Thursday, 30 July 2009

Gamping it up

Here I am, back in the land of blog after a bit of a gap. I have been, quite literally, gamping it up at a festival. The great British weather means that any outdoor entertainment/camping combo offers unrivalled opportunities for brolly spotting and so I took myself off to Dorset last weekend. Although the Friday and Saturday were disappointingly sunny, my patience was rewarded and the Sunday was satisfyingly damp.

There were some splendid brollies on show (click here and here) and some of these crazy festival goers sure know how to stand out in a crowd (click here). However, as with any large gathering of folk there are always some unsavoury characters who ruin the event for everyone with their gamp abuse. Those easily offended should not view this pic.

The trip did give me chance to reflect on one of the big debates currently playing out in the umbrella sector. Prisons. Previously I have struggled with the notion that umbrella manufacturers should be involved with incarceration. I am all for extending remits beyond what is reasonable and sensible, indeed have made a career out of it, but this seemed a step too far even for me to justify even though I have had a stab at it. But then it came to me. Do not prisons provide shelter? Both to the unfortunate crook who has overstepped the boundaries of what society has decreed bad behaviour and needs a place to rest his weary illegal head at great cost to the taxpayer and reflect on the error of his ways so he doesn't do it again. And to the law abiding citizen who needs sheltering from the despicable criminal out to ruin their day.

People such as Dylan Twirley at the National Association for Visor and Canopy Action (NAVCA) have kicked up a stink and roped in the Umbrella Commission questioning the legality of the whole thing, for no other reason that I can see than that he hasn't been mentioned in my blog before. I have chosen my usual dignified and diplomatic approach to such things and will publicly condemn him with some vague accusations in my blog rather than going through any official channel of debate.

It is a bit of a Catch 22 situation and the turning point as I see it is that it all comes down to interpretation of umbrella law, which has evolved from the 1601 statute on what constitutes an umbrella. I don't understand any of it so any legal points I make are plagiarised uncredited from elsewhere in a tribute to Raj Persuad.

And if all of the above sounds like a load of bullshit, then that is fine as I can stick it on my garden. It will help the croissant plant I have purchased grow.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Keeping it in the family

My niece Mimi Bogg is on holiday out in Ibiza getting trashed. She sent a postcard home and without any sense of shame or respect for her privacy I am going to repeat what she wrote here to really embarrass her:

"Yesterday was incredible! We woke up late with banging headaches and some lads we met from Rotherham were crashed out on the floor of our apartment! Then we drove to the waterfront where we got on the booze cruise, and there certainly was a lot of booze! And THEN while we were all watching the sunset enjoying our drinks, it started raining and all these umbrellas suddenly appeared! However, I had left mine at the airport so I got soaked! (Uncle Robin, I bet you're so angry!)"

Other than that, BUBB has been working hard to develop what we patronisingly call our Northern office. By using a vague and sketchy geographical device to cover a lazy stereotype of coal smudged working class umbrellas we can pretend that we are not just a London-centric organisation.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Away day

Feeling a little tender following BUBB's away day yesterday in Oxford, naturally. Team building activities, SWOT analyses, brainstorming (mindBoggling)...they may be what most organistions do but I find that all a bit boring. So it was straight down the pub to get mangled.

We did spend a few minutes discussing customer service and jotting some ideas down to justify the expense of the day. Hector was advocating some pretty esoteric ideas around getting back to our core values (purlease) of supporting the development needs of members rather than getting involved in every pie in the sky policy idea going just cos (future Labour party leader) James Purnell is leading the charge. But we concluded that what members really want is being individually named in my blog and described as brilliant, dynamic, exotic, charming etc.

After that we managed a bit of rowing. Fab and Geof had a row about which Oxford college was the prettiest and I had a row with Hector over him trying to pinch my brolly.

Then we went to the municipal boating lake for a go on the pedalos. I sat this out because despite my boating pedigree from my Oxford days (someone once said I was a complete cox. At least, I think etc etc etc you know the drill now), I am now a bit too tubby to be trusted in a creaky plastic tub.

On a different note there has been a lot of coverage celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landings. Now I am not saying these were faked but do you really think that experienced astronauts would travel all of that way, into the unknown, without a sturdy umbrella? And yet, there is no evidence of a gamp in the pics of all the crap they left behind in an orgy of celestial flytipping. And no Clangers either.

The other big news is that I am in trouble with the RSPCA who are threatening to take Barkles away. Barkles was drinking red wine at the village show in Blacbury over the weekend and someone has reported me. Not because I let my dog drink, but for the fact that it was a pretty ropey Bulgarian merlot and not a vintage claret. The RSPCA take these types of complaints very seriously but hopefully will let me off just this once.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Partying 25/8

God I am knackered. I have been burning the candle at at least five ends recently and the amount of Asti I have drunk in the line of duty would float a small to medium sized flotilla.

Yesterday was particularly busy. First off, there was a BUBB board meeting, where as usual I faced all sorts of awkward questions from the trustees. "Why did you do that?" "Why did you say that?" "Why on God's earth did you blog/tweet that?"

Our new chair, Mary-Lou Havagander, is getting into her stride though I must admit I hadn't got the foggiest what she meant when she started gabbling on about a veneer of transparency and shades of grey, unless it was plans for the development of a new see-through gamp for the accountancy profession. And we will certainly be marketing that.

Hector thinks she was in fact referring to trying to find a way of making it look like the activities of BUBB are open and accountable to all, while allowing us in reality to get on with whatever we want in secret without answering to members and the public. This could be very useful if say, for example, any journalists stared sniffing around my expenses again. I am all for paying lip service to the principles of transparency so this veneer could be priceless.

In the evening we had the BUBB birthday Party, traditionally held on St Swithun's Day, and as usual it was a right old tear up. The announcement yesterday by the government that they are finally consulting on plans for the Umbrella Bank added to the celebratory tone.

I don't know if I have mentioned the Umbrella Bank before, it's not something I like to go on about, but basically it is a bank which would lend umbrellas to chavs in deprived areas, such as Cambridge, naturally. It would be funded by the millions of unclaimed umbrellas that are left on trains, in restaurants etc every year.

I have spent today nursing my cheap fizz induced headache and writing submissions to the consultation under a variety of assumed names. Most of them make the suggestion that Umbellabuilders should run the Umbrella Bank, though for balance I have drafted a few that say BUBB should. That way, I am covered wearing both of my hats and no one can accuse me of any conflict of interest.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Happy St Swithun's Day

Here's hoping for rain today because as Saint Swithun put it so eloquently:

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain na mair

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sod justice for Rihanna, the traitor

Forget everything I said a couple of days ago. It appears that Rihanna, the spoilt waste of aural space, has betrayed the very song that made here by walking out of a party in a huff when it was played (click here). Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Ungrateful cow. I hope she does a long stretch for illegal tattooing.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Justice for Rihanna

You may be aware that the peerless female warbler, Rihanna, is in a bit of bother for scribbling on people's arms without a license. A fan of tattoos herself, it seems that the sassy tunesmith has been doodling umbrella pics on the limbs of others without authorisation and the elf''n'safety goons have kicked up a fuss.

Madness of course. Why does everything require qualifications and appropriate permission these days? Where will it all end? They'll expect doctors to have proper medical training next. It's just another example of namby pamby nanny state nonsense. When we were kids we didn't care about risk and health and safety. We would happily dash each other's brains out with rocks in fields full of poisonous frogs all day long, and eat dirt butties for lunch washed down with bleach. Never did us any harm, and there is no evidence that people then had shorter lifespans apart from some sketchy stats around the average age being a lot lower.

As you can see from the pic here Rihanna is actually pretty good at tattooing. However, it isn't that difficult as I discovered over the weekend (click here).

I am but a humble slave eternally kissing the feet of Rihanna for her classic hit "Umbrella". Never has a singer been so defined by the name of her most famous song - everywhere you look she is referred to as the Umbrella Singer. This miffed me at first, as that was my handle during my 2001 karaoke pomp - but I have learned to accept it.

I say, justice for Rihanna. If superstar divas can't go round flouting the law in a way that normal people couldn't, where would celebrity show-off culture be? Nowhere. Let Rihanna tattoo all she wants. And while we're at it, if 50 Cent wants to run a backstreet abortion clinic, so be it. Let Neil Diamond perform minor hip surgery if he wishes. Let Geri Halliwell run a pub in her back garden selling illicit hooch if the public demand it. But don't let Piers Morgan anywhere near anything. That would be taking things too far.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Brollitas in umberate

Pope Benedict loves an umbrella (click here). And his latest Encyclical makes some interesting points.

"Rain is God's way of watering his garden. But is also his way of testing our good nature and our spirits. The design of the umbrella cannot simply of come about by accident or through man's ingenuity alone. It is too perfect. It must have come as part a divine masterplan."

Interestingly, the umbrella has played a significant role in the Catholic Church over time as the following passage from TS Crawford's invaluable Brief history of the umbrella highlights.

"A mosaic in a church in Rome suggests that the Roman emperor Constantine presented a ceremonial umbrella to Pope Sylvester I in the fourth century. Four hundred years later, Pope Paul I bestowed on a German ruler a bejewelled model, probably around the time that the original Utrecht psalter was compiled, depicting David with an umbrella."

Me, I have no great love of the Catholic (or any other) church. But plenty of people do so and if the Pope thinks gamps are cool then all the better.

What's in a name drop?

It's been a busy old week, what with my other media commitments with the Guardian (see yesterday's post), and I am a bit behind with my blogging, so this post will be a bit of a catch up.

One of the reasons why I am so busy is because of the sheer range of things BUBB is currently involved in. I had an email from a member the other day along these lines, the gist of which was "is there anything that you won't stick your oar into, whether it's got anything to do with the interests of your members or not" and the answer is of course no, and quite rightly.

A ship does not sail alone and I am fortunate to have such a wonderful and skilled crew (Oxford, naturally). I see it as one of my biggest successes that I have been able to recognise talent and nurture it to make my own shortfalls seem less apparent. Actually I couldn't give a shit about my staff. This whole passage is the prelude to once again quite brazenly plugging the professional services of a mate. I believe that the old sterile traditional procedures of fairly and openly advertising a position to all are redundant. Much better to use a headhunter, such as, for example, I don't know but off the top of my head Donald Holding, formerly of Spokespools but now at Feudal. Headhunting is a completely valid practice enabling the richer organisations to poach all the best talent, thus keeping them strong, suppressing diversity and competition while keeping salaries for the elite (Oxford, naturally) artificially high.

At the same time, the headhunter makes a nice wedge through commission and because it is in their interest to constantly move people from job to job, all sense of stability is sacrificed. I myself harbour wishes of being headhunted (and I know some of my trustees share the same one case to the point of me being headhunted in the original Pacific Island tribe sense) but with each passing day this seems more and more unlikely.

On a different tack, David Cameron made some remarks recently that have stirred up the old debate about whether there should be one overriding (or umbrella) term for umbrella. I don't want to get dragged into this sort of navel gazing. In my view umbrella, brolly, gamp, bumbershoot all have their merits and we would be much better served getting on with the job rather than trying to settle on one of them as definitive. But if we do it should be umbrella and definitely nothing with canopy in the title.

Finally, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with one of my heroes earlier this week (click here). Mr Benn is still a fascinating speaker, and although increasingly prone to fanciful flights of whimsy and imagination, he has a wealth of experience and stories from which we can all learn.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Time for a root-and-branch review of umbrella manufacturing

Click here to read my thoughts as published in the Guardian. (Go to comments section).

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Everywhere you look there are cuts. Spending cuts, job cuts, cutbacks, back cuts. Soon we will be back to the 70s and have power cuts, cut flower cuts and even cut cuts. This is of course all the fault of the bankers who should be cut painfully. Their cut throat attitude in the cut'n'thrust world of finance (more tickle gullet and snip'n'splutter now) has cut us all adrift.

Cuts everywhere. Even I was accused of being a cut the other day (I think that is what the bloke said) and I have had to substantially remodel my jib after one of my trustees told me that he didn't like the cut of it.

But in the midst of all this cutting there is one key debate that needs resolving in umbrella land. I'll cut to the chase - is carrying an umbrella unmasculine? This has all been triggered by some cutting remarks that Tiger Woods received at the rain drenched US Open golf last month, after he made the cut. When he used an umbrella one inebriated fool yelled: "We're on Long Island, baby, where men are men! Put that umbrella down!" (I cut and pasted the quote from the original article).

And the guy writing here has also put up with some abuse over his manhood (another name for a chap brolly).

These blokes have the right idea. Embrace the rain, use umbrella, watch football, drink beer. Even if one of them did rather ruin it by knocking his pint over while balancing his brolly.

I ask you, how can anyone question that Alpha males do carry gamps when you can take a picture like this (or should I say that)? (Thanks to Hector for his).

Some say that the first cut is the deepest but that isn't always the case. Whatever, enough I say. Cut it out. Masculinity is not about brollies. It's about cuts. Haircuts.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Preparing for the worse

It is now official - there is a bear market for brollies. The FT says so (click here). A mixture of the recession and good weather means these are desperate times for the umbrella sector. We need to consider where we can make cuts, not to compromise on quality but to maximise efficiency. Brolly boffins should collaborate and pool knowledge to improve the process for producing black faux-silk. Manufacturers should collude on price to keep them artificially higher than necessary. And would it not be cheaper to make duck head handles by using real duck's heads instead of elaborately carved wooden ones?

We need to constantly keep shouting at the government, demanding support and the long-mooted umbrella bank. The government will be making its own cuts in public spending and there is a real opportunity here for us. Why can't we undercut the public and private sectors and take on contracts for all manner of services such as health care and waste management. We could even have a crack at running prisons as from my recent experience we couldn't do a worse job. Basically, we can offer average public services on the cheap - our lack of any experience in these areas should be no barrier, indeed could be a positive boon if we are to maintain the same level of mediocrity as is currently being offered.