Friday, 28 August 2009

Not Normal

I am currently having a number of personal and professional problems hence this blog not being quite up to standard of late. My apologies. Fortunately this has coincided with the silly season and a lack of news, although this government being what it is, I'm sure I could have found plenty to write about under more normal circumstances.

Anyway, this state of affairs is likely to continue for the next few weeks. I remain hopeful that once party conference season arrives and Parliament reconvenes I shall be back to normal. I have today been told something fairly devastating on a personal level that I shall not go into here. I still love her though however much she tries to hurt me. I don't feel much like blogging at the moment though.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Pedantic Patients

This time last year I was taken into hospital and had emergency surgery. I only mention this because a report has come out today from the Patients Association criticising some patient care in our hospitals. The government has argued, I think correctly, that while bad treatment is unacceptable it is also unusual and unrepresentative. This was certainly my experience.

I was in hospital for a week and unable to move for much of this time. I was completely reliant upon the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff for everything. They were almost all brilliant and wonderful and I will be eternally grateful to them. All except one. He was frankly an arsehole. Why somebody like him went into such a profession I cannot imagine but his rudeness and surliness did not make for a pleasant experience, especially as he was the nurse who administered to me when I first came around, was in agony and worried that I might be permanently disabled.

But he was the exception to the rule. They happen in all walks of life. The NHS after all employs a million people working long hours in stressful circumstances. It's not perfect but then what is?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The End of Big Brother

Hurrah! The end of Big Brother is nigh. We only have one more year of this televisual travesty to endure and then it will be cast into the cess pit of history where it belongs.

Channel 4 we are told are already starting to allocate the money that would have been spent on future BB series into drama instead. Would that they had been doing that all along. This is, lest we forget, a company that is publicly owned and which has been coming to the government with the begging bowl out pleading for money to prop itself up. Admittedly BB has been highly lucrative for the channel but then nobody ever lost money making lowest common denominator tripe. This is a public service broadcaster. What is public service about BB or indeed much of the channel's output?

Now perhaps they can reconfigure themselves and work out what they are for.

The Warnings Ignored

Take a look at this post from the Evening Standard's Paul Waugh. It seems that, a full eighteen months before the crisis that nearly brought down the entire world's banking system, Gordon Brown and his fellow finance ministers (he was 3 months away from becoming PM) were given a presentation predicting what was to follow and the spectacular risks that our leading banks were taking. Names were named. Nothing was done. This was months before Northern Rock fell and well over a year before the real crisis afflicting Lehman Brothers et al.

The Treasury has responded that nobody saw this happening in advance. Yet some did and they were ignored. The regulators put in place by Brown did not spot it and the rest is history. We are now all paying for it in lost jobs, lost growth and taxes that are going to have to rise and stay high for years to come. In a bygone era this would have led to the fall of a government or at least the resignation of the man who ignored the advice and signals. Not under this government and this Chancellor turned Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Perspective

Okay it's not been a great start to the season for Liverpool - possibly thanks to my tipping them to win the Premier League - but can we please keep a bit of perspective. We aren't even at the end of August yet. Yes, last night's was a ropey performance, but then these are not unknown at the beginning of the season for any and all teams. It's not been the rip roaring start to this season that we had last year but there have been some tough fixtures. Liverpool have now lost as many games as they lost all season last time around. But it was draws that cost them the championship. It is this the team needs to address.

I remain confident, albeit a little less so. But my confidence has been dissipated, not by the poor performances of Liverpool - these can and will improve - but by those of other teams, and not just the so called big four. This is going to be a very competitive season as Villa and Spurs have shown against the Reds. Expect a few more surprises in the days and weeks to come.

Monday, 24 August 2009

While I Was Away

Okay, so what has been going on while I have been otherwise engaged?

England won the Ashes. Hurrah! Farewell Freddie. Thanks for the memories

The World Athletics Championship unveiled a new star to the world: not Usain or Jessica or the many other mere athletes who performed so well, but Berliner the bear mascot. What a star. Unlike the miseries at the BBC, I thought he was very entertaining. Usain Bolt should seriously consider forming a double act with him.

In British politics we had the ridiculous furore over the NHS. It illustrates how desperate Labour have become that they now leap on the words of a British MEP. He is perfectly entitled to his opinion and he is right to a large extent. If we were creating the NHS from scratch now would we set it up in its present form? This sixty year old institution is ripe for reform and a rethink. The central principle of healthcare being available for everyone regardless of wealth is something we should stand up for.

That Labour's Andy Burnham wittered on about this for so long was frankly pathetic. He even argued that American politicians who criticise our beloved NHS should be uninvited from the Tory party conference. Is the Home Office going to add them to its list of undesirables and ban them from the country for daring to speak ill of our cherished and expensive national institution?

Finally this weekend we have had the release of the Libyan bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. It's a bad decision made for understandable reasons. It's also politically inept, which is most unusual for Salmond's SNP. The British government recently refused to release Ronnie Biggs from jail until his condition deteriorated even further. How then can it be argued that al Megrahi deserves such compassion? I know, I know, different governments and systems but even so.

Or was this decision made for other reasons which the British rather than Scottish government are determined to deny? Whatever they say, there does seem to have been an awful lot of tacit encouragement of this way of thinking going on in the background. If this takes the SNP down will they become more explicit?

This has damaged the previously Teflon coated SNP. But it could get really interesting if we find out that our suspicions are correct. Maybe though they knew that he really is innocent and likely to win his appeal. This is probably the real truth even if they can't say it.

And where is Gordon? Why no comment from him? I know I and others advised him to stay out of the limelight for a while and do his gurning in private, but when we have offended our main ally and the world's only superpower, should not the Prime Minister say a word or two? Or is he unsure of his ability to lie convincingly on the subject?

Monday, 17 August 2009

Usain and Jessica

I haven't got much time for blogging at the moment. I cannot let the weekend's events in Berlin go without comment though.

Having said that, what is there left to say about Usain Bolt. The man is a phenomenon. Until some clever scientists manage to genetically engineer the perfect sprinter, this is the natural version. He accelerates away from the field like a Ferrari and then, once he is far enough ahead, seems to slip into a kind of overdrive enabling him to look around him and enjoy his win. It must be soul destroying for his opponents.

And then there was the lovely Jessica Ennis winning the heptathlon. What a way to win. What a champion. This is why people love sport, because it throws up stories like these two great champions.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Premier Prediction

So, here we are in the middle of August and the football season is about to begin once again. Fortunately the British weather has spent most of the last month conspiring to make us feel autumnal anyway and so it doesn't feel too untimely.

I always miss football during the summer months. This was particularly the case this year because Liverpool had such a good season.

And they are my tips for the title this year. I know, I would say that wouldn't I, but notwithstanding the loss of Xabi Alonso, Liverpool look in great shape and our chief rivals less so. Chelsea have yet another manager and have been frustrated in the transfer market. Man Utd have lost their best player and the man who turned around so many of their games for them last term. £80 million was of course a huge sum of money and Ronaldo clearly wanted to go, but he will be sorely missed.

It will be fascinating to see how the new and expensively assembled Manchester City do this year. Clearly they will be a force but how much of one? They are my tips for fourth place. Arsenal will this year be fighting it out for the lesser European competition.

So, Liverpool for the Premier League and Real Madrid for the Champions League.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Long Overdue Debate

I'm only part time blogging at the moment as you may have noticed. It's difficult when one is not properly connected. I do so hate not being properly connected.

But I cannot refrain from commenting on the silly row currently going on around the NHS and David Cameron's panicky response to the arguments currently raging across the pond as America debates whether to make their medicine more socialised.

The scare stories about our system over there are of course ludicrously overdone. But are we saying the NHS is perfect? I hope not.

Politicians, particularly those who expect soon to be in power, get very nervous about the NHS. I can understand their reluctance to talk too much about it. But it does need reform. And there is going to come a time when hard choices are going to have to be made about what we can and cannot afford to fund on the NHS. IVF? Drugs which do not cure fatal diseases but merely allow sufferers to hang on for a few more months at vast expense?

Politics is supposed to be about making choices and putting forward the arguments for those choices. Modern politicians shy away from this. Labour sets up committees. The Conservatives just try to avoid the subject. But once in government they won't be able to. The NHS cannot continue as it is. Time to be honest, well nearly time. Maybe they'll wait until after the election.

The Place to Be

As I have been forced to change my usual pattern of behaviour, travelling at different times, travelling greater distances, having to buy takeaway food, seeing the inside of hotel rooms etc, I am also seeing and experiencing some eye opening things in the world around me.

Just yesterday I told you of the saga louts who populate pubs of a morning, partaking of their first alcohol of the day while I was still eating my breakfast.

Now a new phenomenon has grabbed my attention. I am currently commuting to Birmingham to work. This opened my eyes to the pleasures and astonishing expense of rail travel (how on Earth do they ever expect it to replace the car at these prices?) and to the pleasures and delights of my birthplace. Somehow they become more real when one is a visitor and forced to buy food there, hang around in pubs for want of a home to go to and so on.

And I am not alone. There seem to be an awful lot of tourists around - in Birmingham. There I was this morning, sitting in Victoria Square partaking of my third cup of coffee of the day (this is my vice - not alcohol) and suddenly there were dozens of Japanese tourists all around me, cameras in hands and snapping away merrily. They were particularly fascinated by the fountains in the square and the recumbent naked figure at the centre of it, popularly known as the floozy in the jacuzzi. Sadly the authorities have chosen this week to switch off the water and so she is just a dry floozy.

But tourists - in Birmingham? What is the world coming to? What on earth are they going to spend the rest of the day looking at? Don't get me wrong, the city is uncommonly improved in recent years and has its bright spots. But Rome, Paris or London it aint. There is lots of beautiful countryside nearby; interesting spots such as Shakespeare's birthplace; lots of great castles; theme parks an hour or so away; but Birmingham is not really full of obvious tourist beacons.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe my birthplace has become a fashionable place to visit just as I have left. Typical!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Duncan Out

Just a quick thought on politics for a change. I'm sorry also about the lack of pictures. I'm not writing this on my usual computer.

Why is Alan Duncan still in the shadow Cabinet? The man is an idiot. He has put his dinky size nines (or are they smaller) in his mouth so many times over the last year or so and yet still he remains one of the senior members of the Tory front bench. One mistake can be forgiven for sure and yet Duncan cannot seem to do or say anything without making a gaffe.

He has a point of course about the MPs expenses scandal pushing able people out of politics or dissauding those with ability from entering it. But as usual he expressed himself in a crass and stupid way. This man is a paid communicator. He is also a millionaire. How did he think it would come across if his words were reported?

On Moving and Saga Louts

God moving is complicated. It's also oppressively expensive. I am currently working between two different cities, whilst trying to arrange my new home - small things like kettles, coffee makers, plates, cups and the like and also trying to work. I have stayed with people for a time and am now in my home but rarely in it thanks to having to work 100 miles from there.

Consequently I have little current time for blogging and am seeing more of the inside of pubs, takeaways and hotels than I have in years. I have also taken to eating full English breakfasts in Wetherspoons pubs. Very nice and highly recommended. It sets you up for the day.

Incidentally, as a side issue, the topic of binge drinking is much in vogue, particularly the binge drinking amongst the young. Yet walk into a Wetherspoons pub of a morning and sit down with a nice cup of Latte and a full English and you are surrounded by older and possibly retired people settling down for their first pint of beer of the day. And this before noon. The British it seems are a nation of binge drinkers and our youngsters are mere amateurs. I was by far the youngest in there today and I couldn't possibly have faced a pint of lager.

Friday, 7 August 2009

In Abeyance

This blog is in temporary abeyance while I move and get new connections set up. It's silly season at the moment anyway.

Yet we are not existing in a complete news vacuum. Ordinarily I would have things, lots of things, to say about the sad death of one of football's few gentlemen, Sir Bobby Robson; the hilarious shirtless posing of that cuddly despot Vladimir Putin; the blatherings of Harriet Harman; or the fact that, as each week goes by, more and more people are talking seriously about Peter Mandelson being the next leader of the Labour Party, which only goes to show that the chattering classes really ought to get out and chat to some ordinary people once in a while.

Tempted though I have been to write on all of these matters, and in particular about the prince of darkness's makeover into an avuncular character come to rescue his party from itself, I simply do not have the time or indeed the equipment to do so at present. I'm even going to resist the temptation to question the fact that we are currently being governed by absent ministers who are phoning in their leadership from the eastern Meditteranean and other less exotic spots. Given their recent record, such a style of government might be considered preferable.

But this blog will return bigger, better and bolder around 20th August once I am fully installed in new premises. I have tales to tell of my travels and moving home. The continuing implosion of this government into feuding cliques is too much to resist too. I'll see you soon.