long past its sell by date; but there are still plenty who mourn the demise of the old place. Many are pilots who readily recall the adrenalin rush as they guided their aircraft along the instrument guidance system (IGS) just a few hundred feet above densely populated Kowloon tenements towards the infamous orange and white-painted checker board. When this was in view and the aircraft correctly aligned at a height of just 675 feet (206 metres), a sharp 47 degree turn was required that took the aircraft through a sweeping curve before leveling out 150 feet (46 metres) from the runway threshold.

At night, a unique lighting system set precisely at 400-foot intervals on rooftops and specially built gantries guided pilots towards the runway centre line. As final approach was imminent the spacing between the lights decreased to 200 feet. The need to use lights to guide pilots in this way, enforced a ban on flashing neon signs throughout Hong Kong to avoid distracting inbound pilots. The weather was often bad; typhoons, micro-bursts and severe crosswinds added to the workload of pilots and in many respects Kai Tak was a major accident waiting to happen. A few errant aircraft did end in the shallow waters of Kowloon Bay and it was indeed fortuitous that no commercial airliners ever came down on the crammed dwellings of Kowloon or missed the turn to end up ploughing into Lion Rock. This was due mainly to extremely good aviation skills, excellent air traffic control and, more specifically in the early days, an amazing element of luck. The airport certainly had its share of incidents and many aviation enthusiasts will have seen the video on ‘You Tube’ that shows how close a Korean Air Boeing 747 came to disaster during an extreme weather landing in a typhoon. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Traditional Photography Making a Revival?

In Uncategorized on 21 May 2011 at 13:50

According to today’s Daily Telegraph Harman Technology, the company that bought Ilford, has reported a substantial increase in the sale of 35mm and 120 roll film. Harman has said that there has been about an 8% increase in the sale of film over the last year. This comes as great news to traditional photographers of the ‘old school’ who believe that the overall quality of film is superior to that of digital capture.

Many young photographers, according to Steven Brierley, sales manager at Harman, see using film as ‘something cool’. He said ‘they want to do something different than point their mobile camera and take a picture’.

The London firm West End Cameras has also reported an increase in film processing and printing of between 10 and 15 per cent over the last year. What is more encouraging is that the business has said that prints from traditional film are outstripping prints from digital by 25 to one.

Innocent Photographer Held by Over-zealous Security Guards

In Broken Britain, Government, State of the Nation, Uncategorized on 24 February 2011 at 10:28

A letter sent by Simon St Clare to the Milton Keynes Citizen

I am a keen photographer and I regularly travel to CMK to watch films in Cineworld in Xscape. In the afternoon on Monday 7 Feb prior to watching a film I was ‘arrested’ by two of the Xscape security staff for taking photos of the outside of the building. I had just spent a while taking photos of the derelict part of The Food Hall and then I strolled over to Xscape where I took a few photos of part of the Xscape building. I had only been there for two minutes when I was approached by a security guard. He questioned me on my actions and I think he asked me to leave the area. I refused to leave the area and said I had the right to take photos in a public place. I thought it was reasonable to assume I was in a public place and my normal rights still applied.

A second security guard approached us and he stood behind me – which I thought was strange. I was then told that Xscape was a privately-owned building and I needed special permission to photograph it. They said it was both illegal and against Xscape company policy for the building to be photographed without permission. They then threatened to call the police if I did not leave the area. I thought it was reasonable to assume I was outdoors in a public place and any specifics regarding a company policy did not apply – afterall it wasn’t as if I was inside the building or in a nightclub or restaurant. I invited the security to call the police as I suspected they were being over-zealous and I hoped the police would confirm this and put them in their place.

We stood there outside in the cold waiting for the police to come along to let us know who’s right or wrong. After a couple of minutes I wanted to walk away (my plan was to go to see a film in Cineworld) but both guards stepped forwards and placed their hands on my arms. They told me I couldn’t go until the police arrived. I asked them if they would restrain me if I tried to go and they said they would.

Just after that I noticed one of the guards was not wearing an SIA  (Security Industry Authority) badge –I thought a badge number was meant to be on display so that it was easier for them to be held accountable. I asked the guard if he had an SIA badge and he replied “Who are you to ask me that?”. he then said something along the lines of ‘A f***ing judge or a magistrate can ask me that but you can’t.

The image Mr St Clare took at Milton Keynes

I estimate it took the police ten to fifteen minutes to arrive. When they came they asked me some questions, took my details and then let me go. They were very polite and reasonable, they said I had done nothing wrong and that Xscape should have some signs on prominent display if they wanted to prevent photography outside the building. They recommended I complain to the Xscape management about the situation.

A few minutes after the police had left I spoke to the manager of the Xscape security to complain about the situation-specifically about the guard who swore at me and although he apologised, one of the things he said was to the extent of : some of their staff are direct in the way that they speak and deal with situations -they are, therefore, more suited to working later in the day when there are rowdy drunk people to be dealt with. On this occasion, he explained, one member of staff had ended up working earlier in the day than usual.

I’ve taken many photos in public places around MK and I never take photos that invade privacy. I have found that security guards often want photographers to go away –even if they have the right to take photos in a certain area. I accept that if I am approached and questioned by the police when I am near a shopping centre their intention is to protect the public. When I was approached by these guards I could not understand how what I was doing could be seen as wrong or illegal. From the moment they approached me I felt as though they were on the offensive, they were not polite and they treated me like a suspected criminal instead of treating me like a customer of the Xscape building.

Related article that appeared on Amateur Photographer web page

Follow up article on Amateur Photographer web page

Timeless Memories of Goa

In Hotels, Uncategorized on 13 February 2011 at 18:54

Holidays evoke all sorts of wonderful memories and over lunch today my wife and I were having some laughs about a first magical trip to Goa in 1993.

Having duly arrived on Boxing Day after a gruelling charter flight from Gatwick it seemed to take hours before we were eventually shunted, tired and weary, through the immigration sheds at Dabolim airport to be ‘processed’. As we waited in the car park amidst grazing cattle we could have had stepped onto the set of some bizarre television sitcom.

It was here that we met Daren and Tina, a couple from Berkshire who were as bemused as we were by the activities surrounding us. White suited, buttonholed holiday reps clutching clipboards looked totally out of place as they rushed about like headless chickens to shunt their clients on to a fleet of buses.  We were with a different tour company and our rep was late arriving so we sat on the kerb watching local families cramming, nine or ten at a time into Ambassador taxis. As it turned out Daren and Tina were heading for the same hotel, the Penta by name but not to be confused with the chain of the same name. Eventually the four of us boarded an ageing bus but turned down the offer to put our bags on the roof for fear they would drop off somewhere en-route.

Next day, having acclimatised to the regular power cuts and a mysterious trickle of water that appeared in our bathroom ceiling that created a hole, we bumped into Daren and Tina relaxing by the pool. We struck up a conversation, swapped information about the peculiarities of our rooms and laughed at discovering that the restaurant windows contained no glass and the bar had ran out of drinks. We hit it off and have remained firm friends ever since, although we still do not know if it was something we said that caused them to later emigrate to Brisbane!

It was one of those holidays when all you want to do is absolutely nothing. The balmy days spent around the swimming pool were interrupted only by the four o’clock water polo match between the Brits and the locals and, because I cannot swim, confined me to the shallow end. This enabled us to forge acquaintances with a mixed band of other guests who, like us, did nothing but sit around with our heads buried in a book while we drank warm Kings beer or slept.

Middle-aged Tom, brown as a berry, had arrived from England and decided not to leave.  The only time he stirred was to make up the numbers in the polo game. This was soon joined by Adrian Mole a young lad holidaying in Goa with his parents who we assumed was about 14-years of age – or if he really had been the creation of Sue Townsend was really 13½. Mole was assigned the job of ball fetcher shouting “I’ll go Tom” every time the ball sailed out of play irrespective of whether it was Tom’s turn to muster the energy to fetch it. Mole became the subject of much jocularity as did Levine, a henpecked Jewish husband in his mid-fifties who claimed to be a mature student. Levine became our entertainment as we watched while eating breakfast in the windowless restaurant as he attempted to organise towels and sun beds for his lazy wife to occupy on the far side of the pool. He would meticulously spend half an hour carefully positioning the loungers ahead of his wife’s arrival but never ever got things right. After being chastised publicly for not placing the loungers just-so he would sulk away to the games room returning an hour later to complain to anyone prepared to listen that he had once again been short changed for a soft drink. At breakfast one day poor Levine was at breaking point when he sat out our table to eat his Kosher bacon. Pouring his heart out, we feared we were about to hear his confession to murdering his wife, but she appeared and he shuffled away from our table like a lost soul to resume his daily sun bed arranging duty. That evening he came second in the weekly quiz at Zee Bops – the beach bar where we spent our evenings. He won a ‘willy warmer’ but he was far from pleased. Levine really hadn’t enjoyed his holiday.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Joys of Barter

In Bartercard, Business, Food & Drink, Hotels, International Trade, Networking, Trading, Uncategorized on 5 February 2011 at 12:41

Bartering has been around ever since man began trading and despite an in-bred scepticism in the UK it can be a much more satisfying way of doing business especially when money is tight. I enjoy bartering and use it extensively to obtain goods and services that I need. It is a particularly useful way of doing business during periods when cash trade is scarce or you have excess capacity or stock that you want to shift. With the advent of the internet, most countries now have an organised barter trading system and mega businesses, even governments are not averse to trading in this way. I once worked for a client in the construction industry who regularly took payment for their projects in Nigeria with tankers of crude oil in place of hard cash, that was later sold on to one of the major oil companies.

Communities have grown using the bartering system with various levels of success on a local level, but by far the most successful bartering organisation is Bartercard, an international trading portal that operates in six countries and has 75,000 trading members. Bartercard simplifies the trading process by matching the requirements of members to appropriate suppliers of products and services that they require. Payment is conducted using Trade pounds, thus when I make a sale the payment for my services will be credited to my account enabling me to spend on anything I need to buy from other member businesses. This means when I want to eat out, stay at a hotel, buy items that I need – even pay for my private dental treatment, I pay using Trade Pounds instead of spending cash. Bartercard makes its money by charging fees on every transaction, but these are tiny compared to the equivalent cash spend you might otherwise make. It is a great way of doing business and it is all ‘above board’ – with members paying tax and collecting VAT on transactions in the normal way. Being a Bartercard member also acts as a social networking forum that forges firm friendships and working relationships with other businesses.

The only downsides are that you cannot buy fuel, or use Bartercard to buy food in the supermarkets, but it is something the major companies should consider. The reserved nature of the Brits still casts a suspicion over anything innovative that can really help their businesses. But it really is time that all businesses woke up to the benefits Bartercard has to offer as an alternative to paying for everything using cash.

Further links:

Recession tips for business

Bartercard testimonials

Bartercard’s latest investment