It’s winter, so you’ve got no hot water or heating again!

You can almost guarantee it, can’t you? As soon as the outside temperature drops below freezing, your central heating or hot water or both pack up. It’s just like cars used to be in the 1970’s – every winter you used to be bump-starting your car down the road or spraying WD40 inside your distributor cap. Now cars just work, but central heating system are still as bad as they were 40 years ago!

To add to our misery, if your boiler is over 10 or 15 years old you’ll find it hard to get a service contract. So then you’re left to the mercy of the independent plumber. These can vary from RNLI Lifesavers to absolute idiots. And because there seems to be a shortage of plumbers you’ll find that the only people available will be the really expensive guys or the absolute idiots.

I’ve had 3 plumbers round to my house recently, (supposedly recommended by my wife’s friends). All of them came up with different diagnosis (one guy wanted to rip out my whole central heating system and replace it). All of them were absolute idiots.

At this point, we’d been without heating and hot water for some time and my wife now looks to me to sort it out. What the hell do I know about heating and plumbing! I work in an office! In desperation I turn to the internet where I find umpteen number of similar individuals (mainly weary down-trodden husbands) seeking help and clutching at straws on various forums. They all seem to start the same way “PLEASE HELP……”. After hours of surfing I conclude that there are infinite numbers of systems on the market. They all have their common faults and there are a thousand and one solutions which may or may not work.

I decide to get smart about this. I download a pdf of the pipework schemas for my system, along with the wiring diagram (there is no guarantee that this will be right, because as I found out later, there are variations with every system). However it is a start. I study these and try to logically conclude what is going wrong with my system. Based on a process of elimination, a few Hail Marys, several glasses of red wine and a lucky rabbit’s foot, I conclude that the problem lies in a 3 port valve. Unfortunately it involves draining the system (since I don’t want to just replace the motor) and then wiring it up correctly (every YouTube video I watch warns me not to touch the wiring – but what choice do I have? They aren’t married to my wife!).

OK £70.00 later (the cost of the part from Wickes), a lot of swearing and sweating, praying to Allah and whoever else will listen to me. I now have hot water and heating. But I’m still miffed that I was left to sort this one out by myself. Where are all the good honest plumbers? We’re planning on replacing our windows and doors next year. I imagine my wife will expect me to be an expert in that too!

Is democracy a flawed concept?

When most people talk about a democracy, they are referring to a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents. This happens through a system involving multiparty elections, after which a representative government is formed.

To this extent, the idea of a democracy works. However once we’ve elected our representative government, we then make the massive assumption that because they are representing our views (and of course we the people know best) that all our problems will be sorted out. The economy will grow, we’ll have full employment, everyone’s standard of living will increase and of course they will right all the wrongs of the previous government. Well how could that not be true? We elected them and surely we the people know best?
Well strangely enough it never goes as planned. And after a term or two in power, we get fed up with the government we elected, throw them out and elect a new one – usually the opposition party who we threw out for being incompetent in a previous election. But they have now promised us that they have learnt from their previous mistakes and rebranded themselves “New Labouratives” or “Republicrats”. We of course believe them and vote them back in. One or two terms later, we throw them out again for being incompetent.
This cycle of events continues unabatedly. And interestingly, since 1950 the UK has switched between the Conservatives and Labour 8 times (if you include the present coalition as the Conservative Party in power). In the US they have been following a similar story, switching continuously between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. You’d think by now we’d of realised that the present system isn’t actually working. Apparently not. We seem to have memories like goldfish because we continue to repeat the same cycle over and over again. Infact we scorn any country that doesn’t have a democracy and do our utmost to force one upon them.
Now I’m not advocating that we should all adopt dictatorships. Those who run the country need to be accountable to the people. But rather than elect officials who are usually qualified in nothing more than a career in politics, the government need to be made up solely of professionals who have the right qualifications, skills and previous experience to run the particular office/department/ministry they are working in. They should have obtained that position purely on merit and be independent of any political views. Like anyone else applying for a position in a company, have should go through a series of interviews. If necessary, we should be prepared to recruit from abroad if we can’t find the right people at home. Those holding office should be set objectives to reach with Key Performance Indicators and quarterly or month reports so that we can check they are on target to achieve their goals. They would be entitled to Performance Related Pay if they exceeded their targets. If they failed to meet their objectives, we would dismiss them like any other employee – but only them. Not the whole government, because officials in other departments may actually be doing a good job! 
What we need to do is take politics out of the equation of running a country. That way those in government can concentrate solely on running the country, rather than their own political and personal agendas. After all it is irrelevant what political views the head of a multinational company has. Yet many multinational companies have balance sheets far bigger than most countries.

My welcome letter to my first Grandson

I’m delighted to announce the birth of my first grandchild who was born on Sunday evening. As such, I thought I would write a few words to welcome him into the world and also pass on some advice which either I wished I’d known earlier in life or had followed myself. Feel free to impart any useful advice you may have in the ‘Comments’ below.

“Welcome to the world little James Francis Buxton.

We’ve been waiting for you and we are overjoyed you are finally here.
You are loved by so many – most importantly your mother and father.

You have the good fortune to be the first-born child to wonderful parents.
They are warm and caring; they hold dear their family and their friends.
They know how to enjoy life, and they are fun to be with.
Furthermore, they are intelligent, responsible, and hard-working.
Your home will be filled with love and laughter and learning.

You are also my first grandchild and that makes you very special to me.
You give me the gift of knowing my own son as a parent.
You bestow upon me the cherished role of grandfather.
As your grandfather, I will love you forever and will always delight in you.
I look forward to sharing in your explorations and discoveries of the world
around you.

I will celebrate your triumphs and successes and as long as I live, will also be there to pick you up when you fall.
I will feel joy and pride in seeing how the world is a better place because of your contributions to it.
In fact the world is already a better place now – just because you have arrived.

You have been fortunate to come to a place, a country and a family that
will offer you a lifetime filled with opportunity.
Never forget that, never waste it or take it for granted.
There are so many that will never be given that chance.
We have high expectations of you. But don’t be daunted.
Be confident in all that you do. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

When you are older, travel as much as possible and as far as possible.
Discover new places and learn about other people.
Read constantly and about everything. Knowledge is the key to so many things.

Consult widely and then make balanced, reflective decisions; remembering
first that not everything you will read, hear or see (even from credible sources)
is correct.
Know your own mind and have the courage to follow through on your decisions, even if others try to deter you.

Know the difference between decisions of the heart and decisions of the mind. Sometimes they can be confusing. Decisions of the heart are illogical, but you will be able to look yourself in the mirror after making them. Decisions of the mind are emotionless, based on your past experience and the facts and information you have available to you at that point in time. As a general rule, when it comes to love, make decisions of the heart. In business or critical decision making occasions, make decisions of the mind.

The future holds great promise and it all belongs to you.
You won’t initially be able to see that. So be guided by your parents and
your grandparents.
We have walked the road (some of us more than others!) and can guide
you along the way.

Welcome to the world, my little James. I’ll love you forever”