Posts Tagged ‘Lady Gaga’
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!