Abstract: Autobiography or confessional? The title is not plagiarised from the literary offering by a certain Mr. Tim Griggs, but that of a short story that has been languishing in my archives for over ten years, an ironic comment on the requirement in modern Western society for a female to be attached and the difficulties in attaining this state of “bliss”.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Britblog Roundup 210

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:48 pm

Welcome to the sustainable society edition of the Britblog Roundup brought to you from beneath the the permadrizzle shroud of the city of regulators and lobbyists.  Contributors have been in philosophical mode this week, pondering how best to preserve social cohesion and support a lifestyle that will not deprive future generations of a decent future, covering a wide variety of topics ranging from the devastating impact of chronic job insecurity, through the possible benefits of eugenics to putting on your wellies to emulate the admirable self-sufficiency of Tom and Barbara.

Politics

Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium, in Dr Butler on the rot that is Britain today… rightly laments the bias shown by Auntie Beeb in choosing not to peer through her bifocals at a volume published by a think-tank that she disapproves of.  In his review of The Rotten State of Britain at Blogger News Network, he suggests why her bloomers might be in a twist: "The book sets out to detail all the various aspects of life that have worsened under Labour ranging from personal freedom through taxation to the most basic provisions of health in the NHS.  Dr Butler effectively prepares anyone who wishes to perforate the continued assertion that Britain is in its current state because of Conservative administration that ended over a decade ago".

TV and computers are always first in the firing line when it comes to hand-wringing about how we increasingly live in juxtaposition to each other rather than mingling in the outdoors.  However, the doom and gloom mongers of the media are keen to portray public space, where social interaction occurs, as dangerous.  This in turn fuels a pervasive paranoia manifested in the unblinking eyes of surveillance cameras and letting our children out of our sight for a fraction of a second, let alone permitting them to wander off to the playground unsupervised is regarded as the height of folly, an act of culpable neglect.

We retreat into the safety of our properties with a pang of sadness and loss. mourning the demise of the carefree days when we inhabited the outdoors free from a protective adult presence, roaming through the streets until hunger chivvied us homeward.  In our more nostalgic moments, we yearn for the warmth and closeness that appears to have evaporated when we are not cursing our litigious neighbours for suing us over the branches of the lilac brazenly trespassing over their fence.  Is community the product of boredom or deprivation?  As an ex-pat in self-imposed and relatively contented exile, I appreciate the irony of contemplating the issue.  My uprootedness, my existence outside the context of my birth and upbringing are precisely what I cherish, rendering me impossible to "read" (and be instantly appraised, beyond the status of "foreigner" that is).  The precondition of community must surely be the wish to belong, some bond of affection, some feeling of investment in and attachment to a place, all of which are absent for myself and many of my fellow inhabitants of the Eurobubble, surrounded by reluctant and resentful hosts.  Like many immigrants who cannot bear to admit to themselves that they are here to stay, wherever "here" may be, no matter how many years go by, I still think of my residence as transient.

Riversider at Broadgate is Great, drawing on Professor Robert Putnam’s initiative across the Pond, lists, in a creditable effort at transplanting it to British soil, 85 Ways to Build Community.  Predictably (though not without justification), "Turn off your TV or PC" features as admonition number one (on the original American list, top spot goes to "Organise a social gathering to welcome a new neighbour".  Switching off the goggle box is to converse with friends or family occupies 71st position only).  "Go outside" comes in at number two.  Interestingly, "Say hello to strangers" is number 51 (85 in the US version).  People still where I come from and it is part of the charm of the place, but nowadays chiefly the preserve of the older generation.  "Join in to help carry something heavy" would be a non-starter in Waffleland, where nobody would dream of giving up their seat for a white-haired matron on a bus, never mind a pregnant woman.

Continuing on the theme of community, David Cameron recently unveiled the Conservatives’ plans for devolution writ small in the party’s Green Paper on local government, setting out the logic behind the proposals: “Right now most people feel totally insignificant in the political process.  Frankly, that’s because – in the current over-centralised system – they are insignificant.  If you’re unhappy about decisions made by your local council there’s very little you can do about it outside election day.

We’re going to change that by giving people the power to instigate referendums on local issues – including council tax rises.  If there’s a local consensus that a tax increase is unnecessary, people will be able to club together and vote it down.  This isn’t the sham ‘power to the people’ of a one-day consultation or a citizens’ jury; it’s real power in the hands of local people”.

And: “Many worry that decentralisation is a step backwards.  But localism isn’t some romantic attachment to the past.  It is absolutely essential to our economic, social and political future.  If our local economies are vibrant and strong we are far less vulnerable to global shocks or the failures of a few dominant industries.  If people know that their actions can make a real difference to their local communities, they’re far more motivated to get involved – and civic pride is revived.  If local government is both more powerful and more accountable, we can start to restore the trust that’s been lost in our political system.  It’s for these reasons that I am a conformed localist, committed to turning Britain’s pyramid of power on its head”.

In Central truth of Tory localism, Jeremy Beecham endeavours to expose what lurks beneath the rhetoric: “The truth is that the effect of these proposals would be to undercut representative local democracy and diminish the appeal of service as a local councillor.  On the other hand they might, as Nick Boles candidly admitted a year or two ago, be the only way the Tories might exercise influence in much of urban Britain, which has long turned its back on them”.

For Beecham, the cloven hoof positively protrudes from beneath the hem of the gown: “And over local government finance a more than discreet veil is drawn.  No mention of the planned 1% cut in grant, nothing about making council tax fairer or revaluation 20 years after its introduction, nothing about reforming council tax benefit and nothing about relocalising business rates, beyond a modest revision of the government’s scheme for a business supplementary rate.

But then this is not too surprising, for behind Cameron’s warm words lies the reality of the Tory approach to local government, from Eric Pickles’ blustering instructions to Tory councils to the 100 ways to cut council tax promulgated by their flagship (or should that be destroyer?) council, Hammersmith and Fulham, including cutting the youth service, slashing support for the arts, sending children to boarding schools and emasculating scrutiny.  And isn’t it significant that when it comes to referendums on council tax there’s no option to increase it?  The only direction is down”.

Matt Sellwood of Anglo-Buddhist Combine devotes a post to responding to a comment by Paul Kingsnorth to the effect that "The population of the UK is currently 60 million.  At current rates of change it will be over 70 million within a couple of decades.  That’s largely an issue of immigration.  Something can be done about that.  If it isn’t done – because we don’t want to talk about immigration in case we are called racist, etc. etc. – then we are faced with having to provide power for an extra 10 million people.  Any plans for how to make that work in a ‘green’ way?"

In a thoughtful and more detailed earlier post on his own blog, Immigration: truisms vs. clichés, Kingsnorth highlights the perniciousness of stifling debate: "On immigration itself, whatever your view on the matter it is hard to deny that the way it has been handled over the last decade has been deeply undemocratic.  The number of people expressing concern about immigration has shot up in the last decade; coinciding with the largest rise in immigration in British history.  Call them racists if you like (though it would be lazy, and wrong), but if you call yourself a democrat you have to question the right of any government to carry out, over such a long period, a policy which results in such significant social change, against the wishes of its people.  Still, that’s British ‘democracy’ for you".

He describes his forebodings of doom: "Population growth is a disaster for Britain.  We are already, in my view, overcrowded and overdeveloped – especially in southeast England.  The idea of allowing, or encouraging, the population to grow by almost a million a year in the name of propping up global capitalism is a joke.  If you are in favour of unlimited immigration you need to be able to explain where all the new houses and roads will go.  And the new schools, hospitals, power plants, superstores and call centres.  You need to be able to explain the impact on our climate change targets.  And what the country will look like at 77 million and rising.  Environmental arguments are always predicated on the existence of limits.  What is the limit here?  When should population growth – and thus immigration – stop?  If you can’t answer that, you are wasting my time".

Sellwood in Greens and Immigration offers his vision of a remedy: "As Paul rightly points out (…), immigration is not caused because people love Britain’s weather or think our party scene can’t be beat.  It’s caused by economic, environmental and social ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which force people to leave their homes in order to support themselves or better their lives.  The root of this, quite clearly, is the extraordinarily unequal and unjust world we live in, caused by a particular economic system.  The solution to environmental problems is not to create a kind of fortress Britain, where we keep out all others because of our high-energy lifestyles and the impact that has on the environment.  The solution is to change that economic system" (emphasis in original).

Mr Kingsnorth was nominated in his own right for the strikingly titled Why I am a planet-raping fascist, which reiterated his stance in defence of the spiritual dimension of landscapes unravaged by human hands following heated reactions to a contribution in The Guardian condemning the Severn barrage: "1. Renewable energy technologies are not, despite some green claims to the contrary, always harmless.  Some – those which are carried out on a massive scale – can actually be harmful.  The harm is of a different measure to that caused by fossil-fuel burning; it’s harm to the wild landscape.  But it’s harm nonetheless, and we should acknowledge that.

2. Wild places and the non-human world are important both for the biosphere as a whole and for human well being.  They should not be ravaged by human industrial intrusion.  This goes both for motorways and inappropriately-sited windfarms.

3. Environmentalists should be able to talk about crucial but intangible things – like beauty, wildness, stillness, the soul-lifting power of mountains and forests – without feeling ashamed.  They should talk less like economists and more like poets, because if they don’t, the economists have won.  And then we’re really in trouble".

Councillor with a conscience Antonia Bance of Antonia’s Blog reports that 850 jobs go at BMW in Oxford, expressing her sympathy with these casualties of the credit crunch: "How do you go from £250 per week steady, to £60 per week jobseekers’ allowance, with no redundancy pay?  I don’t know, and I’m incredibly sorry for all those workers who don’t know what the future holds for them and their families".

She criticises the Government for having allowed EU legislation, which would have extended protection to such workers, to gather dust on a departmental shelf.  Their “temporary” status belies the fact that they have been employed at the company for anything between two and five years in spite of which they were unceremoniously turfed out onto the street.

Philip Booth of Ruscombe Green encourages us to dig, if not for victory, at least to extricate ourselves from the hole created by the squander-based economy, our addiction to waste, fired up by the findings of a review commissioned by Gordon Brown in More about need for allotments: “The UK’s precarious food supply needs attention – one way is to mobilise the nation’s 11 million gardeners.  They will be able to grow food for their family and for the community and also help spread greater understanding about food, quality and supply”.

According to Philip, a radical change in mindset is a matter of some considerable urgency: “Fewer than 1% of the population now work in agriculture – one of the lowest percentages in the world.  In 1900 this was 40%.  Some 60% of our food is produced domestically, but imports make up a large percentage of food, for example, 90% of fruit is imported, as opposed to 40% in France.  If you look at apples in a supermarket – which used to be Britain’s major fruit – we have hundreds of different domestic varieties which could be cultivated, during the height of the apple season, you will find there are only a few varieties and are mostly imported!  This makes no sense whatsoever (…) It is only possible because cheap fossil fuels allow transportation from far-off countries.  As oil becomes more expensive, this will become uneconomic”.

Vincent Browne’s article in The Irish Times, The crux of our dire problems is political, advocated a not exactly earth-shatteringly new solution to the country’s current economic woes: “The way out of the crisis is blindingly obvious.  Produce a clear plan that requires the rich to bear the burden of the adjustments required and protect the poor, the unemployed, the sick, the vulnerable and children, with the members of the Government leading the way by taking the first and deepest hit.

Instead, no plan.  Just a first hit at public servants – low paid, moderately paid and rich public servants.  And an attack on social welfare payments in the offing.  Isn’t it shameful that we would even contemplate cutting the welfare of people who have lived on annual incomes that would hardly cover the cost of one hour’s flying on the Government jet?”

He went on to voice his dismay at the sluggishness of the Government in postponing any real attempts to tackle the problems until the publication of the report of the Commission on Taxation in September.  He also harbours serious doubts concerning the credibility of the august body as a result of its composition: “This commission has 18 members and is loaded (almost two-thirds) with people who have a vested interest in ensuring that the taxation system does not impinge unduly on the well-heeled.

I don’t mean to impugn the integrity of any of the commission’s members, but merely to draw attention to the reality that they represent and/or come from the wealthier wedge of society; accountants, tax experts, executives from the financial services, a solicitor and the head of the Stock Exchange”.

These complaints inspired Mick Fealty of the redoubtable Slugger O’Toole to ask the pertinent question Can the Irish left get beyond ‘eating the rich’?: “Such leftist populism (or ‘politics of envy’ as others might choose to put it) is one of the reasons the Irish Left has been left in the ha’penny place for so long.  To be successful, the next generation of Irish political leadership will need to be broad enough to tackle the huge range of challenges coming at it”.

Mick then embarks upon a careful examination of an essay in Renewal Magazine by Alex Evans and David Steven entitled Risks and resilience in the new global era, whose authors identify the hamartia of the Left: “Social democrats, finally, understand the importance of public goods and are prepared to act forcefully to protect the vulnerable.  They are also willing to act boldly to manage global instability.  However, they have the weakness of being instinctive meddlers, crowding out the initiative of other actors and risking over-centralisation in the face of distributed risks”.

It is this latter trait that, in Mick’s view, constitutes the most serious obstacle to putting forward a candidate for leading the next government.

Jonathan Calder of Liberal England reminds us that, however rotten things may be in Britain, levels of corruption across the Pond are (for the time being at least) even worse in Those Pennsylvania judges again, alluding to a recent appalling case where two men charged with the task of upholding justice accepted bribes from a private youth detention centre in exchange for guaranteeing a steady supply of inmates.  Jonathan concludes: “(…) their actions have wider importance because they are the logical outcome of allowing the profit motive into the judicial system.

As Rumpole used to remind us, a great many comfortable professional careers are built on the backs of Britain’s criminal classes.  But treating Crime Control as Industry, to quote the title of Nils Christie’s 1993 book, is dangerous”.

Here Mr Calder indeed speaks the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling returns to the theme of Stalinist companies vs. market forces in connection with the spectacular fall from grace of Messrs McKillop and Goodwin (perhaps he might consider changing his name to Badloss).  He recalls a set of objections to his original comparison by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, which evidently stuck in his mind: “Relatedly, unlike with government central planning, the size and scope of each firm on the market is itself constantly tested by competition.  A firm that succeeds today might be bankrupted tomorrow if another firm out-competes it.  That is, the sizes of firms in markets are themselves the result of market experimentation, competition, and discovery – experimentation, competition, and discovery that is never static.

(…) Sure some firms might be too large – but, if so, they’re too large with resources voluntarily contributed.  And in both cases, the forces of competition and entrepreneurial discovery – fuelled in large part by the profit motive and by consumers’ quotidian efforts to get the most value for their money – put constant pressure on big firms to correct their errors.

Managers of even the largest private firms – that are not protected by government from competition or swaddled with state favours – are simply not comparable to central planners in socialist countries”.

Against the backdrop of emerging facts about the authoritarian culture within the bank, Dillow’s analogy has been found to have some merit after all: “Well, it turns out that the RBS was just like a centrally planned economy, complete with the suppression of dissent and cult of personality.  And look what happened.  I’m vindicated.  Or am I?”

I leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.

Arden Forester of A View from Middle England lambastes Labour for its arrogance in taking for granted the unwavering support of the most disadvantaged whilst simultaneously abandoning them to their fate.  Following the party’s defeat in elections to Sevenoaks Council, the BNP might even succeed in gaining a toehold in the European Parliament, Mr Forester speculates.  In Labour flunkies warn Brown over BNP Euro chances, he hazards a guess as to why: “Labour needs to address the core problems affecting people who are attracted to the BNP.  Housing, jobs, schools and hospitals.  These four are the ones that affect these voters most.  These are the issues the BNP are exploiting.  Gordon Brown needs to get his jacket off and get down to the level where the BNP can be taken on.  It’s no use taking a lofty attitude and saying he won’t debate with them.  That over sensitive nonsense should stop right now”.

Cabalamat of Amused Cynicism informs us that the world’s most notorious terrorist has been disowned even by those who could be assumed to be closest to him in Al-Qa’ida’s founder condemns bin Laden, concluding on an optimistic note that: “I think this is a sign that Islamist extremism is on the wane.  It has manifestly failed to deliver the goods, and so is likely to recede from now onwards, and by 2015-2020 it’ll be apparent that it is on the way out”.

I sincerely hope that he is right.

In Single parents, socialist feminism and the right to equal work, Penny Red denounces a fresh assault on benefit payments for the most vulnerable, which would, she tells us, compel lone mothers back into work before their infants are even able to walk and talk.  Apart from the inconsistency of conveniently overlooking that the majority of children living in poverty have at least one parent who works whilst repeating the incantation that the path to redemption for single mothers is through remunerated employment in an environment where the wages earned would be extremely unlikely to stretch to covering the cost of childcare, Penny objects to the more fundamental underlying assumption that bringing up offspring somehow fails to qualify as worthwhile toil: “Let’s make one thing spectacularly, sparklingly clear: being the primary carer of a small child is work – hard work, unending work, work that can last an entire lifetime, work that defines the term ‘labour of love’.  It’s work whether a man or woman does it, although it continues to fall into the historic category of work that women contribute to the economy for free, ‘women’s work’, work undeserving of pay or professional respect.  But, not content with giving single parents with no other means of support a minimum of basic care rather than a liveable salary, the Welfare Reform Bill seeks to force single parents into extra, unpaid work, work that will not even raise their standard of living above the poverty threshold.  That’s extra, paid work that isn’t actually available at the moment, in case you’d forgotten”.

Then there is the element of class stigmatisation: “Women who do not work outside the home, but who do not need government support because they are independently rich or because they have a partner who works, are not considered to be ‘playing the system’, not by the D[epartment for] W[ork and] P[ensions] and certainly not by the Evening Standard group – even though the only difference between these women and single mothers on benefits is the good fortune to be born with money or marry it.  If the world were a late-night tube carriage, the social hypocrisy of the British state would be fumblingly revealing itself in the corner.

In this hyper-capitalist world, power and respect are afforded to those who earn wages – are distributed, in fact, in the form of wages.  By paying a decent, liveable salary to those women and men who have primary responsibility for a child – a wage which they can spend on maintaining themselves out of paid work, or on decent childcare whilst they perform alternative work – we might well fix not only the nation’s soaring unemployment crisis, but go some way towards erasing the breathtaking poverty and hypocrisy of our socially bankrupt self-organisation.  Hey, I’m 22, so I’m bloody well allowed to dream about social justice in vivid technicolour”.

Penalising single mothers, those figures of collective loathing pilloried by the press is a cheap way of being seen not to be a soft touch, of being seen to not be Old Labour, kicking the group least likely to retaliate.  The focus is on these women’s fecklessness, their presumed irresponsibility and immorality, flaw after flaw heaped upon them until they suffocate because it is easier to apportion blame than to confront factors such as the chronic lack of provision of affordable child care.  If you aspire to a career, as opposed to some part-time, low status, insecure and meagre source of income with little by way of satisfaction or advancement, you soon realise that access to the upper echelons is predicated on the anachronistic assumption of complete availability, that the default setting continues to be that the worker is unencumbered with external commitments (dependents , in other words) and has a demure helpmeet at home to take care of the practicalities of running a household.  You have to be both willing and able to put in the hours in exchange for progression, the downside of a high salary that of renouncing the right to a personal life.

This brings us to the heart of what is at stake: the extent of compassion and solidarity within society.

The ease with which it is possible to glide from single mothers (the contemporary embodiment of the "undeserving poor") placing an undue strain on social welfare systems to denying social undesirables the right to reproduce is illustrated by Ross of Unenlightened Commentary in Fun With Eugenics, which starts off with a seemingly innocent throwaway observation: “On another blog I got into a discussion about the topic yesterday, after initially making a half joking remark about wanting to stop the likes of Karen Matthews and ‘Alfie’ popping out dozens of kids for the good of society, I could have mentioned the mother of octuplets as well” (the debate in question is on Tim Worstall’s blog, the comments – where they do not degenerate into unedifying name-calling – are interesting and I can recommend their perusal accordingly).

Ross favours a reappraisal of our negative attitudes: “Eugenics is strongly associated with the savagery of the Nazis and is therefore pretty much the ultimate taboo.  Personally I think the ethical problem with 20th century advocates of eugenics is that they had no respect for civil liberties and believed in the right of the state to forcibly restrict people’s right to reproduce.  It doesn’t therefore follow that there is something intrinsically wicked about non-coercive eugenics”.

I do not wish to misrepresent the contents of the piece, but it is one proposition to talk about eliminating debilitating diseases, which detract from the quality of life and and an altogether different one to think in terms of social as opposed to genetic markers, to eliminate the poor through sterilisation (even where discouragement rather than compulsion is viewed as the way forward).  Ross admits: “When it comes to encouraging the well off to reproduce themselves and the less well off to not do so then it really depends to what extent socio-economic status is influenced by genes, which is altogether a murkier question”.

The meaning of “unfit” is variable in accordance with prevalent cultural values and can be extended to any stigmatised group.  Why stop at the propensity to commit crime?  Why not get rid of the fatties, the homosexuals, women (couples who want to select the gender of their babies generally long for boys), the disabled, and whilst we’re at it, I’m sure our most beneficent leaders would be eager to eradicate the obstreperousness gene, leaving a citizenry of placid drones devoid of character or creativity.  Rather than embark upon such insanity, surely it would be preferable to restore greater mobility, giving the maximum number of people the maximum possible opportunities.  If you are not expected to do well because of the humbleness of your origins, you can either rebel (as I did), proving your detractors wrong or you can listen to them and allow yourself to be browbeaten into submission.

Susanne Lamido of Suz Blog alerts us to what might deteriorate into the latest assault on our civil liberties, the likes of which have never been seen outside the confines of public swimming baths (although in the latter, petting was discouraged, a peck on the cheek considered harmless) in Watch out for the kissing police at Warrington Station.  Personally, after every other incremental paring away at our rights, I am not remotely reassured by the claim that the sign is nothing more than a bit of light-hearted fun.  I wouldn’t put it past some joyless warden whose sole pleasure in life is that of wielding the minute bit of power at his disposal to relish the task of enforcing a ban on public displays of affection.  The slippery slope towards breeding restrictions suddenly does not seem so outlandish…

Refreshing proof that online activism is not a mere exercise in futility is to be found in The F-Word credited for major rethink of “Cervix Savvy” advertising campaign.

Finally, from Witterings from Witney, by way of light relief, the unmissably hilarious Darling Brown’s Salvation?

Blogging

In the latest in a series of entries charting the genesis and evolution of Labour List, Matt Wardman helpfully provides us with an Archive of an attempted ‘blog-mugging’, a sordid and ugly tale of a kind with which we have sadly become only too familiar.  Matt’s verdict: “The alleged threats to close down websites, whoever they came from (!), and to undermine the livelihoods of targeted people, were on a par with the dodgiest manoeuvres I have seen in the blogosphere since I started this site – which are a small number of attempts to get people in trouble with their employers; taking political arguments offline to do personal damage is beyond the pale”.

This does nothing to encourage me to overcome my distaste and investigate Labour List in any depth.  Matt’s assessment is good enough for me (it would take something truly extraordinary to convince me that blogs by politicians are anything but parasitical drivel barely worth the pixels they are composed of): “Derek Draper’s past indiscretions aside, my main problem here is that all the top names seem to see it as a medium to publish bland rubbish that sounds similar to a press release.  It’s boring and lame, and will end up like the far more abysmal Tory effort: The Blue Blog.  Hell, that’s so bad even Iain Dale doesn’t plug it anymore.

Draper has given it personality by ringing up people and picking fights with them, but that’s only going to work for so long.  The point is: if your top bloggers (cabinet ministers) are only going to write boring comment pieces without seeing what others are saying of Labour’s policies and responding to them, then it’s a waste of space.  If we wanted press releases we can go to Labour.org.uk”.

Culture

Ever adept at whetting the appetite for travel, Natalie Bennett has branched out geographically, moving beyond London to My Burgundy, Your Burgundy.  In The Museums of Beaune: The Hotel-Dieu and the Wine Museum she gives us a fascinating insight into some of the region’s attractions: "It’s hard to imagine now, that the Chambre des Pauvres (chamber of the poor) of the Hotel-Dieu was the ideal place for a poor person, for much of its history.  No private rooms here: the huge church-shaped chamber, with its high ceilings and stark stone walls, could hardly ever have been quiet or peaceful, not when the ill were lying in head-to-toe rows along its walls, and the religious sisters who tended them were bustling around.  Still, it was undoubtedly a beautiful place to be sick, and one of the few places where you could expect succour and the best medical care that the past five centuries could offer".

Diamond Geezer of the eponymous blog, that ever-reliable guide to the hidden delights of the capital, takes us on a tour of Valentine’s at Valentines, the reference being to the canny publicity ploy on the part of a council to reopen a renovated mansion to the public on the day dedicated to sending tokens of admiration from afar in the form of tacky cards and red roses: “The good people of Redbridge crowded the rooms and passageways, taking a first opportunity to explore every nook and cranny.  They swarmed round the single interactive history terminal so that nobody else could use it.  they crammed into the tiny shop on the first floor, inspecting its stock of plastic rulers, honey and notelets.  They allowed their uncontrollable offspring to bounce on the four-poster in the bedchamber, much to the annoyance of the lady on duty”.

Peter Ashley of that veritable blog of delights Unmitigated England brings to our attention yet another of those unobtrusive decorative features that alleviate the monotony of the daily commute and lift the spirits, this time at Stamford Station in Unexpected Alphabets No8.

Miscellaneous

Carlotta of Dare to Know, condemns the portrayal of home schooling in BBC series Waterloo Road, which has strayed far from Reith’s injunction to the Corporation to educate, inform, entertain, in Prejudice is IGNORANCE: “(…) amongst our home educating bunch here, it is exceedingly rare to find them closeted in oppressed, highly controlled fashion round a computer in a front room.  Yes, sure they use a computer, but most of the time, it is doing what they want to do, and therefore they are enjoying it.  There is usually a considerable spark of energy emanating from rooms with children using PCs as they would like to use them”.

Bystander of The Magistrate’s Blog divulges the secrets of his calling after four years of keeping his readers in suspense in So What Do We Actually Do, Then?: “A court might be city-centre urban with the attendant problems (such as Haringey or Camberwell Green), suburban (such as Sutton), or predominantly rural (e.g. Hereford).  Dover has the port (smuggling and immigration scams), Crawley has Gatwick (ditto).  Courts in Suffolk know all about moving pigs without a licence, and those in Devon and Cornwall are pretty familiar with what tourists can get up to after an all day session on the beer”.

Mark Myers of Nee-Naw rejoices at the prospect of a change in instructions that will usher in a new era, drastically cutting down on the number of call-outs to non-urgent cases (a problem that has never assumed such proportions in Waffleland, largely due, I suspect, to the fact that the patient has to fork out €100 a whack for the privilege of an ambulance), an instance where rationalisation in the NHS ought to provoke delight rather than despondency in Cotton Bud in Ear = Life Threatening Emergency: “The infamous ‘are you breathing normally’ question is completely gone from a lot of protocols, and when it IS there, a ‘yes’ only results in an amber response, not a red.  The rationale, which I totally agree with, is that if the breathing was that much of a problem, they’d have told us at the beginning of the call.

I can’t wait for this new protocol to come in.  It is going to decrease frustration levels in call takers, allocators and ambulance crews no end, and more importantly, we won’t end up having to waste ambulances on rubbish when people who are really sick are still waiting”.

Next week’s Roundup will be hosted by Jackart at A Very British Dude, which is looking impressively snazzy following its makeover!  Rota details and a complete archive may be found at the Britblog Central website.  As ever, nominations should be sent to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com

2 Footnotes

  1. Another stirling effort Chameleon!

    I always enjoy reading your gazette.

    Comment by Peggy — Tuesday, 24 February 2009 @ 7:16 pm

  2. When I read about you always being a transient ( and how well written it was) I knew again why we connected.Also the poor kids who can no longer roam through the streets without parents feeling that their kids would not be safe… How small most categories make our world now. Love yourwork!

    Comment by Tumbleweed — Thursday, 26 February 2009 @ 7:53 pm

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