Archive for June, 2008

Earlier this month, mathematics was on the agenda, with the government worried that most people find maths boring, embarrassing, or just plain silly.

Schools are underperforming; specialist maths teachers are to be trained and sent in to help primary schools; adults can’t do simple algebra, and so on..

This week, the focus turns to food, and the “5 a day” guidelines. People are struggling to come to terms with the rules for 5 a day – let’s face it, it sounds pretty simple when you hear phrases like “five portions of fruit or veg a day”, but the Nanny Coach was himself alarmed to find out only a week or so ago that those potatoes he’s been eating all these years counted as neither veg, nor fruit in this context.

People it seems, find vegetables boring, embarassing, and just plain silly.

No wonder, then, that’s it’s all so confusing. With all this Nannying we don’t know whether to improve our maths literacy, or our diets.

Now grown ups can have fun with fruit and vegetables, too

Never fear though, the Coach is here to help. He’s already a whizz at maths, and today he’s been reading up on what actually counts towards your daily fruit and veg intake. Frankly, any dietary advice that requires smallprint makes you wonder, but anyway…

To help make both topics less boring/emparrassing/silly, and help improve your knowledge of each, I give you:-

Fruit and Veg Algebra


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As the striking Shell drivers bring the UK to its knees, the Coach brings you the definitive guide to stockpiling and hoarding.

It’s a tricky business knowing when to panic buy, but the Coach’s advice is actually quite simple on this: Buy as much stuff as you can before everybody else does.

Mother of all queues
Petrol: you need it more than they do

It only takes a modicum of planning and thought, but in essence you must act quickly, decisively, and without delay:

  • If you hear so much as the words “petrol” and “crisis” mentioned in the same sentence, go at once to the nearest petrol station and fill up. Most people out there are oppportunists who only start to panic when they actually see a queue – they want some of what other people are having – so you get there before the queue develops you’re already ahead of the game.
  • Stock up on food at the same time. As much as you can. If the crisis continues, supermarket supply chains will start to struggle and food will become scarce. Tinned food is good. It’ll keep, and if the expected fuel crisis fails to materialise will keep for a good few years in the back of a cupboard somewhere before it goes off.
  • Buy bottled water too. Buy multipacks of smaller bottles for added freshness. Buy lots of them. Your taps are unlikely to run dry in a crisis, but if you don’t buy those bottles somebody else will. This is personal. It’s your  water.
  • If somebody – anybody – mentions foot and mouth or BSE, immediately go out and buy enough frozen chickens to fill your freezer. If you see a dead bird at the side of the road, dump the chickens and fill the freezer with red meat. Buy a bigger freezer.
  • Develop a keen sense of “fuel envy” – if your neighbour has more fuel/water/stuff than you, then you are doing something wrong. Buy more.

It’s as simple as that. Planning and forethought. Just like they’d have done during the War. Except that they didn’t have freezers and cars and stuff back then, and they knew their neighbour’s name. But you know what I mean.

Brainy money fact zone
Oil is a scarce commodity produced by few countries in the world, but relied upon by all of them. The oil producers have the rest of us – excuse the pun – over a barrel on this, and have clubbed together to form a cartel known as OPEC.

These producers commonly talk about things like “production capacities” and “supply and demand” and so on, but ultimately they just want to make as much money as they can before the oil runs out, and to be able to afford enough military equipment to deter the Americans and their friends from dropping bombs on them. Basically, if OPEC ran supermarkets rather than sold oil, the government would have fined them by now and told them stop fixing their prices.

In it’s crude form, oil is a thick, black, gloopy substance which is bugger all use for making cars go, and is bought and sold by very, very, very rich people people with dark glasses, fast cars and fancy yachts, before ultimately being “refined” into various fuel products such as petrol, diesel and paraffin and being sold to the rest of us.

But the complexities don’t end there. Because of our dependency on these fuels, the government puts big taxes (or “duty”- to sound a bit fluffier) on them to raise funds so as to buy bigger/better military equipment than those oil producers have got. It’s a tricky calculation – with the levels of duty calculated to make it both look like the government isn’t too responsible for the price of fuel, whilst simultaneously looking like they’re trying to make us want to buy more of it AND ALSO trying to make us want to buy less of it.

Naturally that’s quite difficult, so they employ the second most important person in the government to work it all out, called the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I forget the current fellow’s name – used to be Gordon Brown.

In today’s media led world, panic buying can begin anywhere and anytime, and for little or no reason. Remember the water riots during the 2007 floods? In 2001, American stocks of plastic sheeting and “duct tape” ran out as homeowners raced to ensure their homes were secure against nucular, biological, and chemical attack. In May of this year there was even an episode of global carrot panic buying which began as a joke on facebook.

Remember: act swiftly, decisively, and without delay. This photo shows the forecourt sign of the Foxhayes garage in Exwick, near Exeter. As local stocks ran low during this week’s petrol shortage, the garage raised its prices to “conserve stocks”.

Rip-off Britain at its best
Rip-off Britain at its best

But look closer at that numeral 1 on the sign. The display has only been designed to handle prices beginning with a 1. They charged £1.999 per litre because that’s as high a price as they could advertise. Rest assured that petrol stations all over the country will be upgrading their signs very soon. Next time, those who don’t act quickly, decisively, and without delay  will be paying £9.999 per litre, maybe even £99.999. Stay ahead of the game.

Buy a “Gas Guzzler”

Here’s a thought. The law actually forbids the stockpiling of flammable materials. The narrow-minded bureaucrats allow you store no more than two 5-litre plastic containers – that’s about 12 quid’s worth, which is hardly going to get you to the end of the first forecourt queue you come across.

In fact the only container in which you can legally store any decent quantity of fuel is in a motor vehicle. So there’s your answer – get a decrepit old Jaguar or some other giant-tanked gas guzzler on ebay, park it your front lawn, SORN it so you don’t have to pay tax, and keep its tank topped up with fuel in case of emergencies.

You should be used to the Coach’s advice going against conventional thinking by now, but look at it this way: people have never been more desperate to get rid of their uneconomical battle-tanks, so there are plenty of bargains to be had.

With fuel prices set to continue rising for the foreseeable, you can actually look on this as an investment – £80 of fuel now is likely to be worth £90 by the time you come to refill your tank. Those oil speculators who’re driving the prices up in the first place aren’t likely to stop anytime soon, so play them at their own game. Invest in petrol.

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