Saturday, July 27, 2013

What's in a name?

Well, "the event" has now happened and the little mite has been given a name and a future.  I suppose it will be King George V11th eventually;  a King Louis would generate visions of gilded chairs, palaces and mistresses and send David Starkey into orbit and King Alexander is perhaps a little too new for us to find acceptable. I'm not a Royalist, or anti-Royalist for that matter, but what I do feel is that for a significant period the public, and especially the media, ought to set the whole issue aside now and let those surrounding the "new arrival" enjoy what in any family is a blessing and emotional roller coaster combined. Does it really matter how many names the baby has and all the rest of it? Well, I guess formality demands that the dictates of succession are sorted out and names agreed upon. As for the rest, then leave it be for a while. The most inane question I heard asked by the media was " when do you think the baby will be told it's a Royal".........when it can understand the question would be the immediate reaction I suspect.

But let's get back to names! I have to admit to a slightly guilty secret.  I suspect it's the closest thing to anything "Establishment" that I'll ever achieve. My second name is "SQUIRE"......note second name please!
I have to admit that I have no intimate knowledge of armour, horses or horses tack and that my chivalrous affiliations are non-existent, as is my ability to carry jousting poles. As a child I actually lived in a village with a Squire,  Squire Micklethwaite of Ardsley, a village to the east of Barnsley. He was a bit eccentric and zoomed around in a big car whose name I'd never heard of. I then actually met another one some thirty years later, who lived in Slaidburn in the Forest of Bowland and had something to do with the Milk Marketing Board at the time, or something similar. What their forebears had done in order to earn such accolades and titles is lost in history, but the presence of proper Squires nowadays is becoming less obvious to say the least.  Except in Yorkshire, as you might well imagine!!!

Squire was my father's only Christian name....given, not earned you might say. It's actually a traditional Yorkshire name as opposed to anything to do with rank or positioning with one's Knight. I have on occasion looked around for some unsuspecting titled local for whom I could ensure a parking space was available near the baskets at the local supermarket or whom I could ensure arrival at Masonic meetings was timely, thereby ensuring my own moniker held value. But no, such opportunities have been denied. And I have to admit it's declaration has too often resulted in paroxysms of laughter, as opposed to any benefits arising directly to myself!! And so I am a Squire in name only, which perhaps puts the name game into some form of context.  Perhaps on this occasion I can be excused when I sign off as,

Squire John.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Is this the new emerging Britain?

Last evening I watched two television programmes linked to a not dis-similar theme, namely the implications of the current economic situation in Britain.
The first involved three of our well known cooks spending time with three individuals/families who were clearly feeling the pinch and finding it difficult to put food on the table. All appeared to be trying hard, but not succeeding terribly well. Hopefully all benefited from the advice and support being offered.

It's not everyone who has a natural expertise in shopping, cooking or pre-planning things and these necessary elements came through to a different extent with each of the participants. The second part of the programme involved coverage of an event aimed at raising the plight of the disadvantaged with MP's, retailers and media personalities.  The whole programme was factual, sympathetically done and raises the spectre of how many people are out there, struggling, not complaining, but not getting what they deserve from life. Whilst all the kids involved were clearly receiving the necessary level of support, such was not the case with the adults who were clearly making do or doing without. The backlash to all this will surely be a health crisis at some point as one advisor pointed out. The solution?  A proper recognition of the problem by the Government and meaningful action thereafter. Arguments about whether relevant Government Ministers have visited food banks or not are irrelevant, a concerted evaluation of the extent of the problem and the requirements needed to rectify it in the short term are what's need. The various charities involved could soon put the Government in the picture but one is led to suspect that realism, as seen through a set of Tory eyes, can be different to the actual reality of the situation.

The second programme dealt with our attitudes towards benefit claimants and their circumstances. I have no hesitation in saying that people who are disadvantaged and need support should receive it. However, it is not for them to determine that this is a lifestyle they can elect to embrace. Sometimes we all have to accept second best and set aspirations aside. Sadly the old values of self respect seem to have been conveniently set aside by some who, if they can't gain what they want, feel the world should support them. A lot of the current circumstances appear to emanate from attitude problems and a willingness to conveniently ignore that , somewhere along the line, someone has to pick up the tab. The old adage that "the world owes no one a living" applies!! Whilst I can understand the circumstances the participants felt had contributed to their situation, I felt little sympathy with the plight of most of them given the inadequate effort they were making towards altering things.  The Government can't be blamed for everything and, therefore, a bit of self determination and effort wouldn't go amiss. Such appeared to be both lacking in presence and intention by most, aspects that infuriate a lot of people and lead to stereotypic conclusions that sadly end up including genuine cases who do need support.

I was left feeling that some action to wheedle out the idle and scam merchants of this world is still needed and justified but, at the end of the day, getting the economy on its feet is the paramount "driver" that will provide the necessary circumstances for improvement. I'm afraid, after then, feeble excuses and an opting out of the system should largely fall on deaf ears, unless proof could be offered that the individual was really trying hard to improve their circumstances. Calculations suggesting that unemployment benefits amount only to 10% of the overall budget don't impress me. If such are being drawn without real justification then the circumstances are WRONG and the monetary benefits should be denied and redirected to more meaningful requirements linked to training or education.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Another potential Michael Gove U-turn!!

I'm back to feeling in Blogging mode so I'll celebrate by "floating" this site again after an absence of seven months!!

And if we're looking for things to appraise we don't need to look very far!!  Michael Gove's ( Education Minister ) has done it again.  This time he's suggesting to Head Teachers that they can set their own term times, a measure that would give them more freedom. Except it seems most of the teaching fraternity think it's a poor idea!!  I actually believe Michael Gove to be a sincere and committed guy who genuinely strives for improvement. The problem is he seems to select bum steers........MG please don't turn to gambling!

Is this something which is being taken out of context and that all he's trying to do is to suggest the long summer holiday is too long and more of it should be used for teaching purposes? Fiddling about with term times is surely a recipe for mayhem. I suspect there will be many working Mums with two or three children who are worried sick this morning at the potential implications of having children away from school at different times. Worried too at the need for extra childcare facilities and the expense involved. To achieve what?  I would have thought there was a clear cut case for establishing fixed terms across the country so that everyone knew where they were!  Freedom to Head Teachers or political appeasement in the wake or in advance of other dopey ideas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Auntie Beeb.

With the feeding frenzy surrounding the current plight of the BBC subsiding a little, perhaps the time has come to take a slightly more sober examination of the circumstances which have arisen. I think it would be true to say that the BBC is the envy of the world given the vast array of services on offer, the innovative programmes on offer and the cutting edge investigative journalism which is undertaken.

Despite this expertise there has clearly been a series of mistakes made recently that have placed the organization, rightly, under public scrutiny. Without going into the individual aspects of the recent cases involved there does appear to be a common element of poor management interwoven within the processes  of the programmes affected. Furthermore, in an organization concentrating on communication, why was it so poor in operating as a team when a crucial issue arose. It beggars belief that no senior colleague saw fit to "tip off" the then Director General of an obvious serious issue that was emerging. Hardly surprising that the chap appeared to know precious little about the subject when interviewed the day following. Who would turn in a good performance when wrong footed in such an extreme fashion?. Overall it does seem likely, stemming from his long experience, that he would have been  a good front man in what is clearly a demanding job requiring huge resources of resilience, calm and resolve.

Behind the obvious public faces we all see from time to time there appears to be a phalanx of senior individuals whose personal concerns more relate to survival, self progression and postioning as opposed to selfless teamwork. Perhaps a set of circumstances has now emerged where a clear-out of such "grey suits" is undertaken, rigid lines of responsibility created and an insistence made that conferred responsibility is fully accepted. From an outside viewpoint it certainly seems the management system is in complete disarray and was probably never fit for purpose to begin with!

As far as the Trust is concerned, is it appropriate that a unanimous decision from that body resulting in the appointment of an individual  whose period of tenure was "allowed" to be brief , at best, should be left to recruit the next incumbent to the position of Director General when they so conveniently and ingloriously allowed the previous role holder to depart the job. A little bit of attention deflection or reputation retention perhaps?  I hold the view that the recently departed DG would have subsequently made a good fist of the job had he been given the luxury of sufficient time to do so. With such a tangled web of incompetence wallowing below the surface it may well be that he's well out of it. Time will tell.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Storms, climate change and akin matters!

With the horrendous realities of the recent devastating events arising from Storm Sandy continuing to emerge in the United States and recent memories of flooding in the UK still being vividly evident a number of questions begin to arise that warrant examination. In fact , far more serious examination, given the implications of climate change , sea level rise and the increase in serious storm events.

Recent years has seen some examination and debate in the UK about built development within flood plains, the projected frequency of flood events and the implications for insurance coverage. Within that period too, some serious problems have occurred  at home and abroad and badly affected the lives of too many people as a consequence. The final effects of the most recent event in the USA has yet to be fully realised , but appears likely to be almost beyond imagination.

I am sure much will emerge with hindsight and a great deal of comment and discussion arise. It seems to me that New York will need to review a whole series of issues connected with their precise circumstances, one major one of which must surely be to examine the extent to which built development can be allowed again within the curtilage of the badly affected areas.  Indeed, it seems to me we have all reached a point where all Governments need to delineate areas where, from now on, no development will take place, whatever the potential periodicity of damaging events. Some Governments in Asia will no doubt find this impossible where, for example, agriculture tales place on a seasonal basis with families moving in and out of given areas. I believe we need to recognize that these devastating events will continue to happen and debate about flood defences, insurance coverage, future premiums and emergency service provision are merely superficial elements of a bigger problem that we have yet to properly address. Obviously with developments already in situ such services will continue to be placed under pressure, but more effort should be made to gradually reduce the potential effects and misery which can arise.

Draconian, maybe? But the alternative is to realise that planning regulations cannot ever possibly accommodate the needs of keeping nature at bay. Flood control barriers, or similar measures, might reduce effects with differing levels of success, but the cost of these is immense. Whilst undoubtedly we need to consider such measures to protect existing areas where crucial development has already taken place, surely the most sensible future policy is also to ensure no future development occurs in wide areas that are likely to be at risk.  We need to recognize that allowing a presence within areas at risk is not addressing the problem and that we now need to create a threshold beyond which the events of the past are not exacerbated by our own planning controls..

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Savile's shame!

With the number of accusations relating to abuse increasing by the day, with the BBC mired in internal enquiries and the Nation shocked at such horror occurring under its nose,  the stories associated with Jimmy Savile  look set to continue for some while yet. Disgusting, unforgivable and something from which a whole series of lessons should be learned.

Savile , without doubt, was a complex character. He had worked in a coal mine, was caught in an underground explosion and suffered injuries to his back. Later he would become a wrestler, take part in the Tour of Britain cycle races, manage a dance hall and participate in endless Marathons. He'll best be remembered , I suppose , for his TV programmes, but even these were operating in parallel with his charity fundraising activities, his  providing assistance in various health establishments and with promotional campaigns.  Remember the "Clunk, Click" seat belt films on television?.  But all of this was accompanied, it would seem, by a more shady background of activity involving the physical abuse of vulnerable people he came in contact with.

His once extensive celebrity reputation is already tarnished beyond any retrieval, whatever future details might report. His family has taken the very brave decision, in my view, to have his gravestone removed at the cemetery in Scarborough and other references to his involvement or residence at various places have similarly been taken down. There is a call to withdraw his knighthood and to wind down the various charitable enterprises with which his name was directly associated., all of which, again, are eminently sensible in my view. The reportage coming forward leaves it very unlikely this dreadful episode is in any way wrong or defensible. What should, therefore, happen from here?  Enquiries will continue and a final picture determined at some point. Whilst the dignity of those who suffered should be recognized and protected,  I feel strangely uneasy about there being a succession of compensation cases, as I suspect there are many for whom such a prospect is either remote, impossible or just too painful to contemplate. That he should be vilified by us all is not without doubt, that he should be "rejected" by the Nation and his carefully stage-managed reputation set aside is something I feel far reaching moves be made on. Obscurity is too good an indictment!

As a Yorkshireman myself, the fact that he was one of Yorkshire's sons, born in Leeds, and laid to rest in Scarborough, I suspect will not go down well with many. Yorkshire can be a bit like that, but it begs the question of whether an almost Old Testament type interpretation , and corresponding "sentence" or action should  be considered. I guess the Scarborough Local Authority will be exercised by the thought of future indiscriminate actions by a repulsed minority occurring at the cemetery they administer. The family has already moved strongly on this very point , but perhaps further action might be necessary and his remains moved elsewhere to an entirely private location.  Despatched to the wilderness and expunged from history, although doubtless a Wikipedia entry will remain!!    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An enjoyable, topical read!

Whilst I've not had much opportunity to keep this Blog up to date in recent months I'm resolved into making the effort to getting it up and running again! With discussions ongoing about the possible route Scotland should seek to follow in the future being in the news I have, a little mischievously, given details below about a book I would recommend people reading.  It's a novel, not a text on the opposing arguments surrounding independence or the need to maintain the Union. It's actually a thriller, set four years after Scotland gains independence amidst the country suffering from growing unemployment and civil unrest. I won't reveal more and spoil the experience of a good read.

It's an absorbing page-turner of a book that provides some very intriguing observations associated with the implications of independence. It's fun too to put various current" personalities" in the role of certain characters in the book, which I would urge everyone to read. Michael Shea was the Queen's Press Secretary for ten years, a position which obviously provided him with a unique opportunity to see national matters at close hand.  Read and enjoy!