Service with a smile – the ups and downs of running a pub/restaurant – Part 1.

Part 1

There are so many memories, both good and sometimes not so good, which I hope will make interesting reading for anyone who frequents pubs and restaurants.  Knowing what goes on behind the scenes whilst you are tucking into that succulent steak and taking a sip from a glass of really good wine could surprise you if you ever found out! However, some secrets are best kept secret to protect innocent people involved!

After having tired of the many years of being witness to the constant presence of in-house politics in the corporate world, my other half decided that it was time for us to have our own business and to take control over our lives. Little did we realise that having control, when dealing with the public at large, is more a dream than a reality. However, we were excited to try something quite new and, after a great deal of research, decided that to go the franchise route would offer us a much better chance of succeeding in our venture than trying to go it alone.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which 
so much happiness is produced as by
a good tavern.
” – Samuel Johnson

Due to many stumbling blocks along the way to our getting our business up and running, we finally opened our doors (under the watchful eye of several members of the franchise head office staff) a few weeks before Christmas. What an opening it proved to be. From the moment the locals knew we were in operation, it was absolute pandemonium. Despite all of us, owners and managers, front of house staff, as well as the entire kitchen complement, having received fairly in-depth training from the franchisor, the reality of providing quick, efficient service to the masses was daunting to say the least! None of us had time to eat anything at all whilst on duty during the first few weeks. Our uniforms started hanging off us due to weight loss but we were too busy rushing around to even notice!

The pub we bought had an Irish theme and catered for 75 people in the restaurant area. There were also tables in the bar area where one could eat as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that for brand new owners and staff it was no mean feat to keep demanding patrons happy all the time. Despite having had a trial evening where friends and family had been invited to test our capabilities in preparing meals and giving the appropriate service, the first few days of business were totally crazy. The most relaxed members of our entire staff were the barmen as they had taken to their job like ducks to water, or drunks to drink! They were young, enthusiastic and great with the public.

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We had really hit the jackpot by finding ourselves a true Irishman several weeks before we opened and we employed him as our head barman due to his previous experience and outgoing personality. He was confident in handling a busy bar and he proved to be an absolute bonus for the few months in which he worked for us. He left in a bit of a hurry under some sort of a cloud, by all account but it was probably due to domestic problems. He was in his early twenties and had a great affinity for a certain four letter word whilst telling you where to go! This came out of Gordon’s mouth regularly in a broad Belfast accent. He was working in a pub and not a church or a school so there was no need to censor the barman.  The piece de resistance was the fact that he taught one of our young Black kitchen staff to parrot his expression. Every evening as Jonathan left to catch the staff transport, Gordon would ask him to repeat his favourite saying.  The reaction of the patrons when they heard a Black guy swearing in an Irish accent had to be seen to be believed.

The kitchen staff were under great pressure in those early days but all things considered the mistakes were few and far between. The food which came out of our kitchen was first class and relatively speedily prepared. There are many amusing incidents which I would love to share with you which involved our kitchen workers, but this I will leave for a later post.

Our young waiters had all just recently left school and there were some amusing incidents (in hindsight, and not at the time). A few weeks into running the business a rather irate woman called me over to her table to complain about one of my waiters who had sworn at her. I asked who had served her and she told me who it was – the only boy we had as yet employed (girls were the favoured choice of the franchisor – but we soon changed the dynamics to suit our needs). I called the youngster over and, away from prying eyes, I asked him what had happened. It turned out that the woman had asked him what was in the pie of the day? Being new to the menu as well as the job he answered “shit, I don’t know!” We all found it amusing – pity the miserable old bat couldn’t see the humour! Anyway, afterwards we tried to ensure that all the young staff actually had a good idea of the contents of each day’s special pie!

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We were put on a spot by our replacement bank manager to give his blonde and rather dumb daughter a part time waitressing job. Suffice to say she didn’t last very long as she just could not learn at all. The best memory I have of her was the busy Sunday lunch when one of the waiters was frantically looking for the chicken schnitzel which the kitchen staff had prepared ready for delivery to the customer. It had disappeared from the relevant preparation station. However, there was an abandoned ostrich fillet starter standing all alone in the cold prep section. We soon found out what had happened. The dizzy blonde had grabbed the schnitzel and taken it to the customer who had ordered the ostrich starter, who in turn hadn’t said a word and proceeded to devour it. When the waitress was told what she had done, her reply was, “well, I knew it was some kind of a bird!”

So many memories, but that is all for now! Will be back with another batch of memories of those busy days (and nights too!).

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they  wake up
in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going
to feel all day.” – Jack Lemmon

Direct Sales – Chapter 4

Learn about your product!

You will only gain the confidence you need regarding the products you are hoping to sell, once you have as much knowledge as possible about them.

Using the items yourself is obviously very important as you are then talking from personal experience. Listening to comments received from your customers is also critical and a way in which to gain more information without actually having to have first hand experience of some of the other items on the range. Keep notes on the products and constantly refresh your memory, particularly in the early days of your new venture.

Most direct sales companies will offer on-going training and it is in your interest to attend these training sessions and take written notes of what is being said. It is a proven fact that once you write something down, you are far more likely to remember it than just recording what is said onto your cellphone, or a recording machine. You can pick up so many tips and hints from other people who are selling the same products as yourself. They have obviously been successful with their sales, and you can always learn from hearing them talk about their experiences as well as beginning to know more about the products.

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Your new customers, knowing that you have only recently joined the company, will appreciate your offering to find out facts of which you might not as yet be aware. Instead of bluffing your way through if you are asked to give advice about a specific item, it is far better to offer to ask your area manager or local distributor for their help.  You will lose respect from customers if you pretend to know something regarding an item when you actually have no idea at all. Far better to make that contact with someone else in the company who has a lot more experience and who will be able to give you the right information for you to give back to your customer.

If you are selling a product which needs to be demonstrated, a good idea in the beginning of your career is to use some cue cards to help you.  I continued using cue cards all through my many years of direct selling as a means of keeping continuity for my demonstration, in the even that I was side tracked by customers’ questions. If you have your range of products displayed on a table, you can discuss each item in turn and once you have given the benefits and uses of a particular product, you actually need to place the cue card next to that item on the table. This enables the customers to come up to the table once you have finished your talk, and they can identify the product by the picture and will see the price as well. Usually you would have catalogues which can be used for making your cue cards by cutting out the relevant pictures together with the descriptions and current prices.

An important factor is that you need to be organized regarding your new career and this means organizing your thoughts before you address a group of potential customers. It is no good just handing out brochures and expecting people to understand what it is that would benefit them most. This is particularly relevant when it relates to products such as Tupperware, as make-up and clothing items are far more personal and everyone usually has a good idea of what will suit them and their particular taste. However, when it comes to household items the input of an expert (and you are aiming to be that expert sooner rather than later) is indispensable to avoid making an expensive purchase which becomes something of a white elephant. This is likely to create a resistance in the customer to purchasing anything from you again in the future. Taking their type of lifestyle and living situation into account, you will soon be in a position to give good advice on what they should buy to make their life easier and to save money. This will gain you their trust as you are not pushing for sales to benefit yourself, but have their needs in mind. Once again, it is a case of getting to know as much about your product as quickly as possible as well as listening to your customers.

Whilst you are still very new to this venture, it is far better to feel really confident and have first hand knowledge of a few products and offer to get feedback regarding others with which you are not necessarily au fait. Over time it is advisable to invest some of your monthly income in purchasing a variety of items across the range to use yourself in order to boost your confidence as well as your sales.

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If you are selling make-up items you will be able to help your customers by letting them try out samples to make sure that they make the right choice of colour or texture. If the company has samples available for you to buy, then that makes it easy for you. Otherwise you could buy some very small plastic jars and use them for dispensing a portion of a product (such as moisturiser, or hand cream, or shampoo) to give to your customer for them to try out. If they decide to buy the full sized product you will make back the amount you have spent in a short space of time. They also feel that you actually care about their decisions instead of expecting them to order only from pictures in brochures.  Again, as far as selling makeup is concerned, there are usually shade charts which you can purchase as sales tools which assist customers in matching products with their specific skin tone.

The bottom line is that you will grow your business much faster if your knowledge of the products you are able to offer is comprehensive and your customers come to trust you with the choices they make.  By going the extra mile to help prevent incorrect purchases, you will soon gain the respect of those people whom you are serving. Happy customers tell their friends and family. It is a fact that word of mouth advertising is the very best kind there is.

“Today Knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity
and advancement.” – Peter Drucker (1909-2005)

Direct Sales – Chapter 3

Where do you find your customers?

You will no doubt be worried as to how on earth you are going to find people who will purchase the goods you plan on selling. The phrase which you will hear over and over again, regardless of which direct selling company you decide to join, is “your circle of influence”. This really means all the people you know who you could contact to tell them about your new venture. To start you off here is a list of potential contacts:

       *Family members                  *Friends

       *Neighbours                            *Parents of your children’s friends

       *Work colleagues                   *Church acquaintances

       *Gym acquaintances             *Local businesses

*Receptionists at your dentist, doctor, vet, hairdresser etc.

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No doubt you can extend this list, but this just gives you some idea of where you can start. The best thing when you approach a possible customer is to find out if there is anyone from whom they are currently purchasing the product you will be selling. If they do not have a regular representative then you can offer to drop off the current catalogue at the beginning of each new month.  They may not be happy with the kind of service they are currently receiving from their representative, and be very pleased to use you instead.

If you are attempting to get sales from the staff within an organisation, you should try to find a person who would be prepared to collect the orders for you and send them in to you once a month. They in turn would be responsible for collecting the money from those people who placed orders, so that you only have to work with this one person. It just makes the process much simpler than having lots of loose orders which have to be delivered individually. Each individual order will be packed by you with the name of the customer and amount owing easily visible on the package but you have one drop off point for all the orders for a specific company. The person nominated to collect the money from the individuals and to distribute their orders can be rewarded by you with small “thank you” gifts from time to time just to show your appreciation for their time and effort.

Don’t be shy about telling everyone whom you meet in the course of your day, what you are doing and how convenient it would be for them to be able to buy from you rather than spending valuable time searching for the product which suits them best at large retail outlets. You will sometimes be pleasantly surprised by the reaction you get from certain people. Many may have lost contact with someone who used to supply them with the products and have not yet found anyone else from whom to order.

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By utilising all the facilities which are so readily available these days, such as computers and smart phones, much of the time consuming drudgery which was part of direct selling in the past, is now history. How much easier it is to send bulk e-mails or WhatsApp messages to inform your customers of product specials, shortages, price changes as well as to remind them that the current order cut off day is fast approaching,  instead of having to phone each one individually. Personal contact is still very critical to building good business relationships, but there are definitely many benefits to being able to just send a message instead of always having to make loads of time-consuming phone calls.

When you are chatting to your customers, listen to what they are telling you and make a habit of keeping notes that you can use in future in order to make them feel that you actually care about them and that you remember what they tell you.  They will also assume that you have an amazing memory, whereas you have just saved relevant info regarding them, their families, and important facts which they have disclosed to you during conversations as well as their product choices. This makes for a far more personal relationship with customers and they will value your interest in them, apart from just the buying aspect. Index cards, or keeping the information on your computer – whichever method suits you, will serve the purpose just as well.

Once you have managed to get a reasonable number of customers ordering from you on a regular basis, just remember that it is far easier to keep your existing ones than having to find new ones. Also, happy customers will recommend you to their friends. Word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising that there is, but people who have a bad experience will also spread the word and unfortunately often far wider than those who have had good service. Sad, but true.  Therefore, it is very important that, if you make a mistake somewhere along the line, apologise and correct it as soon as possible. A small token given to a customer who has been inconvenienced goes a long way to mending the relationship. Remember – the customer is always right!

“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success
of any kind as the quality of perseverance.
It overcomes almost everything, even nature.
” – John D. Rockefeller

 

Attitude can make all the difference

Isn’t it amazing how, when you begin your day in a negative frame of mind, everything under the sun seems to be against you and there is just one disaster after another just waiting to happen! However, if you stop and consider the positives that the negative situation has created, things can be so very different!

“Keep your values positive because your values
become your destiny” – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s 6.30a.m. and you panic as you are already 30 minutes behind your usual schedule. Strange how dark and quiet everything seems to be and then the proverbial penny drops. There is no electricity and there was no warning either! So, you stumble to the kitchen to put on the kettle and then the realisation kicks in – you have no power and how can you boil the kettle?  Then you remember that you have a gas bottle in the back room which will allow you to make the coffee, and the donuts from yesterday are in the bread bin and will do very nicely for breakfast.

Next step is to have your morning shower. You turn on the water and wait for a few minutes, but it just doesn’t warm up! The geyser has been out of action due to the lack of electricity. Cold showers are meant to be excellent for your circulation and complexion, so you get on with it and the chilly water isn’t all that bad after all. There are so many people who do not have the advantage of having running water. Having to walk a long way in order to fill a bucket from a communal tap is a far cry from taking a cold shower in a comfortable bathroom.

Time to leave home and face the traffic that is going to be exacerbated by all the out of order traffic lights due to the power outage. Oh well, you try to be philosophical, at least the office will have electricity and, after all, there’s not much food in the fridge and freezer at present at home, so if it goes off it’s not the end of the world. Your householder’s insurance should cover any loss or damage to the appliances due to a power surge as well as loss of food once the fault has been repaired.  Now there’s a good excuse to try out the new fish and chip shop around the corner – they have a generator, so they will still be frying tonight! Your well stocked candle supply will add a peaceful ambiance whilst you listen to your favourite music on your ancient battery operated c.d. player.

You turn on your car radio and are feeling much more relaxed as you join the snaking line of vehicles all chugging along at a snail’s pace to get onto the motorway. Oh darn it, you have been so busy singing along to one of your favourite songs that you realise in dismay that you are in the wrong lane to turn onto the freeway! You desperately try to catch the eye of the person in the correct lane who is parallel with you and indicate with morse code –like hand signals your dilemma. Wonder of wonders, they smile and shepherd you in to the queue in front of them! Yes, today will be a good day after all and manners really do maketh man ….. and woman too!

Life is full of ups and downs for most people, with the occasional curved ball thrown in, just for good measure and it’s not always easy to stay positive in the face of challenges. However, there is some truth in the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining”- it’s all about having the courage to look for the silver lining when those clouds are bearing down on you.  Trying to laugh when you really feel like crying, and counting your blessings instead of concentrating on your mountain of woes and worries – sound like easy solutions. For many people they are actually very difficult to achieve and it’s at times like this that you often need to ask for help, whether from a friend, a colleague or a professional . Attitude is very important to our being able to carry on in a world which is by no means perfect, and we are not superhuman. To ask for support in order to regain a positive attitude is a tough call for many of us, as we all like to appear to be confident and coping members of the human race. It is, once again, a case of our attitude to asking for help that can make all the difference when the road ahead seems to be very rocky. Fortunately, it is a fact that “this too will pass” and we can often look back at our difficult times and feel triumphant in the knowledge that we survived and are able to once again enjoy the many pleasant things which make us human.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference” – Winston Churchill

Update and Comments: 14 May 2019

I have recently posted the second chapter relating to Direct Selling in which I tried to give some idea as to how to choose a company which suits you best.  I intend to follow this with the next chapter very shortly and I do hope that the information which I am sharing is of use to anyone looking at going into this kind of business venture. On a different note, I have posted some great new recipes from Chris in the cookery section of the Guest Contributor portion of the blog – am sure the Foodies among you will be interested to try them out.

April seemed to disappear in a blur of public holidays here in South Africa and then it was a case of waiting for the Big Day, 8 May 2019 which heralded the 6th free and democratic countrywide national election. Well, in most instances and, despite all the negative postings on social media forecasting doom and devastation, most polling stations appeared to be run relatively successfully. All the people involved at my local polling station were very helpful and efficient and hopefully we will not be overly distraught once the election results have been verified and announced. My own experience was hundreds of times more pleasant than the 7 hour wait to renew my driver’s licence last month! (That little episode will feature in a future post once I have actually got my renewal in my sticky little hand. Cannot afford to send out any negative vibes in that direction until the deed is completed and I am once again legally entitled to drive for another 5 years!)

Something which occurred on the same day as our election, was the first sight of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new-born baby boy. I thought at first that they were just carrying a doll wrapped in a blanket wearing a woollen hat as the baby’s face was hidden from view. However, there were several photos published later which happily proved me wrong! The poor little chap may become the cutest baby around, but that name!! Archie!! Born into a royal family and called Archie! Queen Victoria must be turning in her grave!!  However, new facts have come to light since then which makes a bit more sense regarding the name. Apparently, the late Princess Diana had a distant ancestor who was called Archibald Campbell and he was the 9th Earl of Argyle. I think Diana’s maiden name of Spencer may have been an easier option for the poor chap to live with – especially if he lands up being a red-headed Archie!!

I suppose, in case there were any doubt at all as to the father of the child (just tongue in cheek – not aiming to offend any devout Royalists!), having the middle name of Harrison (as in Harry’s son) puts paid to any speculation in that region! Life is definitely interesting and always full of twists and turns, especially when an American actress marries a British prince! Here’s hoping this story, unlike some others of recent years, defies all odds and has a happy ending.

On the home front our dear Kelly, who is now almost 7 months old, is something of a canine Jekyll and Hyde! She is very clever (when the mood takes her) but unlike most dogs, is not particularly fond of food. She far prefers to chew branches of bushes, feathers from pigeons as well as having a passion for pebbles (of which there are hundreds on paths in our garden!). Needless to say, many valuable hours are spent in attempting to educate the dear pup that we really would prefer to control a potential obesity problem rather than having to face the prospect of foreign bodies finding their way into her digestive system and necessitating a rushed journey to our local vet! Who said: ”this too shall pass”?

Just a brief postscript regarding the e-mail contact for my blog. Despite following the instructions given by WordPress, there seemed to be a technical glitch. This has been rectified and tested and should be working well now, so please do feel free to contact me as per the contact details available on the blog.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Direct Sales – Chapter 2

Choosing the company which suits you best!

The first step when considering becoming involved in direct selling, is to find a product which you can believe in and enjoy selling. In years gone by, items such as expensive vacuum cleaners and encyclopaedias were sold by salespeople who had to carry heavy demonstration items with them when going door to door to try to sell their product. With the incredible advances in technology things have changed dramatically when it comes to direct selling. It no longer has the stigma with which the “door to door” salesman of the past had to contend.  By the same token there are many people today who wouldn’t know what a set of encyclopaedias looked like!

The most popular direct sales companies nowadays would appear to be those selling household products such as Tupperware, and companies such as Avon, which has salespeople in many corners of the world making a comfortable living from selling their range of goods of which cosmetics form a large percentage. When one is putting out feelers to find a company which you would be happy to represent there are several factors to consider. First of all, is the warehouse which houses the company’s products easily accessible or will there be a considerable time lag between the placing of an order and receiving it?  Buyers tend to be very keen to receive their orders once they have placed them with a representative and If you live in a rather remote area, then it stands to reason that you may not have deliveries as frequently as if you were living in a larger town. The solution here is to collect your customers’ orders early in the month in order to place and receive them in time for month-end deliveries. This applies mainly to countries where people receive monthly pay cheques and budget for their purchases accordingly.

Once you have given some serious thought to joining a particular company as a sales representative, you need to find out whether there is a cost involved. You don’t want to have to take a bank loan in order to begin selling! In most cases the initial outlay is minimal and usually your payment will provide you with a starter pack of catalogues showing the current range of available items, and in some cases a few products for you to show to your prospective buyers. Once you start making some money, you can build up a reasonable supply of items which you can demonstrate to help increase your sales.

Another question to ask is whether or not you will be granted credit when you sign up with the company. In other words, will you have a certain amount of time to collect the money from your customers before having to pay your account or is it purely a cash business. If the latter is the case, then you will always need to collect the necessary amount from your customer as you take their order. You give them a written receipt for the amount paid to you and be very strict on how you handle this money. When you pay your account, the difference between the amount you have received from your customers and the amount you pay your company is your commission.  If you are granted credit then you deliver the products to the customer and only hand them over when you are given the amount due.

It is normal practice when you sign up with a direct sales company to be allocated to an area manager whose job it is to assist you when you have problems. This person may or may not give you regular training sessions themselves, or it may be company policy to encourage you to attend regular sales meetings run at the branch of the company closest to you. It is very important for you to learn as much as you can about the products you will be selling as buyers expect you to be knowledgeable regardless of the length of time that you have been with the company.

Depending upon how well you sell once you have started with your chosen company, there may be seminars which you are invited to attend where you will receive on-going training as well as motivation. Things change according to economic factors as well as management policy but you will find that the more successful you are at selling, the more your company should recognise your efforts.

“Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.
It is courage that counts” – Winston Churchill

Materialism in the 21st Century

One only has to be in contact with children these days to see that quality time spent with parents seems, in many families, to be a very rare commodity. Both parents are usually working full time just to pay the bills and with the amount of time spent in traffic commuting to and from the workplace it stands to reason that juggling work and family time is a constant battle. At the end of the day it is much easier to give the children material gifts instead of trying to fit in reading a story to them, or chatting to them about the events of their day.  The majority of children from middle to upper income homes all seem to have access to the latest technology such as mobile phones, tablets and computers as well as having no shortage of up to the minute clothing – brands such as Nike or Adidas being firm favourites. Even very young children are demanding clothes with Disney or superhero logos on them, all of which are more expensive than the no-name items. So, materialism and the desire to have more and more belongings can begin very early in the home.

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Obviously the above observation is very general, but it is now accepted that children are communicating with each other via their mobile phones, and even youngsters barely out of nappies are allowed to play games on their parents’ devices.  Travelling with young children can be very challenging and it seems to be quite normal to settle them in the back of the car with headphones and a choice of entertainment on tablets or i-pads. What happened to talking to them and playing games such as spotting certain makes of car or animals in the fields or a game of I spy with my little eye something beginning with the letter ….?

Obviously sending youngsters to crèche or nursery school does alleviate a certain amount of the guilt feelings which parents may have due to their rushed lifestyles. However, even these institutions seem to foster the whole concept of materialism. I have seen that it is customary for children as young as 2 who are at crèches or nursery schools to be expected to come dressed in costumes for events such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Superhero Day.  The poor overworked parents now have to conform otherwise their child is going to be the odd one out. The world really has gone stark raving mad! All these extra demands which are being made on the parents always result in purchasing things such as dress up items which really don’t have an awful lot to do with education when all is said and done. This whilst many millions of children worldwide are living in abject poverty. Somehow the more we are made aware of the desperate situation of millions of people all over the world, the more we are hammered with adverts to buy this, wear that and drive the other! Definitely, the first world as well as developing nations are constantly being succoured in to the ego-driven world of materialism. Sad, but true!

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If one looks at the way in which our parents or grandparents managed to survive without the trappings of modern day materialism and compare our lives today, we see just how things seem to be spiralling out of control at an alarming pace. In years gone by, life was tough for the majority of people and children had very few belonging. Clothes and footwear were often hand me downs  and the only toys may have been home-made playthings – a far cry from today where everything in the modern world is geared to spend, spend, spend and then more!

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Nowadays the leftover Christmas turkey has hardly been devoured when shops are advertising Valentine’s Day gifts. After that it is the Easter eggs which are on the shelves alongside appealing fluffy bunnies. Hardly time to take a breath then it’s (in certain countries) Mother’s Day, followed by Father’s Day and the last one to hit the money grabbing retail outlets – Halloween! Where is it all going to end? There is definitely a move towards once again creating instead of buying a mass produced product. Examples are young women learning to knit and crochet after years of such pastimes being scorned by many. Another avenue which has taken the world by storm is cooking and baking.  One only has to channel hop on television to come across yet another cooking competition and these have certainly inspired many people to attempt to cook or bake instead of buying ready-made food.

Maybe, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  If there is a concerted worldwide effort to try to educate our children to appreciate the little things in life, which perhaps are far more important than material belongings, then things may change for the better. There are so many organisations involved in saving the planet, preserving endangered species, and caring for the less fortunate, which can be a means of making children aware of the importance of social responsibility. Education leads to knowledge and knowledge is power. Therefore educators as well as parents and family members can all help to improve this materialistic world before it implodes on itself due to mankind’s ignorance and selfishness. One can but hope and hope is what keeps us humans continuously carrying on regardless!!!

“It is the preoccupation with possessions,
more than anything else, 
that prevents us
from living freely and nobly
” – Bertrand Russell