Know your ‘no’

By Robert Harland

I recently had a frustrating time with the manager of a big international company in Negros. I’d approached the firm regarding a possible sponsorship of a civic club activity. The manager seemed very keen, but after I put together a proposal and called up for further discussions he suddenly started to give me a PBO (polite brush off).

First, he said had a family crisis, then he had flu. After a while I thought this man is no longer interested, but why doesn’t he just say ‘no’ instead of jerking me around.

In the end I gave up. I told a friend about the experience. “That,” he said, “is not unusual here as people find it difficult to say no.” Okay, I’ll know next time.

Many people who have difficulty saying no can end up either trying to wriggle out of something – like the company manager – or actually accepting to do something they don’t want to do.

Many find it to hard to say no for a variety of reasons. They may not wish to offend. Or they may be kind hearted. Perhaps they may think it’s rude to say no. And some may fear they’ll be disliked by friends or neighbors if they say no.

But it’s really not that hard to say no.

In the case of the manager, had he been more professional, he could easily have said “I’ve given the idea more thought and I really don’t think on reflection it would fit in with our marketing objectives, but thanks anyway for giving us the opportunity to consider it.”  I would have been happy with that and on my way.

If you’ve ever found yourself saying ‘yes’ when you’d prefer to say ‘no’ here are few tips on how to decline without offending friends, colleagues or neighbors.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this right now.” This lets the person know your plate is full at the moment. If necessary, explain just what you have on your plate.

“I’m sorry, but now is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. Perhaps we can discuss this again later.” You may have to discuss the issue again in the future, but at least the person asking for assistance doesn’t feel rejected and it let’s you off the hook.

“Let me think about it and get back to you.”  This gives you time look at your schedule, as well as your feelings about saying ‘yes’ to another commitment.

“I can’t do this, but I can do …” – if you are asked to do something you’d like to do, but don’t have the time you can always suggest a lesser commitment that you can make. This way you’ll still be partially involved, but on your own terms.

When saying no, be firm and polite. You don’t have to be overly apologetic. Most reasonable people will accept your answer, but if someone keeps pressuring you, they’re being rude.

As for someone trying to sell you something, if the salesman doesn’t accept ‘no’, then walk away, close the door or put the phone down. If you don’t, you may find yourself signing on the dotted line for something you don’t want or can’t afford.

Good luck!

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Swimmers vie for gruelling crossing

By Robert Harland
Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel

Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel

Exactly 136 years ago this week Matthew Webb, a British sea captain, became the first man to swim the English channel without the aid of a flotation device.

On August 25, 1875 he swam the 42 kilometers from Dover in England to Calais in France in less than 22 hours.

Webb became an overnight hero in Britain and word of his achievement quickly spread around the world which considerably raised the profile of competitive swimming.

British sportswriter John Goodbody - he made the  crossing in 1991 at the age of 48

British sportswriter John Goodbody - he made the crossing in 1991 at the age of 48

Since then, more than 1,200 swimmers have made 1638 solo crossings, including an old friend of mine from London, sportswriter and man of action John Goodbody. He made the crossing in 1991 in 15 hours 40 minutes at the age of 48. He told me he savored every moment and would love to do it again.

The monarch of English Channel swimming is John’s training partner and fellow-sportswriter Kevin Murphy with 34 solo crossings.

Allison Streeter. She's swum the English Channel 43 times

Allison Streeter. She's swum the English Channel 43 times

But, the queen of the Channel, and the person who has swum it more times than anyone else, is British long-distance swimmer Alison Streeter.  She has completed the crossing 43 times and she is  one of the few swimmers to have swum both ways without stopping. She also chalked up a triple crossing taking only a ten-minute break during the entire swim.

The current world record holder for the fastest crossing is held by Bulgarian Peter Stoychev. He crossed the channel in 6 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds on 24 August 2007.

The slowest crossing was made last month by 56-year-old British swimmer Jackie Cobell who took almost 29 hours.

Jackie Cobell, who swum the English Channel  in July this year

Jackie Cobell, who swum the English Channel in July this year

The youngest to make the crossing was 11 year-old British schoolboy Thomas Gregory in 1988. The oldest was 70 year-old George Brunsted in 2004.

Anyone bold enough to want to swim the channel should understand how challenging it will be. You will be swimming 42 kilometers in cold water, with a strong tidal current that can double the distance you swim.

The water is about 15 degrees Celsius in the summer, but The English Channel Swimmer’s Association, the most widely-accepted record-keeping and certifying agency of the swim, does not allow wet suits. Swimmers are only allowed a swimsuit, goggles and a layer of grease to act as insulation.

But there are risks. Some 400 vessels make their way through the channel every day making it potentially dangerous for the swimmers. But this does not seem to deter the ever-growing band of people lining up to follow in Captain Webb’s footsteps.

Apart from the prospect of being run over by an oncoming vessel, swimmers also face the dangers of hypothermia, cramp, stinging jellyfish and, quite often these days, floating sewage. as

The swim is one of the toughest in the world. Fewer people have swum the English Channel than have climbed Everest.

This year, more than 100 people will attempt the crossing, but only 10 are likely to succeed.

Spilling Mr. Bean

He might be the bumbling Mr Bean on TV, but in real life, British actor Rowan Atkinson, who plays the not-so-lovable character, is anything but bumbling.

Atkinson, regarded as one of the funniest men in the world, is a business-savvy entertainer estimated to be worth more than 100 million British pounds (Php6.8 billion).

Mr. Bean with his on-screen mini

Mr. Bean with his on-screen mini

As for driving a tiny yellow mini, forget it. This Mr Bean is a collector of hyper-expensive supercars, including his favorite, a million-dollar (Php42m) McLaren F1 supercar.

But alas, Atkinson’s driving skills may sometimes be more akin to Mr. Bean than an F1 racing driver.

Rowan Atkinson, AKA Mr. Bean, in his McLaren  F1 before the crash

Rowan Atkinson, AKA Mr. Bean, in his McLaren F1 before the crash

Driving recently at what Atkinson said was an embarrassingly slow speed he lost control of

Mr. Bean's supercar after the crash

Mr. Bean's supercar after the crash

his McLaren on a wet patch of the A605 in Haddon, England, before spinning several times and crashing into a tree and a lamp post.

Aktinson escaped serious injury though the left-hand side door had to be cut away to remove him. Unfortunately, his rare McLaren F1 was was not so lucky. It was wrecked and caught on fire though rescue crews did manage to eventually put it out.

It might be possible to rebuild the car, but if not it will be a costly accident for Atkinson. Another F1 recently sold at an auction in London for more than $4m (Php178m).

This is the second time Atkinson, 56, has crashed his beloved McLaren. In 1999 he was involved in an accident crash with a Rover Metro, but again he escaped injury.

So, just what kind of car does Mr Bean get for a million dollars?

His F1, which he bought 15 years ago, is one of only 106 built by McLaren between 1993 and 1998. The chief engineer Gordon Murroy`s concept refers to the use of expensive materials like carbon, titanium, gold and for the first time, the use of a carbon fiber monocoque chassis.

It remains one of the fastest production cars with a top speed of more than 386 kph and a 3.2-second 0-to-100 kph acceleration.

The supercar is powered by an V12 engine built by BMW producing 627 HP at 7400 rmp. The F1 was the fastest production car in the world until the Bugatti Veyron was introduced in 2005. That car has a top speed of 430 kph.

The F1 is lighter and has a more streamlined structure than even most of its modern rivals despite having one seat more than most similar sports cars, with the driver’s seat located in the middle and slightly forward of the passengers seating position providing excellent driving visibility.

The British car magazine Autocar said the McLaren F1 is the “finest driving machine yet built for the public road and it will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car.”

Good luck with the rebuild Mr Bean.

Vice Mayor addresses foreign community

Bacolod City Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson was guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Bacolod Expats’ Group on Saturday at Nature’s Village in Talisay City.

Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson with Britons Russell Tomlinson,  Bob Owen, former Philippine Football Federation president Rene  Adad (l-r front row). Americans Ded Vail, Burnie Bennett, Richard  Davis (l-r back row)

Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson with Britons Russell Tomlinson, Bob Owen, former Philippine Football Federation president Rene Adad (l-r front row). Americans Ded Vail, Burnie Bennett, Richard Davis (l-r back row)

Speaking to the many foreign nationals who have settled in Bacolod and the surrounding areas, the Vice Mayor delivered a mini ‘state of the city address’ to update the group on developments including business initiatives, tourism, infrastructure, traffic, flood control, housing and relocation of informal settlers, solid waste and environmental protection.

This was followed by a lively open forum where the Vice Mayor answered many questions expats had about life in the city, especially traffic controls.

This is the second time the foreign community has invited a leading city official to be a guest speaker at their monthly meeting.  The group said they found the session very helpful in getting a better understanding of developments in the city.

Vice Mayor Sayson samples a glass of cranberry wine made  by Scottish wine maker Nick Scarborough

Vice Mayor Sayson samples a glass of cranberry wine made by Scottish wine maker Nick Scarborough

The Vice Mayor added that the exchange of views had been useful, especially as foreign nationals bring in knowledge and experiences from many other countries so had a lot to offer by way of positive suggestions for improving life in the city.

New life for an old lady

By Robert Harland

As a collector of European bicycles, I’ve always been a bit sniffy about American bikes. The few models I saw as a kid in England looked a bit flashy and I never thought they were safe

Before: the rusted Hawthorne frame, forks and mudguards

Before: the rusted Hawthorne frame, forks and mudguards

– especially the peculiar braking mechanism of pedalling backwards to stop.

But while visiting a derelict mascovado factory in Murcia recently, I saw the rusting frame of an old American ladies bike complete with rusting forks and mudguards.

I couldn’t resist it. I found the owner and promptly bought the lot.

Knowing nothing about American bikes I set about trying to find out its age and something about the company that made it. Fortunately, the head badge was still intact. It read Montgomery Ward Hawthorne.

After a bit of a search on the internet I believe the bike was built in the 1950s, though I might be completely wrong.

According to leading American bike expert Leon Dixon from the National Bicycle History Archive of America, had I noted the serial number before the frame was resprayed he could have given me a clear date and model name. He suggested I scrape the paint off the area under the crankcase to find the number, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.

Leon added that Hawthorne bikes were sold new by former American department store chain Montgomery Ward, either through their mail-order catalogue or through one of their stores. The frame was made by the Cleveland Welding Company under contract to Montgomery Ward.

Leon said this particular frame was made for many years so I’m only guessing at the1950s because the bike looks like others I saw of that vintage on the internet.

The first job in the restoration was to find out if I could get parts for American bikes in Bacolod. “No problem”, said Sally, the indomitable boss of Standard Bikeshop in downtown Bacolod.

The next move was to disassemble the bike. Again, Sally and her team came to the rescue and in a couple of days all parts had been taken off the frame.

The bike was still looking like a pile of junk, but I was confident it could undergo a magical transformation.

Next stop was Elmo the Sprayer in C L Montelibano Street. He’s done many paint jobs for me and he’s one of the best in the business.

Sure enough, once I’d chosen the brilliant red German paint, his team set to work and the result was outstanding.

I was, however, later informed by Leon that the mudguard braces should have been painted aluminum silver thus simulating the original cadmium plating they had when new. I did wonder about that at the time, but too late now and, in any case, the all-red look is quite stunning.

After: the magnificent red Hawthorne restored and raring to go

After: the magnificent red Hawthorne restored and raring to go

The writer on his restored  Hawthorne American bike

The writer on his restored Hawthorne American bike

Once resprayed, it was back to Sally for fitting out. Her mechanics did an excellent job and a few days later I collected a magnificent-looking machine.

It was then over to Elmo again for the finishing touches to the paint work.

I’m delighted with the restoration and I’m now the proud owner of what I would call a classic American bike, though I expect Leon would not completely agree.