Andrew Allison

Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Harry Potter and the plight of the bookseller

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Today sees the launch of the latest ‘Harry Potter’ book. Those of you who were really keen to get hold of a copy will have been going to their local bookstore at midnight! The rest of us – me included – will have waited until a more sensible hour before purchasing their copy. I have one on order and meant to go in and collect it today, but I think I will wait until Monday instead.

The reason I am reminding you of the launch of this book doesn’t mean J K Rowling has put me on commission. I don’t think my blog is that widely read. What annoys me is the large supermarkets cut-pricing this book and once again taking away the small booksellers bread and butter. I really am sick and tired of the likes of Tesco and Asda doing things like this. The day they stock a wide range of books and become a proper bookseller is the day I will support them, however I think it is highly unlikely this will happen. It is far easier and far more profitable to cherry pick. They do exactly the same with music. Readers from the Beverley/Hull area will remember a shop called ‘Andy’s Records.’ It was an excellent record shop, stocking a wide selection of music from all genres. When Tesco opened in Beverley and started cut pricing the latest chart CDs, Andy’s Records’ days were numbered. Now what we have is less choice; not more choice. I have been told that as someone who believes in the free market, I cannot complain when things like this happen. I think differently though.

Occasionally markets have to regulated for the good of all. If one company has too large a market share, there is every chance they will put so many out of business, that the consumer will be left with fewer options. This does not lead to lower prices, in fact it leads to prices being kept higher than they normally would be. Our large supermarkets are cherry picking the best titles in books, CDs and DVDs; discounting them, at the expense of dedicated booksellers and record stores. They are putting these stores out of business and leaving the consumer with less choice on the high street.

If prices for new releases could not be discounted for a set period of time after they are released, this would give a level playing field to all. This is what the free market is all about. We want more choice; not less.

If only there were more than 24 hours in a day

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Life is simply extremely busy at the moment with one thing and another and keeping my blog up to date is something I have not been able to do. I still intend to keep blogging as I do enjoy it, but I think my posts will be somewhat random in the next few weeks.

I am still trying to keep on top of my house. I have a dehumidifier now taking out gallons of water each day and we are also preparing for our holidays next week.

All I can say is watch this space and I will try and blog as often as I can and also try and get around all the other blogs I enjoy reading, but realistically I think I will not be back in the swing of things until September at the earliest.

Tackling Binge Drinking

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2007 at 7:23 pm

I’ve just been watching the early evening news and heard of the latest proposed policy from the Conservative Party. To try and solve binge drinking, the Conservative Party is going to raise taxes. Perhaps I am really am a cynical old thing, but isn’t this just another excuse to raise more money? Can I hear in the distance the ringing of tills at the Treasury? If you add another 20p to the cost of a pint of beer, you will not stop people drinking to excess. If you start to raise prices dramatically you may stop binge drinkers drinking quite as much, but you will also prevent sensible drinkers from having the odd pint or two and therefore stopping them from enjoying themselves in the pub after a hard day’s work.

As a conservative, I believe that very little social change can be made through taxation. We do live in a free society and some people will abuse just about anything. That is the price you pay, but I know where I would rather live.

Smoking ban

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2007 at 7:08 pm
Much debate has taken place before and after the smoking ban in public places that came in to force on July 1. There has been much trumpeting from the health lobby on how this will benefit public health and there is the hope that more smokers will be encouraged to ‘kick the habit’ as a result and I am sure this will happen. Certainly, as a smoker, I will smoke less. As I cannot light up in a pub, bar or restaurant, my cigarette consumption will decrease. Yes, this is a good thing, as only an insane man would argue that smoking is good for you or doesn’t have a negative effect on your health or the health of others around you. Both smokers and non-smokers alike will tell you it is pleasant to walk in to public areas and not have to smell the second hand smoke that lingers in the atmosphere. Your clothes smell better and many with respiratory diseases will no longer have to feel unwell and in some cases avoid going in to pubs. I can see all the arguments for this ban and in many ways agree with it. I remember going on holiday to the Republic of Ireland last year, where the ban has been in place for a few years, and most people said it was working. One waitress though in the hotel restaurant told me I should try visiting Ireland in winter when it was cold, raining or snowing and then tell her it was a good thing.

What I would like us to do – and I know this is like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted – is look at smoking in public places objectively. When I hear doctors telling me the ban will result in some 17000 lives saved from smoking related diseases, I take this with a pinch of salt. Three years ago a junior tried blaming my father’s various illnesses on smoking. My Dad has suffered heart attacks, a stroke, narrowly avoided dying from heart failure twice and has been in poor health for nearly fifteen years. What the doctor failed to ask was if Dad had ever smoked in his life. He has never smoked and yet all these things have happened to him. If he had smoked, I am sure he would have been another statistic on the smoking related diseases list. My problem, therefore, is I don’t believe so many people so die of smoking related diseases. I have thought for many years that these figures were manufactured. Of course, many people do die of smoking related diseases. That is without doubt, but it is wrong to treat smoking and smokers as the biggest evil under the sun. How many of you have been driving along in a busy town or city and had the window down when a bus in front of you pulls away from a set of traffic lights? Can you remember the cloud of smoke that entered your car? Can you remember how everyone in your car coughed and spluttered as a result? Is this good for your health? Is walking in any busy area near hundreds of vehicles pumping out carbon dioxide good for your health? There are those in the environmental lobby who will try and ensure this scenario is taken care of by taxing us until the pips squeak, but the majority of us are too dependent on our cars and never really take pollution seriously. Smokers are an easy target.

There isn’t another section of society that is treated as badly as smokers. Instead of keeping a room aside at your place of work that could be cleaned by cleaners who are smokers themselves, smokers are expected to venture in to the great outdoors, and with the current spell of inclement weather, get very wet. Non-smokers will usually retort, ‘Well, don’t smoke then. Give up!’ Nicotine is more addictive than heroin, but they wouldn’t say the same to a heroin addict. A pub near me used to have a small smoking section that was extremely well ventilated. Non-smokers said they couldn’t smell the cigarette smoke from that section. So what is wrong with being able to smoke there? All this smoking ban has done is swing the pendulum from one extreme to another. The government is quite willing to get hundreds of millions of pounds a year in tax revenue from smoking, but thinks it can treat those taxpayers as second class citizens. Ban smoking from the majority of public places; yes, but not to cater at all for people who are engaging in a legal act is totally wrong.

The loss adjuster arrives

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2007 at 8:51 pm

This morning we had the loss adjuster around. He is going to chase up ChemDry and get them to make an assessment on what can be restored and what is going to have to be replaced. I think they will replace most things. ChemDry simply don’t have the time at the moment to go around restoring furniture. There are over ten thousand claims alone in Hull. I think the kitchen will have to be replaced, as plenty of water flooded in there. There is also the possibility of further damage to the partition walls, although I think that is highly unlikely, as the water didn’t get all that high.I asked the loss adjuster how long he thought it would be before I would be able to move back in again, and he thought it could be around the three to four months mark, as long as there aren’t any complications. Quite naturally it is the drying out that is going to take the longest and then the builders will have to come in and assess any structural damage and decide whether the floors or walls need replacing. After that it is the decorator’s turn, then comes the carpet fitters, and finally new furniture – if necessary – will be delivered. After hearing how long it may take, I turned to Becky in the car and said, ‘Happy Christmas’, as I think it won’t be long before the festive season when we will have the go-ahead to return.

Never mind. I am lucky as I have a roof over my head for as long as I need it. There are still many people who are moving from B&B to B&B and hotel to hotel at the moment until temporary rented accommodation can be found, and that will not be an easy task considering the amount of dispersed people there are in Hull. There are over three thousand more in the East Riding.Other than that, I am very well and desperately looking forward to taking Becky to Paris on July 26 and then looking forward to going to visit my friends in Normandy with Becky and Gregory just after that. A holiday cannot come soon enough.

The forgotton city

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2007 at 5:29 pm

It’s not very often you will hear me agreeing with the Liberal Democrats, however Cllr Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council, has hit the nail on the head today. Speaking about the humanitarian crisis that is facing the city, he said, “Quite frankly if this was Chelsea or Fulham, this would have been plastered over the front pages for weeks.” He also went on to say Hull was the forgotten city. Spot on Carl. You are absolutely correct. And what sort of response have we had from central government? Vague promises to say the least, even though government ministers have been beating a path to the city this week. Couple that with the fact the Hull East MP is John Prescott and the Hull West and Hessle MP is health secretary Alan Johnson, you would think the city would be having a higher profile in Whitehall. And where is Gordon Brown? Nowhere to be seen of course and in the meantime the city has to struggle on doing the best it can with its limited resources. I can’t help thinking that if this happened in other countries in poorer parts of the world, appeals would be broadcast in the media. Perhaps I am being cynical, but most of Hull was under water a week and a half ago. How many of you knew that?

The carpets are out & Gordon does his first PMQs

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2007 at 6:26 pm

ChemDry arrived nearly two hours late today, however they have removed the carpets and sprayed some form of chemical deodorant to try and make the place smell a little sweeter. The loss adjuster will be coming on Friday as I have already said, so hopefully next week we will be able to get things moving.

On another note, I was watching highlights of today’s PMQs and I must say Gordon didn’t too bad of a job. We all know he doesn’t have the charisma of Tony Blair, but we do have to let our new prime minister settle in to the job. I am concerned by what he said at the weekend about extending detention without charge to ninety days. It seems that whenever anything happens of a terrorist nature this government immediately goes in to ‘knee-jerk’ mode and our new prime minister seems to be of the same mode as his predecessor. Mr Brown still thinks that compulsory ID cards will work to stop this terrorist threat we all face. David Cameron was right to reiterate the facts to him today. ID cards would not have stopped the Madrid bombings, the 7/7 attacks on London or someone wanting to drive a car in to Glasgow airport. We should spend the money increasing security on our borders and give more to our overstretched security services, rather than wasting money on ID cards. It will be money well spent.

Flood update

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2007 at 4:09 pm

I called the Pru yesterday, wondering where on earth the loss adjuster was. I was told they would get back to me in the next few days. To say I was unhappy with the response is an understatement. After a few words they told they would get ChemDry to come out and last night I got a call from the loss adjusters who will be visiting me on Friday. That is much later than I had hoped for, but at least they have given me a date. When ChemDry will call and look at the restoration I have no idea, but at last things are moving forward.

The house still smells of sewage and feels nothing like a home. I think this is going to be a long job!