Do they know it’s Christmas (in December)

At the risk of taking on the mantle of Ebenezer Scrooge – have I missed something? Like November?

On Regent Street yesterday the Christmas lights are in full swing. Today in Costa Coffee all of the Christmas stock is out. I am led to believe that the same will be true in Starbucks tomorrow.

Has no one noticed that it is not yet even November? It is 8 weeks until Christmas – nearly two months!

All we need now is to wheel out Noddy Holder and the crew for a thousand renditions of Merry Christmas Everybody. Or Wham. Or Wizzard (am I boring you yet?).

Monthly magazines have this irritating habit of releasing copies way in advance – and some of the Christmas editions are now out.

I refuse to post a Christmas picture on this blog – until at least December – and even then – don’t hold your breath.

Summer at the Cabby Shack in Plymouth

Summer sky at the Cabby Shack - feel the sun on your back

But what I would like to do, is re-work the Gregorian Calendar (I know its been around since 1582 but that’s a good reason to change it?). So my proposals are:

New Years Day – 1st November
Christmas Day – 25th October
Easter – 4th February
Spring Bank Holiday – 30th March

Great news is you have all missed Christmas. And its New Years Day tomorrow – have the day off. First Foot and all that in the morning. And dust those skis off….

Yours always, Scrooge.

UPDATE 2 November

Costa Coffee this morning: Xmas music is being introduced over next 10 weeks in increments. This week is 25%, Xmas music then in two weeks time up to 50% – you get the picture. Worse still – it’s not Noddy Holder – it is their own “MIke Sammes’ versions. Just like the Pizza Hut days of old – with cheesy cover versions. I don’t know what’s worse – but the Power of Love and Cat People (Frankie Goes etc and Bowie respectively) were unbelievably bad – so you can imagine what the Xmas stuff sounds like. The last moments of a dying cat….

Is good service so difficult?

It’s been a bad day today!

I have had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of really quite poor customer service today from two organisations who really should know better.

The new bungalows at Abel Collins - without Gas!

The new bungalows at Abel Collins - without Gas!

One was British Gas Business – who are supposed to be relaying a gas main at Abel Collins Almshouses – where I am Co-Chair – and we have just built four new bungalows. As is usual with these situations you are given a price and you pay over your money and wait. In our case the money was £12,500 and we paid this in July. The story is quite boring – but the issue is that there has been a cock-up. No other explanation. But it seems that the issue is mine to sort out. My frustration with British Gas is that they are a faceless lot – and were very quick to explain that it was everyone else’s fault!

I can’t understand why they can’t offer a solution – not just offload their problems on me. I was told today that we may have to wait another 12 weeks…

And then I had the pleasure of an explanation from John Lewis – where I ordered a TV from 11 days ago. It was expected to be in stock 10 days ago and then 3 days ago. My irritation is that once again, I have to do the chasing. But then after my complaint today they did call me. The excuse was amazing. It was Philips fault! Not John Lewis’. They had been let down. But 35 were arriving tomorrow – they think. But they can’t tell me if I am 4th in the queue of 36th (the former would be ok, the latter not!).

And the outcome – Philips (not John Lewis) have restricted the TV’s – and it might be Christmas!

The internet threatens stores – and unless they offer great customer service they will lose out. But in the case of British Gas – they are a monopoly so they have the ultimate protection – you can’t go anywhere else! So you know what you can do if you don’t like it…

I won’t bore you with the experience I had in John Lewis at the weekend in the cafe – where I had my invisible cloak on for three or four minutes – waiting for breakfast. But if I told you I would sound like a grumpy old man. But then again…If the cap fits?

Great customer service doesn’t cost anything and is not difficult.


1. Agents for The Highways Agency are upset with me for involving Nick Palmer MP. Oh well.
2. My TV has nearly arrived. Not quite but nearly. But I had to call John Lewis again.

Green Rubbish?

I previously blogged about the change in behaviour we probably need to make to save the planet.

But I spoke to someone today who told me I needed to read a new book – called Six Degrees – by Mark Lynas. I googled him and guess what – we are all doomed!

In essence this is what he says:

In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report projecting average global surface temperatures to rise between 1.4 degrees and 5.8 degrees Celsius (roughly 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Based on this forecast Mark outlines what to expect from a warming world, degree by degree. At 1 degree Celsius, most coral reefs and many mountain glaciers will be lost. A 3-degree rise would spell the collapse of the Amazon rainforest, disappearance of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the creation of deserts across the Midwestern United States and southern Africa. A 6-degree increase would eliminate most life on Earth, including much of humanity.

Zero Carbon House Malmo Sweden

This sounds like very bad news. Especially at Gas Mark 6.

And then some great news – in bucketfuls.

Firstly, it seems that Dogs and Cats are contributing to global warming. According to New Zealand-based authors Robert and Brenda Vale the amount of land needed to grow food for pets ranging from budgerigars to cats and dogs is the issue. They say an average Collie eats 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a year, giving it a high impact on the planet

A medium-sized dog has the same impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles a year, while a cat is equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf.


And then the news got even more ‘interesting’.

Lord Stern told The Telegraph that “meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”

So the answer is that all pets need to go and we need to eat salad?

I think I will stick to trying to build greener buildings and getting folks to turn the lights off. These sort of reports really do nothing for the ‘green’ cause.

Music & the next generation

It has been a great day today – my son Jak (his change of spelling) played in his first gig at The Hockley Hustle in Nottingham.

Loads of bands played at various venues – Jaks band – The Five Card Trip played at The Arts Centre. Obviously as proud parents we loved every minute of the 25 minute set. But, what struck me was that his friends and fellow band members had a whale of a time too. It was a great experience for them.

The band are, Chris Green – Vocals, Haroon Thantrey – Lead Guitar, Katey Dawson – Rhythm Guitar, Claudia Waller – Bass and Jak Garratt – Drums.

Five Card Trip

Five Card Trip

But not only did the band have a great time – about 100 of their mates turned out too! At £10 a ticket (all of which went to Oxfam and the NSPCC) that is quite a following. We heard a real mix of music – including some hip-hop, rap and a female vocalist called Becky.

What also struck me was the camaraderie back-stage. Despite their musical differences the bands all got on together and when I went to do my ‘roadie’ bit (I do have a purpose!) i found them all to be polite, helpful and really supportive of the band. The guys today are all part of the CRS Music Project in St Anns run by ‘Big Trev’. Details of what he does can be found here

Young folks often get a bad name – today showed that music can bring them together, give them some focus and above all enjoy themselves! But hat’s off to people like Big Trev – for giving these young folks a chance.

More images and a video here – You can find Five Card Trip on too

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged CRS, Five Card Trip, , The Hockley Hustle

Very Welcome….

The New Art Gallery in Walsall was one of my stopping places in the week. I had 15 minutes to spare – it was raining and I was intrigued by the building.

Neal Rocks Fanestra sculpture - in silicone!

Neal Rocks Fanestra sculpture - in silicone!

Entry was free – which was great so I made my way up to the top floor gallery – where there were two interesting exhibitions. One was Neal Rock – Fanestra and Other Works. I had been in the Gallery a couple of minutes when a guide appeared and asked me if I was interested in the works. She explained who Neal was and produced a piece of silicone – which was a strange texture – just like that around your bath seal! But in a sculpture it had a ceramic look. It was brilliant.

I wandered into another Gallery which had a permanent exhibition of Epstein works. This was a bit spooky as I had only heard a Radio 4 programme about Epstein in the week presented by Anthony Gormley… The guide was very impressed with my knowledge!

Not everyone will appreciate the Art – and this Gallery had a bent towards modern art. But my point is that the staff were brilliant. They got the balance just right – I was approached with a ‘Michelin Starred’ restaurant waiters timing. They did not intrude, but where very knowledgeable – and were keen to explain. They were almost invisible. They had no issue about photographs – it was a bit of that ‘please do walk on the grass attitude’!

I left very impressed and if I am ever in the area again, I would go back.

PS – Did I ever tell you that I had a place on Gormleys Plinth – but couldn’t go as I was in the USA?

Welcome or not?

I had a job this week that required a reasonable amount of travel – and I stayed at the Solberge Hotel in Northallerton on Tuesday night.

I arrived in Northallerton late afternoon –it was raining. As I drove down the High Street I saw a few shops I thought I might visit.

Parking was available on the Street – excellent news I thought! But then I noticed that you needed a disk. Still smarting from my pathetic parking fine (‘won’ at 10pm at Canning Circus in Nottingham on a weekday night!) I was reluctant to park without a ticket – or in this case a “disk”. But where do you get the disks. I drove up and down the street twice and couldn’t find any clues.

Guess what? I gave up!

When we were in America we were really concentrating on what makes world-class attractions. Attention to detail was one of the things we noticed – and this sort of detail is easy to overlook. It’s fine for the residents of the town – they ‘get it’, but visitors don’t necessarily. It looks a great place. I was prepared to pay for short-term parking – but even if I knew where I could get a disk – could I risk leaving my car without one? Perhaps they think you should go for the first time on the bus. But where was the bus?

You might say I missed out – but the reality is that the town did. I would have probably spent some cash – in a shop or in a coffee shop. But I didn’t – because I couldn’t!

Top Gear Top Tip – “don’t make it difficult for visitors – make it easy”.

p.s. The Hotel was great!

Adapt or wither?

If I am honest I have no idea what the real issues are behind the proposed postal strike – pay, conditions and modernisation are the headlines.

What saddens me is the apparent demise of the postal service. It looks like it is coming to an end. I am sad as I think there is still something special about composing, writing and sending a letter. After all that’s why I have some really nice pens. The art of writing seems to be dying out with kids using laptops and phones to communicate!

My favourite Mont Blanc Pen - facing redundancy?

My favourite Mont Blanc Pen - facing redundancy?

But what is happening is that the world is changing. is the new letter writing?

So what is left for the Post Office? Well, in my business, we still write letters and reports. We also send out some promotional literature. In fact, on the latter, we spend around £6,000 pa.

But the proposed strikes have made us think again – and last week we decided as a business that we are now going to concentrate on sending ‘letters’ by email – with no hard copy. And I can’t help wondering if this really could be the final nail in the coffin for Royal Mail.

“Technology is providing new ways of communicating,” City minister Lord Myners said today in an interview.

And by striking – and thus taking away a service the Royal Mail looks like it will force business to look at other methods of communicating with its customers.

I was reminded of the 1989 Book by Charles Handy – The Age of Unreason – in which he starts by suggesting, “If you boil water and drop a frog in it – it jumps out immediately. However, if you put that frog in a pot of cold water and slowly heat it, the frog adapts its body temperature to that of the water until at 100 degrees centigrade it boils alive”

The moral seems to be that there are dangers for people who do not notice that the world is changing. And this is a real shame. Postmen (and women) provide more than just a delivery service – especially in rural parts. They are a key part of the community – just as Milkmen were years ago….

As I said at the outset, I don’t know what the really issues are – but it seems to me that “game over” will appear on a laptop screen soon. And we can save at least £6,000….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Nottingham Tagged Charles Handy, Mont Blanc, Postal Strike, Writing

USA Trip Slideshow

This is the slideshow I gave at the Sheriff’s Commission yesterday. The 17 words show what I thought were the differentiation in a world class attraction – and this is explored in photographs. The show finishes with some ideas about how we might transfer some of the ideas to Nottingham We are welcoming comments!

Email round robin letters – myth or real?

Last night I had an email from Bob at The World Wide Robin Hood Society – following my presentation at the Sheriff’s Commission yesterday. I made reference to the original Starbucks shop in Seattle – where I went last month as part of my Grand Tour of the USA.

Pike Place Market Seattle - The Original Starbucks store

The previous day Bob had received an email from a contact – and lots of people were copied in, it went something like:

Subject: Starbucks!!!

Recently, British Royal Marines in Iraq wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffees, and to request that they send some of it to the troops there.

Starbucks replied, telling the Royal Marines thank you for their support of their business, but that Starbucks does not support the war, nor anyone in it, and that they would not send the troops their brand of coffee.

So as not to offend Starbucks, maybe we should support them by NOT buying any of their products!

I feel we should get this out in the open. I know this war might not be very popular with some folks, but that doesn’t mean we don’t support the boys on the ground, fighting street-to-street and, house-to-house.

If you feel the same as I do then pass this along.

Thanks very much for your support. I know you’ll all be there again when I deploy once more.
Sgt. Howard Wright, 1 Platoon, Recon Company, Royal Marines


Also, don’t forget that when the Twin Trade Towers were hit, the fire fighters and rescue workers went to Starbucks because it was close by for water for the survivors and workers, and Starbucks CHARGED THEM!!!


There are 227 Starbucks stores across the UK , and there’s no doubt that our soldiers would get the same response from this company, so let us do our bit and boycott Starbucks to show them how despicable their actions are.

A fairly straighforward story? But I have seen similar things before and there is a great website where you can check out such emails to see if there any truth here.

And guess what – not it’s not true. Sgt. Wright issues his email in 2004 – and yet it is making the rounds this week. He also issued a correction. But that doesn’t seem to circulate!

This is what he said:

Dear Readers,

Almost 5 months ago I sent an e-mail to you my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn’t support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn’t do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company’s policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you.

Now I ask that you all pass this email around to everyone you passed the last one to.

Thank you very much for understanding about this.

Most people know I am a big fan of Starbucks – that’s not really why I have blogged this story. My point is much more that the internet is a fantastic tool for spreading information quickly. But once it spreads it is quite difficult to stop – and retractions might not suit everyone!

So the moral is beware of these sort of stories – and check Hoax-Slayer before you send stuff on! I don’t blame Bob, by the way, these emails look genuine!

The Sheriff’s Commission 16th October

We had the second meeting of the Sheriff’s Commission today at the Council House.

I was asked to present the findings of the USA trip – 10 days condensed into 10 minutes. I failed! It took me about 20 minutes…

My methodology was to steal Daniel Libeskinds ideas about his 17 words he uses to describe his architecture on TED. I produced my own 17 words which I felt had a theme across the attractions we saw.

They are:

17 words

If Nottingham is to have a world class attraction it needs to get some of these features into the offer.

The presentation does have some images and I will get these converted so that the whole presentation can be seen, but the words should be self-explanatory.

The formal report is now to be written by Nick Hammond from Castle College and myself. But our conclusion is that:

1. There is an economic case for an attraction – and we should be able to get 1m visitors a year
2. The attraction needs to take in a Shire based offer – but be centred on the Castle, ideally
3. The benchmark for a world class attraction can usefully be drawn from the words above

We really do need to aim high!