We should be more sparing in our use of capitals

November 29th, 2023

Hamas and Israel Open to Extension of Truce

Hamas releases third group of hostages as US expresses hope of truce extension

Two headlines, selling two reports of essentially the same story – the first from The New York Times, the second from The Guardian, both on Monday 27th November 2023. I quote them here, not to question how each of these excellent newspapers might be spinning the negotiations between the two sides in the war, but to draw attention to capital letters.

To my mind, capital letters are required only: at the beginning of a sentence; and to signify proper names. By “proper names” I mean the names of people, places and organisations — the names which are proper to them, and which set them apart from other people, places and organisations.

On that basis, the only words in the headline above from The New York Times which need to be capitalised would be “Hamas” and “Israel”. But American newspapers do capitalise most words in their headlines – as did British newspapers a century ago. The headline from The Guardian exemplifies the style followed by British papers today – apart from the tabloids, which might splash the news all in capitals, thus: HAMAS-ISRAEL TRUCE HOPES. American styles are evolving too, apparently: cursory investigation indicates The Washington Post now limits capitalisation in headlines to proper names.

I’m prompted to comment on this by an email from my friend Martyn Fowler, chief executive of Elite Renewables Ltd, asking me to run a proof-reader’s eye over some text prepared for the company’s website:

Mission statement

The Definitive Zero Carbon Company, With A Market Leading Team, Showing The World What Is Possible. 

Nothing wrong with that, we might say. I don’t think this mission statement requires any capital letters apart from on the first word “The”. (Some would argue that “the World” qualifies for a capital “W”, to avoid confusing the Earth with any other worlds.) Martyn might consider starting the mission statement with the words: “Elite Renewables Ltd is the definitive zero carbon company…” highlighting the company name. As in so many aspects of marketing and promotion, less is more…

Let’s make life easier for our readers, and trouble them with capital letters only when there’s a reason for it. When most people’s job titles can get by without capitals, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or King Charles can stand out from the crowd.

Categories: Proofreading, Words for Business

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Don’t let your spelling make you look silly 

January 27th, 2023


Are spelling and punctuation your blind spot? Unsure whether you mean “licence” or “license”? Are you looking for a sale’s manager or a sales manager?  Every time you post on social media, or write a letter, or send out a flier or a newsletter, you’re presenting yourself and your organisation to the world. That’s why you need to be sure the message is right – including the spelling and punctuation – before you send it.  

If you mis-spell anything, the chances are some of your recipients will spot the mistake at first glance, and their judgement of you may be coloured by that. Add to that the probability that the document with the silly mistake, which perhaps you noticed the day after writing it, is the one that’s already been copied hundreds of times and shared by colleagues and potential customers. 

Large organisations have communications departments, including people with proofreading skills, to look after these things. If your business doesn’t have those skills in-house, you could let me take charge.  

 I’ve worked in journalism for more than 50 years, and spelling and punctuation are my bread and butter. Send me links to your social media channels and I’ll check them at agreed intervals. If I find not a single error, there’s no charge; if I find one mistake, I’ll alert you and charge you £5; if there are two mistakes or more, you’ll get an invoice for £25. 

We can come to a similar arrangement with brochures and other documents, which can be proofread at draft stage. 

 Worried that your written matter makes you look silly? Let’s talk about it.  



Categories: Proofreading, Words for Business

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Ladies’ Day, a networking triumph

October 2nd, 2016

Networking is one of the arrows every business owner needs to carry in his or her quiver of business development tools. If it was ever enough just to do the job, it certainly isn’t now: you have to be able to talk about it too. Business Network International (BNI) is a world leader in developing and encouraging networking skills: it has thousands of chapters worldwide, including many hundreds in the UK, where members meet weekly for breakfast, and pass business referrals to each other. I was a member of the Sutton chapter of BNI for about five years, during which time it increased my confidence and helped me reach out to people in other trades and professions. I said a fond farewell to BNI at the end of 2013, but I keep getting invitations to go back and “sub” for members when they are away – on holiday, for example – and can’t get to the meeting. (Part of the membership deal is that you commit to showing your face at every weekly meeting.)

Last week BNI Sutton pulled off a brilliant meeting: of their current list of close to 30 members, only three are women – interior designer Nina Haydon (currently chapter president), Marion D’Moirah, of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, and Nicole Barry, of Associated Neighbour Training – so September 29’s breakfast was named Ladies’ Day. Members were urged to invite women guests to the meeting, and everyone was asked to wear a hat.

It was a triumph: there was a buzz in the room, as there always is on BNI visitors’ days. The meeting drew several visitors, six of whom were women: Allison Staines, of Photo Booth Events; Dina Georgiou, of Paris St. Clair health and beauty salon; Natalie Agius, a distributor with Forever Living Products; Verity Lamb, sales executive with Jewsons; Nicky Lavede, hairdresser; and Hannah Gramson, of Tinies, the childcare business.

I was there subbing for Ashton-Paul Smythe, the chapter architect. At each BNI meeting, everyone gets 60 seconds to talk about their business and the sort of referrals they want. I did that on Ashton-Paul’s behalf (the message is that he doesn’t just work with drawings, he works with people). I was also invited to speak about my business. Rather than give the usual promotion of Words for Business as a journalism service, I delivered a “commentary” of the Sutton BNI Referrals Chase, a horse race in which the runners were named after member businesses and the riders were their people. It seemed to go down well.

Of the real runners and riders in the Sutton BNI chapter, here are some achievements of the past quarter, as reported by chapter vice-president Alan Johnson: Gary Beckett, Martyn Fowler, Steve Bellamy, Nina Haydon, Eny Osung and Alan Johnson himself had each passed 20 or more referrals; Mark Thaw, Eny Osung, Nina Haydon and Alan Johnson had each brought three or more visitors to meetings; and Eny Osung, the chapter’s social media specialist, had held the most one-to-one meetings with other members.

And what did all this add up to? Over the past year, members of the chapter have thanked each other for £971,372 worth of business generated by referrals. Well done, Sutton BNI.

Categories: BNI, Networking

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Practical philosophy, economics with justice

April 9th, 2014

I first took an active interest in practical philosophy in the early 1970s, when I enrolled for the introductory course at the School of Economic Science. In those days the School met at 11 Suffolk Street, just off the Haymarket. Today we can read about philosophy, mindfulness, meditation, yoga and all kinds of approaches to self-development on paper, online, and find information on every corner. It was relatively novel in those days.

The School is still going strong, I’m still there and still enjoying a life enriched by philosophy in its many aspects. We’ve moved on from Suffolk Street to another “Number 11”, in Mandeville Place, off Oxford Street – formerly the home of Trinity College of Music. And on 28 April 2014 the introductory course in Practical Philosophy will welcome another cohort of students.

What am I? What is knowledge? Philosophy means “love of wisdom” – so what is wisdom? Is my life guided by wisdom, or by a succession of random ideas and desires? The introductory course explores these and similar questions – not from an academic standpoint, or to help us pass an exam, but in ways that can be put into practice in daily life. Hence the title of the course – Practical Philosophy.

At the first session, students are given an exercise in mindful awareness, to practise daily. This helps to clear the mind of random agitation, and is a good foundation for the course as it develops.

Find out more about the School by visiting its website, or give me a call if you want to chat.

Enrolment fee for the course is £95 for the first term. I have a voucher which admits one student free of charge for the summer term of 2014, either for Practical Philosophy or for Economics with Justice. First come, first served: email me at davidgoymour@hotmail.com – giving your name and postal address, and the voucher will be sent by return.

Categories: Uncategorized

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The Urban Retreat

January 27th, 2014

Jane Scanlan’s business, Forever4Ever, is growing apace. She has brought together a group of like-minded people involved in health and wellness at the first Urban Retreat. It’s happening next Friday evening, 31 January 2014, at the Honeywood Museum, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton.

Scanlan has several health and wellness arrows in her quiver: she’s a distributor with Forever Living Products, the world’s leading supplier of aloe vera; and she’s also a homeopath and emotional freedom technique (EFT) practitioner. I met her at BNI, the business networking group which she has used successfully to promote and grow her business.

At The Urban Retreat Scanlan is bringing together an array of qualified therapists, and she has worked with other Sutton BNI members to organise and promote it. “Givers gain” is BNI’s motto: if I bring you business, surely, you will want to return the favour! The Urban Retreat has been organised in this spirit.

On the first floor, visitors will be offered “taster” treatments and advice, with discount vouchers in return for booking a full appointment. Yoga and Pilates teachers will offer free sessions.

On the ground floor, there will be several health and wellness products on offer, along with advice on fertility, pregnancy and birthing; posture and back trouble; fitness and weight management programmes. The first 50 people to arrive will receive “goodie bags” with discounts and samples.

To find out more, call Jane Scanlan on 07889 205548.


Categories: BNI, News

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Don’t panic!

October 2nd, 2013

I occasionally post copies of presentations I’ve made at Sutton BNI (a business networking group, where I’m a member), on the chapter’s blog. Frequently I get emails advising me someone has posted a comment, and asking me to “moderate” posts before either allowing them to appear, deleting them or marking them as spam.
This morning I received another one of those emails and entered the blog in “supervisor” mode. Three messages were in the queue, all looking like spam. I deleted two of them but was unsure about the third, so – wait for it! – I clicked the link to see what it was.
Oh David you idiot. You don’t mean you actually clicked a link in a message whose source you didn’t know?
Goymour blushes intensely. Yes, I’m afraid I did.
Hmm. And what happened next?
Safari opened what looked like a YouTube page, and what looked like a video started running. The progress tracker moved across the bottom of the window but the picture window stayed black. At this point I though “oh sh*t”, closed Safari and returned to my email.
And what did you do next?
I started to reply to an email (from a person I do know). After I’d typed the first few words, a grey mist came down over my screen like a theatre safety curtain and a black box appeared with a message (in five languages):
“You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button until it turns off, then press the Power button again.”
I haven’t touched the computer since then. What do I do next, please?
David Goymour, 9.16am, 2 October 2013


Update: Thanks to Alan Johnson, of Teknicare, who put me right on this: apparently when there’s a conflict between something we look at on the internet and the Mac operating system, my computer goes into something called “kernel panic” mode. Reboot. Panic over!

Categories: BNI, Uncategorized

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Wedding fair – a power team event

August 15th, 2013

Do you network? Well, of course you do; people have been using networks since we learnt to speak, for exchanging all sorts of useful information, from recipes and knitting patterns to sailors’ knots and how to tie fishing flies, from finding out who to talk to to get on to the golf club committee to getting the name of the chief buyer in the company you want as a customer. If you’re in business, and you haven’t been asleep for the past 20 years or so, you’ll be aware that forming networks with people outside your business opens up, exponentially, opportunities to win new business.

According to Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the world’s most successful business networking organisation, most of the business referrals you receive as a BNI member are likely to come from other members of your power team. “Power team?” do I hear you ask? That’s a group whose businesses may be different, but who tend to serve the same customers. To put it in the form of a question for a pub quiz, “Why is a florist like a photographer?” Answer: because they both work at weddings (among other events).

In the BNI chapter to which I belong, Sutton BNI, we have an events power team, which has come up with a brilliant collaboration. They call themselves “Inspired” and they have put together an attractive book to showcase their offer in the events market.

“Inspired” as an entity is very much led by florist Vanessa Udall with printer Carolyn Reilly, photographer Sam Dorrington and events organiser Stuart Bell (a several time visitor to BNI) as her co-conspirators. 

As well as other BNI members and former members, explains Carolyn Reilly, “Inspired is made up of companies we have met along the way who excel at what they do. We take this book and its contributors to high end venues, companies who organise in-house events, anyone who wants a party or celebration of any kind and we have been met with some fabulous successes so far.  The wedding fair at Honeywood is Inspired’s first public airing insofar as organising a public event for people to come along and meet the suppliers in the book and others, with a big focus on local talent.”

Vanessa Udall comments: “All suppliers provide the highest quality and service and have been handpicked to ensure Inspired carries the same ethos of quality and service.” 

The full “Inspired” roll-call is: Vanessa Udall, The House Floral Design; Sam Dorrington, photographer; Carolyn Reilly, PrintInc; Stuart Bell Events; Christine Laidlaw, Inspiri Dance and Pilates; Rachelle’s Beautiful Bespoke Cakes; Rob Pearce, toastmaster; F.A.B. Fireworks; Catered by Justin; Countess Marquees; The Happy Wedding Company; Times Creches; i-Pic photo and video booths; Suzy Doyle, make-up artist; and Robert Armstrong Chauffeurs.

Meet them all at Honeywood Museum, Carshalton, on 8 September 2013. Let’s face it: if this lot organise your wedding, it’ll be Inspired.


Categories: BNI, Networking

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Spiritualist encounter

June 26th, 2013

Tarot cards, star charts… they are the things I normally classify, along with skiing, as irrational activities pursued by otherwise intelligent people. But recently my skepticism has been challenged…

Meet Molly Ann Fairley. Appearance-wise, she has all the right characteristics for the principal of the School of Psychic Studies: pale blond hair, sparkling blue eyes and a thoughtful expression that comes from six decades or so of experience. She is also an extremely sensitive listener.

We chat for a while at her Kingston-upon-Thames home, getting to know each other’s career history. This is a “one-to-one”, prescribed by BNI, the network to which we both belong, as the best way to generate business referrals for each other. At one point Fairley mentions tarot cards, which I dismiss as superstition. Undeterred, she suggests that self-knowledge is deep within all of us: that consciousness, which ultimately will solve our problems, steers our course; the deck of cards, charts of the heavens, are the psychic’s toolkit, and self-knowledge – consciousness – guides the hand to find the appropriate card.

After a while, my guard drops a bit and I allude to something which has been troubling me. Almost before I have time for second thoughts, Fairley picks up the cue: “Would you like a healing?”

We have arrived at exactly that territory which I had promised myself I was going to avoid: the intimately personal. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, they say, so, let’s go for it. Fairley raises her eyes and asks for guidance. From spirits? From the departed? Perhaps that’s one way she would describe her sources – and it’s the aspect of spiritualism which I find unacceptable: the idea of having some sort of conversation with individuals, or an individual, who are no longer alive.

But consciousness? What if the psychic’s appeal for guidance is addressed simply to consciousness? For most of my adult life I’ve been arguing – with anyone with the patience to give me a hearing – that, contrary to our personal feelings of being separate and individual, that which animates us and sustains us is universal. Much of the time this “knowledge” is distinctly theoretical, yet to be realised; nevertheless, it’s been a compass for this so-called “individual” for nearly half a century.

Gently, but with stunning accuracy, Molly picks me apart. She calls on her unseen guide to let me stop vexing myself, to stop giving authority to my darker side. It’s a beautiful exposition of the distinction between the universal, all-knowing Self and the restless, would-be individual ego.

As we bid our farewells, she suggests, perhaps hopefully, that over the next few days I might experience some freedom, that the darkness might not be quite so compelling. Let’s say: the battle has been joined. Just don’t even think of asking me to ski. I’m not that crazy.

Categories: BNI

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Dear Prime Minister…

April 26th, 2013

Wednesday (24 April, 2013) was the first opportunity since Budget day for us to hear the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, put on hold by Easter and the Thatcher funeral. An ideal opportunity, one might think, for the Government to share its vision for a better Britain.

So, what did we get? The prime minister and the leader of the opposition presenting alternative strategies? Sorry, no. The same two, trading insults about numbers of nurses, waiting lists and waiting times, doctors’ surgeries and A&E departments. Politics, it seems, has come down to testosterone-fueled sparring.

I wish you had joined me at breakfast yesterday morning, at the Sutton chapter of BNI (Business Network International). We are one of thousands of chapters world-wide who meet weekly to promote our businesses and to pass business referrals to each other. In the last 12 months our chapter, which now has 40 members, has generated referrals worth more than £700,000. I’d like to give you a brief report of this week’s meeting.

Before breakfast, when I arrived at 6.20am, lots of networking was already going on around the tea and coffee urns. Ed Seymour, business development manager with BUPA, was trying to persuade me to buy a pair of tickets for the Sutton BNI summer ball. Christine Laidlaw, dance and pilates teacher, was telling me how her car was written off and she and her husband are both recovering from injuries sustained when another car shunted into them from behind. (Dance teaching is off for the moment, but pilates is just the thing for Christine as well as her students.) And architect Ashton-Paul Smythe explained to me what benefits I receive if I subscribe £5 to his book, How to Manage Your Builder, coming out in September.

With breakfast under way, education co-ordinator Alan Johnson spent a couple of minutes reminding us that what we’re about is generating business referrals for each other – and a referral is an opportunity to present one’s business to a potential client who has positively expressed an interest.

We then came to the “60-second round”, when each person at the meeting spends a minute speaking about their business. This week several members reported on jobs they had been working on, many of them as a result of referrals from members. Several asked for referrals to specific target clients. Electrician John Sell wanted a referral to Tim Bishop, of Ferbish Homes – and it turns out Tim is an old friend of Ashton-Paul Smythe, so connections were being made already.

Lisa Malyon, of Sense Communications, thanked Carolyn Reilly for a referral to Warren House, Kingston, which had led to £10,000 worth of business.

Book-keeper Mary Chadwick reported that the Rosemary franchise, to which she belongs, now has software that makes it easy for construction contractors to manage information for their sub-contractors.

Decorator Alan Gristwood told us about three jobs keeping him busy this week: working on a detached house, preparing it for sale; waterproofing a stables; and cross-lining a dining room.

Travel adviser Kersty Wood reminded us that, because she is independent, clients are not pushed into taking holidays unsuitable for them. And she added that our money is protected by an insurance bond.

Insurance broker James Conroy told us his enquiries this week had included one from a business which needs to increase public liability cover from £5m to £10m; and he was asked to quote for someone who had acquired two residential properties.

Ashton-Paul Smythe reminded us about his book, which could help half a million people a year, he said.

Printer Carolyn Reilly, who often tells us about clients who need her to turn jobs round virtually overnight, pleaded for referrals with a little more lead-time.

Alan Johnson, who helps businesses with their computer networks, presented a witty 60 seconds including the title of just about every Beatles song ever recorded. Vanessa Udall, proprietor of The House Floral Design, played a 60-second video showing some recent floral tributes.

Jonathan Barnett, who offers alternative investment strategies, told us returns of 37% were available from investment in graveyard plots.

David Jones, our social media specialist, reported that Sutton BNI has received an enquiry from a potential visitor as a result of our posts on Twitter.

Solicitor John Mill reminded us about KYC – “know your client”. The better you know your customer, the better the business, he declared.

Builder Martyn Fowler welcomed the spring sunshine: “We’re getting active on the build side of the business, working on extensions and the like while the rain is on hold.”

Office equipment supplier Antony Gray told us he had been busy supplying old people’s homes with their office needs, and providing furniture and other equipment for businesses moving to new premises.

Management consultant Christina Haemmerli-Schlegel suggested that if we didn’t know for sure where the money was coming from to pay creditors, that’s a sign we could talk to Assist With Solutions.

Coach Penny Beere works with clients who want to move on with their lives: “We focus on the future, but sometimes we need to look at the past to see how we got here,” she said.

Accountant Richard Wesley reported he had been on an accounting standards update course, but there had been no reference to a change in this year’s Budget, which allows sole traders to complete their accounts on a cash basis rather than invoice basis. The snag is, it involves restrictions on expenses which may be offset against tax. “Get a second opinion before you go this route,” he advised.

Plumber and heating engineer Mark Thaw told us about a two-bedroom house in Dulwich where he’s been installing a central heating system and a bathroom suite.

Tony Hammond, of Inventive Tax Strategies, was excited for two reasons this week. His company, he told us, is now the only one in Britain with a credible offer on stamp duty exemption. And he has just been awarded a big contract with a Chinese investor.

Courier Richard Bennett reminded members about his same-day service: “We can normally collect your consignment within 60 minutes from most UK locations.” He added that business parks are a good source of business for BT Couriers.

Health and safety consultant Derek Andrews introduced himself as “your primary point of contact for fire safety, health and safety and asbestos”. His clients range from sole traders to local authorities and housing associations, he told us.

Ivair Fornaziero said his cleaning business, Almeida Brothers, was aiming to drum up more outside work. Ivair is currently offering a 50% discount on cleaning driveways, patios and decks.

Osteopath Ricky Kempton doesn’t just treat bad backs: he deals with headaches, sore ankles and “everything in between”, he said. This week’s jobs had included a man with a dubious golf swing and cranial osteopathy for a baby just three days old.

People do move on from BNI. Simon Dorrington, a flat roofer, has been a Sutton BNI member for the past year and told us he couldn’t commit to another year. He received a round of applause from members. (NB: vacancy for a roofer at Sutton BNI.)

Tim Haig provides care for people who need it, but don’t want to move into a residential home. “One in four of us will suffer from dementia before we die,” he warned us. He spoke about Bob, a man with dementia who has recently become a client, for whom Right at Home now provides care “24/7”.

Every week one member is given ten minutes to present their business in greater detail and yesterday this fell to Ashton-Paul Smythe, of Your Build Home. He took us through his life in seven-year chunks, from his Battersea childhood through his time as an employee and on to life building his own business.

We then came to that part of the meeting when each member reports back on one-to-one meetings, thanks other members for jobs done and paid for and, crucially, passes referrals to other members. Mary Chadwick told us she’s expecting a visitor to next Thursday’s meeting – a woman who offers a spray tanning service.

Alan Johnson reported that an event on Saturday had raised £7,000 for Matthew’s Friends, a charity supported by Sutton BNI. Ed Seymour again urged us to come to the Summer Ball, and also promoted a 14 June golf challenge. Lisa Malyon reminded us about the Boost Your Business event, organised by BNI and being held at Brands Hatch on 7 June.

We passed a total of 31 referrals and thanked each other for £14,121 worth of business. We adjourned at 8.30am, when members went off to do a full day’s work.

This, Prime Minister, was typical of BNI meetings, which happen every week in their hundreds around Britain and in thousands around the world. Why don’t you and Ed Miliband join us one Thursday, for a taste of business, BNI-style?


Categories: BNI

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Message to a visitor

March 20th, 2013

Thanks for your visit. I’m sorry you didn’t ring the doorbell and pause for a chat. I appreciate you were busy and pressed for time. And thanks for not waking me up. What was it, 2.30am? I would have been happy to brew a pot of tea for tea two of us, but, as I say, you were busy and you didn’t want to wake the neighbours.

Thanks for being so quiet when you broke the quarter-light to get access to my car. Did you notice how gently the engine fired up when you crossed the wires? None of us heard you at all! I realise you kept the revs down till you had at least got out of the car park, before you opened up and sped off to some other part of London. Well before I stepped out at 8.30am and saw what you’d done, my car was off the street in your garage, being sprayed a nice new colour (you don’t like blue-grey? matter of taste, I suppose) and fitted with a new set of plates.

I hate you.

Now, now, I must calm down. Did you know the United Nations has declared 20 March (yes, that’s today!) the International Day of Happiness? So while my first reaction to your visit is that you have caused me considerable inconvenience, have deprived me of a source of innocent pleasure, are going to cost me I-don’t-know-how-much in insurance as well as the cost of the car, and that you are a miserable, thoughtless, worthless criminal, I have to acknowledge that you have as much right to happiness as any other human, and if your way of claiming that is to take possession of a car which happens to belong to me, with no regard for the effect on me, well, who am I to complain?

You arsehole.

That may strike you as unduly hostile. It’s only a car, after all. And you weren’t to know that I’d spent £54 yesterday on a new spare tyre, after I’d got a puncture yesterday morning. Perhaps I should also thank you for relieving me of my car before I’d paid out for a new tax disk – you possibly hadn’t noticed the present one expires on 31 March.

In a league table of car theft worldwide, the UK appears in second place after the United States. You must be proud of helping this country keep up with the villainous Joneses, and I suppose, looking at it from a green standpoint, what I still think of as my car is probably being recycled as I write.

However philosophically I try to reflect on this episode, I cannot escape from the conclusion that the Chancellor has been wasting his time this afternoon, presenting his plans to make this country a better, richer, more successful place, while vermin like you are working to send us all down the toilet. (At the time of writing I don’t know what the Chancellor’s plans are, as I’ve spent the afternoon trying to repair the damage you’ve done to my life.)

You belong in a zoo. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t wish the likes of you on any zoo. You belong in prison.

By contrast, PC Ainsworth, of the Metropolitan Police, and her colleagues, who took my calls today, and Natalie Stringer, and her colleagues, at Aviva, who dealt with my claim, all made a great contribution to the International Day of Happiness. I thank them all.


Categories: Uncategorized

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