Monthly Archives: June 2023

Insurance, Illusion and Infamy

Also see here.

Insurance, you say?

When I took on breakdown cover from Green Flag just four years ago, it cost me, as I recall, about £60. The AA were asking a lot more. I think it was about £250, though it may have been more. That was my “reward” for being with the AA for 38 years. When I rang to complain about their new member prices a few years previously  they basically told me to get lost, as there was no reduction for me, just a lifetime of servitude as a cash cow. I put up with it a while longer, as I am always a little afraid of changing insurance companies, but their prices rose and my standard of living fell, so I had to do something.

When I rang to cancel they offered me a better deal, based on the same deal they were currently doing for new members. I told him they should have thought of that when I had originally asked, as they had now pushed me to the point of no return.

Green Flag, which I have used to help with tyre changes twice in four years has been good, but they have doubled in price in four years, well ahead of the rate of inflation. This is even more noticeable as i hardly use the car these days.

St George – enamel on a Crown coin

I am now with Britannia, who are providing my cover for £99, about £30 less than Green Flag. Ironically, the AA, which does not seem to have gone up over the years, has a half price offer on and would have provided this cover for £110 – slightly less than Green Flag. Even the full rate appears to be lower than the price I paid four years ago. I won’t, of course, go back to the AA at the moment, because I’m still annoyed with their piratical pricing practices. The RAC has just had an offer that came in around the £99 mark. In their case I passed because I had arranged to transfer to them but they didn’t contact me to arrange it at the agreed time. You don’t want breakdown insurance with a company that might forget you, do you?

Something I find very interesting is that both the AA and RAC have comparison websites to telll you how much better they are than Green Flag and Britannia. I take these sites, and the special offers, to mean that more and more people are buying on cost these days.

When I told Green Flag I would not be renewing, guess what they said? Yes, straight from the playbook – they could reduce the price for me if that would get me to stay.

Car insurance companies are now supposed to offer the same price to existing customers as they do to new customers. This doesn’t seem to be the case with breakdown insurance. In fact I just looked this up – the new rules apply to car and household insurance, but testing the market still seems to indicate that you can get a discount by shopping around.

I remember a cartoon from many years ago – one City banker saying to another, “No, they didn’t banks can “police” themselves, they said banks can “please” themselves.” Same, I suspect, for insurance companies.

It was the Alex strip in The Independent but I can’t find the actual cartoon. Some of these are quite funny too. And these. And these . . .

St George – enamel on a Crown coin

A Rising Tide of Fury

Yesterday was quite a good day. I slept reasonably well, woke feeling alert and immediately set to work.

First I checked the appointment that the NHS had sent me. I now qualify for an Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm scan. It used to be 67, but they have brought the age down to 65. I can’t get an appointment at the doctor’s for something that is bothering me, but I can get all sorts of things that I don’t want. It reminds me of a time a few years ago that I found myself booked in for a liver scan. I didn’t ask for one, there were no problems with the results of my regular blood tests and I told the doctor that I didn’t want one as I couldn’t se it was necessary. Being a member of the NHS he, of course, couldn’t see that half a day off work, a journey across town and an outlay of cash for a taxi, tram or parking was a problem.

Belgian Medals

It all went quiet during lock-down. Basically, very little was done, which was fair enough as they had COVID to deal with. However, when they came back from COVID, all these things which they had ignored for the best part for two years, suddenly became life-threatening. I had several letters with appointments for things that hadn’t mattered for years, and were suddenly very pressing. Even more annoying, several of them implied it was my fault that I hadn’t kept up with the tests. I thought it would be churlish to complain, but I did ring the liver scan people and ask why it was necessary. Turns out that it wasn’t necessary. According the the receptionist, they had been bought a new scanner and the doctor in charge was dying to give it a try. Most people, like me, were bemused to find themselves lined up for a liver scan. She asked if I’d like to discharge myself. So I did. I’ve had no recall and no liver symptoms since. That’s the trouble with the health service – they are always exploring new avenues of proving you are sick so they can give you more pills.

American Medals

However, back to the AAA Scan. It fits in quite neatly with my requirements – I am off that day, it’s at a hospital I can see as I sit here typing and there is convenient parking. So that went well and required no real effort. I do have a number of concerns about it, on reading the details, the main one of which is reference being made to “tummy”. That’s a word for children and, like every other similar instance I read on the NHS website, it irritates the hell out of me. It’s like the nurses I sometimes get, who talk to me as if I’m a child. I have not yet reverted to childhood. and yes, AAA does look like the result of a focus group on acronyms, but I’ll let that one ride.

Next up was my Green Flag membership, I’ve already reached 500 words, so I’ve taken enough of your time. I may be back later, though, so if discussions of breakdown insurance and the evils of insurance companies are of interest it might be worth your while to pop back later.

I promise you that the barbs I have so far aimed are nothing compared to what is likely to come later.

More American Medals

The pictures have nothing to do with the text. Sorry about that.

Reflections on Class

I noticed last night, after posting the header picture, that even in photography I reveal my roots. The bowl of chips is probably OK with salad and sandwiches, but I realised, when I went back to check the post, that the chips had brown sauce on them. I believe I’m right in saying that people from the upper echelons of society don’t generally have brown sauce on anything. It doesn’t feature at the events of the Bullingdon Club and you are unlikely to find it in picnic baskets at Glyndebourne and Henley.

You cannot really imagine Charles and Camilla anointing their Full English with a helping of brown sauce can you? On the other hand, The Wilsons and their varied offshoots, whilst being common with condiments, do tend towards harmony in other aspects of our lives. I have never, as far as I recall, criticised my father on Oprah Winfrey, or any other chat show. Nor have I ever done away with a member of the family for personal gain.

This is the difference between being rich and being upper class. I could survive having money, because that’s easy. I’d still have brown sauce, I’d just have it out of something silver. But if I had to become upper class, as in the case of a King Ralph scenario, I could be in trouble. Fortunately, it is unlikely to happen.

Someone has probably written an etiquette guide to condiments, and the Royal Family undoubtedly has  a policy on such things. Things like anchovy sauce and Patum Peperium  would undoubtedly feature in my diet if I had to become upper class. having a sauce bottle on the table, would not. I imagine that I would also find myself eating quails eggs and things in a coulis. I will leave the Lancashire Hotpots to have the final say on that subject.

Chippy Tea

The Nap Trap and Problems with Class

Last night I got stuck with the sandwiches.

“I feel very tired,” said Julia, yawning. “Can you do the sandwiches?”

Well, I can’t really say no, seeing as she does more housework than I do. I, on the other hand, do more eating, poetry and driving than she does, but I never get any credit for this when the subject of my laziness comes up for discussion.

The sandwiches are cheap paté from ASDA and the vegetarian accompaniment is sliced water melon. It beats carrot sticks. However, carrot sticks are probably better for me. Cardboard would probably be better for me too, as it would fill me up without too much in the way of salt, sugar or carbs.

The evening started badly when I made up for my poor overnight sleep with two substantial naps. The second started around 11pm and lasted until 1.30am, which is always bad news. At that time I get up feeling like I need bed but have to make sandwiches. This in turn wakes me up, meaning I sleep badly and will then fall into the nap trap again.

Really I should just go to bed then get up early to make sandwiches, but I’d be so scared of oversleeping that I’d never get off to sleep properly.

The real solution is, I suppose, to make the sandwiches at 4pm when I return home, but I have always made them as late as possible to keep them fresh. It’s one of those habits you get into. I always feel that if you leave it late you can use things like cucumber and tomato, which would make the sandwich too soggy if left for too long.

Do you have any old-established habits which you would like to change?

When I win the lottery I will have Julia send the butler down at regular intervals with sandwiches, fresh fruit salad and ice cream. I’d probably have a fresh shirt delivered for the afternoon too, though I’m not sure if that would be a job for the butler or whether I’d need a valet for that. That’s the trouble with being brought up as working class in a class-ridden society – no matter how much money you may dream of winning, there’s always that basic insecurity of never being quite sure which servant does which job.



A Pond in Poetry

Burntstump Country Park, Notts

First Published in Wales Haiku Journal Autumn 2020.

I’d alter it slightly if I were submitting it now, but always feel that once they are released into the world I shouldn’t tinker.

As published, it was about a third of its original length, the rest dwelling on the decline of great country houses after the Great War. I suppose a lot of poems have  a similar back story. The pond in the pictures is the pond I write about, though the yellow flags are just out of the picture. I may have done this one in the blog before – sorry if that is the case.

What the Water Sees

At the end of the woodland path a pond waits in the sunlight. It has been there for a century and a half.

Purple-flowered rhododendrons tumble down one bank, doubled by their reflection in the water. Today it is quiet, disturbed only by birdsong and the movement of water voles. It is a different place at weekends. Parents and dog owners shatter the peace with their yelling and the ducks are pelted with volleys of bread.

The pond remains unchanged. The scent of wild garlic drifts from the woods and a moorhen fusses round a stand of yellow flags.

a place in history
the shape of a vole
in water


Burnt Stump Country Park


A Few Thoughts of No Importance

I think I’ve been thinking too much. This is particularly in relation to my blog posts, where it’s a lot easier just to throw a lot of words at the page and have done with it. Trying to have a beginning, an end and something sensible in the middle tends to make it harder for me to work. Add laziness and disorganisation and this is why I am no longer blogging regularly.

As the lucrative offers from newspapers and book publishers seem slow in arriving, and as my real followers seem fairly fixed, I’m clearly not going to gain much from quality writing. If you are still with me after all this time you are clearly not difficult to please, and aren’t expecting much in the way of insight, so I am going to concentrate on the other reason I blog – to attain fluency of thought and writing. This is meant to be training for writing poetry, and I’m worried that my current lack of poetry is rooted in my lack of regular posting.

I’m now going to attempt to prove this link by writing regularly, and see if the poetry returns. If it doesn’t, I will have to come up with a new theory. It’s easy enough, theories, just like many things, are merely words thrown onto paper or a computer screen.

Oher news today is that we have had Number One son for the day as he is travelling from Manchester to Norwich, and we watched Elton John at Glastonbury. He’s doing alright for 76, but if I had his money I think I’d just retire. It was, however, nice to see a multi-millionaire superstar who was having trouble with ill-fitting trousers. I spotted this, and he mentioned it later in the set. Bad enough having gold foil trousers, but even worse if they won’t stay up properly.


Reflections on Inhumanity

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to realise that you were a mile underwater and you were about to die. Even worse if you’d taken your son with you. It’s easy to be wise after the event. It was also easy, as we saw during the week, easy to strike the wrong note with any public expression of your thoughts. Some people spoke of safety, with all the clarity of hindsight. Others were unfeeling enough to use it as an excuse to say it showed the rich didn’t pay enough taxes, or to contrast it with the experiences of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.

Personally, I’m not very much concerned that over 70 refugees (or economic migrants or illegal immigrants – whatever you want to call them) drowned in the Mediterranean. This isn’t because I am callous, it’s just that there is so much news these days that I think we have all become desensitised. We are also quite insular.

Last week in Nottingham a grandfather was killed and his van stolen, The killer stabbed two 19-year-old students and rammed a bus shelter with the van, injuring three people. One of the three victims of that attack is still in hospital. I know the area, my kids used to go out clubbing in Nottingham like the dead kids.  I can empathise with the victims.

The submarine victims all had faces and stories and I can identify with them to an extent. Plus the Titanic is always a source of interest.

But present me with a crowd of victims and there is little impact. I think I covered a story a while ago where it was suggested we call cyclists “people who ride cycles”. Cyclists are faceless demons who ride recklessly on pavements and ignore traffic regulations. People who ride cycles are people like Tootlepedal – blogger, raconteur and grandfather. Despite the cycle, they are very different people.

So my suggestion is that we stop referring to people as refugees (or economic migrants or illegal immigrants) and start using their names. We still don’t need a flood of them coming into the country, because we are struggling to look after the people who are already here, but we could at least start treating them like human beings, and that might help us to sort things out. Seventy people drown and I can shrug it off. Seventy people with names and stories is a different matter.

Day Lily


A Brief Flurry of Activity

It is a completely accurate headline, unlike some on the internet. There was a furry of activity (as in rapid and lightly manic movement) and it ceased not long after it started.

Headlines for today were about the Titanic tourists. I’m hoping for a happy ending, followed by relief, rejoicing, several best-selling books and a film. I won’t buy the books and I’m unlikely to watch the film as, by the time it comes out, I will already know the ending. I have some views about people who do this sort of thing, but today isn’t the day to reveal them. However, if I tell you that I get annoyed with walkers who get lost on mountains in the UK and have always said they should be given a bill for the rescue effort, you will probably be able to guess. However, I have no patience with the people who are using this as an excuse for bashing the rich or telling about their experience on the submarine.

On a slightly lower level of importance I see there are calls for Miss Scotland to be stripped of her title after allegations of drunkenness and racism at a Rugby Event of the weekend. I’m not sure if the alleged racism was committed by Miss Scotland or not and the report isn’t clear, so it’s probably just another case of a journalist scoring cheap points.

It seems a number of the people calling for the title being withdrawn are worried about the reputation of the competition. I must admit I was surprised that it is still in existence. Any competition that lines up women like they were entrants at Crufts, has no place in the 21st Century.

Finally, a story that is a perfect illustration of modern life for me. Pardon my coy tone, but I have grandparents and churchgoers amongst my readership, and don’t wish to offend. However, I also have a juvenile sense of humour and a love of pointing out the absurdity of modern life.

Warning – only click the next link if you are prepared for material of a sexual nature and are not offended by stories of stupid people.

Second Warning – don’t search for other stories of a similar nature unless you re prepared for some alarming photographs. Not all internet users are as subtle as I am.

A woman ordered an item from an “adult store” as I believe they are now called. It’s something people do these days, we even have adverts for such things on late night TV. She was, it appears, promised confidentiality  and discreet packaging. When it arrived, the packaging had a description of  the item on the label. She was, of course, embarrassed that the delivery man knew what was in her delivery.

And this being the 21st century, she decided, instead of sneaking away blushing, to go on social media, picture the offending package and tell thousands of people how embarrassed she was that the delivery man had seen the parcel label. Not the way I would have handled my embarrassment, but it takes all sorts.

And yes, it was difficult selecting photographs for this post.

Wild flowers

Time for a Change of Pace

Here’s a Tanka prose from a while back. I thought it was time for a more relaxed posting. It’s tempting, after my recent reading of a book of poetry criticism, to write about the poem. But I won’t, because it won’t improve anything.

This was first published in Ribbons, in Winter 2023.

The Shadow of the Red Kite

Simon Wilson, Nottingham, UK

The autumn sun warms my back as we sit in the old stable yard. My wife outlines her plans for the day and I run my fingers over the grain in the silvery surface of the weathered tearoom table. Our tea and bara brith arrive. Translated from the Welsh, bara brith means speckled bread, referring to the dried fruit that is its most noticeable feature.

Three wasps also arrive. Two fly away as my wife flaps her hand at them, but one lands on the table and stalks my food. It hauls itself over the rim and begins to gorge on the juicy centre of a raisin. My wife tells me to chase it off but I don’t have the heart. It is September and soon it will die. I can spare a little dried fruit for a fellow struggler.

She breaks off the conversation and points over my shoulder. I turn to see the distinctive silhouette of a Red Kite overhead. When I was a child, it was a very rare bird in the UK, and survived only in Wales. I remember the combined thrill and disappointment I experienced on a family holiday when I was ten years old–the profile and the flash of red that denoted a kite, but at a distance so great I could hardly see it, and never quite believed I had seen one.

kites in the sky
and mist on the mountains
with you beside me
if this is all life is
it is enough


Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

Soup and a Virtuous Life

I know I keep saying I must lead a better life, but the events of the last couple of days have finally brought things to a head.

For the last two days I have been incapacitated. It’s partly down to bad habits and partly due to stupidity. My medications can cause digestive disruption but generally this isn’t too bad, and I have a range of ways of coping with it. One is to take other pills to stop it happening, and the other is to watch what I eat, as some foods are worse than others. Mainly I control it by taking the pills on Saturday night (the dose is ten pills once a week) so I have Sunday to recover. Normally, nothing bad happens. I’m not an idiot, despite some of the things I write, and generally I can adapt to most things in the search for an easy life.

On Saturday, I forgot to take the pills, so this week I took them on Sunday. It’s not usually a problem. However, this week Julia had bought a Colin the Caterpillar Superman Cake for Father’s Day. Any excuse for a celebration . . .

Unfortunately Colin has four feet and a face which are all big chunks of chocolate. Add rich chocolate cake, chocolate and (I confess, a pork pie) to my medication and the results were uncomfortable.

I suppose I’m getting older and I should be more careful with my diet. I’m also less resilient than I used to be. This was a fact driven home yesterday as I sat on the edge of the bed staring into space and thinking about putting my socks on. It was the same sort of thing I used to do when I had Covid, but this time it wasn’t a worldwide pandemic that brought me down, just eating too much cake.

I was still a bit slow putting my socks on this morning, but much better than yesterday. I’m now going to make beans on toast for lunch (my first solid food since Sunday) and explore the many choices of soup that I can make. I may even blog again today, after a few weeks of being lazy.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Carrot & Ginger Soup