Hung Parliament

Another political battle with an unexpected outcome. No clear majority for the Conservative Party, seven Sinn Fein MPs who won’t be taking their seats in the Palace of Westminster, ten DUP MPs who will be seeking deals with their Unionist buddies and only one elected Green Party MP in the whole of the UK. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, now has enough MPs to form a credible opposition. UKIP have had their day, and the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP got battered.

Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle’s New World Order TV show last night took the piss out of politicians with his usual, outrageous, deadpan comedy. Have a look on BBC iPlayer.

Ecommerce 103 – the UK Business Startup Experience

Things are moving in the right direction at last. I have my business bank account sorted, my website’s Security Certificate was a bit of a joke…what they call a SSL is already included in the type of website I opted for. Luke, the Support guy knew his stuff, cancelled my 3 year SSL subscription and processed the refund request.

I have come up with a flyer with tear off tabs for people wanting to find out about the service I am offering. I will do some market research to determine the best places for pinning up the flyers. The Introductory Offer price was deemed too low by my friend Austin, who has a bicycle workshop in Belfast. So I have opted for a 40% cash discount…but I haven’t decided if that’s a 24 hour service.

It’s hard to know what the demand is going to be, unless I gather together a focus group and see what they come up with…online survey or poll conducted via social media? Maybe.

Warum soll Ich hier bleiben?

Warum soll ich hier bleiben?

Ich bin Artzt als Beruf, aber jetzt es gibt kein Freundlichkeit fur die Gastarbeiten.

Vielleicht ich sollte irgend anders wohin gehen.

BBC Radio 4’s Question Time programme had this question asked by a doctor in the audience. She spoke excellent English, but I have chosen to loosely translate what she asked into her native tongue…

A member of the panel commented that the U.K. is not a night club, so one in, one out, makes no sense.

Ale and Cider festival

One minor mishap made the start to my long weekend in Surbiton a bit fraught. Staggering in full from too many pints, I set the alarm for 4.30, drank a pint of water and went to bed. If only I had set the alarm to 4.30 am, instead of 4.30 pm, I wouldn’t have been woken by the miscreant and had to rush my departure for the airport.

Loads of families off on their hols, but only the odd child wailing on the plane. A cup of coffee and I was grand. A bottle of juice on the train and I was even better.

A walk to the Antelope after I had chatted with my mother found me in interesting company. A fellow was sat outside on a bench in the shade with his dog comatose in front of him. I sat down and we nattered away. It turned out he was getting married tomorrow to the woman he has lived with for 30 years, His grandad was reared in Belfast in difficult circumstances. His mother had been committed to a mental hospital after she attacked her husband with a knife. He said that it was probably post natal depression, but the incarceration did her head in and she spent a lifetime locked up.

He was a butcher by trade and knew plenty about the history of the pub. He has been going there for 40 years, so he should. A heart attack 8 years ago made him think about how best to ensure that his partner was well provided for if he died. Hence the wedding.

The Antelope has a beer and cider festival on at the moment, with about 20 different barrels out in the back courtyard. Mum, William and I will be heading there for some quaffing and grub this evening….my pint was called Mad Squirrel and tasted lovely.

The Belfast Group

I recently came across another member of the Belfast Group of writers, Joan Newmann. The group included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, James Simmons and others who attended the workshops organised by Philp Hobsbaum, an English lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Joan Newmann’s slim booklet of poems, First Letter Home and Other Poems was published in 1967 by QUB, and is now a part of their Special Collections at the McClay library.

I particularly liked Memory of a Hare which tightly tells the story of a hare struck by a car and the gruesome consequences.

The Honest Ulsterman was a literary magazine edited by James Simmons. It is reborn in an online publication called HU.

Joan Newmann is a co-founder of Summer Palace Press with her daughter, Kate. They have recently celebrated 10 years in the publishing business.

Ecommerce 102 – the UK Business Startup Experience

Having wasted the chance to have a bespoke website built for me by a non-profit organisation, I looked at ways to do it myself. WordPress looked easy enough, but what did I know?

Having set up some information on a few pages and posts, I realised that I lacked the expertise to make the website look professional. Seeking help from WordPress developers, I was quoted about £2000. This was not the low cost startup I had my sights set on.

I tried a couple of template web building sites and went with GoDaddy because of the ease of use and the stylish images. My trial version was looking good, so I paid the money for the site, the security certificate and the transfer of the domain.

All I needed now was a secure payment method and a business bank account. PayPal charges a fair bit, but the alternative was too vague. WorldPay’s website has practically no useful information about charges etc. PayPal contract sorted, I went online to apply for a business startup account. You wouldn’t believe the number of questions  I have had to answer, such as what will my turnover be in the first year of trading…who knows that? Form filled in, follow up questions answered, and phone queries discussed.

So having paid £77 for a 3 year deal on the SSL certification, about £14 for transferring the domain name, do I have everything in place? Oh, you simple soul! Nothing runs so smoothly. I am still having to wait a couple of weeks for the bank to decide if they want me as a business customer. Support has not got back to me about the SSL certificate…otherwise it’s all good.

Ecommerce 101 – the UK Business Startup Experience

For some time I have been keen to set up an online business venture.

My first foray into ecommerce was a website that offered custom written poems for all occasions. I used a template for the website and paid my monthly charges so that I did not have to worry about the techie side of things. Sitting back and waiting for my website to be found was a bit naïve. However, word of mouth reached a very good friend, Kevin, who placed an order for a leaving card. He supplied the details about his colleague that I had asked for to get me started on the poem. After some minor tweaking, he was happy with the poem and paid the going rate by card. But Kevin was my only customer as my costs were racking up over time.

After about a year I gave up on that venture without even trying to promote the service. There were plenty of people out there offering the same sort of thing at low rates, or even for free! But it didn’t put me off the idea that there is a market for my writing.

Online proofreading and editing is my latest venture. This time I wanted for a bit more control over the way the website looks, and I wanted ownership of the domain name,

I bought the domain name from Google, and tried out the email and various apps that would come in handy. All worked fine and was reasonably priced. Next I searched for a Google approved developer for my business idea. I found a local, not-for- profit organisation and discussed how I wanted the online trading to function. They supplied a detailed proposal including the charges for the development project and the software maintenance. I was impressed by their understanding of what I wanted to achieve, but unfortunately did not have sufficient funds at that time to sign on the dotted line for work to commence.

Looking back, their charges were fair and I could have made more effort to scratch together the money the developers needed to get the ball rolling. I focused too narrowly on the low cost nature of my business plan, not fully appreciating, before negotiations took place, that quality work has to be properly rewarded.Hindsight is a great thing to have, as long as you learn something from it.

More about my latest ecommerce experiences in the next blog.