The Anonymous Widower

Will Lord Myners Get Co-Operation?

The BBC has reported on Lord Myners review of the Co-Operative Group.  Here’s the start of the BBC report.

The Co-operative Group spent too much time on takeover deals that proved “breathtakingly value-destructive,” an initial review has found.

Lord Myners’ review is highly critical of the group’s takeovers of Britannia building society and supermarket chain, Somerfield.

Just up the road from me is a new Co-Operative convenience store at Dalston Junction.

The Co-Operative Store At Dalston Junction

The Co-Operative Store At Dalston Junction

From the outside it looks good.

I regularly come home via Dalston Junction station, from where I catch the bus home to avoid a walk, so you’d think I’d be one of their target customers.

But when I did and I was wanting a bottle of wine for dinner at my son’s, there was only one person on the tills, no self-service ones and several people in the queue.

At another time, I went in looking for a Genius loaf.  They did have one, but it was like a plastic bag full of dog biscuits.

The management obviously couldn’t possibly organise a piss-up in the brewery.

I have three convenience stores from the main chains and several independent ones too, all within a short walk from my house. And if pushed, I can walk to the much bigger Sainsbury’s on Kingsland High Street!

I doubt, I’ll buy anything in that Co-Operative store in the next few years.

If that is the best they can do in a thriving retail area, no wonder they’re going down the drain.

I do hope that when they finally decide to jack it in at Dalston Junction, that this store becomes a littleWaitrose. After all, in the next couple of years, the nearby Sainsbury’s will be getting a makeover, which will put more pressure on this Co-op store.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Business, World | , | Leave a comment

Do I Pass The Branson Test?

Richard Branson is being quoted on the BBC about his ten tips for success in business.

So as someone, who likes to think he’s been successful at times, how do I think I stack up?

1. Follow your dreams and just do it!

Guilty as charged!

2. Make a positive difference and do some good

I argue, that I was part of the movement, which of course included the mighty Artemis, had a lot to do with transforming project management, so that important projects are now more likely to be implemented on time and on budget.

Unfortunately, some people, who tend to be mainly politicians and government employees, don’t abide by the principles we laid down.

But it did deliver the London Olympics and it looks like it’s going to deliver Crossrail in the next few years.

3. Believe in your ideas and be the best

Guilty as charged!

4. Have fun and look after your team.

I certainly had fun and it is not for me to say, if I looked after my team.

But I will say that many people, who I worked with in the past, are still friends. Some also looked after me, through my troubles of the last few years.

5. Don’t give up

Many people after what I had been through with the loss of my wife and youngest son to cancer and a serious stroke, would have taken the easy way out.

But then London mongrels have more fight, than a whole kennel-full of pit bulls.

6. Make lots of lists and keep setting yourself new challenges

I managed bugs in Artemis with lists and I still use them extensively on a card for each day. But then my father was the master of creating paper-based management systems, so it must be in the genes.

7. Spend time with your family and learn to delegate

Not sure about this one, but I’ve always organised my work from home since 1971. I can’t understand those who commute!

I don’t know about delegating, but if I have a problem that needs solving, I usually delegate by finding the best and getting them to do it.

8. Try turning off the TV and get out there and do things

I always have the TV on and have done for years, as I created Artemis, whilst watching the box.

But I’ve always been open to distraction by a pretty woman, who wants to take me somewhere to enjoy ourselves. C was a master, at coming in and saying that we perhaps go out to see a play in a Cambridge College.

I am obsessive about completing major tasks, but very easily distracted.

9. When people say bad things about you, just prove them wrong

I use criticism as a motivating tool and generally go on to prove people wrong.

10. Do what you love and have a sofa in the kitchen

C and myself, generally did what we loved and lived in the kitchen. We had a sofa there since we moved to Debach about 1980.

Even today, I live in a large living room, with a bedroom behind and a kitchen in the corner.

I can’t understand why people want to live in houses with masses of rooms and an eight figure price tag.

I certainly do what I love, too!

So I think I followed Branson’s principles pretty well!

Would I add any of my own? Yes!

1. Experience as much as you can of life

So if someone offers you a trip in the sewers of East London, don’t turn it down!

Branson is certainly not short on experience.

2. Never forget anything

I have an elephantine memory, but there are successful people, who make sure everything they have read, written or said is archived.

You never know, when you might need that information.

As an example, I went on a Health and Safety course at ICI. Some of what I learned has been invaluable since my stroke, when navigating my way around streets with impaired vision.

3. Don’t get divorced.

Branson hasn’t! But I suspect, he’s not always been a Saint, where the ladies are concerned.

4. Steal ideas from the public domain or experience

Two things in the design of Artemis come to mind.

The report writer of the original Artemis broke new ground, but I stole the template from a dead IBM program called 360-CSMP, that I’d used at ICI.

The other was perhaps more trivial. When I developed the PC version of Artemis, I needed a strong well-designed interface. So I mimicked the keyboard and the function keys on the old IBM-PC and used the bright colours from a BBC Television program called Three of a Kind, which used jokes on the screen in a system they called Gagfax.

One of my colleagues disagreed with my choice and said we’d employ an expert to choose them. But we didn’t and I won the argument by default.

5.Don’t trust lawyers, accountants, bankers and patent agents

I could add a caveat here, in that if they have a stake in the success of the venture, then in many cases it turns out for the better.

I’ve only met one accountant and one banker that I would ever trust. Sadly both, are sorting out God’s problems!

As to lawyers, I got to screw my own for forty years and luckily we bred a good one. So if I need a good one, I can generally get a good recommendation.

On the other hand, the biggest mistake, I made in life, was when after C’s death, I didn’t sell everything and move to something like a two-bedroom flat in Docklands or the Barbican!

I’d love to hear Branson’s view on what I call Professional Theft



March 16, 2014 Posted by | Business, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Nationwide’s New Credit Card Statement

I received my on-line credit card statement from Nationwide yesterday and it has been simplified in their new web site, so that it is now very easy to see how much you need to pay for either the minimum amount or to avoid any interest charges. In the past, you sometimes had to guess the latter.

This means that I can get my cashflow more precise.

So are we going to see a features war between banks, as they make their web sites better to attract more customers?

After all, when you make a major purchase, like a car, a washing machine or a new partner, you carefully check out all the features! But unless you actually move your account, that’s a bit difficult with banking. Where is the test-before-you-buy feature?  With peer-to-peer lending sites like Zopa and its ilk, you can experiment with a small sum, before you actually make the decision to move your savings there!

Certainly, unless they do something horrendous, I can see no reason at present to move my account away from Nationwide.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Finance | , , | Leave a comment

The End Of Cheap Credit Cards?

This question is posed in this article in the Daily Telegraph, as RBS/NatWest ends cheap introductory deals.

About time too, as why should I as a UK taxpayer and part owner of so-called bank RBS, subsidise the irresponsible debts of others?


March 16, 2014 Posted by | Finance | , , | Leave a comment