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Eddie Mair | 15:14 UK time, Friday, 12 January 2007

Now open for serious talk....:o)


  1. At 03:23 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Eddie, Thanks for opening the bar/lounge/library/common room/club! I'd like to nominate a topic for discussion. It's already appeared a number of times, most recently I raised it on the "New Bush Plan" Thread....

    The current electoral system used in Westminster elections: Is it fit for purpose, or should a different system be introduced?

  2. At 03:26 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Philip wrote:

    This may be a little late in the day, but I have been mulling over the England cricket fiasco and I have come up with an idea. The ECB should follow the example of Scottish and Newcastle brewery. Whenever Necastle United were out of the premier league (or first division as it was) they would print a black border around the label on Newcastle Brown bottles to remind everyone of the team's shame. The England cricket players should have a black border embroidered around the three lions badge on their shirts to remind them of their shame every time they put their shirts on. Perhaps this will make them work a little harder at winning back the ashes!

  3. At 03:30 PM on 12 Jan 2007, jonnie wrote:

    How lovely!

    Is that it then or are you going to kick it off ?

  4. At 03:32 PM on 12 Jan 2007, namroop wrote:

    So Tony Blair wants a national debate on use of our Armed forces. As these things can sometimes get rather heated, why not appoint an independent sort of umpire, and a panel, say, of about twelve people, and hold it somewhere neutral, like, maybe The Hague ? This is not a joke.

  5. At 03:36 PM on 12 Jan 2007, LadyPen wrote:

    Fifi -

    Do you need any help moving the furniture??


  6. At 03:39 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Hmmmmmm (furrows brow)

    SERIOUSLY! Get Lissa on air!

  7. At 03:43 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Woo Hoo!

    Sorry, that wasn't serious, was it?

  8. At 03:46 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Another thread? You cannot be serious, man.

    Will this irreverent comment be excised by the rockers' enemies?

  9. At 04:09 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Oh thank you, Eddie & Co - this is a really excellent place; such comfy leather chairs and a warm log fire. Mine's a G & T. Plymouth, please.

    Meanwhile, back on yesterday's last thread I have been getting myself into trouble over Proportional Representation. Nearly everyone with the exception of Si seems to want it. My real problem with it is that it will cause great constitutional disruption and at the end of the day I doubt it will deliver any better government than the one we have already. Perhaps I am simply disillusioned with politicians (and I guess we all are!).

    When Margaret Thatcher first came to power I thought - excellent, some decisive action at last! She tackled the unions and brought us out of the winter of discontent, etc. etc. She also brought my mortgage rate down from the 15 1/2% it was at the start of her term (a rate which is almost unimaginable nowadays!). And then after about 3 years she turned into a megalomaniac.

    When Tony arrived I thought - excellent, this is the slightly left of centre government people all feel they need. He (and Gordon, who I consider to have been a first-rate Chancellor) were young and enthusiastic and did lots of good things. And then after about 3 years he turned into a megalomaniac and, like MT before him, took us into war only he did rather less well. To put it mildly!!!!!

    My question is this - what would have been different if he had been elected under a PR system? Would PR have resulted in a different Prime Minister, an honourable, truthful, peaceful one?

    I am still a sceptic.

    Come over to this sofa - bring your drink and tell me what you think. Persuade me otherwise.

  10. At 04:13 PM on 12 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Back in Sept 2001, Blair said "I believe their memorial can and should be greater than simply the punishment of the guilty. It is that out of the shadow of this evil, should emerge lasting good: destruction of the machinery of terrorism wherever it is found; hope amongst all nations of a new beginning where we seek to resolve differences in a calm and ordered way; greater understanding between nations and between faiths; and above all justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed, so that people everywhere can see the chance of a better future through the hard work and creative power of the free citizen, not the violence and savagery of the fanatic."

    Today, the BBC news website quotes the following:-

    "Tony Blair has said his foreign policy is "controversial" but his approach of military intervention must continue after he has stepped down.
    In a major speech, he said the "war on terror" may last a generation but to retreat would be a "catastrophe".
    And Britain must be ready to fight wars as well as keep the peace.

    Has he got past the first sentence of his 9/11 speech yet - that of punishing the guilty?

  11. At 04:23 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Aunt Dahlia wrote:

    This thread is for serious topics. Not terminally morbid ones.
    I think on their return they should be driven through London in an open topped bus so we can hurl contumely at them

  12. At 04:54 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Btw - thanks for the signpost to here alongside the one to the Beach. When will this nice pub get cleaned (i.e. renewed) - on Mondays like the beach?

  13. At 05:16 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Go Ming! So well said! So well interviewed!
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 17:20:28 GMT

  14. At 05:27 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Peter Moore wrote:

    Regarding the overweight Lab. This is why people shouldnt keep pets if they dont know how they work! The majority of dogs in the UK are ovwerweight, not because of cruel owners but because they love them too much or because they have no idea how to feed them. THe brothers should be banned from keeping pets until they can show they have made an attempt to understand dogs and their care. Listen to your vet, they know what and how much your dog should be eating. However i do agree with the owner that the RSPCA are pretty useless in th UK.

  15. At 05:41 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Peter Wharton wrote:

    Put the Armed Forces into the Home Office. Fit for purpose and reduce global warming.

  16. At 05:45 PM on 12 Jan 2007, The Muller wrote:

    Re. Megan's Law.

    I came in at the tail end of your piece. Imagine you were discussing the case of Mr. Grant who raped the 15 y.o girl in Wales. What would Megan's Law have done to prevent the crime? He lived in Stockport, some 50 miles from the scene of the abduction.

  17. At 05:48 PM on 12 Jan 2007, pedrobalobo wrote:

    Well Mr Blair is now asking for a debate on this particular issue, my point would be that all important issues concerning the country should be put to the country in the form of a referendum.
    Issues such as Iraq, Trident missiles, and Europe would then bare some resemblance of the general populations thoughts and opinions of such important issues

  18. At 05:50 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Sara, my politics are way left of yours, and PR would form a less stable government (more coalitions) but more representative & therefore more democratic. It is politicians it doesn't suit because their jobs are less secure & their power base eroded.

    An alternative could be to create a political system more similar to the USA, & before you throw you hands up in anything, congressmen & senators really have to represent their states otherwise they are not re-elected. It leads to more compromise on legislation, usually a good thing for everyone.

  19. At 06:02 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Hi Sara,

    Good to have you here in the FB :-) My thoughts re the current electoral system are more that it is well and truly broken. Any system where a political party can win a sizeable majority based on only a third (approximately) of the vote has to be called into question. I know and to a certain amount agree with the issues you have regarding PR. However, that's not the only system. There's Alternative Vote, AV Plus, and a number of others whose names escape me at the moment. Can our system really be termed democratic where Labour get a seat in the Commons for every 0.099% of the vote, Conservative get a seat for every 0.163% of the vote, the Lib Dems get a seat for every 0.356% of the vote, and for others, the ratio is 0.097. Looking at the figures another way, it takes about 3.6 times as many votes (nationwide) to elect a Lib Dem MP as it does a Labour MP. For the Conservatives, the ratio is 1.65 times as many votes required for a Tory MP as a Labour MP. This surely has to be addressed. I want everyones' vote to mean something, and mean the same as the voter next to them (even if they are voting for, say, the BNP). We need to shake up the system completely. Other systems are good enough for the NI elections, the Scottish Paliament Elections, the Welsh Assembly Elections, the Australian Elections, etc. The FTTP system has had its' day, and it needs to slip quietly into the night...

  20. At 06:27 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Frances O wrote:

    Ohhh... it's been a long and tiring week and I've got to come in here and be serious?

    I'll have to heave myself off to the beach, then

    (creak, groan)

  21. At 06:32 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Sara said My question is this - what would have been different if he had been elected under a PR system? Would PR have resulted in a different Prime Minister, an honourable, truthful, peaceful one?

    I am still a sceptic.

    Come over to this sofa - bring your drink and tell me what you think. Persuade me otherwise.

    Firstly, lovely sofa. Just deep enough to be comfy, just the right size for my slightly short legs. (I shan't bore you with the tale of when I thought for a whole week last year that I had a 19 inch inside leg.)

    I shan't sit too close as people will talk and I am fiercly faithful despite my magnetic personality, tremendous wit, many friends, superb driving skills and flawless modesty.

    Now, PR. My problem here is that I cannot convince you that it is a great thing. It is somewhat like marmite. No, I know it doesn't come in a jar nor does it spread on toast. What I mean is that it is a really strong matter of taste.

    My understanding of your previous objections are (a) that it leads to weak government and (b) that it breaks the link between constituenct and representative.

    The second is easiest to answer. There are many flavours of PR - though I have yet to find Old English Toffee or Mint Choc Chip - and some of them do keep the link.

    When I did A-level Politics (yes, I know, but Sociology would have been worse) we learned all the fancy names and that, but a rose by any name would still taste like a Cadbury's chocolate.

    One proposed having bigger constituencies than we currently have (say 10 times the current electorate) and having multiple members. Fifi, stop giggling. You vote for your party of choice. They have a list of members. If a party gets 10% of the vote (in my example) they get 1 MP, the first on the party list. Devoted to your constituency. Selfless and honourable. Or something. And each party who gets a minimum of 10% gets 1 MP in your manor. Each party can put 10 names down and could potentially get 10 MPs.

    This can be augmented so that the "not quite 10%" last seats are all added up so that you have 9 constituency MPs and a tenth for each constituency (there would be just over 60 of these) and given to the minority parties who gained a national share but not enough locally to count. Or some other futile tweaking. (I don't mean to sound negative about my own idea, I just mean this is messing with the peripherals.) Stop it Fifi.

    So, you can keep the local link (or gain it) (or continue not to have it but have the same appearance as we currently have).

    Now, for the hard one. Strong government. Now I have a problem with the concept to start with. I am not convinced that "strong" is good. Whilst I love strong cheese, I hate strong smells. And I think politics veers between the cheesy and the smelly.

    I was no fan of Thatcher for many reasons. I was hopelessly optimistic about Blair for many reasons. Both have ended up running Presidential-style Premierships.

    Looking back, the Heath/Wilson years are frequently criticised for homogeneity or for weak willedness in the face of unions etc, or bad financial management. All of this gets lumped as "weakness".

    But when I think of Maggie and Tony I think of unbridled leaders run amok. The war aspects (if you think of the handling of the unions by Mrs T as a form of war)especially.

    To me this is Not A Good Thing.

    Now critics of PR cite Italy (failing coalitions, unable to get policies through) or Germany (the tail wagging the dog to keep the coalition alive) as examples of why it is bad. Others have mentioned Ireland where it works better.

    The bottom line really is "do you trust the parties of power to work for the best interests of the country". If you do not, PR will be as bad as first past the post, really. And, given Labour and Conservative cooperation over Iraq, nothing much would be different today.

    To me, though, that is a criticism of the current political parties, not a reason for not having PR.

    How is that going so far? And can I get you a no-strings-attached, you-can-buy-the-next-one, no-I-am-not-trying-to-get-you-drunk drink? There is a pint of (brand name) with my name on it at the bar. What's yours?

  22. At 06:38 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Helen I disagree about the benefits of the American way. It is heavily abused to "bring home the bacon" by writing Federal-funded State projects into bills. THAT is how they end up getting re-elected.

    In a similar way, certain US local government officials ensure their re-election by, e.g., getting as many black men on Death Row as possible.

    The US system *should* be the best in the world. That it isn't is down to the ingenuity of man when it comes to nest feathering. Full-time specialist politicians were not envisaged by the Founding Fathers.

  23. At 06:38 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Mike Ranson wrote:

    First, my apologies for making a serious comment ;-)

    Second, I would like to address the suggestions made in various places that we should withdraw, cut back, rely on allies, become more isolationist and so on. This would be to abbrogate our moral responsibility as the Mother of Parliaments to support the cause of democratic rule where-ever it is threatened. It would irrevocably diminish our own prosperity and economic future through a mis-guided and unjustified retreat, inspired by little more than a post-modern middle class sense of disquiet and unease that has been fostered by our quiet and peaceful lifestyle, sequestered away off the coast of a largely peaceful and prosperous continent, across the ocean from the security blanket of the worlds single super power.

    Britain stands out from most of it's otherwise quiescent and internationally impotent Western European allies precisely because it has always pursued a policy of intervention and expeditionary warfare. This has been our Big Stick down the last few centuries. Without a Big Stick, no one is obliged to listen to you. Trade and economic influence are frequently insufficient to influence the actions of, or illicit the co-operation of, a foreign power. After all, Germany has a larger economy than us, but who listens to Germany on the international stage? Naturally, most of Germany's trade is based in the Western hemisphere, but it has to be because Germany is incapable of protecting it's interests globally. Britain would not thrive under similar constraints, especially not against established and entrenched concerns such as Germany and other non-interventionist powers.

    We must be careful to divorce the maintenance and, where necessary, the use of an effective, credible, globally deployable and well resourced Armed Forces from the mis-use to which many of us consider these vital assets to have been put in the past few years.

    Rather than look to a policy of disarmament and retreat, we should look to reforming and strengthening our parliamentary checks and balances and holding those in power up to greater and clearer scrutiny to avoid such a travesty ever occuring in future.

    How's that for a first time post? ;-)

  24. At 06:44 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    How nice to have 24 hour drinking like this, courtesy of the BBC!

    Thank you Eddie. Ever the gent. We do hope you'll join us from time to time here as we mull over life and set the world to rights.

    Too tight on time at present to take anything more than a quick one and to listen in briefly on what's being said. But I'll be back!

    Oh, Marc, and you'll be most welcome, too. With or without earphone. The specs make you look v. intellectual, btw. Okay, the Choir video was a few years ago .... I gather it's becoming rather popular now amongst your colleagues?

  25. At 06:45 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Fearless Fred: FTTP system? Isn't that a way of getting files from computers?? :o)

  26. At 07:13 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Helen (18),

    Not to take wind from your PR support, but Congressmen and Senators in the USA generally insure re-election by ensuring that fat portions of government spending (military bases, military contractors, government offices, etc.) come to their constituencies. It's called "pork barrel politics", and even Kosher politicians engage in it.

    Actually, PR can act to some extent to diminish this, due to the multi-representative nature of it. As I noted elsewhere I have at least three MSPs, and none of them, by themselves or through their parties, could bring such 'pork' home except through co-operation.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 19:17:14 GMT

  27. At 07:16 PM on 12 Jan 2007, madmary wrote:

    The Muller I agree. But what if he had lived locally, how would knowing about it have helped? Are we to suppose that parents don't keep adequate checks on their children. And even if they know about the one on the register, what about those not on the register.

    We've had this debate before, but it still renders me almost speechless over the way in which our society has recently got into the habit of thinking that legislation will keep us safe. That we can be kept safe without any personal effort on our parts.

    Mmmm back on my hobby horse!


  28. At 07:25 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ros Power wrote:

    Come on Eddie, why don't you tell the truth.

    Nobody's asking for the right to refuse service to gay people, they're defending their right not to have the premises they own or pay for used for homosexual activity.

    Why is the BBC on a mission to conflate "behaviour" and "desire" in the public consciousness? Do you take us for idiots

  29. At 07:47 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Philip (2),

    I like it. Permanant black arm-bands, black border around the logos of the English Cricket, Football and Rugby teams (other sports can also join in) to shame them concerning their "performances". But this does assume that shame is enough of a motivation to pull their socks up for a modern over-paid "sportsman".

  30. At 07:58 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Okay, Jason, You've caught me! Yep, I deal with FTP stes every so often, so I'm claiming "finger memory" coming up with FTTP when I meant FPTP....

  31. At 08:09 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Mike (23)

    Welcome to the Furrowed Brow! Quite an impressive maiden contribution, which makes me loath to disagree, but I'll overcome it.

    "Trade and economic influence are frequently insufficient to influence the actions of, or illicit the co-operation of, a foreign power. After all, Germany has a larger economy than us, but who listens to Germany on the international stage?"

    Who listens to Britain? What benefit has Blair elicited by his shoulder-rubbing, illicit or otherwise?

    Britain stands out from the rest principally by being the secondmost hated practitioner of exploitation. And, in the Middleeast, the most perfidious. Oh yes, we are envied and imitated, but not loved.

    I am reminded of Salvador's remark about farts - that there was nothing wrong with them, except for the company they keep. The same might be said of GB as a modern World Power.

    Houb Salaam
    12/01/2007 at 20:10:22 GMT

  32. At 08:12 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Welcome, Mike Ranson. Good to have you here.

    But I think there is not a phrase in what you have written that I can agree with. You clearly look at this in the same way Tony is doing, and I cannot fathom it I'm afraid.

    I have no interest in whether other countries listen to us on the international stage, and I do not share your view that muscle is the route to influence in peaceable matters such as trade.

    But I defend to the death your right to express your view and I'm very glad we have some diversity emerging.

    But you do realise that you are wrong, don't you? ;o)

  33. At 08:12 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Dr. H

    If you read this, please check your Flickr mail - urgent message awaiting.

  34. At 08:27 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Mary (27),

    I'm with you on this one. it seems we are developing an attitude that the world should be free of all hazards and that if anything happens the blame must be fixed, and certainly not on ones-self. Part of this, the desire to sue at every opportunity, may have come, like much else of dubious value, from my homeland - sorry folks.

    In much modern medicine, death is considered a failure, and every effort must be made to prolong even a vegetative existence.

    Farming friends who have long welcomed walkers are getting edgy now that there is a 'right to roam' granted to idiots who don't understand they are roaming in an economic enterprise, and that there may be hazards, like rabbit holes.

    One told me of a man who was walking his dog, on a lead and and on a footpath, through a field where cows were grazing with their calves. Country folk know cows with calves at foot are very protective and don't like dogs. Dogs can usually get out of the way, but this one had a man attached, who got roughed up a bit. the farmer got roughed up to the tune of £50 grand. Who was in the wrong?

    Grrrr! My round - what's yours?
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 20:28:57 GMT

  35. At 08:28 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Ros: did we ever get a view on the "unmarried couples" or the "affair couples" slant on this?

  36. At 09:26 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    One of the few factors keeping our most elevated politicians 'grounded' is the fact that they have to be good constituency MPs or else they won't get voted back in.

    Remove that link to a community and I would worry the megalomania would set in much earlier than after three years.

    Witness Ruth Kelly!

    Oh, and thanks for the offer Val. None of the blokes have volunteered for furniture-humphing (not 'humping', that's a completely different pastime) but I'm sure that's only because they don't want to appear sexist.... right?

    I'm dead chuffed that the Furrowed Brow is up, running and named by His Knibbs himself. Hoorah!

    Fifi xx

  37. At 09:33 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Mark, welcome to the Blog and congratulations on a sensational debut!

    This is EXACTLY the right place to post a serious comment ... that's what the Furrowed Brow was designed for.

    And may I say, in an only very slightly self-satisfied way, that I'm hugely impressed by the quality and articulacy of the postings here so far. I'm not sure how often I'll be able to contribute (I guess that just makes me the builder!) at such a level but it's a joy to read you all.

    Now I'm going to pad down to the Beach for one last paddle in the moonlight. Anyone fancy coming along?

    Fifi, 'tired but happy'

  38. At 09:43 PM on 12 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Mike Ranson,

    I'm struggling to decide whether you're serious in what you say or whether the whole thing was written with tongue firmly in cheek.

    If it was serious I disagree with you so wholeheartedly and with almost every point you make that I just don't have time to give a response that is anywhere near a comprehensive one.

    But just for starters 'This would be to abbrogate our moral responsibility as the Mother of Parliaments to support the cause of democratic rule where-ever it is threatened.'

    Leaving aside the question of where on earth this moral repsondsibility supposedly stems from, if this is what we are supposed to be doing, why are we not intervening in Zimbabwe? This is a rthetorical question as we all know why our government is not interested in supporting the cause of democratic rule in that particular place.

    Furthermore, huge swathes of the earth are governed by systems other than popular democracy. Why should democracy be the only system we should defend? Tibet for example was not so far as I remember from my history lessons a democracy. It has been held under the boot of communist china for decades. Now I would say that if we are talking moral repsonsibility, then perhaps a moral stance would be to help Tibet, formerly a peaceful and independent theocracy, to throw off the communist yoke. However you presumably would say that since Tibet had NOT been a democracy then we have no moral responsibility to help them in this struggle. And we all know that the USA and most other western powers will not lift a finger to help Tibet because it doesn't have oil.

    I might also draw your attention to the words and deeds of the USA in response to election results in South America when they do not like the outcome. The USA has for many years attempted to destabilise left leaning governments in Latin Aerica in all sorts of open and covert ways. It would seem that for them democracy should be defended, except when the election results turn out to be not the ones they wanted.

  39. At 10:38 PM on 12 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Well whether I agree or not, at least the serious debate is off and running on a variety of issues and to a high standard as well!

    I've always seen "Bush and Blair" as typical playground bullies - primary school level, aged about 9. In this context, Blair finds it much safer and more exciting, and important, to be on Bush's side, whether he always agrees or not. When Bush isn't around, Blair doesn't like to be on his own but will sidle up to people he's thumbed his nose at when with - or behind - Bush, telling them that he's really their friend too.....

    Bush supplies the ball, you play his choice of game to his rules or he and his friends will take the ball away and probably beat you up as well. It's in your interest to be in his team because he plays dirty, so you know you're going to lose if you go against him.

    But then you all go to senior school and everything changes. Bullying is not acceptable or accepted. Fighting isn't either. Suddenly, all the bullies from all of the primary schools come together and have to learn how to get on with each other, learn that quiet, sensible discussion is bettter than fighting, and that sharing and taking turns and listening, and even sometimes walking away are things you have to do for the school to be a calm, safe place for everyone. Nor do members of staff bring this about by violence.

    With Bush and Blair, we seem to be stuck in the primary school mould - it's bullying and violence, or the threat of violence, and nothing else. No talk of strengthening the United Nations, no talk of setting up more and/or better committees or fora to promote peace in difficult areas. No, it's just "Do it our way or suffer the consequences."

    I hate it. I don't particularly want to stand out. I don't want to be the prat hiding behind the bully. I want to be known for being a decent, law-abiding, hard-working kid who might actually make something of their life.

  40. At 10:53 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jo wrote:

    Fifi (36): I do have mucho sympathy for your concern that the list system leads to a lack of constituency and therefore local representation.

    There are a number of ways this can be dealt with; firstly you could create regions a la the Europeans, that effectively work as large multi-member constituencies, the number of members each party gets is proportionate to the number of votes they receive. Or, you could run it on the London model where the country is split into large constituencies and the remainder of places are taken from a top up list.

    However, whilst I would not want to lose a geographical link either, I absolutely disagree that the fact that current MPs are related to a constituency makes them take more notice of their constituents - ONLY IN MARGINALS!!! The reason Hazel Blears started campaigning on local issues was because the boundary changes make her seat a weaker one than it was.

    The vast majority of seats are not marginal and therefore the local MP has no need to take the blind bit of notice of his or her constituents.

    In the 2005 'the two main parties were spending two thirds of their campaign resources in targeting the 850,000 swing voters in marginal seats that would determine the outcome of the election. This is just 2% of the electorate...'*

    *(from the make my vote count campaign website).

    It's that 2% who the two major political parties and the majority our MPs sit up and listen too under FPTP, so you'd better hope you live in a marginal constituency!

  41. At 10:59 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Jo wrote:

    Sorry if I sounded a bit grumpy, I've just spent the last hour trying to make sure hte glass of red wine that I split over my new pale beige carpet doesn't stay there for ever!!!

  42. At 11:05 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Fifi (36),

    Do you really believe what you say in your opening sentence? I've seen very little evidence of this 'constituency credibility' being valued very much. It's more a case of "Party x will give you more [insert latest focus/poll determination] than Party y"! I want to vote for people, not parties.

    There is little or no true 'link to the community' in a system where candidates need have no historic connection to a constituency, and where 'safe' constituencies are currency for party bigwigs, etc. and 'approved' of 'a-listed' candidates are pushed onto local activists. It STINKS!

    My 'list' MSP is a human being who has lived and worked in the area most of his life. He was my 'constituency' MSP before he swapped status with the former 'list' MSP. My other 'list' MSP, the Green one, was RSPB officer in the region for which he now serves. That's what I call links to the community. These folks have had their kids in local schools from Primary 1 upwards.

    I think PR as implemented for the Scottish Parliament is a real step towards a better democracy, and the sooner it serves a truly independent Scotland, the better!

    Then we can distance ourselves from Blair's New imPerialism! It's alarming watching the clips from his 'lecture' today. He's truly off his trolley!

    Some perspective on the sizes of units of government can be found here. Have a look and see what size makes for practical democracy.

    Friday January 12, 2007 at 23:02:33 GMT

  43. At 11:17 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Spot on!
    Friday January 12, 2007 at 23:19:01 GMT

  44. At 11:37 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Mike Ranson wrote:

    Hi folks. Well, some detailed responses. I'll start at the top. Another long post, I'm afraid, but this seems to be a subject one could write a book on and still not scratch the surface.

    Ed: nice comments and a good quote. The problem is that you're viewing British military intervention solely in the context of Iraq and Blair's rabid atlanticism.

    Jason: "You clearly look at this in the same way Tony is doing"
    I'll let that pass as I've only posted once so you can't possibly know the depth of my revulsion for the man. Blair is a moral evangelist. I subscribe to no such philosophy.

    "I have no interest in whether other countries listen to us on the international stage, and I do not share your view that muscle is the route to influence in peaceable matters such as trade."

    Well, in that case resign yourself to poverty. It is vital that we have a voice internationally and, no, muscle is not the route to influence in trade, I agree, but muscle keeps the trade routes open and so far very few other nations have displayed both the will and the means to police the worlds trade routes. Many, in fact, turn a nice profit when we lose money. And we haven't even mentioned foreign policy. Shall we no longer intervene to prevent atrocities, such as the looming conflict between India and Pakistan which was only averted thanks to intervention by a group of nations, the most prominent of whom each possessed a credible Big Stick. You don't honestly believe that India agreed to back down because Britain threatened not to buy any Indian made T-shirts or trainers? Can you say for certain that but for our intervention in concert with like-minded allies, that Pakistan and large parts of India would not today resemble Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

    Annie: same thing again for the most part. There are two strands: first have the moral outrage, then do something about it. At the moment we have the moral outrage but because our resources have been misdirected, we have no means to do something about it. I too believe we should have taken tangible action in regards to Zimbabwe, possibly including a military deployment of some sort. I think we should have been in Darfur as well. I would far rather see images of troops in the deserts of Chad than I would images of them crammed into flimsy land rovers on the lethal roads of Iraq.

    The problem I've found in discussing this subject in the last few years is that it is usually taken to mean I'm a supporter of the misguided and mismanaged response to September 11. This is absolutely not the case. I view the last few years in the context of Britains "humanitarian" military efforts (struggling to keep that from sounding like an oxymoron) in total, out of which Iraq is, in my view, a screaming aberration.

    One may point to examples such as Sierra Leone which is widely regarded as a text book example of a hugely successful peace keeping operation. The next step was rebuilding the nation and it's institutions and providing for it's citizenry in the meantime. This was the job of the humanitarian organisations and Government aid. The fact that this next and vital step has failed for a variety reasons is not because of Britains initial military intervention. Don't confuse the two.

    And there are less edifying examples such as Bosnia and Kosovo which, to be fair, were hobbled by political constraints and a lack of political will to define a clear, achievable goal for the Peace Keepers. Despite this, both conflicts would have been worse and the human loss greater but for the international military presence, spearheaded and enabled to a large degree by the British.

    Whilst these are the obvious examples which I'm sure you've all discussed before, it must also be remembered that British forces maintain a constant or semi-permanent presence in at least 20 or more countries around the world. This can be a few blokes in khaki offered by HMG to the Governments of small and impoverished nations to help train a local paramilitary police force combat bandits in otherwise lawless regions, or several hundred troops garrisoned in the Balkans whose presence supports and maintains the peace until such time as that peace becomes self perpetuating. It can be a single Royal Navy warship patrolling trade routes, making port visits (which are a tangible way for HMG to demonstrate continued support and relations with the locals) and boosting local efforts to combat the very real and continuing threats of piracy, as well as smuggling and people trafficking. All these activities have knock-on effects on British citizens through such mechanisms as insurance rates, the flow of goods and even, in some parts of the world, the safety of tourists!

    I do not support the current Governments notions of foreign policy. I do support maintaining, for the sake of this nation and it's people, certain capabilities and assets which enable us to choose or not to exercise our conscience when we witness unchecked human suffering (as opposed to enforcing our moral values on nations of other cultures), or to enforce the rule of law in places others cannot to the mutual benefit of all concerned. I am a student of history and these are the lessons I've derived. I am not politically partisan and I do not subscribe to one party view or another.

    Thanks for the welcomes. And apologies for the incredibly long post! I did edit it down, honest!

  45. At 11:46 PM on 12 Jan 2007, David Jones wrote:

    When listening to all these Christian B&B owners that seem to exist owners not wanting to rent rooms to "gay" people it reminded me of this great quote from Jemery Hardy.

    “Good point well made, Mr. Duncan. As you clearly say, it states in Leviticus Chapter 18 Verse 22 that homosexuality is an abomination. Which reminds me—there are a couple of things I need guidance on. Firstly, If I wanted to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7, how much could I expect to make from such a deal? Also, my colleague Pete insists on working on the sabbath. Exodus clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it OK to get some outside help? Lastly, does the whole city really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side. And when I burn my mother for wearing garments made from two different threads, do I torch her whole or just a bit?”

    On a serious note if you do not feel happy with renting out rooms to "gay" people then do not run a B&B.

  46. At 11:52 PM on 12 Jan 2007, Mike Ranson wrote:

    Confused, very much second this comment of yours:

    "I hate it. I don't particularly want to stand out. I don't want to be the prat hiding behind the bully. I want to be known for being a decent, law-abiding, hard-working kid who might actually make something of their life."

    But would add the proviso that I if I saw injustice, or someone inflicting suffering on another, I would want to at least stand up and shout about it if not directly intervene myself. To do this I need to have the means to shout and be heard and be listened to. But few will listen to me if I have no credible presence, so I also need the means to take action even if my shouting is ignored by those who perhaps silently agree with the injustice.

    Unfortunately, I too often applied this policy in real life. Want to see my playground scars? ;-)

  47. At 12:14 AM on 13 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Mike (44) - Can I point you in the direction of the speeches and articles of Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan? http://www.elhassan.org/reg/media/articles.html
    and a quote from one of the them for Tony Blair to chew on -

    "we know, you and I, that lasting peace will only come when we look each other in the eye and translate hatred into words that begin a difficult conversation. The people of Israel have made an easy decision not to talk to extremists. Perhaps the bravest step is to engage with moderates and acknowledge that our troubled neighbourhood needs the courage of compassion and the wisdom of longer-term self-interest to undo the damage of macho militarism. The gunfire around us makes it even harder to hear the voices of our marginalised communities. Honesty is the only way to save our grandchildren from the fear and asphyxiation of hope, which we have all known for so long."

    And another "I cannot emphasise enough the need for diplomacy to transpose violence and this call echoes President Eisenhower’s appeal that the “table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.” "

  48. At 12:29 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Angela wrote:

    I found Tony Blair's comments about wanting Britain to be a country that does war (rather than one which is mainly engaged in peace-keeping and only prepared to go to war in exceptional circumstances) really chilling. Surely, Napoleon, Hitler, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein all believed that their killing was done for a good purpose. They all thought that they were acting for the good of their countries.
    I think Tony Blair enjoys warfare and does not care about the suffering of the war-damaged and the bereaved. He does not care that he has helped to take Iraqis from the frying-pan into the fire.

  49. At 01:25 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    My views of British perfidy go a lot deeper than Blair's "rabid Atlanticism", and if, as you say, you want us to stand up against injustice, we could do a bit more than abstain from voting on Resolution 181. Just where is our 'credible presence'? Where was it as we stood by and watched the wanton destruction of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure?

    Do you seriously believe either India or Pakistan are afraid of us? You must be as delusional as Blair seems to be becoming. I'm glad you view the response to 9/11 the way you indicate, and I would point you to THIS, which is the best response I know, and upon which I would welcome your comments.

    I do have considerable respect for the general professionalism of British forces, and only wish they had better civilian masters. Oil and money (much the same, actually) are the only chips in this game, and both are prime examples of the power which corrupts.

    Houb Salaam
    13/01/2007 at 01:25:29 GMT

  50. At 01:50 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Oh, and by the way, Mike have a pint on me and watch this wee entertainment about the projection of power.


  51. At 02:32 AM on 13 Jan 2007, carol wrote:

    Hello Mike (Mssg 44)
    Thank you *very* much for taking the time to break from studies and share a cup of kindness here.
    That was a most compelling and *authentic* peace of moral evangelism that was nothing but helpful (for me at least).
    The "screaming aberration" and abusive use of The Stick is what makes so many of us feel horrified enough to doubt its use altogether and of course, very little in life is quite that black and white.
    Plenty to contemplate now and hope you stick around and help clarify more on this when it is not so late. A few questions are forming and need sleeping on.

    Confused (not), Mssg 39
    Even very little bully boys in big gangs with big sticks are terrifying and it is very difficult to understand how they manage to pass themselves off as (wise and mature), leaders for so long.
    Is it just fear that makes kids fall in behind them? Maybe the grown ups are too passive and should have stepped in to stop them earlier with "The slipper" and in private perhaps? Mike? Si? or, did having too much of that (culture) in their formative years make them as they are?
    Is this too simplistic a question?

  52. At 02:53 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Hello Ed,
    Didn't see you (breaks into song about blind eyes and leaving my specs somewhere). ;-)
    Consciousness is descending fast and have to follow it home for a good long sleep.
    See u all soon, I hope.
    Sweet dreams

  53. At 03:50 AM on 13 Jan 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Blimey, The Furrowed Brow has taken off!

    Re: David Jones, and the last sentence of his comment which was :-

    On a serious note if you do not feel happy with renting out rooms to "gay" people then do not run a B&B. ...........................

    Jonnie says, with bias:-

    I couldn't put the point any better David!, however there ARE some very fussy 'Queens' around who think that they are very special and demand extra attention, and believe me I know what I'm talking about! Our Chambermaid can spot them a mile away from just looking at the state of the rooms and their demands.

    I'm happy to report that I don't fit into that mould, but I know that some of our 'straight' Hotelier friends can get put off by their behaviour.

  54. At 09:46 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Hi again, Mike. This is lengthy - when you reach the end you will find we surprisingly agree on a lot of things.

    You quoted back at me "You clearly look at this in the same way Tony is doing" and went on to say how much you dislike the man and his moral evangelism. I think you took my comment further than it's legs could stretch - I meant, very literally, "at this", i.e. what we were discussing - the need for Britain to be involved in the type of military adventure he highlighted "above and beyond" having a UN or peacekeeping role.

    I disagree about your views on inevitable poverty and the problems of maintaining trade routes being inextricably linked to a willingness to go on the offensive militarily. As I see it we create more obstacles and put our trade at more peril by the types of intervention we have recently been party to. Clearly, though, this is one of those untestable views - we would only know who was right by trying both methods in identical circumstances, and that would never be possible outside a lab.

    Intervention to prevent atrocities is an interesting one. Among my many "despair factors" related to the current Middle Eastern adventure is that it left us with no scope to assist where assistance was really needed - eg Darfur.

    I do not believe that the India/Pakistan situation would be affected by the UK moving it's military and it's strategic thinking away from Tony's view and towards one where our capabilites were for self-defence and for rendering assistance to the UN (NATO now being defunct for the purposes I have in mind given the lack of a Warsaw Pact).

    You see, we have failed all over the world to intervene where we could and probably should have. Rwanda is the best example of which I have knowledge, but the story is repeated all over the world.

    In my "world view", however, you do not have a couple of nations running round in white hats with shiny stars intervening where they see fit. You have an effective United Nations (or replacement body) that sets a world standard of what is acceptable behaviour by and between nations and it resolves where intervention is needed and how and conscripts member nations to do its work.

    This is a very different UN to the one we have currently which is still recovering from being a political football between the US and the USSR, enabling nothing to be achieved because, e.g., the US backed Israel regardless to ensure a non-Communist power was in the region or the USSR vetoed actions against (insert name of rogue state) as they were crucial to maintenance of "spheres of influence".

    I cannot say what may have happened in India/Pakistan. What I can say with certainty, though, is that we had neither the manpower nor the inclination to intervene with armed forces in their disagreements. My belief is that American sabre-rattling followed by diplomatic seduction is what pulled Pakistan into line. The sabre was the nuclear bomb, not the US Marine Corps and an intention to invade their shores.

    And what has possibly worked in that region has spectacularly failed in a lot of other places - look at all the former Soviet Republics that are in crisis. We have no interest. All the African nations that are in civil war. No interest. Israel/Palestine. No influence.

    If Blair is calling for the Status Quo, it hasn't been working.

    Further on in your piece you talk about Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc and talk about the need for "the international military presence, spearheaded and enabled to a large degree by the British".

    I couldn't agree more. Do not confuse my hatred of British military expeditions as a desire to either reduce the British military or to stop playing a major role in world-mandated interventions. I am no pacifist on this.

    My single point of disagreement with the Blair view of military operations is that I feel we should "retreat" (his word) to only being involved in UN-mandated operations. Iraq, being a clear example of the "other type" of operation is what I see as obscene and wrong.

    He has cleverly thrown up a faux divide, though. You either ONLY participate in "peace keeping" (i.e. non-offensive presence) or you involve yourself in "Boy's Own" offensive operations. He has cleverly ignored the third way - participation in (for the sake of argument) UN mandated operations (which may be offensive to defend nations under attack). Such framing cleverly makes anyone who disagrees look weak and unwilling to help their fellow nations in time of need. But I do not accept that we have to allow participation in episodes like Iraq as well.

    In my world our military would be capable, equipped and deployable. I think that is what you want, too. In my world we would not act unilaterally except to protect our genuine, lawful assets from "clear and present danger". In my world we would not act in concert with any others except as part of a "world mandated" force to accomplish goals consistent with international law.

  55. At 09:59 AM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Angela - I think Tony Blair enjoys warfare and does not care about the suffering of the war-damaged and the bereaved.

    There is an interesting book called Blair's Wars by John Kampfner (Free Press, 2004) which talks about the 5 wars undertaken in the first 6 years of Blair's premiership. It is a detailed book, quite readable, very thorough.

    The final paragraphs of the final page:

    He thought he could handle all the intrivavies of diplomacy, but he could not. He thought his powers of persuasion could overcome all obstacles, but they could not. He was both optimist, about his ability to change the world, and pessimist, about his ability to forge a new order that was not in the shadow of the Americans.

    Blair paid the price for a failure of diplomacy. It was Britain's failure, but not Britain's alone. Iraq damaged him deeply. He had cultivated a position at the heart of Europe, only to see it undermined. He had dominated his party for a decade, his authority allowing him to push through foreign and domestic policies even when they were at odds with his MPs and activists - even members of his own cabinet. For the first time, opinion polls were showing that his personal popularity had dropped below that of his party.

    So why did he do it? His was a combination of self-confidence and fear, of Atlanticism, evangelism, Gladstonian idealism, pursued were necessary through murky means. His was a combination of naivety and hubris. These were not his governments' wars, least of all his party's wars. These were Blair's wars.

  56. At 12:03 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    The conversation about ''Blair's War'' has been informative and helpful. I'm not an intellectual, and am not embarrassed to express my naivety and ignorance but enjoy the cut and thrust of the debate from a safe distance. Jason (54) has expressed my pragmatism very well in his final paragraph. I have a genuine question - what is the future of the UN, especially since Blair's opinion is that restricting ourselves to UN mandated operations would be a retreat? Is it too late for UN involvement in Iran? I realise that no-one is going to ask for it but to what extent is it too much to hope for?
    I'll leaf through OK magazine and sip this shandy while I wait for someone to join me.

  57. At 12:26 PM on 13 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Blast I just did a long post, decided to preview it rather than just press submit and when I went to turn shuold into should it disappeared. Can't be bothered to rewrite it now, perhaps it will limp into sight in the doorway in the next 30 minutes or so.

  58. At 12:52 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Morning all,
    Jonnie (53) I'm interested in your comment about drama 'Queens' because I would be surprised indeed if there were not plenty of fussy and awkward straight guests from time to time.

    Is it perhaps because they are obviously gay that their awkwardness is attributed to that rather than to their just being difficult people? In other words we all tend to pick on what seems to us the most noticeable characteristic of someone, especially if they irritate or annoy.

    Of course if someone is a member of a social group that has experienced discrimination then it may be all too easy for them to see offence where none exists, rather than to blame themselves. Just a thought.

    Now I'll just make myself comfortable in this big chair with a nice cup of Darjeeling until it's time for lunch.

  59. At 01:02 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Hi Gillian,

    I also think Jason's summary paragraph (54) has got it about right.

    I'm confused as to what you're asking about the UN and Iran. Are you suggesting the UN should mount some sort of intervention there, and if so on what pretext? Or did you mean Iraq?

    If so, I hope the UN can avoid getting its hands dirty in Iraq unless it can sanction some truly international (minus and UK) peacekeeping/reconstruction/reconciliation effort. Massive "No-strings" UK and US finance for such an effort would be only too appropriate, considering how much destruction has been wrought by us.

    One of the most deeply criminal ironies of the present situation is that Iraqi oil revenues are expected to pay for the damage done in the war intended mainly to 'secure' the availability of the oil for our profligate lifestyles. The profits will go to enrich the shareholders of Western Multinational Corporations - the same pool of shareholders who are enriched by the sale of the weaponry used. SHAME SHAME! And, for this, hundreds of thousands of innocent folk are dead and millions displaced and dispossessed.

    Meanwhile, Rice tours the Middle-east talking rubbish and snubbing the only possible sources of any progress.... God(s) (generic) help us!

    My round. Another Shandy?

    Here's to better times and wiser leadership.
    Saturday January 13, 2007 at 13:06:25 GMT

  60. At 02:04 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Hi all, and hi Jason! I'm so sorry I fell asleep in my comfy chair last night and didn't continue the discussion on PR. Must have been the gin!

    Surprisingly I found myself agreeing with a lot of what you said and I found your explanation of how it can all work very helpful and clear. I guess it is hard to have two many problems with it. The only real difficulty I am having is in disentangling two different issues - on the one hand "PR gives you better politics" and on the other "leaders like MT and TB so easily become unfettered megalomaniacs". I think you are beginning to persuade me on the first one. And we all seem to agree about the second. But how do we solve the second issue? Not by launching into the first, which I think is a distraction from the most worrying issue, which is the second. I am concerned that the emphasis on PR will prove a great disappointment in the end when it fails to solve the things in our political system which are really wrong - things like accountability, collegiality and so on.

    So all I am saying is that it is crucial to identify and clarify the precise problems we face with our politicians and political structures before developing appropriate strategies to improve things. i.e. It's not enough simply to say "if we had PR, things would be better". I know that is not what you are saying, Jason, but the discussion seemed to begin like that over on a previous thread.

    Good gracious - it's two o'clock already. A pint of your favourite brew is on the bar and I will be glad to fill others' glasses if you want to join me over there. Cheers!

  61. At 02:51 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Cheers, Sara!

    Mine's a black Liffey, thanks.

    I have to say I think PR provides the best insurance against the tyranny of big majorities, or hopefully even single-party majorities. The emergence of a megalomaniacal or presidential leader seems to me to be thus rendered far more unlikely, thereby addressing your 'problem 2'.

    Again, I refer you to the experience of the Scottish Parliament - not without its embarrassing episodes. It could be said that the ambitious building fiasco had its roots in the too-personal ambitions of Donald Dewar (R.I.P), but it could be argued otherwise.

    Those following Donald in the office of First Minister have had their moments, but no real sign of the isolation so typical elsewhere, and as I've said above and elsewhere, I have had excellent experience with the accessibility of MSPs, both those representing my own area and others. This may be to some extent attributable to the fact that many are not longtime professional politicians, and if so, long may it remain so.

    I'd also like to repeat my reference to the data on sizes of government units and invite any observations any fellow barflies may add. My own opinion is that the less distance between the governed and the governors the better, and this means smaller units and maximum "subsidiarity"., or as Jefferson had it:

    "But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within it's local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by it's individual proprietor.
    Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap,
    we should soon want bread.
    It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all."
    -- Thomas Jefferson

    My round again, I believe
    Saturday January 13, 2007 at 14:53:31 GMT

  62. At 02:59 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Welcome back to consciousness, Sara. I didn't like to wake you as you had snuggled into that cushion and weren't in the way or anything. We just slid the table over so we could get off the sofa without disturbing you.

    I believe that our leaders become the unfettered megalomaniacs that we see for many reasons. One is to do with the party machine "system" that runs politics in this country. Another is to do with the influence of major businesses. Yet another is to do with emulating what they see overseas and trying to keep up with their peers.

    My worry is that there isn't a solution. Those who seek high office often start out not seeking high office at all but seeking to make the world a better place. That they change so much over a few decades is a sign of how strong this force of ill is over them.

    You are right in assuming that I do not believe that PR would, in and of itself, make much difference. All it would do is water down the power of each party. I cannot, however, see a lot being different with Blair (Mr Charisma) head of a coalition of shifting sands as opposed to him being head of a Labour majority.

    The problem is that he can appeal to the interests of a variety of different factions at different times and, so long as he maintains the support of the majority, it wouldn't matter that the constituent parts change over time.

    Clearly that is a simplistic reduction - eventually "they" would get fed up with him and throw him out. But in the interim, and in the interests of avoiding yo-you governance, he would get a lot of leeway to act precisely as he does now.

    The old saying about "if I wanted to get THERE I wouldn't start from HERE" holds oh so true. I sometimes drift off during the news imagining I was in charge and imagining what I would do to "put things right", and I come to the conclusion that the things I am aware of are so difficult and complex that I could not achieve a fraction of what I would want, let alone all the things I am not aware of. And the scene is constantly shifting.

    I verge on despair. My rational brain (yes, I do have one) knows that most of it matters little to my daily life. My emotional brain cries out at the way we are drifting ever further from the society and planet I want to be a part of. Bringing them together gives me headache and makes buying hats awfully difficult.

    I need another pint of (brand name). But it is far too early. I shall just sit and growl at the world from inside a grubby window instead.

  63. At 03:06 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Thanks Ed (26) but I knew what it was called & even though I know quite a lot about it, I would still maintain that the American political system in has a lot to recommend in terms of representing constituents. I like the French political system better, and am very fond of the Italians, but there isn't one that is perfect even with PR.

  64. At 03:15 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Thanks Ed (59) Of course I meant Iraq....a case of my fingers working faster than my brain again. But I won't let that put me off! Thanks for the shandy...I'll take a big gulp and try again.
    I do believe it would be appropriate for the UN to mount some reconstruction/reconciliation effort but I fear that they will not be afforded the opportunity. I agree with you that UN and UK funds should finance it but it would never be done without strings attached. I don't want the UK/US to act unilaterally, nor do I want us/them to withdraw leaving the country in the throes of what is basically a Civil War, but is it conceivable that the UN would only participate in Iraq if we/they did just that?

  65. At 03:18 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Ed, I find it hard to disagree with Thomas Jefferson.

    What really, genuinely saddens me is that the United States of America should be a beacon of good governance to the world. That it is not is to do with greed and bias. 20th and 21st Century politics and international affairs shows the US up in a very harsh light and events such as New Orleans highlight the problems of Federal versus State provisions. But none of this argues effectively against the institutions and the composition of their underlying body politic.

    I do wonder how far "tyranny" would be squashed by PR in this country. Your raising issues of devolution add to this mix - we have come through an era of "economies of scale" to reach a point where we are seeing that small, local provision may be better (for food, energy, water, etc). I wonder whether this does hold for government.

    My experiences of local politics are not happy - it would appear that the self-interested get involved (builders and co) or those aspiring to higher things (being more party man than a junior Minister at Westminster).

    Someone restore my faith in some of this, please. And keep me away from the Jameson - if I start to drink that I'll end up even more negative.

  66. At 04:38 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    You're right, unfortunately, about there not being a total absence of self-interested participation in local government. Before the 1974 re-organisation of local government around here, it was relatively small and local and everyone knew where everybody lived, and that sort of kept a cap on corruption.

    A common Scots saying, "Ah ken where you stay!" says quite a lot to those who hear it.

    My experience of the reorganisation from the perspective of a newly arrived Jeffersonian is here, should it be of interest. My native sense of democracy is that it begins with benevolent despotism in the family and grades up through neighbourhood, town, etc., but only going to higher levels for those matters which cannot be dealt with more locally.

    Brits seem more accustomed to authority increasing with distance (an artefact of monarchy?), and this is also the trend of most systems in the modern world: The more distant, the more important. Ironically this seems to be part of the trend towards individualism - a displacement of responsibility!

    As noted here, local government in the UK is a 'creation of Parliament'. This was a great shock to my Jeffersonian soul, which regards central government (and a minimum thereof) as an unfortunate, but necessary creation of cooperating interdependent local units

    I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe--
    "That government is best which governs not at all"
    and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.
    Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government.
    ---Henry Thoreau

    SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
    Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher....
    Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver;"
    -- Thomas Paine, On the Origins of Government...1776

    These are my heroes.

  67. At 04:40 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Sara wrote:

    Thanks, Jason. What you say makes so much sense, it's obvious you've really studied politics. And Ed, too, your comments about the Scottish system appeal - especially the bit about keeping the governed and the governing as close together as possible. That's a real problem in England though as anyone who doesn't live in the South East can feel a million miles away! And I'm not much in favour of even more regional government because people like me have to pay for it!

    I guess I remain a bit of a cynic but will enjoy dropping in and out of the discussions here as they progress - it would be sad if we weren't willing to listen to each other and learn from each other's views. I wish there were more fora where that happened!

    Don't sit around gloomily staring out of the window, Jason - come and get another pint! I think Fifi might be at the bar (not that I'm suggesting in any way that you would be interested in anything other than conversation - we all know what a faithful guy you are!)

  68. At 05:07 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Fellow Barflies,

    I would also like to discuss the apparent deification of Trade, especially that most corrosive variety mis-named as Free Trade.

    "It is well understood that nothing so excites the glands of a free-market capitalist as the offer of a government subsidy." -- Wendell Berry

    My own position in brief is that trade should be restricted to that which is surplus to local needs, and that no local productive capacity should be unnecessarily sacrificed. My thinking is very much conditioned by the ideas I have absorbed from Wendell Berry in essays including "The Idea of a Local Economy"

    I would be pleased to add the considerable Berry collection to the Brow's Library, as well as Small is Beautiful by E F Schumacher.

    Any ideas on the de-Deification of Trade? The Economy?

    My round again?
    Saturday January 13, 2007 at 17:09:04 GMT

  69. At 05:21 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    And, scrolling across the top of the big Sports screen in the Public Bar:
    Eleanor Clift: The Washington War Game
    Newsweek's Eleanor Clift writes: "Early rumblings of an anti-war movement sounded in Washington this week as several progressive groups joined forces to press the Democratic Congress to use its power of the purse to stop the latest escalation of the conflict in Iraq. Unlike their predecessors in the Vietnam era, who were often scruffy and unshaven, these activists are well within the mainstream in their appearance as well as their politics."

  70. At 06:13 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Just a brief comment. It needn't cost more and could well cost less to re-patriate (as it were) the bulk of sovereignty to local semi-autonomous areas, including revenue-raising power. All that is needed is a willingness to drastically trim the wings of GB, leaving it as a shell.

    At the moment all finance travels up from taxpayers and other revenue streams, through many layers of accountants to central government and then is disbursed back down through even more layers of accountants. My 'local' authority depends upon central funding for 87% of its budget - FACT.

    Sadly, Centralised authorities are congenitally unable to truly de-centralise, like many parents find it difficult to let their children grow up. Independence must be seized. It's an oxymoron if it depends upon a grantor.

    Saturday January 13, 2007 at 18:11:12 GMT

  71. At 06:19 PM on 13 Jan 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Re (58) Anne P.

    Yes, of course you are quite right Anne -- There are plenty of fussy straight guests.

    There are also a minority of Gay ones that seem to think that they are 'special' almost believing that they are part of some Elite group.

    It's hard to explain really, but I can normally tell on the phone, before they book.

    We have had a lovely old Gentleman with us for the past 4 years, who also related much of his life to us. Last April we received a letter from him explaining that he would not be visiting our establishment again after I (Jonathan) had served breakfast to him on his last visit, wearing a very tight pair of leather shorts, revealing rather too much!

    Simon my SO replied, explaining that he may have got the Hotel mixed up with another one as I did not possess a pair of leather shorts and that even if I did have a pair he would not have allowed me to serve breakfast wearing them!

  72. At 06:33 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    I sit here reading what others have written with such a swirl of hope and despair.

    In 1990 I opted out of my career and went to University. I got a place on a moderately decent Politics course. My then father-in-law convinced me that what I needed to do was gain marketable skills and I swapped onto a Computer Science course.

    As a means of having a family life within that industry I now freelance looking after primary school computer stuff in a particularly mind-numbing way. I so wish I had stuck to my guns and done Politics....

    Ed: way back when I did A-level Government and Political Studies. My course did a Comparative Government major option, comparing the UK and US systems. I have forgotten now far more than I learned but it was a fascinating contrast of things apparently so similar. We didn't focus enough on people like Thoreau or Jefferson as we had looked at political theory from a more English-centric view (Hobbes, Mill, Paine etc).

    I did come across Schumacher in A-level Economics, though. For some reason I had him down as one of the theorists behind Reagonomics - one of them had a similar name, but they are clearly poles apart!

  73. At 06:56 PM on 13 Jan 2007, madmary wrote:

    Jonnie! I know you don't have a pair of leather shorts, but don't you think it's time you got some! ;)

    Must visit you. Do you allow smokers if they don't actually smoke in the house? Sorry for being a bit frivolous on this thread, but your story conjured up a very Faulty Towers picture.


  74. At 07:24 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Jason (and anyone else still awake),

    E F Schumacher in "Buddhist Economics":

    "From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services between a man’s home and his place of work signifies a misfortune and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist would hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success. The former tends to take statistics showing an increase in the number of ton/miles per head of the population carried by a country’s transport system as proof of economic progress, while to the latter—the Buddhist economist—the same statistics would indicate a highly undesirable deterioration in the pattern of consumption."

    The E F Schumacher Society
    Building on a rich tradition often known as decentralism, the Society initiates practical measures that lead to community revitalization and further the transition toward an economically and ecologically sustainable society.

    And many excellent Publications for the Brpw's Bookshelves, with my compliments.

    Mine's a Black Liffey. even though it's not local.
    Saturday January 13, 2007 at 19:25:36 GMT

  75. At 08:11 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Thank you too for all the very helpful links and am wondering what totally genuine questions are worth the candle (mssg 66, para3), when asked from my position that is a lot closer to the floor than Gillian, (56).
    There are a lot of people down here that I do not claim to or wish to represent as I am not qualified in any way what so ever. Never the less, we have certain things in common, not least, full consciousness of our ignorance, lack of education, intellectual ability, slowness at grasping inuendo and clumsy awkwardness in expression.
    We come in shivering from, wars and rummors of wars, not seeking to: save the world, pick a fight, a side, point a finger, expecting grace , favour, sympathy, special treatment or a place on the sofa where you know you do not belong and would feel excruciatingly uncomfortable upon it anyway.
    The floor is that place in the corner when you are complled to seek knowledge in a place where you know you are out of your depth, know that the greatest insight you have is awareness of blindness, (mine), know you can not really enter the debate and that if someone gets your goat, it is only because there is a goat to get and the only right thing to do is tether it gently and encourage it not to bleat.
    From here we can mostly listen and risk a seemingly foolish question in order to clarify the various positions people represent and hope that somewhere along the line we will be able to better understand the way things are and which position best represents your core beliefs.
    Reading, study and trusting politians or propoganda from any which way is not an option. Neither is trusting the smart ones to get on with it on your behalf or standing uncertainly behind the ones you think you like best.
    The world is in crisis and we feel a responsibility to get to the heart of the matter as quickly and simply as possible among the people that seem most likely to have genuine intellectual and moral integrity, be willing and able to identify the root issues without any vested interest other than heart felt conviction from all sides.
    The machinations of politics will always go over our heads, something I am sure is not only relevant in the PR debate but is viewed with guilty ambivelance by thoes in power. What rarely goes over our heads are the betrayals and hypocrisies and even if it is difficult to articulate them, they are seen and felt as surely as the weather.
    In short, we need more confidence in where to vote, and what values are behind all the salesmen like rhetoric.

    An elephant wandered into the kingdom of the blind. The people were terrified and did not know what was going on. Some thought the world had come to an end, others that it was an earthquake, yet more that it was a monster. The king sent out his councel to identify the trouble. When they returned, each had a different description. The one at the trunk end though it a demonic snake, another belived it to me a moving mountain, four came back and described moving trees and the one at the tail end.....(ehem)

    The question that best sums up my questions is:

    What is the elephant?

  76. At 08:14 PM on 13 Jan 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Re: Mary (73)

    Perhaps I should buy some leather shorts but they cost a fortune.

    Yes, we both actually smoke, after quitting on a regular basis. I smoke a pipe but we are both trying hard to stop after the holiday. There are the gardens, the porch and our back alley, where I can relate more Fawlty towers type episodes.

    Aware that this is the 'furrowed brow' I'll pop down to the beach before someone slaps me!

    Re; sara, who said above.....

    'it would be sad if we weren't willing to listen to each other and learn from each other's views. I wish there were more fora where that happened!.....

    I agree and it's been fascinating reading all the above comments from Ed, Jason et al..

  77. At 09:05 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Mike Ranson wrote:

    Hello again. I will endeavour to keep this brief as it's been a long day at work and I'm currently ruminating on a large chicken dinner.

    Jason, you are correct when you said that we would agree in many ways. In reading your post I have begun to suspect that I should have employed your services as a ghost writer in my first foray! However, despite this broad agreement, I hold a few reservations.

    I also believe that the world would benefit a great deal from this wonderful idea of yours, this United Nations, an unbiased and globally representative talking-shop for the peaceful resolution of international disputes and co-ordination of international co-operation, which itself serves as an arena of objectivity and fairness in which to pursue these goals. A marvelous idea and I look forward to the day when such an organisation exists.

    Despite my sarcasm, I still agree with you that we should always seek UN mandate (when appropriate) rather than "go it alone". This so-called Coalition of the Willing has set a deeply worrying precedent. Despite my low opinion of the UN when acting in security matters, we should continue to work with it as it's still the best we've got. God help us. I consider it this way: when something in the club is wrong, don't storm outside in a righteous huff and throw stones at the windows. Sit down and work from within to fix it. Same goes for democracy and pretty much every other co-operative effort people engage in.

    Ed has been quoting things at me, some of which I'm familiar with and others not (I'll get back to you on that Orion link, Ed.) I will add a quote so famous as to be almost cliched, but cliches are for a reason.

    "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

    No, I do not believe that India or Pakistan co-operated in negotiations because they were afraid of us. This is a gross over-simplification of my argument. I do, however, believe that our possession of Big Sticks lent credibility to our arguments. Otherwise it would be like a boy eunuch lecturing prostitutes on the dangers of unprotected sex. If you follow me. If you've never dipped your wick, you are hardly qualified to pass comment.

    I've just realised that I've opened the barn door for all kinds of phallus and virility and male domination references! Oh damn. If only nuclear missiles weren't so erotic! Why doesn't anyone build nukes that look like small, withered piles of wrinkly flesh that's been taken for a long walk on a cold November day and now resembles a frost bitten turtle with his head turned inside out? That's an image that most real men who haven't had enhancement surgery can actually relate to!

    btw I had better add that I think we should delete the nuclear deterrent. I don't think this because of some weird notion that nuclear weapons are somehow "immoral". Honestly, how can you have an immoral weapon? Or a moral one, for that matter? Weapons are tools. It's the user who is moral or immoral. No, I think we should ditch them because they're a waste of money better spent elsewhere and because the only purpose they ever served was to keep the US interested in protecting Europe during the Cold War. Had the UK and France not retained the ability to independently launch an attack against an invading Red Army as it swept westwards, then the US would in all likelihood have written Western Europe off as indefensible in the early days of the Iron Curtain. We kept them in it by having the power to start something. Today we no longer have such a requirement. We do have pressing budget shortfalls elsewhere in military spending, however. All that development money for new Trident subs would be better spent on conventional systems which we may actually need to use one day.

    Additionally, I most certainly do not believe that any developed nation possessing a powerful and professional military should consider the use of force it's first option in any dispute or humanitarian intervention. It should certainly not consider force as it's only justification for reserving a seat at the negotiating table (which the UK has traditionally done by contributing forces to American campaigns), or for taking a hand in any matters short of an armed invasion of that nations territory (in which instance I defy anyone here to suggest that any lesser approach is appropriate). Such measures represent a complete failure of Government, of Intelligence (both with a big and a small i) and of intent.

    I have had several interesting and stimulating conversations with service personnel both past and present. They all agreed that the first purpose of the military was always as a deterrent and a demonstration of intent, whether that intent be a passive warning to a potential aggressor who has walked away from the table (as people often do) or as a reassuring presence to an ally. They all agreed that engaging in military action would always represent a failure, but that the purpose of such action must always be to resolve the armed conflict as quickly as possible so as to return to the table as quickly as possible.

    Did I say I was going to be brief? ;-)

  78. At 09:07 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    May I just extend a very warm welcome to the new froggers who have appeared here, and also congratulate everyone who's been posting very long and thoughtful comments here!

    It is ironic that, having thought up this place as a much needed place for those of us who have something serious to say .. I'm mostly out of my league here and can contibute so little!

    I was thinking, as I trudged around Whittlesey today looking for molly dancers and suchlike, that this little corner of the frog has already become like a learned publication. Anyone could come here and learn a lot about differing points of view on many challenging subjects.

    Will somebody please, if they haven't already, post something on Wikipedia? We need links galore, and then we'll be making a difference through influencing opinions world wide. How cool is that!

    Hugs all round, you gorgeous people.

    Fifi xxxx

  79. At 09:18 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Jonnie....you made me laugh out loud! I really needed that after being such a numpty earlier on. I think we should introduce a dress code for the F.B. ....or better still, a uniform for the staff...(leather) shorts all round!

  80. At 09:20 PM on 13 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Jonnie (71 & 75) - at the risk of turning it into the Borrowed Frau, please put us out of our misery. Did the old gentleman relent and return? We need to know!

  81. At 09:59 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Mike - I agree with what you say about "a" United Nations and I certainly feel that the one we have has so many problems that it is a verge on the useless. I do not know the answer to this one other than that imvho the "coalition of the willing" approach is exactly the wrong path to take to find that answer.

    Oddly my views about nukes have changed over time from rabid belief in CND in my mid-teens (based on a showing of a black and white BBC documentary that never got aired and who's name escapes me and the arrival of Greenham Common) to an acceptance that perhaps they are needed to ward off the minor states post-USSR who have access. I have not convinced myself which way is right, only that it is a difficult call. I am certainly against the current proposals to upgrade/replace/whatever on grounds of cost and the lack of practicality.

    Fifi - I can see this is going to be a very interesting place to be. Don't kid yourself you have nothing to contribute - I have struck lucky on knowing a bit about the topics raised so far and, as you will learn, I have a view about most things and a willingness to learn more about everything. As for knowledge, I have considerably less.

    If someone can tell me where we end up in about 25 years time, I'd be interested to know.

  82. At 10:17 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Shame but it is never too late Jason, the OU does some fab MA's? I compared the French and American political systems on my degree, having never studied politics before, and I think some salient points remain! It was about 8 years ago; in the evenings, after work (at Birkbeck if anyone is in London & interested) & it was brilliant. I shared one of my classes with a brain surgeon which made it quite hard to say one had been too busy at work to do ... usually the reading!

  83. At 10:36 PM on 13 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    The United Nations website is worth a long visit (just spent two hours there, thanks to you lot!) with access to speeches going right back to the 1940s.

    I thought this quote, from Harold McMillan as our Foreign Secretary on its 10th anniversary, was relevant:

    There are many achievements of the United Nations in the field of conciliation, for here in the United Nations we have a unique forum where fears can be quietened and suspicions dispelled through patient discussion. It is only by the exchange of ideas that misunderstandings are corrected, agreements reached and decisions taken … If we are to avoid a third and far more terrible war; if we are to keep the peace and build up the strength of the free peoples, we shall need the United Nations. We must maintain our faith in it, whatever the future may bring.

    Reminded me a bit of this blog! Pity Blair didn't read it four years ago, though, isn't it?

  84. At 10:38 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Mike 77

    and most real men, worthy of the vote don't need big sticks, big voices or red sports cars either.

  85. At 10:47 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Please find donated copy of the 'Psychology of Nuclear Conflict' (Ian Fenton), in library corner. One of the few I managed to read as a younger soul and think it still has value.

  86. At 10:49 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Thanks for Roosevelt. I'll walk through the open door and note that our present leaders swagger (bulletproof vests?) and shout like men with small sticks. We've little disagreement elsewhere. I hope you enjoyed the Eisenhower clip, and await your response to Berry's Thoughts.

    Carol, Sara, Gillian, Angela, et.al.

    Thanks for your comments, but you shouldn't hold your tongue, and no-one should refrain from reading and study - that's what the bookshelves are for! And please challenge (nicely of course) those of us with big mouths. If we can't handle it, we shouldn't have opened our mouths. If something isn't clear, it's probably a fault in delivery rather than in reception, and, speaking personally, such questions help me clarify my own thinking. And nobody's marking papers!

    This is a pub, a warm, friendly, comfortable pub, but some of us can get intoxicated by the sound of our own thoughts more easily than by the brewer's arts. Sometimes a quiet word from a friend is a true gift.

    And the drinks, being virtual, are affordable.
    My round!

    Fifi, I like the Wiki idea. Anyone present got experience? A wurruld famus pub, eh? Joyce, where are you now?

  87. At 11:16 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Guess what! A blog headed the furrowed brow!

    Institutional blogging must stop.
    Whilst the BBC and the Guardian are two of the media institutions I hold dear (well, probably the only two really) their insistance on calling everything on their websites "a blog" to indicate it is an opinion piece is really an abuse of terminology. It's an editorial, it's a column, it seems it's whatever they want it to be. But in truth all they've become is an excuse for nitwits that while away a couple of hours at work by getting in to a slagging match at the end of said "blog".
    This is not democracy guys, this is not an expression of your communicative rights. It's, oh what's the point.

    *loud raspberry!*

  88. At 11:33 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Carol (75 at present, but these things change): your message seems to have been slow in appearing and I sincerely wish I had seen it before.

    Asking your last question first, the elephant is the sum of its parts and that is only discovered by the various groups making up the councel coming together and discussing rationally with open ears and open minds. Perhaps that is what this place is for?

    An oft spoken phrase - the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. I am blissfully aware of my ignorance in oh so many areas. Sadly I am compelled to venture suggestions in an attempt to grasp a new part of the elephant and hope that it doesn't end up ****ing on me.

    Never feel intimidated to speak up "from the floor". Most of us sat on the sofa only do so by virtue of lazyness.

  89. At 11:35 PM on 13 Jan 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Re; Confused and Gillian

    An answer is on the beach


  90. At 11:56 PM on 13 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    But Helen,

    All of you are so brilliant, so genuine and so sincere, funny and consciensious it is impossible not to learn from you all in such a place as this and it is wonderful that it is here for the likes of me and my kind that would never be able to handle a degree for all sorts of reasons.
    Jason, I have learned soooo much from you too, SO much even though it is not fully processed because of my lack of basic Political, English and jargon knowledge. Never the less, the essence of it does go in from everyone here. I agree with fifi, It is a FANTASTIC place even from the floor .
    I have no idea what black stuff is or even liffey juice but please find money on the bar towards drinks all round as token of gratitude.

  91. At 12:24 AM on 14 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Oh no,
    No offence or reference
    to any soul that drinks in here.
    Am on my knees at all your feet as fear out side has brought me in and use of "WE" in old refrain is not as you and me but 'we' like I that would not usually dare to enter such a place if not for WAR and trechery outside.
    Ed You do not shout and are a teacher and beceecher that sings sweet in the lost pilgrims ear.

    Yours, the failed tart with broken heart wanting to know what is that elephant causing so much grief in the worrld?

  92. At 12:26 AM on 14 Jan 2007, Bill'n'Ben wrote:

    Carol(currently 90)

    Don't worry , I to suffer from a hole in the brain cell department. But I can answer your question, it's Guinness.

    Time for another. Cheers.


  93. At 12:33 AM on 14 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Code for the brewery on the River Liffey in Dublin.

  94. At 12:56 AM on 14 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Carol (90 - or was when I started this, but it seems to be a bumpy night) - don't be fooled by good spelling or good written English. You've mostly come across in all your posts as brilliant, genuine and sincere - and - you've brought different takes on things that have made everyone sit and think again.

    I had a quick look at the FB this morning before I went out for the day, and there were so many postings that were not only impressive but made me want to think things through all over again - never a bad thing! But I didn't stop to mark any of them out of ten for spelling....

    I hope nobody will be put off from adding their 10 pence-worth just because they feel their written English isn't good enough. It's not about spelling. It's about sharing viewpoints; it's about seeing what works and what doesn't; it's sharing hopes and fears and dreams.

  95. At 10:22 AM on 14 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Hmm, my sarcasm sensors have gone off the scale. Is someone extracting the michael?

  96. At 10:44 AM on 14 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    Oops - fell asleep on the big sofa. Apologies to all but the water was gone so I finished up that lovely Scottish malt - as you can see from my last post (94). I do so apologise for that - as a newt. Going home to sleep it off. I'll bring a replacement bottle on return.

  97. At 08:36 PM on 14 Jan 2007, Valery P wrote:

    Jonnie - I just want to say Bon Voyage while I'm thinking about it, because there is every chance that I'll forget tomorrow, and anyway you'll probably be too busy to call at the Beach.

    So - Bon Voyage then - bring us some Sri Lankan Rock?

  98. At 08:47 PM on 14 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    The Furrowed Brow is such an education.

    Ed I : Whilst I'm still not convinced that Proportional Representation would get us any better politics or society, I have revised some of my bigotry about it since reading your account of how it's shaping up in your constituency.

    Our MP was for a few years a junior minister in the ODD-PM's department, responsible among other things for Planning. During that time he was useless as a constituency MP, because he dared not go against his masters.

    Moved out of that dept and into Lifelong Learning or somesuch, he got the finger out and wrote some helpful letters for one of the people I represent as a parish councillor, and took part usefully in some of the many many consultation documents we were tackling.

    Alas he's now undergoing treatment for cancer, so with all our electoral eggs in one basket we are back to being, inevitably despite his best intentions, under represented once more.

    Maybe PR in one of its guises has something to recommend it after all.

    But given the apathy/antipathy of the British people at Election time, can we afford to make the system any more complicated than it is? I'd like to think it's worth it but I can't quite see it somehow.


    PS I've got a last teensy bit of Taylor's port left over from Christmas. Anyone wish to share it with me in one of these tiny port-glasses?

  99. At 09:36 PM on 14 Jan 2007, Annasee wrote:

    Yes, Jonnie & Simon, do have a great trip to Sri Lanka.

    We want photos (always assuming you do better than Marc & actually get past Kent...) and pointless postcards to Eddie & the team, & frog postings if you can manage it.

    You're going to be busy already - I hope you get a chance to see the sights as well as do your homework for the blog! Writing on the beach seems to be almost obligatory now too. Better do one of those.(I can hear Simon muttering now "What rubbish is this - they're all mad mad MAD I tell you. I don't know why you play along")

    Bon Voyage

  100. At 10:29 PM on 14 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    Jonnie - hope you both have a fab time in Sri Lanka. We went in 2005 - I loved it. I challenge you not to come back with a camera half-full of Buddhas!

    As well as having lots of great places to visit, the beaches are truly like paradise, and look out for the fruit bats flying overhead as you swim in the hotel pool - spooky!


  101. At 10:40 PM on 14 Jan 2007, Stewart M wrote:

    There is quite serious stuff here. I note from the news this evening the Government wants to set up another pointless IT exercise and have a "super database". DO they not learn?

  102. At 10:54 PM on 14 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Stewart M: re the IT projects.

    I believe a certain scurrilous fortnightly periodical points fingers at certain suppliers and their close relationship with the government.

    IT procurement is difficult. IT requirements engineering is difficult. But not this difficult.

  103. At 09:28 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Our MP was for a few years a junior minister in the ODD-PM's department, responsible among other things for Planning. During that time he was useless as a constituency MP, because he dared not go against his masters.

    Hoping to write anonymously enough here: My husband used to be a political advisor for a low/middle-level Minister who voted against the Iraq war on every occasion for ideological reasons. The Minister's job was dangled infront of him as a result and oddly enough, he voted for the war in the next vote. The day after that, my husband handed in his resignation in disgust.

  104. At 09:49 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    If there's likely to be confusion with the Blog you've found with the same name as the new PM Pub, should we rename it The Borrowed Furrow?

  105. At 09:54 AM on 15 Jan 2007, confused wrote:

    (94,96 - Ah, better now. What a good sleep can do, eh?)

    My current MP (2nd term) voted against the invastion twice but that's the only time he gone against the government. He's since reverted to his old tactics as a councillor and abstains every time he disagrees. What sort of representation is that? The reason he's not standing for a third term is, I suspect, that the fence is now too far embedded to enable getting down on either side.

  106. At 10:13 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    Big Sister - I have at last contacted you....

  107. At 10:30 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Big Sis: I thought you were going to suggest "The Borrowed Frau".

  108. At 10:44 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    Your suggestion is, as ever, superior to mine and would make a great name for the bar.

    Shall we put it to the committee?

  109. At 11:00 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    The other Furrowed Brow doesn't impress me at all. I think we should stick with the name we have ... but I'll rethink that if you all disagree with me.

    Fifi xx

  110. At 11:16 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Ah, but Fifi, you have to agree, Jason's suggestion is rather wonderful...... Though it might lead to misunderstandings with our teutonic friends.

    I gather from Today, however, that the French wanted to borrow our Queen in 1956. La Reine Pretee. Doesn't really work, does it?

  111. At 11:32 AM on 15 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Jason's suggestion of the Burrowed Frau is as ever excellent.

    However we've had occasional trouble in the past from individuals who clearly felt threatened by the presence of confident, articulate women! I would hate to miss an opportunity to coax new but slightly sexist froggers to join the fun and alter a few of their perceptions....

    I'm afraid most of my support for the FB stems from the fact that His Lordship suggested it.

    Is that sexist of me?

    Fifi ;o)

  112. At 12:01 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Unaccustomed as I am to women fighting over me...!

    It was just a play on words and not a claim at name making. Sorry for confusion causing.

    And who could be deterred from a place with confident, articulate women? Unthinkable!

  113. At 12:36 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Bill'n'Ben (92): If there is hope it is in the holes.

  114. At 12:36 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Jason, it was a wonderful juggle wot you done.

    Now, Fifi, back to the Borrowed Furrow .... I'd like to hear the case against it. I'm suggesting it as the 'altered ego' of the Furrowed Brow, a way of getting around the duplication problem.

    And yes, I totally agree that Eddie's suggestion was great, particularly as it came from him. My concern is that a search engine might link the Furrowed Brow to a very indifferent blog elsewhere. That would be a travesty.

    BTW, did anybody else hear Just a Minute and the wonderful exchange about transvestisism yesterday? LOL!

  115. At 01:06 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Hello all,

    I'd like your views on the following:

    Today Marks and Spencer have announced their new 100 point 'Plan A' for going green, described here:

    and discussed here:

    Is this and moves like it by other big companies a cynical marketing ploy, a genuine move in the right direction or a drop in the ocean as nothing will now save us from climate change disaster?

  116. At 01:38 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Suggested names for this place so far, other than the FB (which sends Mrs Trellis to her unhappy place and is the reason she never drops by here) are:

    - Borrowed Frau
    - Think or Sink
    - Brain Drain
    - Mellow Yellow
    - Frog and Lilypad
    - Frogs Porn Bar
    - Thinking Allowed
    - The Thinking Den
    - Eddie's Armchair
    - Round the Fireside

    More suggestions please, and then we'll figure out a way to put it to the vote.

    Now I must away and reward myself for a morning's report writing. Walk with Max the red setter.

    Followed by another report. Ho hum.


  117. At 01:54 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Hi Anne (114)...

    At the moment I'm reserving judgement on the M&S plan, as I haven't had a chance to go through it properly. The initial reporting looks favourable, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as the saying goes... As long as it's advertised in the same way their food is at the moment! Much as I like Dervla Kirwans' voice, the adds just grate on me now....

  118. At 01:56 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    Please don't forget the Borrowed Furrow on your list!

    (Just because of the Bear Belly!)

  119. At 02:02 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Nimmo wrote:

    I say good for Marks And Spencer, Anne.

    I heard their CEO (I think) on the today programme this morning saying that they are going to put the number of air miles travelled on their packaging. I really hope their scheme takes off! (pun intended!)

    I work in agriculture and I get constantly frustrated by the level of the debate on food in this country. On the one hand we hear constant complaint about the number of food miles about cherries from Peru and then catch glimpses of TV celebrity chefs on the television making very interesting recipes with ingredients that are not and cannot be grown in this country.

    I'm not a whinging farmer, (I'm not a farmer at all, but a tractor engineer) I just don't understand a system that pays 18p per litre to a farmer for milk in this country, and then brings it in from overseas when it is cheaper.

    So, if Marks and Spencer really do go well and truly green, and as part of that label their food in such a way that a few more people stop and think about what they are buying and where its coming from, all power to their elbow!

  120. At 02:43 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    If M&S go about this properly, then I couldn't care less whether it is a cynical marketing ploy or not, as long as it is somewhat beneficial as they have outlined. Whatever their motives, if the changes involve more interactions with local produce and trade, more information to customers and a significant shift in thinking of packaging and recycling, then it can only be a good thing. Note the use of the word 'if' there.

    As for the impact on the global problems, well it won't do a cluckling thing of course. It could be called an empty gesture if you like, but I would rather shop at a company giving an empty gesture to the environment more than one giving a two-fingered gesture. Not that I can afford to shop at M&S (and I imagine the prices will only increase after this announcement), but that's a different issue entirely.

    I'm willing to give M&S the benefit of the doubt at the moment and I can only hope that the larger retailers will follow. It may not change the world but it can't harm it and frankly, that is as good as we are going to get nowadays.

  121. At 02:50 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Well said, Nimmo.

    I have a Gordon Ramsey cookbook full of recipes made with ingredients that are in season. Why hasn't THAT been made into a TV series?

    Big Sister, the list is now

    - Borrowed Frau
    - Think or Sink
    - Brain Drain
    - Mellow Yellow
    - Frog and Lilypad
    - Frogs Porn Bar
    - Thinking Allowed
    - The Thinking Den
    - Eddie's Armchair
    - Round the Fireside
    - Thinking Cap
    - Thinking Tap
    - The Barroom Sprawl
    - The Borrowed Furrow

    More please?


  122. At 03:12 PM on 15 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    I find myself in agreement with Nimmo on the point about bringing in food from abroad. I once heard that we import parsnips from western australia when they are not in season here. How daft is that. Apart from anything else parsnips are totally tasteless on their own anyway so it's no real loss if we can only eat them when they are in season here. They are my daughter-in-law to be's favourite vegetable, and really that says SO much about her. I think it is probably a step in the right direction motivated by cynicism - my husband used to work with Stuart Rose a few years ago but that fact and my opinion are not necessarily connected.

    I now only buy Fair Trade organic bananas frm Costa Rica - well frm my local supermarket, but they buy them from CR, and I have to say that they do tatse better than the non-organic non fair trade variety and yes I think I could tell the difference blindfold.

  123. At 03:28 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Ta, Fifi. ;o)
    Glad you enjoyed your walk.

  124. At 03:37 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Nimmo wrote:

    To be fair to M&S, they have said that they will absorb extra cost in lower margins, so the prices shouldn't rise.

    I agree with you whole-heartedly Annie, except in one extremely important point. Parsnips? Lovely. Try part boiling them, smashing them up, covering in butter and put under the grill.

  125. At 03:37 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Thanks Brian, Jason, Ed, (not) Confused and all. Wasn't intending to fish for reassurance and have decided to revise my position as did suddenly confused (not her fault), exclude myself and enroll in a pub for the educationally challenged. Helens teaching experience (elsewhere), moved me, she and Ruth Kelly do have a point and if one is not only struggling to understand but being misunderstood due to bad poetry, bad joke telling, laughing in the wrong place at scurrilous descriptions and sincerity being mistaken for sarcasm It is time to move on.
    Dry your eyes Mrs Trellis, I am not suicidal and do not wish to cause fatal melancholy. Besides, The question about the elephant was somewhat (not completely), rhetorical and was curious (as a cat it seems), to check the answer with you all.
    In regard to all the grief in the world and belief that the methods of 'Super 'Nanny and 'Nanny 911' are more effective than corporal punnishment of any kind, I see the war as a failure of mankind to deal with conflict within himself, (The enemy within and the battle of good and evil too). In this sense, there is no elephant, rather, the un-tethered goat.
    No need to repond, hope to drop by once in a while and please find another donation, 'Siblings withou Rivalry' (A. Faber and E. Mazlish) on the bookshelf. (Try not to read anything into that, it is a simple but very good book).

    Cheer up. :-)

  126. At 03:38 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Valery P wrote:

    Sorry to lower the tone, but admin annie, I am falling offmy Christmas Present in mirth at the picture I've conjured up of you blindfolded and eating bananas!

    Belinda (120) - thanks for expressing, so precisely, my feelings about this topic. I would only add that when I heard about it on Today this morning, they did make a point about not raising their prices to make up for the extra effort involved. (Being my usual cynical self, I scoughed a bit at that!) They would have to lower their prices all round to make me a regular shopper though.

  127. At 03:41 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Well well well! Step out for a few hours to nurse a flu-enhanced hangover, and it's all happening!

    I would just ask anyone who thinks they can to please explain how it's possible to become 'carbon neutral', particularily a mercantile enterprise like M&S. I think anyone who believes in such a thing had better confer with the fairies at the bottom of his or her garden.

    Bravo to M&S if they actually do put the 'food miles' on their packaging, but if there are ANY food miles embodied using ANY extrametabolic transport, just how is neutrality to be achieved?

    They say that early indoctrination is hard to break, and maybe as a young scientist I learned the first law of Thermodynamics too early in life, but it seems to me that such schemes are just ways of deluding ourselves that, for small a token charge, we can purchase an indulgence which will wipe away the 'sinful' element of our behaviour.

    There truly is no Plan B, any more than free lunches (or carbon neutral flights - sorry Toady).

    I really would love to believe that if we just press some magic offsetting button, we can continue our present lifestyles (as well as bringing the other 80% of humanity on-board the gravy train)

    Somebody please tell me what it is that I'm not seeing.


  128. At 03:49 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    Furry Burrow.

    Sounds a really nice place to snuggle down into on these wintery days.

  129. At 04:22 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Carol (125),
    "I see the war as a failure of mankind to deal with conflict within himself,"

    Not only 'the' war, but war itself.

    The most dangerous superstition of the parties of violence is the idea that sanctioned violence can prevent or control unsanctioned violence. But if violence is “just” in one instance as determined by the state, why might it not also be “just” in another instance, as determined by an individual? How can a society that justifies capital punishment and warfare prevent its justifications from being extended to assassination and terrorism? If a government perceives that some causes are so important as to justify the killing of children, how can it hope to prevent the contagion of its logic spreading to its citizens—or to its citizens’ children?

    If we give to these small absurdities the magnitude of international relations, we produce, unsurprisingly, some much larger absurdities. What could be more absurd, to begin with, than our attitude of high moral outrage against other nations for manufacturing the selfsame weapons that we manufacture? The difference, as our leaders say, is that we will use these weapons virtuously, whereas our enemies will use them maliciously—a proposition that too readily conforms to a proposition of much less dignity: we will use them in our interest, whereas our enemies will use them in theirs.
    Recent American wars, having been both “foreign” and “limited,” have been fought under the assumption that little or no personal sacrifice is required. In “foreign” wars, we do not directly experience the damage that we inflict upon the enemy. We hear and see this damage reported in the news, but we are not affected. These limited, “foreign” wars require that some of our young people should be killed or crippled, and that some families should grieve, but these “casualties” are so widely distributed among our population as hardly to be noticed.
    ...And of course no sacrifice is required of those large economic interests that now principally constitute our economy. No corporation will be required to submit to any limitation or to sacrifice a dollar. On the contrary, war is the great cure-all and opportunity of our corporate economy, which subsists and thrives upon war. War ended the Great Depression of the 1930s, and we have maintained a war economy—an economy, one might justly say, of general violence—ever since, sacrificing to it an enormous economic and ecological wealth, including, as designated victims, the farmers and the industrial working class.
    -- Wendell, of course The Failure of War

    Sorry to be such a quoter, but when others have said it far better than I might, ...and please don't leave us Carol. We need you.
    Houb Salaam
    15/01/2007 at 16:26:35 GMT

  130. At 04:26 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Nimmo: well put.

    I think our bizarre farming system is based on the problems post-WW2. I remember having a discussion with a much older friend who would not have it that it might be more economical to bring foods in from abroad. All to do with the Island Nation, must feed ourselves thing.

    Frankly if we got into a regional war again I think food would probably be among the least of our worries. We'd probably all be dead before T£$€o had run out of carrots.

    I have never really understood the whole CAP thing. I can see that we need to support our farming communities in some ways to insulate them somewhat from the rigours of world markets, but it seems to have gone a little mad. But supermarkets seem to have stepped right around all that in the last 10 years.

    My biggest bug bear is this constant availablity thing where every fruit or vegetable you can imagine is on the shelves 365 days a year. If anyone can point me to a decent cook book that is seasonally based, I'd be really grateful. Then I can join the local veg cooperative's fruit and veg box scheme and know what to make with what is fresh now.

    As for M&S, it does seem somewhat ironic that the probable birthplace of the ready meal is to be the shrine to green food. I don't mean to seem cynical but it has the feeling of wanting to appeal to the green sensitivities of the middle classed Chelsea Tractor owners rather than wanting to make a difference. But I can cope with bad motives if the outcome is good - I wonder.

  131. At 04:54 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    RE: M&S:



  132. At 04:59 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Sorry, but i left this out of my last:

    Cambridge University landscape historian Oliver Rackham suggests that “For its practical effect, telling people to plant trees to reduce global warming is like telling them to drink more water to keep rising sea levels down.”

    Oliver Rackham is one of the best writers on trees and the history of the landscape there has ever been. I commend his books to one and all, and hereby place them on the Brow's shelves, Virtually, of course.

  133. At 05:25 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Nimmo wrote:

    Totally agree with Ed, and Rackham's "History Of The Countryside" is compelling.

    But, playing devil's advocate, I think M&S are really looking to do more than just offset their emissions. Indeed, they are talking of offset as a last resort only. However, I don't think there can be 'carbon neutrality' - whilst seeming logical there is something in there that doesn't quite fit. Perhaps later, after a couple of glasses of vin rouge, the bit thats not fitting might hit my addled brain!

    Jason, I've taken part in organic box schemes in the past and on the whole they've been pretty good. My one issue with them was an attempt at making them 'interesting' by including squashes and other sort of non-native vegetables, which had obviously been forced in poly tunnels and such like. There seemed an unwillingness to accept just fruit and veg that would accept our weather conditions and grow quite happily outside. I'm not a 'food isolationist' for want of a better description, but believe that at least the majority of food should be sourced locally, by which I mean the UK.

  134. At 06:25 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    Thought you might like this link to more info re ready meals.

    Looks like Clarence Birdseye was the principal culprit!

    While not a great fan of ready meals (the occasional pizza, perhaps, being the exception), my main gripe with them is the packaging. If M&S could come up with 100% truly recyclable packaging, I'd have no real problem with the concept - though would still not be prepared to pay out for something which I can make cheaper and (often) better at home. I recognise, however, that for many people they are a godsend.

    I'm all for a slowfood fastfood movement. Italian cuisine is great for this: dishes which don't take all day to prepare and cook, but which taste wonderful.

  135. At 06:29 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Annasee wrote:

    Re alternative names for the Furrowed Brow, I think "The Frog n' Blog" has a nice ring to it. And it may already sound familiar some of Marc's colleagues, as in " Why do I have to be in charge of the frog n' blog? It's not fair ! I used to be a real reporter you know. I did ! I did! Now look at me. And I'm another year older! And my last holiday was a disaster. It's all the fault of the frog n' blog"

    At least, I think that's what he was saying. Smuggling thoses tapes out of the office hasn't been the same since my cleaner went to jail...

  136. At 06:40 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    For those who care about such things, here's the current list of ideas for naming this wonderful place:

    - Borrowed Frau
    - Furry Burrow
    - The Borrowed Furrow
    - The Borrowed Frown
    - Thinking Cap
    - Thinking Tap
    - Thinking Cup
    - Think or Sink
    - The Jolly Frogger
    - Frog and Lilypad
    - Frogs Porn Bar
    - Mairs and Stallions
    - Brain Drain
    - Mellow Yellow
    - Thinking Allowed
    - The Thinking Den
    - Eddie's Armchair
    - Round the Fireside
    - The Bar Room Sprawl
    - The Endless Debat (sic)

    It did occur to me back on the Beach that we might just ask Eddie to pick a new name for each new Bar, so we can tell immediately that a new thread has started.

    Anyway, see what you think! I'm off to do something unspeakable to a dead bird.

    Fifi ;o)

  137. At 08:04 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Big Sister: the link didn't make it, but I agree with the rest. I have long said if I could choose my nationality it would be Italian for the food, wine, weather, places and people. (But not for the driving!)

    A present food gripe. I bought some "Fresh Mince" from T£$€o. It has a sticker on the cellophane. It says right at the bottom in small print "Previously Frozen".

    How on earth is that fresh mince?

  138. At 09:07 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Bill'n'Ben wrote:


    It looks like I’m in pleading mode again. I have seen your postings and noted your concerns, you echo my feelings entirely. I have currently spent two days trying to put together an answer to an e-mail, in another place, which is lucid, will flow and generally make sense. I am having the greatest difficulty.

    I too have questioned my position on this blog. I have the greatest difficulty stringing two words together that actually make sense. I am truly impressed with your postings and I could never have done anything like (75). You should certainly not consider that you are trapped in the corner on the floor because you are not and never will be. Never worry about asking questions or seeking clarifications. Socrates said,”Wisest is he who knows the limit of his knowledge, because he will continue to question and seek answers”. Now if you’re like me, I’ve been trying to break out of the basement for years.

    I am truly in awe of my fellow froggers, I see intellect and a knowledge base that goes far beyond anything that I could ever dream of, and I feel that any thing I add as acomment would just debase anything that has gone before.

    Carol, do as I do, use it as The University of Blog; and if all else fails, come over here, have cuddle and another pint of Guinness.

    Uncle Brian

  139. At 10:02 PM on 15 Jan 2007, madmary wrote:

    Dear Uncle Brian, I've been feeling a little like Carol too. Can I have a hug too?


  140. At 10:43 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Nimmo (133) if you are going to exclude all 'non-native' vegetables you're going to have a thin time of it since I think most of our veg came from somewhere else at some time, not least the potato.

    I've got lots of winter storing squashes and they grew in the open in my garden here in Derbyshire. OK they didn't originate here, but I'm happy to accept them in the interests of slow food if someone grows them here. As for polytunnels, they are important in extending the growing season and protecting from wind and frost, especially the further north you go.

    But I certainly agree with you about sourcing locally wherever possible - it's mad to buy flavourless strawberries flown here in the middle of winter.

    Ed I. - do hope you're feeling better. I'm not remotely suggesting that planting a few trees makes anyone carbon neutral - definitely rearranging the deck chairs that one.

    However, I do think M&S (who are not just planting trees) should be commended for a large package of measures ranging from sourcing using FairTrade and local; using recycled and recyclable/compostable packaging; using plastic bottle polyester rather than derived from primary oil; investigating using food waste from stores to generate energy by fermentation and so on - a list of 100 to-dos.

    And OK so it may be meant to appeal to their middle-class, already green, clientele, but if it demonstrates what can be done and does their business some good it may encourage others to follow suit.

    Someone has to take a lead in these things unless (and I know we've had this discussion before) we are all just to sit in a depressed heap waiting for the flood waters to rise around us.

    Since what passes for government here seems incapable of following their own rhetoric then I shall be delighted if big business steps into the breach.

  141. At 10:53 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Valery P wrote:

    Me too, Uncle Brian?

  142. At 10:57 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Carol wrote:

    Ed, mssg 127
    Brilliant quote yet again but as to the NB, 'Like a hole in the head' is what immediately sprang to mind on reading that.
    Brian, Mssg 138
    Very kind of you and yes, it has been an invaluable if steep learning curve.
    Am posting quickly during the ads on 'Trial of Tony Blair'. Perhaps Super Nanny should have put him on the naughty step years ago. If I remember rightly, bad behaviour gets you there and one minute for every year of your life. The parent has to explain clearly to the child why he or she has been put there and when time is up, the explanation is given clearly again and the child has to say sorry before being allowed to leave the step. How old is Tony? His consience will probably put him there for the rest of his life and one can almost feel sorry for the man... but then again..
    Am grateful for the encouragement to stay but have unintentionally become more noticable than the questions I was interested in and that really isn't good or comfortable even in the nice way. Really, I am out of my depth and out of place and thats no shame on any one here, on the contrary.
    Have been re-listening to this weeks awesome 'something understood' that is about detatchment. Distress about the news had me engaging unhelpfully and am content to go so fifi can put the oven on. Am happy to provide the very best champaine to go with. Please enjoy. Thanks again, feel better to leave now and go back to the washing up and my contemplative lilly pad.

    P.S. There was a pub in South London called The reluctant Camel. (really). It closed, not sure why as it was a brilliant place. Was going to suggest it as a name but realised that there may be connotations to camel that I am unaware of so thought it best not to. See, something was understood after all but clearly not in enough depth so twould be foolish to hang on and drown. Peace to all and to you ed,
    hodder haffez. (sp?)

  143. At 11:01 PM on 15 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:

    I hope you don't mind me earwigging you amazing lot-I do feel intimidated by some fo the debates I've seen.quite an amazing body of knowledge.

    Anyway.could someone explain the nightmarish reality,or otherwise, of what I heard of the 'DOOMSDAY CLOCK" on PM today.I only caught the end of the item and frankly I cant understand what it was all about .

    I don't think I shall sleep tonight.


  144. At 12:09 AM on 16 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    Nimmo, Admin Annie, Jason et al, yes agree with most of the above!

    How did we get into the state where we demand all these exotic fruit & veg all the year round? Half of them taste like cardboard and we spend huge amounts of money & resources keeping them cool and packaging them into mountains of moulded plastic which end up in landfil.

    It's plainly ridiculous, but how do we change it? Can shopping habits change quickley enough to make any sort of difference?

    Did anyone hear 'costing the earth' the other night? About how t***o, S*******'s & A**a flash their green credentials then squeeze producers so hard that they end up cutting corners? Several producers were repeat offenders for polluting but no action was taken against them by the supermarkets, in fact some were part of 'Green schemes' promoted in stores.

    Nothing will change unless the whole country votes with its' feet, I guess!

    PS Annie I Lurrve parsnips!!!

  145. At 02:05 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    And PR is the only way we might get a few Green MPs. It'll be worth any negative side effects just to get rid of the monopoly of the 'Mainstream' parties.

    Nimmo, thanks for your comments, and I know what you mean, "something just doesn't add up..." Rackham's History is one of those books I can just open at random, and after an hour, I'm still reading, even though I've read everything in it AT LEAST twice. To cast a minor aspersion, I've noticed tractors grow bigger year by year, enabling farmers to go to parts of their land better left undisturbed in winter, leaving huge, eroding ruts. Caring farmers sometimes notice and refrain, but the temptation is strong. I'm a fan of quad bikes, though.

    And my definition of 'local' starts to get extremely stretched at GB, and I've yet to meet many 'middleclass and already green' folk who shop at M&S. Good Luck to M&S, but I'll be watching closely with a hypercritical eye. I'm also a fan of polytunnels, and miss mine terribly.

    Thanks for the various solicitous healing wishes, and I do feel a bit better. Remember to keep drinking to offset the rising sealevels.


  146. At 09:11 AM on 16 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    oo-er, I've been moderated. I posted a mesage here yesterday afternoon and it never made it on screen.

    Dear Moderating Pixie, It wasn't meant personally even though it was addressed to a particular frogger, and I think it would have stimulated some more debate about the usefulness or otherwise of green politics/policies. However I bow to your superior wisdom in not posting it.

  147. At 09:23 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:

    re my 143

    I"ve giggled it (as Ed once told me to do about something) so I now have info I need.
    Wish I hadn't bothered- even more to worry about.

    Think I'll pop over to the Beach-time doesn't matter there-just as long as I'm back by PM, of course!


  148. At 09:26 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:

    re my 143

    I"ve giggled it (as Ed once told me to do about something) so I now have info I need.
    Wish I hadn't bothered- even more to worry about.

    Think I'll pop over to the Beach-time doesn't matter there-just as long as I'm back by PM, of course!


  149. At 09:28 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Molly (143): As far as I understood it, the Doomsday clock is a rather useless arbitary measure of the world's political climate where 12 O'Clock is the end of the world as we know it, and any time before that (i.e. 5 minutes to 12) is a relative indication of the potential impact of various world situations on humanity i.e. when humanity is in danger of being wiped out due an atomic bomb, say, then the clock is far closer to 12 than it is when we are all frolicking about naked in the garden of Eden and our only enemy is a large piece of mango.

    The PM piece yesterday was about the fact that the clock has been bought forward a couple of minutes this year due to terrorism, invasions, climate change and Jade Goody.
    The 'best' year that we have had was 1991 or 1992 due to the end of the cold war, when the clock was 17 minutes to 12.

  150. At 09:39 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:


    Re the history of ready meals. It was a link to the British Frozen Food Federation (frozen having been ahead of chilled). If you did want to know more, google them, and on their website use the search box, keyword 'history', and it should appear as the second item down (BFF publishes 50 years ....).

    Apparently, Clarence Birdseye's 'discovery' happened 90 years ago.

    I have to say that frozen peas taste the best, and there was a Food Programme in recent months which explained why this is the case - picked before they start to get too mature, frozen within x hours of harvest etc., etc. Likewise much frozen fish is superior and more reliable.

    Personally, I love choosing from market stalls in the Mediterranean. When I lived in Madrid, a great delight was going to its huge markets. Being in the centre of the country, you got the biggest selection of all the wonderful fish available in the Med and the Atlantic, together with the fruits of the soil ...... and at very reasonable prices.

    But, for me, it is still Italy which has the edge for its cuisine.

  151. At 09:56 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:


    Thanks for that.

    So I should be O.K.if I can avoid Jade G?
    I think that can be arranged....


  152. At 10:03 AM on 16 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:


    Thanks for that.

    So I should be O.K.if I can avoid Jade G?
    I think that can be arranged....


  153. At 12:41 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Nimmo wrote:

    I probably didn't explain my definition of 'non-native' very well and perhaps should insert instead 'exotic'. Also, I'm not anti poly-tunnels per se, more against them being used to produce the 'perfect' crops that the supermarkets dictate. Personally, I don't mind the occaisonal odd-shaped vegetable, a la Esther Rantzen and 'Thats Life'.

    Ah, Ed, (145) tractors and quad bikes! Tractors (my area of speciality) are getting bigger, but perversely, if used properly, are actually better for the land. The trend in farming at the moment is towards 'minimum tillage' - the land is not ploughed, but stubble is harrowed in and seed drilled straight on top. Larger tractors allow you to pull the machinery to do this in one go, thereby actually causing less soil compaction. If you couple this with a system (only currently available from a big manufacturer of green tractors) where you use a sat nav accurate to 2cms, you drive on the same tram lines year after year, causing far less damage to the land. In fact, the tractor operator doesn't even touch the steering wheel, the tractors steers itself. Sorry, to sound like an advert, but I think it illustrates why more powerful tractors are improving land quality (in the hands of a good farmer).

    Quad bikes are great when used responsibly. However, they do a lot of damage to bye ways and bridle paths. I regularly used to walk my dog along the Ridgeway in Wiltshire, but often found parts impassable on foot as the chalk had been turned into a quagmire http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/talk/byways2.shtml
    Indeed, I saw a horse and rider slip and fall near Marlborough due to the mess.

    Is it ok if I keep reducing sea levels by drinking water that has been brewed or distilled?

  154. At 02:02 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Also, I'm not anti poly-tunnels per se, more against them being used to produce the 'perfect' crops that the supermarkets dictate.

    Well this may change now that you need planning permission for the polytunnels. See? PM allows the audience to be knowledgeable about polytunnels. It's a great show.

  155. At 02:09 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    We're brothers under the skin, but you forgot to mention that much 'minimum tillage' depends upon a hefty dose of herbicide at the same time as the new crop is direct drilled, and the fancy satnav guidance is all very well for land that's relatively flat. A few years ago, the annual silagefest was held nearby, and they have machines with such a wide swathe that I imagine we'll be shaving fields level enough that from the air they'll look like mineral samples with hundreds of reflective planes...It's already possible for a 'farmer' to climb into his giant machine of whatever sort, in his concrete farmyard, go out and do a day's work on the land and return without ever setting foot on the soil or hearing the rooks or ravens, due to airconditioned cab with full stereo entertainment....He could do it all in evening dress and just go in to dinner without even needing to wash his hands.

    As to quad bikes and such, I enjoy the good fortune to occupy a part of the country not under great population pressure, in fact, after the highlands, we're the least densely peopled in Britain, and we're fully the most forested (if exotic conifers count), at 33%. I suggest a quad bike, used sensibly, does less damage than a pair of wellies, if the conditions are wet.

    By all means, keep drinking properly processed water!

  156. At 04:12 PM on 16 Jan 2007, nimmo wrote:

    Not necessarily with the herbicides, Ed.

    MinTil tends to mean many fewer broad leaf weeds, and a subsequent drop in herbicides for them. It also increases beetle and other insect habitats. A lot of it depends on how well you chop and chaff out of the back of the combine harvester.

    But I feel we are straying into a debate that many professional agronomists would be wary of treading in!

  157. At 04:24 PM on 16 Jan 2007, nimmo wrote:

    Not necessarily with the herbicides, Ed.

    MinTil tends to mean many fewer broad leaf weeds, and a subsequent drop in herbicides for them. It also increases beetle and other insect habitats. A lot of it depends on how well you chop and chaff out of the back of the combine harvester.

    But I feel we are straying into a debate that many professional agronomists would be wary of treading in!

  158. At 04:27 PM on 16 Jan 2007, whisky-joe wrote:

    When did you last see a Water vole?

  159. At 05:00 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Not necessarily, but very often in practice by my own observation hereabouts. I'm pleased to note that properly done, herbicide need eventually declines. MinTil also reduces erosion and soil oxidation (carbon release) etc., so I'm far from opposed in principle. On the contrary I've practised it in my own veg patch for some years, assisted by woven black plastic "ground cover". The soil is probably three centuries or more in use and remains in excellent condition.

    Have you seen "The One-straw Revolution"?

    And, there's This on a very promising soil technology derived from the Pre-Columbian cultures. Also from Cornell University, and loads of interesting links here.

    Lehmann at Cornell points out, "systems such as Day's are the only way to make a fuel that is actually carbon negative". and that " a strategy combining biochar with biofuels could ultimately offset 9.5 billion tons of carbon per year-an amount equal to the total current fossil fuel emissions! "
    The upcoming International Agrichar Initiative (IAI) conference to be held at Terrigal, NSW, Australia in 2007.
    If pre-Columbian Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 20% of the Amazon basin it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale.
    Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of EROEI for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.
    We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.
    I feel Terra Preta soil technology is the greatest of Ironies. That is: an invention of pre-Columbian American culture, destroyed by western disease, may well be the savior of industrial society.

    There's no reason at all why agro-nerds can't share a few pints in this pub, as long as we don't come to blows. I also talk to commercial foresters.
    Tuesday January 16, 2007 at 17:02:02 GMT

  160. At 06:51 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    I am hearing poly-tunnels and I am thinking battery parrots. It has been a long day.

  161. At 07:45 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Oh Jason, that is good! To extend the thought further, is the Poly-Tunnel their attempt to escape a la Chicken Run/Great Escape..

    What are the most ominous words you can hear in a war movie? "Let me come with you. I can see. I can see perfectly"

  162. At 08:10 PM on 16 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Is Black the new Green?

    No, not that black (Liffey)!

  163. At 10:54 PM on 16 Jan 2007, madmary wrote:

    whiskey-joe (158) I saw a water vole this morning, actually more than one. I've seen water voles every morning for the past 5 days.


  164. At 10:17 AM on 17 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    OK Mary, one up to you - or even several - on the water vole front. How about seals though? and I saw either a dolphon or a porpoise last Thursday as we were driving off to an appointment. Husband driving too quickly - and thing itself moving too quickly for me to decide which it was.
    Not a terribly meaningful posting for this place I know. Must sneak off now to light fire, husband being away all week in Leeds on business.

  165. At 11:31 AM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Belinda, Molly and me as well:

    I don't know if this will help you feel less out of your depth ... but I'm treating this place as a Reading Room.

    Hop in, brew up (redbush this morning), select the leather sofa du jour, lie back, close eyes and listen to the chat.

    If a thread is interesting, follow it. If too difficult, doze through it!

    These are mostly the same froggers we see on the more lighthearted threads, and mostly they're not showing off ... so, like late-night cultural or political debates on BBC2, you can dip in or not and nobody else need know.

    Plus, it all keeps the other threads free for frolicking! See you on the Beach...


  166. At 11:43 AM on 17 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Fifi (165) Or as someone famous might have said, ''Turn on, tune in, drop off''

  167. At 12:41 PM on 17 Jan 2007, gossipmistress wrote:

    Nimmo (153) Bert Fry will be mortified that he retired before getting Sat Nav to help with the ploughing!

  168. At 12:54 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Couldn't have put it better myself Gillian!

    Molly, what eaties have you brought?


  169. At 01:06 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Fifi (165). You obviously judged the quality of my postings to include my name in there! I find this particularly frustrating as a couple of years ago, I could have been rallying and parrying with the best of them on this thread. However, two years of paralysing depression coupled with a (not coincidental) inability to remember anything I have read or process original ideas, makes me feel like Forrest Gump at a Mensa meeting. So I shall take your advice and sit down with a nice cup of coffee and read better people's thoughts. Then I shall take a nap.

  170. At 01:18 PM on 17 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:

    Right, as Gillian has quoted somebody famous, can I offer the following as a semi-serious point for discussion?

    What well known or indeed not so well known quotation either really inspires you our gets on your goat and why?

    I quite like Oscar Wilde's "Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same."

    And before anybody accuses me of anything - I like it because it is clever! More serious example would be welcome.

  171. At 01:44 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Belinda, I hope you weren't offended. I just thought I detected some of the same deference in your earlier postings that Molly and a few others among us have been feeling, in the face of such learned and thoroughly-referenced comments!

    * hug *

    And I'll add this thought: I find the short and occasionally ironic/facetious/humorous interjections we get here, a breath of fresh air. Like someone telling a really good 'knock knock' joke in the middle of the Moral Maze.

    I'm glad I'm in here, rather than back in January. The lovely sunny morning has suddenly been replaced by drizzle.

    So I'll just pop another log on the fire, and then head back to the kitchen to make that nice chicken risotto. Anyone fancy some?


  172. At 01:53 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:


    I have to say that I have always regarded your messages as interesting,honest and always good to read.From the heart,as Gillian said .

    I'll join you for a coffee later if I may..


  173. At 01:58 PM on 17 Jan 2007, nimmo wrote:

    No, no, mistress! (167) (if I may call you by such a name).

    They don't have anything as messy as agricultural machinery on the Archers! It never fails to amaze me, and I do listen regularly, that there is never the sound of a tractor in the background when David and Ruth are going through their latest upsets. Any dairy farmer I know can't get out of bed without a telehandler - certainly not feed his cows!

  174. At 02:15 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Belinda: Sorry you've had a hard time of it. I went through two extreme episodes of work-related stress which left me bloodied and bowed for a while, and certainly had an impact on cognitive abilities for a while. But I'm pleased to say that, with time and being kind to myself, they have now largely returned.

    Mayhaps the Blog is serving to help you through a bad time? If so, just go with the flow .... A time will come when you wake up and know the worst is past.

    In sisterhood - Big Sis x

  175. At 03:57 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I hear you. Haven't lost the ability to remember stuff, though. Seems to have set in with first election of Shrub and just got deeper....
    A Big Hug!

  176. At 05:41 PM on 17 Jan 2007, marymary wrote:

    Vera Baird QC just said on PM that she pays solicitors by the hour and not by the case. That's just untrue for criminal solicitors. We get paid by the hour for police stations - I did 5 hours yesterday for the grand sum of £260 (which includes costs for overheads etc). For Magistrates Court Cases and easy cases we get paid by the case and not by the hour unless in a few cases they involve a great deal of work.

    And what has she just said about "quality will be improved"? How, we have to take on so much more work to make the same money. The government want more for less. Sorry but her contribution was just misleading.


  177. At 06:05 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    There's a growing sense that FB is putting off some of us froggers ... and that includes me. The excellence of the heavy duty debates that go on here can be a bit (great word for it) daunting to some.

    How do we feel about lightening the tone of the FB by having serious discussions of non-serious subjects?

    By which I mean, really dig into the things about which we would normally just have a quick rant somewhere, then apologise and change the subject.

    For example:
    - why are telephone companies uniformly useless at communication?
    - what is most people's spam email flogging, and can anyone really be making money out of it?
    - does anyone here actually watch Big Brother, and if so why?

    Nothing too scary, but opening up the FB to those who'd like now and then to thrash out those half-formed ideas about everyday life that normally seem too trivial to explore.

    This came out of a recent posting on the Beach, and made me ponder: the blog tries so hard not to be ex-clusive. Yet having got the FB going, that's exactly where it is heading.

    Am I making any sense at all?

    Fifi xxx

  178. At 06:42 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    RJD: I quite like Carpe Dieum ("Sieze the day"). I only heard of it on The Dead Poets Society where it is thoughtfully translated for those of us uninitiated in Latin.

    But then I also like a variety of quotes from The Italian Job, to wit:

    Charlie Croker: You're only supposed to blow the bloody DOORS OFF


    Camp Freddie:Big? Charlie, you couldn't even SPELL big.
    Charlie Croker:B-I-G. Big.


    Charlie Croker:It's alright, lads - I've got a plan. Umm. Umm...

  179. At 08:06 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    I guess I think that the FB was designed to be a bit more serious, with the beach for frivolities, not that either should be limited to either. I think we should retain the stance that trust we are all pals here, I had no idea anyone would be irritated by me & I have just posted about Big Brother which is probably really irritating!

    I completely understand why anyone with depression would feel overwhelmed, & I hope nobody will mind me using that particular word, it refers to how I felt when I was. I really sympathise/empathise with a prolonged episode of depression, it is vile, and an experience I had managed to avoid until recently despite annual shorter bouts.

    BUT please don't anyone feel intimidated, I skip over the essays now I am busy anyway, I also know that (however well referenced) there are some comments I will never agree with, & I find some attempts at pursuasion simply too mentally exhausting to engage with even though my mental health is quite robust at present!

  180. At 08:27 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    Helen I echo your thoughts at (179) above, for various reasons I won't go into here. And I can't imagine anybody being irritated by you!

    Belinda, hang in there luvvey. You are among friends here, whichever thread you happen to be looking at, and it seems quite a few of us have more than a passing knowledge of what you are going through. Including me.

    However, I still think we can lift the tenor of the FB a bit. The original brief was 'somewhere that any serious subject can be discussed, chosen by froggers'.

    Is there any reason that smaller subjects can't be seriously debated too?

    Or are we happy to leave some froggers feeling out of place and inadequate? I'm not! And if we are, then this is not the blog I thought it was.

    Either we allow the FB to accommodate all forms of serious discussion, or we ask for yet another dedicated weekly thread for those feeling disenfranchised on the FB, or we just shrug our shoulders and effectively discriminate against a small but perfectly articulate minority for whom FB isn't really working but who wish it were.

    The blog is what we make it. Eddie's always saying so. So, let's add another area to the FB, where it's OK to talk about soaps or tradesmen or knitting or buses ... seriously.

    I've put some fresh flowers on the mantlepiece, and there are chocolate biscuits on the coffee table.

    Anyone f'coffee??


    Fifi xx

  181. At 08:52 PM on 17 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:

    As you all know I couldn't carry on a serious discussion for more than two sentences and that is why I suggested a small topic for discussion way back at (170) that will allow people to be as serious or as frivolous as they like.

    The last one was frivolous but now for a serious one and I think this came originally from Shaw. "Those that can, do -- those that can't, teach."

    Now, I've known some dodgy teachers in my time (some really dodgy ones) but this generalisation really gets on my nerves.

    Any opinions? Any others?

  182. At 09:20 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    RJD: couldn't agree more! Some of the most inspiring individuals are teachers. They do more than anyone to change the world, because it is often a teacher who nudges a person on to their eventual life path.

    And some of the least inspiring are in industry.

    Like all generalisations (and I'm going to indulge in one here!) '...those who can't, teach' is a load of old tosh.

    I myself was put off teaching at age 6. My primary 2 teacher Miss Mitchell, and then primary 3 Miss Irvine, used to get so stressed in the course of every single day - having started out all fresh and jolly in the morning - that even I could see being paid to draw on a blackboard was probably not a great career path.


  183. At 09:46 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Haven't read all the comments as just off out, but I have to add that I was totally inspired by one of my teachers, and it only takes one.

  184. At 10:00 PM on 17 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:

    Gosh Fifi you must have been a very astute six year old.

    But it works different ways for different people. I remember an old duffer that I suffered for three years teaching History. A more boring and least inspiring man I couldn't describe. I dropped History and concentrated on scientific subjects.

    I met up again with some guys recently that I was at school with and somehow the subject got round to the History teacher who had died a few years before. Both had done 'A' level history, thought he was brilliant teacher, had kept in regular touch with him since they left school and both had been to his funeral.

    Just didn't work for me!

  185. At 10:01 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    "It's been really boring today. Apart from the argument like. Oh and dyeing someone's hair, s'pose that was a highlight..."

    This charmless young woman doesn't even realise she's said something funny!!!!

    I did think that perhaps it is wrong to criticise with such venom as I do Big Brother, without checking that I'm right. So, a quick channel-hop to see.

    The ponderous Geordie voice-over is a caricature of itself: "Some of the housemates are in the bedroom."

    Pause to look via night-vision at man picking nose and woman in full makeup asleep.

    "Some of them are in the kitchen."

    Pause for long shot of 3 tired and bored looking people in white bathrobes, sitting round some uncomfortable looking bistro furniture.

    Glad my licence fee isn't contributing to this!



  186. At 10:25 PM on 17 Jan 2007, Anne P. wrote:

    Fifi (185), I agree one shouldn't condemn what one has not seen, but I do think you risk putting your temperature up again.

    Here's the remote and a copy of the Radio Times - I'm sure there must be something more soothing to send you to sleep. And if not I'll lend you my video of 'Jane Eyre' the one with the wonderful Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke as Jane - the definitive version and just the thing when you're feeling poorly.


  187. At 12:43 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Angela wrote:

    When the U.S. was the sole nuclear power, it dropped two bombs on Japan. When the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. both had the bomb, there was peace in Europe and neither dropped a nuclear bomb anywhere in the world. India and Pakistan quarrelled, killed and raped in Kashmir for twenty years until they both had the bomb. Then there was an outbreak of peace. Perhaps if Iran and Israel both had a nuclear bomb, it would bring peace to the Middle East. Certainly Lebanon might be left alone as Iran and Israel might not like to provoke each other too much.

    What was the summer's invasion of Lebanon all about? Could it be that Israel was hoping to stir Iran into aiding Hezbollah so that it would have an excuse for attacking Iran? Might the U.S. have been on stand-by to assist? Perhaps the reason why the U.S. did not condemn the invasion within the first week (as most other countries did) was because it was trying to give time for Iran to come to the aid of Hezbollah, so providing an excuse for Iran to be attacked. Israel wants to remain the sole nuclear power in the region, but this may not actually be in the best interests of any country in the region. It is silly to think that if Iran had a bomb it would intentionally drop it on Israel because (a) Israel would send one back and (b) nuclear fall-out would be likely to kill many Iranians and other peoples too. Neither is it any more likely to supply the bomb to terrorists than any other nation. Why do some people think (or pretend to think) that it would?

  188. At 12:56 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Oh Big Brother is awful Fifi, I don't know much because the end of the episode with some abuse was at the beginning of something I taped, but it was so gobsmacking I couldn't bring myself to FF through it. It is like a Victorian freak show, whoever goes in there, and I think unethical programming.

  189. At 01:49 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    I had some thoughts along the same lines, and was pleased to note that Iran and Syria were far too clever to rise to the bait. The only substantial reason to fear an Iranian bomb (which they repeatedly deny they are seeking) is the Millennarian tendencies of certain subsects of Islam.
    A search on the return of the Mahdi might inform, but beware the hate and fear mongers on 'our' side...

    Houb Salaam
    18/01/2007 at 01:47:36 GMT

    And, there's this
    Revealed: Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran

    Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons. Two Israeli air force squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using low-yield nuclear "bunker-busters," according to several Israeli military sources. The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb.

  190. At 09:40 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Thanks to everyone for their comments and support about everything! I am trying to hang in, honest! Molly, are you ready for that coffee now?

    And Ed - I actually cried all day when Shrub first got elected. This was before anything had happened. In the light of all his actions, it seems a little cruel to say "Well, I told you so!".

    My inspirational teacher was an English teacher I had rather late on in school. She was lovely and really made me want to learn the language (I still want to...) and she led to my falling in love with Shakespeare.
    My worst teacher was one from Primary school where I went up to her desk to ask questions as she had not explained anything well enough, and, rather like Captain Darling, she pooh-poohed me repeatedly. I was about 7, which is just the age when you want your students to lose whatever enthusiasm they had for learning!

    As for "Those that can, do -- those that can't, teach." , Bill Bryson updated this with "Those that can, teach -- those that can't, teach gym."

  191. At 10:39 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Belinda: Your English teacher sounds like mine - a wonderful woman who also inspired a love of Shakespeare because she taught us how to understand it and to feel it. Brilliant woman!

    Like you, my worst experience was at Primary School. I think there were a number of bullies around in education at that time, and Primary School was where they could flourish, given that parents always gave credence to the teacher over their child in those days, so bullies were never challenged. My own experience was of my class teacher who had 'favourites', and if you were out of favour, you would be subjected to sarcasm and other verbal cruelty. And he used a gym slipper quite regularly to punish boys. This gave me an abiding hatred of corporal punishment, and awareness of the humiliation people in power can inflict upon their 'inferiors'.

    There's lots more I could say about the latter point, but I won't. It would spoil my day to think too much more about it.

  192. At 11:33 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    There's a loose point of language in interviews which you very often hear. What I'm talking about is the assertion that;

    "The majority of the people ....."

    which assertion is then used to prop up the point of view of the person making the statement.

    How do these people know that they have the support of the majority, or even a significant minority, of the people for their claim? And all too often it is allowed to pass unchallenged by the interviewer.

    It bothers me, because it implies that the weight of public opinion, e.g. my opinion perhaps, would be in favour of this or that thing happening.

    I reckon that every time someone makes a statement to this effect they should be required to produce proof to support the assertion, or withdraw it.

    I'm also dismayed by the use of obfuscatory words and phrases to conceal an unpalatable truth. My pet hates are 'Going Forward' when the meaning is 'In the future'. It implies that whatever action is being undertaken is a forward, not backward step. Often the reverse is true. As in 'We see the need for 500 less jobs going forward'. Not much of a forward step if you're one of the 500 who's about to lose their job, is it?

    Another is 'Leverage', as in 'We can leverage our position in...' when they correct word is Exploit. Only being Exploited is A Bad Thing, being Leveraged somehow doesn't seem so bad.

    Any other pet hates on misuse of the English Language out there?


  193. At 11:44 AM on 18 Jan 2007, Gillian wrote:

    What about those teachers who should have and didn't, like my music teacher who taught us about the lives of the Great Composers without ever playing us a single note of their music...She probably never imagined that there would be homes where Classical music was hardly ever heard. I'm only now, four decades later, trying to compensate for her failings.

  194. At 12:32 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

    Not that secret then...

  195. At 01:57 PM on 18 Jan 2007, admin annie wrote:

    Belinda - well yes but a lot depends on how much credence you give to 'several Israeli military sources', who are unnamed and may or may not exist. Anyonce can claim to have sources and no-one can contradict them, and they then have carte blanche to say anything they like.

  196. At 02:58 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    RJD: well, no, I was just a bit observant perhaps.

    As I saw it, teaching was a great job where you could use the blackboard whenever you wanted. The down side was that you had to work with children who were being routinely described by Miss M and Miss I as 'horrible', 'naughty' etc -- which clearly couldn't be a good thing.

    So I decided to be a shopkeeper, because I was fascinated by paper money and they seemed to get to play with that a lot.

    I did also think briefly about marrying Prince Edward but he was too girly looking!

    So in the end I decided to become a nun. Nobody had explained about the expectation that you should be a Catholic first, or that it involved believing in God.

    I think I invented reincarnation about that age too, actually.

    Fifi * cough! *

  197. At 04:08 PM on 18 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:


    Shopkeeper – the lure of the filthy lucre. Yes, I can understand that.

    Nun – charitable works, a life of contemplation, serenity. Yes, that too.

    But your thought in-between – what sort of crisis were you going through?

  198. At 04:34 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Fifi wrote:

    RJD - don't forget I was only little at the time. The shopkeeper's money was just to have fun playing with; I had no concept of lucre whether filthy or sterile!

    Becoming a princess meant having lots of lovely dresses and diamonds and not having to work for a living. Living in a palace also sounded more fun than in an upstairs flat near Edinburgh.

    Unfortunately Andrew was way too old for me, and Edward wasn't quite older-than-me enough to be the object of even a junior's fantasy.

    Being a nun meant doing absolutely nothing all the time, unless you counted praying which at six didn't seem that onerous.

    I expect my Granny dying when I was 5 put the idea of 'coming back as someone else' into my head, during a long (1/2 mile is a long way for little leggies!) walk home from school with nobody to talk to.

    I decided it would be fairer if, supposing you were a girl in this life, you could be a boy next time, and a girl again the time after that.

    Don't worry it wasn't so much a crisis as an only child with plenty of time on her own for thinking!

    There were no pins in Edward-shaped wax dolls when he got hitched to Sophie!

    Fifi ;o)

  199. At 05:27 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Belinda (194)

    Grin and hug!

  200. At 05:51 PM on 18 Jan 2007, RJD wrote:

    Fifi - I'm glad to hear it. I wonder how many did have.

  201. At 06:22 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:


    Are you feeling better?
    Hope so.
    it can't have helped reading my 'rambles' yesterday which seemed to generate lots for you to do.Not my intention-honest!
    Just shout at me 'If the heat's too much
    Get out of the kitchen!'

    Just off to read todays entries.
    See you later.


  202. At 06:38 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Molly wrote:


    Are you feeling better?
    Hope so.
    it can't have helped reading my 'rambles' yesterday which seemed to generate lots for you to do.Not my intention-honest!
    Just shout at me 'If the heat's too much
    Get out of the kitchen!'

    Just off to read todays entries.
    See you later.


    I'd love a Green tea please-just a quick one as I'm aware there are loads to read.


  203. At 10:34 PM on 18 Jan 2007, Helen Sparkles wrote:

    Belinda (190) my inspirational teacher taught me English too! At O'level time so from 14 on, the funny thing is that I had thought she was really scary before I knew her, but she brought Jane Austen to life and found the humour for us which was life changing really. I had loved primary school, but the years that followed bashed all the creativity out of me, so it was such a relief to find joy in language again. It also helped that she told me I read beautifully, when I had just struggled through a chapter of Thomas Hardy out loud in class, I have no idea if I had read well or not. It matters not!

  204. At 02:24 AM on 19 Jan 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:


    Watched the trial of Toady with bitter amusement....

    What a disappointment how bitter the taste of "I told you so!" My Mentor, Wendell Berry says hope is a duty, and I do try, but it's hard.

    Tomorrow's another day.

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