Posted in News, Politics

Don’t tar all MPs staff with the same brush

I’m not going to comment on the Derek Conway matter, other than to say I would have thought he had more sense.

But I will say again, as I have before, that we must not generalize and let individual cases tar the whole system.

In fact, the House of Commons authorities have strict rules about Members’ staff, will only include them on the payroll if there is a proper contract of employment, and these days there are also scales of appropriate payment for particular jobs.

Most of the wives, sons and daughters, and a few husbands, who work for their spouse or parent are doing a fairly thankless job, working hard, and putting in long hours to do all in their power to make sure the MP is providing a good service to his/her constituents.

Part of the time that I worked in the Commons, I had the privilege to be located around the other side of the horseshoe that was the Lower Ministerial Corridor from the office of Neil Hamilton, where the doughty Christine presided.   I can say with absolute certainty, not least because of the volume of her voice, that here was one MP’s wife who was in the office and working hard all day. 

Posted in Uncategorized

A grumpy old rant about H

This is a letter from Bernadette Robinson in the paper edition of The Times today:-

‘Could somebody please tell me what has happened to the “H” in our alphabet?   For 60 years I have pronounced it “aitch”.   There is an “H” in my postcode and recently I have been corrected by various customer advisers: “You mean ‘haitch’?”  To make matters worse, today, on the BBC’s programme Cash in the Attic, the presenter referred to Haitch MS Vanguard.   Is this now the standard pronunciation?’

I’ve been meaning for ages to do a post about this.   Every time a TV voice comes out with that haitch, and more and more of them are doing it, I get so angry.   Is it perhaps that these people have been nagged not to drop their aitches, so they are carefully putting one on the word itself?   After all, the word is aitch;  it doesn’t even start with an H.

And another thing, an increasing number of people who are regarded as educated and holding down managerial jobs are pronouncing something and nothing as somethink and nothink.   Where do they get that K from?

L Gibson from Whitley Bay, also in The Times, raises the point again of why so many younger people now speak with a raised inflection at the end of sentences.   This, I’m sure, can be put firmly at the door of Australian soap operas which have for so long been bombarded daily at television audiences in this country.   This leads us to believe that down under every sentence ends with a question.

Finally, in this little diatribe, I thought I had heard it all tonight.   I was watching my favourite ITV3, (you know, all the lovely old dramas and cop shows), and this evening’s episode of The Dorothy L Sayers Mysteries was about to start.   The story was Have His Carcass, but the announcer said it was Have His Car-Case;  yes, pronounced as if it were a portmanteau for putting in a vehicle!

English, (not US English), is a beautiful language.   As Professor Higgins said at great length, “Why can’t the English learn to speak?”

Posted in Uncategorized

Sipsip – help, I’m imprisoned in a nightmare

This afternoon I sat in the management committee meeting of a charity, and I couldn’t decide whether I’d gone mad and was in an asylum or was asleep and having a nightmare.

There were 11 perfectly nice people in the room, and they had all talked very sensibly, until we came to the item on funding.   And then it happened.

A torrent of new government initiatives; a cascade of abbreviations and initials; and the confident assertions that each new funding stream had replaced that old one, although probably just a new name and a new committee of people managing it.   There were new “boards” deciding who was to get money.   County council funding had been devolved to these curious “boards” which were populated by young graduates who had gone straight into public service and apparently become instant experts on our town and its people.

The jargon came rolling out, and reached its peak with what sounded like, phonetically, “Sipsip”.   I’m a simple soul.   “What does that mean”, I asked.   I was told it meant Children and Young People Strategic Partnership.   So what are the initials then  –  CYPSP but still pronounced sipsip.

It’s daft, yes, but there’s a bigger underlying concern.   Every time the government tweaks one of these wonderful initiatives of theirs, from New Deals downwards, the whole local government and quasi-government agency structure shakes itself up and restructures, with new committees, new names, new stationery, and all the rest of it.   It costs vast amounts of money and time, both of which would be much better spent in just delivering improvements to the service concerned.

Posted in Uncategorized

Britain still has heroes

Rod Liddle has a piece in The Sunday Times entitled “Heroics died with Sir Edmund”, in which he makes the point that the sad death of Sir Edmund Hillary has seen the last of heroes as they used to be understood.   Today, he says, heroes tend to be people like Nelson Mandela.

In the eyes of the press, however, (and not just the tabloids), the title of hero is handed out like sweeties to everyone from footballers to reality TV contestants.   A little restraint in this practice would be more than welcome.

But we do have heroes today, and quite a lot of them.   Those who spring to mind immediately must be the men and women risking their lives every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.   And one of the chief amongst those has to be Johnson Beharry VC, who rescued his injured comrades despite being wounded himself, and showed the sort of courage that used to fill children’s story books.

Then there are the true heroes in civilian life.   People like John Smeaton, a worker at Glasgow Airport.   When a car was driven into the airport buildings in a terror attack, John Smeaton wrestled a terror suspect to the ground.

Or like Paul Waugh, a coastguard who risked his life to save a teenage girl stranded on a cliff ledge.   He was so concerned for the 13-year-old girl that he climbed down to her in gale-force winds and stopped her from falling 300 feet, while waiting for rescue by helicopter.

These two gentlemen are real heroes, but, this being Britain, both of them have been badly treated.

There was public pressure for John Smeaton to receive an award in the Honours List, but, no, his profile doesn’t fit in nulabour Britain.   And Paul Waugh was criticised by the Maritime & Coastguard Service for breaching health and safety rules during the rescue by not waiting for a safety harness.   So he has resigned after 13 years service.

There are still real heroes, but unfortunately they mostly don’t get the recognition they deserve.


Posted in News

Consent for organ donation must be left for the individual to decide

Because I’m a very contrary person the news today that Whiny Dog Broon wants to change the arrangement for organ donor registration has hit me hard.

I’ve carried a donor card since they were first introduced, and put my name on the central register of donors when that was set up.   I can’t understand why more people don’t register as donors.   Well actually I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t.   My organs will be no good to me after I’m dead, so, if they are any use for others, they might as well have them.   And that goes for things like corneas too.

But now I feel rather like I did when compulsory seatbelts were brought in.   I’d been using one for years because it made sense, but I don’t like being compelled to do things, especially where I was doing the thing voluntarily anyway.   Compulsion makes me feel I’m one of those doing wrong that the government wants to catch.   So, I almost feel like tearing up my donor card.

But I won’t, because I truly believe in organ donation.   But that’s the whole point.   It’s a donation.   It’s not up to the government to force it on people.

At present there are probably people who have religious or ethical beliefs that make them think organ donation is wrong.   Then there are a lot more who have always meant to do it, but just haven’t got round to it.   Well, they need encouraging.   The government should have a regular programme of promotion for the organ donor scheme.

It may seem like a good thing to have an opt out system.   It will most certainly increase hugely the number of organs available for transplant, and Broon says that people will be able to opt out if they want to.   Probably though they or their relatives will be under intense pressure and will either not realize they can opt out, or will be nervous about doing it.

It isn’t just that aspect, though.   It’s a nasty first step along the way of denying individual freedom about what one does with one’s own body.   It’s quietly putting the idea about that we and our bodies belong to the state, and the state will dispose of us and our bodies as it sees fit.

Big Brother and 1984 again.   A Labour government beginning to show what its agenda really is  –  total control.

Posted in News

Keep Reg in the Bill

When The Bill first started on television, my late Father used to love seeing the opening credits which appeared over two police officers, one male, one female, walking along a street.   The camera was on their feet, and all you saw was these two pairs of police feet plodding along.

Well, The Bill has gone a long way since then, not all for the better.   Some of the story lines are so incredible as to be just stupid.   How many times now has the police station caught fire/been bombed/under siege?   The site is clearly jinxed.

The other change is the personnel, with some well-loved characters leaving, some by choice, some not.  These days the young officers seem more concerned with their love life than the cases they have to deal with.   I miss Supt Brownlow, Chief Inspector Derek Conway, Station Sergeant Bob Cryer, and Sergeant June Ackland, all long-serving members of the Sun Hill force.

I’m glad DCI Jack Meadows is still with us.   He’s been at Sun Hill for many years, despite a somewhat chequered career at times.  

But the only one still at Sun Hill who has been there right from the beginning is PC Reg Hollis.   Still a PC after all this time.   One hesitates to say it, but he is the Benny from Crossroads, the David from Heartbeat; the lovable but slightly irritating one.   But that’s unfair.   Reg is intelligent, experienced, brave, and has a lot of successes under his belt.

I’ve been a long time getting to it, but I was distressed to read today that Reg, actor Jeff Stewart, has been told that his contract will not be renewed.   And even more distressed to learn that, when Jeff got this news, he attempted suicide on the set by cutting his wrists in his dressing room. 

Having been in The Bill since it began 24 years ago, one can understand how he must have felt.   He is sure typecasted, and would have trouble getting other work, but I think it’s more than that.   The programme has become his life, and he simply doesn’t want to leave it.

Thankfully, the attempt was unsuccessful.   Jeff was taken to hospital, and has been since discharged. 

Let’s keep some degree of reality in the programme.   Let’s keep PC Hollis.   My message to ITV and the company making the programme is  –  Keep Reg in The Bill.

Posted in News

Two stories have moved me today

I don’t do sentiment.   I was one of the alleged minority unmoved when you know who died at the end of August 1997.

But two things I have read today have moved me.

First, the news that the parents of a boy with a rare cancer have decided to stop his treatment so that his last days can be lived as normally and as happily as possible.

This boy was diagnosed six years ago with a rare form of cancer affecting his brain and his spine.   Now aged ten, he has had to undergo several operations, and both chemo and radiotherapy.   After each bout of surgery a small part of the tumour remained, and grew.   Last August he had his latest operation, which confined him to hospital for nearly five months.   The procedure led to complications, which meant a tracheotomy was needed to help his breathing, and he had to be fed directly into his stomach.   And, the final blow, he contracted MRSA during that stay and had to be in isolation for much of the time.   He has no pelvic strength and is unable to walk.

The parents, who are now separated, have decided together that their son should no longer have to endure painful procedures and lengthy hospital stays.   They want him to spend his remaining time enjoying himself, and the first plan is a visit to Disneyland Florida, which had already been planned twice and then cancelled because of the treatments.

What a terrible decision for parents to have to make.   But they have shown their love and care for their boy by agreeing to all these difficult treatments over the last six years.  Now I think they have made the right decision.   Their son can be spared the painful treatments and hospital stays, can be with his parents and his brother, and have some enjoyable and exciting experiences before his life ends.   The parents can spend some quality time with their son, free from hospital wards and machines, and will be able to remember him enjoying his remaining time. 

The second piece I read was part of the appeal The Times is conducting for the Princess Royal’s Trust for Carers.   The story was of a young teenage girl who lives with her sick mother and cares for her.   If the details in the story are correct, it appears that the only help the mother receives is a carer who gets her up each morning, and another who takes her once a week to do the supermarket shopping from her wheelchair.  

Other than that, the daughter does all the caring.   She cooks, cleans and launders.   Each night she undresses her mother, drags her upstairs because the stairlift does not work, gives her a shower, and puts her to bed.   She goes to school, but comes home at lunch-time to make sure her mother is OK, and often does not go back because of what she finds.   So, her school work has suffered.   She cannot stay after school anyway for clubs and so on, because she must rush home to look after her mother.    And the other kids tease and bully her because she is different.

The little family is so short of money that there is nothing spare for luxuries.   After buying school uniform, there was no money for other clothes for the girl.   Social Services provided a loan for a new bed for the mother, that was urgently needed, but she is having to pay it back at £20 a week out of her benefits.   The daughter was told there would be no money for Christmas presents for her.

We hear a lot about poverty and some of it is not what would have been understood as poverty 50 years ago.   But the story outlined above is real poverty.   How can we allow this to happen?   It is not the woman’s fault that she is so ill.   Even less is it the daughter’s fault.  But in addition to all else they have the constant worry of no money.

Why does this woman not receive a proper level of care?   If she did not have a daughter she would be completely alone, and the state would have to care for her.   Why should a child be expected to take on this totally unacceptable burden?   Why do the authorities expect her to do it? 

I have no doubt the daughter wants to do all she can for her mother, but she should be given much more support.   There should be carers calling at the house several times a day and taking over most of those duties which no child should be expected to perform for a parent.