I suppose it had to come and for a long time I’ve wondered about the value of them, it’s the tax disc on cars, and other road vehicles that I’m referring to. We all know that the police can do a PNC on any car that they see and get back the result in seconds, not just that it is taxed, but insured and has an MOT if needed as well. Also we all must know about number plate recognition cameras that are in car parks and the like, there is one in my local airport that clocks you when you enter and when you leave the display tells you how much to put into the collecting receptacle.
I expect that we will see the increased use of these cameras which will then automatically track vehicles on the road and identify those that are not registered for road tax. Most of us already tax our cars online which has seen DVLA offices that used to issue them closing in droves. I see this as is part of the trend to provide paperless services, a drive that I have mentioned about taxing online. So now, apparently, instead of displaying a disc to prove that a car is fully taxed, motorists will instead simply register their car online.
It has always been a bit of a pain, not so much now I have to say, but it was when you had to queue with all your documents at the Post Office or tax office, something that has been part of the motorists’ life since the disc was first issued in 1921. According to the Treasury, it will save business businesses £7 million a year in administrative costs.
Picture: Bart Maguire
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Now whether we should have gone into the European Union in the first place is another matter. I recall at the time it was a referendum to join the “common market” and not a political union, but whatever, we are now in a union with twenty seven other countries and there is a tremendous lobby, mainly by the political party UKIP for us to leave.
Should the Conservative party be elected at the next election in 2015, we have been promised yet another referendum about staying in or leaving the EU, but frankly I think that it would now be madness to leave. We could of course survive leaving, but I think that the price we would have to pay would be enormous. We could of course still export to the EU countries but we would be subject to huge tariffs, as an example, Norway exist outside of the Union, but has to pay 80% per capita of what we pay.
The EU is becoming a closer alliance and for us to leave would mean that we would be pulling away from our biggest export market and it does not end there I’m afraid. As a country we would still have to implement EU regulations but would be unable to defend the City, or any other sector, from harmful new legislation, and what is more, inward investment such as the great success of the likes of Nissan, would not be forthcoming.
The time for a referendum is still a long way away, if it ever comes and I’m sure that there will be much debate before then, but I think it is a case of head and not heart that should decide the outcome, we shall see.
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I have travelled the world in my time with my book publishing employer and of course a lot when I was in the RAF, but I was intrigued when I came across a blog at the AOL Travel site which detailed some rather weird border crossings.
I suppose now that we are fully fledged members of the European club, we have become rather blasé now we just wave our passports at the bored persons manning the checkpoints, but of course it is not the same when crossing borders in other continents’ or areas of the world.
I have travelled extensively in Africa and South Africa in particular, but I have to say that I have never experienced the border from there to Mozambique passing over the Giriondo border, which is in the Kruger National Park where you may have to encounter lions as well as the border guards of course!
At the AOL Travel site I was invited to have a look at some other weird border crossings which were provided at the web pages of IXPVisas.com a company that I have used on many occasions by the way, and it was there that I came across the Lions story.
One that I can report on, as I did experience it when I was in the RAF and serving in Cyprus, is the crossing between the Turkish and Greek halves of the island. Here you have to cross no man’s land, which of course is the United Nations Buffer Zone.
Another one that I absolutely love is in the E.U and it is in Baarle which is either in the Netherlands or in Belgium depending on which side if the little white crosses on the pavement that you are standing. This is a collection of municipalities scattered between the two countries and you can have the amusing experience of being in a pavement cafe effectively divided in two! This meant that at a time when according to Dutch laws restaurants had to close earlier you simply changed tables to the Belgian side, all gone now that the EU is in being but rather quaint don’t you think?
If you have any experiences of weird border crossing why not tell us about them?
Picture: CBP Photography
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It is not always their fault but many people have no idea at all how to budget. I fully understand that there can be times when the old cash account becomes stretched and the manager at the bank is no longer that cheerful friend that you thought you had, but some folks have not a clue.
I read and hear on the radio of how people cannot manage on three or four hundred pounds a week and cannot feed the two kids. Hold on there a minute, how much effort and money does it take to feed a family some good wholesome food?
Take a look around some of our big supermarkets and see what people, who are obviously not wealthy, are putting into their shopping trolleys. Not wholesome bread, tins of baked beans, chicken pieces or whole chickens, with some beef mince and some tins of tomatoes, no they are not. More likely you will see ready meals which can be knocked up at a fraction of the cost at home, oven chips and the like, not cheap and wholesome potatoes from the veg counter, why is this?
When they leave the supermarket, you can bet that they will visit the cigarette counter, also buy a few scratch cards as well, after popping a few cans of larger into their trolley of course. Maybe they have not had the advantage of living in a home like I did, where a ready meal was the left over from the Sunday roast and was eaten cold on Monday with steaming mashed potatoes and gravy. No I fear that as more families live in this way, then their children will be the same which of course will perpetuate over generations. Is it because we no longer have cookery lessons in school?
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Well I have to say that comes as no surprise to me; young people today do not seem to be interested in taking up the engineering subjects at school. I know that it involves science and mathematics which seem to be a complete turn off for “O” level and “A” level students, but this country was built by engineers, we used to be the workshop of the world, now it seems to be all about making a “quick buck” any which way is possible.
My opinion is shared by others too, as I discovered when reading an article that I came across on the education section of the BBC website. The advisor to the Department for Business Prof John Perkins points out in the article that there is a substantial demand for engineers and the Business Secretary Vince Cable has commented that too few teenagers are studying science. Well as I have pointed out, to become a successful engineering student you have to have a good knowledge of physics, maths and science.
We have to wonder why it is that these subjects I took at school, indeed as I recall these along with English were a major part of the curriculum and today they almost seem optional. I know that teachers are hard pressed and have to abide by the syllabus that is set for them.
So if our young cannot get all the help they need at school to become successful engineering students, perhaps they will have to do what I and thousands of other of my generation had to do, and that is take some extra studies through home study. I did that which is how I got my university-level qualification when I went into the RAF. Unlike when I undertook mine, today there is a lot of help through the Internet (for example, some of the sites out there dedicated to helping students, such as Marked By Teachers) and I would urge that young people take the vast opportunities that are waiting for them in engineering if they study maths and science; the world is your oyster.
Picture: Duke University Archives
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I know it’s an old chestnut, but I’m going to bring it out of the cupboard anyway, how can a country which we have been giving aid to, well we stopped giving direct aid to India a long time ago and now it is a prospering economy, but sadly a nation of two halves. A comment that I read and was the subject of some Twitter from a journalist for the newspaper “Indian Express” he tweeted, “”Incredible India: we can go to Mars but cannot provide clean water to our people on Earth.”
If we are to believe reports and I cannot confirm this as I have unfortunately never been to that vast and varied country, 600 million of its citizens defecate outdoors, make you think doesn’t it? There is also great criticism that whilst it can succeed in the obviously great achievement, why the money has not been spent instead on improving poor sanitation.
I understand that there are many Indian scientists who are less than pleased with the launch suggesting that they should focus on developing its next generation of satellite launchers to compete in the lucrative commercial sector. That would seem to make sense, where would we be today without all those satellites whizzing round the earth? Telecoms is just one of many examples, , global television in a matter of seconds another. No folks there isn’t any water on Mars, and I suspect not much life either, not a lot going for it I suggest!
Picture: J. Gabas Esteban
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It seems a day hardly passes without some comment being made about energy bills and the ever increasing cost. Well it has to be true and of course it is, switching can possibly help or should I say it did, but I’m not really convinced that it does anymore.
I have switched a couple of times and I did save on both occasions, but from what I can see the difference soon disappeared as the supplier regularly increased my direct debit. Another problem from my point of view is that my heating is oil fired, I have no other choice as mains gas is about ten miles from where I live and tanked gas is a complete joke cost wise. It really hacked ne off when some of my friends and work colleagues were on the “staywarm” system, at one time you could use as much gas and electric as you wanted for a fixed yearly amount. Why hacked off you may ask, well simply that it you had to be a gas and electric user, not oil so I was never eligible.
I can and do shop about for oil, but again I have found that most of the heating oil suppliers are in the same group and guess what, the price difference is not to be seen. The company that I use is a family firm and a penny or so below the others so I get my oil as cheaply as it is possible.
Regarding my electricity I joined a group buying scheme which was promoted by the County Council and now I buy from a company that I have never heard of, but is not one of the big six! If you have a chance to join a group buying co-operative I suggest you check, you could save a few pounds, but that will be about all. Keep warm!
Picture: Andrew Michaels
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I know that there are still about 55 or 60 days to Christmas, but I thought that it was interesting to read that supermarket brands of the sort of speciality items like Stilton cheese and Christmas pudding came out top in a tasting session, beating luxury items from places like Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
I have to say that this does not come as any surprise to me as I have had products from both companies and although I could not complain, I always felt a bit disappointed, particularly at the price I paid for them.
Expert tasters sampled a whole range of products from various suppliers and waded their way through 165 foods, what a job! At the end of their marathon they drew up a list of the best, in their opinion of course, one which came out tops in the cheese section was Morrisons Signature Stilton. Now I have had this a few times and I have to say that I think that it is wonderful.
Of course it was not just Ken Morrisons supermarket that won acclaim, the judges concluded that the best place to get our festive foods is the supermarket, well most of us do that anyway don’t we, but it is nice to know that they rank amongst the best in the country.
For the record this is the order in which the judges placed some of the best in each category:
Loch Fyne Bradan Orach Traditional Smoked Salmon, Morrisons Free-range Frozen Turkey, Morrisons Fruit and Cognac Stuffing Balls, The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Cranberry Sauce, Aldi Connoisseur Christmas Pudding, Marks & Spencer Brandy Butter with Remy Martin, Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies, Morrisons Signature Stilton.
So there you have some traditional festive products, all I can do is wish you happy shopping folks, enjoy your festive feast when you’ve done it!
Picture: Peter Hilton
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You may recall that toward the end of May this year I had to get some barcodes and it looks as though I will need some more shortly, not the same ones as before, because when I require more of those particular labels I can just call DataLabel and they will use the artwork that they are holding and print some more off pretty quickly.
No these are to be for an offshoot venture that I have started and these particular labels will be for a product that will have labels that must withstand a tough and changing environment so I discussed the product with DataLabel and they came up with a number of suggestions, but they believed that for what I was looking for a polypropylene label would be the best.
The labels can be stuck t just about any surface, and they can over laminate them too which will give extra protection. They will be safe to use a ta wide range of temperatures, minus ten degrees centigrade and up to plus eighty degrees, more that I would possibly require, but it is a “belt and braces” approach which I prefer.
In these circumstances the labels will be able to be used both in and outdoors, I have been offered a choice of over thirty standard sizes, as well as a choice of fourteen colours in the print material.
So I received the sample artwork just a few days after I discussed this with DataLabel and placed an order, the finished products arrived in less than four days, you cannot get better than that. Thank you again DataLabel.
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How often do we see a warning light on the dash board flicker and wonder if it is serious, speaking to a friend who runs a vehicle service centre, he told me that it is surprising the number of people who ignore, or put off doing anything when they see a light on. These lights are there for a purpose and not to make a few extra bucks for the service guy. The purpose is to save you money!
If you’re like most drivers, those little yellow and red lights that flicker off and on when you start your car are often ignored. However, those warning lights are indicators that your beloved car is operating normally. Modern cars have computers and it is these that check out the operating systems each time you turn on the ignition. If the warning lights go out, the computer has verified that the systems are functioning properly. However, if a warning light remains on several minutes after the car has been started, or if it comes on while driving, make sure that you have it investigated.
The days have gone when the dashboard of a car had instruments that told us what the oil pressure is, if the battery is being charged and the temperature of the water in the radiator, all this is now monitored by the computer and the instrument dials have been replaced by little lights, as well as a message, sometimes in the shape of a spanner telling us to get the car serviced.
So when my friend told me of some of the problems he has been asked to sort out, together with the cost by people ignoring warning lights, it reminded me that when my car has a light on, not to think it will just go away!
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