30 March 2009

The Rules of DIY

  1. Holes don’t stay where you drill them.
  2. Measure twice, cut once, measure again to see why it doesn’t fit.
  3. If you drop something small, it will fall down the crack in the floorboards.
  4. If you drop something heavy, it will land on your foot or the cat or something breakable.
  5. Always use the right tool for the job.
  6. If you don’t have the right tool, use a hammer.
  7. Always work slowly when cutting wood; it gives you more time to realise your mistake.
  8. If you need a screw of a particular size, you will not have one, possibly because you have just dropped it (see 3 above).
  9. If there are two ways of doing something, the easier way takes longer.
  10. The leaking joint is always the least accessible one.
  11. Paint never dries lighter.
  12. The best tool for applying plaster is a magic wand.
  13. Always plan the job carefully before you start it; be prepared to modify your plan at any point in the process.
  14. Gravity always acts vertically, except in the vicinity of a spirit level.
  15. In the middle of a process, you will discover you need another tool (see 5 above); you will have forgotten where that tool is (see 6 above).
  16. The shop will close two minutes before you arrive to buy the vital part you forgot.
  17. If the shop is open, the vital part is out of stock.
  18. New shelves never look level…because they aren’t (see 1 and 14 above).
  19. Always take extreme care when using sharp tools: try not to get blood on anything you cannot wash.
  20. The worst part of any job is clearing up at the end.
  21. The most difficult part of any job is getting around to it.
  22. The best part of any job is the tea-break.
  23. The easiest part of any job does not exist.

13 March 2009

Red Nose Day 2009

Today is Red Nose Day.

Red Nose day provides us with a very entertaining and yet sobering television event that throws into stark relief the difference between the West and the Third World.

Those of you who read this blog will be aware that I have a dog. He has a better life than many children in Africa; he has a ready supply of food and shelter, all his needs are catered for, he enjoys love and comfort every day of his short life. Fifteen months ago, he had surgery costing £1700 to correct cruciate ligament damage to his left knee. Five months ago, he had the same for his other knee. In Africa, a million children a year die from the avoidable disease of malaria for want of a mosquito net costing £5. The cost of his surgery could be seen as 680 African children's lives. We spend £20 a month on pet insurance - that's forty-eight innocent lives in Africa lost in one year.

I enjoy a whisky. A decent bottle costs about £25, and lasts about a month. That's five more children. A night out at the cinema with popcorn and a pizza can cost £25 - another five children.

I could go on and list all the luxury items I enjoy and equate them to the lives of innocent children. I am one person and if we all of us reflected on the things that we could manage to live without we could very quickly account for the one million lives lost in Africa.

The plight of African children is only one cause in our needy world; there are plenty of other results of poverty even here in our own country that could be eased or even eradicated if only we were prepared to forego a luxury or two for a while.

We do not live in the Third World. Things are very different here, and the value we place on things is very different. Of course, we cannot be expected to reduce ourselves to poverty. The fact is that we do not have to in order to bring about some sort of redress for the massive inequalities in our world. It is amazing how far a little of our money can go in the Third World: £200 for a year's education, for example (how much would that cost in the UK?).

When you set that fact against the cost of our luxuries in the West, you will realise that you can make a huge difference by going without something for a short time - that bottle of decent wine, perhaps. Why not be especially generous and give two or three times that amount? You really won't miss it but, even if you do, just think that you could change for the good the course of one life by a simple act of generosity. What if that one life were another Nelson Mandella or a William Wilberforce?

The Red Nose plea is to give what you can: that's all. If you can make a simple sacrifice of something, you will find that you can give more than you first thought. Red Nose day makes giving easy. Here are the options.

  1. Dial 03457 910910 and have your card ready.
  2. Use the red button on your digital TV service.
  3. Donate on-line at bbc.co.uk/rednoseday
  4. Text 'yes' to 66609 to make a £5 donation.
Do it! It's not too late. Make a difference today.

09 March 2009

Fair Trade for Cadbury's Dairy Milk

One of the best pieces of news I have heard in a long while is the decision by Cadbury to turn their brand leader into a Fair Trade product from Autumn 2009. Apart from the fact that it is my favourite chocolate, and so I will not have to feel guilty about enjoying it, it is also one of the most popular brands of confectionery in the UK and this new turn of events will bring enormous benefits to the Ghanaian farming communities that produce the cocoa that goes into the product.

Cadbury's was, of course, begun by a Quaker family, and people of this particular religious persuasion are well known for their social concern and action (and chocolate: Fry's, Rowntree's and Cadbury's were all originally founded by Quaker families noted for their philanthropy). In particular, Cadbury's developed Bournville (now a district of Birmingham) for its workers, providing them with good-quality housing as well as good working conditions. This clear action on behalf of the world's poor in modern times is a welcome restatement of those old values.

Cadbury's has even decided to absorb the costs of going fair trade and will not be passing on the cost to the consumer. Whilst I am pleased that my favourite treat will not cost me anymore, I am more pleased for the indication that it seems, for Cadbury's, people are more important than profits.

I would like to see more companies doing this kind of thing, and doing it not just because the public applies pressure for it but because it is right. Too long the wealthy West has exploited the Third World. We cannot morally continue to grow rich and feed off the fat of the land whilst keeping the people who farm it in poverty. If they have something we want we should be willing to pay for it.

So, Cadbury's, in the words of the old TV advert, 'Award yourself the CDM.' Well done! Keep up the good work.

For more information, simply google 'Cadbury Fair Trade'.