Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Banks - don't bank on them

When I worked in a bank, a bank employee lived or died by how many inappropriate 'products' they sold to unsuitable people, ie their monthly targets. It was indeed this cavalier attitude to customers and customer service which drove me out. I just couldn't pretend that we offered the best mortgage rates on the High Street when we didn't.

Now we read daily that the majority of banks are no longer lending to customers or granting mortgages even to those who would not so long ago have been judged 'a good risk', but in all probability would have got that 100% mortgage even if they were a lousy risk, just to get some bank employee's targets up to their monthly quota. No big deal if a house was repossessed to be sold and mortgaged again after all.

Horror stories abound of successful small businesses with good track records who merely require a small bridging loan until their new stock arrives or their bills are paid and their cash flow restored, going to the wall because of the refusal of banks to help with what was once everyday business for them. The bank managers who once knew their customers personally and interviewed the business customers on a regular basis are nowhere to be seen.

The deliberately-low (to aid the economy) 0.5% base rate seems to have no influence on their unreasonableness and no interest rate advantage is being passed onto the customer, even supposing we are lucky enough to be granted the privilege of being a customer.

I have but ONE question. How are banks making their money now if they are no longer selling products/lending money?

Sure they can coast along on exorbitant customer charges and zilch customer account interest for a while, but new business and extra business is where it's at.

Just because we wanted them to stop gambling with our money and selling us down the river, only to end up having bail them out, doesn't mean we wanted them to stop providing financial services at all. In fact if anything, they OWE we taxpayers for bailing them out and we expected better treatment and more humility from them as a result.

All we wanted was some integrity and some transparency and less greed. Most businesses can manage this - why not banks?

Then again, even Tesco rejected me for a credit card the other week.

I'll leave you with my story of the week on banks v the people.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Agent for Ideas

I was born to swan. How do I know this? Probably because work came as such a tremendous shock to my previously natural dreamlike state which did not readily engage itself with such worldly concerns as how to pay the rent and other assorted bills necessary to drawdown breath.

I have often joked indeed that if there is such a thing as a previous life, I was obviously filthy rich and didn't have to lift a finger in it, so inept was I in every way in early adulthood, scarcely able even to make a cup of tea without some calamity ensuing. Now if only I could work out who I was and what I left myself and where (as I have little doubt I'd have probably had the foresight to). Perhaps that £400 past life regression therapy course I once looked into would have been money well spent.

Joking aside, for at least the last five years I have been coming up with product and marketing ideas the like of which have often had listeners gasping: 'That's a great idea - you should sell that.' Or 'That's exactly what I've wanted to buy and can't find anywhere - you should invent it!'

However as a previous expert in ineptitude I know my limits. I am neither a designer nor a marketeer, merely an ideas person. Nor do I have the capital necessary to set up a business, notwithstanding guaranteed business acumen (necessary for even the most failsafe product).

What I want to be able to do is sell a big idea, live off the proceeds for six months and then sell another idea and live off the proceeds for six months. In other words, swan! Fill my life full of friends and writing and philanthropic works and leave behind that 9-5.

Fruitlessly have I therefore trawled the internet looking for a UK agency operating in roughly the same genre as an author's agent - ie the writer does the writing and the agent does the selling. Only with my model the agent wins a percentage of any idea sold. Even this in itself, I am told, is a great business idea and I should do it. They seem to have such in the States, but not the UK, unless they are known by some completely other name here. Though of course there are greater complications involved in selling intellectual copyright and obtaining patents and manufacturing and distribution contracts, not to mention the market research that an idea might need to prove it had legs. Perhaps I should pitch this to the BBC as the next generation 'Dragon's Den'!

Currently I am badgering every politician with anything to do with Education with a wholly new concept in University education to breathe new life into it for the future (the current system of the 3 year degree being unsustainable in the long term for multifarious reasons.)

All thoughts and feedback gratefully appreciated, dear blogmates. Or perhaps you have a thwarted dream you care to share.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Poet Laura-eate's Philosophy of Driving

Driving To Impress

Driving should be like ballet dancing
No junction slaloms, no jerks, no jarring
Just skill and grace with assertive pace
There's no room for road rage on the highway
By the immature ego which can't get its own way
If I had my way all ego would be left at home posturing
In front of a mirror until finally maturing.
And as for those who get a kick
Out of forcing other drivers to be psychic
With their treatment of indicators as an optional extra
Don't they realise they're holding up their own Vauxhall Vectra,
With the extra time it takes to anticipate their actions
In time to prepare appropriate defensive reactions?
Driving should be like ballet dancing
No junction slaloms, no jerks, no jarring
No crunch of gears, no screech of brakes
No crunch of cyclist or other road user makes.
Keep those sweeps fluid-smooth and hug those bends
And when you reach a junction, stop and look at the end!
Your car will thank you with lower garage bills
If you haven't contributed by mis-use to its ills
Ditto insurance premiums and other fetters on driver freedoms.
'Cos what goes aroundabout, comes aroundabout
And that's what it's all about.
So take pride in your driving, enjoy guaranteed arriving
Be nice to other drivers. Be a knight of the road
Nobody likes, admires (or wants to shag) a Mr Toad.

© LS King 2010

Monday, 6 September 2010

Letter to Nan

I thought it was time to post a spot of creativity so here is my entry to the Daily Express letter writing competition to win a laptop back in June. Sadly I didn't.

My Dear Nan

Your crocheted iPad cover and matching pashmina arrived yesterday and were the surprise of my birthday. Thank you. The pink and green stripes will go with so many things, if I can wrestle them back off the dog bed that is, as Biscuit promptly snaffled them for herself.
Anyway, how are you, and how are your feet? What did the chiropodist say?
I must say I am concerned that you still seem to be posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook. I know it started off as a bit of a laugh, but seriously, you are going to get into trouble luring all these creepy men to their deaths via bogus Beachy Head liaisons, much though we all salute you for trying to keep us safe and only doing what any caring grandmother would. I don't think you can get away with blaming Woofy Banjo for pushing all eight of them off the cliffs though. The Police must suspect something by now. And your latest status update saying 'It's great being 85 - you can get away with murder' is a bit out there, you must admit. I'd hate to see my grandma end up in prison anyway, so I really think you ought to find a new pastime and quickly and it's not too late to enter the Parish Autumn flower show.
I can't help feeling a bit responsible being as it was me who persuaded you to go to that Silver Surfers Session at your local library three years ago. I mean I honestly thought if you bought a computer you'd use it for online Bingo and the odd e-Bay purchase or to Google hernia treatment. Not this.
Then we didn't hear a word from you for six months and found you had emigrated to Second Life to become Princess Di and re-live her life, only this time making Prince Charles look like George Michael and Camilla look like a frog. You always did like your happy endings. The number of times we visited to find you crying over your Royal Wedding tea sets. Well it was heartrending.
It was really great that you started dressing the part and got to open that school, though I think Princess Michael was surprised as she was only stuck on the M40.
If only Grandpa had lived. You were so devoted to him. I remember when he died you couldn't even change a light bulb yourself, and now, well now, it's gone a bit too far the other way if I'm honest. You seem to have lost interest in everything you used to enjoy from Church to the Bowls team. As for that re-wiring you did in the house using Grandad's 1947 Boy's Own Manual. Well it's not very convenient to have to unplug the fridge every time you want to watch the telly is it? And what about that invalidated insurance certificate? You can't leave it, you know.
I must say I was shocked by that Grey-dar dating site link you sent me. I mean lots of them don't even have their FACES on their profiles. Are you sure it's wise? And are you sure a photo of your home made plum jam won't attract the wrong type? Some chancer who just wants someone to play free carer and housekeeper to him for the rest of his life and then leaves it all to his kids anyway, after all his promises?
I know it's your life and I've got to let you make your own mistakes.
But I'm so worried that you're being corrupted by modern technology Nan. You need to keep it real. Besides which I don't like that new Nan you've bought me on E-Grandchild anyway and I don’t care for your new granddaughter either. Just because she's programmed to agree with everything you do, wear everything you knit and never forget to send a thank you letter.
If I can swap shifts next weekend, perhaps I can come up and visit and we can discuss all these issues face to face.
Meanwhile my pager's just gone off. Another jumper at the local railway station. Just time to dash off a suicide note in case there isn't one and I'll jump into the ambulance. I do hate people to waste their lives without a cause as you know. 'My Penalty Charge Notice drove me to it!' at least gives them some honour in death and provides some sense of closure (and less guilt) for their loved ones left behind.

Love and Eccles cakes,

Your concerned granddaughter x

© LS King 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


I have just been listening to a Radio 4 programme called Iconoclasts in which some bloke called Stephen Pillock (or was it Pollard?) proposed that arts funding should be scrapped as this country had better things to spend its money on than the arts and most were of little interest to the public in any case.

Although he was roundly opposed, I swiftly fired off a missive to point out that this once-proud manufacturing nation now had little else left to export except the arts, so perhaps our assets should be marketed more effectively, then they might actually pay their way and require less funding. In addition wasn't this country dumbed down enough to the point of a new class system evolving comprised of an underclass and the educated, and if there were no outreach exposure at all on the part of the arts to the culturally-challenged, this could only get worse.

Sadly, only my first point was read out, but it was interesting to hear Stephen Pollard floundering for words when countering my statement that this country was no longer a proud manufacturing nation. Finally he came up with an export retort we can truly be proud of - 'munitions'!

I nearly fell off my chair.

Selling arms to our enemies to use against us? What a good idea. Time was when that was treason, no less. Now, according to Mr Pollard, it is evidently more worthwhile selling munitions than turning our nation's artistic talent into a marketable commodity.

So many artist, musician and poet friends are not even receiving arts council funding and find it harder to scrape a living here (irrespective of the size of their talent) than they would in Austria, Germany or even Poland, where it is still customary to pay for art and entertainment and acknowledge the reasonable need of the artist to eat. In France you can even be a philosopher and get paid and valued for it.

Not that I disagree that some art is unworthy of the name, but hey, even the appalling stuff helps us recognise the extraordinary when we behold it.

I also count among the arts British television drama which has already proven it can be sold around the world successfully (the first major example - The Onedin Line - is still making the BBC money internationally and via DVD sales 40 years after its first series!)

Twelve years ago as an impoverished bank clerk I was awarded a BBC Radio Writing course by the Birmingham branch of the Arts Council which I could never have afforded otherwise. I may not have done much radio writing since, but I have done a great deal of other writing and it certainly helped boost my confidence in my talents and abilities. I have treasured the memory of that special week in the wilds of Wales ever since and can only hope that such nurturing opportunities are not quashed by the likes of Stephen Pollard.