Is It Time to Disband Big Corporations?

Big Corporations have been getting a well deserved kicking in the press recently. 

Firstly it was the might of Murdoch and his major companies, most notably News Corp, that was under the microscope. Now, it is the, up until now respected company that is the BBC that is also raising eyebrows with it’s in house policies on staff behaviour.

We also saw Barclays Bank being admonished, and Bob Diamond stepping down over the Rate Fixing scandal. ( Sadly, those in the know believe Barclays was far from the only Bank taking part in this scam).

So, what have these companies and countless other’s like them got in common?

They are all massive multi-national companies, with lots of staff, and lots of off shoots and departments. It would seem that, the bigger the company, the easier it is for the directors and owners to lose ultimate control.

According to the ever widening horror stories emerging from the Beeb, there were countless opportunities for different departmental managers to mention that certain employees were abusing their positions. However, it was easier to sweep it under the carpet and protect the “talent” than do anything to stop what was going on. According to some female employees, such as Liz Kershaw, it was almost laughed about in a “Boys Club” way, and, at one point Sandi Toksvig reports that she was asked “Don’t you like it?” in a horrified way when she too reported inappropriate behaviour to her bosses. 

Then there is the murkey dealings of News Corp, who had celebrities followed by private detectives and who would, quite literally do anything for a story- including hacking Milly Dowler’s phone (thus giving her parent’s hope that she was still alive).  

Where were Rupert and James Murdoch when all this was going on? Well, they were not keeping an eye on their staff for one thing. They also own Fox amongst others, and their whole company is on such a massive scale it’s hard to envisage how Murdoch could, feasibly have kept a full eye on who was doing what, when, and why.

So, in light of recent epic failings by the likes of these mammoth companies, is it time to see the regulation of companies? 

Is it time to put a limit on how many companies or offshoots one person can, ultimately, own or run?

Of course, in any company, it only takes one or two “weak links” for the whole operation to become another lawsuit waiting to happen- it took the death of Jimmy Saville (or So Vile as I’ve seen him rightfully referred to) to find out that for something like 30 or 40 years, rumors had spread like wildfire and bosses knew what was going on. However, because the BBC is such a big company- growing over the years from two channels and radio stations to incorporate internet, local and national stations, digital TV, HD and the World Service- it was relatively easy for it to be ignored as the company as a whole.

No one person can ultimately have responsibility for a company as it grows ever larger, so perhaps the Government needs to step in and run it with them- that way, earnings from that company could go towards the Countries empty bank balance.

What do you think? Is it time to end giant companies? Comments below! 


So, I Had My MRI ……

I’ve been having weird dizzy spells. 

Not like me at all- I’m not a fainter, never have been. But earlier this year, I started to get some very weird symptoms, which were quite scary, actually.

Like I’d be doing something perfectly normal like walking Mini home from school, or picking up the toys off Littlest’s floor, when I’d black out. Not in a way that would mean I fell over, but in a juddery vision, fell myself going and snap back way. I’d go to bend and feel the floor coming up to meet me.

Then there was my memory. Or lack of it- if I had one of these dizzy attacks, I’d forget totally what I’d been doing. I get a headache, and then it as if my whole days activities would snap out. Like when I was in my local supermarket, and my vision went weird, my head started to hurt and I forgot entirely what I was there for.  I only remembered I had to hurry up and get back home to pick up Littlest as I saw a Mum whose kid was also at the same school.

Elder told me to go to my GP, so I did.

Now, I wasn’t a massive fan of this GP, he has now left the surgery thankfully. He had a whole attitude problem that he felt every time I saw him (not that often as I hated going) it was something down to me having depression 4 years ago. Basically, he was a knob end, a useless waste of a title, who had to be begged to do anything, like Littlest and his allergy testing. 3 years of asking  nothing done, until we saw his colleague who sorted all of Littlest’s problems out in one go. In a matter of a few phone calls.

Anyway, off I went  and he did his usual “couldn’t be less interested if I tried” face. However, he organised a referral for me. I didn’t hold my breath that he would actually make the referral though.

Eventually, after having to prompt him twice more, he sent me to the local Consultant. Who was lovely. He agreed my symptoms were worrying and that they needed to be looked at.

Next stop was a head MRI, I was so nervous about this but it was fine. Noisy but over quickly or so it felt at the time (Elder was waiting an hour for me, I felt like I was in and out in 10 minutes tops!).

I went for my results yesterday, thinking that, should something have been found, it would be frightening but at least we could sort it out.

Except it appears it isn’t me head that is the issue. 

So, now I’m back at square one. 

I still have days, like today where even standing up makes me feel sick, I have an awful pain in my neck and my head is killing me. I have migraines but these are over after a nap in a dark room, but these headaches are strange in that they don’t blur my vision like my migraines do, they just hurt lots but I can still read and type as normal.

The Consultant had suggested my having an ECG to rule out a heart rate issue or a low blood pressure problem. However, the ECG department wont see me as I’m the “wrong age”, and if I want to follow that up I have to go back to my (nice new) GP at the surgery and start the whole referral process over again.

But now we have no idea what is causing it, but I hate it, I feel awful alot, the dizziness is diabolical, as for the forgetfulness, I feel like a Granny!

Any ideas? Anyone have a suggestion of what it could be? Any suggestions of where I can lead the GP to would be great!

*Suffering from dizzy spells and blackouts can be a very scary experience, an MRI scan performed by radiographers maybe required to be on the safe side if your GP feels the symptoms are getting worse. In a situation like this, you may want to be in more comfortable surroundings such as one of the private hospitals in Birmingham where the scan can be performed in a morning appointment.

Nativity Play Nightmares Part 1

Its getting rather chilly of late, meaning that the winter term is nearing. In a few weeks there is half term, and then the days will get shorter, the cold will set in for the next few months, and everyone will be looking towards the events that Christmas brings to the school.

Last year, this just meant that Mini went to the local indie theatre to watch a play with the rest of the school. This year, being in Year 1 means carol singing at the local church, joining in with the extra special treats (which start this week with a trip to the cinema). 

And the Year 1 Nativity play.

Such ladylike qualities…

Those who have read this blog regularly will know that Mini is, how shall I put this without her being mightily peeved when she reads this later on in life, a bit of a diva. Second only to perhaps Mariah Carey or Cher Lloyd in, ahem, “star quality” confidence. 

Hell, who am I kidding, I am pantsing it that Mini will “Bette Midler” it across the stage no matter how small her part. Or how big her part.

Now, I’ve not read the Nativity in a while (sorry to any religious readers out there), but there are a few parts to it. Considering the school quite rightly tries to involved every child from Year 1, and that’s about 40 kids, the parts are thinning out pretty rapidly.

There are, off the top of my head, the 3 Wise Men, Gabriel, some Angels (or that may just have been my school’s way of using up children), Mary, Joseph, some Shepherds, and an Inn Keeper. That isn’t 40 parts. So I’m assuming that the rest are swept up as sheep, villagers, and the choir to shake a few tambourines.

Mini, having never read the play, already knows enough from last years kids that there is an Angel in it somewhere. That, my friends is what Mini has decided she will be. No one has actually said she will be, and trust me, I have tried to tell her she may not be picked for that, it depends on if she behaves or not, or a number of other factors, but she is adamant.

Which is why the whole idea of the Nativity is bringing me out in a rash. 

I know I won some Parent Points when I made her Jubilee costume, so perhaps they will pick her for a main part because they think I can sew  make a passable costume, but you just never know. It doesn’t help she’s been a pain in the arse recently, breaking a precious book of her teachers Mum (I got called up the school. Over a book. That they shouldn’t have been left with. Not impressed I can tell you). 

How is she only 5?

I am now having visions, if not nightmares, of Mini being picked as a humble sheep, or worse still, a male role, and rather than do what she is meant to be doing, will break into an epic song or dance routine in an effort to build her part. That or she’ll refuse to take part at all, and have a hissy fit onstage. Thus, again, building her part.

I know it’s mean to think that, perhaps my daughter’s confidence will have me hiding behind a coat in the audience, but she does have a habit of exerting her authority a little too much. Even when she did Show and Tell last year, her Teaching assistant said it was hard work to get her to let someone else have a go. 

Its nice to have confidence, but, if she doesn’t get the part she wants, she will be so disappointed.

I may have to bring it up at Parent’s Evening tomorrow. If nothing else it will change the subject from the broken book scandal….

Ideas below lovely and knowledgeable readers if you please. What are your Nativity play experiences? Did it go well? 

How to Induce Labour, Naturally*

You’ve waited 9 months for this moment… Maybe much longer. You and your family have gone over the old wives tales and speculated on whether or not it will be a boy or a girl, and made bets on when you think he or she going to arrive.
Counting down
You’ve gone through your pregnancy week by week until your baby has reached full term, getting more excited and anxious by the day, and as you approach the final weeks, you pack your hospital bag, revise your prenatal class notes and make sure you and your birthing partner know your birth plan inside out… but wait… 

Where’s the baby at?! 

If you’ve reached full term and there’s no sign of your little one yet according to the date offered by your pregnancy calculator, then here are some handy hints on how to bring on labour, the natural way…


Now whether it really does work or not is open to debate, but eating curry is one of the most commonly talked about ways of naturally inducing pregnancy. Thoughts on the matter are that because curry stimulates the stomach, it may also stimulate your uterus into action, too…

Again, pineapple, if eaten in large amounts, can stimulate the tummy and therefore the uterus. And in addition to this, it contains the enzyme bromelain, which some believe helps soften the cervix and naturally induce labour. 

Castor oil 
It’s not really known exactly how castor oil works, but it’s thought that, like curry and pineapple, it stimulates the stomach and therefore the uterus. However – approach this approach with caution, because castor oil can upset your stomach to the degree that it induces nausea and diarrhoea. 

Alternative medicines… 

The likes of pulsatilla are often used to stimulate labour. There is lots of anecdotal evidence from mums-to-be who have found them helpful. 

Acupuncture is thought to stimulate the energy within the body, acting on very specific parts and organs in different ways – and in this example, the uterus.

Physical techniques…

Nipple stimulation 
When you gently rub or roll your nipples, you can simulate the suckling of your baby and trick your body into releasing the hormone oxytocin, which causes contractions to begin.  

If you and your partner can manage the logistics and feel comfortable doing this, then having sex can, again, trigger the release of oxytocin, while achieving an orgasm could also stimulate your uterus.

Standing upright can encourage movement of your baby down onto your cervix, with the pressure of your baby’s head pressing down on it stimulating the release of labour-inducing oxytocin, once again. 

… Good luck! And a word of warning, please, as always, talk to your doctor before trying any of these out. 

**Image Courtesy of Maurice Waldal

Kids Today: Are We Living in a Culture of Fear?

It seems, as a parent, that every few days, you turn on the news and, yet again, there is talk of paedophiles. Either a child will have been snatched, or a celebrity will have had the finger pointed at them.

The thing is, as a child, I don’t remember such a massive culture of fear surrounding these most nasty of human beings (yes, it pains me to call them that).

I have two examples, first off,  my local area’s newspaper.

A young boy aged ten happened to be walking to school, not far from my very street. He was within a park, and two schools, broad daylight, when he reports a male driver “called to him” from his open window. There is now mass hysteria on one parent group I am a member of on Facebook, that we are all at risk as there is obviously some dodgy character around, poised and ready to walk off with the child of his choice.

Or not.

The thing is, as a more sensible member pointed out, yes, this could be what we, as parents, all fear. However, it could also have a perfectly reasonable explanation too. This is an area that has lots of little roads, its really easy to get lost in if you don’t have a sat nav. Perhaps, just perhaps this user proposed, this man was going to ask for directions?

However, with recent events, every parent takes a sharp intake of breath that there could be a sinister side to this.

The second incident is a friend’s lovely daughter. She recently started secondary school, she walks the short distance to and from school alone. She has a mobile phone but, like most kids, they run the battery out and, of course, at school can’t have them on show.

When she suddenly didn’t turn up home, an hour after the bell rang, her Mum was, understandably worried. We all got worried that something could have happened.

Again, it was a simple case of us all being wrapped in a bubble of fear. The daughter had decided to stay for after school club, and forgot to tell her, anxious Mum. No harm done.

So, where does this massive fear come from?

I feel the media has whipped us all up into a society that immediately worries about the unknown, who wrap our young up in cotton wool.

When you think of recent events, these people are generally known to the family of their victim. Mark Bridger was related to April Jones (her half sisters Uncle), and knew her family well. She would have trusted that, this was a man who was her parent’s friends- she was playing on the green with his own daughter.

Ian Huntley was trusted by the small community he snatched Holly and Jessica from, as he was their school caretaker. He had the opportunity to ask them in his home without their parent’s because he wasn’t a stranger.

As for Jimmy Saville, how much opportunity did he have! Beloved TV presenter, kids around the country (myself included) wrote to him in their thousands to appear on Jim’ll Fix It. He was a respected charity collector, allowed to visit hospitals and kids homes whenever he fancied.

My point is, yes, we do have to watch our children, but the biggest issue is that, all of us were taught “stranger danger” but now its more likely to be someone we knew and trusted who we needed to be wary of.

I am a massive supporter of the idea of a “Megan’s Law” import in this country. At any time, we could check  up on who the people are in our town that we want to be wary of, with an picture of them too. Sadly, the Human Rights groups in this country say this is against their principles because vigilante groups would form, and serve their own justice on these people.

Yes, that possibly would be the case, but, as a parent, I don’t allow my children to play in our back garden without me being there, let alone let them walk ahead at school pick up time. 

We can’t watch the children we have in our care forever. We’ll never stop worrying about them.

And I for one wish the media would stop playing on this parent worry for sensational headlines.

Where Has All the Good Customer Service Gone?

I’m writing this out of sheer frustration at companies in the noughties.

The thing is, before my SAHM and website geek days, I was a humble shop worker. I rose to the dizzy, yet stupidly boring heights of management before I quit to have Mini. I know how to treat customers.

It’s one of the reason’s I first started Family Panel, as back then I faced some pretty shocking customer service (a term I use loosely) from Three.  I have tackled them, Amazon, Tesco and British Gas, purely because I feel if more of us stood up for ourselves with companies, whether big or small, they would have to do something about weak links in their company plan.

However, it seems that no matter how many channels you use, how often you try and get results, it gets us lowly consumers precisely nowhere.

Just this month, I have had PayPal acting weird. I sell, like most of the country, my old tat via Ebay, Gumtree and other sites. Its nice to pack up the clothes we no longer need or which no longer fit, and rather than as before when I’d give them away, I can make a good few pounds to buy new. I still recycle other bits and bobs through the School’s Happy Schoolbag collection bin, the stuff which I can’t sell.

Recently, and without warning, PayPal started putting “Security Holds” on my account. The first time it happened, I found it annoying, as the hold was put on for 72 hours. In the end, I didn’t receive my cash (you know, my cash that they charged me for having in their PayPal for a few days) for a week and a half, what with waiting for the 3 working days for the bank to process it afterwards.

This has now happened 7 TIMES! 7 times, without reason or warning, PayPal have held my cash. So, I got sick of it, and phoned.

What a waste of time (not to mention money) that was. Another call centre which uses the name “Customer services” wrongly.

I was told that, at the time, the 5 times they’d held my cash was “random”, it wasn’t their fault and they knew why they did it but “they did not have to tell me why”. So, again, this is my money, which they take a cut of, which they are holding and they know why but wont tell me.

I tried Emailing, and got nowhere. When it happened again I rang again to be told “random”.

Well, seven times later, I got bored of the “random” excuse, and let us not forget what random means, seven times is hardly what I’d call random. So, I took it further, and asked to speak to management. The third lady I spoke to promised to action a query on my account. She also had no idea why and agreed it wasn’t random. 

Do you know how I found out what was wrong with PayPal? Through Facebook.

It seems I’m not the only one banging my head against a never ending cycle of useless and pointless customer agents in search of answers. PayPal know there is a fault, it’s caused by an upgrade issue (reminiscent of Natwest) so why are they not telling their customer base this? After all, we all pay their wages, and no doubt our collective fees have paid for this faulty upgrade.

Why on earth did I have to learn this from Facebook? Surely the best course of action would have been to send a quick courtesy email to those involved?

Which brings me to my old chums, Three.

Now, these lot failed so much towards me as a fledgling customer, that as a result I was given my service cheaper- for life. You can see the very early incarnation of what would become Family Panel’s post here.

As with all customer’s though, after my 24 month contract ended in November 2011, I didn’t really give two hoots about the cheaper charge, I just wanted the hell out of the association I’d had with them. I didn’t even know my contract had ended at the agreed period until three- that’s three, not me- turned off my Dongle. They never wrote to me, they never phoned, just switched off, so much so that I thought the Brats had broken it and emailed to find out what was up. 

I was asked if I wanted to renew the dead contract, and told I’d have to pay £25 to do so. I was also told they couldn’t promise my “lower for life” charge rate would remain either. So, I said, thanks but no thanks, and went off to Virgin.

Except, when all the Natwest mental failure went on, some of my Direct Debits weren’t honoured  like my home insurance, my payment to a charity.

And one to Three. For my Dongle.

You know, the Dongle which they shut off at the end of my contract in 2011.

So, I duly switched off the Direct Debit in June, as you would, and started to try to get my cash back. After all, since November 2011, Three had helped themselves to between £12 (until December 2011) and £17 (until June 2012) a month. I thought it was a simple admin error and I’d get my cash back.


Three blamed me, explaining I was meant to give 30 days notice. For a contract which had seen out its agreed period, it was a fixed term, not a rolling 30 day contract, for a dongle they turned off without notification and certainly without 30 days notice. I ended up giving up on their phone line (still as useless as it ever was in 2009 so they clearly didn’t learn), and turned to Facebook.

Who told me to fill out a form and they’d get back to me.

They only thing I got back from Three was- a BILL. Threatening court action for July’s £17 charge. Then one for August, this time for £36.

So, I complained via their site. Also ignored. I tried Facebook again who said they’d never received my completed form.

I have now, through the help of one of Elder’s clued up mates, emailed their CEO. I’ve also joined an action group who hope to stage a class action lawsuit against Three. 

If you happen to be bored, go look at Three’s Facebook wall- it makes for interesting reading, from disgruntled and angry, not to mention ripped off customers. I wouldn’t mind, I’m no longer a customer with a valid contract and they are still trying to steal money from me.

We all need to name and shame these useless companies, and say enough is enough. In my view, legislation is badly needed, or companies like PayPal and Three go completely unregulated.

What do you think? What are your experiences of bad customer care?