Friday, April 05, 2019

State of the Nation

Wow, it’s been a while.  I had meant to drop by again before now, but life got in the way.  Quite a lot has happened, not least that Brexit thing.  I despair that we voted as a nation to leave the EU and even more so at the absolute chaos going on in Parliament.  But I guess that is democracy for you.  Although surely part of the problem is that the government treated the referendum like a 'normal' election and applied a “First Past the Post” or “winner takes all” mentality, when it wasn’t that type of vote.  Instead, it required consenus and working together across (and within) parties to find a way forward – and, of course, it was not even a binding vote… 

I have a friend who is very dear to me who voted to leave.  She is an intelligent and thoughtful person and a few times I have tried to ask her what she thinks about the current state of affairs but, interestingly, she shies away from talking about it.  I think she is nervous of other people’s reactions – more those of people who might overhear, rather than me.  I find it fascinating that someone who is on the “winning side” now feels really uncomfortable talking about it.  I remember we met up shortly after the referendum and were talking about the outcome of the vote.  I think my views on the matter were clear, not least evidenced by my new Irish passport.  Part way through the conversation, my friend paused the conversation and said “I do need to tell you…  I voted to leave…”.  I just laughed and said that I had assumed that she had.  I am not sure anyone is laughing now though.  Except, the rest of the EU… and the world… *sigh*

I was a civil servant for many years and took voluntary redundancy in 2015.  I miss some aspects of the civil service.  I worked on so many interesting and challenging issues and also had some fantastic colleagues.  However, I am very glad that I am not currently in the civil service.  Even those who are not directly working on Brexit are probably working in environments of great uncertainty and unable to get even very basic decisions agreed my ministers and others, let alone being able to take forward any legislation.  Although with the current government and its very draconian ethos, maybe that is a bit of a silver lining.

Anyway, this was meant to be a brief drop–in to check this still works and I hadn’t intended to express my despair on Brexit.  But there you go.  It’s probably a bit unavoidable right now.  I do have a vague plan to be back here again soon, but until then, adieu.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Checking In

So, it's been a while. It's been busy.

  • We moved house. Which, when it finally happened, was a good move.
  • I became a landlord. Which I hate.
  • I left my job. Which was incredibly stressful and scary, but has worked out really well.
  • There has been a remarkably high volume of deaths, particularly in the last year. Which has been… unexpected…

Overall things are good - and I might even tell you about some of it.

Monday, July 08, 2013


It’s been a while.  Lots has happened, but also nothing.  We haven’t moved house as someone in the chain died.  We have no idea when the move will be on the cards again.  Ho hum.

Anyway, I have been continuing to listen to Desert Island Discs and was interested in an observation from Hugh Laurie a couple of weeks ago:

 "I heard the other day that there have been more photographs taken in the last twelve months than there have ever been taken, in the world, ever. Because people are now photographing – I shudder to think what they are photographing – everything and nothing. No interaction is deemed to have actually happened unless somebody has a picture of it. Nobody is satisfied with having met a person without having a photograph to prove it. I think that is odd, and I think it’s so odd that it might actually be starting to alter the way we think about each other and the way we think about general day-to-day social interaction."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Moving Times?

So… we’ve been looking for a house.  With a mixed amount of enthusiasm.  We looked at a few in February – the first day we looked at five, one of which we really liked.  The other houses were a lot of money for run down or just not terribly nice houses.  Then we saw another one last weekend.  It was ok, but again, a lot of money for a house that needed a fair bit of work (the current owners had seven children in a three bedroom house).  Anyway, yesterday we saw three more and we REALLY liked one of them.  I could definitely imagine living there.  It was also one of the cheapest ones we have seen.  Result.

I’ll be on the phone tomorrow morning to arrange a second viewing.  We live quite a long way from the house so it would be difficult to go there after work, but we’ll have to see whether the agent (genuinely) thinks we can’t wait until the weekend.

We could be on the move…

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Summing Up

I have come to the conclusion that I really like Desert Island Discs.  Except that I prefer listening to it as a podcast because I don’t particularly like listening to the music choices.  That is probably odd, but it is indeed true.  On the podcasts they can only play small snippets of the music, so I much prefer it.  Kirsty Young is a really good interviewer and I like finding out about the people featured on the programme.  Just not their taste in music.

Anyway at lunch time today I went for a stroll and was listening to Kirsty Young speaking to Terry Leahy, who is the CEO of Tesco.  I was slightly in two minds about listening to it because I am not very keen on Tesco and so wasn’t sure I really wanted to learn more about its head honcho.  Anyway, it was actually quite a good programme, but there was a moment that summed up Tesco for me.  Kirsty Young asked him whether all of his family was required to shop only at Tesco, and he explained that he bribed his children to tell on his wife if she ever stopped at Waitrose on the way home.  There’s a whole load of wrong in that, but it could be taken as a bit of a joke.  However, Kirsty pursued it a bit more and he was entirely serious about the point – and ended up badgering is wife so much about shopping at Waitrose that she now no longer does it.  That’s Tesco for you – it stifles consumer choice.  And requires people to turn in friends and family like some Stalinist dictatorship in order to destroy all other possible contenders.  Remember that the next time you are eyeing up a buy one get one free offer.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


It was G’s 40th birthday a few days ago.  After much effort, G found a restaurant that was wheelchair accessible.  One of G’s friends coming to the meal has been in a wheelchair for about a year and has had a few bad experiences.  A lot of restaurants that are listed as wheelchair accessible have self-declared themselves as such.  Whilst it would perhaps be harsh to say that they have lied, it might be fair to say that they don’t actually know what “wheelchair accessible” actually means.  Let’s consider further:

Q: Are you wheelchair accessible?

Restaurant:  Yes.

Woo-hoo!  Job done.  But hang on… you might just want to ask a couple more questions…

Q: So is there easy access for a wheelchair user to get into the restaurant?

Restaurant:  Yes.  Apart from the steps to get through the front door.  But there are only a couple of them.

Er… right… I wasn’t aware that wheelchairs and steps are actually compatible.  Maybe it might be worth a couple more questions.

Q: So, is there disabled toilet on the ground floor?

This often elicits one of two answers.

Answer 1:

Restaurant:  No, it’s in the basement/ mezzanine floor/ some other inaccessible part of the restaurant for someone in a wheelchair

Answer 2:

Restaurant: No.  But the pub next door does, and they won’t mind them using it.

G phoned about 10 restaurants and got these types of answers from all of them – and they had all declared themselves as wheelchair accessible.  However, there was a restaurant that, after a long conversation, was definitely wheelchair accessible.  All the answers were as hoped for and the owner was very reassuring.  G then phoned on the day to confirm that all was ok for the booking.  A slight alarm bell went off when one of the staff said “I see you have an invalid in your party”.  Seriously??  An invalid???  And then, for some unknown reason, wanted to know how old the person was (about 35 incidentally…). 

When we arrived at the restaurant, we found there was actually a step that was about six inches high at the entrance.  But the owner said it was all fine because he would have people standing by the door to lift the wheelchair in.  To clarify, THAT IS NOT WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE.  I am able-bodied and if you had burly men lift me into a restaurant, I would not be impressed.  This is no less the case if you are in a wheelchair. 

I am so unimpressed by people’s understanding of wheelchair accessibility.  I totally get that not everywhere can be accessible, but don’t say that you are if you’re not.  Being able to get through the door and to go the toilet in the restaurant are really basic things and if you are not able to provide those you are not properly accessible.  And don’t even start me on the restaurant that had a disabled toilet, but had a table right up against the door.  When G asked them about why they blocked the disabled toilet door, the reply was “we never get disabled people in here”…

It’s my sister’s 40th birthday this week and I have got her an iPad.  I was talking to mum today and telling her what I had got (and that I had got 20% off it as HMV have massively discounted their stock.  Marvellous!).  We were discussing what my nephew was getting my sister, and mum said he had told her that he and I were getting her an iPad.  Oh right… that was news to me, but a nice healthy contribution toward its cost would be most welcome (he is seven years old incidentally…).  So I thought I’d better phone my nephew to check what he thought was going on.  I asked him what he was doing about a present for his mum and he somewhat sheepishly said that he thought we were both getting her an iPad.  I said that was fine, but that maybe he might want to give her something on the day, as she wouldn’t be getting the present until Saturday.  We then discussed some ideas, and what was happening about him getting a card for her.  Anyway, I am having lunch with my sister on Wednesday and it now turns out that I will be giving her a sealed package of goods to take home with her – being a birthday present and a card for my nephew to wrap/ write so that he can give them to my sister on Thursday.  Plus we’ll both be giving her the Ipad on Saturday.  I think my nephew might have done quite well out of this deal…