Blogging Up The Works

Saturday, March 31, 2012

And Finally....

So, that concludes the month of news posts. What have we found out other than I've become an old curmudgeonly blogger. (As oppose to a younger curmudgeonly blogger). One thing it confirms is that the majority of "news" is just bad news. Even looking at the top 5 stories each day there was very little to celebrate. Even the positive stories had a pessimistic twist in the tail. Certainly teachers seem to be under attack more than anyone else at the moment but maybe that is because I am more attuned to stories relating to the teaching profession.

When I used to be involved in the "self-improvement" movement one of the things they always preached was to avoid listening to the news, it will only bring you down. And I would say, looking at this months news, they were pretty right.

So tomorrow we have a new month. I've always thought Desert Island Discs would be fun but 8 records is way too few, so you're going to be getting 30 of them starting tomorrow.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It Almost Might Possibly Be True

Attacks of biting and kicking teachers are on the rise

Not much to say about the news today. The above story was followed by the statement that it is possibly down to bad parenting. Really? Well let's not commit to criticising parents. Heaven forbid they should take any responsibility for the raising of their children.

Secondly, panic buying of fuel. FFS get a life. There isn't even a date for a strike yet and petrol stations are running dry. Really, it's quite pathetic.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strike Whilst the Iron's Hot

Petrol supplies are running out as people panic buy.

As an expert said today, it doesn't take much to make the British panic buy. And he's not wrong. People queuing to buy petrol because of a strike which hasn't been called yet. And no, the government didn't help by suggesting it might be worth filling up. Interestingly, a girl who works at a petrol station, was saying that it is very obvious that people are driving around with minimal amounts of petrol. They just fill up with a tenner at a time. And I'm pone of them. I'd like to take the MPs advice but I haven't got the odd £100 in my pocket even if they have.

Anyway, there are a few other strikes available for those who don't own cars.

Tube drivers to strike during Olympics if they don't get an extra £1000 each for doing their normal job. The only transport in London which won't be affected by the games.

Baggage Handlers on strike at Stanstead over Easter weekend. Not that they want to inconvenience passengers, it's just obviously that they hadn't realised that weekend was Easter and the busiest one for ages. How unlucky was that!

It's just a pity that politicians don't go on strike, it might give us all the chance to recover for a bit. Actually, would it make much difference if they did go on strike?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Predict a Riot

A report into last summer's riots show a lack of inclusion in society as a reason.

Yes, yes, we all know that. They all come from broken homes, they can't get jobs, there are loads of what are called "forgotten families", about half a million I reckon they said, although I'm not sure what "forgotten families" are. And then finally, and where in the universe did they pluck this from because it is in the same report, schools who fail to teach young people to read and write should be fined.

O.K. First bit. Every time anybody under the age of 30 carries out a crime it's because they don't feel included in society, it's everyone else's fault, etc etc etc. It never changes. And everyone with half a brain cell realises that there were many, many, other people in the same position who managed not to riot. They can't get a job? Well try being in your late 50's and getting one, but we manage not to riot. My ex , as you know, is homeless, living on mimimal benefits and manages not to riot, even when it was happening outside her window. It's just excuses. And the problem is we live in a society so full of "do-gooders" they fall over themselves to get as many excuses in as possible.

Next. These forgotten families. How do they get forgotten. I'm assuming the kids go to school, or at least, they are registered at one, so they won't be forgotten by the education service. Interestingly there was another report out today to do with school truancy. 400,000 children miss more than a month's worth of school each year. Now, I know this is a big jump of conjecture but we are talking 500,000 "forgotten families and 400,000 truants. Perhaps we might have some correlation between the two for at least some of them.

The most amazing bit is fining schools for not teaching kids to read and write. Do they not think teachers try? What has that got to do with rioting? And what is it with this government and their need to attack teaching every day. Some kids can't read and write for a number of reasons but it isn't for the want of teachers trying. And why isn't any other occupation fined for nor carrying out part of it's job. My ex has been waiting 6 months for a bank statement to finally be sent out to her. How difficult can that be. Every two weeks there is another excuse. Why is there no fine there? Why is there no fine for the Council who caused the problems the other day? I know teachers from a number of schools and I can tell you this. Most of them are getting mightily fed up of it. And the standard of teachers coming in are not as good as they could be. And the pupils are only ever going to be as good as the teachers are. Oh, and this other report thinks schools should crack down on truancy, rather than making the parents deal with it.

Anyway, that ends the report into last summers riots but don't worry if you missed them I'm sure there'll be another one along soon. Followed by the same excuses.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Wonderful World of Research

The Video Game Licensing Board have discovered that children are playing games rated for higher ages and often with their parents.

Well, quite honestly I don't think that kids playing games for older age groups is anything new. It's part of being a youngster to do stuff that is above your age group. However, it is the role of the parent to try to stoop it with an occasional blind eye not to bloody participate!

I think I might have mentioned a youngster at M's school who has been diagnosed autistic although to be honest he isn't. Well, part of the way he displays his "autism" is in bad behaviour. This bad behaviour revolves around simulated extreme violence and sexual activity. How does he know about these things? Because he watches DVDs with his dad. DVDs of extreme violence and sexual activity. Stuff that is rated 18. Hardly suitable for a 9 year old.

Yes, before you ask, of course the school have confronted the parents. Their response? "But he enjoys them"! Lots of giggling from both of them. No amount of talking from the school makes a blind bit of difference.

Earlier to day I was chatting with a colleague whose 17 year old son is at college. Late last year he was behind with his course work and home work. The college put him onto a contract whereby if he got behind again he was out. So yesterday, he gets a call from the college to say his son is behind again and what should they do about it. So Peter says "tell him that he has until the end of The Easter holiday to catch up. If he hasn't caught up, give him a weeks notice and if he's still behind you chuck him out!". The College then proceeded to panic in case they actually had to do it. They said they weren't even sure they could do it. They also said it's the first time they've had a parent asking them to chuck a son out rather than begging to keep them in.

There's 10 years near enough between those two boys, but a lifetimes experience away between the two styles of parenting.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to Britain

and quite honestly, you are welcome to it.

My news story today is off brief in as much as it hasn't made it onto Hearts News or any other media, but it is news personal to me and to say I want everyone to know about it doesn't begin to cover it.

As some of you know my ex partner is homeless. When she lost the last place she lived in the council's Homeless Persons Unit had to house her. She is presently in temporary accommodation awaiting a permanent home. Now, the Housing Benefit department have decided that she has not been entitled to housing benefit since the day she received them up to and including this month! That's three years and about £20,000.00.

What planet are these people living on! How can a person who is homeless, lives on £70 pounds a week income support and has no savings not be entitled to housing benefit. She is, but someone has cocked up big time and I am not going to put up with it anymore. I am sick of us having to spend time dealing with Hounslow Council who quite honestly haven't got a clue about anything. You can't speak to the person who did this because there are no names attached.You can't go in and see someone because no-one in revenue services is available to see members of the public.

Now, I actually don't care how racist this sounds but, as one of the boroughs in which Heathrow falls, if anyone flies in to the airport without a place to live they will be housed. This isn't something I have read in The Mail, this is actually what is happening. I know other white, British, elderly people who have lived here all their life who are now homeless and are being treated diabolically whilst foreigners come in and take what's available. Anyone who doesn't believe me is welcome to book an appointment with me and I will take you there so you can see it with your own eyes, I have no reason to distort the truth as the chattering classes in the home counties wish to do whilst they think "how wonderful it is that they have an Asian family running the convenience store in the village"! I've grown up since I was a small boy in a multi-cultural society but even the Polish I know who are third, fourth and fifth generation are sick to death of the influx of Eastern Europeans who are taking over their lives. Some of these long standing Polish families are returning to Poland to get away from it. Ealing is now predominately Eastern European, Hanwell has the biggest Somali population outside Somalia.

And what do the government do about it, nothing other than to call each other names over who funds who and keep lining their pockets.

Expect headlines to do with "West London man goes berserk in Council Offices" in the very near future!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First Among Equals

Britain's Got Talent just edged The Voice as the nations favourite Saturday Night reality show.

Well, having never seen the Voice as that was the first episode ever, and by token of the fact I wouldn't watch BGT under pain of death I wouldn't know if one should be favourite or not.

What does occur to me is how like football this rivalry works.

It seems to me that both Simon Cowell and Alex Ferguson have the same way of liaising with the public. A sort of outrage at facts that, in the main, they have brought about.

Alex Ferguson spends most of his time vociferously defending his players no matter what they do wrong. They can kick the opposition to kingdom come and Ferguson bemoans how his players are innocent and people are just jealous. Then the moment someone gives one of his players a slightly hard stare and he's screaming that his players are being targeted and the opposition are a bunch of dirty swine who should be banned from the game.

This week Simon Cowell did his normal thing of appointing a judge to one of his shows and then being outraged by their behaviour. This time it was to do with new judge David Walliams. Having put someone on a panel who is a comic that specialises in sexual inuendo it seems a little churlish to then complain that he makes sexual innuendos.

But more than that, I can't understand how the Great British public take either of them seriously.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Inconsistency

1 dead in M5 pile-up.

The report on this crash has so many inconsistencies. The coach driver has been charged with dangerous driving yet the coach had supposedly broken down. It was also said to have been on the hard shoulder, yet the lorry hit the near side rear quarter.

Whether it is an amalgamation of rumour and conjecture I don't know but the news editor really should have sorted it out.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Truth Will Out

A US Coroner has released the details of what killed Whitney Houston.

Too often when a celebrity loses their life the cause of death is masked in a more sanitised form in as much as the real cause is missed out in favour of the final problem. So well done, if that is a relevant comment in such a matter as this, to Whitney Houston's family, publicists and everyone else on actually giving the truth about her death. The official verdict is from drowning following a heart attack brought on by the use of cocaine immediately before.

How easy it would have been to just say she drowned. Or had a heart attack that caused her to drown.

Maybe it might sink in to just one other persons brain that drug use isn't sfe. But then again, it probably won't


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Keeping It In The Family

Stella McCartney is to design the Olympic Kit

This is the first time that Great Britain has used a recognised designer for the Summer Olympic Kit. I can see why. Really you want a materials technician to be devising kit. The right material covering the right amount of body might just shave that last 0.01 second off your time meaning the difference between gold or silver, a World record as oppose to a Games record.

This is a Stella McCartney number.


Not too over the top for a fashion design but perhaps a little impractical for the women's shot putt.

So we'll wait to see.

And isn't her dad due to play the opening ceremony? Perhaps they got both of them on a Buy 1 McCartney get 1 free deal. Pity Linda isn't still about, she could have been Official Provider of Vegetarian Food to the Olympics.

Following yesterdays news that people running with the torch have to pay £200 to keep them I suspect the athletes are waiting to hear how much they might be charged if they want to keep their kits!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Who's a Pretty Boy Then!

The Chancellor is due to present his budget in Parliament today

Alright, I was still pretty sleepy. I didn't even know he had a budgie!

He needs to employ The Olympic Committee if he wants to raise money. 8000 people chosen to run with the torch. What an honour. Oh, if you want to keep your torch that'll be £200.00. That's 1.6 milllion quid, thank you very much. Perhaps choosing 8000 people wasn't so much a case of inclusivity to the games but inclusivity to the funding of them!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rubbing It In.

George Osborne is to announce that everyone is to receive a personalised statement on what their tax has been spent on.

Why? What good can it do. Are you going to feel happy with how much tax you are paying if you see a breakdown of it's division. Will you feel happier that the money you have to spend each month seems to be getting smaller but it is ok because you know exactly how much has been sent abroad in aid? Will they be telling you how much of your income tax has been diverted to producing your personalised statement, because at a rough guess the postage cost alone runs to £11 million pounds.

I really cannot see the sense in this. Maybe they think if they show how little is spent on politicians we might stop getting at them over the expenses scandal. But in fact they aren't going to go into that much detail, just mention the big three or four divisions, NHS, benefits, you get the idea. You already get the breakdown of your council tax and where that is spent. Hands up all those who sit down and read through it, relishing the statistics that tell you what percentage goes on street cleaning, local policing, supporting libraries.

They do have a rationale behind this and it's the second time in two days I have heard it. You will receive the statement so that you can "engage" with your personal taxation. Yesterday you found out where the Olympic torch would be to give every one the chance to "engage" with the Olympic Games.

Funnily enough it isn't the first engagement I've had of a 20th March. In 1978 I got engaged to my future wife. It must be something in the air.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Arsonists on the Loose

The Olympic Torch route is being published today.

Not long now till a horde of random UK residents tear round the streets of Britain with flaming torches!

The torch will get within 10 miles of 95% of the population. Let's see how my family will do.

Me : Tuesday 24th July. About a 10 minute walk should give me a bit of a view.

My Mum : Sunday 8th July. Just 5 days late for my Mum's birthday it'll pass about 10 minutes walk away. Well, 10 minutes for me, about 20 mins for her, and it's uphill, so perhaps she'll give it a miss.

My Brother : Who knows? Apparently he lives near a very straight dotted line? No date, although it will be no more than 1 day either side of my mum as he only lives 5 miles away.

My Dad : 15 miles away on the 4th of July. A bit of a trek for him on his mobility scooter! Hopefully no-one on the Norfolk Broads is too bothered, particularly Sea Palling which is about as far as you can get from the route in that part of Norfolk.

So, I reckon I can see it. My brother could come over to my mum's and pick her up and take her to see it in St Albans, and my dad might as well not bother. In reality I suspect none of us will bother. As someone said on the news this evening, it's going to take a great deal more than that to get me involved in the Olympics!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who's the Mummy?

Emma Bunton is Heart FMs Mother of the Year.

And Victoria Beckham came second. But they are wrong. The best Mummy by a long long way is mine. So there!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Freedom to Choose

Public Workers wages are to be frozen to bring them in line with the private sector.

So, Mr Osbourne has now decided he can freeze the wages of teachers and nurses, (those are the named groupings), as they seem to be 8% higher than comparable jobs in the private sector. Well, this is great news for the Magnificent M.

Now, although the pay might be frozen maybe now M will be able to move up a grade to get more money because she is capped because of her school size. And of course no extra amount of work gets you any extra money. All after school clubs are done for free. No overtime for teaching so that will surely be introduced to bring them in line with the private sector. Oh, and flexi-time. It'll be nice to go in at 10 some mornings and stay till 6 so there aren't any kids about, much easier. I wonder who will teach for the missing hour? Holidays whenever we want to take them. Cheap rates for us then. Hooray! Off to have a tea or coffee when she fancies one. Drift off to lunch when it's convenient. Make a few personal calls and surf the net if she's at a loose end.

And yet, I suspect that isn't what is envisaged. Of course, teachers and nurses might decide to take industrial action just like in the private sector. When insurance workers go on strike you'll probably not particularly care. It might be mildly inconvenient of them but really does it matter? Of course a striking teacher is purposely trying to ruin your child's education because they are a hard-hearted bunch, just like the nurses who are intent on making sure your family members die.

Of course, there is one bunch of workers in the Public sector who have lost out big time. It's MPs. When their pay comes up for discussion they are remarkably underpaid compared to the private sector. It's why their pay has to go up each year. But not to worry because they do look long and hard at their circumstances before they vote themselves a payrise. Which luckily has been agreed by the independent body who look at the MPs wages.

So, 24 hours ago teachers were told they have to become hard-line on literacy. Today they are told they are overpaid, not long ago their pensions were considered too high, which is strange because public sector pensions were set higher to make up for the lower wages that public sector workers get. (Some mistake here surely). And of course last month there was the discussion about what to do with all the teachers who aren't up to the job. Well I can promise you one thing. All the ones that are good are thinking of leaving because teaching isn't what it was and I suspect neither is nursing. You know those people who answer the phones in call centres and don't know what the hell is going on with anything because the computer doesn't tell them. Welcome to the next draft of teachers because that is the standard of worker the government are going to be attracting with their relentless attack on the profession.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Price of Fame

Russell Brand has been arrested following an incident with a photographer.

Who'd be a celebrity? I can't stand Mr Brand myself but I do have some sympathy with celebrities. Once you are outside your own home you are considered fair game, sometimes even when you are in it. The argument is always that if you rely on publicity for your career then the public has a right to access at all times. By the same token though, if you are a teacher, and paid for by the public purse, should members not be able to stop you in the street and insist you spell them a word or add some figures up? Perhaps I can get the postman who lives on our estate to go deliver my mums card to St Albans?

It seems to me that the sensible thing is, when celebrities are working they are on call, when they are not working, just leave them alone. It's not like they are stalked to get a good news story, it is always to try and feed the "publics desire" for seeing rich or successful people suffer. Because these days what passes for entertainment is magazines and programmes full of stories to make the populace feel better at others expense. Watch X Factor in the early rounds, not to hear good singers but to watch "the freak show". Big Fat Gypsy Wedding isn't shown to improve relations between the travelling peoples and the general public. And what's worse is that these people appearing are so desirous of being celebrities they make idiots of themselves just for their 15 minutes of fame.

The Magnificent M sometimes asks the kids at school what they want to do when they are older. No more train drivers, doctors, nurses. Boys want to be footballers, even when they can't kick a ball for toffee and the girls all want to marry footballers. Apparently a footballers wife is a career choice.

Now, if you are at the concert I'm in tonight, could you all cheer really loudly and scream when I sing my solo line. After all, I don't want to be left out. I'll be signing autographs after!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reading

Literacy levels in primary schools are slipping.

Just part of the full headline but one that appears with remarkable regularity. The Chief Inspector of Schools made one very good point; we've got to stop coming up with soundbite solutions. This has been the role of government for years now to say something clever and then try to implement it in school. The trouble is, by the time you have implementation it's time for another soundbite. That has left a trail of confusion. Are you teaching the alphabet, phonetics, phonics.... and if it's confusing for the teachers then it sure is for the kids.

The next problem is that the main wave of teachers coming through now are the ones where literacy was already badly taught and their grip of grammar is weak and their spelling is average at best.

So, teachers have to be "hardline" now. I'm not sure how. The biggest help will be reading to them. That would be the parents job but then many of the present parents are the children who didn't learn to read before. You can force in rules of grammar and pronunciation as much as you like but that is only part of it. It's the listening that the new children do that teaches them vocabulary and the rules of English. Because it's only by listening to certain words in the context that it's set that means someone knows whether the title to this blog refers to a pastime or a town in Berkshire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No Smoke Without Fire

Kerry Katona is in trouble for saying there isn't any real harm in having the odd cigarette whilst pregnant.

Ms Katona puts her foot in it again. This time in defending her fellow "Face of Iceland" colleague Stacey Soloman who, wait for it, has been deposed as "Mother of the Year" having been caught smoking whilst pregnant with her next child.

I've never smoked and can't really be doing with it but I have a bit of sympathy for them in as much as, harking back to yesterdays post, this is a relatively new medical phenomenom. Not immediately recent, but 50 years ago it wouldn't have been picked up at all. All the medical advice is not to smoke during pregnancy because all these things can happen to the baby. They always said that t would make babies smaller but I think I'm right in saying that the average baby weight is less now that it was 50 years ago.

Funnily enough we were talking about smoking at work on Monday. It seems so natural not to go to pubs and restaurants and they be smoke free but it isn't that long ago that it changed. One of the guys was saying that 20 years back he knew someone who owned a restaurant who decided it should be smoke free. He reckoned the bloke would go bust within 6 months, but he didn't. And I can remember working through the Good Pub Guide looking for the few pubs that were no smoking, or at least with one no smoking bar.

But more worrying than the smoking angle is, how do we survive when Stacey Soloman is Mother of the Year. Although I am prepared to say this is a step up from Katie Price.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Living is Killing Us

Eating red meat regularly increases your chances of heart disease and cancer.

The idea red meat is bad for you has been around for ages. Along with virtually any other foodstuff you care to mention. Diets have changed over the decades. Our diet now is much healthier than it was but that is because it needs to be. 100 years ago, or really before that, we needed the calorific input. Day to day life was was energetic, both for men in employment and for women in the home. Nowadays we obviously have little to move for. Other than nipping to the loo you can pretty much spend an entire evening without moving. Remote controls, laptops, mobile phones, every convenience for you to sit on your backside for hours on end.

And so now we investigate everything we can about what we eat in order to make ourselves healthier. And what have we found? Food isn't particularly good for us. In a lot of cases though it is the same food we have had for centuries. True, the amount of processing has increased and the additives are a problem. So it becomes whether red meat is bad for us or whether the aftermath of how the cows are raised is bad for us. But then not all food was healthy in the old days.

The problem isn't with what we eat but in what we expend in calories. The less you move, the less calories you burn and, in addition, your digestive system doesn't work as well, which means food residues and the chemical compounds within spend longer in your body.

Now, I admit, exercise is not something I enjoy. And the older I get the less I fancy the look of it, but if I am to shake off some if this weight, I am going to have to do some because you can only cut so many calories out of your diet. But when I was young, of school age I was for ever out and about playing some game or other. We'd spend hours playing tennis or football or anything we could make up. But more and more, young people don't play out. Whether it is because it is perceived as not safe or whether kids have already learnt that a sedentary life is an acceptable life I'm not sure.

So perhaps in looking more and more at the food perhaps we need to work out how much more exercise we can get into peoples lives. But how we do that Lord only knows.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Murderous Intent.

A man with "Locked-In Syndrome" fights for right to die.

Since the headline first thing this morning we now know that Tony Nicklinson can take his "right to die" a step further by having it fully discussed both in Parliament and with medical representation.

I, for one, hope he succeeds. I know that there are lots of moral reasons on either side of the argument but it always strikes me as strange that it is considered humane to put down an animal that is in pain, has little chance of survival or will have no quality of life but when it comes to a human me must keep them alive at whatever cost.

I know that if my mum was on a life support system or in such a mental or physical state that she has no quality of life, she wants to be helped off. She has told me so. I know it would be very hard to make the decision but I know that is what she wants and I love her enough to give her her final wish. But I hope fervently that I never have to.

It's going to be interesting to see what the final outcome is but I suspect that in the end the law won't change. Although to not change the law is discriminatory to the disabled. The able bodied are able to take their own lives, even as assisted suicide the "patient" has to administer the drugs themselves, but the severely disabled can't.This is why Tony is fighting, because he can't administer those drugs, so why, if he asks someone to do it, with all the safeguards that can be put in place, is he not given the same right as the able bodied?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aspiration

This is somewhat connected to the previous post.

One of the feeds I follow on Twitter is for The South Bank. Just to keep up with who is appearing there. During this weekend they have been discussing Feminism, yet again.

One of the threads concerned the programme Ladettes to Ladies and whether the term Lady should be dropped as a term for women as it packages them in a certain way. Bollocks, or whatever the female equivalent expletive might be! Here is an example of dumbing down again. Rather than try to better yourself and your social standing lets all head the way of the lowest common denominator, the "Lad" so that we can drink, sleep around and basically do what we feel like. That is not feminist equality, that is sexist jealousy.

I don't mind if young women want to go out and drink all night and sleep with every Tom, Dick or Harry, but then, don't complain you can't find any decent husbands. Men have lots of different "types" as well. The Lad is just one of them, and letting young girls know that the emulation of that one single group is worth striving for is condemning them to a life well below their own expectations.

I would rather live in a world where everyone could just be themselves and be the best they can, but it isn't here now whilst men idolise footballers and women can vote Katie Price as mother of the year.

Education for the Masses

University students are going to strike this week to show what campuses will look like if the government continue to put up tuition fees.

University students have been protesting for as long as I can remember and before. A large group of young people is always going to have a political element. They will also probably be as close to socialist in their views as they will ever be. Idealism is the badge of students. With their whole life before them why should they not think they can change the world. Every generation believes this but I suspect the vast majority end up in no better or worse place than their parents, living in a world that just repeats it's triumphs and disasters over and over again.

The big difference this time ought to be that there are many more students out on strike. With the political push that everyone should have the opportunity to go to university, and by renaming all the colleges to their senior counterpart, there should be 10 times the number of students not bothering to get out of bed picketing.

I think the education system as a whole has lost it's way, although there are encouraging signs that at infant/primary level they are returning to the old skills of learning the alphabet and multiplication tables. They say that the education system has not been dumbed down but there is no way that the pass rate of GCSE and A levels hasn't been dropped to increase pass rates. I have had this argument with my brother for some time. He believes that it is just different but still as hard. If that was the case then the "real" universities wouldn't be re-testing people for admission. Some of the university lecturers we know are tearing their hair out as students turn up to take degrees without the knowledge to begin, and crash courses need to be run to get them up to level.

Nothing will change now though. Who is going to reduce the number of university places. How wonderful is it that your children can go to university now when before they would have done the same course in the same building but only have gone to college.

I wish we could go back to a system where the academic went to University, the mainstream go to college and those who have struggled academically go to technical college or art/music colleges where they can be taught useful skills or to evolve their artistic skills. No-one is made intelligent by the fact they can attend a university rather than a college but lives are ruined by taking the colleges away from the less academic and putting nothing in it's place.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mr Watson, Come here, I want to see you.

For reasons of shopping, housework and all sorts I didn't get to hear the Heart news this morning so, rather than miss a day of news blogging, I thought I would look back at the news for March 10th. And I discovered it is the 136th anniversary of what I think is probably the most amazing invention ever.

On March 10th 1876, Alexander Graham Bell picked up his prototype telephone and made the first telephone call uttering the words in the title.

I have always found the telephone interesting. Like most kids I did the two cans attached by a piece of string thing and I also remember having a plastic version of the same system which must have some connection to a Gerry Anderson programme such as Fireball XL5 of Supercar.

I remember as a cub scout going to learn how to make a phone call from a public payphone. That in the days where you pressed button A to connect and button B to return your 1d if there was no answer. Our phone "numbers" still had letters in them. Ours was EAL 5234, part of the Ealing exchange. Using the phone at home was still quite special. We didn't really phone friends very often because we saw them at school and we could survive until the next day without contact, unlike the present generation. If it was really necessary to speak to my best mate I'd nip round to his house and see if he could come out to play. We had old dial phones obviously, and then push button phones. We even had a trim phone with it's strange warbling ringtone.

But the thing that makes it such an astonishing invention for me is that I can pick up a phone and speak to someone virtually anywhere on the planet within a couple of seconds. It doesn't matter how many thousands of miles away they are, they are just a few key-punches away.

And of course the things we can now do with mobiles and data sending etc is impressive but it still doesn't beat punching a dozen or so numbers and speaking to a friend or relative on the other side of the world and then sounding so close you could say "come here, I want to see you".

Friday, March 09, 2012

Giving and Receiving

Today is the last day of Heart's "Have a Heart" Appeal.

Like most radio stations these days there is a week of fundraising. Heart have been raising money for Childline. And like most other radio stations they have been having a week of auctions. Today you could buy the chance to be trapped entertained for a champagne trip on he London Eye with Shane Richie and another was afternoon tea with Jason Donovan.

I don't know when the trend of raising money by auction started but I've often thought if I had the money I might go for one. It does however strike me as being somewhat selfish. You have money you are willing to give to charity but you want something in return.

Anyway, I know what I shall spend my money on. It will be a private concert with either Jamie Cullum or Michael Buble. I'm not bothered about either but M has left me in no doubt that those are exactly the right things for me to bid on.

And after all, I don't want to upset her or I might end up in a condition where I need a charity auction to raise money to rebuild me!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Boris Bike Bonanza

The Boris Bike scheme has now extended to Westfield and Limehouse.

So there are now something like another 3000 bikes for hire. I've not yet checked them out so don't know what they cost or how the scheme works but they seem to be popular so at least that's one good thing.

There was more cycling news yesterday evening on tv. They were doing a report on the fact that the number of cyclists being injured on the roads in increasing. The fact that there are mor cyclists might have something to do with it but they did have one amazing fact that had come up in research. You'll never believe this, but...... cyclists who are hit by HGVs tend to sustain worse injuries than those hit by cars! No, surely not. Who'd have believed it!

But more interesting was a report of an accident between cyclist and car filmed by the cyclists on-helmet camera. Now, it was the car drivers fault but this is what happened. The cyclist approached a mini-roundabout with a fork left and right as an exit. The cyclist exits towards the right fork whilst a car comes straight out of the left hand fork and hits him. As I say, the car driver was at fault, he didn't stop as far as I could tell and just entered the roundabout without seeing the cyclist. But what also happened was that as the cyclist approached the roundabout he didn't reduce speed either nor, unless he is particularly adept at steering one hand, did he indicate he was going to move to the right fork. So yes, it was the car drivers fault but the cyclist must be held at least partly responsible. And to be honest, whether I was on my bike or in my car, I would have been watching that approaching car and getting ready to change my course if I thought there was problem.

So we are back to the age old problem of cyclists taking some responsibility for their own safety. And not be like the guy this morning who decided to cycle through a red light whilst chatting on his hand held mobile phone.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

And in other news

Just checking the stats and have discovered that, although this blog has been going nigh on 6 years, 15% of all the page views ever, took place last month. Blimey!

Home and Away

Various bodies have suggested poeple holiday at home in the UK as a tribute for Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and to celebrate the Olympics.

The first point is that should you choose to do that would you please avoid London. It's not that many days since they were suggesting perhaps those who live and work in London might like to bugger off somewhere else during the Games and not get in the way of a) the sponsors, b) high spending visitors, c) the sponsors, d) essential traffic and e) the sponsors.

As the bodies doing the suggesting are, London Eye, Alton Towers and Butlins, one must assume they were rather hoping it would be their own attractions that benefited.

I suppose this follows the normal annual appeal to stay here or, as we now call it, have a staycation! I certainly had UK holidays when I was young. In fact up until I was 16 I'd probably only had three foreign holidays, one was courtesy of my best friends family. one was a school trip and the third when 16 was to Mallorca. That was so long ago that Magaluf was still a reasonably undeveloped area just down the coast from Palma Nova. Foreign travel, although becoming more available was still the expensive option. But nowadays would I expect to go abroad? Would the expensive option be UK? Even if abroad is a bit more expensive is it worth it for the guaranteed weather?

Nowadays I think of abroad as an annual holiday destination and the UK for long weekends or second holidays. What say you? And will you stay to celebrate this year or get as far away as possible?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Fit to Drop

Experts have warned Olympic athletes not to shake hands with spectators in case they pick up infections.

The ways in which I could have posted today with this story are varied and numerous. There can't be a satire programme on tv, radio, or relevant magazine who won't have a field day with this.

What do they think is going to happen? Hordes of foreigners coming over here with their nasty foreign germs. The working classes thronging to see the stars as they go about their daily business, coughing on their hands and then offering a handshake?

I suggest that from now until the actual Olympics, all UK athletes should live in oxygen tents, eating only sterilised food and, should they need to venture out, don space suits to protect them from a stray streptococcus.

After all, we wouldn't want any of our athletes to slump to 17th from their expected high of 15th!

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Benefit of Hindsight

The Government are to re-look at their decision to cut child allowance to families where one partner earns £40k.

And so they should. How can it be fair that a family where the joint income is 2x £39,000 and you keep it, whereas 1 x £41,000 and you lose it. I'm a Tory by nature but even I think that is the most absurd piece of mathematical economics I have ever heard.

I actually think they are looking at the entire situation wrongly. Instead of working out the family income for child allowance they should be looking at the number of children. It's a simple enough system. You get the allowance for your first two children and then nothing.

There, that isn't difficult.

Why should we have to support families who choose to have lots of children? And these days it is a choice. We have universal contraception in this country. Not to use it is a choice. I know there is a religious argument against contraception but, if a particular religion thinks mass procreation is a good idea then let it pay for it. I don't have a problem if someone chooses to have more children as long as they can afford to support them. Historically we often needed larger families due to infant mortality but that, to all intents and purposes, has disappeared, at least in this case. The Catholic church in particular wanted the Catholic population to spread and become a majority but that argument is surely redundant as I cannot see a reason to populate a particular religious group these days unless you are planning a religious war. (I am sure there are other religions I could pick on but The Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the highest profile one in the UK.

Compared to my ex I am positively liberal. She would then go on at +2 children to start fining families by way of tax allowance loss at best. Actually, she would probably vote for +2 euthanasia, but that's another story.

The argument is of course it penalises the poor. And yes it does to a degree, but there is no argument I can see for them wanting to have lots of children.

Of course my system can't be brought in overnight as that would be unfair to larger families as they exist, or, perhaps we can keep the pay out as it is today but draw a line at some point and then bring it in. A years warning or so would be enough.

I reckon that would save a lot more money in the long run than the present proposal. I await Mr Osbourne's call!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

On a Knife's Edge

Extra Police being deployed in South London following yesterday's two stabbings.

There hardly seems to be a day goes by without a stabbing somewhere in London. Of course, carrying a knife now is a crime, when I was young it wasn't a crime to carry a knife, although it would have been to use one in a crime obviously. I don't think most young people carried them routinely except when in our scouts uniform and then we'd normally have a sheath knife on our belts in case we wanted to quickly whittle a stick. The occasional boy at school had a penknife, and the very occasional one had a flick knife. The latter being more a case of interest than of intended use.

It wasn't that we didn't have weapons should there be a fight. Not that I was ever involved by choice. The kids who were into such things used combs!

No, we weren't so effeminate at our school that a fight consisted of rearranging someone's coiffure! The rage at the time, for weaponry or not, were metal combs. We all had them. Not that half of us ever combed our hair, nor would they have been much use if we had wished to, as we wore ours at shoulder length, (well it was the 70s!), and it needed brushing. But come metalwork on a Tuesday afternoon, there would be a couple of lads who would be at the grinder honing the "spine" down to a sharp edge.

I only ever saw one incident involving one of the combknives, the problem being it was me and a friend being threatened. To cut a long story short, the person who threatened us ended up in borstal for a few weeks. Mainly because I swore blind it was a knife he was carrying. Funnily enough I ran into the guy a few months later at Griffin Park, home of the mighty Brentford FC. He was friendly enough and promised me it wasn't a knife. I admitted I knew and he was fine about it. I guess he saw it as an occupational hazard. Bang to rights and all that.

And today in South London there are Police roaming the streets, unable to stop anyone in case it's considered discriminatory, until perhaps someone gets stabbed. And it wouldn't be difficult to arrest people these days as to my knowledge, no-one is carrying a knife around legitimately anymore for whittling sticks.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Weather Watch

8:00 am News - 28 die in USA Tornadoes

Overnight, America had dozens of tornadoes hitting what I think is the mid-west. Meanwhile, New Zealand was experiencing what is known as a "weather-bomb". No, I'm not sure either but having caught up with a number of other social networking friends it appears to have been a very short sharp shock of weather where the temperature plummeted, winds soared and torrential rain fell. Meanwhile here in the South East it is just going into March and we already experiencing drought conditions.

One thing I learnt at school was that the UK never suffers the greatest extremes of weather as we are a maritime climate, yet more and more the weather does appear to be changing from how it used to be. The environmentalists are as always happy to jump on the global warming soapbox, and yet records show that the average temperature now is one degree lower than in Elizabethan times. There are the "rose tinted glasses" memories of yesteryear when we has snowy Christmases and boiling hot summers, though reality is different, Easter having more snow than Christmas and summers only being really good on an 11-12 year cycle. But there is no doubt that the type of weather we are having is different.

And what is different though is something known as The Madrid Line. (Not to be confused with The Madrid Fault Line). The Madrid Line is used in the glazing industry to identify the point going round the globe with ideal conditions. It passes through Madrid hence the name.

Or it did.

The line now passes through Paris rather than a few hundreds miles south. The earth has tilted. To me this makes much more sense as to why our weather is different from the "norm" as the "tilt" has happened in less that 25 years. And it is predicted it will only take another 13 years to tilt enough to put the UK on The Madrid Line.

Now, I don't think it's really a tilt. It is known that the Earth wobbles on it's axis and it is obviously in a state of wobble. Hopefully we will wobble off back to where we were because regardless of whether we know what the weather will be from one day to another, the seasons will change from their traditional months of the year, and that will be bad news for birds, beasts and land as well. And the Earth wobbling seems so much more plausible than death by aerosol.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Fuel's Gold

The Average price of fuel will hit an all time high today.

And indeed it did. Fuel in the UK is now an average price of 137.4, which is pretty much the average in this here bit of London.

Gone are the days when going out for a drive on a Sunday was affordable. If we went out into the country for Sunday lunch it would cost us more for the fuel than the food. So I worked out what likely journeys for me are costing.

To go to work costs me an average of £10.20 depending where on my patch I have to get to. Which means with meetings and self generating appointments, I probably have to spend £100 to earn any money. And my last sale didn't even net me £100 in commission.

To visit my mum costs about £15. Not a lot as a one off but she has been quite I'll for the last six weeks and I can't afford to go see her as often as I would have liked.

My father lives in the Norfolk Broads. That's a £50 round trip before we add on stopping for food because the trip is quite a slow one as the roads aren't great. Anyone who has suffered the Elvedon Forest will know what I mean.

I'd like to do Blackpool again but we are talking about £110 round trip. Luckily I would have at least one other in the car to share the cost if not two.

We were going to go to the Scottish Highlands to see where M's family come from but we are talking nearly £300 on the drive there and back without running around whilst we are there.

For the first time since I passed my test in 1974, I'm starting to wonder if driving is worth it!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Choicest Education

1 in 6 Children missed out on their 1st choice school last year.

Today was the day when parents started to find out which schools their 10 year olds will be attending from next year. As the headline said, not all got their first choice, but theoretically you can't extrapolate that from the forms submitted because you are not under any duress to place your first choice first. That aside, there are ways of increasing your chance of getting your child into the school you want. It's a mixture both of following the rules and also knowing how to use them to your advantage.

Unfortunately, tomorrow, both the primary school and secondary schools will have parents turning up to complain about placements. And often it's the fault of the parents for not doing things properly.

Each year, as the children go into Year 6, M's headmistress holds a meeting for all the parents to explain what they need to do to get their child into the school they want. About a third of the parents don't bother to attend. It is explained, very clearly, that if youmwant your child to go to a church school you better be in church every single week from now, and you should really have been going for the last two years. For a church school there are two forms to fill out, not just the main one. Don't be late submitting the form(s). Put down al 6 choices. Make them realistic, not half way across the borough unless you really do want them in that school. Having an older sibling at a school no longer gets you up the queue.

Tomorrow will see the parents turn up who didn't do what they were told. Some didn't send back the form and their children will go to any school anywhere in the Borough that has a place left and it won't be top of the league tables! It's not really fair on the kids but it has to be the parents responsibility. And it's not for the want of the school reminding parents what they need to do.

The is always talk about how it is unfair that the rich get to go to all the best schools but sometimes you have to make the best of a situation you are in. You might not be able to send your child to a private school but at least care enough to fill out a form correctly particularly when their is a school full of teachers willing to help you.

New Month - News Month

Once again, I'm going for a blog a day. Each days post will be from the lead story in the news. Not just any news, but the one that wakes me up at 7 in the morning on Heart radio.

The reason for choosing that is that it rarely co-incides with the real news of the day. Sometimes it is serious, other times much more important just to London, and sometimes it is just downright not news, like if Katie Price has lost a false nail. The only proviso I shall make is that I may go for the second or third lead story if the first is a repeat of another already blogged during the month. First post later. And don't think you can steal a march by checking their website because this mornings story doesn't appear on their newsfeed.