February 2014


Please see their Publications pages for details of stockists - or UK customers can order signed copies directly from me for £7.50 inclusive of postage & packing by emailing me at [email protected]

5th February


Despite being registered with the Telephone Preference Service, we're still plagued by nuisance phonecalls by people who don't give a stuff that it's illegal to call us. Phishing scams: the pestilential Indian call centres with their 'your computer is transmitting viruses, please let us hack into it so we can charge you a fortune to 'fix' a non-existent problem', or people pretending we've got a Council Tax or income tax rebate and just need our bank details for the 'administration charge'. Consumer surveys: 'please take part in this so we can sell your details to 50,000 other market research companies' or 'let me emotionally blackmail you into donating money to this charity'. And the ruddy sales calls: 'no win, no fee' companies wanting us to make damages claims, insurance companies, double-glazing salesmen etc etc..


But now, I hope there'll be an end to it - because we've just treated ourselves to a nice new BT6510 cordless answerphone with a 'call blocking' function. It won't ring when a withheld number or one without Caller ID phones - although the caller will hear our recording, and can leave us a message if they're bona fide. I'm really pleased with it - the phone itself is friendly and polite with a big easy-to-read screen, it cost a reasonable £34.99, and best of all, the instructions made sense! So it was very easy to set up and get going; and although I'm slightly disappointed that it doesn't tell withheld numbers to clear off in no uncertain terms, I'd call it a good buy. Well done, BT.


I'm also pleased that we've just ditched one of the big energy suppliers in favour of Ovo Energy, an award-winning small company offering mercifully simple, competitively-priced tariffs. They use a higher percentage of 'green' energy than the big companies, and support the Cool Earth rainforest conservation organisation - protecting an acre of rainforest on our behalf, apparently, which is a nice bonus. It's all managed online, you supply your own monthly meter readings to keep direct debit payments on track - and so far, they've managed our registration and transfer very smoothly and easily, exactly as promised on the website. I've never been excited about a utility company before, but I am about this one - I'm all for small, simple and efficient rather than huge, lumbering and useless like our old provider, plus I like Ovo's company ethics. Why not check them out? And if this persuades you to change your supplier, please mention my name to them - they'll give me £20 for each referral.


So no more nuisance phonecalls, and greener energy consumption - two good new things to start this miserable cold rainy February!



19th February




The city of Wakefield is all set to lose its only permanent indoor market: this brand-new, multi-million pound building designed by David Adjaye and opened in 2008. Yes, I know it's a ghastly-looking thing (some locals call it the 'spaceship on stilts'), and yes, it's been dogged by problems from Day 1 (poor layout, sub-standard flooring, inadequate drains, unpopular with traders). But it's got plenty of good stalls, both outside and in, and is well worth a shopping trip - you don't even have to worry about parking, you can just hop on a bus to the central bus station and there it is, right next door. And even though Hubcap and I think it's an eyesore, one or both of us still shop there pretty much every week - so we were aghast to learn that Wakefield Council and the landowners plan to scrap it in a favour of a 'cinema and restaurant complex' - which is the last thing we need, given that Wakefield already has a good multi-.


screen cinema and loads of different eateries.


And of course it's a devastating blow to the traders there. The Council wants to either fob them off with small open-air pitches in the new Trinity Walk mall, or see them relocate to empty shops round the city centre - the latter being a totally pie-in-the-sky notion, given the atronomical rent/rates on retail premises. (You can read more about the traders' plight on my latest blog). The reality is, if the closure goes ahead, a lot of market traders will find themselves seriously out-of-pocket and out of business; and Wakefield will have no more market, apart from the open-air ones held around the cathedral and Wood Street (which are good, but not the same as a permanent indoor site), and maybe a pathetic few stalls in Trinity Walk.


So the Market Hall urgently needs your help to convince the Council and landowners that it's worth keeping. Please tell your friends and families, come for a browse, and pick up some bargains - the Hall is open Monday - Saturday from 9 am - 5pm, and the outdoor stalls every day but Wednesday and Sunday from 8.30 am - 4 pm. And please add your name to my online petition, 'Save the Market Hall' - just visit the Wakefield Council website, enter 'Petitions' into the search box and follow the directions - basically register with your email address and a password, then go to the petition section and sign. Then we might stand some chance of keeping our market instead of this crackpot white elephant cinema scheme - and keeping our hard-working trading community in business.