‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Where childcare and education can make a difference

Yesterday we looked at university-'educated' nitwits - should the collective noun be 'u-nits'? 

Now, here's how, further down the ladder, daycare and schooling can make a huge difference:

Millionaire uses fortune to help kids in struggling town
By Scott Stump (April 17, 2013)

Harris Rosen went from a childhood in a rough New York City neighborhood to becoming a millionaire whose company owns seven hotels in Orlando, but his self-made success is not his proudest achievement. Twenty years ago, the Orlando, Fla. neighborhood of Tangelo Park was a crime-infested place where people were afraid to walk down the street. The graduation rate at the local high school was 25 percent.

Harris Rosen went from a childhood in a rough New York City neighborhood to becoming a millionaire whose company owns seven hotels in Orlando, but his self-made success is not his proudest achievement.

Twenty years ago, the Orlando, Fla. neighborhood of Tangelo Park was a crime-infested place where people were afraid to walk down the street. The graduation rate at the local high school was 25 percent. Having amassed a fortune from his success in the hotel business, Rosen decided Tangelo Park needed some hospitality of its own.

“Hospitality really is appreciating a fellow human being,” Rosen told Gabe Gutierrez in a segment that aired on TODAY Wednesday. “I came to the realization that I really had to now say, ‘Thank you.’’’

Rosen, 73, began his philanthropic efforts by paying for day care for parents in Tangelo Park, a community of about 3,000 people. When those children reached high school, he created a scholarship program in which he offered to pay free tuition to Florida state colleges for any students in the neighborhood.

In the two decades since starting the programs, Rosen has donated nearly $10 million, and the results have been remarkable. The high school graduation rate is now nearly 100 percent, and some property values have quadrupled. The crime rate has been cut in half, according to a study by the University of Central Florida.

"We've given them hope,’’ Rosen said. “We've given these kids hope, and given the families hope. And hope is an amazing thing."

Tangelo Park resident Georgia Gordan admitted that she was ready to move away 20 years ago, saying the neighborhood was “drug-infested” and remembering when people were afraid to walk outside. Gordan decided to stay when Rosen offered free day care, and her daughter eventually became a college scholarship recipient from Rosen’s program.

“It's one thing to offer a scholarship to one person one time,’’ Gordan’s daughter, Rachel Jones-Manuel, told TODAY. “But to continuously, for over 20 years, to continue to provide this type of incentive for people to go to school, I think is absolutely wonderful."

Rosen is hoping other private donors see the positive effects of his scholarship programs and start their own versions in hard-hit communities across the country. His generosity continues to benefit students like scholarship recipient Kamillia Crawford, who is a freshman at Central Florida studying to become a lawyer.

“(I want to) make sure that I show the world that with his gift, I was able to reach my max potential,’’ Crawford told TODAY.

https://www.today.com/news/millionaire-uses-fortune-help-kids-struggling-town-1C9373666

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Educated idiots

'JD' contacted me today to say (order slightly altered):

Post in The Conservative Woman today about Gates and his plan to 'seed' the atmosphere with calcium carbonate to 'protect' the earth from the sun. I had read about this last year but it is planned for June this year in northern Sweden. Recently Elon Musk called Gates a knucklehead; an optimistic assessment of his intelligence.

But it comes back to what I wrote in one of my posts: the ignorance of politicians, civil servants, academics, 'experts' and the over-educated. Here is a perfect example which I recently sent to Wiggia. His one word response was - blimey!


The man in the video, Tomasz Schafernaker, is a meteorologist who worked at the Met Office. This appearance on Would I Lie To You is not only unbelievable but is unforgiveable. Even David Mitchell was lost for words.

We are back to one of my hobby horses; those in the green corner are usually highly educated and ignorant. You will know by looking at their weather page that they are fully on board with all this climate change nonsense and green issues. 

School is where you go to learn how to be stupid and university is the finishing school where you go to have the remains of your brain given a quick rinse in the latest woke fads.
____________

I have often noted how 'celebs' on quiz shows seem more ignorant than contestants drawn from the general public. 

How to account for their success? I assume that it's down to focusing narrowly on what gets them where they want to be. I think that is a winning strategy in a situation where generally we are safe and secure and the social/work/political hierarchy has been settled. All you need to know is your performing role, and who to suck up to and amuse.

We inhabit a complex social and linguistic structure, mistaking human words and power relations for reality. Only when disaster strikes are we made to wake up truly - think of how the butler become the boss in The Admirable Crichton, when his practical and organisational skills become essential to the survival of an upper-class party shipwrecked on a desert island.

Ironically, the term 'woke' as used today really means 'in a fantasy' - riding political hobby-horses while remaining astonishingly ignorant. The first time I heard the modern usage was when watching 'Breaking Bad', when the chemistry teacher Walter White is finally provoked by poor pay and conditions and the scorn of his students into breaking his civilised conditioning and turning wholeheartedly to crime: 'I am awake,' he says ominously, meaning the exact opposite of the baby-idealism of cocksure, semi-educated 'woke' youngsters.

Our world is complex but artificial, like the Mayan building complexes left to rot in the encroaching jungle when calamity overtook that society. In my days as an English teacher, I used to attend meetings of the National Association for the Teaching of English; it was all politics, progressivism and 'skills' - leading to today's schooling that concentrates on teachable-and-testable duckspeaking about 'fronted adverbials' while airbrushing out much of our literary heritage, with its embarrassing links to religion, history and classical learning. I said we have become experts in abstractions, but cannot name the plants we see when we go outside; they looked at me as though I were mad.

Ah, learning. My friend's three children spent never a day in school; two each went on to do two degree courses in Europe (one is dyslexic and only decided to learn to read at age ten), while the third has travelled widely and walked into jobs lacking a fistful of exam certificates but having a powerful and engaging personality. 

At one stage, the young lady felt she might need formal academic guidance on one course, and went to a sixth form college in the Midlands. She soon gave up, saying that her fellow students didn't really want to learn and (possibly as a result) the teacher didn't really want to teach. She went on to get first-class honours in mathematics.

Modern society and its unbelievable wealth depend on STEM subjects - even just to maintain the systems we have, let alone develop further; and to provide for the 7.7-billion-plus humans on the planet, most of whom are trying to attain the Western standard of living. Meanwhile, as my American brother tells me, university managements cut away at the budgets of 'hard' academic disciplines while boosting business management courses (you can never have enough Pointy-Haired Bosses) and pouring millions into college sport.

You never know what knowledge will turn out to be useful. I recall seeing a TV programme that mentioned an episode in the North Africa campaigns in the Second World War, in which an American general (Patton?) remembered a detail in the Old Testament (Joshua, Chapter 8?) about how the ancient war-leader used a valley to hide a force to ambush the foe; the modern officer looked for and found the dip (not observable from a distance) and so managed to smuggle a column past the enemy's position.

Again, there is an anecdote told by David Niven of a discussion with Winston Churchill in 1941:

’Do you think, sir,’ I asked, ‘that the Americans will ever come into the war?’ He fixed me with that rather intimidating gaze and unloosed the famous jaw-jutting bulldog growl. ‘Mark my words—something cataclysmic will occur!’ Four weeks later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

“Months later, when we were once more at Ditchley, I asked if the Prime Minister remembered what he had said so long ago. His reply gave me goose pimples.

“‘Certainly I remember.’
“‘What made you say it, sir?’
“‘Because, young man, I study history.'”


That sort of learning informed the great man's gambles - not all paid off, but enough did.
Do our leaders today have that breadth and depth of learning that will save us in time of peril? Or do they, like Crichton's social superiors, have a 'little man' who sorts everything for them? Is it the right 'little man'? How would they know?

Monday, March 29, 2021

Quiz Night, by Sackerson

We can start to book holiday breaks from 12 April, allegedly. So here's a memory from 2013 of a stay in Totnes, Devon:
___________________________________________________________________________________

We strolled a few yards up the damp road and into the pub. The board outside was there, advertising the competition for 8.30, but there was hardly anybody in. The gambling machine's display seemed to be keeping time with the piped music, until a man returned to it and fed in a tenner, which took several goes.

"It's full."

"I know, I'm trying to get some of it back out."

Gradually the entrants gathered: three chefs on our left, a couple of solitaries at this end of the bar, and a trio of regulars at the other end, hidden behind the pillar.

"We'll start at nine."

A man and his girlfriend dropped in to tell the owner about the funeral arrangements for a local who'd be known to others here, though he'd kept himself to himself.

Then we began. Welcome to the fourth pub quiz at the Castle. Googlers would be instantly disqualified. Prize a ten pound bar tab for the winner, and a packet of crisps for the best team name.  As Brummies, my wife said we should be the Peaky Blinders.

"Is there a picture round?"

We said it would be whoever could draw the best picture, but the barman handed us all a streakily-copied sheet of logos to identify.

A couple of years ago at the Waterman's, a big bloke had come in dressed as a Roman soldier and been thrown out for farting. The question-setter that time had been Lily, who'd escaped the dullness of Plymouth, but she's moved on again with baby and partner. Her sheets were full-colour and artistically illustrated.

Our host began squinting at his iphone and reading out questions.

"What type of monkey lives on the Rock of Gibraltar?"

"Orang-utans," said one of the chefs to his mates.

"Spaniards."

The lone wolves were comparing notes on the picture round.

"What element is needed for all forms of combustion?"

CO2 wasn't right when we came to mark a loner's sheet, but he can't have heard the barman remark "Another oxygen-related question" to the regulars round the corner.

Between rounds, the majority decamped to the pavement outside for a smoke, including Mine Host, leaving his taps vulnerable in the near-deserted bar. Stupid law.

A chef showed us a party picture on his phone, with two ghosts' heads in the group. Later, one of his mates suggested it could be done by someone changing position while the phone panned round. Post-quiz, a couple of girls turned up, one of whom had taken the pic, and she said they hadn't done that.

Next round. One of the loners left abruptly. He'd scored 5 out of 20, most questions not answered and the rest semi-legible. His response to "What do the letters RAM stand for in computing?" had been "ramofocation". (What do the letters THC stand for?)

Another chef came in and was updated on the ghosts.

"What are there twenty-six pairs of in the human body?"

We got an extra point for spelling chromosomes right. We had briefly considered "bollocks."

There was much anguish over what the C stood for in YMCA. And when asked what nuts were used in making pesto, the chefs agreed on cashews. Apparently the answer to "the butcher, the baker and the..." was not Old Mother Hubbard. The cry in fencing was what we'd put, "Touché!", not "Dun ya!" as they'd said - and there was no consolation point for correct punctuation.

Then there was the dispute with the quizmaster.

"What is the coloured part of the eve called?"

"Don't you mean eye?"

"No, there's no i in it."

"No, a y instead of a v."

"It definitely says eve," said the barman, screwing up his eyes and peering closer.

"If it's eye it's iris," said the remaining loner.

We settled for eye.

The Peaky Blinders struggled with the logos. Mercedes and Camel cigarettes were a cinch, but the double W defeated us (Wonder Woman) and the stylised R (Robin, Batman's partner). The head surrounded by a Greek wave motif turned out to be Versace.

The last question was impromptu, because of IT malfunction. "It's covered by the Google bar." "Move your thumb up." "I've done that."

So he thought and gave us, "What Spanish island did I spend a few months on when I was 21?"

"Alcatraz," said the loner.

"Majorca."

"No, it wasn't Majorca," said the barman.

We did our best.

The regulars beat us by two points, one of which I'd lost when I made my wife put yellow instead of white for the colour Wimbledon tennis balls used to be before they turned green. And we'd forgotten the candlestick in the six murder weapons in Cluedo; and it was a revolver, not a pistol (Mine Host had been very firm on that). The winners promptly left.

Best team name was between the chefs, who'd concocted something ending with a c followed by hunt, and the loner's Alone In The Dark. I gave my casting vote for the latter and the chefs accepted the justice of losing out for obscenity.

I stayed on for a half pint of lager while my wife went back to make a cheese and onion sandwich for me, but without onion as we'd used it up. The loner was a graphic designer who told me all sorts of interesting things about design, photography, maintaining copyright on the internet and making websites. He reckoned his 8-year-old child was ahead of him and you didn't need to be in London to go global any more.

A Hendrix documentary was on the screen behind us. I recalled seeing the news of his death as I walked into Newport bus station; AITD told me he'd covered it at college. Memory versus history. I told him what I'd only recently learned about how Bruce Lee had died (aspirin, the studio had spun -rubbish, it was Nepalese hash, especially dangerous if you had no body fat to absorb the toxins); he told me about his own martial arts expertise.

Home for a cheese sandwich, a shot of Chivas and the rest of Hendrix.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Whitewash, by Wiggia

Medical practitioner and multiple murderer Harold Shipman;
initially the inquiry was to have been held in secret

The call for an inquiry into the government's handling of Covid follows an inevitable pattern in these matters, various organisations are getting their ducks in a row to make political capital out of government mistakes during the last twelve months of lock down and confusion.

There is certainly a case to get to the bottom of why we along with other nations followed the path we did and are doing; never before has a pandemic been handled in this way, and in the scheme of things a minor pandemic at that.

The cris of ‘one life’ and 'saving the NHS' seem to have been enough to chuck certain sections of society on to the scrap heap and close down sections like hospitality and live entertainment to such an extent that  much will not recover in years, bankruptcy and unemployment beckon in those sectors like never before.

Naturally the call for further measures - rightly or wrongly, we have currently no way of telling - have come from the public sector safe in their jobs and protected pensions, the NHS has (apart from those on the front line, and we have no means of finding out how many that encompassed) been at home or working very short weeks, such as GPs yet still all get their full salaries. Where I live we have many doctors, surgeons and nurses as our neighbours as we are near the city hospital; along with teachers, many have been home for long periods of time, and the ‘we have been working from home’ mantra doesn’t wash when you see DIY and home improvements being carried out everywhere on a grand scale.

The decision to shut down the NHS to save itself was one that has grave consequences for those suffering from anything but the virus. The acronym the Covid Health Service is certainly justified, but with reports beginning to leak out about how many people went into hospital Covid-free only to catch the virus while there, perhaps there is a good case for being a Covid-only service; who in their right mind would want to go into hospital when the chances of contracting the virus have been as high as 40% - see this from the Daily Telegraph:

“More than 11,000 people who went into England's hospitals with unrelated issues contracted virus in December and early January”

The death toll from failure to treat other conditions will probably never be released and more likely hidden and a lot of can-kicking will ensue.

Care homes are the biggest disgrace in health this country has seen. The decisions on decanting elderly patients from hospitals into care homes, the lack of provision for care home workers re PPE and the failure to even monitor what was going on hovers like a stench over those responsible whether NHS or civil servants.

So an inquiry is inevitable. We are good at inquiries; as has been said before they are one of the few growth areas in the country these days. We or those who are involved do like  a good and long inquiry, the longer the better, longer because all those on the inquiry gravy train carry on earning at the expense of the taxpayer and longer because it suits those in the headlights because people simply get bored with the whole and forget why the inquiry was held in the first place; a win-win, but not for the general public, the people affected by the decisions and by the same token the ones paying for it all.

In the last 30 years there have been 68 public inquiries. Only 5 have had their recommendations acted upon in any way. £635 million has been spent on them up till 2017. Even the Bloody Sunday one has done nothing during the years it has gone on to change anything, a total waste of everyone's time.

There are currently two in progress, if you can call it progress: the Grenfell Tower inquiry and the contaminated blood inquiry. The Grenfell inquiry was sabotaged by vested interests from the start, - wrong sort of inquiry board, wrong sort of ‘experts,’ local council absolving itself - and then it became a platform as so many of this type do today, a platform to display angst for those involved and also to milk the system for money which makes all angst go away if there is enough of it. I suspect everyone will be blamed in one form or another and rightly so but little other than 'lessons have been learned' will come of it; the man who left his fridge on fire and actually caused it all is nowhere to be seen.

We are now going to have a new inquiry into the new coal mine in Cumbria. This has nothing to do with anything other than clear the government of making a ‘wrong’ decision in the first place. It wasn’t wrong of course but the green lobby must have their way on all matters these days and the government has caved in to their demands under the pretext that there have been ‘further developments’ since giving the go-ahead; anyone who believes that needs their bumps felt.

This proposal was to extract coking coal for steel production and had new emission control production facilities but as usual it is never enough for the green lobby, so now, probably after a protracted and expensive inquiry we will stop the mine producing and purchase our coking coal from elsewhere - from a country that can pollute the planet on our behalf, so that’s all right then.

No doubt the calls are going out to likely friends/candidates to run this nice little earner as we speak.

The Jay report into the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal was actually achieved in good time and its conclusions left no doubt as to what had gone on and who was to blame, both perpetrators and police and local government. Despite all that good work the result is a resounding zero, the same thing is still going on and the court cases are still being hushed to protect community cohesion. The government report on the Jay report has been kicked down the road for so long that when it was not released to the public few cared, as was the whole purpose in the first place.

So what is the point of them? Very little is achieved, in fact nothing in the vast majority, people say they are sorry years later, well some do, and it all goes down the memory hole, that’s the way to do it.


And waiting in the wings is potentially the biggest longest most expensive one yet, the Coronavirus Inquiry; what a feast of milking the system on public money that will be!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Freedom, Nanny No. 10 and the Milk Protest

Nice to see that 76 MPs voted on Thursday against the extension of the Government's extraordinary power grab over the people. The honour roll is here: 

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-03-25/division/7599821D-1E4C-47CD-A9CC-CB7D40185AFA/Coronavirus?outputType=Party#party-yesDemocraticUnionistPartyAyes

In fact the 484 Members voting FOR were almost exclusively Conservative and Labour, the exceptions being the DUP's Jim Shannon and the Labour expellee/resignee Claudia Webbe. Alas, neither of the latter two spoke, so their reasons are not clear to me.

But everyone else, even including a proportion of the Two Big Machines, was against. Sir Charles Walker - one of the 76 refuseniks - made a barbed and entertaining contribution and his last sentence is bang on.
https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-03-25/debates/9701394F-FF53-4364-85E1-F017B13CE921/Coronavirus#contribution-2997F299-7954-45B0-BBD3-2A3000339856

If you should happen to have a pint of milk about your person, a tip of the hat to you.

___________________________________________________________________________________

2.32pm

Sir Charles Walker 

(Broxbourne) (Con)

As sure as eggs are eggs, we will be back here in six months, at the end of September, being asked to renew this legislation again. It is inevitable, and anyone who thinks it is not is deluding themselves. But this afternoon I am not here to talk about eggs; I want to talk about milk.

In the remaining days of this lockdown, I am going to allow myself an act of defiance—my own protest, which others may join me in. I am going to protest about the price of milk. I am not sure whether I think the price is too high or too low—I shall come to that decision later—but for the next few days I am going to walk around London with a pint of milk on my person, because that pint will represent my protest. There may be others who will choose, too, to walk around London with a pint of milk on their person, and perhaps as we walk past each other in the street our eyes might meet. We might even stop for a chat. But I was thinking to myself, and I will continue to think to myself, what will their pint of milk represent—what will their protest be? Perhaps they will be protesting the roaring back of a mental health demon, brought on by lockdown. Perhaps they will be protesting a renewed battle with anorexia, with depression, with anxiety, with addiction. Perhaps, with their pint of milk, they will be protesting the lack of agency in their life—not being able to make a meaningful decision; maybe a loss of career or job or business. Maybe they will be protesting this country’s slide into authoritarianism, or perhaps they will be protesting the fact that we allow unelected officials to have lecterns at No. 10 to lecture us on how to live our lives. But there might even be people, with their pint of milk, quietly protesting that the route out of lockdown is too slow, or perhaps even too fast. You see, the point is, Madam Deputy Speaker, that these people can project what they like—what concern they have—on to their pint of milk.

My protest, as I said, will be about none of those things. It will simply be about the price of milk and, as I said, for the next few days I will have that pint on me, it will be of symbolic importance to me, and at the end of the day it will be warm, it will have suppurated, and I can choose whether to drink it or pour it away, because it will be robbed of its refreshing elegance by the time it has been in my pocket for 12 hours. And if I pour it away, that might cause people some concern, but it does not matter because it is my pint of milk and it is my protest, and I am not seeking people’s acclaim, endorsement or support in my protest.

And you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I heard and I listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. This will pass; my protest will pass, the pandemic will pass, and in years to come I will be sitting at my kitchen table—perhaps with my wife, and hopefully my children, who will still want to see me—and I will break away from our excited conversation about the day because I will spot that pint of milk on the table, and that pint shall remind me that the act of protest is a freedom—a freedom, not a right, and unless you cherish freedoms every day, unless you fight for freedoms every day, they end up being taken away from you.

Friday, March 26, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Chris Barber, by JD

Chris Barber, OBE (1930 - 2021)

Chris Barber, often regarded as the godfather of modern British popular music thanks to his introduction of US blues artists into the UK, died 2 March, after suffering from dementia. He had announced his retirement in 2019, having led a band almost continuously for 70 years.
He brought blues artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters to the UK, feeding the burgeoning British blues boom of the early 1960s.

Barber and Monty Sunshine (clarinet) formed a band in 1953, calling it Ken Colyer's Jazzmen to capitalise on their trumpeter's recent escapades in New Orleans: the group also included Lonnie Donegan (banjo and guitar), Jim Bray (bass), Ron Bowden (drums) and Barber on trombone. Ken Colyer left in 1954 to be replaced by Pat Halcox on trumpet and the band became "The Chris Barber Band".


Hugh Laurie meets the man who brought the Blues to Britain, jazz trombonist Chris Barber.
Donald Christopher 'Chris' Barber is best known as a jazz trombonist. As well as scoring a UK top twenty trad jazz hit, he helped the careers of many musicians, notably the blues singer Ottilie Patterson, who was at one time his wife, and vocalist/banjoist Lonnie Donegan, whose appearances with Barber triggered the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s and who had his first transatlantic hit, "Rock Island Line", while with Chris Barber's band. His providing an audience for Donegan and, later, Alexis Korner, makes Barber a significant figure in the British rhythm and blues and "beat boom" of the 1960s.








Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nudge, nudge: the official program of focused propaganda by 'behavioural change units'

Never mind that this video comes from Katie Hopkins who polarises opinions... 

Should governments be so keen to tailor propaganda messages in this manipulative way? Even if, as many believe (though clinicians themselves have reservations) the vaccination program is beneficial?

We like to think of ourselves as mostly rational citizens who, as Tony Benn said, merely loan power to Parliament and expect it to be returned to us. It looks as though we're to be treated as gullible jerks.

I really don't know about the safety and efficacy of vaccines or whatever these are, and Dr Vernon Coleman has doubted them for years - but layering propaganda over uncertainty is definitely to be deplored.


Htp: John Ward and 'JD'

Sunday, March 21, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: The Slow Slide into Dangerous Practices, by Wiggia

You will obey………………...

On a trip earlier this week, taking the wife to the supermarket for the weekly shop, I saw one of the saddest sights it has been my misfortune to come across.

An old boy alone with a stick and a shopping trolley was walking along on the other side to the road wearing a WW1 style double respirator and what looked a lint pad beneath as it protruded slightly round the edges. As he shuffled along stooped over his trolley it was a moment when you asked yourself, what have those bastards in government done to a small percentage of the population with their and the compliant MSM continual scare stories?

The government doesn’t deny the existence of a ‘nudge’ unit: the Behavioural Insights Team was founded in the Cabinet Office in 2010 under David Cameron's leadership, now owned by the Cabinet Office, NESTA a charity, which does not show any leaning towards behavioural insights but must have some input or take out for it to be involved, and employees; makes it sound like a well meaning mutual!

BIT now operates across the globe. Joseph Goebbels would have been proud, he never managed to establish that sort of unit outside of Germany.

The Department of Health has been complicit in working with the nudge unit in applying items that will ‘encourage’ practices that promote cleanliness during the coronavirus such as the hands-face-space jingle and the use of the word 'disgust' to make people adhere to the cleanliness practices. All well and good as far as it goes, but it has gone further than that.

It is about making people make the right choices, as seen by the unit, in their own interests. An earlier example of their work was this little gem which, small as it seems, resulted in many prescription drugs being taken off the GPs' lists and the patients having to purchase them privately; despite the words in which the action is couched I know from first hand experience it is not about having to buy your own Paracetamol, it actually eats into necessary drugs that have to be taken on a regular basis:

'The unit’s successes include sending letters to British GPs who were prescribing more than their peers, cutting unnecessary prescriptions by 3.3%.'

The percentage is now higher than that.

There is also the question of how and why this was floated off from the Cabinet Office and who gained. Nothing is revealed; an old comment from the Guardian, of all places, asks the same:

'Rather than just publishing this uncritical puff piece, the Guardian of old would have at least mentioned something about the questions raised (eg in Private Eye) about how the unit was privatised, its funding, and the benefits that have accrued to its former civil servant staff.'

Its initial funding was a Lottery grant of £250 million; I always thought Lottery grants were for good causes, but that finished long ago.

The BIT has had success in several areas, such as getting in tax revenues due on time, and getting ten million to sign up to pension schemes, if you can call our state pension schemes good.

The coronavirus was a different beast and early on the head of BIT mooted 'a policy of "cocooning" groups of people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus' in an interview:

He said: "There's going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows as it will do, where you want to cocoon, to protect those at-risk groups so they don't catch the disease.

"By the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population."

Dr Halpern suggested that volunteers might be enlisted to work in care homes.

"There's a lot of active work going on at the moment about what is it the volunteers could do," he added.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51828000

About how to protect care homes, didn’t actually do too well there, did they? but they ploughed on with their radical suggestions.

From  a Tribune article:

'For them, public policy is about changing public behaviour without the public even realising you are there. This seemed a clever approach to their devotees in the early days, before the government wised up to the scale of the threat. Now we know it is exactly the wrong way to deal with the massive social changes the coronavirus pandemic requires.'

Naturally in this age the nudge unit use machine learning, the study of algorithms and statistical models.

And again we know how well those have panned out during the pandemic in all quarters, yet still they are allowed to influence policy.

The coronavirus nudging has worked:

  • the carrot and stick approach, lock down now for an earlier release 
  • then stay locked down and give dates into the future that have no relevance to any data that will give the populace something to look forward to
  • the use of the 'you will infect someone else if you do not (fill in the blank yourself) have created for many a real fear. 

This virus is made to seem akin to the Black Death, yet it fails to kill more than 0.3% of those that get it and of those the average age at death is actually higher than the current life expectancy. All of this has been oft repeated over the last year and still it goes on despite a virtual nil rate of deaths now.

It is noticeable that certain supermarkets after dealing with the virus very successfully for this past year have suddenly ramped up the restrictions: more notices about using the provided sanitiser (it had disappeared earlier), more notices about not being allowed in without a face mask, and now more staff are wearing the things where previously many did not, the distance markings have reappeared and as with our visit to Waitrose today the announcements on distancing from the announcement system are endless, resulting in the Morris dancing in the aisles coming back with a vengeance.

This can't be a coincidence. The road map out of the virus as portrayed by Bojo contained all the carrot and stick caveats of previous announcements and the nudge unit would be behind it all, but what they have done to some older folks of which I am one, though not affected,is shameful if not downright cruel; in the case of the old man at the start of this if you told him to turn right for the ‘showers’ he would have gone - as Goebbels said, 'if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.'

BIT may have its uses but as with all these attempts to change people's behaviour there is always the risk of overreach and it becomes the norm. Subliminal advertising was the same and they banned it years ago; this nudge unit is practising the same psychology, and the temptation for immoral and dangerous usage with this type of operation is always there and it will be used for such purposes as sure as night follows day.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Sackerson adds: 

This October 2020 speech by the former Lord Chief Justice should be read by anyone concerned at the sudden and increasing loss of our civil liberty:
https://resources.law.cam.ac.uk/privatelaw/Freshfields_Lecture_2020_Government_by_Decree.pdf

Friday, March 19, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Mark Knopfler, by JD

 Mark Knopfler is probably best known for the Dire Straits record called 'Sultans of Swing' but there is much, much more to his musical output than that very melodic and memorable song. A song which has an amusing back-story as Knopfler explains -"The lyrics were inspired by a performance of a jazz band playing in the corner of an almost empty pub in Deptford, South London. At the end of their performance, the lead singer announced their name, the Sultans of Swing; Knopfler found the contrast between the group's dowdy appearance and surroundings and their grandiose name amusing."

His Wiki entry lists his 'style' as being Rock, roots rock (Whatever that is), Celtic rock (actually more Celtic than rock), blues rock, country rock. I'm not sure why Wiki feels the need to add 'rock' to everything.om that it is a fair assessment of the music he has produced in his solo career.







Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Irish faeries for St Patrick's Day, by JD





The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939) https://poets.org/poem/stolen-child


"For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand."


"The greatest contribution that fairies have made to our culture is in music. Many traditional country dance tunes were copied by local musicians from music they heard played by fairies. That same music is believed by some still to be played, but modern life is no longer attuned to it."
- John Michell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Michell_(writer)

'The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries' is a book written by A. E. Evans Wentz in 1911. The book is based on his Oxford doctoral thesis, it includes an extensive survey of the literature from many different perspectives, including folk-lore, history, anthropology and psychology. The heart of the book is the ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Evans-Wentz, an invaluable snapshot of the fairy belief system taken just on the cusp of modernity.
https://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/index.htm

Sunday, March 14, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WINE CELLAR: Organic tastes better? by Wiggia


An article in Drinks Business raises the organic biodynamic approach to winemaking to a different level by quoting research? That shows…….

 “Wines produced from organic or biodynamically produced grapes do taste better, according to two separate studies analysing the scores of 200,000 wines given by independent critics in both California and France.”

You have to read the whole article to be able to form an opinion on what is contained therein

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2021/03/study-of-200000-wine-scores-shows-organic-wines-taste-better/

If you read the article nowhere will you see if the wines were tasted blind, the rhetoric suggests they were not, which begs the question are the judges all jumping on the same bandwagon? Organic and biodynamic is increasingly part of the sales pitch in the food industry along with veganism and the increasing pressure from climate change activists that we should eat ever less meat among other ‘life’ choices they have chosen for us.

When couched as ‘saving the planet’ it is easy to express an opinion that will go unchallenged so the movement gathers momentum regardless of any side effects such as increased retail cost and bigger profits for the manufacturers and even God forbid another valid and substantiated opinion.

The problem with the article is yet another example of critics being the arbiters of taste. As with all tastings they are subjective, so I find it hard to believe, unless they knew what they were tasting, to believe the results. I defy anyone to taste two decent wines blind and state categorically that one was organic or had its grapes picked under a full moon and the other was not.

There have been enough examples of research to prove that wine critics are no better than the general public at getting consistent results when tasting wine blind and that means no clues to cost origin etc., taking that into account it beggars belief that they can add 4-6% increase in rating figures for wines that are organic or/and biodynamic; the no rise in percentage points for wines that are organically produced but do not mention the fact on the label rather gives the game away re tasting blind, and the latter biodynamic section seems to involve a lot of what can only be described as witchcraft grafted onto organics.

“Cow horns are stuffed with manure compost and buried into the ground all through the winter, then later excavated. “please………………..or……..

“Ideally, when I can, I try to harvest my grapes during fruit days; in other words, days when the moon travels in front of a constellation of fire from the zodiac calendar. For example, Lion, Aries or Sagittarius. These are more propitious days for a more expressive wine.”

Fruit is picked when it is at its best, early morning for freshness, before the rains come etc. Man or woman decides when that moment is, it has nothing to do with where the moon is at any given time, other than by pure coincidence; if you believe that you believe in Tarot cards, mediums, lucky heather and rabbits feet and being able to cross the M1 blindfold during the rush hour and live.

This article from the same publication has a group of wine makers, all organic, wanting any wine that isn’t to have a label stating the fact as though it is some sort pariah wine; well they would, wouldn’t they, it is to their commercial advantage.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2019/10/put-chemgro-on-wines-produced-using-pesticides/

What they fail to say, as does the organic movement in general is the vast majority of pesticides and fertilisers are from organic organisms or derived from. The only thing that is wrong has been in certain areas a gross overuse of the same products, yet even now organic producers are allowed to use copper sulphites in certain cases, though to a lesser extent in Europe, and still be organic.

The communities' own Steve Slatcher did a very good piece on the subject a couple of years back:

http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/12670

I know two agronomists, one is a vineyard consultant the other is working in the more general agriculture field and both believe much, not all, of the organic movement is purely a marketing ploy, as many of the practices that are labelled organic have been part of farming for years without the label.

As stated in Steve’s piece many are of the opinion that cheaper wines are only possible because large scale producers use inordinate amounts of pesticides and fertilisers, but that is no longer true as with farming in general those amounts have through legislation been reduced dramatically over recent years, it is not a claim that can be levelled at those producers any more, as much as the organic movement would like to.

Another piece here…

https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2019/05/organic-wines-deadly-carbon-footprint

... includes evidence that organic farming produces more Co2 which is not in line with organic thinking, yet again as the organic movement starts to get more scrutiny there is now also evidence that just maybe Co2 is not the evil it is made out to be, so we now have contradictory viewpoints.

Which is backed up by this….

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2019/05/carbon-footprint-significantly-higher-with-organics/

Words in the context of organic are used in a way that implies that nature is part of the winemaking process; ’natural’ wine gives the impression it made itself, no human being was involved in the process, that of course is nonsense, man is the reason wine exists from the beginnings to now. 'Sustainable' is another hijacked word, there is nothing sustainable about energy production using windmills, they are about the least sustainable production method of them all but that word is attached as a badge of ‘good credentials.’ We have to be very wary of a movement that wants to be taken seriously on the strength of a green backed headline, there is on all levels huge amounts of public money being pumped into green technology which is hidden from public view. ‘What is good for you’ is not to be taken at face value, but it is also very good for them the producers; the truth is emerging on all fronts, but a juggernaut is not easy to stop.

By coincidence as I was putting this together the Times published an article about another research carried out by Jens Gaab whose main job is a placebo researcher at Basel University, who says he is interested in context effects, ‘if you reframe something’ what happens?

His study involved offering 150 people three different wines and asking them to rate them.

All were 2013 Italian reds but that is where the similarity ended. One was a £25 a bottle, one was £8 a bottle and one - La Pupille - £50 a bottle.

The first tasting was blind and all came out on an equal footing re taste. Some were told the £50 bottle was £8 and the £8 was a fine £25 wine; the results then showed the £8 wine being judged the best of the three. You can make of it what you will, similar tests have been done before and with ‘experts,’ with the same results.

As Gaab says, wine companies are clever, they know that if they make wine more expensive it tastes better- and they aim for that, because it is a huge market.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford said the findings fitted in with a growing body of research showing that price feeds into perceptions of quality, including a study in 2008 that showed increased activation in the brain's reward centres when people were told they were drinking expensive wine.

All of this can be extrapolated into the 'organic is better' push we are seeing now. Organics make people believe they are making a choice for the good and don’t mind paying for it, their comfort zone is expanded.

The Times wine critic, Jane MacQuitty defends the experts' stance by saying it takes years of practice and training to sort the wheat from the chaff, yet studies with experts when tasting blind have proved to be little different from the average wine drinker.

She then attacks the promotion of wine in heavy bottles back label hype, overly ornate labelling, with gold medals galore, ah gold medals a large part of the wine critic's folio of work.

She finishes with Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware, and I thought it was the critic's job to assist the general public in their decisions; obviously not.

On the matter of taste, again, the truth is not told, anyone who grows their own veg will claim rightly that the produce tastes better. It does; not because you are following organic practices, that part has minimal effect, but because you are growing varieties that taste better but are uneconomic for the commercial grower - yes they could grow them but no one unless they were in a higher income bracket could afford them. Organic produce from the same varieties that are grown commercially fetch a much higher retail price and taste the same,  taste is incidental to the cause.

Much of the higher retail price, and that will apply to wine as all other foods, is the extra labour involved in production: modern farming has reduced labour costs, organics increases them.

For many organics is a lifestyle choice, it is also a choice many cannot follow for financial reasons. If all goes organic many will struggle to put food on the table. The average increase over standard commercial farmed products is around 45%, some items are the same cost, but not many.

The advances in vineyard management and winery production techniques has seen enormous strides made in the quality of wine production from the humble supermarket red to the Cru-classed Château, but the organic gravy train is to good to not jump on. As the article says, it puts retail prices up as buyers perceive the statement that a wine is organic means a better tasting product and worth the extra cost; that remains unproven but peer pressure will ensure all follow that path, but not necessarily for the reasons stated.

The trouble with the green lobby it is never enough, the zealots would have everything going back to subsistence farming if they had their way.

Organic wine production promotes a similar vision: horses with ploughs in vineyards makes a wonderful-feelz advertising picture, any addition to the quality of the wine is purely coincidental.

After all that what do I buy? What I like is the simple answer, and that is a pretty broad church. If you take everything said that is bad about wine we all might as well drink Yellow Tail and forget everything else. That of course is not what it is about, but a more forensic and balanced view on all we are fed is not going to do any harm, a little cynicism never did any harm either, and the way to deal with all this bullshit is to buy what you like, drink what you like and ignore almost everyone. As Arthur Daley would say, “The world is your lobster.”

Friday, March 12, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Carl Perkins, by JD

One of the architects of rock & roll, Carl Perkins is best known as the writer and original singer of the rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes” (#2, 1956). Along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins was one of the seminal rockabilly artists on Sam Phillips’ Sun label in Memphis.

"Blue Suede Shoes" is one of the first rock-and-roll records. In its style it incorporated elements of blues, country and the pop music of the time. Here is Perkins with Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley's guitarist) performing the song as a Tribute to Elvis:









Thursday, March 11, 2021

Meghan distracts us from our loss of civil liberties

I don't care what the weatherman says, as Louis Armstrong sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQBfYZcBSPA Even Piers Morgan can't be wrong about everything, and when weathermxn Alex Beresford attempted to lecture him on his failure to collude with the mythology Meghan is trying to construct around herself he walked off set (see below - had he planned to do so all along?), dogpiled with 41,000 complaints from the gullible public.


The Duchess has been tapping into the Dianolatry that subsequently shook the Monarchy on the Princess' death in 1997. This photo collage doing the rounds on Facebook makes the point:


Not only does this 'mess with the heads' of the sentimental among the populace but it may serve as an extra hook into the psyche of Prince Harry, who aged twelve lost the beautiful mother that Meghan has been mimicking.

How much further will she take it? She has already driven a wedge between Harry and his brother, and cost him the Captain-Generalship of the Royal Marines (earned not least by his brave service in Afghanistan.) Heaven forbid she continues Diana's trajectory into marital difficulties, but we have already seen Oprah Winfrey cast as Martin Bashir, interviewing the poor, put-upon victim of alleged Palace bullying. 

In Meghan's case, the 'third person in the marriage' has been the camera, starting long before the ceremony; I could wish that when filmed and photographed she looked at her husband more than, and with at least as much love as, at the lens.

Mention of the ceremony leads us to the couple's claim to have been married clandestinely three days before the Windsor Castle celebration; a claim at first passively reported in the news media passim - perhaps another example of how much journalism has become internet copy-taking by cub reporters:

'... We called the Archbishop and we just said, look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world. But we want our union between us, so the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury...

'Added Harry, 'Yeah, just the three of us.''

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a35757534/meghan-markle-prince-harry-secret-married-before-wedding/

Pace Oprah's uncritical complicity with her interviewees, this assertion bears on the Duchess' truthfulness and so lends weight to Morgan's assessment; for the 'pre-wedding wedding' cannot have been valid.

In this country (excluding Scotland) a wedding must take place in an authorised location and inside a permanent structure (not, for example, in a marquee); no such outbuilding appears to be in the 'backyard' of Kensington Palace's Nottingham Cottage. The public must have access to the venue, and there must be at least two witnesses; neither requirement appears to have been fulfilled. Also, where was the advance declaration?

The Arhcbishop of Canterbury has maintained silence on this matter, presumably unwilling to be seen to contradict the Duchess, though this has not prevented her father from characterising her as a 'liar' https://www.newidea.com.au/meghan-markle-dad-letter-sue-documentary-court-case or her half-sister Samantha from calling her a 'narcissist' and 'sociopath.' https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/royals/meghan-markle-unloads-on-fathers-betrayal-and-unknown-halfsister-samantha-markle-fires-back/news-story/536199aab9dd492c2e1e28ab92fea484

Let us be charitable and say it was a 'stretcher' - a misinterpretation, deliberate or unintentional, of some rehearsal or blessing - rather than a complete fabrication; but in a courtroom it would damage the credibility of her evidence generally. 'Recollections may vary,' as the Palace's depth-charge phrase has said. https://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/1407379/Royal-Family-latest-Queen-response-meghan-markle-prince-harry-interview-end-of-monarchy However, the Prince was ready to back her up - a readiness guyed by Black Country comedienne 'Doreen Tipton':

I would pay good money to see the pair interviewed again, but this time by the mercilessly interrogative Judge Judy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Judy

Meghan won't win in her attempts to destroy the Monarchy, though, if that's what she's after rather than a Tinseltown career as 'wronged woman.' 

Among the many reasons why is the existence of the Privy Council, that secretive and autocratic organisation to which the real power of the country has been devolved for centuries and of which all Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers are automatically members. No Crown, no Privy Council.

No outsider will be allowed to throw a spanner into the engine, with its almost unlimited potential for arbitrary power; a capacity explored by an unscrupulous Tony Blair and his accomplices as soon as New Labour hit the ground running, starting with the meeting on 3 May 1997 that gave the PM the right to nominate three people to give political orders to the Civil Service https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/247039/response/605821/attach/3/3%20May%201997%20Civil%20Service%20Amendment%20Order%20in%20Council%201997.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1.

Tony Benn warned many years ago - and I'm sorry not to have the link - that our freedoms could be swept away in an afternoon by Order In Council. That magic wand, plus Blair's Civil Contingencies Act 2004 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/36/contents and the increasing use of secondary legislation has seen a coup against British civil liberties that has led - under an allegedly Conservative PM - to the entire country being held under open arrest and a prey to overempowered uniformed prodnosing and bullying. 

The Hollywood Princess has no idea what she has taken on, and she can save all her posturing and bloviating for the mirror, mirror on the wall. For our part, we need to turn away from this frivolity and address the loss of our habits of liberty that we misunderstood as our inalienable rights.

Monday, March 08, 2021

FACT CHECK TIME: Meghan and Harry's secret pre-marriage marriage

"... We called the Archbishop and we just said, look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world. But we want our union between us, so the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury and that was the piece that...

"Added Harry, "Yeah, just the three of us.""

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a35757534/meghan-markle-prince-harry-secret-married-before-wedding/

Here is guidance on marriage under the law of England and Wales:

The marriage must take place in a registered building. Not all buildings are registered, so it is important to check first with your local authority. If the building is not registered then the marriage will not be legally recognised.

The ceremony itself can take any form, provided that:

  1. it is in public
  2. there are at least two witnesses present
  3. either a registrar of the district in which the ceremony is taking place or an authorised person is present
  4. both parties make the necessary declarations, for example, declaring that there are no lawful objections to the marriage

I don't know whether the garden of a 'cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace' is/was a registered building, but clearly the Archbishop of Canterbury is authorised to conduct marriages.

However:

(1) To be valid, a marriage has to be in public - i.e. the public must have access to the place where it is to be contracted; and

(2) There must be at least two witnesses to the marriage

As I've said in the madhouse that is Facebook:

Now let Meghan be interviewed by 
Judge Judy. Oh please, oh please!

There are exceptions - for example, where one or both of the contracting parties is very ill and cannot be moved; but even then two witnesses are required, even if the ceremony is carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Am I wrong? Put me right, somebody -  but not the newspapers who, right up to the Telegraph, have repeated this seeming bilge unquestioningly.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: The Digital World - Not All Good, by Wiggia

Running parallel to my recent move was the horrendous amount of time and effort required to inform all parties of new details, address, phone etc.

It’s not that long ago a change of address card was all that was required to send to all concerned and have your details amended, but that is so last decade; now instead of giving your details to the local card printing firm and mailing them off when printed you have to spend a couple of days, if you have the will and stamina, going through passwords, usernames, secret locations, last three digits of your phone number, 2nd 5th and 8th item of your account number, date of birth, old address and God help you if you have forgotten one or more of them.

Some to be fair are reasonably straightforward presuming you are au fait with the internet; with others some it makes no difference they are fiendishly over complicated and many do not respond in kind, they are a deliberate trap for the unwary.

Whilst Google is not involved in this list of people and organisations to be notified anyone who has lost their Google password will know what I mean, it is a catch 22 situation: ‘forgotten your password? Click here and we will send an email': email arrives, 'follow link to reset your password', click link, 'before you can go on please fill in with your old password' - errrrr... and a day later you have cracked it or not, as in one case they refused to accept my new password I had struggled so hard to set up and still wanted my old that I didn’t have.

That has absolutely, other than as an illustration, nothing to do with the countless organisations one has to inform if you move home. There used to be a rather good shortcut as regards all sorts of cards that could be lodged with CPP who would inform all those CC providers with the new details saving you the trouble; not any more, you are on your own. Why it changed I don’t know but it has lost value as that was one of the reasons I joined it.

I have just for instance had to update details on my Halifax account. I log in to the website and am then told you can only change your details using your phone app, why is not explained. I do have the app but never use it, as I have no need to, but in for a penny... I open the app and put in my password and am told the app needs updating; I press the update key, and a sign comes up telling me it will only update with a 4G phone. I am already losing patience, but I do have a new phone that is 4G, not that I would know the difference, so I read the instructions and download the app onto that phone and follow the ten steps, yes ten, you need to do to set it up including endlessly putting in your password when you finally get to the bit where you can change your details.

After that, and it took a total of forty minutes, I awarded myself a keep calm award, as it is not in my nature to suffer these things, normally I simply log off and write a letter - isn’t that and the phone how we used to do these things anyway, before the digital age?


Now though, many companies make sure there are no phone numbers to contact them with, and you are forced to use the web site. If you still can’t get to where you want or it is so convoluted that you can see no way, you often see the welcoming sign come up in the corner marked 'live chat'; this can, I stress can, be a boon, but in many cases is far from it. What you often get is “Hi, I am Doris can I help you today”, and then they go away for a day; after an interminable wait between messages you can also end up with “we cannot process your request on here” and you get a phone number to dial which involves memorable names, passwords, account numbers etc and if you give up and say I have forgotten them another list of items you do not readily have at hand are demanded; by then it is a large Scotch time.

It’s all done for us they say, security in this day and age online is paramount, except of course it is us doing all the hard work and not the providers.

While going through all the organisations that I need to contact to change my details or profile as they term it today - I always thought profile was what you had on a Penny Black! - anyway, other ways to identify your good self are appearing. I will not ask if they are necessary, but fingerprint recognition sounds a bit worrying: what if your prints are already on file, does that bar you from usage? Many people have their fingerprints on file and they are not removed by the Police as it is. Face recognition was also mentioned; I have no intention of doing a phone booth impression into my phone to get access to anything; perhaps we should all go the whole hog and put together a short singing dancing Tik Tok video that we introduce for entry to these sites, along the lines of ‘my name is x and I live at y and it rhymes with my memorable name and password’ all to a choreographed dance pinched from Fred Astaire.... I am sure we are not far off something like that.

I also had a request from the Electoral Commission to register to vote. Amazingly this involved a very simple short online form that took no time at all to fill in, all you need is the number on the letter, but there was a strange line under the request aying that if you did not return the form filled in or complete the online form you can be fined £80. As it is not compulsory to vote in this country how can they fine you for something you have a choice over? All very Orwellian.

But my piece de resistance in all this was my internet provider and yes I will name names, it was Plusnet. I was with Plusnet at the previous property so all should have been simple. Numerous emails came telling me all was well and my service would start on the 10th of Feb; we move in, I plug in as per instructions and await another email. A couple of hours later bingo! the email arrives and I can plug in my hub and get going - only my phone line is dead, it has no dialling tone and the hub refuses to show anything but red.

I wait as sometimes connection does not follow immediately but it is till dead as a dodo. I phone and get a helpful chap who listens to my story and suggests that I wait 24 hours for a refresher! And if nothing then phone again. It is obvious, because sod's law says it is, that in 24 hours nothing will happen, and nothing does. I phone again and the fun starts: all operatives are working from home and no one has a clue as to what the previous one has done or said.

Meanwhile I am getting emails or messages telling me the line has been checked and all is hunky dory; it isn’t it is still dead. New man suggests we cancel an account; I have no knowledge of what he cancelled but again the following day still nothing and an engineer from Open Reach will be with me on Friday Saturday or Monday which is helpful. The messages responding to my complaint still come telling me the engineers have checked the line and all is still well. I give up and await the engineer.

Naturally he doesn’t appear Friday or Saturday or Monday. Late Monday I phone again; this time someone who knows what he is talking about answers the phone. It appears for reasons beyond the grave that they have been checking my line at my old address and there is nothing wrong with that line, but then I don’t live there any more. The man delves deeper and says someone earlier made a big cock-up when closing my new account at the new address which answers the emails I am getting saying ‘sorry to lose you’ and it is decided another new account in a few days will take effect at a lower rate to compensate for my troubles; that leaves me with no phone or internet until then and I am left with no choice.

As I put the phone down the man from Openreach appears, my story is told again and he confirms they have been checking my old line, not this one and it has ben dormant for a year anyway as I informed them at the start. The man fixes various meters and gauges to the output plug and says he is going down the road to find the errant wiring. Over two hours later he returns, plugs all in and we wait; ten minutes later I am online - and have a phone with my old number that I don’t want as I have informed all the earlier organisations of the new number and the insurance ones charge to change details! Another con for another day, and to change back would incur more costs.

Meanwhile as I have set up yet another account the ‘sorry to lose you’ messages start again and then the ones with the new account arrive still with my old number, so I go back on the phone to clarify that I have absolutely no desire to retain my old number. The conversation was akin to a sketch from the Fast Show, with the operator continually asking if I wanted to keep the old number and me continually saying no I want the new one as shown on the new account; why he persisted is a mystery.

Then the post arrives with a parcel from Plusnet with a new hub, why? So again on the phone to discover I have no need of the new and all will be fine on the day, and mercy me it was. Anyone want a hub, still in packing unused and ready to go?

What anyone gleans from all this is their affair, for me it is a simple stating of a fact: it was much quicker and a lot simpler before the digital age. The internet has some wonderful attributes but it also has some appalling areas that are a waste of time and effort.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

President Biden makes an appearance!



Rumours of President Biden's alleged cognitive difficulties were quelled as POTUS made a public appearance earlier today in order to sign another thirty Executive Orders, which he proceeded to do rapidly and with a flourish, not even pausing to read them.

The full face covering and gloves were appropriate protection against coronavirus, explained Mr Biden, pointing up the recklessness of certain States that have recently chosen to relax rules designed to protect the citizenry.

In answer to a journalist's query about his health, the President said "He's just - I mean I'm just fine. In fact I've grown a couple inches, as you can see."

America can relax: the nation is in safe, strong hands.

___________________________________________________________________________________

The above article has been verified by independent fact-checkers at AbsoluteTruth and TrustUs

Friday, March 05, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: Heart, by JD

There was a comment beneath one of these videos which said "I love how Youtube is the closest thing to a time machine we have." And that is very true where music is concerned. The world's entire musical catalogue is more or less available 'on demand' even the most obscure folk tunes from faraway places as well as various transcriptions of what are allegedly the first known tunes from Ancient Greece or Egypt.

It is also a reminder of music we may have known and subsequently forgotten and that is understandable with the huge amount of music we have heard and enjoyed over the years. 

And so it was that one of YT's recommendations reminded me of the sisters Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson (the latter not to be confused with the jazz singer of the same name) who were part of a band called Heart, formed in 1970. 












The YT recommendation which alerted me was the final video here, a splendid version of Stairway to Heaven performed for the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin in 2012 :