12 January 2014

We’ve had a pretty good albeit somewhat mixed patch of weather this week – some very nice bright, crisp, sunny mornings, some overcast and drizzly days and some more torrential downpours (but mainly during the night which is more or less acceptable). The recreation ground is a quagmire so Molly gets a hosing down both in the morning and in the afternoon following our walk around the Edgecote estate. She’s not happy about it but reluctantly comes to the faucet and stands still while one sprays her legs, paws and undercarriage. The worst aspect from her point of view is that she’s not allowed into the lounge, her favourite slumbering spot, until she is dry. Naturally, this prompts a series of intermittent barks as she demands to be let in. What is it about “no” that she doesn’t understand?

flooded_spiceballOther parts of the country have continued to suffer widespread flooding and it just seems to keep on coming. Even our local river, the Cherwell, burst its banks but not sufficiently to cause any damage anywhere that I know of. It has stopped us doing the complete circuit at Edgecote and prevented us parking in our usual spot for yoga at the leisure centre – we usually park in the car park on the other side of the river which was about half under water with no accessible spaces. We had to park miles away!

What could be better than to be able to combine two of my favourite topics – politicians lying and the weather – into one comment? While visiting some of the badly flooded areas the Environment Minister, Owen Patterson (he of “the badgers keep changing the goal posts” fame) made the assertion that

this government is spending more than all preceding governments on flood defences.

Unfortunately, it’s not true, not in either absolute or relative terms, according to Private Eye. Spending on flood defences was one of the swath of cuts introduced by the Chancellor when they came to power and, even after a £120m emergency injection announced in November 2012 after the last serious bout of flooding, it is still down by about 6% on previous levels. What’s that saying, a stitch in time . . .

ice_landscapeAnd still speaking of the weather we were glad to see that those of you affected by the Polar Vortex are beginning to see more reasonable temperatures – I guess that’s a relief all round. The Guardian had a collection of some pretty stunning photos which you can see here. I remember one occasion while we were living in Radway where the landscape was similarly frozen as in this photo – the temperature on that morning was -22o Celsius (-70 Fahrenheit) – not very cold by comparison!

Continuing our weather-based theme this morning, how about this video of the Harbin Ice Festival in China?

[iframe http://embedded-video.guardianapps.co.uk/?a=false&u=/world/video/2014/jan/04/ice-festival-frozen-cityscape-north-east-china-video 600 518]

There are dozens more on YouTube if you are interested.

I was playing around on Google Maps as one does from time to time and I had a look at our old family home – 262 West Lemon Avenue, Arcadia, California. We had heard some time ago that it was being torn down and a new home was being built in its place (as have several others along the street). I was interested to see how up to date Google Maps was and found the following (click for a larger image):

262_west_lemon_avenue_satellite
262 as a vacant lot. Even the swimming pool has been filled in. (The pool there belongs to the property at the back).

262_west_lemon_avenue_construction
The street view image – the tall trees at the back have been taken down and the lot fenced off ready to tear down the house.

You can compare these with the photo nephew Karl took a few years ago and one from the photo albums. This last one was taken soon after we moved in, I guess – I certainly don’t remember the large trees and shrubs at the front of the property.

262_west_lemon_avenue_before 262_west_lemon_avenue_grayscale

Anyone on the left coast who happens to be in the area, we’d love to see what’s been built in its place.

This week’s rant:
The Honours System is a means of recognising and rewarding “individuals’ personal bravery, achievement, or service” to the United Kingdom and the British Overseas Territories. Over many years it has fallen into disrepute as it is politicians who make the nominations (although technically it is the Queen who makes the award). Not surprisingly, perhaps, many nominations in recent years have had little to do with service and more to do with the size of an individual’s financial contribution to a particular political party. A few years ago all the parties agreed that the system had become devalued and agreed to restore confidence by recognising real service and achievement.

Therefore, many commentators were surprised when David Cameron’s personal hairdresser was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). Many wits have suggested that his award is for his “service” in styling Cameron’s hair so that his bald patch is less evident but it merely serves to reinforce what a twit Cameron is and how the system continues to be abused by our useless politicians.

I was really sorry to hear of Simon Hoggart’s death this week after a three and a half year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer for the past twenty years and was one of the wittiest commentators I’ve run across – I’ve used some of his stuff in the pages of the Befouled News from time to time. I particularly enjoyed his use of metaphor and/or simile (I can never remember which is which). One example: in one of his last parliamentary sketches he wrote about George Osborne’s autumn financial statement in which the Chancellor “gloated” about the marvellous economic “recovery” he has engineered. Naturally, the Tories were jubilant and he asked,

Do the coalition’s MPs really believe this stuff? Probably half of them do, and the other half find it expedient to pretend to. Even Andrew Tyrie, who chairs the Treasury committee, a man who smiles as often as an undertaker whose budgie has just died, managed to beam happily, at least some of the time.

I will miss reading his stuff.

Love to you all,

Greg