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The musings of a small fish

all you need is gin and ingenuity

February 15th, 2013

Did any of you go on any of the marches around the country against the Iraq War in 2003?  I was out in Kendal with probably 2000 or more people protesting, all with home-made banners and home-made chants.  It was an inspiring collection of people, there was such a feeling of unity against the impending ridiculousness and tragedy of the Iraq War.  School kids from the local schools closed roads by holding a sit-down protest, people put posters up in their windows, and strangers talked to each other.  There was a feeling of power, and despite the fact that we appeared to make no difference, in the end, the protesters and anti-war people were vindicated, there were no WMDs, Iraq mired the troops for years rather that it being "quick and easy", the war did not solve the problem of Al Qaeda  and Tony Bliar will spend the rest of his life avoiding people trying to citizen's arrest him.

My Mum went to the London march on her own because she felt so angry about the situation.  She'd never been on a protest, let alone one the size of the London march.  I was so proud of her for doing it.

We went to war on the basis of lies and spin and because the UK government was a lacky of the monkey in the White House where the internalised Groupthink dismissed any possible contrary views and insisted that Saddam/Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.   I really hope that out of this ridiculous situation has come a more questioning political class.  But I have to say I don't hold out much hope.

I do wish that people would take to the streets in the numbers they did to protest about what is being done to the country by the coalition.  But unfortunately, there are *so many* wrong things going on that the protest movement is fractured and split between different causes.  I want a great voice of anger to rise up and show that we are not as supine as we appear.  Something less damaging and criminal than the 2011 riots, but something as vocal and angry.

Edited to add this video about the protests, it's worth a watch, sent shivers down my spine
http://vimeo.com/59652207

May 16th, 2011

Incommunicado

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Rar
Not feeling particularly talkative at the moment and I haven't felt like I have anything at all worth saying, so haven't really bothered coming on LJ recently.

I also haven't been keeping up with my flist, so sorry if I'm being a crap friend, I'm just feeling quite turned in on myself at the moment.

Also, I have discovered George RR Martin, so I'm spending my free time reading......

Hopefully normal service will be resumed at some point soon.

May 7th, 2011

AV result

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Octopus
There are no words that can describe the depths of my disgust over the result of the AV referendum. Looks like the turkeys have been voting for Christmas again. I am particularly disgusted with the Labour dinosaurs on the No2AV campaign. You and your lies have ensured the Tory hegemony for the rest of the century - it was in Tory voters interest to vote no to ensure the continued Tory rule. What's your excuse you Labour numbwits? Siccing Nick Clegg - oh yes, you've done that well, but you really have cut of your nose to spite your faces.

And to all those who didn't even bother to vote.... hope you enjoy the ensuing consequences. I won't.

And once the Scots decide to leave the Union (I wouldn't blame them tbh), that's it forever for any hope of different politics, seeing as there will never be anything but a Tory majority in England and Wales. To misquote Orwell "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a Tory jack-boot stamping on a human face — forever"

April 7th, 2011

Wish you were here?

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Bagfish
We're on a long weekend at Whitby as a belated Wedding Anniversary trip. Having a marvellous time visiting the Abbey, walking the narrow streets looking at the architecture and jet jewellery shops and eating too much. This afternoon was topped off very nicely with a knickerbockerglory each on the prom whilst watching the tide come in.

Whitby is a bizarre mixture of fishing village, Victorian architecture and the worst of seaside towns arcades. The harbour and beach are lovely and I just can't believe how busy it in on a week day in term time. It must be absolutely heaving during the goth weekend and summer hols. It's got a great energy to it which I'm enjoying. We've already discovered the Magpie Fish and Chip restuarant (I had the most amazing seafood hot pot last night) and a great real ale pub called The Station.

Looks like we'll be heading off on the steam train tomorrow and then doing a walk to Robin Hood's Bay on Saturday before leaving early Sunday to go to the Turkish Baths in Harrogate followed by a trip to the iconic Betty's tea rooms. A sybaritic lifestyle if ever I've seen one :)

I shall leave you with a picture of the excess that is a Knickerbockerglory!

April 2nd, 2011

Hurrah!

This has meant that we have had to spend the day rearranging the house back into some sort of order. It also means that I have had a chance to put stuff in a bag to take to the tip tomorrow, and Dave has allowed me to do it for once.

The Boiler Room which is no longer a room with a boiler (although it will probably always be known as that) is now ordered and clean and is storing a whole load of things that used to be in the spare room, like the suitcases, camping kit and spare fold up mattress. This is A Result as it now means I can start sorting out the spare room.

We celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary yesterday - can't believe it was so long ago we did the deed (on April Fools Day which sort of sums us up). Bit of a meh day though with the plumbers still in the house, a real mess to come home to and then a rather inadequate meal out, and then spending this morning arguing about moving shit and tidying up.

And to add to the glory of the weekend, there's a trip to see my in-laws tomorrow which is never a fun thing to do.

Meh.

March 31st, 2011

Squee and arrgghh

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NY Me
I must just squee about a dress that I bought today to wear to a wedding in May. It really channels Betty from Mad Men's look and also has a bit of 1950s retro about it. It even has a net underskirt. It's absolutely beautiful, and I feel so pretty in it despite being about twice the size of Betty Draper! I will have to find a nice big flower to go in my hair.



It's the first thing I have ever bought from Phase 8 and tbh I can't really justify it, but I have been really good and not bought any other clothes this month.

In other news, the plumber STILL hasn't finished. It's ridiculous, I really don't know what has taken so long. He had the water tank out by lunchtime, but failed to take out the old boiler by 5pm. ARRRRRGHHHHH, I want to stop having to get up an hour earlier in the morning because I can't use the bathroom after 8am!!!!!

March 29th, 2011

(no subject)

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Bagfish
Heating still not installed, house in uproar, carpets up and no hot water. Send cake :(

February 26th, 2011

I'm seriously considering whether I have a future in the Liberal Democrats. I'm horribly disillusioned with the actions of those LDs in government and the lack of any influence that those party members outside of government seem to have on those within government. I have just written the following e-mail to my local councillor who has been asking me to do some leaflet deliveries for him.

Dear Stephen

I saw you at the SLACC TT meeting this morning, and hoped to get a chance to speak to you, but didn't manage it so thought I would drop you an e-mail instead.

I suppose I have to be honest about the delivery - I don't want to do it because I'm really very unhappy with the way that the Liberal Democrats are dealing with being in coalition to the extent that I am seriously considering resigning my membership of the party. The way that Nick Clegg and co appear to be in lock-step with the worst elements of the Tories, and are quite happily going about destroying the NHS and Local Government with actions which weren't in either party's manifesto makes me feel physically ill. When Eric Pickles starts to blame local government for the deficit, where are the liberal democrats moderating these disgusting views? Coalition does not mean total agreement on absolutely everything.

The employers that both Dave and I work for are affected by the cuts and the Town and Country Planning system is being destroyed by people in government who are making policy that will remove sustainability as the central tenet of planning and replace it with lax, optional policies which need not even apply. A colleague's minutes from a meeting of the Town and Country Planning Association included the following:

"The definition of sustainable development is expected to be very much pro-growth. One minister was quoted as saying that he wanted developers to be able to build whatever they want, where they want, when they want. Inclusion of the word ‘sustainable’ is seen as largely a sop."

I don't really want to be part of a party that supports this sort of attitude.

The rubbish that is spouted about how the "Big Society" will pick up the pieces when there are actually huge cuts and large drops in charitable donation income due to the recession is even more galling as it shows a complete lack of understanding of how the charity and voluntary sectors work. The charity sector is desperately trying to work on the "Big Society" model when revenue is falling and we are having to make redundancies. There is not going to be spontaneous volunteering coming up from the streets, it just wont work.

Sorry for the rant, but until the Liberal Democrat left start speaking up against the idiocy of the Orange Book faction, I don't feel like my views play any part in party policy, and it very definitely seems that I no longer fit within the party. So I don't feel like delivering leaflets which espouse the views of a party that no longer seems to reflect my views in public at least.

Best wishes,

Kate

February 6th, 2011

I hate Sundays

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Bagfish
It's the worst day of the week in some ways as after you wake up from the unconsciousness of a desperately needed lie-in the rest of the day is a slippery slope down to the insomnia of a Sunday night and work on a Monday.

And today is particularly horrible with grey skies that never got properly light and heavy drizzle interspersed with torrential rain.

On the decluttering front, I've ground to a halt and not really done any more since last Monday. Although today we took Big Nige out for his monthly spin to make sure that he doesn't seize up and went to the recycling point with the domestic recycling along with the last two bags of sorted out clothes and some old electronics stuff. I also sold 7 of the 23 items of clothing that I put up for sale on various LJ communities.

No-one seems to be interested in the old 78s so they will be going to the junk shop next week along with the non-functioning wind-up gramophone.

Meanwhile Dave and I need to make a decision on which plumber to go with for the boiler replacement and get in contact with a few builders for getting the shed sorted out. And I'm just too tired and brain-fried to even start considering it.....

January 21st, 2011

I don't like The Eye very much, but they seem to have got this report right at least. Plans to sell off Forestry Commission land in England are likely to cost way more than they raise, and not just in the long term. An example given is a piece of forestry sold to an investor for £60000 who then claimed £55000 *a year* in grants and subsidies. Added to this, the government makes £61 million a year from the sale of forest products, this income will be lost for a one-off payment.

Whose stupid idea is this sell off? You can only sell something once and you then lose control of it. This government is either a bunch of misguided idiots, or more likely so ideologically driven that they are prepared to see the wreckage of the countryside and environment on a point of principle.

January 16th, 2011

This is a very heartwarming tale.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/14/stony-stratford-library-shelves-protest

"The library at Stony Stratford, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, looks like the aftermath of a crime, its shell-shocked staff presiding over an expanse of emptied shelves. Only a few days ago they held 16,000 volumes.

Now, after a campaign on Facebook, there are none. Every library user was urged to pick their full entitlement of 15 books, take them away and keep them for a week. The idea was to empty the shelves by closing time on Saturday: in fact with 24 hours to go, the last sad bundle of self-help and practical mechanics books was stamped out. Robert Gifford, chair of Stony Stratford town council, planned to collect his books when he got home from work in London, but left it too late"


Stony Stratford's library members have checked out every single book (16000!) from the library in the town as a protest against it being shut by the government's cuts.

I really like this as an example of a positive protest against the cuts. It shows that local people value their library and also care about it enough that they got out and did something to show how much they care.

January 14th, 2011

Bloody hell, I think I'm feeling better!

First time I have felt anywhere near normal since 23rd December. I <3 antibiotics that actually work.

To celebrate, I have been spending money on clothes on the internet. Which is bad. But seeing as I missed all the sales thanks to being in bed, I don't care and I'm just pleased I'm feeling well enough to care!

Cut for photos of nice clothesCollapse )

Hoping at least some of them work for me!

December 30th, 2010

Swine Flu

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Looks like what I came down with last week wasn't norovirus or food poisoning, but swine flu. I'm still ill with aching, upset stomach, headache, cough and exhaustion. Dave has is too, he came down with it on Christmas Day (what fun) and he's got it far worse than me - I think the flu jab I had in October has protected me from the worst. He's coughing so badly and can hardly do anything :(

So all in all having a shitty Christmas period.

Anyone else suffering?

December 24th, 2010

Good News/Bad News

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Octopus
Good news is: The man from British Gas came and fixed our boiler - some doobry had blown up, but the engineer had said doobry and could replace it easily. All done in 40 minutes and we now have a warm home again thanks goodness. He also didn't condemn the boiler which is what we feared, but we will be looking into getting a new system put in as soon as possible because this is the third time in 14 months we've had an engineer out to it and it's pretty ancient and inefficient.

Bad news is: I appear to have either the winter vomiting bug/norovirus or food poisoning. I was up all night with vomiting, diarrohea, chills, semi-hallucinations thanks to running a temperature and I'm aching all over. I have spent the day in bed in a half conscious state. I've not wrapped a single present, I've not cooked any of the things I said I would contribute for pudding tomorrow and Boxing day and I can't face the thought of food. I haven't felt this bad since I had my tonsils out. WHY did it have to be now that I get this stupid bug?

Worst of all is that my sister and her family are staying with my parents across town and we'd had plans to go to a carol service and spend time with the children today before the excitement of tomorrow. I'm gutted as it's the first time she's been up here for Christmas for five years...

December 23rd, 2010

(no subject)

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Bagfish
So, today is the day that the boiler broke leaving us without heat in the house over the coldest Christmas period for years. Marvellous.

However, today is also the day that I saw icebergs, ice floes and ice packed tightly into the estuary of the River Kent by the tide. It was a wonderous, awesome Arctic sight.

December 12th, 2010

Ebay - why do I bother?

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Bagfish
Arrgghh, just needing to vent!!

Sold a few clothes on Ebay which ended today and I'm getting grief from someone in Belgium who is claiming my shipping prices are too high. Fine if she'd talked to me about combining postage BEFORE winning two items, but the cost of sending stuff abroad is expensive (around £6.50) and then I'm also trying to factor in costs of proper polythene envelopes (about £1.25 each) and my time and petrol to get to the post office and to go a tiny way towards recouping Ebay's fees.

What with Ebay's fees as well, and it's all just a complete ball ache as it takes ages to list stuff and then people who have paid £2.99 for a top want it to be like it's brand new when it's been listed as used. I'm not sure I can be bothered to go through this again. But I just don't want to see good clothes go to waste when there is still plenty of life left in them....

I really miss the old Ebay which was friendlier and had less high expectations and also fewer "business" sellers and more people who just want to make sure their old clothes and stuff go to good homes. I've bought some really excellent clothes on there in the past, the majority of my skirts are of Ebay origin, but selling is just so stressful.

December 5th, 2010

Sledging!

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Despite the weather being horrible yesterday (nasty, melty snow, drizzle and fog), today dawned really bright and clear, and the snow hadn't all melted which meant that we could go sledging.

Set off this afternoon to a local hill where we spent a couple of hours out in the snow shrieking our way down the sledge run. Not ideal conditions as the snow was frozen on top and powdery underneath which meant that the runners fell through, but after a few rides down, it got a lot better. Much fun was had by all.



Lots of snow day pictures beneath cutCollapse )

November 28th, 2010

SNOW!!!!!!

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Good Dog
Something nice for a change. We have snow, and it's beautiful.

Dave and I walked home across town this evening and it started snowing as we walked, it was such an amazing walk, it felt really romantic. Shame that Dave's now been called out on a mountain rescue as we had nice tea planned which is not going to happen now as it's going to be a long stretcher carry of a casualty down off The Band in Langdale.

November 19th, 2010

Last few nights I haven't been sleeping at all well, so much so that I can't be bothered to go to bed tonight. In doing this, I appear to have possibly infected the computer with something - it started playing music and then a dialogue box came up from a website I hadn't gone to and asked me to click it because my computer was infected. I didn't obviously, but now I'm paranoid, so am running Ad-Aware and will sent Avast Anti-virus for a full scan.

But it shows that I am certainly not functioning on all cylinders.

Meanwhile, despite worrying and insomniac-ing, the new Hyperbole and a Half made me cry with laughter.

October 28th, 2010

“They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.”

Anonymous, 17th century

Remind you of any particular political party or the current state we're in with regard to "benefit cheats" and tax evaders? The more things change, the more they stay the same

September 18th, 2010

Still alive, Dave still alive, Big Nige still alive (just about). After a number of adventures including being stranded by the side of a motorway with a boiling, steaming engine, we managed to get to the South of France and stay by the Mediterranean sea for a few nights where we snorkelled and swam and ate seafood. Unfortunately, the weather turned against us on Thursday night so we've headed east to the Ardeche and are staying on a campsite where we stayed a couple of years ago near a lovely small town called Les Vans.

We've hooked up with a couple of friends and are off to do an 18km descent of the Ardeche river in Canadian canoes tomorrow - hoping it will be fun and that the weather is good (it's been overcast most of today). Should be heading back north on Thursday which is when the weather shits out for most of France. Nightmare, I suppose it serves us right for taking a holiday so late in the season.

We're just about to be kicked out of the bar (it's kicking here on a Saturday night.... but not this time of year) so time to say au revoir until I get another chance to log on.

August 15th, 2010

A fun weekend

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Bagfish
The annual party at Fos-y-Rhiew, a smallholding on the Wales/Shropshire border took place this weekend. I'm on my way back, travelling as passenger in Big Nige after a lovely weekend. Unfortunately, it rained really hard and thundered for most of yesterday which was a bit of a pain as it meant that people were stuck inside most of the day.

Fortunately the weather cleared in time to sit in the home made hay bale hot tub and watch the remains of the Leonid meteor shower. Plenty of "ooohs" and "aaahs" as the meteors streaked across the sky. Unfortunately for me, I sat in the hot tub for much too long (about four hours) which mean that I ended up horribly overheated and dehydrated, so had to go to bed with a paracetamol and a lot of water. However, it did mean that I didn't have a hangover this morning.

Today was glorious, the first day for more than six weeks that I have been able to sit out in the sun. It didn't rain once, the sun was warm and lots of us sat around drinking tea and putting the world to rights. What was lovely was finally making it up with my friend Rachel who I fell out with badly in 2006. We've hardly spoken since then, saw each other at a wedding in May and talked about why we'd fallen out which was a bit stilted and spiky, but today was natural and nice, so I'm pleased.

Loveliest of all was Huelwen's new puppy Monty, the cutest 4 month old jack russell you could imagine. A bundle of squiggly puppiness who was also incredibly chilled out amongst masses of other dogs, children and adults. Awwww. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post when I've uploaded them.

August 8th, 2010

Whiiiiiine

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Rar
Oh god, I'm utterly exhausted :(

I have spent this weekend cleaning and sorting out the living room which has been horribly neglected over the past year as we spend most of our free time in the kitchen sitting round the dining table. This means that the room gets musty, and our leather sofas have ended up getting mould. Yeuch....

Basically, I ended up having to repaint a wall due to damage to the paintwork by my dad (long story, he was sweeping the chimney) and the "touch up" paint had dried up and I found that the colour is no longer made. Bleh.

So yesterday was spent painting and touching up other cracks and knocks. I also washed the walls. I didn't finish that until 11pm last night, and then got up this morning and went straight into sorting out the STUFF of which we have TOO MUCH, and moving the room around to try and make it more conducive to actually using the room.

Dave has been using it as his dumping ground for his bags and mountain rescue equipment to the extent that I found a bag with an uneaten packed lunch that had gone completely rotten and had had a sweet deliquesce all over the seat of the leather chair. Not. Impressed.....

Anyway, I'm now cooking a roast dinner as I bought meat for it on Friday, never thinking that I would be epic decorating this weekend. I am so fucking tired :(

August 1st, 2010

Like Fight Club? Like Pride and Prejudice? You'll LOVE Jane Austen's Fight Club.

July 29th, 2010

Woman's Hour on Radio 4 yesterday and today had two programmes about childfree women. One was the usual format with interviews of "experts" and people who have opinions and the one today was a 45 minute phone in.

The interview programme was really a bit blah, and there was a lot of insinuation that some of these women would have had children if their circumstances had been different (i.e. had more money, right man etc and that they would surely regret their choice. I think that Jenny Murray was finding it hard to actually "get" the idea that some women just are not interested in having children of their own because many of her comments showed a lack of understanding, and her prejudice was showing just a little at some places in the programme.

There was also a piece by a 63 year old woman who hadn't had children because she'd never met the right man at the right time. She's not chosen to be childfree in that case, she's someone that would have liked kids and therefore regretted not having them. Her experience does not invalidate all the 60-odd year old women who didn't want children and are happy that they didn't have them. They do exist by the way, my lovely aunt Gill never had kids and has never once regretted it - as she says, she brought up her four younger siblings and didn't need to do it all over again.

I KNOW that Jenni Murray is a mother, but I do wish that she'd been able to keep the incredulity out of her voice when talking to people on the phone in "what, you NEVER had any regrets that you didn't have children" or "you never thought about having children in your x numbers of years of marriage" or worst of all to a 36 year old woman who couldn't decide whether or not to have children "well you'd better get on with it if you are going to, the clock is ticking". Arrgghhh BINGO! There was also a focus on the fact that many of these women had pets and lots of intimation on Murray's part that these were child substitutes.

But the callers were really interesting, including someone that had two (now grown up) children and had deeply regretted it as she had never wanted to be a mother and now in her 50s still wished that she wasn't, and didn't particularly want grandchildren either. Many women called to say that they had had deeply satisfying lives, including one 50 something old who had worked in planning and was a chartered surveyor right at the top of her profession and was about to become the first female president of the Chartered Institute of Highways Professionals. As she said, there's no way that she could have got there if she'd had children.

There was also the obligatory (white, male, late middle aged) misogynist who phoned in with some crass comments about how a woman's place is in the home and that men and women are totally different and women are there to have babies and it's the fault of the media (the Guardian was mentioned in particular!) that women have "stopped having babies". I was sat there aghast, and I think Murray was too as she didn't challenge him for ages, it was embarrassing! She eventually cut him off. But talk about trolling on talk radio!

The most moving caller was a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had been living with the disease for a number of years. She certainly challenged Murray's assumptions that childfree people "have no-one to look after them when they got old". This particular lady said that she had absolutely NO regrets about not having had children, was proud of her life and was being supported by her husband, friends and neighbours who had become very close during the course of her illness. Her testimony had me sitting there with tears in my eyes.

I would recommend both these programmes, but I would say if you've just got 45 minutes free, to listen to the phone in, if only for the troll and the amazing woman with cancer's comment.

July 24th, 2010

(no subject)

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Good Dog
Home alone as Dave has gone to a festival and I'm sitting home dogsitting. Still feeling like utter rubbish despite not really doing very much since Tuesday. I desperately feel like I need a lot of sleep, yet sleep doesn't feel refreshing.

The only upside is that I have finally got round to watching the rest of the Sex and the City boxset that my friend Helen lent me in November - I have five episodes left and will be most upset when it's finished.

My new userpic is made (by me) from pictures on a post at the brilliant blog Hyperbole and a Half which I have recently discovered. This particular post is about her dog who sounds as silly as Bella, and the pictures could be Bella, so I absolutely had to make a gif out of it!




Spot the difference....

July 22nd, 2010

Competitive Allotmenting

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Bagfish
I got a letter through the post yesterday from the town council inviting me to the Kendal in Bloom award ceremony as our allotment has won best on site and is being put forward for the best in town competition!! I'm completely amazed by this, and most of the credit is owed to my parents who being retired put in most of the leg work, although I do take some credit for nurturing seedlings through the cold spring and managing to get them to grow, if somewhat late.

The allotment through the last yearCollapse )

Early June 2010


It's quite a lot more wild now after three weeks of continuous rain, but I've not taken any photos recently. You can see the change though and I have to hand credit to Mum, Dad and Dave for putting in the backwork as I can't. I did grow a lot of the plants though! So yes, I never thought I would be a competitive allotmenteer, but apparently I am as I feel a sense of pride that our work has been recognised by the Town Council! Roll on August 26th. I don't think we'll win "best plot", but we may get the greatest improvement award.

July 19th, 2010

This was posted on a locked LJ comm that I'm a member of. tyopsqueene the author of the post indicated that she was happy for it to be CP'd to personal journals.

*******************************************************

So all of you will have heard more about Cameron’s “Big Society” idea again. The gist is to reduce state provision, and have the slack taken up by volunteers and community groups, with bigger stuff taken on by elected bodies (rather than non elected, e.g. Local Authorities instead of Health Authorities) and returned as much as possible to the consumer electorate or ‘individual’.

As I’ve made clear, I’m a communitarian socialist; I believe in the power of the group. I believe the state is there to enact the will of the people but also to protect minority groups from majority oppression. I believe non-elected bodies have an important role to play in that sort of protection, and also in their ability to see big pictures and long-term, both of which are things which fixed-term elected officials seem to struggle with. I hope that Ladies who fundamentally disagree with these principles will comment to say explicitly what other ideological approaches there are and why they work (not something I can do myself).

But here’s how my thought processes work, anyway.

Big Society is Bad, because

1. Squeaky Wheels Get the Grease
Because it gives more power to people like me. I am white, heterosexual, middle class, able-bodied and of British nationality. I have no mental illnesses, no criminal record. I may not have gone to school with the current administration, but I snogged ‘em at the school ball, yelled at them from the cox’s seat of their rowing boats, and currently teach their children. I am the sort of person who reads the planning applications stuck to neighbourhood lampposts and then complain; I am the sort of person who writes to the local paper; I am the sort of person who knows their local MP and harasses them to do things about the issues I care about; I am the sort of person who is not intimidated by health care professionals, and get what I believe I’m entitled to; I am confident; I complain and expect to be heard.

I am the sort of person whose voice is already heard loudly enough, thanks.

The problem with relying on community groups, self-starting campaign activities and consumers individual ‘choice’ is that it generally gives strength and power to the groups that are most able to articulate their views, and who have the confidence and sense of entitlement that enables them to fight longer, use the right vocabulary, call in favours from friends, and so on. Many of the decisions which are going to be devolved are zero-sum games – in other words, when someone gains something, someone else loses. A wind farm is proposed; a local group gets together and successfully campaigns against it as it will ruin their view and reduce house prices in a lovely traditional village. Great for them. The downside is that the wind farm goes somewhere else, ruining someone else’s view, or a coal fired station gets built, ruing the future environment, or nothing gets built, so that sections of the population have to pay much higher bills for electricity and face rolling black outs. (I realise that’s a simplistic example, but you see what I’m getting at).

In some areas, particularly education and health, the ‘choice’ agenda so often ends up meaning that the richer and pushier you are, the better service you get, at the expense of other groups. Again, for example: if you allow the most ambitious (or caring) parents to take their kids out of a sink school and start their own, then the outcome of that ‘choice’ is that the children of useless, or poor, or underprivileged, or just unemployed and depressed and apathetic parents will be stuck with an increasingly difficult school, in which there are no parents with the skill sets required to fight for better teachers, better facilities, etc. There are political ideologies which say that that is just fine, and it’s not fair to remove choices from some groups in order to try to force some equity in society; that, however, is not how I think about the functioning of society.

In healthcare, let me use a
Historical case study: HIV & AIDS.
Completely awesome work was done by the first AIDS activist organisations in the 1980s. After fighting successfully to have homosexuality declassified so that it was no longer considered a psychiatric condition, similar activist groups fought damn hard for better treatment, better support, more understanding, and radical changes to the ways clinical trials were run and drugs licenced.
All good, right? Except that these groups were disproportionately white, middle-class, well educated, un-closeted young gay men. And so it was to these groups that treatment, support and political attention were directed. Which meant that provision for female sex workers, children, haemophiliacs, ethnic minorities, drug users, etc. was significantly retarded – to the point where you were more likely to survive the 1980s as a gay HIV+ man than as a straight HIV+ woman.

Intermediary groups, local authorities, government think tanks and ‘faceless pen pushing bureaucrats’ can act as a protection for the minority against the majority. How will we ensure that Big Society won’t just become a system of getting what white, middle class, educated, tory-voting, nimbys want?

2. Some things require bigger visions
The most obvious example here is the environment (although I think dozens of other topics come in here – in fact, nearly everything ought to be planned on a longer basis than a five-year election cycle…) This is a pet hobbyhorse, as my partner works for an environmental policy group and so just before Christmas this year we saw a confidential copy of Cameron’s plans which were shown to people and promptly shredded. They’ve not changed much: return power to the individual. Of course, in this case, the ‘individual’ means ‘the land owner’, when it comes to the environment. What sort of people own land – not just your garden, but thousands upon thousands of acres of it? (Clue: they’re people like me, only even posher!). Rivers do not respect county boundaries. Wetlands do not renew from degradation in one 5-year general election cycle. Sea walls next to Lord Sainsbury’s third property are not more important than those outside a small village devastated by the decline in the fishing industry (remind me again how we deal with fish stocks on a local rather than ocean-wide/EU considering basis?) Someone is getting this wind farm in their locality – shouldn’t that be the sort of thing decided by experts in climate, ecology, land management and energy policy, and not by which local village group can complain loudest?

And it’s not just in regard to the environment; we’re also (terrifyingly!) getting localism in justice, with the election of sheriffs. The major argument against that – which has been discussed elsewhere – is that the crime that is visible and makes people complain is not necessarily always the most important, pressing, or life-changing crime. We see graffiti and kids hanging around in the park. We don’t see domestic violence or income tax fraud or sex trafficking, there is a danger that in shifting to a populist system of justice we will end up undervaluing policing work in certain areas. Now, I’m aware that sounds terribly snobby and like I don’t trust people to be sensible when voting in their sherrif and considering all the options.

Well, I don’t. I think that individually we can often make smart, rational decisions, but I don’t think they are often unselfish, and that sometimes group decisions go to the lowest common denominator. In the recent survey by Local Government on what we, the ‘great British public’ wanted to cut and to protect, do you know what came out top? The one thing whose budget should not be cut? Street cleaning (with care for the elderly a close second, to be fair). Not rape crisis centres or accessibility grants for public buildings or extra help for children with special needs at school or free bus passes for the elderly or even recycling – street cleaning. That’s the thing we want to cut last, after everything else has been pared to the bone. That is what happens with lowest common denominator popularist policy. And if being horrified by that makes me a snob, chalk me up as one.

So those are two good reasons, I think; there are others but I’ll just throw in a third since it’s come up here before.

3. Women are cheap
This does rely on the ‘army of volunteer women’, which we’ve discussed here before, who need to be willing to price their time pretty cheap to get all this parent-teacher association work, magistrating, local library running and private crèche-organising done. I also think it’s a low-down dirty trick to fire thousands of public sector workers, and then expect public sector work to be done for free. Who will do this work, oh, I dunno, maybe all these unemployed people with spare time and…oh! what a coincidence, loads of experience in public sector work! What luck!
Yeah.


So, no, I don't want Big Society. I want expert groups of passionate environmental scientists, educationalists, disability rights activists, lawyers, doctors, nurses, public service administrators who can turn to the government and say "Listen, if you want outcome X then process Y is the best way of getting that to happen", and who can turn to the electorate and say "looking at the big picture, this is the fairest and most efficient way to do Z", and not have to worry about being ousted at the next election because they're not favouring People Like Me who complain and vote and expect to be heard.

June 15th, 2010

Productive day

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Bagfish
Having got to bed LATE last night, getting up was hard, but the day improved. I managed to get two things off my big scary work "to do" list done and actually worked more than my hours despite getting in late (which is a first for the last few days).

On getting home, I emptied all the bins and then had a tidy up so that I could use the kitchen table to sew a mattress cover for the new memory foam mattress for the camper van. The cover is now sewed and fits the mattress (hurrah) - I just hope it doesn't shrink in the wash.

June 14th, 2010

Ebay addict! Argghh

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I appear to have become an Ebay addict. This has been brought on by my hatred for pretty much anything available in the shops this summer. I hate the styles and colours with a passion. High necks, frills and pale, anaemic, washed out colours just do not suit me at all. Is anyone else finding the clothes in the shops really quite horrible and massively unispiring at the moment?

So in despair at finding anything nice to wear, I ended up hitting Ebay last week and discovered the wonders of Joe Brown for much, much cheaper than on the website. I have managed to buy two completely gorgeous tops which I'm really pleased with.

Joe Brown tops belowCollapse )
My quest for nice things continued, with a failure to win four dresses at the weekend, all by less than £1. This made me really quite pissed off so I put my mind to it today and have managed to win a couple of fabulous dresses, one of which will be absolutely perfect for the very very posh wedding of my cousin in October.

Lovely dresses hereCollapse )

But the problem is, I now can't stop looking, there are a whole load more lovely things coming up which I would like to win - this is all a bit addictive!!

June 9th, 2010

A very, very good friend Ruth who I work with (the one with the yurt) had to have her beautiful German Shepherd dog Poppy put to sleep yesterday. Poppy was 12 and her hindquarters went all of a sudden. The vet who knows Poppy very well as she'd been treated for an immune system disease for four years came out to her and said that the best thing was to have her put to sleep. It's such a shock, I was only fussing her in the sun at work on Monday and admiring how lovely she was basking in the sun and now she's dead :(

I had a terribly sad text late last night saying what had happened. I've sent one back, but haven't been in touch yet. I'll give her a ring tomorrow if she's not in work, but I thought today would be a day of burying Poppy and grieving.

That dog was the world to Ruth, who had her from the time she was a student in 2000. She went everywhere with her and was incredibly well behaved, intelligent, handsomely shaggy and lovely tempered. As Ruth said in her text "she was still so beautiful".

I am so, so gutted for Ruth, and for the group of friends that Poppy was very much a part of.

It makes me fear for my doggies, I gave them an extra hug each this evening....

June 3rd, 2010

Aftermath

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Dave found out this morning that one of the people who died yesterday in the shootings was a solicitor, Kevin Commons that he'd dealt with on a number of occasions through work. But worst of all is that both parents of the Kendal Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader Kath were killed by the gunman.

Dave is in bits about this, and I'm not much better - he phoned me at lunchtime and burst into tears telling me that despite not having met them, Kath's parents were really supportive of Mountain Rescue and he'd eaten Mrs Jackson's cake on a number of occasions. He really likes and admires Kath and this has shaken him so badly. He can normally stay quite dispassionate about stuff which is how he can deal with some of the Mountain Rescue stuff (dead bodies, suicide, injuries) far better than I could. But this seems to have shaken him.

I had a horrible feeling that I would end up knowing, or knowing of someone that was shot, and for it to be *both* poor Kath's parents who were shot is absolutely devastating.

My thoughts are with her and her brother.

June 2nd, 2010

Devastated

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I have been listening to the awful events in West Cumbria unfold today whilst at a meeting in Preston. I am finding it hard to comprehend that someone would want to drive 40 miles through Cumbria indiscriminately shooting people in four different settlements, killing 12 and seriously injuring 25. I am so, so devastated for the community. I am also really concerned that I'll end up going into work tomorrow to find out that someone I know through work is one of the injured or dead.

What has made this worse for me personally is that Dave has now gone out on a shout with Kendal Mountain rescue over to West Cumbria to help the police search for what may be more victims of the shootings. The gunman eventually killed himself in a woodland in a pretty remote valley, so I suppose the police are concerned that walkers or holidaymakers may have been killed and their bodies not yet discovered.

Poor, poor west Cumbria, what with the floods in November and three people killed in a coach crash only last week, the county is being battered by awful, terrible occurrences.

It is just not right when people right across the county are told to stay indoors, get out of the street, come down off the fells because there is a gunman rampaging around the county.

May 23rd, 2010

Cat woes (no, not my cat)

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Helen who lives two doors down the road owns a feisty black Tom-cat who goes by the name Fergie. He's a right bruiser and has seen Bella off on a number of occasions to the extent that she's now scared of him. He's also a hunter. So whilst a hunting cat is a bit of a fact of nature, I do not appreciate said cat sitting on my (first floor) bathroom windowsill and trying to get into the nest box attached to the wall of the house (supposedly out of the reach of predators) where the blue-tits are nesting.

He did this whilst I was lying in the bath - twice. Not at all impressed, and currently have a jug of water waiting for his next attempt.

Anyone got any other ideas on how to prevent this nasty specimen getting my blue-tits?

May 9th, 2010

(no subject)

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Most amused by someone listing Nick Clegg for sale on EBay. Check out the six pages of questions. He currently stands at £999,999 from a starting price of 99p yesterday....!

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290433096884#description

EDIT: Looks like Ebay have cottoned on as they've removed the listing which is a shame.

May 7th, 2010

What should happen next?

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The Lib Dem Federal Executive are asking for people's views on what should happen next. I've just sent them this.

Dear Federal Executive

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I'm responding to your request for views on what to do next that was posted on the Lib Dem Voice website.

I have one simple request. Please do not make agreements for coalition working with any party that does not accept that electoral reform is necessary and will agree to work towards it. The Tories' offer this afternoon was risible, a committee to look into electoral reform will not be any more helpful or put any more pressure on the minority government than the 1997 Jenkins report that was produced and then promptly lost in the back of a cupboard after the 97 Labour landslide did away with any hope of electoral reform.

If we cannot achieve PR through coalition, then there really is little point attempting to form part of the new government as the dreadful iniquities of last night and so many other elections where the Lib Dems have to get four times as many votes as other parties to win a seat will continue. People will lose hope that anything can ever be done to change this unfair, undemocratic system of voting in governments.

This hung parliament is the best hope to get a change and pushing for PR is what should be the most important negotiating point. Please do not give up our position of strength.

No PR, No Deal.

Many thanks for giving people an opportunity to have a say in your decision. This demonstrates one of the reasons why I am a Liberal Democrat.

Yours sincerely,

Bagfish
Lib Dem Tim Farron holds Westmorland and Lonsdale with an increased majority of 12,264. That's an 11.1% swing from the Conservatives.

Thank goodness for that!!! The rest of the country may have had a brainstorm but at least here in South Cumbria we have sense. We will continue to have our excellent constituency MP in place which a hugely incread majority (it was all of 267 votes in 2005!)

Still, I'm really not keen on the "offer" that Cameron has made to work with the Lib Dems. He's not offering PR, he's offering a "committee" to look at PR. Well we all know where that will lead - nowhere. The Lib Dems need to stick to their guns.

No PR, no deal.

(no subject)

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Still driving home, still depressed. The media should pay for their negative campaigning and scaremongering. Murdoch needs to be defied, the sheeple keep being fed the same prejudiced drivel by the antipodean monomaniac and scared into voting for the same old same old. Surely it's time for a change to make all votes count the same as each other.

Can I haz a rerun?

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Totally and utterly unimpressed and depressed about how the election results are going at the moment. I feel sick :(

Also, intermittent internet access as we're driving back from SW Wales isn't helping my mood - I want 21 inch monitor internet access, not small screen, rather rubbish 3G accessed internet.
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