Monday, 10 May 2010

Some days are more interesting than others.

With some jobs, you pretty well know what you'll be doing today, next week, next month and next year. And I guess road liners come into that category. I felt so happy for the guy who did this. There he was anticipating another week shuffling along the gutter, mile after mile of straight lines, and he gets sent here. Lovely curving shapes round the traffic calming, an opportunity to show a bit more flair in his work. I hope he enjoyed laying the lines as much as I admired looking at his efforts. Bridget Riley, eat your heart out.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

What do we want? More representation of the people. How do we want it? Too difficult to say in this title.

My head is dizzy with the possibilities for a new government. There are so many questions that need an answer, following the electorate's "we don't really like any of you" vote. I've always urged people to vote, but have struggled with our voting system, knowing how one's votes count for more in, for example, France and Germany. Colchester is an isolated yellow Lib Dem oasis in a desert of blue Conservative East Anglia. And in most constituencies the large number of people who voted for Labour and Lib Dem had no representation to show for their votes.

My feeling is that many more people than ever in my lifetime have become interested in politics this time round. We need to keep them engaged for the sake of our democracy. But do the two old parties like it? I think not. They see themselves as a political elite, and are quite happy to see the baton passed between the Old Etonians of Labour and Conservative. I have a lot more faith in the electorate than I did a few weeks ago. The annihilation of the BNP in the General Election, and the loss of its 12 seats on Barking and Dagenham Council, gives us all reason for optimism.

I'm out of touch for a week or so, backpacking in the remote Scottish Highlands, and wonder what will be happening at Westminster by the time I'm back. It's a cold spring down here, and I'm expecting some frosty nights in the hills. Still, I can cosy up with my old coalition of Rod and Alan. So, the question is, will David and Nick still be friends in a week, or will Nick go to Gordon, and the Others?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

There's a difference between policy and practice....

According to the canvassers, the proportion of "undecideds" is higher then ever before. And there's one day left before the General Election, and we make our decisions and cast our votes. So what do we choose? I've been waiting in vain to find out what each of the parties will actually do if they were elected, as they all have an agreement not to worry the electorate about such trifles.

We are supposed to cast our votes based on their policies, and then we only find out at the first and subsequent budgets, how they would actually implement their policies - which ones they will pursue, which will be kept on the back burner, and which can quietly be dropped. Now I have many years experience working in the field of policy for transportation and the environment, and was well aware of the difference between policy and practice by the time I left the job in 2005. Are we supposed to believe the political parties don't know how they would implement their policies, or is it that the parties have decided that the electorate must be infantilised, as they can't be trusted to make a judgement with the full information? (Rhetorical question.)

Fortunately my vexation is lightened by the election material of the minor parties. We have the single issue parties like the English Democrats. I'm not clear on how closely linked the ED party is with the Campaign for an English Parliament, a campaign that I support. But they can't be a one trick pony party, they have to offer a package of policies. And I read a bunch of motherhood and apple pie aspirations that most of us would be happy with, sprinkled with some Daily Mail fear and loathing.

Then there's the Peoples Party Essex, where the people somehow have "direct voting" to introduce public opinion into the House of Commons. Some interesting concepts on page one, then we turn over to the flipside and we have their mini manifesto. As always, I home in on transport policy, and see that the PPe are running with the hare and the hounds, removing 60% of speed cameras (why 60%?) and introducing a voluntary 10mph in housing estates. Well that should appease the speeding motorists, and the people who don't like speeding motorists outside their homes.

Talking of the hare and the hound, I'm surprised that the Conservatives want to repeal the law on Fox Hunting. I think this would be a deal breaker for some potential Conservative voters, but I'm sure the Tories know better than I do, who are really their people .

And finally, I heard a heartbreaking story on BBC Radio 4 from a woman from east London, where she felt abandoned by the three main parties. There is organised Staffies dog-fighting on the street outside her house, and gangs of hoodies getting on buses and beating the passengers, and the police not turning up when called. In the "nicer" parts of the UK, we can overlook how grim it is living in some areas. Needless to say, the BNP had some attractions to this person, as possibly the only party that might be able to help her, but she didn't hold out much hope even with them in charge.

Whoever gets in, there will be difficult times ahead. I don't go with the "broken Britain" concept, but I feel society needs to radically change. Whether any of the current prospective leaders are up to the job remains to be seen.......

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Hellhound on our trail

We've a Hellhound on our trail, and its name is Diabetes. It's a foul nasty beast that gets extra pleasure from popping up and biting at the rare moments when we're daring to relax. Just when we think we are doing well, our very own Cerberus visits from Hades and brings a nasty morsel for us. It jumps into our faces, and bites our arses.

Frank's been diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, for nearly 600 days. It's not just the 1800 finger-prick blood tests, or the 1200 insulin injections since then. (And the sums will be much larger for the next 600 days.)

It's not just the side issues of excessive thirst, and the consequent bedwetting, sometimes needing three sets of a linen per night.

It's not just the health implications of his conditions - will he lose his sight by the time he's 15, will he have kidney damage by the time he's an adult, will his circulation deteriorate so that he becomes gangrenous by the time he's 30, will he suffer the pain of neuropathy, will he have a stroke or heart disease at a young age, will he develop related conditions like coeliac's? And who will look after him if we're not around (yes, we're all getting older..)?

It's really not the diet, coming up with suitable meals for diabetics is no problem for foodies like us. Calculating carbohydrates and insulin doses is a doddle.

What's so difficult is the incessant nature of it all. It's not just an every morning pills cocktail, it's not about remembering to take a set dose before each meal, in the way one would for some diseases. With diabetes, it's about watching all the time, looking for signs. We take into account what has been eaten, how much insulin has been given (and what type - he takes two), how far out of "normal" range he is, and the balance between carbs, protein, fats recently consumed. Then it get spiced up with thinking about exercise he's had in the last few hours, what's happening now, and what's coming up next. Then we can only guess if he's having a growth spurt or fighting a bug he's recently been exposed to. Constant observation, and fine tuning with insulin shots or snacks or pushing him to exercise.

"I gotta keep movin', I've gotta keep movin', blues falling down like hail" And that's our life with Frank, keeping moving, checking him every ten minutes, running through the mental calculations to assess where his blood sugars might be, avoiding the hail that could blast him off balance, into hyper- or hypo-glycaemia, with more damage to the body, and the possibility of coma, brain damage and death. "And the days keeps on worrying me, hellhound on my trail"

Frank's parents are run ragged by it all. But Frank looks well on it all; he appears and behaves like a normal healthy little boy. Knowing we are doing our best with a very imperfect and rickety assessment, is the greatest possible reward. It keeps us going in the face of the Hellhound that will never leave us alone.

("Hellhound on my trail" recorded by Robert Johnson, Dallas, 1937)


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