James Miller


Monday, October 29, 2007

Executive Pay


The problem isn’t the pay, it’s the benefits and the employment protection that senior management get.

I believe that if you own over £100,000 say, then you have no employment rights and can be fired instantly. Just think how such a system would improve football. But seriously, if many companies and organisations are brought down because people are too expensive to fire.

Obviously, those at the bottom end of the scale would have full employment rights and they would lose them gradually from say £50,000 per year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nuisance Calls from 07975-825284


This idiot rings me twice a day. I've not caught him yet and I only know because my phone tells me someone has rung. So I've no idea whether it's a silent call or someone trying to sell me something.

So I tried to report it to BT's nuisance call bureau on 0800-6614413, but they said I must report it to Orange. Guess what, every number I could find needed an Orange mobile phone to report the problem.

But I'm happy with mine and think it a bit rich to have to change my mobile to Orange to report one of their idiot customers.

Eventually I found an e-mail form and sent this. I doubt I'll get a reply.

The Orange number 07975-825284 rings me twice a day. As yet I've not managed to catch it, but my phone says I've been called. I've tried to ring it back, but I get an answerphone with a full voicemail box.

Can you please sort it?

My landline is 01440-783789

I should also say that I couldn't find an address to write to on the Orange web site.

That is a disgrace and it should be the law.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Back Stabbing


I feel I should speak up for those that run businesses well and treat their staff properly.

I’ve been in business for nearly forty years and I can’t remember an incident where someone treated me badly deliberately. I’ve got lots of bad service and trying to get products and services out of companies, is sometimes like pulling teeth. But that’s incompetence.

I should also say, that of the three employees I have at the moment, two have been with me for over fifteen years and the other for nearly three.

There is a link between an incompetent company, bad business practices, staff leaving all the time, inefficiencies and lack of success.

On a more general point, I believe that the more you earn, the less employment rights you should have. So say, if your salary is over £100,000, then you can be fired on a whim. (You would probably get a premium for this!) How many times have companies or organisations been brought down by a useless manager, who is too expensive to fire?

So Martin Jol would have gone without compensation. As would most footballers who don’t perform. What we’d get is good loyal players, who would get just rewards for their efforts, playing for well-run clubs. Unfortunately, it would never happen.

On the other hand, I know of people who once they were fired, got their ambitions together and became very successful as either employees or employers. Failure is a great motivator.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is Miss England too Thin?


She says she’s five eight and nine stone.

For most of my life, I’ve been about that size, although I’m perhaps a few pounds heavier now. I’ve been very healthy. My wife is a size 10, perhaps a stone lighter than me and a couple of inches shorter.

As my wife and I are pretty fit for those around 60 and would never count ourselves overly thin, then I would say that Miss England is probably about right.

As an aside, I live in Newmarket and she’d be considered rather overweight for that town.



A lot of our problem is perception.

Take glass bottles. You wash a bottle and it is as clean as a new pin, so why can’t it go back to the factory?

Bottles are cheap to produce and are manufactured where the materials are taken out of the ground and may well use less energy to manufacture, than would be employed to collect them all, sort them to the various products and get them back to the factory. In many cases, plastic bottles are used, because the general public doesn’t feel they should be recycled, whereas they feel glass can just be washed and reused.

Near here they built a new by-pass at Fordham. Instead of using aggregate, they used crushed glass.

Now that is creative recycling.

As an aside, when we had our children in the seventies, most of the time we used real nappies. Now if we wanted to be green, we should ban disposable nappies, except in very special cases.

Female Web Designers


I’ve been in the computer industry since 1969.

When I was first on my own as a programmer in the early 19070s, there were a lot of women working in the industry. I can remember women salesmen and a lot of marketing and support people.

I can remember going to a worldwide meeting about the project management software, I’d developed, Artemis, in perhaps 1980 and nearly half of the delegates were female. One of the reasons, was that many had come to work with Artemis, because they could type and a large number were ex-secretarial staff. A few years ago, I went to a similar meeting and the meeting was perhaps eighty to ninety percent male.

So what you are seeing in a lack of female designers is just a reflection of the computer industry in general, which is increasingly more and more male-oriented. I was at an exhibition last week and nearly all the women were there as decoration.

So what has gone wrong?

I’m married to a barrister. When she started practising in the late 1970s, there were few women lawyers. Now the proportion is probably fifty percent at least and rising, as older men retire to be replaced by younger women. Accountancy, medicine and other professions are going the same way, with increasing numbers of female entrants.

I will argue that men and women have different attitudes. Men are obsessive, as when everyone was living in caves, that man had to go and kill that buffalo otherwise everybody starved to death. The women, had to stay behind multi-tasking and trying to keep everything together. This obsession is better suited to the computer industry and the multi-tasking is much better for the law, accountancy and medicine.

As an example of this, my wife does a different case and sometimes two every day. She argues to a settlement, but rarely does she have to sort out some of the mind-bending bugs and glitches that I have to. She just can’t understand, why sometimes I’ll spend a whole month fighting one of Microsoft’s bugs. Why don’t I complain? She just comes to a compromise with the judge and the other lawyers.

This obsession also explains why there are very few female serial killers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

200,000 Badgers


Could you contemplate killing 200,000 badgers?

I probably couldn’t myself and feel that everything should be done to avoid it. But putting every milk farmer out of business in the affected areas and potentially the whole country is not an option.

But what if the badgers were carrying a disease that was pretty nasty and sometimes fatal for humans. If it was rats and bubonic plague, then there would be no question, that every rat must go.

Emotion must be taken out of the argument and what is best for the country and our food should be done.

Proofing Press


Traditional letterpress printers and also many others often have wonderfully archaic proofing press, many of which are well over a hundred years old. My father actually dated from the late 18th century and was older than any I've ever seen in a museum.

Proofing Press

Studlands still uses their press to create all the door cards for the Horse Sales at Newmarket.

Proofing Press

Proofing Press

All of these letters bring back memories for me, as that was how I learned to read, write and spell.

But they are backwards! So didn't this give me problems with knowing which way round letters go.

No! If anything the reverse, as I have a strong sense of spatial awareness and can turn any drawing through any number of degrees with impunity.

Original Heidelbergs


Whilst at Studlands Printing Company, I took the chance to take photographs of Peter's three Original Heidelbergs. There can't be many places in the UK, where this number of machines are still working together. The average age of the machines is well past forty, which would be younger than the ones I worked on at my father's works in Wood Green. One of his dated to the 1930s.

Original Heidelberg

Two Original Heidelbergs

The last picture shows how the platten mechanism works and how paper is fed to the machine. The paper is lifted by suction and handed to one of the arms on the characteristic windmill, which then holds it for printing and then stacks it in the output tray.

Original Heidelberg - Platten

Those were the days spent on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays devilling away at Station Road in Wood Green.

Letterpress or Proper Printing


To me there is only one really true and correct method printing. And that is the method of Johannes Gutenberg, with real moveable metal type. It was also the method used by my father at his print works in Wood Green, H. Miller and Sons. My father was one of the sons.

Metal Type

I had created an invite for a friend and needed to get them cut from A4 to A5, so I went to see Peter at Studlands Printing Company in Newmarket. He is one of the last of the true letterpress printers in this part of the world.

But then letterpress is so much better for proper personal stationery, like letterheads and invitations.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Death of an Old Minchendenian


The death has just been announced of Alan Coren, someone with whom I share an old school, Minchenden Grammar in Southgate.

He will be surely missed by everyone and especially his family.

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Sainsburys seem to have the ability to shoot themselves regularly in both feet.

I went to their Haverhill store, as I had to pass it on the way to get some plumbing bits.

I needed gluten-free soy sauce, dog mixer, dry cat food, two pints of organic skimmed milk and some Coke. All but the Coke was unavailable, but I was able to get a four pint milk. I also bought some Trufree biscuits and some Black Farmer sausages, but do they expect people like me to go fifteen or so kilometres to find out they haven’t got everything I need. Tesco and Waitrose are never as bad at stocking the store.

To cap it all, they were out of diesel.

BBC Cuts


Over a period of a year, I spent some time with a very successful and award winning producer trying to put together a program. We did some filming, which involved four from the BBC and me. It could have been done with just a cameraman and an interviewer.

In the end nothing happened.

From this it seems to me that the whole planning structure for programs is far too bureaucratic and a lot of staff spend time trying to put ideas together which are then dumped.

I know from talking to independent producers and others involved in making feature films, that production costs, without the actors/staff costs, are dropping. This surely means that more innovative programs could be made much cheaper outside of a large corporate structure.

We also have lots of independent news teams, with I believe each news program having separate production teams. Surely, when we talk about cuts in news personnel, a bit more joined up production would keep the money where it is used best, on such things as in-depth reports on real issues.

Incidentally, I’ve appeared on BBC East twice. The first time, there was a team of three and the second it was just the producer and a camera. The quality of both news snippets was exactly the same.

So, I think the BBC cuts are essential. But they will make the program making process more efficient and a whole lot better.

It may be hard for those made redundant, but I suspect that in a few years times, most will feel that they are doing better than they are now. It’s nearly always the way when a large monolithic organisation is made more efficient.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

You're Fat Because You're Lazy and Stupid


I travel to Cambridge regularly and it is one of the least-fat towns in England, as it has a very high level of cycling and walking. There are also a high proportion of intelligent people, who know the problems of being overweight. But go to the other way to say Haverhill and the proportion of obese people is very much higher.

I’m sixty and as trim as I was when I left school.

Yesterday, I played an hour of real tennis at eight in the morning and then took the train to London and on to Stonebridge Park. I then walked a mile to my client who did give me a lift to the tube for an exhibition at Earls Court, where I ate an excellent salad for lunch.

I arrived home about six and my wife and I ate another healthy meal after her pilates. She’s trim too!

How many people would have used their car to do the business trip I did and cut out all the healthy food?

But can they still climb a two thousand foot mountain, as I did on holiday last July? No!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Metier - Stonebridge Park


Today, I had to visit a new client, Brownell, in the Park Royal Industrial Estate. There is no nearby station, so you have to go to one on the periphary and walk. I chose Stonebridge Park, as Metier used to have offices there in the early 1980s.

You walk along a new footpath, as the North Circular Road has been diverted at this point to the south onto a new dual carriageway. It's surprisingly quiet now, but then it was a slow noisy, dirty, congested artery around London. Surgery was needed and it got it.

The old North Circular Road at Stonebridge Park

This picture shows the offices. They are a real architectural gem, which I believe we took over from The Church Army, who I found out today from my client, took them over from Rizla.

Metier - Stonebridge Park

It appears that they are now used by various itinerant companies improving the railway infrastructure. Judging by the pictures they don't seem to have done much to the building.

This view doesn't show it in a better light either.

Metier - Stonebridge Park

There is a rather attractive bridge that leads over the North Circular into Park Royal and the previous picture was taken looking back from the bridge. In the next picture, you can see the bridge, the building and the famous Ace Cafe.

Metier - Stonebridge Park

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Great Storm


On the 16th October 1987, we experienced one of the worst storms in the UK. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a hurricane, but it caused more damage than any storm for 300 years.

At the time we lived at Debach, north of Ipswich and we were without electricity for nearly two weeks. Luckily we cooked on a gas AGA and surprisingly the phones kept going.

It is also the time, when I had the narrowest escape of my life.

I’ve always got up early in the morning to work, as it is the best time, when you don’t get interrupted by phone calls or family. But that morning although I was up, I wasn’t in the office as luckily there was no power. At about six-thirty the chimney blew over, came through the roof and went right through where I normally sat.

We’d also turned out two horses in the field that night for the first time. One was an old racehorse, who’d been confined to his box for two years with leg problems and the other was a newly-weaned foal.

They had no problems, as instinct kept them to the safe place in the middle of the field, with their backsides to the wind.

So would the Internet help?

Hopefully the warnings and the weather forecasts would be better. But I suspect that the chaos might actually be worse, as many people would be unable to connect and would be suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.

Printers and Puncuation


My father was a real printer and why punctuation is important to printers, is that apostrophies, commas and full-stops can easily be mistaken. So you had to be careful.

I used to know a lot of the slang for various punctuation. For instance an exclamation mark is known as a shriek.

Ah! Those were the days of emms, reglets, quoins and chaises.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kelvin McKensie


Four cheers for Kelvin.

Here in East Anglia, we have about the same GDP as Scotland, but only 38 percent of this is direct Government funding as opposed to 56 percent in Scotland. We export more and are much profitable. We are also producing new entrepreneurial companies at a phenomenal rate.

But we have underdeveloped roads and railways, and a lot of infrastructure is just missing. Take Great Yarmouth, which is an unemployment blackspot because it’s not connected by a decent road or railway to the rest of the country.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Finally, I Win Something


In all my over sixty years, I've never won any sporting trophy by my own efforts.

Until today, when I became UK National Champion for those playesr with handicaps between 50 and 54. I got a tankard to prove it.

There were only four entries though.

But a win is a win!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Inheritance Tax


A couple of years ago, I had a letter published in the Financial Times about why Inheritance tax should be abolished.

A previous Conservative Treasury Minister and myself exchanged e-mails and he told me that it could be paid for, by two pence on the standard rate of Income Tax.

That would be bold and it would put a lot of expensive lawyers and accountants out of business. Or at least make them do more productive work.