Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2009 still here

I am still here and willing to blog (if not time -caring obligations and all that), though hats off to the Twitterer who managed to twitter from a plane crash (find your own link). Think there is some point to be made that it is easier to Twitter from a plane crash than it is to Care and Blog.

New Year's Eve, I am the unpaid care for my 17/18 year old Autistic son. So much for having a life, education, employment of my own according to the spirit of various Acts of Parliament. I am home, babysitting an 18 year old.

Sorry, but while many dedicated and long-standing parliamentarians have fought hard to create a legislative and cultural spirit about looking after carers so that they can look after the utterly more vulnerable, I fear another huge effort is necessary to make a reality of carers well-being as law depends on people on the ground testing it.

The story that caught my attention over the last few weeks is that of the 5-year-old Autistic boy who drowned in a swimming pool in France. Sure young children often get caught up in accidents of this kind. But his Autism was surely a contributing factor. His mother lost sight of him for a second.

A friend of mine once entrusted with the care of my similarly aged Autistic son returned from a trip out with him only to declare that they were unqualified to be THAT vigilant on his behalf and that how was it humanly possible to safeguard a child like him in such a normal envirnoment. Autism is characterised by a lack of awareness of danger. My son is almost 18 and I kid not, Tesco's car park is a life and death situation.

I have spent the last decade-plus being THAT vigilant. Autism isn't terminal but it could well be. If it hadn't been for the support of the much maligned 'traditional' respite services ensuring my being able to be vigilant he would not be alive today.

If there is any test of 'caringness' -both parties are failing.

While billions are poured into the financial system -I contend we have no option - the opposite is tantamount to saying 'stop the world I want to get off' - we seem to have lost sight of what wealth creation was for. It has become a thing in itself.

How many nights respite care can be purchased for the price of a designer handbag or a Smythson product.

Here in the north of England this would buy a complete night off for a family caring for a severely disabled child.

Happy New year!


Friday, 12 December 2008

One man's misery is another man's wonder

Earlier this year George Osborne inadvertently expressed some underlying assumptions which inform his worldview...

‘No one takes pleasure from people making money out of the misery of others but that is a function of capitalist markets.’

Osborne tried to wriggle out of ownership of the sentiment revealed in his words by saying he was 'misquoted' but whether he likes it or not it does express a complacent acceptance of markets making money out of other people's misery.

And, lo! What's this, David Cameron doing just that.

While thousands of Woolies workers face the loss of their jobs, income and livelihood, the Camerons who are not without a bob or a million, were keen to take advantage of the cut price goods which signal the great closing down sale of Woolies and the people who work there.

That's the wonder of the Tories.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Pre-Budget Report

I think you'll find that for people on a REALLY low income the cut in VAT helps. It may not go fully towards the scale of the challenge people on fixed low incomes face in trying to survive in a time of rising costs but at this level every penny counts.

Also welcome is the 60 quid one-off payment for disabled children. But please make it in the early part of January before my son turns 18! Wouldn't it be horrible to miss out on it by a few days.

I'm blogging wearing a fleece, thermal walking socks and wrapped in a blanket. The fear of turning the heating on isn't just for pensioners.


Guess who?

I know it looks like one of those Alison Jackson celebrity photos but be assured this was the authentic one.


Saturday, 15 November 2008


Actually, I have a Child in Need, technically speaking. And I donated ten quid, so what's your excuse?!

Donate now, here.

Must confess that I had a glass of wine during the evening while doing and thinking about other stuff (been in very important meeting today about the future of services for disabled children in our area) so that the number to ring to donate was actually double everything. 03457 33 22 33


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What a PANSI

Have much to say about international events such as the US elections and the International Financial Crisis in the UK (IFCUK). Which is what I really want to be doing.

However, as ever, caring tasks and the 'meetings' I am involved in have prevented me from posting it. Hopefully, at some point, when it is not totally irrelevant, I will be able to comment, as the IFCUK is not going to go away, ANyTime Soon (ANTS).

So much for the government's intention that I should, as a carer, whose contribution is acknowledged/respected/valued, be able to have an ordinary (blogging?) life (almost oblong) etc etc though they (the govt) have made clear I must wait 'til 2018 for this, or something, by which times having an ordinary life will be an absurdity as I will be in some kind of recovery process myself from the trauma, yes trauma, of being a life-long carer (toll).

There is a school of thought (soot) that in this process of 'involving carers' in the achieving of ordinariness (achoo) we must do away with all that jargon and acrynomiousness in local govt official-speak (logoffs) in order to make it 'more accessible' (mass).

But I have to say, that for my own entertainment, I have begun, in this rather serious environment I have been forced into, to make a mental note of some of the more amusing acronyms I have come across and am well considering a Campaign to save Amusing Acronyms (CAMPAS) like PANSI.


Friday, 7 November 2008

W. .....the f...?

as expecting something insightful but have to say first impressions (and this is a pun hinting at a more in-depth review which I do not have time to write at the moment) are that this movie was a bit thin.


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Election night

Bloggers blogged live on telly...

pundits pund... (University of Virginia’s Professor Larry Sabato was good)

Dimbleby dimbled..

and Obama won.


Ohio, O bye-o!

2.11am HRH David Dimbleby says Ohio for Obama has not been verified by BBC yet so ....I'm definitely off to bed now.

O just a minute Simon Schama and John Bolton/Boulton relative of Adam?


Colour confusion

Is it just me or does anyone find this colour symbolism reversal of the respective parties in the US and UK, confusing?

2.05am Anyway Georgia defo for McCain but Ohio for Obama ....signifcant.

Must go to bed.


Is it safe to go to bed yet?

1.40am I have to get up early in the morning and be a responsible carer to my son, duty-bound to carry out a number of caring tasks, efficiently, on his behalf. See how the full exercise of my citizen rights as theorised by T H Marshall are so curtailed. Actually, I am coming down with something awful at the moment as well. The esteemed pundits on the BBC, including a US bemoustached bloke called Larry who seems to know what he is talking about seem to be indicating that it might be ok to go to bed and catch up with the news in the morning.

Poor as I am, I quite foresightedly invested in a small portable digital TV some months ago when it was on special offer at a local electrical retail outlet, though I still had to forego some fresh vegetables and soles on my shoes. So, I can go to bed and sleep with one eye open as I have become accustomed to as a carer anyway

1.45am Georgia ...Democrats hoped to win (in some kind of more massive landslide) but maybe going for McCain.



1.00 am Pennsylvania and New Hampshire Obama projected to win.

Pennsylvania ...apparently key win. Can't believe I knew how to spell it without checking. All eyes on Indiana, or not depending on which pundit you listen to.



In 1997 I had the privilege to spend British election night with a visiting Professor from a Uni from across the pond. She was intrigued and excited to share in our election night rituals and punditry.

Wherever she is now, it certainly feels the same as back then.


"I got caught up in it"

- Ricky Gervais on the US elections. Confesses to not being that political but 'got caught up in it'. A sentiment understated as only RG can. Likely speaks for RG's everywhere. Also one of the Hitchen brothers is on doing punditry



First states called. McCain 8 Obama 3 More details here


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

How do they do it!

Good question! I just missed some bloke on the BBC explaining how the networks in America 'call' it. I am a really rubbish blogger. Sorry. Luckily the explanation is here


"This is an important election"

Jeremy Paxman just betrayed some kind of restrained excitement and said this election was to be 'historic' ...he seemed to have some information. He insisted this was not just media hype. Depends I suppose on which of voters the actual massive turnout of voters were the ones recruited by the respective party machines. All the media are saying at this moment is that this is going to be BIG. NB Quote of post title was JFK not JP



Bloody Brilliant Corporation. I am a poor person on account of being a carer. Yet, I am happy to pay my licence fee for the night's telly I have been enjoying. British Style Genius, Jools Holland, Newsnight and of course the thing which has kept me from blogging... the US elections. Very exciting. More4's Jon Stewart's Daily Show has been particularly good for its coverage. Except that's More4 not BBC.


Saturday, 25 October 2008

My favourite waste of time

So capitalism is still collapsing, my son is away in respite and what do I do?

Slept in late, watched The Gilmore Girls. Who? The Gilmore Girls! Followed by the omnibus edition of Hollyoaks, a bath, a shopping trip for some easy drinking dry white wine and some crisps. Since the telly was already tuned into E4 I just accidentally watched Wife Swap -totally liberal parents swap with totally Christian family. Of course each of the mothers begrudgingly acknowledged they had learned something from the other while glowering at each other lest they each ...well something can't quite put my finger on. Something about mothers and their domains. Is there a fine line between matriarchy and mysogyny? Or rather the mysogynistic exploitation of matriarchs in this programme or something.

...followed by triple bill NCIS (I love the theme tune -its equal tops with the the theme to BBC's Who do you think you are), all of which I have seen before. Seems I mixed up the fact that the series which I haven't already seen is on Friday not Saturday.

This is not what I had planned for the small amount of time I have which is not devoted 24/7 to ensuring the safety and welfare of the young man I care for.

I had planned the most high-minded and intellectual pursuits. So why have I ended up in a most mind-melting televisual environment?

It seems the lofty ideal enshrined in various community care law that carers' should have a life outside caring and their wish to work, train, be educated or simply enjoy leisure activities should be taken into account is still not happening in practice. Such is the weight of caring responsibility that all I am fit for come some time off is the inanities of soapland.

There is a reasonably operational brain (just about, still) here just going to rot.


Friday, 24 October 2008

Kate Nash comes out

...for feminism.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

Smashing guitars

...aren't they. Stupidly and unfortunately I did not record the series 'The Story of the Guitar' (cringeworthy -Rachel Cooke at New Statesman, 'a treat' Sam Wollaston at The Guardian). I do hope it will find its way on to an educational BBC DVD or something... all that historic footage and exquisite guitariness.

By some cruel twist of nature I love music but cannot sing a note nor possess the co-ordination to play an instrument. In recorder lessons at school I used to mime because I could not keep up with everyone else, the messages from brain to hand just got lost somewhere along the way. Sometimes the teacher would line us up and progress along the line getting each of us to play solo. I used to blow a note, shrug awkwardly, screw up my terrified crimson face and die.

I would have loved to have played the drums. I once tried guitar lessons but had the same experience as per the recorder. Rather tragic for something I loved so much.

As well as all the guitar riffs and clips in the series some of my own personal favourite guitar bits are the guitar solo in Stone Roses 'I am the Resurrection', Radiohead 'Street Spirit', also by the Stone Roses 'Waterfall', Joy Division, New Order, Muse ..oh and just about anything with a guitar in it. Once saw Nils Lofgren (Bruce Springsteen, E Street Band) on a solo tour.

Perhaps all is not lost for me though, as Radiohead sang "I want to be in a band.. When I get to heaven..Anyone can play guitar".

Photo by Derek K. Miller:


The C-word

Cripes! Capitalism is collapsing around us and where am I? Holed up in meetings and Caring. Back Soon. Follow the links in The Reading Room and the Art Gallery over there >>>... plenty to keep you entertained.


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Excuses, excuses

Don's excuses are way more exotic than mine.

I have been busy trying, pathetically, to ensure a voice, locally, for families caring for disabled children.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Blame Game

Just a quick knee-jerk reaction to Cameron's speech today. If Gordon Brown is to blame for the economic situation in Britain today then presumably America's problems are his fault and so are those of France and Asia. Accusing Labour of being statist is one thing but global domination is certainly not something they would claim to have. Separating off domestic problems may make good political copy which some people might not notice the contradictions of but does not actually make any logical sense or sound policy sense.

Might it not just be something all these societies had in common?

Its definitely not, in her own sound, not over-inflated, estimation her fault.

But my especial finger-wagging, tut-tutting, judgemental raised eyebrow rests equally (I have two eyebrows) on the opposition, the true party of business and business itself for jumping up and down and being shrill every time 'regulation' is even hinted at. You can't adopt a position of objecting to every measure to humanise markets and capitalism (family-friendly, flexible working?) and then abdicate all responsibilty for creating a culture -and here, stop, pause, and think of culture as opposed to laws- of deregulation which then results in the mess we have now. Y'know, hey, these guys are risk-takers (except they're not, hedging? other products for passing off, repackaging/spreading risk? [insert country/institution] stock-market panic?), we should reward them handsomely and set them free and then bail them out when everything goes pear-shaped.

Its funny the same magnanimity doesn't apply to 'working class' 'risky behaviour'.

Ohhh what's the loud noise. Big Bang anyone? No, not the Large Hadron Collider but cast your minds back to 1986/7 and the deregulation of the financial markets. Remember they needed to be set free to take risks.It was good for us.


Friday, 26 September 2008

No links, no pictures

They say part of the success of successful blogging is in regular posting, the very nowness of news etc but I take if not practice a slightly different view. Some blogposts on the blogs I read are just useful in that they distill stuff from a wider time perspective and hang there for posterity. Debate and history does seem to go in cycles and circles and have timeless themes. So don't anybody with half a brain cell stop blogging unless its to spend more time with your family. I suppose what I am saying is self-justifying guff about not having posted anything for a few days, don't come here for any cutting-edge gossipy breaking news type stuff.

If the personal is the political, I suppose the central political message from my absence is that caring responsibilities often prevent one from having a public voice to add to the cacophony via blogging and it reinforces the fact that the most vulnerable aren't always heard by dint of the fact they are busy being vulnerable.

However, have been well busy with carer related stuff locally. Caring in the sense of 'Caring' with a 'Capital C' is about so much more than Caring/caring for our individual loved one.

I will say this about national politics and the reporting of it. Having been in some fairly heavy carer/disability related meetings recently which am sure are replicated across the country I have at the same time been utterly disgusted at the time and prominence accorded to purely party political non-stories in the mainstreammedia ie all this style/leadership/Miliband overheard remark stuff.

Imagine, for example, if the same amount of time and prominence had been spent actually looking at the substance of the things in Gordon Brown's speech. His re-affirmation of commitment to SureStart Children's Centres could have afforded a whole debate around these places/idea of such places as the crucible in which the next generation of human beings is forged.Imagine the more relevant policy outcomes which might ensue on a whole range of issues if as a society we could become more engaged with 'serious' and 'detail' Gordon Brown mentioned in his speech.

This whole disability/caring related stuff I am spouting is by no means a minority sport. There is a great deal in common between those born disabled and in need of care and those who become disabled through the, at present, degenerative nature of longevity of which such numbers are predicted to rise.

I would be the first in a probably inappropriately didactic way to encourage my fellow citizens to watch/read the more serious news outlets but I have to say some elements of the News in Newsnight gives somewhat distasteful prominence to the narrow interpretation of news as party political news.

C'mon there's more to news than party politics and party political process.

This week a small child died on account of her mother being ashamed of her disability. Did not that warrant a wider debate?


Saturday, 20 September 2008

Soul Man

If a week is a long time in politics what of economics timeframes? How weird does it feel to suddenly be talking about a 'crisis of capitalism'. The notion of 'capitalism' as a criticism was a defunct Marxist conspiracy theory as in fact capitalism is just what human beings 'naturally' do. Since it is regarded these days as such a natural and inevitable backdrop as much as the sky, the trees and the fields, seeing/hearing the word capitalism being mentioned in the MSM is quite surreal indeed.

At this critical time we must be concerned for the Soul of Man under Capitalism.



(*Britney Spears)
...shan't be going to the ball.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Spot the difference

I take as much interest in the process of news creation as in the news itself. Having already commented on how watching/reading the news often feels like journalists inhabit a parallel universe where they hear an entirely different language and therefore politicians mean something other than the words they actually speak, two articles written recently confirmed my suspicions.

You couldn't slip a page of free supplement paper between Brian Cathcart's 'Reading the political codes' in the New Statesman and Peter Wilby's 'Catch of the day' in the Guardian.

They both dealt with journalists' tendency to read all kinds of fanciful imaginings into whatever politicians say and both manage to weave Pifflegate into their articles. However, there was nothing coded about Boris Johnson's rubbishing of the notion of 'broken Britain', one of his own leader's key slogans though it undoubtedly stems from Boris's off-messageness and the fact that it is simply a slogan rather than a true characterisation of the nature of modern Britain.

If they had wanted the media could have developed Boris's remark and David Davis resignation into a wider narrative about splits and divisions within the Conservative Party but they didn't. Instead, they continue to insert meaning into every gap, pause and ommission in government ministers' utterances.

Are they simply decoding dissembling politicians or creating the news?


Sleepy Jean

(NB to quote the Ting Tings that's not my name - just couldn't think of a title because of sleep deprivation)

I desperately want to go to sleep (carers often get very tired) but with such intermittent internet over the last few days I really should catch up on some reading/'working' and blogging while the internet connection is good to go. The Lib Dem conference is on... maybe just a quick fortywinks....


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

End of the Pier

Just before my troubles with the internet (which aren't over yet and which is why I'm only just posting this now) Fleetwood pier went up in flames. Not for the first time either. A couple of days previously I had been strolling past the delapidated pier with relatives discussing what should be done with it. I did subsequently query it with them but they can vouch for their whereabouts.

Predictable I know, but I suggested it should go all olde worlde and be restored to its original Edwardian glory and that much more should be made of Fleetwood's history and fine old buildings. Visit Fleetwood Museum.

There was an application to build some flats on it. Although the view would have been nice on a sunny day am not sure I would fancy being lashed by a stormy sea. Now there's not much left but a tangled wreckage.

Some locals are of the view that it was a mixed blessing; a sad end but that it was an eyesore.

Here's how it used to look.


Sunday, 14 September 2008


So we weren't sucked into a black hole and my birthday happened after all. Well it did a bit. It was slightly ruined by a series of minor irritations and one big domestic catastrophe. A flavour of the minor irritations can be illustrated by this: I had 10 quid nicked out of the envelope left out for the milkman. I know, I Know slightly foolish payment arrangement but for a number of reasons and lack of headspace to think through a better one it was for the moment the one which was semi-decided upon.

The major catastrophe is my internet connection is down. Have spent the weekend (when I should have been out having birthday fun!) trying to diagnose the problem swapping cables etc before I get onto the ISP. Again for various reasons it wasn't thought to be a service failure with the ISP (the ISP website reports no problems in the area). Heavily leaning towards the theory that the modem is busted. The proof of this is this post which is brought to you from my laptop and via the relatively free (I felt morally obliged to buy some food and a coffee but the staff keep looking at me) wifi at McDonald's which almost certainly means its a hardware problem back home.

I was about to try this connecting to wifi at McDonald's test last night. It was a test of the same magnitude of the firing up of the Large Hadron Collider but the laptop battery died on me so I was sat there faced with some food I didn't really want a potential internet connection and a dead laptop.

My loss of internet is a catastrophe. A number of things I do at the moment are heavily dependent on internet access. Also being often housebound by caring responsibilities accessing contacts and information online is essential, paradoxically, to 'having a life'. I once read somewhere a survey that found that a significant percentage of people were more anxious about the loss of their internet than the loss of a partner. No doubt we could pick holes in a survey which found such a thing but I would not argue with the idea that being connected is an essential part of modern life, especially for people such as myself. It is not a frivolous luxury.

My Autistic son will also be devastated at the loss of it and while he is very competent with google and youtube he cannot understand the basics nor the complexities of getting the internet fixed; his solution to everything is sellotape. A devastated Autistic young person repetitively chanting 'fix it, fix it' for as long as it takes will add an extra layer of stress to the whole event.

On a positive note though some friends who were away for the weekend bothered to send me a text wishing me happy birthday which was nice and my elder son who lives away from home remembered independently that it was my birthday and brought me a clothes voucher for one of my favourite shops.

I know there's loads of stuff going on in the world not least the interesting political stuff here and in America and I have things to say about it but for now I will be tangled up in the pressing problems of getting back online and hope that the plight of the poor carer with the additional burden of trying to maintain networks and opportunities by other more labour intensive methods is as newsworthy in its own way as what royalty has for breakfast or indeed the leadership squabbles of the Labour Party. Get a grip Labour, some of us have real problems out here.

There done it. Blogging from McDonald's wifi. My battery life and the staff's patience maybe about to run out. 17 mins left. Just enough time to download some stuff on the Mental Capacity Act -not for me for 'work'- though I may well be needing it very soon!


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

From Bury to Mercury

Well done Lancashire lads! Check out their Northerness and their music.

They also support the National Autistic Society and will be raising money for the charity on their forthcoming tour.


Big change

In September's issue of Total Politics, Tim Shipman, Washington correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph writes about Barack Obama's effective organisation in mobilising volunteers and supporters. I don't know whether it was deliberately written this way or not but this paragraph did raise a particular image in my mind:

"To tackle McCain he is now assembling what will be the largest field operation in the history of American politics. During the South Carolina primary Clinton supporters in the state capital Colombia dined nightly on fast food. There were so many Obama volunteers that they roasted and consumed an entire pig every night.

By June, the Obama campaign staff was more than twice the size of the Bush re-election campaign staff in 2004 and nearly three times the size of McCain's..."

That'll be all the roasted pig!


Monday, 8 September 2008


A very happy Eleanor Simmonds

The paralympic cycling team are continuing Britain's recent Olympic gold medal success in the Equally Splendid Paralympic Games. They too have benefited from increased funding and integration with the Olympic team. Chris Hoy provided inspiration and handlebars to members of the British Paralympic Cycling Team.

In swimming, watch Britain's 13 year-old Eleanor Simmonds win gold in the 100m freestyle S6 category becoming the youngest-ever individual Paralympic gold medal winner and tell the BBC how she feels about it. Share her joy.

Paralympics coverage here and Paralympics medal table here.

He doesn't 'get' sport or competition but his dedicated teachers got my Autistic son to win these medals at his special school's sports day.

Another set of Handlebars currently riding at number 35 in the UK singles chart. Visit for social change through music.


Sunday, 7 September 2008

State guaranteed Freddie

Sorry, couldn't resist the post title.

Fannie, and oh yes, Freddie, rescued by federal state.


Saturday, 6 September 2008


Never give up

I dearly wanted to post something about the recent report from the UN about the state of gender inequality in the UK. Unfortunately, domestic and caring duties have meant I have not been able to read nor think around it.'Nuff said!

I'm wondering if there might not be a humanitarian role for the UN troops here, I mean in my particular house.

FleetwoodToday, all day, I am necessitated to visit family in historic Fleetwood so I won't be able to do the things I really want to do although perhaps it will be jolly edifying on account of the town's layout being designed by Decimus Burton of Kew Gardens, St Leonards-on-Sea and Tunbridge Wells fame and perhaps I will marvel at the works of prolific builder of Fleetwood, Thomas Atkinson Drummond, and pay homage to him in the Wetherspoon's Thomas Drummond pub. Oh the sheer self-sacrifice of it all.

Instead follow the links provided by the far superior Dale, Alice Dale and check out the website of Jacky Fleming, the creator of the cartoon illustration above.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

Vice Pick

Boyfriend of gun-toting Palin's daughter agrees to do the honourable thing.

Also, feminist or anti-feminist?


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Its my party and I'll cry if I want to

The other day when completing that history meme thing I quite selfishly complained that major world events ...usually bad ones have a habit of spoiling my birthday. Its not actually my birthday for just over a week yet. But just to top off all the other spoiled birthdays ...this year it seems my birthday might not happen at all as the entire world, universe and my cake could get eaten by a black hole on September 10th :o At least I'll go out with a bang!


Sunday, 31 August 2008

Labelling the fat

Last week sometime (can't be arsed checking when) a 'slightly overweight' shadow (misnomer if ever there was one as he might not be a shadow of his former self judging by the mischievous picture some people used to accompany their stories) cabinet member announced a new deal for fat people.

No! Stop slavvering, its not a buy-one-get-one-free deal its more a 'bog off!' deal.

The deal is 'you're fat, you deal with it!' or a 'responsibilty deal' as the Conservatives are couching (Couch? I must sit on it for a considerable number of hours while watching Jeremy Kyle!) it.

This is the second time of late the Tories have assaulted people of broad girth/incorrect BMI.

And once again they engaged in a disingenuous double-helpings-speak. In the first instance it was David Cameron, whistling to the PC-gone-mad brigade, who bemoaned the lack of straight -talking when it comes to social ills -such as 'obesity'- and promised some common-sense plain-speaking. So what does too-much-oil-Dave substitute for the quite ridiculous government euphemism (his tone not mine) 'at risk of obesity'? He uses the killer vernacular 'people who eat too much and take too little exercise' -are you thinking what we're thinking- fat. Actually, Cameron's phrase does have the benefit of encapsulating at least a semi- diagnostic approach but is a rather diet version as it fails to ask why. The buck conveniently stops at the individual and absolves other factors and actors influencing the great global weight gain.

Asking why is not an excuse but helps to find a more coherent and effective policy response.

In the second instance it was Andrew Lansley who said that the answer to the obesity problem was categorically not lecturing people.

In a lecture he said that there were no excuses for being fat. Not the confusing labelling the industry prefers nor the crap manufacturers put in your food you would need a chemistry degree or a diploma in statistics to avoid. No excuses, no nannying, no lecturing was his lecture's theme.

No nannying, except, that is, for the Mary Poppins variety. I'm sure she would be mortified to discover that she wasn't a proper nanny.

The Conservatives surely exposed the fluffiness of their own thinking when Lansley suggested we needed more of a Mary Poppins than a Miss Trunchball approach. Well, Mary Poppins may seem a little softer on the surface but she did still advocate spoonfuls of sugar even if she only sang metaphorically about it rather than force-fed it. She did however point up the comfort value of food, a bit like many advertisers do so if he's so concerned about 'messages' a reference to Mary Poppins is probably not a great idea. They ought to be a bit more careful with their popular cultural references when trying to seem in touch.

In fact, its not clear that the Conservatives' medicine differs from what they characterise as the Trunchball method except in their own spin. Lansley proposes a number of state interventions such as campaigns, regulations and structural changes although there's also plenty of goodies for business involvement for example 'A combined business and Government social responsibility campaign to promote healthy living'. Now we are to be lectured by the very people who want to sell us more and more crap in the first place!

Lansley seems to suggest that there's somehow a societal and governmental environment which says its ok -or provides excuses- to be fat and only the plain-speaking Tories have the stomach to say its not. Well as many commenters and commentators have noted that on the contrary playground bullying, size zero, media images and celebrity culture sends out quite enough messages about not being fat. And there are government measures aplenty which are bearing fruit.

He also misrepresents the Foresight Report on Obesity in order to rubbish government action on the issue.

The report's well rounded approach does not provide an 'excuse' as Lansley claims.

It states that:

"Taken together, the evidence presented in this report provides a powerful challenge to the commonly held assumption that an individual’s weight is a matter solely of personal responsibility or indeed individual choice..."

".....people do not ‘choose’ to be obese. Their obesity is mainly driven by a range of factors beyond their immediate control that in practice constrain individual choice. The commercial success of the weight loss market is testament to the belief invested in the power of individuals to control their own weight. However, the concomitant rise in obesity and the frequent weight regain common in those who have dieted successfully is evidence of the failure of a response built solely on this approach. Strategies based on personal motivation and individual responsibility alone do not provide an adequate response to the obesity problem...."

However it goes on to say:

"To be successful, a comprehensive long-term strategy to tackle obesity must act in two complementary ways to achieve and maintain a healthy population weight distribution. First, an environment that supports and facilitates healthy choices must be actively established and maintained. Second, individuals need to be encouraged to desire, seek and make different choices, recognising that they make decisions as part of families or groups and that individual behaviour is ‘cued’ by the behaviours of others, including organisational behaviours and other wider influences."

There is no shortage in the report of references to individual behaviours and the need for change. But it promotes a holistic approach and the evidence is that focusing too heavily on parts of the problem such as individuals will not bring about the scale of change necessary. It also looks at the efficacy of joining up policies such as increasing levels of physical activity in tackling climate change will also reduce obesity.

Exhorting individuals to take greater responsibility without tackling the environment in which people live and make 'choices' is simply like constantly placing a large chocolate cake (or whatever their favourite tipple) in front of someone on a diet. The odds and shelves are often stacked against us. More opportunities for exercise for example built into the environment means that the cake is burned off.

Sheffield Hallam University was commissioned to analyse the implications of the report for local government and make recommendations for action. It tackles some of the myths around obesity (and BMI measures) and also has a good section on why stigmatising obesity is no recipe for resolving it.

Cameron's and Lansley's focus on individuals' personal failings is counterproductive.

For anyone with the time and the inclination reading one or both reports is recommended rather than relying on second hand accounts of them.

Focusing on individual's responsibilities and the use of the voluntary and private sector ties in with the traditional Conservative project of a free market/small state and is no different to what was offered when the Tories were last in office. The Lib Dems health spokesman said:

"He lectures people about their responsibility. He blames people for being overweight and says they lack self-discipline and self-esteem. Yet when it comes to junk food he's much more sensitive about the problem of 'stigmatising' it."

Mr Pushing the Boundary also notes some sexism in Lansley's speech and looks at the gap between the Tories project to decontaminate their brand and the reality.

Tom P looks at the Tory proposal to scrap the government's more helpful, consumer-friendly (I should know, I do alot of shopping!) preferred 'traffic lights' food labelling system in favour of the one industry has been lobbying for.

This doesn't surprise me at all. The Tories recently 'talked out' a private members bill to ban TV advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar before the 9pm watershed when children would be watching and to try to tackle some of the other forms of marketing less healthy options to kids. See the evidence provided by consumer organisation 'Which?' on this.

Much more poking around the issue with a fork from sceptisle which also looks at what the government is already doing.

Hopi Sen looks at the claims on spending and health made by Lansley

Also weighing into the debate are Fat Man on a Keyboard, Recess Monkey and Catherine Bennett.

No-one disagrees that people have responsibilities but how the Tories' are using their agenda around 'personal responsibility', especially having a second go at fat people, is below the belt. They are trying to still do nasty (its what some of their supporters like them for), but nicer. Trying to dress their traditional attacks up as nudges and the like to make them appear softer they are increasingly coming to taste like one of those weirdly incongruous ice-cream flavours. Bovril and custard ice cream anyone?


Gordon Brown steals Tory's clothes


Saturday, 30 August 2008

Everything is broken

Yesterday's post started out as this one but turned into another post instead. So here's yesterday's post today.

Like many things in my home, my ironing board is a bit of a wreck. Or as Bob Dylan sang "everything is broken".

As you can see the screw holes have become so worn that the screws just fall out and the iron rest is just hanging there not very ergonomically functioning as an iron rest at all. The relevant screws are lost though.

I could claim that they went up the hoover if I had hoovered lately but I haven't! So who knows where they are, probably with all those lost socks. Maybe I'll find them one night while stumbling around the house barefoot in the dark.

Luckily I keep bits and pieces like random screws that have fallen out of other broken things. So I was able to reposition the iron rest and screw the screws in a less shredded part of the board. And voilĂ ! As good as not new.

I particularly like the way the pink and red paint on the screws tell of their former lives holding a wooden toybox together and my ironing board now demonstrates a thoroughly virtuous mend-and-make-do approach to living.

And the point of my mentioning all this is not to bore you with domestic trivia though I have done a fine job of that, it is to reference a short article in the New Statesman, 'Why capitalism creates a throwaway society - how to deal with waste is the great policy failure of our age' by Peter Wilby where he states that the average British household currently spends a mere 60p a week on repairs and just chucks stuff away instead. So I just saved myself 60p and the citizens of this country and beyond the environmental cost of manufacturing a new ironing board and disposing of the old one. I hope everyone is suitably grateful.

He also looks back to a time when 'socks were darned, elbows patched and small pieces of string kept in the cupboard under the stairs'. I don't know about the other two but I certainly have some really useful collections of what are known in the art world as 'found objects' (pictured left).Though I use them in my own art installations which decorate my home such as the one called 'ironing board' above.

Much better is this wonderful site called which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Check out their vintage jelly mould lights.

My iron though, isn't any old iron, its a Philips 4340 with automatic shut off -if someone rings up for a gossip while I'm ironing or I accidently forget that I was ironing, walk away and go shopping or on holiday (though that's a hypothetical example as haven't had one for a few years) or whatever it detects that it is not ironing anymore and shuts itself down thereby saving energy and the planet and then starts up again when it detects motion. Cool, eh!


Friday, 29 August 2008

She works hard for the money

Really cool iron

Like the proverbial pile of ironing (am not sure there is a proverb about ironing but there should be -Two piles of ironing will only gather moss if you hide it in the bushes? so Phyllis Diller's 'I'm eighteen years behind in my ironing' will do here), I have a backlog of posts on current affairs which haven't quite made it unwrinkled yet and will be out of fashion by the time I get round to them.

See, the problem is trying to combine caring and blogging.

And if we accept blogging as a metaphor for reflecting on and participating in life (though some, as in the phrase 'get a life', might disagree here) as opposed to the mere surviving of it then you can see there might be a problem. I think esteemed and ancient philosphers may have made a distinction between animals and humans here.

I notice this morning on the news the plight of carers was again highlighted.

The problems for carers are two/mani-fold (vague ironing pun there!). Enough breaks' support to enable paid work or to have a life for those who want to and sufficient financial support for those who cannot 'work', though believe you me, caring 24/7 is work enough.

Carer's Allowance, supposedly an 'income replacement' benefit, at £50.55 for a minimum 35 hours caring per week, works out at £1.44 per hour though many carers do way more ...if you count the 24/7 many family carers work that's 30p, metric money, an hour. Who would work for that? If that's an income replacement benefit I will eat an incontinence pad!

Of course, we do it for love. Although, don't count on it. This assumption, or other related assumptions, were pushed too far in the cases of Helen Rogan, Wendolyn Markcrow, the Ainscows and Alison Davies. Barbara Pointon's gin bottles give a glimpse into carers coping strategies.

It is not being melodramatic to suggest that if I hear about one more carer driven to these extremes I will think of proposing a war memorial, perhaps on the government petition site if not on some actual piece of real estate, for those who lost their lives, physically, mentally or metaphorically, in the struggle to care. 6 million carers might sign it. That would warrant a response over and above the 250 interested individuals required and far exceeds the neurotic financial/political disposition of 3 million car owners who signed a petition against road pricing or summat which wasn't even an actualité.

In other industries people who are injured from occupational hazards are either subject to compensation awards (though may have to fight a protracted battle) which are set at such a level as to deter such compensation awards or health and safety measures of similar intent are put in place.

So we care and we expose ourselves to these dangers.

On the financial level, love goes only so far as y'know one has to live and pay one's bills. Imagine going to the energy company or the supermarket and offering to pay them substantially less than you owe them but insisting you worked really hard for the money and that out of love for you and respect and acknowledgement for the saintly job you do they should accept what you are offering them even if it falls far short of the value of the goods you need to purchase.

Seems to me there is a clash of values here. We laud voluntary action and family care but we live in a society based on money exchange. Everything we need to live must be paid for either directly from our own private money or collectively through the taxes we pay. Each hour you work you get paid for and then you are able to buy the stuff, like food and shelter, to live. But care provided in the family is done for free, or for love whichever term you prefer. So while you are working for free you forego purchasing power to live. The more you work for free the less stuff you can buy to live. Granted, life is not lived by stuff alone.

While we must be wary of where we push the distorting (if we value such notions as 'love', 'care', 'voluntary' etc) influence of the cash nexus how are those who do live a life which requires time to be given up to providing free care out of love, to live and pay their bills? Its a long-standing dilemma and one which is not sufficiently addressed, at least not in these terms.

The government to its credit has put some new money into short break services or is in the process of doing so both for adults in the Carers Grant and in the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme.

I fully accept that the government is beseeched by special pleadings from all sides, not least from businesses and rich folk who reckon they will flee the country if they are taxed to pay for less productive/non-productive mad-cap schemes which might not turn a profit.

With advances in health care and all the other things which contribute to disabled and older people living and living longer there are questions to be asked about what economic growth, GDP and capitalism is for. Is it an end in itself or is it for something?


Thursday, 28 August 2008


...if only I had one!

So the gauntlet has been chucked on the floor, and never, no never say never, not always, rather, one to shirk from a challenge, this particular one, I'll have a go at.

The task is to remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard about, in this case five, key historical events -and then when you have regaled it entertainingly, task, in this case five, other bloggers/people to do the same. Its a meme thing.

Its a modern-day expansion of the claim that everyone knows where they were/what they were doing when Kennedy got shot.

In an oblique, allusive kind of way this challenge reminds be of John Lennon's lyric 'Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans'.

Here, it's history happens while your busy doing other things. In my case having birthdays. Indeed, I do suspect that history's great unfolding purpose is to ruin my birthday:

Some Munros are bigger than anybody

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997
I used to go hill-walking quite a bit, sometimes even went munro-bagging (I once had the good fortune to witness another munro-bagger being 'piped up to the top of his final munro and toasted with whisky). This particular weekend was the nearest one to my (mid-September) birthday when my Autistic son was also away in respite care. So it would have been really wrong of me not to have taken the opportunity to have a birthday walk in Scotland. So we did.

Having done the concentrated bit of negotiating the motorways to some cassette- taped music and then turning onto the lovely winding, heather-edged roads across the hills we thought we would tune in to the radio, only to find everything suspended in favour of easy-listening music to soothe the nerves of an inevitably traumatised public and repeated commentary about the fact that Diana.Was.Dead. Blimey! thought we as we laced our boots and headed for the misty tops, remembering to remember our sandwiches.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990
Don't remember any exact context but I was definitely in front of the telly when I saw it. I was in the final trimester of the pregnancy of my second child -the one who subsequently turned out to be Autistic ...perhaps it was Thatcher's fault! :o

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
Lazily, I'll paste a slightly edited version of the comment I left over at Sadie's hospitable hostelry before I realised I had been tagged with the same meme:

my birthday is 'sometime around' September 11th. in 2001 I was collecting a birthday present from my mother when I arrived at her house and the rolling news which was on featured slow motion aeroplanes slamming into tall buildings and then the collapsing towers. I remember thinking, that's an act of war. The rest, as they say is history, although it isn't yet.

Imagine trying to open and enjoy a birthday present while simultaneously watching the Twin Towers collapse, listen to the terrified testimony of those fleeing the scene and know that people had burned to death. Not conducive to celebration at all.

Now every time I look forward, as excitedly as one my age can, to my birthday, there's a dark shadow over it as I remember not happy birthdays past but the more dramatic events of the same time 2001. Its a time of mirth tempered by horror.

See what I mean about the birthday thing?

I know, I know, how totally selfish of me.

Al-qaeda? Flippin party-poopers.

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990
Wasn't that the one where Gazza cried? And we went out on penalties? Were I a more avid football fan then maybe, yes, I would have remembered some more precise details. I can't, alot has happened since then, not least the birth of a son in 1991 who was ill at birth and later in 1993 was diagnosed as Autistic. I would have been just pregnant with him then. I certainly remember where I was when he was diagnosed, once as 'suspected Autism' and secondly as confirmed Autistic.

I do remember the World Cup 2006. The weather was gorgeous and I thought what a shame to be stuck inside watching the football. But who am I to be defeated by adverse circumstances! With the help of an extention cable fed through the kitchen window, a portable telly and some Chardonnay the score was Me 1, Shit Life 0

It was also just a couple of months off my birthday.

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
Can't actually remember whether I was born then or not.

History from Below

There are other moments in my own personal history which are so dramatic and pivotal and more immediately influential that some of the great historic moments in this exercise and throughout contemporary history which we are supposed to pay attention to as good patriotic/citizens of the world, barely register.

I went to the hospital with my just 2 year old son to have the diagnosis of Autism confirmed and stepped from that appointment, immediately after, into another part of the hospital to visit my mother who was trussed up in traction for some osteo-bone-crumbling-thing, she called her nurse to bring me some hot sweet tea as I was trembling and in semi-shock, as I already knew there was something, but nevertheless. I also recall another occasion, still coming to terms with it, pushing his pram and crying in the rain, as it was okay because nobody could tell.

'When did you last see your father' is the subject and title of a famous historic painting. In my own childhood, the same question would be worthy of a scene on a Grayson Perry vase.

Back in the 60s/70s the 'Great Man' (there apparantly weren't many women in history before then) theory of history whereby history was told by and about Kings, Queens and Prime Ministers, came in to question from historians of 'history from below'.

Frequently, history for the mass of ordinary individuals is played out with a mere walk on part for those who would reckon themselves historically significant.

Oh dear, I don't think I have quite engaged with the spirit of this meme.

But one thing I must ask is that since its nearly my birthday, will all global and would-be historical figures please refrain from spoiling it for me any further this year!


And now in the best tradition of interactive quizzes and with a nod to the olympics theme, I hereby botch the handing over of the baton to:

Rupa Huq
ohhh help me out Iain with a top 20/40 bloggers who haven't already been tagged with your meme.