Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Only one shot

Cameron's son has died. Regular readers (both of you?) will know that my son has been ill; although his treatment continues, he is much better now but would probably have died last week had it not been for prompt medical care. The two coming at the same time have made me stop and think.

Life is precious. Life can be short. Life is, above all, not within our control.

So make the most of it; you only have one go. Get out, enjoy yourself, and spread love and happiness.

There is a huge flower arrangement sitting next to me, waiting for Mrs P to return. It is there for one simple reason; that she will love it, that she will smile, and that there is no way I can guarantee that I will have another chance to see that smile and bring that happiness. If I passed on the opportunity to see that smile today, and then something happened which meant I never saw it again, how could I forgive myself?

Go on. Smile at someone on the way home tonight (if they think you're a nutter, who cares!). If you have one, give your other half a hug/flowers/kiss/whatever. Tell them what they mean to you. Make them smile.

Let me know what you do. I'd love to hear.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

NHS Investment - the reality

Well, patently junior's malaise turns out to be appendicitis after all. Mrs P and I lost patience with the slow rate of improvement in his condition and trotted off to hospital yesterday morning (hence my quietness!). He's still there, while they decide on the best way to render him appendixless.

I posted (above) that the local hospital's A&E department had closed - it is now a 24 hour "emergency medical centre". So we went there first. After all, the problem was clearly medical, and we thought it was an emergency. Some years ago, I used to walk past the old A&E department; it was crumbling and tatty. Before becoming the "emergency medical centre", the old A&E unit was refurbished and is now a smart, clean building with nice paintwork, a pretty reception, a smart office, nice chairs, snazzy glass blockwork tiles, and so on.

Just one snag - the reception desk is empty, the shutters are down, and no-one is around. There is a bell to ring. It works, in one sense; you press the button and a bell rings. In other senses, such as whether a person comes when you press the button, it doesn't.

Eventually, someone arrives and books us in. So the hospital records already show us arriving 15 minutes after we actually arrived - a neat way of improving the statistics.

After a mere hour's wait we are seen by a doctor who thinks it might be appendicitis, in which case we should transfer to the big regional hospital. An ambulance will be found for us in about 4-5 hours. Fortunately, I have a car with me so they agree that I can use that.

On arrival at the big A&E department, I feel more at home. This is a proper NHS unit - peeling paint, drooping wallpaper, tatty chairs, and lovely people inside who are utterly devoted to their work.

So, to summarise, a shedload of money has been spent on an A&E department that was immdiately downgraded and left unstaffed. Meanwhile, the busy regional centre is left to disintegrate. Next time Gordon Brown rants on about record NHS investment, remember this. The money is being wasted.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Why do I hate the State?

It must be fairly clear that I'm generally anti-state. I'm never reassured to hear that sweeping new powers will be used with discretion by state employees. I'm never reassured to hear that a new body is being set up to coordinate things, oversee things, regulate things, and generally make the UK a nicer place. I'm positively frightened when the State announces that it's going to take steps to solve anything, in fact.

I've been wondering why this is. Other people seem to approach issues instinctively from a big state, socialist perspective. OK, they're wrong, although only in the sense that their ideas always prove to be expensive failures in the end, but their world view is far easier to explain. After all, if there is a problem, and there is a big and powerful government, surely it is a good idea for the government to take an interest in the problem and try to solve it? It is my world-view that is counter-intuitive, not theirs. It is mine that needs to be explained; everyone can see why socialists think the way they do (apart from the obvious reason, of course).

Freudians would say that odd views are the result of childhood traumas. Many and varied though they were for me (!), I doubt that any are to blame for a right-wing outlook. The main reason for this is quite simple; I only developed this outlook some time after leaving home. Before then, I was of a more Liberal persuasion, albeit a market-oriented Liberal (if such a thing is possible).

It was while pondering what experience might have triggered this view that I remembered some posts I made on B3ta. It's not a polite site, so don't follow the link if you're easily offended. However, one thing they do is to ask weekly questions and invite answers - preferably funny/rude/both. One question was about local councils, and why we disliked them. I posted my story about the time Council staff disenfranchised me because they couldn't be bothered to process the form. As that was the first General Election in which I should have been able to vote, and it looked as if the party I supported was going to need all the help it could get, I was a bit put out by that. To put it mildly.

Then there was the time when B3ta asked for stories about being really scared. I remembered the time my daughter might have been hurt; I was worried, and called on the State in the form of the NHS to help. Under cover of helping, it was clear that their main priority was to check up on me. I was left feeling as if I had called Big Brother; helping my daughter would have been a nice side effect for them, but the big prize was to prosecute me for neglect.

Or, I could cite the tale in which Mrs P was threatened with prosecution for fraud by the Inland Revenue. Admittedly, a mistake had resulted in her reclaiming more tax than she was entitled to. The mistake was theirs, though; she had not sought the money or mislead them in any way. Their mistake, her problem.

Or the time I asked why a police employee had been rude to me, and was threatened with prosecution for my impertinence.

So I think these stories highlight the basis of my outlook. Experience has taught me that the State pretends to be there for me, to help me, to support me, to keep me safe. But in fact, the result is a mix of self-serving laziness and inquisitorial aggression. It isn't there for me; it is there for itself and its employees.

Which is why I'd rather it left me alone. I'll look after myself, thanks.

Monday, 16 February 2009

It's an Unfair Cop

Not only am I racist, apparently, I'm now also a terrorist (sort of).

A short while back I posted on the subject of the new anti-photographer law ... ooops sorry I mean anti-terrorist law that came into force today. Taking pictures that may be of use to terrorists is now illegal, it seems. Well, how about this one:

This shows a public access gate to a reservoir. Maybe terrorists could go sailing (I'm sure Raedwald could find a photo of a boat?) and drop something nasty over the side?

Should I be dressed and ready at 6am tomorrow in case the Rozzers call?

(Thinking about it, at least I now have an answer to anyone who bleats "those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear". I now have something to hide!)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A New Word

I think I've invented a new word. I needed it in order to comment on Blue Eye's blog.

I'm quite pleased with it. I give you a newly defined sector of society, the:


If you've met one, you'll know them. They've been sought out over the last 11 years, to fill all those positions of minor state power over us. They're the ones that tell us "speed kills". That bins need to be put out in the morning, not the night before. That leaving your car outside an A&E unit for 6 minutes instead of the permitted 5 means you need a parking ticket. Etc, etc.


Ambush Predator has a summary of the Friday the Thirteenth effect on Gordon Brown, which is worth reading. Couldn't happen to a more deserving PM, I say.

Anyway, one quote on the effect of a pilot NHS project to prepare for the NHS supercomupter struck my eye. It seems that the project involved spending large amounts of money on IT, as a result of which the hospital was able to deal with fewer patients. Not only that:
Mr Way said the cost of the problems had meant it was be unable to invest in new equipment.

As I commented on JuliaM's blog, this is a welcome relief - that someone in the public sector has finaly noticed that public funds are not unlimited, and if you throw them away on pointless worthless boondoggles like the NHS supercomputer, ID cards & databases, and so on, people suffer because something they need can't be bought.

Next, in a series of further moments of enlightenment, the public sector will discover that the earth is round, the Pope is Catholic, and bears will make a mess if left to their own devices in a wood.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

We should stop Prime Minister's Questions

I'm off work today, looking after my ill son. He's content in front of CBBC, so I'm watching PMQs.

I'm coming to the conclusion - fast - that it is very accurately named. It consists of a number of questions, but sadly no answers. Brown has not answered a single one of the questions put to him. Every question is met with a pre-prepared rebuttal which answers a question Brown feels like answering. Usually this is unrelated to the question actually asked.

The exception, of course, is the planted questions. If Brown thinks these are not blindingly obvious, he is much mistaken. But even the questions from his own side get this treatment - he's not brave enough to answer even these ones.

The idea behind PMQs is to hold the PM of the day to account. It's not working. We should scrap it and think of a new way to cross-examine the PM.

Two excellent posts

First, Blue Eyes wants to get away from current ways of thinking and look at different ways of funding and implementing the public services that we think we need. A post worth citing for many more reasons that the fact that it refers to "the usually brilliant Patently"...

Second, Stuart Sharpe looks at the business of Government from the ground up, starting from the assumption that government needs to do nothing, and considering what activities are the exception to this and are probably best kept for officialdom after all.

Between them, they could build a manifesto for a new, small state low tax Great Britain. That's if they can realise that they don't actually disagree with each other, of course.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Not Happy

My son is not well; the GP this afternoon told us to watch out for appendicitis. So, just to be prepared and to avoid a midnight search for telephone numbers, I checked on the local A&E centres.

Turns out, there isn't one. The hospital down the road had one, but it was shut. The nearest is 10 miles away, along country lanes. Autoroute says it will take me 30 minutes to get there. 30 minutes.


Sorry for shouting; I'm not happy.

Miss Daisy, Driving

Mrs P is an excellent driver. Much better than me. Let's just make that absolutely crystal clear first. Then watch this:

Beautifully put, Jeremy

Clarkson called Brown an idiot but later apologised, says the usual interpretation of the latest Clarkson gaffe/silly outburst/moment of plain speaking*. (*delete as applicable)

Or did he? What he said was:

"In England we have this one-eyed Scottish idiot... he keeps telling us everything's fine and he's saved the world and we know he's lying, but he's smooth at telling us."

And the apology was:

"In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the Prime Minister's personal appearance for which, upon reflection, I apologise."

So he apologised (rightly) for drawing attention to Brown's sight problems. However, I don't see any apology for calling him an idiot or a liar. Which is quite correct, of course; Brown's lack of vision may well be true but is irrelevant to his position, whereas his idiocy and untruthfulness are both true and highly relevant.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Severe weather leaves vital stocks running low....

The BBC currently reports that stocks of the words "unprecedented", "hazardous", "significant", "plummet" and "widespread" are reaching as low as 20% of normal levels. Police forces across the West Country advised people to only use these words if they were essential.

Some local councils have come under fire for not pre-ordering extra stocks of such words, however one spokesperson said: "Councils had to prioritise supplies to focus on the most important words. He said: "If that fails to deal with any issue, then councils will talk to the Oxford English Dictionary to look for further supplies."

A container ship full of words is en route from America, however there is concern that some of these will be mis-spelt and not up to usual standards of English.

Government Minister for Vocabulary and Pronunciation said:"The 40,000 words coming on the ship from America does not sound a lot - just one news item can use 130 of these words, and you have to think of all the different news channels that are involved."

With credit to "DHA", contributor to, the community for drivers and owners of performance cars (and anyone else with a sense of humour).

Friday, 6 February 2009

More Bad Law

Leg-Iron has found another example of an appalling new New Labour law. I'm staggered.

Discussed by professional photographers here, it seems that anti-terror laws will shortly be extended to impose a sentence of up to ten years for taking a photograph thta may be of use to terrorists. They are upset at the effect on press photographers, as one might expect, but my worry is slightly different.

Specifically, the purpose of the law is to tell me what I can't do. If I choose to ignore that proscription, then on my head be it. But .... exactly how am I meant to tell whether a potential photograph will be of use to a terrorist?

I took a photo of the snow this morning. Here it is:

It shows the complete inability of the UK to cope with sudden falls of snow. Is that of use to a terrorist?

It shows part of my neighbour's house, and the windows through which one might gain access in order to hide things for terrorist purposes. Is that of use to them?

This is serious. There have been terrorist arrests in my vicinity, so the local plod will be on the look-out. It won't be a defence for me to point out that I had no idea the photo would help them, or, shamefully, that I had no intention of helping them and did not actually help them. The only way I can be sure that I am complying with this law is to put my camera away. For the record, I have no intention of doing so.

Our law is now explicitly oppressive, and I do not say that lightly.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Stone Her!

In recent news, a man was accused of uttering the word "Jehova" in an entirely innocuous context:

Hang on, sorry, my mistake, I meant to say that Carol Thatcher was accused of saying "Golliwog"*, in a context that some say is innocuous and which others refuse to detail.


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Shock News Just In: Winter is Cold

It's not worth us investing in snow ploughs and larger armies of gritters, because weather such as we saw yesterday is so rare in the UK that it is just not worth it.

Or so we are told. I thought that was a rather odd statement, as I distinctly remember there being two snowfalls so far this winter, already. I have a very clear memory of the first, as I spent three hours sitting on the A40 crawling past the site of a large multiple lorry crash on the adjacent M40. If I recall correctly, two lorries containing consignments of lard collided and spread their loads over both carriageways. Lard all over six lanes - it would be funny had one of the drivers not died. I also remember the second snowfall, as the grit which I spread over my drive had only just washed away by last weekend.

Nor is this year especially unusual. I remember a huge snowfall in January 2004. We had just moved house, and had acquired a driveway with (a) a bend and (b) a steepish slope, so it was a slight surprise to discover that my car was very firmly stuck, a few tantalising yards from the road. Subsequent years have been just as bad - I know because it has taken several such "learning opportunities" for me to work out how to negotiate a sharp bend on a hill with no momentum and no grip. Yesterday morning was, I have to boast, a doddle given all the practice that I have accrued.

So why does the country always stop when it snows?

The excuse used to be that the snow came out of the blue and no-one was expecting it. This was obviously not the case this week - we had a good few days warning (yet several councils are now, unbelievably, warning that they may run out of grit). So the excuse for this year is the bold one - that it is better to let the country fall to pieces once every 20 years than pay for the level of preparations that would be needed to prevent it. But this is evident rubbish, as well; the country has been grinding to a halt with depressing regularity for years. The only difference this year is that more of the country is affected.

We used to manage; Mrs P and I grew up in the 70s, in very different areas of the UK, and both of us remember snow like yesterday's being a routine winter occurrence.

I see three possible cures;
  • mandatory winter tyres for all vehicles. Summer tyres are the standard fit in the UK; Porsche (for example) only promises adequate performance for these down to 7 degrees. That's 7 degrees above freezing. Yes, Porsche place greater demands on the tyres they fit, but so do we all if we have a panic-stricken moment behind the wheel.
  • a good shake-up of local authority gritting departments. Why do gritters go out at 5-6pm? All they achieve is a good machine-gunning of everyone's paintwork, after which the traffic pushes the grit to one side. If they went out two hours later, the grit would stand a chance of staying in place, although (I suspect) the workers would grumble (my heart bleeds).
  • on-the spot fines for any broadcaster who utters the phrase "only travel if absolutely essential". A £100k fine for every utterance should do it; half to be paid by the broadcaster and half by the journalist concerned. As far as I concerned, if I don't go to work I don't get paid, so that makes my journey essential. But other seem to take a different view, and the impression given is that we take our lives in our hands by going out. Frankly, this is utter rubbish; extra care is needed, yes, but it's only snow....
I am, of course, posting this after a day spent working at home. My only defence to the rather obvious charge of hypocrisy is to point at the pile of work that I brought back from the office yesterday evening...