Posts Tagged ‘Blokes’
Yet more rain! It seems unfair that people south of Croydon are being asked to forego baths over Christmas when we don’t even need to go indoors to have one. This morning we resorted to laying planking over the worst of the hen-run bogs and a hundred or so Columbian Blacktails gathered round to gawp. Albert addressed the multitude but it reminded me of mass meetings at Leyland Motors when mad people on the platform harangued a crowd of blokes openly reading The Sun.
An hour later, and by now as wet as Norman Lamont, I headed for Tesco armed with a two-foot long list perpared by she-who-must-be-obeyed who has the unenviable task of preparing meals to feed a hundred people we only see once per year. Arriving at the Tesco car park was somewhat unnerving, I have arrived at Wembley Stadium and encountered less angry motorists. But, with some trepidation, I found a space and followed the crowd of trolley-pushers.
During the course of the year an elderly friend often tells me that she has made her restful daily visit to the superstore. It is, she always says, a lovely place to walk around and to stop in an aisle for a chat. Today she would have been more likely to stop for a fight. There were zillions of people shooting up and down the aisles, pausing only to throw something into trollies already loaded to capacity. Drop a packet of Bisto and you could be sure that someone would crash into you, and be equally sure that no apology would be forthcoming. For everyone seemed very stressed and in a state of high anxiety.
I noticed one rather large lady, who could easily hold her own in the Wigan Rugby League scrum, who was pushing one trolley and towing another. She was clearly in a foul mood and was taking no prisoners. If Tesco award Club Card points for bruises dished out she would be on her way to a free baseball bat.
Having found the majority of what felt like a year’s catering requirement, I eventually reached the check-outs. Because I wanted to be home before nightfall I elected to do my own till work and experienced illogical bouts of gratitude when the computer recognised bar-codes. It did occur to me that stores such as this are on to a very good thing, we select our own goods and oversee our own payment.
It was really like a scene from Orwell’s 1984. Thousands were obediently obeying tannoy announcements and quarrelling only with each other. At one point I joined a jostle for brussels, and we don’t even like the things. From time to time we were told to keep moving, at one point I did so without my feet touching the ground. But, my daughter tells me, one has the advantage of price bargains. I confess that I saw no sign of my fellow clones checking labels and the few that I glimpsed were confusing. A huge stack of boxes of chocolates bore a poster proclaiming that the price was slashed to £5 and two cost only £10.
One man remarked that this was “all about one day”. He is right, for the store reopens on Boxing Day. But it did strike me as sad that what used to be the most magical time of the year has been reduced to this.
In the late 19th century the churches of the time came together and decided to abolish Hell on the grounds that it was adversely affecting recruitment. But today I realised that in the absence of a theological version the people have created one of their own.
I came away reflecting that I would much have preferred being at the Christmas party of the Witney set. But even that may be less joyful this year for the Camron’s are probably nervous about being entertained by Rebeka Brooks, James Maxwell and Jeremy Clarkson since the latter might have a mike concealed about his person.
TOMORROW; A TALE FOR CHRISTMAS EVE
I’m sure that when Burns set in train the fad for seeing ourselves as others see us he little realised just how painful a process it can be. I have never attended one of the zillions of courses aimed at teaching the art for I have no need. When she-who-must-be-obeyed is in full flow a dozen managemnt consultants couldn’t match her. This morning the paper-boy had staged one of his regular one-day strikes, which are always guaranteed to switch attention to me as I rush my cornflakes in readiness for joining my colleagues in the greatest chicken project since Kentucky.
We are, she told me, just a group of dopey old blokes messing around with an even larger group of dopey hens. Can you believe that? Well maybe you can, maybe you believe that Roman Abramovich is richer than Solomon simply because he happens to be a mate of Putin rather than the world’s shrewdest businessman. Oh dear, maybe you are right.
I yield to the possibility, having read yesterday the findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize. What he has to say is devastating to the beliefs that high fliers entertain about themselves. He claims to have discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. This idea is based on a study that he conducted over eight years of the results of 25 top business ’stars’. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero.
The results, he tells us, resembled “what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill”. His findings have been widely replicated. They show that, for example, traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. Given the total failure of the financial sector this comes as less of a shock that the various authors may imagine, but what of business at large?
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading FTSE British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests carried out on patients at Broadmoor. On central indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders!
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong senes of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic tendencies are more likely to be selected and rewarded. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you’re likely to go to prison, If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family you’re likely to go to business school. If doing down others by any means is your thing, you are likely to end up in a very highly paid job or even become Prime Minister.
It is certainly true that the chief exceutives of today behave like dukes of old extracting from their estates. What they extract is out of all proportion to what they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the business they parasite. They are no more deserving of their wealth than oil sheikhs. The rest of us gape on the sidelines and usually assume that, say, Bob Diamond takes more pay from Barclays than the sum total paid to one hundred of his employees simply because he is one hundred times cleverer that one hundred of them. But is he really?
In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country by 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.
Someone has to be in charge of everything but what has changed is the amount of reward. Clearly that is all that has changed, for the shrinks suggest that those at the top are no different to the old autocratic duffers of my youth. They both cashed in on who they knew, rather than what. They both were, or are, happy to climb at the expense of others.
Think about it. Is you ultimate boss really a hundred times smarter than you? Would he or she really win Mastermind? When I apply all this in retrospect I have to confess that I most certainly was not as clever as many of the managers who really ran the ship, mind you the pay differential was not the ludicrous thing it now is!
Anyway I must stop now, it is time to head off for a team-building session with Albert and my other chicken consultants.
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Who won the Best British Group award at the 2007 Brits? 2. Where did golfer Padraig Harrington win his first major, the Open Championship? 3. To which mammal family does the dingo belong? 4. Who preceded David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party? 5. Which tobacco company sponsored the ‘Football Yearbook’ from 1970 to 2001? 6. What is the study of rocks and rock formation? 7. Who was short-listed for the Turner prize for “Shark in Formaldehyde? 8. Is the penguin native to the North Pole or the South Pole? 9. Which building, built on an island in San Francisco Bay, is now a tourist attraction? 10. On which two countries’ borders is Mount Everest?
The question has to be faced. To a group of blokes for whom cricket has been a big feature of their lives, it is an unthinkable question. But it has to be faced, and quickly!
When Mr Justice Cooke was passing sentence on the Pakistan players found guilty of cheating in the Lords Test, he remarked that the very name of cricket used to be associated with fair dealing both on and off the field. ‘It’s not cricket’ became an adage used by vast numbers of people, many of whom had no interest in the game. When I was a youngster, and a very poor player, cricket was an example for life. In those days you walked from the wicket the moment you felt the slightest nick as the ball travelled in the air to keeper or slips. It was a matter of honour. And if you fielded near to the boundary and knew that the ball had touched it before you grabbed it, you signalled a boundary to the umpire.
It all sounds old fashioned and goody-goody now doesn’t it? But that is how it was . I once shared a dressing room with someone known to be light-fingered, but even he dare not risk the contempt of his peers by cheating at cricket. Someone once described the game as religion in action, it was apt.
Over the years those standards have dropped. Even England’s leading batsmen wait for the umpire’s finger even though they know that they are out. Even England’s fielders claim catches that they know have touched the turf. But, as far as we know, our national team is guilty of nothing worse than lower standards of sportsmanship.
The fixing practiced by Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammaid Asif was appalling, and represents a huge threat to the future of a complicated game that is clearly vulnerable to so many ways of cheating. In this specific case, the aim was not so much to cheat their opponents but the bookmakers, for whom cricket is a massive industry in Asia. Their agent, Mazhar Majeed, took huge sums of cash in exchange for providing details of three balls which would be bowled as no-balls (front foot over the line). His promise was kept.
Unfortunately for him the person he gave the cash to was a reporter for the News of the World. Once the promised no-balls appeared as promised it didn’t require Sherlock Holmes to prepare a prosecution. But, as the Judge inferred, one would have to be very naive to imagine that this was other than the tip of an ugly iceberg.
The most worrying aspect of this affair is that it took a tabloid investigator to expose it. The anti-corrution squad of the International Ctricket Council (ICC) was nowhere to be seen. If only half of the boasts made on film by the crooked agent are true the practice of fixing specifics bits of action in top matches is prevalent. The game is, it seems, riddled with the cancer of corruption.
Already cricket lovers are casting their minds back to possibly suspicious actions. The top batsman who made a poor defensive stroke, the three batsmen out to a ‘hat-trick’, the fumble in the field, the crazy run-out, the no-balls..the list of possibilities is a long one. Of course, even international stars make mistakes, but suddenly we ask ourselves if they were mistakes. And remember that the result of the game might not be the fixing target, it could be incidental.
In his column of this morning, former England captain Michael Vaughan looks back and wonders if all the matches he played in were quite what they seemed. He recalls the Test against Pakistan in Karachi in December 2000. Pakistan had the match in the palm of their hands but suddenly collapsed from a strong position to leave England with a tiny target. Vaughan recalls what seemed ” a very surreal atmosphere, a feeling that there was something odd “. Or was it down to a “dodgy wicket”? This sort of speculation will pour forth over the coming months, not least in the New Year when England meet Pakistan again.
Vaughan agonises about the seemingly magnificent 169 scored by Stuart Broad in the now tainted Lords Test. At the time we hailed a new Freddie Flintoff, now we wonder if the bowling was sub-standard as individuals concentrated on what they had to do to fix a whole series of no-balls. One thing is for sure, the mounted trophy will have been moved from the centre of Stuart’s sideboard.
The ICC now faces a massive challenge. I for one have no wish to pay good money to watch international matches that may well be as dishonest as professional wrestling. Already the sense of longing for next season has been replaced by a doubt as to whether what we see will be real or faked. Already we are hearing stories of players from across the world being threatened with appalling retribution should they decide to tell all.
Most first class umpires and referees are former top players and they have to be the first line of defence. Not all matches are televised and their notes must cover all ‘unusual’ happenings. But that is far from enough. The ICC must come up with a watertight method of match reviews. Personal checks of bank balances and the like will not help, if a player can cheat on the field he is hardly likely to have a conventional Barclays account.
Most of that is my guesswork, I simply don’t know how the game can be brought back under control. All I know is that every cricket fan in the world is right now asking his or herself if there is any longer any point in watching or supporting cricket.
This is of course far from the first instance of cheating. But there can be no more whitewash enquiries, this has to be the last scandal, or the game so many love will crumble before our eyes, and quickly.
OOOOO JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE WEEKEND QUIZ OOOOO
One of the perks of working on the allotments is the access to every daily rag. I can’t claim to read them all but I always make a beeline for ‘G2′, the daily supplement of The Guardian. I confess that such limited understanding as I have of the modern world is the result of reading the work of people like Charlie Brooker.
Today he has revealed that there now exists a supercomputer capable of predicting the future. It’s called Nautilus and is housed at the University of Illinois. Charlie tells us that Nautilus has ” 1024 Intel nehalem ocres (with) a total processing power of 8.2 teraflops”. I haven’t the faintest idea what that means but it sits there sifting through every news story, analysing them for general “mood” using a process called “automated sentiment mining”. Of course women come fully equipped with that but we blokes have to build computers to work out what our fellow humans are thinking.
Anyway, having eaten 100 million news bulletins, Nautilus predicted the Arab Spring and the rough whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. It does apear that Nautilus only made these predictions retrospectively, ie some time after the fact. Scientists checked over his output and decided various peaks and troughs had represented clear signs of coming trouble. Now, predicting the future after it has happened isn’t much use but they do appear to believe that the potential for forecasting what awaits us is there.
It did occur to me that such a technique is capable of manipulation. If, for example, some evil scientist with a bent for socialism – if such still exists – were to feed only stories concerning David Cameron’s U-turns, our newly found friend Nautilus might be tempted to predict that he will make one turn too many. Then again, he probably will.
Anyway, Charlie’s revelation prompted me to consider what use we could make of this new miracle in the making. Having recently watched a TV programme called “Red and Black” I was on the verge of concluding that we have all gone stark raving mad, or at least those who, like me, that trouble to watch this rubbish have. It was then I wondered why almost none of us, including me, seem to give a moment’s thought to the latest scientific prediction that all life on earth will cease in about 30 to 50 years time. Why not ask Nautilus to give it a few minutes?
Today I read of the latest satellite sea-ice maps which show that the melt of the Arctic ice is speeding up at an alarming rate. Georg (there is no e, this is not a typo) Heygster, head of the Institute of Environmental Physics at Bremen, says that the speed of melt change is shocking. If the current trend continues there will be a largely ice-free summer Arctic within 30 years. This stunning loss of Arctic sea-ice is, according to Heygster and various other leading scientists, a final wake up call that climate change caused by man is “here now and is having devastating effects”. I could go on since I am cribbing this from the latest scientific press, but I am sure you get the message.
Which is that this is maybe the perfect subject for our new friend Nautilus. It could actually convince us that there are more important things than to watch Red and Black or even Big Brother. It could perhaps persuade Mr Cameron that building houses all over the green belt would be not only harmful but also something of a waste given a time limit of 30 years or whatever number Nautilus comes up with.
But there clearly is a problem. Since Nautilus only provides predictions after the event we wouldn’t still be here to read it. Perhaps Nautilus 11 could be programmed to run the world in our absence?
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A VERY SPECIAL MIDWEEK QUIZ ???????????
A hen escaped this morning. It proved elusive to a bunch of old blokes wearing wellies and, after countless attempts to collar it, Bob suggested we leave it to come to its senses. But as it headed for the neighbouring road Albert made the point that being an idiot, it has no sense to come to and was in imminent danger of sharing the fate of a hedgehog which ended up as flat as a cold omelette. So a large net was sent for and capture achieved.
It was the comments about idiots that led to a suggestion that I use the blog to nominate a national idiot of the week. Today’s choice was a close run thing but former Labour minister Michael Meacher made it by a length. He has chosen to publish on his blog a picture appearing to show Chancellor George Osborne with a gaping, six-inch wound across the throat. The headline screams “Labour should go for Osborne’s jugular”.
Just how stupid can anyone get? There are many fanatical and disturbed people out there, and to them the picture is open to literal interpretation. As one commentator on the website said “it is important we don’t unconsciously create an atmosphere of violent hyperbole and the dehumanisation of those we don’t agree with. If a Tory blog had a picture of Ed Balls hanging from a lamp-post we’d be appalled”. Indeed.
Mr Meacher has every right to castigate George Osborne over his financial policy. But to do so in a way that appears to extol violence in its worst form is appalling. As at this moment the article remains online and merits top prize for idiocy.
Not far behind was David Cameron for once again demonstrating his total lack of English history. It is the job of a British prime minister to stand up for his country when abroad. But again the Old Etonian has chosen to denegrate his homeland. When visiting Pakistan he chose to to place the entire blame for the 60-year conflict in Kashmir at our door. Forget the fact that he is supposed to be our defence counsel, he is historically incorrect. At least in mitigation he could have pointed out that we gave Pakistan parliamentary democracy, superb irrigation systems, excellent roads, the rule of law, the English language, and even such valued pastimes as cricket. And serious historians have been quick to point out that many other historical actors have played their part in the recent story of this deeply troubled Indian state. All this apart he could have pointed out that we contribute billions of pounds in aid, and were foremost in leaping to help during last year’s terrible floods.
Readers will doubless recall his speech in the United States when he claimed that in 1940 we were a junior partner in the fight against Hitler and all his works. In fact at that point we stood alone! Sadly our new prime minister matches Tony Blair in his complete lack of historical facts and an eagerness to ingratiate himself with every audience.
So there we have it. The very first Allotmenteer’s Idiocy Awards. It is hard to refrain from adding that with people like Meacher and Cameron involved in the leadership of Britain it is no surprise that we are in an almighty mess!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HONESTY: “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics”…….Benjamin Disraeli “There are three kinds of liars; liars, damned liars, and politicians”……Will Rogers “There is one way to find out if a man is honest – ask him. If he says ‘yes’, you know he is crooked”….Groucho Marx ”Everybody has a bit of Watergate in him”…..Billy Grahame “A man had rather have a hundred lies told of him, than one truth which he does not wish to be told”…….Samuel Johnson ”I never know how much of what I say is true”…Bette Midler “Truth is the most valuable commodity – let us economise”……Mark Twain “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the best defence”…..Steve Landesburg “Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened”….Winston Churchill “It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar”….Jerome K Jerome
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 The Irish Republic 2. It disappeared after local government changes
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Soccer : Who did Keegan and Toshack play for together? 2. Who bought Warwick Castle in 1978?
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?
This morning, by way of a change, we had fierce winds and driving rain. At 8.00am it was still almost dark, one of those legendary short dark days before Christmas. One run-door blew wide open whilst we were cleaning and a herd of chooks headed for the hills. Sky could have filmed it live. A new sport is born, a group of overweight old blokes chasing a group of squawking chickens. Slow action replay; nothing moved!
Our sport for the day over, we retired to the warmth of the shed. Ton immediately began to bang on about the plight of the NHS. His frustration is justified for the nation seems to allowing its privatisation to take place unchallenged. Talking of the Iraq invasion, John Pilger said that journalists and government collued to hoodwink us. Much the same could be said for the coverage of what Cameron and Lansley are doing to the NHS.
There is far from complete silence from those really in the know but is anyone listening to what is being said by the likes of the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of GPs, the respected health thinktank the King’s Fund, and even the parliamentary health committee. The BMA has said that its concerns are not being listened to and even the chief executive of the NHS, Sir David Nicolson, has written of NHS personnel facing “personal and professional uncertainty about the future”. At an acrimonious session with the select committee, Lansley claimed that “lots of people support my plan”. But who are they? Presumably the private health companies now circling like buzzards.
So many things are happening at once that it is hard to paint a clear picture. Cameron continues to claim that funding has been maintained. This is a clear lie. Inflation and soaring attendances are eroding the value of the settlement and a massive £20 billion cut has been announced to cover ‘efficiencies’. To facilitate these waiting time targets have been scapped and already patients are recoiling with horror at the much longer time thay will now have to wait for their first appointment.
But the real drama is happening at Primary Care Trust (PCT) level. They are being scrapped and the £80 billion of taxpayers money is being handed to GPs. Lansley has admitted that he had conducted no surveys to test the opinions of family doctors and only yesterday one appeared on the BBC News to say that he and many others are desperately worried that all the progress of the past few years is being reversed.
The main Lansley trick lies in the plan to cluster together the 152 PCTs into 35 bodies. These will be allowed to “create social enterprises or joint ventures with private sector organisations “and to then sell their skills to groups of inexperienced family doctors charged with handling billions of pounds of public money”. The GPs will in reality have no alternative to using these bodies and they will consist of former PCT employees. Just think about it! This is engineered privatisation of the worst kind.
The government openly admits to envisaging almost all of the NHS “leaving public hands”. Hospitals will all become independemt Foundation Trusts within four years and the new commissioners will be private companies with strong links to greatly expanded private hospitals. Those who wish to, or can afford to, go down the private route will be able to jump waiting list queues.
The changes represent the biggest shift in power and accountability in the NHS’s 62-year history yet Hamish Meldrum, the chair of the BMA, says that “there is little evidence of the government being genuinely prepared to engage with constructive criticism of its plans”.
The privatisation of the NHS is being forced through under the guise of cuts in funding. It represents the end of the service most of us have valued for all of our lives. If the next election is still over four years ago we will go into the polling booths knowing that we have lost the NHS and that, according to our wealth, we are now either able to buy our treatment or wait indefinitely for it.
It will be too late to protest then and the irony is that we didn’t vote for it at the last election either! Power to the people indeed!
ASHES; AUSTRALIA ON THE ROPES!
England only need to win this Test Match to be sure of retaining the Ashes and this morning after only one day’s play Australia look as doomed as the NHS. One again their opening batsmen failed utterly to cope with good seam bowling on a wicket that looked far from lethal.
Despite some brave hitting by the likes of Mitchell Johnson the old enemy failed to reach even the 300 mark and England have made a steady start in reply with Alistair Cook in particular making the toothless Aussie attach look, er, toothless.
Of course we all want England to triumph but there is something almost sad about the sight of the decline in the standards of our once mighty sporting rivals. My self understanding insists I emphasise the word almost!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1.European Space Agency 2. Stephen Hawking
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What European Trophy came to Glasgow in 1972 and who won it? 2. What accident forced goalkeeper Gordon Banks to quit football?
It seems odd to describe a large group of old blokes as a gang but that is how it feels. On the face of it we have little in common bar a discovered passion for self-sufficiency but on one point everyone on the allotment seems agreed, the coalition has proved a disaster for the Lib Dems. Of course hindsight is a great gift for when Nick Clegg stormed ahead in those TV debates most of us saw the chance of a fresh start for the discredited Britsh political scene. He would, we thought, provide the perfect middle view between powerful unions on the one hand and patronising and bigotted right wimgers on the other. Sadly he has confused partnership with obsequeous absorption and the right wing is free to pursue the very policies that the nation failed to endorse overwhelmingly.
The general recation to this is that Clegg has proved to be a lightweight and the Lib Dems are facing extinction. But there is one voice that suggests that maybe, just maybe, all is not lost. Chris Hulme was beaten by Clegg in the leadership contest but has lost none of his sense of independence. He is a highly respected economist and when he speaks others listen. And today he has spoken forcibly about the perils facing the coalition, not least the risk of cutting too fast and thus triggerring another serious depression. He believes that the present severe approach has a chance, but unlike the double act of Cameron and Clegg, warns that the government “must not be lashed to the mast with a particular set of numbers”. He suggests that there may have to be a “plan B” for it is “not sensible for governments to make speculations about what is going to happen”. Mr Hulme is the first cabinet member to insist that the Chancellor may have to rethink his cuts agenda for global growth “could be either higher than lower than we forecast”. Contrast that with Clegg’s view that the Osborne agenda of £83 billion of cuts is “the only choice”!
Chris Hulme’s chief criticism is reserved for Cameron’s suggestion, made after the child benefit row, that tax breaks for married couples should be introduced by 2015 and extended to higher earners. “I am very sceptical” he warns, “I think we need to be sure that what we do has real value for money and is not flag waving. If it is just flag waving then frankly it is not something that this government should be doing”.
Even on the vexed subject of Trident, which Cameron and Clegg have gone to some lengths to kick ito the long grass, Chris Hulme insists that the Lib Dems must hold out for what they believe in, a cheaper nuclear deterrent. And as for Clegg’s statement that working with Labour would be unthinkable, there can be no doubt about the rift opening up between the two men. Speaking of the next election Hulme demands that the Lib Dems must remain a truly independent party and then look at the result. If Labour were to emerge as a big player he sees working in coalition with Miliband and his team as ”entirely appropriate”.
I realise I am at risk of being accused of playing a tune on a broken harp, but it is at least encouraging to believe that someone amongst the Lib Dem heirarchy sees the coalition as a partnership in which they draw a clear line of this far and no farther around their principles. In a way it reminds me of the inspiration provided by J B Priestly during World War 2. He used to draw a huge audience at 9.00 pm each Sunday evening. He left the war rhetoric to Churchill and focussed instead on the post-war needs and aspirations of ‘ordinary folk’.
He talked, in that homely way of his, of a society in which the needs of all be considered ahead of selfish, individualistic concerns corrupted by money and property. In order for a new dawn to break after the war, all ordinary individuals had to come together to and stand up to the bureaucrats and vested interests. The people must not, after the crisis, “let the old hands , the so called experts, the smooth gentry, trick them into believing that ordinary citizens could not grasp the problems of the day or do anything about them”.
The great man could easily have been talking about our present situation and it is not difficult to imagine Conservatives and Labour reverting to the old ways that have brought us to this painful place. I admit that I have never voted for the Lib Dems but many did at the recent election. They were seeking a new way free of Priestley’s old hands and smooth gentry.
Thanks to the naive, dishonest even, behaviour of Nick Clegg the dream of an honest middle ground is almost dead. Is it just possible that Chris Hume could even now rescue it to the benefit of people of all persuasions and none?
THE MADMEN OF HEALTH AND SAFETY!
A few days ago we read of a Council ordering the felling of conkers for fear of their harming children when they fell. That was fairly barmy but today we have final proof that our local authorities have becom infested with the sort of loopy parrots for whom imaginary health and safety dangers lurk around every corner.
In Manchester, council workmen have been advised not to move flower tubs standing on pavements in Gorton as part of the Britain in Bloom competition. They were planted and placed there in the Spring by volunteers.
The contractor, Coolas, confirmed that their men had been advised not to move the pots for health and safety reasons and instructed them to tar around them when repairing pavements. Now the tubs have to be dug out!
It is only a matter of time before the mad ones object to cricket being played with a hard ball. The best advice we can give to the barmy army of health and safety officials is to take a very long walk off a very short pier!
JUDGE NOT THAT YOU BE NOT JUDGED!
Michael Caine has revealed, after a fifty year silence that he persuaded a doctor to adminster a lethal dose to his father who was suffering an agonising death from liver cancer. At the time his father was expected to live just a few days more.
Predictably anti-euthenasia campaigners have been quick to climb upon their soap-boxes. Alistair Thompson has described such action as cruel and unnecessary. Presumably he has never watched someone he loved suffering physical and mental torture!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Evening Standard (London) 2. Queen
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which country did the Janata Party win a landslide election victory in 1977? 2. In which year did Jeremy Thorpe resign as leader of the Liberal Party?
A colleague has pointed out that I may have given the impression that blokes and ferrets are the only creatures to be found on our small-holding, the home of our allotment shed. I hasten to correct the omission by revealing that our group also owns a number of chickens. Being British no sex is allowed and there are no cockerels, a secondary reason being that the nearest neighbour is averse to being awoken at dawn. But the hens are as happy as hens can be and we get an average of six eggs every day.
As with everything else on the site the hens are jointly owned which explains the long-standing joke that co-op eggs are hard to beat. For despite Mr Cameron’s apparent belief that in announcing the idea of local people working together he is innovating, it already happens here if not on Eton’s fields.
Chickens have a long history. Because chicken bones don’t preserve well no one can be certain of the period when they first began to cluck and peck. The best the paleontologists can come up with is that it was millions of years ago, somewhere in the tropical forests of South East and South Asia. But it was much more recently that our gang decided to invest in eight Rhode Island Reds. We soon realised that we had a lot to learn and now we are in the position of wishing that we had bothered to wise up before the big cluck-off.
An early mistake was to invest in a row of cheap ‘Arks’ which have very low perches. The result was that our girls made their own sleeping arrangements and to this day some lie down in the nesting boxes and some hop up on to the roof which means that the ‘duty carer’ has to use both torch and step-ladder when making sure that all is secure before the fox makes his night-rounds. Fortunately there are a lot of us in the ‘co-op’ and my turn to open up, clean out and lock up only comes around once per fortnight. It all reminds me of an out-of-hours GP service in which the cared-for may get a visit from an expert or a complete numbskull ( thats me in the case of chooks).
We did quickly learn some basic lessons. Never use straw for bedding for in that way you are guaranteed a goodly supply of mites. Never bother to buy all the gadgets and devices supposed to keep hens occupied, just tie a piece of broccoli on a suspended length of elastic and the girls will leap about enraptured for hours. And never believe all the guff about only feeding corn and layer pellets. We do use those but have found that tomatoes, porridge oats, lettuce, dandelion, cabbage and boiled spuds mashed in bran all have proved popular.
In fact we have learned that hens will eat almost anything. Some months ago Albert Junior dropped a hearing-aid battery whilst on cleaning duty. Before he could say leave it alone one of the Reds had swallowed it. It has never reappeared and I sometimes fancy that ‘Gobbler’ has hearing more acute than her pals.
The worst thing we ever did was to allocate nicknames to our flock. That has made any thought of Christmas dinner impossible, who could possibly eat ‘Lady Gaga’? We also took a long time to cotton on to the fact that chickens are not the loving creatures of so many children’s tales. the moment one of their number becomes unwell the rest quickly gather round to peck it to death, or at least they would had we not built a seperate isolation run. And they are not averse to a spot of egg-pecking either, a tendency we cured via the purchase of some plastic versions which are painful to the beak when pecked.
Each day has its highs and lows hen-wise. The low is when one hen decides to go broody, rather like Albert’s wife on St Valentines day. Since we have no wish to hatch out anything one of our number has the tedious task of expelling the brooder from the nestbox needed by others for more productive purposes. She will then scuttle around emitting a fierce clucking at hen or keeper and the porcess will be repeated again and again until man or girl eventually gives up.
The other piece of advice I would presume to pass on is the need to build a fox-proof run which means fences that are high and are buried at least one foot below the ground. We have never been beaten by the wretched creatures that regularly creep on to the site but we condemn absolutely fools such as those on the Beeb’s Springwatch who seem to regard the growth of the urban fox population as something wonderful. Not for hen-keepers or babies in prams it isn’t!
Sad to say it is impossible to establish a relationship with the hens in the way that we do with our ferrets. Of course the two never meet but hens are not sociable anyway. Even a new member will be set upon although it has to be admitted that they regard with equanimity collared doves who join them regularly at meal times. But they are a better bet than tropical fish if you like staring at creatures staring at you.
And they cost little once their homes are built and they are most certainly constant providers. If you care to believe that ‘fresh’ eggs from the supermarkets are less than ten days old dream on. Ours are same day beauties!
Perhaps the last word should rest with George Bernard Shaw. In his ‘Getting Married’ of 1911 he said that there is ‘nothing to distinguish human society from the farmyard except that children are more troublesome and costly than chickens’.
Reader Bill Johnson recently asked for the cure for boredom in retirement. My advice was get a few chickens, you may get to curse a lot but you will never be bored!
A SPECIAL THANKYOU; To all my super readers. Hit number 50, 000 is due today and this grumpy fogey is much cheered by the thought of sharing a few minutes with you each day!
QUOTE OF THE DAY; John Lydon (alias Johnny Rotten) was asked by Michael Odell in an interview last week to name the best and worst of the UK in 2010. He replied that the best is that we are still troublemakers, just about. The worst? ‘We’ve let two rsoy-cheeked dribbling posh boys take the reins!’