Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The English Language - an Act of Union

I'm not a huge fan of the Union flag. Fans of teams I don't support and racists have tried to highjack it over the years to represent them, whilst there really isn't any reason I would have to wave it. I do remember it being used in the Scouts where I regularly swore allegiance to God and the Queen before it but as I'm a republican atheist I'm not sure that I could be accused of holding it with any particular reverence.

If you asked me what the flag of my country was, I'd answer in a heartbeat that it was the Saltire. That's what I'd wave when I'm supporting my team at Murrayfield or Hampden. That's the flag I took to British Lions games and no-one batted an eyelid - after all, I'm Scottish.

Whilst I'm generally of the view that Scotland is a distinct identity and one that has survived 300 years of Union, I'd be in favour of Scotland reassessing its relationship with England and Europe. Westminster has shown over the years that given the choice of benefitting the SE of England to the detriment of Scotland, it doesn't spend much time considering which course it will take.

But still, the Union Flag. Today, we're in the United Kingdom, an entity formed in 1707 as the result of the Scottish Parliament agreeing the 'Union with England' Act, complementary to England's 'Union with Scotland' act and resulting in the creation of a country 'united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain'. As with all things there are benefits and downsides to the United Kingdom, but it helped us to forge ahead with many great achievements through the years - to deny that would be churlish. To do it from a position of relative comfort is a denial of reality. To want to revisit the terms of the union, well that's just fair enough.

Of the many things we share with our neighbours is the English language. It's a living & evolving thing of beauty. It won't be held fast by rules, it derives itself from German and Latin, steals from French, absorbs dialects and cultural references annually, as our bawbag neighbours (I before E except after C ) from Edinburgh might attest with Irvine Welsh's shorthand "Weegie" finally making it into the Oxford-English Dictionary in 2019.

The English language is tolerant, inclusive and open. It is made better by it's adopted children. Any language that is in the capable hands of Susie Dent is to be treasured and that is why when a language leaflet is designated as being in English - UK, it should proudly bear the mark of our shared history, not suffer the indignity of pandering to small minded people who can't see past their own prejudices. It should not be bullied into some colloquial statement that would seek to deny others the recognition of their contributions.

Monday, 20 August 2018

The Twitterati are no Twits

Haven't blogged in ages, but been thinking about it for a bit recently. Mostly I've been on Twitter. Much more lurking than engaging, but there is some gold in them hills - once you learn to discern the spambots from the real people of course. What's really been interesting of late is that almost everything that the government and other forces of Brexit ever say about our impending departure from the EU gets analytically taken apart with facts, figures and actual expert analysis. It's fascinating, but whilst this happens on a daily basis on my mobile phone the official opposition and others in Westminster are apparently sanguine about an illegally won, advisory referendum which effectively split the vote driving us out of an organisation that we helped found and set the rules for. This one has gone viral - and admittedly it is Farage, rather than anyone significant - but there are plenty more in the sea. Check out this one But what is the source of all the claims made by Brexiteers? Where do they get this guff from? They can't just make it up surely? They get fed this nonsense from somewhere. My own opinion is that back when Bojo the clown was penning his amusing skits on the European Union he was making up stuff to paint the EU in a poor light and as the subject of his 'British' humour. Some mild mocking for the tall popinjays of the EU, let them know that we're not for being bossed about by bureaucrats like them. It wasn't difficult to see that the author of these skits was as much a George MacDonald Fraser fan as myself. It wasn't even worrying that his satirical musings were as fast and loose with the facts as Flashman - indeed, the Flashman papers are often surprisingly accurate on their historical details, unlike our dear Bojo.. It seems now though that his caricatures of the EU 'unelected Eurocrats' did chime with some people. They read and believed, They took him at his word and they didn't find the humour, they found fuel for their ire. The caricatures came to life in the febrile imaginings of those angry little Englanders who choked on the thought of Johnny Foreighner pan frying British cod with Spanish Chorizo. And here we find ourselves 20 years later having to snuff out the fires, which were once mere sparks of humour - but the joy of seeing that log sparking on the hearth, is now replaced with the grown up fear the the curtains might well catch fire. Anyway, the old Chinese curse of living in interesting times has caught up with us. The times are far too interesting for my liking at this point. I worry for my kids future. I worry about the way the media and official opposition seem so aquiescent in allowing an internal tory dispute to drive us into the arms of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his crew of utter shites! A bunch of Eton boys who fantasised of running the country, without ever knowing what the country was. What a shambles! Something must happen to change this. People need to start mobilising and arguing this clearly. Arguments need to be had, which means thoughts need to be assembled and aired. The mood needs to change and these people who are failing us so desperately need to be removed from power permanently.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Here to see one another through...

I attended a dinner with the magnificent Sandy Strang performing the role of guest speaker. I have to say he had me laughing for 20 minutes solid, before a subtle change of tact to celebrate some of the more philanthropic endeavours of the club. One quote in particular has resonated with me ever since. I'd like to believe it's a suitable mantra for how I have always seen things anyway, but had never managed to put into words - perhaps I'd never even thought about putting it into words. But here it is:
"We're here to see one another through, not see through one another"
I like it as a sentiment, but the other thing about it is that it seems to be anathema to Tory attitudes. Try to imagine Ian Duncan Smith or any of the other cabinet toffs using it as a guiding principle. No matter how hard I try I just can't see it chiming with them. No matter how hard they might try to convince us otherwise, by their actions, it's just not their way of seeing things. It crystallises for me the significant difference between this (and every other) Tory government (foisted upon us) and the kind of people I'd like to see running the show.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat - So What?

News today that Ofgem have fined SSE £10.5million for miselling their gas and electricity products. To make up for 'their bad', SSE had already established a £5million 'mis-selling' fund to compensate affected customers - they've paid out nearly £400,000 from this already, but no mention of what hoops you need to jump through to make a claim i.e. get compensated for them dishonestly exploiting your need for gas or electricity, whilst presumably you remain a customer being bled dry to feed the near 40% rise in profits they made last year (£397.5m in the 6 months from April to September 2012). As if that wasn't enough they lumped a 9% price hike upon us which we simply take on the chin.

What happens to the fine money though? Well, it's paid into the Exchequer's Consolidated Fund - a single bank account. That's now George Osborne's money, presumably he'll use it to further bribe his rich pals in the banking sector not to abandon us... No, it doen't go back to the customers or get fed into the network for these improvements which they apparently need (that's why the companies need so much profit don't you know!).

So here it is as I see it. A private company uses the networks which our forefathers paid for and built, to leech as much money as they can from us. They make eye-wateringly, huge sums of money in profit and yet still come back to the well for more. If they get caught telling porky pies to steal our custom from the other suppliers who already have us by the short & curlies, they get a fine equivalent to approx 1/80 of their annual profits - which goes straight to the government - I always think our money which goes to the government should be classed as tax. They can raise prices pretty well as they please - hmmm, Wonder how they'll make up that missing £10million from this year? As they raise prices, our tax contribution also rises linearly - so no real reason for the government to object, but if the government do want to make a show of punishing the companies, they 'fine' them - which increases the government take, but does nothing to mitigate the flow of money from our wallets...

Have I missed anything? This is capitalism. This is S.E. England economics.... Better together? Aye Right!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

March Misery Makes Maggie's Monster More Meaningful

Back in November I convinced (perhaps even cajoled) 2 of my oldest friends into joining me in the Maggie's Monster Bike & Hike. An altogether excellent sounding adventure up the Great Glen starting with a 31 mile mountain bike trail from Fort William to Fort Augustus, then a hike to Inverness. My angle was that this would be a nice way to mark the 25th anniversary of our leaving school. As a Fair-Trade evangelist, Ewan possibly leaves Finlay & I somewhat in the shade for his efforts to make the planet a better place than when he found it, but Finlay and I haven't exactly been barbecuing baby seals either, so supporting the Maggies centres fits nicely with all our philosophies.

To be honest, the appeal of our entry lay more in the challenge and the opportunity to take on a trip which we know will be rewarding in itself, but the month of March has given me plenty to think about.
I've been sick. Not terminally sick, not even uncomfortably sick 24 hours a day. Just a low level discomfort caused by a chest infection that didn't clear on it's own, then didn't respond to anti-biotics, and is now probably responding to a 2nd set of seemingly more powerful anti-biotics, which are in turn making me feel pretty average. I'm not the only person in this boat - apparently there's a lot of it going about. Certainly I know a few folk my age who have had viruses and bugs this year which have seemed to take an age (4-6 weeks generally) to clear. The thing is though, it only takes about 3 days of low level crappiness to make me forget what it was ever like to feel well - I know, I'm a whinger!

After a week of bleugh, I just want to feel better, but life is going on around me. My children need my attention, my wife needs my attention, my work needs my attention, the bills need paid, the house needs tidied, the garden needs tidied, the washing needs done, the ironing needs done. All I want to do is lie on the couch in peace, feeling sorry for myself and all I've got is a bit of a chest infection, not pneumonia, not pleurisy, not ... dare I say it and tempt fate... cancer. The scariest of words! I can't begin to imagine the difficulties someone faced with such a prognosis goes through and that's just the start of their woes, for as I say. Life doesn't stop when you're not well. Things carry on and they start to get on top of you. That's the issue that the Maggie's centres were created to address.

I hope you'll feel able to help me help those who definitely need a wee helping hand at a most horribly difficult time.

Visit our Just Giving page and spare what you can.

A Fair Point - Worth Remembering

Now, I'll admit that i don't necessarily keep myself up to date with the minutiae of council affairs. I have my expectations on the service levels I expect to be delivered for the tax I contribute. Most of my expectations revolve around the norms for a civilised society that wants to avoid outbreaks of bubonic plague and likes to see the young educated to a point where they will make a decent contribution to our continued existence. I have my issues with the various services offered and might just contend that some of the council workers could do with a reality check, but just to be clear, I have never in my life before this con-dem government even heard even mention of the 'issue' that is people on welfare having more rooms than the government or council think they realistically need.

I have never considered it unfair that some welfare recipient, housed by the council in the first place, might be in a gaff that is deemed to have more rooms than the recipient actually needed-I'm just delighted they have a roof over their heads and hope it isn't too horrific a neighbourhood.
I have never, ever heard any council ever complain that the difficulties they have could be made easier by suddenly having to re-house thousands of the poorest people in society just so that they can continue to receive the benefits they need to survive.
Let noone forget that the Tory argument here is that the £1.31 billion pounds raised by the 50p tax limit is being cut - in order to gift those of us (it is us, as we're all in this together apparently) lucky enough to earn over £1million, at least an extra £42,295 per annum, whilst an estimated 660,000 of the poorest households will be denied an average of £14 per week - the argument is one of fairness. (figures courtesy of the excellent Ian Bell in his most recent Skewering of Millibland and the Clones).
Given that the 3 mainstream political parties have essentially become identikits of one another, vying for the centre-right spot owned by Blair, managed by public schoolboy, media, politics & marketing graduates who've never held down an honest job in their lives, but who all hope to emulate the illustrious
non-war-criminal former leader, to ultimately access similarly lucrative after-dinner speaking careers once they've embued us with their brilliance, I had almost forgotten what a shower of cunts the Tories actually are...  Hopefully none of us will be making that mistake again too soon.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Nexus 4

Haven't blogged in. quite some time, despite having had plenty of opinions to air. 2013 has a few events in the pipeline that I'd like to capture though, so with my snazzy new Nexus 4, I've installed the blogger app. Get ready for all sorts of poorly formatted and barely proofed rants, made possible by the enormous step forward in technology that is the android swipe keyboard.