Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Why I would buy a 2018 Greek Bond




The thing about financial journalists is that we've always been here before. No matter what it is, how mad it is or how bad it is, we've got an analogous situation secreted somewhere in our memory that presents itself just at the time the world seems to be going to pot.

This has been the predominant thought in my mind, like a tiny migraine fairy kicking my frontal lobe, every time I read about Greece.

We have been here before. We had the Russian default and the collapse of the Asian Tigers in the 1990s. We had the Latin American crisis. We have had a generation of Japanese children born without knowing what a rate rise is. We had the dot-com crash and the 'Sick Man of Europe' to contend with in the Noughties (that was Germany, by the way). Further back we had Black Monday in the 80s, and the India crisis in the 1970s. Throughout the decades and centuries, we have had Germany, Argentina, France, Russia, the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus and a host of others defaulting on debt repayments and/or in a sovereign default situation.

Today the yield on a two-year Greek government bond rose to more than 50 per cent, up from 10 per cent in January. Back then, the world was trying to digest the news that Greece was en-route to achieving a primary budget surplus - excluding debt repayments - of €3.3bn. This was roughly equal to 3 per cent of GDP, with a minor budget deficit of €338m; equating to 0.2 per cent of GDP.

However the failure to repay the first installment of the IMF's loan - which demanded 1.6bn Euros, then its people issuing a resolute NO to the tough measures imposed by other creditors - of whom Germany is the largest - has resulted in another 'crisis' situation.

Will there be a Grexit? What will happen if Greece goes back to the Drachma? I cannot get a consensus from any expert. It will be the first time any country has left the Euro, so nobody really knows what will happen. I've seen release after release from every sort of company from foreign exchange to travel insurance to investment companies. None of them seem to know what effect this will have, but all speak of immediate woes - caps on bank withdrawals, haircuts on pensions, further pin-pricks in the proverbial bond bubble, investors possibly ditching Greece for Japan (yes, James Mackintosh highlighted in the FT on 30th July that this could be a consideration. Curious, non?).

According to Bloomberg, although the ECB has raised the pressure on Greek banks to tighten access to emergency credit - in other words, preventing the Greeks from getting their money out before the government imposes blanket and deep haircuts to individual accounts - there has already been an injection of £69bn into the economy over the recent months.

The only way that the banks in Greece can tap into this emergency aid is through collateral - such as government bonds - but while one jokes about the "free money" on a 50%-plus government bond, there is far too little cushion to protect investors. The return, they believe, is not worth the risk. And 2017 is an awfully long way away.

Two years in fact.

Two years.

A lot can happen in that time. Two years ago today, I was single, swimming around the internet to my heart's content, wagging my own tail where I wanted. Today I am a respectable mermaid.

Two years ago, we were in a similar crisis situation. Cyprus had to be bailed out. Cyprus was on the brink of collapse. Pensioners could not get their money out. Cypriots faced haircuts on their bank accounts. It had to appeal to the ESM for funding, as well as the IMF, which has so far disbursed about €742.4m to shore up Cyprus.

The fear then was that this tiny nation might cause a ripple effect among Eurozone nations who were just about recovering. The UK prime minister made several strident comments about bailouts, and called on Europe to protect the several hundred British pensioners who bought a home in the sun.

According to Bloomberg, Cyprus just about dodged the bullet of a "disorderly sovereign default and unprecedented exit from the euro" by agreeing to shrink its banking system in exchange for €10bn of aid. The Cyprus Popular Bank, 84 per cent owned by the government, was forced to shut down. Elderly Cypriots told of poverty as their pensions were cut. Food flew off the shelves on the island. Young people told of rising unemployment.

Cyprus Popular Bank. Image: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Then in June 2013, Cyprus's debt ratings were downgraded to "default" after it announced it would delay paying back E1bn ($1.3bn; £860m) of bonds. There were serious worries going into the summer about whether it could pay.

Two years later, I am sitting here reading a report from the IMF about the organised repayment structure of Cyprus.

The acting chairman of the IMF, David Lipton, has this to say: "Cyprus's Fund-supported reform programme continues to produce positive results. Economic and fiscal outcomes have been better than expected, with growth turning positive in the first quarter of 2015 and public finances exceeding targets.

"Liquidity and solvency in the banking system have improved, allowing the elimination of external payment restrictions."

While there is still low employment and the need to ensure ongoing financial stability, two years have proved well for Cyprus. Yes, Cyprus still has problems, Yes it is far smaller than Greece, its bailout fund was far smaller and yes it still needs work on effecting its economic recovery.

Of course, the parallels with Greece do not extend to the depth of the distress in Greece, the protracted poverty of its citizens and its bizzare tax system that has allowed the wealthiest to shelter their tax dues, while the modest earners have been wound up in so much red tape they are scarred for life.

Greece has a stridently socialist government; Cyprus was more moderate. Greece has a history of independence; Cyprus has been a little bit of a geographical whore, welcoming anyone from Crusaders to the Turks to the Brits. Greece has never given us 10 points in Eurovision; Cyprus always gives us 10 points.

Ok that last bit doesn't bear any relation to economic stability.

But in the grand scheme of things, although the world has a great love for the Hellenic Republic, its people, its culture and its history - heck I even married one - the effect of a Greek departure will, like Cyprus, be no more than a short-term shock.

According to Bank of America/ML research, the entire MSCI market cap weighting of Greece in the global index is lower than that of one company - the US furniture store Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Greece does not export cars, petroleum, gold or financial services. It exports ideas, intelligence, talent - sadly so for Greece and wonderfully so for the rest of us - and many parts thrive mostly on tourism.

OPEC will not have to hike oil prices if Greece leaves the Eurozone. The oil we get from the Hellenic Republic cannot go in our cars. Well, it should not go in our cars. I've never tried to be honest. Perhaps it does work.

Markets will get all nervous in July and then, like they always do in August, settle down into a mumbling state while bankers, their wives and their mistresses jet off to some foreign clime, while the rest of us mug it down here with gelato and baring our pasty white feet in the park. In public.

By the time September comes around the fear that the markets had already anticipated will have become a reality. This is good news. Why? Because fear is unknown. Markets do not like the unknown. At least when you know something you can price it in properly. So by then any effect of another, restructured, more fairly implemented debt package for a Eurozone Greece, or a loan restructuring plan underpinned by the EEF for a Euro-free Greece, will have already been priced in. Greece, says Morningstar, is a Black Sheep, not a Black Swan. It will not cause contagion.

Economists will be on a clearer footing to make even more wild predictions or sage warnings. Analysts will be able to see the wood for the terrible puns on 'Drama/Drachma' and start looking at the longer-term. Fund managers will pick through the debris to find the golden nugget companies that are going to be long-term winners. Investor sentiment will improve. Politicians will stop calling each other terrorists. The Germans will shut up (well maybe that won't happen) and perhaps stop being Europe's Money Police.

In two years' time, the current speculation and hyperbole over Greece will have diminished into 'how we are dealing with this situation'. Pensioners will get their money. People will start seeing more investment into improving the business workforce and reduce unemployment. There will be more food on people's plates.

It will be a long while off before Greece and her wonderful people recover from this traumatic time. I think it will take longer than two years before the IMF produces a paper such as the one it has written on Cyprus. In my estimation we can expect to see this sort of positive structural and financial reforms by the end of 2018.

Do not underestimate the emotional and physical effect this large-scale Monopoly played by Germany and its Eurozone allies have had on Greece. Old people have been pushed to suicide, families left wrenched apart by stress. Young graduates cannot afford to eat every day. Parents go to the food bank to feed their children. Little businesses have closed; shops have shut their doors for the last time. The elderly are left sitting, waiting for a pitiful amount of money to see them through the month. The hopes of Generation Y have been burned at the stake of Eurozone aggression.

This Instagram picture sums it all up, taken by someone in a bank in Athens over the past week.

But from the embers of this turbulence, a new order will rise. Greece has been here before. It will survive. Europe has been here before. It will be restored. The world has been here before. And each time it comes back a little wiser, a little stronger.

Will I buy a 2017 Greek bond? No. I couldn't anyway - I'm not an institution with the wealth needed to pick up some sovereign debt. But I would buy a 2018 Greek Bond. If my NS&I comes in next month, that is exactly what I will do. Because I will be turning to everyone and saying 'I told you so'.







Thursday, July 02, 2015

There's no place like gnome

Hey, how YOU doin?
We journalists get a lot of strange press releases. Mostly they are only odd because they have nothing to do with our line of work.

For example, for three years in a row, the DeutschePost service used to send me emails, in German, outlining new franking machines and ways to mark up commercial post cost-effectively. As interesting as this was, and helpful in expanding my knowledge of German with phrases and vocabulary that nobody, anywhere, outside of the postal service would ever use, it was quite annoying to get ambushed at 9am on a Monday morning by unsolicited and useless information.

But every now and then we get little gems that do have some relevance to our industry, but which seem to have been the brainchild of a slightly twisted genius PR, who is doing a sterling job in trying to make cynical journalists read their company news.

And this one certainly caught my eye. It was about protection. We cover protection. So I was already interested. I saw it was about home insurance - well, I thought, we don't cover home insurance but it is important to read around the subject matter, as it could have an angle for us.

So I opened it, to receive the warning:

"THIS SUMMER, DON’T LEAVE YOUR GNOME UNPROTECTED"

I read it again. I was sure it had said 'home'.

But no. It definitely said 'gnome'. Now I don't know about you but my preference when it comes to garden gnomes is to take a heavy object - a baseball bat, say, or next-doors very ugly dog - and smash these ornaments out of existence. I just don't see the attraction. Garden ornaments such as slender metal herons poised by a pond, or a nice stone sundial, that I can cope with. A gnome, no. They're basically weird, staring albino smurfs that look, from several angles, like ceramic sexual predators. There's no place for a gnome in my home.

And yet here it was in black and white. People are stealing garden gnomes from houses (probably these folk should be thanked and given a mention in the New Year's Honours List) and leaving the gnome-owner out of pocket.

Apparently, in 2014, there were 11,000 incidents of loss or damage to UK gardens, and people were vastly under-insured.

Of this, 5,400 were burglaries. Now why anyone would want to steal this sort of thing is beyond my ken, but they do, and for some reason, people are upset.

Basically, this is how I see all gnomes. 

Some 10 per cent of all home insurance products do not cover your garden, so if someone steals your pot or pots (as appropriate), or pushes Matthew Henderson into the Easton's fish pond, ruining his trainers, their pond and killing all the fish, this is not covered on the home insurance policy. Of course, this is purely hypothetical and bears absolutely no resemblance to any real person or event.*

According to data from John Lewis Home Insurance, people will have to cough up, on average, £1,169 to fix the damage to property and possessions in the garden. For those who put a lot of time and effort into making their outside space pretty, that is a hefty sum to pay.

I do feel sorry for people who have invested time and energy and money into making themselves a beautiful green space, only to see things 'disappear'.

My friend's mother had a little stone Westie stolen from her lawn - a memorial of her little dog - and it was rumoured to have reappeared half a mile down the road in the 'garden' of a traveller camp. Luckily her son is also a police officer and word got out that it was his mother's stone dog that had gone missing. The dog was returned one night, none the worse for its experience.

Another friend had just bought £20,000 worth of beautiful bushes (they cost a lot to grow and maintain to a certain level before purchase), and several of these went missing before he had a chance to install them. I never asked whether his insurance covered the theft, but as he's about as financially literate as a mountain goat, I doubt it.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Well of course you can make sure that your insurance does cover such scurrilous lawn raids.

However, John Brady, head of insurance at John Lewis Home Insurance, also gives these top tips on keeping your garden secure this summer:

● Fix a good quality lock or padlock on the door of the shed, as well as any garden gates.
● Lock belongings in the shed overnight after use (barbecues, bicycles etc.), items left in the garden may not be covered for theft.
● Install automatic security lighting in the garden.
● A prickly hedge around the garden can help to deter intruders.

If all else fails, perhaps you should invest in a gnome. I've heard some of them can be pretty mean.


*This is exactly what happened and I am totally guilty.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The train, the lie and the 12-month gestation


Children, it is never right to lie. Even if you think you are being kind or diplomatic, do not lie. You should always find a third option that allows you to soften the blow while telling the truth.

For example:
'Does my bum look big in this?' There are three options from which to choose.

1) No, not at all (lie)
2) Your bum looks massive no matter what you wear. It's like the Pillsbury Dough Boy is wrestling with a hippo inside those jeans. (Truth)
3) Sweetie I was so busy looking at how your eyes sparkle and that colour makes your skin glow to even notice your lovely bum. (Third way).

And again: 'Meet my new baby!'

1) Oh what a beautiful baby! (Lie)
2) Ye gods what is that wretched thing? Why have you replaced your baby with a sack of red onions? No, really, where are you hiding him? What a prankster! (Truth)
3) Oh look at those little feet! And such little hands! (Third way)

Some mother will see this photo and realise her friends put it on the 'Ugly Babies' section of Buzzfeed

Nota Bene: when opting for the third way, avoid all pronouns. Parents tend to be offended if you think their girl is a boy and vice-versa, while 'it' just means 'I have no idea what gender your ugly little sprog is'.

These third way options are always there, but it is not always easy to think off the top of your head. I suggest keeping a few memorised in the event that you will need a third-way comment, so you can be ready when next presented with Sloth Junior.

All this is preface to a situation in which I once found myself, which led to a series of ever-increasingly uncomfortable lies. Actually, there were two such situations, and both were caused by my tendency to bloat drastically when 'sitting upon the household gods'.
Yesss... yesss....love it. Look at it. LOOK AT IT.

The first situation was when I was feeling painfully bloated at an investment dinner I had to attend. I was kitted out in a (thankfully) flowy dress that hid my stomach (mostly) but boy did I need to unleash the Mistral of Doom. While contemplating my route to the bathroom, an old acquaintance came bounding up to me like a joyous puppy in a park.

He was so chuffed to meet a friendly face that we ended up talking for a while. I had just gotten engaged, and my friend was super-happy at the news, so wanted details. All the while, my stomach pain was increasing.

A waiter came up to offer champagne and I refused, as I do not drink at any work functions. At the same time, my friend said 'are you not drinking?' I put my hand on my distended belly, opened my mouth to say 'well actually I am feeling so bloated', but I could only manage 'well actually'. He saw my hand, my belly and, joining the dots with my refusal of alcohol, immediately gave me a massive hug.

'Congratulations! You're not telling people yet, are you? Do not worry, I won't tell anyone. I am so happy for you!'

I was dumbstruck. All I could muster was 'please don't tell anyone' as I watched him beam an enormous smile at me. Even if I could have disenchanted this happy wretch, I had no time to do so, for another acquaintance bowled up and started a conversation.

To this day, I have not seen him or been in contact with him to tell him the truth. Hopefully he reads my blog.

You would have thought then, that once bitten by a fake pregnancy lie, the Mermaid would be twice as cautious not to let this get out of hand again.

That would have been the sensible thing to do.

But no. A year after marriage, I had put on a couple of stone, which made occasional bloating a more serious embarrassment. On three occasions in one week, people stood up for me on the train. On the third occasion, I even shoved my belly into someone’s face to make him stand up. Yes I did that. I am not proud of that. It was crowded!

OK, OK, it was not THAT crowded. But still...
Perhaps that is why the fourth occasion that week proved to be a salutary lesson in honesty.

It transpired thus.

I was on a crowded train, I was bloating badly and had terrible cramps. The bulge, and my obvious discomfort spoke for me, and a young woman stood up for me. Not wishing to embarrass her or me by saying 'it's okay, I'm just TOMming', not to mention that one does not declare these things on a train, I thanked her and sat down.

A few stops later, a very pregnant woman got on and, as I was sitting nearest to her, I offered her my seat. The young woman who had given her seat up for me shot me a glance, so I thought I would be diplomatic.

In other words, I lied. 'You need it more than I do', I said to the preggo, and smiled. Unfortunately for me, another young woman seated next to preggo heard and she stood up for me. Why did I tell a half truth? A half truth is still a whole lie... I had no choice but to smile and sit down next to preggo.

And Ms Preggo was a talker. She wanted to know everything about my 'early stage' pregnancy. She threw me a bunch of acronyms such as DPO and WPC; thankfully I subscribe to MumsNet for work purposes and knew what these meant. She asked me about symptoms. I had to blag. By which, I mean lie. A small lie turned into a series of bigger and bigger ones. “Large fleas have small fleas upon their backs to bite them. And small fleas have smaller yet, and so ad infinitum”. And that’s what was biting me, except the smallest lie had bigger ones ad infinitum trying to take a chunk out of my soul.

It was awkward as, and I reverted to pounding her with questions about her DB and DD. All went well until just before we pulled into my station. In the slowness and quiet fullness of the commuting carriage, she asked me 'so, when is your due date?'

I had not expected this. It was December so I said August. Which would have been fine if I had only just conceived that very morning, and a cytoblast or plastoblast or photonblaster or whatever it is called, was zigging its zygotey way across my fallopes and burrowing into my uterus.

Except I had already 'said' I was pregnant, which would mean I was at least a month, maybe two months, gone. So the due date would have been June. Add to this the swollen bloat of my belly which suggested at least three months, and well, we were looking at a total gestation period of maybe 12 months.

My mind was trying to extricate me from the situation more quickly than my mouth could work, and I managed to fumble my way around a conversation, hoping that lovely Ms Preggo had what my mummy friends call ‘pregnancy brain’ and I would not see her on the train again.

I haven't, but I still get nervous when I see similar-looking women on the train. If I should see her, the truth must be told, but while a man might think this was hilarious, I have learned that the MumsNet Brigade is not so forgiving. Mothers do not forgive so easily some woman scamming a seat pretending to be pregnant.

Since then I have lost a little weight and thankfully nobody stands up for me even when the household gods are beneath me. But one day when I am sporting a 'Baby on Board' badge and need to cadge a seat, be sure my sins will catch up with me.


Children, do not lie.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The cost of children... before you have children


Some random child found on the internet. It is legal. Apparently. Ask Google Images if you have a problem.
Disclaimer: This is not a discourse on the fecundity or infecundity (if there is such a word) of the Old Mermedonian household. Any questions to that effect will be ignored, as will the person asking.

It has become clear from a raft of press releases and conversations with mothers and expectant friends that the cost of children begins long before the patter of tiny feet is heard.

Suppose a couple is starting to try for the first time. There is a host of expenses to pay long before there is any positive news to tell the family. This includes:

  1. Folic acid (the government insists that all women trying to conceive should take this supplement daily)
  2. Ovulation sticks (to check which days of the month are prime baby-making time) - these can cost £30 for the digital ones and even Boots' own (by which many women swear) cost £18
  3. Male and Female dietary supplements 
  4. Pregnancy test kits - some of these are more than £20
  5. Books on ‘how to’ (if you want to avoid those ghastly internet forums, which either ratchet up your hopes so tremendously you think every tiny muscle twinge is a batch of triplets, or which spin such tales of doom and disaster you are sure you will never have a child).
  6. Different foodstuff if your diet had not been healthy or enriched enough.
  7. Alcohol to get your significant other in the mood. Not too much, because that becomes illegal pretty quickly. I know, it is a difficult line to tread.

Then supposing a couple is not successful and, after myriad tests, they are within the 30% ‘unexplained infertility’ group in the UK, then IVF is usually the next step on the road to parenthood.

I was talking with a mother yesterday whose first child was conceived through IVF. While most people will be able to get one round of IVF on the NHS, it does cost £5,000 a pop (unfortunate phrase, sorry). This is accompanied often by prescription tablets (for which most people have to pay at least £8.50, the standard cost of prescriptions) and a spate of hospital visits and days off work.

However, if one round of IVF does not do it, the next round will cost a couple £5,000 out of their income/savings. A series of articles on IVF by The Telegraph and The Daily Mail last year told sad tales of many women paying £10,000, £17,000 or more because of repeat, unsuccessful IVF treatment. Many of these women got into serious debt because of this. It is heartbreaking.

If the IVF is successful, there are many other things to consider:

Home refurbishment – kitting out a nursery for the first time can cost £1050, a survey from online forum Made For Mums calculated last year. This includes decoration, furniture, light-blocking curtains and carpeting, as well as toys and storage.

Clothes for the baby (even assuming some hand-me-downs from friends or family) – an article from Investopedia, a great site for people wanting to learn about finance, claimed the average cost for baby clothes is about $60 (£32) a month for the first year.

Toiletries. Also according to Investopedia, the average child will use more than 2,700 nappies in the first year alone, which can add up to more than $550 (£230), not to mention baby wipes, baby oil, cotton wool, baby lotion, special shampoos, etc.

Thanks to legislation, the must-haves also now include baby seat and child seats for the car, in addition to prams, carriers and whatever those back-packy things are called into which dads stick babies so their arms and legs dangle out like a bug on a pin. The latter look really cool by the way, and whoever invented those was a genius.

Already the costs of simply preparing for a child have ballooned.

What happens when the child is born? I am assuming that most companies in the UK offer good maternity cover, but I know of so few that would allow the primary care giver (usually the mother but not necessarily so) to continue contributing to a pension. So there are several months – perhaps even up to a year – where one person is not contributing or receiving employer contributions into a pension. Any spare cash is going on food for the baby, clothes for the baby, nappies for the baby. How are parents expected to save for when their darling has flown the nest?

And when people do return to work – the Office for National Statistic’s 2011 census showed that more couples were both returning to work post-Crisis than before, simply to meet the costs of mortgage, travel, utility and food bills – the cost of childcare is becoming prohibitive.

One mother of two young girls told me her child care a month was £900, and that was not full-time child care, thanks to the help of parents. Another woman I spoke to pays more than £1000 a month full time for two children, and that’s not even in central London.

All this, of course, is before Nursery and School costs – trips, food, uniform, after-hours activities, etc etc. No wonder providers have been pushing child savings schemes such as the Junior Isa or children’s bonds to help parents meet the future cost of raising children.

With the Conservative government biting at people’s personal tax credits and benefits, it will not be long before more couples decide that having children is a financial decision they just cannot afford to make – a crying shame and an indictment on this so-called ‘family friendly’, ‘British Values’ government.

Even Tory-leaning think-tank the Institute for Economic Affairs has called the rising cost of childcare a disgrace.

Recently, Mark Littlewood, the director-general of the IEA, said: “Heavy-handed government regulation is making childcare more and more expensive in the UK.
“Politicians need to wake up to the root cause behind the high cost of childcare. Rather than channelling more money into the industry, the government should do-away with some existing regulations and stop trying to formalise all childcare.

“Onerous red tape in the form of qualifications and staff-to-children ratios, combined with an increasing emphasis on nursery becoming a form of pre-primary education have drastically pushed up the cost of caring for a child”.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I seldom agree with Mr Littlewood, but on this occasion I raise to him an invisible glass of invisible double scotch, and said ‘hear, hear’.

I admire the many families that manage to live within their means. Usually this is because the adults go without things they want or need in order to give the best start in life to their children. I also sympathise with those families who have gone into debt – whether to pay for IVF or healthcare for their small children. The lack of resources given by this government to the NHS is appalling. Parents and would-be parents do not have the readies to throw into what is, by now, a well-researched, well-practiced medicinal procedure. It should not cost £5,000 a pop for IVF. The NHS should not be forced by central government into making cost decisions based on a woman’s age or social circumstance. It is appalling.

So what is the answer? Apart from lobbying government and pushing to save and support the NHS more, individuals can start to save more, well in advance of any familial decision. It could be wise to set up small investments as soon as you get married or start to cohabit, in expectation of expecting.

Even a few hundred pounds in a low-returning, readily accessible Cash Isa could be a huge boon to families struggling to meet the costs of starting a family. After the birth, it could be best to ask family and friends to help you with a Junior Isa or contributions to an investment fund established to help meet the plethora of interim costs between 0 and 18, rather than buy another set of babygrows. All these could be some partial solutions to this problem.

On a lighter note, perhaps the following from Scottish Friendly could suggest a solution: some basic child labour? Apparently, there is a growth of entrepreneurial children in the UK, with one in four under-18s earning £38 a month on average by working for people outside their immediate family. It's not quite illegal, so it seems.

According to the provider, this equates to about £1.8bn a year, garnered from doing chores such as gardening, helping older people with their technology problems, participating in online surveys, helping to create apps (clever clogs), washing cars and pet-sitting. Of course, you can’t send them down the mines or up chimneys now, as I have discovered recently, such a thing is frowned upon these days. However, perhaps you could help your young ones to help you help them… Just a thought?

Otherwise, I suggest a lower-cost option:

He has his father's eyes. And fur.
QUESTION: What money-saving ideas have you used/recommended to couples starting out en route to parenthood? It would be great to hear your hints and tips - please do use the comment section below and I'll follow this post up with them later on in the year.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things that I don’t understand #1


Something's not quite right.

The first installment in a slightly less bile-filled series of lists about things that confuse and perplex me. I suspect this might have something to do with my age.

1) Quilted toilet paper
A close-up of this strange phenomenon. Why would you pin-prick flowers onto your poop roll?




















I just don’t get quilted toilet paper (also known as QTP). It is evidently too thick to be of 100% efficacy for one’s nether regions, and it certainly looks anything but good taste. For me, quilted toilet paper is akin to those gold plastic boxes that people put tissues into to disguise the (far more aesthetically pleasing) cardboard box. Am I alone in thinking that QTP is not to be found in the finer establishments of this hallowed isle of Great Britain? I have visited Eltham Palace. It was not there. I have been to Claridges. It was not there. But I have found it in an old lady's bathroom (not my mother's, thankfully), along with a doll in a knitted dress coyly hiding another QTP roll under her voluminous pink skirts.


2) Tight jeans with saggy bottoms
I think I am going blind
First, there were straight-legged jeans. Then there were straight-legged jeans that hung down slightly at the waist, prison style. Now there are tight tight tight jeans with saggy bottoms. Apparently they are called Drop Crotch Skinnies. Ye gods and little fishes. I don’t understand these at all. Usually sported by skinny white men with bristling beards – the sort of wiry-looking men most prisoners would avoid near the shower rooms – these trousers seem to be spray-painted on until the thigh area, whereupon they just – sag. Is this because hipsters couldn’t manage to pull their tight pants down quickly enough to go to the toilet? Did North London experience an epidemic of poopy pants because nobody could peel the denim away from their hot sweaty thighs in time to squat? Is this a clever fashion device to allow hipsters freedom of botty movement? If so, then I completely get this trend. If not, then no, I don’t understand Drop Crotch Skinnies.

3) Smart Water
Have you seen this water? Call 0900-SuckerPunch now
Water is not smart. Water is water. It should have a neutral PH of approximately 7 – not too acidic, not too full of other base minerals, but it does not have a PHD. The only thing smart about Smart Water is the fact that someone realised that some people – usually those who wear tight denim with saggy bottoms – will be willing to pay £2.50 or more for a bottle of water. So while water has been around for millions of years, some suckers at the teat of posh water bottles really have just been born yesterday.

That is all. For now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Things that make me feel ill

                          The latest in a series of rants that began before the internet was created. 

Ok so these are First World Problems
1) Halitosis
More specifically, someone else's bad breath. 
I had a real blast of this yesterday on the train home. I was so happy to get a seat, given that the majority of the time we are packed in closer than incestuous sardines in a hillbilly can, but at what cost? At what cost, indeed. For I was next to a smartly-dressed young man with the worst breath in the world. It was so bad I had to sit with my back to him. I opened the window. I had to take off my cardigan because I was overheating with the need to puke. I sprayed my scarf with scent and held it over my face. I don't even know how he could have managed to gut-breath the carriage, given that he rarely opened his gingivitis-beriddled mouth. Even the flowers printed onto the lady's dress opposite wilted. When he got off the train at Streatham, we literally breathed a sigh of relief. Except for the girl across from me, who was dead.

2) Papaya
Nasty little ass fruit
This evil little fruit. Look at its innocent little face. I've had it in drinks before, I've enjoyed the scent of my body butters and hand lotions. Nothing prepared me for the satanic devastation it caused to my tastebuds. It smelled so nice! The juices I have been drinking seemed so rich and nourishing. So when I got the chance for some fresh papaya at a five-star hotel in Thailand, I thought my breakfasting dreams had come true. I loaded my plate with delicious fruit and returned, starry-eyed, to my table and prepared to savour the delights. What a load of ass. Literally. It tasted like ass. I tried it twice, to be sure. It resembled an ass's ass. The ass of a donkey. The sour, vomit-laden assfruit of a dead donkey. The supporating puss-filled colon of a putrefying mule carcass. I suspect my rotting-gummed friend above has been licking papaya. 

3) Farts
Other people's, of course. Mine smell like roses. Or KFC. Sometimes both. I don't understand why people do not seem to enjoy the wind of my labours in the same way that I do. They cannot appreciate art, evidently. However other people's dropped wind is the breath of the devil and all his hellish minions. It is the foul air that emanates from the pit of sulphur and lime, the demesne of all that is wrong. And when it happens on a train, a tube, or in a hospital waiting room (oh that one was the worst - death farts from hideously ill people) ... ugh. But the very very worst, the Titan of all worseness.... the fart of a cat. Just take my word for it.

4) Mint Choc-Chip Icecream

Have you ever licked between the toes of an ageing, tuberculoid polar bear? No? Well try some mint choc-chip icecream and enjoy a similar experience (best to hit the polar bear with a tranquiliser first). After tasting this delicacy, hit yourself with a tranq gun. It will take away the burning pain in your mouth and make everything seem good again. Food colourings, creme de menthe, a frozen putrescence. And that's just what's in a polar bear's toejam. This 'delicacy' even has its own Wikipedia page. Disgusting.


5) Death socks
Socks worn by other people. Socks that have not only been worn by other people, all day, but then end up on your side of the sofa. Socks that you realise, half-way through a film, are stroking your arm. Your bare arm. Touching the skin. Your skin. Dear saints have mercy. Also to fear are the socks being pinged off a pungent foot and waved around near your face. PROTECT YOUR EYES! Protect them from the foot-bogies that will ping off into your mouth, if it is open.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not such a Nisa Isa

Keep saving, keep saving
I’ve been noticing it for a while, the slow clandestine creep downwards of rates on cash Isa products.

I started off with 3.5 per cent more than a decade ago on an HSBC Isa. In the heady heights of 2006 I managed to wrangle 4.25 per cent from HSBC, before the mighty crash. By the time I’d recovered from redundancy and was back on my feet to start adding to my savings, I was not only getting about 0.5 per cent but also having to endure three compounded errors in a row (where HSBC had lost my cheques/applications).

From thence I switched to Leeds Building Society, which in 2010 was the only one offering anywhere near 3 per cent. Within a year, it was down to 2.5 per cent and then down to 1.75 per cent for two years.

Now the most I can get from Leeds is a 1-year fix on 1.5 per cent. Still better than my husband’s Barclays Isa which is less than 1 per cent.

So having decided in 2014 that I wanted to start with stocks and shares I invested with Hargreaves Lansdown and started building up a tiny portfolio, while my 2-year cash Isa lingered untouched in the hallowed halls of the Headrow.

Thus far, the 2014/2015 S&S has returned 8 per cent in total; some parts, like the proverbial egg, are better than others. I’m not worried. It’s an 8 per cent gain not an 8 per cent loss, and it’s still better than any cash Isa on the market. It’s also more than any costs I would incur if I pulled the plug.

But this is my Long-long-long term saving. I want something up to two years in case Mr K and I get sprogged up or decide to go on a tour of the Antipodes. So I had a look for cash Isas on t’interwebs yesterday and found that the best rate was one from Santander, for 2 per cent. However I had to be a 1,2,3 customer. Always a catch.

I have opted for 1.85 per cent from Kent Reliance, which is the third highest rate I could find. The second was with Julian Hodge but I got bored of all the click-throughs on the website while looking up how to invest, so I went with Kent Reliance. I have to say, it was all done online within about five minutes - a simple, smooth and clear process. You can’t beat that kind of ease.

Yet I am still left with a bitter taste in my mouth that cannot be (solely) as a result of slightly off milk in my coffee this morning.

I wish providers would stop calling an Isa of 2% a ‘Nisa’. It’s not nice. It’s barely palatable. It might look good compared to CPI but let’s look at RPI, shall we? Let’s consider seven years of below-inflationary pay rises across the UK (assuming a level inflation rate of 2.5 per cent).

True I don’t have to pay so much for sour milk or petrol (maybe I accidentally put petrol into my Gold Blend this morning? I was quite tired). But I do have (supposedly) quite a few more miles to go in this chassis and I need my money to keep pace with me.

What’s so nice about 2 per cent? Maybe I should have gone all out on my S&Ss Isa. Many people would tell me to do so. But I like having cash, I need a bit of a cash net and, if figures from Cofunds are anything to go by, so do a lot of people in the UK.

According to Cofunds, Money Market funds saw impressive net sales in March, which resulted in the sector placing third in the net sales leader-board in the first quarter of 2015.

Furthermore, data released recently by the Investment Association has shown that net sales of S&S Isas slumped to just £325m in the key January to 5 April tax year end period - the once-heralded ‘Isa Season’. That’s a 57 percent drop from the £756m in the same period last year and despite the previous government increasing the annual allowance.

So people are looking for a safer place for their money. Cash and cash-like securities are winning combinations for people looking for a tax-efficient investment.

Banks and building societies should be falling over themselves to woo this money towards them, with more competitive rates. At the moment they’re competing to see who can offer the lowest rate. This isn’t a year of the Nicer Isa. It’s a Nasty Isa. It’s a farce. And we put up with it because they know we will. Because they know we want something in Cash, something more accessible. They’re right. We grumble but we put up with it because, well, what are the options? Property? Money Market funds? 
Most of us plebs haven’t got that kind of cash to stash. I can’t even afford a Lamb, let alone a Lambo.
I accept we have to accept these low rates. Nobody is going to listen to we great unwashed in this shady economic environment. But please, stop pretending these are Nisas. They’re not. They’re Pathetic Isas. Pisas. And I’ll leave the pronunciation up to you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who calls me? Spam numbers

  

Beautiful Ballachulish
The village of Ballachulish in Lochaber, HighlandScotland, is centred on former slate quarries. 

It’s a beautiful part of the world. Apparently. I’ve never been. But Today I got called at 10:10 am by this number: 01855 605 303

This is evidently a spam number. I know nobody in Ballachulish. I don’t tend to give out my mobile number when I fill in forms, etc. If I do, I always tweak one of the numbers so it’s not accurate.

Yesterday, I got called at 11:43am by 01943 593491. This is from a place called Guisely, based in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is situated south of Otley and Menston, it is a suburb of north west Leeds.

Also, a very beautiful little town. From the pictures I’ve seen, it has quaint limestone walls and small grey-stone buildings.

But once again I know nobody who lives there. And nobody who would want to call me in the morning. The mystery deepens.

On Tuesday, I was phoned by 01792 828958. This is a proper firm called Opinion Research Services. At least, it has a web presence. Now, nobody can be 100% sure that any firm with a web presence is actually genuine but it looks genuine. It has even put a helpful notice on its website:

“Our telephone interviewing centre based in Swansea makes calls from 01792 828958, 01792 674980 or 01792 348614. We understand that many people are reluctant to answer calls from numbers that they don't recognise, so we have prepared this FAQ page for people who receive a call from us and then search for 01792 828958, 01792 674980 or 01792 348614. It explains who we are, why we are calling and will hopefully answer any other questions you may have.”

Well, not really. I want to know how it knows who I am and how it has my personal mobile number. Anyway. Of course I ignored it.

Monday was also fun. At 11:57 I was called from Bridgend on 01656 360199. Again although I know a few people there, nobody would call me. You see the pattern here? Random numbers from across the UK, all calling at roughly the same time. I actually answered this one as “Newsdesk”. When they realised they’d called the national newsdesk of a major newspaper, they quickly apologised, said they’d remove me from their database, and hung up.

I bet they didn’t. I bet they passed me to Guisely and Ballachulish.

I had quite a few unwanted calls on Monday. Spammers 0843 724 0610 called me – I get this one quite regularly. In fact, it has its own entry in my phone book as “Spam”.
That evening, Opinion Research Services called me again.

I got spammed by Spam on Sunday, by ORS again on Sunday, by Morons last week – Morons being 0117 301 7723. They also have a special entry in my phone book.

ORS called me twice more last Friday, last Thursday, and last Wednesday.
I got a fun call from 0800 056 2422 on the 19th, ORS on the 19th, again in the morning from 0800 056 2422. ORS is starting to be a PITA (pain in the xxxx)

On 18th I got called by 01530 382 170. This is from the place called Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Coalville. This is accordingly a very nice place to visit in Leicestershire. It boasts several centuries’ worth of historical activity, Norman Castles and quiet English Pubs.

Overall, the past couple of weeks I’ve been blessed by such a national variety of spammers trying to do whatever – sell me PPI or talk to me about my accident claim. In fact, it’s risen so much over the past couple of weeks that I have to suspect either that my details have been passed on by one of my providers – I recently signed up with Amex – or someone has a grudge against me (perfectly reasonable) and has put my number on every single spammer’s website to punish me.

I can only assume I am being punished. And I probably deserve it. But just in case you get met with one of these numbers, I am informing you now to be aware. The scammers are everywhere, even in the middle of absolutely frigging nowhere. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's FRIIIIIDAAAAAAAY!

I am not sure how I managed it. I'm not sure how I got here. But I am sure of one thing: it is National Cat Day and therefore I must post pictures of cats.

Not just any cats. No no. Surprised cats.

You're welcome.

1) Derp. Yep, there's one in every family.
Photobombing Kitty Style


2) Help! Ray's turned Feral!
The Zombie A-paw-calypse starts

3) You serious? That's your new boyfriend?
I can't believe the horror 

5) NO WAY!
well I never!
6) Get it away from me!  GETTITAWAYFROM ME!!!!!
So. Much. Terror.
7) WHAT AM I LOOKING AT? DEAR SAINTS ALIVE PLEASE! MY EYES ARE BURNING
Death come swiftly I beg thee
8) Caption says it all



               HAPPY CATURDAY FOLK!








Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Valentines-Day Wash Out

I am exhausted. Getting to the end of the week seems a chore, a nightmare scenario each week. Going out in the evenings fills me with dread. Sleep evades me.

This is probably why I thought for once, on Valentine's Day, I might be able to have a little bit of a lie-in, at least until 9am. A romantic lie-in, I suggested. This is basically exactly the same as a lie-in but I thought if I threw the word 'romantic' in front of it, it might actually sound special and therefore acceptable as a Valentine's Day activity.

Well that didn't quite happen, as mom popped round to give us a little present and to collect hers, but as she didn't stay for breakfast, I thought I could catch another hour's kip until about 9:30. The intention had been to get up at 9:30, 10am and make pancakes. Then Mr Mermaid and myself could decide where we would be going for a day out. A nice walk in the countryside, maybe to a country pub, then back home where Mr Mermaid would have to do some freelance work.

I slept until 11am, and just about shook myself out of my stupor to create the below - Canadian style blueberry pancakes with Maple Syrup - while Mr M popped out to the shops.



I had just about enough time to make the pancakes and put the finishing touches to his gifts from me - wrapping his Penhaligon's candle, icing the enormous heart-shaped choc chip cookie I'd baked on Thursday, and writing on his card, which was also hand-made - when Mr M came back.

The feast was all we'd hoped. In fact, it was so good that we felt a little sleepy. After some lovely gifts from the hubby - a rose, some choccies and some Clinique make-up, I headed for the sofa, and fell fast asleep. I didn't wake up again until 4pm.

FOUR PM!

I was SO knackered, you couldn't even imagine. What a Valentine's Day wash-out! We managed to get to Tooting, to Honest Burger, and have a nice short meal, then come home again. An hour out of the house. Immediately upon entering, I made myself a cup of tea, re-entered my onesie and thereafter I lazed (and grazed) on the sofa again for a few hours while Mr M worked.

We did have a friend to put up that evening, as she was stuck for somewhere to crash for the night, so I made her bed, got a hot chocolate ready - and that is all I remember of Saturday. Hearing everyone's tales of wintry walks, pub lunches, days out on the Thames, shows or evening date nights has made me concerned for my physical well-being. Mental, too. I took a test yesterday on Facebook, probably one of those awful BuzzFeed things, which says my mental age is 53.

FIFTY THREE!

Frankly I am unsurprised, though I am shocked. I am always tired, always working, never resting. I do not want to go out with friends or with work. I want to stay at home and sleep. This week I am out three nights in a row and dreading it. It is the worst possible thing that could happen to me. I say no to going out on Saturdays because I just can't face how tired I will be afterwards. I literally do not want to do anything. Every time I get invited to something I groan inwardly.

So much for Valentine's Day, birthdays, Easter, etc etc. Might as well buy me one of those fat lady scooters now so I can just hum along to the shops and collect my pension.


PS  I also made a stack of pancakes for the office this week, cinnamon and blueberry American style (with the ubiquitous maple syrup). I think they went down well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Santa is a Terrible, Wicked Man

Evil Santa?
Anti-Santaism isn't just believing there is no Santa, but the thought that if there is a Santa, he is a malicious, malevolent being and to be despised above all beings.

The idea that one man, one supernatural being can willy-nilly make or break a child's emotional, mental and spiritual state at Christmas is obscene. Santa is a megalomaniac, an absolute despot, passing judgement on children who because of circumstance or upbringing are breaking his so-called 'naughty laws'. Who made him a judge over children? It's evil. There are children begging for help in this world, who are suffering from terrible diseases, abuse, wars, famine.

Santa has the power to help them at Christmas. But he doesn't. He gives expensive gifts to children who do not need them, and does not answer the pleas of the desperate, the needy, those dying of
starvation or from a lack of clean water.

What kind of a being is that, who would leave children in such a world? What a wicked, nasty character people believe in. He does not use his supernatural powers for good, but makes demands on people to thank him, to be grateful, to present their grovelling petitions to him so he can make some arbitrary decision over their lives.

If I were to go to the North Pole - and I wouldn't want to, personally the Tooth Fairy is much more likeable, seeking to give back to children who have lost something - I would say to Santa: "How dare
you? How dare you create such misery for thousands, millions of children around the world? How dare you leave children to starve on the streets of Calcutta or Brazil, when you could easily give them
food and shelter. Who gave you the right to decide upon whom to bestow your so-called Christmas spirit?"

No, Santa is not good. He is wicked, evil, despotic and a megalomaniac. He is a madman and I hate him, I hate his nasty little lists (who gave him the right to say who is naughty and who is nice?). If I saw Rudolph I would punch him in his bright red nose.

But wait.. What is this you are saying? 'Why? Why rail against Santa? Why all this aggressive spewing of bile against someone who does not exist? He doesn't exist, so it is impossible that you can hate him. You cannot hate him for what he has never done, because he never existed.'

Ah. You see, to rage and rave against a non-entity, something that does not exist, well that does not make sense, does it? It like is a man shouting into the wind, telling it to stop but achieving nothing.
It is the ranting of a person so full of hate that it simply does not matter that the thing he hates does not exist. It is the ranting of a madman, fighting an unseen assailant, battling only with the image in
his mind.

I do not really hate Santa, because he does not exist. I have no feelings towards him either good or bad. Seeing his face on billboards does not choke me up with rage, nor do I blame him for the suffering of millions of children across the world at Christmastime. If you were to question things logically, you would see how futile it would be of me to expend so much hatred on a myth.

If Santa does not exist, it is illogical to hate him and what he has done, or to accuse him of not doing something that he should have. To hate, to question, to accuse in this way actually gives form to him,
gives him credibility, gives him an identity. The very thing you hate and claim does not exist, now exists in the form you have created, but - and here is the kicker - only in your mind. Well done you. You've officially lost the plot.

But what if? What if it was not just a myth! What if Santa does exist? Well it would still be in your right to hate him for all those reasons outlined above. That is fair enough. But then you would need to give Santa the right to respond. And perhaps you may have to admit that you might have been wrong about Santa, after all, you were wrong about him not existing at all. But you would hate that even more.

You see, you cannot make a stand on the grounds that Santa is a myth, and does not exist, if you are so concerned about all the things he has done wrong. He's a myth. He has therefore done nothing wrong.

But if you persist in accusations and hatred of his character, person and being, then you cannot say you do not believe in him, or that he is not real, rather that you simply choose to believe your version about him.

A-Santaism therefore as a concept eats itself. The thing that gives it validity is that there is no Santa to believe in. But to justify this disbelief, one must actively hate, one must discredit the person, being, actions and thoughts of Santa, thereby making him a real concept. You cannot hate what is not there; you cannot tear down that which has not been built up.

Don't get me started on the Easter Bunny.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The peculiar incident of the cat in the daytime

Monty Baggins the angelic (?) cat
It started off so well.

Actually, not so well. It started off with me cleaning the windowsill of a (then) empty study overlooking the back garden.

From there I could see our Rum-Tum-Tugger, aka Monty the Cat, perched insouciant on the border fence between our house and the neighbours' on the left.

He was making rude noises at something small and fluffy on their lawn. It looked like a grey owl, but turned out to be a small kitten, all fur and eyes the colour of ripening pumpkins.

Before I could utter a warning, he had leaped into their garden and was saying very nasty things, dark things, irascible words for which there is thankfully no discernible human meaning, whereupon a jet of water sprang out from a hosepipe and he bounded back into the sanctity of our home.

Of course, I laughed out loud, which prompted three ladies sitting in the garden to look up. These were our new neighbours. Correctly, we were their new neighbours, and Monty had just attempted to rough up their kitten. What a bully!

But this was nothing compared to what happened one terrible, sultry, summer afternoon, back in '14.

It happened thus. Monty and I were doing nuttin while sitting inside and saw Rowdy cat (the un-neutered black and white tomcat) prowl into a neighbour's garden and pick a fight with Flea (the fluffy black cat who lives up the way). They were hammer and tongs, then entered our garden, then entered Left Hand Neighbours' garden. There was their grey kitty, still too young to be speyed but old enough to be on heat. They were chasing her round the garden, making those weird, angry sexual sounds that only cats can make.

This catfight had been going on for hours. The ladies next door managed to get their cat in, and the couple to the left had managed to spook the black cat with a gentle squirt to the behind, but Rowdy and the black cat were still circling each other - now in our yard.

So thinking the coast was clear, and with Monty definitely raring to go outside and show these muppets what a real bruising was (he grew up in Streatham), I decided it would be a reasonable, grown-up, adult thing to do to don a cape, put Monty on my shoulders, and gallop out of the back door towards the two spatting cats while singing the Feline version of Ride of the Valkyries.

I called it ..... Apocalypse Meow, and it goes like this.

"Meow Mi-mi MEOW Miaw, Mew mi-mi MEOW Miaw, Mew mi-mi MEOW Miaw, MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOOOOOWWW."

Just in case you were wondering.

Anyway the two caterwauling kitties froze mid-yawl and looked at us in horror, the caped pink, two-legged beast (me) and the Ginger cat sitting astride her shoulders like the Colossus of old. And then they scarpered.

"Yeah" I shouted at their retreating forms. "Monty brought a Human to a cat fight". I think I even did a gangland sign.

Just then, heard a male voice shout with laughter "Well done Mermaid" ... and looked round to see pretty much all neighbours, left and right, looking out of their windows at me.

I will never live this down.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Christmas under the sea

It is a common misconception that Mer-people do not celebrate Christmas.

This is blatant error, no doubt perpetuated by Fox News, which has a penchant for key facts, such as the rampage of the Muslim Religious Police that haunt parts of the UK and beat you for entering a no-go zone.

In fact, Mer-people love Christmas.

This year the tree was purple, pink, gold and teal, with a kind of 'Arabian Nights' theme to much of the food - spiced parsnip and tarragon soup for starters; baklava and figs for nibbles and Greek sweetmeats and goodies sent to us by the inlaws.

However, no Christmas is complete without the usual fusion of Germanic and American-inspired holiday favourites, such as Gingerbread houses (made and decorated by yours truly) cookies and cakes (also made and decorated by yours truly), stollen, stockings for Santa to fill and general gourmandising excess.

However, it all got too much for one member of the Mermaid's household, who could not cope with the sheer volume of treats from the table and gifts - many of which were from friends of the family who felt it was important to treat Monty the Cat as if he were a human child - and succumbed to a weird stupor on the settee.

Monty the Cat in post-Christmas 'Nip Trauma
And for a fuller view of the various Christmas decorations and food, simply for those who like a good nosey around the Mermaid's palace, follow me on instagram: http://instagram.com/simoneysunday/

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Press Release of the Decade

We just got sent this about a new green chauffeur service....
Every single Fleet Street Journalist got this very informative press release.

XXXXXXXX@econnectcars.com via sendgrid.me  (12:08)

Hi Mermaid,

I am writing to you from (name of company) (URL of company) to let you know about (our product, new launch, event, award etc). It is (launching, starting, appearing, on sale etc) from (insert date) and is available from (insert brief description). Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want more information.

On (x date), (company name) (company URL) is (details of news – eg launching a new product, holding an event, won an award, new person starting a job).

Insert line indicating why it is ‘news’ and what makes it interesting e.g. first time product/event, new launch, celebrity involved, award received)

Insert line on what sets you apart – any personal angle or interesting facts/statistics?)

Other key points – list (bullet points) and other areas of interest – maximum 5 points)
(Insert prices and availability. Include stockist details if appropriate or location and timing of event)

Please let me know if you use this story.

Best wishes,

XXX  XXX
X@econnectcars.com
For press enquiries, further information or to set up a product review / request product:
eConnect cars

http://www.econnectcars.com


SPEECHLESS!!!!!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The name game

Something that really annoys me is when I answer the phone by saying my full name, and the person who has called me struggles to pronounce my name, or asks

"Is XXXXX there?"

YES you dolt, I am here. I answered the phone. I answered the phone with my name. With my full name, pronounced correctly.

I also get emails responding to mine where the respondent has assumed my name is a man's name, and not bothered to read either my sign-off or the email address or the signature underneath the email.

Sometimes they do this several times.

But the most annoying is when someone I have known for 15 years HANDWRITES a card to me and gets my name wrong. Not the spelling - that is forgivable - but the actual name. Calling me by a man's name instead of my name.

I'm simply going to delete every single email without reading it, and put the phone down on every single person not getting the name right in future until they learn. They're trying to sell me their services, their ideas, their people. I don't have to sell them anything. They're the ones wanting to "reach out to me".

By the way - ugh - 'reach out'. What an appalling phrase, conjured up by illiterate and uneducated jargon-munchers. I do actually delete everything that comes with people offering to reach out to me. Reach out to me and I'll rip your flagging arm off.

Lord Sugar wouldn't stand for it. Why should I?

Lessons:

Learn your audience
Spell-check before you send