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This is my blog. A collection of thoughts from one such as I.

“A 12.5% service charge will be added to your bill”

service charge

Have you noticed that a new charge is being added to your bill in most restaurants when you eat out? They call it a “service charge”. In order for the restaurant to provide a waiter to come to your table and take orders and serve your food, they will add a fee.

They don’t even pretend it’s a gratuity for the staff. They brazenly name it for what it is - and it’s usually a massive 12.5%.

Admittedly, they do forewarn you, in rather small type, at the very end of the menu, that “an optional (or discretionary) 12.5%”  will be added to your bill. But it seems strange to me - what if John Lewis added 12.5% at till every time you shopped? Or M&S? 


When utility companies put their prices up by 8 or 9%, there's a public outcry, but when restaurants add 12.5% few people seem to care. Are we all so rich that we don’t care? Or are we so British that we would be far too embarrassed to say 'no' in a restaurant, but we don’t mind marching in protest about utility companies?

Buying a New Car (2014)

Photograph of my Renault Laguna 3 car

Buying a new car should be a fairly simple affair shouldn’t it - there’s so much choice that it’s just a question of finding the best deal? But I'm finding it extraordinarily difficult for a variety of reasons. Read this post to find out just why I’m finding it so difficult.

One Illegal Immigrant

Library photo of immigrants at Calais

We see them on the news. Hordes of illegal would-be immigrants to Britain’s bountiful shores. They fill the camp at Calais. They swarm across the roads that lead to the channel ports and tunnel. And they try to climb on board any vehicle that’s heading for the UK.

As residents of a small island off the coast of mainland Europe, we feel threatened. People say: “We’re already overcrowded.” and "We can’t take endless numbers of strangers into our country.” and “They only want our benefits, housing and a car”.

News photo of immigrants at Calais


It’s a worrying situation and feels more like an invasion than a crisis. But what happens when you meet one of these illegals face-to-face? It happened to us on our return from a coach trip to Boulogne in July this year.

We were returning from Boulogne-sur-Mer by coach with a party of people from Stilton. We arrived at the port of Calias having seen no immigrants at all. Inside the port, our coach was searched by officers with torches who peered into the engine compartment and other places as the driver lifted access flaps. And onto the ferry we drove, via passport control. All was normal.

The End of Antibiotics

615px-Richard I of England - Palace of Westminster - 24042004 - Version 2

King Richard I, ‘The Lionheart’, died in April 1199 when he received a crossbow bolt wound to his left shoulder whilst walking the castle walls without his chainmail.

It wasn't a bad wound and these days we'd clean it and dress it and put him on a course of antibiotics. He'd have been as right as rain in no time.

But Richard died in his mother’s arms ten days later. The warrior king, seen here in the famous statue outside the Houses of Parliament in London, was brought down by microscopic organisms that we barely give a second thought to.

Richard's wound allowed bacteria through the skin's protective layer, and once inside they multiplied until infection raged through his body, causing fever and gangrene and ultimately killing him.

His fate was not unusual. Before the discovery of penicillin, any wound could lead to infection, fever and death. Not all wounds did, of course, but the possibility was always there. Even a minor scratch could lead to death if you were unlucky.

© Brian Smith 2015