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

So at long last, I have finally got around to doing some of the promised plastering. And in order to do this, it meant that the wallpapers and dado rails would have to be stripped off first and unlike many road recovering processes, any prior alterations to the walls like moving electrics, adding extra sockets and the like would be done first, leaving us with perfect un-patched walls in the long term.

But for now, let’s go back to the stripping for a moment. There’s not much to be said here, I know it’s a pain in the ass job but it has to be done otherwise any wet plaster added above it would simply blister and ruin the whole point.

There’s no real method to stripping walls and many of the so called trade secrets I have come across in my time have proved to be less than effective. All I can suggest is hard labour and a patient and methodical approach to it. Oh, and a steam stripper is a big help too.

Once the walls are stripped, leave them to dry off and then, for best results, give the walls a quick light sanding. This is to rid the walls of those tiny little blobs of paper often left behind, which cause bumps under fresh papers or can lead to serious drag marks when plastering.

That done, now is the time to consider the changes you wish to make if any. In the case of the wall I have chosen to showcase, I had to move the light switch which was now concealed by the re-hung door. That would mean chasing the wall to reposition the cables feeding the light switch and removing the switch and back box. While at it, the whole affair was properly fixed to the correct wall.

So, are we finally ready to plaster? Well not quite...

Only a couple of things left to do now and they are to first backfill the chases we created for the electrics and any other holes in the wall. We do this because it means that the substrate of the wall is more or less level and ready for a top skim coat.

Without going too deep into the whys and wherefores of home electrics, I will state two things here. First off, it is a trade standard that all cable runs should be made either vertically or horizontally across walls. The reasoning behind this is to make it easier to trace cables avoiding the inevitability of nailing into them when hanging pictures etc.

Secondly, I’m going to mention cable capping. Contrary to popular belief, these are not for cable protection or even to provide a means of trunking for later cable additions or removal. Believe it or not, they are only there to aid the plasterer when base coating. They simply hold the cables together and prevent them from being dragged across the wall while the plasterer spreads. Needless to say, with a clean cut chase and only minor back filling required, these cappings will not be used here.

Re-positioning of the light switch.
Note the vertical cable run.

And now finally, we give the wall a coating of PVA (poly-vinyl acetate) adhesive. This will help seal in the old plaster substrate, kill the suction of the wall (which would lead to too quick a drying time and subsequent cracking) and help key in the skim coat.

Now we are all set to go... Let’s start mixing.

For our backfilling exercise, because we didn’t need the additional cost of a whole bag of base-coat plaster we will use the same skim coat plaster, but it will be a stiff mix which will harden faster. This will be mixed to the consistency of hard butter and simply pressed into the chases and other holes. If it is too hard to work with, you can always let it down by adding a little more water. The stiffer a mix it is, the faster you can move on though.

And for the major skimming task, we start with a clean bucket filled with one third capacity of cold water. Generally speaking, all plasters will take one third water to give just under a full bucket of mixed plaster.

To mix the plaster you can use either a stick or a paddle in an electric drill. With the stick method, you simply sprinkle the plaster into the bucket while constantly stirring. We are aiming for a consistency of an easily spreadable margarine without any lumps so the stirring can become quite a vigorous task. Meanwhile with a mechanical paddle, the plaster can be added en-masse and the paddle will do all the work for you.

Try to get the right consistency. Too hard, and the plaster will set too quickly and be harder to spread. Too soft, and it will simply pour or drop of your trowel and hand-board. Only experience will tell you what quantity of plaster you will need but a general rule of thumb for skimming plaster is one bucket for an average 12 foot wall.

Now we are set to go...

It is worth mentioning here that it makes sense that when plastering two adjacent walls, it is better to let the first one set before you begin on the second, although when you become more accomplished and confident, it is possible to do them concurrently.

So... that’s one wall down, and only another 19 to go for this place.

Plastering a wall to perfectonSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Crisis hit middle classes to sell their children

Children from across the whole of the UK are being spruced up and placed on the open market today as millions of middle class parents look towards cutting their losses.

As the government abolished child benefit for people on more than £44,000 a year, economists said middle class youngsters would no longer generate an acceptable yield for all but the most cautious of investors.

Julian Crook, of Donelly MacFartingles, said, “Fifteen years ago a decent British child was delivering four to four and a half per cent a year. But inflation has steadily eaten away at it and now this move by the government has turned them into the sentient mammal version of junk bonds.

If you have a tall or short child then you have a good chance of attracting a Russian buyer. They’re always on the look-out. They’re cash rich and always need sparring partners for their goons.”

For Sale !!

He also added: “I’ll be liquidating my three teenagers and transferring about 45% into international zinc, 25% into Chinese tobacco and I’ll spend whatever’s left on a new lawnmower.”

Under Offer !!

Emma Bradford, mother of 1 year old Duncan said, “He’s a delightful little boy. Indeed, there have been several occasions when he has come tantalisingly close to making me happy.

We’ve set an asking price of £17,500 which may seem a lot but he has a fine set of lungs and he oozes ‘Olde Worlde’ charm. We’ll take £10,500 and a decent second hand horse box if push comes to shove.”

SOLD ! To the highest bidder !!

And Thomas Lord, an estate agent (BOO!!) from Wisbech, is also selling his 12 year old Abigail on a freehold.

“She’s a happy go lucky child and she comes with her own trombone. She’d make an excellent weekend daughter for a pair of busy professionals or a full time grand-daughter for a retired couple who want to have another crack at it.

I also reckon you could do up her teeth for less than six grand.”

What memories are made of...

So there you have it. Our look at the crumbling state of the not so Great British family, as we see it today.

Maybe now would be a decent time for a good old fashioned family portrait, before the supermarket chains governed by advertising restrictions galore, have to print, For Illustration Purposes Only, across the front of them.

MIDDLE CLASS CRISISSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


It can buy you a bed – but not sleep.

It can buy you a clock – but not time.

It can buy you a book – but not knowledge.

It can buy you a position – but not respect.

It can buy you medicine – but not good health.

It can buy you blood – but not life.

It can buy you sex – but not love.

So you see my friends, money isn’t everything, never has been and never will be. And quite often it causes real pain and suffering too. I tell you all this because I truly am your friend and I sincerely want to take away all your pain and suffering for you.

So send me all your money. Simply click on the donate button located at the bottom of this page and follow the directions. And in return I promise, I will do my level best to do your suffering for you.


MONEYSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Letting agents finally outdo Estate agents

The recent mortgage drought due to this latest global recession has forced record numbers to place their slender hopes of maintaining a fixed address into the claw like hands of letting agencies, who are now determined to exploit their new status as the dominant sub-species of grimy spiv. A role traditionally held by that of the estate agent here in the UK.

Stephen Malley, associate director of deliberate awkwardness at the letting agency Badmove, said: “For decades now, estate agents have been hogging all of the revilement and loathing for themselves, and it's high time we had a piece of the action.”

You see, lettings agents up until now, have not even been properly stereotyped, they were just those vaguely grubby non-entities with cheap shoes and big bunches of keys that never even turned up on time.

But times, they are a changing...

Well, you’re not going to get a mortgage this side of the twenty eighth century are you now? So they find themselves (the letting agents) justifiably bathed in the golden glow of their own ‘perfect moment’.

So kneel now before their awesomely demanding application processes, which require references from at least two dead family members, the leader of a global religion, the head of a banking dynasty and a kestrel.

Then of course there’s the small matter of nine year’s rent in advance, and a monstrous deposit that’s theirs the moment you leave a buttock imprint on the Palitoy-quality furniture.

Oh, and they’ll also need a guarantor. It’s just a formality mind but if you should ever fall behind on the rent they’ll be there to take you guarantor's house, car and major functioning organs. But don't worry, you can usually fake your Granny’s signature for that part.

Moving forward.

“Soon we shall have all the branded sports hatchbacks and offices full of see-through objects with Groove Armada playing on a high quality stereo. Estate agents, for so long our masters, will be nothing.” Says Stephen. “NOTHING!!”

And not wanting to pass up on an opportunity, he added, “Our current properties include a one bedder in rural Bacup which smells a lot of horses and a very tidy maisonette with no windows and a faint atmosphere of past tragedies. Sign here, here, here and there!”

HOUSING CRISISSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

OH NO.... Here we go again....

Time to go get a life....

Now I'm no expert in these matters, but if websites are primarily code and that code remains static (ie unchanged), how the hell can it work one day but not the next? What is it that is changing?

And what purpose do the beta testers carry if the Goog inflicts untested changes on us all?

Can anyone out there please explain this in good old fashioned idiot speak, so at least we have an inkling of what's happening here?

BLOODY HELL BUZZ!!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Armed with all the day’s morning tabloids, it was time for me to check out my horror-scope and see what the rest of the day had in store for me. As usual though they were full of meaningless half truths and drivel, so I got to thinking how hard can this lark actually be and gave it a go myself.

So with that fully in mind, please check out my results, I think you’ll be amazed at how accurate I have been...

I now present, your horror-scope for the day, Monday 7th of February 2011, form my very own insightful monthly readings. You may now call me the brilliant astrologer, Psychic Bert.

Aquarius (20 JAN – 19 FEB):

A trillion ton lump of gas 40,000 light years away will dictate how well your blind date will go this week. Like flip it will.

Pisces (20 FEB – 20 MAR):

In a world without rules, when humanity is on the brink of survival and all hope rests in the hands of one individual, I really, really hope to Christ it isn’t you.

Aries (21 MAR – 19 APR):

Scented candles, soft music and satin sheets are just three of the reasons why you’re no longer allowed to practice gynaecology.

Taurus (20 APR – 20 MAY):

This week you should venture to pop into your local B&Q warehouse and ask the staff to give you a list of valid reasons why they think they are so better looking than you.

Gemini (21 MAY – 20 JUN):

Kids may well say the funniest things but yours just tend to scream at ear splitting volume about wanting some juice. And thank you for bringing them to the pub, by the way. Do you mind if I give them one of my cigarettes?

Cancer (21 JUN – 22 JUL):

You pay good money to be whipped senseless by a burly, chain smoking woman and you’re branded a pervert. A Pope does it when he’s supposed to be Popeing and he’s nominated for sainthood. Funny old world isn’t it?

Leo (23 JUL – 22 AUG):

You are a valued colleague who gets the job done, never complains, respects the executive team and has complete faith in their judgement. What’s the rent like in Chump City?

Virgo (23 AUG – 22 SEP):

The onset of British Summer Time sees you in a jauntier mood this week as you reduce the tog number of the duvet you hide beneath while sobbing uncontrollably.

Libra (23 SEP – 23 OCT):

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, although it has to be said that the mouse is currently making a considerably better fist of things than you are.

Scorpio (24 OCT – 21 NOV):

Some company on the television apparently wants to make your £20,000 of debt magically disappear and they don’t seem to want a penny in return. Isn’t that nice of them?

Sagittarius (22 NOV – 21 DEC):

You have a busy work and social life, with your duties as a magistrate, Sunday League referee and chair of your local neighbourhood watch. So why not take an hour every now and then to mind your own chuffing business.

Capricorn (22 DEC – 19 JAN):

This week a ghastly man will knock on your door and ask if they can count on your vote in the upcoming election. Jupiter rising reckons you should respond to all his points by saying “That’s amazing,” in a really camp voice.

So there it is. Have a great month and remember, it’s all written in the stay luckyish compost cosmos.

ASTROLOGYSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Back in the day when I was a fully fledged, cards in wage slave, I was actually sacked from my first job. And if the mentor in my new job hadn’t been a keen match fisherman, I might easily have been sacked from this new one as well.

Here’s what happened…

In the mid 1980’s, I got a job as a glorified salesman with a company that published training materials. I’d just been made redundant on Christmas Eve from my previous company (and if truth be told, was quite pleased about it because of the redundancy payment!) and walked straight into this new job.

Richard my new mentor already worked for the company but was just about to leave. I was to take over from him, and his very last act in the job made my life incredibly easy and probably saved me from an inglorious sacking here too.

I was employed to sell publications to companies, health authorities, charities and other large organisations. And at the time, an average order was perhaps 2,000 books. If you got an order for 5,000 you were doing well and a ten or twenty thousand order was cause to crack open the champagne. In simple terms, I’d probably need to generate 100 orders of 3,000 books or more to hit my sales targets.

So what did Richard do to make life so easy?

Well as I say, Richard was a keen match fisherman, and he knew that matches weren’t necessarily won by the competitor who simply caught the most fish. He knew that you could sit there all day pulling out one fish after another, only to be beaten by the bloke with an empty keep net who pulls a out monster fish at the last minute…

One big ‘un makes up for a lot of little ‘un’s.

Richard had figured out that there was a massive parallel here with the business we were in. Yes, the big fish were scarcer, a little more elusive, a bit harder to land and might respond to somewhat different bait – but the effort would be repaid many many times over. And so he had set the wheels in motion (or started casting lines!) for catching some of the really big fish.

Among the appointments he’d set up for me when he left, was one with The Manpower Services Commission. This was a division of the Department of Employment at the time, and had previously been off the company radar because it was assumed that it had its own in-house department dealing with what we had to offer. And at the time, I’d have happily fallen in with that line of thinking, but I didn’t get the chance, because the appointment had already been made for me by Richard.

It was my first week in the job, and I set off for the appointment with very little enthusiasm or optimism. I feared I was about to come face to face with some high powered ogre (the bloke I was seeing controlled a budget of tens of millions of pounds) who would simply laugh in my face and show me the door very quickly. But it didn’t happen that way. What I actually got was a meeting with a pleasant, normal human being who was a lot more respectful and receptive than the ‘lower ranks’ I was accustomed to seeing.

Anyway, to cut a longish story short, 3 months after that first meeting, I ended up with an order for a quarter of a million books (Don’t forget that 10,000 books was an excellent order) which wiped out most of my sales target in one fell swoop. What’s more, it was an order that was to be repeated for the following three years.

Now I’d like to be able to say that this was all down to my own clever salesmanship, but it wasn’t. The truth is that I really didn’t enjoy selling stuff face to face one little bit, and I never got very good at it. But it didn’t matter because I’d had a big fish thrust in my path who just happened to be hungry enough for my bait. 

So I got away with being not very good – although I have to say that I still accepted the Salesman Of The Year Award a few months later, if not a little sheepishly to say the least.

Without that big fish, I could easily have found myself looking for a new job instead.

So what can we take from this?

Well, to stay with the fishing analogy for a while, I think most of us go through life thinking that we can only ever catch small fish. We often don’t even realise that big fish exist, and even if we do, we don’t try to catch them for fear that it will be too difficult and time consuming, or most significantly, because of a fear that they will have no interest in our bait.

We even fear that the big fish may laugh at our pathetic bait before disappearing back under the water leaving us humiliated on the riverbank. Okay, I’ve taken this analogy too far now, but you get the point!

Avoiding or ignoring the big fish is a massive mistake. Just one big fish landed makes up for an awful lot of small ones. Granted, the big fish are rarer than small ones, but once located, they aren’t necessarily any more frightening, and here’s the thing – it’s not an either/or decision either. If you have two rods you can fish for both at the same time.

So, do you know where the big fish are in your business? Do you at least have part of your marketing effort dedicated to locating, catching and landing them? Or are you content to continue working like crazy hauling in a boat load of minnows, and leaving the big prize to someone else?

These are questions which I think most business people would do well to consider. I know for myself that just recalling and writing this has provided me personally with a timely reminder.

THE BIG FISHSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

I don’t know whether the owners of social networking site, Facepalmers, would ever read this blog, but I’d like to think that they will.

On January 18th 2008, I wrote a blog that never quite made it into the archives under the heading. ‘Gordon Moo Brown’. And one of the key ideas in that piece was that by barring or banning someone from being a customer, you could invariably create a lot of free publicity for yourself in doing so. You just need to come up with an interesting, amusing or thought-provoking reason for doing it.

Fast forward to the other day, and here’s the headline I dreamt up…

Social Networking Site Facepalmers Bans Oldies Over Sex Offender Fears.

The social networking site Facepalmers, have issued a press release today announcing that they have deleted most of their users over the age of 36, because it claims that older users pose an enhanced danger of sex offending...

It’s complete nonsense, of course. The company will be ‘blaming’ government legislation for the move - legislation that doesn’t actually exist in the form they’re claiming. What’s more, the laws that do exist make no reference to the age of offenders, and no law has ever suggested that people over the age of 36 are more likely to be sex offenders.

It’s an out and out publicity stunt, an attention grabber – And I like it!

Because the subject is highly controversial, interesting
and at the same time, thought-provoking.

It’s therefore very likely to generate a great deal of free publicity. And any kind of publicity, good or bad is generally good for business.

A lot of commentators, columnists and journalists will be keen to have their say.

Many of those ‘banned’ will be furious that they have been targeted in this way, and will be exceedingly vociferous about it.

And every time someone pipes up to say they’re 42 and have never so much as looked at a woman in the wrong way, the Facepalmers name will again become highlighted in the national media.

Many of those barred who won’t recognise this for what it really is, will be totally alienated and pushed away. But does that matter anyway though?

Not at all.

Because at the same time, the younger people will be pulled in even closer - precisely the people who make up the vast majority of the Facepalmers customer base.

And they’re the very same people who will represent the target audience for their keener than average (after such a stunt) advertisers and sponsors to imbibe in.

So here’s another opportunity for you to consider in your business plans…
Who could you ban and for what good reason?

YOU'RE BANNED !!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

What have Tesco, The Sun Newspaper, British Airways and Manchester United all got in common? The answer reveals something quite fascinating, and counter-intuitive about what it takes to make a great deal of money. Understand and harness this for yourself and it could transform the fortunes of any business or enterprise you’re ever involved in.

So what’s the link?

Well in a recent poll carried out by Joshua G2 on behalf of Marketing magazine, each of those companies was voted the most hated brand in their market sector. Tesco was the most hated supermarket brand, The Sun was the most hated newspaper brand, Manchester United was the most hated football brand, and British Airways was voted the most hated airline brand.

Puzzling isn’t it? You see there’s very little doubt that each of these is also the most successful brand in their market sector. And the mist only starts to clear when you discover something else… they were all voted the most loved brand in their sector at exactly the same time!

So what’s going on, and what does it tell us about success?

Well the key point here is that each brand has created an impact. They’ve created an emotion in the hearts and minds of their potential customers. People know who they are and they have strong feelings about them. Some of this feeling is strongly positive, while the rest is fiercely negative.

There’s a polarity to it all too. There are many other brands that provoke no hatred at all, and poll a lukewarm level of approval half way down the loved list. But at the same time, they’re not nearly so successful.

You see, strong feelings and emotions are essential if you’re to rouse any potential customers out of their passive state into spending money with you. People rarely part with money unless they’ve had their emotions tweaked in some way or other. They have a strong emotional attachment to their money. They know what they had to do to get it. And they’re not about to part with it to an organisation that doesn’t impact on them at an emotional level.

The upshot of this is that polarising opinion about you and your business is no bad thing. Of course you’d prefer it if everyone loved you. But it’s far better to have half the world thinking you’re the best thing since sliced bread and the other half thinking you’re the devil reincarnate, than it is to have everyone thinking you’re merely okay. People rarely spend their money on ‘okay’.

In my own business, I never set out to polarise opinion, but it just happened somewhere along the way. I know that some of the products I sell can be a little controversial, and hard as it is for someone of such delicate sensitivities to admit, I know there are a significant number of people out there who don’t like me very much.

But then there’s the other side of the coin…

For everyone who despises me because I often push social limits in what l do for example, there’s someone else who’s strongly attracted towards me for the very same reason. An easier route would have been to stick to non-contentious subject matter, but it wouldn’t have been nearly so profitable – or nearly so much fun.

I suppose what I’m saying is that there are two routes available to us all. You can either be mildly liked by everyone, and make a modest living, or loved and hated in equal measure and make a million. It’s not quite as straight forward as that, but hell…

Just sitting on the fence never got you loved, hated or rich did it now?

A LOVE - HATE RELATIONSHIPSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


BUZZTIME BLUESSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

I want to tell you now, about what sounds like the
worst business in the world…

And that’s the business of selling things through direct mail marketing....

You see, most of the people you approach with your product simply aren’t interested. Some are even downright rude – often hurling gratuitous abuse in your direction. Others simply ignore you altogether. A few have the good manners to say no thank you, but not very many.

And if you’re very lucky, perhaps one or two out of every hundred you approach, will actually buy something from you. But even some of those will ask for their money back.

It all sounds absolutely horrible doesn’t it?
I’m not so sure though…

You see, many years ago I worked in another business that seemed a whole lot better. Most of the people I dealt with were at least polite and one in four that I approached, actually placed an order. There was no abuse and nobody ever asked for their money back.

Does that sound better?

Well maybe, except that this second business never made any real money and the sense of rejection from those three out of four who didn’t order, was soul-destroyingly awful.

And here’s the thing... that first business made me a handsome profit, and I never got to experience one single ounce of hurtful rejection from those ninety-nine out of a hundred who effectively told me to go away.

And in case you haven’t already guessed, the big difference between the two businesses is purely in the method of marketing used.

In that second business it was all done face to face, and every time-consuming rejection came like a knee to the proverbial groin.

But in that first business, everything was done remotely via direct mail or advertisements. It’s an environment where a rejection consumes neither time nor ego - other than for the odd lunatic who scrawls “F*** Off!” (Or something equally as witty) on your order form before sending it back to you.

And that’s pretty easy to live with when
you’re sitting on a sack full of money.

Direct response marketing allows you to replicate yourself thousands of times over all at once, and then despatch yourself out to the world in the form of advertisements, direct mailing pieces and webpages. Some hit home, others simply crash and burn. And it doesn’t matter a jot. All that does matter is the final tally at the end of the day.

The crash and burns don’t hurt at all, but there’s great joy in the hits. Because they’re pretty much all you ever get to see.

So I think I’ll stick with the ‘worst business in the world’ for now. And if you want to get rich (and like me have a fragile ego the size of a house) then I think that maybe you too should consider the ‘mail order’ approach over traditional ‘one to one’ sales meetings.

DON'T REJECT MESocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

I want you to imagine you live in a world, very different
to the one you know today.

Science doesn’t exist. It hasn’t been invented yet. And so everything you see around you is a mystery. That ball of fire in the sky during the day – it could be a small thing just a few miles away, or a big thing a long way away. And goodness knows where it goes when it gets dark – or why.

Speaking of night, the ball of fire is replaced by a white shiny disc thing – sometimes. You’ve no idea what that is, why it comes and goes seemingly at random, and why it sometimes seems to have pieces missing. It could be made of cheese for all you know – if cheese had been invented that is.

Everything, from how and why the trees grow to how your body works is a source of wonderment. When a child is born you can only guess at the process that brought it about.

Needless to say, there are no books, newspapers, radios, TV’s, phones or other methods of communicating messages and ideas over any distance. Similarly there is no powered transport at all…no cars, no trains, no aeroplanes. In fact there’s no easy way of getting from one place to another.

So people don’t tend to stray very far or communicate with people outside of their immediate area. They live on what they can catch, gather or grow. Trade and commerce don’t exist.

Now you’re a go-ahead kind of guy (or gal) and so this situation doesn’t sit well with you. You figure there’s a probably a better way - a way that could see you enjoying a much better life.

For one thing, you’ve got the idea into your head that the grass is probably greener on the other side of the hill. You’ve never been there, but human nature kicks in and it starts to irritate you that someone else is probably getting more than you. You’d like to at least go and take a look, and if it’s as good as you think, nick it for yourself.

Secondly, you’d like to raise your world out of the dust. These makeshift shacks you’ve been living in are all well and good, but you’ve got higher ambitions than that – the odd amphitheatre for example, maybe a few pyramids. Or some hanging gardens. They would be nice.

Oh and a nice simple palace for yourself and the wife and kids.

But you have a problem that stands between you
and these lofty ambitions…

In order to do any of this, you’re going to need the un-thinking co-operation of other people. You’re going to need a gang for one thing (We might rename it an army later) if you’re going to start nicking other peoples grass. That’s bound to be dangerous. And all that building work won’t be easy. You’ll need a huge workforce.

And that’s the problem you face…

How do you get people to join your gang and risk their lives to go stealing land on your behalf? You definitely want to get the lion’s share of the spoils when they find out what’s there. It was your idea after all. And how do you get people to work their fingers to the bone for little more than basic food rations? You haven’t got anything to give them and wouldn’t want to anyway. The whole point is that you get to keep as much as possible for yourself.

And how the heck do you get them to behave themselves and tow the line when you’re not watching over them? There are very limited communications, remember. They’re going to be out there, unsupervised for much of the time.

This causes you a lot of sleepless nights, and then you have a brainwave…

What if you were to invent a ‘magic policeman’ ? There’s no science yet remember, so this might just work.

You tell all the people you want to be in your army and workforce that this ‘magic policeman’ is very special. Because he created the world they live in and just about everything they see around them. What’s more, he’s looking down on them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from somewhere up in the sky. You could even tell them he’s hiding behind a cloud. They won’t know any different.

Now this magic policeman is very strict, and by a happy coincidence, the way he wants people to behave… what he wants them to do… fits in very nicely with what you have in mind. Remember, the magic policeman is ultra powerful; he created the world – so he’s going to command some respect. Heck, people are going to abide by his rules.

But you make it clear to them that if they step out of line, the magic policeman will punish them, and that punishment will be awful… far worse than anything they can imagine.
If they tow the line…. you’re really on a roll now… they’ll get a reward. And here’s the really good bit – the work of genius…

They won’t get the reward until after they die!

What a jolly wheeze! Your gang members will troop off to do battle for you, happy as pigs in the proverbial, because they know they’re in a win-win situation. If they come back with the spoils, you might be generous enough to share some of it with them. And if they get killed in the process – well that’s when they’ll get their BIG reward!

And those workers putting the finishing touches to your Acropolis?

Well they may be working like slaves, but they know that the magic policeman wants (no demands!) that they do this work (they know because you told them) and if they do it well and without complaint, the magic policeman will watch over them, and then give them their reward…

After they die!

The more you think about this, the more appealing it becomes. It’s the perfect way to get hordes of people to do what you want – but not for you… it’s all to please the magic policeman. And nobody can call you a cheat or a liar. Because the only people who get to see the magic policeman and find out about this promised reward – are dead.

And so you put your cunning plan into operation and build up whole nations, civilisations and empires on the back of it. 

But you don’t have a clear run…

You see, much to your surprise it seems like quite a few other go-ahead kind of guys had a similar idea at the same time. Oh sure, their ‘magic policemen’ had different names, slightly different rules, and a different range of punishments, but the basic idea was the same:

1. A being who created the world or part of it. He is great and all-powerful, while you are weak and unworthy. You must spend your life bowing to his greatness and obeying his rules.

2. Strict rules and regulations, conveniently in line with the wishes and ambitions of those who rule or those who aspire to rule.

3. Punishments for those who break the rules, both in this life and after death.

4. Rewards beyond comprehension after death, for those who obey the magic policeman during life.

5. Omnipotence – He’s everywhere and watching you 24/7.

6. You can talk to him telepathically and ask for things, but don’t expect a reply. If he does respond it will be in a mysterious way.

7. He will be take credit if things turn out well, but turn the blame on you when they go badly.

What do they say… great minds think alike?

But look, that was in the dim and distant past, long before science came along and gave rational explanations for much that had previously been credited to the various magic policemen around the world. Nobody would fall into the trap of living and organising their life with the purpose of currying favour with a magic policeman in these more enlightened times – would they?

Surely nobody would place all their hopes, fears and ambitions in the hands of this all seeing (but unseen) deity, and then stand back and accept what they’re given… good bad or indifferent – would they?

And surely nobody would accept the idea that obedience, subservience, blind faith and unquestioning belief are what is important, while the pursuit of goals, ambitions and personal achievement are selfish acts which will be punished by an ultimate arbiter – would they?

I think we both know that they would – and they do.

I’m not writing this issue to offend or upset anyone with deeply held convictions. And I know for certain that anyone who held such convictions wouldn’t be swayed one inch by these words anyway– other than to anger. But I also know that there’s a big chunk of the population suffering from what I’d call a ‘magic policeman hangover’. They were told in childhood that the magic policeman would help them if they put their faith in him, that they must obey his word through life, and that they would later get their reward. Time has blunted the conviction somewhat, but some of the effect lingers in the subconscious.

And that effect could well be holding those people back.

You see, to make a success of anything you have to take full responsibility for the outcome of your actions. Self determination must be your firm and solid belief. You have to fully embrace the notion that the outcomes you get are the result of your personal inputs, and won’t be influenced or affected by the intervention of some mysterious, unseen third party.

And you have to understand that the rewards you get come in the real world as a result of your actions and achievements, not in some unseen world as a result of your obedience and compliance.

It really is difficult to commit fully to doing what’s necessary to achieve your goals if you continue to embrace the remnants of your magic policeman hangover – if you continue to hold on to (even on a subconscious level) the belief that the magic policeman will look after you… if you’re good… and punish you, if you stray from his rulebook.

It’s impossible to give everything when you hold on to even the tiniest notion that your fate is ultimately in the hands of something or someone else, and that this ‘something else’ will provide you with a safety net – just so long as you believe and behave.

But you’re not in the hands of anyone else –
you’re in the hands of yourself…

The magic policeman was created for a reason – to keep your predecessors subservient, and obedient - not to the magic policeman, but to the people who created him. They knew no better and paid with their freedom, their ambitions and sometimes their lives, as a result.

You and I don’t have that excuse.

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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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