Friday 29 June 2012

A Day in the Life of....

I normally post every seven days or so. Plus I normally blog as far as possible on non controversial items, I don't do topical. But we've had a funny, not funny ha ha day,. My/our solar panels packed up and its dominated the day. That's how sad our day has been; Its an age thing to a certain extent.
I've got nowhere dealing with 'big business' and I feel frustrated and demeaned. Is this the state we have reached. Is no one straight/honest anymore. Are we aged beings of no value, no importance. In this instance, time will tell. Having, I feel, being dismissed out of hand today; by putting pen to paper, I feel better already!

Copy of letter sent to the over governing body of the solar industry

Dear Sarah
You e-mailed me 11 June concerning problems with Solar Sun 4 Life UK. I e-mailed back reporting that EVENTUALLY Solar Sun delivered a Bluetooth device as paid for in the original order. No doubt influenced by your interest.
29th June.
I write this e-mail with a strong feeling of deja vu. At 8,40am Wed 27th June the system fitted by Solar 4 Life recorded no solar working due to 'grid voltage fault' according to the bluetooth device. (Not noticed by ourselves until Thursday afternoon.) I rang Solar 4 and was instructed to carry out a procedure that should clear the problem, but to wait for results until Friday (today). No result so I rang this morning at 9 30am. The 'office manager' took the call and professed surprise that I was unduly concerned. This system cost £10,000 approx and is losing me on average £8 daily each day it is out of action. He said he would try to arrange someone to call (he talked of an inverter failing. I had not mentioned an inverter but know some people in Chesterfield have been waiting some time for problems to be dealt with) He suggested I gave him time (until dinner) to arrange something. Rang dinnertime. Message received, ongoing, surprise, surprise. Suggested, promised, it would be dealt with afternoonwise.
Nothing! Rang 5 05pm Steve, the 'owner 'answered. Made excuses and PROMISED he would suggest course of action BEFORE he left the office. As expected, no chance! No phone message (There is a long history of past pathetic lack of meeting promised deadlines etc,) How do these people hold a license that suggests they are fit people to be NATIONALLY ok to serve you and I is beyond belief. What exactly is the purpose of real
Ken Stevens


The Real Assurance people contacted me, were sympathetic without seemingly having 'teeth' and gave me the address/e-mail of others in the solar panel 'care/concern hierarchy.

I eventually made another contact with Solar 4 You. Instructions were again relayed (this time to my wife who has much more technical ability/ understanding than myself) which necessitated crawling about in the loft and pressing buttons connected to the 'inverter'. Wait, and next day, hey presto, a return to normal. My blood pressure has seemingly also returned to normal, presumably until the next time.

We are obviously relieved but feel that 'big business' and perhaps some of the younger generation miss the point. To be oblivious as to the stress and anxiety their actions can cause defies belief. I KNOW the pressure of the commercial world is considerable. BUT the ways of the world in dealing with it do not seem to equate with the world of my youth. It is no great fun getting old. Even less so when dealt with in a way that lacks understanding and compassion.  Good luck in life but don't forget, my friends, you too will one day be old! 

Thursday 28 June 2012

Losing It, But did You ever Have it In the First Place.

A follow on from the previous post and then a rest from the e-book, honest!
    The book has created no small interest, not least on the technical side. It is no secret that technically on most things I'm as poor as they come. A year or two back I had a TGA, not for the first time. (See blog dated 18th May 2008 entitled 'Hooray for the NHS.) On querying the cause I was told being immersed suddenly in a freezing river or too violent sex could do it. I don't know about the river bit but I'm seventy two years of age for goodness sake!)
    The full effect I do not know, suffice to say I am told I suffered some brain damage, evidently to the frontal lobes. If you study what the front of your brain does you'll know more than me. Another problem is that I cannot retain some information for more than minutes. (Yet I can write about 1945. Scary!!)
    I do theatre reviews for a free paper.(Long Eaton and District Chronicle) One play I reviewed was a play called '2401'. It was based on a true story about a man who was the subject of a lobotomy that went wrong.He finished up with a memory span of around five minutes; for the rest of his life. After he died his brain was sliced into 2401 sections and toured the country, carried in a suitcase; the subject of medical lectures, hence the title. I related to this play profoundly; it almost mirrored my own situation, but in a much less dramatic way. Is this any part of the reason I am hopeless technically I wonder.
    Several people have asked my advice concerning self publishing. I try to help but I'm not the right one to ask. I do not know/understand computer language (I have books on computing for simpletons but I seem to be a lost cause.) I don't really understand what KDP means, or html. I don't really know what a browser is and I had to look up 'indie' when I chose to publish as an e-book. Tags and links, I know roughly what they are but forget five minutes later. Books on computers and computer people assume too much. I do realise that we do not necessarily have to know HOW something works when we use it. For example I can just manage a light switch but how it lights up my room is a mystery. I have included at the end of this post information from my learned, much valued friend Russell, information that some of my blogging friends have requested. I would love for some of you to comment, I am very interested as to how wide your experiences are; whatever we feel about computers, they are here to stay.

Here is that guidance link on how to go about publishing a book on kindle amazon as sent by my 'guru' Russell. Remembering how 'untechnical' I am, there is no chance of me ever mastering this sort of thing. Kindle reckon it is easy, not for people like me it aint! Hope it helps some of my readers.

The high level steps are:
1. Check the book formatting guidelines from the publishing system (note: I used kdp amazon so hence the above link)
2. Set up your font styles in MS Word e.g. headings, body text, paragraph styles etc.
3. Write the book
4. Perform regular Spelling and Grammar checks
5. Reduce book file size by compressing any photos / images
6. Generate a table of contents (TOC) when book and formatting is complete
7. Save as a standard MS Word .doc
8. Save a copy as a Web Page, Filtered (*.htm; *.html) file (available under Save As options in MS Word)
9. Publish with an online provider (e.g. KDP amazon)
If using KDP Amazon then make sure you have got yourself an account with them.
1. Register for free account with Kindle on their KDP website
2. Create a profile of your book on your KDP bookshelf e.g.
a. Book name
b. Edition number
c. Book Description
d. Author details
e. Add any contributors details (if you have any e.g. reference materials, photos etc.)
f. Choose categories (seven key words or phrases) that describe your book e.g. personal history, post war Britain, etc.
3. Upload your book cover - follow the image guidelines for sizes and formats
4. Upload your book – this should ideally be a compressed ZIP file containing .htm file and a sub folder containing all photos for your book
5. Preview and check your book. There are tools on the kdp amazon publishing site that enable you to simulate previews of your book on different devices e.g. kindle, ipad, phone etc.
6. Choose your publishing territories e.g. worldwide or individual territories
7. Choose royalties – either 30% or 70% (read up on the terms of how these rates are calculate)
8. When ready then save and publish your book following the on screen tools – then wait for approx. 12 to 48 hours for Amazon to review and approve.

Tuesday 19 June 2012


    At last, its finished! My ebook, A Childhood Revisited, the culmination of goodness knows how many years work has finally 'hit the shelves'. It might be good, bad or indifferent, in a way I don't care, all that matters to me is that it now exists.
    I don't know for sure why I have written this book. Partly ego I suspect, the idea that someone might read of my existence when I'm long gone; to prove Ken Stevens was a real living person albeit briefly on this earthly stage. And partly to explain to my children, Alison and Sarah plus their children 'from whence I came'.
    A Childhood Revisited is no Cider With Rosie, neither is the work of Dickens as Britain's finest writer under any threat. Nevertheless I'm pleased to have persevered; am I too old to write a sequel I wonder!
Many people have encouraged me, thanks to you all. The technical side to all this has been mind bending. To Russell, thanks from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea as to how incomprehensible all this has been. (My grandchildren from aged three upwards have more understanding of computers than this geriatric hilly billy!)
    I fully realise my problems are only just beginning. Half the world does not own a Kindle. Three quarters of the age group that might be interested in my story have no access to it; assuming of course that they were ever interested in the 1950's in the first place. Nevertheless I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Any help, advice on 'marketing' gratefully received. Tell your friends and if you fancy reading the first few pages click on the top of my blog where it says 'click TO LOOK INSIDE' for a preview! All previews on the complete book very gratefully received! Thanks.  

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Food, Glorious Food.

    I reckon there are more books on food than any other subject. Yet this is the first time I've ever done a post on it. And its all my wife's fault! Because she ate something last week she's not eaten for over twenty years. Something rare, exquisite, so delicious (so she told me) than she was almost sick with excitement; and all for £2. 50. But lets begin at the beginning.
    The food in question was not the spice saffron. A pound of saffron takes 50-75 thousand flowers to produce. One pound of saffron costs anywhere between 500 and 5,000 dollars. Expensive but cheaper than birds nest soup. Nests made by cave swifts from their saliva, one pound would set you back between 910 and 4,500 dollars. Not bad for spit! Or how about some white truffles. Impossible to cultivate, a rare item found in the wild in Italy and Croatia, again it doesn't come cheap. Unless you're very rich , then I suppose a price between 1,360 and 4,200 dollars per pound is quite affordable. (Highest price ever paid for a truffle was 330,000 dollars.) Caviar, anyone? Eggs from the Beluga Sturgeon courtesy of the Caspian Sea; as far as I know there is only one place you can buy it in London, at the aptly named Caviar House. Expect to pay between 8,000 and 15,000 dollars. Mind you, that is the price for a pound; you won't be offered a pound, you'd be sick. Mind you, at that price you'd probably be sick anyway!
Talking of being sick, do you fancy a coffee after your meal. Kopi luwak coffee to be precise. Before being ground the beans to make this coffee must have passed through a civet (a tree cat.) I hope they wash the beans well before they grind them!
    So what did my wife find that caused her 'deep joy', in of all places, Ripon in Yorkshire. My wife is a coeliac; she has an allergy to gluten. This means that if she eats anything containing gluten, she is violently ill. She was diagnosed many years ago and has in fact probably been allergic since childhood. Thus, like you and I, she ate food containing wheat in her younger days. The point I am making is that many of the foods she now strictly avoids she enjoyed in her younger days (without of course realising than some were the cause of her ill health.) It is a tricky business, finding gluten free foods although better than years ago. There is more choice for coeliacs  today, but life can be complicated. Some types of crisps for instance contain flour, some don't; it depends on the flavour. At one stage large Mars Bars did not contain flour, small ones did. (Presumably the small ones from the 'bumper packs' contained flour to 'bulk up' the product; and you thought you were getting a bargain!)
    What was the 'deep joy' my wife found in Ripon, and why the surprise. Long term followers of my blog might remember a previous visit to Ripon. (9th May 2008) My wife requested, in a fish and chip shop, chips and a fish minus the batter. The result was astonishing. The man behind the counter rudely ridiculed my wife for such a fatuous request. 'A fish without batter, how silly." Which is interesting, as we have had this request granted all over the country, with good grace I might add. I was not asking for biryani, sushi, dosa or pepian; or for that matter, elephants testicles on toast. Mind you this particular idiot would have probably run out of bread!
    What a rude, arrogant, ignorant, sexist, loud, unthinking individual. What an advert for a place that needs every tourist it can find. Remember, this was our introduction to Ripon, not typical I hope.
Fast forward to 2012. My wife has to avoid  many foods. But that does not stop her buying me food that she misses greatly, for instance, oatcakes That's one reason why we have been married for forty two happy years. So what made our recent visit to Ripon special. We found in a little shop, only recently opened by two delightful ladies a selection of gluten free food. And the one than gave the most 'deep joy'? Gluten free pork pies!
    Well done the ladies in Langton's, my wife's expression when she sampled your pies was  a joy to behold. After our previous visit to Ripon a most pleasant surprise; a visit that this time will be remembered for all the right reasons. Which begs the question, what is the food you would miss most if you were no longer allowed it?
    Just to round off this post, memories of Stanley Unwin, the originator of the phrase 'deep joy are in order. (Stanley died in 2002 aged 90.) Click on the link to hear Stanley mangling the Queens English like no other!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Nowt Teaches Better Than Experience.

    I was reading an article in the Times by a writer, Liam Marks concerning the ignominy of signing on at the so called Labour Exchange. I remember it well, a depressing, demeaning occupation. In my case its a long time ago plus I reckon as a 'youth' I was oblivious to the real world. Life is an 'experience', you only get one chance at it and its makes us 'what we are'. But this article brought back memories galore.
    I worked as a 'barbers boy' at nights and weekend prior to leaving school. Too quiet for a sixteen year old but happy days. I soaked the odd customer during shampoos and embarrassed customers when my sales of durex lacked discretion. My attempts at window dressing were abysmal and I destroyed the radio by knocking a cup of tea into it. (I'm left handed, do you think that's the problem.) It is not true I found bits of ear in the sweeping up!
    I worked for Betterware selling brushes etc from a suitcase of samples. Sales were delivered Fridays, commission six and eightpence in the pound. Only I never sold anything, first day on a wet Monday morning in Ilkeston. Not impressed, so I called in a pub, had a pint of shandy and went home minus the case.
    I was 'sent' by concerned relatives to seek work in various places. (I was orphaned at a young age.) I visited Rolls Royce offices (I am not cut out for manual work). A world renowned establishment full of proud workers who had spent their entire lives there; but I reckoned a boring place full of boring people. A safe, well paid job for life; whatever turns you on, but not for me!
    In turn I visited the Derby locomotive works and was introduced to another large office. Rows and rows of men seated at desks, ledgers to the fore, a silent array of conditioned unsmiling individuals, though individuals in name only.  I had even at that age literary leanings and thus recognised the Dickensian connections. Did they each have a quill or a pen, I can't remember. Forty years of gloom beckoned and I fled once again.
     Not keen on other peoples ideas (One uncle tried to get me enrolled as an apprentice jockey, me, a lad who has never ridden and no love of horses) I got myself an appointment with a firm, so I thought connected with the art world. They were something to do with posters and I had a GCE in art. Only it turned out that their arty connection with the art world was that that they put up posters on billboards around the town!
    Being less than brilliant at job finding myself I allowed the local 'job centre for juniors' to send me for an interview with F W Woolworths. I suppose I was desperate to work and being out of work was unfashionable in those days. So I 'signed on' and in fact worked for them for just over two years. This is not the place to go into detail, (see post dated 10th March 2009 ) until an altercation on my motorbike with a lorry, March 10th, 8 25am, 1959 curtailed my Woolworth career; I remember it well!
    Six months later, unable to return to Woolworths I obtained a job with a Jewish tailors as a trainee window dresser. We, me and 'the main man' travelled around in an Atlas van, dressing one window a day . They were 'teddy boy' shops in far from salubrious places; Clay Cross, Arkwright Street and Radford Road Nottingham amongst others. I remember fetching leaves from the Forest area of Nottingham for an autumn display and little else. It was never going to be a job for life but I was still surprised to be 'sacked' the week before Christmas. You weren't 'made redundant' in those days, merely got rid of, no redundancy money, nothing. Miserable lot, it put me off Jews for ages. I remember thinking, 'Don't Jews celebrate Christmas!'
    Mind you, I had the last laugh. I bought a Crombie type coat, a silk scarf, a striped shirt, corduroy  trousers and posh brogue shoes, all at staff discount prices! They all cost me every penny I had but it was worth it!
    Which all brings me back to Labour Exchanges. Because for the first time in my life I 'signed on'. And I was definitely the best dressed man, nay boy in the 'dole queue. Mind you, being unemployed is no fun and two weeks later I started work as a most insignificant office clerk in a British Celanese factory. But that's another story!
Most of the above covered in more detail in the ebook, 'A Childhood Revisited' hopefully out soon. By the way, I was fully dressed at all the interviews I attended!