Posts Tagged ‘of’
At last! We were able to dig trenches this morning and the mountain of chicken muck is now concealed. Even after several days of thaw the ground was still hard and we now have muscles to match those of Popeye. Or as Leonard Cohen used to sing, ‘we now ache in the places where we used to play’. After yesterday’s early clean-out I deserted the camp and, together with she-who-must-be -obeyed, drove down to Oxford to deliver belated Christmas pressies. Whilst we were with our relatives the cards that we posted well before the big day dropped through their letter-box. So we were not the only people frozen into inaction.
It felt good to make a trip unencumbered by snow or ice. Of course the English climate never tires of tormenting us and, by way of a change, we encountered thick fog through the Midlands. Some idiot had decided to drive blind and the resulting pile up meant that thousands of us spent rather a long time parked on the M6 but it still felt like freedom after weeks of frozen incarceration. And it gave me time to ponder on my vote for Person of the Year when on New Year’s Eve the chicken and ferret folk decide whose picture will adorn the allotment shed through 2011.
Of course no one gives a monkey’s elbow what we lot think but we still take our long-standing tradition seriously. Who impressed us most, cheered us up and regularly revived our sagging spirits? I will let you know tomorrow what we decided but you can be sure of one thing, it won’t be a politician!. It is usually the case that some leading names appear on the slips of paper but those days have gone. The revelations about expenses, the Clegg stance on pledges and the appointment of Lords of dubious character have created a sense of alienation from the ruling classes. I suspect we are not alone!
As if to drive the final nail in the coffin of politicians we learn today that the Telegraph was not exposing a sudden lapse from grace when it broke the news of greed and dishonour. Today’s Telegraph reveals that as long ago as 1980 the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, warned the Cabinet that there was a ” grave risk of serious public scandal” over the abuse of expenses by many MPs. Records of Cabinet meetings, published today by the National Archives, show that parliamentary pay and allowances were the source of great concern. The prime minister went on to warn that MPs should be seen to be accountable for the various secretarial, research assistance and travel allowances. She demanded that Ministers give the lead in tightening the system. There were many abuses and “it might be necessary to consider prosecuting MPs known to be guilty of abuse”. It was necessary to “expose publicly the full implications of MPs’ actions”.
Incredibly nothing was done and it was to be thirty years before the truth was told by a national newspaper. So for three decades many politicians have deceived the people that elected them. The whole system of government was rotten to the core. To be fair there are honourable parliamentarians, but if even a combatative character like the sainted Maggie could not hector them into honesty and openness the lack of integrity was clearly deeply embedded.
The fact that change is now under way reflects no credit on an institution that was clearly happy to embrace dishonesty. Had the Telegraph not decided to act in the public interest we would have continued to pay taxes to fund moats and duck houses. In our book the only title open to politicians is crook of the year!
Between now and tomorrow why not ponder on your own choice of someone who impresssed you, someone who seemed genuine, a role model for your youngsters. There are some such folk out there although I suspect that your list, like mine, will not be a long one!
A fantastic performance by England in Melbourne has ensured that we retain the little urn. The England team was superior to the Aussies in every respect, it is a long time since we have been able to honestly claim that when visiting down under.
We should perhaps spare a thought for Ricky Ponting. He has been a superb batsman over many years and drew the short straw in captaining a team bereft of talent. With the possible exception of Mike Hussay and, occasionally, Mitchell Johnson this Australian side is one of the poorest to wear the baggy green.
But they came up against an England team led as never before by Flower and Strauss. Fitness levels are high, morale likewise. Now all they have to do is put on a repeat performance in Sydney starting on Sunday!
CAMERON’S PAL CONDEMNS PACE OF CUTS!
It is predictable that opponents of the coalition are busy condemning the sheer pace of the financial cuts. Slightly more worrying are the concerns expressed by financial pundits. Extremely worrying is the latest news of a fierce attack by a leading charity figure and key supporter of David Cameron’s ‘big society’.
In an open letter to the prime miister, David Robimson, the co-founder of the Community Links charity, has warned that the massive public spending cuts will doom Cameron’s main social policy initiative to failure and will create a ‘Hurricane Katrina’moment for the coalition.
Robinson, whose charity was described by Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations” writes ” forcing an unsustainable pace on a barrage of uncoordinated cuts that hit the poorest hardest is not an act of God. Why let it be your Katrina?”
This surprise attack came on the day of a less surprising one. Ed Miliband wrote that “many people feel powerless in the face of these decisions that will affect their lives, families and communities. The political forces in Whitehall that have made these decisions appear forbidding and unheeding”.
Perhaps Robinson’s attack will cause someone in government to pause for thought. One can only hope so for the economic readings suggest that the cuts are too rapid and, equally worrying, the trade unions have awoken from their decades of slumber, even moderates such as Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union are openly plannibg major strikes. Katrina moment indeed!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The USSR 2. Whether or not to stay in the EEC
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What year was the Watergate burglary in Washington DC? 2. Which Olympics were hit by terrorists who attacked the Israeli athletes?
I must refrain from banging on about another freezing morning, and the problems of frozen water dispensers, lest you conclude that we allotmenteers are depressed. But I have to confess that we are sinking lower than a snakes belly. This morning it was a combination of a night spent watching the Australian batsmen belting England’s much vaunted bowling attack, followed by three of us having to chase a lot of irate hens who headed out whilst we wielded ice-picks. But when the papers arrived we discovered that, we who constantly moan about the mad political correctness brigade, have a new champion. Take a bow Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary and the Tory equivalent to two-Jags Prescott.
We are a mixed bunch on the allotments, people of all religions and none. but we all enjoy Christmas. In fact the tree will be decorated any day now, the fact that it stays in situ throughout the year makes the task an easy one. We all share another sentiment too, we loathe the busybody PR brigade who have done so much to harm race relations in this country and who have the gall to believe that they have the right to tell everyone else what they can and cannot say or do. In recent years they have targetted Christmas or Wintermass as the ghastly crew insist on calling it.
This year has seen them scaling new heights in lunacy. Birmingham’s annual festival has been renamed Winterval and Lambeth council sparked fury when it ordered its Christmas lights to be renamed “winter” or “celebrity” to avoid upsetting “other faiths”. Rochdale Council provoked more rage when it decided to celebrate Eid and Diwali also, even though those Hindu and Muslim festivals have already come and gone. The lists goes on and on.
Now at long last a minister has had the guts to speak out. Yesterday Eric Pickles said that “we should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christianity and the importance of the birth of Christ”. He went on to warn Councils that ” The war on Christmas is over, and the likes of Winterval, Winter Lights and Luminous deserve to be thrown into the dustbin of history”. And he hadn’t finished at that. Eric went on to stress that shoppers want to see Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carol services and nativity scenes”.
Small wonder that John Midgely, founder of the burgeoning Campaign aginst PR, described Mr Pickles as a “breath of fresh air”. Small wonder too that his sentiments were echoed by leading church figures. The popular Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, believes that Christianity is being wiped out of public life in the name of equality. The bans on Christmas are, he believes, part of a drive to censor Christianity. And no one can accuse Dr Sentamu of being a racist!
I have yet to meet any member of the ethnic community who feels in the least offended by Christmas celebrations. They are not the people responsible for the ever growing chorus of disapproval. That is down to the nauseating busybodies who should shut up once and for all. I am sure that the vast majority of Brits treasure Christmas, and all it represents and entails.We needed a champion and big Eric is the man.
The Christmas story is the greatest story ever told. We sometimes forget that the calender we use is based on a birth that took place 2010 years ago. No story in the history of the world has influenced so much and so many. And one doesn’t have to be religious to acknowledge that irrefutable truth.
Whether we like it or not our country is now a multi-cultural one. But that doesn’t mean that we should change our treasured festivals or customs anymore than we should expect people of other faiths to change theirs. Tolerance should mean acceptance without interference and Eric Pickles may just have started a revolution in reverse. One in which we ignore totally all talk of political correctness.
In reality there is no such thing. Simple courtesy and an ethos of live and let live is all we need provided that the law is observed. And if it isn’t there should be no variation in the response of the authorities whatever the colour of the offender!
TIME TO TACKLE THE PROFITEERING POWER SUPPLIERS!
The Energy Regulator Ofgem has failed totally in its task of regulating the financial trickery of the privatised power companies. Many still remember the various privatisations of the Thatcher era when we were told that competition would drive prices down. In reality there has been an almost unholy alliance amongst the various suppliers and the customer has been robbed again and again.
At a time when many are struggling to meet their bills, and with winter here, the suppliers are announcing massive increases. Dismiss their lies about increased costs for gas, when those costs fell they didn’t pass any reductions on.
British Gas is a classic example. Its annual profit per houshold is now £90. As recently as September it was £65. Like the other suppliers they treat their customers with utter contempt and if Ofgem are not prepared to step in the government should appoint a new regulator.
BANKS ARE THE PITS OF THE WORLD!
Richard Brown is head of savings at HSBC and has staggered many by publicly chastising the public for its failure to save. Yesterday he remarked that only a minority are doing this and said that the public is “burying its head in the sand”.
Perhaps he should consider the possibility that because the rates now offered to savers are virtually zero, people have decided to hold the cash at home. The only advantage of saving with a bank is now security against burglary, there is no monetary case for saving.
I have an account with Barclays. The interest rate has just been reduced to well below 1%. I realise that, having won the green light from the government, the Banks have to find cash to fund their ever increasing bonuses and salaries, but they shouldnt be surprised when I and millions of others decide that we would rather fritter our cash away than help to fund their largesse!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The United Nations 2. One of the states of India
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; Where did Charles Haughey become prime minister? 2. Which Asian country did the USSR invade in 1979?
I noticed an unusual spring to Jack’s step as we walked down to the allotment this morning and it wasn’t entirely down to the third sunny morning on the trot, a miracle in itself. He told me that over the weekend he has received a valuation on a vase that he purchased at a car boot sale for a fiver. The valuer put its market worth at around £700 quid! Jack has been an obsessive collector of old vases for many years and his accumulated know-how is beginning to pay dividends. As we reached the gate, from which wisps of steam were rising as the sun dispersed the early dew, he remarked that collecting beats the lottery hands down. He never speculates more than he can afford, enjoys living with what he has fancied, and occasionally makes a big profit into the bargain.
A lot of us collect things, in my case it is a habit of a lifetime which started back in the war when a packet of foreign stamps was a real treat. Later in life I decided to switch to British stamps which had by then become just as colourful and attractive as those of exotic distant lands. As a result I own four of each of every new issue of the past 30 years and I derive great pleasure from inspecting them when the TV offering is even more mind-numbing than usual.
In fact the best investments are the Presentation Packs produced by Royal Mail for each new issue. They not only include the actual stamps but also a detailed text concerning the subject matter. Last week I received the October offering which features Winnie-the-Pooh and the fascinating story of A A Milne’s creation. Last month covered medical breakthroughs and I learned a great deal from the detail of beta blockers, implant surgery and a host of other developments that account for the fact that old codgers like me are still around. Two months ago it was the history of steam engines in the days before Beeching ruined everything.
Without doubt a spin-off from collecting stamps is an ever increasing knowledge of our nation’s history. Of course the main argument in favour of stamps is that they never lose their face value, they appreciate in value over time and they always provide the possibility that you may possess a stamp containing a print fault. Stamps are that rare thing, something that rockets in value if the makers mess-up! The final plus is that stamps are easy to store so, unlike Jack, I can still enter my front room without need of a step-ladder.
Collecting objects has been a human pastime almost since time began. A glance in the Good Book at Epistles (bk 1) reveals reference to “I put together and collect things which I will soon be able to draw upon”. Of course the scribe didn’t have philately in mind but he provides a string to the bow of my argument.
To an extent The Antique Road Show, and the like, has taken some of the fun out of collecting for there is now less chance than there once was of someone including a rare antique in a jumble sale. But it can still happen as Jack proves from time to time. But the shows are worth watching if only to see the spectacle of avarice in action. And, as with stamps, they often provide a lesson in social history that we would never have accessed any other way.
People collect just about everything but most specialise for that way lies the joy of a display of objects of like usage. One speciality that has never enticed me is war memorabilia. But it has its fans as I found out when I went along to an auction. A counterfeit Nazi £20 note went under the hammer for £400. Apparently the Nazis produced £134 million of counterfeit notes intended to bring about a collapse in the British wartime economy. They were produced by prisoners in concentration camps and the idea was for their dropping en masse over England by the Luftwaffe. That proved unpopular with Goering who preferred dropping bombs and the task was handed to Nazi agents. Only a few obliged, hence the scarcity value. Plain daft but a good example of learning from collecting!
If you are one of those who regularly queues for your Lottery fix you will dismiss all this. But be warned, the chance of winning those millions is statistically less than of being murdered. Mind you those odds may change once Osborne has fired a quarter of Knacker’s men, nonetheless it might be a better investment to have a go at a collection of some sort. At least you have the pleasure of then owning what you have dared to acquire.
Unless of course you collect lottery tickets!
THE FANTASY WORLD OF PREMIERSHIP PLAYERS!
Even the front pages of some of today’s papers feature the breathtaking news that Rooney may quit Man Utd. Despite the fact that he is playing like a drain, and has been involved in behaviour that hardly enhances his role model credentials, Mr Rooney is not enamoured with his wage of £150,000 per week. Maybe his self understanding is not all it could be.
This followed a game at Blackpool yesterday when the seasiders, who earn one tenth of the cash ladled out to their mighty visitors from Man City, showed that they were a match for them.
It surely is time that someone had the courage to call a halt to a situation where fans pay through the nose to watch players who, to use an old wartime adage, are overpaid, over sexed and over here. It referred to Americans at the time but Liverpoool fans may relate to it.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Mr Rochester 2. The Sex Pistols
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which Irish band lost three members killed in a terrorist ambush in 1975? 2. Who sang ‘Whispering Grass’ a British number one of 1975?
It would be good to report that as the allotment folk arrived this morning by car or bike, they were agog at the news of Ed Miliband’s election. It would be good but untrue for hardly a soul mentioned it. A visitor from outer space would have assumed that the main issues facing mankind are Chelsea’s defeat at Maine Road, a loopy referee at Fulham and Lady Gaga wearing a steak on her head, in roughly that order. Despite the impression the little green man might have gained from the media, we Brits are not terribly interested in politicians!
But the appointment of a leader of her Majesty’s opposition is an important event, not least because a democracy needs one. The absence of such can prove disastrous, if proof is needed just cast your mind back to the autocratic days of Blair! But to be effective an opposition needs to be united and here is the first challenge for the younger Miliband. He starts off wth a handicap, having been elected on the strength of his trade union support. The unions no longer command vast respect even amongst their traditional followers. The thought, should the government fall at the hands of rebel Lib Dems, of their taking beer and sandwiches at No 10 is not likley to be a popular one.
Of course the first hurdle is for Ed to get his older brother on board. During the campaign he spoke of his love for David but so far there has been no reciprocation. Both men are likely to have politics running through their veins if background is any criteria for their father Ralph was one of Britain’s leading Marxist intellectuals. When, as a post-graduate at University studying Social History, I had to endure endless lectures on the Miliband approach not to mention various publications all of which had little good to say of capitalism. The other trait that the brothers may well have inherited is toughness and self understanding for both Ralph and his acdemic wife Marion Kozak were survivors of the Holocaust. Some pundits worry that the relationship between the brothers could match that of Blair and Grumpy Gordon but that seems unlikley for Ed has made clear his dislike of the constant rows, many of which he defused in the role of Brown’s go-between.
At 40 Ed is four years younger than David and he has only been an MP since 2005 when he won the seat of Doncaster North. He was quickly spotted by Brown and became one of his closest confidants, and chairman of the Treasury’s Council of Economic advisers. He is widely seen as a maths genius which may give him a head start in his clashes with David Cameron. He is unlikley to feel at ease with the Prime Minister in the way that Nick Clegg does for his background is very different and decidedly less priviledged.
One advantage Ed Miliband does have in battling to win back the affection of the great British public is that he was not an MP at the time of Iraq and has lost no time in describing Blair’s decision as a ‘tragic error’, a position on which he contrasts with his brother who was very much a Blair-man. He has also positioned himself firmly to the left of David’s views in advocating a ‘living wage’ higher than the minimum, a High Commission to limit top salaries and the permanent retention of the 50% tax rate. Yes, there sounds a good deal of the socialist about Ed Miliband and the support he received from his fathers old friend Tony Benn surprised no one.
And therein lies his greatest challenge. Clearly Ed Miliband’s instincts and ideology call him to move sharply back to the policies of Old Labour but he musn’t move too far for if Blair got anything right it was in believing that without the middle-class vote Labour was unelectable. Then again anything he does to create clear political water between his party and the Conservatives may restore some much needed interest in politics. When the electorate can spot no difference between government and opposition apathy flourishes. And perhaps the good news is that distinctions may well serve to draw back into the Labour fold the millions who deserted it to the Lib Dems who have now become indistinguishable from the Tories.
The next couple of years will decide whether the arrival of a new young leader will revitalise Labour. And one suspects that the line pursued on the econmy will play a major part. If, as some leading commentators believe, Ed Miliband pursues his belief that the coalition’s plans for cuts are too draconian, and likely to tip the economy back into recession, he will have a fertile populist tune to play. And every section of society will identify with attacks on proposals that threaten them. We have already heard much from him about fairness and compassion and, if the economic winds blow favourably, the new leader will score heavily. Throw in his declared aim to win over Lib Dem MPs and voters and the Old Etonians may struggle. However, should the economy respond well to the harsh medicine of the coalition he will struggle.
At the very least we should all rejoice that the opposition will now concentrate on the government rather than on each other. We should rejoice but if my pals are any indication we will continue to focus on such vital matters as Manchester City and Lady Gaga. Funny old lot aren’t we?
LAND OF SOAP AND GLORY!
The nation may be verging on bankruptcy but it seems that nothing can prevent us from indulging in the unique British pastime of inventing posh titles and dressing up in ermine robes.
Remember Sue Nye, who was blamed for landing Gordon Brown with the ‘bigoted woman’ of Oldham? She is now Baroness Nye of Lambeth. If this is the standard, every soldier in Afghanistan should get a knighthood at least!
THE FRIGHTENING POWER OF THE DRUG COMPANIES!
Just as soon as the noise in the Shed diminishes I would like to debate this with you. The latest revelations about the side-effects of a drug being prescribed for Diabetes reminds us of the influence that the giant drug companies exercise over our GPs and, indeed, our hopes of staying alive. Are we all the victims of a system that puts profit before wellbeing? Would love to hear from you!
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Muliple Independently Targetable Re-entry vehicles 2. In 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. In which year did the UK introduce decimal currency; 1971, 1975 or 1979? 2. The US table tennis team started a thaw in international relations in 1971. How?
The credit crunch is about to hit every family in the land and everyone agrees that the pain we are to suffer is down to the Bankers. Indeed even the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, echoed the sentiment when I met him this week. But why has there been no pubic inquiry into its roots? Already the calamitous consequences have been one million lost jobs and the nationalisation of large swathes of the banking system and yet none of us is really any the wiser as to the arch-villains.
What we do know is that those leading bankers named in the media as to blame have all found gainful empoyment at the usual high salaries we associate with the industry that brought us down. Adam Applegarth, the former boss of Northern Rock, is now working in a new role in finance. Andy Hornby, who it was alleged brought HBS to its knees, is now running Boots. The much criticised Sir Fred ‘the shred’ Goodwin, who presided over £28 billion of losses at RBS, is back in a top role. So presumably they were all guiltless which poses the question as to who caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. If the Government lacks knowledge of what went wrong, and who failed, how can they possibly ensure that it doesn’t happen again? It can hardly settle for leaving crucial matters in the hands of people with the self understanding of rapacious rattlesnakes.
In the United States there has been a ‘Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’. This was established by the President and is now beavering away. It has already collected millions of pages of internal documents from the banks and is taking daily testaments , under oath, from all those concerned with what happened. What is taking place is a forensic examination of the most intense kind. By the time the work is completed the White House will have prescise guidance as to blame and to what has to be done. Far from big bonuses there are likely to be big dismissals!
What makes the absence of a British inquiry even more puzzling is the fact that we did hold an equivalent to what Obama is forcing right now in respect of the closure of the bank of Credit and Commerce International in 1991 and the failure of Barings in 1995. These official inquiries established the causes of the debacles, apportioned blame, brought to justice those responsible and set out an action plan to ensure there would be no repetition. And yet neither of those mini-crises even began to match the seriousness of today’s financial meltdown!
Of course the British government could not be held accountable for the sub-prime mortgage lending in the American housing market but what is indisputable is that Britain’s soft-touch regulation meant that some of the worst excesses occurred at institutions based in London. The American International group , which provided insurance for the ‘toxic loans’, devised this fateful product in its London offices because it would never have been approved by U.S regulators. The authorities did nothing to prevent the Royal Bank of Scotland paying £48 billion for the disastrous merger with the Dutch bank ABN Amro. And the government actually encouraged Lloyds TSB into a merger with HBOS. The Britsh contribution to the disaster was huge but all those concerned are still sipping bubbly whilst ordinary people pay with their jobs and taxes.
Last week both Mervyn King and Robert Peston told our group of visitors to their offices that people are entitled to be angry for what has happened is grossly unfair. All the more reason then to hold an independent judicial inquiry or tribunal. This could examine City grandees and policymakers and review the trail of evidence. Only then will the public feel that justice has been done and safer systems devised.
Frankly bankers are currently running rings around politicians and regulators. The grotesque bonus culture has re-emerged and they are back to their troughs and to hell with their victims. The choice of Bob Diamond, Britain’s highest paid banker, to be the next chief executive of Barclays, is clear evidence of the contempt in which bankers hold the politicians. We may feel that way too but government is the only hope we have of getting this mess under control. There is no logic whatsoever in imposing draconian cuts without establishing why they are necessary and how the need for another round in a few years time can be prevented.
As Alex Brummer, respected City Editor, has remarked, we are at the second anniversary of the most searing catastrophe of modern times and we look to our leaders to begin, albeit belatedly, to take responsibility for the credit crisis which THEY allowed to happen!
If they continue to refuse a public enquiry along the lines of the American one we can only presume that there is a reason. Either they are in cahoots with the bankers or they have something to hide!
THE ULTIMATE DISGRACE OF A PREMIERSHIP PLAYER!
Tabloid newspapers have alleged that there is within the Premiership a player who has neither slept with another player’s wife or with prostitutes. They have not named the individual who has issued a statement via his solicitor. It says that he utterly rejects this appalling allegation and wil take penal legal action against anyone who dares to smear his name in this way.
The allegation also includes claims that he takes his holdiays with his wife and family. If true the story could destroy the public image of the Premiership!
CRICKET; IN HEAVENS NAME GO HOME!
Pakistan performed better at the Oval yesterday and comfortably beat England in the latest one-day-international. But the game had hardly ended when it emerged that ECB officials were examining overs from the game in the light of information received. At least one national paper claims that they were horrified to see incidents predicted before the match started.
Who knows what is true? Most of us have given up on trying to follow the increasingly shabby story. I do not even know whether the tourists are sinners or sinned against but I share the view of fellow ferreter Albert that the sooner they go the better.
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Mary Pickford 2. Stevie Smith
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Dwight D Eisenhower’s widow died in 1979. What was her name? 2. Who played the lead role in ‘The French Connection’?