Here’s wishing you a pleasant hassle- and argument-free Christmas and a 2018 full of good health and positive thoughts.
The above is our Christmas card for this year, painted by my wife, Brigitte. For the last ten years, we’ve sent out cards with one of my photos on, so it’s a break with tradition. She’s a clever girl!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers.
We’ve just broken the 30,000 visitor barrier with almost 40,000 pages consulted in the two years of this site’s existence.
We hope that the posts have stimulated you and helped make your life less of an endurance test.
Apparently, according to marketing experts, the title of the site lends itself to brand confusion.
Is it about exercise?
Is it about getting fit?
Is it about keeping it up for longer?
It doesn’t deliver what people expect, so I’m told.
I’ve been advised to change it.
However, for the moment we’ll go with the flow.
May your life never become an endurance test!
P.S. It’s Christmas. If you’ve enjoyed reading any or all of the posts on the site or been helped in any way, and you feel like making a contribution to keep the site running and put a smile on my face, then please by all means make a donation, however small. Just click on the button below:
And with Christmas fast approaching, we will all have another opportunity very soon to taste the unfortunate truth of this.
Some people – a small minority, I think – have supportive families, but for many of us, this is not the case.
So here’s a small suggestion.
Before you go back to see your parents or your parents-in-law, or your sisters and brothers or your cousins or whoever, take a moment to decide what you are willing to discuss and what you are not willing to discuss.
Maybe, but you’ll thank me for it.
It’s a question of survival, of self-care.
You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.
I’ll say it again.
You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.
This might come as a shock to some of you.
Perhaps you’ve always communicated everything with your parents, siblings etc.
This is perfectly ok if said parents are supportive and do not judge you.
If, however, you are secretly dreading another bout of sarcastic and belittling remarks, not to mention more arguments, then you owe yourself protection.
And the best way to do this is to decide what and what not to talk about.
If you are in a couple, then you must spend time with your other half making sure that you are on the same wavelength about this.
It’s no good not talking about that wonderful but expensive holiday you had in October that you haven’t told your parents about because they always complain that you go on holiday too much and anyway where do you get the money? – if your girlfriend blurts out what a wonderful time you both had in Botswana.
Get your stories straight and stick to them.
Believe me, this is a vital step towards self-preservation and if you’ve never tried it, then I urge you to do so.
It’s not a question of lying to people.
It’s a question of setting limits.
Are there things that you’d rather keep to yourself?
Then do so.
For example, perhaps you’ve recently become unemployed and need some time to get things sorted out without having confusing and unwanted careers advice from the whole family.
You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.
Just be very clear about what you are going to say if Daddy asks you about work.
In my experience, many people and unfortunately many parents, take information given to them and use it to hurt you either instantly or later on.
Don’t ask me why.
I don’t have children.
And I can’t understand the point of having them if all you are going to do is judge and belittle them. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Shouldn’t you all be playing on the same team?
Instead, some parents are toxic.
So change the parameters.
Learn to say to yourself,’I don’t want to talk about that and I’m not going to.’
If you just talk about the things you feel reasonably comfortable with, then this Christmas might actually turn out to be the simplest and least fraught with friction for a long long time.
I was talking to my mother on the phone this morning.
She’s just returned from a two night stay in hospital after collapsing in town.
Fortunately, after undergoing a barrage of tests, there doesn’t seem to be any serious fundamental problem.
But she was talking about the hospital staff and how she couldn’t fault them and what long shifts they have and this has prompted me to write this post.
Because there’s something I can never understand about healthcare.
I think we can all agree that healthcare is one of the most important services available, if not the most important.
If you can think of a more important service, let me know.
So explain to me why, when it’s vital for workers in this field to be at their sharpest, as they are often making life or death decisions, and at their physical best in order to guarantee precision in surgery for example, do doctors and nurses often work ten hour shifts?
Your garagist doesn’t work a ten hour shift, so does that mean that repairing cars is more taxing than repairing humans?
In no other profession are there such long shifts, and yet in none of these professions is it so important not to make a mistake.
This is something I’ve never understood.
It’s an indication of the absurdity and mixed-up values of our modern world.
It seems to me that doctors’ and nurses’ hours ought to be shorter than other people’s in order to ensure that they can provide the best service possible, not longer than for anyone else.
After all, if you have to go to hospital, wouldn’t you like to know that the people overseeing your health are properly rested and in a fit mental and physical state to look after you properly?
I know I would.
But then, as Bob Dylan put it, “People are crazy and times are strange.”
In October 2016, I had a problem with a car rental company at Manchester Airport, England.
Now I rent a car several times a year and have done so for decades, but this was the first time I really had a problem with a car rental company.
When my wife and I returned the car, the checker would not close the agreement because of the scratches you can see in the above image on the rear left corner of the car where the dust has been wiped off.
We were subsequently billed £449.00 for the damage.
Yes, you read that correctly: four hundred and forty-nine pounds sterling. I once bought a car for that amount.
No invoice was sent. No justification for the amount was given. The amount was just charged.
I had seen the scratches on the car when we took possession of it at the beginning of the rental, but had deemed them so small as not to be worth reporting. A splash of dried mud also disguised them when I checked the car.
I was in any case absolutely sure that we had not caused them.
What to do in a situation like that?
Well, you can talk to the car rental company, of course.
I should say at this point that research on the internet revealed that this was standard practice for this particular company. I found a number of reviews where clients had been charged astronomical amounts for so-called damages by this same company, in England and elsewhere.
Naturally, they didn’t budge. My fault for not informing them of the damage to begin with.
The next thing you can do if your rental is in England is complain to the BVRLA (bvrla.co.uk), the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association by writing to email@example.com. Other such associations exist on the continent and elsewhere, I imagine.
This was a disappointing experience as the gentleman I had contact with upheld the rental company in every particular.
The thing that really got me was that I was billed for damages without any proof that the repairs had been carried out or that the costs were real.
The gentleman at the BVLA informed me that there is no legal obligation for the rental company to repair the car.
Which is a bit like a licence to print money.
You charge the client as much as you like for damages that you never repair because the damages are so slight that you can continue renting out the car and who knows, maybe bill more clients for the same damages.
After all, would you bother to repair the damage to the car above?
Of course, you wouldn’t.
You wouldn’t even if it was your own car, the scratches are so insignificant. You might retouch with a little pot of paint but certainly no more than that.
And that got me to thinking.
I’d been charged for repairs that hadn’t been done.
And here we come to the real reason for this post.
What about opposing the charges with the credit card company, I thought?
In theory, a credit card transaction requires a service or a product transaction. I reasoned that as no product or service had been performed for this sum that I might be able to get the money back.
My credit card was credited with the amount and the car rental company was given forty-five days to justify the billing.
They never replied.
So I got my money back.
Now I do not guarantee that this will work for you or 100% of the time, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you run into similar problems.