Friday 4 March 2011

First Friday Photos

Well, I'm sitting here a bit glum having failed to get The Boy tickets for V Festival...we went camping there three years ago, and it was a ball, even if the state of the toilets remains ingrained in my memory even now. This was going to be just for the Saturday, but it just didn't matter how many times I clicked, I just couldn't get them. Frustratingly, the site told me it had sold out as I was entering my card details. Hummmmmph.

Any way its TGIF, so a few photos from the last month to put up. I'm afraid there's a bit of a snow and mountain theme...

That cloud is coming off the Matterhorn and seems to be holding the sun

Beach huts in Brighton

Southwark Tube station...I waited ages for the couple to come into shot

Streetperformers in the rush hour in Southwark

Just us

Three-quarters of The Muffins

Behind the words...the Matterhorn

Very nearly, almost a real bird in the sky

The Cats Mother collects hares and got very excited to see this cloud

Evening time...the Matterhorn looks magnificent

Thursday 3 March 2011

Getting it all in proportion

Only Waitrose could possibly conceive that Parmesan cheese is one of life's essentials. Much as I like it, I don't think I would be traumatised without it. It all depends on what side of the tracks you're from I guess.

The Cat's Mother and I went to see Diva, which was a special showing at the ENO's Coliseum this week. It's a film I love and could watch time and time again. The Cat's Mother, who hadn't seen it before merely commented that it was very much a French film of its time. She may have been one of the ones laughing inappropriately in the wrong places.

Proportionality is a big thing in the house at the moment. Of course an adult view of what is proportionate is different to a teenager's, and generally based on years of valuable experience. So it's more likely to be right. But that doesn't mean that I've forgotten the emotions of thirty odd years ago. Anyway, it's not made for an easy week, but what do I know, I'm just a Dad.

On the subject of proportionality, I see we have a referendum to decide the best way of electing our corrupt representatives to the House of Inequity. Now voting is something I do know a little bit about. I spent three years studying it at one of the universities that is now planning to charge anyone who plans to follow my footsteps £9000 for the privilege - if you look at the end results you may not feel that is good value for money. Anyway the nay sayers have always rejected any change on the basis that it leads to ineffective coalition governments. Right at the moment they don't have much of an argument there do they? I seem to remember that Italy had achieved something like 40 different governments since the second world war by the 1980's which seems to re-inforce the NO argument (they use a form of proportional voting). But, remarkably they had very consistent policies throughout the period, and at one stage a larger economy by value than the UK. I'm so overwhelmed by Mr Berulsconi, I can't quite see policies for bunga bunga parties, but they're still not doing too badly. Anyway, the main thrust of the No campaign is that the cost of running an election will be such that we won't be able to give our soldiers bullet proof jackets. Wasn't that the problem under Blair and Brown?

So I can see no reason not to vote yes. AV is far from being perfect, and I think would have made little difference to the ultimate result in the last election, and there are many far better (albeit more complicated) systems, but it is fairer and does give a value to each and every vote. The current system means that the result is actually decided by just a few tens of thousands of votes. We need a much wider ranging reform of politics, including the democratisation of the House of Lords, but in the meantime I'll take what I can get.

So in this referendum I shall put my one non-transferable vote into the yes box, whilst recognising that ultimately we get the politicians we deserve. We must be a terrible bunch. Hopefully when The Boy is old enough to vote, he'll see the benefit of getting everything in proportion.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Burning bridges

I may have mentioned there was a big change coming, but it's been a bit tricky getting to. A few innocent words have provoked a fever of speculation. Naturally, what's important to me may mean nothing to you.

Of course, I'm not alone in that. Our revered Spin Doctor in Chief, David Cameron, has been hinting about intervention in Libya, or possibly unilaterally declaring a no fly zone, forgetting that to do that you have to take out the ground radar and surface to air missiles first. Hmmmm. That's not good is it? Fortunately the Arab League has told everyone to keep their noses and guns out. This is an Arab affair and nobody else's business. And so it is. That hasn't stopped our fevered media gunning for an all out conflict to throw out yet another despot. Well it's worked so well in Iraq hasn't it?

Gadaffi falls into the category of 'bad dictator' so why we've been doing business with him I don't know. Anyone remember Tony Blair's ethical foreign policy. Some may say you need a moral compass before you can have an ethical policy of any sort. I hope the rebels win, and Gadaffi goes, but it is indeed a Libyan affair and any interference by the UK, or indeed other former colonial power will only make matters worse on a broader canvas. I'm using Twitter to keep up with the latest goings on from the ground, but it's any body's guess at this stage at the outcome. A couple of weeks ago Libya ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT CHANGE ITS LEADERSHIP. So who knows.

This is our cottage in Buckhurst Hill.

We bought it without too much thought. It was near the school The Boy was moving to at the age of 11. In fact that was the only criteria. It was the only property we looked at one weekend. It then took nigh on six months to complete, which meant our target of moving in before he changed school was missed. The poor lad had to commute first from Borough High St (London Bridge) and then Finsbury Park to Woodford Green for a month. But in we moved. Then I realised we had no furniture (the previous place had been rented out furnished). So for another six weeks we sat on the floor.

The first thing that had to change was the dark blue that oppressed the living room. We put down lovely wood, and on the advice of a friend who writes for Wallpaper magazine, left the York Stone fireplace. I hated it, but freely admit to being a fashion victim. Anyway, then it looked like this:

It had a lovely garden if you don't like gardening. We had some fabulous barbecues in it. Indeed, the summer of 2008 must have been a good one because we seemed to eat outside every night.

We did three more things. We removed the artex from the walls of the stairway and upper hall, put down oatmeal (that's beige to you and me) carpets and replaced the back door with a stable-style door. It was complete just as The Boy was getting bigger than me, and frankly it was getting a bit cramped for us both. But we loved it.

Then last year, we effectively abandoned it. We moved to Loughton to share a home with The Cat's Mother and The Cat. Our cottage was left and almost forgotten, but was always somewhere for us to retreat to if it all went wrong.

Well it hasn't all gone wrong, and at the turn of the year we decided to rent it out rather than let it go to rack and ruin. So we've had a few traumatic weeks of emptying it. Do you know how difficult it is to give away stuff like furniture you don't want? Nigh on impossible. But just before we went on holiday it was empty and ready for new tenants. I hope they love it as much as we did. For us there's no going back.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Back in the real world, we bumped into Liam Gallagher last night...almost literally as he was chased into a pub by the paparazzi. To be honest, I initially thought it was Ronnie Wood, but was confused by how much bigger he looked in real life...fortunately a picture in the Metro this morning put me straight. The Cat's Mother is disappointed I failed to correctly identify him at the time as he's on her list of five. She says she would have screamed. I said he might have screamed.

I'm not that good with celebrity was The Boy that saw Jeremy Clarkson on holiday, and I completely missed David Bradley who plays Filch in Harry Potter when we arrived back at Stansted Airport. The likelihood of me ever meeting my list of five (which consists entirely of Monica Bellucci) seems ever more remote.

Kellogsville wrote recently about equality, and why women are paid less than men. And how topical is that, given that the European Court has announced the insurance industry can no longer differentiate (discriminate?) between men and women. Yippee because my car and bike insurance will be cheaper. Boohoo because my annual pension will be smaller. Yippee because The Boy will not have to pay an outrageous amount more than The Cat for his first car insurance.

So is this really the march of equality taking a big leap forwards? No, I don't think so. You can prove statistically that women have fewer accidents than men so logically should pay less. You can prove statistically that women live longer than men, so the annual payment out of their pension pot should be smaller. Political correctness has triumphed over the laws of biology. That's not really very clever or impressive is it?

Men and women are different. That doesn't mean they are not equal, in the sense of one man/woman one vote, and equal pay for equal work, but you cannot deny the basic differences. There are some things that are different...and legislation should recognise that. Or the judiciary should keep its nose out all together. I've never understood why men retire later than women when they die younger...except of course I do - historically men were the breadwinners and had to provide for their family. It's not like that now. I see there is some talk of forcing companies to have equal representation of men and women on their management board. It's not something I agree with, in the same way I don't agree with any form of positive discrimination....because effectively it discriminates against the people who are not part of the positive discrimination...and more importantly it doesn't deal with the underlying causes...just the symptoms.

I work in an industry that is dominated by women, yet women still tend to earn less than men. That suggests to me, at least, that discrimination is based on more than historical prejudice.

So what's needed is a root and branch look at where there is unreasonable discrimination, and that should be put right. It's difficult to summarise such a complex topic in so few lines, but I hope that as The Cat and The Boy grow up into the commercial world they are given an equal chance to achieve what they want. And they both pay a reasonable sum for their car insurance.

Monday 28 February 2011

True Grit

Whilst standing in passport control at Stansted Airport, The Boy and I were musing over the last time we traveled back there from Germany. The shuttle monorail hadn't been working properly and in consequence an enormous number of people had accumulated on the platform. One couple who were near the back decided to push to the front. We had noticed them previously on the aeroplane because they had paid for two extra seats to put their luggage on. When they got to the front of the platform, they exclaimed they couldn't get on. At which point I loudly started suggesting to them that was no surprise as we were unlikely to be standing on the platform for fun. I am known to speak my mind in such situations. Back at Stansted and in the passport queue, The Boy and I had finished our little muse, when a woman next to us said, "I wish there were more people like you".

At the cinema (Cineworld in Enfield if you must) last night, I was assigned the job of getting the refreshments. We like coffee. But as with every time we've been to the pictures in the last year there was a coffee problem. In this instance they had run out of milk. I explained my frustration to the person who wasn't serving the coffee. He shrugged his shoulders. So the manager was summoned. I explained that we simply wanted coffee, and that whenever we went to this cinema it wasn't available. The manager dispatched someone to find milk. And lo and behold milk was acquired. I believe it was the projectionist's personal least it came from the projection room. There may be bigger battles to fight, but I have to say that coffee did taste good.

On the screen itself, the film was excellent. I'm somewhat confused that Hailee Steinfeld was nominated as Best Supporting Actress. After all the film was her story and she had the most lines. I guess she just doesn't have the same fame as Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges. A good film. A very good film indeed. Very stylised. But excellent entertainment. But I'd never have picked it as an Oscar winner (that's easy to say this morning), and I'm glad Colin Firth got his just rewards. If only Geoffrey Rush had.

I'm a little confused by Libya, and outraged by The Bastard Blair on the front page of The Times saying he had been right to bring Gadaffi 'back into the fold'. But then I am outraged every time TBB takes a breath. There are no doubt some Arab leaders who privately feel that however bad Gadaffi is, they would prefer him to stay, as his departure will show that no despotic leader is safe. He is certainly showing True Grit in hanging on in there.

And I'm interested to note some 29,000 Chinese have been evacuated. That's a lot of influence.