27 February 2011

Happy BirthdayI forgot to mention that we are away this weekend. We are, as we “speak” in beautiful downtown West Charleton, Devon assisting Dave Walton in the celebrations of his 60th birthday (which was on Friday). We are staying in a lovely house hired for the occasion along with three other couples, Dave and Sue and their two girls, Ellen and Zoe.

I am sure you will be surprised to learn that we have been having a wonderful time and that we may have eaten (and perhaps imbibed) more than one generally ought to. However, it is a special occasion and it’s been a splendid weekend. I will hope to be able to provide a few photographs next weekend but just to reassure you, it’s not been all eating and drinking – yesterday we scampered up a “tor” (or, in other words, a hill) on Dartmoor which was a suitably challenging endeavour in between all the eating, drinking and general carousing. We are planning to call in on Penny’s brother, Alfred, on the way home this afternoon whom we’ve not seen for a number of years.

Following my mini-rant last week about the Prime Minister’s re-launch of the re-launch of his defining mission, the Big Society, I ran across a short article in Private Eye which sums the policy up very well.

For the non-Brits amongst the readership, I will insert the occasional aside but I can do no better than to quote from the original article:

“Good news for refugees whose support groups are to be kicked out of Palingswick House in Hammersmith in order to make room for Toby Young’s West London Free School.”

[The idea behind the Free School policy is part of Cameron’s Big Society. Essentially, anyone who wants to should be able to set up their own school, funded directly from central government, but accountable to no one. A cynic would suggest that it’s all to do with eliminating the influence of Local Authorities who have the annoying habit of being locally elected and not necessarily adhering to Conservative educational policies. Toby Young, a journalist, has received permission to set up a Free School and is to be allowed to use Palingswick House, after twenty-three charitable groups were evicted by the Council].

“Documents prepared for Conservative Hammersmith & Fulham council’s cabinet list alternative provision available for those who may miss the services provided by groups such as the Afghan Council UK and the Iranian Association.

“According to the H&F briefing, any Iranian dissidents finding themselves in west London are advised to seek a sympathetic ear at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” [Think about it].

“Afghani refugees, meanwhile, can find an ‘excellent alternative’ in the Southern Afghan Club (SAC). Hitherto the SAC has given its advice exclusively to owners of . . . pedigree Afghan hounds. No doubt it will now be happy to expand its activities to include families fleeing the Taliban. It’s what the Big Society’s all about!”

So there you have the Big Society in a nutshell. You could not make it up!

And while I am on a political bent, how ironic – a web site developed to keep protestors up to date with what’s been going on in Wisconsin was allegedly blocked by the administration for those signing on as a “guest” to the Wi-Fi Internet access offered inside the state Capitol. Hmmm, isn’t that what the regimes in North Africa and the Middle East have tried to do? Not quite what democracy is supposed to be all about.

And how about the politician who alledgedly created a second Facebook account so that he/she can “like” the comments he/she puts on his/her “official” Facebook wall. Not terribly bright, I’m afraid in that he/she is said to have used the same e-mail account for both Facebook accounts so that anyone who is interested in these sorts of things can track it down. Also, quite sad it seems to me in that he/she feels the need to post some positive feedback on the comments he/she makes. (And, if you want to know which politician it is you’ll have to work that out for yourselves – I’m not telling!)

Politics aside, there are so many amusing and/or intriguing little snippets to share with you this week. First of all there are the underwater sculptures Susie sent along the other day. I don’t know if she shared the link with everyone else; if not, enjoy: if so, enjoy anyway.

Then, coming to a Men’s room near you: The SEGA video company’s Japan division began test-marketing its new “Toylets” game in January, designed for men’s urinals combining men’s obsession with video games with their perennial inability to aim straight. With sensors in the basin and a video screen at eye level, men score points based on the strength and accuracy of their streams. Among the suite of games: sumo wrestling (squirt the opponent out of the circle), graffiti-erasure (strong streams wipe out more graffiti), and skirt-raising (the stronger the stream, the higher a woman’s skirt is “blown” upward)

Oh! Those wacky Japanese!

And finally, finally (for this week anyway): you will remember sometime ago (November 2008, I discovered) we had the opportunity to see an exhibition in Oxford of aerial photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the French photographer and environmentalist. I ran across a link to a site outlining a movie he has recently produced shot entirely from an aerial perspective. You can see the trailer here and there is also a link to the full movie on You Tube. Stunning photography with albeit a somewhat depressing message.

Love to you all,

Greg