Cut-Throat World

Colin is a trained chef. He built a small but flourishing business cooking gourmet, restaurant-quality food and delivering locally to people hosting dinner parties, people trying to impress on a dinner date and, more lucratively, to small businesses attempting to dazzle potential new clients.

Colin and his friend and former customer, Andrew, came up with a great idea. They wanted to extend the business to occasionally cater for individuals who had previously enjoyed the finer things in life but were either no longer capable of cooking for themselves or led such busy lives that they had no time for anything other than fast-food. Instead of creating the food centrally and transporting it, they thought it would add to the experience if the cooking were done in the customer’s own kitchen. Andrew agreed to manage and supply these services, and although he was not directly employed by Colin, it was decided that a weekly invoice would be issued by Andrew to Colin for the services he provided. Andrew’s hourly charge was little more than ‘minimum wage’ even though Colin invoiced the customers at a much higher rate. There was no written contract; it was an arrangement that was understood by them both.

Colin found the first few customers; the word spread around the neighbourhood and beyond, this arm of the business thrived. More customers came along, and Andrew somehow found the time to satisfy them all, often at short notice and regularly over weekends. He did a great job; the customers loved him, partly due to the superb quality of his cuisine and partly for the experience, trust and companionship he provided. Keys to the customer’s properties were offered without hesitation so that he could perform his tasks when the customer couldn’t be there.

After a few months, the only involvement Colin had in this aspect of his business was to invoice the customers based on the weekly reports he received from Andrew. Customers soon began to communicate with Andrew directly. Knowing his own diary, he was able to manipulate and manage all appointments to satisfy all the customers.

Unfortunately, the workload took its toll. Andrew had absorbed an ever-increasing number of customers, and as a result, he worked very long days, spent many hours each week in-transit between customers and found that he had little time for his own family or his own interests. He often skipped lunch, he was permanently tired, and his health deteriorated as his stress and blood pressure levels hit the roof. He had stopped enjoying his job as he felt he was rushing everything and had less time to spend with his customers, many of whom had become good friends.

Andrew decided to take control of his life and terminate his working relationship with Colin. His health had to come first, so he gave notice to Colin who, as you can imagine, was disappointed. How would Colin be able to find another dedicated gourmet chef as talented as Andrew to continue those services and still pay the minimum wage? From Andrew’s perspective, he never lost his love for cooking and was prepared to set up his own business doing the same work but with a fresh set of customers. He would be able to charge the same rates that Colin billed the customers which made it possible to generate similar income by working just over half the number of hours he did for Colin. It also meant he would be able to do the job properly and avoid rushing, particularly with his lonelier customers. Andrew’s family and friends would benefit from this change of plan, and he would generally be much healthier and happier.

Colin decided to contact his old friend, Robert to see if he would be interested in taking over this branch of the business. After a little persuasion and some renegotiation of payable rates, Robert eventually agreed, so Colin sent an email to all his customers to explain that Andrew was no longer working for his company, but they should not worry because he has a perfectly adequate replacement ready to step in and carry out those same services. What happened next surprised everyone. The majority of Colin’s customers contacted Andrew directly to ask if he was still intending to provide gourmet food services. They had grown to love him and trust him; while they had no doubt that Robert would be able to cook similar quality food, many saw the risk involved in rejecting perceived perfection in the hope that the alternative would be just as perfect. As much as he knew it would disappoint Colin and Robert, Andrew decided that the “customer is king” and if they wanted to keep him and Andrew wanted to provide that service, who was he to argue? Of course, some of the original customers were friends of Colin’s, and as much as they enjoyed Andrew providing the services they ordered and were disappointed that Andrew was no longer available, they decided to stay with Colin.

After that, things became a little acrimonious. Colin accused Andrew of poaching half of his customers, Robert was a little upset that the business was not quite as big as he thought when he decided to take it on and Andrew became very upset that his formerly good friendship with Colin had come to a bitter end. The last communication was an unpleasant text message from Colin to Andrew sarcastically ending with the words “Enjoy your new job!”

So, where would your loyalties lie?

Call Andrew

Note, this is a true story, although Colin isn’t Colin, Andrew isn’t Andrew, Robert isn’t Robert, and there was no food involved whatsoever.

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Pet Names for Pets

Most family pets have a name; in our house, our dogs have a “main” name. Depending on whatever mood takes us, they can be referred to in a whole myriad of terms, and the beauty is that they can always tell when we’re talking about them. We have three Labradors; their given names are “Olly”, “Stan” and “Duke”, they are the best four-letter words that exist in the English language!

Labs in the Sunshine - Edited

Olly’s full name is “Olly Bear”, I have no idea how that came to be, or indeed why we named him after Olly Murs.

Stan came to us from a foster home as a four-year-old, he was called “Ben”, but we renamed him to give the pair that Laurel and Hardy reference. He embraced the name straight away and answered to it from day one.

Duke is also a rescue dog; we didn’t change his name because it suits him very well. Stan and Duke came from the same foster home in Derbyshire; together we call them the “Bolsover Boys”.

Here are some of their alter egos:

 

Olly

“Oliver” – his naughty name.

“Mr Bear” – his regal name, used when we ask him to look after the house in our absence.

“Cheese” – OK, we have never called him this directly, but all you have to do is to say the word “cheese”, and he comes running!

“Heimlich” – because he sometimes greets you with an ‘eye-lick manoeuvre’.

 

Stan

“Stanley” – his naughty name.

“Stan the Man” – whenever he’s doing something really cool.

“Stanev” – when the weather starts to turn cold, his fur puffs up to the point where he could survive in Russia.

“Stanistan Man” – it’s possible he originated from his own Eastern bloc country.

“Satan” – for no other reason than other people misread his name on the side of his harness.

 

Duke

“Dooky” – his fun name, usually adopted when he goes into puppy mode even though he’s a seven-year-old, 40kg Lab.

“Pie and Chips Boy” – this came about when he went for a walk across a field covered in cowpats (which we call “Cow Pies” from old Desperate Dan references). He can’t resist helping himself when he thinks we’re not looking. That’s the “Pie” bit, but on the same walk home he found a giant splat of puked-up chips on the path and grabbed a mouthful before I’d spotted it.

“Sir Munch-a-lot” – this pretty much sums him up.

“Dukos” – we imagined him as the Greek God of mischief and gave him a name to match. We probably call him Dukos more than we call him Duke. The Roman God equivalent is “Dukio”.

“Barry White” – we rarely get a peep out of Duke, but when he does make a noise, it’s a deep baritone.

 

Nero and Julius

We often look after our daughter’s dogs, Nero and Julius. As a pair, we call them the “Needy Boys” or the “Reprobates”. When Nero does something good – a rare event – we call “Nero the Hero”; when he does something bad – a common event – we call him “Nero the Zero”. “Cadbury” was a favourite name for a while; as a puppy we once caught him nursing an empty bag of giant chocolate buttons. Julius has the moniker of “Dyson” because he vacuums up any scrappy old piece of food crumb from the kitchen floor, no matter how minuscule.

Another alternative name which I found funny was told to me by a fellow dog walker who called her highland terrier “Monty”. When he manically dashes around the house, she calls him “Monty-Zoomer”.

Do you have any pet names for your pets?

Father of the Bride (#2) Speech

Loren's Wedding

A few weeks ago, Loren asked if I would make a speech at her wedding. I said I would only do it if I were allowed to have a little fun at her expense. Josh then said he wouldn’t have it any other way…. So here goes.

It’s fair to say that over the years, Angela and Martin have taken responsibility for many of the important decisions in Loren’s life: education, her love of horses, career choices and more recently the house that she lives in with Josh and the kids. As “Dad #2”, I’ve been able to enjoy many of the fun moments in bringing up a child with plenty of character. Josh, you are about to find out some things about your new wife, and yes, it is too late to change your mind.

I used to update a diary when Craig, Loren and Bethany were children so that I’d have something to look back on in my old age. I’m now in my old age, and it’s been great fun this last week reading through some of those entries. Out of the hundreds of references to Loren, I have picked out a handful of short stories to give you an insight into the background of this lovely young woman.

 

1996

There’s a statue in Denholme Park of a man in military uniform with his head bowed, holding a rifle.  Loren asked if he got upset when they put cement over him.

Loren was eating a sweet at school, and her teacher caught her, she told her it was a cough sweet – it wasn’t!

Loren sat on my knee while we watched TV; she patted my stomach and asked if I am going to have a baby.

1997

When packing the grass into bags, I found a caterpillar that Loren adopted.  She called it “Emma” and took it to school in a small mustard jar with a bit of grass inside. It died.

At a kids party, Loren beat Craig to a pulp with someone’s handbag.

While at the airport queueing to check in, Loren loudly asked: “Has that man got a bomb in his suitcase?”

Loren had loads of M & S chicken tikka bites (heavy on the garlic) then sneakily made every effort to breathe all over her Grandad from behind his back.

Loren has a new motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up!”

For the last two months, Loren has been calling me “Stewie Old Boy.”

I cooked Loren an omelette for her dinner, and she was told that she must finish it if she wanted any sweets afterwards.  She took it on a tray into the conservatory, and we watched her from inside the kitchen where she couldn’t see us and found her feeding it to our dog, Curly.

Loren was making a noise in her sleep at about 11pm, so Angela went up to her to find her “sleep-driving”.

Loren and I went to the Nawaab to pick up a takeaway curry.  When we got back to the car, Loren insisted on holding the brown paper bag on her knee so that it didn’t fall over on the way home.  I told her that the curry smell would be on her legs for a whole week.  She said that the smell would be in my mouth for a whole week as well.  The bag had leaked dupiaza sauce onto her dress; Angela was not-best pleased.

1998

Linda came over one Saturday night for some wine and curry with Angela, did I mention the wine? She stayed overnight and slept in Loren’s bedroom. She had a pounding headache on Sunday morning, but that may have been more down to Craig and Loren slamming every door in the house on a constant basis.  It turned out that Loren had done it deliberately so that Linda would wake up and get up and then she could enter her bedroom for her roller blades.

 

2002

Loren has an awful cold sore between her nose and her top lip.  One boy at her school tried to poke fun at her, but she replied, “Just you wait until your hormones start taking action and you get big boils on your face, let’s see who’ll be laughing then”.  The boy apologised.

Loren had to see her headmistress Mrs Bleasdale today after being grassed up by a boy who she pushed into a wall.  Mrs Bleasdale told her to “act like a young lady” in future.

2004

Loren came first in the school sports day 1500m race………. then took the following day off sick!

2005

Loren had some ‘New Look’ vouchers to spend.  Just before we set off to Halifax, Angela asked her, “How much have you got?” to which Loren replied, “All of them”!

 

 

Let me tell you about Loren’s bedroom. As a young teenager – and probably beyond – she had little inclination in keeping it tidy. In fact, you couldn’t tell what colour the carpet was because of the stains and all the rubbish thrown in all parts. Angela and I thought she was old enough to take responsibility and “if she wants to live in a pigsty, she can live in a pigsty”. I did find out a few years later that it wasn’t that bad, it was a sterile surgical theatre in comparison to her sister Bethany’s. If Loren was the Princess of untidy bedrooms, Bethany was undoubtedly the Queen. But I digress…

I took some photos of her bedroom to show her how bad it looked. I focused in on what looked like the remains of a snake which had shed its skin; it turned out to be a months-old rotting piece of pineapple peel. Things came to a head. She was told to get it sorted out and, to be fair, she rolled her sleeves up and got stuck in. I offered to help by taking out an overflowing paper bin. I walked down the stairs and noticed she had thrown away the pages of a diary she used to keep as a young child. She doesn’t know it, but I kept those pieces of paper and stored them away for a rainy day. It’s not raining today, but here they are for your amusement.

Tweety Pie and Sylvester

Look at them, look how cute they are, what a sweet thing that she used to keep a diary. They’ve even got love hearts and Sylvester and Tweety Pie on there. Let’s have a little read of some of the entries.

“My boyfriend’s name is David. I met him at my brother’s football party. We played tig, and I never went for anybody else but him. I had a great time, I don’t think David did.”

“My worst thing on telly that I could watch is football. My brother loves it. I think he would marry it if he was allowed. He never stops thinking about football. I hate it.” <To be fair, she’s got a point!>

“I was supposed to be tidying my room. Stewart was in a bad mood, and we didn’t do anything wrong. I said ‘I haven’t done anything’ and he said “EXACTLY!” So I went into the living room and sat down and watched TV.”

“I hate Scott and Daniel. I hate Scott because he annoys you and he’s really geeky. He throws stones across the table. If he keeps doing it, I will kick his head in”

“I hate James and Philip at my school. I feel like I want to hit them on the head with a hammer.”

I think we ought to stop there before Josh tries to make his escape.

I feel like I’m running out of time, but if anyone would like to hear the World War II gas mask story or even the one about the Twin Towers that I’ve bottled telling you, please come and see me afterwards.

Josh, good luck mate! Seriously, I started this speech inferring that I’d give you a scary insight into the woman of your dreams. In truth, all these little stories have contributed to making her the strong, fantastic wife and mother she is today; we are all immensely proud of her, and I know you are too. The best advice I can give you is to write down all that fun stuff that your kids get up to because one day Josh, you will be making this speech at Beau’s wedding.

I’m certainly not going to bring this celebration down in any way, but I’d like to reiterate what Martin said about Loren’s grandma Alicia who of course is no longer with us. There was an extraordinary bond between them, and I know for a fact that she would have been so excited today and proud of how Loren turned out. I also can’t forget about everybody’s favourite Uncle – Uncle George – and Lyn (David’s wife and John’s Mum) who both loved Loren very much but sadly passed away over the last couple of years. They would have both been in their elements today.

 

So, because there are two dads making speeches, you get to have an extra toast. To our wonderful daughter, her fine young husband and let’s not forget the grandkids. You are a fantastic family.

 

<Applause (hopefully)>

 

And finally, here is the twin towers story which I bottled out of telling….

“Loren has always been a compassionate girl. I remember that terrible day when the twin towers were brought crashing down. Loren was utterly devastated and upset for days afterwards. Oh, it wasn’t for the tragic loss of life but more because it took all the attention away from her 10th birthday.”