Tuesday, 11 February 2014


The other day I was doing my best to fill in a “Grandma’s Memories Book” for my grand-daughter, Emma.   The question was if you were an animal, name three animals you would be.   My significant other, Gerald, called out, “a fish”.   A fish said I.   You must be joking.   All day in the water.   “A parrot?”  he shouted.   What?   In a cage all day.   No, I shall say “A fox” to make sure I can be on the watch for chancers and the like.   Then, second I would say a racehorse to run in the field all day with my hair flying.   And maybe perhaps for a third choice I would be a nice spaniel-type dog so that folk would pat me and be nice to me all the time.   Quite an interesting exercise.

I was at a general meeting of the University of the Third Age yesterday, here in Inverness.   Gerald and I are members of it and attend also one of the sub-groups, the Current Affairs Discussion Group.  At this meeting there was a debate about economic models.   The proposal was that there is an alternative to Neoliberalism Capitalism, that is the system currently that of the United Kingdom, and I suppose of America and parts of Europe.    The alternative being suggested by our group’s leader was that of the Common Weal.   This is the economic system favoured by the Scandinavian countries.  There is much higher taxation on individuals but generous welfare payments for those not working, and exceedingly good health service provisions and good social and public services - also higher average incomes and less inequality.   Denmark is said to be the happiest country in the world, using this economic system.    The citizens of this small country are said to be generally happy and contented with their lot.

The man who spoke opposing the motion was against this “socialist” type system.   He had been a small businessman before retiring and he described how he had treated his workers well, how he looked after his customers, and made a profit.   He went on to say he felt he did good for the community by extending his business and creating jobs for other people etc.   He believed in the system pertaining today, that is capitalism subject to market forces.

At question time, I wished to highlight the bad side of unchecked “High Capitalism” as seen when global companies transfer their businesses to places like India and the Far East.   Places where poor people may just come from rural backgrounds and are willing to work long hours for very low wages.   Thus the people in Europe lose their jobs, being only pawns to the seekers of profit.   For my sins, I cited the programme, Countryfile, on BBC l on Sunday evening where we saw a prize Charolais Bull auctioned in Scotland.   It was sold to an American bidder for the highest price ever of 100,000 guineas, that is £105,000.   The buyers don’t even want to have this magnificent bull in the USA.   It has to stay in UK and be looked after by the Farm Manager who brought it up.   In the first 36 hours after purchase, 2000 straws of semen from that bull had been sold for artificial insemination at £l00 each, and therefore netting £200,000 for the owners.   Now that is also High Capitalism.   Poor Bull!   He hasn’t even got a girlfriend. 

Anyway, the speaker from our group, Andrew, won the motion by a landslide, the majority seeing the Common Weal ideas as a potential alternative to “neoliberalism”.

The television these days is pretty gruelling – so many pictures of flooding in the South of England.   Those poor people in Somerset on the low-lying land, and now some of those along the River Thames and the Severn.   The environment agency staff are doing all the backbreaking work they can, but it is hard for the householders to bear to see their precious goods being steadily covered by the muddy floodwater.   The shouts of blame between the government and the environment agency can be heard on all sides.   We know the rain has been unprecedented, but everyone says that more should have been done, and should have been done earlier.

Being a contributor to Friends of the Earth for, I’m sure, at least forty years now, and receiving their publication regularly, I have to confess, I pay my small contribution by Direct Debit each month, and have rarely made an effort to open their magazine, being, I say, always too busy.   However, I have had a good look at it this time, and have been intrigued by the clarity of the publication, and the interesting problems of our planet that they deal with.

Here are a few:
1.      They have campaigned hard about the plight of bees, and can congratulate themselves for persuading the UK government to commit to a National Pollinator Bee Strategy.
2.      In Northern Ireland, Friends of the Earth have succeeded in halting a free-for-all building on green-belt land.
3.      With other groups, Friends of the Earth have forced the government to say it is committed to cleaning up our energy supply.
4.      Successfully challenged the Welsh Govt. and stopped them from building over protected landscapes.
5.      As tin is used in nearly all the world’s leading smart-phones, using tin from an  Indonesian island called Bangka, Friends of the Earth have committed the involved companies to address the environmental destruction, and human misery this tin-mining is causing.   The magazine is called “Earth Matters”    www.foe.co.uk

“Call the Midwife” was a bit of a tearjerker this week on BBC1 TV.   Our favourite midwife’s lovely boyfriend had a fall.   It was a bad accident and he had to have his foot amputated.   Poor young girl, she was devastated as they had fallen out just before this.   And then he died suddenly while being cared for.   The nuns in charge of the midwifrie clinic persuaded  her to take a holiday in a convent retreat.   As she was getting into the taxi with sad face, the older nun came running out crying, the nun who has kind of lost the place and become a bit queer.   She was reciting an old poem to the grieving midwife, a poem I used to love.   I think it’s a favourite of many people.   It’s by Leigh Hunt.

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.

Say I’m weary; say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me.
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.

For some reason this little poem added to the scene of sadness.  It brought the tears to my eyes.

And now 2 jokes  -  Jewish jokes!

A man sat before Dr. Gluckstein, the aged but renowned urinary-disorders specialist.;
“My trouble,” complained the man, “is that I can’t pee!"
“How old are you ?” asked Dr. Gluckstein!
“I’m ninety-three!”
“It’s all right,” said the famous urologist.  “You peed enough!”

Second joke:
“Is your nephew, Irving a good doctor?”
“Good?  He’s such a lovely boy, last year I needed an operation and I couldn’t afford it.  So he touched up the X-rays!”


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