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28 November 2008

Irritation Triggers

The BBC's "One Show" at 7 pm weekday evenings has this week been discussing a couple of related subjects: stress levels and irritating words and phrases. (You can do their simple stress test on the website - and get tips on stress reduction)

My stress level is raised by News readers constantly responding to a correspondent's report with "Thank you very much .. indeed". What's wrong with "Thank you"?

Other contributors to my stress score are ..

"At the end of the day"
"Twenty four seven"
"At this moment in time"
"I should OF"
"To be quite honest with you"
"Minging" and "Minger"
"Par for the course"
"Horses for courses"
"Pushing the envelope" (What the hell does that mean?)
"Thinking outside the box"
"Blue sky thinking"
"Community leaders" (Who elected them?)
"Helping the Police with their enquiries"
"The VAST majority"
"With great respect" (before saying something disrespectful)
"It affects you and I" (Try removing the words 'you and' - then see how it sounds! Should be "It affects you and me")

All aspects of "text speak".

Finally I am irritated by fanatical pedants like me.

There - that's better! I've just reduced my stress level.

14 November 2008

Crunchy Credit (& other biscuits)

As we plunge deeper into world recession it throws into sharp relief the question faced by all of us as we grow older, namely, at what stage of our lives is it sensible to stop saving money and start spending our savings instead?

If we are lucky enough to build up a retirement fund, is there much point in not spending it when we finally retire? The trouble is, you get the savings habit (we hope!) and it's hard to break. Meanwhile we get older and older until you either get too old to spend it usefully or you kick the bucket leaving it all in the bank.

You could decide to keep the money there to pay for a care home, but if you haven't got any money when you need a care home, then Social Services come up with the goods anyway (but only after you have spent all your own dosh). What about leaving money in the bank for your children? Bill Gates clearly doesn't think this is a good idea. My own parents didn't leave me anything and I survived.

The Bank of England has been busy slashing interest rates in recent weeks, and there is even talk of it falling to as low as 1% or even approaching zero%! Under these conditions it would normally be good news for mortgage holders - if only the banks and building societies would be so good as to pass on the rate cuts to the suffering borrowers. Meanwhile it's bad news for savers, since at these rates of interest you might as well stuff your hard-earned lolly under the mattress.

I have at least made one good decision, and that is to take a lump out of my savings to pay off a couple of credit cards completely, since my savings are earning less money than I'm paying in interest on the credit card loans - crazy economics. At such times I appreciate the benefits of online banking which allows me to move money about all over the place just by sitting at home and pressing a few keys.

Of course it's going to be necessary to have some cash stashed away for domestic emergencies.

For example, from time to time the old boiler causes me some problems, but I wouldn't have it any other way: we've been married for 46 years.

Then there's garden maintenance. We live in a road jointly owned by me and my two neighbours, and there's nearly a hundred yards of hedging to be maintained (which I volunteer to do), and that's not to mention another 70 yards of hedges in my own garden. There will come a time when I am too decrepit to do this work, and my neighbours won't be in much better condition either by then, so we'll have to pay for a contractor to do the job. 

Perhaps I'm going to need a Hedge Fund manager.

It's a good time not to have money invested in the stock market. I have studiously avoided placing my money in anything perceived to carry risk. I did make an exception just once. I bought £500 of shares in Harry Ramsden's Fish & Chip shops. A year later, before things got fishy, I cashed in my chips and doubled my investment. I knew how to make BIG money in those days!

Like a lot of people I regarded banks and building societies as a safer bet. How wrong could we have been?! As the frozen food shop TV advert says, "Mum's gone to Iceland". Poor Mum!

Meanwhile, what of the 2012 Olympics? As we all run out money, perhaps we can look forward to the London Olympics being held in a large marquee, with an opening ceremony consisting of London Mayor Boris Johnson cycling round the arena, blond tousled hair blowing in the wind, carrying the Union Flag, with a couple of sparklers attached to the luggage rack.

Chin up - we'll get through it - (Flash) Gordon Brown is going to save the world.

05 November 2008

Pleased to be proved wrong

A few months ago, on this Blog, I predicted that John McCain would win the US Presidential Election.

How wrong can one be?!

But I'm pleased I was wrong, and I hope now that we can all stop using the phrase "America's first BLACK President" and start looking at the man himself instead of his colour.

Good decision, America!