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Saturday, January 31, 2015


It seemed pretty straightforward.
We wanted to extend the lease on our flat. As usual before a major expense, we sought competitive quotes.
Our first stop was one of the longest established ... and judging by the plethora of offices clustered around the town centre ... and largest firms.
We dutifully followed signs to 'Main Reception' where a bored looking young lady made a note of our simple request and said, 'take a seat', waving a well manicured hand towards a waiting room that was reminiscent of a doctor's surgery or dental practice.
After ten minutes she said 'You are in the wrong office, go to the one next to the chemist where Mr X is expecting you.'
We did. He wasn't.
We repeated what we had already told the first dame. This one also said, 'take a seat' but did actually get off her posterior. She disappeared upstairs to return with the message that Mr X was in a meeting. All we wanted to know was an estimate of the fee for extending our lease. 'Right, I can book you in for a consultation and the fee for that will be £150'.
Mmmm. No wonder they could afford so many premises! Thinking that I had chosen the wrong profession when I left school we declined politely and left.
We went out into the freezing Northerly gale to the nearby office of a rival firm that had quite recently hit town with a blaze of publicity.
Here a young lady who appeared to be a solicitor popped her head around a door as we explained our request to 'Reception' and suggested that the fee would be £750+VAT  per flat [There are four in the block] She took our address and promised to send us some forms. We're still waiting!
Back home I checked on line and discovered that there is  a 'standard fee' of £450 ... albeit with all the usual escape clauses.
Next day I had a dental appointment in the neighbouring town along the coast so took the opportunity to pop into the one-man-band legal firm that had handled all our needs for more than ten years. Well actually, it is a one-woman firm'.
'Yes, no problems, I can do that for you and the fee will be £450+Vat and the cost of the land registry papers.'
Our first choice firm will earn nothing because of their cavalier attitudes towards potential clients, perhaps they considered that such menial tasks were beneath their dignity?
Our next enquiry turned out to be £300 per flat overpriced, a total overcharge of £1200+VAT for a few hours of routine 'sit behind a desk and complete forms' work.
I am reminded about cautions not to swim with sharks.
Once it was double glazing salesmen and second hand car dealers who we were warned about.
Then they were replaced in the sharp practice hall of fame by bankers and politicians.
Now, it appears that solicitors are climbing back to the Number One slot.
Heaven help the credibility of any politician who was formerly a legal adviser in a bank and is now trying to sell you a car.
As the legal trade seem to delight in Latin ... CAVEAT EMPTOR ...Buyer Beware!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Pre Publication

Wonderful memories of way back when ...

Each year, as my birthday approaches, I publish a very limited edition booklet for my family and friends.

Yesterday FedEx delivered my copies from the printer.

The extract below, from this year's edition to be published on February 3rd, shows why I find it ironic and sad that these should have arrived on the day of Rod McKuen's passing.

Farewell Mr.McKuen

Rod McKuen  1933-2015      R.I.P


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Travelers Notebook Business

TN users love sharing location pics, like this, on Flickr
A few days ago I mentioned how Lomography had built an innovative, international business, from scratch, using an obsolete camera design and dying technology. They did so with flair, imagination and inventive marketing.

Without spending too long digging through history, Midori is a well established Japanese paper company which acquired or developed the now iconic Traveler's Notebook [TN] This appears to have been spun off into a new business which is being developed by a company called Designphil.

My point is, that like Lomography, TN has been grown to a vast and almost cult like customer base of enthusiastic users. It is a market once dominated by Filofax until they lost the plot and were overtaken by many 'own brand' imitators and then lost even more with the growth of the internet.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Factory isn't a factory. It is a showroom in a back street and a couple of airport outlets. It creates 'must have' new versions on a regular basis - the latest being a homage to Hong Kong's historic double deck trams. This follows on from their extensive and successful promotions in conjunction with Hong Kong's Star Ferry.

Why should coffee shops corner the loyalty card market?
There have been amazing customization options featuring Braniff Airways and PanAm although, for copyright reasons, these are not easily available in UK or USA. Note that the company has largely remained true to its 'traveler' theme which it has kept alive with regular, related product offers that are all within their basic premise of leather notebook covers in just two sizes. Then they add regular 'events' to the mix for fans at their HQ.

You would be laughed out of 'Dragons' Den' if you presented them with such an easily imitated idea and suggested that you could sustain and build a company like this with premium priced products. If you doubt, take a wander around the TN internet pages and photo sites ... there are thousands of them, built from a standing start five years ago!

I am indebted to Patrick Ng of Scription fame for introducing me to Midori Traveler's Notebooks, and to Ray Blake for accommodating my request for a TN inspired cover to accept Field Notes.

As the kids from Fame used to sing. Take your passion, make it happen. Midori TN? Designphil did that. What are YOU waiting for? Don't tell me. Tell you. Then go for it. And as TN repeats time and time again ... HAVE A NICE TRIP!
Yes, you CAN fit Field Notes into a Midori TN Passport size -
but see how they overhang. That's why I had mine made by Ray.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


via internet
This just in from


We live in a world where we pay $3 for happiness
We could easily have for 30 cents at home
But here, happiness is made for us
Delivered with a smile that pretends to care
At home we are responsible
At home we have to make our own
via internet
If you cannot get to a coffee shop right now and crave some of the atmosphere at home ... there are several sites where you can download ambient coffee shop noises. As for the happiness, I wish you more than $3 worth today. In fact, as much as you can handle. Priceless!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mood Stuff

Pic via
Each morning, when you awake, you can decide to be as happy as you can, or as miserable as possible. Surely only a moron would choose misery over happiness?

According to New York radio, where it is still yesterday evening, the subway system in NYC has been shut down and cars have been banned from the streets as precautions against an imminent blizzard with 3ft of snow expected in hurricane force winds. I can see how that could make it difficult to be happy and yet many will maintain a pleasant equilibrium regardless of outside events beyond their control.

I only mention this as some pretty wintery conditions are heading our way too. Here in Margate we get the odd winter storm, but snow doesn't usually hit often or linger long. Taking whatever precautionary measures are necessary
could be a good idea before the snow hits the fan?

Stay warm and come back soon!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cheap Cheat

Yes, this IS our back garden! It may not look much at this time of year but, from March thru November it is a blaze of low maintenance  colour.

Because I have neither the ability, patience or desire to learn how to manipulate photos with expensive software like Photoshop, I use an excellent FREE program called PicMonkey to crop and correct errors.

Because I lack the talent, time and temptation to try my hand at art for the umpteenth time, I use a FREE program called Fotosketch to convert photographs into paintings and sketches.

I was once criticised for 'always looking for the easy way to achieve something' as if it was a sin. To me it was, and still is, a virtue. Why would anyone want to make their life difficult? Stuart Wilde, who died about a year ago, was a self appointed 'new age guru' who produced some pretty neat books before he went a bit odd and off  into drug fuelled cultish stuff. Two of his most popular titles are probably still available on amazon. 'The Trick to Money is Having Some' and 'Life Was Never Meant to be a Struggle'.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rare Russian with provenance

STOP PRESS: Sunday 25|01|15 at 1000
I have just made my first attempt to sell on eBay by listing this camera for auction with a start price of 99p plus £3.99 postage.

The actual camera at 1000 today!
There are certainly older 35mm cameras in Britain. But I can be pretty sure that this 30 year old beauty is at least one of the oldest, with provenance, in Kent.

Unlike modern versions costing upwards from £200 and made in China, this is an original Russian made Lomo LC-A imported by TOE [Technical & Optical Equipment] from the USSR and sold in its original hefty plastic box with a rubber stamped guarantee dated 28 December 1985.

Similar models without paperwork crop up on eBay from time to time at around £70.
Is it time to say goodbye? Should I let it go? Each year I ask myself these questions. Maybe this year I will man up and cash it in.

By the way, Lomography is one of the most innovative international businesses based on the unlikely concept of keeping film cameras alive and then introducing new models on an almost monthly basis. This enterprise is supported by boutique camera shops in most major cities which appeal to students and young adults with regular participative  'events' all through the year.
Search for tons more info on Google and, when you have half an hour with nothing better to do, wander around Lomography's infuriatingly crowded web pages.

Let's talk if you are seriously interested in buying my LC-A and have £70 to treat yourself. Begin the process with an email to

Photos by Neil Bedwell on