Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Happy Birthday, Hannah


A very happy birthday to my lovely grand-daughter Hannah who is 7 years old today. She is pictured above with her brother and sister Jack and Ava, my fiancée Marion and the old man in the middle...

More pics to follow at www.auldyinwithacamera.blogspot.com

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cooking Up a Plan B, Darling...


 
Breakfast in the Darling household. Mr Darling cooks breakfast

Alistair: What would you like for breakfast, darling?

Mrs D: Well, I think I’ll have some bacon.

AD: I’m afraid you can’t have that.

Mrs D: Why not?

AD: It’s simply not possible.

Mrs D: But surely the bacon is as much mine as it is yours.

AD: It’s not logical for you to share the bacon with me.

Mrs D: Why ever not?

AD: It simply wouldn’t work. And now that I’ve said you can’t have the bacon, you’ll have to choose something else. Have got a Plan B?

Mrs D: It’s in my best interests to share the bacon with you. As I’ve already said, it’s as much mine as it is yours. And if I want to have the bacon I shall have it.

AD: So, you don’t have a Plan B? How about a Plan C, D, E or F?

Mrs D: I want what’s best for me. You shared some bacon with one of your former treasury colleagues the other morning – he said it was perfectly plausible and you said it was logical and desirable.

AD: My words were taken out of context. Can’t you not consider, just for a moment, that you are wrong and you can’t have the bacon?

Mrs D: I want what’s best for me. You can’t stop me having the bacon.

AD: No, I can’t but it’s just not practical. You sharing the bacon means you’re not really independent and you’re relying on me to set the breakfast agenda. That’s very much like having you cake and eating it.

Mrs D: Or bacon roll…

AD: You simply can’t stand there and say ‘I’ll have the bacon’ You have to have a Plan B.

Mrs D: There’s no need for a Plan B – that bacon is as much mine as it is yours.

AD: Have you considered the consequences if you can’t have the bacon? Will you opt for the Euro Sausage? Or create your own cereal?

Mrs D: You’ve changed your tune. You once supported the idea of us having a shared breakfast. I think you’re trying to create a climate of fear by telling me I can’t have the bacon and will have to use something like muesli instead.

AD: You seem to forget that I helped saved the local butcher when he faced bankruptcy by buying his stock of bacon. And now you expect me to share this with you?

Mrs D: Yes, and you bought the bacon when you were in charge of the breakfast budget. You put all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

AD: I must also warn you that the fine coffee you enjoy won’t last forever. There’s only so much coffee left at the local corner shop.

Mrs D: There’s a plentiful supply of coffee which will serve us well for years to come.

AD: It’s going to run out at some stage. And then what will you do?

Mrs D: What about the fresh new coffee that’s been discovered in the new supermarket?

AD: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Mrs D: Yes you do. Mr Cameron was there just the other week but didn’t want anyone to know about it.

AD: You know I’m right and you’re wrong. You can’t share the bacon and the coffee will soon run out. Why don’t you consider eggs for breakfast?

Mrs D: There’s one reason why I can’t.

AD: Which is?

Mrs D: The yoke’s on you, Darling…

Saturday, 2 August 2014

5-1 is Child's Play

Scotland's Eilidh Child won silver in the 400 metres hurdles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow during the week. Hearts fan Eilidh caused a bit of a stooshie at the end of the race by making the 5-1 gesture - like most Hearts supporters, we never tire of reminding our Hibernian counterparts of the score between the teams in the 2012 Scottish Cup final. As these images demonstrate...





Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dear Undecided Scottish Voter

Dear Undecided Scottish Voter,

Here are 12 points to think about before the independence referendum on 18th September 2014.


1. Vote!

Compared to Westminster-style politics – a few talking-heads in TV studios – the Scottish referendum debate has been lively, localised and (by global standards) peaceful, involving thousands of Scots. Chances are you’ve already participated, in which case, congratulations - there are plenty of cynics “out there” who said that people like you don’t care about politics. Now, whatever you eventually decide, you should VOTE! A high turnout will show that Scots care actually do care about their country. And spare a thought, by the way, for the millions of Scots based overseas, many temporarily, who would love to vote but can’t!


2. Do you think Britain is a fair, well-managed and equal country?

A loaded question, obviously. Despite the once-in-a-lifetime “lottery win” that is North Sea oil (half of which has gone forever, squandered by Westminster), Britain over the last 35 years has become a more unequal society. The wealth and income gap between rich and poor is back to Victorian levels. Of course inequality has grown in other developed countries too but the UK (and USA) are by far the worst examples - we can all think of parts of the UK that remained poor even during the (so-called) “boom years” before 2008. Other countries have been much smarter about sharing wealth and success. They don’t automatically blame the “workshy poor” for every economic and social problem. Do you feel personally responsible for causing the Global Financial Crisis? Well, chances are that, as a UK resident, you’re already paying the price in some way, whereas the Top 5% have seen their wealth expand dramatically since 2009. Coincidence? Hardly – it’s a matter of Westminster’s political choices. UK governments chose to allowed the financial sector to run itself (into the ground), chose to bail out banks at the taxpayer’s expense, chose to prosecute no senior bankers, chose to reduce taxation for the rich and Big Business, chose for low-wage employers to be indirectly subsidised by the benefits system. Now Westminster wants austerity – but only for the “little guy”, not the well-connected! On 18th September 2014, Scots have an incredible opportunity to say goodbye to all that.


3. Is there a better model than the UK on “how to run a country”?

Nowhere’s perfect but the most successful countries in the world, in terms of their standard of living, economic strength and social progress – are small European states such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden (“The Scandinavian model”). The UK was a success story when the British Empire was still around. Scots contributed disproportionately to that success but Great Britain’s best days are certainly in the past. Westminster government is distant, corrupt and inefficient and UK economic policy is geared towards London and SE England, the financial services sector in the City, and real estate speculation. Devolution for Scotland has seen some small successes but we could do so much more if we had 100% control of the economic levers. North Sea oil is a bonus and there’s still at least £1.5 trillion of reserves “out there” (that’s one thousand five hundred million, million pounds!). And even without oil our economy includes strong sectors such as Food and Drink, renewable energy, wealth management, life sciences and further education.


4. Scotland already pays its way.

All you hear on the BBC and other media is endless repetition that Scots get more public spending per head. What the media rarely admit is that Scots have also paid more tax per head than the Rest of UK for at least 30 years. Social spending, Scandinavian-style, won’t be cheap. But doing nothing is also expensive. Thanks to years of bad choices in Westminster, UK families now pay childcare costs of around 25% of household income (much higher than other rich European countries), while taxpayers foot the bill for the massive social problems caused by lack of spending where it would be most effective – at the pre-school stage. When it comes to the “Scandinavian model” or any other expenditure, Scots know this much: You get what you pay for.


5. Is it possible to create a better country?

Why not?


6. Voting No doesn't mean things will stay the same.

Many will vote No because they want to “keep things the same” as they are now. But big changes are already happening in the rest of the UK. Rapid privatisation of the NHS in England and anti-immigrant politics are a major departure from the values that the “old UK” used to stand for; after a No vote, the Scottish government will be pressurised to do the same. UK exit from the EU in 2017 is a distinct possibility – that would affect thousands of jobs. And UK public debt has now reached £1.4 trillion or 76% of our annual Gross Domestic Product, so it’s only a matter of time until there are bigger cuts to “good” public spending (after the 2015 General Election). But Westminster will always find money for tax cuts for the rich and Big Business, and for vanity projects such as aircraft carriers to “project British power overseas” (as if the UK’s “independent foreign policy” isn’t already dictated by the USA). A No vote will only ensure things stay the same for the “Haves”.


7. Do not be fooled by the currency debate. You’re smarter than that.

The pound sterling is just as much Scotland’s currency as it is the Rest of the UK’s. Westminster politicians who say there would be “no sharing” of the pound are having a laugh. If there’s a Yes vote, they’ll change their minds faster than a dodgy expenses claim submission. Currency unions are very common – just Google it! Do you really imagine that English businesses would willingly cough up billions of pounds a year in foreign exchange fees to trade with Scotland – one of their biggest markets – just to massage the egos and pride of a shower of here-today, gone-tomorrow Westminster politicians, most of whom already have an eye on a lucrative business career after they’ve left politics? The Bank of England has already said they will manage any currency arrangement. Currency union - it’s a case of “filling out some forms”. Other currency unions work perfectly well. Better Together only ever talk about problems in the Eurozone but these are mainly caused by the big economic differences between (say) Germany and Greece whereas Scotland and England’s economies are very similar – except that Scottish GDP per head is 15% higher if North Sea Oil is included. A UK currency union would work simply because… come Hell or high water, business always finds a way to make money.


8. And anyway… it’s about more than pennies and pounds!

It’s too bad that Westminster and “Better Together” politicians think that Scots are greedy individualists whose votes will be swayed by a few hundred pounds here or there. Maybe they’ve been looking in the mirror too long? Money’s important but it isn’t everything. What about taking responsibility for your own destiny, self-respect, not living in the past?


9. Nothing is guaranteed in life...

Independence carries a degree of risk. But choosing to stay in the UK is also risky. We already mentioned NHS privatisation, public spending cuts and possible EU exit in 2017. We already know that Westminster is mainly interested in London and SE England so it’s a fair bet that even more public spending will be concentrated there. The fact is: all countries face challenges and uncertainties, even the biggest, such as China and the USA. Fortunately we have plenty of examples of small-but-nimble countries doing very well independently, while fully participating in global institutions such as the UN, EU and NATO. Scotland would be “Better Together” with the rest of the world, not Westminster. The international ratings agency Standard and Poor’s – one of the Top 3 on whom the international financial system is based – says that an independent Scotland would receive its “highest credit assessment – even without North Sea oil”. But it’s likely that most Scots will only have heard about the biased reports that support the Better Together argument, same as in 1979 and 1997. Some things never change!


10. Independence isn't about being "anti-English".

The UK media cannot – will not – accept that independence isn’t about being “anti-English”. They like to characterise the independence referendum as a re-run of the Battle of Bannockburn. Even The Economist magazine – normally sensible – recently ran a big cover with a close-up of a tartan-clad punter in a Jimmy wig with his face painted blue. But Scots are – by and large - grown-ups who live in the 21st century. We don’t paint our faces blue (usually). We think things over then take rational – yes, “canny” – decisions. Having said that, we’re also human beings, not robots. We strike a balance between head and heart. For example, many Scots who felt proud when our national athletics team marched into Celtic Park at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in July must also have noticed that nearly all of the 70-odd countries and territories of the former British Empire have declared independence. And none of them appear to regret it.


11. Vote Yes and help save the Rest of the UK

Scotland is already different, politically, from the rest of the UK. An independent Scotland, pursuing progressive and sustainable economic and social policies, would be a great example for our friends and colleagues in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and a major kick-up-the-backside for complacent Westminster politicians who truly “know the price of everything but the value of nothing”.


12. A No vote would feel like 1,000 Scotland sporting defeats

Don’t be a “90-minute patriot”. If you feel bad when Scotland lose on the football pitch, imagine that sensation multiplied by 1,000 when you wake up on 19th September 2014, you and a majority having voted No, and you hear Westminster politicians interpret the result – however close - as a 100% vote of confidence to continue with the same tired old politics of austerity, inequality and living-in-the-past. Westminster squandered the first half of the North Sea oil bonanza but there’s still at least £1.5 trillion of reserves to be exploited. The UK is badly-managed and lopsided towards London and SE England, the rich and Big Business. Do you really trust Westminster to suddenly change its ways after a No vote, or do you think Scotland could do better on its own?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

If You're Thinking of Using BT (part two)

Last September I posted a rant about BT. This was regarding my mother's change of address when she went without her BT landline and broadband services for a few weeks.

Recently, BT contacted my mother to advise her current modem - or Hub - needed to be replaced if she was to acquire the BT Infinity service which, she was told, would mean a faster and more reliable broadband service. My mother agreed and arrangements were made for a Hub to be sent and a date for an engineer to call round and set everything up. The Hub duly arrived - but, you'll not be surprised to learn, nothing else has gone right.

Despite the Hub arriving safely, BT have informed my mother they don't have the correct address details for her. Now you might think a quick phone call to BT would rectify this problem. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. A wee email, perhaps? Hah!

It doesn't help that BT's Customer Service 'help desk' - and I use the term loosely - isn't based in the UK. Going by the countless people I have spoken to in trying to resolve this matter, it appears BT's Customer Service call centre is in India. Now, the people I have spoken to have, for the most part, been friendly. But they simply don't understand the problem. My mother is in her late 70s and trying to get her message across to someone who, it has to be said, struggles with basic English is extremely frustrating and has left her angry and in despair.

I have experienced this at first hand. One person I spoke to didn't seem to know there was a city called Edinburgh and asked me to spell it for her. Others struggle to understand basic English and are clearly following a script from which they must not deviate.

BT have now advised - shockingly - that their Infinity service won't actually be available in my mother's area for some time yet. My mother was told it might be December and the person I spoke to suggested it would be no longer than eight weeks.

All told, this has - yet again - been an absolutely shocking customer experience from BT. I understand they move their call centres to India to save on costs (and by that I mean they probably pay their call centre staff less wages than they would if they were based in the UK) and they're not alone in doing so. However, customers such as my dear old mother are left angry and confused by such  incompetence. Worse still, BT have told both my mother and I that engineers have tried to visit but have found no one was in. This is blatant lies from BT and not for the first time.

As I post this, BT have still not resolved this issue. BT's current advertising campaign for BT Sport has the tagline 'you have to see it to believe it'. The irony isn't lost on my mother. Neither of us believe anything BT tell us now.

If you're thinking of switching to BT then I hope you don't have to deal with their customer service team...