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

Dreaming About Theresa

I don’t know what can have been the cause, but last night I dreamt I was voice coaching Theresa May. It can’t be because I want her brand of politics to get a better hearing, I find it abhorrent. Maybe it’s just because she makes so many speeches which we get to hear bits of on the news, and they are always so boring. In my dream I was showing her how back in the 80s Not the Nine O’clock News satirised politicians, pointing out similarities between the satire and her own delivery. Awake, I think The Two Ronnies might have been better source material. I know I spent some time trying to stop her saying ‘I’m very clear’ so maybe it was in the interests of my health, as any politician who says they are or have been clear generally means the opposite, and it winds me up. What we were aiming for in my dream was a little spontaneity, some glimpse of the person she presumably is. Perhaps I should have got her to talk about kitten heels. Continue reading

DT to meet ER, Oh Help!

I am feeling quite protective towards the Queen. I mean, she’s 90, a very healthy 90 I admit, but all the same. The news tonight showed Theresa May and Donald Trump at a press conference during which TM said she was happy to be able to extend an invitation from Her Maj to DT to make a state visit to the UK this summer.

I’m not much of a royalist, though I admit to a sneaking admiration for ERII. And this seems to me a trial too far for any monarch of any age. Can she pull a sickie? Get one of those people who make a living by looking like her to stand in for a stay that sounds painful beyond imagining? How far up her back did TM have her arm when she proffered this invitation, or has she become so inured down the nearly 70 years of her reign to be polite to bores and power junkies that she reckons this will wash over her?

I’m just going to insert a totally unrelated picture of MasterB here to help us all breathe properly and keep our collective blood pressure steady.Snoozing Continue reading

Of Trains, Boats, Brexit, Bombing and Neanderthal Attitudes

My short ride to the mainline station turned into a slow crawl across the capital. In theory, taking a train should have meant a fourteen minute journey that circumvented the clogged roads at rush hour. The driver kept as informed with a practised and resigned calm; red lights delaying our arrival at Blackfriars; a train ahead with technical problems preventing us from reaching Farringdon. I had expected to have time to kill at King’s Cross, maybe buy a coffee, admire the roof for the nth time. Instead I raced over the road from St Pancras International, found my train on the departure board, wove through the crowds and made it with just two minutes to spare.

Older Nephew is meeting me I hope at Cambridge station. We’re off to winterise das Boot, which means going to the pump out at Ely and probably lunching in a pub there, returning to the marina, emptying the water tank and adding anti-freeze to the engine. I’m hoping it’s more relaxing than the first part of the journey.

We shall doubtless talk Brexit and Trump. Now, most of you will be aware that there was a referendum in June over whether to stay in or leave the EU. I, like 48% of those who voted, wanted to remain. The question was a simple stay or leave. But somehow the government led by the redoubtable Theresa May, has decided that parliament should have no say in the niceties of how we leave the EU, what our leavetaking should be. No, she says, there will not be a discussion along the way, The Country Has Spoken and we must respect that decision. OK, fair enough, it was a slender majority, but it was a majority and much as I should prefer to remain an EU citizen to the end of my days, I reluctantly accept that is not to be. But people did not vote on immigration. Or if they did, they were answering a different question to the one asked. They did not vote on remaining in or out if the single market; on freedom of movement or pan-European health care. Some people will have voted so the 350 million pounds claimed by the leave campaign could go to our beleaguered and beloved NHS. Funny how that money does not seem to play any part in the post Brexit world. Instead leading Conservatives are talking about stopping foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs. The proposal by Amber Rudd that businesses should report on how many foreign passport holders work for them was roundly denounced and dropped amid assurances that we had misunderstood. The fact that this was background to my reading of The Hare With Amber Eyes made it all the more sinister for me. If you don’t know the book I urge you to read it. Aunt Nessa, who died nearly two years ago, sent it to me and it has sat on my shelves until now, a little bit of unsuspected golden treasure. It’s a memoir by Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist based in London. He is descended from a banking family. A Jewish banking family. The hare in the title is a netsuke, one of a collection made by his ancestor Charles Ephrussi in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Of Freecycle, Political Pontificating, the New Everyone, and Thank Goodness for Artists Like Yinka Shonibare

When Freecycle works it’s brilliant. When people who say they want your stuff then start faffing about and saying they can’t come at the time you’ve arranged, it’s a pain.

Last night I put two items up. For one, the texts came thick and fast. I offered it to the first person who gave the information I asked for, and could come at one of the times specified. The other had a similar quick but more muted response. Great. Both items to go tonight.

Then I got a text from the first person saying she had to work late and couldn’t come. No worries, I replied, there are others waiting. That’s when the faffing began. People saying they could come at times when I shan’t be here; people giving me more details about their home lives than I could ever want to read. I crossed them off the list and went to the next person. Hurrah, a responsible man who turned up when he said he would, was polite and pleased to get a second hand digital photo frame that I had given to Aunt several years ago. He’s going to give it to his mum with a USB full of photos. Brilliant.

In the meantime I texted the person who was to collect the other item and asked them to confirm they would be here between six and seven. Oh no, came the reply, I have to work tonight. I can come tomorrow lunchtime. Had I not texted I presume she wouldn’t have bothered to tell me at all and I should have been hanging around wondering when I could start making the dinner. I didn’t feel up to more texts, so I shall readvertise in a week or so and hope I get someone reliable.

On the news I saw snippets of Theresa May’s speech, and learned that UKIP has yet again gone beyond and below anything considered normal in political behaviour. Under a banner saying The Party That Works For Everyone the various speakers at the Tory party Conference are redefining what everyone means. And it seems to exclude a lot of us: Remainers; foreigners who have unsportingly been taking those jobs people armed with a British birth certificate won’t touch with a barge pole; people who want evidence and facts in debate rather than post-truth politics. Someone, I don’t remember whom, talked about putting the needs of the indigenous people of this country first. That’s going to be tricky. I’m not sure there are any indigenous people here. They must have disappeared around the first ice age. The Queen, whose European heritage makes my own seem quite tame, may be looking to relocate somewhere on mainland Europe where us mongrels are more welcome. Continue reading

Of Vitamin Paste for Cats, Family News, Brexit (again), GBBO, and the Absence of Ethics

A quickie post as I am off to enjoy supper with Octavia shortly. We usually eat together on a Sunday and catch up with some of each other’s news. it’s always chez Octavia as she has more room than I do, so I get to catch up with the Grey Ninja too. Tonight I shall be taking the said ninja some cat vitamin paste,. I got it with the reward points I have accumulated on the one of the sites where I buy MasterB’s food. It is supposed to prevent hairballs, something I have yet to see MasterB produce, and which the Grey Ninja, being a breed (Russian Blue – her pedigree name rivals that of the Tsar) that barely sheds, is unlikely to suffer with.

The blurb said it was a taste no cat could resist and recommended it for when you have to medicate your pet. Great I thought, that should make the worming tablet less traumatic all round. But MasterB finds it all to easy to resist. I put a centimetre or so on a saucer for him as a treat. It’s still there twenty-four hours later, loooking like a short, rather fat, slug. Maybe the GN will find it more to her taste.

I became a great aunt, which was very exciting. I received an ecstatic text from Nephew who is obviously a very thrilled parent. Pictures followed, including, finally, one of his daughter with her eyes open. This good news has been tempered by news that the eldest son of my cousin Tom, also called Tom, is in a coma following a cardiac arrest. Cousin is keeping me in the loop, but they have been warned there will be brain damage. He’s forty-one, married with two little girls. Though I am not religious, I went into a church yesterday and filled in a card asking the congregation to pray for him. These are the moments when you feel utterly powerless, and prayer is the one thing you can offer.

Bake Off continued and one of my favourite bakers left the tent. Don’t worry Nadbugs, I shan’t tell you who it was. The shocking news that GBBO is to leave the BBC for Channel 4 has been a welcome distraction from what isn’t so far happening with Brexit. Some days I can almost convince myself it won’t happen at all. Then Theresa May goes and announces that Article 52 will be triggered by March 2017. My heart sinks to my boots. Does the Prime Minister and her Cabinet have a plan? If so, they have communicated precious little about it to the British electorate. BoJo said something the other day that was immediately contradicted by Number 10 – a nice example of a metonym I am sure Octavia will agree – so I just hope Armando Iannucci, Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton are sitting with sharpened pencils ready to satirise the whole thing and keep me off the anti-depressants. Continue reading