11 January 2015

Mother GooseWe had a lovely day on Tuesday with the ever-delightful Miss Annabelle. We took her to her first-ever Pantomime at Chipping Norton Theatre which was great fun. For those of you who may not be familiar with the tradition, pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production, designed for family entertainment generally performed during the Christmas and New Year period. Modern pantomime includes songs, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors, and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers. [Wikipedia]

Although all this was a bit over Annabelle’s head, she did enjoy herself and Grandma and Grandpa certainly had a grand time. One of the highlights of any pantomime, as far as the kids are concerned, is when the actors toss sweets (candy) to the audience and Annabelle was delighted to catch one which, we were assured, was very tasty!

Length of DayPenelope and I were walking around the Edgecote Estate the other day and we were chatting about how lovely it was now that the Solstice had passed and the days were getting longer. This got me to thinking how much longer each day might be than the previous one. So, after a bit of research on the interweb I ran across a site where one could download a spreadsheet of the sunrise and sunset times for anywhere in the world. Taking the data for the UK it turns out that in late December/early January the days are only a few seconds longer than the previous day. As the year passes these differences accelerate, of course, until we reach the Summer Solstice and then it’s all downhill again. Interesting to learn that the length of our days vary from about 7 hours and 34 minutes in the depths of December to 16 hours and 56 minutes at the solstice in June. Even better, on Thursday I ran across an article in the Guardian which explained that we would be getting an extra second in June this year due to the gradual slowing down of the earth’s rotation – what a bonus! How thoughtful of them to give us the extra second during the summer when, hopefully, we can enjoy it.

Speaking of all those hours of sunlight in summer, how about a few photos of the Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival in China to cheer you up?

Harbin Ice Festival

One of the actions the new coalition government took on taking office in 2010 was to fix the length of Parliament and hence the date of the next election. Just about everyone, including me, thought at the time that this was a pretty sensible idea. It had always struck me as somewhat bizarre that the current government was allowed to choose the date of the election, up to a maximum of five years following the previous one. This meant that governments could (and they certainly did) manipulate the economy in the short term to give themselves an electoral advantage whenever they chose to call the election. So, the idea of setting the date of the next election five years in advance seemed a good idea.

Unfortunately, an unintended side effect is that we now face an unwelcome and thoroughly depressing extended election campaign. Previously, there would be a month or so of campaigning leading up to the announcement of the date of the election which was never more than a month away. Now, since everyone knows the election is going to be held in May, the campaigns have already started with the usual lies, counter lies and sound bite politics. And, we have a depressing five months of this nonsense to look forward to. Thankfully, it’s not yet on the scale of the continual 24/7 365 days/year of campaigning the Americans get to enjoy all the time – since Congressional elections are held every two years, life is essentially one long campaign and hence it’s hardly surprising that Congress has the reputation for getting nothing done – the Representatives are always having to look forward to the next election to ensure they keep their place at the trough.

So, the campaign has started and the Tories set the tone with their first election poster which was unveiled soon after the New Year.

tory_poster

Of course, there were immediate accusations of lying – the poster contains the claim that the government has halved the deficit. True if you take the deficit as a proportion of GDP; false if you take the value of the actual deficit.

But more amusingly, there was some debate about whether such a well-maintained road could be found anywhere in the UK following the government cuts on infrastructure expenditure. When questioned, the Chancellor, Osborne the Tit, said:

It’s a British picture, a British road.

And there we have the second lie of the campaign – the original photograph, it turns out, is of a road in Germany taken in 2008.

And while I am in a ranting mood, I ran across an article by Michael Rosin in the Guardian concerning the education “reforms” introduced by the idiot Gove – it turns out that the central plank of his “reforms” – allowing any idiot to run a school with unqualified teachers and no local authority support – has turned out to be a colossal waste of money and unsuccessful at raising standards. Quelle surprise!

Love to you all

Greg