Monday, December 31, 2007

Elf n' Safety at the Supermarket

We called in to a local branch of Asda/Wallmart yesterday to get some school clothes for our nine year old. Not used to Asda's sizes (stores don't have standardised age-height sizes), I asked if he could try them on. The reply? "I'm afraid the changing room is closed for health and safety reasons".

A nine year old trying on a pair of trousers, accompanied by a parent: what "health and safety" issues could possible be engaged in that?

Result? We got home only to find the trousers don't fit - so guess where I'll be spending part of New Year's Eve.

Happy New Year - thanks Asda.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Who's been commenting on your Blog?

The High Court has recently ordered the publisher of a football website to reveal the identity of those posting comments on the site. Neil Hargreaves runs the site, which is dedicated to those following the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday FC. After a run of poor results, derogatory comments about players and management starting appearing on Mr Hargreave's site.

Although most bloggers and many of those who comment on blog sites will have no idea of the extent of their liability for the material they post, this case establishes that their right to privacy may not be an overriding consideration. While most websites display warning about defamatory or abusive material, the suspension of an account for breaching the rule would not generally be susceptible to challenge on freedom of expression grounds.

However, before relying on the decision in Sheffield Wednesday v Hargreaves claimants seeking what is known as a Norwich Pharmacal order will need to show that the comments are really defamatory, not merely trivial or mildly abusive.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Perils of the Underground Freelance

London Underground have dispensed with the services of Emma Clarke, the person who's been telling us to "mind the gap" since 1999 because the management didn't like some things she said about her feelings on hearing her own voice when she travelled on the Tube.

Freelances not allowed freedom of expression? Just for the record, all my clients are truly wonderful and I don't have anything bad to say about them - only those that don't pay on time...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Grey Seal Pups at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

Spent a couple of hours at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust site at Donna Nook yesterday. 611 pups have been born already, the season ends in mid-December. The photos and videos have a very high cuteness factor - you have been warned.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Autumn Colours on Ullswater

The Steamer Raven on Ullswater on a glorious Autumn day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Invisible hands on £20 notes

So, we've now got Adam Smith on the back of the £20 note - apparently, he believed economics was guided by an "invisible hand" and that we're only doing it for ourselves.

No wonder we're in such a mess: do what the hell you like, an invisible hand will get you out of the cart - just what we need to underpin the national currency.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Why are we Ofsteding 3 year olds?

News that Ofsted inspectors claim to have found "weaknesses in the first years of learning" should send a shudder down the spine of every parent's spine. They are talking about three-year-olds placed with childminders and in nurseries. - with literacy and calculation "particular problems".

The obsession with results and league tables has got to have gone too far. Time to get the inspectors out of the sandpit?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scarborough - the Corner Cafe is no more

As the kids are on half-term and no work was demanding my immediate attention, we went to Scarborough for the day yesterday. It just so happens, that we made it to North Bay two days after demolition started on the Corner Cafe.

For the uninitiated - or perhaps those who only know the name from the Simon and Garfunkle song "Scarborough Fair" - Scarborough is a famous holiday resort in North Yorkshire, and the Corner Cafe has dominated the town's North Bay for the best part of a century.

No more, the Cafe closed last year and the site is being redeveloped into a leisure and accommodation complex. Perhaps this will rejuvenate the area, as the local Council hopes, but a little bit of Yorkshire history is now being turned into rubble behind the contractors hoardings.

Thoughtfully, they've left a couple of viewing panels and while the lads played on the beach, I joined a long procession of people who went to pay their last respects. After all, generations of us had our first Knickbocker Glory there or bought jugs of tea to drink on the sand from paper cups. It was a good day, just a bit different without the old Corner Cafe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Disadvantages of homeworking

After 7 years I've finally found a downside to the freelance life. I'm lucky, good clients make sure I don't have too many quiet days and they usually pay early. The problem comes courtesty of my next door neighbour, ironically enough a fellow homeworker.

For the past month he's been taking out a chimney breast which is built into the shared wall between the two houses. And today - oh, joy of joys - he's secured the services of a couple of builders to get rid of the old hearth and brick up the wall.

I've had power tools, hammering; the walls and windows have shaken. I lost patience at lunchtime and went out for something to eat. Then a strange thing happened. I was in the cafe of my local supermarket (Tesco - I know, they're everywhere). Queueing at the food counter, I was next to group of 6 elderly men, some with obvious learning difficulties, and they're carer. To a man, they all ordered sausages, chips and baked beans and went to eat together. I looked across a couple of times while I ate and they were sitting together, enjoying the food and each other's company, just talking quietly, with an occasional smile or friendly gesture.

A small thing, but one that took the heat out of my fraught day. I was glad to share my lunchtime with them. Hope they have many more lunches out on the town together.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hospital Reading

I've just spent a couple of days in hospital; nothing serious, more embarassing for men of a certain age. To while away the hours, I took Arthur & George by Julian Barnes and found it to be an absolutely brilliant book. Barnes has taken the stories of two men, Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji - the former the famous writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes, the latter, a little known midlands solicitor - and created a work that examines spirituality, identity, nationality and race. Although concerned with events that occurred between 1893 and 1906, the work is intensely relevant for our own times when issues such as materialism and multiculturialism mean that Barnes' themes are never far from the headlines. Read this book as soon as you possibly can.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Size Zero at Asda

News that Asda intends to stock "size zero" in its George range has got the press in a lather. Looking at the shoppers in our local Asda, can't say there's going to be much take-up - still hooked on convenience and fast food to make much dent on the UK size 4s.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wrong time and place for an argument

The combined efforts of the Roman Catholic and Anglican hierarchies in trying to force an opt out for Catholic adoption agencies in the Equality Bill risks further isolating the Church.

Gay adoption is always an emotive issue that plays well in the fevered imagination of conservative op-ed writers - yet the question is, how many gay couples would decide to go to a Catholic agency in the first place.

Wouldn't the Archbishops of Westminster, Canterbury and York have done better keeping their powder dry for any issue that really does affect people - such as globalisation, debt, gambling or the Iraq war debacle?

Fear, loathing and the Daily Mail

So now we know why Paul Dacre doesn't get out much on his own. His Hugh Cudlipp lecture at London's College of Communications told us that the BBC is an Orwellian institution full of "cultural Marxists" and that the Tory Party is no longer Conservative.

Good to see he's still allowed to hold down a job at the Mail...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Worrying Events in Far-away Places

The assassination of an Armenian journalist in Istanbul is probably low down on most people's list of things to worry about, but the killing of Hrant Dink comes at a very difficult time for Turkey and it's aspirations to join the European Union.

Dink was outspoken about the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the legally enforced silence on reporting it that still pervades Turkish society. Indeed, Dink himself had been prosecuted under the notorious Art.301 of the Turkish Legal Code, which makes it an offence to insult Turkishness, for his articles on the subject.

It's good to see Turkish politicians lining up to condemn the killing, but the question should surely be, wouldn't it be better to ensure free speech and open discussion of this most contentious of subjects ahead of any further talks on Turkey's EU accession?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Save us from the recruitment consultants

A report out from a consultancy outfit called Hudson UK reckons 77% of "senior executives" (undefined, naturally) want to get rid of a set quota of employees every year - and the only reason they don't is that they're wary of creating a climate of fear (in much the same way that the Roman Army was wary of overusing decimatio, presumably).

Apart from generating froth and press column inches, Hudson, whose website espouses such gems as "Our innovative solutions address both hiring strategies and organisational effectiveness – people and performance", don't seem to have considered the effect such ridiculuous statements would have on productivity (having got rid, you still need some people to actually do the work guys!) and the astronomical increase in recruitment costs this policy would create. But that's just the point, isn't it? Half baked idea, spurious statistics equal more business for the useless consultants!

Sack the workers - no: just get rid of the consultants.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Soldier's girlfriend doesn't want her photo taken

Rupert Murdoch's decision to call off the papparazzi is not the ray of light it first appears.

The threat of legal action hasn't worked before - indeed it's just made media barons squeal louder about press freedom and the public "right to know". But things are different now. Why? Well, it's all down to another royal, Princess Caroline von Hannover, and her long-running battle with German snappers. Caroline, daughter of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, was long regarded as prime media property, but she finally had enough of being dogged by the papparazzi whenever she left home. The ECHR agreed that her right to privacy (under Art.8 of the Human Rights Convention) took precedence over the media's right to freedom of expression under Art.10.

Which all means that if Rupe hadn't called off the snappers, the Palace would probably have succeeded in getting an injunction against News International.

One final thought: why did we have to endure journos of the "royal correspondent" variety chasing papps pursuing Miss M down the street to bring us a story on media intrusion? Old Rupe must be laughing all the way to the bank...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blue Skies and the Third Way into the sunset.

So, it looks like Tony Blair is heading for the charitable foundation lecture circuit haven so beloved of former US presidents. Well, having spent his time in office cultivating a presidential style at home, I suppose it's only logical that he wants to be like George and Bill when he leaves No.10. Last of the Summer Whine?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fishing gear at St Abbs

Because it's January and because it cheers me up, and because I don't really need a reason to publish so I'm going to anyway...