BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. As indicated by the domain name, I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Friday, 31 May 2019


Here's a scenario for you all to consider. I've criticised my current Audible read in a previous entry, but it does provoke some thought.

The woman, originally from the C20th, has been transported (somehow) to the C18th.
The man is, and always has been, of the C18th.
The tale is set in the C18th, when they are also married to each other. Bear with it.

They're having a row. She snaps at him, "why d'you always want to behave like bloody John Wayne?" Obviously, the response in "who's John Wayne?"

Think about it. To try to explain movie star, you first have to explain movie. You probably then need to go back to still photography, how an image can make its way onto a piece of film...

What a nightmare! 🤣

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Giving Up

A friend of mine happened to mention that her mother-in law was 87, was in a nursing home with dementia, and was diabetic. She likes chocolate cake, so my friend and her husband take some over to her when they visit.

I can fully go along with that. At that age, and with the other things going wrong, I too would place her pleasure ahead of her sugar levels.

I happened to mention that a few of the stroke survivors I've seen have been smokers. I just shrug my shoulders at this, for exactly the same reason. Whatever gets you through the night. Having a stroke is a shitty experience, more often than not you're left disabled, so if you can derive some pleasure from smoking a cigarette, go for it.

Interestingly enough, my friend disagreed. I mention it because it made me think - exactly how did she see that giving somebody chocolate cake (known to be bad for them) was different to somebody smoking (also known to be bad)? It seems to me that you're storing up long-term issues for a short-term gain.

I do like this friend but sometimes they say something which surprises me. None of us is immortal and I do think that there comes a time when it is appropriate to give up on life.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

75 Years Ago

I must admit I can generally be quite immune to things like Poppy Day. There is a certain insincerity about a politician who, in one breath, says "we will remember the fallen" and who, in the next breath, is ordering troops to drop bombs on people. The single most important lesson we must take from conflicts is that we should avoid the failure of dialogue, where we can, to prevent this sacrifice from ever being required again, and frankly, I think some politicians have trouble with that "where we can" bit. They're far too willing to give up on dialogue in favour of force, especially now that we (the western powers) have the means to fight wars remotely, such that the public don't experience the horror of war.

Anyway, I saw this clip on social media - I'll post the link to Facebook but I've managed to download a copy of the video and upload it to my blog, just in case. This is obviously as we are coming up to the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. I used to visit the Normandy a lot and know the debarquement beaches very well, including the serenity of these cemeteries. Listen to the May birds singing in this video. The caption alongside the video reads:

Veteran Alan King, East Riding Yeomanry, at the grave of his friend Louis Wilkes, who he carried from his Tank after Louis had been hit in the head by a sniper. He could not save him. Never Forget.

This sums it all up for me. No politicians with crocodile tears, no cenotaph, no world leaders, no tv cameras, just a guy paying his respects to his comrade.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

European Elections

Here in the UK we're a bit skewed. You can take this weekend's EU elections as simply a vote on Brexit or not. Either "it should never have happened" or "get on with it".

But I see that the in the rest of Europe, there is also the fear of "right-wing nationalism". Those are the BBC's words, not mine.

I don't know about right-wing. I'm certainly not right-wing. Nationalism, perhaps. To the extent that countries don't wish to receive instructions from Brussels, but would rather decide their own course.

I do hope that the EU doesn't see these numbers just as a protest, dismissed with a "fuck you". That certainly seems to be how they've reacted to Brexit. Brexit happened for all sorts of reasons, including how the EU is run, so to simply dismiss that discontent...well, you're just asking for trouble. I predict other countries following the UK, and concluding that their only way is outside of their club.

As for the UK, Cameron's requested reforms would not have satisfied me - he was more concerned with his own popularity than in making the system fairer - but certainly the EU's stance that "there is no appetite to re-open treaties" didn't help.

I hope, therefore, that these elections lead to a period of introspection by the EU's governors. At their next meeting, they might wish to ask why they are in 5* surroundings while some of their citizens are using food banks, why they have set themselves as the elite, at the expense of taxpayers.

It's funny, because not long ago I finished reading Ken Clarke's autobiography. It struck me that when he was at large departments like Health and Education, he concentrated a lot of value for money. I think he came along with the attitude of "concentrate just on what you're good at". Identifying a narrow purpose and concentrating on delivering it. I don't necessarily agree with him that value for money is the main goal, in nationalised industries - the society as a whole has more dimensions than just the finances of a nationalised industry - but that is his view. It's a shame therefore that nobody ever put the EU into the spotlight, and made it focus on perfecting its strengths. I'm not just

My own reservations are more along the lines of how well the EU represents me - I never had a say in Jean-Claude Junker being president, for example, or Donald Tusk or Michel Barnier. I have no way of recalling my MEP if they're doing a bad job. Fine, I can vote them out next time around but that is five years away! What other employer would commit themselves to hiring an employee who turns out to be no good, and only having a five-year get-out clause? And Brexit has certainly had people highlighting how "democratic" the EU is - if this is the case, ask your local MEP to show to you some legislation they introduced. Ask your local commissioner how they got their job.

If yon want my support, show me a level playing field.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Audible (23 May 2019)

I mentioned the other week about my last Audible read, with some hope for the new one. A report so far...

This one is called Outlander, and I'm only about a third of the way through it. It starts just after WWII, when an English couple are on holiday in the Scottish highlands. She is miraculously transported back in time 200 years, with the highlands full of the old clans and the countryside interspersed with Redcoat forts.

She's a fish out of water, very English in very Scotland, so regarded with suspicion by the Scots although taken to live with a clan. In the Forties, she's meant to have been a war nurse, so has a smattering of French and some healing knowledge. That she has French makes her suspicious to the English too, but that she has nursing makes her a bit useful.

I mean, at that point, it was kind-of interesting. I thought there were a few ways in which the story could go, not least how to use her 20th-century knowledge to try and help people (whilst presumably managing not to be burned at the stake!), trying to explain how she'd got there in the first place. You can imagine that she might have wanted to get back home, but how on earth do you explain "home"? And so on.

But actually the direction that the book has taken is not so interesting, for me anyway. She's taken in by some Scots but is wanted by the English. To try and protect her, she's forced to marry a Scot, After just a month or so. Thereafter, there's a lot of time spent describing the many and varied times they shag as newlyweds. I mean, I was a bit surprised because I tould assume that these sex scenes would titilate a man rather that a woman, and the book was written by a woman. Maybe it is written like that purely because men would appreciate it, and maybe buy the book?

I mean, all of that is harmless enough but it turns the book more into romance than sci-fi. I can obviously handle the sci-fi aspect - hence starting the book in the first place - but I'm not so much interested in the romance. We all have our own experiences of romance so, to me, other people's are not something I'm particularly interested in.

It is a bit more sinister than that though. I don't know whether this is just the story being faithful to the time, but I've picked up on this woman behaving very deferentially to the husband. In the scene I just read, this guy wallops her - that'd be enough for me to walk. I mean, you maybe don't have a choice about the walloping, but you do have a choice about the dynamics of the ongoing relationship. In my world it is very simple - men and women are just 50:50, so I tend to notice when one partner becomes dominant. But as I say, that might just be the author's portrayal of 18th-century Scotland.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Healing Wounds

Inasmuch as I can trace my history, I don't have any Irish in me. But I come from Liverpool, which was often the first port of call for Irish people settling in England.

But I have a view that colonialism was wrong, that people should be free to run under their own steam, rather than to be somebody's possession. I think that because of the UK's past, this is bound to make me anti- to some extent. But of course it's not limited to the UK - I cam immediately think of the other European countries who were expanding at the same time as the UK, all of which is unpleasant.

So I can look at things and think that the UK was wrong to behave as it did in Ireland. Not just Ireland, but many places where the benefits of colonial influence are.....arguable. But certainly in Ireland, I can understand the rebellions going back hundreds of years, culminating in the Easter Rebellion a hundred years ago which was a final catalyst for independence.

Of course, the history in Ulster is far more recent, with the fighting over the six counties or Northern Ireland (whichever term you prefer). But we now have peace. I do think though, that as part of tat peace, we need to make a decision. British and Irish. Do we look back and focus on the evil perpetrated (by both sides), or do we look forward and visualise a pluralistic society?

I think we have to look forward, but I think that comes with strings attached. I think that there needs to be an amount of sweeping things under the carpet. Not necessarily forgiving or forgetting, but sometimes forsaking justice in favour of the bigger picture. This has to be on both sides - amnesties even for known perpetrators. Including the IRA bombers. Including the soldiers. Because if you're going to heal the wounds, I think you have to let go of the past.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Telltale Signs

When I worked in the City, people (agents) would often call me to see if I was interested in a new job. I got into the habit of asking them to sent a spec (specification) over to my email address. Why? The spec itself might go on to be important or it might not, but relly, in the first instance, I just wanted to satisfy myself that a spec existed. A spec showed that the clients had, at least, put some thought into what they wanted. Furthermore, clients often need to produce a spec internally to receive budget, so a spec helped to know that they weren't just on a fishing expedition. I'd sometimes get some bright spark of an agent saying, "this role is so new that there isn't a spec yet", to which I'd just say, "well, when there is one, send it over".

Another thing with the type of work I used to do, was duration. If a client had a permanent need for somebody in my role, but only wanted to offer a short-term contract, a probation period, if you like, then fair enough. I was quite happy usually to take my chances that I'd do enough during that initial period to impress. Alarm bells started ringing, though, if a client said they wanted a designer for just a couple of months, since a decent project could be around the 10-man-year length, or maybe 18 months duration, and you really need a decent amount of time to get your teeth into something.

So I ended up looking more for things that should be avoided, rather than things with potential. The things with potential were the ones left over after I'd rejected the things which fell at one of the hurdles. It is the same, really, now, although there are altogether fewer vacancies locally so the scale is smaller. Indeed I haven't seen anything in almost a year which ticks all the boxes. I saw a funny one yesterday. Somebody was offering just a three-month contract for a Head of IT. Obviously interim - someone must've been taking a leave of absence and the company didn't feel they could manage. But who do they seriously think will take that on? What do they think somebody can achieve in just three months? I must admit that I could happily take on a "head" role these days, but reall, I'd want to have a bit of time to see the effects of any changes I introduced.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

More Veggie stuff

Funnily enough, on the same subject as yesterday, I had my first interrogation yesterday about my reasons for deciding to be vegetarian. From one of my fellow-volunteer friends. I think I did ok, although it is not really an argument I had presented before, certainly not to other people. Obviously I've mulled these things over myself, and come to my conclusion.

This volunteer is the wife of a dairy beef farmer, so I would assume that she knows far more about farming than I do. "I just don't think a lot of vegetarians think it through", she said, "they become vegetarian in order to see lambs gambolling around the fields [rather than ending up on someone's plate], where in fact these lambs are only there in the first place as part of somebody's commercial venture". And, "a lot of land that is grazed by sheep or cattle is unsuitable for farming crops instead". Both of which, I can imagine, are perfectly true. Certainly, a lot of this woman's grazing land is the water meadows surrounding our village. That they are water meadows certainly means that they flood in wintertime - I have no idea whether this also makes summer crops unviable although I don't really see it as important.

My point in response was simply to say that I didn't expect to see more animals frolicking around fields, rather I'd hope to see fewer animals altogether. The only reason there are so many animals in the first place is because there is a market for them, so if I can help to reduce that market... And, even if we are already devoting every possible acre to farming crops (my gut feel is that isn't the case, although I think there's certainly something in what this woman says), then fewer animals would mean less animal feed, meaning that instead of growing crops for animals to consume, people could grow things for humans to consume instead. So it is kind-of recognising that we have force-bred animals for years, and simply doing less of it.

Of course, there are knock-on effects here. Fewer animals would undoubtedly mean less "managed" land (every square inch of western Europe appears to be managed somehow), although I'm struggling to see a downside to this. Is there one? Apart from the obvious that people make money by using the land, so there is less money to be made?

It is funny debating with someone, because your gut feelings will inevitably reflect your overall opinion, but unless you actually discuss things with someone, those opinions are often not very articulate. It is easy to believe these veteran politicians who have had to hone their arguments, improve them over time. It's all very well for someone like me to hold a view, but I don't spend all my time trying to polish my views, they're often quite raw. Plus, of course, the only person I need to convince about something is me, so thinking is usually enough. It kind-of surprises me therefore that somebody who has chosen to become a professional politician, can sometimes be so un-persuasive in their arguments.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019


I might have mentioned in the blog already that I've mostly gone vegetarian. I say "mostly" - it isn't really an ideological thing. I've read a lot recently about climate change, how many more resources it takes to raise an animal for slaughter, compared to "raising" a plant. But it isn't something that I have become evangelical about - I've kind-of decided that, for the moment, fish and dairy are still on the menu - I had a fish finger sandwich yesterday! - but obviously this might change as I learn more.

Actually, I was vegetarian for several years, starting when I was a student at university. My diet then was quite poor, Margarita pizza and chips, and this time around I have resolved that I must eat better. I always had a downer on ready meals - you never know exactly what is in them - so even though the selection is far better now than when I was first a vegetarian, I've been trying to cook for myself. One of my staples over the last few weeks has been tofu stir-fry. Probably four nights per week.

The funny thing is that I've seen really good results when I test my sugar each day. i suppose it shouldn't be surprising, since the tofu is high in protein and the stir-fry is just vegetables. Rather than those sugary, ready-made sauces, I've confined myself to cooking in sesame oil and adding a little Soy Sauce. Soy Sauce is low in sugar but, I think, quite high in salt. It certainly tastes salty. Yesterday I tried Worcester Sauce instead, but that didn't really work.

I mean, in the grand scheme of things, my sugar is only abou20% lower, but, actually, 20% is quite a lot. My average sugar over the last seven weeks has been just over 9mmol/l (about 170 mg/dl) but in the last seven days has been in the low 7s (130).

Mixed in with the stir-fries, so far, have been a couple of ready meals, although I'm weaning myself off them, there is still the one pizza per week, plus other assorted things from the vegetarian aisle - I picked up some frozen mushroom Kievs yesterday, which will prove to be interesting! But I'm still really in the experimental phase, finding which foods I like etc. I know so far that I love tofu (have always liked it), but never really knew how to cook it, but not so much Quorn. And not Linda McCartney sausages! These last few weeks I have gradually been getting rid of my meat meals in the freezer, e.g. chicken Kievs, to be replaced with veggie food, although I'm finding that quite a lot of veggie food must be eaten fresh. I need to replenish my supply of frozen fish, just in case I run out of fresh stuff.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Reasons for Brexit

I've mentioned before that I used to take vacations in France, I love it over there and we would often go over there, sometimes just sailing across for 36 hours, to get our weekly shopping from Carrefour.

I have a little French. Not fluent, but enough to get me by. Especially in hotels and restaurants. But I like the language and wish to improve myself. For that reason, I am a member of a few French-language groups on social media. In one such group, a London-centric group of French ex-pats the other day, was a thread on the subject of immigration. Somebody had commented to the effect that although there were no concerns about immigration in London, London did not represent the whole of the UK, just as Paris didn't represent the whole of France, and that basically, immigration was the big reason for Brexit, if you looked at the UK as a whole.

I responded to this, by saying that I was perhaps not typical, but that immigration, for me, had nothing to do with Brexit. In fact, having worked in London and enjoyed the cosmopolitan environment made up of many nationalities mixed in together, I feel my life has been enriched by immigration.

I see overnight that, rather than replying, somebody just put a "laugh" icon against what I said.

Sure, I can go on about the EU not being perfect, can represent me better, and all that is true but but the real reason that I want to Brexit is because the EU doesn't even acknowledge this concern. The rulers of the EU are doing nicely, thank you very much, and have no wish for its pesky citizens to rock the boat. My concerns aren't taken seriously. I might imagine that same "laughing" icon. So, in response, I am quite happy to say "ok, but then we go our separate ways". Which is what I've done. I generally think I'm pretty alone in what I think, but especially in France, where the Gilets Jaunes have been so active, I think I have company.

You want to look for a reason for Brexit? For Trump? Look no further. And politicians should be worried because nothing has changed.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Brexit Party

I must admit I'm quite interested in the Brexit Party. Not really for the obvious, but because they are talking about their desire to reform our system. The trouble is, all the heat and noise is currently surrounding the Brexit process, where the question I'd like to ask is "how do you wish to reform the system?".

Because I write this blog free of noise, however, I can, at least, say how I would wish to reform the system. Actually I am quite open on how it happens, but my end result is to have politicians who will collaborate with each other, to work to achieve a particular goal, even if they don't totally see eye to eye. Politicians who are able to take a broad directive from people, and fill in the details responsibly, even if they don't necessarily think that the directive is a good idea. I mean, it goes further than that - how the head of state fits into the representational system, how the Prime Minister fits into the representational system, the representational system itself - but in the interests of finishing this post today...

I spent my life doing that as a consultant. My primary goal was to help the client achieve their goal, regardless of whether I agreed with their goal or not. Frankly, I expect the same of a politician, I don't think I'm being unreasonable. So, in the sense that I am able to define them in a few lines, my requirements are simple.

Unfortunately I think that this might require a new generation of politicians. I don't want somebody who feels that their role is to make decisions on my behalf. I can quite happily make my own decisions, thanks. At least to the point where I issue a broad instruction. I want somebody who is then able to take my instruction and to work out how to implement it, to put flesh onto the bone, so that we end up with a society in which we feel we are taking part. I fear that the "not being in charge" part of this is an anathema to some of today's politicians.

Incidentally, I heard Nigel Farage this morning about how he sees the goal of the Brexit Party, in the first instance at least, as delivering a WTO Brexit. I would like to see a deal (in fact I think May's biggest mistake here was not to portray herself as a broker - it was always ludicrous for her to talk about "red lines" when the two sices were the UK Parliament and the EU Brexit Negotiator - but that again is just a politician thinking they are a Field Marshal, which exemplifies my point), but I have to accept that he is probably right. Nobody can agree on a deal which *is* acceptable, so I think that probably the only way forward is to strip the relationship down to its bare bones and to start trying to rebuild it, over time, along some kind of consensual line. I'm in no doubt that's what'll happen anyway, on Brexit + 1 day - whatever we agree with the EU now (which might well be nothing), people will immediately try to build a little bit more onto it. That'll become more urgent on both sides as we realise how were all impactd. With WTO, it's not so much the trade aspect that bothers me, but more of the surrounding infrastructure - guaranteeing the safety of medicines, protecting the standard of goods, protecting workers etc. - which I think have been beneficial to us. At best, it'll be costly in terms of time and money to replicate these structures.

Thursday, 9 May 2019


After that Ken Clarke book, I've got back into listening to my Audible subscription. I tend to start work quite early, but by late morning I'm ready for a soak in the bath - and of course I listen while relaxing.

Anyway, I saw a News article a month or so ago. Somebody had an autobiography out, they were one of the people who'd been part of kicking off the #MeToo campaign, so for that reason I thought it might be an interesting read.

So I have been listening to a book by somebody called Rose MacGowan. (I'm afraid anybody who knows me won't be surprised to learn that I just needed to look the name up!) I used to read a lot more than now, I used to like factual books, including biographies, but tended not to be interested in the entertainment or sport industries. I mean, of course these people entertain me, but let's not lose our perspective, it is just something that transports me to a fantasy world for a short while, but after that....well, there's enough going on in the real world, isn't there? I suspect that most stories by successful/famous actors or sportsmen are not really any more than "I have a talent, and got a good job because of it". Great, I'm pleased for you. So do I, just not in the same sphere as you. But obviously, when somebody is talking about abuse, that is real life, a whole level more serious.

I must admit to being a bit naive about how abuse happens. Naive is the wrong word, it is more really that I don't understand what the turn-on is, if the other person is not a willing participant? It's not even "what is the turn on?" but more "why is it a turn on?". OK, it boils down to a "power" thing, but why is having power over somebody a turn on?

This woman - it sounded like she's six or seven years younger than me - had quite a heart-wrenching childhood. I know from being a father myself that the one thing you try and do for your child is to provide some stable environment in which the child can feel secure and loved, but it is fair to say that she had little of that, and had a spell homeless before getting parts in movies almost by accident. She must have been quite successful at things before the abuse, because she says it happened at the Sundance Festival one year - something I have heard of, although I'm not exactly sure what it is. I don't know whether she's talking about Weinstein or not - she doesn't use the name - but in any case, that's just a detail. Her abuser was supported by other people who enabled the abuse to happen. So I get the feeling that the whole scenario is reflecting something more institutional than a lone wolf opportunist. Which means that it is the institutions which need to change - it's not acceptable for someone to say "he's the boss, so it is ok". But that's what the #MeToo is all about, I think. Plus, of course, she talks about the fallout, the blacklistings as soon as she opened her mouth - the punishment for daring to blow the whistle.

It's a desperately sad story, and as a result, her book sometimes goes into a rant, which in turn made it difficult to read. She sees a lot of this as men vs. women, but I think there's more to it than that. It might be true within her world, but I think it is probably more subtle than that. Especially as you get older and past child-bearing age, the male/female distinction is more blurred - to me, it doesn't matter, although I do think we process things differently.The things that my wife picks up from something, say, are different from those that I pick up. I can only speak for myself but I was horrified by her story - as a white male. From my own experience, I know that when I was able-bodied I never consciously discriminated against disabled people, but now that I am disabled, I know that discrimination happens, so how do you square the circle? As far as I am aware, I have achieved what I achieved based on merit - no-one ever did me a favour - but there again I'm a white male, so perhaps I've just taken it for granted?

Still, all of this is food for thought. The only real point to any of this is that it improves the situation for people going forward, and in that I hope she succeeds.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


I did a volunteering stint at one of my charities yesterday (Tuesday). Normally it is pretty uplifting but on this occasion I felt that I could have done better. When I go in, I have a small list of clients that I try to speak to. The amount of time I spend speaking can obviously vary from week to week, but I do try and speak to everybody. In fact, it's a classic case of the size of a task varying to fit the time available - I often end up getting out only when my alarm clock goes off to tell me that it is time to disappear.

But I spoke to one of my clients who seemed quite down. Apart from speaking to people that day, she hadn't spoken to anybody since Friday, so spent the whole bank-holiday weekend home alone. I have to say that being alone is not something which particularly bothers me - I was an only child and even in adulthood, would prefer being on my own to being with people I didn't want to be with. Before I got married, I spent a lot of time single, or not really being part of a couple. But I know that other people can be different. I immediately thought that I ought to spent some time talking to this client, although it became clear that they didn't have a great deal to say. My normal get-out of a conversation is to say that I had better let them get on with their day, but how do you say that to someone who's already said that lack of motivation has made them lethargic? What are they going to go and do? This really is where I fall short. I can happily chat to people, spend the time of day, etc. but I don't have any professional training to deal properly with this. I basically rely on taking their mind off their predicament, at least for the duration of the conversation. As it was, I suggested maybe going for a walk to enjoy the spring flowers, but I don't suppose that was much more than a sticking plaster.

I really feel for people who seem to need human company more than I do. I, at least, know that I was quite happy to get by before my wife came along. And vice versa - neither of us will be lost without the other. I'm quite happy not really to have any contact with my daughter, the fuss she caused in 2015, and the indirect fallout afterwards, have always felt like the final few nails in the coffin.

Sunday, 5 May 2019


I have to say, I was anti-EU because I don't believe that the EU represents its citizens well enough, and don't believe that the EU leaders even accepts this, let alone has any desire to correct it.

But I am under no illusion that the British system is any better. For most of my life I have been denied a voice in Westminster because of our "winner takes all" system.

So make no mistake, I am pro Brexit, I'd happily just let them get on with their lives, and wish them well, but I think that is only the start of the process. I want the UK to reform too. But that's just a view, and other people will vigourously defend First Past The Post.

What does perplex me is where people sit somewhere in the middle, in the sense that some votes are ok, but others are not. More specifically, it surprises me a little that when I hear parties quite happily talk about overthrowing the Brexit vote, or having another vote to overthrow the Brexit vote, what do they think will happen? For me, consistency has value - if we ignore the result of one vote, surely that means these people are advocating ignoring the result of every vote? Or, is this a special subject? What makes it special? And, even more importantly, who decides? You do, I suppose?

Especially in the wake of our local election results, I am very surprised that somebody can, in one breath, say "ignore the result" and, in the next, say "cast your vote for me", Why, if you want to ignore the result?

Saturday, 4 May 2019

My read

So, I finished my Ken Clarke bio last night. I can provide something of a review.

Obviously I was interested enough in the guy's story to have read his book, so I naturally have a soft spot for him. But I've never been a Conservative supported, at least in adulthood, so there are areas of disagreement. I think it is very important, where we disagree with someone, we understand those areas where we agree, and those areas where there is difference.

Heath and Education are good examples of monolithic, nationalised industries and I can easily buy that Clarke's reforming attitude was needed. I think it is possible to spot a trend in his beliefs, though, to run a ship as tightly as you would in the private sector. Each department delivers a particular service, and the goal was/is to deliver that service as leanly and efficiently as possible. Where I differ is that I think there is more to a nationalised industry than simply delivering the service. I think you use a nationalised industry to try and crack other problems, too. In particular with health and education, the end goals are not as obvious, say, as if you're building a car. You can often only measure the effect of something many years later, and even then, the effect is so mixed in with other effects that it is debatable how muxh of a difference it actually made.

I've got more straightforward disagreements with him about the current political system. He holds FPTP up as a winning formula, and expresses satisfaction that in 2015, the extremists [his word] of UKIP received something like 12% of the vote, yet they only had one MP thanks to FPTP, and pointing out that, under a proportional system, they would have achieved around 80 seats. There, I flatly disagree with him. If a party receives 12% of the votes, then it seems perfectly proper that they should have 12% of the representation in parliament. Whatever their beliefs. And, as for "extreme", what right does Clarke have to assert that his views are acceptable, but other people's aren't? I'm not sure that anybody who supported UKIP, say, would see themselves as "extreme". I mean, I share Clarke's view that having far right parties in parliament would be undesirable, but I'm afraid the role of parliament is to reflect public opinion, not to keep undesirables out.

My other area of disagreement is also constitutional. Clarke's views on the relationship with the EU are well known. They happen not to be the same as mine but I really don't mind that. But I think his views on the relevance of referendums are more significant. He argues that issues are too complex and can't be resolved into a binary yes/no, or a short list of preferences. To a certain extent I agree, although his implication is more patronising - that an MP is fit to make decisions on the country's future, but that I'm not. Apart from finding that suggestion offensive, I think he is correct in that you can't determine policy vie a referendum. What you can do, however, is to establish a broad direction of travel. So, I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask a question, do you want to be in or out of the EU, and to get a sensible answer. Of course, that answer doesn't tell us how exactly we want our future relationship to look, because that is probably far too detailed to ask in a referendum - you'd need a hundred different checkboxes to cover all the different options. As I see it, that's where politicians come in - the people provide the direction of travel and the politicians fill in the details. I therefore have little time for "we need a second vote because parliament is deadlocked" because, frankly, the exact reason I elected these people was in order to put the flesh onto my broad instruction. So deadlock = not up to the job, as far as I'm concerned. Rather than a second vote specifically on membership on the EU, we should be having a general election to elect people who are ready and able to do this job.To get back on-topic, Clarke obviously believes that we elect somebody every five years, and thereafter, we defer every decision to them. I wish to be more involved than that.

Anyway, I shan't get over-excited about this. I've always been on the left so it isn't really any surprise that I don't quite see eye to eye with somebody from the right.

Friday, 3 May 2019

My Left Foot

A few weeks ago I wanted to draw a plan of something. The graphics package I always used to use in business was something called Visio. It's a Microsoft package but it is not included in their Office 365 subscription. I have Office 365 these days because it is the cheapest way of having access to the latest versions on Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.

Anyway, not included. So I decided to take the plunge and buy myself a copy separately.

Visio is not the kind of graphics software that can be used to e.g. manipulate photographs, but is really good for things like drawing diagrams. And it has lots of clipart, although a bit less now than I seem to remember. I had the bright idea that I could also use it to show graphically how my leg gives me problems at night, but unfortunately, the only hit when I typed in "leg" was a very functional-looking table!

Anyway, not to be deterred, I did a quick web search. As you might imagine, I got a zillion hits, (some of them very attractive!) but struggled to find something which demonstrated what I wanted to show. But I did find these:

I mean, ignore the fact that she is exercising. I'm taking it right out of context but do you see this woman's (left) ankle, the one in the air, how her foot is pretty much flush with her leg? When I'm lying down, that's how mine rests, although I'm mostly lying on my back or side, so my leg is on the mattress.

This can sometimes cause a cramp in my calf. When I say "sometimes", I'm talking in terms of several times per night. I suppose in the same way that my hand tends to curl up into a fist, this "flush" position is natural for somebody who is (a) lying down and (b) has no movement in their ankle.

So, I get cramp. Or, at least, I would do, if I didn't take remedial action. Unlike when I was healthy, I can feel this cramp coming on, and have one or two seconds to react. By changing the position of my foot, I can stop the cramp. I have to hinge my ankle to look like:

 or as close as I can get to that. Do you see, the foot is at 90° to the leg? Both legs? If I can make this adjustment, it puts the brakes on the cramp.

Of course, I have added complications. First and foremost, my ankle doesn't have any power, so I need to use something to put the foot into that position. In fact, I have learned to use my good foot to lift my bad foot - with anything else, I wouldn't get there in time. The second complication is that through having nothing in my ankle, the joint has become a bit seized up. (In fact the exercises I still do are aimed entirely at keeping both my leg and my arm supple, although there has still been some "seized" effect. But, although I have no power in my ankle, it will at least flex enough so as to allow me to walk, say, and this is enough to stop the cramp. I'm kind-of left with the feeling that to recover physically, I should really be stretching things whenever I get the chance. But one day I'll talk about motivation...


From Microsoft Visio, I could do with one of them.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Out of Step

I was up at the hospital, visiting, yesterday, and a funny thing happened. I was talking to one woman and her friend, who were talking about her imminent relocation to some dedicated rehab facility. "That's really good", I said, "because you generally have to be prepared to fight for everything." I then went on to talk about how I received 1 hour of physiotherapy per month, for six months, then nothing. It's a while ago now, but I think I didn't even receive a visit Months #5 and #6 - I definitely remember that the woman who did come out to me was based in a neighbouring district, because my district didn't have anyone. So I was made to feel that the little attention I did get, somebody was doing me a favour.

The person who was with me quickly said, "oh, it's better now". Maybe it is? Maybe they just don't like people speaking out of turn?

It is entirely possible that things are, in fact, better now, as my knowledge isnow more than three years old. But the episode reminds me of something which happened just after my stroke. I'd just started taking the first steps outside the front door, I'd just started volunteering, and went to a Stroke Association training session. "When X happens, then the Health Service do Y" said the voice, with absolute confidence. And I'm sitting in the corner incredulous, thinking to myself "Er, no it doesn't". That particular course also had a "let's pretend we've had a stroke" section, where I just rolled my eyes. Suffice it to say, I'm very skeptical about the correlation (or not) between real-life and training courses. And that the inaccuracy has changed.

I'm thinking more and more that one of the most difficult things with my volunteering, with the Stroke charity in particular, is my own ability to be consistent with their message. I guess that's no different to any employee, who doesn't agree with how an employer does things, but who feels obliged to go along with it. As I used to run the company, I never really had that, although of course I would learn things about clients that they'd not thank me for repeating.

Not least in all of this, it hasn't escaped my notice that somebody with out-of-date knowledge is not very useful as a volunteer - it's all well and good being a cheery presence to help brighten up the day, but really, if I no onger know the details, how much use am I? There again, what do I do? Have another stroke to refresh my knowledge?

Wednesday, 1 May 2019


I find myself getting more and more depressed about the world - dissatisfaction, mainly, as I discover more.

I've just heard about the loss of the challenge against the new runway at Heathrow. I'm sure a new runway would bring economic benefits, whether it is at Heathrow or anywhere else. I'm equally sure that there will be a cost associated with it, in terms of the environment, whether at Heathrow or anywhere else. The two priorities - economic and environmental - are in direct competition with each other. However you dress it up, sooner or later you come to one winner and one loser.

I suppose the people who support the economic arguments will say that we keep developing economically until we have to worry about the environment, and that hopefully, by that time, we'll have learned ways to build our economy without harming the environment. My concern here is that the timescale during which we make the planet uninhabitable is sufficiently large, it is difficult to see how we are affecting things. So it's not obvious, although it's become more so these last few decades, but even now, "so what?" is an argument for inaction.

I suppose I get depressed about things because I think the moment when we have to say "now we really do need to clean up our act" has probably already been and gone. The saving grace is that I can probably defer disaster long enough to shuffle off this mortal coil, but I do worry for my child.

On a related note, I'm making a conscious effort to reduce, if not eliminate completely, my meat intake. I haven't travelled on a plane in more than 10 years so my meat consumption is the next big thing. I suppose in the context of what I've just written, it is all a bit pointless, but at least my conscience is clear. But this is something we all need to decide for ourselves, so I'll leave the protests to others.