09 11 2009
What have you done with the garden entrusted to you? asked Spanish poet Antonio Machado with the closing line of The Wind, One Brilliant Day and we began to wonder as it took us several hours to locate a specific garden at this years’ Sandringham Show - Surprisingly difficult considering the centrepiece was 8 tonnes of metal in the shape of a Sultan tracked command vehicle.
Integral in a garden of wild meadow, paths and pools and quiet reflective stopping points it was made to honour Britain’s armed forces and those responsible for its creation had done a fantastic job, equally ensuring the cause it supported, Help4Heroes, was less difficult to track down.
With so many charities vying for support, raising awareness takes outside the box thinking and we feel that service charities such as The British Legion and Help4Heroes manage to do exactly that. Without politicising or criticism they put first the servicemen and women and give non- political and non-judgmental support.
And where is the tank hidden now? This hide and seek Gold Award garden, dedicated to those in the Armed Forces both past and present, is to be is to be reconstructed, as part of a garden of remembrance at RAF Honington.
Stepping back, considering how our metaphoric gardens grow and putting things into perspective is always to be encouraged.
(Image credit: John-Morgan Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 10 2009
Murder in the Dark
“Mama Told Me Not to Come“ sang The Animals, Three Dog Night and later Tom Jones with the Stereophonics. Ambiguous lyrics run through and a mantra repeats that it was a Mama who had forewarned of potential trouble. The earliest version gives an air of discovering something unknown, the following version hints at fear with elements of hesitance, the final version shows a confidence beginning and all three exude the excitement of taboo. No matter what the era, ‘Mama’ gave advice which, on an eve of discovery, that alone might just be the reason to go ahead.
So what has this to do with our subject matter of finance?
For the majority of us, as we scrambled through our younger years trying all manner of new experiences, there will always have been some parental figure, in the background, wagging a finger of warning. Some may have had an advantage of any mistakes having the metaphoric plaster applied and some later appreciating any scolding for the sentiments behind them. As we move on, such parental figures move aside and their reprimands are something that remains only in our heads and we begin making our own decisions.
The outcome of any decision making is a choice, made between alternatives. Approaching the choice varies between logic and emotion. Rational only decision making excludes all emotion and assigns only criteria however emotional decisions can include logic. ‘Mama’ made any decisions with a basis of emotion and added logic therefore when adjusting from being guided by ‘Mama’ to making personal decisions, seeking out advice from different sources ensures a balance to decision making.
Financial decisions are huge, not least because they impact on every aspect of our lives and certain aspects of our lives are subject to emotion more than others. So, is there a ‘Mama’ in matters of finance?
Not to detract from some lending institutions’ charitable deeds, whilst their media campaigns are that of being friendly and empathetic the reality is that their decisions are made with (their) logic and, as we move further up the chain, upper echelons are further removed from emotion when it comes to their workaday decisions.
Finance, especially personal, is a difficult taboo subject for many to talk about. Although information about the subject can be garnered from all corners and debt advice charities such as Citizens Advice shouldn’t be underestimated but when it comes to that warts and all conversation a ‘Mama’ substitute is required. Since the oxymoron of Solvent Bank came about, finance and trust have been torn apart but trust is needed for such a conversation.
We’re always talking about the need to secure knowledge in personal finance and we’d like to think that those who ignore such advice aren’t doing so to be petulant. If you want to have fun you might consider turning the lights on or, as with a recent crazy party which we’re all aware of, things can soon get out of hand and it seems a crime to ignore the opportunity of once again having a ‘Mama’ who’ll wag a finger of understanding instead of waiting for an en masse finger wag when it all goes wrong.
As Agatha Christie once said: “Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it”.
(Image credit: mattw1ls0n Article credit: Copyright SUF)
25 09 2009
Autumn Equinox comes at the time just before the days get shorter and the nights get longer, a time when garden chairs, BBQ, lawnmowers and the like, start being taken to the back of sheds and garages and we all start the great hibernation. However, we know of a garden workshop that, as the epitome of a home business, will be wide awake and very active.
Throwing pottery, and themselves, into their business, Mick and Kate Glover are craft worker/organisers whose business model is keeping their hands in. Retailing distinctive Witches, Wizards, Goblins and all things Magic there’s not a piece of plastic in sight; Witch (sic) is also ecofriendly.
At Cuckoos Nest Pottery, every one of the pottery pieces is individually made, ensuring that nothing is automated and no two pieces are identical. When organising events for craft workers and artists, the hands on model continues; assuring that equal attention is given to the skills of the artists attending and showing their work. A Mick and Kate event is an opportunity for other home-workers to network, ensuring that distinctive creativity is promoted, whilst moving forward with their businesses rather than being overlooked in favour of commercialism.
This home business is supported by a different sort of magic to that other well known place, which stands with the intention of keeping us Muggles out. Unlike Hogwarts School for Wizards and Witches, Mick and Kate’s magic effect derives from commitment to their model, making certain that their pottery is accessible, online or at their events, and that they are accessible to other craftspersons.
We think, as the hibernation begins and as the next prominent Autumn date is Halloween, it’s a perfect time to awaken this bewitching business model to others considering a home business.
(Image credit: lepiaf.geo)
21 09 2009
We were shown an interesting article recently regarding the parking of ships in shipping lanes.
As we understand it these tankers are either transferring cargo, waiting, at sea rather than paying port taxes, for work to come in or waiting for the price of their cargo of crude oil to rise in the world markets.
Some local traders are happy because they’re trading with the ships. The speculators are presumably happy to wait for price hikes. The ship owners should be happy as they’re being paid for storage. The sailors are getting their wages and no doubt are happy for that.
So why, if everyone is happy, does this have a sensation of not being right.
Could this be reflective of the juncture of our economy? You don’t have to be an economist to question that this ‘offshore trading’ somehow gives off a feeling that our economy is genuinely ‘stuck in the mud’ especially when liquidity is being sought – or is it that it’s what is being traded that feels uncomfortable.
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)
14 09 2009
Seeing the tree skeletons, beginning to appear as Autumn starts up, reminds us of the Big Dead Tree in Dahl’s story of vengeance; in which The Twits use their tree to trap birds by spreading ‘Hugtight’ sticky glue on the branches with the unfortunates being baked in a pie.
Baking Bird Pie isn’t by any means The Twits’ only repulsive attitude but (spoiler alert) the story does have a happy ending. Due to assistance from the fantastically plumaged, multilingual Roly-Poly Bird: who claims “it is no use travelling from one country to another without learning the language of the people who live there”, warnings and alerts are translated from the incarcerated Muggle – Wump monkey family to birds and, when tactics are changed, even R-P Bird is forewarned and none get stuck.
Dahl wrote his book, about two of the most disgusting characters in children’s literature, whose horrid attitudes to others and horrid attitudes to each other continually vie to outdo each other with nastiness. Most areas of business have an occasional irritating person; a twit – but interestingly, these types of Twits are in complete contrast to the ‘Tweeple’ we meet though Twitter.
Being affiliated to what is perceived as a Corporate World we joined Twitter with trepidation and never cease to be overwhelmed by the warm positiveness which we generally receive online.
Our business language is Finance with an accent, but that doesn’t mean we want to spend our entire time translating. Tweets both received and sent have given us the indulgence of being able to ‘go to the water cooler’ without stepping out of the office.
Watching the trees in the real world begin to lose their leaves, we’re reminded that, unfortunately, there will always be the occassional twit – but cyberspace’s Twitter, appears to be providing a refreshing and welcome means of communication with people who are far from irritating or stupid.
It seems online, Twees are very different – and never bare – being full of colourful, Roly-Poly-bird-like Tweeple, twittering away.
(Image courtesy of Quentin Blake Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 09 2009
The British Bankers Association has issued figures showing a Gross rise in mortgage lending of £0.3Bn for July 2009.
For the same period the Net rise is shown as £1.6Bn; with £2.2Bn for June & £2.9Bn over the last six month period.
Total loans for July were £9.7Bn of which £5.2Bn was represented by 38,141 house purchase loans, an increase upon June of 2,577. Re-mortgage numbers also edged up slightly by 2,146.
Confused? You’re probably not alone.
We’ve commented in the past about such numbers – See Think of a Number and What the Numbers really mean. Unfortunately, as is often in the finance markets, the changes are subtle and the numbers can be baffling.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders ( CML ) has revealed 2008’s Big Four UK Mortgage Lenders. Illustrating a par-for-the-course and little change from last year. Once again, look beyond the numbers and look at the purpose of such a list.
Fitch Ratings have downgraded financial institutions which have taken State Aid, ahead of possible EU Commission intervention. The implications of this will be interesting to follow especially with regard to some Building Societies and Foreign Banks.
Lincoln Financial Group’s research has found that around 2 million adults have no idea where their pension funds are being invested or, indeed, who their pension provider is.
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 09 2009
Sins Ain’t What They Used To Be
As the Roman calendar names September as simply Septem, month seven, with no reference to the usual God or hero, we’re been reminded about how barren the world of finance is of Gods and heroes and thought it would be an opportunity to give consideration to Seven, in terms of finance in this unprecedented year, deadly sins.
Pride : Having an excessive belief in one’s own abilities or love for oneself. Pride prevents any learning taking place consequently unnecessary risk taking is the outcome. No matter what state the economy is in, if vanity is avoided, learning takes place and the chain reaction of introducing further ‘sin’ is avoided.
Envy: Desiring others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Being able to balance essential and non essential requirements and creating strategy can be sobering. A difficult one to avoid but with careful assessment an objective can feel like soothing anesthetic.
Gluttony: The inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
The difference between sufficient and insufficient.
Lust: Obsessive or excessive thoughts or desires.
The bottom line in preventing gluttony’s twin is identifying the difference between wants and needs.
Wrath: Extreme and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.
Life is unfair.Taking command and gaining a thorough understanding prevents such a fury.
Greed: An excess beyond lust and gluttony.
Yes, a sin that exceeds the excessive sins and one we’ve all heard a lot about.
Sloth: Failing to utilize one’s talents and gifts.
Blocks empowerment; prevents success and achievement at any level.
So, those are the sins now what about the punishments?
Pride: Broken on the wheel
Envy: Put in freezing water
Gluttony: Forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes
Lust: Smothered in fire and brimstone
Anger: Dismembered alive
Greed: Put in cauldrons of boiling oil
Sloth: Thrown in snake pits.
(Devils, Demons and Witchcraft by Ernst-Lehner)
At this point, if there is any spark of excitement when thinking about The Bank that wouldn’t give you an extended overdraft or charged you a month’s salary for going into the red by a few pounds, we’re afraid you’ll be disappointed as it seems guaranteed that the modern ‘punishment’ for such behavior, in the higher element of such circles, is The Bonus.
The love of money is the root of all evil, apparently said St Paul, or in other words, it is not money but our attitude to it that counts.
How right the chap was. Telling someone they need to budget, in order to stay solvent, used to be the job of those that, in days gone by, could well be swimming in a vat of boiling oil. Instead such people now offer up a series of automated numbers for you to phone and are as elusive and unreal as the product they trade: Finance.
Looking over the embers left over from financial hell-breaking-loose can feel like looking over the edge into the circles of a personal Dante’s Hell and it’s often easier to turn away. Whilst the winds of change keep the embers burning it’s worthwhile picking over personal wealth and nurturing what remains. It isn’t compulsory that, by conserving a financial situation, you’ll be taken as pillion by a certain Four Horsemen to dance with Beelzebub.
Good stewardship needs more than the ambiguous messages being trumpeted by major lending institutions. It needs genuine people with real solutions but as we don’t want any big wheels near us we’ll just say that we’re here whatever your query.
We’re not intent on selling as we have nothing to sell. You won’t have to face the situation of shouting at an automatic phone system; we’re a small team giving you immediate attention because if you’re contacting us we share the same values for attending to personal matters of finance.
Sometimes it’s just a case of not seeing the wood for the trees and that might be all you need to hear. Sometimes you might only need to hear the obvious. Sometimes you might need to sound out your options. Sometimes, after talking with us, you might want us to work with you. Using our knowledge to extend your knowledge, instead of getting burnt.
(Image credit: euii Article credit: Copyright SUF)
The British Inventor – Going for Gold
Fixations come and go, however, the one outstanding compulsion we British seem to have is talking about the weather. And who can blame us with our inclement climates? Reporting Reaction is the consequence, and conversation based in rotten weather as the automatic response we’re all guilty of, takes over. “Isn’t it cold, rainy, snowy, windy, dull, cloudy or whatever, today?”
Extreme Reporting Reaction only follows hot or sunny weather and recently our corner of Britain has had us on overdrive. The sun and its heat brings along more than just the obvious to talk about with often the most prominent points of discussion being the need for cool air, shade or liquids. What would it be like to not have access to these, especially with long term heat? Which couldn’t we cope without? Come to think of it, chatting over drinks one balmy evening, what couldn’t we live without in general, heat or no heat? Putting aside drug of choice, we couldn’t think of anything more important than the Elixir of Life; Water. A complex substance that has the power to destroy or sustain.
Throughout history, in the arts, embedded in sciences, water is so familiar to us that we pay little attention to it and rely on others to make that effort; especially for the times that water becomes a destructive element. Who are these people that offer up answers to such problems? Politicians? Celebrities? No, the real problems throughout history have been answered by Scientists, Engineers and Inventors….. so finding one with all three abilities is pure Gold. Enter (to which you could also add magician) Michael Pritchard. This guy can turn toilet water into, not wine, but pure, clean, life giving, drinking water. Cool!
You might say “but I’d prefer the wine“, unless you were in one of the disaster hit areas that prompted Michael to get his thinking cap out again.
Clean water is not only difficult to transport, it’s costly, but Michael Pritchard’s system overcomes the need for such costs and the water produced is not only clean and sterile but shuts-off if it becomes contaminated. Cleaning up, no matter what the matter, if you get our drift.
With predictions of water being traded like gold, Michael, like all good inventors, is ahead of his game and always thinking Outside The Box. Once more, pure magic is the production of his latest product, whilst the opportunity to display his sheer genius skills of negotiation, in an episode of pure-gold Dragons Den, is worthy of a Business Oscar.
(Image credit: LifeSaverSystems.com Article credit: Copyright SUF)