Monday, 25 April 2016

BHS - circling in the drain

BHS

In the background at work today – one of the perks of having duel screens and nobody sitting behind me - I’ve been following the Guardian’s live commentary on the unfolding BHS administration crisis.

Following and grimacing, that is.

Here are some excerpts.

[The Guardian’s] financial editor Nils Pratley has some stern words of advice for Dominic Chappell, boss of BHS owner Retail Acquisitions […]

Nils notes how Chappell is “crassly missing the required tone” when he writes in an email to staff: “I would like to say it has been a real pleasure working with all of you on the BHS project, one I will never forget.”

“No, Mr Chappell, BHS was never a “project” for the staff. It is how they earned their living and made plans to fund their retirement,” writes Nils.

Exactly. This isn’t just an academic talking point for 11,000 people – it’s their livelihoods.

Which reminds me.  As a student nearly ten years ago, my partner had a troubling (yet fortunately brief) experience working for BHS in the run up to Christmas, a job which culminated in her standing in the store front, trying to tempt disinterested shoppers with cheese-flavoured popcorn. What’s worse is that it was all a tragic misunderstanding and the job she thought she’d been offered was upstairs in the office tinkering with spreadsheets and pushing paper around.

When I revealed to her this evening that I’d mentioned ‘popcorn-gate’ in a draft blog post, she (quite rightly) shot back at me noting that I wasn’t without experience when it came to flip-flopping between student jobs like some sort of walking disaster. That’s generally known as ‘PC World/CarphoneWarehouse/Marks&Spencer-gate’ in our household.

Still, I always managed to fall on my feet – however ill-deserved it might have been.

Mary Dejevsky neatly observes that the writing has been on the wall for BHS for some time now:

Comparisons are made with Woolworths – another out-of-date, out-of-time, high-street fixture that folded in 2008. And to be honest, if you even so much as crossed the threshold of a BHS in the last couple of years, you could sense that death was probably close.

Never has a truer word been spoken. You could practically hear the death rattle. I’ve wandered through a couple of branches of BHS in the last year or so, usually as a cut through or to kill time when all else had failed. On both occasions, it was eerily quiet save for the odd disillusioned member of the grey-haired brigade wandering aimlessly and – you could tell – with absolutely no intention of making a purchase. The d├ęcor and goods were tired and half-heartedly displayed. It was more akin to a half-assed pop-up store selling cheap calendars in readiness for the new year. It wasn’t just dreary – it was depressing.

BHS has fallen into that dangerous middle ground that department stores often occupy these days – trying to be everything to everyone. The sad reality is that it simply wound up being nothing to anyone (save for the poor staff, of course).

Once a respected stalwart of the high street and particularly favoured by oldies, BHS has failed dismally to establish itself as anything other than a soulless section of the high street. Now it’s the kind of place that any consumer under 60 only finds themselves in as a result of a mistake or a sudden rain shower. The brand has spent the last decade or so slowly being consumed by blandness and irrelevance.

And that’s such a shame.

Back on Oxford Street, [the Guardian’s] Damien Gayle, has been sounding out more shoppers on what went wrong at BHS.

“What’s BHS - is that a sandwich?” asked Jason Knight, 21, as he and his friends drank coffee outside Starbucks. He appeared to only be half joking.

But his friend Amy West, 23, was at least aware of the retail chain’s existence. Had she ever shopped there?

“I have, when I was a kid though, my nan used to take me there. Me and my nan used to pop into the shopping centre and she used to say: ‘I just have to go into BHS’.”

And no doubt that was to spend a penny.

public toilets

What else do younger shoppers have to say about BHS?

Jasmin Steiner, 20, and Holly Hicks Holcroft, 18, [pictured] were also browsing Carnaby Street’s boutiques.

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Asked how they felt about BHS’s financial troubles, Hicks Holcroft replied:

It doesn’t really bother me - it’s no Woolworths. Bring on change.

“ I can remember going there with my nan. It was that sort of shop that you go to with your nan and your parents.

“It’s a shame I guess but it’s making room for more stuff.”

How heartless.

By the way, Holly, did you get that hat from BHS?

Pity. You could have taken it back.  Be right back

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

And you thought lawyers were weird…

Or at least spoke in an anachronistic manner.

Personally, I think the police are worse, what with their painfully guarded style of thinking and speaking and sometimes bizarrely formal vocab and phrases. I’m sure we’ve all seen news interviews with investigating officers which border on farcical for the terminology they insist on using.

No doubt that ‘police speak’ is a required element of the curriculum at Hendon for all would-be police officers.

Police Speak

From the Law Society Gazette 11/04/16:

[In 1932] the Solicitors’ Journal, complaining about ‘police speak’, noted that: a scratch was ‘an abrasion’; a bruise, ‘a contusion’; ‘assistance was procured’; and a policeman never missed an opportunity of ‘using a word with a Latin root’.

[A ] Justice of the Peace complained that a policeman never found people quarrelling, there was always an ‘altercation’. He never ‘asked’ but ‘requested’.

A parson, even wearing his dog collar, was only ‘a gentleman of clerical appearance’.

A young constable reported to his sergeant that a man was dead, only to be told: ‘A person is never dead until certified by a doctor. He is “apparently lifeless”.

Lawyers are expected to use plain English in their work – and particularly when communicating with clients. I wonder when the police will finally give in and drop their awkward formality when choosing words and phrases.

Some in the legal profession seemed determined to hang on to their anachronistic vocab for as long as they can.

I’ve blogged before now about a corker of an email I received a few years ago from a legal executive:

I refer to our previous correspondence in this matter and look forward to hearing from you thereon.

Seriously?

Friday, 15 April 2016

How a solicitor could save your driving licence

Guest Post

So you’ve joined the ranks of thousands of other motorists who’ve been charged with drink driving. Although you may think it’s the end of your hopes and dreams for the future, all is not lost. By hiring the kind of solicitor who knows their law on this subject, it could not only save you from a disqualification but also time, money and stress .

Click here to find out the limits across breath, blood and urine in England and Wales Here are some of the ways that a motoring solicitor could save your bacon.

1) They can explain your charges in plain English

There’s a lot of jargon where drink driving law is concerned, and it can often leave you confused about what your actual charge is.

A drink driving solicitor will be able to explain everything to you simply, and answer any queries you have regarding your charge. For example, people can get confused over the difference between being “drunk in charge” and “drink driving”.

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You may not be aware that you can be arrested and charged for an alcohol-related motoring offence, even if you had not been driving. In this case, the police can require you to provide specimens, and the same procedures apply to you as for a drink driving offence. There are a range of sentencing options for this charge though, so it’s always best to talk to your solicitor.

2) They can spot any potential for a defence

When you sit down with your drink driving solicitor and relay your side of the story, they’ll be able to spot issues which may not seem important but, in actual fact, could be the difference between keeping or losing your licence. This is why it’s absolutely vital that you try to recall as much about an incident as humanly possible, as soon as you’re in the position to do it. It’s only natural that your memory will start to fade about an accident, and the slightest piece of information could be vital.

For example, after being involved in an accident, were you taken to hospital? Can you recall how the procedure was carried out? Were you in a position to provide fully informed consent to the provision of a blood sample? A procedural error on the part of the police may have occurred upon which a defence to the charge may be based.

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3) They can instruct the best forensic experts to provide evidence which supports your case

In drink driving cases, expert evidence in relation to the performance of the breath testing device, alcohol levels or medical issues may be important to support your defence. A specialist drink driving solicitor such as at drinkdrivesolicitor.com should have the expertise required to recognise which expert to instruct in your case.

Never underestimate what your solicitor will be able to do for you. Have you been to see a drink driving solicitor for an offence? Let me know your experiences.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Legal blogging – its downfall and (supposed) resurgence

Blogger (or so he claims)

Believe it or not – and I, for one, certainly don’t believe it – legal blogging is experiencing a resurgence.

A resurgence?  In legal blogs?  Really?

Where’s this taking place, then? ‘Cause it’s certainly not on the web.

Still, Nick Holmes pretty much nails what I think is largely behind the downfall of legal blogging (or blawging as it was once known):

What has changed fundamentally is the nature of the ensuing conversation which formerly took place in the comments sections on blogs. Whilst popular sites, such as national news sites, garner sometimes thousands of (generally [edit – invariably] tedious) comments, most niche blogs receive very few (though better value) comments. The conversation these days has been sucked out of blogs and takes place mainly on Twitter and other social media, so the profile of your blog does depend a lot on your social media “reach”, but that’s another story.

(Emphasis added)

And, as painful as it might be to hear, he (quite rightly) picks up on the fact the commercialisation of blogging amounted to another nail in its coffin.

Unfortunately, but inevitably, the proven success of blogging led to its widespread adoption and ultimately attracted the marketing people! Hence the personality-free corporate blogs and blogs set up purely for marketing purposes that we see all around us, as well as well-intentioned but low value, pedestrian blogs, none of which can be considered worthwhile literary works. In this climate, the good blogs have had to fight harder to be noticed.

I stopped pining for the ‘good old days of blogging’ long ago. That ship has long since sailed. I get it.

I supposed I should consider myself one of the lucky ones as at least I was there for the ride.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Naming storms. Why it gives me the fricking squits.

I wrote this post nearly a month ago in mid February 2016.  I’ve read it a couple of times since then as I’ve pondered whether or not to publish it.  Am I being too harsh, I wondered, or getting my knickers in a twist over something trivial.

In the end, I’ve decided, no – I need to say this stuff.  Someone needs to. 

But I have toned the original language down considerably. 

#storm-in-a-shitpot

----------------------Storm in a shitpot
One of the latest things to get right on my proverbials is the ridiculous policy the Met Office have adopted of naming storms.

In their infinite stupidity, they say the pilot project (with their equally ridiculous Irish counterparts) has been launched for the following reason:

The naming of storms using a single authoritative system should aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies. In this way the public will be better placed to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.

I say: what absolute bollocks.

Like most Brits, I’ve got a morbid fascination for the weather. My father’s a self-styled full-time weather-watcher and observationist (yep – just made that word up). It’s his favourite topic of conversation. Michael Fish would have looked like a part-time amateur compared to him. And he’s not the only one; Britain loves its weather forecasts like no other nation on earth. In short: we’ve all got our eye on this stuff.

Everyone with half a brain knows that stormy weather brings with it risks of property damage and injury. Mass media and the internet mean people get to hear about this stuff more easily and quickly than ever before. That’s what makes the public ‘better placed’ to help themselves. You really don’t need to give a gale of wind a fricking Christian name to somehow give it kudos. A storm is a storm. Giving it cute name is merely to fall into the same anthropocentric trap we always do: convincing ourselves that as the supposedly superior species, we’ve tamed nature and have really got this one covered. Only we haven’t. And we never will.

And as for protecting people, is it really going to help those who like nothing better than to head out into the eye of the storm with their cameras? You know, the types of people who like to go out photographing waves while standing smack bang in the danger zone. Who get washed out to sea, never to be seen again. Or who get their faces smashed in as waves crash over them and hurl them at high speed across the harbour.

Giving a storm a first name isn’t going to save such people from their own stupidity. So let’s not even try.

Instead, let’s stop with this patronising bullshit of naming storms. If nothing else, it’s another Americanism at a time when that’s really, REALLY the last thing we need.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

What happened to the term “information superhighway” to describe the web?

Any ideas?  Because I haven’t a clue.

Wikipedia says the following:

The information superhighway or infobahn was a popular term used through the 1990s to refer to digital communication systems and the Internet telecommunications network. It is associated with United States Senator and later Vice-President Al Gore.

Urban Dictionary gives a hypothetical example of the term being used in speech:

"I just spent the afternoon cruising the Information Superhighway!"

That was nineties code for a porn browsing fest.  Not that I would know anything about that.

In the UK, I remember the term “information superhighway” was used by the ditzy blonde in a Philadephia (cheese spread) commercial at some point in the late 1990s.

Wouldn't you rather a nice hot snack

She was a card, wasn’t she?  I wonder what happened to her.

Monday, 15 February 2016

I’m back. And I’ve rediscovered my love of blogging again.

Yay. High fives all round.

Cue footage of me dancing the conga in an imaginary line of people.

Conga

Oh wait. False start. I’ve just realised I’ve got about as much interest left in blogging as I have in deliberately impaling myself on a large rusty fish hook.

What fun.

By 'ook or by c'ook