And Another Thing

When I wrote my last blog post I did not know of Theresa May’s announcement that more money, a lot more money, but still not enough, was to be forthcoming for our wonderful NHS. when I finally heard the speech my blood pressure, normally on the low side, soared. It was so full of caveats; the NHS must do this, it must prove that, it must meet the government’s requirements. So, a government that has consistently and cynically starved the NHS, made working conditions in many hospitals and GP practices almost impossible, has relied on the goodwill of staff but never ever rewarded or praised them, now, instead of owning up to the fact it has jeopardised one of the greatest achievements of this country in its entire history, make that the greatest achievement, apologising, holding its hands up and admitting it was wrong – something which would have earned them my respect for a rare moment of honesty in government – it wants to set hurdles. WTF? As for the Brexit bonanza, I don’t believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden and I don’t believe that if we leave the EU we will suddenly receive a substantial windfall of millions.

I have been a teacher. I have been through Ofsted several times, and yes I was rated as an outstanding teacher delivering an outstanding lesson. Ofsted is stressful. You know you are under the microscope. Everything you have written, everything you say, everything you do, is under scrutiny. If this current government were to undergo an equivalent scrutiny I have no doubt it would be in special measures. Continue reading

A Loss of Innocence

My friend Julia was aghast some twenty years ago when she realised my addiction to a programme called Pet Rescue. It was on most afternoons and in those days of videotape, I used to record it to watch when I got home. Both Julia and I worked in a place where daily we witnessed sadness and human beings suffering. I found Pet Rescue cathartic.It lasted a bare thirty minutes, including ad breaks (I think it was on Channel 4) and I would do a lot of weeping as I watched the stories of animal rescue, of abandoned neglected animals restored to health and rehomed in loving environments.

I found it hopeful.

Julia said it was the most low brow thing she had ever seen.

My viewing habits haven’t changed. Pet Rescue is no more, and after Rolf Harris’ horrific fall from grace Animal Hospital is something no one mentions anymore, but there’s still Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs, The Supervet with the astounding team at FitzPatrick Referrals, Rescue Dog to Super Dog (last one tomorrow night), and tonight Channel 5’s The Dog Rescuers.

Yes, Channel 5. Quite possibly the worst TV channel in the world. If Julia thought Pet Rescue low brow, goodness knows what she makes of Channel 5. She probaby has to lie down for half an hour under a damp tea towel at the very thought. I must ask her the next time we meet.

But low brow or not, I learn a lot from these programmes. I have understood how people are forced to give up pets when they move into accommodation where pets aren’t allowed; that buying pets from pet shops encourages the breeding of cats and dogs for profit and welfare is a low priority; that puppy farming is a major problem. I can nod knowingly when people talk of equines suffering from laminitis. Should I ever have a Shetland Pony (which is unlikely, but you never know) it will not be grazed on rich pasture. I can give a fairly accurate prognosis for a sick animal by listening to the music played while its case is discussed; I’ve learned about dogs suffering separation anxiety; how you must never use an ammonia based product when cleaning up where a cat has sprayed or peed.

I have also learned that pets bring out the best and worst in people. There are cases of appalling cruelty, where I seriously wonder if we are all part of the same species, or if there are those who have somehow evolved with empathy and sympathy missing from their make up. One little dog featured in the progarmme tonight had been stolen by a group of teenagers thought to be high on drugs, He’d been kicked, beaten, his neck and leg broken. He’d been set on fire, left for dead. Amazingly he was found, treated and made a full recovery. His story went viral.

It’s a lovely story. And to see that happy dog back with his openers, eyes button bright, tail wagging, is wonderful. But as I heard the story tonight I couldn’t help but compare his experience with those dogs currently being put through similar tortures during the Yulin Dogmeat Festival. Some of those dogs were also stolen from homes where they were loved. All those dogs, sentient creatures, will experience fear and pain to degrees it is impossible for me to understand. Their eventual deaths will be a release. Imagine learning your loved pet has gone through that hell. I look at MasterB, rescued from the streets of Brighton by the students who then rehomed him with me. In another part of the world his story could have had a very different ending. The idea of my happy, trusting, gentle boy being subjected to such horrors twists my heart.

My Boy

My Boy

Continue reading

Cynical Bastards

It’s been a while since I had a rant, and really one is long overdue. For those of you who follow the news here in the UK, you may be aware that the last few days have produced some jaw-dropping events.

IDS (Iain Duncan Smith) has resigned saying the cuts in welfare spending that he has been busy promoting and implementing for six years, have gone too far, and asking David Cameron if he really still thinks “we are all in in together”, which was the Tories slogan for the 2010 election. I do not believe IDS has resigned because he has suddenly developed something approaching a conscience. I believe he sees the chancellor, George Osborne as in a weakened position, and has chosen this moment to stick the knife in. IDS is part of the Brexit campaign; George Osborne part of Bremain. Neither of them does a great deal to attract me to their causes. Make that neither of them does anything that attracts me to their causes. If the choice is just one or the other, we really do need a Third Way, though without Tony Blair.

Now on some occasions I might enjoy watching a bit of internecine action among the Tories, but these posturings do not make for grown up politics, and the referendum, which I bet Dave is really regretting ever mentioning now, is important, and deserves serious attention, not partisan voting along the kick-out-the-foreigners-and-raise-the-drawbridge on one side, and we’re-doomed-if-we-leave on the other. I made the mistake of looking at the Daily Mail to see how that organ of hatred was responding to IDS’ resignation. Mistake. It depressed me for hours, and I am still scared that the people who wrote comments at the end of the articles live in the same country as I do. If Hitler were to stand as their local candidate they’d vote for him. Continue reading

The Health of the People – the Highest Law?

I missed the article in the Guardian by Harry Leslie Smith, but fortunately these letters in yesterday’s edition led me back to it.

Maybe you missed it too. If so, I urge you to read both the article and the letters.

Yesterday, a few of us were discussing how regeneration is affecting our neighbourhood; how untruths, half truths and downright lies, damned some buildings to demolition. It reminded me of the behaviour of a certain London council in the 80s. Residents, all of them council tenants with secure tenancies, were told that there was danger from asbestos, and evacuated from the homes. People were rehoused in housing stock that was often inferior, in different parts of the borough. They thought this was a temporary measure before they could move back to their homes. Continue reading