Love Commandos

I was reading a recent Sunday Times Spectrum Magazine and came across an article about “Love Commandos.” Far from “caste-ing” it aside it attracted my attention.

The Love Commandos are a voluntary organization in India which was set up by journalists and businessmen some three years ago. They operate from a small room in a congested neighbourhood in inner city New Delhi with no formal structure or operating budget and comprise a national network of volunteers who are united by a fierce frustration with the fact that resistance to love marriages remains pervasive in modernising India in every social and religious community, often leading to threats, mental or physical abuse and violence including “honour killings” or indeed suicides by young couples. In fact hundreds of murders a year are committed as a result of love marriages.

It seems that most problems occur when there is love across caste lines, but a difference of religion is a close second followed by a difference in economic or education level. On average the “Love Commandos” receive 300 calls a day from harried lovers.  The group tries to provide couples disowned by their families and threatened by them , free shelter and support till they can stand on their own two feet.

Unfortunately, marrying the “wrong” person or not marrying the “right” person in the eyes of a young person’s family, can also be an issue here in the UK. For most women getting married, their wedding day is one of happiness. However, it is believed that annually around 8000 young women in the UK are forced into marriage against their will. In 2011, the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit revealed there were 1468 cases in Britain of young people asking for help or support relating to a forced marriage. Out of this figure 66 had a disability: 56 with a  learning difficult and 8 who were physically disabled.  The youngest the Unit helped was 5 years old and the oldest 87.

Scotland was the first country in the UK to legislate against forced marriage with The Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act being passed by the Scottish Parliament on 22 March 2011. It reflects Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whereby it is stated that “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouse”.

The Act was passed to provide an individual with protection against threats, harassment or pressure to marry someone without their consent. A Forced Marriage Protection Order can be sought from the court to legally prevent anybody from forcing someone to marry against their will, or to keep the individual from harm if a forced marriage has already taken place. The Order can be adapted to meet the specific needs of an individual’s situation including restrictions or requirements to stop or change the behaviour of the person who is pressurising someone into marriage. A breach of the order could result in a prison sentence of up to two years.

“Your Call Now…”

Why are people not available anymore? You receive a letter. A point needs clarified so you call the sender.

In the good old days (about five years ago), the guy would have been at his desk, answered his phone civilly, resolved the point, and on you go. But now? No chance. “I’m sorry he’s unavailable. Can I get him to call back?”

Such a polite and reasonable response but it makes me want to chew the phone up. I am dealing with this now. By the time he calls back the file will be off my desk and I’ll have to duck him while I find it to remind myself why I called in the first place.

Getting even the most routine of house purchase transactions finalised is often now a nightmare, because your opposite number is simply never around to talk through the final points necessary to conclude the bargain, or else asserts that even the most trivial of points must be “run past the clients”.

A short time ago I got missives to the point of conclusion, but then got an e-mail from the other side asking for a change of entry date by a week. I got back to them within the day to say yes, but asked if they could adjust their request by just one more day.

More than a week later they had still not said yes or no, so now more time had gone by than the adjustment they asked for in the first place. But each time I called to sort it out I was told they are waiting to hear from the client.

Time management consultants have a lot to answer for. Lawyers especially seem to have swallowed their advice whole: you should plan your day, work to your own agenda and not be dictated to by the demands and interruptions of the phone and e-mail.

These sound sensible, but think about it: if everyone took this approach then nothing would ever get done, because there would always be someone in the loop whose personal timetable dictated non-availability at a crucial moment. So in fact such time-management advice is subtly pernicious: it only works if the other people don’t do it.

It also feeds the ego – it says, in effect: “My ordered, important, big-ticket life comes first, and your chaotic, trivial, gutter based existence will just have to take its chances of a crumb of time from my table”

Big firms and companies seem to have installed this lofty attitude as part of approved in-house practice – they use secretarial positioning as something akin to defensive machine gun emplacements. You have to have the nerves and stamina of the SAS, and the patience of Job, to take out first the switchboard, then the department, then the individual’s PA – each time laboriously repeating your details, before finally getting told you are being put through to the person you want.

But you’re not you know. There’s a sound of static followed by a stilted voice: “This is World VIP Number Four. I’m sorry I’m not at my desk because I am in Shanghai finalising the deal for the acquisition the Republic of China by the National Bank of Scotland.”

“I might be back later for a couple of minutes and if you are not too squalid a little supplicant I may return your call.

“Please now blab out a full, disjointed, breathless account of what you want to say to save me the trouble of thinking once I listen.”

So do you slam the phone down, flounce out of your office, resign your position, and tell the world to stuff itself? No you don’t. In craven obedience you gasp out your little story, and beg the Master of the Universe to give you a moment of his time.

Tenancy Deposit Schemes…Landlords look out you must comply!

Tenancy Deposit Schemes (TDS) were introduced on 2 July 2012 to:

  • Prevent landlords from unreasonably withholding deposits at the end of a lease
  • Speed up the process of deposits being refunded
  • Provide access to free dispute resolution

Payment of Deposit

Landlords must pay tenancy deposits into an approved TDS within 30 working days of the start of the tenancy.  They must also provide the tenant with certain information about the tenancy and deposit.

Return of Deposit

At the end of the tenancy, either the landlord or tenant can write to the TDS.  If there is no dispute, the agreed amount of deposit will be returned to the tenant.

Any dispute will be referred to an Adjudicator to make a decision.  If that decision is accepted by both parties, the deposit will be released within 5 days.  Otherwise, the decision can be appealed to a second Adjudicator, whose decision is final.

Approved Schemes

There are currently three government-approved providers of Tenancy Deposit Schemes in Scotland:

Tenancy Deposit Schemes were brought in to address common problems which arise at the end of a tenancy.  If you are a Landlord or Tenant experiencing problems at any stage of a tenancy, we can help.  Please contact Paul Neilly

From Cleaning to Kestrels

Kestrels 1

Mitchells Roberton have used the cleaning services of ABC Professional Office Cleaners of 30 Boylestone Road, Barrhead for more than 30 years. Scott Maxwell who is the owner is also a keen ornithologist and photographer. He was kind enough to share with me some photos he had recently taken of baby kestrels in their nest, which I found amazing.

Kestrels have pointed wings and long tails and are the most common bird of prey in Europe although their numbers have declined in Britain over the last few years. With their brown, black, red, orange and cream feathers and yellow legs they are found in a wide variety of habitats from moor and heath to farmland and urban areas.

K HQ 13_07_06-9188

They are often seen hovering particularly near motorways which make them one of the easiest birds of prey to spot. When hovering they have the extraordinary ability to keep their heads totally still even in strong winds allowing them to pinpoint and catch small mammals by sight alone.

I hope you enjoy the photos. If you would like to see more of Scott’s photos please visit

Minimum Alcohol Pricing – The best way forward?

The question of minimum alcohol pricing continues to cause anger, debate and conjecture ahead of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce the legislation which could be in place as early as 1 April 2014. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon is relentless in her views that something has to be done about Scotland’s “booze culture” and believes minimum pricing may be the way forward in dealing with spiralling social depravation and most importantly from the Government’s perspective, the colossal £110 million NHS bill due to excessive alcohol consumption. From a pragmatic standpoint the upshot of minimum alcohol pricing would mean a typical bottle of wine would cost just under £4.70 with the cost of a bottle of whisky increasing to £14.

While I remain highly sceptical of the proposals, it is clear to see that the problem has to be tackled. Scotland is the UK’s “booze” capital and binge drinking isn’t just a small problem, it’s worryingly a way of life for some of our young teenagers. If the culture remains the same then the figures from the Government are only going to get worse and our reputation as a nation will continue to be slowly clouded by overindulgence in alcohol. Like many, I personally enjoy a few drinks at the weekend – I think this is a natural social leisure time activity and when done in moderation is good to keep our Scots “spirits” high.

So is minimum pricing the best answer to tip the balance from excess to moderation? The truth is I don’t know and I can’t make a convincing case either way. The cynic in me believes that it won’t work.  In 2003 the average price of a pint of beer cost around £2.10. Dramatic inflation and tax rises mean that the same pint of beer on average now costs £3.24. While statistics show a small decline in the number of pints consumed between those dates, a massive 54% increase in the cost hasn’t deterred too many people and I fear it will be the same outcome if this legislation comes into force next year

Without doubt it’s encouraging to see the Government trying to act. Even though it will hit me personally in the pocket, I am happy to support the cause and hope that my doubts are unfounded.