Sunday, 29 March 2015

Woo-Woo Apostrophes

Woo-woo and aberrant apostophes. I could have a field day, but I can't be bothered.

Trying The Observer newspaper today. Seems you can't find a truly centrist Sunday newspaper in the UK these days. Sunday newspapers are too important a route to the electorate for them to be left as independent.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Few Overheards

The Chairman and Hay go over to admire a garage a neighbour is having built and get chatting to the builder:

Builder: "So did you build that house?

Hay: "Yes."

Builder: "I suppose it grows on you. Did you design it yourself?"

Hay: "Yes."

Builder: "That explains it then."

The Chairman and Hay retreat, crestfallen.

Overheard later in Wetherspoon's (where they do an excellent eggs Benedict and coffee for two for the price of one M and S bacon butty):

Waiter: "I'm sorry sir, but you can't use electronic cigarettes here."

Chairman: "May I ask why, as they're not illegal, harm no-one and are completely odourless. 

Waiter: "I don't really know sir, it's a management rule."

Chairman: "Are nicotine inhalers banned?"

Waiter: "Not to my knowledge, sir."

Chairman: "This is a nicotine inhaler."

Waiter: "You still can't use it, sir."

Chairman: "May I suggest that before you tell the next person you see using an e-cig that they're not allowed to use it, you question your management as to the reason, and pass that on to the person you tell, as it's a completely irrational rule and bound to get customers upset. It's as logical as telling people that grey hats are banned."

Overheard much later while watching TV - an advert for Fast and Furious 7 was showing:

Chairman: "Jason Statham, Vin Diesel AND that other bloke - wossisname - the dead one, married to Goldie Hawn?"

Hay: "Dead one? Kurt Russell isn't dead."

Chairman: "Yes he is, he died last year."

Hay: "You're thinking of  Patrick Swayze."

Chairman: "Well, he's going to be dead then."

Got a phone call from the Fox and Hounds in Acton Turville at 9pm last night to say I'd won the Easter egg raffle. I bought an entry after my 60th birthday meal there last Sunday. Haven't a clue what I'm going to do with a 3 foot Easter egg.

How to confuse your kids; ask them when was it during the process of domestication of sheep that they lost the ability to hunt.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Richard III Terrorist Hats

Overheard while talking about Richard III:

Chairman: "So Richard III had numerous motives to eliminate the young princes, but there's no hard evidence they were actually killed - no smoking gun."

Hay: "So they could still be alive....., well, not actually alive...."

We were having a discussion about hats and I reached the following conclusion:

  1. A hat, as we understand it, is a bit useless as it covers nothing but the top of a man's head, which is generally well protected by hair (unless follically challenged).
  2. The bits that actually get cold are the ears, so a hat without earflaps is a bit useless.
  3. The nose also gets cold, so said hat should have something to protect the nose.
  4. Ergo, the only really effective hat is an IRA-style balaclava.
This prompted us to consider a Terrorist range of clothing that could be sold on eBay:
  • Obviously the IRA balaclava,
  • A bomb vest in a chic midnight black,
  • A Che Guevara beret with a fetching IRA logo,
  • One of those hideous, black, leather jackets favoured by eastern Europeans and international terrorists,
  • Large black sunglasses with your favourite terrorist organisation logo.
The Palestinian chequered tea towel favoured by Yasser Arafat became an iconic and ubiquitous item of clothing for the discerning, left-wing radical, so there's no reason why our new range wouldn't follow suit.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Portishead Containerised Bed Ghosts

Overheard at Portishead Marina:

Chairman: "See that registration number on the parked car?"

Hay: "No, I can't."

Chairman: "You must be able to...... Oh, no you can't from where you're standing."

Hay (in a voice crawling with sarcasm): "I just said I couldn't for a laugh!"

As you will guess from the above exchange, we went to have a peek at Portishead Marina on the way back from Hay collecting some work related stuff from Clevedon. Hideous place filled with high-rise yuppie flats. A bit like Docklands, but without the soul.

Did see one interesting thing - a restaurant incorporating some redundant shipping containers into the design.

Check out the writing on the wall.

How do you put the cover on your duvet? I prefer the inside-out bed ghost method, as Hay calls it. She took this flattering snap of me last night while I was putting the cover on.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Expensive Water

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Why do you always wipe your hands on your trousers? They're always grubby."

Chairman: "I wipe my hands on my apron!"

Hay: "But you're not wearing an apron."

Chairman: "Whatever I happen to be wearing at the time is my apron.....and my overalls."

Spotted this in a magazine yesterday:

Seems they take spring water, which contains electrolytes, boil it and distill the steam, thus removing all the electrolytes, and then bung some electrolytes back into it.

Seems a lot of work and money to achieve the same result as just bottling the spring water in the first place. No doubt some mugs will fall for it. Even the mere words Smart Water smacks a bit of woo-woo homeopathy.

The advert says; "Inspired by the clouds," inspired by money, more like.

Don't like the new BBC News website. You can't see all the news at a glance and it appears geared to video clips, rather than the written word. The BBC says it's designed for cross-platform use, rather than just laptops. Designed for kids, if you ask me. I think I'll be looking for an alternative news source.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

You Are Next in Line for Ideology

Spotted this the other day - it must be good:

Overheard at the Sort It Centre:

Chairman: "Hey look - a woman driving a bin waggon."

Hay: "Heavens above - they'll be wanting the vote next."

Hay called Tivium yesterday about a free boiler for her dad under the Green Deal (Tivium have had a bit of bad press lately and there's some debate as to whether they are scammers). She was in a phone queue and, from the time it took to get from 2nd in line to next in line, it was obvious they have just one person manning the so-called 'call-centre'.

Been having a debate with some friends about the outsourcing of NHS contracts which stimulated me into doing some research through the auspices of The King's Fund, which is a highly respected independent charity that reports on all things NHS. Until recently I adhered to the popular perception that the NHS is being sold off piecemeal, but I have since changed my mind, being persuaded by asking some pertinent questions of myself and looking for the answers.

It transpires that the 2006 level of outsourcing was just under 3% of the NHS budget. Today it is just under 6%; admittedly a doubling, but surprisingly the rate of increase has been slower under the coalition than under the last Labour government, at least to 2014.

In the final analysis, it's not the government that places the contracts, it's the HHS Trusts themselves, using government policy that allows it.

Arguments against outsourcing of contracts cite a number of high profile cases where patients were not getting the best attention or being put at risk. Yet in 2013 some 14 NHS hospitals were put into special measures because of systemic failings, and just recently the largest NHS Trust, Barts, has also been put into special measures. Ergo the potential for disaster is not limited to the private sector alone.

I'm not in favour of government policy being developed on the basis of pure ideology, much preferring it to be evidence-based (medicine itself, after all, is evidence-based). That's why I'm no longer fundamentally opposed to the outsourcing of NHS contracts. If outsourcing can be shown to provide benefits in terms of patient care and reduced waiting times, then why not? It doesn't cost the NHS any more and the NHS isn't physically able to reduce the waiting lists anyway without a large time-lag until resources are in place. It's pragmatic expediency, but it shouldn't go too far, else it undermines the whole concept of the NHS, which is fundamentally a good thing for the disadvantaged.

Contrary to received wisdom, the NHS currently has its second highest ever patient satisfaction rating. To listen to the unions and the anti-outsourcing brigade you'd think it was going to hell in a handcart - this simply isn't true.

The ideology that says public services should have no commercial input whatsoever will result in massive inefficiency (we learned that lesson  from the nationalised industries, which were under no pressure to innovate and became bloated and uncompetitive as a consequence) and longer waiting lists, which is tantamount to saying the NHS itself is more important than the patients it serves, which is patently absurd.

Outsourcing should be used to:

  1. Address temporary or seasonal peaks in demand, thus maximising resource utilisation within the NHS (and giving the taxpayer value for money),
  2. Give patients improved access to services (as has been done by giving GPs control of their budgets and decisions on where to purchase patient-centric services, such as testing), and
  3. To stimulate innovation through a healthy degree of competition.
It should not be used where continuity of care is essential; however, that said, the NHS model for mental health services is based on a one-size-fits-all model of CBT, which does not necessarily work for all mental disorders. Continuity of care in mental health, is one area where outsourcing should not be used, but due to the NHS' focus on CBT, much of the therapy is outsourced, but sporadically, as it's the poor relation of the NHS and has very little budget.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Free Speech in the Sunday Telegraph

I was reading some newspaper articles about Islamists in the UK using the pretext of free speech in order to spread their hate-filled message and subvert democracy. Free speech is sacrosanct, except when it is used as a Trojan Horse to subvert the very free speech it takes advantage of. Free speech is not a black or white issue - there are many ifs and buts to all that is sacred. Free speech is only binary when used within a society that is itself committed to free speech.

Talking of free speech, yesterday I decided to change from our usual Sunday Times (which is bought more out of habit - and the Culture magazine - than political leanings) to something a bit different. What I'm after is a Sunday paper with few adverts, an absence of political standpoint, a total lack of celebrity tittle-tattle, no fashion items, lots of news and a bit of independent analysis. Given the foregoing, why I went for the Sunday Telegraph is a mystery even to me, but that's what I chose from the newsagent's pile - I must have suffered a brainstorm.

I forgot that one of the columnists in the Sunday Telegraph is that utter fool Christopher Booker (he was doing his usual global warming denial thing yesterday). He rejects that asbestos is dangerous, citing a paper by an academic whose academic qualifications have since proven to be faked. If he's so convinced asbestos is not dangerous, I'd like to see him put his health where his mouth is and immerse himself in the stuff for a few weeks (although he's now probably too old for it to have much effect before he kicks the bucket from natural causes anyway). That said, I have no problem with him peddling his fallacious views, as he's not interested in using them to stifle free speech.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Overheard at the New Inn, Clapham

Hotel Owner (an affable Australian): "Ah, Mr Dash."

Chairman: "I'm not Mr Dash, I'm Mr van Bergen, she is Dr Dash."

Hotel Owner: "I'm sorry, the booking for you both was in the name of  Dash."

Chairman: "Oh no. Hay, you haven't gone and booked the reservation in the name of your husband again, have you?"

Hotel Owner: ",......, er."

While in Clapham (Yorkshire) we were invited to a "Bring and Take", where village people (and I don't mean the 70's pop group) bring stuff they no longer want to the village hall and anyone can take it as a form of recycling. We got a small while teapot (which happened to have been donated by the New Inn, where we stayed), a genuine Yorkshire pudding baking tray and a full 5 litre tin of Autoglym.

Now I somehow suspect that an irate Clapham husband who wanted to polish his car will be asking his wife what has happened to the £30 tin of Autoglym that had been sitting in his garage for the last ten years....

The Bring and Take had a strange feel to it. The natural reaction is to browse and not take anything, as it goes against the grain to not have to pay for something. Managed to overcome the reaction, but it would have been easier had the owners not been stood behind the tables of (in their view) junk. Hay wants to replicate the event at Old Sodbury Village Hall, but would insist the owners of the items come from behind their tables and mingle with the crowd.

On the way up to Clapham we were listening to Woman's Hour on Radio 4. Nicola Sturgeon was bemoaning the fact that sanitary towels had VAT charged on them when they were necessities and not luxuries. I think she's unaware that since 2011 the VAT is only 5%, unlike men's razors (an item of necessity for men, and some women), which are VATted at the full 20%. Silly woman!

On the way back the M5 was closed between junctions 8 and 11, adding two and a half hours to the return journey. Got back in time for the England - France rugby match.

It's my 60th today - looking forward to lunch with the family.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Facebook Far Rght

I've seen rather a lot of distasteful far right adverts on Facebook of late from organisations like Britain First and the English Democrats. Here are a few examples:

It's curious they're focusing on the burqa. They don't say, for example, ban the dreds, ban the Sikh turban or ban the sari. All those are symbols of an alien culture, yet the focus is exclusively on Muslims. The far right talking about tolerance is just pure hypocrisy on a monumental scale.

I'm in two minds about the burqa. If it's enforced on a woman with her not having any say in the matter, then I'm dead set against it. If she wants to wear it, then what's the problem? Even in Israel Muslim women are not banned from wearing the burqa. In fact, there are even some Jewish sects among whom it's common for women to wear a full covering.

This one is a bit of a laugh considering the protests about pro and anti hunting. There's a whole swathe of English people who have no qualms whatsoever about seeing animals ripped apart for sport.

These adverts are are pure demagoguery and designed for one purpose - to intimidate.

There was an interesting program on TV the other night by Trevor Phillips. A lot of sense was spoken about segregation and race relations. He's admitted he got it wrong by virtue of the PC pendulum having swung too far, and the far right is now taking advantage of it. One interesting comment was that if left to their own devices, any people will tend to coalesce around other people of a similar identity - the Brits abroad are themselves a prime example.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Yorkshire's Best

Last week I sent my Bloggy pal, Alan Burnett of News From Nowhere, a consignment of Wickwar Gold, a beer from these here parts, for which he had expressed an admiration in his blog.

Yesterday I received a return consignment of 12 bottles of beer from a wide variety of Yorkshire breweries, for which I am grateful - they will come in useful for my 60th birthday celebrations on Sunday. These ales bear such evocative names as Farmer's Brown Cow, Battle Axe, Frothingham Best and Gamefell Flame - names that conjure up images of the North Yorkshire Dales, dry stone walls, icy brooks and the Cauldron Falls.

Craft beers, of which both consignments are admirable examples, have received a welcome boost through the budget, assuming of course that the Conservatives are returned to power; however, as Alan is close to the Labour Party, I'm sure he will apply pressure where necessary to ensure the boost is retained by Labour.

As it happens, Hay and I are off to the North Yorkshire Dales today to sample the air and spend a night at the New Inn in Clapham (the Yorkshire Clapham, not the London one) after meeting up with No.1 Daughter just across the border in Accrington for lunch. We're leaving the house in the care of No.1 Son, who has proved himself trustworthy in the past.

The title of this post is Yorkshire's Best, which refers not only to the ales so kindly sent by Alan, but to the inestimable Alan himself, who is an all-round excellent chap and dedicated blogger. Thank you Alan - or rather ta lad, tha shun't uv.

By the way, when Yorkshire folk say; "Tin tin tin," they're not extolling some metallurgic fantasy, but are merely saying; "It isn't in the tin." Similarly, when they say; "Mama Mia," they're not referring to a musical by the popular beat combo Abba, but simply announcing to their mother that they've arrived.