Thursday, 30 April 2009

Taking a stand

Once again this recession lark has meant that BUBB has been forced into talks with organisations we would much rather shun. Yesterday I spent nearly all day with the World Umbrella Stand Society (WUSS) about a possible alliance, merger, collaboration (call it what you will, but it is really a takeover though by who of whom depends on who spins it best). WUSS as you may know has had a chequered history, going back many years with its controversial stance on elephant's foot stands which it still defends as acceptable despite the usual howls of protest from the woolly shirt brigade, especially those tripod pachyderm champions.

My problem with WUSS isn't about the senseless use of an animal's appendage as a decorative gamp tidy but a more ideological concern about the role of umbrella stands in general. Yes, people need somewhere to put their umbrellas when not in use but some of the stands you see are elaborate and ornate to the point of taking the focus away from the brolly itself. WUSS has been instrumental in promoting this "big I am" attitude among stands and it has caused much concern to my members, especially as some of the stands are also extremely uncomfortable.

But tough times call for tough talking so we are trying to resolve our differences. If it really is gong to be a long, hot summer, my members need assurance that the time they spend unused in a hallway storage solution will be as pleasant as possible.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Exciting news

With Robin Bogg there are always surprises. What may be little known about me is that I have on the quiet for years been a rider of records, a saddler of vinyl, a jockey of discs. I love my music and am always prepared to DJ at family events, be it weddings, christenings and even funerals, whether the rest of the Boggs like it or not.

Therefore it is a great honour to be asked to "keep it real" at the Blacbury Bowls Club's annual umbrella hoedown in a couple of weeks. Yes, I will be doing a mash-up, or should I say splash-down, for up to 40 groovers, both old and even older.

I am now trying to draw up my playlist and while obviously Rihanna's unsurpassed gem, Umbrella, is a nailed on, stonewall Hobson's for closing number, there are many other rain related ditties to shoehorn into the 2 hour slot I have been allocated. What precipitation related songsmithery would you like to hear if you were lucky enough to scalp tickets to the hottest, and wettest, happening of the year? Answers via the comments device below or email me at

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Just not cricket

The cricket season has returned to Blacbury and I was very excited about the first game of the year when I left work on Friday. The sound of leather on can keep all that, it's boring. But cricket does contain something that as a spectator I find particularly enthralling. Played in an English summer there is every chance that the on field inertia will be interrupted by rain. And there is no better sight, be it a sprinkling of old duffers on a village green or a huge crowd at a test match, than to see folks raising their umbrellas in unison. The sound of rain on silk. A packed house at Lords can produce the most fantastic water music, composed by George "umbrella" Handle (just my little joke) and be a most colourful display when the showers hit.

For this reason cricket is my favourite sport, especially now they have severely reduced brolly watching chances at Wimbledon with their bloody new roof.

The forecast for this weekend was shocking and I fully expected some well needed rain so I could give the umbrella a spin, and the chance to see what shiny new gamps the good folk of Blacbury were sporting for the new season.

As it turns out the forecasters were wrong (I have asked my legal team to send a stiff letter to the Met Office), the sun shone and I had to sit through an interminable game of cricket with not an umbrella in sight. Granted there were a couple of parasols (indeed somebody accused me of being one, obviously in jest. "Robin, you are a parasol" this chap shouted, at least I think those were his words) but you do not get the same buzz from a parasol in my estimation, worthy as protection from the sun is. So the whole thing turned out to be a bit of a washout, without being a washout if you see what I mean. Let's hope the forecast for rain this week is closer to the mark.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Divide and Rule

Brilliant stuff from my deputy, Hector Rule. Quite without my permission he has written something for Brolly Weekly that puts a positive spin on the budget. We all know it was rubbish for umbrellas but Hector has superbly made the most of it by claiming it is in fact a triumph for umbrellas and by implication that must be down to BUBB's lobbying.

Without a hint of irony he has the chutzpah to claim that we have moved on from demanding and expecting huge dollops of wonga to a more sophisticated outcome (such as consultation), not 5 minutes after we were demanding huge dollops of wonga - £500m to be exact.

Astonishing work. With such adroit manoeuvring he'll go a long way will Hector. All the way to the top. Hang on - HE'S AFTER MY JOB!!!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Worse budget ever

What a disaster. A truly piss poor budget. And I don't mean the fact that not one of my demands has been implemented. The real tragedy is that BUBB lost the annual Great Press Release Budget Response Race to Hubert's mob at the National Canopy and Visor Organisation. Every year we have a bit of a competition to see who can issue what looks to be a carefully worded critique about the major points of the budget for our members to make it appear we have actually bothered to read the thing.

NCVO's release this year was very quick and while I would be the last one to accuse them of failing to thoroughly go through the mountain of budget documentation that follow the Chancellor's oratory before making their comments, I would also be the first. We must up our game on this next year or we will be a laughing stock, (though I would point out that I did issue a one line appraisal on Twitter straight away).

The detail in the budget was unpromising for umbrellas. Dress it up how you want, we got practically nothing we asked for except the usual promises of "further consultation" and "research". Don't spend time asking people what they want for chrissakes, just get on and do it and hope it works. Some may see the acknowledgement of the need for yet more chat about the umbrella bank as progress but frankly it smacks of a token placatory gesture to keep me quiet for a bit. Yeah, like that's going to happen.

We did get a two bob hardship fund to support umbrella manufacturers who go to the wall but it's a drop in a very big ocean compared to the sums being bandied around elsewhere and it's probably funding diverted from an existing pledge anyway.

Still, one silver lining in that one of the countless papers I have lovingly prepared for James has borne fruit which is well cool. The government is setting up a fund to support employment of young people in all industries, not just umbrella making, and James particularly praised me, me me, me....(oh, and the rest of the team at BUBB), and my persistence in badgering him to read my ideas despite the legal restrictions around me approaching him.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A budget day prayer

Darling, pleeeeeeeeease give us an umbrella bank in the budget. Today. Instantly. Pleeeeeeeease. I promise we'll look after it and it won't end up a burden on the taxpayer. Go on, I beg of you. You know it makes sense. Pleeeeeeeease.


PS And can we have a wedge of VAT back as well?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Budget wishes

It is the budget later this week and once again I have drawn up a fanciful wishlist of things that must be done right now to boost the umbrella economy.

As usual BUBB will be calling for the old chestnuts around tax and VAT reform. Finance is not my area and I don't pretend to understand the technical points around these proposed measures. Nor do I need to as my colleagues at the Canopy Tax Group and Steve Crikey's bunch at the Canopy Finance Directors' Group have sorted all that out, as is their job. But that doesn't stop me shouting as loud as I can in support of their ideas in the hope that some credit can be deflected my way in the unlikely event of the government listening.

I have also been forthright in my calls for an umbrella bank to be set up. Indeed I was due to attend an event that the PM was speaking at today to heckle him about it. Unfortunately, due to a mix up over the exact details of the venue I was stood at Loughborough Junction train station while Gordon was at some university known for sporting achievement in the Midlands.

Still, the fact remains that there is a massive pool of unclaimed umbrellas in the UK - umbrellas that get left behind on trains, in pubs, restaurants etc. Rather than just let them sit there waiting indefinitely for their owner to claim them back BUBB is calling for the establishment of an umbrella bank so that people on low incomes can take them out on loan. I really don't see why the government is dragging its heels over this. Surely there can be nothing difficult about setting up a bank - a simple business model that never goes wrong - so why the caution?

There are a number of other measures I would like to see in the budget to help narrow the gap between rich and poor. This issue is brilliantly explored in Milly Coinfee's superb anti-capitalist polemic "The rich look after themselves and don't care about the poor? Shit, why didn't we realise this before?" that she is pushing like crazy and selling by the bucketload.

Something needs to be done about tax havens and non-domiciled rich cats avoiding tax (while making sure my modest investments in a post office on the Isle of Wight are left alone of course). I would also cite a number of areas where tax relief would help stimulate the economy. Binge drinking is a real growth area in the UK and the way we have upped our game is truly impressive. This needs to be further encouraged so duty needs to be slashed on alcohol. There should also be tax cuts on dog food, croissants, Blackberry usage and name dropping.

Finally, returning to measures to boost umbrella usage I would like to see the introduction of Daily Intermittent Light Drizzle Orders, which can be imposed by the powers that be to ensure rain on a regular basis, thus promoting the need for umbrellas. The last thing the umbrella sector needs at the minute is a long dry summer. The government has to act now to ensure a miserable July and August to keep umbrellas, and spirits, raised.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Seeking talent

Saturday nights are definite "must stay in" now that the peerless Britain's Got Talent is back on air. There is nothing that resonates more with Robin Bogg than watching a load of mediocre, self-deluded egotists desperately trying to eke out a career. And that's just the judges. My only gripe is the lack of umbrella action. Up and down the land there are some quite splendid acts doing things with brollies, be it fantastic umbrella jugglers, those who can balance umbrellas on the end of their nose or the macabre but strangely alluring Gamp Gimp, an escapology act in one of Blackpool's less mainstream clubs.

However, my watching of this series has been ruined by the latest ITV1 self promotion advert. Has anyone seen it? Some children are ambling along a deserted sandy beach and it is gloomy and raining. So far, so inoffensive. Then one of them takes a stone and hurls it skywards, thus puncturing the cloud canopy and letting sunshine flood through the gap, I suppose alluding to the light and joy that ITV programming very rarely offers.

But it is the bit that happens after this that has got my not inconsiderable goat. The boy just casually tosses his umbrella aside. He has no use for it anymore so abandons it. But he is a fool. The sun won't last forever and when it rains again he'll regret his hasty waste.

It is mightily irresponsible for a mainstream broadcaster to take such a cavalier attitude to the plight of brollies and I shall be writing to someone high up about this immediately.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Putting the twit into twitter

Nu media....I can't get enough of it. Although initially sceptical of blogging and twitter I have now embraced them with a passion bordering on the clinically obsessive. Blogging gives me a chance to churn out my thoughts to a wider audience instantly, including those that really should stay private.

And for anyone who hasn't tried twitter, I urge you to get with the programme, man. Where else can you inanely tell the world about what you are up to every minute of the day? If it rains, and I open my umbrella in defiance, you'll know about it. So I look forward to seeing you all following me avidly.

I have always been an early adapter of new technology. 8 track cartridge, Betamax, Acorn computer....Robin Bogg bought 'em all. But it is the nu media stuff that really shapes the pre-post-recession world we are currently cowering in. It may be a 24/7 police state with CCTV on every corner and Google recording every time we take a shit in the privacy of our own bathrooms. But it works both ways and the jackboot is on the other foot (or baton in the other hand) when footage taken by the public and posted on the interweb can expose those appointed to serve.

But that doesn't mean that I am happy about footage of me pinching Hubert Carrington's pudding at a BUBB dinner a few year's ago suddenly appearing on YouTube, thus making a mockery of my frequent denials about the incident at the time. What this new culture of surveillance means is that we all have to be on our guard. By all means act inappropriately but don't get caught. And certainly whatever you do, don't admit to bad behaviour in your blog.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Smear tactics

One gets used to the attention of the press in my job but sometimes it does get too much. There is nothing I like doing more of a weekend than buying Barkles a big juicy bone to chew on. She loves it and is like a, well, a dog with a bone. But she has nothing on the dogged determination of the newshounds at Brolly Weekly.

Their continued obsession over the supposed rivalry between BUBB and NCVO reached a new nadir this week. Apparently one of my policy bods, Simeon McSnide, has been caught sending emails about employing smear tactics to discredit NCVO's chief executive, Hubert Carrington, and his deputy Con Corrigan. Simeon sent a number of juvenile suggestions for stories we could place in the press about Hubert and Con to shadowy spin king Eric Cordwainer who runs a pro BUBB website, called BUBBlies. Now, I have got no problem with Brolly Weekly reporting this per se, as we all know it is true. But I do resent their implication that I somehow knew what my staff were up to. Give me a break guys. I haven't got a clue what I am doing myself half the time let alone my team, brilliant as they are (Oxford, naturally). So, no, I won't be resigning. It is not the chief executive's job to take responsibility for management issues in his organisation.

Happily, Brolly Weekly also ran a follow up story to its recent scoop over BUBB's supposed ruck with NCVO over the umbrella management centre at the Len Ganley Management College. A Freedom of Imagination request has revealed that NCVO's business plan for the initiative was at best woolly. I am not in the business of saying "I told you so" as that does no credit to Robin Bogg. Which is why I left it to my deputy Hector Rule to issue a press statement that said: "Ner ner na ner ner...we were right, you were wrong, IN YOUR FACE Carrington!"

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Credible research

My web monkey tells me that literally tens of people have used our recession support website since it launched. This is further testament to the reach that technology will play in the recession in a way it never has before. We have invested considerable minutes in this resource so this recession had bloody well be pretty bad.

Therefore it is disappointing to see some recent research from my old muckers at the National Canopy and Visor Organisation (NCVO) receiving headlines along the lines of "recession, what recession?" and suggesting that some umbrellas are crying wolf. Although astonishingly I have once again declined to read the research in question before publicly questioning it, it seems that this paper by NCVO's fact archaeologist, Earl Scalding, says that there is little credible evidence that the recession will affect umbrellas.

Credible? I despair. What is the point in people like me going round saying we're all screwed if proper research undermines our doom-mongering. It is highly irresponsible of NCVO to explore this properly when everyone knows the correct approach is to sling out some half arsed conclusions on the back of chatting to 40 odd people down the pub.

If you want an example of some proper research on which to draw fanciful conclusions I suggest you look at something BUBB did in conjunction with the Canopy Aid Foundation in the Autumn. BUBB has good links with CAF, indeed CAF's chief executive, Jan Sloe, has just breathed the biggest sigh of relief on record after completing his tenure as chair of BUBB. And an excellent job he did too despite my best efforts.

What the umbrella sector needs is spin that implies that it's all going wrong and only huge investment in the umbrella sector can save the planet. What I want to see is a huge umbrella public works programme. Unemployment must not be allowed to go above 3 million. 2,999,999 is fine (unless you are one of the poor buggers counted in that) as that is the perfect level at which a balance of despair and hope can be maintained. And bodies such as BUBB can comfortably posture about making a difference without it becoming abundantly clear that they can't.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter musings

I bloody love Easter, me. A chance to spend a few days reflecting on things while munching creme eggs and trying to get through packets of stale hot cross buns from Lidl. I am in Blacbury with Barkles and am trying to catch up with what has been happening while I have been on holiday.

Gampraising continues to make the headlines. And quite right too. In the wrong hands an umbrella can be potentially dangerous. Reckless opening of a brolly can cause injury as can self centred porterage and use. And the attendant bad publicity reflects poorly on the whole umbrella sector. That is why BUBB has always been very supportive of the work of Darcy Maxwell and his team at the Institute of Gampraising. Their work on codes governing such areas as safe procedures for opening umbrellas, the correct height to which they should be lifted, the recommended gap between carriers on busy walkways etc has done a lot to promote responsible umbrella usage. And I have always had a grudging respect for IoG's former chair, Bo "Cool" Hoxton, head of umbrella research outfit NotEnuffEnergy. His gravitas and credibility can be measured by him being winner of many polls of influential people in certain spheres including not only gampraising (every year since 1842 in Professional Gampraising magazine's controversial popularity fix), but ideas driving, notion nurturing, theory couriering and bullshit chauffeuring.

But IoG's codes don't carry any regulatory weight so you will always get selfish brolly dollies scuttling down the pavement, umbrella pulled down low over their heads, nearly spoking the eyes out of all they pass.

The government have decided that self regulation is the way to go and a couple of years ago the GRSB (Gampraising Standards Board) was established along those lines. It is fair to say that its early life under the management of Slim Purse was undistinguished. Not enough umbrellas were convinced about the benefits of joining. But there is hope that its new CEO, Leon Uris, will lick it into shape. I am a big fan of self regulation, having ploughed a lone furrow myself with no apparent control or accountability for several years. I think it is a model that can work, as long as there is someone with a great big stick standing by for when it doesn't. I fire off a quick email to Leon suggesting we meet for a few lagers after work one night and discuss how we can work more closely together.

I was going to express my thoughts about a quite scandalous piece that appeared in the Times while I was away about how umbrellas should not be used to carry slogans. But I am still so angry akIjscanxfghardlydchjgetkajhmykajwordsshatypedjkhdsd.

I will return to this when I have calmed down but let's just say for now that if I see Mel Dolby she will get a slap. If she's lucky. I am sorely tempted to seek her out and open an umbrella (with the words "practice what you preach and shut up yourself" emblazoned on it) in a very uncomfortable place.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Out of touch

I am back folks. I may have been quiet but I have been on holiday. Some bloggers may think that being away on a well earned break from the pressures of work is the ideal opportunity to blog off. After all, do you really want to hear about my experiences on the crazy golf courses of the Norfolk coast? And the answer is, yes, you do. I was in cracking form, finally nailing the tenth at Great Yarmouth's Pirate Cove, and the fact I could not instantly share that with you tarnished what was otherwise a very enjoyable break.

But I got my Blackberry confiscated in Washington when trying to get into the White House and didn't have chance to get a new one before returning to the UK and heading East for some downtime. Therefore, apologies that you have not received chapter and verse on the minutiae of my private vacation. I know that people have been wondering where I am and it was touching to see my spoofer Stephen Bubb mention my silence. He was obviously getting slightly twitchy about me not posting stuff he could parody.

I certainly needed a holiday after the last few weeks. Some of my misfortune you have seen expressed on this blog and I am sure some of you saw the furore in the papers this week calling for my resignation over an accidental leak of top secret info. The truth is that when in Washington I had some clandestine meetings with other umbrella advocates over a top secret new design for a superumbrella that will fight terrorism, solve world hunger and repel climate change, all by teatime on a Tuesday in April 2014.

We were given prototypes to take home under strict instructions to not let anyone see them. Understandable, but it was typical bad luck to be leaving Heathrow on the way home and be surrounded by photographers while hailing a cab, even if they did mistake me for one half of Black Lace. The rain was lashing down and my hair was all over the place. I instinctively did what any self respecting narcissistic public figure would do and pulled a brolly from my duty free carrier bag to keep the rain off. Next thing I know, it's splashed (pun intended) all over the papers and I am accused of leaking (pun intended) highly confidential global intelligence.

But I will not resign. Others may do so in my position but they are too quick to quit.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

A missed opportunity

I decide rather impulsively after a few bottles of Bud while out in New York to head back to Washington and fly home from there. Doubtless because of a communication error Barack's people have still not been in touch about meeting up so if the mountain won't beckon Mohamed, Mohamed had better head towards its base and climb it himself.

As a frankly hollow meaningless nod towards green credentials I return by train rather than flying. Every little helps and if I hadn't flown to the States on a largely pointless exercise in the first place it would have helped a great deal more.

There is a bit of an embarrassing situation when I check out of my hotel. I honestly thought the film I was selecting in my hotel room was Gene Kelly's finest hour and was most shocked to discover instead some sleazy suburban soft porn flick set in Manchester. Has anyone seen Swinging in the Rain? I dread to think what the option that at first glance looked like Mary Poppins, Supernanny, was really called.

I try and explain this all to the woman at reception the next day but she doesn't believe me and insists I pay even though I only watched an hour of it. Still, no problem, I will just stick it on expenses and no one will ever find out.

Anyway, I am now back in Washington and discover that Barack has headed to London, of all places, for a major summit of world leaders. First I knew about it. And to make matters worse, the government have decided they want someone to address Barack and the rest about the umbrella sector in the UK. I would think this was an April Fool's joke if it wasn't for the fact that I know how important umbrellas are to the powers that be. The fact that I am out of the country can be the only reason I am not asked and Dame Luci Vinyl, chair of the Umbrella Commission, gets the nod. There is some guff about her being chosen because she has a human face (doesn't everybody?), which sounds like a patronising way of saying she'll add a bit of feminine style and glamour to proceedings. I expect she will do a great job but I curse my luck at missing another great opportunity to get down with Barack.