Colne in Autumn

Colne in Autumn
Greens turn to brown as Autumn descends over the river Colne in Watford.

The trend for glass walls has a place in architecture. But here?

The trend for glass walls has a place in architecture. But here?
There seems to be a trend in urban architecture to create floor to ceiling windows. They have massive benefits: throwing light into an otherwise dim room; offering spectacular views and so on. Only these apartments in Hertford maybe take it to an uncomfortable extreme.

There are a couple of things about this arrangement that are uncomfortable.

First, the lime green section appears tacked on. If you look inside you can see the normally square design of the block clearly defined. It also creates an awkward space inside, a return that has varying degrees of usefulness.

Second is the privacy aspect. The open windows mean a clear view into the room. I did think this might be some sort of landing, only careful inspection showed they were interior spaces within the apartments.

Finally, we have the view. Not a great view across rolling countryside for these residents, but rather the local bus station.

Looking at the building it does look impressive and quirky. The architect can (probably) claim this as a landmark building, only let us not forget people have to live here. From the inside out is this building as amazing as the landmark would suggest?

Coming up from a slipway

Coming up from a slipway
Walking up the slipway on the beach in Cornwall.

A moody memory

A moody memory
This is an old photograph. I stumbled across it while I was cleaning up some directories in my Google Drive.

It comes from a time when I was heavily into experimenting with light. When I say light, I mean a single strobe light that I'd bought off eBay. I was constantly testing myself to use it to explore new shadows and ways of creating moody images.

The model is Nikki and her patience as I worked to get everything just right was rewarded.

Farewell Doctor

With a little luck the missile will hit the aircraft, blow the crap out of The Doctor and we won't have to suffer any longer.

I had high hopes for Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. He's a great actor with an edge to him and he started off playing a little darker. Only yet again we have Moffat wasting a great talent with some appalling writing, torrid storylines and a tone that's lurching into bad comedy ("Doctor Disco" and "Doctor Funkerella", really?)

The curse of the Scottish Doctor is at hand here (and by that I mean when the Doctor is played AS a Scot rather than BY a Scot before you start pointing out the excellent David Tennant). McCoy killed him off last time out, I suspect Capaldi might do it for him this time.


Someone can get in and "reboot" it. A decent show runner who knows how to craft a tale and maintain a consistency of character and writing that Moffat seems incapable of.

Down the shaft

Down the shaft
The steam engine was in full flight, pumping water out of the tin mine hundreds of feet below.

Was it something I said?

Was it something I said?
Rosamund bursts out laughing. I wish I could remember the joke I'd just told her.

Why debates about tampons is hiding a bigger VAT problem

This week parts of the press were fascinated with the "Tampon Tax". This isn't a separate tax that's applied only to women's sanitary products, but rather the classification within the VAT system that determines the level of tax to be applied. That tampons were even taxed raised the ire of many, with it being labelled a tax on women.

In my view this debate has masked a wider issue with the VAT system.

The VAT system is a monster. It has exemptions, zero rates and varying rates. It creates a complex system where European courts are asked to determine if Jaffa cakes are biscuits, adding salt to nuts increases their tax liability and the HMRC issues complicated guidelines on whether school uniforms are exempt or not. As a business owner I'm required to collect VAT on my charges when my turnover reaches a certain level and pay it to the government so that my clients can offset it when they have to pay their own tax. Except for when they can't because their business isn't registered, in which case my services cost them 20 per cent more.

Yet this is a valuable tax - both to the government and wider society. It's a tax on consumption, one that raises money by taxing the point at which a customer purchases from a supplier. It raises over 100 billion pounds that goes into the pot used for government spending on everything from hospitals to the armed forces to the bureaucracy of government.

Arguments do exist to say VAT is regressive. When the rate is raised poorer consumers pay disproportionately more of their income as VAT. Equally there are arguments to say it is progressive as the wealthy pay more in absolute terms.

All of these arguments, to my mind at least, mask the underlying issue of a complex system that says as a consumer I pay £120 for an item that I can buy as a business and pay £100 for by reclaiming the VAT element.

For me there are two solutions to this problem:

1. Abandon VAT.

Do away with the VAT system with its complexity, exemptions and varying rates. Stop it.

2. Create a single sales tax.

Payable on everything, a single flat rate that is added to every sale made by every business. No exemptions. No ability to reclaim. No dispensations for this class of products or that. It is paid by the purchaser to the seller who then passes the amount in full to the government.

This rate need not be high. A quick "back of a fag packet" calculation suggests as low as 5 per cent should be enough to recover the 100 billion currently collected.

Of course some people will lose out and others will gain. No doubt someone will appear on Newsnight claiming the cost of their newborn baby's clothes have risen by 5 per cent. Small business groups will complain their members have become tax collectors for HMRC, while large industries will lament the increase in their costs and the risk to jobs (read: profits).

Whomever introduces this sales tax will need to hold their nerve. Initially complaints will be loud as society adjusts, but they will die down. Eventually, perhaps after a couple of years, it will have become embedded into our culture. The complaints will have died down and balance will have been restored.

The VAT system is complicated, burdensome and ineffective. Tweaking it and arguing about whether this product should be taxed at that rate or this is playing with the edges of something broken. A better way forward for us as a society is to make a fundamental change that strips the entire monster away and replaces it with the simplicity of a single rate on all transactions between buyer and seller.

Dedicated to his craft

Dedicated to his craft
A photographer patiently waits for the next waves to break on the Cornish coast.

Can we all have Sunday off, please?

The UK Government is planning on removing restrictions around Sunday trading. I am not a fan.

Bring back Sunday closing.

Why, you ask. Some religious reason around the Sabbath (other religious holidays are available)?

No, because then we'd have one day of the week where everyone in the family could get together.

We'd have one day of the week where the nation can take a collective sigh of relief and one day of the week when we could all just chill out.

Sure, I know some people will still be working and I know some shops will open and I know I'm going to run out of milk one day and have to have black coffee or yoghurt on my Shreddies.

But come on, let's all have a day off once a week, go down the park and have a bloody great picnic!

Worst self-published author promotion ever!

Worst self-published author promotion ever!
Pretty much every day I see some self-published author or other promoting their latest book. By and large I don't have an issue with this, other than when said author posts in a forum that explicitly bans promotion, after all I might do the same myself one day. What does annoy me is how frequently these posts are so badly thought out that they have the opposite effect of what's intended.

This example, from someone called D Allen Rutherford, is probably the worst example I've seen in a while.

What follows isn't an attempt to rubbish his work, but rather to critique this single promotion and hopefully give you pointers on what to avoid when you're promoting your own material.

Where did he post?

The promotion was placed in the correct part of the Science Fiction forum: specifically a section given over to blog and writing promotion. However, his topic appears not to be sci-fi.

Only post your promotions in forums that cover your topic, that allow promotion and in the right category

Strong visual?

Just about every rule connected to visual promotion is broken in the image, only not in a good way. It's cluttered, has an overflow of information that's poorly organised and a primary image that's so badly photoshopped as to be laughable.

Invest time and energy in creating a clear and supportive promotional image. If your photoshop skills aren't up to much don't use it.

What's it about?

There's nothing in the promotion that sets out what the book is about. There's no blurb, no social proof (a review by another author for example). In short, the message doesn't sell.

Entice readers to learn more about your work.

The message?

I'm coming back to the message to look at its structure. The message is blunt and poorly formatted:

"Wargs: Curse of Misty Hollow" is on sale this week for $15.39, you save $6.60 through…/wargs…/paperback/product-22211452.html ‪#‎thriller‬ ‪#‎suspense‬ ‪#‎mystery‬ ‪#‎kindle‬ ‪#‎ibooks‬ ‪#‎kobo‬ ‪#‎werewolf‬

So we have a title, a price (which apparently is a saving though on what we know not), a link (more on that too) and a whole bunch of hashtags all in a single sentence. Even on Twitter we now have line breaks to make messages clearer. Maybe with some reworking this could have worked as an post-script on the piece, but not as the entire message.

Structure your message to be clear, sell the next action don't overload the reader with information.

The call to action?

To put it bluntly there isn't one. Thanks to a rogue line break, the link is broken. It means even if this advert had prompted a positive response there isn't a way to buy it. Even then, what format are you buying? The logos imply the book is available on multiple platforms, yet the promotion is just for one.

Have a clear "call to action" that tells the reader what to do next and make sure you've tested the promotion so that links work correctly

Whether this book is the next Harry Potter or just a pile of trash doesn't matter: the fact is few people are likely to find out. Put simply poor promotion means your work won't get in front of an audience and won't stand a chance of getting noticed.
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By day I take companies into new channels and markets. At night I write science-fiction, contemplate the future of society and capture the world in images. Feel free to get in touch or follow me:


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