4th May 2011
Bookies offer 1000/1 on royal baby playing Premier League football
William Hill bookies are offering 1000/1 against Wills’ and Kate’s baby playing Premier League football.
Well they’re on a safe one there and that’s for sure.
First, they haven’t had a baby. Second, if they do, it may be female. Third, if it inherits William’s footballing skill (he supports Villa) there’s no chance.
A better bet is the bookies’ offer of 33/1 odds that the baby will appear on the front cover of Vogue magazine before he/she is aged 18.
Now that is surely going to happen. Even if it turns out looking like Will’s great great great great grandmother (Queen Vic), Vogue will be interested.
And by the time it’s eighteen, the plastic surgeons and make –up experts will have it looking like a cross between Cheryl Cole and David Beckham…. or even Kate Middleton and Prince William, come to that. They’re both good looking. Though I hate to admit it.
Another thing I hate to admit is that the Royal Wedding was brilliant. I tried my best to be cynical and grumpy, but it was impressive, and lovely. Made me feel proud to be British.
Odds on William and Kate having a baby in 2012 are 4/5. A cert, so the bookies think. Good luck to them. They’re gonna need it.
And talking of bookies – odds on a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum: 11/2.
‘No’ vote is 1/10 against. The bookies think ‘no’ is a certainty.
Now I’d like to have a bet.
I bet that more people are interested in Kate and William’s unborn – though probably no longer unconceived – baby than they are in the referendum result.
The AV campaign wants to take us into a brave new world of politics.
But many Brits are quite happy living in an old and unchanging world of tradition and history.
The Royal Wedding proved that much.
Cameron venisony… ooops, I mean ‘very sorry’. 28th April
“Calm down, dear,” David Cameron quipped to a female Labour MP, Angela Eagle, across the House of Commons yesterday during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Terrible, said Labour. Patronising. Sexist.
They reckon they had caught him on an unguarded moment. He was being heckled during a debate and his reflex quip showed his true attitudes towards women, especially Labour women of a lower class than the twin set and pearls brigade that attend his Pimms parties, so the argument goes.
Cameron has tried to shake off his posh public school image.
With some, but only limited success.
But there are times when unguarded use of language betrays the real attitudes of the user, no matter how carefully the PR advisers try to hide away the darker side of someone’s personality and attitudes .
A lot of people would say: “So what’s wrong with using the word ‘dear’?”
It’s not insulting. He could have used a much more forceful expression to tell her to be quiet. I’ve no need to spell out the possibilities.
“It’s not important,” say others. “Labour are just trying to find fault. Nit picking.”
So why did this incident cause such a stir?
Because it was evidence that we live in a society of unequals. However much it is dressed up, whatever politically correct language we use, at times the social divisions break through.
Language betrays the user.
Men better than women. Upper class better than working class. White better than black.
Cameron wouldn’t have called a man on the Labour benches ‘mate’ or ‘sonny’.
We’ve travelled that far on the road to equality.
But we’ve got a bit further to go yet before the toffs understand that they can’t treat all women like they treat their wives and mistresses.
Asbo gardeners 22nd April
My neighbour’s got a lawn the size of a billiard table and a lawn mower like a combine harvester. Every time the sun comes out, he’s out there. Boom, rattle, grind.
I could cut his grass with a pair of scissors in half the time it takes him with his wretched machine.
Then he gets the strimmer out. SSSSsssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The noise goes right through you.
Then his mate two doors away starts up his Flymo. Then another one starts up over the road. Then another strimmer whirring and zipping away. It spreads like chickenpox.
And when one of them has finished his little patch, he’ll decide it’s time to do something relaxing, like build a wall. But he’ll have to knock the old one down first. So out comes the lump hammer from the shed, and hey, guess what, he’s got an electric concrete mixer in there that he hasn’t used for a couple of years.
Worst of all are these high-powered water sprays that people use nowadays to clean their patios, and walls. Whoooshing away, drowning and droning, fizzing along the flagstones.
It’s like an orchestra from hell.
The vocals come from people who feel the need to open every window in the house, and turn up their music so that they, and you can hear every word and note as you all sit outside separated by flimsy fences.
As if they think their taste in music was something to be proud of.
I’m hardly likely to share the same taste as a selfish noisy prat who waddles up and down his garden path with his belly hanging over a flymo handle, slurping from a can of cheap lager.
I’m sure they would only settle down to read a book if it involved making a lot of noise. Perhaps they read out loud, like we all used to at infants school.
I don’t mind hearing kids play in the sunshine. They can be rowdy in fits and starts. But adults should have a bit more consideration.
Pleasant evenings in the garden sunshine?
I hope it starts raining soon.
Or else I’m going to the garden centre to buy me a nuclear-powered, super-strimming, turbo-charged, water-cannon spraying, rocket-propelled all-purpose garden manicure set.
A cut too far 20th April
What should a Council be responsible for?
If the parents of a seven year old child are tragically killed in a road accident, who looks after the child, and who pays? If an elderly woman whose grown up children have emigrated to Australia develops dementia, should the Council look after her?
A 48 year-old man who has spent most of his life in prison for various petty offences.
He’s let out, but is homeless.
Who looks after him?
A child whose mother is a crack addict?
The list of tragic, heart-rending cases is endless. And councils cannot look after everyone who has needs. Somewhere they have to draw the line and say: “You are not needy enough; we will not provide for you.”
Councils across the country are making cutbacks. Some are doing it reluctantly, others seem to be enjoying it.
What should they be allowed to cut back on?
And should they ever be told… “No, hang on a minute. You cannot cut back on that. You have a duty to look after him.”
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have had a recession. But we’ve got one, and we’re all facing cuts.
But a mark of a civilised society is the extent to which it looks after the vulnerable and needy, even when it is short of money. That is the real reason we pay taxes. No council should need to be told when it is cutting too far and too deep. But the High Court this week rapped Birmingham Council’s knuckles and said: “No. Enough is enough. You’ve gone too far.”
Fair play to the High Courts, I say.
And thank heavens that we have a constitution that has kept the courts free from political interference. So whatever the Tories, or the Lib Dems, or Labour say, some decent minded people can sit in judgement on them and say: “Stuff your politics. This is a civilised society, and just you remember it.”
A question of trust 14th April 2011
How do you get people more interested in politics?
Answer: Let them take part. Let them make decisions.
Pick a topic – a controversial one – and throw it open to the public. Have a referendum.
Now and again – every two years, I would suggest – have a referendum.
But the only national referendum we are getting since 1975 is a boring one that is NOT going to fire the imagination of the public.
This referendum on the Alternative Vote… yawn…. is going to give referendums a bad name.
Why on earth did they choose that subject?
They should have had a referendum on whether there should be a smoking ban in public.
There should have been one on foxhunting.
I can name a few more we should have…
Should politicians who fiddle their expense be sacked?
Should the 30mph speed limit in built up areas be dropped to 25mph?
Should we scrap the turning back of the clocks in late autumn, and stick with GMT, as opposed to British Summer Time?
I’m not saying we should have a referendum on everything. In fact, big questions of finance and budgets should be left to people who properly understand economics. And I’d be worried if we had one on matters of life and death, such as the debate about bringing back capital punishment… that would be too dodgy for a referendum.
But some subjects are a matter of opinion on which we could all have a say.
We are fed up with politicians, and largely uninterested in politics.
Regular referendums could be the answer.
Perhaps we should have a referendum on it.
Getting away with it 7th April 2011
If you commit a crime, what’s the chance of being convicted, do you think?
What are your chances of getting away with it?
Why are more people driving off from petrol stations without paying now?
Has the cost of petrol turned decent people into desperate thieves? Or have they calmly calculated that the chances of getting prosecuted are small enough to warrant the risk?
I don’t mean the chances of being caught, or charged….. I mean the chances of being punished … convicted.
The car cruisers who seem to have reappeared on Fort Parkway at weekend nights know full well that there is an injunction, that they are breaking the law.
They have balanced up the chances of being punished compared with the pleasure they get from their racing. Well worth the risk, they think.
There are so many things that get in the way of prosecutions and convictions.
We know that the police are too busy to deal with a lot of minor crimes. You get burgled or have something nicked, and the police will give you a crime number for your insurance, but that’s about it.
You’ll never see your property again.
And the courts system is too slow, and badly organised. It can often take a year or more to get a serious case started in a crown court.
Magistrates courts deal with the petty cases.
Take a trip to any magistrates court and see the lack of organisation. They’re dealing with difficult people, many of whom commit petty crime for a living and know how to get away with it. And the solicitors know exactly how to manipulate the situations to get their clients off.
But the courts don’t help themselves. The magistrates court system is an amateurish set up that professionals take advantage of. That’s why the government is looking to close so many down – including the one at Sutton that deals with Castle Vale.
So what is the answer to the question I asked at the start of this?
A report by the government watchdog nine years ago found that if you commit a crime you have a 6% chance of being convicted for it.
A 94% chance of getting away with it.
Royal wedding fever? – more like a slight temperature 31st March
The Council is being tight–lipped about how many people have asked for a road to be closed so that they can organise a royal wedding street party. It hasn’t exactly fired the public imagination. More than twelve but fewer than fifty, they say. Across the whole of Birmingham. A city of two million people. They’re a bit embarrassed about it because it suggests their city is less than loyal to the royals.
Kent has had the most street party applications. Hull has had zero, bless them. Shetland are on zilch, too. The further you get away from London, it seems, the less interest there is.
But I think it’s a bit soon for the deadline.
Okay, if you’re going to ask for the A38 Aston Expressway to be closed so you can set up a few trestle tables down the central reservation –that might need a few weeks’ planning. But closing Lydd Croft or Dyce Close – it’s hardly a military-style operation.
We’re just not in the royal party mood yet. But as the hype builds up – and believe me, it hasn’t even started yet – we’ll all be sucked into the vortex of hysteria.
What will her dress be like? Will the sunshine? Will he fluff his words? Will Harry behave himself? Forget the ring? Will the magnificently plumed white stallions pulling the splendid ancient royal coach splatter the newly swept roadsides with thoroughbred horseshit?
The world will be watching us weirdo Brits who lavish fathoms of respect and billions of pounds on an undeserving couple simply because they were born into it. The best that can be said of William is that, apart from Her Maj, he’s the least obnoxious of a pretty unpleasant family. If they’d been born on the Vale they’d all have asbos by now.
There’s really no logic to it.
Except to say that the event will be presented as an occasion to celebrate love – if you’re a romantic; to celebrate Britain’s imperial majesty – if you’re deluded; or to celebrate the fact that you know better than everyone else because they’ll be divorced within a decade and you don’t mind another day off getting rattarsed – if you’re a cynic.
Count me in with that last lot.
It could have been Dubya v Libya 24th March 2011
Poor old George Dubya Bush. You don’t hear much of him nowadays. He’d have been licking his lips at this Libya crisis.
Dubya v Libya. No contest. He wouldn’t have let the French and the Brits get in there first, no siree.
Cameron agreed with it. So did Miliband. And 555 other MPs. The United Nations said go ahead. Obama said yes – though I think he had his arm twisted.
And I know Gaddafi is regarded as a tyrant, a bully, a murderer, a madman, and so on.
But to send bombers in when you are targeting just one person…?
We’ve heard the argument before.
It goes something like this: Osama Bin Laden is evil. Let’s go get him. And wipe out half of Afghanistan in the process.
Saddam Hussein is evil. Let’s go get him. And wipe out the ancient city of Baghdad, killing thousands of innocent children and their parents in the process. And a few other cities, too.
Now it’s Libya.
And the way it was reported in the Sun newspaper. As though it was a game of football.
The civilised world.
The American artist Roy Lichtenstein showed how we glamourise violence and destruction. Take a look at his painting of a jet fighter in action, below, and then the front page of the Sun at the top of this.
“If you want something doing properly……” 17th March 2011
So Vale residents are thinking of taking over the swimming pool and the stadium, all the football fields that surround it and the conservation area.
A group of volunteers and some suits met last week to set the ball rolling.
The idea is based on something called Community Asset Transfer, and no surprise, David Cameron is pushing it as part of his Big Society.
It could be the Council’s way of getting rid of buildings that make a loss.
Rather than close them, they say to local communities: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you ran it for yourselves?”
Then the locals make prats of themselves, end up with a debt like an elephant’s backside, and the thing closes anyway, just a couple of years later.
But the options are to sit back and do nothing while the Council closes things, or to get up off your arse and have a go at running it yourself.
Now there are some examples of places that have done the latter. Two of them in Birmingham, and one – a very interesting one – in Nottingham.
The Brummie ones first.
Norton Hall Children and Family Centre in Saltley.
Faced with closure, locals got a 50 year lease from the Council and a quarter of a million quid to refurbish it. Now it’s run locally by a couple of paid staff and some volunteers.
Then there’s Perry Common Community Hall. Run down and ripe for closure. The locals got a 99 year lease off the Council, a quarter of a million quid from Advantage West Midlands, plus an extra £300k from their own money (they have 167 properties). For the last eight months they’ve been running it on their own. They hire out the rooms and reckon it’s full every evening, with parties and stuff. They have six paid staff and volunteers.
But the best of them is in Lenton, Nottinham.
An area of crime, poor housing, and student bedsits. The News of the World labelled one of its streets ‘The Most Burgled Street in Britain 2006.’
The swimming baths and gym are housed in an ancient, run down building. After a long battle fought by some hardy residents, the Council sold them the property for a tenner – yes, ten quid.
And they saved it.
Gym and baths are now close to breaking even. They have loads of schools using the pool, and they charge the Council £50 per hour per school. And £3.60 per casual user.
They got £80k in grants to smarten the place up, and they pay a few staff (manager, assistants, lifeguards etc) and have volunteers helping out.
It’s expensive to run – £6k per year insurance, £22k annual maintenance. But they saved the place from being derelict or knocked down, and gave the locals something to be proud of.
Fair play to them.
Can it be done in Vale?
The suits are looking to see whether it’s ‘viable’ – great suit word, that.
They reckon the stadium is a better bet than the pool.
I wish them luck if they have a go.
Those grants that all three of the above got are harder to come by now.
So it might never happen.
But at least they’re trying.
Hating Nick Clegg 10th March 2011
It’s easy to hate Nick Clegg. The more he speaks, in that oh so sincere, schoolboy patronising, nauseating manner, the more he gets on my nerves.
I expect even the Lib Dems hate him, though they won’t admit it until after he’s gone.
He sold out, just so that he himself could get power.
Not his party.
The list of his broken promises is longer than a snake’s tail.
Then, while the Prime Minister was out of the country at a conference and hundreds of Brits were stranded in Libya, Clegg was on holiday, ski-ing.
Isn’t that when a Deputy Prime Minister should NOT be on holiday?
A selfish so and so, with no principles.
The British public won’t forgive him.
Just like they won’t ever forgive Blair for the same reason. Self-obsessed, at the expense of everyone else, and two-faced.
When she was in power, I used to hate Maggie Thatcher. But at least she gave it to you straight. She was a grade one cow, and she never hid it. She wouldn’t say one thing and do another. She waved a big kitchen knife in your face to let you know how shiny and sharp the blade was and then stabbed you with it in the chest, not the back. You can respect a hard-nosed hag like that.
But not Clegg.
Why is it important? Well, I’m thinking that there are 40 council seats up for grabs in Birmingham on 5th May.
Now I’ve got nothing against the Lib Dems, or their policies… when they stick to them. In fact some of them are quite fair and sensible.
But the public hate Nick Clegg so much that the Lib Dems will be battered like a fish cake at these local elections.
And on the same day, we’ll be voting to reform the voting system. The first UK referendum since 1975.
The idea for change is supported by guess who…. Nick Clegg. He supports it because it’s more likely to get people like him into power.
If he supported summer, I’d be in favour of winter.
Women Drivers 3rd March 2011
MY BLOOD BOILS when I see tearaway drivers hurtling round the Vale at speeds that are one day going to kill a toddler.
They’re all men. Most of them in their twenties, early thirties. They’re a bloody nuisance, and a danger to all of us.
So when the European Court decided that it was illegal to charge men more for car insurance than for women, my first thought was – what a load of crap. Charge men more. They deserve it.
Psychologists could probably tell me why so many young men behave like morons behind a wheel. They get a kick out of going fast, competing and taking risks.
Young women are more cautious, generally more caring, and often more sensible than young men. Not always, and not all of them. But on the whole, they are.
Insurance companies have to work out how likely you are to have an accident. Then they charge you accordingly.
Men have to pay more than women. Because they are more likely to cause damage.
When I’ve just seen one of those chavs in a revved up car, that’s how I think.
But when I’ve got my sensible head on, I know the European Court have made a good decision.
I know the insurers have to make a judgement: how risky is someone.
But if they are saying: well, he’s a male, so he’s a bigger risk, then I’m sorry, they just should not do that.
No law should allow prejudice.
No law should tell a decent, caring, sensible young man of 22 that he’s got to pay more for car insurance than a woman of the same age just because he’s a man.
The insurance companies may not like it, but my advice to them is: find another system.
Let us suppose that black drivers are statistically more likely to have an accident than white ones. Should insurance companies be allowed to charge black people more to get insured? Definitely not. It’s unthinkable. And so it should be with men and women.
Women have fought against prejudice in this, and other countries, for hundreds of years.
Just because the insurance agencies are being prejudiced in favour of a group who’ve suffered for years doesn’t make it right.
And if that European Court wants to look at another area where there seems to be a lot of prejudice, I can lend them a mirror.
The European Court of Justice has 27 judges.
Only five of them are female.
The Big Society 24th February 2011
We could do without public libraries. We really could.
We could do without swimming pools, too.
We’ve been spoilt, let’s be honest. We’ve had it easy for decades.
If you want a book, you could always go to a bookshop. Now, you can get it cheaper on Amazon. If you want a swim, go to the seaside, or pay at a local fitness centre. Lots of them have swimming pools, and much better than the public ones. Cleaner, less crowded and fewer people weeing in them.
The more you think about it, the more public services we could do without.
Nurseries? They cost a fortune. And there’s only a tiny proportion of families that benefit from nurseries. And most mums who send their kids to nurseries just stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle.
They could be looking after their own toddlers, reading one of the books with them that they’ve had delivered by Amazon. Like all those fine young mothers Jeremy Kyle has on his show.
The only public facility we really need is the bin collections. They proved that over Christmas. But, the good thing about everyone being poorer is that there’ll be less rubbish. So we can save money there, too. Fewer bin collections.
Schools, I hear you say? Well, we could make parents pay for schooling, like they do now for university education. It’ll make the kids appreciate it a bit more. And the teachers teach better.
Hospitals? Same. Patients should pay.
That way, we all pay for what we get. That’s a fair society. Then people with no kids don’t end up paying for education. And people who are always healthy don’t end up subsidising the sick, or people who pretend to be sick. Or smoke, or drink too much.
Just one thought…… if we’re going to accept these cuts in public services, shouldn’t we be asking more questions about why Birmingham is so unfair?
Look at the unemployment figures.
Over 28% of the population of Washwood Heath is unemployed. Almost one in three.
In Four Oaks, it’s just 2.4%. That’s one in forty-two.
I wonder which of those two areas needs public services more, and which of them will suffer more from the cuts?