Category Archives: Political Rant

I’m wound up – again

Yes. Very. And of course when that happens I pick up my virtual pen and ramble.

Wound up about morals in politics

Today’s grouse is about the fact that the people who lead us don’t seem able to do the decent thing any more. Our council tax is to rise by 1.99%. This, according to the council, is the maximum it can rise without having to call a prohibitively costly referendum (no cost benefit). The council will raise £3m from this rise. It could have raised £2m from the government by freezing the price of council tax, and, if it wanted more money for specific projects like road improvements, it could have received a further grant. Apparently the government doesn’t want council tax to seem to go up, so it funds councils through the back door via our other tax payments. Either way we pay. I don’t mind paying for necessary overheads, what I object to is the lack of transparency, and the complexity of the system.

I don’t understand why funding is so complicated. Indeed why do we need to pay council tax at all? Isn’t the administration of council tax collection ‘prohibitively costly’? I’d like to see some kind of algorithm, based perhaps (and this is off the top of my head) on the number of residents and their ages (children need schools, older people need care), miles of road and weight of traffic on those roads. multiply this by a figure and hey presto, the amount councils receive to administer on behalf of their residents.

ON THEIR BEHALF. There’s a novel idea. When did People ever win over Mammon? HS2, cutting up swathes of beautiful countryside. Nobody wants it apart from some business people. In Pebbleditch and Robinghood, 122 new houses planned that will create havoc on our already over-stretched, bottle-neck of a road and our recently extended school, extended to accommodate a previous huge estate built on a former cement works (I’ve no objection to this apart from the fact that a miscalculation by our council meant that there were not enough school places planned and we have hardly any leisure facilities). The planning permission for the first 42 new houses has already been approved and I have no doubt, despite very valid objections, that the other 80 odd will also get built. The government wants more houses built to ease ballooning house prices and high unemployment. Councils have been targeted with building more, but nobody seems to care where they are built as long as the council reaches its five year target.

Money, not quality of life, drives decisions, but the point is, if we, as a country, want more money, the only really valid way of achieving it is to bring in foreign currency. I suppose you could argue that by improving transport routes, we will enable businesses in the north to be more successful. I don’t accept that at all. Where’s the evidence? Having worked in British companies and in the public sector for 40+ years, I think the problem lies partly within. Managers make decisions based on departmental budgets rather than the interests of the company of as a whole. Managers make decisions based on keeping their own jobs at the expense of the mental health of those under them; COST BENEFIT being the driving factor in all decisions, regardless of the needs of the workforce. Can we detect a parallel between business management decisions and short-term government decisions? What ever happened to benevolence, philanthropy, moral high ground? Don’t say we can’t afford it. Isn’t it what life is really about?

The pen is mightier, so is a stiff whisky

It is an unfortunate fact that, although most of us have legs, many prefer to use the car. This is not a lecture, I’m (nearly) as bad as the next person. My dog walk usually starts with a short drive although I could easily walk from home. The constraining factor? Time.

The reason I am more conscious of cars than many, is that I live on a ‘B’ road, and, about 100 metres from a primary school. It is often quite entertaining to watch from the warmth of my kitchen, the traffic struggling to weave its way between cars, often double parked and usually leaving very little room for the buses and lorries that have to use the road to get from Lay-it-on-berzooms to London/Duckchester or vice versa. Horns sound and voices raise in frustration at the complete ineptitude of some drivers, who don’t look before pulling out and find themselves trapped between vehicles; unable to move forwards or backwards without availing themselves of somone’s front garden or driveway. We have erected a metal fence at the front because our front garden (a cobbled drive way along our entire frontage) was regularly used as a rat run. Once, Whizz nearly stepped out of our front door into the path of a passing car, inches from the porch.

 

Parking outside school
Outside our house – and there’s the bus.

Now, knowing all this, you would think that I would avoid this time of day to take my car out. Yes, you would think that and in fact I usually do keep one eye on the clock, however yesterday I loaded the dog blindly into the car, my mind on some other approaching task, and it wasn’t until I had started the engine and looked up that I realised that I had picked exactly the peak time for the school run. Worse still, I was pointing up Robinghood High Street and could not turn out of the drive in the other direction because the way was blocked by parked cars opposite.

Undeterred I set off, noting as I pulled out, eventually, that the school bus was collecting children outside the school, but I hadn’t reached that point yet. Cars forged towards me and I dodged into gaps between parked cars, berating myself for my lack of planning. Eventually I reached the spot, right outside school and directly behind the bus. On the pavements, parents milled and gossiped. Parents of children with whom I work.

Ahead, a lorry had picked this time to deliver something and was reversing into a small lane, holding up the oncoming traffic but leaving no room for me to proceed. I waited resignedly. Meanwhile anarchic pick-up cars were beginning to nose their way back into the traffic. Behind the lorry, vehicles were building up: another lorry, some cars and two buses.

Finally the road was clear and the oncoming traffic began to squeeze past the school bus and then me. One more car, I thought, and I’ll be able to make a little more progress.

Imagine my fury when the final approaching car stopped, in the middle of the road, just in front of the school bus, preventing anyone on my side of the road from moving. The woman, wound down her window and beckoned her children to cross, in front of the bus and get into the car. She did look as though she wanted them to be quick and there were still no cars behind her. One child rushed across but there was another, more dilatory, who was still out of sight and would arrive in goodness knew how long.

My frustration got the better of me – I think that’s an understatement -I was incensed. Not so much by the fact that I was still waiting, but more the selfishness of this one woman, local, with a black Labrador dog, who thought her needs were more important than those of every single person waiting behind me, probably all the way back to the roundabout by now. I turned into ‘Fishwife-woman’ and leaned on my horn.

The woman in question (she has a Russian sounding surname by the way), raised her eyebrows at me in a disapproving way.

I gestured at her – no, not what you’re thinking; a simple but vigorous beckoning and a scowling face got my message across.

Finally, in a dignified, leisurely manner, this excuse for a citizen, closed the rear passenger door of her car and drove on. Behind her was still clear and I maneuvered my car round the bus, in and out of parked cars and eventually, on my way.

As I drove I was planning my retribution. I’d confront her tomorrow on the pavement (I was still in fishwife mode), no, I’d report her to the police, hmm, I should have taken her registration number. OK, calm down, I told myself, this isn’t good for your heart. You have to take some responsibility, you know what the traffic’s like at that time of day. You could have walked, you could have waited. OK I was a bit calmer.

I got out of the car at the dog field and it was a lovely bright afternoon. My heart lifted as I looked at the hills and heard the birds. The dog was prancing about excitedly and I threw his ball. He galloped off joyously. I remembered that I had finished my course of antibiotics so I deserved a stiff drink – that would relax me a bit. The pen is mightier than the sword, I told myself, especially with a drink at your side.

Write, slurp, publish.

What is Art?

If you look with an artist’s eye you can see beauty in many places. Here in Pebbleditch we are spoiled, we don’t need to search far to find wonderful pictures. We have an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the doorstep, where we can view forests, hills, wildlife, wild flowers and butterflies and even a windmill. In cities one has to look harder to find beauty but just study the faces, stare at hidden corners or the bark of a plane tree. There is colour and vibrancy wherever you look.

Today, while walking the dog on an unseasonably balmy late afternoon, I came across a series of works of art. I know nothing of the artist, perhaps there is more than one, but I couldn’t resist taking this series of shots. I call them still life with a turd in a bag, numbers 1 to 8. I think they’re sweet, especially the little bunny ones.

The most amazing thing about this artist is that he managed to show all these pieces on a path about half a mile long. What a remarkable show. It must have taken days to produce all these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turd white Turd blackTurd reclining Turd in thistles Turd with bunny ears Turd with bunny ears againPerky turd Swan-like turd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One final word on the convenience option

Tonight, the fridge full of ready meals of one description or another, I decided that, given the quality thus far, nobody would like any of it. Reluctant to waste it I decided to cook a buffet.

On offer were:

  • One portion of lamb rogon josh from the reduced counter and a pot of rice I forgot to put out! It is still in the microwave as I type.
  • Two portions of pork medalions with shitake mushrooms and strogonov sauce.
  • Three quarters of left-over stuffed crust pizza with the formerly mentioned dubious pepperoni on the top
  • A tray of McCain’s home fries or whatever they call themselves now
  • A whole family tray of Chicken, Bacon and Potato Bake- sadly it had some kind of sauce underneath. It was a mistake to buy this because my two don’t do sauce, well not the bechamel variety.

I left the stroganov sauce off the pork.

I shoved it all in the oven at various intervals. I earmarked the curry for myself but took half in case anyone else fancied some.

Here are my comments:

  • Pork – tough and tasteless
  • Curry – the most bizzarre lamb I have ever encountered. It had the consistency of cooked beetroot and was clearly not cooked in the sauce – which tasted of tomatoes and spices, not unpleasant but definitely not lamby
  • Pizza – too tomatoey and the stuffed crust filling, pasty
  • bake: not even touched although I did get tempted to a small spoonful and it tasted, well, peculiar. I don’t know how else to describe it
  • chips – excellent as ever, why fry when you can bake, but it has to be McCains Home fries/chips (in my”humble”opinion)

We are all full but peed off. The dogs enjoyed the bake.

I know there are lots of people who need cheap food. I watched with the rest of the country as Hugh and Jamie promoted their free range chickens and failed with the broke single mother. But one proper, unflabby, happy chicken can feed a family for several days, and should. The mistake we have made (again IMHO) is not teaching people to cook. Why did that stop? When did academic subjects become more important than practical ones? Don’t you think that we still need to know how to prepare food and construct and mend goods. Recycling has its place but why throw away in the first place?

Have you seen Wall-E? It is thought provoking indeed. In it the human race has left the Earth because polution has killed life. After many decades, maybe centuries, everyone lives in a kind of encapsulated world floating in space and nobody can do anything practical. They wait to be entertained and are so fat they need to be transported on special chairs. Food is manufactured, nobody has seen a chicken or a cow. I wonder if this is such a ridiculous concept. Are we heading this way?

Stand up and be counted. Have cookery lessons, or ask a middle aged neighbour to teach you to cook – we all know how! Shop locally, eat fresh seasonal veg, don’t let the Tescos of this world pull the wool over your eyes. What we ate this week was not food, even if it was nutrition!

I feel I must go back to food

Having read this blog from end to end a few weeks ago – it must have been during the summer holidays – I decided that I went on about food too much and I would cease. Sadly I have had an experience this week that makes me want to revisit the subject, so apologies to my two readers, I just have to say this:

I don’t think that anyone will argue with the hypothesis that married life can be frustrating. Living with another human being, no matter how much you love them, has its challenges. I encountered one of these last week when, pushed to the limit, I asked my family (there are two of them) to help with the washing up after the Sunday roast I had lovingly (and skillfully) prepared for them. Suddenly there were pressing jobs that just had to be done.

In fairness Whizz did have to fly to Ireland that evening and needed to pack his bag – I had to drive him to Heathrow though. Mavis as usual had left her homework until the last minute so I found myself, alone and fuming, with the greasy dishes.

I had a conversation with myself. Who is the idiot here? Why do you feel the need to cook a roast on Sunday? Why aim to please everyone? They haven’t asked you to do all this, they don’t even seem all that interested in what you cook. I made a snap decision – my favourite type – OK I’ll stop. We’ll eat convenience foods, I can throw away the containers and get a life.

I couldn’t wait to get to Tesco. I bought Shepherds pie, lasagne. Spatchcock chicken in garlic butter, pizza with a stuffed crust, ready made mashed potatoes and prepared vegetables. I snuck round hoping nobody would recognise me. Silly me! I met a teaacher from work and felt I had to explain my basket – even though I would normally not even be seen dead in Tesco! None the less I felt really excited to be liberated from the kitchen.

The week started well. As you know I eat a low carb diet so the food I was giving to Whizz and Mavis was not the food I was eating. Mine was delicious. Theirs, it soon became evident, was not.

Shepherds Pie – what can you do wrong with that? Well, I don’t know where the beef came from but I have my doubts that it came from a cow! The lasagne was similarly flavourless. The pizza went down well although the pepperoni I bought to top it had a strange taste we didn’t like much. I had great hopes for the spatchcock chicken in garlic butter. Silly sausage! As with the beef, did it really come from a chicken and how did it get so flacid? Where was the garlic, where was the butter. There was liquid in the tin but if that was butter then its provenance was disputable.

On the plus side the food bill was actually lower than normal and the washing up – well, with the aid of the dishwasher and the recycling bin, I didn’t do any. The food however was – not to put too fine a point on it – disgusting!

So, back to local and free range. We’ve got used to it. I suppose we could get used to the other type of food but do we want to? I had a blinding moment of inspiration and decided that if I don’t want to wash up, and they don’t want to either, we should stop eating. No not really, but I’ve bought foil roasing tins and a catering sized roll of aluminium foil. I’m going to cook on that, simplesk!