Monday, 17 August 2009

Diana Watch

I'm sorry it's late. We went to London yesterday on a special deal, £10 per person to anywhere on the network. The train on the way up was completely full, standing room only, and way did all these people want to go to London on a sunny Sunday? Because it was cheap.
There you go rail companies and Government. If you want people to get out of their cars and travel on public transport, make it cheaper and not more expensive as you have decided to do this week. The normal price for the cheapest ticket is usually about £70 to London. £140 for Significant Other and myself to go there so we don't do it very often and if we do we drive because it is much, much cheaper. £10 full train, £70 not very many people on it.
We did have a lovely day though. We visited a couple of wool shops and the Fashion and Textile museum. The sun shone and we wondered through Islington (which is sort of a parody of it's self), nice lunch, nice dinner and then home.
So sorry to neglect you dear reader but had other (slightly more fun) things to do.
One of things that I have discovered since starting new job and working every Saturday is that working every Saturday is rubbish. I don't like it but, hey, I've got to earn some money so I'm back to looking for more things to do again. I am applying for on job on the Press Complaints Commission for a bit of fun. They need a lay person and I am a lay person and I am interesting about what goes on in the press so I am the perfect candidate. I'll let you know how the application goes.

Ok, enough about my weekend, what happened in the news? Well nothing really. It is “silly season”, a lazy journalistic term meaning Parliament isn't sitting so we have to go out and find news for ourselves but we are really lazy (hence our use of “silly season”) and can't be bothered to go outside so we will just trawl the interweb for stories. This means that we end up with papers for of tittle-tattle and lots of opinion pieces about the tittle-tattle and stories about kittens up trees. And people wonder why newspapers are having problems making money.
Anyway you can tell that not much is happening because you get stories about who is in charge this week. It's Gordon Brown by the way, despite what the press would have you believe, others are just the most senior minister in London for that week.
First it was Harriet Harman, who discovered that Britain really is full of rather nasty misogynists who hide behind pseudonyms on newspaper comment sites and some columnists who don't. Why do woman work for the Daily Mail? It hates woman. It really does. Go and look at its website (that is not a thing that I would usually encourage but this are special circumstances) and you will find down the right hand side of the page a long series of pictures. Most of them will be of woman and attached will be some comment about the woman's body, i.e. Looks great in this bikini, why is she out without make-up etc. Then have a look at the FeMail (see what they did there?) section and wonder at the endless diet advice and scare stories about health and sex. I ask again, why do woman work for them? Do these women hate other woman?
And then, joy of joys for the papers, Peter Mandelson nearly strode into the picture. He had to finish his holiday first though.
This may be an odd view to take but I love Peter Mandelson. He is such good value for money. Don't get me wrong, I find a lot of his politics a little dubious but he is very funny and, let's be honest here, he is much cleverer than most people you might meet. Yes he does have the problem of reminding most people of Professor Snape as played by Alan Rickman (although Rickman may look better with a moustache)
Photobucket but that is a small price to pay for the joy that he brings to my life when he is interviewed on the Today programme.
It does seem that he has managed to keep his head down for most of the week, which came as a surprise. He did a couple of interviews for radio and for the papers, my favourite being the one for the Observer in which he described himself as a “pussy cat”, even his aide was heard to stifle a laugh.

The problem with “silly season” is that stories that would not normally make the news, Russian cargo ship goes missing springs to mind (according to insurers it's not that rare. Something like one every month), and too much time is spent discussing them. This then lends the story an air of significance that it doesn't deserve.
Let us take an example. A man that you have never heard of called Jim Fitzpatrick (it turns out that he is Minister for Food, Farming and the Environment) went to a wedding. It was a Muslim wedding. He had been to many such events because, and for reasons that escape me, as an MP he gets invited to lots of weddings. My MP is Oliver Letwin (Conservative), so strangely enough he didn't get an invite to mine last year.
Anyway, back to the story. When he arrived at the wedding he and his wife found out that it was to be a segregated affair, Men in one room, Ladies in another. This had only happened to Mr Fitzpatrick once before and, whilst he sat through it, he was uncomfortable with it.
This time he and Mrs Fitzpatrick had a quick and quiet discussion (because he treats her as an equal) and they decided that they both felt uncomfortable with the situation and quietly left. I assume that they left their present.
Now, I don't see a problem here. Weddings are bad enough to attend when the only person that you know is your wife but to then find that she has to sit in another room! That is too much to ask.
As I said, they quietly left. No fuss, no bother. If only the same could be said for the press coverage.
Some people chose to have a segregated wedding, which they are entitled to do (although it is wrong in my opinion and how do the logistics work? Does one room get a live video feed?), and a man and his wife didn't like that so they left, which they are also entitled to do, but is that the way it was treated? Of course it wasn't. According to most radio and newspaper reports he “stormed out”, which he didn't. And then he was accused of trying to score political points for someone else's wedding. If they had slaughtered a goat and he had found that offensive, would he have been wrong to leave? No, of course not.
This is not a story about multiculturalism or integration or a clash of civilizations, it is a story about trying to fill time on Radio phone-ins and on 24hr news.
Of course there are people on both sides who will try and use this for their own ends but these people are stupid enough to be ignored. Some people got married and someone didn't like the service, a role normally reserved for an embittered aunt who has never married, “I don't like these sugared almonds”, “these serviettes don't match the tablecloths”, “I've never found love”.

Story of the week does have to be the “We love the NHS” thing on Twitter.
For those of you who don't know, some Americans, let’s call them Republicans because I'm trying to be nice, have been massively distorting what President Obama wants to do with American health care. They have been saying that he is trying to “socialise” health care and then saying that this is a bad idea because it will lead to an awful system like Canada, higher life expectancy than the US, or the NHS here in Britain. If there is one thing we don't like, it is a formal colony (but only if you recognise US independence) being rude about our stuff. It is perfectly fine for our right-wing press to dedicate page after hate filled page to telling it's readers how bad the NHS is, how nurses don't care, how doctors are lazy and incompetent, how GP's are only in it for the money, how there are too many managers. It's fine for them to do it but when someone else does it, oh and there is a massive movement on Twitter that has caught the attention of all 3 major party leaders and all of the press and celebrities, then, and only then, will they defend it. For about 3 days.
The idea came from Graham Linehan (@Glinner), co-writer of Father Ted and writer of the IT crowd, who had had enough of the NHS getting bashed so decided to try and redress the balance a little. He used the hash tag “welovetheNHS” and many others joined in, expressing support for this countries finest creation and sharing stories about excellent service that they had received. Within hours it was the most talked about thing on Twitter. Links were being put up to surveys or newspaper articles that rebuked the bashing and downright lies that the NHS had suffered from in the preceding days. The NHS put out a statement addressing the specific allegations made against it. Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and the other one, David something I think, all got involved. It was nice to see some patriotic fervour for once.
We all understand that there are still problems with the NHS but it is so much better than it was and still improving. And it is free at the point of delivery. Everyone contributes the same percentage of their earnings towards it and everyone, regardless of what you have paid in, gets treated the same.
The ironic thing is that whilst we were all finding love for the NHS after the poorly informed attacks on it, President Obama's plans were for a system that was nothing at all like the NHS.
Way to cloud the debate there Republicans. Ooh, just for the record, who is paying for those TV adverts? You know, the ones where you lied to and misrepresent the English people who appeared in them. Would it be Health Care Insurance Companies? Just asking.
Oh and while we are at it, the USA spends 17% of it's GDP on health care, we spend half that and we live longer than them.
Oh again, and people that don't turn up for appointments at their hospital or GP's cost the NHS £574 million per year, so if you can't go, phone and tell them so someone else can have your appointment.

I've wittered on a little, sorry about that, but now there will be some awards,

The Award for Making My Point For Me Saving Me The Bother,

Economics is really rather vague as you know and peoples opinions on what needs to be done is usually based on an ideological position dressed up as “science”.
When to the Bank of England released growth figures for the UK this week, not so good by the way, there was a discussion on the World at One on Radio 4. They had 2 “experts”, both economists and they argued completely different points of views. They agreed on nothing. It made me laugh.

The Award for I'm Not Sure If They Got The Irony,

The Mail had a story about a lady and her son getting stung by some wasps. The headline was “Wasps sting mother and two-year-old son 55 times as swarms invade Britain.” As you can imagine they where not British wasps, oh no. They were foreign wasps. The worst sort. So when I commented on this story I simply put “damn foreign wasps, coming over here, stinging our woman”. Irony, see. Well I of the second most popular commentator.

Quick sports news.
Jessica Innes has won gold from the UK in the Heptathlon at the World Championships which is incredible as she was unable to compete at the Olympics last year because of a stress fracture in her foot/ankle.
Andy Murray has won the Montreal Masters and, in doing so, has become world number 2.
Usain Bolt has set yet another World record at the World Championships in Berlin. He won the 100m in a time of 9.58 seconds and thinks that he can run even quicker.

I think that that will do for this week. Have a fun week, I'll try and fill my time.

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