5 January 2014

Happy New YearHappy New Year to you all. I hope your New Year’s celebrations were everything you hoped they might be and the New Year brings you peace, health and happiness. We marked the beginning of the New Year in the manner to which we have become accustomed over previous years – sound asleep. Why spoil the habits of a lifetime?

I would like to say that the New Year dawned with a gloriously sunny morning with clear skies and moderate temperatures. Unfortunately, that would be untrue. The New Year dawned with more rain and it continued to sheet down all day – more floods all over the country, I’m afraid. And, it’s still going on. The Environment Agency has issued a record number of severe weather warnings for this weekend and folks are being advised not to go out to watch the storm waves from coastal paths and sea fronts – a number of people have already lost their lives having been swept out to sea by the huge waves.

Still, in spite of the weather, we had a grand time on New Year’s Day – Nick and Lucy came over with Annabelle and Penelope prepared what can only be described as a wondrous feast. After dithering between two varieties of stuffed pork loin, she went with a pork loin stuffed with chorizo, thyme and caramelised apple topped with a balsamic reduction with chipotle en adobe and red currant jelly. (Unfortunately, we only had black currant jelly but it was still mighty tasty). My goodness it was good. If you have the odd pork loin which you feel needs a good stuffing give it a try – you can get the recipe here.

Annabelle on New Year's DayWhilst Pen was in the kitchen cooking with Nick and Lucy, I had the unenviable task of playing with Annabelle and the farmyard. We got all the buildings out and spent a little time discussing where each needed to be placed. Then, each of the animals had to be put somewhere and in spite of how much we tried, the donkey simply would not fit in the chicken hut so it had to stand outside. The lion, of course, caused all the other animals to shriek and scream and scamper away as did the dinosaurs. Several of the animals ended up on the roofs of the various buildings while others somehow found their way up to the hay loft in the main barn. Fortunately, neither the lion nor the dinosaurs could climb.

After all that excitement had died down we did have a few issues with some of the animals wanting to go into the cow shed. The cow shed has three stalls and Annabelle had placed there the donkey, one of the cows and a sheep. I would then trot along with one of the other animals and ask if there was room for me. “No room for you, pony” or “No room for you, pig” or “No room for you, sheep” I was told and we had to trot back to the barn to fetch another animal. Amazingly, even the lion and dinosaurs were told there was no room! What are the chances of that? It certainly kept me amused and, more importantly, kept me out of the kitchen and out of their way.

This week’s rants – the unreliable use of statistics by the government (again) and more banging on about the epidemic of “benefit tourists” coming to the UK (again).

We’ve commented on numerous occasions about our politicians’ unreliable use of statistics. Here the Guardian collects five of the best from the past year including a reference to one of our favourites, Iain Duncan Smith and his response when his use of statistics was questioned – it’s not a lie as long as he believes it to be true. You couldn’t make it up!

Not surprisingly, the government is still banging on about the flood of “benefit tourists” who flock to the UK to take advantage of our “generous” benefit system and especially the “free” use of the NHS. As of 1 January immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria are able to travel freely throughout the European Union and it’s these Eastern Europeans in particular that the government is keen to protect us from. Over the past few weeks they’ve announced a whole raft of policy proposals most of which are either already in place or illegal under European law.

Now they’ve announced that visitors and migrants are going to be charged for using NHS accident and emergency services.

Overseas visitors and migrants are to be charged for using NHS accident and emergency services in England under measures announced by the government to deter so-called health tourism.

Of course, it’s merely another aspect of the desperate efforts to appeal to the loony right of the Tory party – those without entitlement are already charged for use of most aspects of the NHS; this refers specifically to Accident and Emergency. The British Medical Association reckons that it will cost more to administer than it will recover in costs. What does that matter when you’re trying to buy votes?

NHS Benefit Tourism

Amusingly, an article in the Guardian the other day described how a number of tabloid journalists and politicians had gone to Luton Airport to greet the incoming flight from Romania on 1 January no doubt expecting the plane to be chock full of the benefit tourists the tabloid media and government have been banging on about.

. . . politicians and journalists at Luton airport were desperately waiting for the arrival of millions of unemployed Romanians only to be greeted by two new entrants, both of whom already had jobs.

You couldn’t make it up!

Finally, on a lighter note, I’ve often commented on the idiot Gove’s numerous crazy educational initiatives. Almost ever since he became Minister for Education it’s been as though he wakes up each morning and comes up with a new daft idea. Now, you too can be Michael Gove and come up with your own stupid proposals. Think of a three digit number and construct your policy from the grid below, courtesy of the Guardian.

The Michael Gove random policy generator

Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass

Love to you all,