Archive for November, 2012

Freedom of the press

November 30, 2012

Yesterday was good day for press barons and vested interests. Bad day for Dowlers & McCanns. Proud day for David Cameron. — Hugh Grant

It would seem David Cameron’s address is no longer Number 10 Downing Street: it’s now Flat 2, Rupert Murdoch’s arse. — Stephen Fry

“If it’s not bonkers I’ll do it” – David Cameron. It wasn’t and he didn’t. — Hugh Grant

Clearly the public want it, there’s been a judicial review and I think the recommendations should be implemented. There’s no good reason why they shouldn’t be. — Gerry McCann

With a group of (non celeb) victims including Hillsborough families listening to PM. Buzzword is betrayal. — Hugh Grant

Mr. Cameron said that he would implement sensible recommendations: it is time for him to honour that commitment and join the other political leaders by supporting the Leveson recommendations in their entirety. — J K Rowling

This is not about press freedom. The UK press, has been owned by a few rich individuals who pursue a highly ideological agenda. — Jemima Khan

If state regulation of press undermines UK work on international freedom of speech, how does UK arms sales to Saudi advance the cause? — Mark Thomas

We all want freedom of the press, well ok not all, maybe not Vladimir Putin who has a problem with free speech and Pussy Riot, but in general we all want a free press.

We want a press that is free of government shackles, free to hold the powerful to account, to shine a light into dark corners and expose dirty deals, to carry out investigative reporting that shows neither fear nor favour.

We occasionally get that and it is what the press trots out if there is ever a hint that their excesses may be curbed.

But it is not what we get. We get endless drivel about moronic TV programmes, the lives of boring celebrities, we have the press poking their unwanted noses into the lives of other people whether rich and famous or ordinary folk, poking their noses in and ruining people’s lives.

The myth of a free press is just that, a myth. We do not have a free press. How can a press be free when it is owned by people like Murdoch who use it to further their own agenda?

Noam Chomsky has long argued we do not have a free press. We have a press that is part of and controlled by corporate big business. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.

A press can never be free when it is owned by corporate Big Business. A press can never be free when it is dependent on advertising from vested interests.

An example of the corporate owned and controlled press in overdrive was the reporting of Occupy camped outside St Paul’s last year. It bore no resemblance to what was taking place, it was pure fantasy laced with malice.

What masquerades as a free press is propaganda intertwined with prurient drivel.

It is not only the national press that is bad, so too is the local press.

Is it news when a local paper regurgitates a press release from a developer as news? Is it news when a local paper without question reports what they are told by a local council?

We have a race to the bottom as media outlets try to retain their dwindling circulation.

Anyone who does not appreciate just how bad is our press, look at the press in Europe.

It has been proposed that an independent body be formed to regulate the press. The press say they are happy with this, though if you look closer, you will find they have little choice, and different elements of the press have a different view of what an independent regulator should look like and do.

What they are not happy with is that the independent regulator is enshrined in law. Why? They can only not be happy, if they have no intention of complying. Having conceded the need for an independent regulator, all that statute does is ensures it has teeth.

David Cameron said he would accept the findings of Lord Justice Levenson unless they were bonkers. He has now reneged on that promise. Why, could it be that as was shown during the inquiry he is still in the pocket of Murdoch?

When push comes to shove, David Cameron always shows his true colours, on the side of his paymasters.

It is a bit rich coming from Cameron that he is in favour of freedom. This is the man who only last week wanted to restrict the right to file a Judicial Review to right wrongs.

Lord Levenson did not though address a few obvious issues.

We have a corrupt press that was not prosecuted by corrupt police because they were in the pay of the press, and corrupt politicians who failed to deal with either the press or the police because they were in the pocket of of the press.

Ed Miliband has for once talked sense. We must carry out in full the recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson, if not, we will back here again in a decade.

Please sign the petition calling for implementation of Levenson in full (and that includes limiting the amount of media control of any one individual or corporation). Please pass on.

Lunch at the Guildford Instutute

November 30, 2012
chickpea bake with salad

chickpea bake with salad

Last week, little food left, and what I had, the only thing that was left, was not very good.

Today, a long queue, but plenty of food left, though some of the choices had already gone.

Chickpea bake with three salads.

For dessert a crumble with cream, washed down with a pot of tea.

All were excellent.

First hard frost of the winter

November 30, 2012
frosty garden

frosty garden

Last day of November, this morning saw the first hard frost of the winter.

By late morning, the sun was melting away the frost, but in the shade, still hard with frost.

Women Bishops

November 29, 2012

Last week we saw General Synod of the Church of England lose all credibility when it voted to reject women bishops, and with this vote, the Church of England lost all credibility.

Last week I was at a concert of the Wimbledon Music Festival. The buzz around me was not of the music, but of the decision to reject women bishops.

A compromise put forward had been flying bishops who cater for the needs of those who cannot accept women bishops. We do not have white bishops to cater for the needs of racists, so why the offer of male bishops to cater for bigots?

Talking to a friend earlier this week at Eden People at The Keystone, a friend who attends a church that leans very strongly towards the Catholic Church, she said there was no support for the decision taken. She added the problem was, people who enjoyed sitting on committees, felt important being on General Synod, and yet were seen in church maybe once a year, and so were not carrying forward the views of the church that one assumes they were there to represent.

Should we be surprised. General Synod has been a laughing stock for years, divorced from reality, debating issue like sexuality and women bishops, when the rest of the world moved on years ago.

Why are real issues not being discussed: poverty, Middle East, drone warfare?

The Church of England has long ago lost its way on moral leadership. Occupy outside St Paul’s last year, showed more moral leadership than that shown by Church of England. Maybe that is why so many clergy felt at home there and why many are now openly saying they feel ashamed to be part of the Church of England.

What of women priests? A clear message has been sent to them that they are in some way inferior priests in the eyes of the Church of England. The bigots probably want to see them relegated to their proper place: cleaning brasses, arranging flowers, serving tea and cakes.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman clergy member of the General Synod. I said then it had become a joke. She disagreed. I gave as an example a commission of inquiry into sexuality. It comprises entirely of senior bishops. You could not make it up if you tried. This is not a commission of inquiry, it is a private conversation. It lacks credibility before it even starts. She could not see anything wrong! That she could see nothing wrong is illustrative of all that is wrong with General Synod.

There is not even a base in Scripture for the position taken by the bigots (whose position places them as akin to the Taliban). Man and woman were created equal in the image of God. Jesus had female disciples. St Paul (usually depicted as very anti-woman) had a woman as a senior emissary. In the early church there were women bishops.

They would probably freak out if you told them Jesus was a Jew, leader of a small, obscure Jewish sect.

Ignorance is bliss.

Early Scripture was never intended to be written down, to write it down would be to set in stone, to fossilize. Later prophets adapted and built on what went before. Scripture was seen as something living, lessons to be drawn on how life was to be lived, if not abandoned.

I wonder how many of the bigots and fundamentalists have a crib and a manager in their church, a Christmas tree with an angel on top, celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. If they care to look, they will not find any of these customs in early scripture.

Christmas was not on Christmas day, like Easter, it is a Pagan Festival that pre-dates Christianity. The Bible is silent on when Jesus was born. One reason for this is that in the early church it would have been seen as a pagan custom to mark a birthday. The one thing we do know is that it was not Christmas Day. From the little evidence we have, shepherds tending their flocks at night, it would have been sometime in the spring.

What we think of as the traditional Nativity scene, draws upon but is not of the Gospels, was invented by St Francis of Assisi in 1223, when he created a tableau in a cave of Jesus in a manger, animals looking on. In the Old Testament we can find prophecy of this scene.

The Christmas tree with lights and decorations is a Victorian import from Germany. Though in Germany much earlier origins.

The head of the Church of England is the Monarch, Queen Elisabeth II, at the bottom women priests, but we cannot have in the middle women bishops.

The Church of England has to decide, is it part of society or apart from society. If it is part of society it has to comply with the rules of society. A Member of Parliament who speaks on behalf of the Church of England called it a sect. The Archbishop of Canterbury said it lacked credibility.

If the Church of England is part of society, then as the rest of society it has to comply with equality legislation and the legislation should be changed to include not exempt the Church of England.

The form of General Synod is laid down in Statute can be changed.

Those churches that sent bigots and fundamentalists to General Synod should look very carefully at who they send.

It has always been accepted if you are part of the Legislature, then you comply with what comes out of the Legislature. Until the Church of England has women bishops, they should not be entitled to have bishops sit in the House of Lords.

Please sign the petition:

The vote in the General Synod did not reflect the views of either congregations or churches at grass roots. The Diocesan Synods should pass a vote of no confidence in General Synod and call for its dissolution.

Please support this draft resolution:

Bullying of a nine-year-old girl is not acceptable

November 29, 2012

It wasn’t easy time for us. Amazed council still believes it has done nothing wrong. — David Payne

Growing increasingly annoyed reading NeverSeconds by stance of council trying to blame Martha. Poor show. — Bryan Gregg

The bullying of nine-year-old Martha Payne by a worthless jobsworth at Argyll and Bute Council and trying to silence her blog NeverSeconds, then compounding the wrong by lying and then when it could not get worse, defaming the family by accusing them of bad parenting, it totally and completely unacceptable.

The council has yet to formally apologise, or even accept they did anything wrong.

The editor of the Oban Times, is giving you the chance to have your say and via the paper question Argyll and Bute Council chief executive Sally Loudon who was responsible for this disgraceful behaviour by her officials.

I would though dispute the view of the editor that Argyll and Bute Council chief executive Sally Loudon is a person of influence, she is an overpaid public servant accountable to the public. Nor does she have overall responsibility for running the local authority, that is down to the councillors who exercise that role on behalf of their constituents. Though I accept like all overpaid public servants, she has an overinflated view of her own worth.

A few questions I would like to see answered:

If it is not acceptable for a playground bully to bully and intimidate a nine-year-old school girl, why is it deemed acceptable for a worthless jobsworth to bully a nine-year-old schoolgirl?

Bullying is not acceptable in the playground, bullying is not acceptable in the workplace.

What disciplinary action has been taken, not only for the bullying, but the subsequent treatment meted out to the family?

What made you think you could get away with it and brazen it out?

Why did the council lie? Why were the lies then covered up?

Why was it claimed this was an example of bad parenting?

Why have you yet to issue a formal apology to Martha Payne and her family?

Freedom of expression is a basic right enshrined in the Human Rights Act. For each decision taken by a public body, it has to be shown that the Human Rights Act was complied with, failure to do so is in itself an offence under the legislation. What steps were taken when bullying a nine-year-old school girl? In trying to silence a nine-year-old school girl was you not aware a breach of the Human Rights Act was taking place, namely denying freedom of expression?

What steps have you taken to improve the school meals your local authority serves? Was you not aware of the minimum standards recommended by Jamie Oliver? If not why not? And if you were, why were they not acted upon?

I have looked at the school meals your local authority serves and I find them disgusting. Should you not hang your head in shame?

Have you not looked at the blog NeverSeconds and seen how poorly the meals you serve compare with school meals around the world?

I wish to see published all internal memos, notes of meetings, e-mails that took place within your local authority surrounding this issue, the initial bullying of Martha Payne, treatment of her family, how media was to be dealt with and that surrounding the fall out. Please regard this as a formal Freedom of Information request.

Have you ordered copies of NeverSeconds such that every school library, every public library in Argyll and Bute has copies?

What compensation will you be paying Martha and her family, for bullying, defamation, and the stress you have caused?

I look forward to a prompt response to all my questions.

In the meantime you may care to note:

NeverSeconds has now recorded over 8.8 million hits. Through NeverSeconds Martha went on to raise over £120,000 for a school kitchen in Malawi called Friends of NeverSeconds, and was invited to Malawi to inaugurate the kitchen.

With the help of her father David, Martha has co-written a book NeverSeconds, which tells the story of her blog, standing firm against the bully-boys at her local council, the trip to Malawi.

Ronnie Wood 50 Decades

November 29, 2012
Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger

Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts

I think talent is born. The seed is there. The seed is there and it just needs developing. Everything I’ve done I had to do. I had to play in a band, had to be part of The Stones, I had to play a guitar. I had to paint, I had to be like Michelangelo. — Ronnie Wood

Last Friday I was in Guildford. The last thing I expected to stumble upon was an art exhibition by Ronnie Wood, but if that was not enough an art exhibition by Bob Dylan too.

Decades, The Blue Smoke Suite and Stones Raw, by Ronnie Wood was released 17 November 2012.

Ronnie Wood is both musician and artist. He has worked as singer, guitarist and songwriter with The Faces, Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones. He has been painting and drawing since age 12, even longer than he has been playing guitar. He intertwines the tow, recording his tour sand the people he meets an dperforms with through his art.

The Rolling Stones have this week embarked on a world tour to celebrate 50 years of performing.

Forest Gallery is a small art gallery at the top of Guildford High Street.

Managing Heritage at Risk

November 28, 2012
Why Heritage Matters

Why Heritage Matters

These old buildings do not belong to us only … The belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendent unless we play them false. We are only trustees to those who come after us. – William Morris, Annual Meeting of the SPAB 1889

Our heritage is part of our well-being, our quality of life. Many small businesses operate out of old buildings. Heritage is what gives our town centres character.

Our old building are at risk, they are at risk from greed, ignorance, criminal behaviour, and above all the Philistine behaviour towards our heritage displayed by the ConDem government.

Archaeological sites are being vandalised for rare finds which can be sold on the black market. When a church loses its roof the damage goes far beyond the loss of the lead, ingress of water produces further damage. The penalties in Court should reflect this.

Too many local authorities are backwards in protecting their heritage, they fail to see it for what it is worth.

Heritage sites can often be found alternative uses, but it requires vision.

Look at Aldershot. A Victorian town destroyed by greed and decades of bad planning decisions.

A former RAF/USAF site was scheduled for redevelopment. This has now been stopped. The hardened bunkers, with 80 ton steel doors would have been very difficult to demolish. They were designed to withstand a bomb attack. The hardened bunkers housed nuclear-armed aircraft. A use has been found for the hardened bunkers as data storage sites. The entire site could become a World Heritage Site to demonstrate the futility of the Cold war.

The Tumbledown Dick in Farnborough is at risk. A building that pre-dates Farnborough, once a popular music venue, now earmarked for demolition for an unwanted McDonald’s. It needs to be placed on the Buildings at Risk Register, but first it must be turned into a Listed Building.

Buildings at Risk Register is as the name suggests, a register of buildings that are at risk, but only applies to Listed Buildings.

Heritage at Risk Register takes this one step further, to include heritage sites. This can be battlefields, gardens, landscapes, shipwrecks.

Many of our churches are at risk, and yet oddly the Church of England is refusing to cooperate with English Heritage on the Buildings at Risk Register.

We have a government that sees heritage, the countryside as an impediment to economic growth, that the right to Judicial Review and to mount legal challenges to be restricted.

English Heritage can play its part, but the hand of English Heritage is greatly strengthened if individuals, communities, are prepared to stand up and fight for their heritage.

Once our heritage is gone it is gone forever.

Based on an excellent illustrated talk by Dr Nigel Barker of English Heritage at the Guildford Institute in Guildford.

Lunch at Debenhams

November 28, 2012
roast pork and all the trimmings

roast pork and all the trimmings

Debenhams is not somewhere one would think of for lunch, or at least not as a first choice, and yet it is very popular. Today it was packed.

It is easy to see why it is popular as the food is good. The service though is not very good, and today abysmal.

Since I was last here, they have revamped the restaurant.

This time last year it was a choice of turkey or turkey, through to and beyond Christmas. Whilst I have no probably with turkey occasionally, I do have a problem with turkey week after week.

Today it was turkey, but I am pleased there was also roast pork. This is new, as usually not a choice.

I chose roast pork with all the trimmings. The roast pork was excellent, tasy and succulent.

If Debenhams in Guildford can produce good food, why can not Morrisons in Aldershot. There can be absolutely no excuse for the disgusting food Morrisons dish out in Aldershot.

I was lucky to get a table as someone left at just the right moment.

I was curious as to why it was so busy. I asked. It was as I thought, a special offer, 10% off, though I did not notice 10% off my dinner.

Only one lady cleaning the tables, and to her credit she was working very hard, I have never seen anyone work so hard. To his credit, her manager showed willing and did occasionally walk over and wipe a table.

Walking to Debenhams, the River Wey was very high, though not as high or fast flowing as last Friday. Had I walked along it yesterday I would have found it very high. It drops quite quickly.

Crossing the River Blackwater today, it was already lower than yesterday.

Leaving Debenhams, I spotted Top Shop. Seeing Top Shop reminded me Top Shop and Debnenhams are part of Arcadia Group owned by tax dodger Sir Philip Green. Hmm, maybe I should not be eating in Debenhams.

Eden People at The Keystone

November 27, 2012

Eden People meet irregularly at The Keystone, tonight was one of those evenings.

I had planned on being at the Keystone this evening, but almost went home, as was very tired, but decided to stay.

Quite well attended, lovely examples of synchronicity.

I was chatting with Michelle, who I had never met before. I do not know why, but we were chatting about Cornish Yarg (a lovely cheese from Cornwall) and Neals Yard in Covent Garden (where I said I was the week before for dinner at Food for Thought and the week before that lunch at Food for Thought).

Her friend ordered something to eat. Michelle ask me was Cornish Yarg wrapped in green leaves. I said yes, nettles. I asked why did she ask? On her friend’s plate was Cornish Yarg!

Philippa arrived and ordered soup. She said it was very good. Chestnut and mushroom. I said no, chestnut mushroom soup.

For some reason she mentioned Neals yard in Covent Garden.

I told her of the impossibility of finding NeverSeconds, and finally finding a copy in Waterstone’s in Guildford.

A hair, I have a hair in my soup, a long hair, but it is not mine.

I explained Martha Payne ranked her meals. One of the rankings was on the number of hairs, because once she found a long hair and it was not hers.

Eden People will next be at The Keystone for a Christmas special evening 11 December 2012.

The Keystone is a pub in Guildford, bottom of the High Street, over the bridge and behind St Nicholas Church.

Dinner at The Keystone

November 27, 2012

Excellent dinner at The Keystone.

A choice of three soups, usually only one.

I picked chestnut mushroom soup. I though it was chestnuts and mushroom soup. I was corrected. It was delicious. Nothing like mushroom soup.

Followed by fish cakes and greenery. This too was delicious.

I was pleased to note the artwork on the walls has at long last changed as it had been there since the summer. Not impressed. Photos behind glass, reflections off the glass. Most of the photos are black, with a little light in the centre. I guess someone thought they were being ‘artistic’.

The Keystone is a pub in Guildford, bottom of the High Street, over the bridge and behind St Nicholas Church.