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on inventory counts


At work we have just had one of our periodic stock counts and this triggered a memory from just over thirty years ago. It was the beginning of April and I had just taken over my first significant operational command; three warehouses on one site plus part of the office block alongside. I had just over 350 people working for me and, just to add some spice, the computerisation of the operation went live on the morning that I took over.

It was not a great start because the computer system had been poorly specified and it ground to a halt halfway through the first morning, partly because the results of the stock count over the weekend were still being input. By the afternoon we had the first results back from the data input and whilst two of the three product categories we about right the third was showing us a little more than £30M over the expected figure.

One of the problems when you count stock is that the unit that you are counting may not be obvious. For example take a item that comes in boxes of 200 and where 56 such boxes constitute a full pallet. What does that full pallet get recoded as? 1, 56 or 11,200? My own team would have known the answer, but the annual stock count was always done by a professional team of valuers to ensure probity and so errors were always possible. The discrepancy of £30M was going to be down to either an error in the count unit, how that had been interpreted for data input or just an input error.

We set up a report to run on overnight processing (that’s how it worked in those days) and called it a day. The next morning we found that our friends in IT had not checked the paper level on the computer room printer and it had run out about 20% of the way through the report (these were the days of the piano lined paper reports). My colleague the Finance Director had assigned his Chief Accountant to assist and my head of the product category was leading from our side as we searched for the discrepancy, but with so little of the stock report available they were a little hampered.

After lunch thinks improved when we found one error and got the discrepancy down to £22M. The IT team told us that processing the report that we had asked for and printing it would take 10 hours and so we shut the computer system down again and set it running the report in mid-afternoon, this time with a new box of paper. Then I got the call to go and see the MD…

My colleague the Finance Director, I’ll call him Dick, had decided to duck any blame and dump it on my team, so when I walked into the office there he was looking smug and there were a few of the other senior managers around the table to watch the new boy get shafted. The MD was apoplectic and wanted someone fired. He was a bully, but iike many such people he was also a coward and he was frightened that, if this was a genuine overstock, his neck was on the block. I was the new kid in town, but I needed to fight my team’s corner and to show that whilst I was a new arrival, I hadn’t just come in on the turnip cart.

Looking around the assembled faces I could have suggested that the Purchasing Director might like to see which of his team had bought all of the excess stock, if it did exist, but there was no point in starting a new fight as they all knew who had convened the meeting and why and so I decided that as “Dick” had tried to drop my team in the smelly stuff I would have to take him on.

Smiling, I asked if Dick was happy that the previous year’s count had been accurate. He was so I proposed that, if we did have all of the extra stock, the additional purchases must have been made since then. He agreed again, but slightly hesitantly. I asked if had he not noticed any unusually large invoices, for his team would have been invoice matching against deliveries before paying the bills and the sort of value we were talking about must have stood out, surely? After all, such invoices would have been at his level of authority to sign off. Was it not also the case that we would have gone over budget and would he not have picked up on that at the time? Perhaps if he could remember any such event it would help us to narrow down where the problem was. Blood drained from Dick’s face as the MD switched his ire from me to him.

All of a sudden Dick was backing away from blaming my people and agreeing that the problem was either a stock unit error or one of data input after all. I could have gone on to suggest that, in the latter case, that was his fault too as the data input had been done by his team, but the initial crisis was over and it was agreed that we would review the situation the next afternoon. I had made my point.

The next morning we had the full report that we needed and found the main error in minutes. By the end of the day we had found a few more and were within 0.02% of where we expected to be, and all of the errors were due to data input bar one where the wrong stock unit had been used. No-one got fired and I went on to enjoy three good years in that job.

We got the computer system working too, I later married the lady that the MD was threatening to fire and, all these years later, we are still together.

I like happy endings.

musings on performance reporting (again)


My loathing of KPIs is well documented amongst previous scribbling here, but recently I felt the bile rising again when I was asked to provide some comments on the Crown Commercial Service framework for Facilities Management.

I know well the old adage that if you can’t measure then you can’t manage, but almost everyone that I have heard trotting that line out couldn’t manage anyway, at least by my book. Of course you need some metrics to manage by, but which ones? The best data is that which comes when recorded from the act of performing the work because it is free. In many situations you can look at almost any aspect of your operation and see what you are doing, where, when and how often. This is great as long as you don’t spend too much time looking at it.

But all too often there is a contractual requirement to report on things that you need to collate and compile information of and doing that takes time, and therefore money. Now I don’t mind spending money if I am investing it wisely, but I don’t like wasting it and all too often I have had to throw cash away on producing KPIs that have been little more than an excuse to waste more time talking about.

In the brief on the new CCS framework there is a reference to holding monthly meeting to report on, amongst other things, a raft of Social Justice activities. In other words people are going to be asked to demonstrate that they are obeying the law and other regulations. This is a principle that I first remember coming across in the bribery and corruption regulations a few years back and basically this requires you to prove that you are innocent. That is wrong on every level, but it seems that our civil servants don’t think so.

It is a fundamental part of due diligence during the vetting of contractors during the tender phase to ensure that they have appropriate compliance processes in place and, once the contract is placed there is no reason why the client should not seek to check these processes. But to have the contractor report on how they are applying them monthly is just ludicrous.

We should be cutting red tape, not adding to it and I think that this sort of thing is a national scandal. This year I reach my three score years and ten. So far the Grim Reaper has had his hands around my throat three or four times and yet I have wriggled free each time. If the above is the way that the world genuinely wants things then if the bloke with the scythe was to knock on the door now I would rush out screaming “Take me, Take me now.”

life log #6


Wow! Three months since I last wrote one of these. I am not sure why it has been so long, but it may just be that I have been too involved in other things.

I write best when I am quiet. Music is about the only sound that does not put me off, but sometimes it does distract me as well. My most prolific writing times were when I was working from home and the Berkshire Belle was still at work. She would go off to the office about a quarter to eight every morning and then it would be just me and the cats. I had about eight blogs on the go as well as writing for magazines and other projects. I could knock out twenty to thirty thousand words most days and, whilst I have never made a fortune from my scribblings, I didn’t do too b badly at earning a few bob either.

Things change though and I haven’t written for publication for six or seven years now other than a few things as an industry pundit, but they don’t pay or really count as writing. I seem to have too many other things that occupy my time and have not felt the need to inflict my thoughts on the world at large. These life logs started out as lockdown logs and seem to have developed a following as pretty much every day there is some feedback on them so I apologise to anyone who has wondered where I had got to.

Most of my time since March has been taken up in my back garden. The fencing contractors came in May and that was the catalyst for a lot of things to get started. I still have a lot to do and there is the daily maintenance of what I have done to take care of so I can easily spend an hour a day just on the latter. I now have a back garden that is habitable and have been able to just sit out there and read a couple of times. Maybe I can sit out there and write too.

The Double B and I have stopped wearing masks when out shopping and I no longer wear one at work. Neither of us is that comfortable with the decision, but we felt that we wanted to try and move a bit more back towards the way that things were. She has had her second booster and it seems that I will get mine in the Autumn. We are still carrying masks with us in the car though in case we decide that we want to use them. One possible side effect is that I have have had almost no sinus pain over the Covid period where I have been wearing a mask for between 3 and 4 hours a day, but within days of stopping masking up I am having problems again. Was recycling that humid breath beneficial? Who knows.

We are still undecided about a holiday this year, but will have to make a decision soon. We are both desperate to have a break, but can’t face the hassle that seems to prevail at the moment. Our type of vacation always involves scheduled flights on mainstream airlines and between primary hubs, so things might not be too bad, but 2 or 3 hours queuing for immigration or security is not too much fun, especially for the Berkshire Belle.

Anyway, that’s it for now and I will try not to take so long before the next one.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

musings on LinkedIn


It must be around twenty years ago that my boss asked me if I had heard of LinkedIn. I told him that I had, but had not yet explored it and we agreed that we ought to give it a try. I was in Sales & Marketing back then and, having opened my LinkedIn account, it was quite easy to add contacts from people that I already knew.

To begin with fifty contacts seemed a good target, but that went by quickly and I was soon past the ton. Then I joined the 500 Club and was quite bemused to find that I was once removed from POTUS; yes, Mr Obama was connected to someone on my circle.

But collecting contacts was not the point; quantity was no match for quality and the ability to connect with interesting people from around the world became even more important to me once I had gone freelance in 2008.

I have not used LinkedIn as a direct marketing tool because my business model works on different lines, but I have used it to gain exposure and certainly some of the assignments that have come my way have landed with me after people found me on LinkedIn.

As I write this my three score years and ten approach and I have given up the global problem solver role along with most of my other business interests. I have resigned from the last of the three professional memberships that I had acquired and perhaps the time has come to give up LinkedIn too. After all, recently all I get from it are job offers that are really inappropriate for me and a barrage of cold call messages offering services or products that a few moments of research would have shown that I am not likely to want.

The benefit of keeping my account open is probably so that anyone looking for me can find me and so I will retain my presence there, but will largely be inactive. LinkedIn has been useful, but I have better things to do with the rest of my days on the planet. 

musings on retaliation


As the row rumbles on about a slap at a certain awards bash I am reminded of an incident nearly forty years ago when I, too, resorted to violence. Yes, as a bespectacled sober member of the middle-management ranks, as I was then, I blew a fuse and gave in to the red mist. Now I don’t condone violence, but there are times when the primal urge to defend your corner comes up to the surface; threaten me with violence and you risk an equal response.

My red mist moment came not long after I had moved to this corner of North Wiltshire. We were exploring our new part of the world and had ventured out one Saturday. With my wife and our two children aged about seven and three we were strolling along, my wife in front with our daughter and me a few paces behind with our son. My wife was wearing a quilted coat with a hood and one of a group of half a dozen or so youths barged past us running. They were being a general nuisance; we had seen them going the other way a few moments earlier and, as they passed us one of them grabbed the hood of my wife’s coat and pulled it causing her to stagger.

He was too far from me at that moment, but we very quickly came upon the group leaning up against a wall. I walked over to the one I wanted, grabbed him by the throat, lifted him off the ground and told him a couple of home truths, banging his head against the wall in time with my words. His mates had legged it and, having said my piece, I let him go. As I turned away to face a couple of security guards I realised that I was still hiding my son’s hand; I had forgotten about him in the heat off the moment.

The security guys had some hard words for me, but let it go at that. I was grateful as I think that an assault charge might, at that time, have been a little career inhibiting shall we say; I recognised that my action had possible consequences. These days I would probably not been so lucky. I am not proud of what I did, but I wanted to give the little shit a demonstration that actions can have consequences beyond being chased off by the security team.

At the Oscar’s someone took a cheap shot and got slapped by someone else who loved their victim. I am all for free speech and will defend that right to the bitter end, no matter how abhorrent I might find the other person’s viewpoint. However, the right to free speech comes with some responsibility and if we want to live in a civilised society then we all have to behave accordingly. Violence is an extension of that behaviour. I try to rise above things and not let myself get dragged into the gutter, but don’t expect me to hide there either to let you ride over me.

Society these days has a fixation on human rights to the extent that perpetrators appear to do better than their victims. If society does not address that then a rise in personal retaliation is almost inevitable. Is that what we want?

life log #5


Still no weight check. No excuses, I just have not cleared out the office to reveal the scales. I am not eating to excess, but nor am I being that frugal and I know that I have to do something about that.

I am getting plenty of exercise. Work puts about six miles on the clock on each of the five days a week that I turn up at the office and, on those days I usually end up with about seven and a half miles in total. So far this year my total mileage is 351.6 (565 km). This is way down on last year when I was really pushing for over 4000 km for the year, but it is still respectable and I am in the top 3% of the 110,000 plus people using the app that I record my exercise on.

Work also exercises other bits of me besides my legs and the recent rodent repellent activities have seen a lot more of me getting stretched that usual (more on that shortly) so I am burning off calories at a decent rate through the day. The issue is more about cutting back on the number of calories going in than the amount I burn off. ‘Twas ever thus.

The noises in the cavity wall and loft have diminished so I am hopeful that my anti-rodent actions are having an effect. I am struggling a lot more up there that I used to. Our home is a typical product of the 1970s with inverted W trusses at about two foot intervals and I have grazes on both shoulders from scraping them on a regular basis plus more than a few on my head. I have bought myself a new headband torch (I can’t find my old one) the help me see my way around up there. I do have a loft light, but there is so much stuff that most of the place is in shadow and holding a torch means trying to sort stuff one handed; there have been several avalanches.

The rodent problem does mean that I have tackled the problem of a loft full of stuff with some focus at last. I a week five bin bags full have been extracted; old Christmas decorations, clothes that we will never wear again, many boxes of magazines and goodness knows what else have gone to the recycling centre so far and there is more to come, a lot more. Life laundry is the name of the game.

In the garden we have loads of bulbs showing although many of the daffodils (and related species) have come up blind this year which is a disappointment. The fairly mild Winter has allowed a lot of stuff to survive and my efforts at planting perennials seems to be paying off. At the moment my priority is to get all of the vulnerable plants and everything that lined either side of the garden out of the way for the fencing contractors arrival early next month. Whilst out there I have been trying to visualise what might be possible once the new fences are up. It looks as though I have a few days of decent weather to spend out there and so the loft clear up may go on hold, hopefully not to be neglected.

We are still both Covid free, still wearing masks around the shops and I still wear my mask pretty much all of the time at work. I was going to go to a swapmeet last Sunday, but the organiser posted a photo on Facebook showing the venue set up and ready to open with not a mask in sight amongst the stallholders. It put me off and I didn’t go. Cowardice? Yes, but here in Swindon we have one of the worst records in the UK at the moment for new infections so I am happier with a yellow streak. We are watching the travel situation with interest as we would very much like to go away this Autumn having kissed the last two years, but…

It helps that we are both anti-social. We have both had to put on a show in our jobs over the years meeting and being nice to all sorts of people and it is a joy not to have to do it so much these days. It isn’t that we don’t like people, we just prefer our own company. I tired to explain it in a note to my step-son yesterday and maybe I didn’t get the message over too well, but we have been together now for more than half of our adult lives and we like our own world. Lockdown has probably made us even worse.

I’ll wrap up here. It’s eight o’clock and I want to get the day under way, so stay safe out there wherever you are. See you next time.

life log #4


Odd how one thing leads to another. We have what sounds like a rat in the cavity wall between us and the house next door so I have been spending time in the loft trying to make sure that it does not come through. In shifting stuff out of the way I started to throw things out and, in going through one long forgotten box, I found many packets of photos.

Many of these were ones taken since the Berkshire Belle and I got together more than thirty years ago and, for one thing, chart the development of our from and back gardens down the years, but in amongst these were a few photos of me from the 1970s, pictures that I thought were long lost.

Most of them feature me in my long haired days between 1971 and 1974 and it was towards the end of the latter year that a change of job saw me start to have it cut a little shorter. By 1976 I was pretty conventional by comparison. There is also what is probably the only photo of me with a beard; I have worn one twice and didn’t like the look much either time. In the case of beard in the photo that I mention here I shaved it off whilst on holiday with my wife (the first one, my mother and wife wife’s mother and none of them noticed for a day and a half…

The first of the series of photos was taken about halfway though a bad time in my life between around February 1971 and March 1972, but from that point I made a change or two and started on a path that lead me from long haired layabout to polished professional as reflected in another photo taken of me in April 1994 whilst on a business trip buying materials handling equipment in Germany.

A lot of memories flowed from the photos and I can’t say that I am proud of all that I did on a personal level over those years. There were also some professional decisions that were questionable, but very step that I took, good and bad, led me to the Berkshire Belle so I have no regrets. The important things was that I recognised that I was in a hole that was, whilst not of my making, trapping me because of the way that I reacted to my troubles. I got out of the hole because I chose to and did something about it.

Back in the present I have a date in early April for the new fences and am starting to plan what to do once I have them. I foresee a lot of time fiddling and fettling in the garden over the coming months and so am hoping for some weather that will be conducive to getting things done. I don’t think that I will be spending as much on plants this year as usual, partly because I want to see what survives all of the changes, but also to see what the possibilities are. Last year was the first year for my new greenhouse and I did not do too well with it, possibly because I overloaded it. There were other factors, not least my long battle with the fox cubs that distracted me from some things and I have no idea what might come back this year from the destruction that the volt wrought. A consolidation year this year then.

I did try going back to soup making, my old faithful red pepper and tomato cropping up a couple of times. One batch usually does me four lunches and I don’t get bored with it. I still have not got around to weighing myself though and, as I write this, I am thinking that I will make sure the scales are put out before I go to bed so that I can check myself in the morning.

life log #3


so much is happening that it barely seems credible that I am already 6 weeks into 2022. I have been writing, but have there or four blogs that are not quite ready to publish; I seem to have lost that ability to bring some of these things to a conclusion, but it might also be indicative of the decision paralysis that afflicts me from time to time these days.

Our kitchen has featured some of the events that have occupied me. Back in November our combination microwave oven developed a fault and when the first engineer called in December a dud hearing element was diagnosed. A new one was ordered along with a replacement mechanism to set the timer as that was playing up too. The new part arrived between Christmas and New Year (we had had use of the oven for over a month by then) and whist the heating element was successfully fitted the other part was not the right one and so another spares order was created and a third visit booked.

Engineer number three arrived in mid-January and was somewhat taken aback by our 18 year old Neff. In reassembling it things did not go well and the upshot was an oven that we could no longer use. Our service contract offered an equivalent replacement and this was duly ordered, but fitting was to be at our expense and arranged by us. A few days later and we had our new Bosch product up and working.

That focused me a bit on my plans to replace the gas hob. I had come around to the thought of an induction hob, but there was a problem in that the ones that plug into a 13 amp socket are limited in terms of the total power available; you can’t have all 4 rings on full power at once. I won’t go into the complications of why fitting a 32 amp supply was not an option, but the bottom line was that it would have to be another gas hob.

So last Sunday, about two years after I had decided that I wanted to replace the old hob, I pressed the button to buy a new one. It arrived on Monday and was fitted yesterday in time for me to cook lunch for the Berkshire Belle. Finally it is done and the saving grace, I suppose, is that I had started putting away £10 each month as an emergency fund about 4 years ago and so there was a small cache of cash available.

Not content with us being without our combo oven all over Christmas the heating boiler shut itself down the weekend before last and left us without heating or hot water for 36 hours until we could get our man to call (he was due to do the annual service that week anyway. The fault was a minor one and was, thankfully, fixed in minutes for which we are duly grateful for the tolerance to cold that we had as children in an age before central heating was common is long gone. The Berkshire Belle first enjoyed central heating in about 1974 and for me it came 5 years after that with the second home that I bought as an adult.

I have not weighed myself for nearly two months and am conscious that there is a bit more of me around the middle than there was the last time that I stood upon the scales. I am not consciously eating more, but perhaps the Winter weather has curtailed some of the outdoor activity that might have burned off additional calories. I do need to face up to the scales of doom and find out though. I shall report next time.

Some garden labouring has begun as I have decided that I cannot wait another year before sorting out my back garden fence. I am in the usual battle with contractors who are, hopefully, much better at their job than they are at communicating, but I hope that I can get the work done before the end of March and that will open the door for some serious garden activity. In the meantime I have added another 50 snowdrops and 25 bluebells to the garden collection along with some other plants bought at random and on a whim.

Planting things that come up for a week or three once a year brought home the fact that I may not have many more years to enjoy them. I try not to let such thoughts crowd in on me, but it is hard not to. Having said that, as I sit here typing at the dining table and glancing out of the window from time to time, I have just seen a wren dance along the low front fence. We do seem to have a few more garden birds this year even if we have lost the big squadron of assorted tits and sparrows that used to entertain us. They are always a delight and that’s a good note to close on.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on social media


I have been active within various social media platforms for a long time and, at times, have been an enthusiastic user of them for both business and personal purposes, but times are changing.

Perhaps it is the steady progress towards death: This year I will be 70 and the end is getting closer. I have no idea how long I have, but there is a growing desire to enjoy every minute as best as I can, so do I need all the clutter of other people’s lives intruding on what is left of mine? Yesterday I had a look at Twitter for the first time this year and quite frankly I don’t.

Twitter seems, to me, to have gone downhill fast. I used to enjoy scrolling through posts from those that I follow, but now my feed seems cluttered with all sorts of crap that they think I might like and it is hard for me to see the stuff that I want to look at. I have been fiddling with the settings and have got nowhere and so I have just deleted the app off my ‘phone and tablet. There is just so much nonsense on there that I can’t be bothered to wade through it anymore. Whether I retain the accounts or not (Have about four) remains to be seen but, for now, I am down and gone.

That was what started me off and within the hour I have also deleted the LinkedIn apps as well. Within all of the algorithms that they use surely they have one that detects your date of birth, so why do the keep bombarding a sixty-nine year old with job offers? Or offering someone with my CV jobs best suited to someone in their early twenties just starting out on a career? And then there all of the other members offering me services where none of them have really done any research on me or what I do. As with Twitter I will keep the account open for now, but my days of being active are over and I will probably shut the account down very soon.

Facebook still has some merits for me, albeit at one time I thought that it was pretty dreadful. At the moment I can live with it, but why does it keep bothering me with demands to add things? I don’t want to link things to Instagram or WhatsApp. Whilst I have both I have not come to grips with the former and only have the latter because my little sister and another relative use it. As far as I can see I have no need for either platform beyond that.

There was a time when I was trying to use social media for business purposes, but these days I am at a point where I don’t need to anymore. It is like advertising; I don’t. I get a couple of calls a week for people on behalf of 118 and other advertising media and, if I am bored, I might take the conversation past the point where they say who they are and I say goodbye, but I do understand that the caller is some poor sod trying to earn a crust and is being fed from a mailing list. I try to let them down politely so that they can move on to their next potential customer.

The bottom line is that I don’t need social media for business anymore, so why waste any time on it? I have answered that question by the way, so please don’t feel that you need to answer it.

Last year I rationalised my web site portfolio and the cull of Twitter and linkedIn is just and extension of that process. Next up will be my blogging because I have too many of those as well. There was a time when I wanted to keep personal and business issues separate, but even that dividing line is beginning to blur and so I want to look at how I use blogs and see if a better focus is possible.

So if you follow any of my other platforms you might find that I have gone AWOL. It is nothing personal if I disappear off your list of followers, it will just be because I am no longer there. One day I will no longer be here either, which is, more or less, where I came in.

life log #2


A lot goeth on at the moment Chez Nous and I am trying to keep up with it all, although I am seriously failing. Time seems to slip by and before I know it it is not just tomorrow, but next week. We have a lot of change in hand, or approaching, and I am in the process of trying to both plan and action those plans whilst firefighting all sorts of other shit that life throws my way. I use to get paid a lot of money to do all this stuff and was pretty good at it, but these days, at least at home, I am doing it for love and the motivation of knowing that, if I screw it up, a lot off people might loose their jobs is not there anymore.

On the good news front the Berkshire Belle and I are still healthy. Part of that I possibly due to our self-imposed isolation. We saw no-one over Christmas or New Year (besides, for me, colleagues at work). Our shopping trips tend to be early morning raids when stores ar quiet and we are still buying most of our meat, fruit and veg on-line: Our shopping trips are for basic consumables like milk and bread and often I do those solo on my way home, so the Double B regards herself as getting just the one trip out per week.

No sign yet of any of the snowdrops, but there are bulbs breaking through in the back garden, albeit that I have no idea what they might be. A couple look like hyacinths, but time will tell. Perhaps they all know that it will be a mild Winter? I did plant more snowdrops, and some bluebells, last year and I am hoping for a nice display come February. The Spring bulbs always give me a lift as a portent of better things to come.

Our lilac tree has begun to lean far too far over and I need to apply some drastic surgery before it starts to show new growth. Another of those heavy tasks that I will have to tackle. Last year I left it too late and that is why I have a bigger problem this year. It will give me something to do over Christmas.

I am well into my virtual walk from Lands End to John O’Groats and it has been interest to see where I am on the map each evening as I enter my evidence. I have so many memories from my travels around the country that each day beings something back. One night I found myself having reached the spot where one of my music heroes, Adge Cutler, died back in the seventies: I just had to dig out the I-pod and treat myself to All Over Mendip in homage. It is strange how doing this virtual walk is brining out a competitive streak in me. I am in a clump of people in around 8th through 16th place and find myself doing an extra couple of miles in the hope of getting into the top 10. Why? It’s just a virtual challenge and really all I am doing is walking a bit more than I would usually do. I will report on my finish, probably some time in February.

On the health from my blood pressure numbers have rattled the medics and I find myself back on Lisinopril. It helped me the last time that I took it and so I hope that it will this time too. I am taking things a little more seriously this time and have dug out my BP monitor to take daily readings that get logged and reported back to the doctor.

All for now. Stay safe out there wherever you are.