Category Archives: Others

Lord Tebbit and “foreigners”


tebbit-bmp

I was sad to read the comments in Pride’s Purge and would like to reply.

I don’t know how familiar Tom Pride is with the circumstances of Lord and Lady Tebbit. Needless to say the 24/7 care provided by three carers is necessary for her, and given that board and lodging is included, the minimum wage does not seem to be an inappropriate level of pay. That these carers may be from Eastern Europe must come as no surprise, given the reluctance of Brits to join the caring and catering professions.

In his opening remarks yesterday, Lord Tebbit made clear that he has close relatives living abroad and non-UK in-laws living in the UK. His use of the word ‘foreigners’ was surely to emphasise the bias of the debate in favour of non-UK workers here over the needs of UK workers abroad. He may also have been pandering to news editors with a tongue-in-cheek taunt, but I see no “hypocrisy” here.

The testimony of Marketa sounds like that of a rather bitter and aggrieved employee. Obviously I do not know her exact circumstances, but I cannot see anything wrong in her food being bought from Tesco, not being allowed alcohol when dining with the Tebbits, or having to address them as Lord & Lady. What employee is allowed alcohol when at work, and what hotel employee would address anyone by his/her first name?

With two exceptions, the comments beneath Pride’s Purge generally show anti-Conservative (or anti-Thatcher) feelings, and little sympathy with what it is like to be paralysed since 1984, to forego a career in front-line politics in order to take responsibility for one’s spouse in those circumstances, and to continue to do so well into one’s 80s. I note the absence of criticism of the IRA.

Incidentally, my OED defines foreigner as one who comes from a foreign country. Anyone would think he had said “aliens”!

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Playing the piano with Parkinson’s


I have played the piano for the past 60 years, but was probably at my best when I was 15 and passed the ABRSM grade VII exam with merit. I then switched to the organ, and although I achieved grade VIII merit playing both the organ and French horn, I did not apply myself sufficiently to progress any further with the piano.

One of the Grade VI set pieces for 2015/16 is the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C, K545, which I learned when I was 13 or 14 – possibly for my own Grade VI exam. It is well known as one of Mozart’s easier compositions, at least from the perspective of technique. For some reason or other I was persuaded (or wanted) to perform the sonata at one of my school concerts. I remember with some pain the hash I made of it, largely through ‘nerves’, which have dogged my public performances ever since.

I was diagnosed with PD in 2007, but it wasn’t for some years that I realised my piano playing was worse during ‘off time’, alongside my other symptoms. Until 2014 I regularly played the piano for charity, in the form of ‘Pianathons’ lasting an hour – with medication carefully timed for the performance to coincide with my ‘on time’. Since then a combination of nerves and the progression of my condition have prevented my continuing to perform in public, although I do try to play regularly at home now I am retired and can time my medication accordingly.

It is interesting (and perhaps encouraging for other musicians newly diagnosed with PD) to find myself  just about able to play that same Mozart sonata, as the following recording of bars 1-28 show. The performance is spoilt by being created simply on a digital voice recorder – and of course my several mistakes! To hear it click on http://chirb.it/831OrC and press the top right button to start. I apologise for any adverts, from which I do not benefit!

at-piano-copy

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Still browned off…and now a double-whammy!


bin lid

 

So it’s happening: brown bins will no longer automatically be emptied nor compostable waste collected by St Edmundsbury borough council. Instead a new service will be available at an annual charge of £40, with provision for future increases up to £50. (It will be interesting to see how the new scheme will be policed – watch out for bin men/ladies with lists?)

I found it fairly simple to sign up to this service, although some will baulk at the 70p admin charge for credit card payment – perhaps already dropped, as it was not taken in my case. It’s harder completely to withdraw from it, as brown bins currently being used will not be collected by the council. (This led one wag to seek £40 compensation for looking after what is, after all, council property.)

My own complaint is about the substantial reduction in the way brown bins may now be used. It will no longer be permissible to include kitchen waste, food, plate scrapings, tea bags, coffee grounds, cardboard, newspaper or shredded paper. For most people this will surely be a serious drawback to the service.

In reply to my tweets, the council claims that ‘changes to legislation over how food waste is treated’ prevent kitchen waste being included, even ‘fruit peelings’. It also says that what has previously been acceptable waste is not suitable for the ‘wind row’ type of composting that will process the contents of our brown bins in future. No doubt there is a good reason for this, but it does seem unfortunate that a contractor who would accept the existing brown bin waste could not again be engaged, especially now that the service is no longer ‘free’.

I can understand that animal waste and real kitchen waste might be treated differently from garden waste; indeed the former has only been accepted in recent years. But I find it hard to believe that whilst fruit and vegetables ‘from your garden’ can be put in the bin, those bits of it that are peeled before consumption (e.g. from apples, bananas, oranges) are apparently banned.

I tweeted that I paid my £40 ‘with a heavy heart’. It would have been a lot lighter if I were paying for the full existing service rather than a markedly inferior one. Something of a double-whammy.

 

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Browned off?


I am taking the unusual step of adding to this rarely used site, since Twitter’s 140 characters have defeated me. It’s the first time I have put ink to paper (so to speak) since ceasing to be a St Edmundsbury (SEBC) borough councillor, and so I do so with some caution.

It was via a Bury Free Press tweet that I learned of the council’s plans to consider an annual charge for emptying brown bins. My immediate reaction was mild outrage: after about 12 years of fortnightly collections, the notion of paying £35-50 per year just seemed a retrograde step. (NB It’s only the lower limit that has been widely quoted, since SEBC’s own release said “around £35” – getting worried?). I am lucky that I can afford to pay this, so the issue for me becomes one of principle. However, some would find the cost a burden, and those same people might well not have access to their local waste recycling centre.

I have read the council’s cabinet paper, explaining why the service will cost the two West Suffolk councils £500,000 a year, because of various changes in funding and other factors. To be honest, as a non-waste expert I found it somewhat esoteric, but its conclusions were clear: maintain a free service but find the cost elsewhere; scrap the service; or make a charge. It recommends the latter, along with a ban on the inclusion of non-meat food waste in brown bins.

I don’t think this ‘decision’ necessarily makes sense given some of the report’s own findings. It warns that there is a “high risk”, both of organic waste being put in black bins (which would add to costs) and of the charge being considered “inequitable” and branded a “stealth tax”. Furthermore, it accepts that a free service “maximises” composting and minimises disposal of garden waste.

But there are other arguments or concerns. How exactly will the service be organised and administered when collections are no longer universal – won’t this be very complex? What if only a minority take up the charged service; and how many households have to subscribe for it to remain at the estimated level? Surely if only a small minority pay, then it could cost the council even more, which would have to be absorbed in an increased charge, further savings or complete disbandment of the service.

Since tweeting about this issue it has been pointed out to me that charging may encourage back garden bonfires, with all the pollution that these can cause.  An increase in fly-tipping has also been cited as a possible consequence of this policy.

The report mentions ways in which the charge can be mitigated, notably by composting. That may be viable in a large garden, but not in a modest one like mine – which nevertheless produces enough for the brown bin to be emptied on almost every collection. Sharing a bin with neighbours has also been suggested. I like my neighbours and am lucky to have them, but I want to keep it that way please!

I have on Twitter suggested that the ward locality budget for each SEBC councillor would in total meet nearly half of SEBC’s share of the estimated cost. (That scheme only started last year, and in my opinion does not always amount to money well spent nor aimed at a wide enough section of the borough’s population.) This is only one example of possible funding. Both West Suffolk councils have made very effective savings year on year, but do not seem keen on absorbing this particular amount. Certainly there are no savings options outlined in the report.

Does any of this matter? I think it does, if only because most voters will not digest nor accept the reasons why the councils face this situation, and may therefore perceive a charge for, or withdrawal of, brown bins wholly negatively. It is possible that this resentment may even surface at the 2019 elections, after the council tax bill that arrives in April includes an extra £50. Charging could also be seen as a green light for introducing charges for other services that have previously been subsidised – blue bins next?

I am not in principle against charging for what only some residents use (far from it), but the use of the brown bin service must rank among the most used of all council services other than the black and blue ones. It is part of the household waste collection service, something that all council tax payers benefit from – some would say it’s the only thing!

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Addenbrooke’s Hospital


Yesterday My wife had an out-patient appointment for 11.45. She was seen two hours later. During our wait in a crowded room, with children getting distressed, we pondered on the reason for the delay. Perhaps one of the doctors had yet to arrive, or another was off sick at short notice?

Only when we went in to see the consultant (who was equally frustrated by the situation) did we find out from her that the reason for the problem was the new IT system. It involves the consultant having to input quite sophisticated notes at the end of the appointment – instead of e.g. using a voice recorder for a few minutes and that being typed up by a secretary later.

This new ‘paperless’ treatment of information may in itself create a better record, but it  doubles the time of a consultation. Yet patients are still being given appointments as if the former time-scale applied. Hence a growing backlog, frayed tempers and lunch for the long-suffering staff at about tea-time!

This can’t go on…

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