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Blog

This is where I write about what interests me.

“A Nation of Shopkeepers.”

James Stratford

Napoleon famously called England a nation of shopkeepers. He claimed he didn't mean it pejoratively, but it was a keen observation nonetheless. I am reminded of this comment when I go about my business as a photographer.

I deal with the public frequently, and I have noticed that many of the people I meet with have very little grasp of how a business works. I hear comments about hourly rates, confusion over gross and net revenue, no inkling of the work that goes into a business outside of that required specifically to fulfil one client's needs, and so on.

Once upon a time many people learned a trade. They would start their lives in apprenticeships or in their parents' business and would learn that what one pays for something is not entirely made up of just the value of that thing itself. Sadly, this is being lost in an age of the-nine-to five job and regular salary.

To use my own business as an example, I must spend money on far more than just the album I present to a client after their wedding or the prints I give a portrait sitter. I pay for insurance, a website, other marketing costs, equipment refreshes, computers and (expensive) software, etc. I spend time and money visiting suppliers, venues, colleagues, and potential clients. After I pay my second shooters and produce an album, I then pay tax on what I make as profit afterwards.

I love my job—I'm not complaining about that—but I wish the general public still understood that businesses have costs and those costs are not simply the wholesale prices of the goods they sell.

I also find that many people underestimate how much they earn themselves. The average wage in Britain is roughly £26,500. Trust me, this is a lot of money to someone starting a business and putting in long hours hauling their business off the starting line.

The same principles apply to all businesses. Your Starbucks coffee isn't just water and beans. It's premises costs, wages, marketing and transportation expenses, legal costs, and so on. Other businesses have research and development expenses, which is why they sue each other to protect their intellectual property.

The next time you employ someone, don't take the amount they are charging you and divide it by the number of hours you saw them or subtract your estimate of their wholesale price. Imagine the hours of work that goes into painting their van with their company's logo and phone number, the training they have done, the interest on bank loans. All these costs have to be covered by their revenue. That revenue comes from the customer.

There is one final thing that people also never seem to understand about those running their own businesses: stress. Running you own business makes every work problem feel personal. When something goes wrong, it feels far more stressful than your boss shouting at you in an office. When work isn't coming in, that means you don't earn any money that month.

When we consider the costs we might not know about, the stress that comes with being ones's own paymaster, and the long hours that come with the territory, perhaps we should all have a little more respect for the shopkeepers.

…but I digress.

Ones & Zeros

James Stratford

I rest my arm at the window of my taxi

As we pass through the ones and zeros.

Club sounds felt through my bones;

The smells of a world never lit in my nose.

 

No sense or culture here.

Just ones meeting zeros.

No purpose or thought;

Humans reduced to binary by beer and mojitos 

 

Vomit and brawls, 

Fast food in short skirts.

Shallow liaisons, repressed self-esteem;

The ones and zeros fuel the machine.

 

Sore heads on Sunday,

Memories incomplete.

No worth added to the race,

The never-lit world gone for another week

 

Another Monday, the same old question.

Sell the myth, be like the rest:

"Did you have fun on Saturday?"

"It was the best."

 

…but I digress.

Me, Myself & I

James Stratford

I’ve noticed more and more people using the words myself, yourself, themselves, himself etc. instead of me, you, them, him. It seems people think these are somehow posher versions of the same word. They aren’t. They are different and they are not interchangeable.

“I will send that over to yourself later today.”

A colleague of mine used to say this sentence again and again when I worked with him shortly after we both left uni a few years back. This friend was an intelligent guy—a nuclear physicist—but he kept doing this and it was incredibly grating to someone like me who loves languages.

Consider the following sentences:

I dress myself.

I dress me.

You love yourself a bit too much.

You love you a bit too much.

Do you love me?

Do you love myself?

It’s clear which one is correct in those pairings. What makes one feel right and the other feel wrong and how can you apply this to less obvious situations?

Words ending -self are reflexive pronouns. That means you use them when the action is being done to the person carrying out that action. For example:

I wash myself.

You feed yourself.

They dress themselves.

If the thing you are doing is being done to someone else, then you do not use this form of the pronoun.

“I will send that over to you later today.” That isn’t any less posh, but it is correct.

There are other times when you might choose to use these words. Myself is not solely a reflexive pronoun. For instance, you might say: “I, myself, delivered the letter.” This is for emphasis. If the I was taken from that sentence then it would read very poorly indeed.

You and I

This isn’t quite the same gripe, but it is perhaps even more common and even more incorrect.

“This could affect you and I.”

This is wholly wrong. Again, it seems that this usage of I is born out of a desire to sound proper or even posh.

To show just how silly this is, simply remove the ‘you and’.

“This could affect I.”

We can all see this is a very bad sentence.

The confusion arises because it’s not always wrong to say you and I per se. For instance:

“You and I both know you are lying.”

This is absolutely fine, because the you and I are the subjects of the sentence. If you don’t know what I mean, just replace the ‘you and I’ with ‘we’. If it makes sense, then you are doing it right. If it doesn’t sound right, try replacing the ‘you and I’ with ‘us’. If it sounds right, then you should use using you and me, not you and I.

“We both know you are lying.”

“This could affect we.”

We = you and I

Us = you and me

This isn’t being a grammar nazi. It’s a common mistake that is not going to be just accepted as modern usage rather than poor grammar any time soon.

…but I digress.