On Panic Buying

From 2013 (When Bob Crow was alive).

So I wake up this morning and I make the kids breakfast listening to Evan Davis on Radio 4 like I do every morning and she comes down and I say

“Bob Crow is urging everyone to go on strike which could mean a mega winter of discontent”

and she says

“oh dear”

and then I say

“and the weather man reckons it’s going to be one of the coldest winters on record due to unseasonably high isobars or something”

and she says

“really”

and then I start thinking that this could well be the perfect winter storm what with Bob Crow and his plans combined with God and his plans and it could mean a really dreadful winter possibly the worst winter ever on record and it occurs to me that I should probably stock up on firewood now because I bet everybody is listening to Radio 4 and thinking

oh my God I must get more firewood because of the really cold winter that’s coming and that dreadful Bob Crow fellow urging everyone to strike

and it’s therefore important to get there first before they run out of wood or the laws of supply and demand force the cost of wood to shoot up so I sit down at the computer and try and remember the name of the company that I ordered wood from last year and whilst I’m Googling cheap wood in Stratford-upon-Avon I accidentally type food instead of wood and an advert for Tesco pops up so it starts me thinking about all the other things that we should stock up on if we have a winter of discontent because it’s not just about wood fuel it’s about having human fuel and to some extent water although one could argue that if it snows then there’ll be lots of water and then I remember an article that I read ages ago about the whole of the UK food supply chain only having four days of food in it because the nature of the fast moving consumer goods industry means it’s all about supply chain efficiency and not carrying lots of stock so I tell her that after we drop the kids off at school we should swing by Tesco to stock up on tinned goods

and she says

“I don’t really like Tesco”

and I say

“well it’s not really relevant here because it’s about getting lots of cheap own label tinned goods, not organic lamb kofkas because I think the family needs provisions to be self sufficient for a month at least and we have to keep it a secret too because I’ve seen The Road and I know what people are like when they don’t have food and they’ll murder their neighbours for a tin of tuna particularly our neighbour because the husband seems very highly strung and I dread to think what he would do if he was starving with the spectre of a cruel slow death knocking at his door and a family to support and I bet he’d cut us all down without a moment’s thought to get to our tinned bounty in the garage and when I say don’t tell anyone I mean not even your friend Nat or your mum or your sister or if you do have to tell them because you seem to tell them everything then tell them to stock up too although they mustn’t tell anyone because otherwise word will spread like wildfire of the impending potential catastrophe and it’ll start a total panic buying scenario in Stratford-upon-Avon”

and so she follows me into Tesco but about five paces behind because she thinks this is a ludicrous idea and I tell her that she won’t think it’s ludicrous when Bob Crow is going on national television urging everyone to calm down and not take the strike so literally but by then it’s too late because the entire infrastructure has collapsed with no heating because of the strikes and outside constant subzero temperatures making it so cold that the river Avon actually freezes over and the starving hoards are combing the desolate frozen land scavenging for scraps and eating dogs and cats and really for half an hour out of her life it’s not really a big sacrifice to safeguard the survival of our family and anyway the only downside of all this is that I spend £200 and we have a garage full of Spam which causes some upset because she doesn’t like Spam but I tell her that Spam is an important source of fat and protein and that to ward off malnutrition or conditions like scurvy and rickets it’s vitally important to have a balanced diet and also Spam is quite versatile in that it can  be used as a base ingredient to create lots of different dishes

She says

“but Olivia is a vegitarian”

I ignore the comment safe in the knowledge that when it all comes crashing down vegetarianism won’t be on an option and I start loading the cart up with lots of Spam and she wanders off and then I go and find the corned beef section and note that it’s all made in Argentina which I find strangely interesting and by the time she catches up with me she’s got three massive packets of loo rolls and I explain that this activity is about tins of food not getting 72 loo rolls and when Bob Crow and his strike and the subzero conditions combine and the four horsemen of the apocalypse come round the corner with hoofs flailing and their skeletal faces screaming into the wind that loo roll is not going to be what saves us

and she says

“well what are we going to wipe ourselves with”

and I say

“when the time comes we’ll have to improvise and use newspaper or leaves or whatever we can get our hands on”

and she says

“yuck”

and then after some thought she explains that she’s going to buy the loo rolls with her own money and put them in the loft and when it all happens she’s not going to share her loo roll and she then goes off looking for water biscuits and I fill the remaining space in the trolley with tuna fish and rice pudding and baked beans and head to the till where the checkout person is looking  bored and I remember when I was a 17 and I worked on the till in a supermarket and I never looked so outwardly bored and I notice his name badge says Keith and I say in a quiet conspiratorial tone to Keith that I’m stocking up just in case to try and cheer him up by treating him as a person not an appendage to the till and he looks at me blankly and doesn’t say anything whilst I load all the tins up on the conveyor belt and he scans the cans looking off into the middle distance and I joke that if the world comes to an end then we’ll be OK

and he says

“hnnn”

and avoids eye contact and she turns up with ten boxes of water biscuits and a giant bag of marshmallows and raises her eyebrows and says

“loft”

and I don’t even bother saying anything and we put all the tins in bags and take them home and I open the garage and clear four shelves of unused dusty DIY products and load all the tins up on the shelves and in front of them I put old tins of paint to hide them just so nobody stumbles across them and go inside to Google wood.

Should We Really Hammer The Rich?

The clamour to squeeze the rich gets ever louder.  “They should feel the pain!” they cry. These fat cats who pay no tax, their houses owned offshore, their kids at Eton. Make them pay.  Except who are these people?  Where are these elite? I know quite a few rich people but they are nothing like these people above.

I’m in the business of spotting opportunity. The word entrepreneur sounds too self aggrandising these days.  I work, loosely speaking, in the internet, and more specifically in marketing.  I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now in various guises and I do OK.  There’s a load of us out there working for ourselves, employing small teams of people, hatching plans and trying to make a good living. We don’t get much help.  The banks don’t really lend to us so we use overdrafts, our credit cards and even hand over the deeds to our houses to get enough cash together to keep things going.  We keep it going because we have to. There is no other option.  

The environment is harsh.  Most of our customers don’t pay us on time. The government forces are brutal and uncompromising.  If you’re late with a PAYE payment they send someone round who will ask for your credit card number. Talk to an entrepeneur who’s had a tax inspection and he will tell you a tale of sinister Orwelian horror. The fact that you can take out insurance against a tax inspection tells you more than you need to know. 

We employ with open hearts, many of us always thinking of the upside, thinking we’re creating a family at work.  We nurture and encourage. Sometimes we need to let people go because we can’t find the money to meet the payroll each month and we usually leave it later than we should hoping things will get better. We’re always the last to get paid.  Occasionally someone takes us to an industrial tribunal.  It’s worth a punt they think.  And anyway most employers will pay off rather than go through the courts which could easily kill a business. It’s not just the money that hurts. It’s the anger and bitterness that sucks up time, it knots you up inside.

Occasionally one of us breaks out with something that grows beyond expectation, a hockey stick curve of growth, like a rocket escaping gravity.  I know some of them.  Guys just like me who have hit on something at the right time. Hard work, more hard work, a gamble, nearly always with their own cash, or more likely personally guaranteed loans for your family home, a tail wind of good fortune, hitting the zeitgeist right in the sweet spot. And they fly. It’s beautiful when it happens and we wait for our turn because if you work hard and play a straight wicket karma will see you good.

Almost without exception the rich people I know are there through their own efforts.  They’ve had little interaction from the Government other than threatening brown letters or contact from government funded agencies to go on networking breakfasts hosted by people who have no concept of what it’s like to create something out of nothing. They’ve gone without, they’ve driven crappy cars, they’ve hocked everything, they’ve cajed and cajoled their way through and the money they have made is theirs.  And they’ll try every trick in the book not to hand it over to feckless politicians, many of who have never taken a risk, have never stared at the ceiling at 3am on the 20th of the month worrying about making the payroll. Never known the fear of the 22 year old dressed in black who represents Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise who’s standing in reception asking for immediate payment.

And here’s the other point that worth mentioning. Even though they’ve made a few quid the chances are this isn’t the end of it. None of them ever stop right there. They keep going. They keep building. Keep employing. Sure they take some nice holidays in the Caribbean now. They drive a nice car to make up for the years of chugging around in the 20 year old Saab.  They might send their kids to private school as they like the idea of discipline, of competition, of being held to account and they might flash it around a bit.  But they nearly always keep  growing. They keep thinking of new angles.  They’re chancers after all.

These are the rich people I know.  Should you really hammer them for all they are worth? Is forcing them to pay their “fair share”, a share that is in no way fair, reward for the risk, hard work, late nights and ruined relationships?  

Or is it just envy?  Envy that someone has had the courage and sticking power to do better than you.  

El Pornógrafo Emprendedor – news from Spain at last

Getting a proper book deal (not including the vibrator one which i shall talk about at some point in the future) was one of the most exciting things that has happened to me.  Its in the top 5. Being paid for doing something you love and are good at hits one of lifes sweet spots in my opinion.Its not about the money either.  Most writers don’t write to get rich and most won’t. It’s someone putting faith in you and your creative output.  Validating you.

But there is a secondry bite at the excitement cherry when your agent sells the rights in another country. You essentially get paid again for simply agreeing to let another publisher translate and publish.  All you do is sign a bit of paper and a few months later a cheque arrives. So when I got the call that two overseas publishers were keen to buy the rights to publish The Accidental Pornographer I was thrilled.  The first was an outfit in Spain the second was, strangely, a firm in The Ukraine.  The Ukrainian one dropped out which was a shame because being read in The Ukraine is not something I had ever imagined and once I’d got thinking about it I started to have visions of doing a book tour perhaps terminating in vodka frenzy in Odessa, once the Costa Del Sol of the USSR.

But the Spanish publishers went ahead and put their money on the table and purchased the rights.

El pornógrafo emprendedor

El pornógrafo emprendedor

The publishers did their stuff.  10 copies of the book arrived and I waited for my invitation to do a book tour.  And that was that.  2 years have passed and nothing has been heard.   Nada.  And in truth I had completely forgotten about it until this morning when I was logging onto by back end bit of the site and it alerted me to the fact that someone in spain was linking to me. Asier Marques had written a rather lovely review on his blog (i had to stick it into an internets translator to understand it as i don’t speak the lingo).

I still have no idea if we’ve sold any books in Spain but the absense of royalty cheques or any contact whatsoever leads me to conclude that Snr Marques might be my only Spanish fan.  But it made my day.