Thursday, 20 August 2015

In labour

People are getting terribly exercised by the Corbyn thing in the Labour leadership race.

Seems to me that he's a natural choice. There was next to nothing to choose between the Labour and Tory parties in the general election, and it wound up being a personality contest between Cameron and Milliband. And, whatever Milliband's political sensibilities may be, his ability to engage in debate and come over as an assured, capable leader was, sadly, all but nonexistent.

So there are two things the Labour Party can do. Carry on pumping up the cult of personality and elect a leader who scrubs up nicely and says things they think the Daily Mail will look favourably upon, or try to put some clear blue water between the Tories and Labour, thereby offering a choice that's more about substance and less about personality.

Corbyn might never be Prime Minister. But he'll reconnect the Party to its roots, and I happen to think that that might be the most important thing anyone can do.

Monday, 19 January 2015


Since the various terrorist attacks in Paris recently, various politicians and church leaders have stood up on their hind legs and said, variously, how important freedom of speech is, and how it should be okay to offend.

All very fine and pleasant. But they're all (apparently) missing something.

This stuff is all but inevitable, in a world that defines itself in terms that are, always, "us" and "not us."

We don't like immigrants, because they're not us. They come over here and either take our jobs or sponge off the State (neither of which is acceptable but apparently both are simultaneously possible.) We (by which I mean, I guess, readers of the more hysterical end of the tabloid press) don't like members of the Islamic faith, because every last one of them is a potential terrorist. (Yeah, right. Which made every last Roman Catholic a potential member of the IRA, a decade or three ago.)

The problem is extremely straightforward. Not that easy to deal with -- not overnight, anyway -- but extremely easy to state.

As long as society defines itself in "them and us" terms, there will always be people wanting to give "them" a kicking, and defining their reasons for doing so in terms that are emotive at best and hate-filled at worst.

Apparently we all want to do this. We start in the playground (girls vs. boys or football vs basketball or whatever) progress to sports (witness football supporters beating the crap out of other football supporters for the amazing sin of following a different team) and, well, you name it. Countries separate people from, er, people. Towns, cities, villages, hamlets are places to live that contain people who are, on the whole, just like the other people living in a different place.

So whatever religious badge you wear, wave or pray to, that's no different to any other form of tribalism. And, if you look hard enough, there's somebody making money out of it.

Isn't it about time we got the message? We're ALL us. The only "them" we should worry about are the "them" who want to keep us too busy fighting amongst ourselves to notice how much money they're making out of it.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The end of the tiny adventure

This is something of a postscript to the last post in this frustratingly occasional blog. Hattie the Roborovski hamster, she of the tiny adventure and the big (if a tad grumpy) personality, passed away yesterday morning.

She was two years and eight months old. That might not sound much but, trust me, in Roborovski hamster terms, she was positively ancient. Although she'd slowed up considerably in the last few months and had struggled to cope with the climbing involved in the home she'd got out of last September and was now living in something more bungalow-like, she was still using her wheel and still enjoying making us guess whether today would be a good day for a bit of banana (or carrot, or coconut) or not right up to her last day.

The burial service was private and restricted to close family members only.

The room where she lived seems much, much emptier without her. She may have been tiny in size but we have been surprised at just how big a place in our hearts she occupied.

Requiescat in pace Hattie. 25(?)/08/09 - 15/04/12

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A tiny adventure

Roborovski hamsters are very small, very quick, and almost impossibly cute.

We have one. She’s called Hattie. We adopted her, after seeing one of those “I’m looking for a good home because nobody wanted to buy me” pieces of emotional blackmail in the local pet shop.

She’s over two years old. If she were human, she’d be sitting in a rocking chair, knitting socks for her great, great grandnieces. She’s not exactly friendly, but she’s far from unfriendly. A bit grumpy, we think. She occasionally sits and taps her wristwatch meaningfully when dinner’s a bit late, you know the sort of thing.

She might be small, but she’s definitely The Boss.

She lives in our spare room, in a ... no, let’s not call it a cage, there are no bars, no metal, it’s a series of variously-sized and -functioned modules connected by hamster-friendly tubes. (She struggles a bit when the tubes go uphill. She really is very titchy.)

Yesterday morning, I went in the spare room to open the blinds and do something computer-y. I could hear a scratching noise. Ah, I thought, Hattie’s up and about. I couldn’t see her, suggesting that she must have been tucked up in bed -- her normal state during the day -- but the scratching noise continued.

Mice. Must be mice. Under the floorboards, probably. Yuck. Have to buy some poison or something, can’t worry about it now, got to get ready for work.

You’re ahead of me, I expect.

When I got home, I fed the cats then went to feed Hattie.

It was only then that I realised that her cage/enclosure/podsystem was wide open.

That instantly explained the scratching noise, of course. Not mice. An escaped old lady of a Roborovski hamster.

She could be anywhere, I told myself.

But I thought about it; she’d probably been out all night, and she hadn’t gone so far in the first few hours of her freedom that she couldn’t make me think we’d got mice in the floor.

So I started searching. I didn’t honestly expect to find her, you understand, I just hoped I would.

Spent a while peering into random corners, behind random objects, trying to think myself into a hamster’s mind and assuming that a systematic search would take hours and be fruitless anyway, I let my inspiration lead me.

Just after my inspiration led me to put a few small items of yummy hamster food (dried apple, the most noticeably smelly stuff she eats) on the floor in the hope that she’d be tempted away from snacking on carpet or electrical cables or cardboard or paper or plastic DVD cases or any of the other zillion things I thought might attract the attention of a small and hungry rodent, my eyes settled on a box under the table on which her (oh stuff it) cage sits. A cardboard box, flaps closed but not closed and I thought she might be behind it so I gently pulled it out.

In the spirit of thoroughness, I looked inside the box. In there was a Hallowe’en exhibit, a toy (well, maybe not a toy, it’s a bit too realistic to be considered in any way cuddly or cute) rat. And a small pile of artificial rat fur.

It was a moment before I spotted Hattie. She’d clearly been trying to extract the rat’s stuffing in the hope of making a warm bed, in the absence of her normal bedding.

I nearly cheered.

Instead, I gathered her up (with a little difficulty, she’s not used to being handled and Roborovski hamsters don’t often take to it, apparently) and put her back in her (yes, that’s the word) home.

She wandered round, checked I’d put something in her food bowl, stopped for some water (she’d managed without for the best part of 24 hours) nibbled on something that wasn’t artificial rat then, with what was to my eyes a clear sigh and a bit of a What-Kept-You sort of a Look, put herself to bed.

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Caffeine content

There's a place I've bought coffee from: the Tea and Coffee Emporium. They asked, ever so politely, if I'd tweet them or something. I don't do tweeting. So... consider this a recommendation -- they know their stuff, they make and provide excellent quality tea and coffee, and for those of you bored of supermarket stuff, they're a good place to go.

[Advertising mode OFF]

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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Freedom Of The Press

Seen today:

Blogging and PCC Regulation – A Collective Response

My first thought: why on earth would anybody consider that what bloggers do should fall within the grubby remit of the Press Complaints Commission anyway?

But this is clearly a thought-through idea, however Bloody Stupid it might be.

Over-regulation is one of the bugbears of the Left, sadly. Pity: on most ideological fronts, I'm somewhat left of centre and have always mistrusted the party that Steve Bell once, not inaccurately in my view, renamed the SelfServatives.

This is an odd situation, in many ways. The PCC is toothless largely because it's mostly not in its interest to do its job properly. It probably feels that it could do a successful job of regulating bloggers, who are largely regarded as loose cannons and -- more importantly -- Competition, but of course the hidden (?) agenda is simply to preserve the status quo and prevent as much genuine freedom of thought in order to sell newspapers / paywalled news to a public who have an easily exploited tendency to sink to the lowest common denominator at the drop of an immigration issue.

Sign the thing, then, and do it now. It shouldn't have a hope in hell of passing, but inactivity has let stupid things happen before and there's no harm in raising public awareness Just In Case.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Courtesy of the Guardian: Spicy black bean quesadilla and anytime cookies

This just looks yummy.

Mind you, it might be necessary to find an alternative to the nasty avocado in the quesadilla.

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