WHAT’S a bitsa? You know, bitsa this, bitsa that – a real mix of things this week, just for a change. Let’s start with my last piece about bad debts, in the April Fool’s edition.
I thought it might generate a bit of reaction, and it did! Congratulations to those who did the sums and – quite rightly – said that the 12 per cent was the annual rate of interest, to be compounded at one per cent per month. I bet that had a few people reaching for their calculators! And how interesting that the couple of clients who contacted me and said, “you weren’t talking about me, were you?” are both delightful companies to deal with. The ones with whom I have problems are keeping very quiet!
I had a response from a friend of mine in England, too. He reminded me of the practise over there of naming and shaming – one company was so fed up with customers who owed them money that they painted the names of the offending customers all over the side of a big van and drove around the town all day. That brought very positive results, I am told! I remember that the very first “Is it just me?” piece I wrote, however many years ago now, talked about debt collectors in Marbella. Their staff dress in outfits of the Pink Panther and drive bright pink Mercedes cars with “Debt Collector” written in large print on the side. Imagine such a car parked outside your office and a Pink Panther character sat in your reception area, explaining – very politely – to everyone who comes in that they are there to collect the outstanding debt. Works a treat! I said at the time that I was amazed nobody had taken it up here, and I still say that now.
With regard to the naming and shaming concept, I feel that it is very effective. The trouble is that here in Portugal the legislation seems designed to protect the guilty in certain instances, and this is one of them. I am talking with legal advisers now to see if there are any ways of establishing a public forum for naming and shaming – to protect companies from customers who have an active policy of non-payment as much as anything. When I worked in Gibraltar, a local printing company had a large poster on the door with a list of clients who owed money, and that warned everyone else of potential problems.
But enough of that – for now, anyway… Onto something totally different. Sister Lúcia, the last surviving “little shepherd” to whom Our Lady appeared near Fátima in 1917, died in February of this year. Pope John Paul II died two weeks ago. Both were major events for millions of Catholics and will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the number of pilgrims making the journey to Fátima next month. Without wishing to be at all cynical (moi?), I can imagine the shops stocking up right now with memorabilia.
I was working in London when Prince Charles married Diana. A public holiday was given so the country could celebrate. I wallpapered my living room (funny what you remember, isn’t it?). But I also remember the headline in the Morning Star, a leading communist newspaper, the next day. It said, simply, “Two leading capitalists marry”. Now Charles is marrying Camilla – I shall be interested to see what the headlines read this time round! No public holiday for this one, and I cannot see a roaring trade in duplicate engagement rings, wedding dresses and him ‘n’ her dolls. You have no doubt seen the email doing the rounds that says that Camilla has refused the Queen’s wedding present of an all-expenses paid weekend in Paris complete with limousine and chauffeur! Me? Cynical?
I move on, swiftly. Let me share a little story that came from a friend of mine:
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, which hung either end of a pole she carried across her shoulders. One pot was perfect, and the other had a crack in it. When she went to collect water in the pots, the perfect one was always full when she got home and the other had always leaked some water. The perfect pot was very proud of its performance, and the cracked pot was very sad.
One day, the cracked pot said to the old lady, “Mistress, I am ashamed that I cannot serve you as well as the perfect pot, and I always leak water.”
But the old lady smiled at the pot and said, “I know that you leak water. That is why I planted seeds along the side of the path, so that each time we come from the well, you watered them, and now there are beautiful flowers growing. Notice, there are no flowers on the side of the perfect pot. I can pick the flowers to grace my home and they give me enormous pleasure. That could not happen if you were perfect: it can only happen because you are the way you are.”
Each of us has one unique flaw, our own crack. But it’s these cracks that make us who we are, perfect in our own ways. And, as the story shows, it’s the cracked pots that often bring greatest pleasure. Speaking personally, I know several cracked pots, and I love them all to bits – so please, take time to acknowledge and honour the cracked pots in your life!