Tuesday, 29 June 2010

summer time and the living is easy


Life is good. After the grumps, the sun shines, it is warm and all is well with the world.

Well of course not the english football team. Nuff said.

We have had a fantastic couple of weeks. Social events, music, theatre, tv, reading, music good food and company. Excellent.

So where to start. Alistair and Nicola came up for the weekend and we had a very gentle time, but managed to get ourselves to the Walpole Arms, great food and wine. Huge advantage in that we went in their car!!

Then I had lunch with the Gianfrans, plus ride in the Masseratti, how grown up and growly is that?

Supper with the Wedges, garden perfect.

Tea with the Balls, supper with the Morphews, jolly discussion we were even able to discuss briefly, the unitary thing without a major diplomatic rift.

Carers week, launch at the Forum, High Sheriffs bash, good meetings of pretty well most of the organisations, all going really well despite the challenges.

On Thursday we are off to Yorkshire to meet Ian N. and do some walking.

Sad thing at this point is the sudden illness and death of Kenneth Graham. So sad, to hear of someone who was vibrant in January, when we saw him at Balmoral, and then such a rapid decline. Too terrible to contemplate really.

Anyway to pull ourselves out of too much introspection we are doing France and Spain next week, with Anita Heiss, should be a hoot. Bit worried about Sue and Anita off in the Mini Cooper S, off down through France in a sort of Thelma and Louise road trip, I trust without the same motivation and outcome.

Anyway it is nice to not have to sound off and be happy.

Friday, 18 June 2010


Well, what a charade.

The Congressional Committee, investigating the oil spill in the Gulf, is disgraceful. I fully understand the point that they are coming up to midterm elections, but the 'indignation' "I am insulted"  that they were not getting answers, is frankly pathetic.

When the rest of the world is genuinely keen to find out why, the CEO of BP was totally sensible to take the line he did, when he had to listen to an hour and half of lectures on how his company is guilty, now can you give us the evidence to hang you with? It was truly terrible.

The oil spill is dreadful. The deaths unforgivable. The damage to the economy and ecological system too horrible to contemplate. But they need solutions now not scalps. This is the not the time for a trial, and in fact the CEO is the person who is trying to deliver the answers. If in due course it is proved that he has been negligent then he will have to take the consequences. However the idiots on the Committee clearly have a simple politicians view of the way large organisations work. Please preserve us from such people.

With out the threats, the seriously bad litigious culture of the USA, and the tendency for everyone to jump on a damages bandwagon, then he may just have been more helpful. But what did these guys expect?

He first has to manage the disaster, then he is has to keep his Company solvent, he has a duty to everyone, including his share holders, of whom 40% are American. It is just not sensible to undermine his ability to fulfill these responsibilities.

Of course his style did not help with this Paxmanness interviewing technique. He was perhaps too calm. I personnally would have been inclined to show a bit of edge back.  But I fear there is a bit of a cultural difference here, but who would expect the Americans to make any allowance for that?

It was bad enough seeing our own politicians questionning David Kelly. That was too bad, but Congress makes our Select Committee, seem polite. Ours do seem to want to get evidence first.

However politicians generally are not equipped for this sort of task. Serious consideration should be given to limit their ability to call anyone to their Committees in the future, on the back of something going wrong. Leave that to lawyers who tend to be better at getting at the facts.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


There is much to consider. First the mind blowing nature of political hypocrisy.

Let me look for a moment at the USA. Obama is a great man. Or is he? Two issues are bothering me about his current regime.

First the BP disaster. OK so it is terrible. If it was caused by negligence then we need to know whose how and why? But in the meantime, where is the oil that is produced going to be used? The USA we presume. Who were the engineers engaged in the enterprise? Americans largely  we expect. 40% of the investors are American we are told. Who benefits by the Chief Exec being prosecuted or vilified, Obama I suspect. His statements are nothing but political opportunism.

Secondly, who seems to have authorised special forces to assassinate specific people? We are told it is Obama. OK so probably all USA Presidents have also authorised this to happen but what price the rule of law? It is simply not acceptable that any Country decides that their nationals can go around the world killing people in other countries. I hope that the UK Government will take every step possible to bring to justice anyone who commits this crime in the UK, whether it is sanctioned by the President or not. And indeed I hope that we would also look at whether he has committed an offence under our law. However uncomfortable that may be. Where capital punishment is allowable it should only be sanctioned after due process of law. We have enough of the cowboy approach to world affairs, that philosphy seems to cause more problems than it resolves. Obama is capable of so much better than this.

In the UK my concern is that our new Government ' the coalition' promised the lighter touch, local decision making, less targets, let the people at the front line have the power. Statement 1 from the new Secretary of State for Health is hospitals will be penalised for people who are readmitted within 30 days.  This is obviously a sensible objective but there are a hundred and one reasons why someone might be readmitted. If there is income or expenditure attached to events every detail thereof needs counting, anything that has to be classified and counted needs people to do it, and this adds to the bureaucracy, not reduce it. Where do these people live? Where do they get their ideas from? Who advises them? `It is just more of the same from a government that has promised to do different. Wrong!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Look, it is a painful episode in my life. I am very interested in world news and current affairs. However  during a General Election, when the media are trying all they can to find a non existent angle of difference between the main contenders, it is extremely terrible thing to try to watch, listen or about.

No Party is being very honest, there seems to be no more reason to trust them now than there was a few months ago when they all shouted shock horror that colleagues seemed to be abusing the expenses system.

They still do not get it. Any of the it seems to me. How can we trust them when we know there is no money, and they all say they are going to protect front line services. Actually Vince Cable did say that this is not possible. But hell that seems to be the only thing the Lib Dems have some clarity on. I believe that running the country might be more complex even than just managing the economy, however important that is.

How can they not see that we are not fooled. Why do they not understand that is why there is little difference between the polls. Cameron is potentially a hope but he so light weight, yet Osborne makes Cameron look capable by comparison. And as for the Labour Party, it will not do that Brown says time for a change, he has been the Chancellor for all of the period that led up to the crash. It is an unbelievable mess and impossible set of choices for the electorate.

All of this makes me quite depressed. Why does not one of them just say we are going to have to lower our expectations. We can not have it all anymore, at least till the economy gets better.

We should cut defense spending, pull the soldiers out of Afghanistan, reduce the qangos to the basic essentials, reduce our targets in the health service and the tiers of management. SHAs and PCTs. take a sharp look at local government and reduce the tiers there. How can they, in the midst of a crisis consider the reorganisation that means a new unitary authority for Norwich. It will cost millions that simply do not exist. Mad mad mad.

Furious of Norfolk

Monday, 15 March 2010

March 2010

Well. I hope so.

Where is spring? You may well ask.

Why have we taken so many photographs through the years. As we try to sort them we realise that most of it is pointless. So many are being destroyed. What a waste. But there are still the memories in the rest.

Diaries tell stories of events long forgotten, and give a flavour of events long passed.

Letters of sympathy, gratitude and engagement all  bring back thoughts and feelings, deeply buried.

School exercise books tell a different story of achievement and failures. Lazy pupil and often lazy teachers. Sadness at opportunities missed.

Music at the weekend. Very grand at Wolterton Hall, home of the Walpole family. Puccini so beautiful that it brought tears to our eyes.

Daphne Ken Richard Helen Edward and Charlie at the weekend. Really lovely time. Family is important to our well being.

Long conversations with Hannah and Nick, Sue with Lucy. What must it have been like for our parents without this ability to talk for so long over such a distance for free? We live in a fantastic age.

But with that comes unreal expectation that all is well with the world.

I think as it becomes easier, so it is harder for we expect everything and yet should take nothing for granted.

Enough of these random thoughts. To bed.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Why am I finding the world so bizarre?

In almost every direction there is nonsense. I believe there is a connection between these seemingly random events / decisions / behaviour.

1)  The question of alleged torture in GBay of a suspected terrorist, with the connivance or at least active involvement of the Security Services. Of course we can not have our public servants engaged in inhumane and illegal acts. However there needs to be some context here. The old systems and values can not necessarily apply in all situations in the 21st Century. If there were grounds for believing that a British Citizen has been or is engaged in terrorism and has knowledge that may prevent a further atrocity, we would expect our security services to do all they can to find the information out. It is of course wrong to torture people, and one wonders what evidence there is that this will work to get the truth, especially if the victim has no knowledge. My point however is that I suspect that in war time, such allegations against our services, made publicly would have been treason. We have to believe that there is a more subtle way of conducting such investigations, if indeed one is necessary. It cannot be in anyones interest to undermine the Security Service in this way when they are engaged in a serious battle to protect us. The public interest is not served by these debates being conducted in public as what this also means is that the terrorists are seen to be the victims not the real victims who are those killed and maimed by their actions.

2) On a more mundane level the decision by the Government to give Unitary Status to Norwich City Council, on its existing boundaries, while leaving the rest of the County as it is. This seems to me to be political corruption of the worst kind. It flies in the face of all the evidence, gathered independently by the Commission, which has at great expense gathered it. Further the choice is the least economically sound. The reason given is that in this way the City of Norwich will be best placed to generate wealth for Norfolk. How will having the service currently run very efficiently by the County Council under its wing, possibly make it easier to create better development opportunities that are not there already. It beggars belief that this decision is taken, at all let alone at a time when front line services are under huge financial pressure as a result of the economic crisis.

3) One year on Obama is under attack even from his own Democratic colleagues. The so called exemplar of democracy the USA seems to be unable to avoid now falling into the category of a second rate nation, when the big lobbying interests, particularly the health industry can seriously undermine a modest aspiration of the President to make his country just a little bit fairer to all. What has happened when he was so overwhelmingly elected on what seemed to be a very clear mandate. But after all I guess this is the same country where Sarah Palin is taken seriously be worrying numbers of potential voters.

4) Our own health service is about to become an area of battle in the uk election. However good it is, and it is fantastic, the small number of problems are exploited for political purpose. In the meantime the managers and clinicians are working themselves beyond sensible limits to meet the totally unreasonable expectations upon them.

5) Why in NSW is there a labour government that seems to be so unpopular, and allegedly corrupt but they fail to see that their own actions are compounding the problem and they are incapable of cleaning up their act.

6) In the UK there are those who hate Blair and those who love him, but very few of those now. Yet we have this charade of an Inquiry into the Iraq war, that costs money we don't have to produce a result that we know will satisfy no-one. What is that about?

7) Lastly I think it can be summed up by our government in all seriousness expecting in league tables for everyone to be in the top centile. Does not that tell us everything?

The thread is that the media, 24 hour news, the internet, mobile phones, instant evidence, public expectation, human rights legislation, have all in their way led to such a changed world that the old ways of doing things are no longer relevant. But equally public expectation and the media's role in raising it, has to be challenged, otherwise the organs of any public service will sooner or later stop working. This can be seen in the climate change debate. Here what by any standard are normal emails between colleagues have been allowed to assume an all important value. Whereas we need scientists to be able to have even loose discussions amongst themselves and decide between them how the present the evidence that only they really understand. Absolute raw data and the freedom of information requirements are a lethal combination.

Thus there are some fundemental challenge in the next decade to allow professionals and politicians to get on with it, without necessarily having to answer every detailed question whilst developing a new kind of journalism that illuminates rather than blames, but always holding to account. An impossible challenge but no worse than expecting everyone to perform to the top centile.