If I Ruled the World at Christmas

I love Christmas.

It is the most wonderful time of year and it so because it’s unique. Uniquely in December. I am at the front of the queue to make yuletide stretch as much as possible but no, Wizard, I don’t wish it was Christmas every day (still a great track though). To keep it special, we need to keep Christmas in December and embrace it.

  1. No public lights switched on until December 1st. It will be great if all Christmas lights came on actually on December 1st. Or at least after November 25th, one month before Christmas is plenty of time. What you do at home is up to you of course.
  2. Absolutely no festive music played where the public gather i.e. shops, cafes, restaurants or on radio before December. Thereafter, 10% of music play can be festive in the first week, 25% in the second week and then more as we get closer. After 19th December bring it on.
  3. No one can moan about turkey. We only have it one day a year – 2-3 if we’re lucky. If you don’t like it, learn to cook/choose/buy it better.
  4. If anyone has no idea what to buy someone, they don’t know them well-enough to buy anything. However, if they've been acquainted a long time, think a little harder.
  5. What do you buy someone who has everything? An experience, food or anything that will be used up. Or update something they already have. The only boring gift is a cheque/cash. Socks, toiletries and chocolates are all gratefully receiving. In my house at anyway.
  6. If I ruled the world, there will be no ‘Gifts for her’ and ‘Gifts for him’ sections promoted. We know our loved ones well enough to know what they like. (see no 4)
  7. If you are going to re-gift, keep a spreadsheet of who gave you what, and who you then gift it to. It’s just polite.
  8. Christmas cards should arrive at least the week before Christmas. Cards arriving on Christmas eve are not displayed and yes, it is the thought that counts but if you like someone enough to spend time and money on sending a lovely card, then send it early so they can display and enjoy it. For some people, that’s their only form of festive decoration.
  9. Everyone has a compulsory clear-out. If they have something they don’t need, it goes to someone who does want it.
  10. Finally, if you don’t enjoy it, just do something else!

By Rickie J, Founder & editor of Birmingham Favourites & Christmas fan

@BrumFaves @RickieWrites

 

If I Ruled the World by Elaine S Moxon

We asked local author Elaine Moxon to give us her version of the perfect world. We just didn't think that would involve taking us back a few thousand years!

This is tough to answer! Everyone has their own concept of Utopia and I would be the last person to insist that anyone lived the way I dictated. However, this is part of why I write historical fiction – to live in another time and experience a world I would like to live in. Dark Ages Britain is not an ideal world by any means: it is full of conflict, invasion, oppression, rivalry and a failing economy thanks to the departure of the Roman Empire. What draws me to this time is the simplicity of everyday life for the common people. Let me explain.

Pollution is minimal. Yes, everyone is burning wood, but there are no cars, aeroplanes, diesel locomotives or fuelled sea vessels. Travel is on foot, by horse or ox-drawn cart meaning distances take longer to cover. Life is therefore slower and without the technological interruptions we force upon ourselves today, such as social media, telephones and television. You don’t have to remember to log your every move on Facebook or keep up with episodes of your favourite television series. Instead, if you want to speak to someone you have to visit them to share news. Communal halls and temples are where large groups can exchange news and ideas for the community, sipping ale or mead and listening to someone sing songs of historic events.

Ever wanted to work from home instead of slogging through that daily commute? Live in the 5th Century AD and you can! You might have to rise a lot earlier than you do now (with the cockerel’s crow at the break of dawn, rather than an alarm clock tuned to your favourite radio station), but you’ll have fresh eggs from your own fowl and warm goats’ milk. Vegetables and herbs will be grown in a plot beside your home – enough to feed you and your family and perhaps some for barter at markets. Oh yes, and there is no coin – money no longer exists. Following Rome’s departure around 410AD coin held less and less value and bartering returned to Britain. You’ll need to fatten that pig so you can get a good price, or have plenty pork to salt and store through winter.

Do you spend half your wages on new clothes and beauty products? In Dark Ages Britain you’d be making both yourself. If you’re lucky enough to own goats or sheep you’ll have a supply of wool to spin and weave into patterned fabrics, having dyed it with vegetables and plants to your own choice of colours. There is no need to fret over that dress size you’re trying to get into – a peplos is ‘one size fits all’! Shoes (if you are wealthy enough to afford them) and belts are made of leather, possibly from another crafts person in your own village and you can knit your own stockings. If you are nobility you’ll be able to add some sumptuous brocade to the edges of your tunics, the fashion status symbol of the time. Beauty products can be made using milk and animal fats, scented with herbs or plant essences.

Many people today are becoming more and more interested in self-sufficiency and this is something I do like to see. We must remember after all, that we are an island. It makes sense to know you can grab some eggs from the bottom of your garden and pick a few spuds and cabbages if you need Sunday dinner accompaniments. Allotments are making a comeback and I often see people at garden centres investing in fruit trees.

Another trend is sustainable energy and the amount of homes with solar panels is growing week by week it seems. If there was one thing I would bring to this simpler Dark Ages life it would be advances in clean energy and medicine. There are already many who have built new homes with sustainable materials, living the eco-friendly life.

I myself have two apple trees and am making preparations to grow my own vegetables. I use flowers from my own garden as cut flowers to save on the cost of purchasing expensive bouquets and currently buy fruit and vegetables from a local supplier. Living close to the land and its changing seasons and making use of the immediate community harks back to these simpler, more ancient times I write about. Farmers’ markets and summer fêtes are lingering reminders of a close-knit ethos that once existed throughout Britain. Whether you live in a village or a bustling city, you can still become part of a community, buying locally and ethically; we can still grasp an essence of earlier times. Turn off your televisions and have a conversation, share wisdom and interests with those around you. The future is what we make it and perhaps we can learn a little from the past.

 

Elaine’s debut novel ‘WULFSUNA’ (Book 1 in the Wolf Spear Saga series) charts the journey of the Saxon tribe of the same name as they return to Britain. Their mission: to reunite with other ‘Wolf Sons’ they left behind who settled on the isle when the Roman Empire departed. Betrayal finds them and unbeknownst to their Lord’s son Wulfgar, an ancient legendary Saga is weaving his fate. When they discover a dishevelled young Seer on the roadside, destinies are altered for many and the lives of Morwyneth and the Wulfsuna are irrevocably entwined.

‘WULFSUNA’ has already garnered several 5-star reviews from readers and fellow historical fiction authors and was in the May issue of the ‘Historical Novel Society’ Indie Reviews. Elaine is currently writing Book 2 of the Wolf Spear Saga, due for release in 2016. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and runs a blog and website. She lives in Birmingham with her family and their crazy chocolate Labrador, and loves baking, language etymology and of course, history! She has recently begun making her own 5th Century Saxon costume to wear at events (or round the house).

‘WULFSUNA’ is available as a paperback and eBook and can be purchased from the following sites: SilverWood Books, Kobe, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com

If I Ruled the World by Clovenhoof

I love the internet - I don’t have to lie about who I really am. If I met you in the street I’d have to tell you that my name is Jeremy Clovenhoof and that I live in Boldmere, but here I can come right out with it and tell you that I am Satan. That’s SATAN, Lord of Hell! I do live in Boldmere though.

Let’s just say that I was the victim of some corporate re-shuffling and they thought they’d park me in the suburbs to keep me out of the way. Keep a low profile they said. You’ll love it, they said. Well it’s been weeks since I’ve blown anything up, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on some changes that I have in mind to make things more interesting.

Okay, first up, I need to look after number one. It’s not selfish. How can I be expected to apply my full genius to the humdrum problems of the world if I’m chasing my tail trying to make a living? I’ve got a great job at the undertakers, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. They won’t even let me take my work home with me. So, here’s a couple of easy fixes that will see the cash come rolling in…

1) I’d like a column in the Daily Mail. I think it would suit my style, although I do worry that I’m not rude enough.

2) I’d like royalties from the church every time they mention my name in a service. Yeah, they love to chunter on about how Satan does this and Satan does that. Well a lot of it’s true, but I think I’m due a cut from the collection plate, it’s only fair.Now that’s sorted, let’s put the world to rights. The world of religion is obviously my thing. I think the main problem with it is that everyone takes it all a bit too seriously. I’m going to pep things up a bit.

3) Richard Dawkins is to be made pope. Seriously, I just want to see his face when he finds out. I’ll give the current pope a new job, don’t worry. I think he might enjoy a starring role in a Broadway musical. Something with lots of feathers and sequins.

Onto more general changes.

4) I think I can safely say that everyone will be happier if I stipulate that dogs are to have a minimum size. If a dog can sit comfortably in a teacup then it just isn’t a dog. Let’s reclassify those little ones as gerbils and move on.

5) I want food that bounces. I’ve had enough of the world’s scientists, doing this so-called research that tells us things that we already knew, I want to see them developing things that are genuinely useful, like bouncing food. Someone invent a kebab that you can drop on the floor and then catch on the rebound. You’ll all thank me for this one.Let’s get local now.

Birmingham’s fine. I like it a lot, but it could do with some small tweaks.

6) Birmingham is to be moved nearer to the sea. Canals just aren’t the same, so let’s sort it out. If it’s any easier to move the sea closer to Birmingham then that would be fine too. I don’t want you to think I’m unreasonable.

7) The Custard Factory. I went there and it was definitely not made of custard. As I said, I’m a reasonable man, so just a little custard fountain would be fine. I worry that the lawyers will turn nasty if we don’t throw them a bone. You can’t just say something’s custard when it’s clearly not.

8) While we’re at it, let’s make Spitfire Island actually spit fire as well. It’ll look a treat at night.On the subject of famous Birmingham landmarks, clearly Spaghetti Junction was designed to be viewed from above. It looks good on a jigsaw. Jigsaws - one of my finer inventions. Back in Hell, we had a team of demons who developed the whole concept. The demon who came up with the baked bean jigsaw got an award. Or it might have been an extra flogging, I forget. Anyway, on the ground, Spaghetti Junction’s way too dull. Even if you coerce the driver of a number 11 bus to take you over it, you blink and it’s over. I speak as one who knows. What’s needed is something to pep it up a bit, especially for us non-drivers

9) I’d like to see a helter-skelter installed there. Ideally it should have a device like they use on railways to shunt trains onto a different line. As people are sliding down, I’ll move the lever to send them either onto the soft cushiony landing place so they can have another go or if I don’t like them, I’ll send them the other way into the canal.

10) One more thing. Once a year, to celebrate wonderful me, I would like the canals of Birmingham to be filled with Cadbury’s chocolate instead of water. It will be reserved for me and my speedboat. I’m ruler of the world, aren’t I? I’m entitled to some perks. Okay, maybe if you’re really good, you can also ride up and down my Chocolate Speedway. I’m a reasonable chap after all.

Find out more about what Jeremy Clovenhoof gets up to in these books:

  1. Clovenhoof
  2. Pigeonwings
  3. Godsquad
  4. Satan’s Shorts
  5. Coming in October: Hellzapoppin’

 

If I Ruled The World…..by Michael Younger

Jamie Cullum once sang if he ruled the world “every day would be the first day of spring”. A great idea, but if I ruled the world it wouldn’t be one of the first 6 things I would do. These would be…

3 Day Weekends 

It can’t only be me who notices everyone is happier when it’s a Bank Holiday? Tourist attractions seem to be busier, local parks are full of dog walkers/families having a good time and the economy thrives.

So, if I ruled every weekend would be a 3 day one, starting on a Friday.

It would mean less time being stuck in a hot & sweaty office during the summer, more time to do the Christmas shopping, and we’d also get more time to spend with family and friends.

More Dog Friendly Shops/Restaurants 

All shopkeepers/restaurant owners will have to open their doors to “man’s best friend”. Ok, perhaps I’m slightly biased as I’m a dog owner (our rescue pooch even has her own Twitter account), but there aren’t enough dog friendly shops / restaurants.

If you visit (some) coastal resorts, dog friendly shops are slightly more common, and there are two cat cafes set to open in Birmingham, but why isn’t there more for shops which are dog friendly? Under my rule, they all would be.

No More Self-Serve Checkouts

Controversial maybe, but are these really beneficial? Honestly, have you never got frustrated at the computer advising you to place your item in the bagging area/that there’s an unexpected item in the bagging area? You cannot win with these machines.

Remove them & with them one less frustration from shopping. It would (surely) help reduce the unemployment rate as shops would need more staff. For me, this is a win-win solution.

Cheaper Football Tickets

The beautiful game, invented in England – yet fans are being priced out of it (Arsenal charge up to £97 for a match day ticket).

Time to make it cheaper by capping tickets at £25 - & this is plenty, especially when you can pay less than £10 to watch Birmingham Ladies & less than £5 to watch Aston Villa Ladies.

Ps. I’d also make sure all games went back to 3pm Saturday Kick-Offs.

Moaning Monday Mornings

I get people need to vent from time to time – so lets limit that time to Monday mornings, between 7am and 9am. A 2 hour slot to let off steam, whinge and moan. But moan outside of these times and you face a fine which goes to charity – either £10 per moan or an hour of your time given to charity.

Free Cake & Coffee Friday 

So I’ve introduced longer weekends, and what better way to start your weekend with free coffee and cake (limited to 1 per person) at your local independent coffee shop. But it comes with T&Cs…1) it’s only valid between 10am & midday, 2) you must purchase something from the coffee shop too.

By Mike Younger – Copywriter (by nature) & Twitter user (@MYounger14). And you can reach Tilly on Twitter @T1lly_dog.

 

If I Ruled The World...by Rickie J

The Birmingham Favourites founder would solve the world's problems with cake and put persistent social media moaners in a 'sin bin'.

People are positive

A tricky one to enforce although it means the world of difference in people’s happiness. Government to set the example by changing their language, after all, even the Queen tends to look on the bright side. The media will report bad news in a sombre, constructive, non-scandalous way and make it their business to make people feel positive with contrasting, upbeat news stories.

Anyone who constantly swears or uses social media only to complain rather than offer constructive criticism will be temporarily banned and placed in the sin bin as ice hockey would have it.

Pet allowance

Everyone has the choice of child allowance or a pet allowance. They can live with a pet or put it towards saving an endangered species.

MPs to be civilised

They will only talk about what they are doing or promise to do, rather than what the opposition are up to and we can re-elect a new one otherwise. (see People will be positive, ‘sin bin’ etc.)

There will be quiet coffee shops

Loud music will be banned before 6pm so we can all hear ourselves think while working. And, indeed, converse.

Public Sector to have accountability

The public sector will have the same flexibility to offer their employees holidays and perks as commercial organisations, ie dependent on profitability and targets achieved. There will be consequences for anyone discovered to be losing the organisation money, or I don’t know, paying men more than women for doing the same job. Of course profits will go back into offering the people the council serves better value for their taxes (i.e. cleaner streets, better resources, access to arts and culture, green spaces etc)

Email etiquette

No email auto-responder will ever say ‘we are busy and will respond to your enquiry within 72 hours’. We’re are all busy!

Empty Nests

Commercial buildings will be disallowed from remaining empty for more than two months. I will pass a law whereby owners/landlords have to offer empty space to anyone who needs it (small businesses, small charities, even the homeless where appropriate). A nominal rent will be charged to cover legal expenses, staffing and security costs for short term (month by month) lets and all tenants will need to abide by the regular terms of rental. Local councils will have a small team, accessible to facilitate this.

Wars are settled with cake

Country leaders will settle disagreements with others over cake and coffee. Or tea, rather than guns and killing. Our foreign aid budget will include homemade Victoria Sandwich.

There will be transparency

Taxes will be simplified and tax payers decide where are tax money is spent and I doubt then, it will be spent on overpriced library websites or digging up the same road three times in as many years.

The community has a say on where their tax ££s are spent through online voting.

Help where it’s needed

Benefits will be simplified so that those who do fall on hard-times or are seriously unable to work or take care of themselves, are supported quickly with love and hugs rather than endless forms and wait times.

Those who are able to work and look after themselves, do so, in a job they like doing.

We need to work harder in matching people up to what they love doing, regardless of experience. People can be taught skills, but the not the attitude. I would urge employers to recruit staff on their attitude and personality and less on skills.

Unless they are applying for a job as a brain surgeon, pilot, etc.

Respect the dead

It will be illegal to sit on or vandalise graves, tombstones and memorials.

Head stones will fitted with alarms that will give electric shocks to offenders, that can only be turned off by those maintaining and paying their respects to the departed.  

Work from home

Every employee is able to work from home one day a week, say, after six months with the same employer.

Everyone has to use their right to vote

If there’s no one worthy, there will be space on the ballot paper to vote for any random person. Votes are only counted when there’s a 100% 95% turnout and pubs will remain closed until everyone has voted.

Oh and voting booths will be in pubs, coffee shops, organisations with large reception areas and golf clubs.

Constituencies to be re-divided across the land so they are of similar size. 

Paper serviettes under cake

Banned.

A serviette will be supplied separately but never underneath where it already messy and unfit for purpose.

By Rickie J, Founder & editor of Birmingham Favourites

@BrumFaves @RickieWrites