Friday, 18 February 2011

All come together

It's time for a slight pause. A little leave of absence. Because it is.....
.....SKIING time!

Instead of The Cat's Mother's impeccable organisational skills, the whole shambles has been put in my hands. So first The Boy chose the destination...Zermatt...on the basis he'd been there before and loved it. Then around Christmas time we went on the interweb to find a hotel...not surprisingly most places were booked, but we found one. The Hotel Bristol. It turns out to be directly opposite a noisy bar we have just discovered. But I think we're at the back of the Matterhorn view, but blissful silence. Then some weeks later we thought it would be a good idea to find some way of getting there. Normally you fly to Zurich and take a 3 hour train journey. The flights were full. Dantes Hell (otherwise known as Geneva) beckoned until a little angel found us a flight to a place called Sion. As it turns out this is the best route, and the train journey is just an hour. Plus we get to fly at civilised times. Then we had to book ski lessons. For half term week. There are 8 of us with varying degrees of expertise including two little children. We thought we would be teaching ourselves, until the magic wand was waved again, and a highly rated school could take us, pretty much at the times we want. Ski hire is booked, the taxis are booked. We're ready for the off. So in traditional fashion, all has perfectly come together at the last minute. That's not to say it hasn't been stressful for The Cat's Mother. It has. But we're still talking. And not even just.

At home, there's been something else I've been sorting out. A big step, and it should all come together tomorrow. But it's a big step, and I daren't say, just in case. I shall turn my mobile off so I won't know until I get back.

Meanwhile I will be keeping an eye of the middle east. It looks as if it's not going to settle down, and we could be seeing a fundamental shift in the region. Bahrain is getting violent, but the government there is quite harsh. It could turn into a Sunni vs Shia fight. And that has pretty significant implications. Rioting in Libya? Yes, but rumour has it that Gaddaffi will join in the protests against the government...the man's a genius! And else where too protests and demands for change. It will make a fascinating study...five years from here.

And that's it. Have fun. Think of me. Send me a postcard. I'll be thinking of you all.

Oh yes, just before I go...I was sent this. Seems like a really good idea to me, so unusually I'm just pasting it up...please pass it on:

"I know this may appear slightly irrelevant to your blog but I was wondering if your readers might be interested in car donation as a way of getting rid of old cars quickly, simply and environmentally. I know that car disposal is not an obvious problem for parents but I suspect it’s wider than would be expected.

I'm emailing from a UK company called Giveacar (, a not-for-profit organisation which organises the collection and recycling of unwanted cars, with the proceeds of each vehicle going to charity.

We work with over 250 charities and have raised over £200,000 in the past year through car donation, and work with scrapyards and salvage operators to ensure cars are sold for their maximum value – thus providing the maximum donation to charity.

We are an environmentally friendly operation, recommended by Keep Britain Tidy and recently covered by the Ecologist:

We want to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of the environmental benefits of car donation, and would really appreciate your help!"

Thursday, 17 February 2011

I love Maggie Thatcher

OK, OK, OK I'm only joking. I know I shouldn't joke about these things. It's Meryl Streep I've got a soft spot for. So it was a shame that yesterday whilst they were filming The Iron Lady, Meryl wasn't actually there. Meryl as Thatcher has been plastered all over the national press this week, so I hope you know what I'm talking about. This was a scene about her younger life in the grocery shop in Grantham. It was all very exciting, and as far as I can work out it went on all night....they were still clearing up as I arrived for work this morning. I didn't get to speak to the Lady herself, but I got a few of the girls to pose for me, and they were very obliging as they were just about to skip down the street. Why Bermondsey St was chosen to represent Grantham I'll never know. A shop that's been deserted for as long as I remember was transformed over the last few days into a very passable grocers. Maggie was sweeping up outside. Or was it Maggie's mum?

We seem stuck in a late 1940's warp, as that was the theme of Secret Cinema...but I can say no more

As for the Iron Lady herself, history will be her judge. Even now, the 'Maggie experience' seems too fresh in people's minds. To my mind, she succeeded in dragging Britain into the modern world able to compete as an economic force again. But at a terrible social cost. Many would argue, that's exactly what Stalin did, but I think comparisons like that may be a little harsh. Her legacy is certainly the selfish exploitative capitalism that we see operating today (back to those bankers again) and a raft of the population who have such a pathological hatred of the Conservatives that they will never vote Tory and have complete contempt for anything Conservative - regardless of what policies they pursue.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Over night, I had a message from Facebook to say that someone had tried to access my account from an unusual I had visions of the account having been hacked, my friends deleted, and all sorts of unusual past times added. The Boy calls it Frape. Isn't it strange how the young have used a very emotive term for an online activity. His crowd seem to do it all the time and think it's very funny. To prove that I am who I claim to be, I had to identify friends from 'tags' in their or other people's photos. I'm not sure why, but Facebook seemed to choose the most difficult, small photos and not my closest friends. Damn it was hard. I must wear my glasses. I got through, but could just as easily have been locked out. No more on line togetherness for me.

I had to I've skipped the last couple of galleries from Tara - just sometimes, I've got nothing to contribute. But this week, I thought I would join in the scrum (well it's Six Nations time) with the theme being togetherness. Here's the photo:

Technically its a pants photo, but as ever it's what it says that counts. So here's The Boy with a big grin, and The Cat looking on indulgently. It totally sums up their sibling-like relationship which has made an enormous leap from their original friendship. The Boy is always quite a handful...he bounces around like Tigger...and has a vibrant energy. The Cat is more considered, thoughtful. They both have a lot to put up with. They joke together, they squabble together, they play together. I'm glad they're together.

The Gallery is here.

Of course I could have chosen this one....the sandwich is a regular occurence...and always just as manic

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Over inflated

The Boy is completely deflated, just a couple of weeks after fighting off yet another cold,he's gone down again. Not enough exercise I hear you cry! Yes indeed, he should be forced out into the cold to stretch a few muscles and build himself up again. After all, a young man consigned to his bed with a snotty nose is not a happy lad. So it's a good job, we're off to the slopes of Switzerland on Saturday. If that tingling is anything to go by, I may well be sneezing for the duration. I'm taking pre-emptive Lemsip and whisky.

We went off to see Brighton Rock in Brighton on Sunday. And two hours of unadulterated menace it was too. A very effective update of the original, although as a 'local' I couldn't help be disappointed that most of it was filmed in Eastbourne...but then many people do go to die there anyway. On the way home, the weather was suitably blustery and wet, so we went via the arches in Madeira Drive to see where the first slashing takes place. It was a rounded experience.

And in line with my need for a full experience, we're off to 'Secret Cinema' again. Don't know what they're showing, or where, but it's an exciting prospect. In a nod to the 'late 40's' clues I'm wearing a hat. I assume they mean the 1940's rather than a reference to my age.

And in a few weeks time we're seeing Diva at the ENO, with an operatic performance before hand. The flea pit was never like this.

I've been hauled over the coals for some of my Egyptian commentary, so just to set the record straight. I'm sure they will sort out their own affairs by themselves. Egypt is a big, proud nation with an established political system that is going through massive change. But once that change has happened, as a pivotal nation in the Middle East, foreign countries will seek influence, whether we like it or not. It would be impossible to sum up the situation in a few short lines, so just think of this as me skimming the surface like a stone, before sinking into oblivion!

And now you've got me going, here's a thought about inflation and interest rates. As I studied politics and economics at Uni, I think I'm not entirely unqualified to stick my oar in. Or at least raise a few questions. But I'm happy for anyone to put me in my little box. Inflation is up again, and there's much talk of raising interest rates. A traditional cure for roaring inflation. But I've always argued that there is more than one type of inflation. There's the sort that comes from a run away economy and is driven by rising consumer demand. And then there is another type. The type caused by rising demand elsewhere, pushing commodity prices up here. And that is what we are seeing at the moment, fuelled by the monopoly money printing that the Bank of England indulged in last year. Here in Blighty demand is pretty low, confidence is pretty low. As an example, petrol and diesel prices are sky-high...yet UK consumption is way down. We're avoiding driving because we can't afford it. And if you increase interest rates, the only impact will be to drive down demand, crush confidence and reduce economic activity further. The solution would be to reduce interest rates. Except we can't. So just leave well alone. err I think.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Only three certainties in life

I've had my daily, weekly, monthly and indeed annual battles with the tax man since I was old enough to be earning a wage. As I've got older and my finances more complicated, those battles have got bigger and nastier. Of course ultimately they always have the winning hand, as they proved once by failing to cash a cheque that I'd sent them a month previously, only to take me to court for failing to pay, win, and then cash the cheque the same day. Yep, that's the sort of people they are.

I wouldn't mind so much if it was for the advertising they insist on spending our money on telling us how wonderful and easy going and helpful they are. One day I will complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Today, however, they proved themselves utterly, utterly stupid. As The Boy is nearly sixteen, it's time for him to get a national insurance number. So I got a letter, asking me to check they had his name right. It wasn't. In fact it wasn't even close. Not even the right surname. Yes I can allow a mistake, even if all the official records of the lad have been accurate since the day he was born. Although it did remind me of one of my favourite films...terry Gilliam's Brazil:

But that's not what's got me going. To return the form with the corrected form, they give you an envelope. An envelope which is just about a quarter of an inch to narrow and a quarter of an inch to short to put the form in. So effectively you have to screw the form up to send it back. The rest of the world can buy the right size envelopes, why can't HMRC?

In the meantime, I think we're a long way from settling the Egyptian question...after all the military command is part of the traditional ruling elite. I'm still betting on bloodshed. The UK and the US have been making a pigs ear of the situation, leaving the door wide open for the Iranians, the Chinese and the Russians. Probably in that order. Bravo.