Saturday, 26 December 2009

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

What a busy day I've got tomorrow!

Christmas eve tomorrow. Whilst I'm receiving texts from friends asking If I'm making an appearance at the local pub in the afternoon I really don't think I'll manage it this year. 

I'm up at 8 and I have to go to the post office to collect parcels that couldn't be delivered today whilst I was out at court (see other posts). Then I have to shoot over to Nantwich in Cheshire (bearing in mind the snow is hammering down at the moment.)

Then I have to go into town to pick up some last minute items, Then over to the florists to pick up a roll of ribbon to wrap a car! My youngest daughter turns 17 in February and I have bought them all cars when they turned 17. This is the last one I have to buy and I couldn't wait until February so I have bought her a car for Christmas. She has no idea. I'm putting the key in a jewellery box and then gift wrapping it and hiding the car in the garage wrapped in ribbon and bows. I bought the car a few weeks ago and it has been hidden at a friends house.(see pic).

I have to then call at my Dads house to visit and deliver his and my stepmothers gifts then once it is dark I need to shoot down to the cemetery to light a candle on my dear mums grave. 

Back home before opening a bottle of red and wrapping some last minute stuff for the kids.

Oh if only I had time to call in at the pub to have a drink with friends. It just isn't going to happen.


Merry Xmas all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I've had a shit of a day

It started at 8am. I took delivery of the Range Rover yesterday and proceeded to sit in the thing for a few hours last night figuring out all the gadgets, pairing the bluetooth to my phone etc and I discovered that there is a facility to set a timer to turn on the heaters, heated seats and steering wheel and defrost the screens etc. I thought it would be nice (given there is snow on the ground) to have a warm car this morning and so I set the timer for 7:00 am.

So back to 8:00 am this morning, Sure the car was warm and free from ice but would it start? No, I had drained the battery after a few hours messing about with the gadgets and then setting the heater timer. Time to call my buddy again and ask him to pop over with his jump leads!  Whilst I was waiting my neighbour came out to his car, commented on the Range Rover (that by now had the hood up) and we had a little chuckle (well he did).

To top it all I am in court tomorrow. I sold a house over 2 years ago. I had a dispute over the agents fee. He claimed it was £7400 and I had it worked out at £3500. Regardless, I wrote to him to discuss and he immediately started court proceedings. I requested mediation no less than 5 times and he ignored my requests. I eventually settled pre trial and paid them £7500. Tomorrow however I am in court regarding a further £7800 that they are claiming in costs. If I lose this can then apparently double because of a success fee (what a crock this is) which means that potentially I can be looking at another bill tomorrow of over £15000. that would mean that the agents fee in total for selling my house was over £22500!

The solicitors phoned me today to offer me a settlement of £7800, I told them no. I have been sat in my dining room since 5pm (it is now almost midnight) preparing a file for court tomorrow. There is a chance that the cost judge will wipe their cost claim altogether as they have refused mediation several times and this apparently contravenes the Civil Procedure Rules part 44.3(5) We'll have to see. The behaviour of the other party (who happens to be a nationwide chain) has been scandalous. I may post about it one day if I am legally able. 

So all in all a shit day. I'm now going to make a cup of tea as I've been drinking Magners whilst preparing the file. and then I'm going to go to bed and sulk. Wish me luck for tomorrow!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My early Christmas present.

My Friend runs a Land Rover Discovery thingy. Yesterday I gave him a lift to the Land Rover dealers in Cheshire to collect a new battery for his car. Whilst there I had a browse around the showroom. I particularly love Range Rovers. I had one in 2003 for a year or so. They are simply stunning vehicles, Equipped with the luxury of a Bentley yet with the practicality of a true 4WD. 

This morning saw a few inches of snow. This then froze and as my driveway is uphill this imprisoned me in the house as I simply couldn't get traction to get up the driveway. Time for an early present to myself and time for a return favour. I called my friend who came to pick me up, this time he gave me a lift to the Land Rover dealers where I promptly did a deal and left a deposit on a rather splendid Range Rover Vogue. They didn't offer me the right money for my BMW so that is for sale privately (at an excellent price if anyone is interested ;) )

So hopefully as of tomorrow I will be able to conquer the snow again!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

A reason to light a Monte Cristo

I moved back to my home town a couple of years ago. I managed to find a nice house that to the rear has what was once farmland, there are a couple of old timber barns and the land is host to fox, squirrels, bats, owls amongst other wildlife. It really is a joy. My house is elevated from the land by around 3 metres and from my conservatory I have a great view. You can imagine then my disappointment when little over a month ago I received a letter from the planning department notifying me of a planning application to build 14 houses on the land. 

I wrote a letter outlining my concerns of privacy, the effect on wildlife etc and I also contacted the Bat conservation society. I was totally unaware how much power this organisation has. It can prevent anyone from disturbing roosting bats it would seem. Anyway to cut a long story short, I received a notification yesterday that the planning application had been formally withdrawn. Yippee!

This was a cause for celebration and so last night with some friends around I selected a Monte Cristo* from the humidor. I love it when a plan comes together!

*for those that don't know, a Monte Cristo is a premium cigar, much too expensive to smoke on regular occasions unless your name happens to be John Travolta!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tattoos, love 'em or hate 'em?

Up until I was 40 I had only one tattoo, A small one on my left upper arm. It is Masonic and for various reasons I am unable to tell you the tale as to its existence on my arm on a public blog.

Being in business since being very young and eventually the Chairman of a parent company with plenty of employees meant that for years I couldn't be seen to have tattoos or pierced ears. After selling up I rebelled and had two large upper arm tattoos, I ditched my Versace Suits and Gucci shoes for a Vest, shorts and leather flip flops, left the big car in the drive and rode my motorcycle everywhere. What a sense of freedom. 

My other two tattoos both have meanings, one is of St George, the patron saint of England. My late mother was born on St Georges day and so I wanted to pay homage in some way to her.

My other tattoo has a long story but is basically 4 Ace playing cards. Instead of the traditional suits, Hearts, spades etc. I have the ace of spades and then 3 corporate logos, The first is the Rolex crown, The second is the prancing horse of Ferrari and the last is the Omega symbol. (you can't see that in the pic)

The ace of spades signified that in my early life I always had to have an ace up my sleeve, I lost mum when I was ten and I left home very early and started my adult life living in the back of a Mk2 Escort van for a few months. 

If you have read one of my previous posts you will see that for many years the lure of a certain Rolex and certain Ferrari fuelled my ambition. On reaching my goals I realised that whilst material possessions were nice to have, my health and happiness were more important. On retiring I bought a less "in your face" watch, an Omega, still a classic timepiece with a similar price tag to a Rolex but much more subtle. It marked an end to my days living on nervous energy in the business world, an end to jousting with the Inland Revenue, The HSE and every other government body that exists to make life hell for business. Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet and so is the last letter in that chapter of my life. So that is the explanation of my tattoos. 

Personally I like them, My sister says that I look like a thug now! I don't think so, they mean something to me, they are part of my story. They are only visible in summer if I wear a vest top.

What do you think?

It really is none of my concern but....

Since selling up and ducking out of the business arena after 20 years as an entrepreneur/businessman/Director/ General tax collector I should really not concern myself with matters concerning business but I can't help it. 

I'm astounded that the Government are pressing ahead with the plan of increasing VAT back to 17.5% in January despite them being painfully aware how badly industry and retail are doing. 
What annoys me about any elected Government is that they worry too much about the next election instead of making a difference during their term in office. 

I emailed Mervyn King (Governor of the Bank of England) in 2007 and warned him that his interest rate rises were coming too thick and fast and that we were heading into recession, I received a rather patronising reply that basically said "shut up, I know what I'm doing boyo" clearly not!

I have a simple plan for VAT:

Reduce VAT to 10%, remove the threshold so that EVERY business needs to register. This will even the playing field between the cash cowboys and real business and as 10% is acceptable people will be less inclined to dodge it therefore removing the need for an army of VAT investigators. I reckon that the revenue generated will be more than is generated now, everyone benefits!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A touching Poem that I found on a blog by Coachdad

The free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wings in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with fearful trill
of the things unknown but longed for still
and is tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

Monday, 14 December 2009

An eye opening weekend

Saturday was my big sisters birthday. She is 5 years my senior. A table had been booked for family and close friends in a Greek restaurant in the town centre. As I'm not a big drinker I would normally drive however I thought I'd get a cab and live a little. 

After being transported at well over the speed limit in a 15 year old Mercedes taxi that was pumping out the latest dance floor sounds in order to disguise the fact that a ball joint on the front suspension needed changing, I arrived at the venue. It is a small friendly sort of place and most of the guests were already there. I exchanged hugs, kisses, friendly remarks with my family and my Sisters friends all of whom still imagine that I'm a cute 12 year old boy I think!

The meal was lovely and then afterwards a belly dancer gave a performance along with some short lessons for those who had consumed enough alcohol. There was a short traditional plate breaking session also. At around midnight as the more elderly members of the party started to order cabs my Nephew, Niece, Daughter and respective partners suggested that I join them for a drink at a bar in town. Stupidly I agreed. We arrived at what was known as "Chicago Rock Cafe" when last I was in town circa 5 years ago only now it was renamed "Running horses" for no apparent reason. We paid to get in and then waited for around 20 minutes to get served. At the risk of sounding old I have to say that the volume of the music was perhaps bordering illegal and certainly made conversation impossible. 

After about an hour or so of people watching, I concluded that this was a ridiculous way of socialising, nobody could hold a conversation and people were literally stood around watching each other! Bizzare! There was perhaps  one security guard to every ten patrons giving me both a feeling of security but also making me wonder why security needed to be so tight! What sort of place had this become? I remember it five years ago as a pub/club that was furnished with comfy brown leather sofas, low tables, a mixture of music at a reasonable level, now everyone seemed to be stood up and the only track that  I recognised was "pokerface" albeit it was remixed.

So we made our way into the bitterly cold evening and took the short walk to the taxi rank, this is when things got really odd. Normally I would telephone a taxi from wherever I was, most of the time I would drive or occasionally I would have arranged a member of staff to chauffeur me and paid them overtime and given them use of a vehicle for the weekend. So, I can honestly say, this was the first time I had ever been to a taxi rank. The taxi rank in question turned out to be a sordid little shop with vinyl seating and no heating and a ticket booth behind which sat a large dirty looking chap who handed out tickets and occasionally spoke through a microphone to cab drivers. Some party goers were already seated and were exhibiting different levels of consciousness depending on the level of alcohol/drugs that were in their bodies. The look of alarm on my face must have been apparent and set my daughter of laughing, "look at Dads face" she exclaimed and the rest of my party all laughed I remember remarking that it was like walking into the bar in the Star Wars movie. My Nephews girlfriend came to my side and linked my arm "Come on we'll go an wait outside" she said. 

Outside was no better really, I lit a small cigar as a comfort as I was now well outside my comfort zone. There was a large framed girl outside dressed in what I assumed to be a fancy dress fairy costume, she was with a second girl and a boy, all were around 19 - 20 years old. The girl in the pink fairy costume was holding her nose and there was evidence of blood on her dress. Amid the incessant swearing and use of words that had been modified for no apparent reason (such as wiv = with, ma=my, smacked up = high) I managed to work out that a boy who she had walked past on the way to the taxi rank had punched her in the face for no reason!

Within a few minutes my taxi had arrived. Thankfully my Daughter lives close by to me so we shared a taxi and I was able to rest knowing that she was safe. 

I cannot believe that young people subject themselves to that each weekend. It was only around 5 years ago when I stopped going to town centre venues and although it was sometimes a bit raucous it was never on the scale of what I witnessed on Saturday night. Why don't our youngsters sign up for the armed forces instead? I'm sure a career in the army would provide an equal level of danger but you would have the benefit of being paid too!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Another scale model

I've been putting the finishing touches to another scale model today. I have a friend who is nuts about old Porsches and I didn't know what to get him for Christmas this year so I decided to build him a scale model of an old "barn find" restoration project.  The images aren't great as I used my iphone in the garage so poor lighting etc but you get the general idea. Ignore the other stuff in the background. I'll post another day maybe on here or my squidoo page about how I aged it etc. The tarpaulin was still wet when the pics were taken and so was a little transparent. The tarpaulin idea was inspired by "Cancars" on youtube.

Basic Painting & Weathering for Model Railroaders

Could someone please help?

WTF is Twitter about?

I've tried, I really have. I've tweeted, I've followed Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard and a few others but I still fail to get it. I can't seem to navigate around the site either. I've managed to "tweet" from my iPhone but it wasn't the easiest thing in the world to achieve. 

So could someone help? Could someone tell me a use for Twitter? An easy way to access Twitter, An easy way to understand Twitter?

Also, what is with all the offshoot sites like "chirper, squirter, twatter" etc?

*Waits patiently*

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thursday, 3 December 2009

An enviable position, or is it?

So I'm 41, My youngest daughter turns 17 in Feb 2010 My eldest daughter is 22 and lives with her boyfriend, My Son lives in London and is a trainee Stock Broker. 

I sold my business over 12 months ago and although I still have some investments and interests although I am largely retired. Is this a good thing or not? I'm not sure. There was a certain sense of achievement at first when I decided that I'd had enough stress to last a lifetime and made the choice to sell up. Now however I feel at a crossroads.

I've done so much in the past 41 years that It feels like I should be much older than 41. Mum died tragically when I was just 10 and I left home as a rebel at 16 with nowhere to live. I have been in business since being 18 (I'll post about this one day) and from humble beginnings I was fortunate enough to own and operate two factories in different industry sectors. Along with this success came a great deal of responsibility and stress especially when trying to juggle a divorce, 3 kids, and a string of relationships. 

So back to today. I'm retired, I have no staff placing demands on me, no more running around after the kids (I've bought them all cars and my youngest will be driving in a couple of months). Initially it was fun, I bought a big cruiser and rode to a friends house in France and then onto Germany. (see picture of the bike strapped onto the ferry from Dover to Calais) I've enjoyed countless lazy days, but now I'm painfully aware that I don't have a plan, I don't have any goals, I don't actually have a reason to get out of bed and that is now a concern. 

When I was young and living in a small flat in a poor part of town I obtained a book entitled "The lazy mans way to riches" It was wrote by a guy name Joe Karbo and at the time I considered it my greatest asset. A major lesson in the book was to set goals, detailed, lucid goals as if you had already achieved them and then to review them regularly. This I did as a naive 16 year old, I listed mainly material things as that is what I considered important back then, I wrote 3 goals in my Filofax 24 years ago. They were:

1) I own a Ferrari In Rosso Red with Cream Leather interior
2) I own a Gold Rolex with Diamond Bezel
3) I own a large house in Cheshire

In 2000 I bought my first Rolex, In 2002 I part exchanged it for an 18 ct gold Rolex with diamond bezel and dial

In 2001 I bought a large house in Cheshire, In 2004 I bought a Ferrari 355 GTB In Rosso Barchetta Red with Crema leather.

And now, that is the problem, I have no goals, nothing to get up for, nothing to fight for. Don't get me wrong, I no longer want to chase material possessions, it was fun getting there. I can't describe to you the feeling of driving a Ferrari up to your Fathers house but the reality is, living at that level, having to fund that lifestyle (unless you're a celebrity) is mighty hard work and exceptionally stressful. 

So I've sat and thought of new goals that I would like to set and yet I can't think of a single one! Why is that? I have dreams of moving overseas, nothing fancy, just somewhere warmer than the UK but I seem to have lost my Mojo. 

Am I content then? no, quite the opposite, I'm still a little bitter about my divorce or rather the effect it had on me and my kids, My youngest was just 6 at the time her Mother had an affair. When we split my son stayed with his mum, my eldest daughter stayed with me and my youngest daughter split her time between her mums house and mine. Despite my best efforts I know they've missed out on things. My ex wife has been single since that brief affair and has fought a drink problem for the past 6 years or so. It was all so unnecessary in hindsight. 

I've found myself turned 40 and at a crossroads. I've been parked up at these crossroads for over a year now, It's time to pick a route and move on. Suggestions on a postcard please!

Barn find Mercedes SL Gullwing for restoration. (1:18th scale:) )

I've just completed this model and diorama in 1/18th scale. It is an old Mercedes SL that I have made to look like an old wreck that has been abandoned years ago and is ready for restoration,

I upholstered the seats and then aged them to look like cracked leather, there is also tears in the leather with the stuffing of the seat peeking out. I created the rust on the car using a variety of tools, materials and paints. I'll be doing some more shortly so I'll try to take some progress shots and post a step by step guide if any one is interested.

Should Men wear Ugg boots?

Little over a month ago I was trying to buy some Ugg boots for a relative as a birthday gift. Knowing very little about them I asked for some advice from a friend and was told not to buy from anywhere except from an authorised Ugg distributor. I found the Ugg Australia website and from there found a list of UK distributors. The problem is I believe, Ugg per ser is a type of boot and also a Registered Trade mark. Genuine Ugg boots are the most counterfeited item at the moment and the number of websites claiming to be original is mind blowing so logging onto Ugg Australia is the way to go. 

The Uggs I had to buy as a gift were the latest Knitted Argyle style for ladies. Whilst on the site I had a look at the guys section and thought, Why not? So I duly added a pair of traditional sheepskin Uggs size UK9 to the cart.

I have to say I love them! They are superb to wear with either jeans or combats tucked in them. My Eldest daughter tried to tell me that Uggs are for girls whilst my youngest daughter corrected her and in fact produced evidence on the internet of various male celebs wearing the same boot. So now I am an exceptionally trendy dad and can be seen regularly sporting my Uggs with a US Military issue Parka coat and a knitted Beanie! No more cold tootsies for me this Winter!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Big car, Small car?

For reasons that are too boring to go into, I have another car on my driveway for a few weeks. I had to pop out this morning so I thought I'd take this thing as mine needs diesel and I couldn't be bothered stopping at the fuel station. The car in question is a new shape Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 sxi. To start with it is quite a good looking car albeit whenever I have seen them on the road I can't help but think that they are too big for a small car, does that make sense?

Now at this point I've got to point out that for the past ten years or so I've been lucky enough to be running top of the range stuff with Nav, leather, heated steering wheels etc. Everything from Ferraris to Range Rovers and certainly for the past 5 years my cars have required very little driver input and have auto transmission, auto wipers, dimming mirrors, auto lights etc, you get the picture? So it was with little expectation that I clambered into the Corsa earlier today but straight from the start I was hugely impressed. The new Corsa is cavernous inside, The windscreen seems miles away from the driver and the dash design is superb. This thing actually has remote locking, electric windows, automatic lights and several other quirky little gadgets. I spent around an hour in it this morning running around on several errands and I've got to say I'm quite taken with it, It feels like a much bigger car, the drive is excellent despite the car having very little power and the fuel gauge just doesn't move! 

General Motors who own Vauxhall almost sold a majority of this company a couple of months ago. The deal with investment group Magna was called off by GM at the last minute as GM realised that Vauxhall was an important part of their future strategy and I've got to agree with them. In the past I have kept a car for two years or so and lost circa £20k when the time comes to change it. I could buy one of these things and save a fortune! My current car is due for a change soon and I've been looking at possible replacements but driving this thing today has changed my mind.

I currently drive a BMW 535d Msport. It's a nice car, looks the part, has every extra that BMW offer and has more torque than a Ferrari 360. So ok the Corsa doesn't have leather or Nav or Xenon lights or heated seats but if you take an average 2 year ownership the Corsa will probably only devalue by around £5000 compared to £20000 on the BMW, the road tax is half the cost per year, the BMW is insurance group 18 whereas the Corsa is only a group 3 which is a difference of around £900 per year in premiums. The tyres on the Beemer are run flats which are about £180 each to replace whereas the Corsa runs tyres costing less than £50 each. The BMW averages around 27mpg which for a diesel isn't great whereas the Corsa delivers an average 50 mpg. So I have to ask myself why am I still driving cars like the Beemer? 

When I was in business it was sort of expected that I had a prestige motor. I went through my Mike Baldwin stage and had a few Jags then switched to a Range Rover when I started to shoot clays. I also went through the super car stage after my divorce and for a few years my garage housed such lovelies as Ferraris and Porsches. Now however I have to be mindful that my earnings are only a quarter of what they once were. My lifestyle no longer requires that I drive a car to impress or portray a certain image. So what is stopping me taking the plunge and changing to the sort of car that I associate with Car supermarkets?

Well as I mentioned earlier the Corsa has no power whereas the BMW shreds tyres at every opportunity, would I miss this sort of grunt? Perhaps not, the roads around where I live are now littered with ridiculously tall speed bumps anyway which prevent anyone achieving speeds beyond that of a disabled tortoise. I also have 6 points on my licence none of which are speed related (lack of seatbelts) so I can ill afford to be going fast on the public highway anyway. Added to that I have a Subaru Impreza which is totally stripped out for use as a track car so I have no excuse really. So what would I miss? Probably the bluetooth facility on my car which instantly connects to my phone but I'm sure Vauxhall would have this on their options list, I would probably miss the heated seats too, leather is cold in winter and the Corsa doesn't have leather so that perhaps wouldn't be an issue. I certainly wouldn't need to worry about my daughter taking the car to the shops as the Corsa will fit perfectly into the Kate Moss styled parking spaces found in retail parks. Yeah I think this little Corsa has made a big impact today. Watch this space, I may be buying a car soon that for once will win the approval of my Father!