Monday, January 31, 2022

Five fine things found on Facebook (1)

'Frank “Rocky” Fiegel, is believed by some to be cartoonist E.C. Segar’s inspiration
for the character of “Popeye”, the photo was taken in the early 1920s.' Source

From 1963... Source

'A kitty basking in the beard of a lighthouse keeper, 1919.' Source

'This photo of the sun might not look too impressive... until you realize it was taken at night – not looking up but looking down, through the entire Earth, using neutrinos rather than light.' Source

'“Fire Rainbows” are a rare phenomenon that only occur when the sun has to be at an elevation of
58° or greater, there must be high altitude cirrus clouds with plate-shaped ice crystals,
and sunlight has to enter the ice crystals at a specific angle.' Source

Saturday, January 29, 2022

WEEKENDER: A plague of our age, by Wiggia

No, not another virus, though I am sure they will keep finding them as for many would be lost without willingly complying with restrictions, hence the ‘we will continue to wear masks after Thursday’ - I assume those that choose that route will be wearing them for the rest of their lives.

I wrote a piece labelled Peak Wokery not that long ago, really believing that it could not get more stupid. How wrong I was: it appears that virtually every organisation has succumbed to the offended. Not only do they apologise for any slight infringement that is pointed out by the ‘offended’ but in many cases the enforcers of the latest items or people accused of offence are the top brass of business and organisations. It is not known if the CEOs of these companies personally endorse these removals or changes or are just afraid to upset the new wave of woke infiltrators these companies and organisations now employ.

For organisations and charities those running same all come from the same melting pot of leftish progressives, so we should not be surprised; but business?

What is increasingly remarkable is how little in the way of a complaint of supposed offence can bring about a change, be it a word or something else. Nothing could be a better example than M&S changing their jelly baby sweets from Midget Gems to Mini Gems all because one academic at Liverpool Uni was offended, one person and M&S caved in. Dr Erin Pritchard said using the word 'midget' was a form of hate speech! and 'was insulting to people with dwarfism.’ 

‘The lecturer defended her campaign, tweeting separately: "Perhaps if strangers refrained from screaming it [midget] at people with dwarfism in the street it wouldn't matter."'

Really, I can’t remember the last time I saw a midget in the street let alone people screaming at them. It is an imagined slight with no grounding.

It didn’t take long for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to come in for some more wokery, this time from a dwarf actor who in 'Cyrano de Bergerac: the musical' played the title role. Perhaps in the cause of authenticity they should have just got an actor with a big nose. You can’t have it both ways, or perhaps you can?

Peter Dinklage says about the remaking of the film…

'He went on to say that the makers have been progressive in one way, with their hiring of a racially diverse actor, but then continue to tell the story of "seven dwarfs living in a cave."'

What does he want changed, no dwarfs at all, or all of them living in ‘big’ houses. His disability has opened doors for him that if he had been of normal height might never have happened. In reality he is a small character actor, no different from a very tall, very fat actor who is chosen for the part as written.
But no longer is this enough: those who advocate change want inclusivity, no losers all winners,  and all to have the same openings in life regardless of ability. As Judge Judy says, she would like to be 5’ 10” but it ain’t going to happen.

Andrew Laurence sums it all up rather well…

Meanwhile the institutions are getting into their stride by - if not banning anything they can find and hang 'offensive' on - putting explaining labels next to items they would rather not show but are forced to as they would have to shut down.

First in this country the NT decided that the lovely houses they open to the public (at ever increasing costs of entry) need to have explanations about the original owners and any however slight connections to slavery - the slavery meme is getting a bit passe now, I was going to say it has been flogged to death but that would be construed as hate speech. The NT and all the other charities and institutions following this road conveniently forget that there would be no lovely houses and very few universities but for the benefactors whom they now want to cancel.

Now, following in the wake of the National Gallery Canada and its ridiculous signage for a Rembrandt exhibition...

... here we have the Manchester Art Gallery about to take the same route:

The Hogarth exhibition at the Tate is first class wokery, even a chair is used to depict slavery in a picture…

This quote from an article in Spiked sums up the state of play regards the institutions.

‘There is no need for wokery to be enforced. Institutions are conspicuously woke because they are terrified not to be. They preempt censure, calling out and public shaming with precautionary, exaggerated and insincere displays of wokery.'

Terrified, only because of peer pressure or some sort of collective malfunction in approaching any subject deemed to be offensive even if it is only one individual.

We now live in a society were wokism has become a cancer, spreading through all the arteries of the state; we can but hope there is a cure.

In the strange world of removing statues Captain Cook is next in line. This missive in where else but the Guardian, lays out the reasons for the new age demise of one of the world's great discoverers. As with all these pieces the angst is all now, nowhere is any thought of what it was all about over two hundred years ago, of the months at sea not knowing where they would end up and who they would meet.

This was at the time the same as Neil Armstrong landing on the moon; any news that filtered back was greeted naturally as a wonderful achievement, something to make the nation and people proud, and quite rightly at the time.

There was no knowledge of carrying diseases to foreign lands to which the locals had no immunity. It was not always one way either: syphilis was caught by the earlier expeditions of Christopher Columbus and brought back and spread across Europe in five years.

As an aside, the question as to why Europeans were immune to the diseases of the Americas but not of Africa and the far east is still argued about, as here…

But today nothing matters other than correcting what a small group of woke academics and activists consider a blight on the world, the plusses (which have benefitted us all) are erased.

The University of Chester has a certain Dr Richard Leahy who has given trigger warnings on the first Harry Potter Book by J K Rowling, ‘over 'difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity'.

J K unfortunately has made her views on the trans issue very plain and that naturally makes her a target for the woke brigade. She has already been cancelled by various groups for having the temerity to state the obvious about trans people, but today one can’t do that without consequences. Her saving grace is her wealth, she can afford to stick two fingers up at any wanting to take her down. Sadly most are not in that position and the uncalled-for apologies are spewed out before they are obliterated by woke activists.

The University has given J K a sort of pass in the face of a backlash, you can draw your own conclusions from the link.

And finally the Middlesex cricket chairman faces a backlash for almost certainly stating the truth. Why this should be seen as being contentious is beyond the realms of reason. An opinion can no longer be given unless it is the ‘correct’ opinion as proscribed by progressive lefties. We have a long way to go before this rubbish burns itself out.

Friday, January 28, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Burns Night, by JD

Three days late but Burns Suppers are not always held on the day. When I was in Madrid it was usually held on the nearest Friday night to avoid having to stagger into work the following day! So here is a selection which may please for there are literally hundreds to choose from.

"I insist that you shall write whatever comes first, - what you see, what you read, what you hear, what you admire, what you dislike; trifles, bagatelles, nonsense, or, to fill up a corner, e'en put down a laugh at full length."

- Robert Burns.


"Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!"

..... address in full here -

Holy Willie's Prayer is a poem that was written about a certain Willie Fisher who was an elder in the Parish church of Mauchline, in Ayrshire. Fisher was a hypocrite and himself a sinner who spied on people and reported them to the minister if he thought they were doing wrong.

The poem is a satire based on Fisher's sickly self-righteousness. The phrase "Holy Willie" have become part of the Scots language for describing someone that is humourless and ultra religious.

Note: Burns was a God fearing man. This poem is not anti-religion. It is stricly a condemnation of religious hypocrisy and self righteousness.

The full text plus English translation is here -

The Merry Muses of Caledonia.

"Many scholars and Robert Burns enthusiasts prefer not to mention his association with the Merry Muses of Caledonia because they don't like him to be associated with this sort of material. Burns allegedly made no secret of his interest in erotic verse and bawdy song but apparently he kept this in a locked drawer at home. Well, you would, wouldn't you?

"It was first published within three or four years of his death and of the original only two copies are known to exist but it has since been published several times in facsimile editions. Burns both wrote and collected this material so there is no knowing how much of it is actually his. While some of it is local and clearly from the hand of the bard he may also have collected other material during his tours around Scotland."


One of the poems in the collection is called 'John Anderson My Jo.'

Two variations are known about the piece: a previous bawdy version contained in “The Merry Muses of Caledonia” and a more intimate version of only two stanzas that speaks of love (or friendship) between two elderly people.

This is the gentler, more wistful version beautifully sung by Eddi Reader

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Major cyberattack imminent, hints Karl Denninger

I'm not technical, but techie Karl Denninger says he is detecting cyber activity on his site that suggests sophisticated hackers, quite possibly non-domestic, are probing for vulnerabilities.

Commenters are speculating on how easy it might be for foreign state computer experts to disrupt US energy systems, government administration, Electronic Benefit Transfer cards used by the poor to access state benefits and so on.

If this is so then the response of countries that feel threatened by America could be worse than merely regional conventional-military such as artillery and short-range missiles. Imagine the social disruption if for example the benefits system abruptly freezes up.

In a subsequent post, Denninger notes that his geopolitical commentary stands in danger of being suppressed, possibly because it's relevant and plausible.

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 27 January 1962

At #3 is Bobby Darin's 'Multiplication':

Giles cartoon for this week: police recruitment

Concerns had been voiced for some time about the shortage of officers in the Metropolitan Police, as in e.g. these queries in Parliament from April and November 1961:
    There was a Royal Commission in progress to review policing arragements generally, which produced a final report in May 1962 with 111 recommendations. One suggestion considered was to establish a centralised police force but the Home Secretary told Parliament that 'all the Commissioners except one recognised as even more cogent the advantages of local administration, and they came down firmly against a national police service.'
    These criminals are relatively short in stature, perhaps because of their poor diet in childhood, which the postwar Labour government sought to address. In the 1980s a teaching colleague noted the variation in height of a class of young secondary schoolchildren and commented that it was a sign of the decline in the Welfare State.
    Giles had a keen eye for detail. Both miscreants are wearing fashionable boots of the time - the one in front sports pointy-toed 'winklepickers' which some said were handy in a fight; the blond wears what look like Chelsea boots with 'Cuban heels' and apparently they have spurs attached - also a fighting asset, perhaps. Their jackets appear to be zip-up 'windcheaters' and both wear 'drainpipe trousers'.

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

21 January: 'The Organization of American States (OAS) began its Eighth Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in the course of which the United States agreed to resume aid to Haiti in return for its support of sanctions against Cuba. Haiti's participation was essential because the United States was a vote short of having the 2/3rds majority of the 21 member nations.'

22 January: 'The Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS), opposed to the independence of Algeria, bombed the French Foreign Ministry, by placing a time bomb inside a truck that was going into the compound. A mailroom worker was killed, and three people were seriously injured by the shattering of hundreds of windows at the Quai d'Orsay. Gunmen from the OAS also kidnapped a member of Parliament, Dr. Paul Mainguy, who was rescued that afternoon by French police.'

23 January: 'American inventor Thomas Townsend Brown received U.S. Patent 3,018,394 for an "Electro-kinetic Transducer", a means of using an electric field as a means of propulsion of aircraft.'

24 January: 
  • 'The East German government instituted conscription into its armed forces, which formerly had been filled by volunteers. Western sources speculated that the East Germans had waited until the completion of the Berlin Wall before announcing the draft.'
  • 'Brian Epstein made a verbal contract with the four members of The Beatles, becoming their manager in return for receiving up to 25 percent of their gross earnings.'
  • 'An attempt by the United States, to launch five satellites into orbit from the same rocket, failed when the final stage of the Thor-Able-Star rocket failed to provide sufficient thrust to break the pull of gravity. Falling into the Gulf of Mexico "well south of Cuba" were the 80 foot rocket and the satellites SR-4, Injun II, Lofti II, Secor and Surcal, worth $3,500,000 altogether.'
25 January: 'Anandyn Amar, who had served twice as Prime Minister of Mongolia (1928–30 and 1936–39) and Chairman of the Presidium of State (1932–36) before becoming a victim of a purge by Joseph Stalin, was posthumously rehabilitated, more than 20 years after his execution by the Soviet Union on July 27, 1941.'

26 January: 'The American space probe Ranger 3 was launched from Cape Canaveral at 3:30 pm local time with the objective of duplicating the Soviet feat of landing a satellite on the Moon. Hours later, NASA announced that the Atlas rocket had hurled Ranger 3 into its trajectory too quickly, and that the probe would miss its target by 22,000 miles. Intersecting the Moon's orbit after 50 hours instead of the planned 66 hours, the spacecraft arrived too soon, got no closer than 22,862 miles from the Moon and went into orbit around the sun.'

27 January:
  • 'With the publication of a January 15 decree of the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet Union changed all remaining street names and place names honoring Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Georgi Malenkov, and Kliment Voroshilov two months after the five aides to Joseph Stalin had been denounced by the Soviet Communist Party.[87] The Azerbaijan SSR city of Molotov would become Oktyabrkend, and the city of Perm had reverted to its name after Molotov's ouster in 1957; Voroshilovgrad was renamed Luhansk and Voroshilov in the far east became Ussuriysk.'
  • 'The planned 7:30 am launch of Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr. was postponed after the countdown clock stopped 20 minutes before liftoff. Glenn had been in the capsule since 5:10 am and was prepared to become the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, while much of the nation watched live coverage. After technical difficulties halted the countdown, the skies became overcast with thick cloud cover, and the mission was scrubbed at 9:20 am.'
  • 'At a major conference in Beijing, Liu Shaoqi, President of the People's Republic of China, criticized the "Great Leap Forward" economic policies of Party Chairman Mao Zedong. "People do not have enough food, clothes or other essentials... agricultural output has dropped tremendously," Liu told the assembly, adding "There is not only no Great Leap Forward, but a great deal of falling backward." Chairman Mao made a rare self-criticism three days later, and eventually took revenge on Liu, who disappeared in 1968 and reportedly died in 1969.'

UK chart hits, week ending 27 January 1962 (tracks in italics have been featured previously)
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation

Sunday, January 23, 2022

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 20 January 1962

At #4, Billy Fury's 'I'd Never Find Another You':

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

14 January: 'A Netherlands warship sank an Indonesian torpedo boat after it approached the disputed territory of West Irian, a Netherlands colony claimed by Indonesia.'

15 January: 'After the United Kingdom sought to join the European Economic Community, the Meteorological Office first began using Celsius temperature values in its public weather information, following the Fahrenheit values. In October, the Celsius values were listed first, and by January 1, 1973, when the government entered the EEC and completed its conversion to the metric system, Fahrenheit numbers were only used occasionally.'
    Also, 'The Derveni papyrus, written in about 340 BC, was discovered in a cist that had been buried at the site of the Greek city of Derveni, near Thessaloniki. The oldest surviving manuscript in Europe, the papyrus roll contained a commentary on philosophy and religion.'

16 January: 'A military coup in the Dominican Republic, led by General Pedro Rodriguez Echavarria, forced President Joaquín Balaguer to resign and to go into exile. Earlier in the day in Santo Domingo, soldiers fired into a crowd of people protesting against the new regime, killing 8 people and wounding many more. Balaguer had been the leader of a council of state with seven civilians, and had pledged to hold elections on February 27, 1963. The junta consisted of two former state council members, two civilians from the old Trujillo government, and three military officers, but had no presiding leader. The other council members were placed under house arrest.'

17 January: 'United States government workers were given the right of collective bargaining by President Kennedy, in Executive Order 10988.'

18 January: 'Two days after seizing power in the Dominican Republic, General Pedro Rodriguez Echavarria was overthrown in a counter-coup by his own officers, who then freed members of the former council of state who had been under house arrest. The council's first act of business was to accept Balaguer's resignation, with Rafael Filiberto Bonnelly as his successor.'
    Also: 'In the lead-up to the opening of negotiations on Ireland's entry to the European Community, Irish Prime Minister Seán Lemass addressed the members of the other EC governments at their headquarters in Brussels.'

19 January: 'KGB agents identified Colonel Oleg Penkovsky as the man who was secretly meeting British national Janet Chisholm in Moscow. The agents, who had been shadowing Mrs. Chisholm, had first seen the two together on December 30, and followed Penkovsky to his apartment. Surveillance determined that Colonel Penkovsky, a high clearance official with the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU, had been bringing home classified material relating to ballistic missiles, photographing it, and giving the film to the British intelligence agency MI-6. Penkovsky, whose information alerted the United States to the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba, would be arrested on October 22, when the Cuban Missile Crisis began, and would be executed on May 16, 1963 for treason.'

20 January: 'The play Prescription: Murder, by Richard Levinson and William Link, was first presented, with the premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. Character actor Thomas Mitchell portrayed a disheveled police detective named Lt. Columbo. When the play was made into a TV movie in 1968, Peter Falk portrayed the detective, and then in the title role of Columbo, one of the recurring segments of the NBC Mystery Movie. Columbo had been seen once before, on July 30, 1960, in the presentation "Enough Rope", part of The Chevy Mystery Show.'

UK chart hits, week ending 20 January 1962 (tracks in italics have been featured previously)
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 21 January 1961

At #2: Elvis' 'Are You Lonesome Tonight':

Giles cartoon for this week: the UK Professional Footballers' Association Strike

For 60 years in the UK, there had been an earnings cap for professional soccer players - maximum £20 a week in 1961, when the average male manual wage was £14.
    Jimmy Hill, a Fulham player about to retire from the game, organised a threatened nationwide players' strike which would have taken effect on Saturday, 21 January; the Football Association caved in on 18 January and so ushered in the modern era of very highly paid footballers.

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

16 January: 'The United States banned travel by its citizens to Cuba, except in cases where a special endorsement was included on a passport.'

17 January: 'President Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address on nationwide television, with the warning, "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex"..We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
    Also, 'Patrice Lumumba, 35, former leader of Republic of Congo, was secretly executed by a firing squad.'

19 January: 'In New Zealand, the filling of Lake Ohakuri began. Within two weeks, a reservoir of nearly five square miles was created and a supply of hydroelectric power was created. At the same time, two of the world's largest geysers—the 295-foot-high Minquini and the 180-foot-high Orakeikorako—were covered over and made extinct.'

20 January: 'John F. Kennedy took the oath of office as the 35th president of the United States. For the first time, the event was shown on color television, pioneered by the NBC network.'

21 January: 'Loaded with 16 nuclear tipped Polaris A-1 missiles, the submarine USS George Washington completed its first "deterrent patrol", after having remained submerged for a record 66 consecutive days.'

UK chart hits, week ending 21 January 1961
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation

Saturday, January 22, 2022

WEEKENDER: Theatrics, by Wiggia

The moment a man conned the public: Blair appears after winning the election on the steps of No10 wearing a jumper and holding a mug of tea, projecting his ‘man of the people’ image and succeeding. At the time when I saw this it was noticeable that he never actually sipped from that mug, it was just a prop, but the public drank it in; a complete con man but much better at it than the amateur impersonators that followed.

The current debacle over Partygate has revealed two things, the great divide between the so called ruling elite and those who put them in that position, I have never really been interested in what someone wears or the way they speak as long as they show they are good at their job; sadly those afflicted with bad taste and bad prose have failed to prove that they can do the job well, so as far as I am concerned taking the Michael out of the whole population at exactly the same moment further restrictions were announced that put people in the position they could not visit a dying relative but they could knock back Prosecco in No 10's garden is a new low point in people v politicians.

I am not alone in wondering whether in this world of instant capture on mobile phones and social media they are actually that dim to have behaved that way and thinking they would not be found out, or they just don’t care and do it anyway especially as it was a regular occurrence, not a one off.

If it was the latter, they don’t care, then there is really no point to any of them and they all should go. It is the ‘would you buy a used car from this man’ syndrome, and we all know the answer to that one.

In the meantime Boris has had a mysterious relative go down with Covid which gives him a rather lame excuse to isolate at a very convenient time, and plenty of time to gather advisors on how to approach the public when he reappears. This was almost immediately followed by a series of government announcements on popular items in the vague hope all will be forgotten and Boris can rise from the ashes of his creation and lead us into a glorious green future.

The naval aid to stop Channel crossings is hilarious. Anyone believing it is a Dunkirk moment is going to be sadly disappointed as it transpires that the intention is to track boats that land on our beaches with occupants that disappear without trace, it has nothing to do with actually reversing the flow. Still with bigger boats they will be able to hoover up even more illegals to drop off at Dover; should have gone for the roll-on, roll-off ferry option and be done with it.

While on the subject of illegal immigrants arriving in dinghies, though few do as most are brought in on out own vessels, the government has decided not to give out daily figures on those landing here. They are going for a three monthly announcement in the hope all will forget about a problem they have totally failed to get to grips with for years; that is assuming they actually want to get to grips with it, which is hard to believe after years of promises which have resulted in nothing. It is the equivalent of bringing down the safety curtain in a theatre during a play as they discovered there is no ending.  

Then the BBC is told its license fee is frozen for two years at least; depends if the Tories stay in power, and maybe, just maybe, the fee will be dropped in ‘27, cheers all round; but will it happen? Answers on a postcard. What will probably happen if the unforgivable act of axing the license fee happens is it will be added to the council tax which will mean a colossal rise for the few who actually pay the full council tax; or it will simply paid out of general taxation - they would like that as no one would be aware of what they actually contributing.

And now Covid plan B is scrapped; it may well have and should have gone anyway, but it's curious that it should happen at the same time as Boris tries to excuse himself in Parliament. Boris as we can see is ’taking responsibility’ for all that has been revealed, except he isn’t; he should understudy for the next version of Now You See Me, though as a magician he is in the Tommy Cooper category.

All this is pure theatre, and a very poor production. As with everything else, governments rarely have a clue as to how to present anything to the public; amateur slogans, amateur adverts, amateur politicians.

The shadow minister for pensions Jonathan Ashworth was being interviewed about the coming energy price rises. Sounding like a male version of ‘crayons’ with the same repeating limited vocabulary and the same lisping voice he had slogans galore: Labour is the party and always was of the working man, whatever the working man is, and we should cut this and that to help the ‘vulnerable’ etc. etc. When asked for a solution there was none, only a furrowed brow at being asked such an awkward question; amateurs, yet they crave power.

The health secretary launches his plan to improve NHS waiting times with some sort of concocted academy hospital that will improve patients' lot, again a timely bone thrown at a popular public groan. With the NHS it will take a nuclear option to change anything in a meaningful way, but this is amateur night, remember, and many will ‘see the light’ and vote Conservative at the next opportunity on the back of these surprising! announcements. There will undoubtedly be more to come. If people cannot see that a Conservative government with a decent majority has done virtually nothing Conservative since it was elected, yet swallow this guff when the PM is threatened with  resignation letters from his back benchers, then they deserve all they get. The fact that probably the other lot are even more incompetent is not an excuse, it’s an admission of defeat at the hands of the political class, a political class that doesn’t care as long as those levers of power are in their hands, and while that situation remains they can get away with hamming it up, despite being amateurs.

PMQs is pure theatre, a poor man's City of Variety Leeds without a ringmaster. Leonard Sachs would have been in his element with his gavel and all those ooohs and aaahs. The main difference is that PMQs is for their own consumption, a bubble theatre. We look in, occasionally, to see how ridiculous the whole thing is, yet they persevere with it. The show last Wednesday was pure theatrics, from Boris pretending he was innocent of recent accusations seen on video to David Davis overacting his 'Boris, go' speech to the pointing and hand waving when a Conservative did a theatrical entrance and was shown to a Labour seat behind their leader when he should be seeking re-election. 

If it had been an audition for House of Cards none would have been asked back.

Friday, January 21, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Boogie-Woogie, by JD

A Boogie Woogie collection featuring some of the original great piano players from about one hundred years ago, plus one modern European interloper.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The NHS needs matrons more than money

There are many reasons for the NHS's difficulties, but one of them is the lack of consistent overview and coordination. It appears that there is no-one who applies ‘joined-up thinking’ to the progress of the patient through the system, who is personally accountable and empowered to iron out glitches and systemic discontinuities.

'What the ward needed was a good editor,' said Harriet Sergeant's 97-year-old father after a painfully bad stay.  'No one appeared to be in charge. I kept asking for matron.'

I'd like to second that, with an account of what happened to my dear friend Rob (not his real name).

Rob lived in east Birmingham, an area semi-neglected by public services, for the inhabitants are mostly not of the squealing middle class. It's the sort of patrol-free place where uninsured drivers come tearing along from off the motorway and rear-end your car, as happened some years ago to Rob's stepdaughter, leaving her with a permanent back injury. In Rob's case, a fool shot out of a side road, making him swerve, successfully (he had great reflexes for a man in his mid-seventies.)

So far, so good; but the swerve forced him to bang through a series of three potholes - what better roads can the hoi polloi expect? - and that's what did his back in. It took a while for the extent of the damage to make itself apparent, but when it did, that's when the fun started with the NHS: they didn't want to fix him. Maybe it was age-related operative risks, even though Rob was a non-smoker, physically very active and a keen archer; or maybe it was the QALY calculation that makes the monetary value of patients' lives tend towards zero as they get older.

However, Rob was not of the peasantry. He was highly intelligent, hugely well-read (a history teacher by profession) and determined. His GP was inclined to offer nothing more than palliative care, but Rob went online and found a surgeon who was qualified and prepared to do the operation.

Examining the X-ray of his spine, the radiographer missed the tell-tale shadow on Rob's liver, otherwise I don't think I would be writing this all in the past tense. Still, unlike the old joke, the back op was a success and the patient survived. 

This was pre-Covid, so hospital visitors were free to come. When I went to see him, unannounced, I greeted him and shook his hand; he held mine for a long time as he smiled at me. I was embarrassed - some of us find it harder to accept affection than to get it. It was then that it occurred to me how the sick often tend to feel abandoned: for all her fame and friends, when Margaret Rutherford was crippled and on two sticks her husband wrote  'We are very lonely. Where are all the people?'

A patient is an inferior category of person. Unlike us, it seems, they do not need much social intercourse - the cheering TLC that the less academic nurses of yesteryear could provide - or mental stimulation (except via pay-per-view TV). Food is put down, sometimes out of reach, and removed later untouched if the subject has been asleep (box ticked!) Well, I got Rob a paper and a couple of sausage rolls from the hospital shop, so that was a start.

He had arrived in this ward from another hospital, the one where the op had been performed, and had come on a special orthopaedic bed. This had been quickly swapped for a standard one - things disappear in hospitals, where a constant cadging goes on. The replacement was shorter and Rob's feet tended to touch the end board, something to be avoided while his back was healing.

He also had problems with sleeping (so vital to recovery) because he had long suffered from apnoea. He owned and had brought in a tabletop CPAP machine (one that gently assists breathing during sleep), and asked staff not to disturb it as if accidentally jolted, the water inside would spill into the tube and cause a blockage; which is what happened, repeatedly. I notified the nurses at the admin point round which they tended to cluster, and they in turn called for someone else to sort it, a nice chap who used a hairdryer on the hose and got it working again; till next time.

There is no point in mending someone’s back unless you help them to use it. One of the surgeon’s aftercare instructions was for Rob to be moved from his bed daily to sit in a chair for a couple of hours. In order to shift him safely, a hoist was brought in; on the couple of occasions on which it was used, his toes got banged painfully on the bed’s end; but generally it didn’t happen at all, so he lay day after day in bed, getting thinner and weaker.

He wanted to keep up his strength, not least for archery, so I brought him a spongeball to squeeze. A week or two later, it vanished from the windowsill beside him, together with the newspapers and magazines I had brought him to keep his mind active; must keep the place tidy. A modern theme is the drive to tidy away the old, isn’t it? Get them out of their messy houses and the inconvenience of daycarer visits, uproot them from their memories and autonomy and put them into care homes, for their own good.

It won’t surprise you to learn that Rob didn’t feel safe where he was, and wanted to go home. Oh, the difficulties this would cause! Surely his wife wouldn’t be able to manage his needs; a room would have to be made ready, and an adjustable bed supplied. Well, Rob had a brother, a formidable man, and these impossibilities were overcome. 

Another complication was the need for a hoist, to do the chair bit that the hospital hadn’t been doing. One was sent, but shortly afterwards his family were told not to use it, since they hadn’t been trained. There it stood in the corner, useless.

Meantime, the cancer was slowly spreading and a drugs regime had to be supervised. Another communication blip: one powerful painkiller required another pill to counter the consequent constipation, and when the type of analgesic was changed its partner laxative wasn’t cancelled at the same time. Rob’s dear stepson was an angel to him.

In the last week or two, Rob was moved to a hospice where I am sure he was cared for appropriately. The second time I visited, political weekly in hand, he was apparently unconscious and breathing in the laboured way that suggests the end is near. I’d had to go after a while, but his family were notified and he didn’t die alone.

I wish I had held his hand.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

WEEKENDER: The Great Divide, by Wiggia

The above quote is one of those that has stood the test of time, yet today no one adheres to it, they usually manage to add a ‘but’ on the end.

Something has happened in the last few years: the division among people about actions and ideologies has reached a stage where people have become so polarised that no argument against their thinking can be brokered.

There is nothing new in being a loyal supporter of an idea or a man or a political party but in the days of social media it has become toxic.

In 99% of cases, the opinion being put forward does not justify the language being used. One has only to read the comments in the Guardian to see a whole clique of commenters who believe that they are the only voices that should be heard and anyone with opposing views is ignorant, a racist or bigot or a little Englander or a knuckle-dragging ignoramus; there is no middle ground.

The Guardian is not alone in the way it promotes its views or the commenters. The same themes from opposing angles can be seen everywhere. As I said this is not new; the scale of the intolerance and the over-assertion of veracity is.

I have no doubt in my mind that Brexit was the catalyst for this new divisive thinking, though Blair had a hand in it at an earlier date, with his fake bonhomie with the working man, which backfired gloriously in latter years. The so called establishment can never forgive the little people their moment of glory; the referendum that was a foregone conclusion for a remain vote ended in leave. The rot set in from that moment, it was not to be allowed and all of the establishment, politicians who were 80% + remain, the civil service who almost certainly were the same and all media outlets let it be known they did not approve and would do everything to thwart the result.

And they still are, they really can’t let it go, even as we start to see the EU in all its glory from the other side of the fence changing into all the things those adherents to it said would never happen: EU army, more federalism and control over sovereign nations, plus its total inadequacy to get anything meaningful done - see the vaccine shambles and bullying tactics that followed;+++++++++++++ all typical and now out in the open.

Yet still remainers cling to the EU, as some sort of comfort blanket. It is no different to what has happened to people here during the pandemic: a large proportion are willing for the government to cover all the bases. We see it in adherence to rulings that make no sense in the real world and the world of science; the government has bullied and used the nudge unit to change people into willing participants in whatever they propose, and these same adherents to government diktats then take the same stance as they did for Brexit: all of the opposite view should be isolated from public life by any means possible. We see it now every day.

Even leading politicians have got in on the act. The recent utterings from Biden, Trudeau, Macron and our own Boris on being jabbed are straight from the Orwellian play book. Neil Oliver sums it up well here.

Quebec has just announced that people refusing the jab will be subject to a tax! And will not be able to buy alcohol and other items. This would have made Goebbels proud.

Do they really all mean what they say or are they just repeating what they have been told by advisers who believe that it will achieve the universal aim? For it is universal, it can not be anything else, it is so coordinated; but one thing is for sure: it is terribly divisive and the long term damage can only be guessed at. Today, it seems, nobody cares.

Novak Djokovic is a recent example of polarisation by the media and people. It matters not that whatever you may think of his attitude to having the jab, he is entitled to that view, but is he? Not any more; that kind of thinking from a high profile sportsman is tantamount to treason in the eyes of many.
There is no doubt that before he started out to Australia he took legal advice from lawyers and was told by none other than the Australian Lawn Tennis Association that his exemption held good; but that was not good enough, hence the rather unedifying spectacle of Djokovic being ‘interned’ in a rather undesirable hotel with illegal aliens; all very butch by the authorities but very divisive and totally unnecessary, but authorities like to have examples made and scapegoats provided to justify undeserved actions on their parts.

But it worked. Thousands locked down forever in Melbourne under the lunatic Dan Andrews are not going to let a ‘tennis player’ do what they themselves have wanted to do but didn’t have the guts to stand up and be counted, so they want to drag him down to their level. Not all, of course but if he makes it to the tournament it will be interesting to see what reaction he provokes by actually being there.
Djokovic is an easy target for anything like this, his background makes him not universally liked; can you really see the cuddly Federer being treated and spoken of in the same way? This is just one man as an example, not important in the scheme of things but an example again of the polarising that has gone on in society.

Even football has joined in. Anyone with a scintilla of a brain can read and hear what BLM is really about, but again in this country - yet virtually nowhere else - footballers have been taking the knee and still are, because they don't want to be seen to support injustice and don’t want to be humiliated, and because they have a national manager who is so blind he thinks that England taking the knee in Qatar is a good thing - when if they really wanted to make a point they would not be going to a country that has killed hundreds building the stadiums with what is in effect slave labour, Still, as long as they can keep on playing…

The knee-taking divided the fans. Sadly, as with so much today, after a few boos they accept it as part of the preliminary ritual necessary to let them see their football. It is like the old adage, if you tell a lie often and long enough people believe it. Arsenal have just added another protest to the knee taking: a white shirt against knife crime; that’ll work, won,t it? There won't be time for any actual football at this rate.

The virus has produced ample opportunities for the vaxed to unleash their inner loathing on the unvaxed. This article in the Evening Standard is particularly divisive from a nasty authoritarian who it appears belongs to that group that would have everyone herded together and obeying orders - not themselves of course, just the little people and those that step out line shall be punished for the good of us all…

Yes it appears the author is a member of the WEF ('you shall have nothing and be happy'); naturally it was not revealed by the paper but a commenter.

Suddenly your body is no longer sacrosanct it belongs to everyone else. And yes I have been jabbed and boosted but now regret the latter and have severe reservations on any more as have many others, for to put it simply they are not true vaccines as in immunisation (if anyone remembers that) and seem to have an ever-shortening period of efficacy. This plus a total lack of long term testing and any issues from that means no young people should be made to take the risk; for us older people, the vulnerable ones, it may well be worth the risk and long term complications are less of an issue for us; but is there ever a rational discussion on this? No, instead we join camps and verbally abuse the other side.

The recent video of Dr Steve James speaking to the health minister was a classic in the sense that the Doctor is one of the unheard all the way through this pandemic. His like are threatened with the sack in April, despite having done their best all through the pandemic. Why is it so important for the same people to be jabbed now when the virus is on the wane? Yet the abuse from the same public they have been treating is unremitting; a large portion of the public actually believe refusers should be sacked unless they consent to the jab; the latters' past worth is nothing now in this divided debate. Those who accuse would still readily abuse others and wear masks, socially distance and stay indoors forever. There are some bizarre and unfounded strains of thought out there at the moment.

Dr James also revealed a piece of the nasty side of things when he appeared on Good Morning Britain. The resident sneering Dr Shillary was present but did not engage his fellow doctor directly, instead making those sneery faces at opportune moments; he is also on the board of a Pharmaceutical company so has as they say skin in the game though it is never mentioned (a good example of the divide in medical circles); only one side is usually heard, and on a rare occasion like this when another slant was put it was slated by all and sundry.

Politicians are at each other's throats at the moment for political gain. As usual they can muster the troops to talk about a garden party but the place is nearly empty for the weighty issues of the day. What has been going on though is again divisive, us and them. All the way through this pandemic we have seen abuses of the rules by politicians across the globe, who put on the mask and maintain social distancing during photo opportunities, but the minute the cameras stop rolling it's no masks and hugs all round (well, not every time, fortunately, but the division remains,.) Boris may be an idiot but many others have doing the same thing for two years; they manage to divide the nation; a plague on all of them.

And the other issue dividing the nations and people of the world is 'saving the planet.' I have done green issues to death, or I would have liked to, but again the ‘science’ is being used to divide us: all on the opposite side are deniers, the world is ending and we are all to blame, come live with me in a tent and we can dispense with all wordly goods, forage for food, keep a few chickens, rub sticks together in the winter and, that’s it really, no one will work, and oh my God it is the WEF again, and there are people out there gagging for this; divisions, divisions…

Friday, January 14, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Lindisfarne, by JD

Last year there was a documentary on BBC about Alan Hull of the 'folk rock' band Lindisfarne. It has been in the back of my mind since then and at last I've got round to a music post about one of this country's finest songwriters (Elvis Costello said that in the documentary) The programme is still available on iPlayer here -

And this is one of the trailers to the programme -

Lindisfarne's Geordie Genius: The Alan Hull Story - Trailer #1

Thursday, January 13, 2022

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 13 January 1962

At #3, the now-classic 'The Young Ones' by Cliff Richard and the Shadows':

Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

7 January: A bomb exploded at the Paris apartment building where controversial existentialist author Jean-Paul Sartre lived. Sartre was not home at the time, and his mother was not injured, but the fire destroyed most of his unpublished manuscripts.
    An assassination attempt against Indonesia's President Sukarno failed, but the hand grenades thrown at his automobile killed three bystanders and injured 28 others in Ujung Pandang (at that time, Makassar).

8 January: The first two teams of the United States Navy SEALs, were commissioned as the United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land teams, with an order backdated to January 1, in order to carry out President Kennedy's recommendation for the development of "unconventional warfare capability". SEAL Team One, based in Coronado, California served the Pacific Fleet and SEAL Team Two served the Atlantic Fleet out of Little Creek, Virginia. Each team consisted of 50 men and ten officers.
    Also, in a closed session at the Presidium, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev delivered what was later referred to as the "meniscus speech", using the analogy of a wineglass filled to the point that it could overflow at any time. In the speech, which was not revealed until 40 years later, Khrushchev told the ministers that the U.S.S.R. was weaker militarily than the United States, and that the only way to compete against American superiority was to maintain the threat that world tensions could spill over. "Because if we don't have a meniscus," Khrushchev said, "we let the enemy live peacefully."

9 January: Rashidi Kawawa was appointed as the last Prime Minister of Tanganyika, by President Julius Nyerere, who had formerly had both posts. The position of Prime Minister would be abolished on December 9, after which Tanganyika and Zanzibar had merged to form Tanzania. Kawawa would become the first Prime Minister of Tanzania when that post was created in 1972.
    Also, Cuba and the Soviet Union signed a trade pact.

10 January: An avalanche on Mount Huascarán, the tallest peak in Peru killed 4,000 people. At 6:13 pm, melting ice triggered the slide of three million tons of ice, mud and rock down the side of Huascaran, quadrupled in size as it gathered mass, and, within eight minutes, buried the town of Ranrahirca (population 2,700) the village of Yanamachico, and three other villages totaling 800 residents. Ranrahirca, which had only 50 survivors, would be rebuilt, then destroyed again in an earthquake and an even larger avalanche on May 31, 1970.

11 January: Soviet submarine B-37, nine days away from being dispatched to Cuba, was moored at Polyarny, conducting maintenance and pressurizing of outdated gas-steam torpedoes. At 8:20 am, a fire in the torpedo compartment detonated all twelve torpedoes and instantly destroying the submarine. Captain Anatoly Begeba, who had been outside, inspecting the top of the sub, survived. The 78 men inside the sub drowned as it sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea.
    Also, piloting the newest model of long-range bombers, the B-52H Stratofortress, crewmembers broke 11 non-stop distance and course-speed records, for its aircraft class and time, when they successfully completed a more-than-21-hour non-refueled flight—flying approximately 12,500 miles across the globe..
    Also, Nelson Mandela secretly left South Africa for the first time, as he was driven across the border to Botswana. From there, he went to Ethiopia to speak at a conference in Addis Ababa. He would tour the continent for the next six months. Upon his return to South Africa on August 5, he would be arrested.

12 January: Operation Chopper, the first American combat mission in Vietnam, began as the American pilots transported hundreds of South Vietnamese troops to fight against a Viet Cong force near Saigon. Three days later, President Kennedy told reporters at a press conference that American troops were not being used in combat.
    Also, A spokesman for the Army of Indonesia, Colonel Soenarjo, that soldiers had begun landing on West Irian, the semi-independent western side of New Guinea that remained under the administration of the Netherlands.

13 January: With the United States having halted its U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, the Republic of China (Taiwan) began regular U-2 surveillance flights over the People's Republic of China, with a group of American-trained pilots nicknamed the Black Cat Squadron.
    Also, Albania allied itself with the People's Republic of China, as the two nations signed a trade pact.
UK chart hits, week ending 13 January 1962 (tracks in italics have been featured previously)
Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation