Friday, 31 October 2008


Yes, I thought that was a heading that would catch the interest of my readers. I have had what I hope is a brainwave – an idea that could result in the production of a best selling book. The good news is that I want to share this project with several other people, each taking an equal share of the profit. The bad news is that the benefits, by the nature of the project, are to say the least, some way off in the future.

“So what is this brainwave for a best selling book?” I hear you cry. Here it is:-

I’m looking for four or five other people, as well as myself, to record a typical day in their life each year for the next twenty years. On that specific day each year (say for example, the first Wednesday in May) they would attempt to do the same things, year after year, whilst making observations of the changing world around them. They would record what was making the news headlines, the latest crazes, the sort of clothes they were wearing, the price of their purchases; whilst doing a collection of the mundane and interesting things that go to make up an average day.

Imagine if this had been done for say the period 1956 to 1975. What a lot of interesting changes would have been observed and recorded even by people going about their everyday lives. Or the period from say 1978 to 1997. In fact I suspect that for any 20 year period in history the changes would make a fascinating read.

I think we would need a variety of people – male and female, urban and rural, married and single, from their late twenties to their early fifties – to get the most out of the project. It would need people in a somewhat settled routine for continuity. It would be no use for example for a 7 year old to transition into a 27 year old (from CBBC to Panorama) as that would be about their own transition rather than the changes in the world about them. Likewise people shouldn’t be too old at the start of the project as we would want them to complete the project whilst still being healthy and active (and alive!).

If each person’s annual observations ran to about three pages of text that would produce 60 pages over the 20 years. With five or six people that would give a 300-360 page book.

I think if it was then published in 2029 it could have the potential to catch the public’s imagination and become a bestseller. Best case scenario – it would be on everybody's Christmas present list and ultimately become the Samuel Pepy’s Diary of 21st Century. Worse case is that no one would interested, but even then, the people undertaking their project would have collected some interesting observations for their own family history and their future generations.

So is anybody interested? I would look to share the future proceeds in equal shares so I’m looking for no additional reward for the initial concept. Some outline legal and confidentiality agreement would be needed for everyone’s protection. Everyone taking part would have to commit to the project for 20 years – effectively agreeing to maintain as far as possible the same activities on one unique day each year for twenty years. So what do you think? And more to the point, are you interested in taking part?

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Do you have that horrible little EU symbol on your car registration plates? If so, you are in a small minority here in the UK yet if you travel on the Continent they are displayed, presumably with pride, on virtually all their cars. This, perhaps more than any other tangible sign, clearly shows Britain’s contrasting antipathy to the EU.

When Mrs Troy and I have purchased new cars over the last few years one of our first instructions to the car dealers has been to ensure, most emphatically, that the number plates do not include the EU flag symbol. We would not be seen dead with it. Mrs Troy does have an EU flag sticker in her car window but as it also has a big NO in the centre her feelings on the matter are quite clear. She got her car sticker off eBay and it looks like this:-

Quite a lot people in the UK have decided to put the national flag – of England, Scotland or Wales – on their car registration plates. They have done that in the belief that this is legal. In 2001, following a Mail On Sunday campaign, a Labour government minister assured motorists that they could continue to display the Cross of St. George, the Scottish Saltire or the Welsh Dragon. DVLA officials at the time advised that legislation would quickly be enacted to ensure the legality of these symbols on vehicles. But now we learn that never happened. Seven years later, following questions in Parliament, it has emerged that the required legislation was never put in place.

So the government action to exempt UK drivers from the EU legislation outlawing national symbols never happened. Perhaps it is because, as with so many things, this Government is happy to say things but never action their words?

More disturbingly however, it could be because our Government humbly approached their bosses in Brussels to get their kind permission for the exemption but that exemption was refused. I suspect it is the latter – WE ARE NO LONGER A SOVEREIGN STATE.

Saturday, 18 October 2008


October is a busy time in the Troy garden. The good news is that we have some lovely beech and oak trees in our back garden. The bad news is that in October all their leaves choose to fall to the ground. I can’t overstate the gravity of the situation. Clearing away these leaves is a major undertaking.

The trees are a beautiful feature of our garden and when we bought the house we were told that the trees were subject to a TPO. To the uninitiated I should explain that a TPO means Tree Preservation Order issued by the local council. The council feel that our trees enhance the environment and therefore they want to protect and safeguard them. Unfortunately though the council do not want to come and clear up the leaves from their protected trees – that is our job.

So in early October our trees look like this:-

That’s not all of them just the ones I could fit in.

Then by mid October the garden begins to look like this (2006 picture):-

And then we all have to get down to the hard work of collecting them up. We have several goes at clearing the leaves and each time a couple of days later the garden looks the same. Last year in total, over a period of about four weeks, we collected 40+ black bin bags of compacted leaves. After the first year (2006) I went out and bought an electric leaf vacuum to suck up the leaves but we also rely on manual methods as modelled here by Troy Junior.

These giant plastic scoopers are very effective and highly recommended. They cost about £6 from Robert Dyas - and are a cheap way of keeping a child amused for hours. If you do buy them we can sell you some leaves for your child to play with!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Is it time for a change in time? That is what the good folk of Jersey CI will be voting on tomorrow (Wednesday 15th). They are having a referendum (that’s like the people having their say, Gordon) on whether to move their clocks forward by one hour to Central European Time. That would put Jersey one hour ahead of the UK throughout the year. Supporters of the plan say it would improve the quality of life in Jersey. The main objection of opponents is that it would put them out of sync. with the UK.

I would certainly vote for that change here in the UK. It would mean that in winter we are on GMT + 1 hour and in summer on GMT + 2hours. During the long summer evenings the sun would set about 10.20pm. It would rise about 5am instead of 4am so effectively we’d be getting an extra hour of daylight during our waking hours. If you’ve ever been in France during the summer you will know how pleasant it is to have this extra hour of daylight.

But what about winter you ask? Well during the month of shortest daylight – December – the sun wouldn’t rise until about 9am and would set about 5pm. Some people argue against the change because for a few weeks in the year English school children would be going to school in twilight conditions. I suppose schools and offices could move their start times by 15minutes from November to January.

However there would be savings made on power usage in the evening – so this would be a green adjustment – and there would be fewer road accidents. Apparently, and I don’t remember this, the UK experimented with the extra hour between 1968 and 1971 and there was a fall in the number of people killed in road accidents.

So what’s to stop us changing? The Scottish don’t like it because they would suffer from dark winter mornings more than the English due to their northern latitude. They wouldn’t see any winter daylight until well after 9am. Also, I understand that farmers don’t like the idea, again because of the darker mornings but I would have thought they would have more flexibility over their working hours anyway.

I think this is a debate worth having. I look forward to the result of the Jersey referendum with interest. And courtesy of my blog you can also have your own mini-referendum : I would welcome your comments on this subject.

UPDATE 8.20AM 16TH OCTOBER : We are about 1,058 comments short of a statistically valid sample.

Friday, 10 October 2008


Whilst controversy raged on my blog yesterday there was excitement of another kind outside my house. Minutes after the morning school run had finished there were three school mums desperately trying to get into my house. And I was there. At this point, dear reader, you are probably imagining three yummy mummies trying to break down my door whilst I’m inside trying to decide on which one to bestow my “morning favours”.

I like this image. When I took early retirement this image had crossed my mind.

Unfortunately the excitement was of a different sort yesterday. I had locked myself out of the house although I still had my keys with me. “What???” you ask. Well my front door effectively locks itself when you close it so I ’m always careful to ensure I have my keys with me at all times. What I hadn’t noticed was that my son had previously opened my door from the inside using a spare set of keys and then had left them in the lock.

So at 8.35am the other families who we walk to school with were walking up our road as usual and my son and I raced out to join them. I closed our front door and went to double lock it. My key wouldn’t fully go in the lock as the inside key was in the way. I could neither double lock it nor unlock it – I WAS LOCKED OUT. Anyway, school beckoned so we all completed the walk to the school (with me cursing my son under my breath all the way). Then two of the school mums came to help and give moral support. One of the school mums had explained that a few months earlier she had had a window changed and the workman had easily removed the outside beading and then the window pane. Hey presto! An easy way in? The school mum emerged from her kitchen with a variety of implements with which to attempt our break-in.

First though we tried working on the front door – trying to shift the inside keys. One mum had a daughter aged about three. Perhaps the daughter’s thin arm could reach through the letterbox to these keys. Not a good idea – it was soon apparent that we were more likely to have a young child with its arm stuck in the letterbox. Just then another school mum walked by – “trying to break-in?" she asked breezily. She quickly got hold of the long wire which the other mum had brought and try to get to the keys through the letterbox. After several attempts she got them but the wire just bent. “I’ll come back with a stronger coat hanger” she said and promptly left. In the meantime we went round the back of the house to look at the window beading. We tried to dislodge it but it wouldn’t shift.

A car drew up outside the front – the third school mum returning with a straightened coat hanger. She sat on our front door stairs and began to poke at the keys through the letterbox again. Minutes passed by, neighbour’s young daughter got bored “Can we go now!” she wailed. Two of the school mums gave up and started walking down the road but meanwhile the third mum had hooked the keys with the wire but couldn’t budge them. I quickly grabbed the wire and frantically twisted it. Suddenly the keys came loose. I put my key in the outside lock and the door was opened. “I’M IN!” I shouted to the other mums as they walked down the road. They rushed back. Congratulations all round – a job well done.

Meanwhile I had put my wife in the picture and from her office she had contacted my bank with whom I have emergency cover. They asked her if the doors and windows were all locked. She replied “Yes, [duh!] that why he’s locked out”. Their reply? “Well if the house is secure we can’t help you, we don’t class it as an emergency!”.

If you are in trouble there is only one place to call – “SCHOOL MUMS TO THE RESCUE”.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


I've just read that we, the British taxpayers, are to bail out all the cretins that put more than £50,000 into that dodgy foreign bank (Icesave) that was paying an excessive rate of interest. How stupid is that? In future should we move all our savings from the UK banks and put them with whichever minor, previously unheard of, foreign bank is paying a better rate of interest? Why be content with 6% when the Bank of Timbuktu may pay us 7%+. After all there will be no risk - our Labour Government would come to our rescue with taxpayers' money! Unbelieveable!

POSTSCRIPT : It now appears that 20 local councils in the UK have deposited hundreds of millions of pounds with these Icelandic banks. Heads should roll in these councils and the "responsible" officials who put public money at risk in these Icelandic Casinos should be named and shamed. UPDATE : Ipswich Borough Council have £5million deposited in Icelandic banks. That's the annual Council Tax of 4,000 hard working Ipswich families.

UPDATE - FRIDAY 10TH : The country of Iceland is now for sale on ebay. Hopefully this link will work

Friday, 3 October 2008


The news is full of doom and gloom – with banks having to be rescued and shares plunging. However this week I’ve attended two interesting auctions and the results from these do show that some people certainly have money to invest. On Tuesday in Colchester four hand written letters from the late Diana, Princess of Wales, to her childhood nanny sold for nearly £25,000 and a three page letter written in 1937 by the Duchess of Windsor sold for over £13,000.

On Wednesday I went to the Spink auction in central London where a banknote sold for over £78,000. In a hushed room the bidding increased firstly in one thousand pound increments then in two thousand pound increments. The only other existing similar note had sold years ago for £8,000. Some other banknotes in the auction went for nearly £45,000, for £35,000 and £27,000 to mention just three more examples (all these prices include buyer’s premium and VAT). Several expensive ones sold to a gentleman sitting directly behind me which was a little disconcerting as the auctioneer appeared to be looking directly at me as he took the bids. So I was sitting there wondering whether I had blinked or rubbed my nose!

Of equal interest (well to me at least, as Mrs Troy yawns) was the price realised on Tuesday in Colchester for some run-of-the-mill gold Sovereigns. These had been estimated at £92 - £115 (including buyer’s premium). As you probably know (?) each sovereign contains 0.2354 troy ounces of gold – so their intrinsic value at that date was about £115. They sold for an average of £156 with the cheapest at £138! Dealers this week were offering £110 to buy sovereigns so several bidders were happy to pay well over the odds for gold. (If you do want to buy gold for a sensible price and which is safely kept in a secure vault I recommend the website).

Finally, I read today that 100oz pure silver (99.9%) bars are selling on eBay (US) for in excess of $1,500 whilst the “market” price for silver is under $12 an ounce. More than a 25% premium is being paid for just a lump of the metal (no craftwork or aesthetic content).

So people in these times of crisis are putting their wealth into alternative investments and real money (gold and silver – not government issued promises) whilst others struggle to pay their utility bills or to stave off repossession of their homes – it’s a strange old world! What do you think?