more insurance crap

You may have read my views on the scandal that is insurance in the UK. Basically as the insured you are guilty until proven innocent and the strategy of insurance companies is not to pay up unless it is the last resort – like having to come home from your holiday ‘cos your Dad died (of course that was all planned) or your kitchen going on fire (because we’re pyromaniacs).

Well, our latest issue was just that – and here’s the photographic evidence that was good enough for the Loss Adjuster, but not the insurance company, as you will read below.


Amazingly, the following letter has, believe it or not, actually elicited a sympathetic response.

No result yet, of course, but at least some consideration.

See what you think. This was my letter to Nationwide Building Society on March the 12th.

Dear Sir/Madam

I write to you in a state of some disbelief.

My understanding of the economics of insurance is that we, the underwritten, undertake to pay you, the underwriter an open ended premium to ensure that if something unexpected happens to us, the cost of that eventuality (less an agreed excess) is paid out to put right the unfortunate occurrance that we have paid for.

You, I understand, set the premiums on the basis of a risk analysis. So that, you pay out less than you collect and make a profit.

We, the underwritten, do exactly the same.

We calculate that if the risk of paying out endless monthly premiums is worth the security of knowing that in the eventuality of something going wrong we will be looked after.

We assume the people we are paying are as good as their word.

In the past year I have lost all of that faith.

Firstly, my father died whilst I was on holiday and had to bring my family home from Portugal.

My trust in Mondial was misplaced (as we were treated like cheats when in fact the reality was precisely the opposite – it was Mondial that was cheating).

We were fed nothing other than lies.

Nationwide, who we bought this policy from, positions itself as the good guys – not the money grubbing swine that the banking network is. So, why is it that when our kitchen goes on fire; when you send out a Loss Adjuster to validate any claim – and he does; when you find out that our kitchen has been discontinued you come back to us and say…

“It’s normal practice to settle for half the cost of the full replacement kitchen.”

Why is that?

Which half were you planning to replace? Top or bottom? Left or right? Inside or outside? Handles? Worktops? Or don’t those count?

What would you have said to me if I had only paid half my premiums?

Would you have settled my claim?

I don’t think so!

And what’s that about quick settlement of claims? The fire was on the 5th of January. It’s now the 12th of March.

And can we have the door back that you’ve had for a month trying to find the kitchen that matched it?

You are being very unfair, very unreasonable and frankly ridiculous.

Please could you respond wearing your sensible hat and tell us when our fully validated claim will be processed with some dignity.

Yours faithfully

Mark Gorman

PS. One other thing. You have replaced the washing machine (minus the excess) but you seem to be treating this as two claims when quite clearly it is not. The washing machine caused the fire, therefore the whole thing is one incident and should be treated as such. In other words, for the avoidance of confusion we have no intention of paying two excesses. Just like we don’t make two monthly payments.

A world first

Jeana discovers a new band and the Altzheimers doesn’t kick in.

She remembers their name!

They are Fleet Foxes and they were (apparently) the darlings of SXSW this year. They remind me a little of Midlake which is probobaly why they are on the fantabulous Bella Union Records label.



It also explains why they do Fleetwood Mac covers.

New golf season starts with a bang

May I introduce you to the Tiger Woods of South Queensferry?


One tournament played in the 2008 season.

One victory.

Yes, I am that good. I may have a late developing career as a professional golfer because today I, dear reader, won the opening day Texas Sramble at Dundas Parks with my team members, Paul, Calum, Trisha and Ewan.

In a nine hole contest we shot six pars and three birdies which, after deducting our handicap of ten, gave us a net score of 22 (13 under par)..

Tiger. When did you last shoot 13 under par?

Tom had to sit watching (total loser) as we walked elegantly and dignified to the stage to receive our trophy. A bottle of Scotmid Red Wine and six quid.

Whoo hoo.

word of the week

Hillary Clinton’s lying about the sniper fire non-incident in Bosnia led to her defending herself by misusing a little used word.

She claims she did “mis-speak”.

To misspeak is to mispronounce or use a word incorrectly.  But which part of lying about an incident is mis-speaking?

Has she been reading ‘Lanark’ by Alistair Gray set in the land of “unthank”?


Perhaps we can add a few more words to the English language.

To swear is to mis-compliment.

To hack someone at football is to mis-tackle.

To murder is to mis-propogate.

To crash your car is to mis-drive.

To miss a putt on the golf course is to mis-not miss.

To bunk school is to mis-attend.

Any more thoughts folks?

Wearing the shirt…

I never even played for my school team but I have played football on and off most of my life, and followed it too.

The Scotland friendly against Croatia rose my cynicism levels way out of control though.

Rangers play Celtic on Saturday and five Old Firm players pull out through injury but will be OK for the weekend?



Scotty Brown turned up though.  And got booked.  Says a lot about his commitment.


Now for some relaxation

Mark seems to be on a bit of a rant. It’s that holiday feeling he gets.

If any of you are looking for something a bit more relaxing and your thoughts are turning to outdoors and the garden, Suntrap is running a couple of short gardening courses. They’re very informative and good fun, just phone the college and sign up.

Saturday morning courses run from 10 am to 12 Noon at only £6 plus materials. On Saturday 12 April, you can learn all about Bonsai’s, run by the Scottish Bonsai Association, and you’ll come away with your own bonsai. You can make your own Summer hanging basket or container on the 24th of May.


Alternatively, you might be interested in two evening classes:

A How to Design your Garden course starts on Wednesday 16 April – 2 July for 13 weeks and costs £95.00. – great if you’ve got either a brand new garden with nothing in it or an area that you want to do something with and you don’t know how to get started.

Amateur Gardening – which is the one I started with many years ago – runs on a Thursday evening from 7.00 – 9.00 pm from the 24 April – 26 June and costs £75.00 plus materials.

You can take part in as many of the courses as you like.

So, if you’re in the gardening mood. Check out the Suntrap site or blog.

Dig Lazarus Dig!!! by Nick cave


Nick Cave is one of the few artists that gets better with age. He was a kind of tiresome punk, but in the last 10 years his music has gone from good to sublime.

The Lyre of Orphee was quite simply magnificent and the particularly badly designed sleeve (in contrast to the aforementioned) of Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (C’mon man how many !!!’s does a quality writer need?) does not, in any way, prepare one for the solid gold that lies within.

This record rocks.

No, it rock and rolls.

It is wondrous.

Every track is totally different in construction, style, sound, arrangement and effect. But held together with Cave’s growling vocals and incredible lyrics.

The title track is the pick of the bunch. But not by much. It is a modern day take on the parable of Lazarus, or Larry as Nick fondly refers to him – in a modern US setting of course

Larry has found his moment of fame, having been, against his wishes, dug up and ressurected – and plainly he doesn’t like it, becoming in time a drunk, a junky and a drop out – just like all the rest of the unnamed ressurectionists.

It is a quite breathtaking piece of writing, but in addition it comes with a grinding bassline, a brilliant melody (in a Nick Cave sort of way) and a stomping rythm. And you know what? EVERY single song that follows perms one or more of the above qualities.

This is a very good record indeed and a certainty for my best of the year shortlist.


Here’s a wee taster …


Candie Payne with Mark Ronson and the BBC Symphony Orchestra live at The Albert Hall

This doesn’t quite come off. I think Candie is a bit overwhelmed by it all. (Well, she didn’t spend 5 years being groomed for this sort of thing at Brats School after all.)

It does show her potential to be as big as I think she should be. It’s a far cry from when I saw her at Cabaret Voltaire last August, that’s for sure.

This doesn’t quite come off either but, by all accounts, it kicks Lilly Allan’s ass.  Here she’s duetting with Ricky of the Kaiser Chiefs on Oh My God.

This, on the other hand, is class. An acoustic version of arguably her best song about being stuck with a crap boyfriend.


Girl Power?

I’m often accused of favouring female singer songwriters in my year end CD’s, as if this was something to be criticised. And I found it amusing when my son’s mate declared emphatically that “Females can’t sing.” This weeks album charts seem to suggest that I am not alone in favouring the female voice as, in the top twenty you’ll find Duffy (no 1 for two weeks so far) Amy Wino, Amy MacDonald, Kylie, Rihanna, Leonna Lewis, Goldfrapp, Adele and Alicia keys.

I’ve reviewed both Amy McDonald and Adele elsewhere and both are outstanding records. The Wino can carry a tune too I have to admit and the more I listen to Back to Black the more I like it.


But Duffy. That’s an interesting one. (Actually, I lied – there’s bugger all interesting about it.)

I bought it last week, kind of excited by the big PR machine behind it from Rough Trade Records – never have they hyped an artist so much in their history. Her set on Jools was fairly good too and both Mercy and Rockferry were decent songs (although naggingly missing a certain something – if Candi Payne had sung either of them I suspect both would have been better).

The album though. That’s a different kettle of fish.

It’s poor. Really poor. Totally overhyped, dreary, unimaginative monotonous and unoriginal. It’s simply regurgitated sub- Dusty 60’s fodder. How Brett Butler (Suede) could put his name, with such enthusiasm to it is anybody’s guess. It’s totally manufactured pap.

Avoid at all costs.

On a brighter note though. Another new female singer songwriter is emerging. A cross between Marina-Topley-Bird (her from Tricky) and Amy Wino this particular song is very out there on Radio 2 and really is very good. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about Gabriella Chilmi.


remember preston!



I had an extraordinary experience last night on my way home from Preston.

Last week I booked a return rail trip, online, for an all day meeting that went very well and was really quite exhilarating. The people I was meeting dropped me off just after 7 for my 7.15 train only for me to discover that it had been delayed by an hour (eventually an hour and a half) because of a fatality on the line near London.

Now, I had made the fortuitous decision to upgrade to first class on the way back. Not because I am a train snob but because the return fares, which ranged from £54 to about £150 on trainline seemed a wee bit steep, however I managed to secure the same trip for £25 on another site (train fair I think) and then spotted that I could get home first class for an extra £6.

So, I indulged.

A good decision; it turned out.

First, I was offered a coffee as I took my seat.

Then, soup and a sandwich. The soup was clearly home made and divine!

Then a drink.

“Would you like a whisky sir?”

”Why not?” I said. (“Is the Pope a German, I thought?”)

“Would you like anything with it sir?”

“Yes please.  A lager?” (I think he meant water or ice)

“Of course.”  

Some time passed before the ticket collector came along, concerned about the late running of the train and asked if I had a connection to make – which I did; at Haymarket. After a brief discussion we concluded that it was not going to be a problem getting there by the connection time, so I settled into the report I was about to write about the day’s activities.

An hour or so later the steward asked if I’d like another drink and I confessed I didn’t much like the lager he had given me and that was virtually untouched. Quick as a flash a London Pride and TWO whiskies were at the table.

Sadly I spilled one of them – only for it to be replaced soon after.

As the journey wore on it became apparent that the ticket collector’s optimistic view of me making my connection to Dalmeny was just that – optimistic – so, he came back and advised me of the more likely outcome (I might make the 11.25 but no chance for the 11.15.

“But if the worst comes to the worst sir, we’ll get you a taxi.”

So, all in all, the £6 premium I’d paid had bought me two lagers (only one consumed) four whiskies, (three consumed) coffee, sandwiches, soup and a £20 taxi home – £52?

Add to that great service, a plug in point for my computer – where I wrote this post – and you have yourself a bargain.

When the rail network gets it right it is a wonder to behold.

When it doesn’t?  Well, we won’t go there.

Credit where credit’s due.

Thank you Virgin.

1974 by David Peace


The talent of David Peace is pretty well documented, but not in the mainstream. Which is a shame because in some ways he is a mainstream writer. Well, he writes crime novels and has written one about football. (Incidentally, the best sports book I have ever read as I documented here.)


This is firmly in the crime camp. But it’s not Rebus.

David Peace is a unique writer. His style is more aggressive than Mike Tyson on the downturn.



One sentence para’s.

And grizzly, basic, twisted, evil, some might say sick, uncompromising but utteerly compelling situations.

A plot more convoluted than the current US Democratic Primaries.

1974 is the first in a quartet of books, now known as the Yorkshire series. It’s set in Leeds, Wakefield, Huddersfield and other cities in the grim north. It is not inconsistent with the grim north America of Silence of The Lambs.

Centring around the story of rookie crime reporter Edward Dunford and the murder of a child (part of a serial killer series we are led to believe) it soon escalates into a full-blown corruption case.

Dunford, the masogynistic beer, whisky fag and sex overindulger soon finds himself way out of his depth in a world of property developers, rugby league stars, mediums and worst of all bent cops.

Rather than painting Dunford as the hero Peace makes him a hateful scumbag, and yet still maintains his heroic stance throughout the book.

I cannot think of a central character, of late, that so deflects your sympathy, and yet in at least small amounts, garners it. I can think of few writers that are so visceral and don’t, frankly, give a fuck.

This is a great book. But if you are in any way sensitive…avoid.

But for me, the best thing is I still have three books to read in the quartet , and this is apparently the safe one.

It’s a thrilling prospect.

Crufts 2008

We’ve been hooked on the dugs. But mostly the highlight has been everytime Peter Purves and Co say “look at that bitch” Tom and Ria have wet themselves.

We unanimously went for the Beagle. Jeana liked the Giant Schnauzer even if she insisted that it was a Labradoodle – just because it was black.

Any way the winner was the Giant Schnauzer.


Star Wars. The Cool version.

I’m not a particularly great fan of Star Wars but I’ve seen enough of the movies to know that this is quite a sweet touch. It’s based on the premise of transporting the credits of the whole franchise back to the 60’s and I am grateful to Dennis the Menace for bringing it to my attention.


Recruitment process


I heard an excellent (and time saving) recruitment technique last week.

What happens is you split your pile of respondents’ CV’s into two and throw one of the piles randomly into the bin.

The ‘binees” might claim this is unfair but surely you wouldn’t want to employ anyone as unlucky as them – no matter how good they were.

Would you?

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

By now, dear reader you will have worked out that I like the odd song.  You’ll know that I am a music enthusiast and you’ll be aware that I do not hold back in the superlatives department.

It came to my attention however that I have never blogged and shared with you my love for Penguin Cafe Orchestra.  The prompt came from a member of the South Queensferry Arts Festival committee of which I am chairman.  (How esteemed I must be; you must think.)

Anyway, at home alone tonight and watching dull football I thought I’d trawl youtube for some PCO stuff.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, let me drool.

I love PCO.

Thinking about my relationship with them it may outstrip any other band or performer  I love:  The Clash,  The Cure, The Stranglers, Belle and Sebastian, New Order, Aimee Mann, Tom Waits – all have, at times, had profound effects on me and most are very long term – but for some reason PCO are more visceral, more important.

Perhaps it’s because their leader Simon Jeffes died so young (of a brain tumour before he was 50) and out of respect they were shelved (until recently).

Perhaps it is because they make the most beautiful music ever.  The aforementioned bands might not merit descriptors that could be widely aknowledged as beautiful.

I believe PCO can.

Yes, some people say to me “get that shite off”.

I pity them.

PCO is a profound and beautiful musical experience.  The PCO may be the greatest thing ever to happen to music.

But you can be the judge of that.

This particular tune (they only ever did one “song” on their first album) is called Music for a Lost Harmonium and features a harmonium.

Uncommon, lilting, infectious.  I may love the Harmonium as much as I love PCO.


I love a good rant

This one, from my friend Gerry Farrell, Creative Director of The Leith Agency, is a cracker.

He appeared in a BBC4 TV programme charting the history of advertising and was outraged when he read this review of it in The Scotsman last week.


So annoyed was he that he was moved to write to Paul Whitelaw, the TV critic responsible for irking him so much.

I reproduce the article and letter in full for your comment, amusement, anger.

I’m totally with Gerry in defending our industry’s professional standards. Is it fair for this guy to make a sweeping generalisation that our industry is a pack of disingenious snakes who will happilly feed a pack of lies in order to sell consumers our product?

No Mr Whitelaw it is not.

Dear Paul,

I just read your TV review in Wednesday’s Scotsman and, like all good admen should, I felt like stabbing myself through the heart with a breadknife.

Let me declare an interest right away. I work at The Leith Agency and the BBC interviewed me and broadcast some of what I said on The Hard Sell on Tuesday night. I`ve only got council telly so I didn`t see the show but I`m sure I did “state the bleeding obvious” and I can quite believe that it was tame and bland, nor can I understand the public`s appetite for programmes about advertising, least of all ones like this, put together by lazy journalists who don`t look far beneath the surface.

Hope you spotted the hint of menace there. How tedious it is to have to take another knee-jerk kick to the nuts from yet another lazy journo with opinions pre-formed in the Sixth Year and unchanged since.

Bill Hicks. Yeah,yeah,yeah. Tom Lappin used the same quote a couple of months back just before he called Alan Hansen “ a money-grubbing whore” for doing TV ads for Morrison`s Supermarket. And now, from your bottomless journalistic well of investigation, research and experience (aka Google), you`ve drawn up a very similar bucket of insults.

If you`d had the energy to click more than once, you might`ve found “Advertising is the rattling of a stick in a swill bucket” (George Orwell) or – my personal favourite – the title of a French adman`s autobiography, “Don`t Tell My Mother I Work In Advertising, She Thinks I Play The Piano In A Brothel”.

And so you rummaged around your own personal swill bucket and came up with the usual lazy rubbish that “ most admen are disingenuous snakes…who.. feed consumers a multi-pack of lies”.

Whoo. How edgy and unpredictable.

Where to start.

Show me a society with no advertising and I`ll show you a government that lies to its own people. Show me a daily newspaper with no lies in it…wait a minute, that`s silly, the average daily newspaper contains more lies, half-truths and uninformed opinion than you`ll find in a month`s worth of ads. Journalist ain`t got much moral high ground to play around on; every paper or magazine I`ve ever read has been funded by the ads it carries. How much does that bother your conscience?

Thought not.

There isn`t even any logic to your position. You watch a lot of telly, apparently. If the Sony client runs a beautiful ad with coloured balls bouncing down hills to tell people the colour on a Sony Bravia is amazing and somebody goes out and buys one and the colour`s shite, they`re not going to sell many more. The best way to kill a rubbish product dead is to advertise it because people will only buy a crap thing once and once isn`t really enough for those wonderful folk who flog beer, cornflakes and Yakult. The internet makes bad word of mouth virally infectious. None of our clients can afford to publicise anything that doesn`t do what it says on the tin. (See what I did there).

It`s persuasion, not mass hypnosis.

Where`s the lie in Cadbury`s drumming gorilla ad?

Have you actually ever been so outraged by an untruthful ad that you`ve complained to the Advertising Standards Authority? Try it. My bet is you`ll struggle to find a single untruthful claim. If you do, and your complaint is valid, the ad will be pulled and the ad agency punished. That`s because we operate under a draconian code of `legal, decent, honest and truthful` that`s a hundred times stricter than your toothless Press Complaints Commission.

More to the point, the vast majority of the men and women I`ve worked with over the last 28 years ( and it`s a fifty/fifty gender split, by the way) are also nice, decent, truthful people. In fact half the people in this agency give up their free time once a fortnight to do free marketing clinics for any business that`s based in Leith for no other reason other than that we love Leith and we think we can help small businesses to market themselves more effectively.

Oh dear, I`ve ranted onto a second page. Let me finish with an invitation and a challenge. Come into The Leith Agency for a day. If you can find a single ad with a lie in it, I`ll buy you an Eighties-style advertising lunch at the posh restaurant of your choice. If you can`t, the lunch is on you.

Alternatively, if you`d prefer something more adversarial, I`ll stand up and debate the point with you anytime, any place, anywhere (see what I did there again).

Or, if you feel particularly feisty about the whole thing, I`ll fight you for it in a boxing ring, all proceeds to a cancer charity.

Any of those three would give you material for a more interesting piece of journalism than the tired old tat you bashed out for your TV review in Wednesday`s Scotsman.

Yours Wearily,

Gerry Farrell
Creative Director, The Leith Agency

Sometimes working in advertising can be such a burdon, like when people ask you if you’ve seen a new ad…

I’ve seen (and heard on the radio) this ad far too often.

In the trade we call it “A pile of shit that’s beautifully lit.”

I know that selling cars must be hard.

Hard to differentiate and hard to be as good as Honda. Oh how the Ford boys must hate the Honda jibes.

But this is toe curlingly, truly awful. Actually, no, it’s worse, much worse than that…

It’s just. You know. Embarrasing.

Sorry to inflict it on you again.

This is the “director’s cut”