Virgin Atlantic – a lesson in English?

I blogged before about my lost luggage and the blind man in New York last month.

When I got back from the USA I sent of the receipts for some emergency stuff to Virgin with a fairly short letter suggesting they reimburse me without too much fuss. After all it wasn’t my fault – or was it?

This week I have received a cheque (thank you Mr Branson) but with it a letter which I have read and re-read to try and understand. I have decided that I don’t get it. I wonder if you could help me… I transcribe part of the letter exactly as it was written…

It’s my understanding that you have been informed the passenger who had your bag was visually impaired an therefore an operative assisted them with collecting their baggage, however they collected your bag in error on their behalf.

Taking this into account, I also searched for the report that would have been created when the other passenger’s bag was left behind, and Im afraid there is no mention of any assistance on their report.

Therefore I should explain that usually this is something we would not offer any reimbursement for.

We have however eager to finalise this matter for you, and as a gesture of goodwill, I am happy on this occasion to enclose a cheque for £x to cover the cost of expenses incurred whilst you were without your baggage.

I think I follow. It wasn’t really their fault because the blind man didn’t really lose his bag because he didn’t report it. And eager to finalise me, they’ll send me a cheque.

I don’t really care; I have been reimbursed. But the letter is gobbledygook. Why can’t they just say – yes it was our fault and here’s your money back. We’re really sorry.

Do I sound old by suggesting that English standards have dropped? I must qualify for the grumpy old man award of the day?

Can supermarkets ever be sustainable?

I am the least green person I know – although I do go to London on the train and sometimes get out on my bike. But there ends my light touch on the planet.

A few months ago I was in a place called Biddulph. If you get the chance to go there, don’t. Wash your hair instead. It’s the sort of place NASA could use for training – you know – no atmosphere. It’s also difficult to get to. Especially from Nottingham.

I valued some property there. It wasn’t one of my high-value jobs. And I had a look around the place. I came across a Sainsbury’s superstore. It was green. Very green – solar panels, rainwater harvesting, high insulation and generally those things we do in buildings to lower the carbon footprint. All good stuff and the feel-good factor was high. There were even posters to tell me how good I should feel.

But here’s the thing – they’re not really sustainable are they? The only thing they sustain are their profits.

As I have wandered around various places over the last few weeks it is plain to see that we have lots of vacant shops. Too many.

But they did have a use once upon a time – as shops. They haven’t always been vacant. And despite Mary Portas not wanting to apportion blame – the blame almost certainly lies at the door of the supermarkets. These monster (green) stores are built and they are like death stars – they suck the lifeblood out of everything around. Although Tesco have now announced an end to their big box concept the damage has been done.

It is not sustainable to build a supermarket which then shuts down all the local shops around it.

One of the biggest issues we face in reducing carbon footprint is the existing building stock. And buildings which are vacant will not attract the investment required to get them to standard needed…It’s a double whammy!

The Invest in Nottingham Club

As I intimated last weekend, I went to the Invest in Nottingham Club AGM last week. I’ll shorten the club to IINC…

The Club has grown significantly in the last couple of years. There are now 158 members (up a third) – and last year 23 events were held. I went to quite a few (and was at the heart of the MIPIM one!). The Club met with around 1200 people at these events in the year. That’s a good reach!

Of course it’s not all parties! The Club have become the organisation who can mobilise a group of people if the City get enquiries from companies looking to come to set up shop in Nottingham. In the year they helped with 149 enquiries. Sadly we didn’t land Standard Chartered or the Green Bank, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The club work alongside the Invest in Nottingham Team at the Council. And this is perhaps the way forward. As Public Finances continue to get squeezed it is going to fall to the private sector to help. I think we are at the start of that road. It takes time for the Council to get comfortable with getting into bed with the Private sector.

One of the big issues is that we often disagree with them (you already know I do!). But I see no reason to apologise for that. Paul Southby, Chairman of IINC put it succinctly – “we don’t have to agree with the Council all of the time, it’s healthy to have a debate. It is a part of a grown up relationship to disagree”.

So what about 2012/13? The club have set some goals – it still focusses on the growth points – Bio-Medical, Green technology and the digital and creative classes. But the key one for me is the City Centre. We must make sure that the City doesn’t slip further in retail tracings! But that’s a very big subject!

Eurotrash – rather predictable

I missed the Eurovision Song ‘contest’ at the weekend. Deliberately. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than watch this wholly biased and tedious contest. The result is fairly predictable. I don’t mean I know who will win. I mean I know we won’t.

Why did we feel that a 76 year old ‘has-been’ would appeal to the nations of Europe? Then again, why did Ireland think that the two irritants known as Jedward would either? We are not destined to win this shambles. Europe doesn’t like us. They like each other. They vote for each other. They have to prop one another up too financially. Since when do Greece beat anyone else in Europe (they came 17th – which they must be delighted with – off a budget of 1 euro).

We last won in 1997 when Katrina and the Waves didn’t sing their best song (Walking on Sunshine). Englebert’s claim to fame was he kept the Beatles off the number one spot 52 years ago.

He (and therefore we) got 12 points apparently. Which gave us 25th place. Marginally better than Tooji from Norway who scraped 7 points and held bottom spot away from us.

The UK has some of the best music in the world – we all know that. We invented great music. We still invest great music – go to a festival this summer and see the talent on show. If you go to Europe they have rubbish music, they listen to the stuff we listened to in the 1980′s.They wouldn’t know great music if they tripped up on it!

So, I have an idea – let’s not play this silly contest again. Spare us letting Europe snub their noses at us. Drop out and let them all have their great big music love in together.

Alternatively – put up the Sex Pistols. Suggest they play ‘Pretty Vacant’. And stick two fingers up to them?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged contest, Englebert Humperdink, Euorvison Song Contest, Europe, Greece, Pretty Vacant, Sex Pistols, songs

An operation? – there’s an App for that!

Apple rule the world. That’s indisputable. I couldn’t do without my iPhone4 (and I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on an iphone5 – in November allegedly).

But as I drank my Costa coffee yesterday on my way to the office, someone had left the Daily Telegraph on my (usual) table. I nearly choked on my cappuccino.

An iPhone now is an essential part of a doctors toolkit. I’ll spare you the gory details (although you can read them here if you are so inclined) of the whole episode. But it seems that a Doctor in Croydon couldn’t get his big ceiling mounted light to work – so he used his iPhone torch app! To perform an examination!

The best bit of the story is that the light timed out and the nurse didn’t know how to to the finger swipe to get it back on again. Oh, the fun you could have with a pun on that – but I won’t!

Well done Apple, bet you never thought that App would be so useful.

It’s all pants….

I was at an Invest in Nottingham Club event in the week (more on that next week!) and there was an unashamed plug during dispatches for the audience to part with their cash in exchange for a pair of pants. This may be an over-share, but I’m prepared to show you my new pants. The choice was pink or the blue you see here.

The project is ‘pants to poverty‘ and it’s 5 years old they sell in over 20 countries around the world and support over 5000 farmers in India. It’s an ethical brand prepared to take on the major fashion houses. You can buy them on the website here.

From their website, in view of the global reach, I smiled at the explanation of the name,

“We’ve got a very English name. In England, in case you didn’t know, Pants are not trousers, but they are underwear. However, more than that, if something is pants, then that means it’s terrible! So, “Pants to Poverty” means Poverty is terrible, as well as saying that they are fairtrade and organic underpants! We all need pants and so we aim to provide pants for all people, in a way that supports, rather than destroys, all of the wonderful people that make them”.

I am not really about reviewing pants on my blog, but felt the need to share a great product idea….

Over-share ends here.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Nottingham Tagged Calvin Klein, Fairtrade, India, Invest in Nottingham Club, Pants to Poverty

The Olympic Torch great sale

I struggled a little last week to note that some of the Olympic torch-bearers put their ‘prized’ torches up for sale on ebay. They were allowed to buy them apparently for £295 – and some spoof bids were made up to £150,000. They are ‘worth’ £495.

The torch bearers were nominated to carry the torch for their contribution to their communities. 8,000 bearers will take it through 1,019 cities, towns and villages, each one carrying it about 300 metres before using it to light the next torch. And then stick it on ebay? I’m not sure I can square the great community folks with a cash-in culture?

The Olympics haven’t set my world on fire. I am really struggling to get excited by the event. It seems to me that we have spent billions on an event which lasts but a few weeks and has sucked the funding out of the regions for the last few years. Apparently it’s all about ‘Legacy’.

The best thing I heard at the weekend was that the 100m is the least exciting event with 12 grown blokes running in East London – away from a bloke who has just fired a gun… Some say that’s not unusual!

But since you can’t beat ‘em I figure I probably am better joining ‘em. So, I have an idea again this week for a little money making. I am no longer selling ‘art’. I’m prepared to sell you an actual olympic flame. It’s the genuine thing – but just in a pocket size pack – you can enjoy it anywhere. The first bid over £100 I’ll take. And I’ll throw in the postage.

I’ll also throw in another 35 mini flame-makers for free… You can share them with your friends…

The Emperors New Clothes

I accept I may be a bit of a Heathen when it comes to art. I struggle with some of the modern stuff – but I do like some things…

I can cope if the art is clever or makes you stop and think. But if someone has to give me a long and abstract explanation it’s probably lost on me. Actually, not probably – definitely.

So I won’t be off to the Hayward Gallery anytime soon. Especially as they want Eight quid of my hard-earned cash to view their latest ‘exhibition’. That’s because it is ‘invisible art’. The Press Release proudly announces that the punters can expect ‘plenty to see and experience’ and that it ‘would set our imaginations alight’. Well, without wishing to sound too cynical, it will have to.

There are a number of pieces of ‘art’ – Andy Warhol’s invisible sculpture – he allegedly once stepped on and off the plinth that remains. Also – more intriguingly the Tom Friedman blank piece of paper. Not entirely blank as he stared at it for 1000 hours over a five year period. Sounds like he really thought that through. On top of these two masterpieces there are 48 other wastes of space.

‘Art isn’t about material objects – it’s about setting our imaginations alight’, cooed the ultimate luvvee, Ralph Rugoff (no tittering at the back) Director of The Hayward.

Please someone pinch me and tell me I didn’t really hear this twaddle?

£8 to see nothing.

I can’t help but think that someone is laughing somewhere.

I wonder if they have ever heard the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes

In the meantime if it is your idea of art and you have a spare million – I have an A4 sheet of paper on which i have drawn an imaginary line with my finger. It’s a classic. I can frame it if that helps. It’s similar to that shown above, but clearly better…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged , Hayward Gallery, Invisible, Modern Art, Nottingham Contemporaray, The Emporors NEw Clothes, Warhol

Will HS2 happen for Nottingham?

I blogged before about the HighSpeed2 Train line and my view that it was critical for Nottingham. Shorter train journeys to London must be of benefit to us.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project was approved earlier in the year. Well, the first phase was. This was the line from London to Birmingham. The second phase will then form a ‘Y’ shape and he’d from Birmingham to Leeds. There has been a lobby for a stop in Nottingham.

Or more precisely between Nottingham and Derby – close to the motorway and somewhere near the end of the tram line. All roads point to Toton? It’s a logical place, unless you support the East Midlands Parkway Station on the A453.

Recommendations to ministers about this future extension should be made to ministers by the end of the year. So we have some time to wait for the outcome.

But I have it on good authority that Nottingham may not now benefit. I have been told that the line may well go to the west of Derby. There is current infrastructure there and the right noises are not being made to the Government. It was suggested to me that HS2 might get a spur at a later date to Nottingham.

This would be disastrous in my view. You cannot get an official response as the whole project is shrouded in mystery and secrets. But there seems to be a slightly different mood in the City. It will be a real headache if the line doesn’t benefit us at the first cut. We need to up the campaign!!

I will do a little digging to see what I can find out…

A new way of working?

There’s a new word – “freeroamer”. It’s used to describe a laptop or iPad user who doesn’t have the restrictions of an office (with its incumbent commitment and rent!). Instead he or she runs a business from one of the plethora of coffee shops which now have free wi-fi.

Most people who know me realise my day starts in Costa Coffee (it used to be Starbucks but they don’t have wi-fi at my local store). I can get an essential caffeine boost, breakfast, warmth and a connection into the world through wi-fi. I have noticed an increase in numbers of people logged in this way. They aren’t necessarily chatting on their phones though – it seems to be email…

Then if I call later I can do a meeting – get good coffee again and if we need it – plans or documents on my iPad. The coffee shop is a great meeting place. We don’t even have to wash up!

It’s become a new way of working. There are some statistics which suggest 1.3 million people now work this way. Of course it offers the ultimate in flexibility. And perfect conditions!

And there’s a new class of worker too – the Bleisure Brigade – those blurring business with leisure. People who work flexible hours (not like the Cvil Servants in my blog yesterday) but also in flexible places. They can move from coffee shop to coffee shop. The key element is the wi-fi connection. It has become critical now – and the coffee houses have finally grasped it. Free wi-fi and Costa-Lot coffee!