And The Consumer Rip Off Gathers Pace

And The Consumer Rip Off Gathers Pace

Inflation is increasing, meaning that month on month, prices for everyday goods and services that we need to live are increasing. Many people are finding that the wage that they receive is buying them less goods and services, and that each month they have less money left over, if any. But why are prices increasing? What’s happening?

Here are couple of ideas;

The energy sectors profits have escalated due to their pricing, the first company that springs to mind is BP. Between April and June of this year, they made nearly £7bn of profit. That is their second highest profit on record. Pretty much, all of the other energy companies are doing the same. And they’re sending a lot of these billions of profit to their shareholders. In a nutshell, the price that you pay for petrol and diesel, gas and electricity are linked to companies like BP. That’s why your fuel, gas and electricity are getting so expensive.

An interesting statistic is that according to experts at the UCL (University College London) and LSE (London School of Economics), over the last 50 years, the oil and gas industry globally has delivered £2.3bn a day in pure profit. It was put that the industry could have the power to “buy every politician, every system”. It may give an idea as to why we are where we are financially, and environmentally.

The thing that is particularly sickening about BP is the fact that it used to be owned by the UK Government, but was sold off in 1979 for £7.25bn. Imagine how all of that profit since could have been retained by the UK Government and used to reduce the tax burden on us all. Or even reduce our energy bills. It was sold for a song.

The energy sector profits are so obscene, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres referred to them as ‘immoral’ and stated that they were ‘being made on the back of the poorest people and communities and at a massive cost to the climate’.

That’s one big chunk of the inflation problem.

In UK, the majority of households use a supermarket for their day to day groceries. The big supermarkets have been doing particularly well, take the ubiquitous Tesco, for example. To the year end of February 26th 2022, their pre-tax profits trebled from £636m to £2.03bn. Every little helps, right? Well, a lot helps them. A lot. Another chunk of the inflation problem.

Still on the supermarkets, this time petrol prices. Last week, the RAC said said at the start of the week, the average petrol price at the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, was £1.74 per litre. Diesel was £1.86. Meanwhile the average for the delivered wholesale petrol price last week was £1.24, while diesel was £1.38.

After factoring in VAT, fuel duty and a “generous” retailer margin of 10p per litre, the RAC said “forecourts should soon be selling unleaded for no more than £1.62”. A couple of weeks later, here we are, it’s still not happening.

There’s a recurring theme here, prices are up, profits are up by record levels for the big companies. In fact, there was a brilliant segment on the Jeremy Vine Show in July where Eddie Dempsey from the RMT (you can watch it here) pointed out that the FTSE 350 top companies profits have gone up by 73% since 2019. To use his phrasing “The people at the top of the economy, they’re having a disco, and everyone else is being told that they’ve got to tighten their belts and carry the can. It’s not on”. Quite.

So, the main drivers of inflation are summarised above.

Back in February 2022, the Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey said he wanted to see “quite clear restraint” in wage demands from employees to prevent an inflation spiral. I guess what he was saying was okay, prices are increasing, but hey, just suck it up and put up. In the meantime, UK households are taking an enormous financial hit, probably the biggest for almost four decades.

As I’ve blogged before, Andrew Bailey earns £570,000.

Any wage increase you’re going to receive is unlikely to make a difference to the inflation figures, only to your ability to be able to afford to live, or even exist.

Britain is broken.

Water Doesn’t Work

Water Doesn’t Work

In the South of the UK we have a drought, we have hosepipe bans. The provision of water is a complete mess, we’re all being told to conserve water, and that we can all do our bit. The BBC are currently running a headline “England Drought: Everyone Must Rethink Their Water Use, Experts Say”. Unfortunately, they haven’t opened it to user comments, instead, on their news homepage, the only article listed as being open for comments is “Forest hold on to beat Hammers as Rice Penalty saved”. Really. They avoided allowing users to have their say regarding “Saudi oil giant breaks profit record with $48.4bn” or “Postcode search: How will climate change affect your area?”. Even “Green spaces across England parched in the heatwave”. No comments allowed.

Locally to me, Southern Water discharges raw sewage into the sea at will without challenge or penalty, without making public announcements very clear. It’s the height of summer and bathers are becoming ill, then realising that something is wrong with the seawater, then are making enquiries only to be told by Southern Water that “have a look at our app”, here’s one account; Couple who swam in sea at Herne Bay after nearby Southern Water sewage release suffer sickness and diarrhoea (kentonline.co.uk).

I thought that they were only supposed to discharge sewage in the event of flooding and we’ve not had any rain for weeks…..

On average, across all of the water authorities, they lose somewhere in the region of 20% of the water they collect; they lose billions of litres of drinking water every year due to their lack of investment in maintenance and infrastructure. They have dividended their shareholders somewhere in the region of £20 billion since 2010, and are still ripping the backside out of it to this day. They are saddling their companies with an awful lot of debt too, which is an extremely curious phenomena.

Rather than landing the consumer with the burden of water shortage by asking them to restrict their usage, maybe the impotent regulator (OFWAT) could turn its attention to the elephant in the room. Namely the problem caused by decades of profiteering and dividending, lack of investment, climate change (would that really be a surprise to you if you were in the business of supplying water, no? Well it certainly is to our water “authorities”), and an absolute contempt for the consumer, and for the environment.

The interesting thing here is that when you look on social media, and particularly The Daily Mail articles and subsequent user comments regarding the drought, even their normally pro-privatisation, pro-government die hard supporters are turning against them. Here’s a couple of the top rated comments that basically sum up the issues that we are facing;

I blame lack of investment in infrastructure and pure greed on the part of the directors. Modern infrastructure should be able to withstand dry weather ffs.

In answer to the headline “Water leaks DOUBLE during heatwave with firms blaming underground damage caused by earth drying out as drought continues to hit UK supplies 

Funny how gas mains haven’t been bursting all over the place despite routing through the same dry/heaving soil. Water companies have diverted our money to their management and owners pockets instead of investing in new pipes. BT invested in new network whilst being forced to cut their prices – how come Ofwat lets water companies put prices up without similar investing – incompetence or something else more ‘iffy?

Ouch.

How about these top responses to the headline “£3bn bonanza for fat cats: How investors (including the Chinese) took out cash that firms could have used to fix Britain’s creaking water network”

Its called Selling England by the pound, and its been going on for years and years. Hardly news

and;

To be fair this wasn’t a privatisation as there is zero competition – it was a sell off of state assets. The companies have continually failed to plan for the future and have acted short term in the interests of their shareholders. Renationalising them at enormous cost isn’t the answer I’m afraid – what they do need is new laws to oversee exactly what they do and how they operate and that they serve the consumers and the country failing which they should pay huge penalties.

That sort of brings me to a conclusion.

I can’t see that the government and the regulators are going to bring the water companies to heel, so that leaves another option; re-nationalisation. That could explain why the companies have been pulling so much money out and saddling themselves with debt. The good old UK taxpayer picks up the debt again.

A decade ago, I would have considered this situation impossible, but, looking at it now and if you look at the way that our government has spent our money over the last three years….. watch this space.

One question to myself…. how long do ‘they’ seriously think that they can get away with this? By this, I mean the transfer of money from the less well off to the incredibly rich in terms of overcharging for water, fuel, energy, food, all of the basic essentials required to exist. This last three years has seen the biggest transfer of wealth from the working classes to the rich that I’ve ever witnessed.

Something has got to give.

Fitbit Charge 5. Why I’ve Run Out Of Patience

Fitbit Charge 5. Why I’ve Run Out Of Patience

In the middle of March this year, I decided I’d been living a healthy lifestyle for long enough to warrant buying a fitness tracking watch to take me to the next level. As is often the way, things deteriorated very shortly after buying the device that I settled upon, but that is a different story.

I’d looked at everything out there and I’d previously owned a Samsung Gear S3, but didn’t want another phone on my arm, instead I wanted to go for a device that its core function was to be a fitness watch and that could track my sleep also. Reading reviews, I settled upon the Fitbit Charge 5. I’m sort of regretting it now. Everyone I’ve detailed this account to has found it amusing, I just found it completely frustrating, and I am just getting the energy together to contact Fitbit to see if they can help. It was easier for me to have a moan here first.

I got the device in March, I loved it. Small, smart, good battery life, within a couple of weeks of getting it, I cracked a rib training which immediately restricted me. Typical. I wasn’t able to do what I had been used to and lost faith.

Now, shortly afterwards I had a bad day and was sat there in the evening and had a hankering for a KFC, so got into my vehicle, started it up and noticed my step count. I then sat on my ass, drove there, drove through, stuffed my face and drove home. Just before I got out of the vehicle, I checked my step count. It had increased by 158! You’d think it would have known that I was driving from a mix of the accelerometers and GPS, but the smart watch is apparently not that smart.

In early June I had a stinking cold and fearing I had COVID, I started paying attention to the Fitbit’s sp02 reading; this is where it’s supposed to measure your overnight blood oxygen level. At one point, it was showing my previous night had been 91%. According to those more qualified than I, that should mean that I’m in a hospital on oxygen. I just did a quick search; “In a patient with COVID-19, SpO2 levels should stay between 92%-96%. Low oxygen levels that drop below this threshold require medical attention, as it can result in difficulty breathing and other serious complications.”

I was unwell, but would have been fine to jog, and exert myself, so I feel that it is safe to say that the reading of my sp02 supplied by the Charge 5 is incorrect.

And now, the final straw, remember, a smart watch, or a fitness watch is precisely that. As a watch. Its primary function is to tell the time. This is where my Charge 5 is not playing ball…..

I went on a short break last week, and as soon as the Charge 5 synced with my phone which had automatically updated to the holiday time zone, it was also showing the same time. Wonderful.

I get home yesterday, my phone automatically updates to the new time zone, wonderful, I sync my Charge 5, it is still showing holiday time. So far, I have followed all of the guidance;

  • Re-sync
  • Change time zones on phone, then sync, then change zones to correct one and then sync.
  • I’ve upaired the Charge in Bluetooth, and paired again, and synced again.
  • I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the app, unpaired in Bluetooth, put it all back together again, and synced again.
  • Restarted the Charge and synced.
  • Pulse restarted (charge device, then press the button located on the flat end of the charger 3 times, pausing for 1 second between presses. Then wait 10 seconds or until the Fitbit logo appears), and synced.

So, after all of that, after every change, every sync, it is still showing holiday time. AND THERE IS NO WAY TO MANUALLY OVERRIDE IT! A WATCH THAT YOU CANNOT SET THE TIME ON!

Aaargh! Right, I’m going to message customer support, I’ll post the outcome.

Ninja Chicken vs Fox

Ninja Chicken vs Fox

I’ve mentioned previously about the fox visits my chooks have been receiving. The CCTV system that I have is movement triggered and I have it set to record between 10pm and 5am. I’ve been leaving them out overnight and they can be pretty restless, so I have hours of footage to wade through and am now not bothering. Last night was a warm night, so I left all of the doors and windows open and around 4:30am this morning, I heard a commotion. I went to the door and I could see the fox outside the chicken enclosure so I chased him off in the same manner as I have done on the previous occasion.

In my last post about chicken and fox interactions, I was left wondering if one of the chickens was goading the fox, I think I now have the answer. I’ve never seen anything like this before. There is one chicken in particular that has a taste for fox, and I actually feel a little sorry for them (the fox!).

Meet Ninja Chicken

Ninja Chicken on the offensive….

Ninja Chicken wants to play some more!

This is most bizarre, as I said before, I’ve never seen anything like it, but that Ninja Chicken has some balls…. I know that it’s a she, but you know what I mean. The hens all look the same, so I cannot differentiate between them, but there is one that is far tamer than the others, so I am going to guess this is her.

The Chicken Enclosure

The Chicken Enclosure

I’ve posted some video of the fox getting interested in the chickens, but I’ve not really shown the enclosure.

It was made by Force 5 Engineering Ltd in Faversham, www.force5ltd.co.uk. It’s made from tubular steel with infill weldmesh panels and has a galvanised finish. The thing is a bit over-engineered and was referred to as the gorilla enclosure by the guys that made it. If you were locked in, you probably wouldn’t be able to get out of it.

Initially it didn’t have a roof, but I decided one was required as I had seen foxes in the garden regularly and didn’t want any nasty surprises. About ten years ago, I kept chickens at a different address and the fox found his way in and destroyed four chickens and two ducks…. it was heartbreaking. The roof is made of the same weldmesh material and is supported midway with a piece of steel angle section.

Here’s a couple of pictures of it :

The tube is 42mm diameter, the weldmesh is 2″ x 2″ 10g, and the finish is hot dipped galvanised.

As mentioned on an earlier post, the hen house was gifted to me by Steve and Sam, it was in pretty good condition and just needed a few extra screws and a coating of creocote and it looked as good as new.

I’ve pimped it up a little, the black chest to the front of it houses a couple of sacks of layers pellets and mixed corn. There’s a bag of shavings and straw for the bedding.

As the enclosure is at the bottom of my garden, a fair way from the house, I didn’t want the grief of running cables, so all of the solutions are solar and wireless.

There is a solar PIR floodlight which I picked up for £30 in a sale at B&Q, I think it was an end of line, I’ve just cable tied it into place pointing towards the bottom of the garden where the fox appears from. It’s pretty bright and has the usual array of adjustments on it such as sensitivity, duration and light level for trigger. There’s plenty of similar out there.

Solar PIR Floodlight

I’ve added a solar powered PIR ultrasound critter scary thing which I saw in Lidl for £12. It has a setting for sensitivity and you can select the type of critter you want to deter; birds, rodents, cats and dogs, and of course, foxes. The idea is that then the PIR is triggered, it emits a high frequency sound that is normally inaudible to humans and is supposed to deter critters. It seemed to work on the fox for the first couple of days and then it didn’t. Oh well, only £12…

Ultrasonic Solar Powered Critter Scarer

And finally, the gadget that I really like is the Reolink Argus 2E. I wanted to keep an eye on the chooks when I am away and make sure all is well. I work fairly close to home, so it is pretty easy to get back in a hurry if needed.

This CCTV camera is wireless, solar powered, records in 1080p, takes an SD card, has an infra red light so it can record in the dark. It has a microphone and a speaker, so if you were minded to, you could have a chat with the chickens (I have a relative that I have given access to the camera and they regularly drop in to view the chooks and she quite often chats to them!). I have it set to record any movement between 10pm and 5am to the SD card so I can review if required. All of the footage posted on here is from this camera. I think it’s absolutely brilliant, I don’t know how it will fare in the middle of winter when there is very little sunlight, but currently it reports that it has 100% power throughout the day, and by the time I get up in the morning, between 4 and 5am, it’s reporting around 95%. This is even on busy nights where I’ve left the chickens out and they are roosting on the house roof and are restless. As soon as it gets light, it’s back up to 100% in no time.

Everything is controlled by an app on the phone and it is surprisingly slick, I’ve not found it limiting at all, which is unusual. I think that they’ve pretty much nailed it. It was on offer on Amazon and cost just short of £70.

Reolink Argus 2E Solar Powered Wireless 1080p CCTV Camera System

As I mentioned before, the roof is the same material, galvanised weldmesh, and shortly after installation I had some pretty heavy rain. The house and some of the bedding got a bit wet and the enclosure got really yucky. A friend of mine was disposing of a childs trampoline, so I repurposed this and used it to hold a folded tarpaulin into place and cable tied it to secure it.

Enclosure roof – a tarpaulin held into place with an old trampoline cable tied into place
Fox vs Chickens

Fox vs Chickens

Over the last couple of weeks or so I’ve been leaving the chickens to their own devices overnight. When they first arrived and dusk fell, they’d roost on the roof of the house. Each night, I’d walk down and lift them off and pop them into the house and lock the door, and let them out again in the morning.

In the following video, the chicken awkwardly hops off the roof of the house (I’m going to get some sort of ramp or ladder for them). Now, the timing is interesting, I have a feeling it already knew that it was being watched by the fox and was trying to goad it. Have a look at this behaviour – it is in complete contrast to the last video I posted of the chicken/fox interaction;

Is the chicken goading the fox?

As you can see in the next video, the chicken isn’t bothered in the slightest. I think I’ve missed some footage over the last couple of weeks, this looks a little rehearsed to me.

Chicken not bothered at all by the fox.

And finally the fox goes on his way realising that there’s no way in and that the chickens aren’t in the slightest bit bothered.

Bye bye Fox……

Is British Manufacturing Making a Comeback?

Is British Manufacturing Making a Comeback?

I work in an industry that uses metalworking machinery for cutting, folding and bending metal. Sometimes the machinery goes wrong…

One of the machines used is called a roller. Essentially, this is an electrically driven machine that has a set of three wheels, each wheel is on a shaft and rotates around lengths of metal fed into it. By clamping the wheels onto the length of metal, and applying pressure as the metal passes through, it bends it and the material comes out with a curve of desired radius. Unfortunately the material fed into the machine in this instance was too thick and caused the shaft of one the wheels to shear. Not good.

The machine in question is an AKYAPAK APK30 and the task of organising the repair of it landed on my desk. It needed to be fixed in a hurry as it was required to finish a project. So, no pressure then. I was given the broken component – it was a cylindrical shaft, about 50mm diameter and 300mm long, it had keyways (slots) machined into it and looked fairly intricate. It had snapped almost in half at one of the slots. Obviously a weak point, but this wouldn’t have happened if its maximum material thickness hadn’t been exceeded. Too late to do anything about that now.

I knew little to nothing about it and a quick search revealed that it was manufactured in Turkey and that there is a UK distributor. Phew. I contacted them on a Friday and explained my predicament and they said that they would check the UK stock and also check with the manufacturer. I was told that I wouldn’t probably hear anything until the Monday. Not good.

There’s a local machining company that I was aware of who have the facilities for making this sort of thing but I’d often discounted them because of the cost. Historically when a piece of machinery breaks, it’s always been cheaper to buy the replacement component from the manufacturer, even if it was imported. I’d seen this time and time again and have had things put on urgent delivery from places within the EU such as Italy and Germany. Considering the situation, I thought it was worth a punt, and took a 30 minute drive to the company in question and handed them the broken component and asked if they could copy it. They said for me to leave it with them and they would let me know.

They came back pretty quickly and said that they could do it in 2-3 days for £365 plus VAT. The reason why the could do this was that it wasn’t hardened; that means it didn’t require a heat treatment process which would add to the cost and time to complete.

I then got the price back from the Akyapak UK distributor which was £385 and approximately £90 carriage from Turkey and I would be waiting for 3-4 weeks.

I placed the order with the UK guys and had the component in my hand by the close of business on the Tuesday. They’d beaten their own time target, and the price of the imported component. I’m pleased and impressed with them.

Sterling is taking a bit of a battering at the moment and The Bank of America has likened it to an “emerging market” currency and word is that there is a flight from GBP into US Dollars and Euros. This means that the pound will weaken and imports become more expensive. Add into the mix the problems with goods coming through the trade barriers since Brexit and the delays are likely only going to worsen. This will probably go some way to explaining why it was cheaper and quicker for me to source locally, whether this becomes a continuing pattern will be interesting.

Inflation Again

Inflation Again

Interesting fact from the last quarter of 2020 regarding the US Dollar, and Federal Reserve;

“The Federal Reserve has printed unprecedented amounts of money to support the coronavirus-stricken economy. It has sparked debates about inflation and helped asset prices soar.

Data from the Fed shows that a broad measure of the stock of dollars, known as M2, rose from $15.34 trillion (£11.87 trillion) at the start of the year to $18.72 trillion in September. 

The increase of $3.38 trillion equates to 18 per cent of the total supply of dollars. It means almost one in five dollars was created in 2020″

The UK Government has been on a money printing exercise too. The chickens have come home to roost.

Me vs Fox. Poor Chickens

Me vs Fox. Poor Chickens

I let the chooks out just after I got up this morning, around 4:15am; I figured it was light enough, I hate the thought of them being awake and cooped up in the house. I went back into my house and left the doors onto the garden open, made a cuppa and sat on the bed reading.

Shortly after, I heard a commotion from outside, a chicken commotion, lots of clucking. Either they were having a nasty fight, or something was startling them. I knew pretty quickly that it had to be the fox, the one that I have been spraying my piss over everything to prevent it coming into the garden.

I know that the imagery ain’t great, but I was in my underpants, and I thought “I’ll get the little bastard, grabbed my bath robe and went to the doorway. I could see him about 50 metres away staring into the hen enclosure. I grunted something like “oh do go away you rotten toad” at him, and he heard, looked at me and did nothing. All the time, the hens are clucking like mad.

Now, for some reason, I didn’t put my bath robe on, I just sprinted at him barefoot down the garden in my underpants clutching the bath robe, and I covered the ground pretty fast, I’m quite proud. He soon moved.

Although the chickens were distressed at the time, they quickly calmed down and went on to lay an egg each and were more than happy to see me this evening when I got home. Hopefully these encounters will be few and far between, but if they aren’t, I think that they’ll get pretty desensitised to the fox knowing that he’s got his work cut out getting through or under almost a quarter of a ton of steel. Maybe in time, they’ll give him the birdie?

Anyway, I have CCTV on the enclosure, there’s two segments. The first is when he first appears, the second is where I get involved.

By posting this, I demonstrate that I have no pride and a sense of humour. May you find amusement in my embarrassment.

Video 1 – Fox Arrives

Video 2 – I Arrive. Not for those with weak bladders.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira