Friday, 23 April 2010

White Notley churchyard, and the sound of skylarks

Did anyone catch Mark Steel on Radio 4 this week? He visited, and did a show in Dumfries, a fine town in north Wales. Yes, that's right, it was once in north Wales, but it's now in Scotland. And he performed some great comedy about the relationship between the Scots and the English. I'm all for celebrating our Scottishness and Englishness, but can't bear it when people choose to define themselves by what they are against.

I follow football (soccer for American readers) and always support England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland against anyone else, yet there is a significant proportion of Scots who "support whoever is playing against England". I guess there are some English who support whoever is playing the Scots, but most English probably don't even think about Scottish football or the Scots' national team. Mark did some good material about the Dumfries football club "Queen of the South", a team I always look out for, following my visit in 2004.

I'm thinking about celebrating England as it's St George's Day (yes, I know how weird that link is), and it's Shakespeare Day (his birth and death day - what a memorable party that must have been). But of course all the talk is about the General Election, and the emergence of Nick Clegg as a possible Prime Minister.

I have my own theory of why this might be. The English are getting a little tired of Scottish domination of politics and the media for the last fifteen years. I appreciate that for the last three hundred years the UK has been dominated by Westminster, but I would like to point out that the main beneficiaries of this bias have not been "The English" as a whole, but a few hundred of the upper classes of the home counties. So after Blair (a Scot), Broon (a Scot) maybe we were expecting Cameron next? (I visited the Cameron Clan centre in the Scottish Highlands last May). No, we want someone that looks and sounds like a regular Englishman. And what better qualification than Everyman Nick Clegg, son of Cleggy out of top English sitcom "Last of the Summer Wine". As Mark Steel said at the end of one of his sketches, "dinae wurry, ah'm oonly jookin'", for my Scottish readers.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

modern art is ????

This week I had a courier job, to take a package to London's South Bank. and while I was there I popped into Tate Modern, the "most popular modern art museum in the world" they say. Well it's certainly popular with me. The picture above was one of a series of landscapes with bizarre messages, by Edward Ruscha. I loved the contrast of the complexity of the natural landscapes with the plain lettering superimposed. I think I have an idea of what the man in the street's views are about some of the modern art, but I wonder what the gallery goers really think about some of the displays.

Some people rave about Marc Rothko and his coloured rectangles, going on about the mood created by the slabs of colour, and the texture of the paint on canvas. Well I've seen Dulux charts, and felt rough blankets on my knees as a young boy, and I don't feel the urge to contemplate life sitting for twenty minutes in front of a Rothko "masterpiece".

And here's a masterpiece from home. It's our (aged three and 3/4) Frank's first chalk on concrete portrait of a man, with the clown feet, Edward Scissorhands hands, and a head with big ears. I'm looking forward to visiting the galleries with him this summer. I remember enjoying going to the National Gallery with my dad, and hope Frank too enjoys what he sees. One thing's for sure. He'll say what he thinks about the pictures, with no sensibilities for the artists and their followers...........

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Who will be MP for Colchester? Footslogging underway...

Visiting friends near Castle Park this evening I spied a prospective MP pounding the streets and knocking on doors. It was Peter Lynn from the Green Party. So how will he get on? Checking the BBC website for accurate and impartial reporting, I looked at what they had to say about Colchester. Our current MP is Bob Russell, a hard working man dedicated to his home town. With boundary changes since the last General Election, the BBC has made an estimate of how many votes were cast last time, just in the area of the revised constituency.

It suggests that Bob Russell, Lib Dem would have received 47.7% of the vote, Conservative 32.1%, Labour 20.3%, and Others -0.1%. Wait a minute, the BBC are saying that last time round the others received a negative vote? Now I know the "others" are not popular, but are they saying that the candidates voted for the electorate?

In addition to the big three parties, we have candidates for the English Democrats, the British National Party, UK Independence Party and Green Party. I guess they're hoping for a better share than minus point one per cent of the vote................

Monday, 12 April 2010

"Tenth picture from the first folder" thread

Here's an interesting thread that I picked up from Al at "crivens, jings and help ma blog". Al says "Hullo ma wee blog. Kat, who writes a blog I follow, tagged me with one of these odd challenges that seem to reverberate around the bloggosphere. It was to go into my photo folders open up the first folder, publish the tenth photo from the folder regardless of what it is and give a wee explanation of what the photo is all about."

And here's mine. It was taken in summer 2004, as I cycled into Drumnadrochit at Loch Ness, on my way to John o'Groat's. I had ridden up from Land's End the previous autumn, having set myself the challenge of doing the bike ride in bits, in one year, usually when also in the area on other business, and I ended up doing a rather long loop more or less along Great Britain's main watershed. This was the final leg, from Oban. I look very happy as I've just met up with Jules after a long day solo cycling. At John o'Groat's I scrapped some of my worn out old cycling clothes, and much of the bike which I had run into the ground over the previous five years. Happy memories.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Things can only get better? A Westminster tale.

Today Gordon Broon asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament. And Big Swifty, ever up to date with the latest tomes, is currently reading "Things can only get better" by John o'Farrell. For those that need a reminder, it was published in 1998, and is a personal account about surviving 18 years as a labour supporter during the conservative government. It's a very nostalgic book, with amusing stories about political people that I had forgotten. And of course it's interesting to read it with the benefit of hindsight, knowing what has happened after the book ends with the Labour win in 1997.

"A plague on both your houses" is said by some pundits to be the attitude of the electorate to all our politicians, and interest in the general election may be at an all time low. On the other hand, there are hundreds of new prospective MPs, with many current MPs not seeking re-election, and The Now Show suggested that the voters will be keen to show their feelings by voting for new faces rather than the old guard.

As a Trendmonger by profession, I'm fascinated by the possibilities for the election this time round. Will the newer media be used? Only this morning they were talking about the election buses going on the road, like we're still in the 1950's. And will it be the usual grey vote that decides who's next, or will the under 40s at last become engaged in the process, and get down to the polling station? There was a fascinating item on Radio 4 looking at whether 16 and 17 year olds should be given the vote, and also should more weight be given to the issues of the elderly (especially as it would be expedient for the politicians, as the older people proportionately vote the most). The conclusion of the youth and oldie reps was that they just want a bit of dignity introduced into the whole process.

So what will actually happen with our public and our politicians? All our questions will be answered during the next month.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Two for one

Thursday April 1st, and the Strada restaurant is almost full. A jolly evening to celebrate my oldest son's birthday. Splendid company, three courses of scrummy food, and a few drinks. As we get ready to leave, embarrassing dad discretely rustles in his bag for his "two for one" voucher, and glancing round, we realise everyone's playing the same game. Tonight's the last night of the current offer. So why bother with all this faffing around on the internet to get the deals, printing out a bit of paper, and having complicated bills? Couldn't we just have cheaper prices?

Whatever, the four of us chatted about what's happening now, and what plans we have. We also reminisced a little about the past, though none of us have reason to dwell there too long; hopefully there's much to look forward too?
And it's a big day for my youngest son too. It's his quarterly check up, to see how we're managing his diabetes. Some of the kit in the hospital is broken, but that's not a problem; we have pencil marks creeping up the kitchen wall to confirm he's growing up. Disappointingly, we can't test his blood for the HBA1C test, which would be an indicator of his overall exposure to the harming effects of hyperglycaemia.

That having been said, we're doing the best we can, striking a fair balance between the invasiveness of more frequent blood testing and injections, and the steady application of his usual three-times a day tests and four insulin shots. Whatever the result would have been, we can't imagine a better regime than what we have, imperfect though any such system is.

Seeing my two lovely boys in one day. I'm proud of them both, and I'm a lucky guy.


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