Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hand washing - and wringing perhaps?

There’s a Bible story about Pontius Pilate washing his hands. I wonder if it wasn’t the crucifixion of Christ he was opting out of, but that someone had told him the donkey Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on had E-coli. (Has nobody tumbled to it that animals can be dirty and that the solution is not to prevent our children from contact with them, but to educate them to wash their hands?) Perhaps old Pontius was the originator of today’s mantra that whatever happens is always someone else’s fault. Unless, of course, we’re talking about our political overlords.

It seems to me that it is about time politicians stopped believing that a bit of dervish dancing can fool all of the people all of the time. Whilst everyone is getting in a tizzy because parents are so busy threatening to sue farms when they would be better advised teaching their offspring to wash their hands properly, our politicians – of every party – are once again using us, the great British working public, like force-fed geese to achieve their political foie gras.

Now, stay with me whilst I work this one out. We work. We get paid, less a hefty amount in tax. This wodge goes to the government to look after us – allegedly. So, the banking system goes belly-up, due, we are told, to the greed of the people running the banks. The politicians tell us that the only recourse is to use our money – the part the government grabs before we even see it – to bail them out. So, we paid for that, too.

Now it is hard to get loans or mortgages because the banks are too scared to lend us back our own money, preferring instead to pay inflated pensions and bonuses to the people who caused the crisis in the first place. Why? Because if they don’t, these “assets” will go and work abroad and we will lose them. Really? Where abroad? I thought this banking problem was global, or does RBS have a branch on Mars they’ve kept quiet about?

To shore up the banks, the government spent a lot of money they didn’t have – bit like the banks really. So, guess what, there are going to be cuts. Still with me? Good. But here’s where steam starts coming out of my ears. Who is going to pay for the cuts?

Could we solve the problem by getting our troops back from Helmund province? Last I heard, it cost about £3million a day to keep them there. Or how about reducing board room, banking and political bureaucrats’ lavish pensions? Or, and here’s my personal favourite, how about making all our politicians take a polygraph test? Before the test, we, the great British public who pay for it all anyway, can place bets on how long it is before they lie. When they do lie, we brand their cheek with a big fat L. I’m sure this would catch on. We’ve always been a sporting nation. It could raise billions.

But, no, none of this will happen. They will do what they’ve always done. They’ll cut the education and health budgets – the ones which affect us most. They’ll tell us that, of course, it won’t affect patients or children. Any takers for a big fat L on the other cheek?

So, not only do they use our money to shore up the banks, they will now make us pay again for an ever more pathetic education system where the only tables in evidence are league ones and by making our health system even more patient unfriendly than is already is. It’s enough to make you want to wash your hands of them, isn’t it?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Music and History

What a wonderful weekend. I visited Janet Shell and Christopher Goldsack who live commendably close to Hampton Court Palace, which I needed to visit as part of my research into "Duty of Evil", my Tudor apothecary crime novel - currently at Chapter 14!

Janet and Christopher headed up a wonderful recital on Monday evening in aid of Save the Children. The mix of the serious and amusing was perfect and brought me right back to my musical side, which has been a little neglected of late owing to the number of hours I spend on the laptop writing. Christopher's portrayal of 'The Count' in Mozart's 'Marriage of Figaro' encompassing his exasperation at Cherubino and his frustrated attempts to get Susannah to submit to him gave me several useful plot points for the third book in the Georgia Pattison series, not yet written, but entitled "Say Goodbye Now" a direct quote from Dent's edition of the opera and taking place during a production of 'Marriage of Figaro'.

Janet's brilliant acted "I can't quite remember your name" had everyone in fits of laughter and was a perfect adjunct to the more serious part of the programme. Christopher's Promenade Girls' Choir was a joy to listen to. Then it was back to their house for delicious food, champagne and music talk into the small hours. Bliss.

The next day was my long-awaited visit to Hampton Court Palace. Another gem of a day. I met Tom Davie, the President of the East Molesey Photographic Society, who took two hours out of his day to show me around the palace and tell me endless interesting snippets that only someone who has known and loved the place since he was a boy, would know. All the warders knew Tom and that made it easier for me to talk to them later because I had been introduced by him.

The day was just incredible and made so by the wonderful staff and warders. If anyone reading this is interested in our history and has not yet been to HCP, you are missing a huge chunk of your education. That the warders can discuss all aspects of the palace's history whether from the level of a child's education, for the casual visitor or for a serious researcher is not only an accolade to them personally, but also to the palace management. I salute all of them. Indeed I became so excited that I completely forgot to have lunch and only realised this when I left the palace at just gone 5pm. I found out quite a bit I didn't know, always a good sign.

So what did the weekend teach me? Several things. That music is such a massive part of my psyche that I must keep it "tuned up". That time spent with friends is equally important and perhaps, most important of all, that sometimes it's good to get away from the laptop for a few days and re-enter the real world.