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Rights, Wongas and Longings

So payday loan companies have been warned over their lending and debt collection methods.

If a payday loan company gives someone a loan, surely they need to have some idea of when, or whether, the person will pay that loan back.

More and more people are using these providers, so it is increasingly important for regulators to be able to step in, whether to uphold complaints or ensure fairness. For instance, ensuring that payday loan companies have to tell borrowers that they will use credit card details to make sure the loan is repaid. At the moment, many borrowers are not aware of this, and end up with a nasty surprise.

On a more basic level, the endless TV adverts for these payday lending firms emphasise how easy it is to borrow money, even with the astronomical interest rate is listed on screen (note: not mentioned on the voice over, interesting as the sound level always goes up for TV adverts). Surely these firms should carry a financial health warning, as it is not only those who feel they have to use these companies who suffer, but their families too as they share the financial burden. Organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK will testify how debt clients increase when credit card statements are sent out around the end of January.

But the underlying factor behind all this is – partly – social pressure to keep up with the norms they see around them and the huge consumerist rush towards Christmas that is currently gathering pace. Is it possible to live more ‘lightly’ – not just ‘cheaply’ – and still enjoy the celebrations that are coming up?

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BBC – both feet in (the same) mouth

Its been an unfortunate time for the BBC recently. Not only has there been controversy over the Jimmy Saville scandal, but now it seems an organisation in turmoil, at least at his highest echelons.

Even Cumbria did not escape, as there was recent controversy over remarks made to publicise a Radio Cumbria programme that many people interpreted as potentially racist. Click below for full story –

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/anger-at-racist-and-sexist-tweet-by-bbc-radio-cumbria-1.1010311?referrerPath=

Obviously, there are people responsible for the oversights and errors of judgement. But surely those further down the chain of command need to have the opportunity to think through the implications first before committing it to the public domain.

I think what most viewers\consumers of the BBC want is integrity and authenticity, whether on the part of presenters and people on the ‘front line’ or decision makers at whatever level. Apologies are certainly needed, but in the long term, so is transparency.

Part of the dedication on the front of BBC Broadcasting House includes this –

that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness

Words that certain folk at the Beeb may want to remind themselves of…

From Durham…to ‘definity’ and beyond

So Justin Welby looks almost certain to be confirmed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s an interesting choice, as he has experience in the worlds of business and reconciliation. Some would say both are equally useful in the Church of England! But as a Methodist, I’m probably not qualified to judge these things. However, as a former Durham University student, its good to see one of its alumni being given such a prominent role in the national life of England. He will also have influence in many parts of the world where Christianity, with an Anglican flavour, holds much sway. One of his most important roles will be to help define the parameters of Christian acceptability to a church and a watching world that currently sees much internal strife and back-biting within Anglicanism. From a Methodist perspective, it would be good to see the Church of England reaching out to other churches even more than it does currently. Then all churches might be better able to focus on the needs of the world around them.

I feel a strong Bond developing…

Went to see Skyfall on Saturday – impressed by it, although I thought it was probably stronger in the first half than the second. However, other people thought the opposite, so I won’t be challenging Barry Norman as a film critic anytime soon! Great action, along with laying the foundations for future films (without giving anything away).

Thinking about my current situation – being a husband at home while my wife works full time – I wondered whether I could find a way of describing it by drawing from one of my ways of keeping out of mischief.

As I run a website for some of the local churches near to me (effectively ‘webmaster’), it gave me some ideas… 

So I stumbled upon a new name for this – ‘House master’, although it has connotations with public schools and being the ‘man in charge’ (definately not the case in my situation!).

Is it somewhere between being man with domestic duties at one extreme and Lord of the manor at the other extreme (if it is, does it strike the right balance?) Maybe not!

Has anyone got any better suggestions for how to describe being a husband at home?

Car true oons?

It always amazes me to see the number of TV adverts – advertising a wide range of products – that feature cartoons. From superheroes promising to buy your house (why would a superhero need to do that?!) to the Italian family extolling the virtues of a particular type of pasta sauce, cartoons are everywhere on prime-time, evening TV (as well as everywhere else).

What does this say about our society (or more likely, our attention span?) Could it be that after dealing with adults all day, many look for light relief? This may be a clever ploy by advertisers to get under our defences, which seem to go down when we encounter (some) animated figures.

So are cartoons an escape from reality or an exaggeration?

Bearing in mind that I’m interested in communication, could cartoons be one of the best ways to convey a message without the viewer\reader realising it?

That’s all, folks.

Different Networks

I walk into an unfamiliar building, full of people I don’t know (but who seem to know each other well) and unsure of where to stand, whether to sample the food and drink available at the back of the room. An enthusiastic person offers me a drink. I am glad to take it, as it provides a distraction from the anxiety of the situation. I was welcomed at the door, but then, as there is lots going on, I was left to my own devices.

I make the effort, feeling very self-conscious, to make conversation with others, in between trying to seamlessly join conversations that are already going on. This seems a bit easier, less artificial. But the great thing is that most people have something in common. They are promoting their business and catching up with fellow business owners, people who they share many common experiences with. But I have to get to know people first. The worst thing is that I will be asked at some point in the meeting to stand up and explain why I am there. Even for a relatively confident person, this would be slightly intimidating. I am certainly not feeling confident, judging by my level of perspiration.

But then, as the meeting gets going, I realise that I am not the only one feeling nervous – and showing it. Other people are flustered, even though they might have been there before. Many of those I talk to are friendly, supportive, interested in me and my background. They even want to listen. I respond, clutching unsteadily a sausage roll and a drink. It’s not that bad, I think to myself. The meeting breaks. I’m left again, not talking to anyone, not yet comfortable enough to chat to the people who have introduced themselves. Don’t panic, as Jonesy from Dad’s Army would say. This can’t last forever, although it is beginning to feel like it.

The meeting reconvenes. There are questions for the speaker, with more encouragement and reassurance. It’s hard not to warm to the speaker and the others here, especially in a small room with so many people in it. Someone else starts chatting to me at the end. What time did I say I’d be home by? Aaaggh!

Thinking about church, I think I can recognise the new Christian in this, the people not yet familiar with church culture (bless them) the charismatic speaker\preacher, the friendly people and the people who want to catch up with their friends, although the temperature is not usually as high in most churches!

Is this what most new Christians (or people who are seeking) experience when they walk into an event in church, perhaps for the first time?

5 things you need in Cumbria

1. A Good pair of walking boots – it rains a lot

2. A Good sense of humour – it rains a lot!

3. Patience – wherever you need to get to, it usually takes a while to get there – you get stopped by sheep, tractors, people wanting to chat

4. Observation skills – wildlife, birds and people are normally spread out but worth training your eyes to notice

5. Tolerance – people tell you what they think and expect you to be honest with them as well

If you’ve experienced life in Cumbria, are there any things you would add to this list? Is there anything you’d take away? (which reminds me – Cumbrian chip shops are amazingly good…)

Skyfall drops in

So the reviews are out for Skyfall, meaning the release date for this much-anticipated but long-delayed film is drawing closer.

Judging by most reviews I’ve seen, Skyfall, despite having a title that seems to lend itself to various puns, has at least proved itself worthy of being included in the Bond canon. There is no indication that the title has anything to do with the plot, perhaps another fine Bond tradition.

It will be interesting to hear what Bond fans think of this latest instalment, as Skyfall seems to include more emotional background to Bond. How will this introspection match up with the high-octane chases and fights more associated with Bond films? Will Daniel Craig win over the doubters, whilst retaining his fans (I expect most of his fans are life members)? The plot apparantly does not really add up, but it must surely be an improvement on Quantum of Solace?

All in all, I imagine Skyfall will be an entertaining distraction from economic worries and the stresses and strains of everyday life. And thus, ironically, make a huge pot of money.

 

Is football soap opera for blokes?!

Even with no actual top-flight football matches this week (until Friday, if you include internationals), the build-up to England and other home nations games means that football is never far from the headlines. At least, you have to work hard to avoid it completely. I wondered whether its true that football is really like soap opera for blokes. Perhaps this is the wrong analogy, as soap fans will often follow more than one show – not always the case in football. Having said that, many football fans have a second (or third) team, so there could be a case for the soap opera comparisons.

The usual football analogy is – famously – with religion. Fans do exhibit similar levels of devotion between football club and beliefs, but would many be willing to die for their team? It seems unlikely. I’d be interested in hearing more views on this, whether from fans themselves or those on the ‘sidelines’ who are mainly observers in the whole football thing (you can tell I’m a writer, I know how to choose just the right word!)

Village Idiot?*

People talk about the divide between north and south. I wonder whether there is just as much of a divide between village and town. Not between villages and towns that are actually about the same size, but a rural\urban split. Of course, that doesn’t really apply in Cumbria, where I live at the moment, at least not in my experiences. Even in a place like Barrow, you’re never far from a farm (= loads of cheap eggs).

Non-locals are sometimes called Off-comers or outlanders. But people are friendly, warm and welcoming in this part of the world. Talking to people involved in education and business here, business is done more through face-to-face interaction than technology or other methods. So community is important to people, whether building it or keeping it going in small places under pressure. And they are willing to work for it, using local people and searching out for well-made, fairly traded products.

In fact, there are villages almost everywhere you go. There are a few in London, although more transitory there perhaps than in other places.

So, who wants to be an village idiot?*

* as in would you have to be an idiot not to live in a village?

(Insert your own joke about village people here)

SW Cumbria United Area

A United Reformed Church/Methodist United Area

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