Sunday, 29 March 2009

Diana Watch

“I’ve been working with dementia for 30 years,” “In that case you are doing surprising well!”

Ah, cider in one hand, Grand Prix on the telly, laptop on lap, the sun is out, could it be any better? Ok, so I could, if pushed, think of something better but it would be hard.

Shall we get the economy stuff out of the way at the beginning? Another week and another example that economists know absolutely nothing at all. I got up at 6 o’clock to go to work and all I heard on the Today program was how inflation would be a minus figure. We were going to have deflation and the world was going to end in a big fiery ball. Society was going to fall apart. The shops would be empty of food. Those who have bomb shelters should probably use them, taking canned food and bottles so that they can store their urine for drinking later. Cannibalism would probably the sensible lifestyle choice. So it was quite a tense day for me at work wondering when it would come crashing down. By the time 5 o’clock in the afternoon came around and it was time to go home I was nervous. Would I arrive home and find a half naked significant other armed with only a weapon made from the bones of my cat, wanting to steal my liver? No. No I didn’t. I arrived home to find that all was normal and I turned on the radio to find that inflation had, in fact, risen slightly. I’m sorry? What was that? Up slightly? But you said that everything was going to end. Oh yes I remember that thing that you don’t seem to, economics is NOT A SCIENCE.
Whilst we are on about how fucked we all are, well except me, I have a small mortgage and I work for the NHS, Gordon Brown got a bit of a kick in the European Parliament by some unknown Tory bloke (although he is an MEP so it’s no wonder that he is unknown) who delivered what could be best described as a rant in the general direction of our great leader. It has become a Youtube “sensation” (but so would a waterskiing squirrel) after many bloggers linked to it. These bloggers also asked the question, why wasn’t this speech covered on the main stream media? Is it a conspiracy against the Tories or against dissenting voices? Is the Government controlling the media? Umm, no. It was covered, a bit, by the main stream media but it was described as a “largely fact free rant”. Many of the points that he made were factually incorrect. One of the other reasons was that it wasn’t that good a speech. The best line in it was plagiarised from the late John Smith, leader of the Labour Party. Conspiracy, no. Bad speech, factually incorrect and plagiarism, yes.

I live in a lovely part of the country (am I annoying? Financial reasonably secure and living in Dorset.) but there was a report on the front of our local paper that the air quality on our main road has failed to meet the European standard because of the exhaust fumes from cars and lorries. This is a truly upsetting fact. I breathe that air. My lungs are filled with that pollution. Ok, not that much and not very often but you see my point. You think that were you live is clean and lovely but it isn’t. But what to do? We have a bypass and lorries are only suppose to be here for deliveries. It is a very rare moment but I don’t know what can be done. I have no ideas. Bum.

Daily Mail and Express readers have had a fun week. Within the usual borderline racist reporting of anything that involves the word “immigration” there was also one of those stories when you wonder where there sympathies (and I use that word completely incorrectly) lie. A soldier from the Cameroon has been told by the UK Borders Agency that he is to be deported. He has come over here and fought for our country and this is how we treat him, it’s disgusting. We show our thanks by trying to deport him. Oh, there is one other little fact. He has been convicted of sexual assault and has served his prison time and so the rules say that any foreign national who is convicted of a crime is to be deported. The soldier, Chaly Gnouh, has been supported by the Royal British Legion after he spent the last year out of work. They have described his current situation as 'distressing'. Chris Simpkins, director general of The Royal British Legion, said "We are assisting Mr Ngouh with his situation and have been supporting him materially and morally.
"We would like this case to be resolved as a matter of priority and in the mean time urge that on no account should Mr Ngouh be deported."
He added, "It is distressing that someone who only wanted to be a good soldier can be treated in this way." As distressing as being sexually assaulted? Should we ignore the law because he was a soldier? If the Royal British Legion continues with this pointless and morally bankrupt fight I won’t be buying my poppy this year.

Ok, lets’ do some awards,

The Award for Reasonably Ignored Sporting Victory of the Week,

England are the world champions. That is a phrase that isn’t used as much as it could be especially as we are talking about cricket. Well done to the England Woman’s Cricket team who have become world 20/20 champions.

The Award for Slightly Bitter Middle Aged Man of the Week,

This goes to Liam Gallagher who this week described skinny fashion as “shit”. He is realising his own clothing line soon and has been doing some interviews. Do you think that one of us has hit middle age and is getting a little doughy? Is he having a bit of trouble getting into his skinny Topshop jeans? Poor bloke.

Fantastic Grand Prix by the way. A 1,2 for the new Brawn GP team. It’s a great story and a great race.

Have a good week. A little short this week but not always a bad thing.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Diana Watch (update)

Hello to you all loyal readers and some of you really are loyal, I’ve looked at the counter, although you never say hello when I ask you things.
The reason I haven’t been here properly for the last couple weeks is that my Father-in-law died. Significant other has been staying with her mother since the sad event and only came home yesterday. I have been backwards and forwards to Kent for the last fortnight because of the very caring NHS which gave me absolutely no days compassionate leave. Not even one day for the funeral. He was my Father-in-law, the woman I love’s dad, and my employer, who didn’t care for him that well when he was in one of our establishments, gave me no time at all to attend his funeral. I had to take unpaid leave. If you work for the NHS and your wife, one of your parents or your child dies that most compassionate leave you can have is 6 days. Your child dies and we give you 6 days off. Just over a week to get over the death of a child and come back to work. It’s nice to work for a caring employer.
Hopefully all will be back to normal now, on the blog writing front obviously, although I promise nothing. Will try and get out of the habit of only doing the letters thing in the week and try and write something proper.
This post only really exists to tell you what has been happening and why there has been a lack of witty and insightful blogs recently, what the excuse is for the rest of the year I don’t know. To be honest, my most over used phrase, I have been avoiding the news for the last couple of days because, even on the paradise for idiocy that is the Today program on Radio4, Jade Goody is everywhere. I know it’s sad for her children and I know it’s sad for her husband, who has been charged with another assault (he really is a nice man), but I really don’t care that much. I know that that is harsh but I don’t. A 27 year old woman dying is sad, I get that but why all the coverage? The phrase I dreaded hearing was “we recognised something of ourselves in her” and sure enough it popped up. What was the thing we recognised? Being poorly educated? The desire to be famous above everything else? Mild racism? I said to significant other, “it’s like the Princess Diana over-reaction all over again,” to which she replied, “She was the People’s Idiot.” It made me laugh. I am sorry for her children though, I really am.

A fun game to play in the days before a significant family funeral is the inappropriate use of the phrase “It’s what he would have wanted.” You can attach it to any sentence and it will cheer you up, I guarantee it. “Would you like a Beer?” “Yes please, it’s what he would have wanted.” See, its fun.

Hope you have a good week, I’m thinking about buying a Netbook but not sure which one, ah well.


Stewart Benham RIP.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Dear Kim-Jon-Il,
Congratulations on your election victory. I mean, really very impressive victory. 100% of the vote that was cast was for you. Outstanding work you strange little man.
I do have little point to make. If you are going to fix an election, not that I am suggesting that you did, I’m sure everyone who is starving to death in your country really loves you, try and make it look at least a little bit believable. Try randomly generating a number that gives you a victory but makes it look like the others (and there’s another suggestion, try having another person in the election so you beat someone) at least had a bit of a chance.
Oh well, continue enjoying your movies,

Yours Slightly Amused,
Martyn xx

Sunday, 8 March 2009

(Not Really) Diana Watch

No proper blog this week as there is a family sadness but we will have some awards,

Award for Spoilt Brat of the Week,

This goes to Miley Cyrus (or is it Hannah Montana, I’m never sure which one is a fiction). She has spent much of the last 2 weeks telling interviewers that Radiohead didn’t want to meet her backstage at the Grammys. She said in one interview, "If someone, like, said that, like, 'I would cry if I met them. I really want to meet them,' I would freaking, like, run and, like, give them the biggest hug in the world because that's cool, you know? But they were like, 'We don't really do that.' " No, I don’t understand what she said either but I think she asked Radiohead, who are mid to late 30’s, to come and meet her, who is 17 or something, why would they want to meet you? And she now says that she can’t listen to their music any more because of the way they treated her. I’m sure that they are not that heartbroken. However her treat to “Ruin them” probably will make them sit up and take notice because I believe that pre-schoolers are Radiohead’s core demographic. They had already snubbed Kanye West that evening so Miley really didn’t stand a chance no matter how great Disney tell her she is, as long as she keeps shifting product.

Award for Unfortunate Greetings Card of the Week,

This goes to a Mexican man who arrived at Manchester Airport on a flight from Los Angeles, claiming he was on a brief visit to a friend. When searching his luggage immigration officials found a good luck card for a "new life in the UK". D’oh.

Award for Picture Most Likely to Cheer You Up This Week,


Look, its Peter Mandelson covered in green custard.

Award for At Least They Are Trying,

Cadbury's Dairy Milk is to go Fairtrade. This will mean that the total amount of Cocoa from Ghana, where Cadburys source theirs, will rise to 15,000 tonnes, which is a lot, however the total annual cocoa production of Ghana is more than 600,000 tonnes. But at least it’s a start. Now all they have to do is work on making some chocolate that actually tastes nice!

That’s all for this week. Have fun. Oh almost forgot, Elbow were fantastic on Monday evening. Also I said I would review the “controversial” novel Wetlands when I’d read it and now I have. If you like “The Catcher in the Rye” and sliding avocado stones inside your various orifice then you will love it. I like neither of these things.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Every Little Helps

Dear Tescos,
I would like to compliment you on your new advertising campaign. It is very clever indeed. I like the way that you mention, very loudly, that your stuff for schools give away has donated £150million to our darling little children. My you are a generous little business, aren’t you? Britain’s Bill Gates some might say. I also like the way that the voice over sort of mumbles “since 1992”. Sorry what was that? That amount has been donated over 16 years. Oh that is a little less generous isn’t it? That’s £9.3 million a year. Well, that’s still quite generous, nearly £10million a year.
What were your profits last year by the way? I think they were about £2.8billion, give or take a little bit. Well £9.3million is still quite generous, I think. Let me just work that out as a percentage, ummm……. Oh that’s about 0.3% of your profit from last year. Oh that is a little less generous than I thought and was sort of lead to believe by your advert. As I said, very clever. It’s like Mad Men and their “Roasted Tobacco” ad campaign. “But everyone roasts their tobacco!” says the man from the cigarette, “indeed they do but you are the first one to says you do”. “We are so generous” says your new campaign but really it’s only 0.3% of your profits from last year. In fact ALL the money you have given away over the last 16 years is only 5.3% of THIS year’s profit.
Oh and the Government closed a loophole that you used to used to save £50million a year in corporation tax, which is 5 times what you generously give away.
Oh again, you seem to be now based in Switzerland, which is, I think, a tax haven after you had to leave the tax haven of Jersey because the authorities feared your presence might damage to the islands' reputation. And they’ll have pretty much any one,

Yours not taken in by your Ad,
Martyn xx

Monday, 2 March 2009

Diana Watch

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I know it’s late but we spent the weekend in Kent again, I’ll explain why we are going there so often at a later date.
I want to start with a heart warming story from my hospital. One of our patients is a young man who is planning to marry in May but his consultant advised him that he would probably not live that long and he should consider moving the wedding forward.
As you can imagine a wedding is a hard thing to organise and suddenly being told to bring it forward too really quite soon presented the couple with a few problems. We have a fantastic social worker for those with cancer in our hospital and she started to make some phone calls. She phoned round all of the local cancer charities and within 4 days they had organised, between them, a venue and food and most of the other things for a wedding. There was still a problem however. The dress that the bride wanted was still on order and will take a while to come, so his consultant said, “Don’t worry about it. Go to the bridal shop, get any dress you want and I will pay for it.”
Now I am a slightly cynical man who has recently seen a not so good side to my beloved NHS but this, this beautiful gesture by everyone involved has restored my faith completely in my fellow man. It brings to my eye a small tear every time I either hear, or tell, the story. So hurray for people. Some of them are pretty good really.

It seems a shame to go on with the news now but that is why we are all here, if you not then do tell me why you are here and I will attempt to accommodate you.
We can talk about whatever you like, except celebrities obviously. If you haven’t actually done something important than I don’t care that you’ve have a new t-shirt. I like your song but I don’t care that you had a sweat patch on that new t-shirt on a hot day. Come up with a new theory on quantum mechanics and then we can talk, well you can talk and I will nod like a confused chimp not understanding any of the concepts that you are trying to explain.
As a normal brained human I have no frame of reference for these incredible ideas, oh and can some one ask Schrödinger to let that cat out of that box. Particle physics joke there. Not a good one I grant you but I bet you can’t think of a better one. How shame faced will I be if someone does e-mail me a better one? It’s a risk you take. Can I give you a couple of quantum physics’ facts? Actually I’m not going to wait for all 10 of you to answer individually because you probably won’t. I’ve asked you things before and none of you have got back to me so I’m just going to type them anyway and you can read them if you want. A cup of coffee weighs more when hot than it does when cold. You age faster at the top of a building than you do at the bottom. Time travel is not forbidden by the laws of physics. And my favourite is; the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube. It’s true. There is some much empty space in an atom, if you removed all that space, the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube.
The lack of reference points comes with the stuff about atoms existing in two places at once and atomic switching.

Oh yes news, I remember. I would like to start be congratulating the Government and the right-wing press on their excellent controlling of the news agenda, with a little help from the opposition parties. For a couple of weeks we have been thrown a single story about Britain’s financial problems to foam at the mouth about and, like good little Pavlovian dogs, we did. Firstly it was bank bonuses. You mention a banker’s bonuses in a crowd and you could guarantee that at least one person in the crowd would get so worked up that they would have a heart attack or a stroke; it’s like a fire in your head you know. It was quite entertaining really (the stroke causing bit) but it was an irrelevant argument (the bonuses bit). Most of the money being given in bonuses was given to counter staff and branch staff who had no part in the near collapse of the companies that they work for. They hit their targets and their contract states that they are entitled to a bonus. If I’d worked my arse off for £17,000 a year and met my, quite hard to reach, targets and then the Daily Express works it’s self into a frenzy over whether or not I should get my little bonus I would be a little disgruntled. “Well, its tax payers’ money” goes the argument, “and it shouldn’t go to rewarding failure”. Quite right too but John Major still got paid. Oh and how much tax does your papers owner, the pornographer Richard Desmond, pay? Well, your company is registered in St Hellier in the Channel Islands, above a small parade of shops I believe, in order to take advantage of the tax haven status of the Islands. Just a quick side note, 50% of the worlds tax havens are Crown dependences, i.e., we run them so they are our fault and problem.
In his personal finance Richard Desmond saves in quite a lot of tax. £13m in 2006 for instance by, legally, paying himself straight into his pension before the rules changed. So before you start lecturing us, have a look at yourselves. And this is the story that isn’t being covered by the Government, right wing media and, strangely, the BBC. Tax is one of the biggest problems with our nation’s finances, with massive amounts of money not being paid, but is the tide turning against them? Well, President Obama says he wants to close these tax havens. I do hope that he brings this up with Gordon Brown when he visits the White House this week. That won’t be too uncomfortable for Mr Brown will it?
This week’s attention drawing story is the pension pot of Sir Fred Goodwin, former chairman of The Royal Bank of Scotland. It seems that despite resigning from a bank that is now pretty much owned by you and me, he still managed to leave with a pension that will pay him about £650,000 per year. For life. Do you think he stole his stapler on his way out as well?
My, that is a lot of money and most of the press are frothing at the mouth and want blood, well some of the money back anyway. Now, it does seem that he has a pretty strong legal position for not giving any of it back, his contract says he can have it and some one in the Government signed of on it but yesterday Harriet Harman said one of the most stupid and scary things ever uttered by a Government minister, “it may be acceptable in a court of law but not in the court of public opinion and that is where the Government steps in.” Woah there Nelly! What’s that? It may be lawful but because the mob doesn’t like it then we’ll, as a Government, ignore the law? Is that what you are saying? In front of us we have a very steep, very slippery slope. Is it something that we want to try and stand on? Laws are ok as long as the Sun agrees with them? Is that is? I know you ignore certain international laws, you know, those petty little ones about war, more on that later, but this is quite a remarkable statement. I hope it was made in haste and it will be retracted. Whilst I don’t agree with the size of his pension plan, Sir Fred is entitled to it. His contract says so and, therefore, so does the law, you know, those things that you are supposed to up hold, what with being an MP and all. Oh, and a lawyer I think. Is my paranoid fantasy coming true? Massive surveillance, huge database keeping (and data mining doesn’t work) and now Government threatening to ignore laws that it decides that it doesn’t like right now. How do you think that would go down if say, umm…. Vladimir Putin said something like that; do you think that there might be a word or 2 from the Foreign Office?

Jack Straw has decided that he will not publish the minutes from Cabinet meetings that happened just before the start of the war in Iraq, despite a freedom of information request and the information commissioner tell him that he should. His argument is that it will undermine cabinet Government if people feel that their private views will be aired in public at some later date.
I can understand his point of view on this one but there are two important facts that he seems to be forgetting, 1, Tony Blair massively undermined cabinet Government by himself without any help from us, and 2, The papers refer to something, the invasion of a sovereign country, that may well be illegal under international law. That is really rather important Mr Straw. Is the Government withholding information about its illegal activates?
I’m in full on paranoid delusion mode this week but with good reason. Your Government admitted this week that when it said that it had not been involved in any “extraordinary rendition” activities in collusion with the U.S., it really meant that it had and was lying, a bit.

Despite the rantings above I am quite a good mood today, the sun is shining, I’m on holiday for a week and we are off to see the fantastic Elbow in Bournemouth tonight and Franz Ferdinand next week, which is nice. We went to see some more modern dance on Friday evening and I sort of enjoyed it. As you know I’m not super keen on modern dance but, using a scoring system based on the number of times I yawned during the performance, it was once by the way, I think that it went quite well.

Let’s do some awards,

The Award for Being a Brave Man or Clearing Looking For a Fight,

This goes to Peter Mandelson who wants to try and sell off some of the Post Office to a private company. No one is really sure why. The company started making a profit last year and selling it won’t help with the pension’s black hole that they have. Even Margaret Thatcher backed away from that fight.

The Award for What May Have Been Coincidence But it Doesn’t Look Like it to Me,

This again goes to Peter Mandelson. He was supposed to bring in the bill about the part selling of the Post Office in the second half of the week but it was suddenly bought forward and was introduced on the day that every news outlet was reporting constantly on the death of David Cameron’s son Ivan. Now as I say, it may have been coincidence…..

I think that will do for this week, hope you all have a nice week doing whatever it is you do. I’ve learnt to do hyperlinks now but I think you might have noticed that.