All posts by westhillwhistler

Money-Making, Money-Saving

Financial PlanterNow that the New Year is upon us, and the excesses of the festive season are fading into memories, it is a good time to make some financial plans for the next 12 months (or so). In this first article of 2010, I thought it might be a good idea to give a few financial tips, to improve your personal wealth to some degree. It is worth my saying, from the outset, that I think this year will again be a difficult one for many, but some money making and saving ideas should be of use to most of us.

Firstly, don’t let financial institutions get away with anything: they make quite enough money as it is. If you carry a balance on your credit card(s), try looking at switching to a card that has a 0% interest period for as long as possible. Pay as much as you can afford off the account each month, as outside interest-free periods, it is an expensive way to borrow. Review your account at the end of the incentive period. If you pay off your balance every month, you might consider taking one of the ‘cash-back’ cards that pay you back a percentage of everything you spend, each month.

Saving money for the future is an eminently sensible thing to do, but for anyone who has any form of borrowing (certainly any borrowing at an interest rate of, say, 4% or more) the objective should be to repay as much as possible. It is almost inconceivable that there are people stashing away money, on which they are earning 1% to 2% a year, yet paying anything from 15% to 30% on credit or store card balances, yet thousands are! Whilst maintaining minimum payments where applicable, pay as much as you can off the debt with the highest interest rate, until it is cleared, then move on to the next.

Check the cost of your utilities, if you can, with a cost comparison website. If you have a mobile phone, internet access or home telephone, check with your provider at the end of each contract period, to see if you are on the best tariff. If you wish, consider switching providers to get a better deal. If you have a bank account for which you pay a monthly fee, check what ‘extras’ you get for your fee. Then make sure you do not duplicate any of these benefits. (I recently found that I had been paying for both mobile phone, and travel insurance, when both were covered as part of my current account package!).

I am generally a fan of regularly checking the cost of insurance, but it is fair to say that having a good ‘track record’ with an insurer can prove very useful, in the event of a claim. The cheapest is not always the best. The value is what is important. On the subject of insurance, it is a good time to check the cost of your life cover. It is cheaper than it has been for a quarter of a century, yet on average, insurers pay out some 50% more in claims, than they collect in premiums: surely a sign that such premiums will be reviewed, given these difficult times, and an increase could be on the cards. I have reviewed several cases of late, and reduced clients’ costs by a reasonable margin. If you have family or business commitments to protect, and have no cover, then now is a good time to buy.

As regards medium to long-term saving, I am reasonably positive about 2010, but would still advocate spreading investments by way of monthly saving schemes, if you have concerns about the markets.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and financially fitter New Year!

David Foot

Vinotabulaphobia

Philip Reddaway, The Whistler’s wine columnist who lives in Provence, could not send us his contribution for this edition because he was surrounded by ten inches of snow, and had no power, telephone or heating. He walked seven miles to buy food for his family and to borrow a computer to send us an email apologising for letting us down!
Like us, the South of France suffered its worst weather for 30 years. We wished him well and looked to another famous wine writer to help us in our hour of need. Hopefully, Philip will be back with us next time…

Where do I begin?
Where do I begin?
Vinotabulaphobia, or “horror of a wine list”, is a major and justifiable cause of anti-wine attitudes. The constant question “how do I read a wine list?” cannot be completely answered; but it is possible to offer some cautionary advice.

The first problem is that wine lists are not uniform; some few include tasting notes or advice; most have no more than group headings, names and prices, often without years, shippers, or other relevant information. Victorian books on wine merely advise the beginner to “be guided by the wine waiter”. That was sound advice then, but not now. Only a small proportion of those who serve wine in the current British restaurant explosion understand the subject, and not all those can be relied upon to act in the customers’ interests. They may have a declining wine, an overstock, or an over-priced line to unload.

Anyone uninformed about wine, entertaining an unfamiliar guest and faced with the wine list, can feel lonely. At least he can observe these two negatives. Do not hastily observe the old way-out and point to the third item down the chosen class. While in most lists the prices increase from top to bottom of each group, in some they do not; so check the prices. No one ordering wine at the table should ask for the most expensive of even an average list: an outstanding claret, burgundy, hock, or champagne ought to be ordered in advance of the meal so that it can be chambré, chilled, or allowed to breathe.

It is safe, though not mandatory, to take red wine with red meat, white wine with white meat or fish. Red wine will serve equally well with white meat, though not with fish except, perhaps, claret with salmon. The chief possibility of embarrassing error is ordering a dry wine when a sweet wine is wanted, or vice versa. Thus, a white Bordeaux, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish wine may be dry, medium or sweet. Unless the list indicates the degree of sweetness, the diner-out who is not familiar with the wines would be wise not to take the risk of ordering drink which positively clashes with the food.

This is why so many people order the ‘safe’, rule-of-thumb Mouton Cadet, Liebfraumilch, or rosé. Dining out, however, should not be a matter of safety, but of pleasure. No red Bordeaux, burgundy, or Rhone wine will ever be anything but dry, and will always partner meat well. All white burgundy, Rhone, or Algerian on a wine list will be dry. Under the heading, White Bordeaux, Graves will never be so dry as a white burgundy: all Sauternes or Barsac will be sweet. Hungarian Tokay is a sweet dessert wine, Tokay d’Alsace is piquant. Muscatel is generally sweet but Loire Muscadet and Alsatian Muscat both have a dry finish and will go well with fish, shellfish or as an aperitif. Other wines from Alsace and the Loire can be rich. It can be both pleasing and economical to choose a low-priced white burgundy as an aperitif.

Once you have reached the decision as to white or red, Bordeaux, burgundy, Rhone, or champagne, and if none of the wine names rings any bell in the memory, decide purely on what you can afford. Barring the risks of over-confidence, these notes should provide adequate safeguards against error until drinking breeds familiarity and familiarity, knowledge.

John Arlott

The Whistler – December 2009

Seven Dials
Seven Dials - Photograph by Pee Gee

EDITORIAL


The last decade in West Hill has been one of change but also constancy. Pam Bean continues to hold Grand Sales, which not only raise funds for the Association but bring people together and the helpers’ joie de vivre inspires others to lend a hand. David Perrett, after 11 years, still finds new questions with which to baffle the aficionados of the WHCA quiz, held on the last Tuesday of the month. A fun evening rather than a trial of intellect, very often breaking out into community singing, that is, on occasion, tuneful.

The greatest success story since Sylvia rescued the Hall from demolition is the Music Club run by Lianne Hall at the weekends, which has put the Hall on the international venue map. Members continue to express their regret that the escalating price of film hire caused the Film Society to shut down after three seasons of extraordinary and unusual showings of classic films, accompanied by detailed and well-researched notes. The Hall, the 16mm projector, the membership list and £100 donated by Steve Birch all still belong to the Association should anyone have any ideas to revive this enterprising film club.

After last year’s great Christmas party, the ever constant Vinod and Meena are thinking about organising another one, to co-incide with Bright News’ 25th Anniversary. Details have yet to be finalised.

In 2010 take the opportunity to meet and greet your neighbours. Communities are good for the spirit. Happy New Decade.

Letters to the Whistler

Dear Editor
Thanks for letting me know about 10:10 in the last issue. I signed up right away and sent the following email to 10 of my friends via the 10:10 website – it’s easy!

Everyone’s looking for something to do about climate change. What’s needed is something straightforward, immediate and meaningful. I think I’ve found it. Today I joined thousands of individuals and organisations from across the country to unite behind one simple idea: that by working together we can achieve a 10% cut in carbon emissions during 2010. It’s called 10:10, and everyone can be a part of it. Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it’s an achievable one, and is in line with what scientists say we need right now. By signing up to 10:10 we’re not just promising to reduce our own emissions – we’re becoming part of a national drive to hit this ambitious goal country-wide. In our homes, in our workplaces, our schools and our hospitals, our galleries and football clubs and universities, we’ll be backing each other up as we take the first steps on the road to becoming a low-carbon society. To find out more and sign up go to www.1010uk.org

If everyone of The Whistler’s 4000 readers sent this email to 10 of their friends, that would be 40,000 more people signed up.

Jane Sinclair, Seven Dials

Dear Residents of West Hill
On 3 November Reg Woodhouse, my Vice Chairman, and I attended a meeting of the newly formed Brighton & Hove Transport Partnership. I had been invited by Councillor Geoffrey Theobald to join the TP to represent the interests of the PPP. Several people attended, representing various interests – a Sussex Police officer, Roger French of the Brighton & Hove Bus Company, a Car Club owner, and various councillors.

The city’s needs relating to transport have to be brought up to the standards required by the Government. The aim of the TP is to achieve these standards by collating and using information from various partnerships and independent organisations. There will be concerns regarding the loss of parking bays that are being removed to make spaces to park the Car Club cars in Brighton. A recent publication suggests that nearly 1000 cars have been removed from the roads since the Car Clubs have been operating. I find this hard to believe as it would have reduced the waiting list for parking permits by the same amount, which I know not to be the case. It is more likely that people who could not afford a car in the first place are responsible for most of the hiring.

If you have queries or concerns with regard to any other matter I will do my best to answer your query. Please contact me on 07768 002328 between 11am and 6pm, or email me: Steve@system-electronics.freeserve.co.uk

Steve Percy, (chairman) People’s Parking Protest

Where does Santa Claus Come From?

Santa Claus
Santa Claus
Depending on your age, the answer is likely to be the North Pole, Lapland or Coca Cola. None of them is right: Santa, like St George, is Turkish.

St Nicholas – the real Santa – lived and performed miracles in what is now the sun-baked town of Demre in south-western Turkey. His most famous miracles usually involved children. In one, he restored to life three children who had been chopped up by the local tavern owner and kept in a brine tub. Being kind to children explains his suitability as a Christmas saint, but St Nick is also the patron saint of judges, pawnbrokers, thieves, merchants, bakers, sea travellers, and, oddly, murderers. Italian sailors stole St Nicholas’s miraculously myrrh-exuding bones in 1087. Turkey is still demanding their return.

In the rest of Europe, the benign St Nicholas fused with older, darker mythological types – in eastern Germany he is known as Shaggy Goat, Ashman or Rider. In Holland he is Sinterklass, attended by the sinister ‘Black Peters’.

The jolly ‘Coca Cola’ Santa existed well before Haddon Sundblom’s famous advertising images of the 1930s. His illustrations, and those of Thomas Nast in the 1860s, were based on New Yorker Clement Clark Moore’s 1823 poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’, better known as ‘The Night before Christmas’. Moore was an unlikely author – his day-job was as a professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages – but the poem’s importance in fuelling the Santa myth would be hard to exaggerate. It moves the legend to Christmas Eve and, instead of the dour St Nick, describes a rotund, twinkly-eyed, white-bearded elf, with fur-trimmed red clothes, reindeer with cute names, a sledge that landed on roof-tops and a sackful of toys. It became one of the most popular children’s poems of all times.

It is not clear when the North Pole and the factory of elves became attached to the story, but it was established enough by 1927 for the Finns to claim that Santa Claus lived in Finnish Lapland, as no reindeer could live at the North Pole because there was not any lichen. Santa’s official post office is in Rovaniemi, capital of Lapland. He receives 600,000 letters a year.

As if in revenge for his secular success the Vatican demoted St Nicholas’s saint’s day, 6 December, from obligatory to voluntary observance in 1969.