SO THERE I WAS, getting out of the car to go to a PRA roadshow, when I suddenly realised that it was November and I was in my shirtsleeves! Perhaps there is something to this global warming business after all. I just wish the experts could make their minds up what weather conditions to blame on global warming, what weather conditions to blame on El Nino and what they will accept as being normal.

QUITE A FEW YEARS AGO it all seemed simple as far as the UK was concerned – global warming equalled no rain, equalled water restrictions. The prognosis for petrol retailers was fairly optimistic. Lots of hot dry weather giving us plenty of sales of drinks, ice cream and charcoal, with petrol demand being high as a result of the day trips and evening drives to that pub in the country. Install water recycling for the car wash and get the best of both worlds – dusty cars and a hosepipe ban to stop people doing it themselves.

As last year’s ice cream sales (and Paul Daniels!) will testify, it hasn’t exactly worked out like that. We’ve not been short of water. It’s been in so much over-supply that thousands of people now own property that’s virtually worthless due to being repeatedly flooded. Anyone who stumped up the money for water recycling has been wondering how the hell they let themselves be talked into such a worthless investment.

SO TEH RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT that, unless there is heavy rain this winter, we will face water restrictions next summer only seems to be the start of the cycle again. Anyone who knows their Old Testament, and remembers the Egyptians with their seven years of feast followed by seven years of famine, could be forgiven for wondering whether the Egyptians had been spewing CFCs into the ozone or whether it’s not so much a case of global warming more a case of Mother Nature.

MEANWHILE, CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. I honestly believe that Ray Holloway and his merry band are doing a pretty good job. Hang on, I can (almost) hear you say. Mo’gas and the PRA? Surely not! Now if you ask me whether the PRA will solve the hot product issue or get hypermarket predatory pricing banned I would have to say that I believe not. If you ask me whether the PRA will persuade the oil companies to stop imposing onerous and one-sided supply contracts on us I would say I think that’s very doubtful. On the other hand, at least they are out there banging the drum and trying to do something about it. I believe their representations on our behalf carry far more influence than we could ever achieve as individuals, even assuming that any of us had the time and the knowledge to go it alone. I also have to say that some of their more recent ‘special’ deals for members have been very good. Whether it be waste collection, bank charges or training packages, these specials really do offer real benefits and opportunities to save money. Add in the standard of the speakers and exhibitors at the roadshows, and the topicality of the presentations, plus the opportunity to meet up with fellow retailers at a time when the industry has never been more lonely, and I have to conclude that the PRA has come a long way since the days of Uncle Bruce.

WHILE HANDING OUT MOGAS’S ‘New Years Honours’ I feel I should also acknowledge my admiration for Mark Bradshaw and Garage Watch. From a retailing point of view this has to be an outstanding example of what can be achieved out of adversity. The small, rural, filling station is the most threatened of our species, and yet Mark has shown that by refusing to just sit and bewail doom and gloom things can be achieved. Gaining exemption from vapour recovery for small sites might not make the front-page headlines of The Sun, but it could well make the difference of a few more years of being able to earn a living for those involved.

Which just leaves this particular Scrooge (Christmas Future?) to wish you compliments of the season.