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.


20 Degrees of Separation

I recently had a ‘light bulb moment’, not about light bulbs, but about toilet paper. [Now there’s a sentence that I’m willing to bet has never been written before!]

Before I explain my idea, it is important to clearly state one major assumption that this blog post relies entirely upon. When toilet paper is used, two sheets are stripped from the roll and folded across the perforations in the centre. This has already ruled out any interest from one of my daughters who, after wondering why my toilet paper expenses were so high, I discovered wiped herself by taking about 12 sheets and wrapping it around her entire fist for fear of having to touch any of her own undesirable matter.

This is a diagram, to scale, of two sheets of toilet paper, the black line down the middle indicating where the perforations are.

Paper 0 degrees

When folded evenly, I can tell you that the length is 12.3 cm and the width is 10.2 cm, resulting in a total surface area of 125.46 square cm. It occurred to me that it is not necessary that the whole of that surface area needs to be a double-sheet thickness, but you still need that security of the bulk of the area being thicker. Can you tell I’m desperately trying not to be crude in my descriptions here?

Here is my idea. Instead of creating those perforations perpendicular to the paper edge, why not cut them at an angle? 20 degrees from that perpendicular seems perfect to me, as per the diagram below, again drawn to scale. The cutting process should alternate between a 90-degree perpendicular cut and a 20-degree cut (this is actually 70 degrees from the paper edge).

Paper 20 degrees

This is what the shape looks like then the paper is folded using the angled perforations.

Paper 20 degrees folded

The dark blue area is double thickness, and the pale blue sections represent single sheet thickness. If you hold the paper by the folded edge, then the single sheet parts are situated on the outer edges of the “action areas”. I have calculated using the formula for determining the area of a triangle (0.5 x base length x height) that this configuration of the end shape increases the surface area by 39 square centimetres. That’s a whopping 31.09% extra surface area, created by simply cutting perforations at a 20-degree angle!

Now, if you were Mr Andrex and you were presented with this idea, would you:

  1. Market it as a gimmick,
  2. Market it as an innovation that provides over 30% more efficiency,
  3. Cut the volume of paper used per sheet and therefore reduce raw material costs while still providing the same useful surface area?

I suspect I know the answer.


I won’t bore you with details of what I do for a living; it’s IT development, that’s all you need to know. Deadlines play a major part in my planning, and last Friday was the scheduled delivery day marking the culmination of a six-month project. At the start of the week, there was still much work to do and many hours to spend. I knew I needed to be focused.

As a personal incentive, on the previous Sunday, I made the decision not to shave until the project was delivered. The decision didn’t make much sense to my wife, Angela; if I’m honest, it didn’t really make much logical sense to me either. I don’t particularly like having facial hair; if it’s not good enough for the top of my head, it’s not good enough for my chin! The glorious moment to be attained just after removing the offending growth was to be my motivation. The sooner I finished the project, the sooner that glorious moment would arrive.

I work at home so no one, apart from my family and my mirror, was subjected to this unkempt appearance. As the days progressed through the working week, my look went from lazy to dishevelled to downright scruffy.

Earlier this year, my son, Craig, grew a beard. He visits home every two or three months, but we still catch pictures of him on Facebook. The first time we saw a photo of him with a beard, we could barely recognise him. I genuinely thought he must have lost a bet with one of his mates. We have since become used to his new appearance and begrudgingly admit that it probably suits him. It’s the way that young men in Britain seem to be going these days. My only concern is whether it snags on his snooker cue when taking a shot.

Back to me (well, it is my blog after all). By Thursday, my chin started to look like Tim Metcalfe on Coronation Street; the top of my head does, too, but that’s another story. I only mention this because I noticed that in an episode on Wednesday, Tim set off in his taxi with stubble that looks like mine and arrived at his destination with just a single-day growth. It was either a continuity error, or Tim kept a battery razor in his glove compartment.

My project was delivered early on Friday evening. The photograph below shows my chin just a few hours before the aforementioned ‘glorious moment’ arrived, and I was able to remove it.


From the outside, I fully accept this is a raggedy, unattractive, tramp-like appearance and one which my friends and family have rarely seen. I look like a cross between Worzel Gummidge and ZZ Top. From the inside of my face, for a few fleeting moments, I considered it as a classic bit of designer stubble… I am, however, glad it has gone.

Trash Talk

Some people say I can be a grumpy, old-fashioned, sarcastic technophobe who is out of touch with the youth of today. I completely refute that allegation; I am most definitely NOT a technophobe.

From time to time, I like to dumb myself down by taking a look at the online versions of The Sun and The Daily Star newspapers. Knowing that I was going to write this article, I have been monitoring some of the remarkable headlines but decided not to comment at the time and wait only for those published on my scheduled blog writing day, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. On a day of terrible terrorist activity outside Westminster and also in the days following the death of Martin McGuinness, the announcement of a date to begin the Brexit process and the re-emergence of another attempt at a Scottish referendum, these are samples of some of the headlines in today’s editions of those newspapers.



Well, I found that when you go into the article, it turns out he just looks like an older version of Chunk from The Goonies.


Denise Fox

I have nothing against EastEnders, and I actually like the character, Denise Fox, but I have two issues with this article.

(a) That it is deemed to be newsworthy that a TV character is sad because she lost her job working in a corner shop.

(b) That word “Spoiler” infers that reading the article will in some way spoil your enjoyment of the programme, and also that the headline pretty much tells you what is going to happen without digging deeper.


parking space

Oh, the perils of first world problems. Now, what do you think the average UK citizen will make of this “war”? Which one of those people will they decide to support? Most of all, who cares?



The most interesting thing about the fact that Germany play England at football in a friendly match would, according to the article, appear to be the German captain’s girlfriend… Oh, hang on a minute; they might of a point on this one.



This is a story of a famous quiz show which just happened to have an attractive contestant. My issue with this is not that the article appears on the online page, more about viewers “swooning” and offering their hands in marriage. What is the matter with people?



This is a proper news article, but it looks more like an advert to me.


Marnie Simpson

Really! A girl famous for a reality TV show (more than one) has a bit of plastic surgery, and her “fans” appear to be criticising her through trolling techniques. I’m not sure who I feel sorry for most, Marnie, an already good-looking girl, for feeling that she needs to have surgery and then publicising the fact, or the people who deem it acceptable to publicly “backlash”.


hair freezing

“International Hair Freezing Contest”. Now that is just plain weird!



This one is just utterly ridiculous. Why would a man in a pub choose this method of tooth extraction? Why would a guy be prepared to use pliers to extract somebody else’s tooth? Did those industrial pliers just happen to be in the pub? And why would anybody want to watch a video clip of this happening?


Venus fly trap

I almost can’t believe I included this but having made the decision, it had to go straight to number one. I dare not even click on this article to see what it was all about but I do fear there may be some nightmares tonight.


This post is in no way a criticism of our national tabloid newspapers; they provide a service, a vehicle to access the topics that many people want to read about and for that I commend them. My comments are more a reflection on modern British culture that makes people want to be the subjects of these articles, to comment on them, or to have a desire to seek out this level of material. Anyway, that was my top 10, just for today. It is by no means the complete list; here is a collection of others which didn’t quite achieve the dizzy heights of my “top 10” but need no explanation from me.

Star Sun collection


Week Eight – “Epilogue.”

I lost one more pound in weight this week but, as you can probably tell from the tone of my more recent weekly postings, my heart is no longer in it. I would go as far as to say that writing these posts extended the length of the diet and helped me to focus on taking care of myself a little better. In that sense, the whole process has been a success. I did not, however, manage to lose the weight I had secretly targeted. Seeing my weight reach the largest amount it had ever been gave me the kick in the butt that I needed. In total, I did lose 10 lbs, but it took me eight weeks to achieve this. I’m still in the “overweight” category, but in all honesty, I do feel fitter – thanks to extended walks with my new dog – and I can say that my clothes fit just a little better.

My aim now is to continue with the generally healthier habits I have set for myself. I definitely eat less, I have stopped eating snacks and biscuits between meals just to “keep me going”, and Duke will guarantee that I at least burn off more calories than I did before starting the diet. There is a fear that I will drift into bad habits without really noticing but this is where the mental challenge kicks in.

This will be my last diet blog post so I will sign off on this subject with some random thoughts I built up over the last two months.

In an attempt to make my treadmill experiences more bearable, I started to play episodes of The Office (US Version) which I became a little addicted to. I realise I’m about 12 years late on this, but it’s as funny today as I’m sure it was then. They only made 12 episodes of the UK version, but there are about 3,422 of the US version which I have still to watch.

Someone once told me that when your stomach rumbles, you should think of it as a little monster eating away at the fat. Rejoice in the rumble!

While out for a pub meal with some friends this week I did fear that I would consume way too many calories. The duck in hoisin sauce with oriental vegetables and noodles sounded sweet and sticky and thoroughly appetising. From a diet perspective, I had nothing to worry about as it turned out to be some fatty duck in a weak and thin gravy with some Chinese five spice, overcooked small carrots and limp mangetout thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t hard not to eat too much. There was a ‘Family Fortunes’ style of pub quiz later in the evening. One question said to name the most popular thing that was “runny”. My answer was the gravy in the duck in hoisin sauce. No points were awarded for this.

During my diet, whenever there were chips in my immediate vicinity I used to sing in my head the words “Hey teacher, leave those chips alone” to the tune of the Pink Floyd track, Another Brick in the Wall. It didn’t really help.

In an attempt to counteract the Pink Floyd lyrics and to support my love of Indian cuisine, I also internally sing a version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with the words “Curry on, curry on, it doesn’t really matter” and “I see a little skinny insect of a man; Scaramouche, Scaramouche will you eat the fiery mango”.

And finally, completely unrelated to my diet, you have not experienced life if you haven’t seen a 40kg 6-year-old Labrador chase his own tail, the great lummox.

Rumble Teacher Office Mashup

Ladder Fury

They say bad things come in three’s. My daughter lives in a flat and to view the electricity meter for a reading she needs to climb a small ladder at the foot of a flight of stairs near the front door.


Last week, someone stole the ladder which was behind the front door, and she couldn’t take a reading; she asked me if I could bring down my “fold-up-able” ladders to help her. I keep them at the back of my garage just behind the “up-and-over” door. It was quite a struggle to get them out, and I had to resort to a bit of brute force, a typical tactic of mine in times of trouble. I heard something crack and looked down to find that I’d inadvertently ripped off the plastic box which houses the broadband and TV cables. They are still working but literally hanging by a thread as you can see in the picture below.


I was so cross with myself; after accepting the situation for what it was, I picked up the ladders and swung them around to load them into the boot of my car. I misjudged how close I was to the back and bashed the corner of the ladder into the rear light casing leaving this spider-shaped crack.


As you can tell, it was raining; this didn’t lighten my mood in any way. Expletives filled the air, right at the moment when my next-door neighbours were leaving their house to take their dog for a walk. I curbed my anger and threw the ladders into the back of the car and guess what? I hadn’t lifted them high enough and ended up making a discernible scratch on the bumper for which I’m too embarrassed to take and upload a photograph.

Things couldn’t get any worse, so the only thing to do was continue with the plan and make my way down to her flat to use the ladders to obtain the meter reading. This all took place without further mishap, but I had an idea while I was there. I said to her, “Why don’t you go up the steps to the height of the meter, put the light on and take a photo, then zoom in on the image to view the meter reading?” She thought this was a good idea so got herself in position, was about to aim her phone at the meter to take a picture when she blurted out “Ooh, I can actually read it from here without using the phone!”


Week Seven – “Dooky.”

This was another quite sad week for our family; my diet had to take a back seat. For the record, I did not put on any weight, but I did not lose anything either.

Our family collie dog of almost 15 years had to say goodbye to the world. I’m sure Becky will be the subject of another upcoming blog post, but I’ll just say this: Becky played a big part in helping three of our family grow into wonderful adults – four if you count me.


Looking at the impact from a weight loss perspective, I lost my excuse to go out for a walk each day. The trouble was that she had become so slow that in no conceivable world could you classify those outings in recent months as exercise. As I work from home, she was also my reason for getting out of the house, and when she left us, I found myself climbing the walls.

Meet Duke. We now have a new family member, he’s a 6-year-old Labrador rescue dog with the most wonderful nature. I already think of him a gentle giant. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying that he’s a little overweight, just like me really. We have therefore made a pact to sort ourselves out by helping each other.


I have sacked my diet coach, Angela. To be honest, she never accepted the role in the first place. Even more honestly, she was never offered it. Duke has now taken on this position. Within the first 24 hours, he took his job a little too seriously by snaffling a ham sandwich I’d made for my lunch; he pinched it right off the plate while it was still on the kitchen worktop. The whole thing instantly disappeared into his cavernous mouth. His manners need some attention, I think.

We have already been out on daily excursions of between 1 and 2 miles at a brisk pace. We were both huffing and puffing a little towards the end of each walk, but it seems to get better each day. Duke, or “Dooky” as he is affectionately known, is the reason why I no longer need to get on a treadmill, hallelujah!

RIP Becky, I’ll never forget you.

Continue to Week Eight – “Epilogue.”