Final Tree Felled – Lumberjack Style

In all fairness, the second tree I wanted rid of wasn’t a tree, it was a very, very big shrub.  I reckon it must have been planted 20 years ago with the view that it would always be a 12” high, piney and prickly bush, but it grew to over 10 foot tall and devastated the corner of the garden where it was in situ, drying out the soil to the point it was like volcanic sand.  To add to the damage the soil is now quite acidic from the years of tangy needles falling and rotting on the ground.

There is something particularly masculine about wielding an axe and chopping at the trunk of a tree, with each swish there follows a deep thud and then the sprinkling of wood chippings falling like sprinkles onto a freshly baked cake.  It took a good 20 minutes and then a final push leaving the mutant shrub on the lawn ready for dissection into small manageable chunks.

There now requires a little planning with what to do in my new garden corner.  I’ve noticed what looks like a raspberry struggling to grow.  It must have been part of a fruit patch years ago and has somehow hung on through thick and thin.  I’m inclined to nurture it and weave it up through the trellis as it grows.  Do I Lime the patch to lower the acidity or attempt to have a blueberry patch in the hope that the acid and sandy soil will be to their liking?  The corner probably gets about 5 hours of direct sunlight per day, a little in the morning but most in the evening, possibly a bit longer in the height of summer.

There remains one tree now, an ornamental cherry, it’s a proper tree and will not be removed, so the other option is woodland plants that like a bit of dappled shade.  I could also put in a few wild Strawberry’s as these are native to woodland.

Decisions, decisions.

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Why I am concerned about Real Time Information (RTI)

There are two reasons, one is that there is an onus on employers to provide what HMRC term “Clean Data”.  In my experience employers have operated PAYE exceptionally well and have a track record somewhat better than HMRC in terms of inaccurate or lost data.  An example arrived in my office yesterday morning.  A new member of staff received two PAYE coding notices on the 2nd May, both dated 19th April.  They had different tax codes, one being 500T and the other 310L.  Added together these add up to the current personal allowance tax code of 810L.  The poor girl has no idea what it means apart from having something to do with her other income, she does a bit of acting work and completes a self-assessment every year.  It is perfectly natural for an employee to come to their employer with questions about personal tax affairs.  One of the aspects of RTI is the aim of HMRC to “reduce contact” with members of the public at the same time as suggesting employers do not need to discuss tax matters with employees.  This is never going to happen as quite understandably, the employee sees the entity that taxes and pays their wages as the entity that can sort out their enquiries.  I telephoned HMRC in her presence and was on hold for 20 minutes whereby I had to hang up as I needed to attend a meeting.  I will try again tomorrow.

How are HMRC supposed to cope when they move from receiving information about employees earnings annually to weekly?  They cannot cope very well now in the midst of their budgets being cut, yet they are expected to deal with an increase in data submission by a factor of 52!  This isn’t a post aimed a bashing HMRC, who do an adequate job given the enormity of their task, I am simply conveying to you a genuine concern borne out of years of experience.

The second reason for my concern, and perhaps more worrying for me, is that originally the plan for RTI included a move to something called centralised deductions.  This is a scheme whereby employers send the full cost of employment to HMRC and they calculate the net pay and pay it to the employee.  This idea was dropped in the face of considerable pan industry opposition however they are continuing to press for the use of the BACS channel as a means of information transfer.

Although the scheme is not going live with the BACS channel, it remains HMRC’s stated aim to eventually move to this information sharing medium, currently pretty much a one way system used to send information to banks.  The only reason I can think to tamper with the BACS system is that it would make a future move to centralised deductions quite easy.  I am sure most would agree that centralised deductions would fundamentally change the relationship between the government and public, inferring as it would that all money belongs to government first and public second, whereas currently it is the other way around, because let’s face it, the government doesn’t have any money, it’s all our money.

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Olympic Games HR Policy

It is our policy to conduct business in a consistent way, and without the excuse of national events interrupting service levels.

This is not just a cultural commitment on the part of the organisation; it is our assertion of our right to be miserable bastards.

If you wish to display a flag to express your inexplicably ridiculous nationalist tendencies, in order to prevent conflict with our Equal Opportunity and Diversity Policy, you must display the flag of every nation taking part in the Olympic Games and take them home with you at the end of the working day.  You must come in sufficiently early in order to make time to put up the decoration in the first place.

Office banter will be banned throughout the duration of the Olympic Games.  Due to the risk of derogatory comments about a particular national representative sports person being perceived as harassment on the grounds of race, leading to costly anti-discrimination tribunals, any discussion of the Games that happens within 50 feet of the workplace must be conducted in a 1950’s style BBC documentary.

Time off during the Olympic Games will be awarded on the basis of relative unimportance.  If you feel unimportant then feel free to ask for time off.  If many people wish to take holiday at the same time the names will be entered into a hat and drawn at random by an ethnically neutral person of average height.

This policy has been adopted by the Company main board. The board attaches the utmost importance to this policy and applies a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to acts of pointless national pride during this 4 week period.

Our procedures include board level responsibility for this area, risk-based reviews of contracts and activities, a rigorous staff training programme and the introduction of a confidential whistle-blowing mechanism via The Big Company Group Plc.

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The dichotomy of service pricing

I saw an infographic the other day, a Venn diagram called good-cheap-fast.  It really hit a nerve.  We are always discussing whether to offer a cheap service or a quality service.  The customers of the cheap service always complain about quality and simply telling them “hey, we’re cheap, that’s what you get” just doesn’t cut the mustard.  We often get customers complaining about price too, and in times of recession who can blame them, but we are wrong to discount our prices in response to this pressure.

Nothing is Good, Cheap AND fast

You either offer quality, or offer discount, you can’t do both.  Let’s take an example: Sony only make quality, they are known for quality.  If you want Sony you have to pay the Sony price.  You might get a discount to a certain extent but it won’t ’e as cheap as the LG TV on sale at ASDA.  LG make cheap, you get what you pay for.  If you want cheap you buy LG from ASDA, and you don’t complian that it’s not as good as Sony.  You might wish it was Sony, and that’s fine, but you know you paid for LG and for the price, you accept it.

Well it’s the same in my line of work.  If you want good service from me then you pay a price something close to the rate card.  You don’t pay a price that’s remotely close to my crappy competitor, because let’s face it, if you knew their service was going to be as good as mine then you wouldn’t have bothered asking me to cut my price, you’d have just left.

Am I right?

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Jason Hargreaves Networking Event

I would like to arrange to attend a networking event for all the Jason Hargreaves’s I have recently friended on Facebook.  The unusualness of the situation should generate some interest as well as keep our name memorable in the minds of those we network amongst.  The purpose of doing so is to open up mutually beneficial opportunities for all of us as well as have a fun time confusing and bemusing people.

Most Jason Hargreaves’s live in the North West of England indeed that is where I was born and grew up but many are spread out in the north of the UK.  I know of one other that is in or around the London area.

Contact me if you are called Jason Hargreaves and would be interested in attending an event in Manchester.

Cheers

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I love Peas

I seem to be on a gardening theme a lot recently, but then it is Spring and a time for action on the horticultural front.

So I was at a loose end tonight and decided to delve into my seed bag. It’s a massive satchel full of old seed, some so old they won’t be viable any more but I keep them anyway, just my thing.  But there they were, my old Wando peas that I kept myself from previous crops.  I bought the original seeds from an American company in 2004 I think.  Not sure of the legality of importing these things but didn’t know at the time, and no one arrested me,  but the original seeds are long gone, these are pretty much mixed up hybrids.

I grew them on my first ever allotment in Luton for 2 years running but then circumstances changed and I moved from Luton to Nantwich 140 miles away.  Things went bad that year and I got work down south and was living in hotels for a year, Alan Partridge style.  In 2007 I got myself a flat and a year later I had a new allotment in Rickmansworth.  I tried out my beloved Wando peas and they germinated no problem, despite having been stored in the bottom of a wardrobe (seeds should be stored cool and dry), maybe it was cool enough and dry enough.  Anyway, they grew and I had loads of peas and managed to leave some on the plant to dry and store for next year.

Then I got with my girl, spent time travelling around here and there and had to give up my plot as it wasn’t fair to the people on the waiting list.  Now we’ve moved in to our family home my name is down on the allotment waiting list again.  It’s a good 2 year wait, but I can’t resist growing my peas.  So tonight I have a few dozen soaking.  I’m sure they’ll sprout and I’ll plant them in the garden.  Other half will be annoyed because she likes ornamentals only but hey, she might not notice the wall of peas growing up the western fence????

Hey ho, I might even sow some onward too.

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Chopping Down Trees

Now don’t get me wrong, I hate habitat destruction as much as the next man but I also hate fir and pine trees, especially foreign fir and pine trees stealing all the water and nutrients from our native proper trees. A proper tree is one with a trunk and branches with leaves and flowers on at the top. In winter the leaves have fallen and they look sad, possibly a little spooky. They are proper trees that are worthy of the most passionate of hugs from your average hippy.

So when I moved in to our home to see a Leylandii and a spruce of unknown origin crowding out a beautiful cherry tree complete with trunk and tangled branches I had to take it upon myself to cut them down, leaving the cherry to spread gloriously across the back fence. First to go was the ugly leylandii, to me they are pretty useless tree’s. Birds don’t nest in them and they tend to make the soil dry and slightly acid underneath. So I hired my father-in-law to be, with chainsaw to hack the mother to bits. Took about 20 minutes and the thing was down and a further hour later the lot was at the recycling centre to be munched down to pulp for cheap compost. Slightly more tricky is the pine as it’s a prickly bastard.

Dressed in gloves, hat and overalls I set about it on Sunday with wild abandon, lopping off branches here and sawing off bits of trunk there. I’ve left it a half done job for now as I filled my brown bin up and didn’t want to get pine needles all over my car before its MOT so week after next I’ll finish the job.

So, makes the garden look a bit bigger and allows in a bit more light for new plants and shrubs so I can replace that which has been taken away with better, more suitable vegetation that will attract a wider array of beneficial insects and birds and the garden will become the diverse ecosystem that all gardens should be.

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