Friday 18 March 2011

A bit of give and take

It's widely reported how the banks brought us to our knees and are continuing to keep us there. It's much less widely reported that I hold particularly vehement views on the matter. Although by writing about it regularly at least some people may well have picked up on my feelings. One of the things the banks are failing to do is offer the lending that will start the economy moving. Well why should they - by hoarding all that taxpayers money, and trading with implicit Government guarantees they can continue to feather their nests whilst the real people wonder how to make ends meet, and ponder the realities of having to visit the job centre. The mind set of not giving has permeated well beyond just handing out loans. Yesterday I popped in to my local branch of Lloyds TSB to pay in a cheque.

Lloyds TSB as I'm sure you know are one of the key sponsors of the 2012 Olympics. Their name is plastered all over the ticketing brochures that were neatly stacked in a very impressive display unit ready for the likes of you and me to grab to go and book our tickets. Actually, looking at the prices, I'm not sure how many will really be booking tickets, but that's beside the point. The point is that this fabulous display was positioned neatly BEHIND the cashiers. Out of reach unless you're a bank robber. Even when I asked for a copy, I there was a reluctance to give me one. Why is that? I can only think it's because the concept of anything going out of the bank and into the hands of real people is now beyond them. Morons.

Anyway, it's good to see that NATO is to launch air attacks on Saudi Arabia for its actions in quelling the pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain. This is shortly to be followed by strikes against North Korea and then Burma. Zimbabwe is on the to do list sources have told me. I'm glad to see that it has carefully considered its position with regards Libya, and decided that as it is a sovereign nation in which one Libyan is fighting another, we should leave well alone. I'm a little concerned that the UK has been given three months to reform its voting system to ensure that its Government fairly reflects the will of the people, but I'm sure the country will bow to international pressure and do the right thing.

The UK's position on Gadaffi shows just how corrupt Blair's bunch were. They brought the Libyan regime in from the cold. Blair still defends this position. He would have been long gone if Britain and the international community had done the right thing decades ago. Expect dirty little secrets come tumbling out into the open in the coming months.

It's a terrible thing when the innocent are killed, and in this case by their own government, but it sets a dangerous precedent when the international community starts taking sides and getting involved. The Russians and Chinese have worried about this (partly because there are plenty of potential rebellions in their own borders), but abstained in the UN vote because the case against Gadaffi is overwhelming. The question is will that decision come back to bite them in the proverbial arse?

Thursday 17 March 2011

Slug etiquette

The elderly city gent swayed onto the tube train as it stopped at Bank station. By elderly I mean he was cruising through to retirement, and sensibly should have gone and enjoyed his twilight years rather than sweat away in a city office. I'll say he was a gent because he was smartly dressed, not too smartly, but just and well presented. He sat down and the few glasses of alcohol - I'll bet gin and tonics - that he'd enjoyed that evening sent him quickly asleep. Some stops down the line, it became apparent there was a slug on the seat next to him - easily mistaken for a piece of chewing gum, it was betrayed by its desperate dash from one side of the cushion to the other. It then became a question of etiquette. Should the party of four middle agers, middle classers sitting opposite wake him up and warn him of his impending intimate companion. And if so how. The looks of surprise turned into smiles of puzzlement and then an elevated giggle broke out between them It had to be done, and a hand reached out and shook the City Gent gently. At first he didn't stir. The power of alcohol. But after the shakes became more vigorous with an added level of urgency as the slimy creature got closer to his jacket, he opened his eyes. "Sorry to disturb you, but there's a slug on the seat next to you and it's getting closer" said The Shaker. The City Gent looked across uncomprehending. So The Shaker repeated himself to the same response. It became necessary to say it again and again before The City Gent replied, "I'm sorry I have no idea what you are saying". At which point all four of the middle agers, middle classers chimed and pointed in unison, "There's a slug on the seat next to you and it's getting closer." That did the trick, and The Gent looked down. His faced gained an element of surprise. "Well what do I do?" he questioned. "Move down a few seats" was the suggestion from The Four. But The Gent was wiser and never one to shirk a challenge. From his suit he took his wallet and extracted his City Business Card. "You don't need to give him your business card" joked one of the four; a comment which was met with a look that was half-comprehending, half wondering about its seriousness. The gent put the card down in front of the slug and encouraged it on with a few kind words. The slug, not encouraged at all by the words, slid forwards. A cheer went up from The Four.

Meanwhile,further down the carriage, a young man with modern music blasting into his ears looked on misunderstanding all. He chose his moment. Red faced he stood up, paused and said, "What are you doing. We all like a drink. Leave him alone." The Four turned as one and spoke as four. Amongst the babble somewhere was the fair and true explanation about the adventures of the slug. The Red Faced Man was a disbeliever but didn't quite have the words he wanted. there was more babbling, so he slumped down again, but not in such a way that he couldn't leap up and make his verbal aggression turn to the physical.

At this point The Gent became the Samaritan, turned towards the Red Faced Man to say, "What's your problem." It was a statement not a question. Silence from the far end of the carriage until The Red Faced Man rescued himself by commenting, "I could eat it if you like."

For a few further minutes an uneasy peace held whilst the slug continued to do circuits of The City Gents business card oblivious to the bother it had caused until it was time for Red Faced Man, The City Gent and his friendly slug to leave at the next station. The only trace of the incident of slug in the night were the slimy trails on the seat cushions.

By comparison, meeting Fergal Sharkey at the bar of the HMV Apollo a couple of hours earlier was much less surreal. Lovely, polite, friendly fellow and still afeared of his mother. I'd recommend you go and see The Decemberists who put on a very fine show indeed.

Anyway, any excuse to put on some Fergal Sharkey.

And not to miss out on The Decemberists

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Growing on trees

Wednesday's gallery from Tara is themed with the word trees. I have a lot of pictures of trees, but I had hoped to get something spectacular from my trip to Norfolk, only to discover trees are not big in East Anglia. Hedges, yes, they stop the cold wind blowing across the flatlands,but really trees seem to be an unnecessary luxury up there.

I took this one when we visited Lebanon. Sorry it's not a cedar.

Boys and trees. I lost count a long time ago of the number of shirts, jackets, jeans that were ruined by tree climbing antics

Not my photo...but isn't it gorgeous? It's a police station there. Under cover cops? Thank you Becca.

Just from a walk in Hereford

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The Falling Man

Natural disasters lead to enormous numbers of large that the people become just that...numbers. Did you ever see the picture, or indeed the video of The Falling Man? As one of the Twin Towers burnt on 9/11, someone photographed a man falling from near the top. It's an iconic image of the human shape with the steel and glass of the tower behind him. In one picture, the whole terrible disaster was humanised. In the same way, watching the footage of the Japanese tsunami shows many unwitting 'Falling Men'...people being swept away by the advancing waters, people driving cars, vans and trucks oblivious to the fast approaching blackened and rubble filled wave. All these people...mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. Each with their own story abruptly and unexpectedly curtailed. It will be a some time before the 'numbers' come in, but when they do it's worth just thinking of The Falling Man.

It is difficult to judge how the impact of the impending disaster at Fukushima will have on the Japanese psyche. As the only country ever to have had nuclear weapons dropped on it in anger, nuclear has always cast a dark shadow on the land. A large scale explosion leading to fallout across the country, region, globe will have a dramatic effect. As a country with few natural resources, nuclear power has been an enormous benefit...but whatever the outcome in Fukushima, expect the Japanese to turn themselves to finding alternative sources. They're not great inventors, but they are brilliant at taking an invention and making it work brilliantly - look what they've done with cars...making them reliable in a way that the Europeans and Americans are still playing catch up with, look what they've done with consumer electronics. This could be a turning point, and the silver lining to these events.

I learnt a while ago that people (that's you and me and everyone else) can only really cope with one 'event' at a time. So if you look back you'll see that Britain's love affair with food chain problems has been one thing after another rather than all together...salmonella in eggs, BSE, foot and mouth, etc, etc. In the same way, the problems in Libya and the rest of the Middle East have been consigned to small paragraphs tucked away mid-newspaper. So you may have not noticed that the 'rebels' in Libya are on the run, and likely to be squashed with or without the much-discussed 'no-fly-zone. Given the strength of Gadaffi's forces and the disorganised nature of the opposition, this was always likely to be the outcome...however sad that might be.

Of more significance, I think, is that the Saudis have sent troops to Bahrain to quell the rioting there. Royal families have always stuck together, and so it's no surprise that the troops have arrived following a 'request'. The last thing the Saudi's can afford is to see a Royal house begin to crumble because they would be next. I read yesterday on Sheik saying that people weren't really interested in democracy, the problems are rooted in standards of living. He's right, but whether the wealth can be better distributed whilst the current regimes are in place seems unlikely. And at some stage the oil generated wealth will ebb away, at which point there will be an almighty conflagration. But as there will be no oil to worry about, we won't care will we?

The Boy is doing his German oral today...or is it aural? He both talks and listens so I just don't know. Anyway, I'm hoping t goes well. Home matters are always the most important things aren't they?

Monday 14 March 2011

Blowing in the wind

It seems the land of the rising sun may be come the land of the rising mushroom cloud. I'm taking my iodine tablets just in case there's a wind blowing from the east.

Nuclear power, which was being dismissed as the future of power twenty years ago, had its come back moment when first-world countries realised that the golden age of oil wouldn't last for ever. I'm still not sure what we're doing with all that nuclear waste,but I guess we could give it all to Trafigura or Chevron which are evidently skilled in these matters. )Please Google them if you don't know.) That pesky natural power from the sun, sea and wind was just something that those hairy-armpitted greens wanted and was technically too difficult to develop. Of course it's much more difficult to get a blade to turn in the wind, to get a paddle to go up and down in the sea or use a mirrors to convert sunlight into steam generation than it is to split the atom. Obviously. Whilst I hope the Fukushima Daiichi plant doesn't go bang. Or even bang, bang, bang as there are three reactors there. I do hope it provokes a rethink on how much we are investing in eco-power research. As we live on a breezy island, it's beyond me why the sea and wind isn't providing all the power we need. Just think if we led the world in eco-power, we could export it and replace the defence industry which will sell a piece of weaponry to any dictator willing to pay...yep that may be Libya I'm thinking about amongst many, many others.

Bloggertropolis' Friday blog had a great take on the Olympic logo. I can't link directly for some reason, but here is the url for his blog. I can't watch The Simpsons ever again. He also rather stole my thunder as I wanted to do an Olympic blog, but as ever his take was witty and clever and my efforts stolid by comparison. The Iranian Government had announced that the 2012 logo read Zion, so they wanted the Olympic Committee to force it to be changed. I can't say I've noticed how 2012 translates into Zion...perhaps they are dyslexic. But, as ever, I find myself in complete agreement with the Iranians...the logo should be changed. It is rubbish...enough has been written about that by plenty of better qualified people than me. What I really wanted to say was David Cameron revealed himself in his true colours when his comment was, "If the Iranians don't want to come, don't come - we won't miss you." Well Mr Cameron, we will miss them. The Olympics is about the celebration of sports, and every country's sports men and women should be welcome regardless of what their government is saying or thinking. His comment was churlish, undiplomatic and thoughtless. Petty even. I shall be cheering on the Iranian team.

On matters at home, the two offspring were left home alone at the weekend. They didn't burn the place down which is a positive. They ate a cottage pie. Evidently vegetables was beyond them. Thank heavens we're back to feed them properly.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Don't panic. RTFM

Whilst Japan was disappearing under a tsunami following the earthquake, we headed up to Norfolk this weekend. I realise that this is an enormous prejudice on my heart, but I've been confused that in the last few months that Australia has been hit by floods, New Zealand has been hit by an earthquake, and now Japan. I always thought these things happened in third world countries. I may need to rethink.

The weekend in Norfolk had been planned for...oh I don't know how long, I just got told that we were going. Eight of us in a cottage in Norfolk, with seven of the group having known each other for thirty years. As one was The Cat's Mother's brother, UP, and I was at school with him it could be argued that I had at least known one of the party for thirty five years. But as we don't remember being in the same classroom, it didn't help. Anyway, without name dropping, the person whose cottage it is, does interior design work for the Sultan of Brunei. Well someone has to don't they?!

I guess it started going wrong when the phone rang earlier in the week at about half past ten at night. "Oh, Paul" said the voice at the other end of the line. Paul's not my name. That's the name of The Cat's Mother's ex. I decided to take umbrage. And I hold a grudge well.

It carried on when I discovered that I had to leave work early on Friday so we could get there at a reasonable time, when I was the only one there manning the fort that day.

As it happened, on Friday, I managed to spend three hours on the phone to my bank having one of those conversations when I'm speaking one language and clearly they're speaking another. Suffice to say, there will shortly be a missive to the ombudsman. Naturally this meant that all the work that needed to be done in the morning got crammed into an hour over lunch, and I was late leaving.

So I arrived home late, and forgot to pick up half the things I should have done.

We had two ways of getting there. Following the very scientific and very precise satnav, or following the directions of the person whose cottage it is. Naturally, the satnav was silenced. Anyway, I can tell you that Norfolk, all of Norfolk, is a lovely place at night. We would have carried on enjoying the scenic tour had it not been for me saying "Sussex Farm?" to which The Cat's Mother said, "No we're looking for Stewards Cottage. Oh. Erm Sussex Farm". Fortunately diesel's not that expensive at the moment is it?

Anyway, the cottage was lovely, and the people great. Apart from one who kept dripping the juice from the olives in my wine, and then kept pinching my glass as soon I put it down, and another who kept on referring to The Cat's Mother by her married name, which she changed by deed poll five years ago.

Anyway, I'd absolutely recommend a trip to Wells Next The's a beautiful beach albeit a long walk from the town, with no beach cafe to get refreshments for some very tired legs. Actually I hadn't realised just how beautiful Norfolk could really is stunning.

After a meal out we came back to play the name game. You may know it by a different's the one where you write names on bits of paper, they go into a hat and everyone has to guess who it is. I can't stand it. I don't know why. I just don't enjoy it. I can't imagine that it's been played for thirty years, but it is a thirty-year old tradition and I joined in. You have to make these sacrifices.

The next morning, one of our number decided to put the dishwasher on, but in a 'brain fart' moment put in Fairy Liquid. The washing up liquid, not Fairy Liquid dishwasher tablets. I'd say no more than a couple of hours were spent scooping the foam out whilst exploring the internet for helpful suggestions, and Reading The Fucking Manual. In general scooping out the foam seems to be the way to go...certainly better than adding vinegar, or adding soap as suggested by some. It was largely fixed by the time we left.

Don't get the wrong idea, it was a lovely weekend. But very hard work indeed.

And the phrase of the weekend?

"Are you saying I disagree with my own opinion?"

You can work that one out yourself.

Dishwashers don't like washing up liquid