20 February 2011

Shower HeadIt never rains but it pours.

For some time we’ve been dealing with an annoying quirk of our hot water system. Intermittently, when we turn the hot water on it runs hot for about a minute and then starts to run stone cold. It runs hot just about long enough for you to get soaped up all over and then, just as you are about to rinse off, the water turns absolutely frigid. Because it’s an intermittent fault naturally it’s been quite difficult to diagnose. We had one plumber out just after Christmas who replaced the hot water thermostat which seemed to cure the problem – for about twelve hours. Since then we’ve shivered just about every day while waiting for the plumber to have a spare slot in his busy diary to come and try another solution.

Then, to make matters worse, our tenant arrived at the front door on Tuesday morning to say that the boiler in the annexe was tripping the trip switch on the circuit board every time it tried to switch on. So, she had no heating and no hot water while we at least had heat but, just when you are all soaped up in the shower, no hot water.

Rather than wait for the original plumber to contact us again, we contacted the boiler manufacturer directly for assistance. I knew that they had their own service engineers but I’ve been somewhat reluctant to use them in the past as they tend to be more expensive than “normal” plumbers. However, they almost always come straight away and they guarantee a solution. So, biting the bullet I arranged for them to come on Wednesday. By Wednesday evening we had reliable hot water and by Friday afternoon (a new part needed to be ordered, naturally) our tenant similarly had hot water and heating. Success all around (apart from the bank balance, I suppose).

Valentine CardMs Playchute and I had a very pleasant evening on Thursday which was, apart from the boring card I presented to my lover, my excuse for a Valentine offering. I had run across a half price cinema offer along with a number of dining vouchers so off we went to Northampton to see “Never Let Me Go”, the film based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro which was very good. I had read the book beforehand but, for some bizarre reason, Ms Playchute had not which is generally unheard of. She usually gets through about six books to my one but this one must have passed her by. I would recommend reading the book first but if you get a chance to catch this film, we both thought it was very good.

After the film, I was able to present my beloved with a number of options for dinner – we had a 20% off voucher for Pizza Express, a 10% off voucher for Frankie & Bennies and a “buy one get a main course free” at Bella Italia. She opted for Bella Italia as that seemed to offer the greatest discount. Although this outing was considerably more successful than our last attempt, I guess it’s still true – boy, do I know how to show a girl a good time (but only if I can acquire enough vouchers).

I genuinely do not know where to begin with the “interesting” news items I’ve run across this week – there have been so many!

I suppose one of the biggest stories this week was about the Iraqi informer who provided much of the evidence used to justify the invasion of Iraq being exposed as a liar. During the build up to the war, I think probably most people in this country reckoned that Blair and Bush and Co. must know something that we, the general public, didn’t. Now we know that they “thought” they knew something but that it was untrue. What makes it worse, of course, is the revelation that the German secret service had passed their misgivings about the quality of the intelligence to the CIA before the war and before Colin Powell’s speech to the UN where he used the fabricated evidence to help make the case for war. Not surprisingly, he is now keen to know why he was not told that the speech he was about to make could not be justified.

Then there was the “humiliating” climb-down of the UK government on their proposal to sell off the UK’s national forests. It seems the government was somewhat taken aback by the strength of the public opposition to the proposals which strikes me as being somewhat naïve. Imagine selling off, say, Yosemite or Yellowstone to private developers to do with it what they like, including potentially precluding anyone from visiting. I have to confess, I’ve never known a government minister admit that they were wrong but the minister responsible, Caroline Spelman, did just that in the House of Commons this week.

Then there was the sorry sight of the Prime Minister having to re-launch the re-launch of what he described as his “fundamental mission” – the Big Society! Without initiating too great a political rant, this illustrates just how out of touch David Cameron and his pals are with ordinary people. In a nutshell, the concept behind the “Big Society” is that people should do more voluntary and charitable work. No bad thing at all.

Unfortunately, many people see the scheme as a cover for the spending cuts. Local-authority grants make up a large chunk of the funding of many charities and volunteer groups with which they do good work with many of the more vulnerable and disadvantaged. And this source of funding is being squeezed by local councils, which are themselves facing severe front-loaded cuts in their support from central government. Many organisations which work with the most vulnerable are facing financial crisis and potential closure yet somehow they will now volunteer and be able to provide the same kinds of support and services for free?

And I haven’t even had time to go off on the news I read yesterday morning: Barclays Bank made £11.6 billion profit last year and paid 1% tax! (And they are not the only tax evaders, probably just the most successful). Even Ms Playchute paid 20% corporation tax on the profits generated by her global financial powerhouse. Just think what we could do if the banks and big business actually paid their share.

Don’t get me started!

Much love to you all,

Greg

One thought on “20 February 2011”

  1. Just regarding the u-turn on the issue of the national forest sell off, there was an interesting discussion on BBC Radio 4’s programme ‘Any Questions’. I think the question was ‘Is this a listening Government, or a bunch of headless chickens?’

    Now mostly I think we would say ‘chickens’, but I guess it’s encouraging that they actually changed tack in response to public opinion, rather than bulldozed ahead under the impression that their first idea must be the right one.

    A good point was made, that although changing your mind is good when the public object. If they had bothered to ask the public’s opinion in the first place and run a few focus groups, perhaps they wouldn’t have thought it was such a good idea to begin with.

    🙂

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