Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What if the aliens don't like us?

They won't. They'll hate us. We're the neighbours who out-breed our flat, trash the place, steal, fight & lie. There goes the universe.

Monday, January 25, 2010

King of the Jews AND King of the Lizards?

This morning it was raining heavily when the children and I strode out in search of adventure. The RHS gardens at Wisley weren't an option, nor was a walk along the Thames. Leaving Mother Nature to her tantrum, we headed for the solace of the library. Always warm and dry, here we could lose ourselves for an hour in the company of old friends; the little mole with poo on his head; The Gruffalo (and his errant child); feline fiends Scarface Claw and Slinky Malinky; role model Peter Rabbit and others. Except we couldn't, because the library is closed on Mondays.

Standing in the rain with two wet and increasingly frustrated children, I experienced divine intervention of sorts. The church next to the library had a sign outside saying 'Open - Visitors Welcome'. We made a beeline for the big oak doors and went inside. A very welcoming curate (I suspect we were his only visitors) encouraged us to explore, and so we did. Both children had recently been introduced to the Nativity story at nursery, and were full of questions. Is this Jesus's house? Will he mind us being here? Is he dead? Where is he? Has he gone to Waitrose? Will he carry my hat?

After a very enjoyable 45mins, it was time to head home for some lunch. "Daddy, what does Jesus look like?" H asked earnestly, as we were leaving. Thinking on my feet I told him that Jesus could look like many things. A flower in spring, a friend when you need help, a glass of water when you're thirsty and so on.

"I think he looks like a Tyrannosaurus rex," H declared, as he took his sister's hand and marched off homeward bound.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sound judgement from judges please.

To jail the Hussain brothers, whose beating meted out to burglar Walid Salem left him with permanent brain damage, is money well spent how? These men have no reported previous criminal convictions. One is the chairman of the Asian Business Council. They do not appear to be a menace to society, unlike the intruder who held their family at knifepoint and then suffered a brutal beating as a consequence.

What the Hussain brothers did was wrong. Instant violent punishment inflicted by victims is a path down which no sane society would tread. But the law already makes provisions to punish them for their actions. No need for additional legislation. Convictions for assault with suspended sentences, surely?

The Hussain's prison sentences serve to cement the impression that one is more likely to receive custodial punishment at the hands of the judiciary for choosing to take (and then own up to) a spur-of-the-moment stance against crime, than for choosing to make a living from it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I told you so

I try to avoid saying "I told you so" because we're all capable of so much with hindsight, but sometimes there is nothing else to say. Like today, when I read the article on alcohol abuse in The Times. It suggests that government plans to curb drinks promotions that encourage binge drinking are an admission of failure. A monumental failure, on the part of 24-hour drinking reforms and Hazel Blears, to foster a 'continental café-bar culture'. What 24-hour drinking seems to have catalysed instead is unprecedented drink related violence and crime, soaring NHS costs to the public purse, and further societal and family breakdown.

To change existing behaviours (assuming that is what the move towards a 'continental café-bar culture' was about) and to encourage restraint, self respect and personal accountability, you have to understand what drives the current set of behaviours. What do young people aspire towards today? Who are their role models? What makes them proud to be British? Who do they look up to amongst their peer group and elders in the community? How do they see the relationship between 'owning stuff' and hard graft? What do they do to support the vulnerable and those less fortunate than themselves? It's the health of these values (and others) that determines the success or otherwise of initiatives aimed to bring about behavioural change.

I have neither quantitative nor qualitative answers to these questions. But go and ask a few kids on street corners (if you dare) and you'll very quickly get a feel for where they choose to draw their horizons. Usually at the foot of the bed. Having understood the despair, it gets easier to understand why we have such high rates of bullying and violent crime; STDs and unwanted pregnancy; mental illness; alcohol abuse and drug misuse. Don't think that these are the problems of the lower socio-economic groups. They are rife throughout our society.

Now look at the same set of values in continental Europe, where access to alcohol is, and has always been, more relaxed. Almost without exception they are in better health, as evidenced through the way families are more strongly bonded; higher levels of national pride in learning, culture, language and industry; the availability of apprenticeships and in some cases national service (military or otherwise); lower levels of violent crime, STDs and unwanted pregnancies, mental illness, drug and alcohol misuse etc.

So, it would appear that giving a despairing society, gripped by widespread existential crisis, the opportunity to drink 24/7 was not the smartest way to change behaviour and broaden horizons. Well I could have told you that. Self control and restraint are not top of the agenda when societal values that encourage them are at an all time low. But our politicians aren't stupid are they? So maybe the drinks industry, a powerful lobby, provided the real impetus behind the push towards a "continental café-bar culture"? Either explanation is deplorable - we're stupid or we were pushed into it for financial gain. Take your pick.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Last night my darling wife told me I was profound, which I hesitantly took as a compliment; I've been hurt before. Turns out I should have trusted my instinct. I didn't hear the '-ly deaf' tagged on the end of her kind words. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Duty calls. As does Coutts & Co.

£46m Lotto winner's son joins Royal Marines in Afghanistan. "He chose to stay.. and deserves great credit," said a colleague. Bank agrees.

Monday, January 04, 2010

When your hero's actions come home to roost

"If Fry can turn it off to write a book surely you can find time between treats [sic] to wash?" muttered my wife while reading the paper. Further illustration of B's love affair with social networking.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Party = costume

'Daddy's gone to a party' said Granny to my son. 'Will he be wearing a spiderman outfit?'

Dr Why?

"I can be hip, I know what you kids watched on TV tonight" she said before dancing round the room singing "Let's do the Time Lord again.."

More problems to solve (is why)

QI told us man gets 3% more intelligent every 10yrs. This confirmed my wife's suspicion that she married a time travelling Neanderthal