Gerry Anderson RIP

There aren’t many things that would prompt me to come off a break from blogging. But todays really sad news that Gerry Anderson has died is one such excuse to make a quick return.

My favourite Thunderbird - like a swiss army knife of flying...

My favourite Thunderbird – like a swiss army knife of flying…

Gerry Anderson inspired many people of my generation. He was a visionary – with his science fiction take on the world. I was an avid watcher of Thunderbirds – and even now can quite happily sit through an episode or two! As a fan of gadgets I wonder if this is what sparked that interest. Although I was only three when it first started I think I have seen every episode (all 32 of them) – more than once!

It was filmed at Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire – an unlikely venue. But more importantly is was filmed in ‘supermarionation‘ – an advanced form of puppetry. Despite the filament wires on show and the obvious wooden movements this was brilliant stuff!

More importantly though for Anderson, this was only the start. He also made Stingray, The Protectors, UFO, Space: 1999, Supercar and Fireball XL5. But the other genius show – which ranks up there with Thunderbirds is Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Another favourite – particularly as this is much darker and aimed clearly at an adult audience (honest!). Whichever way you look at it – this is an impressive body of work.

If I had ever met Gerry Anderson I would have to thank for the hours of entertainment as a kid (and as a big kid) he gave to me.


By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Captain Scarlet, captain scarlet and the mysterons, FAB, Fireball XL5, Gerry Anderson, Slough, Space 1999, Stingray, supermarionation, Sylvia Anderson, Thunderbirds, UFO

Merry Christmas & a prosperous New Year!

It’s that time of year when I need to go and do a bit of shopping!


And my blog needs a bit of a break. It’s been a roller coaster year with the hit rate going through 200,000 and the average page views at around 375 each weekday. That ignores the email list – which adds another thousand or so…

I’ll be back in the New Year – with more blogs about what I think is going on in this neck of the woods. And I hope I’ll still be saying what you’re thinking. Or causing trouble generally. Apparently it’s what I do best.

I’m upbeat about 2013 – hope you are too.

In the meantime – I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. But do remember:

* 1,000 people are injured in Christmas Tree ‘incidents’ each year
* 350 people are hurt by Christmas Tree lights
* On average 59 people are treated for ‘acute intoxication’ on New Years Day (2007 was a record at 258 idiots)
* 25 people died from slipping on the ice or snow last Christmas.

It’s a dangerous time of year!!

Post script: this temporary holiday has nothing to do with the end of the world by the way. That’s happening at 11am UK time today, so this may well be the last ever blog. If we don’t get obliterated by Nibiru (a planet hiding behind the sun)- I’ll be back in January.

Tim Garratt

Coffee drinkers – a rebellious lot!

I take my coffee now from Costa – I turned my back on Starbucks 18 months ago when Costa opened their first drive through on my way to work!

Starbucks - Shanghai branch!

Starbucks – Shanghai branch!

In recent weeks it has emerged that Costa has seen a sales increase of 7% in the last twelve months. You can’t help but wonder if there is something of a backlash against Starbucks. Of course it is now well documented that since 1998 they may have sold £3bn worth of coffee but they only paid £7m in tax.

There are two amusing parts to the Starbucks story.

Firstly – they have not actually broken the law. The Government feigning indignation is simply to get The Sun readers on side. It’s Outrageous (but not illegal) yelped the headlines?

The second is that Starbucks then made it’s real faux pas – offering a sort of token payment to HMRC – £10m this year and the same next. No doubt they see this as a bit of an inconvenience. I would love to make an offer to the Taxman of what I fancy paying (oddly it is less than I pay now!).

Starbucks timed the issue of their new staff contracts a little badly. Two weeks ago they told all of their staff they were introducing new contracts – reducing paid lunch-breaks, removing sick-pay on the first day of illness coupled with a reduction in maternity benefits. I guess they need to get the cash from somewhere to pay this ‘optional’ tax!

If the figures are anything to go by – it looks like this has been a PR disaster for Starbucks?

Nottingham 2011 census statistics

The census data is being released gradually – it is possible to spot some interesting trends for Nottingham The comparisons are 2001-2011.


We have lost 22% of the white Irish population and 8% of white British. Against this background there has been an increase of 643% black or black British and a 498% increase in Asian or Asian British people in the 10 year period.

Across the Country, ‘white British’ fell by 7% to 80% in the 2011 census. The largest of the other ethnic groups were Asian (6.8%), black (3.4%), and Chinese (0.7%). 2% of people claimed to be mixed race.

Muslim and Hindu religions have seen increases of over 100£% – whilst Christian followers fell by 12%.

Across the UK 25% of people said they had no religion.

In 2001 the tope employment categories for men were – manufacturing, real estate and construction. 10 years on wholesale and retail has knocked manufacturing off the top spot into sec on. My industry has gone altogether from the top three! Construction remains in third. The girl categories have all grown – but remain in the same order : health and social work, wholesale & retail and, in third, education.

Nationally the wholesale and retail trade was the largest employer of all people aged 16 to 74 – 4.2 million. This was followed by health and social work (3.3 million), education (2.6 million), and manufacturing (2.4 million).

Student households were up by 48% but single person households were down by 17%. As you can see from the graph – Nottingham sits behind Oxford and Cambridge in terms of student population.

It’s hared to reconcile all of this data – the place doesn’t seem that much different – perhaps you do notice the students more? they certainly contribute to the economy. As for the ethnic changes – I can’t say I have noticed, but these are big swings.

Internet passwords…

Drive me mad.

It has been suggested in a recent survey that we each need 22 passwords for all that we do on-line. That’s a lot to remember. Or a lot of post-it stickers on your screen.


The survey concluded that people used the same word or combination of words – and this was potentially a breach of security. Just over two years ago I wrote a blog about passwords – here - at the time the two most popular were 123456 and password! I guess that is still the same today!

But passwords are an issue for all of us. We need pin numbers for credit cards – if you carry lots of cards do you make them all different (you are supposed to!). But most people will not be able to remember them all. Of course most people have to write down the numbers of letters we use daily. Alternatively people have some patterns.

Other people share their password – my staff know my work machine password – they need to in case I’m not there! I tend not to share my pin though!

My passwords are changed often – although my ‘strongest one’ is unguessable – even by me sometimes! But, like most people, the one I use for non-important stuff is fairly easy. The Payments Council suggested no one should use the same password more than once – although they don’t help you in addressing the 22 individual ones you are going to have to remember!

One day someone will invest something that does not require you to remember these arbitrary strings of characters. But we are not quite there yet!

High Speed Train 2013 news

I met the Transport Minister The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin last week. He was speaking at an event in London organised by those in favour of HS2 Rail.


He was appointed Secretary of State in September – and he is due to make an announcement on the route for the “Y” section of the line – the one that heads from Birmingham through to Leeds. As someone who represents the Derbyshire Dales he also has a keen eye on the route through or neck of the woods!

Derby have been making noises to the HS2 Company to try to get the line to head through their City (the touristy place). Nottingham are keen too – but appreciate that you can’t run it in town. There is a fairly logical place – between Nottingham and Derby, close to the end of the tram line and at the junction of the M1 and A52. That would seem more logical than choosing one or other city.

I did speak to Patrick after his talk – but he wouldn’t commit on the location!

The other person I met at the event was Peter Waterman (of Stock Aitkin Waterman fame). He is a really genuine guy – with a passion both for railways – but also for training young people. He sees major opportunities for young people and apprentices in particular. He employs lots of them in his steam railway engine business! He did ask the un-askable question of the Minister.

“Can we please ensure that the rolling stock is built in Britain”. A sentiment liked by the assembled crowd. Although Siemens (who had sponsored the event) went a bit pale!

So we have to wait to hear about the line location and stations. I have a pound each way on Toton Sidings. I have nothing on Derby.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff, Nottingham Tagged campaign, , Kylie, , NIMBY, Patrick McLaughlin, Pete Waterman, Rt Hon Sec State, Train, Transport, Westbourne

A new watch?

Sometimes you just don’t know what Santa could bring you. You will know if you hand around here that I often ‘plug’ stuff for people – the nice people at Jaguar lent me some of their cars for an afternoon. I’m still waiting for a go in a plane – but I haven’t given up just yet!


I like watches too. I have a few. My day watch was acquired in New York a few years ago.

But what about this. This is not a watch. It is a horological machine. It’s made by MB&F – a Swiss company. There are just 18 of them in the world.

Obviously getting your paws on them is a challenge! And if you do – and want to keep it – it’s a cool £57,250…

Please Santa. I will believe in you again if you leave one of these for me. Promise. Alternatively Mr MB&F I’m prepared to test drive the watch for a while and I’ll lend you my original Timex watch as a deposit…

A blast from the past?

I’m don’t often watch food programmes – they just make me hungry! I don’t need encouraging.

But I did see Heston Blumenthal in the week makimg a giant lunchbox – which was amusing. What really caught my eye was the resurrection of Um Bongo! Now that was a great drink – and I found the original advert

But better than the brilliant lyrics of the advert is that there is a website to try and bring this amazing drink back! You can see it here.

I have signed up – and suggest that you should too. And clearly you should / must learn the words to the advert – it can be your party piece at Christmas – which I’m reliably informed is fast approaching… UM BONGO…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged drink, Food, Heston Blumenthal, juice, past, Super-size, Um Bongo, You Tube

New York – so yesterday

I’m a fan of New York – it’s probably my favourite city on the planet. It does tourism on a world class scale. I hate the touristy bits – but they provide the initial draw.


It seems that the UK has a new pretender. Steam(ing) Research announced yesterday that the new New York is “a top destination for events, shopping, history and culture and a great place to stay for the nationally significant attractions”. Read the words again and then close your eyes to imagine where they are talking about.


I kid you not. My friends at Marketing Derby have clearly been working overtime to get this finest of accolades.

My fellow Director in Derby, Gary Woodward, solemly told me yesterday, “F*** flying off to Spain for your holidays. Come to Derby- a top destination!If you’re looking for somewhere next year for your cultural break I would certainly help you out. After all NY is now old hat in comparison to DERBY.” He went on to say, “I reckon next year we’ll be a world top 5 destination

I know that Derby don’t have a Castle – nor any other tourism based things. They do have a River though. And a shopping centre. And I was told at lunchtime by the CEO of the City that they had a Council House.

You might have though it was 13th December yesterday but by some quirk of time it was (for a few hours) 1st April..

In the meantime I’ve booked my flight.

Empty Houses – Landlords face another kick in the teeth

There are evidently around 700,000 homes empty in the UK at the moment. This represents just over 3% of the total housing stock. But the real figure of concern is that over quarter of a million homes are long-term empty (classified as being over two years vacant). It is estimated that Nottingham has over 4,000 vacant homes – with perhaps 1,000 long term empty.


Clearly this is a real concern – on two counts. Firstly that we have homeless people and secondly that we have more-or-less stopped building new homes since the property crash in 2008. Annual housing completion in the year to September 2012 according to the Government was 117,000 – 6% up on 2011.

The Future Homes Commission believe that we need 300,000 new homes each year.

The maths don’t add up. But clearly could be helped if we can shift some of the vacant stock.

In the last couple of days some Councils have instigated Government changes which means the removal of the 50% relief for second homes (fair enough) but also that vacant houses will attract Council Tax from the day they are vacated. Furthermore a premium of 50% can be applied to those houses in the long term vacant category.

I have no issue with the latter proposal – it might encourage those long-term vacant stock to get them into the market. Generally speaking these houses can be a blight. But I don’t agree with the paying rates on day one of vacancy. The usual Government drivel was trotted out – “It will encourage owners not to have property vacant for any length of time’.

But what about those properties that need work – or those that are not easy to let – either in a location which has challenges or perhaps at a time of year when the market is flat (now?). As seems par for the course – this Government stumble into policy after policy without thinking through the consequences for the man in the street?