Friday, 29 May 2009

Not so one sided

Back in the early 50s, I lived in Gibraltar. The Spanish town of La Linea was just a short walk over the border. I used to go quite often; it was cheaper than Gib, seemed a little more 'foreign' than home where the police dressed just like Dixon of Dock Green and the ladies were nicer there. When the season came around, I started to follow the bull fights. Then, it was just as one now follows football. There were the stars that one followed. Some bull breeding estates were better than others and their bulls were star attractions.
I became a fan almost by accident. My girl friend suggested we go. This involved sandwiches, leather wine bags and sitting in the warm afternoon sun whilst a stylised ritual went on.
My first encounter did not create any great feeling one way or another. I could have left then and never been conscious I was missing anything. However, in the second duel the matador got just that bit careless and the bull had him. Old suit of lights was tossed some 10 or 12 feet into the air and it was almost as if the bull watched and caught him on a horn to the midriff. The man was dead before the bull dropped its head and let him slither to the ground.
The custom is that one of the other fighters has to come into the ring and finish things. As the bull is by now quite aware of how the man will react it is doubly dangerous and not a lot of time is wasted in despatching it.
I saw that it was not a totally one-sided ritual and was a regular visitor. I saw one or two more serious injuries or one of the lead-in players was caught or perhaps a horse rolled over. We all did silly things in our youth; I would not want to go now. As for banning it, that is a matter for the countries where bull fighting continues. I am told it is fading away and I'm in favour of that.
But I do still remember those sunny afternoons .....................

Look for the silver lining

Well may he smile! The pressure is off him while we all fulminate about MPs on the make.
He was under some pressure for his proposed solutions to the banking fiasco. 'Some' because I was never convinced that his opponents were making the maximum effort to oppose.
Now, he has merely to mutter that all is in hand. None can get onto his case as they all have their own skeletons falling out of every cabinet door and the wish is to keep things quiet.
Now his PR advisers have taught him how to smile, he is well ahead even despite what the polls say. The Conservatives surged ahead in a short time but we should remember the old adage "what goes up may come down" If there are many more Sir John's with their gross profits on property dealing then the boy David may need lessons in smiling.

All we want are the facts

I feel like emulating Sgt Joe Friday in seeking just the facts. The facts of what the boys and girls are getting up to at Westminster. It all comes so fast and packaged in such volume from the Telegraph that the full enormity of it takes a while to assimilate and process.
So, thanks to Private Eye for clarifying just what the entitlements are. It does seem from these revelations that the whole thing was a well planned theft right from the start. Well up there with bullion robberies from Heathrow or breaking into London safe deposit boxes. It does seem a shame that the media now making profits from extended sales of chip wrappings were unable to spot these preparatory acts at the time.
Well, now we know. I still find a lot of mileage in Nadine Dorries' claim that the monies advanced were never really expense claims at all but were a salary-enhancing allowance by another name. Whatever. The current problem is how to get better controls. Sweeping up after those who have torn the backside out of the system is all very nice but we should have the mechanism to get it right and then merely have to monitor it rather than have secret squirrel letter writing from the money seekers to the money issuers. Overall, there has to be a sanction that we can be assured is free of cronyism. The woman Kirkbride seemed to have support from Cameron and Brown seems to waver from outrage to understanding depending upon who is spotlit. Just as it is deemed that we send our democractically chosen representative to Westminster, we should have the ability to call them back if they fall from the standards we expect or the course of action that was manifestoed. I'm not advocating anything new here - I think it is known as Recall?
The situation regarding second homes is quite easily solved. The idea that a pied de terre needs a duckpond - still less a duck chateau - is a nonsense. Allowing Members to purchase property and then letting them refurbish or extend it prior to filling it with goodies at our expense is a recipe for fraud even before one grants them exemption from the charges we have imposed on selling such places. No - put them into rented furnished accommodation. There would be a rental range and the Government would pay rents directly. Occupying as a tenant a property owned by a fellow MP would be a no no. That covers the standards of second homes and the costs. If a landlord wants to redecorate or change something he is free to do so but any additional rent has to be within the agreed scale.
Digital cameras and all the other toys? MPs should have these issued from a central store. Known costs, economy of scale and greater efficiency. Staff - employed by the Government. Vetting to include checks that they are not some second cousin twice removed of the Member. Establish secretarial pools that are kept busy all the time and we would not need so many.
Running things this way would remove most of the grounds used by MPs to disassociate themselves from the rates and taxes the rest of us have to sustain.
If all this avoids us having to endure the teeth of Esther Rancid MP - it will be well worth the effort!

Edited for a neat quote:
Robert Mugabe starves his population to death. Nothing. The Janjawid commit genocide in Darfur. Nothing. Gordon Brown bankrupts the country. Nothing. Then someone buys an unnecessary trouser press. Pandemonium.

Re-writing history

These mash-ups of a classic film are all over the place. This one appeared within an hour or two of the game ending. I think the fact that one, with time, gets to know the actual film clip adds to the fun.

Adolf with One Ball was the ogre of my youth and the way he is portrayed here is, so far as I can recall, just how I visualised him back then. We seem to have lost that ability to identify the leader of an enemy nation as an individual; I never saw Saddam in any form, just his country.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Support local industry

Though I moved away from Kent with little sadness, it was more my reverse apartheid* stance that led to it. We had a lot of experience of other counties in more than 20 years of taking self-catering holidays in England and Kent was up there as a place with much to recommend it.
So - let me direct you to a link that asks for some small piece of action on the part of individuals that will benefit many. Oh and yes, the blogger deserves support!

Online petition supporting Kent & British Food

By Chambers @ The Chamber

We have received the following from Frazer Thompson (of the English Wines Group) and thought there might others of you who would also want to add your names to the No 10 online petition

"We passionately support Kent business and the need to support local products and services.

Sign our petition and you can not only give the Government an even bigger headache, but also support our County's fantastic Food and Drink businesses!

This isn't some Nationalist scheme advocating isolationism - just a way of ensuring that our food and drink culture starts to become embedded in our thinking and for our obsession with price to be tempered by our awareness of the economic, environmental and social benefits of local sourcing and our pride at the quality of our local produce. KCC have been fantastic supporters of this cause and we'd like that attitude to spread. It starts with HM Government... Sign up now please!

Click this link then respond to confirm as instructed.

Any help you can give to passing this message on would be appreciated

So, there you are daughter-of-mine. I've passed it on!

* Reverse apartheid. Laws and social convention forbid me telling people I do not wish to know or have around me to Go Away in direct and forcible manner. I therefore keep myself away from them. Here in Scotland there is much less need for such personal action.

Arbiters of morality

The current spat about who might be a designated poet has awakened thoughts I had when my life required some knowledge of poetry. There were a number of poems back then where I felt that the sentiments ascribed were maybe not of the best.
So, maybe I was right? Someone has undertaken a blog on that very point. Starts off like this:
Would WH Auden have won the professorship, in 1956, had the sleepy electorate at Oxford been apprised by a hail of anonymous lettres de cachet alerting them to the fact that the poet's most famous love poem:

Lay your sleeping head, my love,

Human on my faithless arm.

was addressed to a 13-year-old schoolboy? Who would have won that year, had the "paedo-poet" been drummed out? Harold Nicolson was his rival for the professorship. But, hold on, wasn't he the complaisant husband who was happy to have his wife, Vita Sackville-West, diddle other poets' wives? Meanwhile, of course, Harold Nicolson did a lot of extra-marital same-sex diddling of his own. It was not merely immoral but criminal (as was Auden's love-life) by the brutal laws of the day. In 1956Lord Montagu had just got out of clink for committing the "crimes" Auden and Nicolson more discreetly got away with.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Fish head

Some sort of ray at the Sealife Centre near Oban. The tanks are open topped and as soon as I went to the edge to look closer, this fellow seemed to notice me and came across for a close-up look at me. I waved my hand above its head and it circled the pond but returned for more close study. Weird experience!
Click to enlarge