Tuesday, 21 February 2017

'Tis the season!

Spring must be here, or at least just around the corner. I am ignoring the weathermen's delight at temperatures reaching double figures - not around here, they aren't! No, what I am going by is the fact that there are two blackbirds having regular arguments/fights in our garden and that I was nearly dive-bombed yesterday by two quarrelsome rooks, quarrelling with each other that is, not with me, I hasten to add. Presumably they are vying for territory and showing off to the female of the species.

It did feel as though I had somehow wandered onto the set of Hitchcock's "The Birds". I can't abide birds getting too close to me at the best of times and even get more than a little freaked by pigeons psuddenly taking off in front of me. So two rooks being so aggressive with each other that they almost fell out of the sky onto my head was not what I liked at all!

Another indicator is the frogs which are back in the sluggish stream that runs alongside one of the local bridle paths. I thought I heard a certain amount of croaking as I drew near to their usual spot on my run yesterday. Then I caught sight of movement out of the corner of my eye. So I stopped to look and there they were, the first of this year's amphibious returnees. They are pretty well camouflaged, blending in very well with the soggy brown leaves in the muddy brown water, but with a modicum of patience you can see them, going about their froggy business. What I want to know is where the newly hatched frogs go when they have stopped being tadpoles and are large enough, barely if you have ever seen them on the move, to leave the watery nursery. And how to they always find their way back? Nature is pretty clever really.

Spring this year seems also to be open season for harassing the far right. Long may it continue!

 You could almost feel sorry for UKIP's Paul Nuttall. First of all he had to admit that he did not in fact lose close friends and family in the Hillsborough disaster and now nobody will even believe he was there. Possibly because he appears to have only just decided to make a statement to the investigators about it. That and the fact that former school mates have no memory of his being there. Hmmm! Clearly nobody told him the story of the boy who cried wolf when he was a little lad! As I said, you could almost feel sorry for him ... but not quite ... no, not at all!

And across the Channel Marine Le Pen is feeling got at as well. Her offices have been raided by the police, looking for evidence of fraud and misuse of funds. She, and her father too for that matter, are being asked to pay back vast amounts of European funding which they are said to have wrongly .paid to people purporting to be their political assistants and so on. Ms Le Pen says this is deliberate harassment, an attempt to derail her bid for the French presidency. It couldn't happen to a better candidate!

Except that it has been happening to other candidates. And, of course, from time to time our UK MPs are involved in similar scandals about misuse of funds and allowances for one thing or another. I imagine that most of this funding was originally introduced to make something like a level playing field. After all, at one time you couldn't vote if you didn't own land or have a certain level of income. And in order to stand for parliament you need campaign funds. Then, once elected, you can't keep up your day job (oops, that makes it sound as if being an MP isn't a proper job) and go and discuss matters in Parliament, unless you are a column writer for a swanky newspaper.

So, in order to make it possible for those who don't have sufficient independent means to pay secretaries and researchers or to run two houses, one in London and one in their constituency, you need allowances and expenses claims and so on. It sounds like a good idea. Some people hardly claim a thing. Inevitably, however, there are those who regard fiddling expenses as a perk of the job.

It happens in every sphere. I've been on educational visits with colleagues who carefully save every single receipt for money they spend during the trip and claim it all back on their return. Travel expenses: yes! Eating out: yes ... but maybe you don't need to go to the most expensive restaurants! A couple of beers in the evening when the students are safely tucked up in bed: isn't that pushing it a bit too far?

That way corruption lies!

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