Posts Tagged ‘Lady Gaga’
Dreams head the list of subjects banned on the allotments. At one time Albert used to arrive for the morning’s hen cleaning geared up to relate at great length the dreams he had enjoyed, or endured, an hour or so earlier. Like most dreams they made no sense and served only to irritate the long-suffering audience. Even his continual tales involving Lady Gaga were beginning to wear thin, and the last straw arrived when we recently had to suffer nonsense about Eric Pickles being stranded on a desert island with the Speaker who he proceeded to eat. By an overwhelming majority we codgers agreed to leave such garbage between the sheets, the stuff produced by our fully functioning grey matter provides more than enough madness.
All of which meant that I couldn’t share my nocturnal lunacies of last night. Which was a pity since, for once, there seemed to be an element of logic in my fantasy. My meandering brain created a society up to its neck in debt, but one in which every member went to great lengths to eliminate waste, where public money was treated as gold dust. Are dreams in colour? This one was. I saw all those in the Lords who love dressing up obliged to pay for their own fancy attire. I saw our dear leader leading MPs in depositing tins in a Westminster food bank before turning over the tables in a payday loan office. At this point the alarm brought the show to an abrupt end.
By the time I was halfway through my cornflakes reality had taken over. The newly elected Deputy Speaker, Eleanor Laing, leapt from the papers. But isn’t this the MP obliged to repay £25,000 following the expenses scandal, the one that admitted to not paying capital gains tax when she trousered £1 million profit on a second home bought with taxpayers’ money? It is indeed. Private Eye had a story about the tax avoidance of the owners of the Daily Mail. Too complicated for me and, apparently, for the taxmen. But isn’t this the paper that hunts down those whose actions show a lack of patriotism? It is indeed.
It was at this point that, in search of sanity, I turned to the Telegraph sports supplement. Being used to banner headlines about Rooney’s latest goal or Pieterson’s latest sulk, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that the increasingly pervasive Politically Correct brigade have staged another coup. ‘Hodgson in Racism storm!” leapt out at me. It was quickly followed by bewilderment for the libellous inference seems to be based on the say-so of, er, no one.
“It has been reported”, claims Jeremy Wilson, that during halftime in the match against Poland Roy Hodgson told a Nasa joke as a means of inspiring other players to pass the ball more frequently to Andros Townsend. “Nasa decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions,” the joke goes. “They fire the man and the monkey into space. The intercom crackles. ‘Monkey, fire the retros’. A little later, ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply’. Later still, ‘Monkey, check the life support systems for the man’. The Astronaut takes umbrage and asks ‘When do I get to do something?’ Nasa replies, ‘In 15 minutes – feed the monkey’.”
Players have rushed to condemn whichever lunatic interpreted this as racism. Stan Collymore tweeted that this; “Demeans every anti-racism campaigner by having cheap pop at RH who said NOTHING WRONG!”. Ah but he did Stan, he used the word monkey which the PR fanatics have categorised as racist together with black, white, brown, coloured and a host of other words. With themselves in mind they should perhaps add imbeciles.
The irony here is that Roy Hodgson is someone from whom our politicians could learn a great deal. Yesterday Messrs Cameron and Miliband attempted to climb on to the England success in reaching the World Cup Finals by prattling plaudits for the team. In reality they probably care little, but they practice what is known as populist politics. No one could accuse Hodgson of courting personal popularity.
He also has a number of other plus marks when compared to the actors of the Westminster school for thespians. He is a grey-haired man of 66 who has extensive experience of life. He is deeply and almost studiously unglamorous, there isn’t a single thing about his appearance or demeanour that could be mistaken for trendy. He doesn’t play up to the media , chase celebrity or try to show off. He is a moderate and takes the long view. He is good at what he does and commands respect from all who work with and for him.
The contrast with the dishonest, posturing politicians of today couldn’t be greater. Unlike them he doesn’t measure every word for fear of offending the chattering classes, he inhabits the real world.
Speaking personally I don’t give a monkey what anyone says, Hodgson is a good bloke. Oh dear! Now I’ve used the banned word and can expect a flood of abusive emails from God’s deputies!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “A journalist is somebody who possesses himself of a fantasy and then lures the truth towards it!”…..Arnold Wesker
Just over a week ago our wellies were stored away, and baseball caps donned by all those codgers badly in need of a Wayne Rooney hair-transplant. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. This morning the allotments had a touch of the Glastonbury, minus the music if you discount Albert’s Lady Gaga impersonations. Nothing is for ever, but this is ridiculous.
As we returned, soaked to our wrinkled skins, to the ‘shed’ we reflected that all men are decidedly not equal. But a lot of those who are more equal than others devote a lot of time to pretending otherwise. George Osborne is a classic example. In an attempt to show that he roughs it like the rest if us, he arranged to be photographed eating a burger whilst preparing his latest onslaught on the disabled. A tabloid quickly established that the burger in question was a posh one. It was a Byron burger. Undaunted, our intrepid chancellor then explained that MacDonalds did not deliver, only for the Sun to discover that neither do Byron and Treasury staff were sent out to collect one.
Gorgeous George would be well advised to toss his ‘all in it together, all equal’ script into the bin containing the Big Society propaganda. Today we read of Virginia Water, on the border of Surrey and Berkshire, where the average house price is more than £1 million. In fact the number of UK homes now valued at more than a cool million is at the all-time high of 323,684 – a 32% increase in the past 12 months. The space taken up by a doormat in Kensington is now worth a mimimum of £3,500.
Our class-ridden society has never been remotely equal, but thanks to an army of tax-avoidance experts a chasm is now emerging. Plain Mr suffices for Nelson Mandella, outside whose hospital a legion of what Denis Thatcher called reptiles is arrayed. But here in the truly democratic UK impressive labels can be acquired for the price of a Kensington garage.
To an extent it was always thus, but it is the new age of food banks that draws our attention to the widening gap. A few years ago the news that the Royals had recieved a huge income hoist would have past unnoticed, now it adds fuel to a dangerous undertone of resentment. But it is the ever-increasing obsession with political correctness that, to our minds, is the most unacceptable manifestation of inequality.
Near brainwashed by a generation of bodies devoted to ssearching ever more viligently for any sign of supposed racism, everyone has retreated into a world in which not a breath of criticism must be levelled at the immigrant sections of our multicultural society. Yesterday brought a reminder of what this has permitted.
I spent many years in Oxford and know the Cowley area well. That community is still reeling with horror at the revelations about a gang of Muslim men who were part of a paedophile ring that raped, tortured and abused girls as young as 11. Those men are now beginning life sentences, but the question that hangs around Cowley is just how such an appalling activity remained unkown to the various agencies for so long.
The answer, as in the recent case of Rochdale, is undoubtedly a reluctance to do anything that could be labelled discrimination. Today Imams in 500 mosques across Britain will give the same sermon denouncing the grooming and sexual abuse of children, and they deserve credit for that. But they also desrve sympathy for it is the positive discrimination stimulated by the chattering classes that has led to this.
In regard to criminal behaviour at least all men must be treated as equal. Whether they be white, black, or green anyone suspected of crime must be questionned and investigated without distinction. Every abuser must, to quote the detective who brought these men to justice, look over their shoulders and keep looking.
In turn every part of society must be able to believe that the police not only investigate without bias, but also treat everyone in the same way. The police behaviour in the Stephen Lawrence case must never be repeated.
The likes of George Osborne can go on with their ridiculous attempts to appear other than they are for that harms no one. But it is time to cry enough when our children become victims of inequality!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY ; ” We know how you think, we know how you work. Be under no doubt we are coming for you!”..Detective Chief Inspector Morton announcing that 50 men are being contacted.
On sunlit days such as this you can bet your last Lady Gaga record on the BBC van arriving at the allotments. Not the Beeb but Bert’s Big Cones, an ice cream van owned by Bert Street - an endearing character if ever there was one. Bert has much in common with our dear leader, both men are inclined to make hasty judgements, to rant, and to ignore the old maxim about stopping the digging when you find yourself in a hole. Of course the implications in the case of David Cameron are rather more important.
Today we learn that he has jerked into life over the latest lobbying scandal, but appears to have failed to tell his Lib Dem pals of his cunning plan. He has also dragged the question of trades unions into the proposed solution, thus destroying the chance of achieving cross-party consensus. He has also reaped the ‘reward’ from allowing the loopy Andrew Lansley to reform the NHS. Headlines scream of A & E waiting times being the longest for ten years, with the situation rapidly going out of control. No fewer than 40% of hospitals report that the effect of Lansley’s £20 billion ‘efficiency savings’ is a sharp reduction in doctors and nurses. In Bert’s case he has run out of cones on the hottest day of the year, in Cameron’s he has run out of clinical staff. In both cases the blame, it seems, lies elsewhere. In Bert’s case it is down to his wife, in Cameron’s Grumpy Gordon is revealed as the culprit.
But in fairness to both of these endearing idiots, it has to be said that compared to Network Rail (NR) they are relatively competent. NR is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer and has a, er, dismal track record. It has recently received warnings from the Office of Rail Regulation about its trains-on-time performance, with long-distance train punctuality being particularly singled out. It also failed last year to meet its financial efficiency and asset stewardship targets. In fact the only target that it met was the one relating to passenger satisfaction, and no one seems clear as to who they asked, certainly not the commuters who each day take part in a version of the sardine-maker’s outing.
But it seems that, like Bert and our dear leader, the modern equivalent of the Fat Controller knows a thing or two about looking after number one. The chief executive of NR, Sir David Higgins, has trousered a bonus of £100,000 to go along with his £577,000 salary. His five top directors have landed an average of £60,000 each.
Asked to explain such generosity with taxpayer’s money ministers said that had NR met its targets the bonus would have been far higher. So that’s all right then.
We know that it is politically incorrect to talk of lunatics having taken over the asylum, but we can think of no phrase more appropriate for Britain 2013!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “None of what they have announced has been agreed. We will not be part of any sort of grubby political deal to attack the unions. This has not been agreed with Nick Clegg!”.. Lib Dem spokesman on learning of yesterday’s Downing Street briefing on anti-sleaze.
A bitterly cold morning on the allotments. However I should perhaps beware of repetition lest this blog begins to resemble programmes such as Eggheads which always open with the same recorded intro. It would certainly be inappropriate, for such grey matter as we possess has frozen to the extent where Albert no longer mentions Lady Gaga.
But when our daily chicken chores are done we all at least have warm homes to return to. And it is on days such as this that our thoughts turn to people who are not so fortunate. As we watch our dear leader and Ed Miliband use their great intellects to tear strips off each other on the subject of benefit cuts, we have to remind ourselves that below all the empty rhetoric lie real people. Labelling people en masse as scroungers (Cameron version) or oppressed heroes (Miliband) serves only to hide real suffering from the public gaze.
Nowhere is this more evident that in the case of disability. Of course we all know that some of those given state handouts are more than capable of working. The problem is that politicians talk in black or white terms, and the result is that genuine cases of helpless distress are swamped in political point-scoring. Let us take the case of Susan Donnelly, 54, from East London.
Susan lives alone and suffers from emphysema, severe Asthma, and is doubly incontinent. Even the private company, Atos, appointed by the coalition to check out people drawing disability support would not question her inability to work, a considerable endorsement given that it regularly pronounces people with terminal cancer as fit.
At the moment Susan receives nearly £700 a month in income support and disability premium, plus £309 a month disability living allowance (DLA). From this she pays for the hire of a Motability car and makes a £228 a month contribution to the care support package provided by her local authority. From next month her modest net income will be squeezed even further. She will have to contribute £28 per month to council tax, and the so-called bedroom tax will cost her £64 per month despite the fact that her second bedroom is used for her medical apparatus and wheelchair. She will also have to pay £40 per month for incontenence pads and £12 for her network alarm.
She also fears the prospect of being reassessed for DLA under reforms that kick in further down the line. If she loses that, she will lose her Motalility car and her last vestige of independence. Overall, she will be left with about £120 a week for food, fuel bills and basic living costs.
Susan says that she is “looking down a long dark tunnel with no light at the end”. She can’t afford to put her heating on and no longer uses her oven. She goes to bed at 7.00pm since she can only afford to heat the one room in which she has a halogen heater.
If we are honest most if us would admit that we refer not to know about people like Susan, even less to meet them. We prefer our poverty victims to be confined to the pages of Dickens thus enabling us to console ourselves with the thought that such things are long-gone, a product of an uncaring society. But they are happening here and now, a product of what Liam Smith, the leader of Susan’s local authority, describes as “people totally removed from normal life trying to force people to live by the motto of heat or eat”.
The question posed by the nightmare of people like Susan is a simple one. Are we prepared to allow such cruelty to be enacted in our name? Do we really wish to torture Susan to save money dwarfed by tax avoidance, bankers bonuses, EU contributions and the rest?
Compared to England’s abysmal second-half performance in the World Cup Qualifier, the Amanda Knox drama or the latest threats from North Korea this may all seem trivial. But it is one human being’s life we hold in our hands.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “I have no concern for the common man except that he should not be so common!”…Angus Wilson
Like most people we codgers feel empty this morning, bereft almost. Last night’s closing ceremony of the Paralympics was truly spectacular but, as the flame was extinguished our sense of loss was real. We have had a wretched summer for weather, but the sportsfest has been enthralling. Seb Coe hit the right note in his closing speech, this was truly an example of excellence and a reminder to the world that ‘Made in Britain’ is the ultimate hallmark of quality.
Sadly we must all return to the real world. No longer will strangers remark on the latest athletic exploits, they will revert to the weather. They will have a good prompt thanks to the Daily Express which today divides its attention between a possible dalliance of Prince Philip some half-century ago, and the ‘fact’ that we are about to be hit by winds of up to 80mph.
We codgers, apart from Albert who will resume his Lady Gaga adoration, will doubtless return to mulling over the demand for a referendum on the EU and our perennial grouse, Health and Safety. The former will remain on many a wish-list for a poll released today shows almost 60% in favour of a democratic approach. But the 80% who doubt the willingness of politicians to allow the people a voice are probably spot-on. Made in Britain does not include democratic decisions!
We have drawn some comfort from the report from the Centre for Policy Studies. The reports author, Frank Furedi, says that the “compensation culture” born of a combination of a zillion health and safety rules, greedy lawyers and even greedier money grabbers, is leading to an erosion of professional autonomy. Timing is fortunate, new Business Minister Michael Fallon has responded by pledging to scrap 3000 of the pettiest rules. We hope that he means it!
Because the truth is that the fear of litigation is bleeding the health and education services dry. The NHS pays out over £1 billion in compensation each year and has liabilities of nearly £17 billion. A huge chunk out of an already shrinking budget. But there is a bigger cost. I still meet up with surgeons from the hospitals I once chaired. They all tell me that they no longer take risks for fear of litigation. One of them earned a national reputation for saving patients whose chance of survival was rated as near-zero. He is no longer prepared to do this. And right across the service there is now a reluctance to take risks that just could make the difference.
Of course some claims are justified, but the majority are based on greed. And nowhere is this more evident than in education. A council in Derbyshire had to pay £40,000 after a pupil broke his leg whilst on a school trip. The result is no more school trips. Another council had to pay out £30,000 when a child fell off a playground bench, in another case payment of £3,000 followed a child being scratched by a school garden rose tree. The list goes on and on, the list of defensive measures climbs and climbs.
The Paralympians taaught us that risks have to be taken, that wrapping ourselves in cotton-wool is not the way to a happy, challenging life. They also demonstrated that money is not the route to contentment. Perhaps we should remember that when next a no-win, no-fee legal cash-grabber implores us to remember an accident we may or may not have suffered.
For four glorious weeks we Brits showed our better side. Given a lead from the proposed new legislation aimed at narrowing the scope for compensation claims perhaps we can look again at the health and safety lunacy that is creating a society in which no one dares to do anything!
For some time now we codgers have suspected that any nation that includes amongst its citizens millions of people who follow every tweeted word from Lady Gaga is a little, er, gaga. But we have never dreamed that a society once renowned the world over for its honesty and sense of fair play is now a nation of liars and cheats. Indeed had anyone dared to suggest such a thing we would have slapped them with a pair of hen poo-encrusted gloves and challenged then to a duel with beansticks.
But that is the conclusion of a survey just completed by Essex University. Its conclusion is that Britain has become a more dishonest and cynical country over the past decade. The study finds that Britons are more likely to lie and cheat than we were ten years ago. Those aged over 45 remain decent people, but attitudes have changed sharply for the worse among the young. Less than 20% would hand back money they found in the street, a statistic that has halved in just ten years and which was almost 80% in the post-war period. In fact the survey has used all the usual indicators and the younger part of our society has fared badly.
It would of course be easy to wheel out the usual guff from older people about ‘the youth of today’, but we surely need to ask ourselves why this massive decline in standards has occurred. From our teens onward, whether we realise it or not, we are heavily influenced by the examples of others. It seems reasonable to assume then that today’s generation has been, and is, influenced by some dodgy people. In an age of constant communication the behaviour of national figures comes under the spotlight far more than was once the case, and that means that cases like the one involving Chris Huhne, the environment minister, do not pass unnoticed.
The allegation there is that he asked Vicky Pryce, his ex-wife, to pretend that she had been at the wheel of his car and would therefore take his speeding points. He has yet to be convicted but in any respectable organisation he would have been obliged to step down pending a verdict. But he continues as a minister. And the rumour circuit has it that if he is convicted the prime minister may well bring back David Laws, a minister who falsified his expense claims
Of course the rot starts at the top, and there is no denying that in whatever area you care to consider – personal repsonsibility, behaviour, truth telling, neighbourliness – there has been a catastrophic collapse. Start your recap with the Blair government. It became normal for his official spokesman to lie on the record. Blair himself repeatedly deceived parliament, and used his position to obtain favours from wealthy wannabies, a practice that he continues to this day. This amorality spread to MPs and the 2005-10 parliament was probably the most corrupt since the 18th century. For months on end we were regaled with stories of lies and cheating in regard to expenses. And even today we have some of those found wanting holding cabinet posts.
More recently we have learnt that much of the media ( and in particular Murdoch’s empire) has been systematically corrupt, bribing police officers and leading politicians alike. Blair and Cameron have both been shamefully complicit in this, and the decision by Cameron to employ Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who has since been arrested, remains the most shameful episode of his premiership.
But it is not only politicians who have led the nosedive in standards. Shake hands with a banker and count your fingers. And their greed is breathtaking. Right now Stephen Hester, chief executive of RBS, is reportedly pressing for a substantial annual bonus in addition to his massive £1.2 million salary. And Hester is in fact a civil servant, his bank being 84% owned by the state. His boss is Robin Budenberg, the chief executive of UK Financial Investments, who earns £145,000. He in turn reports to Nicholas Macpherson, Treasury, who earns £175,000. So Hester believes that he is worth umpteen times the amount paid to his superiors. And you can add his colleague John Hourican, head of the calamitous RBS investment arm. He is reportedly demanding a bonus of £4 million which would mean that, despite being a state employee, he would be pocketing £11,00o for every single day at work. In just three days he would receive more than a young corporal, risking life and limb in Afghanistan, gets in an entire year.
No, it is not difficult to develop an explanation for the massive fall in behavioural standards amongst the British public. If Blair can lie to parliament about Saddam Hussain, and get away with it, if Cameron can employ the appalling Coulson as his spokesman, if bankers can demonstrate blind greed and MPs likewise, why on earth would a teenager feel even a twinge of conscience when he steals money or dodges fares?
Today for the first time Nick Clegg has made clear that the present situation in which ordinary families are struggling to survive, whilst the wealthy are being allowed to avoid even stamp duty, is no longer acceptable. Could this be a small light at the end of a very dark tunnel. We shall see, but at least he deserves credit for casting his gag aside.
It will only be when someone at the top takes a stand against cheating and lying about what is really happening, that the rest of us will begin to look in the mirror. When a group of us read the survey someone commented that we cannot sink lower. Oh yes, we can!
A FEW QUOTES FOR PET OWNERS; “Cats are smarter than dogs. You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through the snow”….Jeff Valdez “The simple rule about pet cats is this; like exclamation marks, more than two signifies a complete nutcase”…..Jeff Green “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals”….Winston Churchill “A dog is not intelligent. never trust an animal that is surprised by its own farts”….Frank Skinner “I had a cat once. That was the roughest night of sex I ever had”…..Matt Vance “They say that dog is man’s best friend. I don’t believe that. How many of your friends have you had neutured?
I can’t bring you an update on the latest thrills from the allotment because I haven’t been there. By way of a change I had an NHS apppointment for what is, I think, known as a glucose tolerance test. It is a ‘fasting’ version which meant that I arrived at the hospital minus my usual six bowls of porridge. My lack of a warm inner glow was not conducive to a sympathetic response when I found that the car parking charges have been doubled as from January 1st. Another Lansley triumph I muttered as I reached the pathology waiting room. Unfortunately I muttered in the direction of the seemingly bored young lady in charge and, for the rest of the day, she referred to me as Mr Lansley, which led to some strange looks from my fellow inmates.
In no time at all we were seatd in a long row and each of us gave an armful of blood, followed by a pint of whatever. The bored lady remarked that we should all sit still until her return in about three hours time. Even I realised that she meant to convey that we shouldn’t head off into town, but some of my companions took the instruction literally, and the room quickly resembled a tableau in Madame Taussauds. I amused myself by reading the zillion posters plastered along the wall.
If you don’t want to die young don’t smoke, don’t drink’ don’t jaywalk, don’t have sex, don’t eat fatty foods, don’t spend hours thinking about Lady Gaga. I quickly lost interest since, the latter apart, I have done all of those – some to a greater extent than others – and haven’t died yet. Then again I guess it depends on their view of young. Anyway, I was bored, and the geezer next to me even more so for he fell fast asleep. So I gently eased his newspaper from his loosening grasp.
Plenty in the Comic Cuts to keep me occupied. Cameron has now come out in favour of Gove’s royal yacht idea. But being a wily lad, he has stressed that those on benefits are not expected to chip in. Meantime, many of those about to lose their benefits are praying that the Lords stay awake long enough tonight to torpedo the plan to reduce them to penury. The captain of the Costa Concordia is meantime maintaining that he was the last to leave the stricken ship, an odd claim given that divers are still down there searching. And the coalition has announced plans to help elderly people living alone to ‘downsize’ by moving them into council property.My mind was frazzled by now, but I suspect that the youth-experience reporter who filed this story may have missed something out. Oh yes, and the armed forces are to be further reduced. Where is Werrity when they need him?
But I did craftily tear out one real gem concerning our latest hate-figure, little Michael Gove. A Nigel Cann has published a letter accusing him of being an expert in ‘buttering up’. Of course we had already worked that out, but the rest of the letter was fascinating. It seems our friend spent more than £7000 of our cash on furnishing his London home , including such essentials as a Manchu cabinet, elephant lamps and a Loire Table. He then sold up. Then he flipped his second home allowance to a house in Surrey – for which he claimed over £13,000.
And all that, according to Mr Gann, was only for starters. The minister handed £500,000 to the New Schools Network, headed up by one of his friends, and failed to hold competive bidding. And about one-third of his home spending in 2005 was with a company run by the prime minister’s aristocratic mother-in-law. And..at this juncture two things happened. The bored lady reappeared and the owner of the paper woke up.
She said that Mr Lansley was free to go and I did so with some haste before my sleeping companion discovered the hole in page four.
I must remember those posters I thought as I bit into my fast-breaking doughnut!
Hope you had a belting Christmas. Now all we have to bother us are dodgy digestive systems and credit-card repayments. The build-up to the great day started back in October and it was impossible for any one day to live up to so much hype, but we allotment codgers had a go. One thing that has to change in our nest next time is the placing of Christmas cards. Each year we stand them on every conceivable ledge or shelf, each year people keep opening the front door at which point every card in the place takes off for Manchester Airport. Suggestions on a postcard please, but no prizes for suggestions involving sellotape which is guaranteed to create a unwelcome demand from she-who-must-be-obeyed for redecorating.
Today’s papers return us to the real world, although how real the polls are is hard to fathom. The ones I have read suggest that David Cameron is now regarded by 99 per cent of the population as a posh version of Mother Theresa. Perhaps the polls were taken in Surbiton, I really cannot imagine that reading in Wigan where they use the Old Etonian for darts matches. But the story that really attracted attention on the allotments concerned Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem children’s minister.
As a member of the coalition’s top team Ms Teather gave vehement support to the austerity programme. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Theresa Cameron and the dashing Osborne in refusing to contemplate action against tax dodgers, bank bonuses, high-speed rail and Olympics overspend. Like her hero Nick she made clear that the people must tighten their belts and stop whingeing about such luxuries as libraries and meals-on-wheels.
And that is her right. But being a hypocrite isn’t. Having supported cuts in local public services she is now campaigning against the ghastly plan to close public libraries in Brent. Why Brent? Because that is her constituency.
And she is not alone in her incredible hypocracy. Jeremy Browne (foreign office), Steve Webb (pensions) and James Brokenshire (crime) have all followed suit. All have lobbied their fellow ministers to save their own patches!
With behaviour like this is it any wonder that ministers and MPs at large are now to be found at the foot of the table of trustworthiness. Even estate agents and journalists now leave them standing. With one exception!
David Cameron stands next to God, David Beckham and Lady Gaga in the ratings, a politician far removed from the riffraff that seek our votes. Funny old world isn’t it!
Today I am en route to Cambridge, there to deliver Christmas presents and to share some convivial company. At least that was the plan when we headed off at the crack of dawn!
Unfortunately we became entrapped in a motorway jam and at the moment have no idea as to its cause. After I had tired of watching the antics of a fellow traveller in a van proclaiming “We never stop” I escaped down the slip road into this rather dismal spot. The service station is packed to capacity and there is little sign of any festive cheer. Compared to some of the people trapped here my pal Albert, who is caring for my chickens, is a bundle of joy!
Why am I telling you this? The only logical reason is that I promised to publish the answers to yesterday’s quiz. But I have to confess that keying words to an anonymous audience has become something of an obsession. In days long gone I used to pen a column in a local newspaper and, from time to time, I did get to meet readers. The web is different. With the exception of a few friends who leave comments, one has no idea who is out there. Maybe the counter is wrong and there is no one at all, but that can’t be the case since I have on occasions received onslaughts from such diverse people as the Barmy Army and fans of Lady Gaga.
But it is all something of a disappointment. When I first started the blog I vaguely imagined that I would develop a network of people happy to debate the comings and goings of our mutual experience. As the count at the bottom of this blog shows I will soon have received my millionth ‘visit’, but like Santa my visitors never exchange so much as a word as the publish button sends daily messages into space.
Never mind, she-who-must-be-obeyed has demanded coffee so we are off to join the longest queue since Lloyd George sold honours. At least I have kept my promise to provide answers. But is there really anyone out there?
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Nancy Reagan 2. Kool and the Gang 3. The sun ( Bright area) 4. Geoffrey Rush 5. Sierra Leone 6. Devon 7. Sherry 8. 1982 9. Statue of Zeus 10. 15th
Several of us headed off in the van yesterday to collect some chicken coops. Being nincompoops we travelled back in the rush hour, and boy did we regret it. The motorway was jam-packed, the service stations resembled a Lady Gaga concert. The country is seizing up was our rather gloomy prognosis, as we spent forever crawling behind a van bearing the inaccurate boast that “We never slow down on customer service”.
And it is not just grumpy old men that watch despairingly as our roads, our hospitals, our rail services, our sewage and water supplies et al, are becoming ever more inundated. In our angrier moments we blame the cuts, the politicians, the banks and every other curse that comes to mind. But the reason for it all is quite simple, our population is rocketing past the levels at which a small island’s infrstructure can cope.
The latest projections from the Office of National Statistics predict that by 2043 Britain will be the most populous country in Europe. Our population will have swollen to 74 million, outstripping France and Germany. The landmark figure of 70 million is expected to be reached within 16 years. In fact over the next decade the population will increase by the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds every year. The official estimate is that the number of people in the UK will grow by 491,000 every year through to 2020, the fastest sustained growth for 50 years.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migration Watch UK, tells us what we already sense. “These figures conirm that the UKs dramatic rise in population will continue unabated”. He added that “two thirds of the increase is due to immigration and as people return home this evening crammed into public transport and on congested roads, they could well ask where all of these people are going to fit”. Indeed they may!
The one-third that isn’t due to immigration relates to the fact that we are all living longer. At the end of last year there were 1.4 million aged 85 and over, this is forecast to double by 2035 and the number of over-95s will quadruple. Nothing we can do about that except be thankful to the NHS.
It follows that immigration must be reduced, or even stopped. The irony is that anyone saying that is immediately accused of being racist. In fact the unchecked flood of people entering the UK is giving succour to vermin such as the BNP. The issue has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with the obvious fact that the place is full beyond its capacity.
Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, in commenting on the projections, said yesterday that “there is more to do to bring net migration to the order of tens of thousands per year and ensure migration which benefits the UK”. He is right to try because, as we have learned recently the world population is itself set to rocket. But – and it is a very big but – so long as we are party to the EU open doors policy the government remains powerless to stop the flow of immigration from within its borders.
Right now we are seeing the fallacy of the one-club EU approach. Perhaps not surprisingly, Germany and France are unhappy at the thought of constantly bailing out smaller and more economically-fragile countries over which they have no budgetry control. Thanks largely to Grumpy Gordon we are not in the Euro. However we are an obvious destination for people in the countries insufficiently resourced to cope with the recession, and they are pouring in. Ultimately that damages not only this country but the ones being deserted by skilled workers.
On Monday half of David Cameron’s MPs refused to support his denial of an EU referendum. Since then various Conservatives who supported the prime minister have warned that they will not do so next time, amongst them was the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. He knows that the clock is ticking on the cost of population explosion, not just on services but on their costs plus those of pensions and benefits.
By contrast Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband continue to ridicule any worries about over-population. Perhaps they would like to tell us just how many they believe we can accomodate without bringing about a total collapse!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S MIDWEEK QUIZ; 1. Ray Parker Jr. 2. Bolton 3. Twelve 4. Pigs 5. Pain 6. Switzerland 7. In the morning 8. Overload 9. President Marcos 10. A lie detector.
We were all tickled by the window smashing episode at Lords, particulary the Newton’s law defying explanations as to how a glove took off under its own volition. It reminded us of an episode in our shed/meeting room. An argument developed about the amount of compost required and Albert did a Prior. Having hurled his cup through the window he claimed to have suffered a muscular twitch whilst listening to Lady Gaga. At least it was a little more imaginative than the ECB excuse! But most of our incredulity today was reserved for the speech made yesterday about the Lansley NHS reforms.
I think we can safely assume that Lansley will soon be gone forever, rather in the manner of Albert’s hearing aid which fell into the hen’s bran and was consumed. In that case we never learned the identity of the villian since about fifty hens were rampaging. In the case of Lansley we have less trouble in working out who ‘done him in’. It was clearly Nick Clegg who was lauded in this blog a week or so ago when he spelt out his demands. The list of changes announced by the prime minister yesterday matched the Clegg list precisely.
I am quite pleased in the sense that the plan to massacre the NHS has been flushed down the drain. But what we have now is a formula for a cock-up to beat them all. GPs will no longer be obliged to become commissioners which means that most of them will opt out. But how is commissioning to take place in areas where that happens? Monitor is to be deprived of the Lansley role of promoting the private sector and will instead revert to its previous role as a , er, monitor. Having been very involved with the London based organisation that does not inspire me, my impression always was that it couldn’t monitor a chip-shop. But the biggest change is the barmiest!
This involves replacing the GP commissioning groups with something called ‘Clinical Senates’. These will of course include GPs, but will also include nurses, hospital doctors and managers. Now that sounds familiar. It should because it is a Primary Care Trust (PCT) under another name. That is going to be an expensive business for Lansley has already abolished most of the PCTs and handsome redundancy packages have been the order of the day. Most of the talented managers have left and the professionals have drifted back to working full time on their clinical work. So we are now going to recreate PCTs and, presumably rehire hundreds of the very dear departed. And since David Cameron insisted that there is no timetable a la Lansley we could presumably face a year or so with no one in charge at all.
I can imagine that you may be thinking that I have nothing constructive to offer. If you check back you will find that I proposed the abolition of the PCTs, Health Authorites and Monitor with full responsibility being held by the Department of Health through small regional offices. It wasn’t my brainwave but that of two very senior D of H officials that I dined with whilst still a Trust Chairman. It would have saved a fortune and would have obviated postcode medicine.
Now we face utter chaos. Thanks to Blair the NHS is well used to that but it represents yet another opportunity wasted. Blair? Oh yes, he was the master of cock-ups. When, soon after his election, I went to see him with a party of GPs I came away impressed. Local hospitals were to be freed of red tape and obliged to focus on delivery of service. What he actually did was to introduce 400 targets and toothless Foundation Trusts. They involved elected governors who would represent the people. Sadly he took away their powers and gave them instead to Monitor. Enough said! He also, via Patricia Hewitt, attempted to transfer outpatient work to private companies. That was a fiasco.
A lot of good people in the NHS are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. Back to square one was how one consultant put it to me. Not quite, I suspect he and his colleagues should take a course in living with cock-ups for they are about to enter one capable of making Whitehall farces look serious!
TODAY’S NEW EGGHEADS QUIZ; TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON TV SITCOMS!
1. In whose home is “The Green Green Grass” set? 2. “Thirtysomething” was set in which US state? 3. Who did “Casualty’s” George play in “May to December”? 4. What were Private Godfrey’s sisters called in “Dad’s Army”? 5. Which bookie did Vince Pinner work for? 6. Who had a wife, daughter and mother-in-law who were witches? 7. In which real-life town was “Jam and Jerusalem” filmed? 8. Who sang the theme music for “You Rang M’Lord” with Bob Monkhouse? 9. What was Richard’s mother called in “To the Manor Born”? 10. Which lead character had the nickname Privet?
CONGRATS TO DAVE BALSHAW WHO SCORED 100% IN THE LAST (ANIMAL) QUIZ!
A howling gale, no sign of Albert’s missing hearing aid, and the great escape by four hens all combined to take the level of grumpiness to new heights this morning. Only the fact that Lady Gaga’s new recordings are due out tomorrow saved the day for the King of Grumps is addicted to the music from planet Mars. For the rest of us this afternoon’s Premiership play-offs offer some diversion although we fear the worst for our heroes from Blackpool.
On days like this the flak directed toward whoever happens to be in government is considerable, and it has to be said that there is considerable scope for ire. The problem with the British political system is that the prime minister is forced to select his ministerial team from elected MPs which makes the choice rather limited, given that most of them have never run anything more testing than a raffle. By my reckoning David Cameron is sitting on five dud eggs and he must yearn for the chance to have a clear-out. But a coalition presents real problems in this regard.
The other problem is that the prime minister decided at the outset to practice the art of delegation. As a former chief executive I could have warned him that this can be a dangerous practice. The theory, as expounded in a thousand management textbooks, is fine but it is based on the assumption that the entire team is comprised of geniuses in the making. Any team selected from a pack of carpet-baggers, PR twerps and good-for-nothings is likely to include some real buffoons in the making and the present cabinet certainly does.
Ken Clarke headed the list even before this week’s ludicrous statement on rape and the idea of slashing prison sentences at a time when over 60 per cent of the population believes that they are already too soft. Next comes Andrew Lansley whose handling of the NHS has reached the point where Number Ten has been obliged to take the project over. Chris Huhne is close behind, having followed up his attack on the government of which he is a part by lurching toward a major scandal involving an allegation that he asked his wife to take speeding points for him.
Uncle Vince Cable will certainly be on Cameron’s secret sacking list, having been caught talking on tape about using his “nuclear” option of resigning and then performing more U-turns than a Brands Hatch driver. And then there is the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, who triggered national uproar with her proposal to sell off the nation’s forests without even consulting her leader.
David Cameron likes to talk about the ‘Big Society’, about our all being in this together. He would be well advised to try an experiment. Why not bring in Ministers who are not politicians but who have proven expertise in their specialist fields. Of course the political classes would object, turkeys never vote for Christmas. But at least he could then lead in the way he desires, by setting objectives and letting ministers get on with implementation.
Had he, for example, appointed one of the really successful front-line executives in the NHS they would have come up with improvements but ones that are possible and make sense. In every field there are experts who have been there and done it, people like Lansley and the others have no knowledge, no experience and no residue of goodwill to call on.
Certain it is that a cabinet reshuffle is overdue. If Cameron persists with this bunch of idiots or nincompoops he has no chance of winning the next election. Of course, should he lose, the Opposition will take over and bring back from the dead their own no-hopers such as those who paid out millions to private companies for NHS work that they didn’t perform. Unless someone breaks this ludicrous vicious circle we will continue to be the world’s greatest example of incompetence in motion.
I believe that Cameron has it in him to try something new along these lines. The worry would be that, given his penchant for delegation, he might invite Nick Clegg to organise it. Frying pans and fires come to mind!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEAD QUIZ; 1. Groove between nose and lip 2. 1940s 3. Architecture 4. Joseph Black 5. Benjamin Britten 6. Ian Woosnam 7. Russia 8. Family Plot 9. Sri Lanka 10. Flushing Meadow, New York
Someone up there has switched off that golden light and it is chilly today. One or two brave souls turned up at the allotments without coats but they didn’t stay for long. I confess to being as old fashioned as Albert, the maxim about not shedding a clout before May is out served us well today. I’ve never known whether that means the month of May or the shrub but either way its too early to dress like Lady Gaga.
We dynamic – I never liked the Burns advice about seeing ourselves as others see us – chicken tenders had a new point to mull over. Our Post Offices are under attack as never before and the impression gained is that the coalition will not rest content until every branch office is closed down. Ministers seem incapable of understanding that for many older folk travelling to the nearest town is quite a task.
Having already announced the privatisation of Royal Mail the government is now finding new ways of overcoming public hostility to giving the same treatment to the Post Office. It has even suggested that it may turn the Post Office into a sort of co-operative. Given the financial vulnerability of the organisation to loss of trade resulting from governmental action there are not likely to be many takers! Inch by inch the sources of income are being taken away.
Yesterday we learned of the latest example. The government has awarded the £2o million contract for the handling of benefit payments to PayPoint. The Post Office has handled benefit payments such as giros for 40 years. An estimated 250,000 benefit recipients, which includes pensioners and those on disability payments, still cash in their ‘green giros’ at Post Office counters rather than have them paid into a bank account. Indeed, the majority have no bank account.
In future they will have to visit PayPoint outlets which include off-licences, convenience stores and petrol stations. There is no guarantee that such places will hold sufficient immediate cash and even if they do the security of a Post Office will be sorely missed. So this latest move will hit two ways. The elderly will feel more vulnerable and the income of smaller Post Offices will receive another hit. In fact it will be even worse that that for once people are inside the local Post Office they tend to buy other things which desperate sub-Postmasters now offer for sale. Throw in the impending privatisation of Royal Mail and the government’s insistance that it should consider sourcing services such as posting packages elsewhere and you have the spectacle of thousands of smaller Post Offices pulling down their blinds for the last time.
The move flies in the face of minister’s promises to protect the Post Office by making it the “front line office” for government business. It prompts one to once again wonder why the Lib Dem members of the coalition are so prepared to nod through right-wing obsession with the transfer of every essential public service to the private sector.
Of course we will now be deluged with ‘spin’ aimed at reassuring us that, like the NHS, our Post Office services will be safe in the hands of profit makers. And David Cameron has assembled an army of practitioners in the noble art of lying. One of them was yesterday the subject of an angry rebuke from Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell. He wrote to the prime minister warning that briefings against Jenny Watson, ex-Audit Commission, were totally unacceptable and “will not be tolerated”. When in opposition Cameron made much of the Labour ‘spin-doctors’. He was right to do so but has now multiplied the number and intensified the daily mass of lies and misleading briefings. The odds are that right now one of the spin army is weaving a story supposedly confirming that every citizen wants to see the back of state-owned Post Offices.
As with every other cut this one will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. Our society is losing its soul. Not everyone has a car or the means of getting around, but such people don’t even register on the radar of the super-rich ministers and their Lib Dem stooges.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “Nothing is really work unless you’d rather be doing something else”….J M Barrie “Nobody works as hard for their money as the person who marries for it”…..Elbert Hubbard “Not everyone works in an office, including those who work in an office”…..Jim Davidson “I wish my son would learn a trade. At least we would then know what sort of work he’s out of”…..Henny Youngman “I like work; I can sit and look at it for hours”…Jerome K Jerome ”You know what I did before I got married? Anything I wanted to”…..Henny Youngman “It was a mixed marriage. I’m human and he’s Klingon”….Caril Leifer “My wife told me I’ll drive her to her grave. I had the car out in minutes”….Tommy Cooper “On quiet nights, when I’m alone, I run our wedding video backwards so that I can watch myself walk out of the church a free man”…..Jim Davidson “You may marry the man of your dreams but 14 years later you’re married to a couch that burps”….Roseanne “I’m such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own”….Woody Allen “There are many mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes 380SL convertible”….P J O’Rourke
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Richard Nixon’s wife, Pat 2. Ho Chi Minh City
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which tennis tournament celebrated its centenary in 1977? 2. Which British player won the women’s singles at the 100th tournament?
Have you ever noticed the extent to which we all live in a sort of bubble? Within that we tend to imagine the rest of the world to be merely a larger version of our own expereince. I can best illustrate this by quoting a pal who works for the RAC. He commented recently that every car in the country had broken down that day. It clearly felt like that but in reality every car to which he had been called had broken down, which is a quite different thing. Nearer to home – on the allotment to be precise – there are other examples. Albert tends to assume that every male in the land listens to Lady Gaga music, and Eric that everyone spends their evenings sorting stamp collections. In other words we all asssume that our own experience is universal.
And so it is with Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays. Yesterday he appeared before the Treasury select committee and predictably came under fire from MPs who compare his astonishing income with that of their constituents. He seemed bemused and it was obvious that he doesn’t regard an income of £70 million over the past four years as remotely astonishing, indeed there were moments when it seemed he imagined that everyone earns something in that region.
Mr Diamond has moved from the investment arm of his bank to become its overall boss. As such he will no longer be part of the fantasy world of investment wizards where a bonus of less than a million would be seen as an insult. But he won’t starve, for his new salary is £1.35 million, with the possibility of an annual bonus equal to 2.5 times that amount.
The real glimpse of Mr Diamond’s ‘bubble’ came when he said that there was a period of remorse and apology for banks but he believes that period now needs to be over. In other words, mistakes were made but all is now sorted and we all need to move on. It clearly didn’t occur to him that the vast majority of the nation cannot move on because it is struggling to pay for goods and services whose prices are rocketing whilst wages are frozen or reduced. Perhaps even further from his understanding is the fact that an increasing number have no jobs at all.
Of course there was a time when the financial sector earned more than the rest of us but stayed in touch with reality because their pay packets still spoke in thousands. Now it hands at least one million to thousands of employees who have become so isolated from total reality that they simply cannot grasp why we are all so angry about a few errors of judgement. Judging by Mr Diamond’s demeanour they all believe that the rest of society is only marginally less well off. Of course the reality is that each of them are paid more for a years bean-counting than most people earn in a lifetime. The gulf has become unbridgeable and in their fantasy worlds they play games of monopoly with people’s income and forget that in so doing they ruin lives.
Later the Chnacellor declined an offer from MPs to condemn Diamond’s claim that it was time for bankers to stop apologising. But then he would, for Osborne too lives in a bubble born of great wealth and the assumption that the whingers are only marginally worse off and should simply look on the brighjt side and get on with their lives. The problem is that he has probably never really met someone who earns the sort of wage that he spends on a Christmas break.
But Mr Diamond, Osborne and all will continue merrily along in their bubbles and no doubt will meet up for cocktails occasionally and bemoan the negativity of those only slightly less fortunate than themselves. Yes, we make mistakes, they will say as the waiter refills their glasses, but you win some and lose some old boy.
No Mr Diamond it is not the time to kiss and make up because the hardship caused by your industry will darken our skies for many years. So long as you regard as your right astronomical salaries for even mediocre performances you must expect the rest of us to be hostile. In that respect your bubble is different from those of the likes of Albert and Eric. The rest of us can ignore them for what they do affects us not!
AND DIAMOND IS FAR FROM THE WORST!
To show just how out of touch with the rest of humanity the financial sector is it is worth looking at the cash trousered by many by comparison with whom Diamond is a pauper.
In 2008 Adam Levenson of Fortress Investment Group was paid a bonus of £194 million. In 1996 Lawrence Cross of Green Tree Financial Corp was handed £45 million. In 2006 Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs received £35 million. In 2006 John Mack of Morgan Stanley received £26 milllion.
Now we can understand why our interest levels are reduced to near-nothing! Didn’t they do well..for themselves!
A FRIEND LOST FOR EVER!
This morning I went to the funeral of a wonderful man. His name was David Lyons. I knew him as a Governor of the local NHS Foundation Trust where his energy and humour kept everyone going. At that time David had long retired from his employment but was as busy as ever serving a wide range of voluntary organisations. I knew of his great efforts on behalf of MIND, the CVS and a local school but this morning I heard of a large number of other groups to which he gave wholehearted support.
David was one of those rare people who saw the needs of others as much more important than his own. He was a big man in every sense of the words and the sight of him coming in through the door always lifted my spirits.
He was active within the Labour Party and I used to delight in the verbal assaults he would launch on any minister who, he felt, was not putting the interests of the less-fortunate first. My favourite example was his assault on Patricia Hewitt who had the misfortune to speak at a conference chaired by my friend. He didn’t like what she was trying to do in introducing private medicine, and he didn’t regard her as a true socialist.
At the service a large photograph of David rested against the coffin. It felt as though he was watching us, judging our commitment to others. And his uproariou sense of humour seemed to hang in the air, I could hear him saying now go out into the rain.
And we did. And we stood in the rain exchanging memories of a man of so many parts. I was privileged to share in just one and shall always remember him.
CRICKET FAILS TO CLEAN UP ITS ACT!
The excitement of the Ashes contest had pushed from our minds the scandals of the Pakistan tour during the summer of 2010.
It was therefore something of a shock to learn that the accusations of ball-fixing which rocked the cricketing world have still not been resolved. The International Cricket Council tribunal has postponed any verdict until February.
It really is disgraceful. The continued delay means that even if they are exonerated the three Pakistan players accused by the News of the World will miss out on selection for the World Cup. Should they be found guilty it will simply mean that cricket has once again been shown to be very slow in tackling practices that could destroy the game.
With friends like the ICC no one needs enemies!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Sir Michael Edwardes 2. The bicentennial of the United States.
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which Michael starred in ‘Sleuth’ on the big screen? 2. Who played ‘ The Elephant Man’ ?
The long-yearned for spell of mild weather has brought relief to everyone involved at the poultry end of the allotments. Like the relief of Mafekin it arrived just in time and now there is a more relaxed air about the place, no more remarks about being sent to Siberia by Putin not being as bad as this. All of which meant that, as our New Years Eve tradition demands, we had time to sit in the shed to vote for our man of the year. No prize other than a notice on the wall and the winner is unlikely to learn that he or she has won. But we mad chicken/ferret folk enjoy it and nowt else matters.
Twenty slips of paper went into the box and one name emerged as clear winner. Ian Holloway, the manager of Blackpool Football Club, is our almost unanimous choice. Only one vote for Lady Gaga spoiled our unanimity and we can all guess who put that in. For sheer deeds on the field of play many of us considered Andrew Strauss but the power of laughter won through.
When back in July, Ian Holloway somehow managed to drag his team through the play-offs into the Premiership, every soccer expert in the land predicted disaster. Ian made clear that there was no big money available for so-called megastars and put forward the view that eleven men working hard could take on any other eleven however many millions they were paid. And so it has proved. The outcome is best summed up by a remark made by Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland, after his team’s home defeat by Blackpool over Christmas. He said that he needed a quality player and would spend £10 million to get one. He added that “there is no point in buying a £2 million one since he would be mediocre”. Ian Holloway’s victors cost well below £2 million for the whole team!
Of course Blackpool have taken a few hidings and after one Ian commented that “we have had a walloping but we’re happy because we now have a washing machine, the players don’t have to take their kit home to wash”. In fact not only has Ian Holloway proved that the vast amounts of money splashed out on players is absurd, he has also won the hearts of every sports joiurnalist with his perpetual optimism and wit. When he frst arrived in Blackpool he remarked that he liked the place because, like him, it looked better in the dark. And, unlike other top managers, he accepts defeat with equanimity. After one match he remarked that he had considered poking the linesman with a stick to see if he was awake, but as with every Holloway utterance it was said with a smile. Football, he believes, is taken too seriously and his every action recognises that when Bill Shankly saw it as more important than life itself he was way off the mark.
In a year when football reached its lowest depths and the nation did likewise Ian Holloway made us laugh. He also pricked the bubble of pomposity in which the Premiership dwells and, in so doing, showed just how ridiculous the money paid to semi-literate players of moderate abilility really is. He has set a new standard in honesty and self-effacement, rare features of life at the soccer zillionnaire heights. And his work for charity has shown again and again that he has his feet firmly on the ground.
In 1800 the novelist Maria Edgeworth wrote that “we cannot judge either of the feelings or the character of men with perfect accuracy, from their actions or their public appearance; it is from their careless conversation, their half-finished sentences, that we may hope with the greatest probability of success to discover their real character”. By this, and any other measure, Ian Holloway is the best.
On his day of (unknown to him) triumph let us give him the last word. A TV reporter was attempting to conduct the usual inane interview. “Any injury worries?”, he asked. Our hero replied “No, I’m fully fit thanks“.
AND WHO IS THE DOLT OF THE YEAR?
If such an award existed Andrew Lansley would surely be a hot favourite. A few days ago this site attacked him for cancelling this years flu advertising. As the deaths mount he has now decided to perform yet another U-turn. Has he no self understanding to warn him of his tendency to take rash and wrong decisions?
Perhaps the best judgement on his short but catastrophic reign over the NHS has emerged this very day. Sarah Wollaston is a prominent Conservative MP and is also a retired GP. She has published a lengthy article warning Lansley that he is taking huge risks by attempting root-and-branch reform whilst trying to save £15 billion. Like many she sees what he is doing as an almost inevitable prelude to privatisation and the introduction of private companies who will cherry-pick the profitable services and leave NHS hospitals bankrupt and unable to perform critical procedures. Dr Wollaston knows what she is talking about and is a political ally of Lansley. She gives chapter and verse on the chaos he has wrought and urges him to perform ‘handbrake turns’.
But being the dolt of the year, he is unlikley to listen. He will only realise what he has done when the NHS lies broken and beyond repair!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1972 2. Munich
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. China began using pinyin in 1979. What is pinyin? 2. What name did the BBC give to its Teletext services in the 70s?
A VERY HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!