Friday, December 31, 2010

The Archers 60th anniversary episode

My money is on Elizabeth and Nigel Pargetter both getting killed in an horrible accident.  Maybe they both fall into the ha-ha.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Insufficient Punctuation.

Radio 3 has listed Tannhäuser, omitting the umlaut.  Standards are slipping at the Beeb, or has Zai Bennett, the controller of BBC 3 decided that he agrees with the citizens of Lancre, that one should avoid unnecessary punctuation?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Pity

This Christmas, spare a thought for those less privileged than yourself.  You get the Dr Who Christmas Special, and John Hurt in Whistle and I'll Come to you my Lad.  Here in Alberta we get  A Conversation with the Prime Minister and repeats of Keeping up Appearances.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 things I didn't blog on at the time 2: Train Journeys.

In May Ian and I went from London to Prague, by the Eurostar to Brussels, the high-speed Thalys to Cologne and then after an excellent dinner in a Cologne beer-house we got the sleeper to Prague. Early in the morning the Cologne-- Prague train goes through the very beautiful Elbe and Vltava valleys.  Here's a taste of the scenery:

Later in the month, I returned to London from Vienna, taking the sleeper from Vienna to Cologne.  That train travels through the even more scenic and romantic Rhine valley. I arrived in Cologne with time for breakfast at the station cafe on the square in front of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, before traveling on to Brussels.

As usual I'd booked the cheapest tickets I could, following the excellent advice of the Man in Seat 61. I highly recommend both train journeys.  They were the best part of my holiday, and very good value.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The let's- humiliate-the-unemployed movement comes to Britain.  This is how we can combine the iniquity of truck payments with all the stupidity of the Speenhamland system.  Lets remove all dignity from people on benefits, so that a few (usually religiously motivated) do-gooders can feel good and go to heaven.  Foodbanks. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On not leaving.

For the last couple of weeks my husband has been telling me that I ought to make some kind of statement of loyalty to the Lib-Dems on this blog, what with rats  people jumping ship, media obituaries for the party, low poll ratings, and so on.

What has made me hesitate is that saying I'm staying in the party is a kind of null blog entry, like saying I'm not going shopping this afternoon, or that after serious thought I've decided to eat dinner this evening.

I could explain at length why I think the people leaving the party, or wanting the party to leave the coalition, are wrong, but there are other people doing that far more cogently than I can. So, I'll just say this:  I agree with him

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The problem with Michael Ignatieff

The British know Michael Ignatieff as an engaging liberal academic and TV pundit, so Canadian disenchantment with him as Liberal leader must be puzzling.

This article by Ottawa journalist Susan Riley takes a cool look at Ignatieff's strengths and weaknesses.

For my part, the biggest disappointment about Ignatieff is his complete implausibility on climate change, something he shares with the leaders of the other two parties.  It is a huge volte face from the Liberals under Stéphane Dion.

The other off-putting thing about Ignatieff (which as a recent migrant from the UK, I'm probably more sensitive to than most) is that in his public appearances and statements he always seems to be trying to do a Tony Blair impression.  If Blair is his model, it is not surprising that he is so often in agreement with the bushy Stephen Harper. Between the two of them they give Canadian politics a dated, cheesily stale air, which makes the Globe and Mail's current slogan: "Canada: Our Time to Lead" singularly inapt.

The Union Jack

The British media have recently started using the term Union Flag in preference to Union Jack, as in this article about Charlie Gilmour.  I don't understand why.  It is technically correct, but so is Union Jack, and less likely to cause confusion.  Union Flag brings to my mind the image of the USA flag, not the British one.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 things I didn't blog on at the time 1: Waiting for a duck.

London, April 2010.

I suspect my old friend's teenage daughter  disapproves of me.  She thinks I am a bad influence on her mother, who needs firm guidance.  The three of us are in the car, OF driving, me in the front seat, and TD in the back.

OF stops at the roundabout.  I point out a duck on the pavement, looking as if it is about to cross the road.  We wait.  A small queue grows behind us.

"You're not supposed to stop for ducks you know", exclaims  TD, exasperated.

A car horn honks.  The duck flies off.

Our journey recommences with OF reciting:

What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?
So who really gives a .....
If we were waiting for a duck?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuition fees

At the time Labour brought in fees, my husband was working as a history lecturer at an ex-polytechnic university in a midlands town.  Following their introduction, there was an immediate drop in applications, particularly from mature students.  My husband's job was at threat from that point on, and he was eventually made redundant in 2004, when the university temporarily stopped offering a single honours history degree.

The opposition to tuition fees was not a significant factor in my joining the LD's.  That had more to do with Iraq and civil liberties.  But, I never questioned the policy, and certainly supported it until recently.  My mind has been changed by the very persuasive articles by Peter Wilby in the Guardian, which among other things has reminded me that not only did the old system have considerable disadvantages, but that I experienced those disadvantages myself, and I also agree with Chris Rennard.

I do have some reservations, but nevertheless I accept that the no tuition fees policy was an error, and I think that Liberal Democrat MPs should vote for the bill.

I also want to say that the cock-up over the tuition fees pledge is the fault of the entire party, including people like me who didn't think very hard about an impractical policy, and I have a lot of sympathy for Nick Clegg who has been taking most of the flack.

Lush Cosmetics against Tarsands

Every time environmental groups report that a big company is pledging to boycott tarsands oil, it seems to be quickly followed by a denial from the company concerned.  Not so with Lush whose campaign manager had a very good letter in The Edmonton Journal today which states "The oilsands represent the biggest environmental disaster of our time."

Expect smelly bath-bombs for Christmas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The working class's fear of debt

Jackie Ashley in today's Guardian rolls out the old chestnut about the deep seated fear of debt in working class households.

At least, I think it is an old chestnut.  Is there any evidence for it?  My gut feeling is that it is more myth than substance, and if it was once true, it is of historical interest now.  If not, why haven't we still got a substantial stock of social housing, since uptake of the right-to-buy was such a failure? Why are levels of household debt so high? It seems to me that the British public of all classes have embraced debt with enthusiasm in the last few decades.  That's one of the reasons we are in the mess we're in.

Thank-you Lib Dem Bloggers

As an exiled Englishwoman, perennially homesick, and with a great love of the parochial, idiosyncratic and mildly eccentric aspects of English life, I'd like to thank all the Lib Dem bloggers who blog on local affairs.  Today's posts include:
The individual posts are usually mundane and worthy notices about local issues, but the English tapestry the headings create on my blog-list gives me great pleasure.  Thank-you all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Baby boomers and "free" education.

I do get fed up with commentators referring to the free education had by my generation and comparing it to the high cost of further education for students now.  Actually, taken as a whole, students now are better off than my generation for two reasons.

Firstly, far more young people have the opportunity to go to college.  That was something only enjoyed by a minority of my generation.  The lack of opportunity started long before you got to further education. In the London suburb where I lived there weren't enough grammar school places for all the girls who passed the 11+, so you only got a place at a grammar school on an interview and a reference from your head-teacher. That enabled the head at the grammar school I attended to weed out any children from council-estates, or who were black, or belonged to any other minority she despised.

Despite having la creme de la creme  at the school, the number of girls who went on to further education was pitifully small. Each year consisted of 90 girls, and less than half went on to any form of further education, but only 15 or so to university, the rest to 2 year teacher training or nursing college.

Secondly, you could only get a grant for college if your parents were prepared to be means tested and sign a grant form.  Mine refused.  So, I left home and got married, which was not a good move, because when I applied for a grant a couple of years later, I was awarded a "married woman's grant" which was far less than I could live on.

If I'd been able to take out a student loan, that made me independent of my parents, and that I would not have to start repaying until I was in work and my income had reached a certain level, I'd have jumped at the chance. It would have seemed like heaven to me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Variations on Godwin's Law.

As I'm sure you know, Godwin's Law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.

After lengthy study of The Guardian's Comment is Free pages, I can add the following variations:

  • In any online discussion of an English Parliament the probability of someone mentioning Edgar the Atheling approaches.
  • In any online discussion of climate change the probability of someone mentioning the measurements he has been taking in his back yard approaches.
  • In any discussion of the economy the probability of someone mentioning the coming crisis of capitalism approaches.
  • In any discussion of Christianity the probability of someone mentioning  Hypatia approaches.
I'll let you know if I find any more.