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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)

 

Market Update:

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)

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)

Hearing over the weekend about further loss of life in Afghanistan and reading all the various debates in the weekend papers brought to mind some verse written by Rudyard Kipling. Titled If  and written with regard to his friend, Dr Leander Starr Jameson’s raid against the Boers in 1896, and the British Government’s backtracking deceitful support.  

Kipling was introduced to Jameson by Cecil Rhodes, a financier statesman who’d extracted a vast fortune from Britain’s African Empire through his involvement with diamond and gold mines. At that time, South Africa had two British Colonies and two Boer Republics. The majority of Transvaal (a Boer Republic) voters were white male British expatriates however the Boers had disenfranchised them.  Rhodes, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony wanted these particular Uitlanders to rise against their (Dutch) government and was encouraged to do so by the British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain. 

 A force of armed men were gathered under the command of Rhodes’ friend Dr Jameson and sent in to overrun Johannesburg.  Chamberlain, realising this had gone ahead, panicked and organised the Governor General of the Cape Colony to condemn both the raid and Rhodes. Meanwhile, Jameson, frustrated with politics between London and Cape Town, carried on regardless but he was tracked by Boer troops on the Transvaal border. Eventually he surrendering along with surviving raiders and was taken by the British for trial. Sentenced to 15 months he never disclosed the British Governments support of the raid. The British South Africa Company paid the Transvaal government almost £1million as compensation. Rhodes was forced to step down.

After serving his sentence Jameson returned to South Africa and eventually became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony but  Kipling’s anger  towards  British Establishment ‘s treatment of Jameson never lessened; he refused a Knighthood, Order of the Merit and post of Poet Laureate.

 

News in general makes for continued miserable state of affairs and back-tracking seems to be an up and current trend. Negotiating with certain Banks recently has confirmed to us that those who back-track use If  instead of When with regard to products being available. Declaring for us that, as someone once said, ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics’. Kipling’s explorations about a done deed and man’s attitude in If would be changed should When be the alternative title (read it changing the two words) .

As for the classic British Establishment Cover-Up just listen for the little word the next time you’re seeking an honest answer.

(Image credit: PinkMoose  Article credit: Copyright SUF )

Very few people have been unaffected over the last 6 – 12 months, with small businesses and self-employed especially hit, so rather than keep shouting from the rooftops we felt inspired to turn to our favourite;  Music.

For holidaytime singalongs and karaoke the alternative lyrics to an all-time classic might be of use  or raise a smile.

At least we had some fun out of a dire situation……

 

 

 

Firms they were afraid,
cashflow was denied.
Bankers sidestepped, they
outlived and were not denied.
Buttocks clenched so very tight
firming even in Hong Kong,
all yearlong,
but we had to carry on.
Time to cutback, go back to base,
Allied along with all our fears
was the pension pot embrace.
If they`d put the money back
we might not have been quite so angry.
And not knowing for just one second
they`d come back just like acne.

 
Groan now, Oh!
How we abhor,
trust turned around now,
withdrawals costing evermore.
Weren`t they the ones who tried,
converting and imply,
accrue then crumble.
They thought we`d lay down, comply!
Oh, no.
Far cry.
We will survive.
As long as we have earplugs
we know we`ll stay alive,
to cope with all the strife they give.
We know commerce can outlive
to survive and thrive,
Hey Hey!

 

It takes all the strength they have
not to fall apart.
Keep trying hard to mend
the pieces Banking broke apart.
And we spend oh so many nights
eking money from their shelf,
as banks belie,
they have a bailout supply.
How we hold our head up high,
we are the key,
somebody new.
We`re not some chained up little person,
we`ve  freewill to persue.
And so if you feel like dropping in,
and just expect us to agree,
kowtowing all our knowledge
be prepared we`re not carefree.

 

Groan now, Oh!
How we abhor,
trust turned around now,
withdrawals costing evermore.
Weren`t they the ones who tried,
converting and imply,
accrue then crumble.
They thought we`d lay down, comply!
Oh, no.
Far cry.
We will survive.
As long as we have earplugs
we know we`ll stay alive,
to cope with all the strife they give.
We know commerce can outlive
to survive and thrive,
Hey Hey!    (Repeat)

(Image credit: Jonas B  Article/Lyrics: Copyright SUF )

 

Digging Deep for Change

A private excavation in the late 1930`s, initiated by landowner Mrs Pretty on her land at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, was made by Basil Brown, “a local archaeologist of no formal education” along with her gardener and gamekeeper. Using only spades and barrows they unearthed what is thought to be the burial chamber and ship of King Raedwald, the first King of the English people and High King of all other kingdoms. As soon as the significance of the discovery was apparent, Officialdom took over and, noticing that his record-keeping was poor, Mr Brown was conveniently made redundant from the responsibility. Officials had wanted the dig kept secret but the story was leaked by the local paper. Not much change in 70 years then.
 
The dig revealed the biggest haul of gold and silver ever found in Europe. Amongst it was a belt buckle weighing 30 Shillings, which, according to the Wergild (payment fee), was the going-price for the slaying of a nobleman or compensation payment for their murder; You’ve seen the adverts: Call us if you inexplicably fell from a pair of ladders, especially if every other rung was missing. Not too many changes there either.
 
The Aristocratic occupation of warfare enabled riches from plundering, therefore a small buckle representing a nobleman’s life was likely to be disproportionate to assets available. The payment fee for the crime, versus these assets, had no benefit as a disincentive. However there is the possibility that the 30 Shilling buckle might have been carried to represent the status of the wearer, rather like a pair of Jimmy Choos or Rolex. Spot any changes since the 7th Century?
 
A more severe punishment, for lesser mortals, was banishment from the tribe. Imposed upon an individual who continually broke the laws they would be left alone to face survival in the very wild forests of the time. So it seems there was a distinct system for those able to pay their way out of trouble. Spot any changes?
 
Ensuring a good “Send Off” for such noblemen included burying what might likely now amount to a small island’s National Debt – The “price of a man” sitting on his belt, proof of his wealth amassed around him and all encased in a ship’s hull as a burial chamber. Technically not found to be Treasure Trove the find was handed back to Mrs Pretty who could have made a fortune from its sale but instead, recognizing the significant true value, handed everything to the British Museum and declined her invitation to become a Dame…. How times have changed. A few months later War broke out…..No change there.

Not having an original 60’s San Franciscan Hippy Hiller amongst us doesn’t stop us appreciating that some of the best things in life are free; family, friends, sunshine and moonshine the more obvious and less debatable ones.  Snapping at the heels of Freebies is Good Value, which is equally turning out to be the elusive Holy Grail as the ever shrinking economy is squeezing everything around us to the point of almost needing a fainting room, such as those used by Victorian ladies whose corsets squeezed their internal organs until they became dizzy.

Not only have financial products been reduced almost to the state of the Dodo, Universities are changing their criteria with some grants being restricted whilst tuition fees are rising. Some products seem genuine bargains but then add on elements not expected and they change into not such a bargain. 

The constrictions being imposed can make us all want to make a break for freedom as Legislation isn’t usually on the statute book until after inevitable delays and the frustration of patchy reform.

So what does the quest for Value entail?  Selectivity and long term satisfaction are our keys for differentiating between a bargain, cheap and good value and making the Wholly Grail possible. The Flying Lizards sang “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and the bees; Now give me money (that’s what I want)”.  We think it’s more possible than the  Knights of the Round Table eating Spamalot to enjoy the freebies whilst striving for good value in those that cost.

(Image credit: fairbrand  Article credit: Copyright SUF)


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