Archive for February, 2013

In the wake of events in South Africa with the sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the main focus has been, did he or didn’t he, kill his innocent partner Reeva Steenkamp?¬†In my opinion, the main focus should firstly be with the family of Reeva and the grieving process and secondly with the fact that guns are so readily available in so many countries, it’s hard not to imagine these incidents¬†occurring.

Look at the USA. They still operate of the opinion that guns are for protection and if they didn’t have one and the person who enters the premises does, then they can’t defend themselves. Ignoring the fact that they also have an armed police force, national guard and armed forces to defend themselves. Guns shouldn’t be available to people on the streets of any country. What gives any man the right to decide if another man lives or dies? The ironic thing with stating this fact is that it often results in death threats and anger, which makes the point even more relevant. If the people making the threats have guns, it’s a pretty serious threats. Piers Morgan is often abused because he questions the gun laws. Although he didn’t insist they should be banned but questioned the numbers and types of guns available. But I see daily on sites such as Twitter, the abuse he gets because of a mere statement or interview.

USA was an easy target for an example as they are often publicised heavily due to the unfortunate age of victims. It is often innocent school children or party goers that get targeted. But here in the UK, the problem is becoming more regular. Large cities often have gang violence with weapons such as guns or knives. And speak to any of these gang members and the ideology is exactly the same as the normal American Citizen. They have to carry a weapon because a rival gang member will have one. I have seen these things first hand growing up. People I grew up with have been in prison countless amounts of times. But they come out and fear retribution for the crime that got them reprimanded. So “tool up” and risk an even greater crime.

When does it stop escalating. The more the media publicise the violence, the more fear provokes people to have protection in the home or car. Baseball isn’t the most popular sport in the UK but if you look in certain areas, lots of people purchase the bat, although not many purchase the ball to play the game. The scary part for me and lots of people I talk to is the young age of the up and coming gang members. Often in areas with gang violence, the victims are the family left behind. But this isn’t just in terms of the upset and grieving. This is the imprint of the pain, the death caused. It can escalate into anger at a young age and often results in repeat violence from young brothers or sisters seeking retribution.

Being completely honest, I am not saying protecting the home is a bad thing. And I completely agree with the often used example, if a burglar breaks into my house, I will use whatever force necessary to stop them harming my family. The scary part is, that if I own a gun, that will almost definitely result in death for someone. The common point people make at this point is, the burglar deserved it, the burglar would have done it to you. All fair points, but what about the intruders family, children or friends? They did nothing to deserve it and although he made the wrong choice by being in your house, you still inevitably pulled the trigger.

What is the answer? Honestly I don’t know. But until we find a way to stop weapons being the only form of defence against fear, we’re going to see more and more needless deaths, murder or otherwise.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment…

Lee

 

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Once upon a time, a whistle would blow or a bell would chime and work would stop. Has this disappeared on purpose or have businesses merely taken the bell or whistle off the wall?

I know laws are in place to ensure that we all have adequate breaks at work. But in reality, laws are only effective when they are followed in every office block, warehouse or factory. And who actually polices these laws and regulation, the HR department of a national company who are in London, while you are in an office in Devon.

Lets be honest now, how many people reading this have worked through lunch to meet a deadline? How many feel pressured to do this regularly? How many have lunch at a desk and a colleague or manager will just check on some work? The sandwich goes back on the foil and this time is magically wiped away from the dinner hour. It happens everywhere and the mere mention of it, screams lack of commitment to the company you work for.

In my opinion, countries such as Spain and Japan have a far better system then our own for this sort of issue. Some companies in Japan have pods for the employees to sleep in during breaks to ensure they are fully rested and performing at the best of their abilities. It gives them a break to dream of new ideas and evaluate the day so far. Although I have to point out, that I for one can’t do power naps. If I eventually go to sleep, it’s for good, not for 30 minutes of relaxation time. But the principals are right. People need a break. Its common sense. But when we go to a cafe for a cup of coffee, do we look at the beautiful view at Crooklets Beach? Or do we get our IPad or laptop out and just check on our emails.

When do we unplug everything and say, today I am going to relax and evaluate ¬†the day in it’s simplest form? This is how some of the greatest ideas in history were thought up. We need to use the greatest piece of technology we have from time to time, which is our own brain. When you sit in silence, have you ever noticed how many new thoughts occupy your mind? Things you may not have thought about for years. You start to evaluate things, you start to use skills you have learnt over the years to decide the best way forward. Instinct can be our most prized asset but we spend so much time checking Google, reading forums and updating social media, that we never actually ask ourselves what we think the best form of action may be.

I’m a firm believer in technology being used to make things easier but lets stop developers making it the new human brain and do a little thinking for ourselves. Not using the internet or technology for one day isn’t as scary as it first seems. Take a walk, meditate, go to the gym and you’ll see a new perspective. Even if it’s the realisation that actually, you can’t live without the technology you use so often.

Just an ironic thought, the irony being that you need to use the technology to read the post in the first place. I needed to use it to write it but no one said I was perfect either.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment…

Lee

 

 

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President Obama has decided to increase the minimum wage in America. Now most people will think this is a noble act of someone trying to put an end to poverty, in a nation where people are still starving to death. A similar action was taken in the UK a few months ago. My opinions of the minimum wage are pretty honest, I don’t think it helps anyone.

Lets face facts, money is generated to spend, save or borrow. If we earn more we’ll have more money in our pockets to spend. True enough but what happens to the things we want to buy, they go up in price due to increased cost in production, distribution and retailing. All these areas rely on staff accepting minimum wage to make good profits. Looking at the costs in the home alone, we don’t benefit at all.

I decided to do a little case study based on a 21 year old, single person, living in Bude, Cornwall who needs to be a car driver due to poor transport links to work. Below are my estimates.

Income

Lets look at our minimum wage of £6.19 an hour (21 year old) on a 37.5 hour week.

This gives us a £12,070.50 per annum gross salary. Without being too accurate with regards to tax and National Insurance, this would give us roughly £10,740 per annum to live on or £895 pcm.

Expenditure

Rent for a 1 bedroom flat in Valley Road, £395 pcm.

Water Bill £50 pcm.

Electricity/Gas £99 pcm.

TV Licence £21 pcm.

Phone Line/Broadband £14.50 pcm

Car Tax £11.25 pcm

Car Insurance £100 pcm

Petrol/Diesel Costs. £80 pcm

Now based on those estimates that leaves us £124.25 per month, give or take a few pound.

Food/Household

Now the above to me are standard living costs. But we haven’t even done a basic weekly food shop for around ¬£29. The cost of food has risen dramatically over the past few years, with even basic cupboard fillers such as bread and milk being unaffordable in my opinion. With this sort of budget you have to pick and choose which area of your life you forsake. ¬†You ¬†can’t pick and choose any products, you have to take what you can find, which in the majority cases are heavily laden with salt and sugar to make them taste a little better. You have very little chance to buy anything fresh, as the cost of these products mean you’d have to leave other products you definitely would need. And lets not forget the¬†hygiene¬†and personal health aspect. I have no issue stating that cheap toilet roll, as a massive example, is absolutely useless. It is not good for your health,¬†hygiene¬†and in reality your pocket, as it’s so thin you use a roll per curry. But it is all you can afford.

Social Recluse 

Now even though food is the¬†necessity¬† This is the area that really gets to me the most. We are all overweight, spend too much time indoors watching TV and playing on our¬†game station¬† This person is living alone and can’t afford to socialise. What doesn’t cost these days. They could join a local football club. I pay ¬£3 per week for the¬†privilege¬†of playing. About going to the gym, only if they don’t eat for the month and use the entire shopping bill to afford the membership. Maybe they could try the pub and meet new people there. Hmm, maybe not. So what is available for this person, that works hard on the minimum wage purely to stay alive. Not a lot in my opinion.

Now all of the above is an example in my eyes of a person living on the national minimum wage. Although personally, all the wage is¬†actually¬†doing is keeping the person alive. The worst thing about the example is, I haven’t even included the credit cards, loans or overdraft the person will now doubt have by this age. Whether it be through educational costs, living expenses or once in a while, a night out with friends or family.

What is the answer?

In my mind, living in a world where money is everything, I don’t see how we can improve things easily. We could put the wage up some more and go full circle. It makes no difference what we’re paid, as it’ll increase the cost of buying what we need. Perhaps the answer is driving the costs down by using local suppliers, wholesalers and retailers. Taking the national status and scrapping it. Making communities self sufficient and supportive of each other.

Can’t see it and neither can you but inevitably, something needs to change. We can’t live, while we’re just trying to stay alive.

Thanks for reading…

Lee

Image : http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-i-used-this-summer-sensuous.html

In the UK we have placed an emphasis on education and experience for a number of years now. Which up until the past year or so, was a positive attempt to make us a serious country to do business with. That was until the recession took over the country. Now it seems that experience and qualifications are actually a bad quality to have whilst finding employment.

Now as with all my posts, I’m speaking quite generally. Of course if you have a law degree and a lawyer needs a trainee, they’re going to find it imperative to have this quality in a new employee. But what happens when the person with the law degree decides that they’d actually like to work in retail and applies for a job in a supermarket. Years ago this was the normal, students were studying whilst working in retailers, fast food and clothes shops all over the country.

But over the past year or so, I’ve heard more and more people complain that they’ve applied for jobs and been told that they have too much experience or too many qualifications. It has happened to me countless amounts of times. I am the sort of person that has an enormous amount of ambition but also a fierce sense of loyalty with companies that give me an opportunity to shine. I have saved companies up to ¬£500k in costs and never left for any reason other then lack of career progression within the company I am in. Not that the opportunities weren’t within the company, they just weren’t sent in my direction, which is fine on the outside but not when you take into account what I gave the companies back.

So I’d personally enjoy the challenge of working my way up from the shop floor to the managers seat, through innovative solutions and hard work. Unfortunately companies look at my CV and believe I am purely looking for a stop gap, I don’t even get the opportunity to explain my loyalty, work ethic or what I can offer. In fact in 3 minutes actual time, I got turned down for a position at Pets at Home in Launceston. 3 minutes after they’d seen I have previous retail experience, 3 minutes after they’d seen my CV with evidence of turning a ¬£16k deficit into a ¬£3k profit per month, 3 minutes after they’d read I have experience of dealing with ¬£3 million plus turnover budgets, 3 minutes after they’d seen I have a dog, 3 cats, guinea pigs, fish and children. They decided I was the wrong person for the job.

Now I’m not saying no other reason could have been viable, but the above is fact and it took 3 minutes to decide I wasn’t suitable. What could possibly have been the negative. Maybe I am used to projects, managing large teams or saving lots of money on a regular basis. But I have also worked hard for each company I have been at and saved a lot of money through working with management up to director level. This is not to say I am perfect and I wish it was bragging but if I can’t even earn an interview for a job I believe I could do to a high standard, then I’ve not got a lot to brag about.

Now it could be something simpler. It could be merely down to the fact that the amount of CV that the company wanted were set at 100 and I was number 101. It could be that the person reading the CV decided I maybe a threat to their own position, you’d be surprised how often you hear this in a managers office, it could even be that I had the wrong postcode but either way it gets a little frustrating for all concerned.

The solution isn’t a simple one. In the current state of job application process, which in my opinion is badly outdated and in need of an overhaul, It is hard to actually get into the interview seat and prove you want the position and are not over qualified. In any other world, surely being over qualified means being able to perform the position. I mean if you could get a perfectly trained member of staff for minimum wage, is it actually a risk to pick someone with experience or qualifications?

It’s something that won’t be changing for a good few years yet but something that I’d love to put out there to potential employers. When you see a CV and think, is this person right for the position? Or I wonder why they applied? Pick the phone up and ask. You might save ¬£500k for minimum wage. It doesn’t take qualifications or experience to see that makes extremely good sense.

Thanks as always for reading and I would love to see your comments.

Lee

I had a few ideas for posts today but on a drive through Stratton, something caught my eye, which made up my mind in an instant. Sometimes small things make a huge difference on the days outlook.

I was on my way to get my daughters fringe cut with Terry, a very friendly hairdresser in Bude. I drove through Stratton and saw a Petit, older lady, who was struggling to walk due to a possible ailment or maybe a touch of fatigue but still soldiering on wearing the colours of the British Heart Foundation proudly. This actually made me proud of someone I had never met and made me take a long hard look at myself.

I have days where I look at my situation negatively, as I’m sure we all do. I may get up and feel a little hard done by, life is treating me badly, fate has always got a negative bombshell to throw in front of me but then you see a lady making a difference because she can, not because she has too. She got up this morning and felt that she could help a worthwhile cause. She probably doesn’t get money for this but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She made a difference for me today and I’m sure she made a difference to the charity too.

I know there are national awards and TV shows that recognise a lucky few in the volunteering field but I thought I’d bring your attention to this particular lady for briefly coming into my life today and giving me some true perspective on making a difference in this world.

If you do read this and you know it’s aimed at you, I’d like to say thank you and God bless you, for everything you do…

Lee

As it’s Valentines Day and spirits are high, well in some cases, I decided to pass judgement on the meaning of the day, the sentiment, the economy and the values it holds. As with all my blogs, the detail is in the opinion, not my fascinating knowledge of the centuries old tradition of Valentines and where it all started and by whom. My basis is on today and the impact it has on the lives of people living right now.

The idea of Valentines in it’s most basic state is kind of sweet but in reality, is it actually a day for celebrating? Looking at all age ranges and statuses, we soon find that a large amount of people will actually feel pretty miserable right now. That said a large amount will be very happy.

Infant Children
I remember being at school and watching as children opened up Valentines cards, sent with no real idea what it meant. Honest truth, I got a card, I felt pretty good. But even at that age, I saw children looking around for their card. It wasn’t meant in a hurtful way and no child chose to punish another but with Valentines, it’s not encouraged to send everyone a card, unlike Christmas or Easter.

Teenagers
As a teenager it’s even more confusing. You get cards from your friends, pretending to be girls, just to be humorous, at least I hope it was. Although that would explain a lot. You also get cards from girls that wanted one back but yours went to their friends. It’s sounding like a counselling session now but you get the idea. You maybe even find your first love and borrow money from your parents to get them a present and card for the first time. It’s confusing but kind of fun. But again, you still feel that loss of confidence when you don’t get a card.

Adults
As an adult, it becomes increasingly important to make sure you put this date in your diary. Failure to appreciate this date can result in all sorts of problems. It’s sold to be as important as your actual anniversary. The questions start as soon as you hit the workplace, gym or football pitch. Are you doing anything tonight? What did you get the wife or girlfriend? The answer to this question is quite simple, something. Nothing, indicates a lack of love on this faithful day. But imagine for a minute if you didn’t get anything because you hadn’t got anyone to share the day with. Even as an adult this can have a massive effect on your day, self esteem and confidence. Even reading this some of you might be a little down right now.

We’ve looked at the affect on the age ranges. Now lets look at the benefits on the economy, the waste and the potential changes or ideas to improve the day. I mean you don’t really believe that this day has to exist to celebrate love. Surely every other guy brings home flowers weekly to the wife or chocolates. Nope, me neither, if you ever try that on any other day then Valentines Day you may get accused of having an affair or going to the pub after work. Although some couples are just that loving. Only on this day, is it important to do these things.

Local Economy
For an area like Bude, the economic affect of Valentines Day can be quite profound. I mean how many menus, flyers and vouchers have you had to advertise it. They will be fully booked for the entire weekend. No tables will have one person alone, that’s banned on this day. Every table will have a couple, whether it be two men, two women or man and women. The prices will be competitive but only compared to each other, after all, this day is special. But on the positive side, this creates work for people, business for people and an atmosphere for people. Couples may propose and this could result in marriage and parties in the area. Again good for business. Couples could baby make and, well you get the idea.

Waste and Environment
The one thing I do hate about these days are the cards and boxes it creates. Every special occassion has them. Trees die for love daily and we justify this by saying, it’s okay, we’re planting more to replace them. Why send them. We have technology, send a video, send an ecard, send a text, actually pick up a phone and talk to someone. These are much better methods. But if you do feel that a card is neccessary, please recycle it. It’ll make me feel better, if not you.

Improvements and Ideas
How many establishments are having a singles night tonight? How many places are encouraging people to find the one they love? Not many from my browse. Wouldn’t it be nice to be the exception from the rule. I know as a businessman or woman, you must think I’m crazy. Lets be honest, it’s easy money. The marketing has been done for you, the event is set in stone and men and women will be booking those tables on instinct. But to be different can sometimes help to be memorable. To create love is as important as celebrating love.

In my house as you’d expect, we do things a little different. Our anniversary is conveniently the week after Valentines Day. So for us, it’s much more special to go out the week after Valentines Day. The atmosphere, the intensity, the food and the love are still available but It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to show it.

Hopefully you enjoyed the read and as always feel free to comment…

Lee

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Every week we take our bin bags outside and watch as they are removed from our lives by a refuse vehicle. Not thinking about where they will end up, some of us even use the notion that we pay our council tax for this very reason, so we may as well use the service. This post will hopefully encourage more people to stop and think about waste in general and furthermore maybe reduce the need for this weekly service. Although the mere suggestion of this has provoked outrage in the past.

Most people will at this stage, quote figures of some sort. Some will be positive, some will be negative, it just depends which side of the fence you are sitting on. Personally I have worked within the waste industry and have also placed my bin bags out weekly, so I feel I have the knowledge and background to make a neutral opinion on the situation.

First thing I’d like to do is draw your attention to the picture below. It’s not as dramatic as visiting a landfill but it does show a brief insight of what you would see, if you did have the misfortune of visiting one, although I would encourage it, if the opportunity arose.

landfill

Now the first problem with the waste industry in my opinion, is it’s a business sector. The aim is to make a profit, I know they will all have exceptional plans to create environmental, recyclable solutions to any problem but in reality, they all operate more general waste vehicles per depot then any other waste stream. This isn’t always the waste industries fault, after all, if the customers recycled everything they could, the recycling vehicles would be most needed.

Each waste vehicle can hold around 10 tonne of waste and they empty twice a day in some cases. This is an astonishing amount of waste just in the Bude area. Whether it be commercial or household waste, it is just left outside and collected without a second thought.

Whilst working in the industry, I had to lead a team of people to target a well known pub chain who had bins for food, DMR (Dry Mixed Recycling), glass and one general waste bin for anything that wasn’t recyclable. Although all these recycling options were their, they insisted on loading every bin with general waste. The answer from the majority of managers at these establishments was lack of time or staff not listening. Although from a manager who leads by both example and guidance, my staff have always done as I have asked and we worked together to achieve these kinds of objectives.

Unfortunately whilst the government Is getting a large amount of landfill tax per tonne of waste (¬£80 per tonne by 2014), supposedly to stop us from sending waste to landfill, which is similar to the high level of duty on cigarettes, alcohol and petrol to stop us smoking, drinking and driving our cars, although we all are fully aware of the real reason. Although obtaining planning on other solutions such as incinerators and recycling facilities isn’t always easy.

This is where communities, businesses and local families in areas such as Bude need to set a precedence for being the best in the country for not only recycling but not creating a lot of the waste in the first place. A few ways of doing this could be as follows:

Freecycle type of initiatives
When we have a piece of furniture, a toy or even an old TV, our normal route would be to take it to the Sita site at Bude and throw it into a bulk container. I’ve done my bit, it’ll get recycled you say. But what happens if someone could have used it. Just because you feel like an update, doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t be interested in your old belongings. I’d urge you to put an advert on and see if someone wants it first, it’ll save the cost of your fuel, the diesel of the bulk carrier carrying it around and potentially stop it going to a landfill.

No general waste week in Bude
Why not organise a local no general waste week for the area. Encourage the waste providers to close for the week, no need to collect our general waste because we’re not going to create any. I know this may seem far fetched but what do you actually put in the black bags you place out. Food waste? Don’t cook as much, place it on the plate before you put it in the oven to see if you will eat it all, it works for dieting, it works for waste reduction. Recyclables? These are generally thrown into black bags, the bags are black to identify them, not to hide the sins of throwing away card board, plastic bottles and tins. It’s a possibility.

Waste in Business
Most recyclable waste is cheaper to dispose of then general waste. So why not speak to your waste provider about giving you a free recycling bin to go with that costly general waste bin. Even if it’s a little 240 litre one that you think, I’ll never use that, but you slowly fill it with card and paper waste. Restaurants and cafes, get a food waste bin, the collections are getting more regular and it’s cheaper then general waste. Rats aren’t the problem, effort is the problem from my experience. Office environments, companies will still pay for bailed card or paper and it’s a good rate, create some extra turnover by finding them and selling your own recyclables.

Get the schools involved
Schools are such a positive environment for issues such as waste. Perhaps schools should have recycling bins that encourage the kids to fill with recyclables, it’s a good learning curve for the children and can heavily influence parents at home.

And lastly council tax
Recyclables are worth money, we are like little labourers every fortnight, seperating them all to make the council more money when they sell them on. If Bude could lead the way and get weekly recyclable collections and fortnightly general waste collections, it’d be nice to see this on the bottom line every month in the form of a council tax discount.

So much more could be written but I’m fully aware of the length of the post already, so for now I will end it here. The main point is, let’s make Bude green and an example to the rest of the country, one less black bag to landfill at a time.

Feel free to comment as always and hopefully it will provoke some thought on a subject I am truly passionate about…