Golf warriors meet with contrasting fortunes

May 27, 2011

Mixed fortunes of late for members of Bankstone’s crack golf team. For those readers, incidentally, who are not familiar with the (illegal and thoroughly repugnant) game of crack golf, it does not exist and has never been played, or even heard, of by anyone at Bankstone.

Where were we? Bankstone Director Dickon Tysoe was the guest of top-notch insurance software specialists SSP for their recent annual golf day, where he had the good fortune to be accompanied by professional coach David Llewellyn, who remarked upon Mr Tysoe’s quite extraordinary loft. “Loft?” enquired Tysoe all innocence. “Lack of [expletive deleted] talent,” chuckled the Welshman.

Meanwhile at another golfing event – that of leading motor insurance specialists Adrian Flux to be specific – Bankstone’s Mexican bandit of the fairways Andy Jones went round five under par to pick up 41 points off a handicap of 27, finishing second in the team event and claiming the individual first prize of a glittering trophy and fine set of clubs.

Jones was at a loss to explain this extraordinary coup – blaming the expert guidance of his Adrian Flux partner and his own unaccountable inability to hit a bad shot all day. “I am as surprised as anyone,” the inveterate hustler protested half-heartedly.

His colleague Mr Tysoe was equally unable to explain his own (neatly counterpointed) inability to hit a decent shot all day. “Seriously though,” he persisted with Coach Llewellyn, “any tips?” “Seems to me you’re standing too close to the ball” the pro ventured helpfully. “After you’ve hit it!”

May 27, 2011

Nobody enjoys being run off the road – except perhaps those weirdos J G Ballard wrote that book about. Bankstone News certainly didn’t enjoy being (nearly) run off the Wandsworth one-way system by Michael Bright’s Independent Battle Bus back in the day. Other road users of all shapes and sizes are a perennial hazard for UK motorists. But according to former Level 42 bass thwapper Mark King writing in the Guardian, people are being driven off the road by some pretty odd things these days.

“Motorists driven off the road by petrol, potholes and premiums,” the headline starkly states. UK drivers, the Klaus Kinski lookalike reports, are experiencing something close to the “total dissatisfaction” of which Mick Jagger used to complain even further back in the mists of popular musical history.

According to a survey by motors.co.uk, 82% of drivers are fed up with the cost of fuel and insurance and the state of Britain’s roads, and one in three has cut back on their motor vehicle usage as a result. But many more are having trouble scaling back their internal combustion dependency – with worrying implications for the future of British society.

King quotes monkeysupermarket’s head of banking Kevin Mountebank, who says: “Consumers are having to deal with pay freezes, which means their incomes are being reduced in real terms. Many families will feel like their finances are approaching breaking point.” Car use is a big part of the problem, it seems.

The rising cost of petrol is fuelling a new wave of personal insolvencies, as consumers who cannot or will not give up driving around all over the place put petrol pump payments on credit cards, then struggle to clear their balances. “It now costs £67.90 to fill a car with a 50-litre tank with unleaded petrol,” King claims, “and Credit Action says this is one reason why it received 8,004 new debt problems every working day last month.”

A report by Equifax, he writes, found that a third of those paying for fuel on plastic are clearing less than 25% of their balance at the end of each month, and 10% are only making the minimum repayment. Now watch as debtors’ prisons fill and the roads of Britain empty. On the plus side, there should be fewer other road users to worry about being driven off the road by. But watch out for those potholes!

May 27, 2011

With brutal disregard to the heartfelt protestations of an entire nation, the government appears hellbent on abolishing the so-called ‘win for cash’ (Conditional Fee Arrangement) approach to claiming compensation in the civil courts.

But a new report from Datamonitor suggests that the “fat cat multinational insurance companies” (who are – according to Andrew Dismal of the Access to Justice Action Group – the sole beneficiaries of the government’s planned reforms) will have to wait another three years or more to start reaping the rich rewards of this grotesque betrayal of ordinary people’s right to claim for whiplash.

Fat cat spokesbody the ABI has claimed that “motorists can look forward to cheaper insurance.” (Coincidentally, Bankstone News looks forward to winning the national lottery.) But in-depth interviews carried out by Datajanitor with insurers, solicitors and random people they met down the pub, suggest that motor insurance policyholders will have to wait several years to find out whether the fat cats are minded to pass on the benefits of their reduced cost base once those pesky hordes of personal injury claimants have been sent packing.

The Ministry of Injustice has yet to submit a bill to Parliament, so the primary legislation required to implement the government’s harebrained schemes won’t go through until next year or even 2013 – even assuming the Access to Justice Action Front and other champions of common sense don’t put up too much of a fight. Further delays can be expected once the bill has gone through, as the finer points of implementation get ironed out.

Datamaneater’s report suggests that claims costs – far from falling away like a stone, will continue rising for some time to come, going from £8.4bn last year to £9.7bn in 2014.

Meanwhile research commissioned by the Access to Justice League and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers insists that everybody is perfectly happy with the current ‘no win, no cash’ system. Three million people in England and Wales have sought compensation this way over the past five years, they say, of whom 2.4 million profess themselves satisfied with the process and outcome. Half of those claiming earned less than the national average.

“The government’s plans are Draconian,” AJAG’s Dismal warned, “and will end access to justice for the less well off.” Ending the current system, which delivers “huge satisfaction” to fans of justice everywhere, will, he claims, leave MPs’ surgeries flooded with injured persons on whom the legal systems has turned its back. In other words, it could all go a bit Dawn of the Dead.

Surely no one wants that. Could it be there’s still time for reason to prevail?

May 26, 2011

Ever on the cutting edge of forward-thinking, speed-camera free Swindon is now planning to be the first UK borough to try out so-called smart traffic lights, reports the Daily Telegraph.

So far ahead of the curve is Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Transport Peter Greenhog that he’s been “talking about this with my team for about two years.” Seems like he’s finally worn them down, because the town will now begin trials of smart traffic lights at two sites this autumn.

Smart traffic lights are deemed smart because they turn red at the approach of speeding drivers. The youthful Bankstone News turned red at the approach of attractive females, but was never called smart on that account – or any other, for that matter. “It’s not rocket science,” Greenhulk admits. “I seen it in Spain and France,” he continues, “and it seems to work really well and I couldn’t see why we were not doing it in the UK.” That’s what trials are for, of course.

Here comes the science bit. A sensor is placed a short distance (not too short, mind) ahead of the lights. He measures the speed of approaching vehicles. When he detects one going too fast, he sends a message to the smart traffic light control box, and he turns the lights red. Or summit loik thaat.

Road Safety Minister Dennis Penning claims he will be watching the trials with interest, but ultimately, he shrugs dispassionately, in the true spirit of the Big Society: “It is up to local councils and police forces to decide how they enforce speed limits on their local roads.”

Steve Glitter of the RAC Foundation seemed even less enthusiastic as reported in the Telegraph. “Some law-abiding motorists,” he noted, “will surely be irritated at being stuck at the signals behind an errant driver, effectively paying the price for someone else’s law breaking.” And we thought collective punishment went out with the Nazis!

The Telegraph did not specify whether and when the lights turn green again, but presumably they must, eventually. Locals are not being told where the two trial sites are, but should be able to tell by the round-the-clock screeching of tyres on tarmac and the snaking skid marks at the intersection’s edge.

May 24, 2011

PR people. What is their problem? They haven’t got two decent motor insurance story ideas to rub together, that’s what, if you ask Bankstone News.

Hairdresser’s car. It’s a term of abuse, right? But some bright-spark PR dolly at ladies’ motor insurer Diamond decides to find out “what really is Britain’s most popular hairdresser’s car.”

What a stroke of bleeding genius. How very fascinating! Ooh, what could it possibly be? Sorry to spoil the suspense, everyone, but it’s a Mini One. End of. Pretty Much.

Diamond reckon a Mini One is “three and a half times more likely to be driven by a hairdresser than everyone else.” So 77% of Mini drivers are hairdressers? Terrifying is what that is.

Bankstone News’ world already seems a darker, angrier place. But it only gets worse. The Vauxhall Tigra and Volkswagen Beetle “are both more than three times as popular with hairdressers than the rest of the UK.” They’re having a laugh, aren’t they?

What is the matter with these people? Anyone that loves a “sporty runaround” more than their country has got something seriously wrong with them if you ask Bankstone News.

If Bankstone News hears the words hair or dresser one more time…

May 20, 2011

Upon making the shock discovery that so-called Castle Howard is in fact no such thing – just some poncey great house – Bankstone’s charity-fundraising round-Yorkshire monkeybiking medievalists have ditched the pile from their itinerary and added scenic Ryedale ruin Sheriff Hutton Castle in its place.

Much better idea.

So now, in part four of our handy print-out-and-keep ten-part guide to Yorkshire’s greatest fortified structures, we bring you… fanfare… the untold story of Sheriff Hutton Castle.

Sheriff Hutton (or Shetton as the locals pronounce it) is a charming North Yorks village with a school and a church and a pub and stuff – and also, as you may have inferred from a number of contextual clues already provided, a (photogenically dilapidated wreck of a) castle.

Originally constructed from lath and daub by Welland de Wousel in the summer of 1365, the earliest castle on the site did not survive the winter of that year. A subsequent stone castle was begun in 1377 by Sir Gary de Neville despite strong local objections to its controversial design.

In 1382, however, Neville was granted a full “license to crenellate” by Good King Dick and the structure was topped out to general acclaim the following year.

The castle remained in the Neville family until 1471, when, following the debacle of the Battle of the Barnett, the estate passed to Richard Duke of Gloucester who found it a handy base for popping into nearby York whenever the fancy took him.

Thereafter, the story of this once proud edifice degenerates into a sad catalogue of neglect and dissolution. By 1525, a royal survey described it as “Needs work. Bit of a project, to be honest.” and by 1618, when it was acquired by certain senior members of the cheese-harp playing Ingram family, SHC was said to be “ruinous.” By the early twentieth century it had further decayed to the point where it was fit only for use as a farmyard – barely that, indeed.

A thoroughly romantic tale, we hope you will agree!

Now hie thee ‘pon the nonce to the webbe sitte “Just Giving” and vouchsafe all monies ye may spare to that noblest of noble causes, the Ambulance of the Air of the Countie of Yorkeshire (YAA) by clicking here.

May 20, 2011

Not since Lindi St Clair was flushed out of Norman Lamont’s basement, has whiplashing been so much in the news. Now the ABI has come out with the extraordinary allegation that Britain is the whiplash capital of Europe. The insurer body claims that 1200 whiplash claims are made each day in this fair land of ours.

According to Insurance Times, the ABI has come to the shocking conclusion that “ambulance chasing lawyers and claims management firms, coupled with ‘crash for cash’ staged motor accidents” have actually increased “the risk of fraudulent claims.” A timely warning against complacency, if ever Bankstone News heard one!

The NHS apparently spends £8m a year treating whiplash injuries – many of which presumably exist purely in the minds (or the insurance claims) of those persons purporting to have sustained them.

Whiplash supposedly accounts for three quarters of all personal injury claims in the UK, a far higher proportion than in other European countries. But the ABI’s Jimmy “duellin’” Dalton is skeptical: “I doubt that the UK has some of the weakest necks in Europe,” he told a special whiplash-themed event this week.

We must have some of them, surely?

Now the ABI wants to crack down on whiplash fakers and encourage doctors to work out how to tell a real wince from a feigned one. “We seem ill-equipped,” Jim pontificated, “to effectively identify and treat whiplash,” (split infinitive, no such medical term), and must concentrate on “developing authoritative medical guidance on how to accurately diagnose and treat genuine whiplash” (ditto).

Good call, we say here at Bankstone news, with the same clueless fatuity we bring to phrases like “take a rain check,” “get to first base,” etc.


May 20, 2011

“Pull up to my bumper, baby,” urged athletically-formed muse-diva Grace Jones back in the last days of disco over one of Sly and Robbie’s trademark squish-squash bouncy rhythms, “in your long black limousine.”

Anyone uncertain as to the true nature of the invitation thereby extended might like to recall that a limousine is a luxurious motor vehicle whose driver historically sat exposed to the elements but whose passengers were protected by a construction of metal and glasswork once thought to resemble the characteristic overgarment of peasant pastoralists in the lands around the French provincial town of Limoges.

Pulling up to bumpers appears to be an increasingly popular pastime up and down Homeland GB these days, with many going so far as to drive right into the car in front (by which we do not mean a Toyota, incidentally). But there are fears now that Britain’s bumper bumping enthusiasm risks causing serious rear-end harm. Putting down his telescope – poignantly oblivious to suppressed sniggers occasioned by the black marks round his left eye – “car insurance giant” Admiral has professed himself appalled this week (as he does each year, to be fair) at the rising tide of rear-end collisions, of which, he claims, there are currently no fewer than 405,000 per annum on Roadsnet UK.

Admiral reckons there were 9% more prangs involving bumper damage to at least one vehicle in 2010 than there were in 2009. Crashing for cash is one reason, according to the tricorned insuranceman, the other is cars sitting too close to one another whilst stuck in slow moving traffic. Oh, and speeding. And tailgating. And, just, like, bad driving, really. But, whatever, it’s all helping drive up those already stratospheric car insurance premiums which insurers like Admiral really hate to have to charge.

These shock new findings raise important questions, argues Admiral spokesperson Sue Longhorn: “Around one in four road accidents involves one motorist hitting another in the rear. Why is this? We can all get distracted while driving; keeping the kids quiet, changing the radio, other road users. But how many of us have nearly bumped the car in front because our mind has drifted off or because an attractive person has walked by?”

Presumably those figures will be released in another Admiral press release sometime soon. In the meantime, Bankstone News can only endorse everything Ms Longhorns says (in so far as, we have any idea what she’s on about) and simply add that it’s probably best to pull over in a safe place before installing a new car radio and/or doing ‘other road users’ – whatever that involves.

May 19, 2011

The BIBA Conference is, of course, what business cards were made for. Bankstone News went through vast quantities of the wretched things last week. One followed another into some receptacle of glass, card or perspex, with junk mail the only prize on offer to all but the handpicked few.

There’s only so long one can decently gawp at the rythmically quivering flesh of the comelier of the belly dancers on Adding1’s bedouin boudoir stand, but little else real and true to hold one’s attention amidst such a squanderous profusion of bland corporate façadeage.

So much colour. So much carpet. So much to cram into those post-show skips. So many slogans all writ large – but what on earth do they mean? Bankstone News was particularly puzzled by the choice AXA appeared to be offering between redefining and standards. Which should one choose? Is there even a right or wrong answer?

Could it even be that slash somehow got there by mistake? A careless stroke of the stand painter’s brush? Could it be that AXA are in some sense purveyors of redefined standards. But surely if that were the case they would want to make clear whether they redefine standards upward or downwardly, or specify whether and how they live up to these mysteriously recalibrated standards, or something?

AXA are past masters of perplexingly opaque sloganeering. Some years back they took every opportunity to urge us to Be Life Confident. Was that poor translation from some perfectly reasonable French phrase, or simply willful weirdness? Back in 2002 they went all West Indian with You Only Have to AXA and back in the late 90s they said Go Ahead. Go Ahead with AXA – a marginal downgrade from the French original of Allez-y. Allez plus loin avec AXA. All very odd.

But other exhibitors weren’t making much more sense. Markerstudy (where did they get that crazy name?) claimed to be putting fun into insurance. That’s never going to work. The anachronistic attire of those manning the Good Ship Markerstudy, appeared to suggest that what they were actually putting into insurance was piracy. Which might make more sense, really.

LV= have wisely repudiated the embarrassing encumbrance of their Liverpudlian heritage by restyling themselves as a strangely spelled version of love, turning their stand at BIBA this year into a perfectly charming little tunnel of LV=.

Meanwhile RSA (which four-letter word is that set of initials supposed to evoke, Bankstone News wonders) also briefly flirted with love (or perhaps lurve) as a brand attribute, with a series of MoreTh<n ads in which the Julian-Barratt half of The Mighty Boosh performed an impersonation of Barry White a good deal less convincing than the one Josh Robert Thompson does of Morgan Freeman in their new ads. But RSA’s stand this year was all about how very old (300 years) the firm, or some obscure distant ancestor, is. Yellow insurance firm Uvavu can claim equal if not greater antiquity, but seems less convinced that age is a big selling point for the thrusting insurance enterprise of today.

Perhaps the least informative slogan on display was that of Markel, whose stand graphics proudly proclaimed We are Markel. Was this to avoid confusion with Markerstudy or something? Are their staff peculiarly prone to identity confusion? Oddly, they are not the only people doing this whole “we are” thing at the moment. Insurance services firm Pro (formerly PRO) now proudly proclaim “We are Pro” – leaving unspecified precisely what it is they are in favour of. Brand consultants Fallon, who helped RSA tell the world about how old they are, march under a banner saying we are fallon. And it all began, of course, with the Akron-Ohio-based whip-wielding art pop pioneers who professed in days of yore “We are DEVO!”

May 18, 2011

You’ll find no mention in family-friendly BS News of Munch Re’s* unusual staff incentive schemes. But public interest requires us to report that Sir Terry Leahy was fingered by Alan ‘Lord’ Sugar at the recent BIBA Conference in Manchester – along with Sir Stuart Rose – as the man Great Britain plc should bring in, on a suitably princely salary, to slash procurement costs and thereby wipe billions off the deficit.

But it seems Sir Tel may have other fish to fry right now having been roped in by private equity firm Claypole Dubious Rice to help out with their bid for Uvavu’s unwanted roadside assistant RAC.

The former Tesco boss and Everton fan achieved a creditable third place in Britain’s annual Rear of the Year competition in 2006, but will never now have the chance to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.

* We think that’s their name.

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