Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Hold your prayers

I have been mulling on a note informing the intended recipient that she would be prayed for, wondering somewhat facetiously whether those prayers wouldn’t best be put on hold, given this was what had happened to the appointment. God bless the idiosyncratic ways of our glorious NHS, inviting prospective patients in for a pre-op assessment without knowing the date of the operation itself. Whilst I love the principle, I continue to be bemused - and that’s being polite - at the level of waste and inefficiency we grant this 1.7 million tentacled behemoth.

I am perplexed too at those ivory-towered dwelling hospital consultants who in railing against reform speak of the dangers of fragmentation, giving the wholly erroneous perception that the many parts of the NHS sing in perfect harmony. Imagine a public diktat requiring Tesco, admittedly a minnow in comparison, to only sell food it had grown itself. Somehow they manage a huge number of suppliers in a joined-up fashion and in doing so provide a better service to the customer.

It is of course a heresy to compare the NHS to anything; it is unique, real-world comparisons simply don’t apply. Foolish me to suggest that any concerns over cherry-picking by those evil private corporations might be allayed with an overly simplistic analogy on 2-for-1 tubs of ice-cream; “when the offer stops we shop elsewhere” I suggested. “But you can’t” she replied, “You can’t compare the NHS to ice-cream”.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Masturbation for the masses

Blimey Miley, that was quite a show you put on. I didn’t watch it of course and had it not been for Twitter I wouldn’t even have known it had happened. As it is I still don’t know what VMA stands for and I’m only vaguely aware of who you are, but then I’m in my late forties and not, let’s hope, the target audience. That would be a million teenage boys and girls for whom it’s good material; well, for the boys anyway for whom you give such relief. I’m not so sure what it does for your female following but I should think it involves an unhealthy body image and neutering the English language. Yes, I think you’re a poor example (I would say that wouldn’t I) but if Elvis couldn’t manage then what chance have you in stunting their growth?

I am curious as to what Miley’s Dad, who was in the same line of work - singing that is, not twerking, whatever that is - made of it all. From what I read he has a connection to one of those over-bearing parent groups with a never-ending fear of moral corruption. I however couldn’t muster the outrage, besides half-heartedly musing on a Cyrus family subterfuge; it’s all so banal. So banal I’ve just devoted two paragraphs on the subject. So trivial that after a long hiatus I choose this rather than Ed Miliband’s “Neville Chamberlain” moment. What am I thinking?

It’s a crisis of something or other - I‘d say faith only I’m not that way inclined. I have thought on it before, though with more conviction. Science tells me everything, or will, given time; the when, the how, the why; and in doing so it tells me nothing. Science endows and then strips the world of meaning; though I recognise the two are separate - the actual and the spiritual - I speak in a non-religious sense as I haven’t the imagination for much else; the world is what it is and often I’m finding that sad.

I appreciated the bluntness; his explanation that life appears to have no meaning because life has no meaning; and what do you do, asked Camus, once you’ve discovered this ‘truth’? There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn, he says, and that appeals too. But enough of the self-flagellation; to deny the world a meaning is not (this atheist prays) to deny myself an internal meaning, and that can be as I choose. Kindness, compassion and companionship; and pain - it would be false to deny the pain of those I have (and those I will) hurt, though I might wish otherwise; and not forgetting love, to deny love would be the greatest sin of all. God help us if science finds a reason for that.

Monday, 6 May 2013

I’m not a hypocrite, but...

There were some particularly nasty comments flowing in the vicinity of “English comedian, actor and presenter” Rufus Hound and former Conservative MP and “English author” Louise Mensch the other day; two people of whom I’d normally have little interest. I ought, I suppose, to be more upset at Hound’s description of his adversary as a “cocksucker” – should that be one word, or two? – yet outrage hardly needs my help. His mealy mouthed defence, sadly all too familiar, was spectacularly ill-thought as it effectively amounted to ‘anything goes’ when someone fails to share the same point of view - so long as you can claim it’s figurative; which of course most (all?) Anglo-Saxon insults are.

Neither do I have much time for UKIP, yet included in his abusive rant was one clarification that reminded me of the “I’m not racist, but” ad-hominem attributions to the silly party from various right-on commentators. Our comedian says:
I believe in a free press, for what it's worth, but I don't believe the press we have currently is capable of handling that responsibility.
… which would make for great satire were it not for the fact he’s serious. And unfortunately there are far too many serious types who share this contradiction. If you believe in a free press, there is no qualification, there is no Leveson-inspired regulatory body, or if there is, then you don’t, and you should stop pretending otherwise. In just the same way as one can’t say “I’m not racist but”, you can’t claim to “believe in a free press, but”. Or to put it yet another way, yes, you are and no, you don’t.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Seconds out

Munchkin fury at Maggie Ding Dong song
Margaret Thatcher’s seemingly much anticipated death provoked all the expected nonsense from those on the left determined to offend, and those on the right determined to be offended. I was both puzzled and despairing and, as ever, determined to avoid conflict. Thus I have passed in the past on the temptation to question derogatory comments on the death of a disabled child - I mean, where do you start? And if I could do that I could resist providing an alternative view of the Iron Lady; besides, you really can’t argue with “fact” and “end of” in the same comment.

Events have overtaken me, yet I was stopped in my tracks some weeks before by a post comparing the Tory government’s supposed campaign of persecution with the “scapegoating of the Jews in the early years of the Third Reich”. Wow. I’ll credit their omission of the Liberal party as a deliberate insult to the junior coalition partners, and quite funny at that; I’ve noticed how uncomfortable my few acquaintances of that persuasion can get when joking “we’re all friends now”.

Silly comments from people with a far superior education; I’ll never get it. And I let it go because whilst I may decry the ease with which those in the middle ground (and I’d like to pretend I’m one) cede control to the more virulent of their side (and there’s always a side), if your friends of a different political hue are “off on one” it’s easier to let them get it out of their system. I’m wrong of course, I know that. In a gentle way, you can shake the world; cynicism or a general weariness, I’m not entirely sure I believe, but the occasional nudge won’t hurt.

Friday, 15 March 2013

…where you won't do very much harm

We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.
-- E. M. Forster, A Room With A View
I should think this a popular quote. I imagine younger readers fastening to this advice, as I did so many years ago, noting, but mostly brushing aside the note of caution. Some marry a George or Lucy, others a Cecil or Charlotte. Some forget, for they no longer need to remember, others return with a rueful smile or occasional tears; I can’t think which is more appropriate, though appropriate of course has nothing to do with it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Love don't live here anymore

I think I must be a little sensitive today but I can’t pretend I’m not hurt. Do you remember when we first met? It was a long time ago, I remember it was a Sunday and I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to appear needy either but my other efforts hadn’t worked so I gave you a call. The lady who answered was lovely and though she couldn’t help me with my needs she had a friend who could; he was lovely too; so patient and understanding he must have spent an age ensuring satisfaction and believe me, I was. Do you remember this was back in the days before the internet, well, before broadband anyway; back then we had to wire things up to make a connection and it didn’t always work. Online shopping was for dreamers such as you and me, but we didn’t let that stop us. Later that day I put in my first order.

The years passed, I moved house and though we kept in touch somehow we’d lost the magic of those early days. As fate would have it the local supermarket was one of yours; now we could have more than just an online relationship. I walk there several times a week to see your stripes of red and blue, though I must confess I haven’t always been true; this won’t be easy to read but you deserve the truth; there have been times I’ve used Aldi. They’re a little closer, a little easier on the pocket but that’s no excuse, and I’m sorry; I hope one day you’ll have it in your heart to forgive me. I suppose I ought to apologise to Aldi too - or it might be Lidl, I never could tell those two apart.

Cadburys chocolate mini-rolls - Tesco special purchase
Was this the reason, I wondered today, or am I conceited to think it’s all about me? You see recently you’ve felt a little distant. I know I’m getting older, my hair is greyer and the walk does feel longer and no doubt you’ll tell me it’s my imagination, but I’m beginning to think you don’t care. Those yellow price labels you used to reserve for special occasions, now I see them everywhere; and you’re not always using them to denote something worthwhile, those price reductions you made available to all but were really intended for me (I know this; you don’t have to say anything, on that matter at least). Recently it’s become random, yellow and white plastered with abandon and then today what felt like a deliberate insult: “Cadburys Chocolate Mini-Rolls 6pk - £1.40… Special Purchase”

Special Purchase? What’s so special about that, I’ve never seen them more expensive - and you of all people know how I like a chocolate roll. Is there something wrong? Have I done something wrong? Do you not want me anymore? Have Asda been mean, are they telling fibs? It’s all lies. Well… I suppose there was that one time but please believe me, it meant nothing. No doubt you’re beginning to think I’m a bit of a tart, maybe that’s why you fling such yellow label provocation in my face. Have you really had enough? Should I turn around and go? Please tell me, am I not welcome anymore? You needn’t worry about me; somehow, I don't know how, but somehow I will survive.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Refactoring marriage

Relationship between marriage and civil partnership
This Tuesday the House of Commons will be voting for the past or the future, and whilst I hope for the latter I wondered on the possibilities with our current imperfect arrangements. I confess to some trouble in deciding which derived from the other, in a software rather than historical sense. All this argument over labels drives one to distraction; an object is defined by its attributes, not by a name; and therein lay one possible solution.