Random Thoughts for the Day

I had one of my favourite days yesterday. I took my little sister off my Mum’s hands by looking after her in my flat. I always take the opportunity to spoil her rotten: buying sweets, taking her out for lunch, playing in the park… great fun.

I asked her where she’d like to eat. I’m spoilt for choice where I live, there’s a Domino’s Pizza, a Papa Johns, a KFC, a Subway and countless others. We ended up going to Barista Brothers.

She’d been quite lucky, because it turned out she’d had a McDonald’s the last two days running.

This put me in mind of an article I’d read in the FT recently. McDonald’s has been going through a bit of a hard time recently. There have been scandals, with a human tooth and pieces of vinyl found in their food. There has been a big push by their workers to raise wages. Most importantly, customers aren’t coming through the Golden Arches as often as they used to.

They’ve bought in a new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, who’s successfully run the UK operations, to turn things around. He’s been busy outlining his new plans:

“the first critical step of our operational growth-led plan is to strengthen our effectiveness and efficiency and drive faster and more customer-led decisions”

“As we turn around our critical markets, we will create strategies which leverage our scale and competing power, bring disruptions to life and sharp brands on the move. We will also seek to be more progressive around our social purpose in order to deepen our relationships with communities on the issues that matter to them.”

Any idea what he means? Me neither.

It might help if he were to talk about making food people want to eat.

Anyway, I can’t take Steve’s plans seriously. McDonald’s future can only be secured when that menace, the Hamburglar, is finally behind bars. What are you doing about him, Steve?



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General Election: A Little Perspective Edition

The General Election is finally coming to a close today, as people head to the ballot boxes to cast their vote.

The campaigns have neither been all that informative nor edifying – with plenty of baseless hyperbole banded about by all sides.

We are told that Labour crashed the economy the last time they were in power and will do so again. And I suppose they also crashed the US and European economies at the same time? The truth is, whoever was in power, the economy would have crashed then eventually recovered.

We are told that the Conservatives will destroy the NHS. They will privatise it, say Labour; putting profits before people. But both parties have introduced more private providers to inject some competition and choice into the health service. Besides, it’s the profit motives of Aldi and Asda that puts food on my table each day, not a National Food Service. The interesting debates about healthcare are obscured beneath these emotional bleatings.

Whoever wins, they’ll pursue some daft aims they neither can nor should achieve. They’ll also neglect some really important things. How do we build enough homes to stop the younger generation being priced out forever? What do we do about our appalling productivity record? How should we adapt to the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population? What should Britain’s role in the world be, and are we prepared to pay for it?

Ultimately though, politics has very little to offer in the important things in life. It can’t make someone fall in love with you. It can’t give you a sense of rhythm, or make your jokes any funnier. It can’t bring loved ones back from the dead. It can’t make people more polite and considerate.

As Samuel Johnson said,

How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.

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General Election: Other Manifestos Edition

Once upon a time, you knew where you stood with political parties – you were generally either Tory or Labour. Nowadays, it seems that political parties are multiplying like rabbits in a Viagra factory.

To reflect this new reality, I will now post the manifestos of the smaller parties. I will use the parties who took part in the 7-way debate (other than the big two whose manifestos I’ve already posted):

Green Party


Liberal Democrats


Plaid Cymru


Scottish National Party


United Kingdom Independence Party


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The A – Z of Music: T

This song does what a great rock song should do. In 3 minutes, it clears away any mental fog, like taking a snort of champagne. It’s Venus Loon by T. Rex.

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The Flying Car Rises

I have spoken before about an abortive attempt to make a flying car. Well, a plucky band of Slovakian designers, engineers and enthusiasts have not let that failed attempt dissuade them. They have created the AeroMobil:

AeroMobil Flying Car

From roadster to flying machine in three minutes, told in the Financial Times‘s Weekend Magazine.

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St. Georges Day

Today is St. Georges Day, the day of the patron saint of England.

St George

We all know about the growing movement in Scotland to get its independence. This is perhaps part of a gradual decline in a shared British identity and a resurgence in individual English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish identities.

I think a separate English identity has been slower in asserting itself than the other countries*, but it has been growing for many years now.

Just as the Scots and Welsh have separate national anthems (apart from God Save The Queen), many have throught about an English one. But what are the contenders?


A beautiful song, with words by William Blake and set to Sir Hubert Parry‘s music. Unfortunately it’s named after a city in Israel, and haven’t all our dark Satanic mills moved to China now? It’s hard to get worked up about dark Satanic call centres and office blocks.

Land of Hope and Glory

Again, a lovely song. But its references to ‘Thine Empire shall be strong’, and ‘Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set’ are a little anachronistic and might upset many of our international colleagues.

A Song of Patriotic Prejudice

The funniest of the offerings, Flanders and Swann‘s comic song. It’s a little politically incorrect for this day and age, but a great deal of fun.

Anyway, Happy St. Georges Day.

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General Election: Sock Puppet Edition

Conservative Chairman, Grant Shapps, has been accused of using sock puppets to advance his career.

Intent on getting to the bottom of this, this Blog tracked Mr. Shapps down for his side of the story:

Grant Shapps Sooty

Steven Clarke’s Blog (SCB): So what’s the truth behind the accusation that you’ve been using sock puppets to write nice things about yourself on Wikipedia, and nasty things about your rivals?

Grant Shapps (GS): There’s absolutely no truth to the rumour, is there Sooty?


GS: See, no truth at all.

SCB: No truth? No sock puppets?


SCB: Alright Sooty, I’ll take your word for it. So Wikipedia was wrong to cancel the account of contributer who’s been making so many changes to your account. They’re legitmate, and nothing to do with you?

GS: Absolutely. I have nothing whatsoever to do with sock puppets. Isn’t that right Sweep?

Sweep: Squeeaaaak-squeeeeeeeak-squeak-squeak

So there you go. Grant Shapps has nothing to do with sock puppets*.


P.S. Wikipedia defines a sock puppet as a fake online account intended to deceive.

A contributer, called Contribsx , has been blocked from the popular online encyclopedia because he is believed either to be Mr. Shapps or under his direct command, and has been removing potentially embarrassing items written on Mr Shapp’s page and adding them to rivals in his own and other parties.

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