About Me

"Setting the world to rights"...one blog at a time! Plus anything else that comes to mind

Monday, 27 December 2010

Creating good memories

Life is good!

Over the past few years our family has had 'interesting times' at Christmas. Variously a cancer diagnosis, fallout from a heart valve replacement, a broken neck etc, with one or the other of my parents in hospital just before the holidays, once even coming out of hospital unexpectedly - and thankfully - on Christmas Eve evening. This year we've broken the hospital tradition. Oh, we haven't escaped completely unscathed, my brother developed shingles in one eye a couple of days before Christmas - and he was the one taking over the Christmas cooking because I'm dangerous round a baking pan of goose fat and saucepans of boiling water because of neck, back and arm problems at the moment! He was an absolute Trojan though, producing a brilliant meal with all the trimmings despite feeling unwell himself. This time I played cook's assistant doing the washing-up and other drudgery as best possible, and heroically keeping my mouth shut (most of the time) when I thought he wasn't doing it right - in other words, the way I would do it!

I can't remember the last time I haven't spent most of Christmas Day in the kitchen. It was a real treat to be able to spend more time with the family, laughing, relaxing, concentrating on keeping the fire stoked and dressing the table. One of my great pleasures is dressing the table because one of my parents' and my grandmother's great pleasures is seeing a well-dressed table. This year I could take my time, I didn't forget anything; the Christmas tablecloth we've had for years, the candlesticks my brother and I bought for our parents many years ago with tall, dark red candles, the little stockings with a chocolate 'wish' in each place setting, the fine cut glass wine goblets that only come out on special occasions. And the tree! I could take my time decorating it, enjoying each bauble as it emerged from storage, showing it to my mother and remembering when we got each one before we put it on the tree; the ones I sent back from my Alaskan trip for my mother, the ones received as a present from a Scandinavian friend, the one my brother made out of the remains of a cracker one year over coffee after the Christmas lunch, the one mum and dad have had since they first got married coming up for sixty years ago. And the miniature tree crackers minus the one I insisted on pulling as a child many years ago because I wanted to see what was in it - I was convinced I was missing out on something and it was the only way mum could prove to me they were only decorations!

To make things easier this year we had decided not to buy lots of presents, we each contributed what we could afford to one present each. Mum got her hearing aids, my grandmother a worktop freezer, my brother a flat screen TV and I'll be getting a greenhouse when the weather sorts itself out enough to erect it. My dad got a subscription to HD TV channels (I think that's it, my brother sorted it because the rest of us are dunces in the world of technology) and time with his family because there was nothing else he wanted. And that was the key!

Yes, there were stockings filled with satsumas, nuts, chocolate Father Christmas, sugar mouse, new flannel, that sort of thing but not presents as such. The key was we were all together, spending time together, laughing together, reminiscing together. We were all doing things we knew the others would like, would give them pleasure and in doing so we were giving ourselves pleasure and making memories for ourselves for the future.

Yesterday we had friends round for a get-together and enjoyed being in the company of people we were comfortable with. Today, the day after Boxing Day, the house is quiet. My dad is sitting in front of the log fire content to look at the frost and snow outside from the comfortable depths of his armchair, mum's in her room taking a nap, my brother's taking some time for himself and I've time to do whatever I want. I'm feeling happy, contented and enjoying the gentle intimacy of family life.

So...life is good!

To everyone reading this blog, I hope you made good future memories for yourselves this Christmas and I wish you a happy New Year.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

What is right and what is not

I've been hearing about a new film involving owls. Some people have been getting steamed up about it because children are asking their parents for an owl as a pet and they are simply not suitable as pets. They feel the film is irresponsible.

Why are they directing their ire towards the film-makers? Children want things, it's natural. They want sweeties, they want to go out in the snow in their pyjamas, they want to poke their fingers into electric sockets to see what happens. Just because they want things is no reason why parents should agree to them. The parents' role in these situations is to teach children which of their demands are reasonable and which are not.

Children have been told stories and fairytales down the years. They entertain and teach. They make childhood a wondrous joy, but we grow up. We learn what is real and what is fantasy, what is acceptable and what is not, first from restrictions imposed by our parents and later from our own experiences. Parental restrictions should impose a morality that ensures our later experiences do not come at the expense of others.

No, as I see it, the blame for any craze of keeping owls as pets lies at the feet of the parents, not the storytellers.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Unreasonable benefits

I'm getting very frustrated with the media and people in general. There are plenty of complaints about the Spending Review, about how unfair it all is, but how many complainants come up with alternative suggestions? Mostly it's the media; if the government jumps one way the media automatically seem to jump the other. I know it's about selling papers but what about responsible reporting? They can sway public opinion so they should make sure they're not simply rabble-rousing for the sake of profits.

The comment that finally tipped me into writing this post was about how the measures are not fair to poorer parents with large families.

Has it been fair that any single woman who wanted children - but didn't have them because she cared enough not to want them to grow up without a father - should have to fund single mothers who had children for the sole purpose of obtaining benefits. (Yes I have met at least one who did just that and know of others).

Has it been fair that any single or couple who wanted a large family - but couldn't afford and it restricted their family - should have to fund others who have chidren willy nilly?

Yes, bringing up children is costly and hard work and I've no objection to taxes going towards schooling, school clothing, school meals, health etc. Children are essential to our society's future (as well as being - mostly - a joy) and should be everyone's responsibility, but only up to a point. Paying for others to stay at home while the rest of us work to pay to raise their offspring is taking it too far.

It's only fair that long-suffering tax-payers should stop seeing their money being frittered away unfairly by those who do not want to work.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sick leave

A new system has been introduced by the government to reduce the number of people receiving ill-health benefits. One of those is the switch from a doctor's 'sick note' to a 'fit to work' note. The old system was rather black and white, you were either at your job or not. The new system allows for shades of grey.

This is my first time on the new system and so far I approve.

After two weeks uninterrupted sick leave to see if rest will resolve the matter, I'm climbing the walls with boredom. The pain in my arm and shoulder mean I can't do anything for very long whether it's sitting, walking, standing, computer work etc - this post has been written in installments.

On the old system I couldn't have worked at all. My employers' insurance wouldn't have covered me for being at work. On the new system I can go in for amended duties for however long as I can manage. So I keep up to date at work, I manage to help my colleagues at least a little bit and it stops me festering at home until the probelm is sorted. I'm not sure how it works from the employers side since it must make it a little complicated claiming back the statutary sick pay from the government. No doubts the kinks will be worked out as the scheme progresses.

All in all I view it as an improvement.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Differences

I follow a blog that had been quiet for a few weeks and I was a little worried that either something horrible had happened to the blogger or my last comment had offended. Finally I received an automatic email to say my comment had been published. ‘Oh, good’, I thought, he’s ok and back in harness. I enjoy his posts, most of them, some of them go over my head or are outside my areas of interest but he has a sense of humour and turn of phrase that appeal to me so I immediately went to his blog to see if there were any new posts. There were, and part way down I’d been mentioned. At first I felt the thrill of a child being noticed, then of a child being told she’d done well, finally my usual insecurity took over; was he poking fun at me?

“‘Malmesbury’, you constantly enrich my blog with your visits. I’m humbled by your astute observations.”

It was the ‘astute’ and ‘humbled’ that rang alarm bells. I may be many things but I’m pretty sure my friends wouldn’t recognize ‘astute’ as one of them. I checked my dictionary for ‘astute’, just in case, and it gave me…

‘of keen penetration or discernment; sagacious: an astute analysis.’

… nope, definitely not sounding like me!

And ‘humbled’ seemed way over the top.

I had another look at my comment and it seemed innocuous enough but I figured I must be missing something.

Two possibilities then; either a compliment or he was having a dig. Since I preferred the compliment option, naturally, I had a think about that first and remembered an episode during my trip round Western Canada and Alaska.

An American tourist cornered me in an elevator shortly after I arrived, grabbed my hand, shook it vigorously and thanked me for helping them in Iraq. I was completely non-plussed…obviously I wasn’t helping in Iraq, I was on holiday in North America!...I smiled inanely, completely at a loss for words. His father had said the British wouldn’t help but he knew we would; the US had volunteered to help us during World War II so he was sure we’d help them now by way of thanks. Skipping over the ‘volunteered’ bit in the interests of diplomacy, I retrieved my hand and scuttled out of the lift as soon as possible. In many ways I am the typical reserved English-woman and I simply wasn’t prepared for this effusiveness. In the three months I was travelling I unwound quite a lot, meeting and getting to know some truly lovely people and learning to enjoy our differences; perhaps I’ve now fallen back into my old ways and should just accept the comment at face value?

On the other hand, perhaps he was having a dig? It’s certainly not unknown for me to be a tad pompous or miss the point of something completely. So if he was having a dig…? So what? His opinions and the robust way he expresses himself are what makes him an enjoyable read. It would be a pretty poor show if I wasn’t willing to be on the receiving end with good grace.

No, all in all, it doesn’t matter one way or the other and I shall continue to follow his blog with enjoyment.

Oh, and on the subject of not blogging for a while, sorry - poorly arm - just typing the above with one hand took ages…very boring waiting for the hand to catch up with the brain!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

WW II reminiscences

I was looking through some old files and came across this. I'd put it together from conversations with my parents and their friends to help out a little girl with her school project on World War II


MARJORIE'S STORY

I was 11 years old when war broke out and living in the south London suburbs. At first we didn’t have an Anderson shelter so when the air raid sirens went off we would make a dash for the cupboard under the stairs. The cat and dog soon learned what the sirens meant and they usually got there before us. Later we had an Anderson shelter in the garden. Because my father was away in Belgium, helping with the Belgian underground movement, my mother had to build a bunk for my sister and me by herself. It collapsed during a raid and we thought a bomb had hit us.

I can remember doodlebugs flying overhead. They were flying bombs and everything was alright so long as you could hear the engine. Once the engine stopped they would come down and blow up anything that happened to be underneath them when the engine cut out. One day I was walking home from school for lunch and an engine stopped. I didn’t notice it but a man came running across the road and threw me to the ground. Luckily it came down on waste ground very nearby.

Rationing became tight and we kept rabbits and chickens for food. One of the things rationed were eggs. People had to register with a shop or someone else so the government could keep track of where rations went and our neighbours registered with us. Because of this we could buy special feed for the chickens. I would help pluck them for Christmas.

I was 17 years old by the time war ended but we still had shortages for years. Another item that was hard to get hold of was stockings. Stockings had seams up the back in those days so we would draw a line up the back of our legs to look like a seam as though we were wearing them.


MICK'S STORY

When the war started in 1939 I was 13 years old and, when not in school, worked with my friends as schoolboy labour from 1941-42 on the farms surrounding my home in Herne Bay, Kent. We did everything from weeding the turnip fields, to cutting wheat or tidying the hay that was thrown onto the hay-carts by men with pitchforks.

Having passed my scholarship exam in Herne Bay I was going to the Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury where we had a barrage balloon moored in the grounds. This was to damage aircraft that flew too near. During the war all competitive sports with other schools in Kent were discontinued as teachers were prohibited from arranging them because there was no insurance. However, various boys and girls arranged matches themselves. Two to three weeks prior to taking the school certificate, Canterbury suffered a horrendous air raid. As usual I had walked the mile from my home to get the bus from the front of Herne Bay pier. When it didn’t arrive I walked the mile home again, picked up my bike and cycled nine miles into Canterbury through the woods. As I neared the school I had to get off my bike and walk it through the streets with the smoking rubble all around me. Although the brick wall surrounding the school was intact the school itself had been razed to the ground. There was nothing left. All our notes and books had been destroyed. Parents and teachers rallied round, prepared abridged notes and helped us swot for the exams, which we took at Kings College on the top of St. Thomas’s hill overlooking Canterbury.

In 1942 I left school to work for the local gas company. Part of my duties involved fire-watching. Fire-watching meant spending all night watching the gas holders to spot and report on any damage during air raids. This could be hazardous as shrapnel from indirect hits would ricochet with a “ping, ping, ping” off the metal holders. Once I was sent to London on an errand and went to see my dad. Dad was too old for active service in the armed forces but had volunteered for the Fire Service. After training in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey he was put on the fireboats on the Thames. The fireboats did the same work as the fire engines on land, except they directed water onto fires from the river. When things got bad in London they were sent up the Thames to help out.

In 1945 I joined the air force. Apart from the odd errand to London I hadn't been out of Herne Bay before but I was sent first to Lancashire to be kitted out with uniform then to Compton Bassett in Wiltshire for “square bashing”. Luckily for me the war ended before I was needed to join the aircrew, although I didn't see it as lucky at the time, I wanted to "do my bit".


RON'S STORY

Ron is Mick’s best friend but as he is a couple of years older he spent quite a bit of time in the navy as a ship’s cook. He was a cook when things were quiet but when they went into battle his job was to hand bombshells from the hold up to the gunners on deck. One day a bomb dropped back down into the hold and landed on his foot. Luckily the bomb hadn’t yet been primed or Ron, and his foot, would not have been here now to tell the story.

He was a shy country lad who had never been out of Herne Bay before but was suddenly travelling all over the world, although never going any further than the ports. One day he was walking down a street in an Indian port when he heard his name called. Homesickness was a big problem for him and his shipmates so he was thrilled to see Norman, a school friend from Herne Bay, barrelling down the street towards him. They were amazed to have come so far, amidst so much trouble to find someone they knew from their home town.


NORMAN'S STORY

Norman had become a “Tail End Charlie” in the bombers when he joined the air force. Tail End Charlies were gunners who sat in the rear of the plane in a bubble, firing at enemy aircraft coming up behind them and it was a very dangerous position…in more ways than one! Most of the flights took many hours and the only toilet facilities in the cockpit were a funnel and a pipe. The pipe ended on the outside of the plane but because of the speeds the contents did not fall away. The force of the air pushed it back up the body of the plane onto the bubble housing the Tail End Charlie – not nice! But it was even worse for the ground crew who had to scrape it off at the end of each flight.


MARGA'S STORY

I grew up with my family east of the river Oder in Silesia. During the war I was sent to work in Vienna, Austria and was there when peace was declared in 1945, when I was 19 years old.

As part of the post-war treaty, Silesia was annexed by Poland. Poland took all lands east of what became known as the Oder-Niesse line. Over seven million people were thrown out of their homes; able to take only what possessions they could carry, and forced to leave the country. A great many of those refugees died of the cold during that journey. My mother was one of them.

At the time I knew only that I had no home to return to and no knowledge of where my family had gone. A friend invited me to go with her to her family home so we packed what few belongings we had into a handcart and the two of us pushed it 500 kilometres from Linsz towards Hanover until we managed to get a lift in a coal cart for the last part of the journey.

There were many scares and dangers along the way. In one of them, men coming out of a concentration camp surrounded us. We thought we were about to lose our few possessions to men who had no possessions at all. Luckily for us a German had recently joined us in our walk. He showed the men where he had been branded to show he had also been in a camp and managed to persuade them to leave us alone.

WOMAD comes to Malmesbury

WOMAD comes to Malmesbury next week when Charlton Park hosts the successful and, I'm told, really exciting event. After some problems in the first year it has been well run and organised; the organisers listening to the concerns of us locals to good effect. I hope the weather is as good for them this year as last because it makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of such outdoor events.

I haven't been there myself, I don't need to, I can hear the music from the comfort of my own home and as I'm not fond of crowds I don't feel the need to go for the ambience. I must admit to some curiosity and the thought of all the different world foods is a huge pull, but not compelling enough. Nevertheless, even I feel the excitement in Malmesbury while it's taking place and smile at the happy faces of the festival goers as they take the opportunity to visit our lovely town and stock up on essentials. I just hope the essentials this year don't turn out to be wellies and brollies as they were in the first year. Good luck WOMAD and have fun everyone!

A change of focus

Now the Government is running sites where people can make suggestions for improvement or change in our society I've got a better place to air my views on our society and how it's run. So there's no real point in my continuing this blog in the way I have. In future it could be about anything at all, whatever pops into my mind whether topical, historical, world interest, local interest, trivial or just plain general musings. "Oh good!", I hear you say, "yet another blog about nothing". Well yes, but it'll keep me happy.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

By the way...the continuing story

I mentioned in an earlier post, 'By the way', about the government going to consult the people. Well for anyone who want to get out there and make their views known, go to this website http://spendingchallenge.hm-treasury.gov.uk/
Ther are some idiotic comments but most people are trying to make a difference by making suggestions, some good some bad (in my view!). However, assuming the government is really going to pay attention to what is being posted and we're not being conned, it's our best bet to be heard. Go for it. I'm an optimist...I posted my views...repeatedly!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Eilmer, the Flying Monk

a little light relief...

I was in the high street the other day admiring the banners. 'Eilmer, 1010 to 2010, 1000 years of flying'. For those not in the know, Eilmer was a monk in the Benedictine abbey in Malmesbury who designed himself some wings and launched himself off the top of the abbey. He survived with a couple of broken legs but the abbot refused him permission to try again, this time with a tail.

Well done Eilmer, 1000 years and people are still cheering you on!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

15 Public sector staffing cuts

I've been reading the papers and watching the television reports and I can't understand why there should be any question about whether cuts should take place in the public sector administration.

Take one public sector worker, Joe Bloggs, who comes into work, does his bit on the computer - almost certainly; prints work for filing and / or reports - probably; goes home again.

Yes, he pays taxes but the money he's taxed on comes from taxes in the first place. Joe Public gives him money and Joe Bloggs effectively gives back a refund.

Perhaps all wages paid from the public purse should be paid tax-free. I don't mean for current incumbents to stop paying tax on what they are receiving now, I mean their wages should be reduced by the amount of tax they pay, then paid without tax in future. In this way we can see exactly what we are paying for communal services, we have reduced an unnecessary administrative step and our source of revenue figures are less distorted. After all, public sector wages are not so much a contribution to the economy as they are necessary to administer communal interests.

Hmm, this would seem to be going against my earlier post suggesting we all pay taxes on all forms of income regardless of where it came from. Ok, perhaps...my earlier suggestion was based on the premise that we all need to contribute to certain communal interests...taxes is the way we do that because our society is too large for eveyone to 'do a bit' ...if the public sector workers are spending their time for us then that is their contribution and their pay is their remuneration because they can't be spending that time earning elsewhere. The tax exemption would only apply to the payment coming from taxes, they'd pay tax on everything else, the same as everyone else. What do you think?

So, ignoring the income tax he pays, since it came from our taxes in the first place, we can see that Joe Bloggs costs us money to keep him in his job. If that job is essential, all well and good. After all - it needs doing and his time is his contribution to the communal interests so it's only right we should pay him. But if his job is not essential? That is a whole different matter. We are in debt and we can't afford non-essentials. If Joe is made redundant we lose nothing in that his going would not adversely affect the revenue-generating ability of the country. However, we gain the difference between the wage we pay him and the lower amount we would pay him in benefits. It comes from the same source, our taxes! And it's not just his wage, there's his pension and 'running' costs. If enough people are trimmed we should be able to trim costs from premises, equipment, energy usage, stationery etc.

So we have another person out of work. Well, yes, and it's rough on Joe Bloggs in the short term because there's a shortage of jobs. But the more money back in the hands of the country should mean more investment in revenue-generating private business and, we would hope, more jobs in the private sector, generating more revenue and hopefully reducing individual tax rates as more people work and contribute and so on and so forth.

A pay freeze would be hard on Joe; rising costs and income staying the same is indeed an effective reduction in pay and benefits. It is hard enough to make ends meet at the moment let alone as time progresses. However, the majority of the rest of the country have been in this situation for some years - don't expect any sympathy from those who are paying the wages!

The public sector unions seem hell-bent on making a bad situation worse - even thinking about strikes etc is an insult to those of us funding the public sector out of our own reduced circumstances. I can quite see they have a duty to look after their members' interests but in this case they would be better looking to negotiate the best severance deals instead of planning costly disruption.

Bottom line...can we afford a bloated public sector?...remember, the money for public services and staffing comes from the public purse, ie you and me. There is a limit to how much we can afford.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

By the way...

Hmm, I just read the BBC News webpage...

"Osborne to consult public about spending choices.

Chancellor George Osborne has pledged a "fundamental reassessment" of the way government works as he outlined plans to involve the public in making cuts.
He said he wanted the "best people in their fields" from inside and outside government involved and a "wider public engagement exercise" over the summer....
He pledged to involve people from inside and outside government in a consultation over the summer including think tanks, pressure groups and people working in front line services. Civil servants as well as head teachers, police officers, nurses and others would be asked to contribute, he said. "What we want to do is make sure that all political parties, that the brightest and best brains across Whitehall and the public sector, that voluntary groups, think tanks, trade unions that members of the public are all engaged in the debate and discussion about how collectively we deal with the problem - after all it is our collective national debt," he said."

Good idea, let's hope it goes beyond talk and into action.

14 Budgets - follow up

Well, I’ve thought some more about budgets and while I still have a gut feeling budgets are a bad idea I can’t come with anything I think might work better. Perhaps a mix of systems would work? Part budget, part asking for approval and financing before going ahead with a project?

In the case of road works, things like maintenance and repairs would be on-going and it wouldn’t make sense to have to apply for funding each time a pot-hole needed sorting. In these cases budgets would be appropriate. An amount is allocated, if not all is used in a particular period the remainder is handed back. If there’s not enough then the shortfall is made up automatically from taxes.

New projects however should be properly assessed as to whether they are really needed, then costed and the findings submitted for approval before money is allocated and the project started.

If one person or one group is responsible and knows their decisions and requests for money will be accepted then presumably they wouldn’t have to worry about spending their entire budgets in case the budgets are reduced in future. One person or group is responsible for a given area; that person or group is responsible to the government and if spending exceeds what is deemed to be reasonable then they become accountable and have to justify their actions.

I can almost hear someone out there saying ‘this is basically what happens anyway’, but does it really? We can all see the state of the roads, we can all think of a project that was carried out needlessly while other, vital, work is left undone because they come from different budgets. We hear about officials in all areas who are given golden handshakes after failing in their work. People these days tend not to hold themselves responsible and are certainly not held accountable.

Perhaps the problem is not so much the system as the people in the system.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

13 Budgets

I have never quite understoood how budgets work. It seems someone, somewhere makes an (informed?) decision as to how much money will be needed over a given period for a particular purpose. If all the money is used, or exceeded, it is assumed it was needed and will be needed again so more money is allocated for the next period. If the money isn't used it's assumed too much was allocated and less is allowed for the next period. Seems a little daft to me. How often can exactly the same expenses arise each month/quarter/year. Instead of just not spending the money it ends up being used for non-essentials or it will be 'lost' and less money forthcoming in future. Something happened in the nearby town of Tetbury recently that has made me think about budgets again.

Tetbury is a very old, very lovely small town on the edge of the Cotswolds. In the middle of Tetbury beside a crossroads of the two 'main' streets is a wonderful old town hall built on stone pillars and a market is held beneath it between the pillars twice a week. A small road runs down one side of it that traffic from one direction can use to side-step the roundabout at the crossroads - a mini 'rat-run' if you like. There was parking for about four cars (parking space is at a premium in Tetbury) and the narrowness of the road between the parked cars and the market hall meant cars had to drive slowly - apart from the occasional maniac of course, but maniacs appear everywhere. I'm not aware of anyone actually being hurt there, nor is anyone else I've spoken to. Nevertheless, various proposals were put forward and discussed and eventually plans proceeded to pedestrianise the small road alongside the market hall.

At the same time proposals were put forward to put in a pedestrian crossing on one of the roads leading off the crossroads. A sensible idea as it could be rather hairy trying to cross that road, especially for the elderly, despite Tetbury being a small country town.

All the work has now been done. Hah!

The work itself it shoddy; poorly finished with new tarmac not blended in to existing tarmac resulting in an uneven surface; tarmac pushed up onto existing cobbles in lumps; curbing hacked off at the ends leaving holes for people to catch their feet in and trip and other problems.

Slightly raised cobbling has been sited in a strip at either end of the little road and some of the paving has been extended into space at the end of the town hall where the road opened out.

The appearance is messy and not compatible for a Cotswold stone town. Cobbles or the smooth paving seen elsewhere in the town would have been more appropriate than tarmac; more in keeping with the Cotswold stone buildings. Tourists come to Tetbury because it's pretty, to visit Prince Charles' shop in the centre after seeing his country house down the road near Westonbirt. Visitors to nearby Westonbirt Arboretum use the cafes and patronise the other shops. If more work is carried out along the shoddy lines of the last then Tetury will cease to be a draw and money will not be brought into the area.

Meanwhile, 20 yards down the road, the crossing is in place after narrowing the road. It's a short road so I imagine it looks like an hourglass from above with the middle pinched in where the crossing it.

I agree with the crossing but surely it would have been sufficient to install two beacons and employ some paint for the 'zebra' crossing and the zigzag lines either side of it to prevent people parking? Why go to all the cost of digging the road up and widening the pavement - it's not as though that extra paving will be useful for anything and with that ghastly tarmac too! The money saved there could have gone towards decent stonework near the town hall. If indeed any of the work there was necessary, which I dispute!

There's a lot of grumbling going on around town, in the cafes, on street corners, in the queues in shops.

Both during the consultation period and now it's done I've heard justification on the basis that 'we'd have lost the money if we hadn't used it'. I've heard this many times in the past for projects that in my and many others opinions were a waste of time.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's a good saying. If something doesn't need doing, save the money, put it back in the pot, refund it to the taxpayers - don't just do something for the sake of it!

This little project cost £40,000 at a time of economic crisis, when there are numerous dangerous potholes around the county following the hard winter that need filling. Traffic lights or a roundabout is badly needed at the other end of Long Street (the main street). Just think, how many projects in how many towns are being carried out because 'they would lose the money if they didn't spend it'? And that's just roadworks. Budgets extend into every part of the community. Just how much money are we wasting that could be usefully diverted elsewhere or refunded to the taxpayer, or used to reduce the national debt?

Like the tax system change I considered earlier, isn't there anyone out there who can 'crunch the numbers' and work out the wastage of a budget system (and the current tax system versus the one I outlined please). If the numbers support it - fine, if they don't, well....

Ok, now I've considered the problem, time to go away and think about a better system. I'll see what I can come up with. Any suggestions folks?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

12 Electoral systems

I had been thinking about immigration but the recent election has put that on the back burner for a while. We've been to the polls, given our verdict and still we are waiting for the result. Oh, we know the numbers but we've no idea who will be 'leading' us because none of the parties achieved an overall majority. Consider...the Conservatives got 306 seats with a total 10.7 million votes. Labour got 258 seats with a total of 8.6 million votes and yet although the Liberal Democrats got 6.8 million votes that only entitled them to 57 seats. It's absurd! Whether you voted Lib Dem or not it's easy to see why they want the system changed. Certainly the people who voted for them could be forgiven for thinking they are second class citizens, all votes are equal but some are more equal than others - pardon the mis-quote.

I've been trying to think of a better solution but it seems that everything I can come up with has already been thought of and is being used in another country and whatever system is used they all fail in some way. So we'll have to accept that we're not going to have a completely fair system - until some genius comes up with one. The main thing is to keep the country running with as little disruption as possible. Until we change it, please can we abide by the current 'first past the post' system and let the Conservatives get on with it? If they fail, we vote another party in when we next go to the polls but stop all these cloak and dagger manoeuverings. They are unsettling and unhelpful.

On the subject of alternatives...I've been surfing the net and I must say the system outlined in a comment on one of my previous posts appeals most, with a little amendment perhaps. How about...everyone votes, if there's an overall majority go with it, if there isn't then everyone votes again, this time with only the two parties with the largest number of voters in the running. Whoever gets the most on the second run gets to form a government BUT the seats remain allocated in accordance with the first vote - the second vote simply confirms who the country would prefer in overall charge.

Actually, I quite like the idea of parties not having an overall majority, perhaps it will make them think more about what they're doing. It's just the uncertainty of what's going to happen that I dislike.

There are already plenty of blogs around discussing the issue but...any thoughts?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

11 Voting - less rant, more reason

I've been re-reading my last post and I realise the last part became more rant than reason.

The only thing I have to add about how we vote is that we should try and vote according to conscience, not strategically. Consider the following possibility - the current government, party A, does not please us but although we think party B is better we've heard via the opinion polls that party C is more likely to get in. We might then be tempted to vote C instead of B simply because we don't want to 'waste' out vote. To me, this seems a waste in itself - we haven't made our view known. If sufficient others act the same way there could be a totally different outcome than might otherwise have been.

The whole point of an election is to find the party favoured by the majority. If we vote according to what we THINK the majority will vote we are not getting a true reflection of the views of the country. To this end I think polling should stop as soon as an election is called. Publishing polls, independent or otherwise, influences the way people decide how to vote. Best we vote honestly and wait for the result, don't you think? Could I suggest to all parties that they trust in their policies to get them into government, not in manipulating the electorate according to the latest poll?

Having got that out of the way I'd better address the 'rant' part of my last post. I do feel rather strongly about voting in person. Firstly, it shows commitment. It's not as though we have to fear being gunned down in the streets because we've had the temerity to get out there and lend our voice to the electoral procedure. I still say the type of person who makes an effort to go and vote will also be more likely to be the sort of person who's thought it through and will give as informed a vote as they are able.

Secondly, I feel it's less open to abuse. I can more easily believe that electronic or postal voting systems can be tampered with than paper ballots submitted in person. It would be quicker and easier to register fraudulent votes by computer or post than it would by making multiple visits to a polling station. Computer systems break down and can be hacked into, postal systems can be intercepted. I'm not saying paper ballots in person can't be tampered with, just that it would be more difficult.

If anyone can prove my concerns are groundless then fine, otherwise I shall remain opposed to any method other than paper ballots.

Monday, 19 April 2010

10 Should we vote? How should we vote?

The first question is a daft one really; of course we should vote. Millions of people around the world have no say in the way they are governed. We do! It may not be perfect and we may feel that our little vote won't make any difference but all the little votes add up to the will of the people. Anyone who doesn't vote needs to keep their opinion of the country and the way it's governed to themselves until they do vote.

How should we vote? Well this isn't about whether we should vote Conservative, Labour, Liberal or anything else; this is about how we USE our vote.

When voting, if we feel the current government is doing a good job and there are no better alternatives then it seems sensible to vote for the current party in power.

If we feel the current government is not doing a good job and there is a clear, better alternative, then it make sense to vote for the alternative.

The problem seems to be, listening to current gossip, when the current government is not doing a good enough job but there is no appealing alternative. Some advocate not voting at all since it's a waste of time and we won't get anyone good anyway. Others prefer to spoil their ballot papers 'in protest'. I really can't see how either of those achieves anything. No, the better option seems to me to vote for the best of the alternatives. If the other party get into power and also do not do a good job, vote for one of the others. Do this enough times and eventually even our somewhat blinkered politicians will see that in order to stay 'in power' they'll have to do a good job or get thrown out. Leaving inadequates in power simply means they have no reason to do better.

While on the subject of voting, let's consider the voters themselves. Anyone who cares about the country and considered options will get off their backsides and go and vote. Anyone who doesn't make the effort is presumably not the sort of person who can make an informed and valid decision. Being allowed postal votes or internet voting means lazy people who have not considered the position are more likely to vote and perhaps we do not need to know what they think! Yes, I am aware there are people who cannot physically, for one reason or another, get to a voting booth - I don't include them in the last statement, it's the general principle I'm trying to convey. It should not be an easy option for those who can't be bothered.

Friday, 2 April 2010

9 Education

I’ll come back to health when I’ve thought it through a bit more but let’s consider education for a bit.

Current policy is geared to getting people into university. Once in university students are expected to pay towards aspects of their education and student loans are set up specifically for this purpose. This leaves graduates in the unenviable position of have hefty debts before they even get a job.

Education should be paid in full for the entire time a youngster is training for their role in life regardless of background. This is to ensure not only does everyone have the same opportunities but that society does not miss the benefit of talents that may otherwise go wasted. This covers nursery school, primary school, secondary school and any further education up to a specified age according to the requirements of the role they are to undertake in society. Individuals shouldn’t be expected to pay for books, equipment, premises, teachers or anything else; however – this should only apply where there is a need for such training.

Since society needs children to be educated and is responsible, in loco parentis, for those children while they are away from their parents it follows, that up to secondary school at least, society should be responsible for feeding and clothing them. At least one full uniform set every year and a good meal every lunchtime. If society is willing to pay for the meals, society gets to specify what the meals consist of. There is no reason a choice should be made available. Providing a set meal each day is cheaper than funding several alternatives, of which children tend to gravitate to the most unhealthy! Society says - if you want to take advantage of the free meals then your children eat what is given them. This way society can ensure children get one nutritious meal a day and this crosses over into maintaining overall public health.

We have a lot more people to cover a much wider variety of roles than a tribe and most of us should be able to fit in somewhere. However, the principle remains the same - we can't all be healers, someone has to be a hunter. For example, everyone does not have the right to go to university and indeed not everyone has the desire to go to university. Everyone should have the same opportunity via the education system but this is not the same thing at all. The education system needs to start off with general education and gradually become more specific, pupils branching out into areas suited to their abilities and desires – providing society has a need for them. If someone wants to move into an area they have no aptitude for and/or which has sufficient people already then they should only be able to do so if they pay for it and their tuition does not cause problems in the mainline system.

This is another area we, as a society, need to change our attitudes. For some reasons we see university as the highest level of achievement. So it is, for a certain number of professions. We need to understand that other types of education like apprenticeships, city and guilds and hands-on experience are just as valid and perhaps more appropriate.

People who are academically brilliant should have their tuition paid for but only in the field in which they are brilliant and where there would be an end benefit to society. By the same token, only those who show an aptitude for other types of work should have their tuition paid for - in that field.

That’s how I see society’s obligation but how does it affect individuals?

Take one child coming up through the system. Gradually he or she will move in a certain direction, it could be one the child is interested in, or one the teacher thinks they’re better suited for or, if he or she’s lucky, it’ll be the same thing. There are an awful lot of ways things can go wrong here because we are dealing with individual views and growing and ever changing children. Perhaps early education could include aptitude tests, following the general trend of the child as he or she grows and interests change. Once they decide which way they want to go it is up to them to prove to society that they, in preference to another should have their tuition paid for in a particular field. They compete for a certain number of places that are available only to the best in the field.

I can’t think of any other way than examination to decide who is better suited to a specific area. However, instead of pass and fail grades each student is allocated a percentage. If X number of students are needed for the next stage applicants are accepted starting at the top percentage and continue down the scale until all places are filled. The rest do not qualify for full state-funding. If, working down the percentages, there are too many people at e.g. 87% for the remaining places then other factors need to be assessed depending on the area they are competing in.

In order to ensure as many people as possible are directed according to their talents, education groups need to be smaller so everyone can be assessed and guided individually. What is this trend to ‘bigger is better’? Bigger primary schools, massive secondary schools and enormous educational centres provide environments where not only individuals can be overlooked but where large numbers can become mobs and gangs. Small groups can be reasoned with and directed; mobs cannot. Small groups more readily lend themselves to a feeling of community, belonging – things that society needs to instil in its children from an early age so they feel the need to contribute when they take their place in the world.

Monday, 29 March 2010

8 Our national health

So, what exactly should our taxes cover? A whole lot more than I can come up with I suspect, but there are some obvious ones; as well as some I feel we should NOT have to pay.

Let’s start with health since I’m proposing to highjack the National Insurance system!

Very broadly … vaccinations against certain diseases and facilities for dealing with epidemics, for example, are essential. Hip replacements and diabetic treatments keep individuals active and contributing – this sort of thing keeps society running. However, services like fertility treatment benefit only the individuals concerned, not society. There are also the knock-on effects of non-essential services. For example, the chances of the children born through fertility treatment needing more healthcare than the average child are higher, possibly even taking either or both parents out of the job pool to care for them. Certainly, at this time, society can’t afford this.

It’s harsh, no doubt about it but remember – a fair taxation system combined with sensible public expenditure should leave us with sufficient in our pockets to pay for what is most important in our lives. If what is important is having children then we can use the money in our pockets to pay for treatment privately.

Now look at the name, The NATIONAL Health Service, not the Local Health Service. Everyone pays into it and should have the same opportunity to use its services. The sufferer of a particular disease in the North West should expect the same service as a sufferer of the same disease in the South East. Allocating budgets here seems daft. Consider; perhaps each area is allocated a certain amount of money per resident to cover prosthetics. However, there are more chances of accidents requiring prosthetics in manufacturing towns than there are in the City of Westminster, say. Each area has different risks associated with it, if something needs doing, it should be done.

Budgets create demarcation lines, borders. Someone could live 5 miles from a hospital but it’s 2 miles over the area health authority border so they have to travel 20 miles in the opposite direction for treatment. Daft!

Our hospitals and health centres have become larger and larger over the years. We don’t need duplicate facilities every fifty miles or so for rare or specialist treatments but we do need local facilities for more general needs, simple broken bones, diagnostic procedures and so on, then send patients diagnosed as needing treatment to a specialist facility. Afterwards patients could be transported back to a local hospital to recover near family and friends. Or perhaps bring back the convalescent homes that used to provide interim care before patients returned to their lives. Also, larger facilities mean more people at risk if there’s an outbreak of something contagious. During times of plague in history, were not people discouraged from large congregations to try and prevent spread of the disease?

There’s more to this subject alone than I can cover in a small blog…but it’s a start.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

7 Human Rights issue

Before we move into what our taxes should be used for, let’s address the Human Rights issue as this will affect how we decide what society should pay for. I suspect there are as many views on what human rights consist of as there are human beings on this planet. Folk tend to look at what THEY want and need when deciding what human rights are. Understandable!

In my view the only rights any individual has are those that society is not only WILLING to let them have, but is also ABLE to let them have.

In a small society, tribe perhaps, too many healers would leave people sitting around contributing nothing when everyone was well. This would put an unfair burden on, say, the hunters who had to provide meat for more people than necessary. On the other hand, too few healers could be catastrophic if a major disaster happened. Presumably they worked out a viable balance and I’m sure most members of small societies or tribes had more than one skill. I’m also sure they had many a young man who wanted to be a healer but had to be a hunter. The tribe may be WILLING to let him be a healer, but they may not be ABLE to do so because it would unbalance the tribe and possibly lead to eventual starvation and extinction of the whole society.

Bigger societies have a lot more leeway but how do we find the balance between what our society is not only WILLING to do but is also ABLE to do? Not exactly a straightforward issue. I’m sure we would all like to think we could make the very best of everything available to everyone at all times but even I know this is an impossible dream. Basically what society needs are the facilities to keep most people fit for work most of the time and to have reasonable preparations in place for emergencies. Anything that can be managed over and above that is to be welcomed as a bonus.

If we manage to develop a reasonable system of taxation there should be enough money in the hands of the general population to enable them to get what THEY consider to be their human rights. BASIC Human Rights can then be considered in terms of the right not to be harmed in any way instead of the right to have things.

6 One tax - can it work?

Well, we have a system in place that could be adapted and scrap everything else. National Insurance is already used to claim a fixed percentage from both businesses and individuals. Since I consider the health of the nation to be part of the responsibilities of society as a whole I don’t see why it has to be a separate claim on our pockets. The money goes into one big pot and is paid out on a need-to-be-done basis.

We all have individual National Insurance numbers. Use a P (Personal) prefix for an individual and an N (Non-personal) prefix for business, charities etc and X for everything else, eg foreign residents earning money in the UK. Banks and building society interest, stocks and shares sales – all can have tax taken before payout and passed to the government by the bank, building society, stockbroker etc; employment income, including basic salary and bonuses – tax can be taken and submitted to the Government by the employers; house sales – tax on the balance between original purchase price and sale price can be taken and submitted to the government by the solicitors. All accounts and transactions must have allocated ‘N.I.’ numbers and this number must be quoted by the payer to the Government for recording by the Tax Office.

Anyone submitting a tax return simply lists all income for the year and how much tax they’ve paid at source and submits payment for what has not already been paid. The figure already paid is compared to what is recorded under the ‘N.I.’ number and the new payment recorded. There’s no working out what tax band applies, no fiddling to bring the amount down to the lowest possible tax band – one percentage for everyone. Tax inspectors should find their work easier when investigating suspect returns and carrying out random checks.

The more tax is taken ‘at source’ the less chance for individuals to ‘fiddle’. One percentage means sources don’t need to know whether their employees pay a particular rate or are eligible for certain subsidies in order to calculate what they should pay; one percentage fits all, leaves no room for argument or misinterpretation and is easy to change annually when the ‘Budget’ is decided.

What percentage? I’ve no idea; one of those things better minds than mine would need to work out!

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, no – if you make a loss instead of a profit you don’t get tax handed back. Tough!

I’d like to re-iterate here that income tax should be the only tax. If we need money to keep us going, we all contribute. Keep it separate from anything else so we always know where we stand.

If social engineering is required e.g. a company violates regulations and causes an environmental disaster, the company is prosecuted and not only has to pay to put the problem right but also has to pay a ‘social penalty’. Remedial work and penalties should both be paid from their profits i.e. after they have paid their income tax – which is a separate issue.

Policing and administration of prosecutions should be covered from the ‘N.I.’ pot as this comes under law-enforcement but the social penalty should be paid to a separate fund. That fund to be kept in case any firm does something so awful that it goes out of business without being able to pay for correcting the problem and does not have insurance to cover it.

As another example, if it was decided that a penalty on petrol use was needed as social engineering the money should also go the Penalty Pot. As petrol is so damaging, perhaps the pot could also be used to fund research into alternative fuel sources.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

5 Tax changes - an idea?

One fixed percentage of all income seems the fairest. Higher earners may pay more in actual money but are still only being inconvenienced at the same rate as the lower earners, yet are reaping rewards for their work by a better standard of living than others, and inclusion in our society. However, there’s no reason why those at the lower end of the pay scale shouldn’t be inconvenienced to the same extent; they will also be benefiting from society and it gives a feeling of inclusion and shared responsibility, of ‘doing my part’. So it’s fair.

Let’s spell this out. I mean every individual, company, institution, charity etc pays a specified percentage of income from whatever source. No exceptions whatsoever.

What are the benefits of one tax only? ...how long have you got?!

First and foremost is that whole fairness issue. It’s fair, and we know everyone else is in the same boat, so we can see it’s fair. It’s simple…if you earn it, you pay it. If there’s not enough money in the pot, the percentage is adjusted up accordingly, and if - dare I say it? - there’s too much, the percentage can go down! .

No teams of accountants/lawyers/politicians sitting down – and being paid - to work out the pros and cons of increasing/decreasing various sources and the possible side-effects. No complicated Budgets that have to be explained and then complained about/apologised for when they turn out to have an unreasonable burden on a particular section, or sections, of society.

Whole departments in the Tax Office can be dispensed with. There would little need for most of these people to lose their jobs in the short term. They could be re-trained in administrative roles and transferred to immigration. By the time they’ve reduced the lists there should have been enough natural wastage not to cause too many redundancies. In the long run the cost of their salaries and pensions would be vastly reduced and we would lose the cost of the buildings etc, relieving the tax burden on society even further.

Businesses wouldn’t have to employ large numbers of people to interpret and implement the Tax Laws. The self-employed wouldn’t have to pay Accountants to work out their tax liability. The employed wouldn’t feel frustrated at having to pay full whack for e.g. a wardrobe, that a self-employed person can get tax relief on by asking the sales-assistant to describe it as a ‘cabinet’ on the invoice! Everyone would spend less energy looking for ways to reduce how much tax they pay and spend more time and money investing in their business and resources.

As businesses invest and grow, they will expand and employ more people, who can afford to buy whatever society produces and the country prospers. Likewise, new businesses can concentrate on getting off the ground instead of paperwork.

The ordinary Joe-on-the-Street has tax deducted from his wages by his employer before he even gets the money in his hand. He then has to live on what’s left, providing food, shelter, heating, caring for dependents etc. Companies and the self-employed can deduct their raw materials (food), premises (shelter), heating, paying employees (dependents) from their income before they are taxed! Why can’t Joe pay for his living expenses before he has to start paying tax? No…it still leaves the whole question of what is a valid tax deduction and what isn’t. Surely it’s better for companies and the self-employed and the employed to pay their taxes based on their income?

It also seems to me that the simpler a system is the harder it must be to find loopholes or ‘work’ (‘fiddle’?) the system.

Why should any one section of society be exempt from paying tax? For example, charities and religious bodies can be tax free. What a can of worms! Firstly there’s the question of what is a ‘valid’ charity or religion? I’m sure there are lots of different views on this! Then there’s the question of who’s going to make up the shortfall? If a charity invests money in a savings account, that money is effectively taken out of the economy for taxation purposes. Those who don’t agree that a particular cause is worthy, end up having to contribute by default because more tax has to be paid by everyone else to make up for that cause’s tax-relief benefits.

Society’s infrastructure has to be paid for regardless of who pays. If one section doesn’t pay then everyone else has to make up the shortfall. How is that fair?

Taxes are to cover transport, communication, education, defence and so on. Whether we are old, or young, married or single, a private individual or a business, charity or church, we all benefit from these things and no one person or organisation should be exempt.

Is one tax for all Impossible? Is it Impractical? Maybe! But let’s explore it as a starting point and build up a workable solution.

4 Taxation - do we need it and is it currently fair?

Money governs every aspect of society; taxation is the tool we use to raise money. Do we have to have taxation? Yes, of course we do. There are certain areas of our society that we have responsibility for as a group if we want to survive; transport, communication, education, defence and so on. Our way of getting these things done is by payment. Everyone pays something towards the pot to keep our infrastructure in place - taxation.

Understanding that we have to have taxes, now we have to work out a fair system of collection. I think our system has become complicated over time as society has evolved. There are numerous taxes, direct, indirect and hidden, and it seems to me that whatever way you look at it, some unfortunate section of society ends up paying more than the rest. If it’s not fair it will generate ill-feeling, resentment and eventually, social disorder.

My thought is that it’s only fair if it’s seen to be fair and it can only be seen to be fair if it’s simple.

• Is it currently fair? Not to my mind. Is it fair that someone living in one part of the country should receive benefits that someone elsewhere in the country isn’t, when they are paying taxes for the same services? Of course not!

• Can it currently be seen to be fair? Again, not to my mind. Some people are eligible for tax relief, others aren’t. Can we see who these people are, why they are eligible for relief and be sure we’re not paying more than our share? No!

• Is it simple? Guess what – not to my mind!

So, what do I think would be fair? Well, put at its very basic, purely from a fairness point of view and accepting that nothing in this life is completely fair for everyone I would say…

…we should pay on the basis that we are all inconvenienced to the same degree.

Paying a set amount is clearly not fair. £10 a week, for example, out of the pocket of a pensioner could be life threatening if it meant they couldn’t eat or keep warm. £10 a week out of the pocket of a millionaire simply wouldn’t be noticed.

But is paying according to a scale – a higher percentage the more you earn, or paying nothing if you’re earning at the bottom of the pay-scale - any fairer? High earners lose 40% of their income. Not as life threatening as £10 for the pensioner but what incentive is there to stay in the UK and keep contributing? What incentive to work harder if the more you earn the higher the rate of tax? On the other hand, what incentive to work at all if someone else will pay for you?

3 So, what's it all about?

Basically, these blogs are about standing back and looking at society as a whole, considering whether we need to re-structure because the old one has become too complicated and rickety and is liable to fall about our ears because the repairs need repairs.

Friday, 12 March 2010

2 Where do we fit in?

Before going further I think it’s important to understand ‘society’ and our individual role in it. To my mind - bottom line - it’s a group of like-minded people living together, working towards survival.

Every single one of us, from Lands End to John O’Groats, from western Ireland to East Anglia, from the inner cities to the remotest farm belongs to this society, benefits from this society and therefore has responsibilities to this society. In order for a society to work the members of that society have to agree to co-operate according to agreed common rules and we have to accept that we all have to do our part. We seem to have lost this sense of cohesion and responsibility. We all need to change our attitude!

It’s no use saying, for example, “I don’t have children, why should I pay for education?” If society’s children don’t get educated they won’t be able to contribute their bit towards society when they grow up; there won’t be doctors and nurses to treat us, no bus drivers to take us to the hospitals, no farmers to grow the food we need to eat to keep us healthy…

…nor is it any use saying “I don’t drive/don’t use the roads on the other side of the country, why should I pay for their upkeep?” The city worker relies on the transport system to bring food from the country grown by the farmers. The farmer relies on the city workers to buy his produce to give him a living so he can in turn buy their goods and services…

…it’s certainly no use saying “I can’t work because there’re no jobs that interest me”. While a large enough society can afford to look after some members who are, through no fault of their own, either temporarily or permanently unable to contribute, even a large society will eventually fail if the proportion of non-contributors to contributors is too high.

Whoops, the battery's low, the next blog will have to wait for another time.

1 Getting started

These blogs are deliberately anonymous. The main reason being I feel it’s important not to be able to read this and say ‘oh, well, he/she only says that because he/she’s a black/white, old/young man/woman; what did you expect?’, and then dismiss the ideas completely.

I’m not trying to say my views are the only right ones or that my solutions are the only valid ones. Indeed I suspect that many, if not most, are na├»ve, idealistic, impractical and unintentionally insulting to at least a few people out there - since it’s hard to say anything without upsetting someone. Not to mention they are based on ‘what everyone knows’ and I can’t have all the facts right.

However, I don’t see the possibility of making a fool of myself as any reason not to contribute in some way to sorting out the mess we seem to have got ourselves into as a country. It’s possible that at least a small portion is worth taking forward, or that the odd idea may trigger better ideas in more capable people.

I don’t propose riots, or uprisings, or the toppling of governments. No, I’m thinking the sheer size of population in this country must mean that somewhere there are good, practical, knowledgeable people with or without qualifications, who can come up with ideas to resolve our problems without thought of personal gain but with the will-power and resources to follow through. In other words, if we as a society don’t like the mess we are in, it is up to us as a society to propose some solutions to our government instead of simply berating them because they can’t work it out by themselves.