Vaude win award

The outdoor sports company Vaude has just been honoured for their commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

To be honest, I have been quite impressed by the commitment shown by a number of outdoor sports companies, to social and environmental responsibility. Patagonia are an obvious ‘name’ which has pushed the environmental agenda, Rohan are another big company which is making serious strides in that area too, and there are a number of others which can also claim to have pretty decent environmental cred.

But I am particularly impressed by Vaude, a German company whose reputation for social and environmental responsibility throughout their design and production is pretty much impeccable.

As I say, they have just scooped another award or two, this time at the ISPO, an industry trade show in Munich. They won an overall award for their company wide social/eco activism in regards to their production, and a product award for the Vaude Blue One tent – which is a two man tent I think, I’ve yet to see one. All I really know is that it’s made of a poly cotton, which is 65% organic cotton and 35% recycled polyester (PET1).

They are a pretty impressive company, the sort of people who remind you that there is really no excuse for other companies of a similar nature not to be walking the same path. Among other things they say about themselves:

“VAUDE is mindful in its dealings with people and the environment. Due to our constant inner reflection and unwavering idealism, we are quick and courageous to seek out contact with contemporary subjects and explore our own potential – leading to stories worthwhile in their making.”

Sport equipment and clothing is high specification stuff, the good stuff lasts a long time we still have a Vaude rucsac that has been going strong for some time, a veteran of a number of overland expeds and other voyages – other cheaper rucsacs have not fared so well. If you are buying new, which I accept with this kind of clothing or equipment is often the most effective way (ahem – unless you go on ebay – ahem) – then buying from the most responsible producer you can is important. Check out the maker before you buy, and dont let yourself be glitzed by the fashionable looks of a particular jacket or piece of kit, that look will be old in a year or two’s time, while the item itself should have many years of life in it.

So well done Vaude, I’m genuinely impressed. I have asked for more info about the Blue One tent, and if and when I get it, I shall share it.

How to deal with an insurance company, without resorting to legal action

In May of this year, I was hit by a car while riding my bike.

As it happens, I was very fortunate, I wasnt too badly hurt, and the lady who was driving was a) insured and b) very helpful.

So anyway, after a trip to the hospital I was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, and a broken toe, it was at that point I started being told to ‘get a lawyer’. But as you may have guessed, I am not keen on the kind of ambulance chasing legal action which goes on these days, and which has massively inflated not only our general insurance premiums, but also the bank balances of certain lawyers. So to put it mildly I wasnt keen to go down that route.

However, I was in a quandry, I wanted to get compensated for the work that I was unable to do for a month while my wrist repaired, and I also felt it was fair to ask the insurers to pay me something by way of compensation for the pain I had suffered. Granted a broken wrist is not the most horrific of injuries, but it’s sore none-the-less, and jolly inconvenient, as is a broken toe.

So on reflection I decided to speak to the insurers and see if I couldnt deal with them myself, without suing anyone, and without retaining the services of a law firm. To put it mildly the insurers were suprised and a bit taken aback, but they finally accepted that yes, they could indeed do their job and work with me as an individual, instead of entering into some ridiculous legal battle.

I have now, within six months, got a small settlement from them, which compensates me adequately, and hasnt contributed to the advancement of insurance premiums for everyone else. Nor have I sued anyone – which is something I am very glad about – it was an accident after all!

So anyway, if you feel like me, and you would prefer not to use lawyers in a simple accident situation, here are my top tips for dealing with an insurance company without resorting to legal action. To be totally clear, I am not a legal expert, and my experience is only really relevant to those who have simple injuries which are completely healed within a few months. As the insurers would no doubt tell you, if your inury is complex or serious, you will need to do something else. However, even if you do enter into a ‘direct’ dealing with the insurers, you still have the right to retain legal help should you need it.

Top tips on dealing directly with an insurance company.

First of all – when you are hit by a car, van, bus, whatever, find out who their insurer is, and take their details as if it were a car accident. You can then contact them.  And when you do…

1) Don’t be greedy – an accident should not be seen as an earning opportunity. It is an accident. If you treat it that way, and they do too, then you can come to a reasonable agreement.

2) Document everything that happens, from your visits to the hospital to your correspondance with the insurers, and keep a file with all the details and documents. Take photographs of any damage, and write down anything that happened in a clear and precise way. Be prepared to send them any information they need, and comply readily with their requests for you to get medical assesments done etc.

3) Be scrupulously open and honest. This goes with the first point about not being greedy, don’t try and claim for things which aren’t real, dont claim your bike was a £2000.00 Trek when it was a £50.00 mongrel, and dont say you have whiplash if you just bent your finger back. Don’t say anything you can’t demonstrate is true, and don’t try to con anyone, as it’s wrong, and you will probably get caught. If the accident was your own flippin’ fault – then dont try and blame someone else either, that isnt fair.

4) Confirm that any compensation to be paid in respect of injury is in line with the guidelines set out by the Judicial Studies Board. Just writing to the insurers to say this should show them that you know what is expected of them, and will hopefully mean they wont try and fob you off with a fiver for a broken arm. To explain compensation for a moment – you need to understand that there are three ways in which it will be paid: a) your bike or skateboard , clothing or whatever else was damaged in your accident should be replaced – they should pay you the replacement value. b) any lost work should be compensated, you will need to demonstrate that you have lost money, they will want paperwork for this. c) you are entitled to be compensated for any injuries – guidelines for how much you should be paid are set out by the JSB, but you should understand that if like me you have two injuries, or more, then its not like a shopping list, the full price doesnt get added on with each injury, because in each case there is an amount for emotional disturbance included, and this would not be doubled just because you hurt your nose AND your toe.

If you do these things, and nag the insurance company to make sure they havent forgotten about you, then they should treat you properly, and the whole thing can be sorted out amicably between you and the insurer concerned. That way we avoid making lawyers even richer, and help keep down the insurance premiums for everyone.


Parkour club

We have started a parkour club, with the help of the good people from Team Reality – so now every friday night there is a Parkour training session on Nunsthorpe, Grimsby.

The lead trainer is the very talented Neil Hutson, and the sessions are indoors using safe equipment – ideal if you are interested in trying the sport or want to practise your skills.

Sessions cost a whopping 50p… and if you can scrape it together then come along for two hours of top quality Parkour training – an absolute bargain my friend. For time and venue details – contact me.

Good Customer service from Finisterre

A while back I bought my wife a Merino jumper from the British clothing brand Finisterre, it was a pretty high value item which was bought as a present, and I was impressed by its technical performance. I think it was one of the first ever pieces of Merino clothing we bought.

Now you have to understand that because it was an expensive piece of clothing Kel didnt wear it an awful lot, certainly not for rough outdoors type activities, which is what it was designed for. She used it mainly for layering (thermal and wicking properties are very good) and what you might call ‘light leisure wear’.

But after a while we noticed there was an issue with the garment, namely a couple of small holes had developed along one or two of the seams. I had a close look at them and decided I felt that rather than wear and tear, these were caused by either too tight stitching at the seam or too dense a stitch count meaning that there’s not enough give at the seam to accomodate the relatively soft nature of the wool. Sorry, that’s quite boring, and might even be wrong – but that was my assesment.

So I got in touch with Zoe at Finisterre to tell her about it.

Customer service point 1) She suggested I send it back to them using a freepost system.

Customer service point 2) She listened to my points, and kept me closely informed of what was happening to the top. She sent it to their product designers to see what they thought the problem was.

Customer service point 3) Rather than argue with me about it, they mended the top and offered a discount on future purchases.

Many many clothing companies wouldnt even consider this kind of customer service, Finisterre have my admiration for excellent quality customer and product support, and this one small issue aside, very good quality products.

If you buy new clothing, which in the main I dont, then I reccomend you check them out. Their prices are quite high, meaning that their products are not throw-away and their range is quite small, meaning that they dont have loads of waste.

I really rate this brand for quality, ethical production and superb customer service.

Thanks Finisterre.

what happens when a pioneer leaves?

Following on from reflections on pioneer lifestyles and ministries over recent months, I read that David Hieatt is leaving the company he founded, Howies.

For those who dont know, Howies is a kind of Green Urban Sports clothing company, they make stuff for cyclists, skaters and so on, and perhaps most notably for those who want to look like cyclists and skaters.

The great thing about Howies was, for me, their independence, their ability to stick it to the man while still working inside the system. More recently though David and his wife Clare sold a proportion of the company to Timberland, a multinational fashion chain. I think that was a point when Howies lost something of their edge, they still make good clothes, with great design elements, but something changed at that time. And it wasnt just that the Anti American rants disappeared.

Somehow they were more comfortable, more able to do thier thing without worrying about the cashflow, and the Hieatts were no doubt glad not to have to remortgage their home over and over just to keep the company afloat.

But now David is leaving, which he reflects upon briefly here. Its an interesting and bold move, he seems a very creative and challenging character, and is a great writer.

He and Clare pioneered Howies, Clare remains with the company, but David has left, what will happen now to this thing they built? I’ll be watching with interest. And best of luck David.

Hacking Timbuktu by Steve Davies

Excellent writer and father to be, Steve ‘the tallest white man in the Sahel’ Davies has released a video teaser for his new book ‘Hacking Timbuktu’. If its as good as his other books, it will be a great read. And I believe I am correct in saying a certain person who frequents this blog had a hand in some of the ‘technical’ aspects of it too.

My eldest daughter is just finishing the Yellowcake Conspiracy, she’s raring to get her hands on Hacking Timbuktu!

Available September 3rd, 2009.