A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times




Barry took the tab at breakfast with his coffee. He skimmed through the mail: now he was fifty he could have £100 off his next car insurance and might win a trip around the world. He didn't drive. He had timed everything perfectly but the delivery - expected at 9 - was late. The drug was already kicking in and he was beginning to feel light and strange in his own room as the man with the large ears and little nose unpacked boxes and complained about yesterday's customers.
‘Not a jot on the floor, naked kids running about and the latest wide screen and all the works.' Barry tried to keep up with the man's dark eyes, which shifted around too quickly in their sockets. ‘Have you got sweets in?' Barry thought he heard and when he shrugged was told, ‘for the kids tonight. Little beggars won't leave you alone.'
Barry said there was no need to set it up, he worked in an electrical shop and could manage but by then the man was on all fours laying cable and squatting to demonstrate the various sound options.
‘Hall. Live. Rock. You name it. Orchestral.' He waved the remote like a baton. He talked as if he lived here and Barry was the visitor.
Wasn't it good now though to hear Hendrix as he'd never heard him, from five speakers. The lazy guitar of Hey Joe. He lay back on the sofa and dropped through to other sofas and rooms he'd lain in and been at ease. Way back on the green settee with Nina, his girlfriend for two months, when her parents were out. Parties where everybody reclined on scatter cushions, conversation limited by the bass heavy reggae and not much dancing either, you had to be cool, only getting up to kneel over the huge bong when it came round. At weekends there was sometimes dancing, after acid or mescaline in pills or on blotting paper. He remembered tripping on the flare of his loons (which had to touch the floor) and making it into a dance move. Girls had whirled skirt and hair out in circles to Zep or Cream or Caravan; and later under stairs or in bathrooms he got handfuls of tit and tastes of them.
The re-grouping in pubs and cafes the following weekend, pubs closed at 2pm, to discuss what happened after, how they got home in such a state, breathless and dodging skinheads. How they had outwitted drunken lungers, and negotiated dangerous roads where cars were out to eat you. How this one spent the night in the brand new toilets of the motorway service station – ‘excellent facilities', and that one was nearly fucked by a donkey when he slept in a barn; how all somehow had seen the sun rise from the side of a road or under a hedge, the fields and back lanes, the edge of town of his youth.
When Barry and Maxine moved in together, they tried to get more sophisticated: instead of getting out of their heads immediately they would have dinner parties with candles, meals of nut roast and sweet potatoes and play Dylan and Roxy Music until they finished the Viennetta and got out the big rizlas and put on Peter Tosh or Burning Spear.
He remembered Maxine's fads, how she grew out of fringed leather jackets and boots quickly, on to the multicoloured waistcoats. When she only wore that. How she got into Greek food when the restaurant opened in town; the stray cats she fed out the back; her languor on Sundays lying the length of the sofa, like him now, bringing her chocolates and drinks and rewarded with sex.
He tried to read the free paper pushed through the door but the headlines merged: Queen Eats Ambassador's Son; Freed Man Topples Bridge, and little wavering flames flared up from between the lines of print to print him with burns.
He lay on turf with dripping water nearby and a hidden but throbbing power station, the leaning tower of Nina helped him with his tea.
The doorbell rang a second time and it was Tom. ‘Howdy pardner.' He was panting from the bike ride across town and pushed his vehicle in straight through to the kitchen.
‘Didn't know if you'd be in.'                                                          
‘Coffee? Bong? Pills?'
***
‘"I'm from the National Blonde Transfusion Service," she said to me,' Tom said to him leaning back on his chair and stretching out long legs. Barry could hear the faint pops and cracks of sinews and gristle and saw how they coloured the air around Tom. His friend's head went back when he exhaled as if pushed back by the smoke, an elephant's trunk of it, he still had hanks of hair hanging either side of his head, left from the days when it was abundant and flowing.
‘People on top of the world,' said Tom, ‘how do they keep their balance?' Then he stopped to lift and blow into an imaginary saxophone as Mirror in the Bathroom broke out; nodding in praise of the new system.
They tried to make packet soup but ended up eating rubble with gulps of warm water instead. Luckily there was a lot of chocolate.
‘You prepared well, captain,' said Tom, eyeing the bars in the fridge, and turned to salute him.
‘Danke-shun, mein heir.' He didn't know why he'd turned German.
They bumped into each other on the stairs. They talked as if they'd met in the countryside, on the stairs there, as if wind was ruffling their hair and they had ruddy complexions.
Finally Barry bundled him out, bike and all, both vowing they would grow up soon, glancing up and down a street that seemed to come out of fog and concertina in and out around him, for the next interruption. The second phase of the drug was settling in, one that went right to his extremities, and he wanted to wank, wank longingly over Maxine and Nina both. Maxina. Mixed up together for him, and with only his pleasure in mind. But he'd only got to the first imaginings, Maxine with Nina's legs, when the doorbell rang again.
***
Maxine. She walked in as if out of a cubist painting both eyes on the same side of her angular face, which was wrong because if Maxine was known for anything it was the roundness of her face. He couldn't be sure it was her who he'd been picturing so recently. A voice came from her that was the same, similar, but he couldn't place the tone or manner, even the accent.
‘OK, OK,' he heard himself say to himself and turned away from her dark maroon patterned clothes with yellow buttons like beams of light, torches into his room. First time he'd seen her she was in a yellow top, blouse with wide cuffs, some kind of matching hair band too, in the days when those things were worn.
He sat opposite her and momentarily his back slipped into place so that the pain he'd been experiencing, even through the drugs, seemed turned off. The room stopped tilting. Maxine's presence seemed to tighten the paintings above her, colours began to brim, the carpet seemed to breathe too, beneath its crust of dust, as if someone had finally cleaned it properly now she ran her eyes over it and around the crowded, smoky room. Each object she looked at sprang to attention.
‘Good sound system.
‘Came today.'
She had long curtains of hair then, everyone did, John Lennon style. He could see her coming through a crowd. Her large pink mouth, slight Elvis curl to it, her little blue eyes, magnified by glasses, too little she said but he liked them, cheekiness there and something else besides, held back in them. Now her hair is a bob, shortish but still thick, grey dyed out, curling at the ends. Her glasses almost invisible. Her mouth pursed, thinner of course, but not as thin as his, like lines drawn he'd been told.
The I'm fine thank yous put out into the room, the settling down of each, the drawing of herself upright as if drawing a line for him to look at, slumped, unshaven and drugged across from her.
Of course after awkwardness they got deep into everyone they mutually knew and how they were doing and who had died, heart attack, lung cancer, overdose, starting with their inner families and working outwards. When he talked back to her he kept tonguing the inside of his front teeth, the curve of the gum, that's where the taste was. They laughed about his mother, still singing Shirley Bassey songs off key and scowling at the clatter of the letterbox, the ring of the doorbell. I do that, he said, did it when you called, must be hereditary. They went through friends, married and divorced, rich, relatively, and poor. Did she still see Stephen and Alice? She didn't.
She'd cut herself off, self-employed, when her new husband and then her lover left. Craft job, did some teaching at an FE college. Teaches the poor darlings to bury treasure he thought he heard her say. He said he was doing the same as when she left which was almost true. Same job, slight promotion, different shop.
Next was books and films they'd watched and read and snapped fingers over the same things like Alice Sebold and Goodfellas, even Blade Runner – had you left by then? He asked incredulously. Aaa-ceed! Chemical Brothers – they both put their hands in the air. She didn't get on with Britpop though, Oasis, turned her nose up.
To make her wrinkle it again he said he liked jazz but he only had one compilation, ‘Music For Pleasure' at that, and he laughed at her reaction and confessed straight away that he didn't, but got out Sufjan Stevens and Sparklehorse CDs to show he'd kept up. He played Chicago, but said he should play something from then, maybe the group Chicago (postcard of Chicago he'd had, Sears tower in his head), something you could think of as their song, something off After The Goldrush, but he couldn't find it, and she said anyway their song had to be Slade, C'Mon Feel The Noize because that's the first song they'd danced to.
‘At the Y.M. disco?'  ‘At the Y.M. disco.'
She accepted a joint from him confessing it had been a while as their fingers touched, thumbs and indexes. She had come, she didn't tell him, to hear him play music again, smell and see him across a room, to put a box around a past that was coming up from pavements and found around corners, how pictures were forming of him and them all the time.
There was a sweet oil in the room she must have brought with her. Perfume maybe. There were bright two-foot beings sat either side of her bathing the room in light from their smiles. He could see the shape of her silhouetted in the light. Her shin the same, the one visible, and her knees, just showing below her dress. The calves too looked familiar, behind the shin and the knee never changing.
He put on Setting Sun to ‘change her mind about Noel Gallagher' and the room was full of the sweeping music. He had to blur his fingers and wave his arms and she laughed and got up to join him. They danced in slow motion/fast motion like the crazed cops on the video, falling into one another at the end.
When she sat down he put on Curved Air's Back Street Luv, which he'd found again recently and downloaded. ‘Wow!' she said and when he put on Gregory Isaac's Loving Pauper and the voice started up she said, ‘you bastard.'
***
When he got up to shuffle to the kitchen he moved as if Rebel Rebel was still playing even though the music had stopped and she followed to the room where little sunlight penetrated but which seemed sun-filled now. It had leaked in from the angels who were dissolving away in the other room. She tapped his shoulder and touched his side, was to the front of him, to the side of him, helping him with cups and kettle and turning on taps, tutting at his fridge, moving with jar and spoon as if she'd often done that here. As if he'd opened his eyes in a place where things persisted.
They ate toast in there and recalled their cat, not the strays, the one that stayed with its fat stripey tail like a racoon's. At the door at night they'd call ‘here, child substitute, here subby, subby.' He remembered it wasn't long after its flattened death on the road that she left, some guy had been parked up around the corner for months, some guy she went to meet in a lounge bar of a near-empty pub on the newly built ring road.
The taste of it like soap and salt came back to him and he turned away, pretending to cough, particles of Marmite and crust spat into his hand. Then he started back and collapsed, shaking. The floor tiles where so many things had smashed cooled the length of him. He shuffled up, back against the wall and drew his knees up.
She leant to him. ‘You OK, Bas? Bas, speak to me.'
‘It's OK, OK,' he said, his body had shuddered at her touch but now calmed. ‘I'm OK. It's the drugs. I'll be there in a minute.'
***
When they got back in the front room and put down drinks and food, she sat on the sofa and asked if she could take off her shoes which he helped her do and felt again the slopes of her feet and the knobs of her toes and the curl under them.
The light had diminished, fog-rain at the window, the house swaddled in cloud. He felt for her leg then and she let him.
His fingertips were alive with this new Maxine, the same Maxine, the same stretch of moles and freckles along the inside of her thigh to the centre of her. She moved to let him try things, to move her back and undo and sit back to take her in, what was the same, what was different, nipples grown and spread the same pink as her lips, her skin generally darker though and the belly protruding, nicks and bumps acquired without him, marking her up but under it the same Maxine that he put his fully clothed arms around and felt contact with along the length of him, the same Maxine he clung to back in days more raw and fresh.
***
They moved upstairs, why had he taken her to the box room that smelt of damp and had crumbled or coming apart books on the windowsill and ledge, posters stacked in cracked frames in a corner, ash and dust laden, the bed cold and resisting as they tried to get in but lay on top of instead, shivery and laughing while she leant to undress him finally.
Would she keep from laughing when she saw his uncut toenails, his patch of greying pubic hair? Maybe his beer belly will hide it, that new fixture he'd built on himself since she'd been gone. He hadn't flossed since 1992. Only now did he worry about the toilet she would use, the spider in the bath, the ring of dirt, the odour from the towel, the soap she would have to tug free of its recess.
He moved into her embrace, her breasts so much bigger now burgeoning under his ribs, he'd forgotten just how small she was. He looked down at her eyes clear as ever but with that depth, looking up at him through blackened lashes, the subtle pinkish eye shadow on the creases of her lids when she blinked.
He remembered fucking her, how she joined in his conceits pretending to be his secretary – very bourgeois, they'd laughed – or strangers meeting in a pub, maybe that planted the seed, the boots and lingerie she wore for him, but now was nothing like that, it was her wrapped around him strongly, pulling him deep as she could. It was a feeling out beyond the drugs but taking those with it, pushing him deep and flat out, everything in him. Their bones bumped, their flesh stuck together; smells of him and her, seaweed and baked bread, sweet sweat, deodorant entered the sterile unadorned room and made it different. Every time he came into this room, he was thinking, as he felt her all over him, her grasp and thoughts and flesh around him, she would be there.
He didn't want to collapse on her, but felt like it after climax like a flare gun going off in him, ripped him up, and he managed to fall back away from her. Everything in him was suddenly mute, gone, and he woke up to find his ex-wife and recent lover slapping him gently. ‘You blacked out,' she said, and for the second time, ‘You OK?'
They lay back then side by side, eventually covering up their aged and pushed out, mottled and dented body and flesh, half covering up: he could still see and touch her grown, flopping breasts. How the bulb light curved around her face, that cheek-and-nose shape, the tiny point of the nose like an apple pip in sight again.
‘I remember when you got the heebie-jeebies,' she said, ‘you wouldn't let anyone talk to you, not even me.' He nodded at it, but they didn't pursue any obvious trails of mutual memory, meeting, special signals, parting, not past one or two sentences about a place and a time.
It had puzzled her this insistence on him she'd thought she'd left behind, but in the clinch she couldn't kill it. She had shaken him because she couldn't, he must have noticed the change in her, she thought, but she saw how he was oblivious, high and away from her. She hadn't got what she'd come for, and couldn't name it anyway and now felt content to have him coming down beside her, his speech and movement slowing down.
‘Thought of you on your 50th,' she did tell him, ‘was out of the country but you know I can't forget the date.'
They moved together again, him stroking her, and promising to cook a curry later, a skill he hadn't lost, when there were three rings on the bell downstairs. Maxine laughed when she realised it was trick-or-treaters and curled into him when he complained about Americanisation, and lay like grace had descended in a warmth remembered and different. Outside the fog thickened as groups of skeletons and monsters and vampires laid siege to the street. Barry and Maxine got closer, balled up in each other, intertwining rough old flesh as kids outside started egging the house, spraying it with paint and flour, and letting off early fireworks, jumping jacks and bangers.

THE HEEBIE GEEBIESSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



As we are now beginning to see some of the early effects of the first of many of the promised, budgeted  and singeing government spending cuts. I thought I may attempt to spread a little hope among a few of you, my readers, by relating this story of a significant highlight in my business calendar...

Now as you may or may not know already, I don’t like to go to many business lunches these days. I find a lot of them to be a waste of my time, and so I don’t go to them. But I went to this one last week that I do try to attend every year – despite all of the inherent difficulties this ensues. You see, it’s always hosted right in the centre of London, and for some reason, my trips into the heart of the capital seem to be perpetually jinxed.

I mean, in the days when I was foolish enough to try to get there by car, any number of unlikely circumstances would often conspire against me to ensure that my journey was as unpleasant and stressful as possible.

One year there was an armed stand-off involving the police on the hard shoulder of the M1 which understandably closed down the motorway for a while. Another year there was a suspected bomb alert, which did the same thing. And then soon after that, some other bloke was inconsiderate enough to choose that very day to end it all by jumping from a motorway bridge into the path of an HGV. Did I mention the year when a horse got loose on the outside lane? Well even that happened too. And the M6 or A1 aren’t much better than this either.

So since deciding to abandon the car, in favour of having my bank accounts cleared out by National Express Coaches, Virgin Rail, or whoever runs the extortion racket that is the national public transport services network these days, things have gone somewhat a little smoother. Yes it costs more than an average transatlantic flight to America, to travel the 200 or so miles to London, and you will invariably find yourself sitting next to some 20 stone, sweaty local authority administrator with personal freshness issues, but at least you usually get there on time. But even rail travel isn’t 100 percent foolproof.

Last year for example, and I swear this is a true story, I almost missed the train when the taxi driver taking me to the station was forced to make an emergency stop at a high street branch of Costa Coffee to empty his colostomy bag.

See? These are the things a high flying entrepreneur like I, just simply can’t ever plan for.

So what is so special about this oh so troublesome lunch, that I go through such hassles and hardships to attend? I hear you ask... Well go on then... Ask me...

Well it’s a gathering of the great and the good (and some not so good!) of the direct selling business. And why do I like it so much? Well there are two things really.

The first is that, like me, the people who attend aren’t really ‘proper’ business people. They don’t go in for long term business plans, they don’t borrow money from the bank, they don’t invest money in plant and machinery, they don’t employ loads of people, they don’t run factories or fancy offices, and they don’t keep regular business hours. In many ways, they are mavericks, living by their wits and entrepreneurial flair, and because of that, you don’t get the same tedious conversations you might get at regular business meetings.

And while we are still all aware of such things, you don’t hear much about the state of the economy, or about interest rates or exchange rates for example. You don’t hear about what the government should or shouldn’t be doing to help small business. You don’t hear people blaming the government, the tax man, the local council or anyone else for the failure of a project or idea.

What you do hear though, is a lot of people talking enthusiastically about their next product, project or venture almost as if they operate in a recession-proof bubble. It’s often as though external factors and influences simply don’t exist – and the truth is that for most small enterprises, in effect, they don’t.

You see while the big businesses are inevitably buffeted by an economic ill-wind, small ones are protected by – well, their size.

For example... Let ’s say you have a 20% share of the £1 Billion a year market for widgets, and the widget market is hit by a 10% fall in demand because of economic conditions. Well that’s about £20 million worth of widget sales you’re likely to lose, and that’s going to take some making up.

But if you’re a £500,000 a year widget business and the same 10% fall occurs, then you’ve only got to find £50,000 of widget sales from a £1 Billion market to be back where you started. That sounds a lot more than possible, doesn’t it?

So what these people at that lunch meeting in Central London knew, was that they were only very small fish in an immensely huge pond. And the overall condition of the pond need not concern them that much because they don’t need a big percentage of the resources of the pond to survive and prosper in like the bigger fry do.

What they also know is that they have amazing flexibility. When you have a huge organisation to look after, all your time effort and resources are often locked into serving one market in a particular way. Making big changes takes time – maybe too much time. But when you are a lone maverick, there are no such restrictions. Economic recession creates new opportunities as well as problems, and if you’re light on your feet, you can quickly change direction in good time and follow those latest opportunities.

So that’s why you won’t ever hear a mass chorus of moans and groans at one of these events. You won’t find people who are waiting for the economy to improve before making their next move. Rather, what you will find; is a group of people who enthusiastically and positively push forward at every opportunity, knowing that an economic downturn is not a barrier to success. In fact it can often be the catalyst for it.

And if something doesn’t quite work out, as things have quite an annoying habit of doing, there’ll be no blame, no recriminations, no woe-is-me… just a simple acceptance that not every product, promotion or venture is successful, and that each failure simply moves you one step closer to something that will work. The people in that room last week have had more failures than anyone you’ll probably ever meet. And I too am a fully paid up member of that same club. But they’ve had a lot more successes too (and made mountains of cash in the process) and realise that the one, rarely comes without the other.

Their response to any failure is to simply say ‘next’… and move on.

The other thing I like about this lunch meeting is that, although it’s attended by some of the fiercest of competitors – selling similar products into the same market place – they almost universally recognise something which few proper business people ever do…

Focussing on grabbing market share is just silly!

When you put a group of competitors together in most industries; and yes, that’s how they see themselves… competitors fighting over a slice of a pre-determined pie. One man’s gain is often measured as another’s loss. But this group don’t see it that way at all. Their target is not another competitor, it’s the market itself. And they see that by expanding the current market, and building its appetite together, they know that everyone will ultimately benefit.

This is surely a much healthier approach to things. It’s one that shuns the idea of scarcity and embraces the idea of a potential market without limits – provided you work together. And when you have that kind of approach, everyone is much more willing to share their ideas, information and trade secrets. And that’s what happens here. Newcomers to these meetings are often astonished how openly information that would be fiercely protected in other industries is freely bandied around. But that’s what happens when you stop targeting a competitor and start targeting the market together.

Well I started out on this piece trapped on the motorway, and I fear I may have gone off road a little bit but as I was about to leave the lunch last week, (mentally preparing myself for spending the next two hours being unwilling party to dozens of phone calls, all of which start out with “I’m on the train” in a Dom Jolly kind of way) when...

A man on my table who I’ve known for many years raised the subject of interest rates. But this time it was a little different. “If I can get another 1% on my money, it’s an extra £400,000 a year to me” he said to uproarious laughter.

They might not be proper business people, this lot, but they don’t do too badly all the same!


DOWN, BUT BY NO MEANS OUT!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend



I went to a funfair quite recently, and noticed that at most of the stalls there, it was quite difficult to win anything. The ‘games of skill’ appeared at first glance to be easy, but when you tried them out, it was far much harder than it first looked, and most people went away a couple of pounds poorer and empty handed...

But one stall there was somewhat different...

Yes, it was another game of skill... simple darts... but instead of having to hit a tiny target, all you had to do to win was hit a playing card. And even then, the cards were larger than the ordinary run of the mill cards we would expect to find in a casino. Even a blind man with the shakes while standing on one leg could have done it. And sure enough, everyone who paid their pound to have a go, hit a playing card and won themselves a prize.

Bad news for the stall owner then?

Well not quite. You see, the prize for hitting a playing card on this site was... a common or garden, somewhat ailing and solitary goldfish. Now goldfish aren’t very expensive at wholesale, probably about 20p each if that, but even then you’re never going to make much money ‘selling’ them to people for a pound.

But this stall owner was a bit cleverer than that...

You see, he knew that the people who had ‘won’ a solitary goldfish at his stall, hadn’t gone to the fair expecting to go home with a new pet. He also knew that they probably had nowhere back home to keep it and nothing to feed it on... Bad news for the goldfish... but really good news for the stall holder. He now had you trapped by your compassion for your new found pet.

Which is why, at the back of his stall he just happened to have a ‘Tank & Food Package’ available for the inflated price of £15!

I stood there and watched with some amazement as punter after punter handed over an extra wad of money to the stall owner to help solve the new problems created by their ‘skill’ and good fortune. And I dare say the stall owner made far more money from the sale of his ‘Tank & Food Packages’ than he ever made from people paying a pound to try and win a goldfish...

And I dare say he made a lot more money than the other stall owners who were laughing at him, those who made their games a lot more difficult and were tighter with their prizes.

This really simple example of one man’s enterprise demonstrates one of the most powerful business profit making secrets of all... the power of back end sales. You see this particular stall owner had tapped into one of the biggest secrets for making money... his own back end sales.

Let me give you another example you’re probably more familiar with.

Have you ever recently bought a domestic electrical appliance? And did you manage to get out of the shop without someone trying to sell you an extended warranty of some kind on it? I thought not. 

I was amused (but not surprised) to have someone in Currys try to sell me an extended warranty insurance plan on an item costing just £60 for an additional £25! Can you even begin to imagine the extra profit realised on that? Far, far more than the measly profit they would have ever realised on the purchase of the original item I’m sure.

You see that’s the power of back end sales for you, and it’s what transforms many unprofitable businesses into remarkably profitable ones. 

Here’s another example that I know a little about...

Have you ever received a mail shot invitation from Readers Digest to enter their massive prize draws and subscribe to the magazine for free or buy one of their books? Of course you have. They’re lavishly produced promotions, which even in the numbers which The Digest print and mail out across the land, are still very very expensive.

But do you think they make a profit on them... yes or no?

While I don’t have access to the Readers Digest mailing list results, I’d stake every last penny I have that these mailings never ever make them an instant direct profit. In fact I’d be astonished if they ever break even. But they’re not expected to...

You see, Readers Digest know (like all direct response companies) that the profits in the business are in the back end. Once someone becomes a subscriber or customer, they become very likely to buy more and more products and services from the company, and over time these will eventually yield them a tremendous profit.

With a company like Readers Digest, that period before the back end sales start to offset the cost of acquiring any new customers can be as much as 3 years or more... something which only those with incredible patience and deep pockets can reasonably tolerate. But that period can also be much shorter in other similar businesses. Quite often, it can be as soon as a second transaction transpires.

The fact is that the profit making heart of a lot of businesses isn’t as obvious as it might first appear. Most car dealers make more money on their finance packages, subsequent servicing and repairs than they do on simply selling cars. Currys, Dixons and the like make more money selling warranties and repeat prescriptions of batteries than they do in selling electrical goods. Most mail order businesses make far more money on repeat orders than they do on initial sales. And our fairground friend makes more money selling his tanks and food than he does from his initial £1 a game entry fees.

I think there are several things you can take away from this, which could either make or save you an enormous amount of money... depending on which side of the sales fence you are actually sitting on...

The public, overt face of any business will rarely reveal where the real money and profit from their sales comes from.

When you’re considering purchasing from any business or money making opportunity, it’s vital that you look below the surface, and dig down to where the real profits are being made. Time and again, they are in the ‘back end’ somewhere, and not in what’s immediately obvious.

When analysing any business, it’s definitely worth looking at their back end. No, not the salesman’s (although for some this could be an added bonus) but the company’s. If they don’t have one, or it isn’t very good, then they’re probably doing all the hard work in initially getting customers and then allowing the really easy profits to slip right through their fingers. Just like the first of our fairground stall holders – the ones without the ‘tanks and food’ add-ons.

You see in any modern business there’s a shift in the emphasis from making a one-off ‘hit’ on a customer, to treating the initial sale as a simply non-profit making ice-breaker to start a long term relationship with you, and this could produce massive dividends for them over the long haul.

If any businesses these days have just one product or service to offer the customer, they need to quickly develop some new ones in order to survive. They have to think about what complementary or add-on products and services might their customers ever want, need or use? When they’ve finally got a relationship with you and they’re going to be regularly communicating with you. Doesn’t it make sense for them to fully capitalise on that?

The key to making a great deal of money in any business these days can rarely be found in what happens in the first transaction. What really matters is what happens after that. The difference between a struggling business, and a fantastically profitable one, is often nothing more than a solid back end of complementary and add-on products and services where premium prices can often be commanded.

But why stop there?

The real stars in marketing are the businesses that once they have you will never let you go. They have an in-built method for generating a ‘residual income’. Simply put, that means repeat business.

Again, here’s an illustration (a pet hate of mine) that you’re probably all familiar with...

To read this piece, you will be sat a computer and with most computer set-ups there is usually a printer of some sort running in the background.

These days you can pick up a really good quality printer for next to nothing, which is pretty amazing when you consider all the technology, research and skilled labour that often go into producing such an item. But why do you think this is so?

Once again the businesses producing the printers know they can afford to give away their product to help lure you into their long term business plans. They know that once you have purchased their product, you will have to go to them every time you need inks and premium papers to service their printers and these items don’t usually come cheap. The printer company now has you trapped into a long term relationship of additional opportunities for extra sales.

So I’ll leave you with a couple of questions now which could set you off on a path to discovering some of the massive hidden profit making mechanisms in any modern business.

When dealing with any form of business, you should always ask yourself what are the ‘Goldfish’ in this business? Are these businesses supplying you the ‘tanks and food’ at a premium, or are customers allowed to get them from somewhere else at a much more reasonable price?

And if you are allowed the freedom to shop around, are you really making the best savings in your purchasing you possibly can do when opting for an all-in-one package supplier?

And finally...

No goldfish were or ever will be harmed, in the writing of this blog.


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In the days of old, when the knights were bold, and toilets weren't invented... Yes when I was growing up... There was only a couple of products I can remember being marketed as ‘diet foods’. They were Nimble and Slimcea loaves of bread. In fact, if you were sitting here with me now, and I was feeling particularly acrimonious towards you, I could sing you the soundtracks of their TV ads all the way through.

Fast forward now by about 30 years and there are now hundreds (if not thousands) of diet related foods, potions, drinks and tablets on offer. And guess what?

We’re all getting fatter than ever before!

When I was at school, the fat kids (including me) could be counted on the fingers of one hand. They had a torrid time, and I’d imagine like me, they have carried the scars of PE lesson humiliation well into their later life. At least, these days, the fatties aren’t so isolated - because they’ve got plenty of company.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that something doesn’t quite add up here. And a great deal of time money and effort has been spent trying to find out just exactly what it is.

Because nobody is ever to blame for anything anymore, a lot has been made of the role of a so called ‘fat gene’. The fat gene and his ugly sister 'Big bones' is great news for your average bloater because he can now simply carry on eating, secure in the knowledge that his resemblance to Michelin Man’s portlier brother is now beyond his control.

Sadly for our Mr Blimp though, this is something of a red herring. If there is such a thing as a fat gene, it will have existed back when Nimble was flavour of the month and we were all relatively slim. That’s the thing about gene’s you see… they’re passed from generation to generation. I’m no scientist, but I do know that much.

So, if there’s a fat gene now, there had to have been a fat gene then. And yet we were not as fat! The obvious conclusion then, is that we’re getting fatter because of something we’re doing. It’s not because of a gene. In other words… steel yourself now, because you might not be able to comprehend what I’m saying at first…

We have to take responsibility for our own blubbery bodies.

Well I suppose we already do up to a certain point. But you see the combination of confusing (and conflicting) advice from the so called food and diet experts, together with the burgeoning output from a multi-billion pound processed food industry has rendered most of us unsure about what we should and shouldn't be eating, and uncertain of the nutritional value of what we’re being sold.

And with that in mind, I would now like to share with you some very simple rules I came across this last month or two, while giving up smoking of all things, which I reckon would do an enormous amount to solve the problem if we all lived by them:

Eat food by all means, but stop before you’re full.

Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.

Avoid those products made from any ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Eat the so called ‘bad’ foods only as often as you are prepared to fully cook them yourself.

Hide your television remote and turn your heating down.


And finally, I can’t resist adding one more piece of advice from Billy Connolly of all people…

Never eat anything that comes in a bucket!


So there you go, I reckon if we all made a stab at following those few basic rules, the obesity epidemic would be all-but over in next to no time at all. And the diet guru’s would be forced to drag their scrawny arses (as you see I’m completely non-discriminatory in my insults) down to the job centre.

Seriously though, If losing weight and getting in shape is what you truly desire, I implore you to follow my revolutionary new diet techniques and watch that weight simply fall off. Oh and don’t forget to tip me for the assistance in my words of wisdom. 

After all, I’ve probably just saved you thousands on liposuction, tummy tucks and dietary supplements.


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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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