Friday 18 November 2011

Swimming in a sea of ignorance

The Cat's Mother has taken flight.

Well when I say taken flight she's off to Bath for the weekend with the 'girls'. That will mean a lot of screeching, screaming and shouting. All very Essex.

In theory that means I'm left in charge of the teenagers. As you can imagine that's not a great option. They're lovely. Really they're lovely. Sometimes. But truth be told I could do with 24 hours of peace and quiet. Where better then than a quick trip to Brighton, abandoning the offspring to burn the house down. You can't blame me really can you? I'll be on the seafront on Sunday practising and then having a roller-blading lesson for a couple of hours. I'm determined that if I'm going to an audition I'm going to give it my all. I haven't yet explained to the instructor why I 'urgently' need some lessons. I'm not sure I should. She might laugh at me.

It doesn't matter how old I get I still seem to find out things that frankly I should have known years and years ago. I find this quite exciting really. Some of these things; in fact all of them are quite simple stuff. When I started work at Rover some very many years ago, I, a car enthusiast discovered that some small cars have three doors and some have five. I had always assumed they all had just three. Just this week we were playing 'You Tube safari' start with a video of an artist/song you like and when it's finished click on the 'Similar videos' link to see where it takes you. It's great fun. Especially after a glass or two of fine red wine. As they say on the ads 'Fun for all the family'. Sometime into our safari we came across the video for Elton John's Tiny Dancer. It's a song we love. I've loved it for at least two or three years, and have thought it evidence that he's still able to bang out a good tune. So you can imagine my consternation when I read there on the screen that it's a track from Madman Across the Water, recorded in 1971. How could I have missed it for 40 years? I shall never know.

On the opther hand I was genuinely alarmed by a report on the Beeb today that some people think that anti-biotics will cure the common cold. They won't. Nor will the left overs from an unfinished course help you the next time you're ill. Evidently people 'self-medicate' and wonder why it all goes shit-shaped. There's a lad known to The Boy who's had a foot ailment for sometime....we may be talking years now. He's given drugs by the doctor but never finishes them, so it keeps flaring up. You'd have thought the very wealthy and successful parents would be able to manage to read a simple label on a bottle of pills and follow the instructions.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Fun, fun, fun

So the real losses caused by the banking sector are now beginning to be crystalised for the tax payer. In the case of Northern Rock, it's around about £400 million.I wonder how much the management team at the time of the first run on a British Bank for a hundred years has paid back. I wonder how much of a cut in the standard of living they have taken. I don't actually. I know. When the great privatisations of the 20th century were going on, the UK's family jewellery was given away for a song, with a very few people made millionaires. I wonder if the conservatives are going to repeat their mistakes again.

I don't remember a weekend as tiring as the last one - it's Thursday and I'm really struggling to wake up in the morning. Friday night was the Old Boys Dinner, an early start on Saturday to take The Boy to rugby, then into town to see Mark Rylance perform in Jerusalem, before returning to go to the Golf Club (I don't play, I just like eating, drinking and dancing) dinner dance. Got up early Sunday for Remembrance day and then went shopping for Sunday dinner. No wonder we crashed out for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Perhaps we were keeping ourselves busy to distract ourselves from a pretty challenging environment at home. Teenagers. Who'd have them? The tension is simmering and I don't hold up much hope there won't be an explosion.

If only we could solve problems the Volkswagen way. It's not that I've been asked to write about about them, and I have to say my experience of an Audi TT (made by Volkswagen) was not a happy one. BUT somebody mentioned a project the company is involved in, and all I can say is that if the theory that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better is right, then it should be universally applied. Especially at home. Now.

This was the video that brought it to my attention

And there's plenty more interesting stuff to be found here

Tuesday 15 November 2011

"I cannot tell a lie....

....but the place is full of chavs."

It's come as something of a surprise to find out that I made it through to the next round of auditions to participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Worryingly the next audition is 'role specific'. That would be fine, but I suspect I'm auditioning to rollerblade. Now some five to ten years ago I used to rollerblade a lot. Friday nights. Wednesday nights. 15 miles a time. I even did a rollerblade marathon. Truth be told I'm not sure I can even stand up in my 'blades now. Damn. The question is, should I duck out now with my dignity intact or should I go along for the ride, enjoy myself and leave with a painful arse?

Whilst it has hardly come as a surprise, it is a reflection on the true value of democracy and freedom of speech in the US that the 'Occupy Wall Street' camp has been cleared overnight. I think it is little different here - if The City had had its way the London protesters would also have gone by now. Occupy Wall St have made a fair point that 1% of Americans own the majority of the country's wealth. I'm not close enough to know what else they've said, other than they are inspired by the Arab Spring and they believe there is no morality amongst financiers. The authorities have used concerns about health and safety as the excuse to remove them. It's a poor excuse. Peaceful protest of any sort should be allowed in any free democracy...minor inconvenience and embarrassment should not be a reason to stop the proper expression of firmly held views.

Woodford Green is just about as middle-class as you can get. Lot's of lovely detached and semi-detached inter-war and post war mock Tudor houses. Disney would be proud. Cricket is played on The Green, and ducks swim in the pond. Until the recent arrival of a Tesco Express, the only supermarket was a Waitrose. The local garage sells sparkly new Jaguars and Range Rovers. Lovely. So it will cause some real soul searching to understand why in the space of 48 hours there have been two shootings in the area. At the local branch of 'Cakes and Shakes' (of which the headline quote was a description by The Boy's best friend). No one dead. Hardly a ripple on the news media. The only conclusion can be that this sort of thing is happening all the time. Scary.

Meanwhile, if you believe apartheid is wrong, sign here

Monday 14 November 2011

The last post

I'll take it as a compliment when one of the UK's leading plastic surgeons says "You must have had cosmetic surgery." On Friday night we were celebrating at the Old Boys Dinner. Acquaintances were being renewed, and it was good to see some people I hadn't heard from for more than thirty years. The conversation flowed freely. As freely as the complimentary wine allowed. Last year I organised the event; this year I threw my toys out of my pram when I realised this year's President was a fool (IMHO) and next year's is a well known buffoon. We held a two minute silence to remember the fallen, whilst in the background fireworks from some unknown party created sound effects that helped us all think of the trenches.

On Sunday it was Remembrance Day.

There was no sound in the school quad, aside from cable holding the flag clattering against the flagpole. It seemed entirely appropriate and remarkably atmospheric during the the two minute silence at the Remembrance Day Parade at The Boy's school. Then just before the drum signified the end of the silence, a bird noisily flapped its wings and flew off into the clear blue sky.

The whole event was incredibly poignant. Many standing in the autumn warmth and sunshine were moved to tears.

This year two people from the school have been killed in Afghanistan. Paul Watkins, a Gap Year student originally from South Africa who joined the Royal Lancers and Lieutenant Daniel Clack, a high-flying pupil, known to many who stood around the quad whilst the wreathes were laid. Dan Clack's parents attended the event, as did many of his former school friends - at the age of 24, it hasn't been that long since he was just another noisy schoolboy running through the ancient red brick corridors. 24 is such a very young age to die, and I'm not sure how any parent copes with that. Very sad. Very sad.

On Saturday morning The Boy was playing rugby for the school First 15. A match they won 44-0. The sweet taste of victory, and not a casualty in sight. That's the only sort of conflict I ever want him involved in.