Monthly Archives: January 2013

Horse burgers and hypocrisy.

I remember a Lady of my acquaintance who would say, when presented with evidence of greed or bureaucratic heartlessness, “It makes you spit.”
Now I know just how she felt. In the UK the livestock industry has had to jump through a myriad bureaucratic hoops ‘to maintain consumer confidence.’ Every bovine on this farm has an individual passport which details where it was born, who its mother was, and when they have moved between farm to farm. All the livestock have their own individual ID tags, registered on databases held by the authorities. It has cost the industry millions and has massively increased my exposure to endless tedious paperwork.
And why is this? Well apparently our lords and masters, the major retailers, demand complete traceability from ‘farm to fork.’ All the major dairies and all the major retail chains have their own ‘farm assurance’ scheme whose rules they expect farmers to obey.
Yet now we discover that a ‘beef burger’ from Tesco’s Value range had 29% horse meat.
So how did it happen? Well let’s start from the beginning. It wasn’t an accident at a UK abattoir. Some overworked meat inspector didn’t mistakenly confuse a horse with a bullock. Even if he cannot tell the difference between the species, each animal has its own individual paperwork that will tell him what species it was.
So how did it happen? Well apparently it came in as part of ‘cheap filler’.
Yes, that’s what Tesco and the rest of them add. ‘Cheap filler.’ They demand UK producers meet the highest standards of traceability, and then just buy cheap filler to adulterate the good stuff with so that it leaves them a better margin.
How much ‘cheap filler’?
Well one Tesco Burger had 29% horsemeat in it. Straight horsemeat sells well enough on the continent, probably too well to be a ‘cheap filler’ without being ‘cut’ with something else. So perhaps the filler is only 50% horsemeat. Lord alone knows what rubbish they mix with that to get the price down.
I’m sorry but the hypocrisy of the retailers, demanding everyone else spend a fortune jumping through the hoops the supermarket demands, ‘to ensure quality from farm to fork’, only to have these charlatans then mix good food with cheap rubbish they’ve imported specially.
It strikes me that we don’t need ‘farm assurance’ schemes. It strikes me we need Supermarket assurance schemes.

However if it’s any consolation to our major retailers, I’ve found a song that they can use in their next marketing campaign.

I am the man the very fat man that waters the workers beer

The Horns of Elfland, softly blowing.

I was minding my own business. Honest. I was there with a chainsaw cleaning up an old hedge. It’s one of those jobs that my Grandfather really should have got round to, and my Dad never had time to do. So we have a hedge which consists of clumps of Sycamore. They come up from a common bole and some of them are trees in their own right, they’re over a foot across.
So I come along with the chainsaw and cut them off so young growth can come up and we get back the hedge my grandfather knew. Some of them go out over the sunken lane. These I drop off into the lane, they’re beyond saving, and will be next winter’s firewood. If I don’t there’s the danger that if we get a good westerly gale when they’ve got leaves on, they’ll fall over, tearing their roots out. Still I leave one nice standard per set of roots, and all the smaller stuff. With the big stuff gone, I’ll come back and lay the lesser stuff so that it’ll make some pretence of being a hedge. In twenty years it’ll be a good ‘un.
Anyway there I was, when I heard the sound of Bagpipes. I stopped the chainsaw and listened again. I caught it again. I looked round, someone with an unusual ring-tone? There was no sign of anyone. Something on a car or tractor radio? Again there was one tractor working and it doesn’t have a working radio. Anyway the pipes stopped.
So I carried on, and as I dropped the next big sycamore I could hear over the chainsaw vague hints that the pipes had started again. I stopped the saw and put it down, there were the bagpipes again. By this time I came to the conclusion they were coming from the direction of the main road, near the church. That would put them just over half a mile away. ‘Leccy Board have one of their transformer boxes there. Someone working on it and leaving the van radio on perhaps?
Let us get this in perspective here, we’re ninety miles south of Carlisle, pipers are only slightly more common than unicorns. I think that I can say with absolute confidence, I have never stood on any of our hedges and heard the bagpipes.
At about this time the chainsaw ran out of juice, and the chain needed tightening. So I collected old Jess who’d been watching the whole performance with the analytical eye of an elderly border collie. Now, the pipes had stopped and other than a bit of traffic on the main road, it was quiet. I got home, time for a bit of dinner.
My lady wife arrives back, she’d opened up the church for a burial in our church yard. I asked how the burial had gone. “Fine.” Then she added. “And, they had a piper.”

How to make money from Indie writing!

Eventually even the shyest and most self effacing indie author feels that they ought to do something to promote their book. Spamming Amazon produces few sales whilst there are only so many copies family members will buy, even to give as Christmas presents.
So you look round in growing desperation. You feel you have to do something but what? Then the answer comes, enter it for a prestigious award.

So perhaps you look at http://www.thebookdesigner.com/book-awards/ where someone has gathered them together in one place.

Then it struck me, there are few of these who charge less than $75 and some are well up over $100. Serious money is starting to change hands. So I’m contemplating setting up the ‘International Indie Book Awards for New Writers’. (It has to be for new writers, they’re the most desperate and gullible.)
It’ll cost £50 to enter a book, come one, come all. Note that because we believe in the calibre of our entrants and want to give each book a proper chance, writers will be encouraged to submit ALL their books, not just one, because after all one has to judge a writer by the breadth of their work.
Get a thousand entrants, skim the books, read any that grab me, but basically check their Amazon reviews, and at the end of the year announce the prize on the official website. (Which should be getting a thousand hits a day a least as the date of the announcement draws closer, which should produce some advertising revenue.)
Indeed if I’ve got the thousand entrants, I might even splash out a grand or so one an advert in a proper literary periodical making a bit of a song and dance about the successful event.
But basically I reckon I could pocket £40k a year.

Put it down to my deeply cynical nature (an industrial disease I’m afraid, I’ve got a ticket from the H&SE saying I’m excused team games) but I just looked at all these ‘competitions’ and wondered exactly what the organisers were doing with all these dollars.

Sorry, I’ll get my coat.