Thursday, December 14, 2006

Childish Humour

D sent me a link to a story about circumcision cutting the risk of HIV in men. Which is a very serious health story.....

Until you reach the name of the Director of HIV/Aids Department of the World Health Organisation.

I do have the sense of humour of an 11 year old boy.

A Good Day To Bury Bad News

This Labour Government are truly unbelievable. With news of Diana and the Ipswich murders dominating the headlines, today is the day they tell us about shameful Post Office closures and Tony Blair's questioning over Cash for Honours.

They really are a duplicitous bunch.

A Festive Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Louise

Inspired by a post by Ellee - 13 books on my Christmas List

1. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
I am currently reading Fingersmith and loving it, so would like to read more of her work.

2. Charles and Camilla by Gyles Brandreth.
I know I am WAY out on a limb on my own here, but I really like Camilla. I think she would be great fun at a dinner party.

3. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket.
Well, I'd like to see if it's as great a cross-over book as the Harry Potters.

4. The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
I read this years ago in my early teens. Would like to know if it will still have the same, or even a greater, impact on me now as then.

5. Venus in Copper by Lindsay Davis
I am a big fan of the Falco books and have 1,2 and 4. This is 3 and I would like to get this missing book in the sequence before I buy any more.

6. Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir
I loved her book on the Six Wives of Henry VIII, would like to read more easily accessible history books.

7. Prison Diary 2: Purgatory by Jeffrey Archer
The first one was a real eye-opener.

8. Wicked by Jilly Cooper
I love Jilly Cooper - my guilty pleasure

9. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Well, why not start another series of books....

10. Popcorn by Ben Elton
I always read great reviews of his work, but have never actually read any of his books.

11. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
I haven't seen the musical but the blurb of the book looks really interesting.

12. The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Attwood
Have recently started to read some books set around this era, both fiction and non-fiction, and this looks like a good addition

13. The Last Temptation by Val McDermid
Another one of my favourite authors.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rwandan Priest Guilty of Genocide

A Rwandan Catholic Priest has been found guilty over his role in the 1994 genocide. I hope the Catholic Church looks on this severely and ex-communicates him from the Church. A jail sentence isn't enough, not only did he break basic laws and commit crimes in the eyes of the world, but he betrayed his followers, his Church and God by his behaviour. It has to be punished by all means available.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Search Term Answers

Some of the strange search terms that have led people here have baffled me - eg how many people choke to death on nerds? However one question I can answer.

"Why did George Orwell use s's instead of z's in animal farm?"

Easy - because he was writing in English and not American. It's the proper spelling of words.

Organisation not organization!

One of my pet peeves is the creeping use of American spelling in documents. I spend half my life (ok an exaggeration) going through documents sent to me and correcting the spelling into the Queen's English.

Why that question led anyone here, I have no idea, but if they come back again I'm delighted to have provided the answer.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Muslim PM?

Tony Blair has stated in an interview with the Sun that there may one day be a Muslim Prime Minister. Apparently "the people would judge who was best for the job". Admirable sentiments Tony. And I have no doubts that once the current hysteria about Muslims dies down more Muslim politicians will reach the higher echelons of their parties. It may be that one day down the line one of the two main Parties will have a Muslim leader.

What about a Catholic PM then Tony? If it's up to the people to choose whether or not a Muslim is good enough for the job then why not PM? While there is no bar to a Catholic being Prime Minister there has never been a Catholic Prime Minister and objections still exist to such a move. Will Tony Blair say publicly he thinks there will one day be a Catholic Prime Minister? Will he publicly support amendments to the Act of Settlement allowing the monarch or heir to marry a Catholic - as they can currently marry Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs etc?

If you are going to publicly state that one day there will be a PM from one religion, why not ensure that the message goes out that any office in the land is open to anyone from any religion?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thanks A Bunch Amazon!

Decided to do a lot of my Christmas shopping online this year. So have just whizzed round Amazon with my little virtual shopping trolley. No queues, no rude sales assistants, no screaming brats. Bliss.

I spent enough to qualify for free delivery too - excellent. Until I got to the checkout and - nothing on free delivery could be guaranteed before 25th December. Despite being in stock, despite the descriptions on all but one of the items promising delivery in time for Christmas. In a miracle worthy of the season paying for First Class delivery means that everything will be with me on time.

I don't mind having to pay for delivery, especially at this time of year, but don't offer a service then take it away.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Happy St Andrew's Day

I look forward to my national day soon becoming a public holiday in Scotland. And of course, each nation of the United Kingdom, being able to celebrate their own national saints days in a similar manner.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Celeb Spotting

A bumper day for rubbish celebs today and a nice mix of the showbiz, political and even royal....

First was Jon from S Club 7 - a proper rubbish celeb.
Then Michael Howard (second time spotted on this blog)
Then, the Duchess of Cornwall in a car (possibly with Prince Charles, but I didn't see him, so he wasn't crap celeb-spotted).

Don't think I can take the pace of the showbiz whirl that I live on the boundaries of......

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tory Tosser Campaign

The Conservatives have come up with a new campaign encouraging people to think about personal debt. The main thrust of the campaign is that you shouldn't listen to your inner tosser who encourages you to spend money you don't have. As you can imagine, the Daily Mail are apoplectic.

When I first read about it I was fairly reactionary, but having read the site I have moderated my comments slightly...

First the positives - I'm really pleased that a major political party are speaking about personal debt. It's an issue that affects literally millions of people in the UK and I'm delighted that the Conservatives are talking about more than just the theoreticals of politics and actually looking at the practical issues which make a difference to the lives of individuals.

There is some really useful information laid out in a clear and non-scary manner. And the advice isn't bad either.

Some of the suggestions, which I hope are policy commitments, are really sensible.

If you get past the attention-grabbing tosser character, it's not a bad site/campaign.

Now the negatives....

I completely agree that people have to take responsibility for their own actions and anything which encourages this is a good thing. By why talk about just individual responsibilities? There is a corporate responsibility too. People who give out credit should really consider the ability of their debtors to repay. Who thinks its a good idea to give students upwards of £10,000 in credit/store cards? The campaign should also accept that while individuals can be tossers by over-spending money they can't afford, the banks/store cards are equally tosserish by making this possible.

Are the suggestions serious policy commitments? If so, excellent, if not there need to be policy commiments. Will these include funding for CABs?

Not everyone in debt is a middle-class tosser who spent their money on designer goods and Cristal. If this is the Conservative idea of the personal debt problem in the UK then there's still a huge way to go. Debt affects people from every class, let's look at people in debt because they need to feed their kids not just because they've been buying very expensive rubbish.

Perhaps if people kept more of the money they earned there wouldn't be such a need to borrow - is there a commitment to a reduction in personal taxation on the horizon?

One of the biggest debts in the country is tuition fees loans - care to commit to abolish fees Mr Cameron?

What protection will you put in place to stop unscrupulous debt collectors harrassing and frightening people who are in debt and need support not threats?

So, a good step forward, but take it further. Face down the big banks and offer a real commitment to help people who are in debt.

10 Things I would Never Do

Paul has tagged me again - this time with the Iain Dale challenge of coming up with ten things I would never do.

In no particular order

1. Vote BNP
2. Bungee Jump
3. Take illegal drugs
4. Audition for the X-Factor - could live without the humiliation, I know I can't sing
5. Work for the Conservative Party (again!)
6. Eat celery - it is indeed Devil's food
7. Live without books - a week in the Big Brother house would be hell for so many reasons, but mostly because I couldn't read
8. Become a vegetarian - love meat and could never be that smug
9. EVER, EVER, EVER willingly carry an ID card
10. Say never to most things - including one or two of the above.....

Again, I won't tag anyone but let me know if you take part.

My Birthday Meme

Paul has tagged me with this meme based on my birthday.

1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

So I did

Three Notable Events

1170 - Thomas Becket murdered in Canterbury Cathedral
1845 - Texas is admitted as the 28th US State (yee-haw)
1937 - The Irish Free State replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution

Two Important Birthdays

1721 - Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV of France
1808 - Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States

One Notable Death

1916 - Grigory Rasputin, the mad, virtually unkillable Russian monk


Fouth day of Christmas
Optional memorial of said Thomas Becket

I enjoyed that one - as always I won't tag anyone, but interested to know if anyone else participates and what results are.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lookie Likies

News reaches us that a photofit of Jack the Ripper has been released.

Is it just me or is there a real similarity here?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Casino Royale Review

Went to see the new James Bond film last night.

Fantastic - can't recommend it highly enough. Fast-paced, exciting, funny but not camp, and has Daniel Craig. What more could a girl ask for?

Did Daniel Craig make a good Bond? Absolutely, he was tough, ruthless, witty, handsome (so handsome). He stared a bit much for my liking, I think it was supposed to be steely, but when he smiles oooohhh......

Look out though for the most blatant ever product placement in a script. There was a collective snort throughout the cinema it was so bad.Judi Dench is M. Perhaps the best actress working in Britain today. With her, Craig and other cast members all performing fantastically this was perhaps the best acted Bond film ever.

The best Bond ever? Dunno - I still like Goldfinger, with the best ever line from a Bond movie - "You expect me to talk? No Mr Bond, I expect you to die". Casino Royale is up there though.

Go see! And then all your Daniel Craig nay-sayers eat your words. Bond is here for another good few films yet.

Tory MP Faces Deselection

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, may face deselection after leaving his wife. More here.

He is whining on about always having been a good MP and can't understand why this has happened. He's right, marriages break up all the time, people have affairs all the time and it's sad but it doesn't affect their ability to do a good job. I think that what members of the local association have found unpalatable is the fact that despite carrying on an affair while his wife was suffering from cancer, he still had the hypocrisy to stand up in a church and ask people to pray for his wife during the 2005 election campaign.

If you use your family as a political tool then you have to be prepared to face the consequences when the reality isn't the same as the perfection you portray. And if you are prepared to use your ill wife as a vote-getting exercise while you're sleeping someone elses wife, certainly don't be surprised when people tell you that they don't want to be represented by a liar and a cheat.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More Bizarre Searches

The latest strange search to lead here is

"how many people choke to death on nerds"

I'm afraid I don't have the answer, but when you put the question into google, this is the first site that comes up. Ironically, the first story it leads you to is my last comment about bizarre searches.

I don't understand it, but it amuses me greatly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Idiotic Questions #337

At the Thameslink Station at King's Cross there are always people trying to sell you something - today it was health insurance (I think!) The salesman's sharp opening gambit to me as I was trying to get home at 5 o'clock was "Excuse me, when you get your glasses, do you buy them?"

Next time I will answer, out loud and not just mumbling as normal "Naw, I steal them. Got a thriving sideline in spectacle theft from Dolland & Aitchison."

Seriously, 5 o'clock on a grotty Monday evening when I just want to get home, I really can't be doing with idiot questions.

Me Cookie Monster

From Kerron

You Are Cookie Monster

Misunderstood as a primal monster, you're a true hedonist with a huge sweet tooth.

You are usually feeling: Hungry. Cookies are preferred, but you'll eat anything if cookies aren't around.

You are famous for: Your slightly crazy eyes and usual way of speaking

How you life your life: In the moment. "Me want COOKIE!"

The big question though - which Avenue Q Character would I be? Someone has to come up with a quiz for that one....

Red Road

Congratulations to everyone involved in the film Red Road which did so well at the Scottish Baftas last night. I haven't been to see it yet, but I do intend to - for the first 25 years of my life I lived right across the road from the flats - except I was in the posh "block" houses.

The one thing that's confusing me a bit is the description of the flats - notorious. I don't know why they are notorious. Apparently they are. But I've never noticed it. It's funny, people look on other's lives and backgrounds and make judgements, but the people who live that life never make those same jusgements. You hear often people saying they didn't realise they were deprived until someone told them they were - that was just their life. Same with me, I never knew until now I live in a notorious area. It was just home.

Friday, November 10, 2006

My Birthday Tune

First seen at Jo's blog

The number one record when I was born was - Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen. Cool.

Find out yours here and let me know.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pet Peeve

Why do, people insist on, using so many commas, throughout their writing, in totally, inappropriate places? Grrrr

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Celeb Spotting-Tastic

I'm such a A-list star spotter.

Monday night at King's Cross there was Don Warrington once of Rising Damp, now of Grumpy Old Men.

Then yesterday at King's Cross again, Suranne Jones ex of Corrie, looking very pretty it must be said.

Beat that Chris House.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I'm Not A Nerd

I am nerdier than 5% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Of course all the questions were about maths/science - had they been political questions I would have been a major scary nerd. I get all the political jobs in my office just because I am the geek.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Question for Sutton & East Surrey Water

Is the drought order still necessary? Really? Think about it - no-one's watering their gardens anymore, the streets are flooding.

Get a bloody grip, sort out your pipes and stop being ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sensory Deprivation Torture At Work in Leatherhead

A few of us went out for dinner in Leatherhead last night to a little Spanish restaurant, it's not fancy, it's not brilliant but it's nice enough and quite cheap. The evening would have been great had it not been for the table of screaming harpies behind us. The volume was unbearable and proof that all the CIA needs to use in the torture chambers of Guantanemo Bay is 10 middle class Surrey women who have been drinking cheap plonk. It was horrendous. Probably more anti-social than someone chatting on a mobile phone (until last night my pet restaurant peeve).

The thing that really annoyed me though was that if it had been a table of 10 guys in their teens/20s making that noise the waiter would have been over in a shot to shut them up but because they were middle age and middle class somehow their anti-social behaviour was acceptable.

It wasn't and they ruined a perfectly good night out.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Weird Searches That Somehow Lead Here!

Occassionally I check on StatCounter how many people have visited this blog (a small, but loyal bunch) and what keywords have been used. But today I spotted one that really made me laugh. One of the searches that led straight here, to me, was "Have greyhounds ever been ridden by monkeys"!!!!

How? Why? Who? Eh?

Who wants to know these things (apart from me now obviously) and why did Google think they could find it here?


A Sensible Suggestion

This story on a potential change in the Vatican's position on the status of still-born babies sounds totally sensible to me.

It seems cruel that a family with a real belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church should be able to seek comfort from their religion at the worst times, rather than further confusion and upset. I look forward to hearing that this policy has been adopted.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Conference Bingo

The Conservatives hit Bournemouth next week and it's the time for all Shadow Cabinet Ministers to brush up their speeches. Or more accurately dust them down. I've attended several conferences and noticed that the same phrases crop up over and over again. So let's play conference bingo. The first person to identify all the phrases gets a nice shiny penny.

1. It's been a great week here in Bournemouth hasn't it....
2. Let the message go out from this hall today....
3. So join with me....
4. The time for apologies is over....
5. We made mistakes and I'm sorry .... (bonus points if in the same speech as number 4)
6. We know the Liberal Democrats, the dirtiest fighters in British politics.... (true, but hardly a political revelation)
7. Random idiocy about Europe (multiple occasions)
8. Random idiocy about Thatcher (ditto)
9. Isn't it awful in Darfur? (rare, but may be time for it's annual appearance)

Bonus Points also available for the appearance of Topolduring the financial appeal - If I was a rich man, yadda yadda yadda ya

Have I missed any?

All About Me

From Paul Burgin

I'll leave it to you all to make your own comments - there's just too many to work out where to start!

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Louise!

  1. Most bottles and jars contain at least twenty-five percent recycled Louise.
  2. Over half of Americans are officially Louise!
  3. The National Heart Foundation recommends eating Louise at least three times a week!
  4. Worldwide, Louise is the most important natural enemy of night-flying insects.
  5. The only planet that rotates on its side is Louise.
  6. Louise was declared extinct in 1902.
  7. About 100 people choke to death on Louise each year!
  8. The pupil of an octopus's eye is shaped like Louise.
  9. Louise was first discovered by Alexander the Great in India, and introduced to Europe on his return!
  10. Louise can not regurgitate.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Obnoxious Chelsea

On our way to Hampton Court Palace on Sunday we passed the Chelsea training ground in Cobham. On the fence there is a sign which says "Attention. Footballers will not give autographs here" (Or something similarly obnoxious. It set me off on a rant, and three days later I'm still stewing over it.

Why won't footballers give autographs? Why can't they take the time to spend perhaps half an hour a day signing autographs for fans, particularly children.

Footballers are highly paid, highly adored - yet they won't spend time with their fans. I'm not totally opposed to the high pay that footballers get, the market allows it and the clubs are private businesses who should be allowed to pay the going rate. As long as everyone pays their taxes then how much any companies pay their employees doesn't bother me at all.

But when these highly paid footballers can't take time out of their days to sign a few autographs for fans. Or as they're otherwise known - the people who pay the wages. The folk who spend hundreds of pounds a year on season tickets (£330 for the cheapest child's season ticket at Chelsea) or £25 on an infant's kit, the same again on the away infant's kit and then there's the £6.99 for the scarf and £5.99 for the cap. Oh and the range of DVDs, clocks, pictures, soft furnishings.... you get the picture.

Fans spends a hell of a lot of money on football clubs. The least they can expect is a little appreciation in return.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Desperate Sugababes

A story appears in today's Sun about the Sugababes offering to sing at Richard Hammond's bedside.

There must be a new album or something due. People really do just jump on any bandwagon for their own publicity.

Sad bints.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A busy weekend

Had a great weekend, very busy but good.

Friday - went for a pub meal and to see The Queen. Never have Caeser Salad which is just piles and piles of lettuce - very unsatisfactory.

Great film. I had concerns that it was going to be a lefty hatchet job on the monarchy and the Queen in particular. I was wrong, while it wasn't a fawning fluff piece, it was by no means a bad portrayal. I think it showed the Queen as a "human" - someone who makes mistakes, but hell, don't we all. It wasn't a hatchet job on Blair either - although I don't think Alistair Campbell came out of things well. And Cherie will have appealed to people who agree with her opinions.

Saturday - bought furniture for our new house. We decided last week to move to a bigger place so have decided that we really need new furniture, so have bought a couple of sofas and chairs. Very very excited. Violin lesson. And then to Ikea. Which was less than exciting. I used to love Ikea - couldn't go without spending lots of money, but not this time. It just annoyed me.

Sunday - a very nice lunch then a wander round Hampton Court Palace. Definitely didn't spend enough time there, but will go back and see more. There was a real sense of history there and could almost see the Tudor ladies walking round the gardens. I love visiting houses and gardens and do think it's important to take advantage of the wonderful tourist attractions we have here in Britain.

Chris has some nice photos from the visit up.

There we have it - a weekend that wasn't just about long lies and slobbing around the house all the time.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Hamster's Progress....

Things appear to be looking up slightly - Richard Hammond has been released from Intensive Care and placed into a High Dependency Unit. The situation is still serious, but looking a little better for him.

My thoughts remain with him, his family and friends.

Congratulations to readers of who have set up a JustGiving page for Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Over £32,000 has been raised so far, mostly in small amounts from over 2,000 Richard Hammond fans. If you can afford something please think about giving to YAA (or your local Air Ambulance) who do a great job and save lives in Britain every day.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Good Luck Hamster

I was really shocked and upset by the news last night that Richard Hammond (the gorgeous one from Top Gear) has had a serious car crash. Last night his condition was described as critical, this morning it is serious. My thoughts are with him, his wife and children.

Hope all goes well and that he's back driving great cars at silly speeds again soon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Is Nicol Stephen Stupid?

Nicol Stephen has said that he won't do a deal with the SNP while the SNP have a policy of offering a referendum on Scottish independence. So far, so Lib Dem.

He said to BBC Scotland "It's a question you might want to put to Mr Salmond about why he is putting one policy against all those other policies that the SNP talk about week in, week out, in the parliament.

Let me put this simply so that even our Lib Dem readers understand - it is the policy that is at the core of the SNP. It is why the SNP was established. If you look at the SNP website it says "The SNP is a democratic left-of-centre political party committed to Scottish Independence."

If Nicol Stephen doesn't even understand the fundamental beliefs of all the other parties in Scotland then he just isn't paying enough attention.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Arrr Arrr Arrr

Tomorrow, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. How cool is that.

Avast me hearties, have at you - scurvy cur etc etc.

I shall be doing all I can to enter into the spirit of the day, particularly the grog drinking bit. Look out the Surrey Yeoman quiz night.

Thanks to Dizzy for pointing this out.

Spooks Is Back

Series 5 of Spooks began last night. I admit to being very excited, it is one of the best programmes on TV at the moment and proof that British TV can do more than costume dramas and soaps.

It increasingly appears to be following the example of 24 - make the stories that bit far-fetched so that it is sheer escapism. But put that little bit of truth into it that makes you think.

Another couple of similarities - not all politicians are portrayed as craven slimeballs and they aren't afraid to kill off characters that we all like in shocking and upsetting manners.

Welcome back Spooks. It's going to be a great 10 weeks.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I'm gonna go to hell for finding this funny. How to insult the major religions in one fell swoop.

Yip, Satan is just waiting for me....

Well Done Madrid

A big well done to the organisers of Madrid fashion week who have taken the bold and brave step of banning waif-like models from the show this year. More here.

The Spanish Association of Fashion Designers has become the first major fashion organisation to recognise the problems caused by the constant use of stick-thin, anorexic-looking models in their showm. Women, and especially young women and girls, should be encouraged as often as possible to build their self-esteem (as should men and boys!) but far too often the people who are held up to us as role models do more to damage self worth than aid it. Every time a major fashion show uses some girl who should be in hospital being treated for malnutrition as a symbol of beauty and aspiration they are sending out the message that unhealthy appearances are in fact beautiful.

This is not to say that some very thin models aren't naturally skinny and aren't beautiful. I always thought that Jodie Kidd was a particularly beautiful model, even though she has described herself as a "bag of bones". But how many of these girls are making themselves skinny through poor eating, and more worryingly, high drug use?

I accept totally that fashion designers want to make their clothes look as attractive as possible - but why does that include modelling them on girls whose ribs are showing through the clothes? Surely a good way to sell clothes is to make them attractive to the women who will buy them - the majority of us not skinny girls.

So, well done Madrid. Hopefully we'll hear of more of the same from other fashion shows.

Clooney at the UN

Sometimes, just occasionally, celebrity can be a good thing and can be put to good use.

Read this:

BBC News Story on George Clooney at the UN
Elie Wiesel on the situation in Darfur
Day for Darfur

Remember, it isn't just the President's watch, it's our watch too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Yin Ping (Steven) Wong

Today is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Flight 93. 2,996 innocent victims from across the world and of many religions lost their lives that day.

I am joining with other bloggers in marking this day by remembering not the terrorists but the people killed that day.

Yin Ping Wong, known to his friends as Steven, was born in 1967 and left his native Hong Kong for the United States when he was 12. He was the sixth of seven children in his family.

Coming to a new country and learning a new language was difficult. Time made things easier and Steven held onto his own culture - being a fan of Cantonese pop music helped.

Steven worked for Aon Corps whose offices were in World Trade Center 2.

My thoughts today are with Steven and his family.

If you are participating in this tribute, please leave a link in comments.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things I like about myself

From Denise's challenge.

I hope these are all true, if some waver I hope I at least aspire to be or do these things.

1. I have strong opinions about many things - political, social and nonsensical.

2. My interests encompass many areas - I'm not too serious about life, but it's not all a joke either.

3. I care about what happens in the world - not just in my own life.

4. Although flying terrifies me, I will never let it stop me going on a great holiday.

5. I have a job that I like a lot and I care about doing it well.

6. I am generally very happy in my life and have a great home life.

7. I am a good friend - and even if I don't call, email or write for such a long time I will always be your friend and will always be there for you.

8. How much I love reading - sad, but it's a key part of my life and I like it.

9. My nose - don't laugh, I like it, even though it was broken about 20 years ago and has a bump.

10. How I feel as though, having hit 30, I am starting to do more with my life which I would have been scared to do 5/6 years ago eg learning the violin. Still have some way to go - but I will learn to ride a horse and scuba dive too.

11. The holidays I go on - probably a shallow thing to like about yourself, but I'm glad that we are able to go on nice holidays. I want to go back to Barbados.

12. I have never been in fashion. If I have ever worn anything fashionable it has been completely accidental.

13. More things in my life make me smile than make me upset.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tick Tock Tick Tock

The knives are well and truly out for the PM now. 7 government members have resigned today, and there are surely more to follow - an ambitious Brownite secure in the knowledge they will be re-promoted back to Government when their man takes over perhaps. Of course 6 of them are the most junior, unpaid PPSs, but in the media whirlwind that won't matter in the slightest.

The perception is, and probably fairly accurate, that the Government is disintegrating before our eyes. The worst thing to happen to a Government has happened - the internal machinations of the political party have taken precedence over the Governance of the country. It's what happened in 1990 and pretty much throughout the entire 1992-97 parliament. Blood has been drawn, it's now only a matter of time before he has to go. How much time? I wouldn't like to guess. I've been sure he was going to go a couple of times before and it hasn't happened. It doesn't actually matter - he's now officially a Lame Duck Prime Minister and none of the Cabinet will give their full throated support because they will be too busy jockeying for power.

Interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Save the Hospital Chaplains

I managed to listen to most of the Jeremy Vine show today without ranting. (Well I did bang the desk and shout Right On Brother Sheridan at Tommy). But I was really disturbed by the story about the NHS Trust which is saving £100,000 by cutting 6 out of 7 chaplains. More here

This disturbs me quite a lot. I'm not religious in the slightest, but I can see the benefits of a strong chaplaincy system in the NHS. I may not be religious, but many people are. Speaking from my own religious background it is important for Catholics to have the last rites, and I don't know that I could say now that when my time comes I won't feel that I need that. We must respect the strong religious faith that many people have, particularly at such a sensitive time in their life and possibly end of their life.

Chaplains also offer support to relatives and to staff. It can't be easy for (as an example) a nurse on a children's cancer ward - surely it is good staff management to offer support to people who do a difficult job.

And is this really going to save money? £100,000 isn't a lot of money in a Trust's budget. We are always been told that a strong mental attitude will speed recovery and aid early release. Surely the presence of a supportive person who can perhaps spend time with a patient, helping them through a stressful time, when a nurse can't spare that time, will ease recovery?

This seems like a very easy option which has been taken by just looking at a balance sheet. Perhaps there should have been more examination of saving money by cutting management and people who roam the wards with clipboards.

I hope the publicity makes the Trust reconsider.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Muppet Personality Test

From Jo

You Are Animal

A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.
You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.
But you sure can beat a good drum.
"Kill! Kill!"

Not sure how accurate it is - Rowlf was always my favourite, but Animal did inspire me to play the drums. Well, him and Evelyn Glennie.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Amen to that....

Finally, a statement from the Pope that I can agree with 100%.

During his traditional weekly appearance to bless the faithful, Benedict XVI quoted from writings of St Bernard in the 12th century meant for popes of his time on the subject of overwork. The saint advised pontiffs to "watch out for the dangers of an excessive activity, whatever... the job that you hold, because many jobs often lead to the 'hardening of the heart', as well as 'suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence'

From the Herald.

Three Things About Me

From Paul at Mars Hill.

The MEME of three.

1... Things that scare me.

Crocodiles/Alligators - they don't belong in this time, they should have gone with the dinosaurs

2.…People who make me laugh.

Billy Connolly
The cast of Avenue Q - went to see it last week, very good
People who fall over on the street - cruel, but true.

3...Things I hate the most

Obnoxious Drivers
People who barge past you in the street/on the tube - everyone is so much more important than everyone else
American spelling - we spell things with s's in Britain, not z's

4...Things I don't understand.

Numbers (as in accounts and maths)
Why people think ID cards will protect us from terrorists
Why weather forecasts have to come from outside. We don't need a shivering, wet woman in the Blue Peter garden to illustrate that it is actually cold and wet outside.

5...Things I'm doing right now.

Writing these answers
Working out my "to-do" list for the day
Thinking about tidying my desk

6...Things I want to do before I die

Have a novel published
Learn to scuba dive
Own my own home

7...Things I can do

Play Twinkle Twinkle on the violin - nearly
Laze around the house all day long and not feel at all guilty
Play badminton

8...Ways to describe my personality

Thoughtful - but can be thoughtless at the same time
Apt to be grumpy at times

9...Things I can't do

Ride a bike
Jog - I've tried, I get 10 yards before it hurts

10...Things I think you should listen to

Scenes from An Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel
Flower of Scotland as performed by The Corries - gets the patriotic blood flowing
The Avenue Q soundtrack

11...Things you should never listen to

Heavy Metal - it hurts
Menzies Campbell - just, why would you?
People who tell you constantly why they are right and everyone else is wrong

12...Things I'd like to learn

To Scuba Dive
Another language - preferably a European language
How to fly - it may help cure my fear of flying

13...Favorite foods

Rare steak, cooked for my dinner tonight please
Bacon and egg sandwich
Chicken something - risotto at the moment

14...Beverages I drink regularly.

Diet Coke
Irn-Bru - best hangover cure in the world

15...Shows I watched as a kid

The A-Team
Diff'rent Strokes
Press Gang

16...People I'm tagging.


Sorry, weak joke, I tend not to tag people but would love to see anyone elses answers. Its a tougher meme than you might think.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is It Really Thursday Already?

Thirteen Things about Louise

Thirteen charities/causes I support. Let me know about your favourite causes, we can probably all learn something today.

1 Born Free Foundation - because animals belong in the wild, not behind bars.
2 Amnesty International - because human rights matter
3 SURF - a charity which helps survivors of the Rwandan genocide
4 RSPB - we must protect and understand the wildlife around us
5 NO2ID - we don't need ID cards and we shouldn't just accept them being foist upon us
6 National Trust - let's be proud of our heritage
7 Aegis Trust - because genocide is still happening today
8 The Conservative Party - for the most part
9 Crusaid - helping people with AIDS at home and abroad (I will do the walk for life next year)
10 MS Scotland - am actually not involved very much, but my mum and dad both are
11 RTCW - helping children with life-threatening illness fulfil their dearest wishes
12 Radio Lollipop - providing entertainment for children in hospital
13 Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - if we are to stop atrocities happening in the future, we must learn from the past

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Carmen
2. Bev
3. Knitting Maniac
4. Karen
5. Margaret
6. Lyn
7. Froggie
8. K T Cat
9. Karen
10. Christine
11. Amy
12. Nat
13. e
14. Laura
15. Titanium
16. Kailani
17. tc
18. mrs lifecruiser

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My last chocolate - for a while

Very nice it was too. But no more for a while.

Weight Loss

I'm taking the plunge and finally going to knuckle down to a proper diet and exercise regime. Starting tomorrow, I have one last bar of chocolate to get out of my system I think.

I have kicked around diets for a few years now but always find it easy to give up. But I weigh about 3.5-4 stones more than I would regard as healthy - and about 5.5 stones more than the arbitrary "ideal weights" you can see in magazines. I don't want to become some skinny malink, but for the sake of my health (currently not suffering, but that can't last for ever) I really have to lose the weight.

I'm going to blog about this semi-regularly in the hope that actually writing down my achievements and admitting when I fall off the wagon will help to focus my mind a little.

Wish me luck.....

Monday, August 14, 2006

How Convenient

The Government have now lifted many of their restrictions on hand luggage on planes which were imposed as a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist threat publicised last week. Yet BAA will be keeping these restrictions in place until tomorrow.

Is it cynical of me to relate this to the fact that once through security you can buy the items that you are unable to take into the airport to the fact that BAA derive almost 25% of their income from retail outlets in the airports?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm not scared of terrorists, I'm scared of losing my liberties

So Britain is under attack again.

The first thing I have to say is congratulations and thank you to all the police and security services personnel who work so hard to keep us so safe. As an IRA operative once pointed out they (terrorists) only have to get lucky once, the security services have to be lucky all the time. We will never know how often we are protected by them and how much thanks we owe them.

We also know that terrorists are constantly planning against free nations like Britain and the US and sometimes attacks will be stopped and tragically sometimes they won't be. We also know that at times like this security measures have to be stepped up. And we accept that.

Up to a point.

If I were going on holiday today I would accept the hugely delayed flight, I would accept and participate as much as needed in the additional security measures. What I might not be too happy about is not being able to take hand luggage on or all the shops in the airport being closed. Are these measures really needed? Or are they panic and hysteria?

I am increasingly concerned about the response to the threat automatically being a clamp-down on civil liberties and freedoms. Threat to aeroplanes? Stop holiday makers taking chick-lit novels on their flight. Increased illegal immigration? Make everyone carry an ID card with their biometric data. Kids wearing the latest fashion commit muggings? Stop everyone wearing hooded tops and hats. The answer to any threat should never be to curtail the rights of the innocent.

More support and money for the police and security services would help more than money being spent on registering people on a database.

When terrorists attack our countries they don't only threaten our life, they threaten our way of life. In trying to protect us the government is helping the terrorists achieve their aims.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about what's lurking in my handbag

1 Keys - office, car, home all on the one key chain or I'd lose them all
2. Purse - with credit cards, but no cash
3. Travelcard - bless my employers for the interest free loan they give staff, I now save about £200 a month on travel
4. MP3 player and headphones - needs charging as always
5. Half finished Sudoku book
6. Book to read on the train - currently "Cafe Tropicana" by Belinda Jones. Excellent chick-lit breezy read
7. Glasses cleaner - but no matter how often I use it, my glasses are still really mucky
8. More pens than I will ever use
9. A pencil with a rubber on the end - for the half-finished Sudoku book obviously
10. Estate Agent details of houses - we're thinking of buying and I was supposed to make arrangements to see these houses over a week ago. Ooops
11. Mobile phone
12. Half a packet of extra strong mints - for morning mouth
13. Hairclips - I have a habit of taking my clips out on the train and just chucking them in my bag

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

The Gatekeeper (first TT - pop in and welcome GK)
Something's Missing
Ellee Seymour (Not a Thursday Thirteen, but always a really good read)
Benson 659
Yellow Rose
Happy Mama
My Two Cents
(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My First Christmas Post

You Are Donner

The most loveable and sweet reindeer, you're also a total dork!

Why You're Naughty: You keep (accidentally) tripping the other reindeer while flying.

Why You're Nice: You're always smiling, even if you've fallen flat on your horns.

Scarily - more accurate than I would hope any of these quizzes are.

No more Christmas posts for another couple of months, maybe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why Madonna Is Wrong

There's a whole brouhaha about Madonna and her cross. Particularly in taking it to Rome. Read more here.

As a Catholic (albeit very lapsed) I find her actions completely offensive. I don't agree with many of the teachings of the Catholic Church, I think their opposition to homosexuality is insulting and the opposition to the use of condoms is literally murderous. That's why I don't attend Church any more despite coming from a relatively religious family.

But there's a difference between disagreeing with the teachings of the Church (or any religion) and deliberately setting out to insult the Church in their own back garden. My aunt is a nun and I went to visit her in the convent she stayed in - I didn't get into a discussion about the need for contraceptives, instead I respected the beliefs of the people who had invited me into their convents. I did this because it was the polite thing to do.

Madonna is trampling over the beliefs of the people of Rome which is ridiculously rude. She is using an image which is sacred to many millions of people across the world to gain herself some cheap publicity. Is it worth it? I doubt it.

Debate is always to be encouraged, and there is much scope for debate to be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church and Madonna, like everyone else, is entitled to state her opinions. But she isn't doing anything to encourage debate, she is just behaving in a crass and offensive manner which shows a lack of respect for anyone other than herself and her bank balance.

Still at least she has managed to unite the Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims. Perhaps we should send her to the Middle East.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm Toby....Yay

Ahh, the ever-cynical and sarcastic speechwriter. Gutsy and not afraid to speak up or clash with authority, his dry wit is amusing. But under it all he's just a big teddy bear... and the world's biggest Yankees fan.

I don't see it, but I'm not complaining. Much more interesting than boring old Sam.

Friday, August 04, 2006

You Tube Fun

Don't try this at home kids.....

Penguin's 100 Top Reads

Penguin have announced the 100 Books you should read before you die. Naturally, all are published by Penguin...

Here they are - with my comments. If I have time and energy I'll put up my 100 Books to read.

Best Crazies
1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — Ken Kesey
2. The Diary Of A Madman — Nikolai Gogol
3. Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys
4. Crime And Punishment — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
5. Notes From Underground — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Best Sex
1. Story Of The Eye — Georges Bataille
2. A Spy In The House Of Love — Anaïs Nin.
3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover — D H Lawrence.
4. Venus In Furs — Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch.
5. The Canterbury Tales — Geoffrey Chaucer

Best Villains
1. The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2. Heart Of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
3. Diamonds Are Forever — Ian Fleming
4. The Master And Margarita — Mikhail Bulgakov
5. The Secret Agent — Joseph Conrad

Best Lovers
1. A Room With A View — E M Forster
2. Wuthering Heights — Emily Brontë - read a long time ago. Can't say it did anything for me
3. Don Juan — Lord Byron
4. Love In A Cold Climate — Nancy Mitford
5. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof — Tennessee Williams

Best Heroes
1. David Copperfield — Charles Dickens - I enjoyed this, but it was so long ago that I read it. May be time for a re-read.
2. Middlemarch — George Eliot
3. She — H Rider Haggard
4. The Fight — Norman Mailer
5. No Easy Walk To Freedom — Nelson Mandela

Best Tearjerkers
1. Of Mice And Men — John Steinbeck - Loved this one.
2. The Age Of Innocence — Edith Wharton
3. Notre-Dame De Paris — Victor Hugo
4. Jude The Obscure — Thomas Hardy
5. The Old Curiosity Shop — Charles Dickens

Best Scares
1. The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson
2. Dracula — Bram Stoker - Again, time for a re-read. But I think I liked it.
3. Frankenstein — Mary Shelley - Ditto

4. The Castle Of Otranto — Horace Walpole
5. Turn Of The Screw — Henry James

Best Minxes
1. Vanity Fair — William Thackeray
2. Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
3. Baby Doll — Tennessee Williams
4. Breakfast At Tiffany’s — Truman Capote
5. Emma — Jane Austen

Best Journeys
1. On The Road — Jack Kerouac
2. The Odyssey — Homer
3. The Grapes Of Wrath — John Steinbeck
4. Three Men In A Boat — Jerome K. Jerome
5. Alice In Wonderland — Lewis Carroll

Best Decadence
1. The Great Gatsby — F Scott Fitzgerald - Loved this
2. Vile Bodies — Evelyn Waugh
3. The Picture Of Dorian Gray — Oscar Wilde - And this
4. The Beautiful And Damned — F Scott Fitzgerald
5. Against Nature — J K Huysmans

Best Rebels
1. The Autobiography Of Malcolm X — Malcolm X
2. The Outsider — Albert Camus
3. Animal Farm — George Orwell - Just read this recently and really enjoyed it.
4. The Communist Manifesto — Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
5. Les Misérables — Victor Hugo - Fantastic. It's long, but well worth it.

Best Sci Fi
1. The Time Machine — H G Wells
2. The Man In The High Castle — Philip K Dick
3. The Invisible Man — H G Wells
4. The Day Of The Triffids — John Wyndham
5. We — Yvevgeny Zamyatin

Best Violence
1. A Clockwork Orange — Anthony Burgess
2. Hell’s Angels — Hunter S Thompson
3. A Tale Of Two Cities — Charles Dickens - the only Dickens I've not been able to get into. But I do keep trying.
4. Another Country — James Baldwin
5. In Cold Blood — Truman Capote

Best Highs
1. Junky — William S Burroughs
2. The Moonstone — Wilkie Collins
3. Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater — Thomas De Quincey
4. The Subterraneans — Jack Kerouac
5. Monsieur Monde Vanishes — Georges Simenon

Best Subversion
1. 1984 — George Orwell - Fabulous, everyone should read this.
2. The Monkey Wrench Gang — Edward Abbey
3. The Prince — Niccolo Machiavelli - Great. Taught me all I know about trusting politicians.
4. Bound For Glory — Woody Guthrie
5. Death Of A Salesman — Arthur Miller

Best Crimes
1. Maigret And The Ghost — Georges Simenon
2. The Woman In White — Wilkie Collins
3. The Big Sleep — Raymond Chandler
4. A Study In Scarlet — Arthur Conan Doyle
5. The Thirty-Nine Steps — John Buchan

Best Adultery
1. Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert - I enjoyed this
2. Thérèse Raquin — Émile Zola
3. Les Liaisons Dangereuses — Pierre Choderlos De Laclos - One of my favourites
4. The Scarlet Letter — Nathaniel Hawthorne - Liked this too

5. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy

Best Debauchery
1. I, Claudius — Robert Graves
2. Hangover Square — Patrick Hamilton
3. The Beggar’s Opera — John Gay
4. The Twelve Caesars — Suetonius
5. Guys And Dolls — Damon Runyon

Best Action
1. Treasure Island — Robert Louis Stevenson
2. Iliad — Homer
3. The Count Of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas
4. From Russia With Love — Ian Fleming
5. War And Peace — Leo Tolstoy

Best Laughs
1. Cold Comfort Farm — Stella Gibbons
2. Diary Of A Nobody — George & Weedon Grossmith
3. Pickwick Papers — Charles Dickens
4. Scoop — Evelyn Waugh
5. Lucky Jim — Kingsley Amis

I must admit that this list leaves me somewhat cold. And I don't feel the need to read many that I've missed, just re-read some that I've previously enjoyed.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

23 Questions

Found this at Jo's website.

1. Elaborate on your default icon.
I don't have one. Should find a nice photo of myself or a nice photo that Darren has taken.

2. What’s your current relationship status?
Have been married for just under three years.

3. Ever have a near-death experience?
I lost a lot of blood during an operation and my blood pressure went dangerously low. But I was unconscious so I'm not sure if that counts.

4. Name an obvious quality you have.
I like to think it's that I'm an obviously nice person when you meet me. I have my moments, but I think I'm nice. Obvious negative quality - awful, awful singer.

5. What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
None at the moment. Normally lots going on in there. The most recent I can remember is Oh What A Circus from Evita. That was yesterday passing all the posters on the tube.

6. Name a celebrity you would marry:
Don't know actually. Celebrities don't tend to do it for me other than on a really superficial level. Characters do - I would scrap with Donna for Josh from The West Wing.

7. Who will cut and paste this first?
No idea. But let me know if you!

8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
Nope. Never.

9. Do you wear a watch? What kind?
I wear one to work, then take it off the minute I get to the office.

10. Do you have anything pierced?
My hears, don't wear ear-rings often though.

11. Do you have any tattoos?
No. Sometimes think I would like one, but can never make up my mind.

12. Do you like pain?
Nope. And I'm a really baby about it, which doesn't help as I'm the most clumsy person around and always banging myself into doors and tables.

13. Do you like to shop?
For books, always. No such thing as too much book-shopping. For DVDs/CDs sometimes. For clothes hardly ever - small and fat is not a good combination.

14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
I really can't remember - I think it was my violin lesson on Saturday.

15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
Credit card was a rucksack for Darren. Switch was two tickets to go and see Avenue Q. Unfortunately I managed to call myself Sir Louise - the drop down menu confused me.

16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
A member of Clare Short's staff - confirming she was the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Genocide.

17. What is on your desktop background?

18. What is the background on your cell phone?
A photo of Darren asleep on the sofa at his mum's. It is very cute.

19. Do you like redheads?
I liked a redhead once....

20. Do you know any twins?
Two of my friends at school were twins.

21. Do you have any weird relatives?
Only kind I have.

22. What was the last movie you watched?
Went to see Superman Returns at the weekend. It was good.

23. What was the last book you read?
The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie. As usual I found her short stories less enjoyable than full length novels. I am currently reading Boudica: Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott and loving it.

As usual I won't tag anyone, but do let me know if you take part.

How to help the NHS

The NHS is in meltdown. Only the most ardent New-Labourites still have their heads in the sand about the crisis that is affecting it. Smarter minds than mine are working on what to do, but I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Support people with private health insurance. Having private health care is not a sin, if I could afford it I would. And the people who do have some are alleviating the pressure on the NHS. There should be some kind of tax break to recognise this - not a huge tax break, but an amount that would recognise not only are private health patients saving the NHS money, but also time - by coming off waiting lists, they are freeing spaces for people who need treatment and can't afford or wish to go private. Private health insurance should NEVER be compulsory, but the tax system should recognise that private patients help the NHS by not using it.

2. Despite my support for private health care I would ban NHS employed staff from working in the private sector and using NHS rooms/equipment and time to do so. If a consultant wants to earn thousands of pounds in the private sector that's fine. But to do so by telling NHS patients that he can't help them on the NHS but come round later today when I'm doing private consultations with your chequebook and I will treat you then is just sickening. An argument against this is that all dual-role doctors will go private, I don't believe it. And anyway, the market probably couldn't cope with the newly full-time private providers. I doubt there would be enough demand to cope with the supply.

As for private operations/care being provided on NHS premises - not a chance. The beds - bought by the NHS, the equipment - bought by the NHS, the rooms - paid for by the NHS, should all be used by NHS patients. If private companies want to provide private healthcare then that's fine, but they also have to provide the infrastructure and free up the space and equipment for NHS patients.

3. Managers are fine. But they don't make medical decisions and shouldn't make medical decisions. I was in hospital a couple of years ago for a fairly serious operation. In 10 days I was moved 7 times. Almost every time it was preceded by some bitch with a clipboard visiting the ward. By moving me, it aided her bed usages figures. I don't care. It hurt and it wasn't in my best interests. I spent my last night in hospital in a cubicle just off A&E - that is not patient care at its best. When I refused to moved one day I was marked out as a trouble-maker. It didn't seem to matter that my blood pressure was dangerously low, necessitating emergency treatment in the middle of the night and I was so sore that I couldn't even sit up, it was the request of the bed manager that I move to a different bed to ensure that there was the correct bed turnover for the ward. Put clinical decisions firmly in the hands of clinicians.

I know there's lots more to be done. But I think these are areas that could at least be looked at.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cost of being an MP

Tim at Conservative Home has run an excellent article on the financial costs of being a Conservative Parliamentary candidate - find it here.

I'm sure it doesn't just apply to the Conservative Party - candidates in the other main parties presumably have similar horror stories. But it does help to explain why there is a plethora of lawyers, bankers and businessmen/women in Parliament and fewer teachers, nurses and office workers.

Tim estimates that the cost of being elected, including lost earnings, travel and attending events is approximately £41,000. That's significantly more than my annual salary and I regard myself as being extremely lucky and in a well-paid job.

Some people have argued, with some justification, that this is a small price to pay for the job. They'll earn approximately £60,000 per year, be able to play about with the expenses system, employ their spouse as their secretary and have fabulously long holidays during the recess. All true - if not true for all MPs. But is it that simple - speculate to accumulate?

Of course not - the high cost of being a candidate, and it is a high cost, is acceptable to the well paid lawyers and self-made millionaires and by applying to be a candidate they are accepting the costs they will incur, even though they are unreasonable. But would a (for example) primary school teacher with two young children be willing or able to take that step towards becoming an MP. Of course not, nor would I. Despite being on a good salary, with a husband on a good salary, we can't afford to even look at buying a house in the South of England. To lose £10,000 a year (assuming early selection) would just be impossible.

So what's the answer? I don't know. Tim has made some suggestions which bear careful consideration. I particularly like the one about a "candidate protector" who can advise the constituency association and the candidate on what events are must-attend and which ones, despite the pleas of the Chairman, really aren't. If candidates spent less time and money at every cheese & wine and strawberry tea and more out meeting the electorate it would help both financially and politically. Of course the candidate must attend some social events, (s)he is the cheerleader-in-chief of the Association but not every event. And especially not seeing the same 30 people over and over and over again, just changing whose house this month's event is in.

Central Office also has a role to play - while you do want to see members of the candidate's list working at by-elections, it isn't reasonable to demand that they spend a certain number of hours working at them. It is reasonable to ask all the candidates in the south east to spend x hours at a London by-election, it isn't reasonable to ask candidates from the north west to spend the same time at it. Similarly there has to be a radical rethink of the training weekends that they offer. Candidates will spend hundreds of pounds, leaving their constituency behind on ideal campaigning days (Saturdays) to sit in a hotel somewhere in the country to be told daft things that may have no relevance to the campaign they are running locally.

As I say, I don't know what the answer is. But when people ask why Parliament doesn't look more like the country it's because the majority of the country couldn't afford to get there.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Goodbye West Wing

I watched the final ever episode of The West Wing last night. As expected I blubbed like a girly. The performances were all superb but special praise must go to Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing and Allison Janney. It was a perfectly pitched episode and a truly fitting end to the series.

I think part of the reason The West Wing was so popular was because it was politics as we wanted it. The President was a good man and was surrounded by good people. Everyone had a strong sense of morality which drove everything that they did. Some Republicans were shown as the "bad guys" but others, notably Ainsley Hayes, Cliff Calley and Arnold Vinnick were portrayed as equally patriotic and morally driven as the Democrat "heroes".

The West Wing offered the promise of what politics could be and could do. And it was brilliant entertainment with outstanding actors and scripts.

I'll miss it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Advice for Kim Howells

Kim Howells, Foreign Office Minister, made a bit of a boo-boo during a debate on the current Middle East crisis. In answer to a question on current tactics by his Tory opposite Keith Simpson he replied "I am not a military strategist and I am not aware he is...." Aaargh.

Keith Simpson is famously a well regarded military historian and strategist having been a senior lecturer in war studies and international affairs at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, has written five books on military history and a director of Cranfield Security Studies Institute which according to their website "carries out research and consultancy ina wide range of defence-related subjects, including defence policy and military history.
It uses political and military analysis to interpret, evaluate and develop strategic operational requirements and their implications for defence policy doctrine and force structure."

So yes, Keith Simpson is a military strategist.

Kim, Kim, Kim - a piece of advice - know your enemy. Works in both politics and military campaigns. A quick look at the Conservative Party profile of Keith Simpson would have told you all this. Typical of this Labour Government - too arrogant to check even the simplest facts.

(Hat tip to Nick Assinder at the BBC for this).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Feeling Guilty

I've just phoned the RSPCA to complain about the neighbour's dog being chained up outside in a thunder storm. I know it was the right thing to do, but there's part of me that feels really guilty. I've never been a tell-tale, and I tend to dislike people who are, but we've thought for a while that there was a problem with the way the dog is treated eg it was left outside for hours on bonfire night with fireworks going off all around.

Despite knowing of various misdemenours of other people this is only the second time I have ever reported someone to an authority. The first time was when a friend drove off having downed more than a bottle of wine. That time I got the third degree from the police on why hadn't I stopped her and how much had I had to drink. I felt guilty for weeks afterwards, even though I knew I had done the right thing. I feel guilty now, but not as guilty as I would if anything happened to the dog.

But honestly - I'm not usually a grass.

UPDATE: The RSPCA came out - and the dog is apparently happy, healthy and has a waggy tail. Am I sure it was out in the rain as it had a dry coat? Am I sure it is left out often? So I now feel half guilty and half annoyed. Still, if a visit from the RSPCA makes them think twice about leaving out in a storm next time then its worth it. But for the second time I've felt the need to report someone to the authorities I feel like the guilty party.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thursday Thirteen Again

Thirteen Things I Like and Don't Like About The Heatwave

1. It's just too hot - too darn hot.
2. But it get's me singing songs from the musicals - it's too darn hot...
3. Drink so much water that my skin looks great.
4. But am a big sweaty beasty.
5. The Tube in a heatwave is just horrendous.
6. As are South West Trains, come on guys, just one day this week I'd like to get home without problems.
7. It's nice to wear pretty, flowing clothes rather than suits and trousers all the time.
8. But why can't I look as fresh and as unconcerned as some other women you see.
9. Leaving the office early because it's just too hot to work.
10. But being too exhausted to enjoy a couple of hours in the sun by the time I get home.
11. Ugly naked guy in the flat opposite the office insists on sitting out on his balcony - this is not a good thing.
12. Wonky sunburn - how come only one of my arms is sunburnt? I look dumb.
13. Nothing better than listening to good music in the summer - current favourite is Nina Simone.

I'm trying not to moan too much about the heat, but I'm sure I would enjoy it more if I was by the pool in Barbados with a cocktail rather than in an office on Gray's Inn Road....

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Mysterious Lady
Knitting Maniac
Reverberate 58
Lil Duck Duck
Army Wife

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


I always think one of the saddest sights in this country is one such as the above - with a beautiful creature locked up in an enclosure behind a fence. It's just wrong.

Think about joining the Born Free Foundation and helping to end the tragedy of animals behind bars.

Punish Hoax Callers Properly

BBC Scotland is covering a story about hoax callers to the Fire Brigade putting lives at risk. After a lot of talk about how dangerous it is we find out that the reckless, thoughtless thugs who carry out hoax calls might get their mobile taken off them, may have their landline cut off and as a last resort can be prosecuted.

Here's a thought - first resort be to prosecute them. I'm not suggesting locking them up and throwing away the key but frankly the threat of being punished (a month cleaning fire appliances and a hefty fine of 10 times the cost of deploying a fire appliance) and a criminal record is more of a deterrant than having your mobile taken off you.

We need to take all crime including "low level" crime seriously.

Stem Cell Research

So Bush is going to use his first veto to block a stem cell research bill. A bill that the Senate and the majority of the American people want. But his ultra right wing, loony fringe Republican core vote demand that he vetoes, so he vetoes.

I have some problems with stem cell research, as I have problems with a variety of moral issues. I can never look at them as just black and white but the passing of a bill banning the growing and aborting of foetuses simply for research helps to allay a fear of harvesting of foetuses. John Kerry suggested at the time of the 2004 election that embryos which had been discarded after IVF treatment could be used - this seemed like an eminently sensible suggestion to me.

Bush claims he is against stem cell research because "murder is wrong". A principled view. I don't entirely agree but it is based on a firm principle.

I look forward to his announcement of a presidential decree halting all executions in the United States.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

British Summer Time

I had the ultimate British summer experience last night.

Stuck on a roasty hot train which didn't move for about fifteen minutes, a mumbling guard on the tannoy that you couldn't understand and the only thing I had to fan myself with to keep cool was a leaflet about a bloody signallers strike.

Its too hot to be in a non air conditioned office on Gray's Inn Road. I want to be by the pool in Barbados sipping a cocktail.....

Monday, July 17, 2006

Life Experience Test

Found this at Mrs Aginoth. A list of 150 key life experiences and all you have to do is bold the ones you have achieved. Depressing how many remain unbolded.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it (every day to my husband and parents)
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped (and never will)
11. Visited Paris (Have been three times, don't know I would be desperate to go back)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (depends how big is huge. Celtic vs Aberdeen at Parkhead was big enough for me)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip on a hot air balloon (would love to though - over the Masaai Mara)
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Got drunk on champagne. (one sip and I'm a giggly wreck)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (most days actually)
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced (and been taken care of when drunk)
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland (and the nuns in Kilkenny DO know the best pubs)
52. Been heartbroken for longer than when you were in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight (no, three hours was enough - I was an elf who was in love with a goblin with a 4 foot tongue.)
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days (3 days in hospital when they forgot to feed me)
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest (I was Dopey from the Seven Dwarves)
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert" (nope, but was invited to be a stand-in for an election rehearsal programme. I was Malcolm Rifkind and Kirsty Wark was mean to me)
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country (can't even ride a bike)
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth (and helped to make sure the runt was fed and survived)
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari (It was a normal safari, but lots of photos taken, that counts right?)
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (if there have been any I've skipped them all)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office (no, but have been a campaign director for several people elected to public office)
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life

I won't tag anyone, but if you do do this, let me know in the comments and I will link to you here.

Jo Salmon
Paul Burgin
Lobster Blogster