Thursday, July 30, 2009

I have just tried to book an appointment to see a doctor about my chest infection.  The person who answered the 'phone told me very cheerily, as if she was enjoying being unhelpful, that my doctor was on holiday for two weeks, and the other doctor I sometimes see is also on holiday.  Eventually I managed to book an appointment with a doctor I have never seen before, for next Thursday.
Why are doctors going on holiday in the middle of a 'flu pandemic?
These people are paid (so we are told) an average salary of a quarter of a million pounds per annum.  For that sort of money one would expect a bit more in the way of commitment.  And how much holiday leave do NHS staff get anyway - they always seem to be on holiday?
The answer is not one fat cat doctor on £250k pa but five doctors on £50k pa so they can cover each other's holiday leave.
And if they are not happy with that arrangement and want to go and work for more money abroad let them go - but make them pay back the cost of their medical training before they leave.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Above: the offices of the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society in Blackfriars Road, designed by Arthur Russell and opened in 1910.

I have been very ill with what is obviously swine 'flu, although NHS Direct maintained it wasn't on the grounds that I hadn't come into contact with any known sufferers (although we now know that the disease is everywhere). The television screens have been full of people telling us how "mild" the illness is (these are no doubt the same medical "experts" who assured us with absolute certainty that mad cow disease could not spread to humans). Anyway, the illness knocked me out for two solid weeks, and when I finally returned to work I was regarded with suspician as a malingerer ("It's supposed to be mild...").

A month later and I'm still not well.

One of the compensations has been the amount of reading I have been able to do. I am currently reading George Orwell's Coming Up For Air. I was surprised by the opening pages in which Orwell (via the main character) attacks building societies as agents of the financial enslavement of the lower middle classes.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Once again I have to post an apology for not updating this blog. I have been very ill with 'flu, and still have a croaky sore throat and feel tired all the time. I was off work for two weeks, and when I finally returned to the office the backlog of work was so enormous I am still struggling with it.

Plus we have a new "Head" of the agency who is so demanding there is little time during the day to think about blogging.

And when I get home all I want to do is sleep.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prime Minister's Questions, 15th July 2009

At lunchtime today I went up to the Board Room to watch the last Prime Minister’s Questions of this parliamentary session. Andrew Neil explained the MPs would now be on holiday until mid-October, and consequently his political programmes will also be off-air (is this long break really necessary? – the world doesn’t come to a stop just because MPs are lazing away the summer). On the studio panel Kevin Maguire, political editor of the Daily Mirror stood in for Nick Robinson.

The cameras went across to the House of Commons. The Speaker, the odious John Bercow, looked ridiculous in the huge Speaker’s chair (he is a little man). Ironically he has rejected the traditional Speaker’s wig and robes, which may have helped him fill the chair a bit more adequately.

The government front bench looked drab (apart from Peter Hain’s lurid pink tie). On the other side the Opposition seemed to have grouped pastel cream colours around their leader, giving the camera shot a fresh-looking appearance. These subliminal details are important (but I know colour psychology is hard to get right).

This was a remarkable Prime Minister’s Questions – possibly the most remarkable I have seen. David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, effectively used his six questions to force an emergency debate on Afghanistan, using twenty minutes of the half-hour PMQs to talk about the most important issue facing the country. The Speaker tried to stop this interlocution but was rebuffed by David Cameron.

Gordon Brown told us once again: “We have got to make sure terrorism does not hit the streets of Britain, which is why we are in Afghanistan…” This ignores the issue that since we are an island, with only so many points of entry, surely if the budget and personnel currently allocated to the war in Afghanistan (9,000 men and women and £2.5 billion) were reallocated to border security (and monitoring those demographics generating “home grown” terrorism) how would it be possible for terrorism to take place on “the streets” of Britain? The case has not been logically made for ensuring the security of the United Kingdom by fighting a war in central Asia.

David Cameron did not challenge the principles on which the war was being fought, but returned again and again (in a very measured and considered way) to the issue of inadequate provision, especially equipment, to fight the war effectively. He referred to “four defence secretaries, two shared procurement ministers, and a defence secretary that is twenty-first in rank in the Cabinet.” It seemed a damning comment on what ought to be our most pressing political and national endeavour.

The rest of the questions were hardly worthy of mention. There did seem to be, however, an absence of planted questions. The only planted question I could identify was by Anne Begg who asked about the Speaker’s Conference on the Diversity of the House of Commons (an unintended ironic question since Speaker Bercow is a former white supremacist who in his FCS days apparently resembled an extra from Mississippi Burning).

The war in Afghanistan has entered national consciousness, after a long dormant period. It is uncertain how this new awareness will impact on the political situation, especially as a mood is arising that something must be done. Presumably resources must be allocated to ensure “victory” or the British forces should be withdrawn.

I was reminded of past neo-colonial conflicts:

Monday, July 13, 2009

The reaction of the police has been a disgrace

Since getting 'flu three weeks ago I have been unable to do much. I went back to work a week ago, but when I get home all I can do is rest. Consequently I have not been able to do much on this blog.

But I have been following the revelations in The Guardian about the way News of the World journalists have been routinely breaking the law to spy on people (hacking into phone lines). This is a story equal in importance to the MP's expenses scandal, but so far the coverage by other newspapers has been muted (which is very depressing as it probably means they are doing the same). The broadcast media have given the story some prominence, especially Andrew Neil's Daily Politics and This Week.

The reaction of the police has been a disgrace (and very disquieting in the suggestions that police take "payments" from journalists - what are these payments for, who regulates them, do they even pay tax on the income???).

John Whittingdale, Chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, will be interviewing News of the World editor Colin Myler, on Tuesday 21 July.

In my opinion the conspiracy laws should be used to put all the senior News International staff (including Rupert Murdoch) into a court and get a judge to sort it out (including any concomitant prison sentences).

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Village show

Another village show, like all the other shows put on before it (except that the background music was different, Sophie Ellis Bexter's Heartbeat Make Me A Dancer proving to be the sound of the 2009 summer

Above: there was a flypast by a Dakota, a Spitfire and other historic aircraft.

Above: in the main marquee the cauliflowers were ranked in strict accordance to the Rules.

Above: the prize-winning cabbages glistened with self-satisfaction.

Above: the prize-winning broad beans were artfully arranged in swirls.

Above: security was more interested in looking at the pretty girls than guarding our fine farm produce from sinister enemy attack (even here we must be alert to the shadowy forces that, we are told, constantly threaten us).

Above: old codgers dressed in tweed rode antique bicycles around the central ring.

Above: they were watched by young lovers.

Above: a school band marched up and down playing popular tunes.

Above: they were watched by young lovers.

Above: a local dog training group put on a display (including a very naughty Yorkshire terrier).

Above: they were watched by young families (note the Basset hound pointedly looking the other way).

Above: it began to rain and so I went into the poultry marquee and had a very interesting talk about the rearing of game birds.