Posts Tagged ‘a’
At last! We were able to dig trenches this morning and the mountain of chicken muck is now concealed. Even after several days of thaw the ground was still hard and we now have muscles to match those of Popeye. Or as Leonard Cohen used to sing, ‘we now ache in the places where we used to play’. After yesterday’s early clean-out I deserted the camp and, together with she-who-must-be -obeyed, drove down to Oxford to deliver belated Christmas pressies. Whilst we were with our relatives the cards that we posted well before the big day dropped through their letter-box. So we were not the only people frozen into inaction.
It felt good to make a trip unencumbered by snow or ice. Of course the English climate never tires of tormenting us and, by way of a change, we encountered thick fog through the Midlands. Some idiot had decided to drive blind and the resulting pile up meant that thousands of us spent rather a long time parked on the M6 but it still felt like freedom after weeks of frozen incarceration. And it gave me time to ponder on my vote for Person of the Year when on New Year’s Eve the chicken and ferret folk decide whose picture will adorn the allotment shed through 2011.
Of course no one gives a monkey’s elbow what we lot think but we still take our long-standing tradition seriously. Who impressed us most, cheered us up and regularly revived our sagging spirits? I will let you know tomorrow what we decided but you can be sure of one thing, it won’t be a politician!. It is usually the case that some leading names appear on the slips of paper but those days have gone. The revelations about expenses, the Clegg stance on pledges and the appointment of Lords of dubious character have created a sense of alienation from the ruling classes. I suspect we are not alone!
As if to drive the final nail in the coffin of politicians we learn today that the Telegraph was not exposing a sudden lapse from grace when it broke the news of greed and dishonour. Today’s Telegraph reveals that as long ago as 1980 the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, warned the Cabinet that there was a ” grave risk of serious public scandal” over the abuse of expenses by many MPs. Records of Cabinet meetings, published today by the National Archives, show that parliamentary pay and allowances were the source of great concern. The prime minister went on to warn that MPs should be seen to be accountable for the various secretarial, research assistance and travel allowances. She demanded that Ministers give the lead in tightening the system. There were many abuses and “it might be necessary to consider prosecuting MPs known to be guilty of abuse”. It was necessary to “expose publicly the full implications of MPs’ actions”.
Incredibly nothing was done and it was to be thirty years before the truth was told by a national newspaper. So for three decades many politicians have deceived the people that elected them. The whole system of government was rotten to the core. To be fair there are honourable parliamentarians, but if even a combatative character like the sainted Maggie could not hector them into honesty and openness the lack of integrity was clearly deeply embedded.
The fact that change is now under way reflects no credit on an institution that was clearly happy to embrace dishonesty. Had the Telegraph not decided to act in the public interest we would have continued to pay taxes to fund moats and duck houses. In our book the only title open to politicians is crook of the year!
Between now and tomorrow why not ponder on your own choice of someone who impresssed you, someone who seemed genuine, a role model for your youngsters. There are some such folk out there although I suspect that your list, like mine, will not be a long one!
A fantastic performance by England in Melbourne has ensured that we retain the little urn. The England team was superior to the Aussies in every respect, it is a long time since we have been able to honestly claim that when visiting down under.
We should perhaps spare a thought for Ricky Ponting. He has been a superb batsman over many years and drew the short straw in captaining a team bereft of talent. With the possible exception of Mike Hussay and, occasionally, Mitchell Johnson this Australian side is one of the poorest to wear the baggy green.
But they came up against an England team led as never before by Flower and Strauss. Fitness levels are high, morale likewise. Now all they have to do is put on a repeat performance in Sydney starting on Sunday!
CAMERON’S PAL CONDEMNS PACE OF CUTS!
It is predictable that opponents of the coalition are busy condemning the sheer pace of the financial cuts. Slightly more worrying are the concerns expressed by financial pundits. Extremely worrying is the latest news of a fierce attack by a leading charity figure and key supporter of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.
In an open letter to the prime miister, David Robimson, the co-founder of the Community Links charity, has warned that the massive public spending cuts will doom Cameron’s main social policy initiative to failure and will create a ‘Hurricane Katrina’moment for the coalition.
Robinson, whose charity was described by Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations” writes ” forcing an unsustainable pace on a barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest is not an act of God. Why let it be your Katrina?”
This surprise attack came on the day of a less surprising one. Ed Miliband wrote that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall that have made these decisions appear forbidding and unheeding”.
Perhaps Robinson’s attack will cause someone in government to pause for thought. One can only hope so for the economic readings suggest that the cuts are too rapid and, equally worrying, the trade unions have awoken from their decades of slumber, even moderates such as Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union are openly plannibg major strikes. Katrina moment indeed!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The USSR 2. Whether or not to stay in the EEC
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year was the Watergate burglary in Washington DC? 2. Which Olympics were hit by terrorists who attacked the Israeli athletes?
The thaw has gathered momentum and the main task this morning was to clear the remaining snow before the accursed Jack Frost restores his ghastly grip. Suddenly rows of cabbages have re-emerged, not to mention an array of buckets and tools which have been buried for some time. The weathermen are warning us to make the best of this unusually brief and loveless honeymoon, a strange analogy presumably based on the assumption that Captain Mainwaring’s experience was a one-off.
But this spell of arctic conditions interspersed with bursts of mild air has done more damage than can be seen even by an observant eye. Today there are worrying signs of an influenza epidemic gathering momentum and ‘swine’ variety is to the forefront. Yesterday we learned of the tragic death of little Andrew McCall who died suddenly on Christmas morning. The 23-month-old had no underlying health problems. His devastated parents have called on health officials to vacinate all children under the age of five against swine flu. Mrs McCall said yesterday that “we don’t wish to cause a panic, but we don’t want other parents to lose their babies….the only way to protect your children is by getting a vaccination.We will campaign for the NHS to provide the jab but meantime we know of at least one supermarket chain whose pharmacies are offering the jab for just £8″.
Sadly the McCall family is not the only one in torment today. Flu rates are already approaching epidemic status. There have been 27 deaths and many of the 460 patients already being treated in Intensive Care Units are children. The fear now is that infection levels will rise dramatically over the next few weeks with the return of children to school acting as a major trigger.
And one man should be held accountable for this horrendous situation, one man who decided that saving £8 was more important than protecting a child. Andrew Lansley, who has already alienated the medical profession with his range of ludicrous reforms, ignored medical advice and cancelled the free flu jabs for children younger than five on cost grounds. Last year the parents of all those between 6 months and five years were offered the jab and the resulting high take-up averted the expected epidemic.
For good measure Lansley also axed the advertising campaign for older people and those at risk. As a result there is a much lower take-up this year and far more people are in danger. This was another serious misjudgement and has been heavily criticised by doctors who believed that only an extensive publicity campaign would convince potential victims that swine flu has not gone away. Leading virologist Prof John Oxford said yesterday that “Mr Lansley is on the spot if he doesn’t believe in warnings via advertisements. He is on very thin ice”
The decisions taken by Lansley in cavalier fashion have already cost lives. He has no clinical know-how but, as on other things, decided that he knew best. He put saving relatively small amounts above the need to protect children from what can be a deadly condition. Cameron must intervene today, the free jabs must be restored at once and public notices issued in the leading newspapers tomorrow. There is no time to waste, already GPs, nurses, midwives and NHS staff are under enormous pressure and are warning that a continued failure to immunise will lead to an out-of-control disaster.
Having set the wheels in motion, the prime minister should find time for one other task. He should sack Lansley. It is too late to save those like Andrew McCall but thousands more will be at risk if a self-opinionated clinical illiterate remains in charge.
SOUNDS A GOOD IDEA….BUT!
The coalition has announced plans to build on the Blair idea of petitions. Sadly his concept became somewhat discredited when it was found that many of the proposals from the public were signed by Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson. But the new coalition version will, we are told, have built in checks to ensure that anyone voting on the web site is a registered elector. So far so good.
Anyone can propose a policy and, if they muster 100,000 votes will have it debated in parliament. So far, even better.
However, the blurb tells us that contentious ideas such as coming out of the EU will not proceed. The onus on that would be on parliamentarians who “would have to convince one another of the benefits of staying in Europe”. So far, rubbish! Oh yes, and no proposal that did not conform with the Human Rights Act would be disqualified which means almost everything.
In other words we can propose, and have debated, any issue on which the Conservative Party and the chattering classes agree!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Rev Jim Jones 2. Earl Mountbatten of Burma
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which country invaded Afghanistan in 1979? 2. On what were people in Britain asked to vote in a referendum in 1975?
We’ve even managed to drill through to the fish which must have had a rather peaceful if lonely Christmas. I would like to imagine that they welcomed the rescue but it is of course distinctly possible that at least one of them complained about some old fat blokes suddenly drilling a hole through their roof. Like the coalition government the fish seem to spend their time going round in circles so it is hard to guage their moods. But ours is pretty good at the moment. The partial thaw has helped and we have decided to dismiss the Met Office warning that we are all about to return to Ice Station Zebra on the grounds that the same people promised us a barbeque summer. But the main source of our enhanced seratonin is the news coming through from Melbourne. England are giving the Aussies a thrashing and Ricky Ponting is running up fines for his constant attacks on the umpires. Might be a better to consult your self understanding and go for the batsmen Ricky!
Of course we cricket buffs would like to be there. Well, there is one rider to that! We have no wish to be located within hearing of the ghastly so-called Barmy Army. When, a couple of years ago, a group of us went to Old Trafford for the New Zealand Test we resolved never to go again. For day after day the morons chanted endlessly, never watched the cricket, became drunk and threatening and made sure that anyone who actually enjoys watching the finer points of the game had no chance to do so.
In actual fact the ‘Army’ is the invention of the Australians. They coined the name during the 1994-95 tour, when our team was so unconscionably clueless that the local press concluded, with reason, that only the insane would follow them around the world. From that small acorn an oak has grown and now it casts its shadow over cricket, particularly that of the serious variety such as Test matches.
They maintain a constant chant throughout each day irrespective of what is happening on the field. It is not a difficult one to learn. “We are the Army, the Barmy, Barmy Army, we are the England, the mighty, mighty England” is the gist of it. Dressing up as Nuns or something similar is mandatory for some, for others the display of obese wobbly bellies is a must. In fact these people are unique, they are the only faction of any sporting audience in history whose primary motivation for attending games is not to watch but to be watched. In some ways they produce memories of football hooligans but at least they were caught up in the fortunes of their team.
The identity of many of the army would perhaps surprise you. There is a hardcore that lives on benefits and cadges its way around the world cricket circuit. But many are professional people who delight in the exhibitionism and the annoyance that they are able to cause. Perhaps we should be thankful that they find their satisfaction from exposure in this way, the alternative might be more than annoying.
Whenever I attend a match that draws the Army in I feel genuine anger that so few are allowed to spoil things for so many. But the odds are that the louts are here to stay and travel companies and Sky commentators vie with each other to applaud and accomodate them . I do have one suggestion which I’ve pinched from columnist Matthew Norman. Why not round them up and press-gang them into signing enlistment papers and put them on the first RAF transport to Helmand Province.
Their whole posture is one of the brave defiant warrior and I’m sure that they would put the fear of God into the Taliban. A few belly wobbles and the cry of mighty mighty England would surely make any opponent quake!
THE CASE OF LANSLEY DISEASE!
According to the press both Cameron and other ministers are alarmed at the signs of chaos in the NHS as a result of the ill-thought through changes to the NHS announced by Lansley. A survey has shown that the outcome of the commissioning plan will be a move to postcode medicine. It has also revealed that a vast majority of ward nurses are unable to give adequate attention to patients given the pressures now being applied to reduce staff.
I do know something about the NHS and know without doubt that Lansley is on course to destroy the NHS. The first stage will be a dramatic lengthening of waiting times. Then will come major cuts in important services, the first of these leaked out yesterday. Cancer research is to be cut.
I find it amazing that people like Cameron are shocked. If you put an arsonist in charge don’t be surprised when he burns the house down!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1.1976 2. Ed Koch
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. 900 people died in a mass suicide in Guyana in 1978. Who led this bizaare cult? 2. Which former World War 2 commander and member of the Royal family was murdered by the IRA in 1979?
It seemed odd to be carrying water to the allotment this morning, rather like taking coals to Newcastle. The sudden thaw has converted snowdrifts into lakes. We always knew this would be the eventual outcome but wait a moment. Phil had his radio on and the weather forecast told us to expect a return to Scott of the Antarctic come tomorrow night. At least it prompted me to go up to te Sales for a pair of boots heavy enough to put Rooney out of action for a month. It has to be admitted that this long period of appalling weather has begun to rattle us.
On Christmas Eve one of our members had a family funeral. It was a bad enough experince for Alec and his clan without the added burden of having to walk behind the coffin for the final stretch to the town centre church. Even there the council has failed to make any effort to clear the pavements or side-roads. The government has threatened the airport authorities with fines for inadequate ice-clearance, perhps they should extend this idea to local authorities!
But the coalition probably has other things on its mind, not least today’s opinion poll which shows that after six months of Conservative/Lib Dem rule the 58% that thought the idea of a coalition a good one has shrunk dramatically. Now only 43% give it their support. Within the coalition the Tory vote has held up well but the Lib Dems have almost vansihed off the public radar. If an election was held tomorrow The Miliband family would take over which I guess tells us just how poorly the Cameron/Clegg set-up is regarded.
Apart from the seemingly endless revelations about the feelings of Lib Dem MPs toward the coalition, its biggest problem is that it resembles a town hall clock. It has various faces and the hands are spinning. Today we hear of a U-turn on free books for children. This followed an attack by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who described the decision to end the £13 million grant which funds a book-gifting programme for disadvantaged children as the behaviour of Scrooge at his worst. Others joined in the barrage over the Christmas break including Ian McEwan, author of Atonement. He said that programmes such as this are our only hope of measuring ourselves as a mature and thoughtful society. A U-turn, he said, would be an honourable choice. No sooner said than done. Michael Gove interrupted his holiday to arrange the latest about-face.
Only three days earlier the government had to backtrack on its decision to end funding for school sports.That was another mean-minded decision made without consultation or regard for the consequences. And every week brings another reversal. One suspects that the tactic is to name every service for termination and then to await reactions. If that is the plan it is a disastrous one politically as shown by the polls. A less charitable explanation is that Gove, Lansley and company haven’t a clue.
Either way the simple fact remains that all these small amounts shrink to total insgnificance when compared to handouts to Ireland and other in-trouble Euro users. How we could afford to suddenly produce up to £10 billion is beyond the mental grasp of mere mortals.
All the signs are that the coalition is in a nosedive. On January 13th we will find out just how steep this is. At the general election the Lib Demmer was within a hundred-odd votes of the subequently banned Woolas. So they should walk it this time around, not least because Cameron has banned all active support of the Tory candiudate. If they don’t win we can expect a revolt by over half of the sitting Lib Dem parliamentarians. And bang goes the coalition.
We shall see and it is posssible to pull out of a nosedive. However if some of the crew bail out that becomes less likely! Perhaps Mrs Cameron should hold back on those expensive deluxe velvet curtains!
RETAILERS UNCERTAIN ABOUT PROSPECTS!
I can never fathom why people are prepared to queue throughout Boxing day night to join the mad stampede when the doors open for the Sales. Yes there are a few tempters that go quickly but most of the cut-price goods have been purchsed as such and stocks usually last out the sale.
Be that as it may it cannot be denied that yesterday’ numbers were encouraging for retailers who failed to do record sales in the lead up to the great day. But we have to remember that businesses ultimately survive or otherwise according to profits related to investments. Items in the sales are not to any significant extent profitable. The big test will come in the new year when shoppers face the VAT increase plus rising unemployment and uncertainty.
Right now some large companies are less than optimistic and the sight of hordes snapping up low-profit bargains will not have shifted their plans for extreme investment caution.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Lewis Casson 2. Alison Uttley
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon announce their seperation? 2. Who was elected mayor of New York in 1977?
There was not too much festive spirit on the allotment at first light. Given Albert’s accident there were but two of us to thaw out the drinking utensils and to release the multitude of chickens, many of whom slunk out as if they too had over-indulged before staying up for half the night watching England devastate the Aussies before a record crowd in Melborne. The hen’s demeanour couldn’t have been down to that however for coops are one of the few places not yet under the communications control of Rupert Murdoch.
So far as I could see there was less ‘sledging’ in the Test match than is usual on Boxing Day. This was probably down to the fact that no Australian batsman was at the wicket long enough to say anything. How that Aussie crowd yearned for Warne. He was not only the best spin bowler of all time but one of the champion ‘sledgers’. And he received a fair bit too. I always remember the arrival of an England batsman at the Sidney ground. As he took guard Warne said that he had waited two years for another chance to humiliate him. Quick as a flash the ex cantab arrival replied “Looks like you spent it eating!”.
To return to Rupert Murdoch, the signs are that he is in for a very good new year. The final piece in his jigsaw – to acquire total ownership of Sky – was far from guaranteed whilst Uncle Vince Cable ruled the roost. Sadly he blotted his copy book and the responsibility for the biggest decision ever in the history of the British media has been switched to Murdoch’s pal, Jeremy Hunt. Things couldn’t have worked out better for Cameron and his mate Murdoch.
Back on 28th June, Murdoch and Hunt met to discuss the bid by News Corp to buy the 61% of BSkyB it does not already own. They met in secret and there was no one else present. Most unusually no notes were taken. Civil servants took no notes of a second meeting either, this one between the two men on 21st July. These cloak and dagger meetings followed a dinner hosted by Murdoch on 20th May . Within weeks of coming into office, Hunt was there despite the subject not then being within his remit.
Amongst the many arguments put forward by the Murdoch empire is one concerning the BBC free news web pages. They demand their closure and they are not too happy about the British library’s stated intention to provide free public access to the news archive. Free sites reduce income for Mr Murdoch. Perhaps the fact that the BBC has a worldwide reputation for objective reporting may have as much to do with the popularity of its news bulletin website?
Be that as it may the ‘Digger’ is on course to kill off, or at least mutilate, the Beeb and to acquire the ability to do deals with the likes of David Cameron, and to deliver whatever message he desires through the greater part of the British press and media. When he was one of the first visitors to Downing Street after Cameron became prime minister in May we knew that plans were afoot. It followed the Sun’s Tory-based campaign and it was payback time. With Cable out of the way and Hunt resting in the other pocket of Murdoch’s coat the web of deceit is complete. And the BBC is the fly.
Even to such grizzled sceptics as we chicken keepers it is sad to see corruption spreading through a new government that many put their faith in. Perhaps Boxing Day is an appropriate day on which to mull this over. The name comes not as you might imagine from a long-gone riot at Milwall but from a custom when christmas boxes were given to service workers by masters too busy with their own pleasures on Christmas day itself.
After the Murdoch takeover we will certainly get some treats after the event, not least the Ashes Tests, but the real treat of control and shaping of public opinion will have gone down under !
A WARNING FOR ANDREW LANSLEY!
I was at a Christmas party last evening when a man collapsed and was clearly having serious problems in getting his breath. We rang 999 and within four minutes an ambulance was at te door. Meantime we were given constant instructions by the Ambulance Trust operator.
All ended happily but it caused us all to reflect on the crazy plans that Lansley is promoting. He intends to ‘modernise’ the NHS by which he means localise crucial commissioning decisions and slash staff numbers. Fewer ambulances will be high on the Lansley agenda of lunacy.
The present system for emergencies is a brilliant one. Reduce the vehicles and staff and people will die. The tragedy is that the only protests are about tuition fees. What Lansley is proposing merits a mass occupatiuon of London! We won’t bother and we will die regretting it!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Torquay 2. The Ewings
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Sybil Thorndike died in 1976. Who was her husband from 1908 until his death in 1969? 2. The ctreator of ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ died in 1976. What was her name?