Saturday, 29 May 2010

Crushed by a three year old

I was making my tea today when the children from hell next door (OK - they're not from hell at all, but allow an old man some poetic licence...) accosted me.

Young Hugo, who is three and a half and increasingly self-confident, asked me - "Where is your lady?"

I was, to put it mildly, taken aback - my wife died some 18 months ago, and for young Hugo to have remembered her was truly humbling - she was a kind and beautiful person, but to have had such an effect on a two year old was a surprise to me, and deeply disturbing.

His big sister, who is nearly 6 (Chloe, you are going to be a truly great writer...) promptly killed the conversation by reminding Hugo that Laura was dead, even though I had just said she had 'gone away'.

I loved my wife, deeply and probably to excess - but the fact that she has had such an effect on these two young people makes me humble and privileged to have been with her, however mad our time together was.

Laura - the small part of the world that you influenced still loves you, and this particular lumpy bit will love you for ever.

Friday, 23 April 2010

St George's Day

Well, it's that time of year again, time for council busybodies to object to the English displaying their Englishness, and for most of the English to ignore their national day.

Here's a fine bit of Englishness to cheer you (and me) on this fine Spring morning. It's an old Stanley Holloway monologue, written by Marnott Edgar in 1937, and it makes me smile - hope it does the same for the rest of you.


I'll tell of the Magna Charter
As were signed at the Barons' command
On Running mead Island in t' middle of t' Thames
By King John, as were known as 'Lack Land'.

Some say it were wrong of the Barons
Their will on the King so to thrust,
But you'll see if you look at both sides of the case
That they had to do something, or bust.

For John, from the moment they crowned him,
Started acting so cunning and sly,
Being King, of course, he couldn't do any wrong,
But, by gum, he'd a proper good try.

He squandered the ratepayer's money,
All their cattle and corn did he take,
'Til there wasn't a morsel of bread in the land,
And folk had to manage on cake.

The way he behaved to young Arthur
Went to show as his feelings was bad;
He tried to get Hubert to poke out his eyes,
Which is no way to treat a young lad.

It were all right him being a tyrant
To vassals and fiolks of that class,
But he tried on his tricks with the Barons an' all,
And that's where he made a faux-pass.

He started bombarding their castles,
And burning them over their head,
'Til there wasn't enough castles left to go round,
And they had to sleep six in a bed.

So they went to the King in a hody,
And their spokesman, Fitzwalter by name,
He opened the 'ole in his 'elmet and said,
Concil-latory like, 'What's the game?'

The King starts to shilly and shally,
He sits and he haws and he hums,
'Til the Barons in rage started gnashing their teeth,
And them with no teeth gnashed their gums.

Said Fitz, through the 'ole in his 'elmet,
'It was you as put us in this plight.'
And the King having nothing to say to this 'ere
Murmured 'Leave your address and I'll write.'

This angered the gallant Fitzwalter;
He stamped on the floor with his foot,
And were starting to give John a rare ticking off;
When the 'ole in his 'elmet fell shut.

'We'll get him a Magna Charter,'
Said Fitz when his face he had freed;
Said the Barons, 'That's right and if one's not enough,
Get a couple and happen they'll breed.'

So they set about making a Charter,
When at finish they'd got it drawn up,
It looked like a paper on cattle disease,
Or the entries for t' Waterloo Cup.

Next day, King John, all unsuspecting,
And having the afternoon free,
To Runningmead Island had taken a boat,
And were having some shrimps for his tea.

He had just pulled the 'ead off a big 'un,
And were pinching its tail with his thumb,
When up came a barge load of Barons, who said,
'We thought you'd be here so we've come.'

When they told him they'd brought Magna Charter,
The King seemed to go kind of limp,
But minding his manners he took off his hat
And said 'Thanks very much, have a shrimp.'

'You'd hest sign at once,' said Fitzwalter,
'If you don't, I'll tell thee for a start
The next coronation will happen quite soon,
And you won't be there to take part.'

So they spread Charter out on t' tea table,
And John signed his name like a lamb,
His writing in places was sticky and thick
Through dipping his pen in the jam.

And it's through that there Magna Charter,
As were signed by the Barons of old,
That in England to-day we can do what we like,
So long as we do what we're told.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Bugger - I'm a Tory!

Before I explain why I am now converted to Cameron's idealistic vision of a 'big society', let me explain precisely where I come from politically.

One grandfather was a boilermaker on the Newport docks - a hard man, unforgiving of impoliteness, ready, willing and able with his fists to avenge any slight against him or his own. My other grandfather was altogether different - a miner from the age of 14, a true Welsh firebrand, a man who had to forego a scholarship to grammar school in order to work down the pit and support his family.

My politics were shaped by both of these men who loomed large in my childhood - my school holidays were spent with one or the other from an early age, and I learnt a lot from each. My dad's dad, the boilermaker, was a natural Tory - the Daily Express every day and the News of the World on Sundays. His pride was in himself, not in his class - he made things happen and was never one to join a crowd. My mum's dad, on the other hand, was a true socialist in the Bevanite mould - one who believed that the best way to progress was for people to bond together, to work for each other and to provide for those in need.

Both men, in their way, worked for their families and their communities - the influence that they had on me as a child has, I believe, made me a good and caring person, if a little intolerant of interference and bullshit.

Anyway - back to the meat of this post, which is why I am now a Tory.

I cannot say that I subscribe to all the ideals that David Cameron stands for - I am an ardent anti-European, and probably far too sceptical of the global warming nonsense for comfort. But his presentation of the new vision that he has for Britain today really appealed to me - the rolling back of 60 years of statist intervention in favour of local influence, the culture of responsibility, the promise of reward for co-operative provision of services - all of these are truly Bevanite in their roots and their scope, and chime strongly with the Methodist within me.

I am puzzled, however, by the reaction of the media to Cameron's new vision - it is as if they are children, willingly abrogating the responsibility for running things to the grown-ups who know better. We are not children, and the politicians know no better than we do how to run things - we need only look at the past 13 years to see what entrusting our future to the lawyers, lecturers and trade union careerists who make up the Labour political class has done. It is as though the various journalists have become part of the New Labour Borg, unable to think independently and unable to conceive of action that is not centralised and dogmatic - unable to see that local provision can be cheaper and more effective than five year plans - blinded by tractor statistics and lies.

If Cameron truly believes what he says about devolving power to the people who know what needs to be done, and reducing the role of the state to that of a good manager, enabling the people to achieve their goals efficiently and without state interference, then I am all for it.

It would be nice, though, for Dave to tell us the truth about the cuts that will be needed - he did mention a 33% cut in Whitehall, but nowadays most of the Civil Service is outside London, and the burden of regulation on local councils has created more non-jobs with more unaffordable pensions than we can cope with.

So - I'm nearly a Tory, but need more honesty to finally convince me.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

An interesting email

I found this in my inbox today - I am unsure as to its provenance, but it rings true...

Return-Path: []
Received: from
by ... id k67L41CB000915
for [...]; Fri, 15 Jan 2010 17:04:06
Message-ID: []
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2010 17:10:16 +0000 (GMT+00:00)
From: David Mark []
Subject: Swine Flu Vaccines
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;charset="UTF-8"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Richard Head, from the Department of Health
Procurement Directorate.

As you may know, some time ago we purchased 90 million doses
of Swine Flu vaccine from Glaxo SmithKline and from Baxters.

To date, only 3 million doses have been issued, and as we forgot to
take proper care when signing the Glaxo deal, we are left with 57
million doses of vaccine that are currently useless.

In order to save our department's blushes, and to ensure the
continuing payment of our well deserved bonuses, we would like
to come to an arrangement with you and the rest of the British
people to dispose of the excess vaccine by depositing it in your
offspring and elderly relatives.

We are assured that the vaccine is safe, and will be instructing
all GPs in the next few weeks to require that all children under 5
and adults over 65, as well as those in poor health, attend their
surgeries for mandatory vaccination.

Please respond with details of your young, old or sick relatives so
that we can swiftly dispose of this embarrassing oversupply.

Thankyou for your support,
Dick Head,
DH Director of Procurement.
Anyone know whether I should reply? It sounds like a 419 scam to me...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hobson's Choice

Well, that was a crappy little spat at PMQ yesterday. I'm going to vote for Mr 'None of the Above' as I have every time since 1983 - it's simply a matter of making your own box at the bottom of the ballot paper and placing your X there.

Hat tip to Nell on Guido's site for prompting my very amateurish Photoshopping (well, Gimp-ing, but then friends don't let friends use Microsoft operating systems...).