Posts Tagged ‘Sunny Morning’
We old codgers are only too well aware of the need for political-correctness when commenting on Germany. We have learned to follow the advice of our guru Basil Fawlty and never mention the war, but this morning’s Daily Express seems to have no such inhibitions. When Albert arrived on the allotments this sunny morning, he delighted in showing us the front page that usually features Princess Di. “Germany declares war on our £” it screams. Perhaps they are working on the basis that they have only mentioned it once and may get away with it.
As I shall report shortly David Cameron escaped from his meeting with Angela Murkel with nothing worse that a clip around his ear, and is now safely back amongst us. But what he probably didn’t expect was that just after he had left, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble launched a near tirade on Britain for its relectance to be drawn into the new federal Europe being planned by his boss. He predicted that all Europe will one day use the Euro and that it will happen “faster than the British currently believe”. Dr Strangelove, as Dr Schauble is known in Germany, said that the UK ” will not be able to resist the tide of history”
His warning came amid a furious outpouring of anti-British sentiment in Berlin. Top selling paper ‘Bild’ asked ” What is Britain doing in the EU?”, another leading paper labelled Britain the “sick empire”. All carry reference to the Merkel plan for a new European Monetary Fund and a strategy to establish control over those countries requiring financial support, which means everyone except Germany itself. A sub-clause of the cunning plan is the centralising of power without significant treaty change, this enabling David Cameron to avoid a referendum.
The other thing that Angela didn’t mention to Dave was a second pronouncement from Brussels. The Commission plans measures to introduce an open-door policy to “facilitate and organise legal immigration” to EU nations from Eastern Europe, Asia and a string of North African countries. Tory MP Philip Hollobone was first on air to claim that “most British people will be absolutely horrified by this latest proposal from the EU..we are already full up and there is no more space for any migrants”. On that at least he is right, in a league table of world populations England is the sixth most crowded country.
And Mr Hollobone wasn’t the only politician to risk an entry in Dr Strangelove’s little black book. John Major, who sprang to fame for tucking his shirt inside his underpants, warned that the growing integration of the eurozone nations threatens democracy in those countries. It will lead to common control over budgets and fiscal deficits. The German’ support for a banking tax is a “heat-seeking missile aimed at the City of London” said the former occupant of number Ten. An unfortunate choice of analogy, but we follow his drift.
But even those of us who still listen to Churchill’s speeches have to confess that Germany is the only country in Europe, including us, that has manged its affairs well. Small wonder that its citizens are unhappy at the thought of using their hard-fought for reserves to bail out economic idiots. The result is that Angela Merkel is now widely acknowledged as the most powerful leader in the world bar Obama. The daughter of a Protestant church minister she was born in West Germany in 1954, but went east when her father’s job demanded it.
She was therefore schooled under the communist system of the old East Germany, and stood out at arithmetic, winning a medal at the “Maths Olympics” held to promote the brightest chilren in the Eastern bloc. After school she studied at Leipzig University, and went on to become a research scientist before moving into politics. There she has earned a reputation for toughness and few commentators doubt that the recent ejections from office of Papandreou (Greece) and Berlusconi (Italy) had a lot to do with her demands for financial prudence. Berlusconi in particular learned the hard way that vulgar insults about her weight and looks were inadvisable!
So back to Dave who, to give him credit, escaped almost unharmed from his meeting with the new European supremo. Fortunately he resisted the temptation, over lunch, to adapt his regular Basil Fawlty joke about “I say, Angela, these are marvellous hors d’oeuvres – hors d’oeuvres which must be obeyed at all times vizout kvestion”. He did however dare to stick to his idea of the European Central Bank bailing out the eurozone and he continually used the karate chop gesture that his spin-doctors have told him shows just how tough he really is. But it was to no avail.
Perhaps he was nervous. He knows what happens to elected leaders who call referendums that the Germans don’t want, so he made no mention of that before the pair posed for the farewell photo-call. They both switched on grins of the sort normally found on Hallowe’en pumpkins, then removing them the moment the cameras stopped turning.
But he escaped alive. Whether the rest of us will once the Iron Lady’s grip tightens is another matter altogether!
TEST YOUR SELF WITH THE WEEKEND QUIZ;
1. What is a pickled gherkin made from? 2. Which keeper was a winner in the first FA Cup Final decided on penalties? 3. What is the name of Britney Spear’s second son? 4. Pooh Bah appears in which Gilbert and Sullivan operetta? 5. Which Classic race is run over the longest distance? 6. Who was the brother of Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail? 7. What form did the head of the Sphinx take? 8. Which voice in singing is pitched between a tenor and a soprano? 9. Which birds collect in a covey? 10. Which now deposed leader led Iraq into the 1990s Gulf War?
Another sunny morning, clearly miracles do happen. But according to something called the Rapture Index, a sort of Doomsday Dow Jones, the world will end on May 21st, so we must make the best of it. The index editor, Terry James, of Little Rock, Arkansa, records world events and then factors them into a “cohesive indicator”. Many of his fans were on the streets yesterday carrying warnings of ‘Judgement day’. I’m less than convinced that my allotment colleagues are worried, although Elsie did say that she must remember to cancel her papers!
Of course had the predicted end arrived just a week earlier it would have spared Liam Fox the ultimate humiliation. The great and good of the Conservative Party, of right-wing persuasion, have rushed forward to tell us that we have just lost the greatest man since our Lord walked the earth. We humble chicken-keepers beg to differ.
On September 15th Dr Fox issued a statement; “Mr Werrity is not an employee of the MOD and has, therefore, not travelled with me on any official overseas visits”. That was a lie. On October 5th he stated ;” I have met Mr Werrity 14 times at the MOD mainbuilding over the past 16 months but not in an official capacity”. That was a lie. On the same day the MOD said; “Mr Werrity has never been part of Dr Fox’s travelling party when the Secretary of State is abroad on official business”. That was a lie. On October 6th Dr Fox said; “A number of baseless accusations have been made”. That was a lie. On October 9th Dr Fox said; ” I have absolutely no fear of complete transparency. There are underlying issues behind these claims and the motivation is deeply suspect”. That was a lie.
Just two days ago there was little sign of a sudden resignation. Yesterday it emerged from bank statements from Mr Werrity’s not-for-profit company Pargav Ltd that Mr Werrity’s trips around the world with Dr Fox were partly funded by a risk management company with close links to C5 Capital, an investment fund that backs security and defence firms and employs a former head of Special Forces. The accounts also showed that John Moulkton, a venture capitalist and donor to Dr Fox before the election, was one of Pargav’s backers. It then emerged that Dr Fox solicited the payments.
This was revealed by Mr Moulton. At the same time the media were establishing whether C5 invested in firms that stood to gain from government contracts. At that moment the Doctor realised that the game was up. In political circles it is said that spin is better than honesty. But only if the story concocted is not too economical with the truth.
But integrity apart the big question, as this blog claimed some days ago, was how could someone with such appalling judgement be in charge of servicemen and women whose lives depend on the right decisions, the rapid decisions? Sound judgement is obviously the key and, without putting the boot in unnecessarily, it has to be said that someone daft enough to take his friend around the world to meetings requiring security clearance and to solicit money to fund him from sources with clear conflicts of interest, is hardly the person you want in charge when the red telephone rings.
Hopefully Phil Hammond will prove to be a safe pair of hands. But the whole saga has done nothing to restore our lost confidence in politicians following the expenses and Murdoch scandals.
David Cameron clearly doesn’t understand that. In his comment on Dr Fox’s departure he made a strong point of Labour’s incompetent management of the MOD. I imagine he may be right but we are not discussing stock control here prime minister, we are discussing honesty and judgement!
TRY YOUR HAND AT THE WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. In which university city is the Bodleian Library? 2. In which book does Archbishop Aringarosa visit Castle Gandolfo? 3. “Uncle Tom’s cabin” was a novel which argued against what? 4. In the US what type of book is Webster famous for? 5. Who is the most famous manservant created by PG Woodehouse? 6. What was Muhammad Ali’s autobiography called? 7. Which Dorothy L Sayers’ creation was Harriet Vane’s husband? 8 Which children’s classic was written to encourage adult’s to be kinder to horses? 9. Which book by ex-intelligence agent Peter Wright did the Britsh government try to have banned? 10. What was the subject of Benjamin Spock’s most famous books?
ANSWERS WILL BE INCLUDED WITH TOMORROW’S BLOG!
Another golden, sunny morning. Someone up there must know that the roof of our new allotment building is still incomplete and the race is on to complete the job before the monsoons reach us. Even the hens seems unsettled by the chaos, egg production has plummeted faster than George Osborne’s economic recovery graph.
As often reported, we have a significant number of crciket buffs in our midst. And the mood at the end of the Test series against India is subdued. Yes, we are deighted that at last England is rated at the top of the world’s Test league, but we are worried that the whole future of Test cricket is in serious jeopardy. Frankly, the Indian matches were a farce. Yes, it was good to watch Ian Bell’s fluent batting performance, but it was hard to escape the conclusion that the Indian bowling attack would provide little challenge to any good club line-up. Worse still, with the honourable exception of Rahul Dravid, the vistors looked weary and totally disinterested. Like Sri Lanka before them, they posed no serious threat to a much improved England team and Test cricket is meant to be a, er, test.
With the exception of England and Australia, most of the Test-playing countries have become obsessed with the shorter form of the game, especially the Twenty20 version. India is a nation besotted by cricket but its massive following has fallen in love with the one-day game to the extent that Test matches are now a mere add-on. The players likewise, there are serious fortunes to be made in the Indian IPL quick-fire tournament and it has become for many spectators and players alike, the number one attraction.
Test matches in the West Indies now attract miniscule attendances, Pakistan can only play away from home, New Zealand attendances have plummeted and in Australia the unusual spectacle of a team incapable of beating a Co-Op egg has disenchanted thousands so used to watching conquering heroes. Even in South Africa there are clear signs of a drift away from five-day cricket.
Here in England there is still a passion for Test cricket but, given that every other side has declined so much, one cannot help wondering for how long people will pay good money to watch the sort of one-sided rubbish witnessed over the past few months.
One would like to believe that the international cricket authorities are giving all this a good deal of thought. But one doesn’t, because even there the powerful influence of the new age of quick bashes is taking on a stranglehold. We have already reached the point where Test series are being fitted in around one-dayers and twenty over games. We have already reached the point where players are jaded as a result of two much cricket. We have already reached the point where in an age of shortened attention spans the fans are voting with their feet.
Like most cricket fans I enjoy the Twenty20 matches and will certainly be glued to my seat come Saturday when the UK tournament reaches its climax at Edgbaston. But I constnatly remind myself that the stars would not be stars given no Test matches or County Championship games. If those go we will be into an age of sloggers and defensive bowlers and will have lost for ever the sheer beauty of beautiful strokes and brilliantly aggressive fast and spin bowling.
At its best Test cricket is an enthralling experience but already we are reduced to fleeting glances. Watching Anderson and Swann battling it out with Tendulkar on the final day of the fourth Test was pure theatre, with every ball and every nuance looming large. Sadly that was the exception rather than the rule in what was billed as the clash of the giants.
Interest in Test cricket can only be revived by top class teams and given that playing for ones country has now become a second priority for many international players that means less one-day cricket and more time spent on honing skills. Frankly I doubt if the will for that exists in an age when the quick buck is God.
But the demise of the longer form of the game is in no ones interest. Have we really forgotten so quickly those memorable Ashes, those heated battles with teams from the sub-continent? I fear so for asked to name the Test stars of today most fans would struggle for more than a dozen names having listed the entire England team.
Unless the International Cricket Council recognises that without the firm foundation of Test cricket the odds are that the game itself would wither and die, the future for the greatest sport of all looks very grim indeed!
TODAY’S GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ..TEST YOURSELF! 1. Where is fibrin found in your body? 2. What is the vegetable common to the Indian dishes of Aloo Gobi and Aloo Palak? 3. Which group had hits including “Homely Girl” and “Kingston Town”? 4. The word “ketchup” comes from which language? 5. Who presented “The secret life of the Manic Depressive”? 6. Who first took the much-covered song “Light my Fire” to No. 1? 7. With 7 goals, Lua-Lua was top scorer for which Premiership side? 8. Woburn Abbey is the home of which family? 9. What is a durian? 10. Which film starred John Cleese as an under-pressure headmaster?
A hot and sunny morning on the allotments! We wandered about in a daze for this was a very rare experience, the sort of day when Blackpool beach sounds like a treat rather than the equivalent of Scott’s last journey. It was also the sort of day to trigger thoughts of cricket. Right now those are not positive thoughts, and I am not referring solely to yesterday’s bizaare Twenty20 between England and Sri Lanka. Pieterson and Morgan apart, this England side couldn’t have beaten a Co-op egg! Why players such as Bell are excluded is one of the great mysteries of the age!
But far more worrying is the gradual takeover of the administration of world cricket by India. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is cricket’s equivalent of football’s Fifa. In every sense! The ICC is already heavily influenced by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), its present chairman is the former head of the BCCI, Sharad Pawar. Under the present rules there is a fixed term for ICC presidents and no one country can hold the office for two consecutive periods. At today’s ICC annual meeting in Hong Kong, India is proposing that once appointed a president can rule for life! Now that is even worse than Blatter at Fifa, he at least stages the occasional election, albeit a corrupt one of course.
Ridiculous, it simply can’t happen. Oh yes it can! As in the case of football many of the countries that vote scarcely play cricket. How can Argentina, Afghanistan etc be allowed to decide Test match schedules? But hovering in the background is Narayanswamy Srinivasan, the power in Indian cricket, the owner of Chennai Super Kings and the chief executive of India’s board. What he wants he gets. Remember the plan to reduce the next world cup to the top ten teams to eliminate all the one-sided and meaningless games that marred the last one? During a recent tea-break at a meeting in Singapore, the man of power talked to the various chief excutives who had just ratified the decision. When the meeting resumed the majority reversed the decision and the next world cup will be just as tedious as the last.
How is this overwhelming influence obtained? Geoffrey Boycott has no doubts. “Many countries that play cricket are frightened to death of India’s financial power. You’ve got TV stations queuing up in India to beam the coverage of their tours in to India and they pay a lot of money for that” says the outspoken Yorkshireman. He is clearly right, India has a vast audience for cricket and filming rights produce a bonanza for authorities often reduced to counting the piggy-bank.
So the odds are that this week will see a new order at the ICC with an Indian president taking the top job on a permanent basis. Two outcomes are obvious. The new umpires’ Decision Review System will be scrapped. It has proved popular with the fans but India has already refused to use it on the forthcoming tour of England. Of greater importance, there will be an eight week period each year when no international cricket will be allowed. This will give free rein to the Indian Premier League. That will be a financial body-blow to England. But even more important than that is the threat to good governance.
We all know from the scandal surrounding last year’s Test series with Pakistan that a cancer of corruption is spreading within the game. This emanates from Indian bookmakers who make fortunes, often in distinctly unethical ways. Millions of pounds change hands daily on such obscure things as the number of ‘no-balls’. The only body that can even attempt to keep this under control is the ICC. Need I say more?
The complex game of cricket is open to corruption like no other. It is already losing its reputation for fair play and a strong incorruptable ICC is the only hope. The idea that any single country should hold sway on a permanent basis is appalling, the idea of that being India, the home of cricket manipulation, even more so.
If this goes through Fifa will look a paragon of virtue by comparison. The English, Australian, New Zealand and South African delegations should walk out if necessary. That may only account for four votes but world cricket without the four would be less of a money spinner to say the least. India may hold all the power but matches played against Afghanistan and Argentina would soon show where the pulling power really rests!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S EGGHEADS QUIZ; 1. Germany 2. Italy 3. Alan Titchmarsh 4. Gennell 5. Ernie Wise 6. China 7. Westlife 8. Potter 9. Holly 10. Colin Farrell.
HIGHEST SCORE SENT IN SO FAR; 8 BY J ROACH. HOW DID YOU DO?
A blustery but sunny morning as we wandered, in cynical mood, down the lane to the allotments. Cynical? Most of us are permanently cynical, this morning especially so, having just read that Clegg and Cameron had already agreed the changes to the NHS bill before the Sheffield Kid announced on yesterday’s BBC his intention to demand them. As we reached the gate, Albert remarked that expert though the pair are in the art of deception, they will need to produce something very special to explain the situation in Libya.
Almost forgotten it? Understandable, given all the things that have swept it from the headlines since we began our bombing mission there some six weeks ago. But we and the French are still bombing away. Bombing is perhaps the wrong term for we are mainly using missiles which cost a cool £850,000 per one-way trip. According to Reuters we have so far managed to kill or maim almost as many civilians as we have saved from Gaddafi’s wrath.
Shortly before the no-fly zone was imposed Barack Obama assured a bipartisan group in Congress that the action would take “days not weeks”. A week later he told the American nation the aim was limited to purely humanitarian ends. He refuted absolutely any suggestion of regime change. Two weeks later, in a joint letter signed by David Cameron and Sarkozy, he brazenly conceded that it was, after all, about regime change when he said “it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in charge”.
Perhaps that fits with the bin Laden execution. Assassination is now, apparently, the foreign policy du jour. Yesterday, the British defence secretary, Liam Fox, insisted that “Nato does not target individuals”. True, it goes for families. Just over a week ago they killed Gaddaffi’s son and three of his grandchildren. Much waving of American flags over bin Laden but on Libya the French and Brits will soon be left to bomb alone, for Libya is not a popular cause in the States and, having obtained his political pay-off from bin Laden, President Obama is poised to withdraw almost completely.
So here we are with a conflict supposed to last days, and was not about regime change, that has gone on for six weeks, cost a fortune in terms of lives and weaponry, and won’t end until the regime changes. Even as we prepare to negotiate a truce with the Taliban, Gaddafi’s offer of a ceasefire has been rejected out of hand. In the name of humanitarianism, the war must be prolonged. If need be for ever since there is stalemate on the ground.
Of course the bombing does have support to a degree from the United Nations, although many countries are now protesting that the French and British action is beyond that authorised. Many ask why not intervene also in Syria and Yemen, where many protestors are dying daily. There is no logical answer, only the one that the gung-ho French and Brits have already bitten off more than they can chew.
The only way in which they can exit without humiliation is to go in on the ground and some British ‘advisers’ are already there with the increasingly suspect ‘rebel’ forces. But it would need American troops to make up a strong enough force and that is unlikely. A prominent US senator in New Hampshire said ‘if the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of US troops is to prevent genocide, then we should have 300,000 in the Congo right now, where millions have been slaughtered. We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan. We would be staying on in Iraq”. The senator’s name was Barack Obama.
We can pontificate for ever on the Libyan ‘mission’. Unless we arrange an assassination or send in troops there will be no progress, only bloodshed. Surely we can only settle for simply imposing the no-fly zone however ineffective that may be. Right now we are edging into something that we cannot control and which cannot succeed.
The prime minister must tap in to his self-understanding. Hoodwinking Clegg is one thing, doing it to a watchful world an altogether tougher task!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; WRITING “ Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try!”…..Fran Lebowitz “Is there any living writer whose silence we would ocnsider to be a literary disaster?”……Cyril Connolly “Advice to writers; sometimes you have to stop writing. Even before you start”……..Stanislaw J Lec “Writing is the hardest way to earn a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators”….William Saroyan “Writing is one tenth perspiration and nine-tenths masturbation”….Alan Bennett “You, a writer? Listen, dear, you couldn’t write ‘fuck’ on a dusty Venetian blind”…….Coral Browne “There was a time when I thought my only connection with the literary world would be that I once delivered meat to T S Eliot’s mother-in-law”……Alan Bennett “Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness”….Georges Simenon “Writing is like the oldest profession. First you do it for your own enjoyment. Then you do it for a few friends. Eventually you think, what the hell, I might as well get paid for doing it”…….Irma Kalish
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Francis Ford Coppola 2. Anthony Eden
TODAY’S QUESTIONS ; CAN YOU BEAT THE EGGHEADS?; 1. What kind of sculpture was originated by Alexander Calder, who died in 1976? 2. Who wrote ‘Whatever happened to Sex?’ ? 3. Asuncion is the capital of which country? 4. Which ‘Pop Idol’ star was born Jan 20 1979, in Berkshire? 5. Who had hits with ‘Take Your Time’ and ‘Got to Have Your Love’ ? 6. What is a paravane used for? 7. Dr James Naismith devised which game? 8. In which decade was Jeremy Paxman born? 9. Which worldwide magazine was conceived by DeWitt Wallace? 10.. To within two years, when were postcodes introduced to the UK?
A bright and sunny morning greeted us as we set about our usual routines. The latest flock of Caledonian Black Tails seemed in skittish mood and hopes are high that they will join the egg production numbers well before Easter. But we were in a grumpy mood, having heard the outcome of the parliamentary vote on the plan to privatise all the woodlands held by the state-owned Forestry Commission, about 20 per cent of the UK tree population. Several of us had given time to supporting the campaign by ’38 Degrees’ and had fooled ourselves into believing that a petition already heading for the half-million mark plus extensive press adverts would cause MPs to stop and think.
Yesterday our optimism was boosted by official figures released by the government. These showed that the sale will bring in £655 million but will cost £679 million. The cost benefit study says the government would lose substantial income from the sale of timber and recreation licences and would have to pay many millions in compensation and redundancies. In addition any charities bidding would have to be given substantial financial help. In other words there is no financial merit in pursuing this highly unpopular strategy. It is driven entirely by ideology.
The long awaited vote brought a defeat for the opposition motion opposing the sale. The coalition won by 310 votes to 260, a mjority of 50 secured by the block support of the Lib Dems. Why they would want to sell off our heritage is unclear.
Earlier, at prime minister’s questions, David Cameron said there would be no u-turn on this although he would “listen to all the arguments”. Immediately afterwards his parliamentray private secretary, Desmond Swayne, issued a blog in which he revealed that the plan had unleashed a “torrent of hostile emails”. Rather patronisingly, he went on to complain that it was almost as if the government was proposing to “adulterate the people’s strawberry jam with wooden pips”. Clearly what the people say is regarded with disdain, perhaps the fact that at least eight multi-millionaire ministers have their own private woodland has made opposition seem petty?
This of course is far from the end of the matter. A Bill has to come before the House and ’38 Degrees’ has pledged to fight on. It hopes to produce a petition involving millions, and it will continue to present the case against private ownership as it did on Sunday in the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme. It is pushing against an open door for wherever one goes one finds . people are opposed to the destruction of trees, and episodes like yesterday’s massive storms in Australia strengthen the belief of many that we cannot go on ignoring what scientists tell us about climate change. But the overall reaction is that with the poulation becoming ever more urbanised we need to protect our forests, our chance to escape and our heritage.
Yesterday was the perfect example of just how facile are the claims that we live in a true democracy. MPs are besieged with complaints and pleas that they stop this destruction now. But they are perfectly happy to toe the party line, however mistaken that may be. Only three Conservative MPs rebelled; Zac Goldsmith, Julian Lewis and Caroline Nokes and they deserve credit for being prepared to face the music from Cameron, Clegg et al. We can only hope that more will decide to do likewise when the final vote is taken.
But the omens are not good. Forests which have enchanted so many for so many centuries, and have provided sanctuary for so much wildlife, will be destroyed. And for what? Once we imagined that this was all part of the need to pay off our deficit. Now we know it is, like the NHS ‘reforms’, simply part of the obsession with privatisation.
Mr Cameron can be thankful for two things. Firstly that he has fifty odd Lib Dem lapdogs, prepared to jump when he tells them. Secondly, that the British people are of a more passive temperament than Egyptians!
LAWYERS STOOP EVER LOWER!
Fancy making a quick pile at the taxpayers expense? Then why not become a lawyer, a profession that stoops ever lower in its attempts to wipe out a century-long reputation for honesty and probity.
The no-win-no-fee circus is now moving in to Her Majesties prisons in expectation of a windfall resulting from the European Court’s ruling that prisoners should get the vote as part of their human rights. David Cameron is rightly refusing to grant any such concession but Europe now rules the roost. The result could be that prisoners can sue us the taxpayers.
And the vultures are gathering. Lawyers have already ‘signed up’ 2500 prisoners and persuaded them to seek payouts. The estimated compensation and massive legal costs could exceed £100 million.
Of course if we refuse to bow the knee to Strasbourg the cost would be zero . But the chance of that is akin to the legal profession winning back the proud place it once had in public affection.
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; ” Save a little money each month, and at the end of the year, you’ll be surprised at how little you have”…Ernest Haskins ” When a man tells you he got rich by hard work, ask him whose”….George Bernard Shaw ”Why does a slight tax increase cost you 200 pounds and a substantial tax cut save you 30?”…..Peg Bracken ” Everyone should pay their tax bill with a smile. I tried it but they demanded cash”….Jackie Mason “My family was so poor that the lady next door gave birth to me”….Lee Trevino ” We were so poor that if we woke up on Christmas morning without an erection we had nothing to play with”….Frank McCourt “The lack of money is the root of all evil”….Mark Twain “Now that he was rich he was not thought ignorant any more, but simply eccentric”….Mavis Gallant “Victoria Beckham gave away all her old clothes to starving children. Well, who else are they going to fit?”…..Pauline Calf “Homelessness is homelessness wherever you live”….Glenda Jackson “His wallet is as capacious as an elephant’s scrotum and just as difficult to get your hands on”….Blackadder 11 “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one”….George Mikes
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1. Haiti 2. Ben Lyon
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. What was Gypsy Rose Lee (died 1970) famous for? 2. This leader once took off his shoe to bang the rostrum at the UN . He died in 1971. Who was he?
A lovely sunny morning offset by brass monkey temperatures greeted us this morning. Like us, the cabbages have turned white, unlike us they will return to their natural colour in due course. Meantime the chooks are devoiuring the lettuces in the big greenhouse so they are far from deprived. We half noticed all this as we worked but so used to the routine are we that we chat as we work, what posh people call multi-tasking I believe. And the chat today was about Alan Johnson.
There is a healthy contempt for most top politicians on the allotment but Alan Johnson was the exception. Several of us met him during his stint at the Department of Health and we liked him. He was almost unique amongst the posh people that run the country. He didn’t go to Eton or Oxbridge and he once had an ordinary job just like the rest of us. He related to ordinary folk and they to him. In the Commons during his brief period as shadow chancellor he was constantly patronised by the Old Etonian set. Had Cameron told me that I couldn’t count and didn’t count I would have been inclined to do a Prescott, but to Alan it was as water is to a duck’s back.
No one knows what the personal problems that led him to resign are, doubtless the gutter press will either dig up or invent something. He can expect no mercy from the Murdoch press. But whatever they invent it will not diminish the man for he stood out amongst the two front benches which are packed with people who went straight into politics from university, and have no real idea of what the life of an ordinary family is like.
One thing is certain in all this. Cameron et al will find it a good deal harder to patronise Ed Balls who is widely regarded at Westminster as having the sharpest economic brain. I spent an hour with him when he was in charge of Education and I liked him. But I also gained the distinct impression that tangling with him would not be a pleasant experience, especially if the subject was finance. When Ed Miliband originally appointed Alan Johnson the relief on George Osborne’s face was there for all to see, whatever he pretends he will not be relishing the idea of combat with Balls on his own subject.
But there is something depressing about it all isn’t there. Any prime minister must select his or her ministers from a total of around 300, and many of those will be too old or too daft. And he will know that the best brains in the country are all somewhere else, earning more and working more sociable hours. The result is that a PM tends to play it safe by selecting from within his own social class. The result is that we have people such as Osborne or Lansley responsible for huge organisations within which, if they were free to apply, they would command no better than a middle-management position.
Like them Alan Johnson was no genius, but he did have one big thing going for him. He had self understanding and common sense. He knew what the people out there really think and he knew how much they would take. Had he been chancellor you can be sure that he would have understood precisely which cuts were beyond the pale.
The interesting feature now will be how much Balls reins in his passionate belief in Keynes, in the concept of boosting an economy before extracting the wherewithal to balance the books. Ed Miliband tends to the view that some heavy cuts at the front end are needed, Balls does not. He believes that the economy is being driven over a massive cliff and many economists believe that he is right.
And Ed Balls does not take kindly to patronising posh people. Be sure that when he addresses ministers as my honourable friend he doesn’t mean one word of it!
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE MURDOCH BID?
Most people appear reluctant to see even more media power pass into the hands of one man, Rupert Murdoch. That explains some of the popularity enjoyed by Vince Cable during the election. Since then he has rather fallen from grace and his faux pas about Murdoch gave the prime minister the perfect opportunity to take the responsibility for scrutinising the bid for BSkyB away from him and to hand it to a Murdoch devotee, Jeremy Hunt.
Now no one believes other than that a stitch-up is underway. And no one was surprised to learn that over the holiday Cameron visited Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, and her husband at their Oxfordshire home. Ironically news of the visit coincided with news of pressure mounting over allegations of phone-tapping at the News of the World, the former editor of which was, until today, Cameron’s communications director.
The reaction from the opposition has been hostile. Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis described Cameron’s visit as ” extrordinary”. He claimed that “the prime minister may be in breach of his own ministerial code”. There is, claimed Mr Lewis, ” an arrogance about this prime minister that is slowly coming to the surface”.
Sadly the critics can huff and puff all they wish, the deal is as good as done!
SOME THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “I’ve decided to take up a life of crime but I can’t decide which party to join”…Roy Chubby Brown “The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put make-up on two faces”….Maureen Murphy ” A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country”….Texas Guinan “A politician never believes anything he says, so he is always amazed when you do”….Charles de Gaulle “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it wrongly and applying unsuitbke remedies”….Grouch Marx “Being in politics is like being a soccer manager. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think its important”……Eugene McCarthy “Reagan won because he ran against Jimmy Carter. Had Reagan run unopposed he would have lost”…….Mort Sahl
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. James Callaghan 2. Basil Hume
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which character in ‘Coronation Street electrocuted herself? 2. Who was the first presenter of the TV show’ The Generation Game’?
Having damaged my back when humping bags of gravel around the allotment site I had to plead guilty but insane to those colleagues who had to clean out my animals this morning. Whilst they see me as a good neighbour, and therefore worthy of help, they are nonetheless critical of my self-induced crisis. As I made the tea I felt rather as I imagine the beleagured Irish government feels this sunny morning.
Like many I often cannot get my head around just what is happening in the world of high finance. The coalition has imposed severe cuts on everything from the police right down to voluntary organisations such as Mind, who provide crucial services for the most vulnerable. Yet it is happy to hand over the equivalent of the total savings to Ireland and then to calmly announce that we will also be obliged to underwrite any further emergency bailouts across the eurozone depsite the fact that we are not in it.
None of which makes any sense to such as elderly people struggling to survive and now faced with huge price hikes by the privatised domestic power providers. The Irish situation is even more bizaare. It may be that you have little awareness of the fact that Ireland has for years operated what amounts to tax piracy. It is a policy that has robbed every European economy of billions whilst lining the pockets of huge corporations who have established offices in the republic to enable them to benefit from a corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent as against the 28% they would have to pay if registered in the UK or the 35% in the United States.
Only last week yet another giant British company - Northern Foods, now merged with Greencore – shifted its headquarters to Dublin. Just its brass plate and profits went, not its factories making biscuits and frozen foods. It was just the latest example of Ireland playing its beggar my neighbour, race-to-the-bottom tax game. Many companies now play this game, advertising giant WPP for one; no staff go over neither does the board. All that is needed is registration and hey presto the British exchequer is the poorer and the directors and shareholders rub their hands in glee.
But the practice is even worse than it at first sounds. Ireland allows its registered tax avoiders to legally pass on profits to other tax havens, some of which apply no corporation taxes at all. Google puts 92% of its billions of world-wide non-US profits through Dublin and, in the past year, paid only £18 million in tax!
Even more amazing is the fact that UK politicians have lauded the Irish tax haven. In 2006 George Osborne penned a paean of praise to Ireland in The Times newspaper. “Look and learn across the Irish Sea” he wrote. Ireland stands as a shining example of the possible in long-term economic policymaking…Capital will go where investment is most attractive “. The then future Chancellor said that “Ireland’s business tax rates are only 12.5%, whilst ours are among the highest in the world…low taxes are the answer to success”. He missed the point that every company that transferred notionally to Dublin represented a huge revenue loss to Britain and did little for Ireland since the actual employment remained here. Those who for so long suspected that Osborne is to economics what Eddie the Eagle was to gold medals will now feel vindicated! Does his self understanding tell him that he is an idiot?
Mrs Merkel yesterday made clear the German conditions for a bailout and these include an end to the tax haven practice that Ireland has for so long embraced. Clearly she is right but the British cash appears to be available without strings. So we are prepared to use fortunes we haven’t got to prop up a system that drains even more of our corporate income away from these shores!
The Irish government has been living out a financial fantasy, one in which we colluded. They also witheld the truth from the people and a political backlash is underway. There must surely be a risk that one will follow here once what Cameron refers to as “ordinary people” realise that the outcome of all their savings is to be handed over to a neighbour who plays a huge financial role in weakening us.
We will of course be assured that it is only a loan. What won’t be said is that the chance of it being paid back is equivalent to our tabloids ever desisting from stories about ‘Queen’ Camilla!
NO THAI HOLIDAY FOR THE CAMERONS !
Having regaled us for weeks with the details of David Cameron’s planned Christmas holiday in Thailand, the Daily Mail has now revealed that he has performed another U-turn. We should perhaps give him credit for responding to public outrage which is more that could be said for the Blairs.
The original story was that the prime minister would pay for the holiday himself, in which case it was his own business and nothing to do with the chattering classes. However, a leak - the government rather specialises in those – confirmed that there was to be a £50,000 bill for security and other trimmings.
I particularly like the revised ‘spin’ which is that Cameron is unhaapy at the political killings of democracy campaigners and journalists at the hands of his Eton contemporary Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai leader. It is of course an opportunist lie but one has to admire the timing!
CRICKET; TOMORROW IS THE DAY!
Many of us will be spending the night in the armchair tomorrow when the long awaited Ashes series begins in steamy Brisbane. The pundits have done their stuff, the traditional insults have been exchanged and now it is down to the players.
For the first time for many decades England are the clear favourites but there is one possible pitfall. If Mitchell Johnston can find his line and length he is quite capable of blowing away key players such as Strauss and Pieterson. The opening overs of the England innings will be very revealing.
Having said that, Mitchell has been of late about as accurate as the UK weather forecasts!
I NEED YOUR HELP!!!
The site has been going for a few months now and the number of ‘hits’ has passed 180,000. This is the 226th posting. I am really keen to have your advice. Are there aspects you would prefer to see changed? One of the setbacks to writing on the net is that the views of the readers are unknown to the amateur author. Would love to have your advice! THANKS.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. 1975 2. Antarctica
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Which two Asian countries launched their first satellite in 1970? 2. In which country was the Auburn Dam built in the 70s?
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?
The Party conferences have passed almost unnoticed amongst the allotment crowd and, one suspects, among the general public with the exception of those mad enough to want to listen to such tripe. But even on that rarest of things, a bright and sunny morning, it is impossible not to spot one noticeable ommission from all three versions as presented on the TV news. The vulnerable. They represent little in the way of votes and they clearly come a million miles below such priorities as the blame game and child benefits.
We are all in this together purred Mr Cameron in the third of the orchestrated shows. Oh no we’re not. Anyone with reasons to understand the care system for elderly people suffering from dementia will know that our ‘big’ society has abandoned them to a fate often worse than death. Today we learn of the latest scandal, another tip of a vast iceberg. It concerns Parkside House in Northampton where five elderly care home residents died within two weeks of each other. All had all suffered “severe neglect”.
The independent chairman of the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Board (SOVA), Marie Seaton, has concluded that the elderly people, aged between 83 and 100, died in circumstances ” that none of us would wish our mothers or fathers, or sons or daughters, to die in”. A serious case review found that the home “simply could not manage” its residents’ physical and nutritional needs and the standard of care was “appalling”.
It was only in July of last year that the alarm was raised when one woman was admitted to hospital with severe pressure sores. She was described as unresponsive and dehydrated, her symptoms were considered by hospital staff to be consistent with severe neglect. She died the next day. Health and Social care staff went into Prakside in July and reported ” grave concerns”. The remaining residents were removed.
At the other end of the age spectrum the danger to children of abuse and neglect is growing at a frightening rate. The dwindling number of social workers do not have time to make well-founded decisions about their safety and child protection experts are themselves suffering mental and emotional instability because of the pressure of work. Many have taken time off to recover and this has heaped even more pressure on the remainder.
These are the headline findings from a survey of 1390 social workers carried out by the British Association of Social Workers which found that 70% admitted to having been unable to protect a child because of the constraints of their job. Janet Foulds has been a social worker in children’s services for 36 years and her testimony is horrendous. “I have felt overloaded and overburdened with concerns about the decisions I have to make in such a pressured and stressful environment” she says. “I try to cope with the workload by working late into the night and over weekends but have felt of late that I have still not been able to do the best job I can” is her final comment.
More than two-thirds of social workers said their job had caused them emotional or mental instability, of those 45% have been obliged to take sick-leave. Summing up the crisis, Nushra Mansuri, for the Association, reports that “protection services are stripped to the bone. Demand for social services continues to rise, resources continue to diminish and if the government can’t protect frontline services then I dread to think what will happen to society”.
It is an appalling situation isn’t it? Yes we are heading into a regime of cuts but unless the vulnerable are protected the very young and very old are going to suffer to an extent that no civilised society should countenance. Leaving the fate of social services, care homes and the rest to local authorities happy to pass on swingeing budget cuts is, or should be, unacceptable. And yet not one of the three Party conferences saw fit to do more than utter pious words about protecting the vulnerable.
Meantime Andrew Lansley, seen by many professionals as the most ill-informed Health Secretary of all time, continues to create mayhem in the NHS with ill-thought through plans which seem to change daily. Now we learn that hospitals will be asked to compete with each other on price rather than,as now, receiving a uniform price for like operations and treatment. The NHS Confederation has warned that price competition does not fit with patient choice. The large hospitals will undercut the rest and hospitals across the country will close. Having established a monopoly they will undoubtedly then ratchet up the charges and meantime vulnerable patients and their families will face considerable travel and dislocation.
Admittedly Lansley’s plans are so bizaare that the likelihood is that clinicians will simply refuse to implement them. But they are an indication of how little thought is being given to those at the bottom of the social spectrum. Meantime the increasing population of the most vulnerable elderly will suffer hell-on-earth whilst equally helpless children will suffer the lonely nightmare of neglect and abuse.
Whether we like it or not the coalition is the only government we will be able to look to for the next few years. One can only pray that someone at the top will look more closely at what is happening in their name. We can forget Nick Clegg who has surrendered the traditional role of the Lib Dems in such matters which leaves David Cameron. He appears sincere in his promise to ring-fence the vulnerable but he needs to check out what the muppets who surround him are actually doing to bring that to pass.
Cameron is clearly a man of self awareness. He would do worse than dwell on the words of Somerset Maughan who said in 1919 that ‘it is not true that suffering ennobles the charcter, happiness does that sometimes, but suffering for the most part makes men petty and spiteful’. And a lot of people are heading that way!
WHAT IS GOING ON IN AFGHANISTAN?
Hardly a day passes but we hear of the death of another British soldier. Day after day they are sent into dangerous situations in which an invisible enemy continues to lay bombs and to launch raids in a society where everyone carries a gun and no one wears a uniform.
But meantime we learn that both the Afghan and US governments are in direct talks with the Haqqani network which has a reputation for ruthlessness even by the stabndards of the Afghan insurgency. If there is any real prospect of negotiating a ceasefire that is fine but shouldn’t our approach to attacks be tempered whilst the talks continue? The ultimate outrage would be for more lives to be lost unnecessarily.
And if we are honest with ourselves we should perhaps acknowledge that all we can hope to gain is a face-saving formula for this is a war that cannot be won.
LIVERPOOL F C IN TURMOIL
It is hard for anyone outside the Anfield close-knit family top understand why the famous club has to b esold to another American given the horrendous experience of the first USA ownership. What was once one of the household names of world football has been brought low.
Surely there must be Britsh investors prepared to put cash into what is guaranteed to be a sound financial investment. Does everything British have to be owned by foreign financiers? Has our national pride sunk so low? And why could such a deal not include investment by the fans at Anfield who are surely unique in their unwavering loyalty?
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. Ringo Starr 2. Richard Baker
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which former secretray of the United Nations died in 1974? 2. For which English soccer club did Martin Buchan play?