Monday, December 22, 2008
It succeeded, it was a massive hit, lots of money was raised and the project went on to inspire many more charity events and music releases.
This year, some thoughtless idiot at the BBC has taken the song and used it for the trailer for a comedy show. It has made me furious every time the trailer has been shown for the last two weeks.
I have no idea if the royalties are still going to charity, I hope so, because the use of the music in this way is just totally tasteless and inappropriate.
There is only one bright tiny spark and that is that anyone else who remembers what that music originally signified just might stop and think that all these years afterwards, we still have people starving in Africa. We still have wars and we still have poverty on our own doorsteps. We should be ashamed.
Charities always suffer in a recession, but if someone shakes a charity tin at you while you are out doing your last minute shopping, please, please don't turn the other way. Your few pennies might make all the difference to some good cause this Christmas.
And, please, if you hear 'Do They know it's Christmas' on your radio or in a store, don't just sing or hum along mindlessly, spare a thought for what it meant then and still means now. Maybe in another 24 years we really will have made a difference.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A very good friend sent me a link to this site which reveals a deep controversy about the correct treatment which has resulted in the UK medical profession and our National Health Service virtually to use one treatment (thyroxine) to the exclusion of all others. Further research led me to TPA-UK which is also very helpful for UK hypothyroid sufferers.
From these sites, I discovered that the information being given to patients about their condition, the symptoms, possible helpful supplements and dietary advice is very variable. In my case this resulted in not being told anything about an inadequate dose causing severe depression, mood swings and anxiety on top of all the unpleasant physical symptoms like weight gain, chronic tiredness, loss of libido, poor concentration and memory loss.
When I was a child, I was treated with a natural thyroid extract. At some time the synthetic alternative (thyroxine) was developed, but it only provides one part of the two-part (T4 and T3) natural hormone. This is what I have been treated with for many years, I really can't recall when I switched, but it could have been as long ago as my 20's and I am 57 now.
The information I now have, answers many questions about what has been happening to my body and my mind over the last 9 years. It doesn't give much hope for the future though, as currently, the NHS doesn't seem to want to listen to the evidence produced by endocrinologists in other parts of the world. They are even trying to prosecute one doctor who has been treating patients with alternative medications, which more closely replicate the hormone the human body is supposed to produce.
The controversy is around whether the natural product and/or a combination of T3 and T4 synthetics is a better treatment than thyroxine alone and on the arguable risks of prescribing synthetic T3 at all. There are different blood tests for hypothyroidism and it also appears that the one most commonly used by the NHS in the UK may not accurately reveal the T3 level at all. Having looked at blood test sheets I have been given to take to the clinic, I know this is the test my current GP has been using.
I have unsuccessfully challenged my treatment before, but I am going to do so again and will be interacting with other sufferers on an online forum to find out if there is any hope of even trying something else to see if it improves my life.
For the time being, I will be going to buy some of the natural supplements I have found out about - milk thistle, valerian and St John's Wort.
The physical symptoms and depression played a big part in the breakdown of my marriage and have kept me out of the workplace for many years - could anyone blame me for feeling angry now?
I've been following Dee Caffari's blog about her experiences on Aviva in the Vendee Globe Race. Dee is currently in the Southern Ocean, and I hope, safe tonight.
However some of her fellow competitors have fallen victim to the heavy loads Southern Ocean sailing can put on even the best built modern racing yacht.
Mike Golding's yacht 'Ecover' has been dismasted, and Bernard Stamm's 'Cheminees Poujoulat' went onto rocks while trying to moor up in the Kerguelen Islands where he had gone to make other repairs. Another competitor, Dominique Wavre was helping him, having also gone into the Kerguelens for repair to 'Temenos'.
Mike Golding and Bernard Stamm became known to me in 2006/2007 when I was working for Clipper Ventures as a watchkeeper for the Velux 5 Oceans race. I spoke to them on satellite phone and exchanged emails with them on a daily basis.
Mike Golding also went out of that race with a dismasting, hours after going to the aid of another unfortunate competitor, Alex Thomson when his boat Hugo Boss lost its keel. Bernard was the eventual winner of that race, and was leading the Vendee Globe.
Mike is still out there in the Southern Ocean, working on a jury rig and making plans to head northeast for somewhere in Western Australia.
I'm asking the Goddess, to look after them all tonight.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Yet, you decide to sit on the fence and try to remain friends with both of them. Is that really the right thing to do ? Are you ultimately damaging the whole of society by deciding to stay neutral, as well as potentially losing not one, but two friends. Why don’t you have the guts to come out and say what you really believe and what you know is just and moral?
Consider this, By staying neutral you quite possibly are NOT gaining any respect from either partner, each of whom may well think you are supporting the other if you appear not to condemn an obvious wrong. Breakdown of marriage costs society a lot, both in terms of money and social cohesion. Children are damaged, lives and careers wrecked and homes lost. If you don't speak out and identify the wrong, that partner may well go on to create and later destroy another relationship, the worst case being where two whole families are involved, setting off a chain reaction.
The only ones to benefit from relationship breakups are the lawyers who drive big shiny cars and wear smug smiles. When you walk into their office to chronicle the breakdown of your marriage you may as well be wearing a paper bag over your head with a money symbol on it. I find it hard to believe that they have any interest in you or your problems past their next payday.
By all means tell your friends if you think even the wronged partner bears some blame for the breakdown, they will, more than likely ultimately respect your honesty even if it hurts at the time and may even cause a temporary estrangement between you. Think of it as a test of the strength and quality of your friendship.
For Pete’s sake don’t sit there polishing your halo and thinking you are being ‘fair’ to everyone. Pick up the phone or write an email telling the bad-ass partner what a shit you think they are to treat someone who loves them so badly.
If you think that you can help them get back together and there IS a relationship worth saving there, say so, to both of them. Tell them that they should try to mend that relationship. IMO you will be doing the world far more favours by sitting on the sidelines and watching the circus of financial mediations and fights over kids, pets, homes and the CD collection.
A famous quotation (often attributed to Irish political philospher Edmund Burke) goes “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing”. Whoever did say it originally I think he or she was probably thinking about war, revolutions and dictators, but it seems to me to apply equally to matters of the heart and personal relationships.
Monday, December 08, 2008
The Internet Watch Foundation received complaints about a Wiki for German heavy metal band The Scorpions who featured a very young naked girl on an album cover. Wikipedia do not censor content themselves.
The Internet Watch Foundation are not part of the British legal system or a Government agency. They are actually a registered charity, and it would be rather interesting to see who is on the list of their major contributors.
British ISP's have responded to the complaint by not only blocking access to the image, but also to the text on the page. In the news item that I heard on radio this morning, and in the items I have found online, the technical explanation for this is to do with the way that the heavy bandwidth for traffic with Wikipedia sites is handled - full explanation here.
Now bear in mind that the IWF do NOT represent the British Government or the law as it stands. They are (supposedly) an independent body who work with the ISP's to eliminate potentially illegal content. So, why are UK users able freely to access other porn sites featuring children and young people? Why this particular site? Who complained?
This is their official statement on the matter as of the time of writing.
Currently my ISP Virgin Media is blocking access to the page itself via a 404 page. If I try to edit a Wiki, I get a warning page from Wikipedia itself advising me that the block is indefinite and asking me to register an account if I want to edit or create Wikis. Other ISP's including BSkyb are taking similar action.
Apparently there was another complaint about the same material from some fundamental Christian organisation in the USA earlier in the year. The FBI were notified at the time, but reportedly laughed at the complainers and said go away.
This is an extremely serious situation. Regardless of the actual content, this appears to be the first time that an organisation that is NOT DIRECTLY a law enforcement agency has succeeded in censoring what we can look at online. Moreover, it is ridiculous stupidity, the image exists elsewhere online. Are they going to force ISP's to block the whole of Amazon next?
My perception is that my civil rights have been breached and are very likely to be further breached in the future if this kind of busybodying and petty interfering moralising is put in the hands of people who don't have any legal right to tell me what I can and cannot look at on the Internet.
This is the UK, not Communist China, we have freedom of speech and communication here and it is being eroded via the back door.
This is what a BBC blog and its readers have to say
Their response to the recent dispute and me saying that if the court decision went against them they'd have to pay back all the excess charges was a snotty letter from the BRANCH manager saying we don't want your accounts any more. That includes my ISA and web-based savings accounts.
Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but it seems to me that they may already know the outcome of the court decision and are taking the opportunity deliberately to rid themselves of any accounts that may cost them money in the future. I am not sure whether this would necessarily save them from having to repay though.
They didn't notice that I have my house insurance with them. So I presume they don't want that business either, or the application for life cover which I received a few days ago and was going to take in this week.
I have replied to the letter, asking them to re-consider their move to close my accounts. I was after all extremely depressed on that day, and the lousy customer service I received from the CUSTOMER manager didn't help. From the moment I walked in the branch, she had no intention whatever of even listening to me. Not only that, but she had the sauce to criticise what I spent my money on, in the course of looking at my account details over the weekend that £175 of charges were applied for 5 separate transactions, one of them for only £5.
Apart from my reply to the Branch manager, a letter may also be sent to Head Office, naming the Customer Manager whose rudeness and intransigent attitude so annoyed and upset me. I will hold off sending this letter for a few days until I receive a reply from the Branch Manager, but I still think his junior needs some serious retraining in how to listen politely to customers and not pre-judge any situation until she has properly considered all the circumstances.
I noticed she was not on the front desk when I handed in my letter this morning. Hopefully she is somewhere in the back of the branch reading training manuals and suitably gagged with duct tape.
Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the banks and the Government are damned. Either the taxpayer (HBOS is already in receipt of 'rescue' funds) is going to have to partly foot the bill for paying back millions in excess overdraft charges or the banks will be seen to be allowed to flout the law on unfair contracts with the blessing of a Government-influenced judiciary.
Will keep you all posted.
Monday, December 01, 2008
UK banks are hanging on to the bitter end over the issue of unfair overdraft charges.
The basis of the consumer driven court action against them is that you cannot enforce a contractual agreement if the terms are unfair. The banks have an appeal in train and the judicial system has allegedly postponed a decision because the judge is engaged on another case – or perhaps the current economic situation was forseen long before it became public.
This afternoon I have had an extremely acrimonious argument with the manager of Halifax, West Street, Havant regarding such charges.
Bear in mind that HBOS may shortly be taken over by Lloyds TSB. I haven’t been and asked Lloyds whether their charging policy is any different, maybe I should.
The first excessive charge was made on a day when I wasn’t actually overdrawn at all, according to the statement I received. I should say, straight away that I manage my account online and the statement and the notifications that charges would be applied were automatically notified by email. No human intervention or action whatever - £35 per ITEM, not £35 for each day over the limit.
The not-particularly-pleasant manager, with whom I have had charges disputes before was adamant that I should have moved the money the day BEFORE the direct debit was due to come out. Surely what should matter is the balance at the END of the day!
I recall the day that happened too., My credit card statement said that my monthly payment would be taken on 1st November, so I went in on 31st to ensure that funds were available. At that time, the monthly direct debit was not showing on my customer screen. Yet, when the manager showed me the bank view, not only was the DD showing before the credit, there was another charge from later in the day that also showed up before the credit – eh???
Even if you take the bank view of the sequence of events, I would have been less than £3 over the limit for less than 12 hours. The manager was unable to explain why the statement I was waving angrily at her showed a completely different story and could only repeat, tight-lipped that the DD was processed first and so the bank were entitled to make the charge.
The second incident was not just one but FIVE separate charges for transactions made when my account was over the limit. Now I hold up my hands and say I forgot to cover a payment made over the phone to my energy company on a Friday evening. The banks can manage to generate charges and log transactions over a weekend, but still claim that these are not working days for the purposes of crediting one’s account.
Yes I DID go over my limit and ONE charge might have been justified, but not £175 worth of charges for going over my limit by a far lower amount. One of those £35 charges was for a transaction for just £5 - all this notified by email.
I should also mention that I have thousands of pounds in savings accounts with the Halifax – surely some kind of security. Other banks have a flexible account that would take such credit into consideration.
If the banks’ appeal succeeds it will make a mockery of the law that says you can’t enforce an unfair contract.
Meanwhile, from conversations with friends, it would appear that HBOS are one of the worst offenders when it comes to unfair overdraft charges. If you were considering moving your account there, or doing any other kind of business with them, I would suggest you think again.
Possibly it is their bad reputation in this respect that is responsible for their current precarious position. A bank that was not so greedy and unreasonable might be more successful at keeping their customers.
This week has been the worst for me for some time in terms of the depth of depression and the week in which professional help seems finally to have arrived. The story is not how I got here, but of the dealing with it. I have been prescribed anti-depressants in the past – just the one in fact, Citalopram. My doctor ‘forgot’ to mention that a) they might make me suicidal before I got any better, and b) I really shouldn’t be drinking alcohol or taking more than the stated dose. I did both, but fortunately not in sufficient amounts to be dangerous.
Some time after that, I did make an effort to take them ‘properly’ according to the instructions but noticed absolutely no effect at all. Chocolate is better, and having seen the health benefits that the very best chocolate might bring along with a new business interest, I am seriously wondering why the National Health don’t prescribe it as medicine.
At the same time, I checked the internet for known side-effects of Citalopram and was absolutely horrified by what I found. I checked the notes in the box with the tablets and found that it said exactly the same as the internet in that suicidal feelings was a known side-effect.
When I went back to my GP recently he said that he could ‘recommend me for counselling’ as an alternative to taking anti-depressants, but it was absolutely clear he would much rather hand out the pills and hope I didn’t come back any time soon. So I accepted that I might have to wait 4-5 weeks for an appointment, but expected at the end of it, there would be a really helpful outcome. I genuinely expected that the counselling would be psychiatric not just a talking shop. Now, I’m not totally dissing counsellors. They have their place. But having waited nearly 6 weeks for my assessment appointment, it became clear in less than 5 minutes talking to the counsellor that it was not what I expected and certainly not what I needed.
I left the counsellor upset, angry and desperate and really wondering yet again if my life was even worth living. I went back to see my GP later in the day and once again he tried to push the anti-depressants. I asked about side effects and he said ‘drowsiness’. I asked should I or shouldn’t I be driving and he would not commit himself – clearly I couldn’t take the risk. I pointed out what meagre income I now get was heavily dependent on being able to drive and taking that away would cause me even more severe stress. This particular bad episode has been brought on by financial difficulties - see previous post and this.
I also asked him what would happen if I took too many or took them with alcohol. What I was told does not seem the best solution for someone who had admitted 5 minutes earlier having suicidal feelings. I’m not saying what the alternative drug I was offered. I’m not going to risk someone else reading this and hurting themselves.
Later in the evening he must have had at least some crisis of conscience because he called to say that someone from the ‘crisis team’ would be calling me. They did, and what has happened since has been hugely helpful and encouraging and I am now going to get the professional psychiatric help that I know that I need. Thank you Sam, Jane and Clare and your colleague who called me yesterday evening.
People with depression and related illnesses in the UK do not get nearly the help and support that more obvious physical illnesses and disabilities enjoy. We are widely regarded as being self-pitying, weak malingerers, even if our depression, as mine was, arose partly from a physical hormonal condition that is already being treated, and/or factors altogether outside our control.
In the meantime, till I go to my next formal appointment, I have regular phone calls from the crisis team and an emergency number if I need it. I feel like at least some of the weight has been lifted, as if I am not carrying an elephant around all the time.
Depression in itself makes you tired. If you then can’t get to sleep because of the stress, life winds itself into a tight coiled knot. I have invented a new visualisation exercise.
As dawn comes I watch a tightly knotted towel or scarf gradually unwinding itself. As the sun rises over a gently waving field of grain, gifts are placed at my feet, that I know I can use and help myself to prosper, but the greatest gift of all, given of my Mother Goddess is life itself.
Monday, November 24, 2008
As you would expect, the main dish on his menu of recession-busting issues was leaked to the press over the weekend.
I totted up what difference a 2.5% cut in the VAT (value added tax) rate would have on my personal ecomomy, but the best I could come up with was a penny off the price of a pack of my favourite chocolate biscuits. You have to do better than that Alistair - couldn't your boss Gordon give you any better tips?
It will make a marginal difference to a tank of diesel for 'Lily' my faithful VW Golf. That is nice, but I am not planning ro replace Lily, or make any other major purchase which I wouldn't have done otherwise and that would bring the Government more VAT in the end.
Had Mr Darling consulted me before decinding on his budgetary changes, this is what I would have advised.
- Remove the 5% special VAT rate on energy bills.
The UK has seen very high rises in energy costs this year, and the energy companies have not been very quick to reflect the drop in oil prices and reduce their tariffs again. This measure would really help every household in the country at a stroke and free up money to spend on other things.
- Make the tax rise for the highest earners immediate and restore the 10% lowest income tax rate band. It is nitpicking to say that this Government have not yet broken their pledge not to change income tax rates. the 10% band WAS the standard rate for millions of low-paid workers.
- What is the point of delaying this rate, other than to hand a future Government a poison chalice. British workers are already feeling wholly betrayed by the Labour party they used to regard as 'the workers' friend' with policies that helped them
- Fix and reduce the tax take on every litre of petrol and diesel so that it is less sensitive to changes in the oil price. Every small business is hit hard when fuel prices rise, from farmers to plumbers and window cleaners. It has to be stabilized and quickly.
- There were major complaints from the business community about the most recent changes to corporation tax. Reverting to the previous arrangements would boost business confidence considerably.
- Stop mortgage lenders proceeding to home re-posssessions and force them to pass on bank rate changes. What the Government disregard is the fact that millions of UK homeowners are on mortgage interest rates tied to the LIBOR (inter bank lending rate) and NOT the standard bank rate. This is a racket and needs to be made illegal. It is pushing homeowners around the country into arrears when their loans should be getting cheaper to repay. Removing the threat of repossession will make people happier to go and do Christmas shopping and they will be more generous with presents for their families.
- Cut the tax rate on beer wines and spirits. That little holiday present to the nation will make it a happier festive season for everyone, including the pub landlords who need a boost. Forget the issue of binge drinking. It's not the price of beer over the bar, but in the supermarket that causes this, plus the social attitudes to drinking. Parents should be much more thoughtful about the standards and examples they set their children about the use and abuse of alcohol. Stop the closure of hundreds of pubs across the country every month and you will do a great deal for the economy and society in all sorts of ways.
Listen to what the CBI have to say today and anything subsequently said by organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses. The FSB made a submission to the Chancellor in anticipation of today's statement and it will be interesting to see if any of their suggestions are taken up. I have read this document and commend it to the Chancellor who appears to be deaf in that direction and to pleas from ordinary British citizens like yours truly.
I shall send him the link to my blog, but I don't expect to get a reply or a comment!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I work at home, and it is a matter of self-discipline on weekdays to shower and dress before I start work seriously. I find I get more done and in a more organised way, despite the temptation to slob about in pyjamas for half the morning.
On Saturdays, and Sundays, however, I allow myself a little more relaxation especially in the winter when there is no sailing and I can turn up at the club at midday or later for a spot of lunch, a glass of wine and a chat with friends, which was how today went.
I thought I had done all the shopping on Friday, but realised with some annoyance that there were a couple of things I had forgotten, so had to go to Havant after my lunch break at Langstone. I decided to go to Caffe Nero for a latte and a pastry first - quite a lot of my blogs and articles are born there, as notes in my purple notebook.
Actual shopping began at the discount store Wilkinsons for the toilet rolls as I knew they had a special offer, from a trip earlier in the week. At the till, I refused a carrier bag and carried the multi-pack across the road to Waitrose. I love them for food shopping, but their household stuff can be pricey. Later, putting my purchases in the car, the top of the toilet roll pack ripped a little and one of the rolls fell out.
On the way home, I had to make a sharpish turn into the road to avoid a car coming out. I heard something fall off the back seat. On the driveway, opened the car door and most of the rolls fell on my feet, some rolled under the car, others across the drive and one or two escaped onto the footpath. Fortunately by then it was getting dark.
On another day, when I was less happy, I might have howled with anger and frustration, but today I saw the funny side. Giggling hysterically I pursued my escapees and rounded them up without being observed. It was dry, on the driveway at least, and only one was slightly damp that was on the edge of the lawn. I thought I had lost one altogether, but found it under the evergreen hedge in a pile of dead leaves from the overhanging oak tree.
By now, my 'personal assistant' Bailey, was assisting, by sitting on the doorstep, shouting for his tea and superciliously supervising my pathetic efforts to control my shopping.
The evening has been peaceful and productive, getting the traffic going to my new blog, watching some favourite TV - see previous post - and having a nice dinner. I kept off the alcohol too. So, here I am, still thinking amused about my dance with the loo rolls and ready for a little read before sleep. Goodnight dear readers!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
John Sergeant and his professional partner Kristina Rihanoff have been a highly controversial entry this year. To be brutally honest, he really doesn't seem to have dancing feet, BUT he has tried hard, trained hard and done his best and the British public have rewarded him by keeping him in the show so far.
However the judges, Craig Revel Horwood, Arlene Phillips, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli have been relentless in their criticism and have repeatedly complained about the voting system that has kept John in.
For myself, I have been 'guilty' of voting for John -because I think he is fun and tries so hard, and to annoy the judges (especially Craig Revell-Horwood), but, I have also voted for other contestants who, in their particular week have danced the best.
I am sorry that this has happened, and many of John's fans will be equally upset, but I also felt sad that Cherie Lunghi went out last week, she really shouldn't have, based on her performance versus John's.
The real question is, what will happen, and what SHOULD happen to the voting system for SCD next year. Rumours and leaks are already emerging - like this one on the Daily Telegraph website.
I would be intrigued to know if similar situations have arisen in other countries where there is a similar show, or are their voting systems different and not dependent on viewer support?
There is also a nagging feeling that we have not yet heard the full story of why he came to this decision, could there have been pressure from other competitors, even pressure from Kristina - all has yet to be revealed.
Over to you dear readers....
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
International yachtswoman Dee Caffari is currently competing in the Vendee Globe round the world yacht race. Before she started, it seems her shore team planned some surprises for her to cheer her up.
According to a report I read in the Daily Mail today, they have hidden naked photos of themselves around the boat for her to find.
Sailing for me these days, mostly goes no further than a race around the cans in Chichester Harbour in my Laser dinghy. If I capsize or get wet and cold, I can look forward to a hot shower and a drink in the sailing club bar when I get back.
If I was a thousand miles from anywhere hospitable, being thrown around a boat in 30 foot or more waves and freezing cold, I'm not sure that even naked pics of Daniel Craig would make me feel better.
Fortunately, from what I am reading, Dee is now in warmer waters and shedding layers of oilskins for shorts and bikini top. Now I am envious!
I also spent a few months working as a watch team member for the last Velux 5 Oceans race and heard plenty about bad weather from the competitors including Robin Knox-Johnston, Mike Golding and Alex Thompson.
Well done Dee, go girl! I'll be watching you via your diary feeds and the Aviva website.
I had to look hard to find the right news item, but here it is!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The blog quotes a poem written by the judge which ends as follows.
"A sad but Holy God withdraw His hand from Thee.."
What about forgiveness that Christianity preaches, what about tolerance, what about turning the other cheek.
It seems to me that some so-called Christians choose to pervert what Jesus REALLY taught (according to the New Testament) to suit their own narrow minded-ness and the right of others who don't share their beliefs to do what they will with their own lives and their own bodies.
Isn't that what the USA Constitution says along with the right to believe what you will without persecution - even if that isn't a belief in God/Jesus?
You can ASK another person to understand what you believe and offer them the chance to do the same, you can't FORCE them to accept it or IMO you are actually no better than Hitler.
Sort your own lives out, look into your own hearts and minds and find vanity, pride, hatred and self-righteousness. Get rid of those, then you can preach to others what to do with THEIR lives.
I would have fewer issues with the pro-lifers if most of them didn't also speak vehemently against contraception and teaching sex-education and birth control in school. Not just in USA, but worldwide.
This judge has been appointed by the USA to enforce and uphold the law of the land, NOT the law as he sees it.
He should put aside his personal beliefs when he is at work, or if he can't do this, he should resign. It's a simple choice.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Vera Brittain was the mother of British politician Shirley Williams. Vera lost her fiancé and many close friends in WW1 and worked in a front-line hospital in France, nursing victims of gassing and the horrible wounds caused by shell-fire.
22 years ago, I was working in Belgium, on an IT project that periodically took me out of my Brussels office and down to the Mons area which was the scene of some of the worst fighting in the first months of WW1.
Just by co-incidence, at the same time, I had discovered Vera’s book ‘Testament of Youth’ and I set out to find the grave of her fiancé Roland Leighton in the little village of Louvencourt in a landscape that is even after all this time, still scarred by the conflict of 90 years ago. My journey took me over the border into France and through towns and villages I only knew the names of, as sites of battles such as Cambrai and Albert.
In the TV programme today, Jo Brand, best known as a comedienne, made the same poignant journey to Louvencourt, as she told Vera’s story, from her childhood in northern England to the end of WW1 when she returned to Oxford University to complete her Classics degree. Vera gave up her Somerville College place at the end of her first year to enrol as a volunteer nurse.
If I have a small criticism of the programme today, it was that it missed the details of how hard Vera struggled to get that university place. There was none of the expectation of today’s young men and women that they will have an equal right to further education. She had to fight the opinions of her parents and also to qualify for entrance to Oxford, which seems to have been a peculiarly complicated process for women at that time.
What it did achieve was to highlight first hand experiences of nursing the wounded, of stories from Roland and from her brother Edward and their friends of the horrors of the conflict on the Somme and at Arras.
What is even sadder is that 90 years on from the signing of the Armistice at the end of WW1, the world is still engaged in so many conflicts and wars.
Surely it is time now that we learn to stop fighting over land and religious differences and join together to conserve our planet’s natural resources and share what we have. If that lesson is not learned very soon, I can forsee another World War, except that this time we will be fighting for the very survival of the human race.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I didn't agree with all that was said, so I went off to read some 'professional' reviews of the film on various newspaper and film websites.
Here is my review.
Somehow the lack of a really credible and coherent storyline in the new Bond film, 'Quantum of Solace' didn't matter too much.
The trailers before were advertising Quantum of Solace, the game, and the visually disturbing action sequences had far more in common with a vid.game than a movie.
I love Daniel Craig as Bond, the only actors that really ever did it for me in the role were Connery, Brosnan and now Craig. Have to say though, that there were just not enough shots of Craig undressed to keep me really happy - this was all we got.
Having met Roger Moore years ago (before he ever did his first Bond movie), the fact that he is so short, sort of destroyed the tough-guy image - he was FAR too nice to be Bond. Daniel Craig is going to have to be careful what other roles he selects, to maintain his Bond image.
Mathieu Amalric's slimy playing of Dominic Greene was equal to all we have come to expect from Bond film baddies - I hated him on first sight.
General Medrano, played by Joaquin Cosio was a little too genial and teddybearish to start with - I was almost thinking the man from Del-Monte, but he got really nasty later.
I was pleased that we only heard rather than saw him beating up the girl - there is far too much real sexual and domestic violence against women in the world to be putting it on-screen, but it would have been even better if Camille (Olga Kurylenko) had got there in time and killed him before he got started.
The bit with junior agent Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), dying covered in oil just didn't work and I don't know why Judi Dench had to spend almost the entire movie in a dressing gown that looked like it came from Oxfam.
Going for a few post-movie drinks with my friend, we found ourselves discussing the prospect of future water wars and commercial organisations holding the world to ransom over essential resources as much as the movie itself - now that IS scary.
I don't agree with some of the less complimentary reviews I've read, the movies have always been about escapism and suspending reality - perhaps we expect too much from Bond movies, or just expect the wrong things.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I like Jonathan Ross but Russell Brand's humour has often caused me to switch channels - but this is me - Brand is hugely popular with thousands of listeners and viewers.
My first thought was that they should be removed from the BBC, but then I remembered a scene from the film Good Morning Vietnam and considered how what is and isn't funny is a personal and generational reaction.
In the scene, Robin Williams' character Adrian Cronauer is called to account for his 'unacceptable' style of comedy. The character, station censor Lt. Hauk who issues the reprimand, is shown up as being totally out of touch and boring, and more to the point, thinks his opinion matters more than the listeners.
Ross and Brand have been left in no doubt that what they said and did has offended and upset Andrew Sachs and his grand-daughter Georgina Bailie and thousands of BBC listeners. So, now, enough. Let's not give them more publicity than they deserve and let the matter die. I'm happy that the BBC has done what it should do and my opinion is to take it further and to sack them would be a form of censorship.
Meanwhile another BBC radio programme has managed to irritate me this morning. Whether my readers think I should or should not bet on horses is of no interest to me whatever. The amounts involved are tiny and it's just a bit of fun.
I quite often follow the advice of the tips on the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Today'. This morning I missed the tips in the 30 seconds it took to walk downstairs and switch on the kitchen radio while I made my morning tea.
I looked hopefully on the programme website and was disappointed not to find the info there. So, it's all down to feminine intuition and I'll postscript here how I get on without the BBC's advice. I've emailed 'Today' about their omission and I hope they will take notice!
FYI, I use Betfair and usually go for place betting - more of my secrets, I am not yet prepared to reveal....
Mr Ross has apologised, Mr Brand has resigned and also made an apology. Both were earlier suspended by the BBC.
Doubtless Russell Brand will be snapped up by a commercial TV channel pronto. His fans won't be deprived for long.
One of my racing selections was placed, the other wasn't, I ended the day exactly 60p up. In these straightened days, even that little bit is nice - a pint of milk for me and the cat to share. I'm up on the week by approximately the cost of a bottle of wine which will help finance this evening's outing to a pub quiz. See, I'm not expensive to keep!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Carola Long writes style and fashion articles for the Independent but has absolutely no idea of priorities when considering who the American electorate should choose on November 4th.
Hilary Clinton recently chose an appropriately autumn-coloured trouser suit for one engagement, but this was dismissed as looking like 'prison overalls'. I did agree with Carola on the subject of Michelle Obama's purple dress which got a thumbs up, but still don't see the relevance of the article at all.
What was really weird was the comments about Barack Obama wearing a vest under his shirt (I think they call them 'singlets' over there). I looked at the photo from all angles, but couldn't see that it was showing. In accordance with media practice of 'improving' celebrities whether they need it or not, I expect it was airbrushed out. Ms Long thinks that a man that shows his singlet through his shirt is somehow identifying with the working class. I think it just LOOKS horrible, especially if the singlet happens to be a string one.
However, had I been watching this item on TV, or even been at the event, I would have been too busy listening to what he was saying to notice.
Sarah Palin's polar bear brooch is decidedly at odds with her wildlife-murdering sporting preferences, and her wish to pollute what remains of the Arctic with oil exploration, but what worries me more than that, or John McCain's choice of tie, is why he ever chose her as vice-presidential candidate. The latter is decidedly more indicative of a lack of accurate judgement.
Mr Obama can turn up to accept his election to the White House in a Batman outfit for all I care. I know that the world will be a safer place with him in the Oval Office.
Friday, October 24, 2008
When an email arrived from the Sailing Secretary of my sailing club this week I was shocked that the Government should be trying to grab back some of the funds that people all over Britain help to raise for these charities and voluntary services.
The proposal is to make them pay for the radio licences without which they simply could not operate.
Mike's email contained a link to an e-petition to the UK Government here - only UK citizens can sign and I hope that you will, or if you have UK friends who would be interested, please pass my blog link on to them.
Proposing to rob charities who do this dangerous and valuable work in such an underhand way has to be about the most despicable action yet to emerge from 10 Downing Street this year. Gordon Brown, what were you thinking!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Dee's funeral was today 16th October 2008. She died of heart failure following 3 bouts of cancer that started off with breast cancer.
Help to stop this happening to another woman by clicking on the Breast Cancer link on my sidebar, each click will help to pay for a mammogram. Thank you so much.
If you like, comment here that you clicked. It would help so much to know how many clicks for mammograms were done here which might help save a life in the future.
You could also help by donating to Macmillan Cancer Support - Dee's wish and on her funeral order of service.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Today’s events have really come as a nasty surprise. In May last year my mobile phone broke in trying to get the back off it. I was spending a couple of days away and realised I’d forgotten my in-car charger AND I’d forgotten what model my phone was. So, tried to get the back off to find the model number while in a German autobahn services and jammed it. Found a charger that worked and the phone worked too, so didn’t bother too much about replacing it for a few months until things got worse and the battery wouldn’t charge at all for more than a few hours.
At that point (about a year ago) I called O2 thinking that what I was doing was making an insurance claim. No problems, they told me that my phone was no longer made and I could have this or that blah de blah at no extra cost. I chose something and they sent it. I had to go into a local O2 store who had to BREAK the back off the old one, but no worries, I thought, it was scrap anyway. I got my SIM out, the new phone was fine.
I’ve been thinking for a few months that if I’m going to carry on doing the various part-time jobs that I am, the most useful thing would be a GPS and it seemed easiest to go the mobile phone route since I thought I was due for an upgrade.
I went into the O2 store in West Quays and was shocked to be told that they had my ‘insurance replacement’ on record as an upgrade last October and that as they changed my tariff at the same time, on THEIR recommendation, not my request, I was locked into an 18 month contract with another 6 months to run. I told the store assistant the story but she could do nothing. In fact due to ‘data protection’ she couldn’t even see all my information and having called customer services they wouldn’t tell her even with me sitting beside her with a recent bill in my hand plus other identification.
When I got home I called Customer Services again. They said their computers were down, but there was another number I could call at a different office.
Same story, repeated everything, call centre guy put me on hold, and called someone else and came back apologetic, but could not change anything. What I had was recorded indelibly as an upgrade. I asked what else I could do and was asked to write in. Of course I will be doing so, pointing out that this is no way to treat a long standing customer (over 11 years) and that other networks had already made me better offers. Oh, and that according to other literature I’d seen the phone I wanted was supposed to be free with my level of contract on O2 - so where's the problem?
What I didn’t mention was that there was no chance whatever that I was going to cough up hundreds of pounds to have that upgrade early. Oh no. I can do exactly what I’m doing now, on ebay and bidding for an unlocked handset - my chosen Nokia N95 8gb.
Your previously excellent customer care has apparently descended into the depths of don’t care there’s always another new customer around the corner. And of course, I’ll be mentioning that when I write along with the fact that my complaint is now public property here, online for all to see.
O2, you replaced a broken phone with another one. It wasn’t my fault you couldn’t give me like for like, I would have been quite happy with another identical one, even if it wasn't brand new.
I absolutely protest that what I thought was an insurance claim has been treated as an upgrade and I don’t give a damn what your system says now, it’s wrong, and you need a lesson in public relations. You’d obviously rather spend a fortune on a huge expensive shop in a premier location like West Quay than a few pounds keeping little me happy. Bad move.
It took a week or two, a very acidic letter to customer complaints and another phone and email spat with someone who couldn't read or just couldn't be bothered, to resolve this problem.
I am pleased to say, that finally I got to talk to someone at O2 in Leeds with a bit of common sense and the recognition that it is a good idea to keep customers happy.
I now have my Nokia N95 8gb, at no extra cost per month, and I'm having fun learning how to use it.
I was also told that it is common for O2 customer services to avoid the insurance path by 'upgrading' because apparently processing a claim makes too much work for them.
The only sad bit is that a friend showed me their Iphone on Saturday and I had to admit that it knocked spots off my new toy. I will try to put aside the feelings of gadget-envy until my next upgrade really is due!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
The US constitution supports the right to hold any religious faith or none and all that entails. However, the agenda of some ultra-Christian voters on BOTH sides seems to me to be directly AGAINST the idea of the right to choose - to love and marry whom you want and to choose to end a pregnancy.
I am referring to the abortion debate and also the tendency towards homophobia. I recently commented on another blog where the owner slams same-sex relationships and marriages. The blog owner didn't like what I said, but it had to BE said.
I'm not gay, but I have no problem whatever with anyone who is, and if what they want is to legally and openly commit to someone else of the same gender in a long-lasting relationship I celebrate their loyalty to their partner and what is more, I support their right to adopt children or to use IVF and donors to have a child that is at least partly biologically theirs.
Abortion has always been a difficult question for me. On the one hand, I feel incredibly sad that any life however humble should be ended - killing even an ant upsets me. Every kind of living thing has its place. But there are times, to prevent the birth of a seriously disabled child, where it would harm the mother's physical or mental welfare, or following rape or incest, where, surely it is better for abortion to be available in the safest and quickest circumstances.
In the UK at least, the law still requires the agreement of two doctors to an abortion, although the common availability of the morning-after pill has undoubtedly helped many women avoid a confrontation with their doctor or their family.
It isn't a perfect system and I truly believe that making it on-demand would be better, once a woman has made that choice, any delay, even days. is worse for her mentally and physically and worse for the foetus.
I would hate to think that this legal right to choose could be lost to American women and that in the 21st century there could be a regrowth of illegal abortionists with all the risks involved.
What is worse is that some of the same people who are against abortion are illogically also against teaching young people about contraception. An educated choice to be celibate is one thing, Do your best to pass on your personal morality if you wish, but don't take away their right to know how their bodies work and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies because not all of them will listen and follow what their parents believe.
Which brings me to this. Morality is not a mathematical axiom. What one person considers perfectly OK, may be horrendously immoral to someone else. Take for instance how Saudi Arabian tradition and law demands what a woman should wear in public, certainly not tight jeans, short skirts and midriff baring t-shirts, commonly seen on the street elsewhere in the world.
I don't impose my personal morality on anyone else. And if I lived in the USA, I would not appreciate my President - or Vice President - potentially imposing theirs on me.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The first programme was the first episode of a new series ‘British Style Genius’. It brought back a lot of memories of my teenage years, both good and bad. I was still a ‘normal’ size then, although not as skinny overall as fashion demanded I should be, and I was not able to wear some of the iconic clothes of the era from shops like Biba and Quorum which did from time to time cause tears.
I would have hoped that after all these years and the huge growth in eating disorders amongst young girls that the media and women themselves would have seen sense and accepted that human beings simply come in different shapes.
Regrettably today’s designers and model agencies, despite pressure even from Downing Street are still making and showing clothes that most of us can only ever aspire to wear. What is fundamentally wrong is that so many clothes are intentionally designed to look good on a size 8 with no thought about how they might adapt for a size 18 and very few designers even care. I recall a couple of years ago, hearing a top designer, saying that he would not even consider designing a range for larger women, if we couldn’t diet to be size 10 we didn’t deserve nice clothes.
I despaired when even the designer responsible for the M&S Per Una range, supposedly for ‘real’ women was still choosing the clothes shapes on the basis that they looked good on skinnies. I noticed that one of the M&S store managers that featured in the programme was more similar to me in size and also that the clothes SHE was wearing did not look like they came from the Per Una range she was supposed to be selling.
Definitely the most beautiful dress of the evening was a 1920’s vintage evening gown that had been updated with some 21st century crystal appliqué. But it was a size 10 at the most, more probably a size 8. Wallis Simpson would have looked fantastic in it. Remember what she said ‘You can never be too rich or too thin’.
Later in the evening singer Alesha Dixon – the winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2007 - was on a mission to get a top magazine to photograph her for a cover and NOT re-touch it. Most of the titles that women would associate with fashion and beauty turned her down flat. So did men’s titles like Heat and Nuts who strangely insisted that their readers wanted ‘normal women they could relate to’ - sorry, normal and untouched doesn’t equate with boobs like balloons. Finally the Mirror Sunday supplement agreed to do it. She looked fantastic of course, but they couldn’t leave it alone and ran a feature inside showing what bits they WOULD have re-touched.
She also interviewed someone from the toiletries and cosmetic range Dove who have made a big thing of featuring ‘real’ women in their recent advertising. I am right behind the sentiment, although I can’t say I use the products because they don’t also carry the cruelty-free label I insist on.
What literally made me weep with anger, frustration and nausea was the shots of 18 year old Ellie having a breast implant operation. Yes, it is her choice, but when the media makes women so unhappy about their bodies they will go through that kind of butchery we HAVE to call a halt. I sincerely hope that it has put a lot of women off such horrible self-mutilation.
The ordinary women that Alesha spoke to in the street were absolutely clear that what THEY wanted for the next generation is for them to be happy with their natural selves, whatever shape colour and size that happens to be.
I would ask for just two things. When I go into M&S or any other store, I can find clothes in size 18 and 20 that really ARE that size and are also not made exclusively for someone a foot taller than me. Why can’t trading standards say that if a garment is supposed to fit someone with a size 40 bust it actually does. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have to go a size up in Next and Top Shop – even presuming I could find ANYTHING at all in those places to fit me.
Just because we CAN digitally wipe out wrinkles,crows feet and re-spray Sharon Stone’s face to make her look 20 rather than 50, doesn’t mean that we should. I am still not really sure who wants this unreality. It’s good to have something beautiful to aspire to but it should never be so intrusive that it makes us despairing or miserable and at the worst, suicidal about what we really are. Anorexia and bulimia ARE forms of self abuse and ultimately suicide and the media have to co-operate in ensuring that they become history by not encouraging us to worship the unattainable.
Alesha was extraordinarily brave to challenge the same media mob that have helped make her famous and deserves congratulations.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
A little research reveals that it is British Gas. Now they were my gas supplier when I first moved here, and at a previous house they were my electricity supplier. In addition my late Mum was their customer for both.
In the months that I was dealing with her estate, I had repeated calls from them asking me to settle her last bill. I told them I could not do so until I got probate. Time after time they called and I said why don't you have a note on the account, this is when I expect probate to be granted. It happened, they were paid and they continued to pester me.
I had the same problem after I sold my previous house. The last bill was paid and I supplied proof and they insisted that money was still owing. Finally I switched suppliers and simply told them when they called that they had made a mistake and I was not their customer.
The latest batch of calls, however are not billing. I discovered through a very useful website that the number is a sales one and they are trying to get me to switch back. I don't have caller display on my home phone, but beginning to think its a good idea.
The website is useful for calls like this and also if you are left with a non-geographic number and asked to call back. Don't do it. Find out who it is here and save yourself some money. Also if you only have an 0870/08450 number for a company, look them up and see if you can get a 'real' number.
If British Gas call me just once more today, I have all the information I need to report the calls as harassment from this site's forum.
Monday, October 06, 2008
But after a day or two of weeping for her loss, and her family's sadness, I realise that what I am REALLY angry about is that there is no definite cure. She had chemo and radiotherapy in her 3 cancer episodes, but although it gave her more time with her family and friends, it was not a permanent cure.
So what I am asking my readers to do is this. I'm going to be adding some links on this blog to some places where you can help by giving to research to FIND that cure and preventatives and for some of you, perhaps even to share your own story.
For Dee and her family, please help. Thanks.
Friday, October 03, 2008
My mate Justin from the pub quiz in the Wheelwrights, Havant, sent me this recently. It seemed rather appropriate so I thought I would post it today as a little light relief from ranting.
A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. Nothing is moving.
Suddenly a man knocks on the window.
The driver rolls down his window and asks,'What's going on?'
Terrorists down the road have kidnapped Gordon Brown, Alistair
Darling, David Miliband and Jack Straw.
?They're asking for a £10 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to
douse them with petrol and set them on fire. We're going from car to car,
taking up a collection.'
The driver asks, 'How much is everyone giving, on average?'
'Most people are giving about a gallon.'
Don't think for a minute I haven't been angry all this time! I just haven't communicated it. then someone I talked to suggested it might actually be therapeutic.
Now there are things in my personal life which make me VERY angry which I shall not be covering here. People, events and injustices that have forced me to bottle up for far more than the year since I first blogged here.
However blogging about other things I encounter in daily life in the UK that annoy me just might help to ease some of the stresses overall.
So, what has got under my skin today?
I do mystery shopping, I get jobs from a couple of agencies that send me to banks, shops, petrol stations or even to websites. They give me a list of things to ask or do and I get paid. Not a lot, its true and I suspect that their clients pay them a lot more than I get. Another story for another day.
Today, my assignment took me to Chichester which is a really nice shopping centre, with plenty of parking spaces in car parks run by the local council. You would think that an hour in one car park would cost the same as an hour in another one, given that they are all much the same distance walk from the central pedestrian precinct. WRONG. Some are £0.80 per hour, some are £0.50 per hour.
What is worse NONE of them give you change. This is a trait repeated in car parks closer to home in Havant and Emsworth. Forgive me guys but I think this is a form of legalised theft. If it's 80p and I only have a one pound coin, why can't I have extra minutes up to the value of the money I put in?
I can understand that a machine giving change might not be feasible in outside locations, but giving me the minutes I PAID FOR is a matter of simple electronics. Alternatively put a phone number on the machine and let me call it from my mobile to pay for my parking. Use your imagination and stop ripping us off. You know we mostly pay for more time than we ever use anyway.
Let's say I paid for an hour and 15 minutes with my £1 coin. I might well have visited one of Chichester's many cafes or pubs or gone in a few more shops and brought more trade and money to the city. Instead of which I dashed back to my car to ensure that the 'nasty brigade' of parking attendants didn't get to me and give me a ticket.