Amazingly, seven years ago and purely out of curiosity, I carried out a Psychoanalysis Test which revealed the following character attributes about me…

Your mood indicates that you want to reach out and make contacts with others. You are feeling friendly inside and others around you will unconsciously pick up on this. You want to connect with people and be sociable. You feel more determined than usual and are not prepared to put up with unnecessary delay or restriction. Not in the mood to be told what to do you resent anyone trying to control your behaviour. You do not want to be held back at this time.

Your current situation isn’t challenging you at all. You are set in a routine and the result is that you’re feeling boxed-in and closed off. You’re craving freedom, yet you’re unaware on how to change the present situation. This is causing you to remain in your humdrum routine. Your current situation is causing you a great deal of angst. Somehow you have become over-involved in something that is leading to feelings of stress and doubt. You are at risk of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted…

You have no conflicts at the present time.

You crave novelty and new flavours in your food. Comfort foods, bland pastas and rice dishes bore you to tears, and if you’re in charge of selecting a restaurant, you’re likely to pick something exotic and unexpected – Ethiopian, Thai, authentic Latin American are possibilities. You love exotic spices, ingredients and cooking methods and are willing to try anything once. What’s more, no matter how bizarre the dish, you will probably love it.

What does this say about you? Lively and energetic, you seek novelty and thrive in the world of abstract concepts. You are bold and adventurous, someone who will try anything once; someone who takes chances and enjoys an adventure. You have most likely travelled widely and may even speak a foreign language.

People enjoy being in your company because of the excitement you radiate. You are sensual and tactile; you grab hold of life and don’t let go. You are vibrant and passionate about life and constantly looking for intellectual and emotional stimuli in the world around you.

In fact, this constant need for all that’s new and exciting might lead you to be slightly unreliable at times. You often lose interest in mundane, day-to-day routines and you have a tendency to start new projects before finishing old ones. Being grounded in what counts doesn’t mean being boring! There is a place for your adventures and great, bold taste for life, but remember that sometimes life calls for a hot, comforting – and yes, boring – bowl of homemade chicken soup. Nothing more and nothing less.

At some point in the future, I may comment upon the findings, many of which were accurate and still stand true today!


Remember the Blessings

Poetic thoughts of yesteryear for those of a certain age!

We met and we married a long time ago
We worked for long hours, when wages were low.
No tv, wireless or bath as times then were hard
Just cold water taps and a walk down the yard.

No holidays abroad, no plush carpets on floors
But we had coal on the fire and didn’t lock doors.
Our children arrived, no pill in those days
And we brought them all up without state aid.

They were safe to go out and play in the park
Old folks could freely go out in the dark.
No valium, no drugs, and no LSD
We cured most of our ills with a nice cup of tea.

But if you were sick you were treated at once
No ‘fill in a form’ and come back in six months.
No vandals, no muggings, there was nothing to rob
For we were quite rich with a couple of bob.

People were happier in those far off days
Kinder and caring in so many ways.
Milkmen and paperboys would whistle and sing
A night at the pictures was having a fling!

We all got our share of struggle and strife
But we just had to face it, that’s the pattern of life.
Now I’m alone and look back through the years
Not of the hard times, the troubles and tears!

I remember the blessings, our home and our love
That we shared together and I thank God above!

The Škoda Renaissance

An affectionate look at the increasing popularity of motor manufacturer Škoda Auto a.s.

Škoda logo

It cannot have escaped one’s notice that Škoda cars now proliferate our roads in similar quantities to many other manufacturers. However, thirty years ago, they were the subject of many a joke, notably one that said the way to double the value of a Škoda was to fill up its tank with fuel! Whilst such comments may have been unkind, they were generally very true as most models then available had rear engines and rust-infectious bodywork. In effect, the cars were basic vehicles and a symbol of communist living, much as the Trabant was in East Germany. Despite various improvements to engine capacity and so-called styling tweeks, manufacturing standards declined rapidly in the 1960s as they were unable to compete with technological developments in the western world. In the late 1970s the Czech economy became stagnated and overall Škoda production went into freefall.

The launch of the Škoda Favorit in 1987 was the beginning of a renaissance. The history of the company has a strong pedigree. Back in 1895, two bicycle enthusiasts named Václav Laurin and Václav Klement began manufacturing their own bicycles, eventually leading to motorcycle production. By 1905 the first automobile was manufactured by the Laurin & Klement Company. Production gradually increased and by 1914, the company was producing vehicles for the armed forces. As an international market began to open for the company, and the need to modernise their operations, Laurin & Klement joined forces with the Pilsen Škoda Company, which would eventually become Škoda Automobile.

From 1939 to 1945 the former Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Germans. They integrated the Škoda operation into the industrial structure of the German Empire and severely limited civilian production. Immediately following the war, the company was nationalised and continued in much the same vein until the political changes of 1989. For nearly forty years, the company mass-produced models for the populist market, and their products remained basically unchanged rather than establishing new automobile benchmarks.

It wasn’t until 1987 that production began to grow again, when Škoda introduced the Favorit model. This car was a major step forward for the company although it was still very dated when compared with western European vehicles. With the ending of communist rule, a new market economy began to emerge and the Czech Republic government and Škoda management began to search for a strong foreign partner capable of making the company competitive in an international market-place. Somewhat ironically, after the rapid decline of the company under German occupation, the government agreed to a joint venture with the German Volkswagen Group, and the company that we know today began life in April 1991. The Favorit was revamped when Volkswagen took a controlling interest and renamed the Škoda Felicia, but by the late 1990s, the company had introduced three brand new vehicles on to the market.

Without doubt, Škoda has returned to its former glory. The models that it produces today are every bit as good as any other mainstream manufacturer. They share common platforms, engines and gearboxes with many of the other brands within the VW Group such as Audi, SEAT and Volkswagen itself. In some respects, Škoda cars are actually considered superior to others from the VW Group, and generally represent better value for money. The Škoda marque is also innovative and dares to be different. Their new Superb model has a dual boot opening whereby the luggage area can either open as a traditional boot lid or alternatively open as a hatchback. Škoda cars have a good pedigree as the other marques within the Volkswagen group are Audi, SEAT, VW, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini!

Gone are the days when people laughed at a Škoda. Today many models are the envy of other brands and with more exciting developments on the horizon, the marque is surely here to stay. Incidentally, the Laurin & Klement name can still be found on top of the range Škoda Octavias and bicycles can be bought through dealers although these do come at a premium price!


A Good Deed

Recollections of time gone by in February, yet it only seems like yesterday!

On a cold February 2002 morning travelling to Milton Keynes, I witnessed a classic example of dangerous and irresponsible driving, which showed total disregard for road markings. Fortunately, a potentially serious road accident was averted, almost entirely by luck rather than design. Two vehicles travelling immediately in front of me decided to overtake a van in front of them at a point where overtaking was forbidden. The first vehicle completed the manoeuvre but the second car encountered a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. Instead of aborting, the driver proceeded, forcing the oncoming vehicle off the road. Needless to say, he failed to stop, leaving both the driver of the van and me to ascertain the well-being of the lady driver forced off the road.

Thankfully, she was only shaken by the experience, and suffered no apparent injuries. Had she left the road two metres beforehand, her vehicle would have collided with a large road sign and the consequences may well have been more serious. That evening I received a most unexpected telephone call from the lady’s husband expressing his gratitude for my support and assistance earlier in the day. For my part, it was the proper thing to do, but the later acknowledgement was appreciated, nevertheless.

In 2003 I learnt that my job was at risk as the Company for which I then worked announced a further 250 redundancies. This was the fourth time in 30 months that this announcement had been made, and was becoming tiresome to say the least! The Company stressed that the redundancies were essential in order that it could remain competitive in an ever-changing market place, and cost savings had to be made across the business.

Ironically, the Company could always find the money to stage lavish conferences and team development seminars, at which time costs appeared to be of little significance. In addition, the Company would pay high travelling costs and hotel bills for branch staff to meet regularly at their Head Office even though many of the meetings were both unnecessary and unproductive! The so-called teams that were developed quickly became disillusioned and demoralised, and once the redundancies became effective, the teams were fragmented, thereby eroding much of the former investment made to develop them in the first place! Whilst my job did come to an end after some 13 years, there was a little divine justice as the Company effectively collapsed within the ensuing twelve months resulting in even more job losses.

It would appear that my luck in supermarket queues has not changed over the years! Back in 2002 I found myself behind two customers who, between them, managed to slow the checkout process to a snail’s pace. The first had selected a large bag of cherries and when these were being weighed by the cashier, the customer was advised that they would cost nearly £15. The customer challenged this price and said that they were shown as being priced at £1.99, resulting in a supervisor having to be called to verify the price. After what seemed an interminable time, the supermarket operative confirmed the original price, at which point the customer declined to buy them, and slowly filled the carrier bags with her remaining purchases. I really do wonder how stupid some people can be, expecting to purchase a kilo of fresh cherries for less than £2!

The next customer had inadvertently picked up a packet of bread rolls with a broken seal. Again, this required another member of staff to be called to replace the item. To add to my frustration at the delay, the cashier decided to enter into a lengthy conversation with the customer, seemingly ignorant of the fact that there were other customers waiting in the queue.

Of course, the simple solution to this problem would be for supermarkets to ensure that the maximum number of tills were open during their busiest trading times. Is that too much to ask, or is it me? Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, please take note! Whilst I don’t mind queueing if all available checkouts are open, my tolerance evaporates at a rapid rate when so many of them remain closed whilst staff seemingly wander aimlessly around the stores.