Sunday, 3 July 2022

A bit of obsessive indignation on attacks on women’s rights.

 


I might be getting a little obsessed but maybe that’s no bad thing, provided it doesn’t go too far. So here I go again. Just in case we get a little complacent here in the UK about what a liberal, free-thinking society we are, even under the austerity of the Conservatives, here are a couple of things I have come across in the last few days.


First of all this from Open Democracy: 


“A UK anti-abortion group that wants to replicate America’s backlash against reproductive rights has placed more than a dozen interns in MPs’ offices since 2010, openDemocracy can reveal.

Christian Action, Research, and Education (CARE) has provided free researchers to 20 MPs as part of its Leadership Programme, which offers 11-month placements in Westminster – and all-access Commons passes – to recent university graduates.

Of those, 13 continued to take the interns despite revelations about the charity’s position on LGBTQ+ rights in 2012. Ir emerged that CARE had sponsored a conference about homosexuality that promoted gay ‘conversion therapy’ and included sessions on “mentoring the sexually broken”.

The group has said its internship scheme puts participants in “real positions of responsibility”, and boasts that former interns have gone on to become cabinet ministers and senior civil servants. Tory MP Stephen Crabb, an alumni of the scheme, credits it with giving him “a grounding of the Commons, politically”.”


Just quietly beavering away to influence things!


And then there is this that was in the Guardian:


“Women in England and Wales who have suffered miscarriages or stillbirths are being investigated by police on suspicion of having illegal abortions, with some forced to hand over their phones and laptops for invasive “digital strip searches”.

In one case in 2021, a 15-year-old girl who had an unexplained early stillbirth was subjected to a year-long criminal investigation that saw her text messages and search history examined. Police dropped the case after a coroner concluded the pregnancy ended because of natural causes.

The teenager was investigated under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which says it is unlawful to procure a miscarriage using “poison”, “an instrument” or “other means whatsoever”, and that those found guilty can be jailed for life.

The 1967 Abortion Act transformed women’s healthcare by legalising terminations in England, Wales and Scotland up to 28 weeks, with the legal limit since reduced to 24 weeks. But abortions are only lawful in circumstances where two doctors agree that continuing the pregnancy would be risky for the physical or mental health of the woman.

The old law was never repealed, so anyone who has an unregulated abortion or tries to terminate their pregnancy without supervision from medics is acting unlawfully. Anyone assisting them can also be prosecuted.

Police have launched dozens of investigations into suspected breaches of the law in the past 10 years, according to analysis of crime logs and Home Office data, with the alleged offences including cases where women took abortion pills bought on the internet and induced their own abortions by drinking herbal remedies without supervision from doctors.”


So, at a time when there are apparently not sufficient resources to investigate burglaries properly, time and money is being spent on this. Imagine the psychological effect on that 15 year old being investigated for a year of her young life. 


It beggars belief! That’s indignantly all!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Photos from a traveller. The Tour. Going cashless. Dystopia.

This morning my brother-in-law sent a photo message from Montreal. He’s gone to Canada to see Marillion, a group he has been following all over the place in the last few weeks. LC? he asked me. I had to zoom in on the photo to understand his question. One very tall building has a mural of Leonard Cohen on its side. Well, I suppose Montreal was his city. And maybe that’s the “Tower of Song”, occupied by Hank Williams, according to LC himself. I expect other occupants might be Roy Orbison, John Lennon, George Harrison and Tom Petty, to mention but a few. 




Yesterday the Tour de France set off from Copenhagen. I always find it very confusing that they start the race in a country other than France but that is the tradition. Eight years ago my son, his wife, their small baby and I watched the Tour ride past Holmfirth, not far from here. Very exciting stuff. Today, by the way, I have found the ideal card for my son, whose birthday is on Wednesday; it shows cyclists toiling up a hill presumably somewhere in France. Getting back to yesterday’s exploits, it seems that Welshman Geraint Thomas, a possible winner once again, got himself confused about clothing. In the warm-up for the time trial he wore some kind of gilet on top of his aerodynamic cycling suit and forgot to remove it before he rode out to do the time trial. His team didn’t notice either - how remiss! Whether or not this affected his pedal-power, he didn’t win the stage! We’ll see how it goes. I need to find a channel that does a daily summary for me to keep up to date. 


We’re in festival season at the moment. Posters are going up around here for our own “Party in the Park”, more correctly “Party on the Cricket Ground”, which will take place in September. We don’t have any big names but some of the local people will recognise the names on the poster - not me though! And here’s a link to Tim Dowling writing about playing in “the band he is in”, as he usually describes it, at a cashless festival. To purchase drinks and so on he had to arrange for money to be “added” to his wristband, and asked “Why does it feel like a dystopian future?”. 


I must say I have largely grown used to not paying cash. I fill my basket or trolley with goods, whizz out a bank card and Bob’s-your-uncle! Just occasionally it reminds me that I have been using it quite a lot and I need to put in my pin number. I draw the line at paying cashless for very small purchases though. I have not yet got around to doing all my food shopping online. I still prefer to choose the items myself. However, thinking about this recently, I remember my mother having a regular “delivery” of certain staples from the local co-op store. I don’t remember her having items substituted though.


Today I came across this photo in an article about the problems in the USA regarding Roe V Wade being overturned:-


“Is the dystopian future envisioned in The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s novel turned TV show about a theocratic regime that strips women of their basic freedoms, already here? In recent years, the red cloaks and white bonnets worn by the handmaids of Gilead have become a familiar feature at protests on women’s issues around the world. The group of women standing outside the US Capitol in this image from 2017 were demonstrating against a bill that sought to defund the sexual healthcare provider Planned Parenthood.”


So it goes!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Friday, 1 July 2022

Washing day. D.of E. Burning fields and unforeseen consequences.

This morning I went to pop something into the washing basket, only to discover that the basket was overflowing. Someone had been filling it up. It seemed to be a reasonably fine day, so before going out for my morning run, I put a load in the washing machine. On my return I showered and sorted myself out and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. That first load was completed. I pulled it out and put another load in, deciding to wait until after breakfast to hang the washing out to dry. Otherwise we might not actually get breakfast before midday. 


The next time I looked out it was raining! The washing is now draped carefully over driers - clothes maidens - why do we call them by that name? -  in the spare bedroom. The whole of that floor will now smell of the detergent I use. It’s a good job it is not an unpleasant smell. No doubt, now that I have done that the rain will stop and the weather will brighten up. This might be all to the good. I was hoping to make a trip to Uppermill to see if I can find a small something for my oldest granddaughter’s birthday next week.  


The damp won’t be welcomed by young people doing their Duke of Edinburg Award hikes. I came across a bunch of them recently when I took our youngest grandchild to the local park. Here is Adrian Chiles’ wry look at the award scheme.


He closes his column like this: 


“It is significant that if you see a group of young people out walking together with packs on their backs, it will only ever be because they are “doing DofE”. I don’t have data to support this, but I do a lot of walking and every time I encounter such a group I ask, with cheery sympathy, “DofE?” They grunt in assertion. The less pissed-off ones manage a nod and, occasionally, a smile. The group I encountered on the Wales Coast Path last week looked very much as if they’d like to push me and my cheeriness off the edge of the cliff.

I live for the day when I ask the question and someone replies, without eye-rolling sarcasm, thus: “DofE? What’s that? Oh no, we’re out walking and camping for fun because we really love it.””


The group I came across were all happily making lunch on little camping stoves. Boy scouts - and girl guides - let’s not forget them - used to have to prove they could light a campfire but I expect that’s consider too risky, not to mention environmentally unfriendly, these days. 


There was a time when a regular sight around here was fields of stubble being burned. I think the belief was that the ash actually acted as a kind of fertiliser for whatever was going to be planted next. As far as I know it’s stopped happening. The practice must continue in other countries because today I read this report:  


“Peruvian firefighters were fighting to contain a forest fire near the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu as the blaze threatened to close in on the ancient city in the Andean mountains on Thursday.

The fire, which had engulfed an area about half the size of Vatican City, was started on Tuesday by farmers burning grass and debris to prepare to sow crops.


As of Wednesday, about 20 hectares (49 acres) had been affected by the fire, the mayor of the nearby city of Cusco said.


Machu Picchu, a complex of stone structures sitting atop a mountain, was built more than 500 years ago by the Incas, whose empire controlled large swaths of South America from what is today southern Ecuador to central Chile.

The fire’s remoteness has hindered firefighters’ efforts.

“We have already been fighting the forest fire for two days and it has not been possible to get it under control, given the area is quite inaccessible,” said Roberto Abarca, director of the Cusco risk management and security office.

The breathtaking ruins, which have made the surrounding Cusco region Peru’s top tourist destination, are considered one of the new seven wonders of the world.”


We mean no harm but we are quietly destroying the world - in some cases maybe not so quietly!


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Some thoughts about the NHS, corruption, defence spending and Net Zero.

Two years ago, in the midst of the pandemic lockdown our small grandson (u months old at the time) was taken very ill with a mystery ailment, something they thought might be a post covid thing and then decided was something akin to Kawasaki disease. He ended up in Manchester children’s hospital where they tried a range of treatments and eventually decided he was well enough to go home. Traumatic for the whole family.


This week our daughter took him for a check-up and heart scan at the children’s hospital. The doctor who had given him his first heart scan when he was a tiny helpless little bundle came specially to see how the little chap was doing. He has done this every time they have taken the little one for a check-up. Possibly a bit of professional interest, but also a lot of human interest. That’s what medical attention should be like. That’s what the National Health Service should be like. It was a bit like going back in time to a kinder period in our history, when general practitioners did home visits. Our hospitals should be fully staffed so that all doctors can take that kind of interest in their patients. 


Instead it seems that privatisation by stealth is underway. And even private practice is having difficulties. A friend of mine needs a hip replacement. She could have to wait eight months under the NHS but even if she decides to pay for private treatment she will to wait about four months.  Nothing to do with Brexit, of course!


The little chap, by the way, proudly told the specialist, “I have a big strong heart”. And certainly, to see him rampage round the local park this morning you would never think there had ever been anything wrong with him. He doesn’t need to go for another check-up for two years now. 


Money and possible corruption go together to make good copy. The royal family has been in the news again with stories of Prince Charles accepting large gifts of cash from dubious sources. Now his people are explaining that it was all sort of above board and that it all went into his charity organisations. I’m pretty sure HRH did not pocket any of it - at least I hope not! But surely it would have been possible to make an announcement at the time instead of hoping it would all go unnoticed. As it did for several years. A sort of open book policy would be a good idea. But now they say it won’t happen again! I should think not. Her Majesty must be spitting feathers again! 


There’s going to have to be a formal inquiry too into the charity set up by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s family. There he was, a grand old gent walking up and down his drive and having sponsorship money pouring in to help out the NHS.  What a fine upstanding man, even if he needed his walking frame to keep him upright! But now it seems that Captain Tom’s daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, and her husband, Colin, may have profited by trademarking the “Captain Tom” brand. And the Charity Commission revealed that it had stepped in last year to prevent Hannah Ingram-Moore, a trustee of the charity, from being appointed as its chief executive on a six-figure salary. Oh dear! He must be spinning in his grave. 


I still find greed quite incomprehensible. Why does anyone need a six-figure salary? There are surely only so many things a person can buy!


Today I heard in the news that our government wants to step up defence spending. We need more soldiers and sailors and airmen. A defence spokesman explained how good it will be for the country: the new recruits will receive training, many of them will turn into entrepreneurs later in life and the arms industry is good for all of us! Hmm!


In the meantime, we still need to work on achieving Net Zero, but American courts say Biden does not have the power to tell governors of states to reduce their toxic emissions! Mixed up thinking! 


That’s enough for today.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

The state of things here and in the wider world!

It rained copiously in the night! It woke me up at one point. Yesterday Phil and I walked along a very dry Donkey Line. Today I cycled along it through re-established mud-puddles. It must have rained even more than I thought as the very few drizzly showers we have had recently made little impression on the surface water. 


I was in Uppermill this morning not long after nine. It was very quiet. It’s perhaps extra quiet as the 350 bus service is not running through Uppermill village centre at present because of roadworks on the Delph-Dobcross road. The 350 does a detour that misses out Uppermill altogether. The only public transport covering the Delph-Uppermill section is the 356 which goes from Ashton bus station to Delph bus station via a couple of out of the way estates in Ashton, then through Greenfield, Uppermill, Diggle, Dobcross and Delph, going an even longer way than usual to get to Delph in order to avoid the roadworks. After Delph it goes through Denshaw, Moorside and the Sholver housing estate before finally heading into Oldham centre. The whole route must take over two hours!! 


In Uppermill the young woman who sells the Big Issue told me she had seen almost nobody. “I don’t even have a pound in my pocket!” she told me. After I had been in the coop and had some change I gave her a pound to put in her pocket. At least it wasn’t raining on her although the sky looked very full. Amazingly the rain has managed to stay away all morning. There’s even blue sky - quite a lot of it!


They were setting up traffic lights for roadworks in the centre of Uppermill. The lady who runs the deli suggested that the various organisations who need to close and dig up the road should coordinate with each other to minimise the need to dig it up. It seems very wasteful that a hole is drilled and dug in more or less the same place several times a year and then needs covering with fresh tarmac. I suppose it keeps the tarmac people in business. 


 As I was leaving Uppermill they were beginning to drill the tarmac prior to digging a hole. The peace was shattered!


In the wider world, President Biden plans to send more troops to Europe. NATO appears to be about to expand. It is being said that a lasting peace can only be established if Russia is pushed out of Ukraine and tried for warcrimes. Zelenskyy says he wants the war ended before this year is over. Somehow I don’t see a rapid solution.


We’re not doing well on the global warming front either. Our goal of reaching net zero soon, by 2050 I think, seems to be disappearing. We should have started being energy-efficient long ago. Not to mention insulating our homes.,


All in all, we’re not doing very well. 


And then there’s the rumbling abortion debate. 


There’s the story Andrea Prudente on holiday in Malta, on what she and her husband called  a “babymoon” to celebrate a much wanted pregnancy. In Malta she began to miscarry and the Maltese health people refused to help because the baby’s heart was still beating. Abortion is forbidden in Malta under any circumstances. American Andrea Prudente had the right kind of insurance to enable her to be airlifted to another country for medical treatment. Others in her situation in Malta have to wait until the baby’s heart stops beating, risking haemorrhaging, before any medical intervention can take place. 


Before we get too complacent about how free-thinking we are here in the UK there are things we need to remember. In Scotland it seems they need to put safety zones around clinics that perform abortions so that anti-abortion activists don’t harass patients.  And MP Stella Creasy wants to add the right to freedom of choice on abortion to be included in the British Bill of Rights: “Most women in the UK do not realise abortion is not a right but there is only a law giving exemption from prosecution in certain circumstances,” she said. “What the US teaches us is that we cannot be complacent about entrenching those rights in law.”


America, of course, is in a state of turmoil as individual states decide which way to go. Pro-choice people protesting against the decision to overturn Roe v Wade are being attacked by anti-abortion people. Police are reacting with violence. And even more frightening things are happening, like this: 


“A pickup truck ploughed through protesters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hospitalizing one woman. The Cedar Rapids police department declined to comment on the incident. The state recently passed a law making it legal for drivers to,hit protestors to with vehicles in certain circumstances. Other states in the US have passed similar laws.”


Another odd report I came across was about period-tracking apps. I didn’t know such apps existed but I’m not surprised. After all my Fitbit keeps asking me to track how much water I drink and what food I consume. Apparently almost a third of American women use such apps. They have helped make women’s lives easier in many ways, from family planning and detecting early signs of health issues to choosing the perfect time for a holiday. I can understand that. And now it appears that many women have recently deleted these apps from their phones, amid fears the data collected by the apps could be used against them in future criminal cases in states where abortion has become illegal.


Oh boy! Dystopia, here we come. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Ironic internet problems.

After a very inauspicious start Monday’s weather improved considerably. First of all the drizzle dried up. Then by the time I had finished my Italian zoom conversation class the sun had actually come out. We went out for a walk up the hill in the late afternoon.


We took our waterproofs just in case and as we set off Phil picked up the secateurs. Last year, or maybe the year before, noticing that lots of brambles hanging over stone wall were just the right height to scratch our small granddaughter, he got into the habit of taking the secateurs in his pocket and removing any offending spiky growth along our way. Then there were the nettles, which grow in profusion around here. Certain trees also got the treatment. The small girl isn’t with us on walks quite so,often now as she has started school but the habit continues.


Recently we have set off walking several times only to realise a couple of hundred yards down the road that we have forgotten the secateurs. I have seen evidence when I have been out running though that someone else must have the same idea. Undergrowth that impedes progress along the footpaths has often been neatly cut back, not just snapped off. 


Anyway, on Monday, in the late afternoon, we set off up the hill snipping and snapping - Phil snipping brambles and nettles and rowan tree branches and hawthorn bushes and me snapping pictures of impressive skies and fine upstanding foxgloves. There has been a very good crop of foxgloves this year!


Back at the house, as I pulled the blue recycling bin (paper and cardboard) up to the gate ready for Tuesday morning, Phil decided to have a go at the rose bush by the front door. As a rule that bit of the garden is my preserve. Phil does the grass-cutting and strims the edges and I keep the little front garden patch more or less under control.  But on this occasion he decided that as he had the secateurs to hand, as it were,  he would take a look at the rose bush, which hides the broadband cable.


Now, every time I have taken secateurs or shears into the front garden patch he has officiously reminded me to be careful of the broadband cable. Of course! But it’s very close to the wall, doesn’t tangle with the rose bush and I’m always super careful. The shears never go near that bit of the flowerbeds. They are reserved for keeping the central bush under control so that it take over the whole patch. 


Now that the aquilegia flowers have largely gone to seed the patch has admittedly been looking a bit scruffy. The roses, however, have been excellent this year. Maybe the fairly radical pruning I gave them last autumn spurred them on to do better. I’ve been dead-heading them but, yes, they were getting a little straggly. I’ve been waiting for the right kind of weather, and a lull in my other activities, to get out there and scatter the aquilegia and poppy seed pods around ready for next year and generally tidy things up


So Phil was there, messing around the rose bush with secateurs. As I pulled the blue bin across the side garden I heard an “oh!”. I assumed he had chopped off a still nicely flowering bit of the rose bush by mistake. But no! The “oh!” was followed by, “I just cut the broadband cable”. I hoped he was joking. I went to look. Yes, indeed, he had cut the cable and quite close to the wall at that! 


I went indoors to get food ready. Phil punished the rose bush by cutting it right back! Before going to the kitchen I stopped to post some photos to Facebook. My phone helpfully informed me that the house internet connection appeared not to be working. Did I want to use my phone’s own connection? Yes please! 


In the meantime there was no broadband, no computer, no Netflix. It’s a good job the latest translation job had been completed and sent off. Phil spent rather a long time phoning BT and being passed from one department to another. They told him at last that they would send some kind of device to reconnect us and eventually an engineer to fix the cable. 


So we were up earlier than usual this morning to await delivery of the device. Still not there by late morning! But not long after I typed those last words there came a knock at door: an engineer! Such speedy service impressed me greatly!


Life goes on stay safe and well, everyone! 


Monday, 27 June 2022

Goodbye good weather. Thought about the G7 meeting. Some discussion about Brexit’s influence.

Well, that seems to be that! Summer appears to be over … or at least it’s been put on hold. 


We may not have had scorching temperatures but you can get used to it being pleasantly warm, even if a bit cloudy at times. You can appreciate being able to go for a stroll in the evening in a cardigan or light jacket. It’s nice to have the option to hang the washing on the line in the garden. It’s even more pleasant to sit in the garden with a cup of tea or coffee, or maybe a little glass of wine. And the last week or so has given us that. The smaller grandchildren have rampaged around the garden or played in one of those pop-up play tents - the ones that are the very devil to fold up and pit away at the end of the evening. Even Glastonbury has taken place mostly in sunshine and fair weather. No mud baths this year. 


But today I ran in the drizzle. And it was noticeably cooler than it has been. My weather app promises me “sunny intervals and a gentle breeze”. That’s the Delph weather app. The broader Oldham weather app on my phone offers me drizzle until mid-afternoon. But we’re at the Yorkshire end of Oldham; in fact some people still insist on remaining Yorkshire and sport a white rose on their gatepost. However, I have yet to see the “sunny intervals”. It’s mostly been drizzle, if not actual rain.


So there we are. From temperatures in the low to mid twenties we are now back to mid teens. But there are still bits of beauty around, 

 

 

even if the rose leaves are wet


and the orange blossom is seen against a grey sky. 


 

And there’s a young heron who visits one of the millponds and seems unfazed by people walking past and snapping his photo. 


 

Glastonbury went ahead, as I already said, without the mud wallows. It also went ahead without one of our favourites, Richard Thompson. He posted this message the other day:


“After managing to stay healthy and covid-free for the last two years, it finally hit me a couple of days ago. It is with deep regret that I have to cancel my performance at Glastonbury 2022. It is the high point of so many people’s calendars, and after so many cancellations recently, we were just getting back on track…hopefully, I’ll be there again soon. Have a wonderful festival!”


So it goes! Get well soon!


The G7 leaders have been meeting in Bavaria, promising more aid to Ukraine and mocking Putin. There were suggestions that the G7 leaders should have their pictures taken on horseback and maybe remove their shirts and show off their ‘pecs”. The prospect of seeing Boris Johnson without his shirt is not a pleasing one, to say the least. It is to be hoped that they were only joking. On the whole I would much rather see them discussing how to find a diplomatic way of ending the conflict rather than extending it. We have to wait and see how that goes.


Here is something from The London Economic:


“Labour tweeted out a message that read: “Under this Tory government,Britain’s growth has ground to a halt. And they are too distracted by their own failings to deal with it. Labour has a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and build a stronger, more secure economy.”

Under the text was an image of the G7 countries that shows that the Uk will have the lowest growth next year.

But the elephant in the room was not addressed, so superstar scientist Brian Cox might have said what you are thinking?

He wrote: “The reason the UK will have the lowest growth in the G7 next year is Brexit. We’re not going to reverse the decline until we begin to remove the barriers – economic, social, scientific – that we chose to erect with the rest of our continent. That’s not rocket science. Just say it.””


Professor Cox went viral and stirred up a bit of discussion. 


A certain Rob Smith tweeted that “The electorate are bored with brexit.


To which Professor Cox replied: “Doesn't matter. That's like saying the passengers on the Titanic were bored of the iceberg.”


This prompted someone who posts as Serendipitous Shosh to comment: “I respect and adore Professor Cox even more now than I did before. 


Go on, @UKLabour. Go and follow the advice of one of the smartest people around. Alternatively, I dare you to defy his very simple yet 100% valid logic!!!!!!!!”


But most politicians and newsmen are still keeping quiet about Brexit. 


I suppose things could be worse … but then again things could be better.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Sunday, 26 June 2022

A bit of wind. Parliamentary ambitions. Brexit “benefits”. Concerts I’m not seeing.

The trees at the bottom of the garden are being blown around in a most spectacular fashion. My weather app promises ‘sunny intervals and a fresh breeze’. Well, the breeze is certainly fresh! It’s not a bad day though. Maybe we’ll go and investigate the forest path again, now that the bluebells are long gone. We shouldn’t get blown away there. 


“Trees at the bottom of the garden” - that sounds rather grand, doesn’t it? In fact the garden is quite small and would be even smaller if we and the next door neighbours decided to erect a fence between our respective bits of garden. 


On the radio news I heard talk of Boris Johnson’s aim to remain prime minister into the mid 2030s. Perhaps that explains why there were plans to build a tree house in the grounds of Chequers. Here’s a section of a report about it:


“Boris Johnson planned to build a £150,000 treehouse for his son at Chequers but was stopped when police raised security concerns, it has been reported.

The prime minister and his wife, Carrie Johnson, wanted to install the structure during autumn 2020, according to a report in The Times. But they were forced to scrap the plans for the treehouse – which would have been built using expensive bulletproof glass – due to concerns it would be visible from the roadside, it has been claimed.

It is understood there were discussions about the project being funded by David Brownlow, a Tory donor, and that designs had been prepared.


The proposals were cancelled after Johnson’s close protection officers raised security concerns. However, Downing Street sources claimed the prime minister was also warned about the optics of spending £150,000 on a treehouse.

It was far from certain whether permission would have been granted by the Chequers Trust, the body that runs the Buckinghamshire manor house, due to the number of protected trees surrounding Chequers.”


When I first saw this suggestion my reaction was that he and Mrs Johnson need to be reminded that this is not their “forever” home but clearly he has ambitions for that to be so. A Tory party spokesman said that Mr Johnson wants to continue doing good things for the country. This had me spluttering into my cup of tea as I tried to think of the good things: the rich have grown richer and the poor have grown poorer! It’s rather like looking for the benefits of Brexit, such as this one:


“On 23 June 2016, Geoffrey Betts, the managing director of a small office supplies business in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, had high hopes for his firm, and the British economy, when he voted for Brexit.

“I thought we would be like … ‘here we go, here we go. We are going to become the most competitive country in Europe and we are going to be encouraging business.’ Now I think: ‘What have we done?’”


His firm, Stewart Superior, has survived, but not without major restructuring and huge efforts to get around obstacles that Brexit has put in the way of the export side of the business.

In late 2020 Betts decided there was no option but to set up a depot inside the EU single market – in the Netherlands – at considerable expense, to avoid costly delays in transit, mountains of Brexit-related paperwork at the border, and VAT issues when sending goods to customers on the continent.”


For more details on that story, here’s a link


We watched a bit of Glastonbury last night, accidentally tuning in to the televising of Paul McCartney on the famous pyramid stage, but we didn’t keep going long enough to see the surprise appearance of Bruce Springsteen which we might have enjoyed seeing. The vastness of the crowds is astounding. I’m not sure I would enjoy being so packed in. I have though enjoyed open air concerts in Hyde Park in recent years. Tonight I won’t be seeing the Eagles or Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, two performances I would have liked to see. So it goes. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Saturday, 25 June 2022

A bit of indignant spluttering about the overturning of Roe v Wade.

Just over fifty years ago I stood up in a teachers’ union meeting and made a speech arguing for a woman’s right choose to have an abortion. The meeting was one of the best attended we had had for a while. The agenda had, of course, gone out to schools in advance. The local primary school teachers had turned out in force, in numbers rarely seen at the time, to boo and hiss when I stood up to speak. I don’t think I could stereotype primary school teachers in the same way nowadays but this was the early 1970s. 


On last night’s TV news I saw footage of young women, still young enough to react to things by squealing with delight, jumping up and down and hugging each other, doing exactly that - squealing with delight, jumping up and down and hugging each other. They were well dressed, quite affluent-looking young women, clearly not homeless or worried about where their next meal was coming from. I assume they have all been able to complete their education, although I wonder what kind of education they have had. They were celebrating the overturning of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court of the USA.


Some states of the USA had legislation waiting for that decision so that they could put it into force immediately and ban abortion from that point on. Others will follow suit, no doubt!


Apparently the constitution of the United States does not say anywhere that a woman has the right to choose to have an abortion. Therefore Roe v Wade was unconstitutional. The constitution does say that everyone has the right to bear arms. So it is perfectly fine to have an automatic weapon and shoot a bunch of school children. Unborn children seemingly deserve more protection than the already born!


Next under threat could be contraception and gay marriage - I bet they’re not protected by the constitution. What else? The right to travel to another state for a medical procedure? A woman’s right to have open a bank account, have a credit card, have a job without the permission of her husband or father? The age of consent?


It all sounds a little farfetched but most of us have seen the Handmaid’s Tale - some of us have read the book, long ago and again since the TV series came out - and a lot of their troubles began with women finding their bank accounts closed on them and their jobs disappearing! 


If those celebrating young women ever find themselves ‘in trouble’ (there’s a euphemism for us) no doubt a solution will be found. If they stand by their principles and have the resulting baby there will almost certainly be a supportive family to help them along, to ensure that there is childcare if they want to continue with their studies or their careers. They are not likely to find themselves going to food-banks and charity organisations to feed and clothe their babies. They will probably be able to afford the health care needed as well. 


Of course, I may be doing them an injustice. They may all be young women of modest means and deeply held religious beliefs.


It does seem to me though that throughout history so-called Christian organisations intended to “help” the poor have been austere at best and cruel at the worst. Think of workhouses, where elderly couples who had been married for donkeys’ years were separated in extreme old age, as described by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie. Think of the homes for unmarried mothers where the expectant mothers had to work, had their babies taken from them and in some cases remained locked up for the rest their lives. Think of the single mothers shunned by respectable society. All those things should be left in the past. 


I’m not going to write about the cost and difficulty of finding good child care. 


I’m not going write about families overwhelmed by the problems of feeding their children. 


I’m not going to write about abuse of unwanted children. 


And I’m not going to rant about a return to back-street abortions. 


All I’ll say on that last is that you can’t actually ban abortion, only safe abortion. 


That’s it.


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Friday, 24 June 2022

Election results. Remembering the Brexit referendum. Marie Antoinette syndrome. Work experience.

Well, the Conservatives have lost the two by-elections held yesterday. Mr Johnson seems unperturbed by the losses and says he will “keep going”, even though former Tory leader Michael Howard says he should resign and despite the resignation of Oliver Dowden, Tory party co-chair. We’ll see how things turn out. All in good time, I suppose! 


However, judging by the poor turnout at Wakefield (I had emails from the Labour Party in the weeks leasing up to the by-election asking if I was willing to go canvassing there, presumably because their local people were unwilling to do so!!) I don’t think the result presages a Labour win if we had a full scale election now. 


It was amusing though to watch a Liberal Democrat and a Tory being interviewed at Tiverton on TV last night as the boxes of votes came in to be counted. As the Tory spoke of all the good things his party has done for the country the Liberal Democrat lady’s face was a picture as she restrained herself from interrupting! Neither managed to answer the question about what their respective parties need to do to improve but merely spouted standard policy lines!


Meanwhile, it’s six years since the Brexit referendum. Six years ago I posted a photo of the beach at Sanxenxo in Galicia, with the caption ‘I am still in Europe!’. If only things were that simple. Priti Patel has been publicly celebrating six years since what she described as a great moment for democracy! One such post showed her doing that Johnson thing, taking part in an activity she would never do in real life, in her case pretending to drive big red bus, emblazoned with ‘taking back control” - are we not a little out of control? I have no intention of adding that photo to my blog. It seems that she and Johnson like to be seen doing stunts like that. Wasn’t there also a photo-shot of Rishi Sunak serving burgers? Maybe they all suffer from a sort of Marie Antoinette syndrome, playing at being ordinary workers! 



There’s a bit of me that says that everyone, especially politicians, should spend a period of time earning their living doing one of those jobs that they’d never consider as a lifelong career. As a teenager I worked in a shoe-shop, experiencing the frustration of getting out five pairs of shoes for people to try on, only to have them walk out without purchasing anything, leaving the shoes for the shop assistants to tidy away. They were two sisters in their fifties working in the shop. It was all they had ever done! I was in the fortunate position of knowing that it was highly unlikely I would have to continue with that job for the rest of my life. Everyone should have that experience. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

Thursday, 23 June 2022

The Eve of St John. A bit of romantic stuff. Rpelrting strikes and the like.

 Tonight is St John’s Eve. In most part of Spain people will be lighting bonfires, and late leaping over bonfires - supposedly bringing good fortune - unless, of course, you have the misfortune to set your trousers on fire! People will also be eating sardines, unless they are too expensive this year.


When I first read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s dream, I didn’t actually associate it with The Eve of St John but there it is. A long standing romantic tradition, 


The other thing you are supposed to do today is collect up certain herbs -any good Galician could tell you which - stand them in water overnight and get up at dawn tomorrow to wash your face in the water the herbs have stood in. It’s supposed to be good for your complexion. Personally I’ve always rejected the offer of using such water. I’ll stick to my normal routine. 


I’m pretty sure the bonfire jumping routine also involves finding out the initial of the person you will eventually marry. If you fiddle the number of times you leap over the bonfire, does the magic still work?


While we’re being a bit romantic, here’s something about the singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega: 


“2 songs... one guy...

Suzanne wrote "Gypsy" with her (then) 18 year old love in mind, which she met for the period of a summercamp stay in her native US... Years later, she wrote "In Liverpool", again with him in mind, as this was his home town... and put it on the classic 99.9° F album... He showed up in England at a concert in the 90's, with a bouquet of flowers, and through the magic that is internet, they now remain actively in contact... A beautiful story, she shares everytime she sings it. She also shared a pic of his grandson on her FB page. 

True love, eternal friendship, beautiful music and magnificent lyrics... Incredibly touching for the romantics at heart... 

We all need a true love story like this in our lives... 

This is Suzanne Vega”


In Argentina they have a romantic association with the footballer Diego Maradona. From being a beautiful boy, however, he became a physical wreck far too soon and died at the age of only sixty in 2020. Now it seems eight people involved in his medical care are being investigated for neglect and possible homicide. We need explanations when our heroes die. 


https://www.theguardian.com/football/2022/jun/23/diego-maradona-argentina-eight-trial-football-homicide


In less romantic mood, rail strikes continue today. According to TV news everyone has been having difficulty getting their kids to school because of this strike. Really? In most parts of the country surely kids have gone to school,on the bus, or in the family car as usual. In London and the south east loads of students go to school by train and on the underground. Trams, however, have been running in Greater Manchester as normal as far as I know! News seems to be is London-centric and all the reporting is anti union. 


And finally someone called William Baldwin posted this  in a group on facebook:


“I heard an interesting theory that Johnson is trying to unravel the Northern Ireland Protocol he drafted because NI is the only area of the UK (apart from London) where the economy is growing because it is spared from the full impact of Brexit and it's now exposing the idiocy of leaving the EU.”


That sounds plausible. 


Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!