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It’s come to this then. A General Election.

You have to admire Boris Johnson, who by some fluke (or subterfuge) is now our Prime Minister; despite (or because of) his downright shamelessness.

His lies (to parliament, to the Queen, to the population at large), his misdirection’s, his sheer gall when dealing with the thorny Brexit problem and his two-facedness have now resulted in a General Election.

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This will be first General Election to be held in December for almost a hundred years.

And, the Tories will win.

In reality, this General Election has been called because Johnson leads a minority government.

It has not been called to sort out our relationship with the EU, although that is the bluster Johnson has used.  There are enough ‘single-issue’ Brexit supporters in the country to believe that this is the only thing that matters. 

Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 09.47.54Johnson eventually managed to present parliament with a ‘deal’ that they really could not deny, given that their previous (many) denials were because of the Irish Backstop

All he had to do was move the border from where it used to be (from Lough Foyle in the north of Ireland to Carlingford Lough in the northeast [1]) and into the middle of the Irish Sea.

I’m not sure what the Irish government think of that – or, in the long run what the inhabitants of Ulster think.

The Tories will, for the first time in two years, govern with a comfortable majority.  By the time this term is finished, we will have had a Conservative government for the best part of fifteen years (although it was initially bolstered by the Liberal party, who jumped at the chance of being in power for a while). My friend Jim Scott used to say “scratch a Liberal, find a Tory”.

Screenshot 2019-11-01 at 00.12.43Economy
So, despite ten years of austerity caused by the crash/recession of the late noughties and despite the ensuing (many) redundancies and bankruptcies, there still seems to be a feeling amongst the general public that the Tories have been good for the economy over those ten years. 

They have not!Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 14.35.45Despite all the most painful government cutbacks, the national debt has almost doubled since 2010.  The UK National Debt went over £1 trillion in 2011 and by budget time in March 2020 it is estimated to be £1.84 trillion [2]

The public has have been so misinformed by the popular press over the last four years, that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has been demonised beyond redemption. Despite his party’s successes in the 2017 General Election, he is still thought by many to be a terrorist sympathiser, an extreme left-wing ‘communist’ and a downright baddy.  And, because of that, many say they will not vote Labour.  That is like turkeys denying that Christmas is coming.

One man is not his party.  Which is something we should remember when ‘we’ think that Boris Johnson is a lovable old rogue.

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The Liberal Party say that they will ‘Revoke Article 50’, which, if this were a normal General election, would make no sense on its own, but as many voters think that Brexit is the one single issue, they (the Liberals), may well pick up some votes.  However, I wouldn’t trust a word the Liberals say in their as yet to be seen manifesto, because in 2010 they said they would not implement university fees and they said they would fight for proportional representation, amongst other things. Yet none of these promises were fulfilled once they had snuggled up with the Tories.

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The NHS
The NHS has been under funded and under scrutiny for many years now.  I know that the initial bids for private tender were first allowed back in the 1980’s – but this has continued to increase exponentially over the last ten years.

‘There are clearly different ways of calculating how much NHS money is spent on NHS services provided by private companies. However, the bottom line is that – however the figures are arrived at – healthcare in England is now much less directly provided by the NHS than most people think.’

Also

‘There are also concerns about whether or not private companies are avoiding paying tax on their profits. For example, Virgin Care pays no tax in the UK: it’s parent company is registered in the British Virgin Islands.’

http://www.patients4nhs.org.uk/private-companies-involvement-in-the-nhs/

Screenshot 2019-11-02 at 08.43.16

Hospitals up and down the country are also under threat of closure, e.g.

and yet, we see stories of a future Tory government issuing more contracts to private companies, including drug companies based in the USA. The Conservative party really couldn’t care less about the NHS.

Screenshot 2019-10-30 at 15.49.13I know that this has been a fairly long rant, but I had to get it off my chest. I still have lots of thoughts about how the future will affect me personally, but I worry much more about the future for younger generations. If zero-hour contracts are allowed to flourish, how will young families ever afford to make their way in an increasingly ‘dog-eat-dog’ world? Since the Tories took over, the education system has become one that teaches young people to ‘pass the test’, rather than ‘how to think’. Perhaps that is because ‘the elite’ don’t want to have a well educated ‘under class’?  Who knows. Perhaps I don’t and never will, but I do feel much better for having had this rant.

I know that many will have differing views to me and I respect that. Please respect mine.


Previous election rants.

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/07/19/feeling-disenfranchised/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/come-what-may/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/staying-in/


Like I said:

Is this still available? Why do people ask that of online sellers and then not pursue the inquiry?

Because we have recently been clearing out what was our old house, now vacated by Betony and family, we have had quite a few things to get rid of.  We’ve made several trips to  charity shops (and the tip) but some items are simply too valuable to go via that route.

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So, as it’s worked for us before, I have been listing quite a few items on Facebook’s Market Place.  These are then shared with various other Facebook Groups to widen and localise the spread.

However, I’ve had an uncounted number of “Is this still available?” messages, all of which I have replied to.  At first, I would give them my phone number and ask for them to text me (or send a direct message; DM), to discuss the need for further contact details – I now simply say ‘Yes – are you still interested?”. 9.5 times out of ten there is no answer.  At all.  Why?

Where a sale has been agreed, the sale has gone off without a hitch and some things have ‘gone’.  However, we do still have a number of things that really need re-homing soon.

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Local Charities:

https://www.kirkwoodhospice.co.uk/

https://www.forgetmenotchild.co.uk/our-shops

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All credit to artist – stolen by me from FB

 

 

Robin Cake

The other day, I asked a couple of Facebook groups if anyone had a Robin Cake recipe.  I wasn’t disappointed with the results and recorded over half a dozen different methods/processes.  Today, I set to and baked two cakes, following two of the many recipes offered.

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But, first of all: What is Robin Cake?

Sadly, I cannot find a definitive answer, other than it seems to be fairly local to me, in and around Huddersfield.  My mum used to cook it all the time.  There was always some robin cake in one of her cake tins.  Other tins might have had iced buns in them, made from a similar recipe.  The robin cake itself however, was never iced or decorated in any way.  It would be made one day and then kept for what seemed like ages (perhaps a week), towards the end of which time a bit of butter on your slice wouldn’t go amiss. 

Mum is beyond telling me how to make it now, but it seems that she gave Sharon a recipe some time ago.  This was the first of the two I have made today.

I make no apologies for the use of lard, or for employing imperial weights – these are old, traditional (family?) recipes, so they are what they are. Some of the other recipes, not cooked today, use all butter or all margarine, so – it’s your choice.

Recipe 1 (Mum’s/Sharon’s)

12oz self-raising flour,
10oz sugar,
3oz lard, 3oz margarine,
4 eggs,
2 t’sp BiCarb,
pinch salt,
‘some’ milk.

The METHOD for this cake used the creaming method. I creamed the sugar and fat together and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time. I then added the dry ingredients (which had been sifted together). I added enough milk during this process to leave a fairly sloppy but not too runny mix.  It was baked at 170oc (fan oven) for almost an hour – which might have been a tad too long. It was still sloppy after half an hour and sank soon after I prodded it – so the final ten minutes I gave it might have been unnecessary.

cake-1

 

Recipe 2 (From Mandy Haigh, her Gran’s recipe Facebook)

12oz self-raising flour,
7oz sugar,
3½oz lard, 3½oz margarine,
2 eggs
pinch salt,
‘some’ milk.

The METHOD for this was to rub the fat and flour together and then to add the sugar.  I added the sugar early because it helped to more easily distribute the higher fat to flour ratio. Then I added the beaten eggs.  At this point it became obvious that the mix would be too stiff – so I added about the same volume of milk (as egg). The mix was slightly stiffer than recipe 1, but it soon sorted itself out in the oven.  This cake was also baked at 170oc (fan oven) for about 40 minutes. It was a much more confident bake than recipe 1.

Cake-2

Of the two cakes I have cooked today, the second recipe has worked the best.  They both taste ok, but recipe 2 was closest to what I remember (still not ‘quite’ right though – so I will have to try another recipe next time).

 

Also see:
https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Look,+learn,+taste+and+buy+at+museum+bake-in%3B+Buns+and+biscuits+great…-a0264153390

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I can’t say that we were over impressed with Jerez.  Sadly, because I had built up a fairly high impression of what it would be like, I was quite disappointed. I expected a gentility that simply wasn’t there (imho).

Jerez de la Frontera is:

  1. Home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the four greatest schools of horsemanship in the world.
  2. Host to an International Grand Prix circuit, used for MotoGP, F1, F2 and World Superbike championships.
  3. Home for most of the world’s sherry producers and the spiritual home to one of the biggest producers, Gonzalez Byass.

 Yet, despite all this, it appeared to me to be run down and dirty.

I accept that Jerez is a very old city, with a rich and varied history, but, despite the prestige and money those international events/producers bring into the city, along with tourists, it wears an air of neglect.  We have visited several old cities in Spain with equally rich and varied histories but they have been cleaner and their buildings have, to a large extent, been or are being maintained. I’m thinking here of Salamanca, Avila, Toledo, Cordoba and Segovia – none have the aforementioned air of neglect and yet, all have similarly long and unique histories.

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unpleasant tapas

The old town’s main square and streets off it, house the restaurants and bars that provide food and drink for tourists and locals alike.  Certainly, the town comes alive at night with tables popping up where none were to be seen at lunchtime.  We chose badly at lunchtime; presented with what were probably the worst tapas we’ve ever eaten: Over vinegared Ensalada Rusa (why vinegar? Why?), Queso that began to sweat in the heat, tab-end sized Croquetas (with soggy fries for garnish) and a fairly tasty piece of ‘Lomo’ in sherry sauce – covered with soggy fries again.

Our evening meal was better.IMG_1823 copy

Sharon had spent a bit of time on Trip Advisor and had come up with a number of options for us to dine at.  I put the first one (top of the list) into MapsDotMe and off we went.  Sharon saw something on the menu that she liked and I knew I would find something, so we stopped there – there was no point dragging ourselves around the town. Bar Juanito looked to be a nice place, and it was – see my review on Trip Advisor.

Before eating lunch, we’d decided to take the tourist bus-trip (City Sightseeing Jerez) which for €17 also includes a tour of the Bodegas Tio Pepe, the home of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez.  The bus trip itself was interesting enough, and explained much of Jerez’s history.  One fact that stuck with me was that many years ago (perhaps hundreds?) the city fathers allowed people to erect buildings alongside the more ancient city walls.  The idea being that this would help to preserve and protect those walls.  However, as we were driven past, I noticed that the buildings that had been erected are also falling into disrepair.  It’s sad that a city of this note and with this heritage cannot be better looked after.

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Our trip around Bodegas Tio Pepe was interesting and by far the more entertaining time of our trip. It is followed by a tasting of Tio Pepe itself and of Croft Original.

Our hotel had been chosen for its position, its price and its description on Booking dotcom.  Although we’d booked and paid to visit the Jeys Catedral Jerez, the hotel seemed to be called Hotel Belles Artes (as well?) – see my review on Trip Advisor.

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Why is it, every time we come close to an election (local and EU are both planned for this month) that pensioners are demonised as a drain on society?

The recent news from the house of Lords [http://tiny.cc/tj105y] comes as no surprise but it is alarming and everyone should take note, not just pensioners.

A report from the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has made wide-ranging recommendations on benefits for the elderly, calling for much of the help for older generations to be curtailed.

Lord True is the chair of this particular Lord’s committee.

You will all be/get old one day. 

You will all (in the main) have paid into society for all of your lives: via National Insurance, income tax, V.A.T., petrol tax etc.

Olwyn and AlbertI know that when I started my post-compulsory educational life (at 15) I expected to pay into a national health system (the NHS itself is a whole ‘other’ blog post) along with the subsequent pension, that then required 45 years of input.  It was my insurance policy for old age.  The 45 years changed over time, but by whatever measure you use, I paid IN to the system and am now benefiting from that by taking OUT no more, no less than I expected.

  • I get a basic national pension, (reduced by who knows what % because I also had the foresight to fight for my work-based pension rights. See below #4),
  • I get free bus travel (see below #1),
  • I get free prescriptions (see below #2) and …
  • I get a winter fuel allowance (see below #3).

All of which are under threat by the discussions now taking place.

#1 – Free Bus travel.

This is a benefit that I hadn’t expected at the age of 15 but one I became aware of as my life progressed. Once anyone reached the age of 60, they used to get a free bus pass. I got mine because my age ran alongside that of women who were being forced to wait, incrementally, until they were 65 to collect their pensions (again – see #4).

  • Without the pensioner bus pass subsidy, I suspect there wouldn’t be many off-peak buses running and that the peak-time buses would be far more expensive – meaning that even those who pay now, would pay even more.
  • Without the pensioner bus pass, far fewer old folk would get out and about. I’m lucky, I live in a village where most things are available to me (all kinds of shops, an Aldi, pubs and restaurants) but many are not so lucky. Even getting out to meet other people is something older folk need to do. Otherwise, they become isolated, reclusive and progressively ill. Unfortunately, many pensioners could not afford to ‘get out and about’ with bus fares being what they are.
  • Without a pensioner bus pass, pensioners who by nature of their age are becoming more infirm, would not be able to easily visit their doctors or to attend their increasingly distant hospital appointments.
  • Without my own pensioner bus pass, the weekly walks I have with John would be far less exciting. One of us would have to drive, adding our four wheels and fumes to an already overcrowded infrastructure.

#2 – Free Prescriptions

Free prescriptions have been on and off for everyone throughout my life, not just pensioners.  They are a political hot-potato.  At the age of 60, they again became free. As we reach old age, we require more health preserving drugs and medicines. These help to stave off the infirmity mentioned earlier. The free drugs and medicines given out are generic, so no (much more expensive) named brands are available this way – why should the drug companies be made even richer! I do not abuse the system and fully understand why folk get upset to hear of (e.g.) paracetamols being prescribed. However, I believe that this is changing and wait to see exactly how it all pans out.

#3 – Winter Fuel allowance

This one came as a surprise at 60.  A nice surprise, but one that for me was not strictly necessary. I used the £200 to buy wood for my log burner in the first few years and if it helped those who DO NEED THE SUPPORT, I would be happy to give it up (the same would apply to post-75 free T.V. licences mentioned in the report).

#4 – Pension v benefit

This one makes me furious. The U.K. does not have the best pension in the world and there are many sites on the internet which contradict each other about how the pension is calculated. Nevertheless, it is a pension. It is something that most workers pay into for their entire working lives – it is NOT a benefit.

Women, who used to be allowed to retire at 60, now have to wait until they are 65. Soon (next year) both men and women will have to wait until they are 66 to retire and changes are even planned to increase that age. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/pensions/state-pension/changes-to-state-pension-age/#

There are more changes planned. From 2019, the State Pension age will increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020.

The Government is planning further increases, which will raise the State Pension age from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. (via AgeUK)

This might (just) have been fair if the person was told at the beginning of their working life that their retirement age would change – rather than towards the middle or end of their working life.

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And all of this is despite the UK’s life expectancy rates stalling https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45096074  We’re still getting older, but at a slower rate. Nevertheless, we are not staying healthy longer and demanding that an aging population stay at work even longer simply seems to be a way of ensuring that age expectancy reduces, rather than stalls. 

Can YOU imagine being a manual worker; told to work for up to (and eventually more) two years (seven in the case of women) before collecting their pension?

Retirement image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/images/search/royalty%20free/

The Greatest person of the 20th Century (BBC 2)

We recently sat and watched the first of an eight-part series that was broadcast on on BBC 2. It started airing in January and has now completed, so I know the ‘popular’ results – but having so far only seen the one entitled ‘Leaders’, I’m not sure how the BBC’s criteria for being iconized is laid out. Nor am I sure why this sort of progamme seems to have been dumbed down. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0by86tp

The ‘Icons’ presented for discussion (there was a public vote after the programme) were:

  1. Winston Churchill
  2. F.D. Roosevelt
  3. Margaret Thatcher
  4. Nelson Mandela

Margaret_Thatcher_cropped2I get why these people were on an original list, but am not sure how they made the cut.

Were their achievements ones that affected world affairs?  In the case of Margaret Thatcher, I think not and can only suppose that the research team found her to be one of the most iconic and divisive for presentation to a UK audience.  In her case, there was no mention of the Falklands War, the poll tax riots or of the miner’s strike (although images of  police action were shown).

Nelson_Mandela,_2000_(5)Nelson Mandela too.  His actions certainly affected South and Southern Africa, which may well, over time, have a longer lasting effect on the world, but initially, in the 20th Century, he has had, like Margaret Thatcher, a more localised influence on events. I would argue that Dr. Martin Luther King had a similar legacy and I might have pitched these two heroic men against each other for this position. (I know now, that Martin Luther King appears in a later episode entitled ‘activists’.)

Sir_Winston_Churchill_-_19086236948_(cropped)Winston Churchill was portrayed as a leader who, despite being very much a man of the people, was able to make some very hard choices and have them carried out. His sinking of the French Fleet in Mers-el-Kebir was given a very light touch during the programme, and his many flaws were overlooked. I have no objection to his inclusion in the list as he was able to influence and work with others to determine world affairs.  He was able to forcefully lead the fight against the mid-century growth of fascism in Europe and to provide leadership in WW2, where others had failed.

Franklin D Roosvelt on the other hand, was I feel, a statesman who did have tremendous effect on world affairs. Straight away, upon being elected for the first time, he implemented plans to encourage America’s recovery from the great depression and as a result, the USA was in a financially fit state to support Britain and the allies in their fight against Hitler in WW2.  He was instrumental in preparing the American people for war, despite enormous domestic political opposition. Without the financial and eventually, military, support for the allies in Europe and in the far east, world history might well have been considerably different.

The Roosevelt administration strove to avoid Woodrow Wilson’s mistakes in selling the League of Nations to the Senate. It sought bipartisan support and in September 1943 the Republican Party endorsed U.S. participation… [From https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/un]

FDR-1944-Campaign-Portrait_(cropped)For me, FDR’s main claims to world renown are the eradication of polio and the foundation of the United Nations.

He was not of course, singularly responsible for either, but the way he was able to tenaciously support and endorse the formation of The United Nations (as well as reputedly name it) was remarkable. Then, like now, corporate and political America were not especially keen to be part of a new world order.

The programme spent a fair amount of time discussing FDR’s health problems and how he was able to disguise his polio and keep on working.  It told of his initiating The March of Dimes, which eventually led to the creation of a successful polio vaccine and as a result polio is now pretty much eradicated across the world

My vote therefore would be for FDR.

I may also have considered Mikhail Gorbachev who was responsible for perestroika and glasnost. In turn, those changes to the Soviet Union, led to less world tension, the fall of the Berlin Wall and a reduction in nuclear weapons. But he didn’t make the cut.

Also see:

https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/why-did-the-royal-navy-sink-the-french-fleet-in-world-war-ii/

http://www.un.org/un70/en/content/history/index.html

https://fdrlibrary.org/polio

Banco Santander

When we first bought our small apartment in Spain, it followed a fair bit of research (mostly by Sharon) and we even tripped over to Manchester to visit a Holiday Roadshow put on by one of the various T.V. shows.  All sorts of help and advice was available and from here we made what we thought was the good decision to use English lawyers, based in Spain. With our (then) complete lack of Spanish and uncertainty of the rules, we used a company that has their Costa Del Sol branch in Marbella.

banco-santanderWe asked those lawyers to set up a bank account for us in Spain, something that the roadshow representative said was part of the package, but which they, when it came to it, had a reluctance to do. Suffice to say, they made something of a minimal effort to help us with that task and we ended up with a Banco Santander account, at an office on the Puerto Banus side of Marbella – roughly 40-50 minutes’ drive from our apartment.

The manager was ok, he spoke good English and he did what he could to help us get up and running.  However, no matter how many times we tried or what he told us could happen; getting our account transferred to our more local Los Boliches branch was impossible.  We had to trail to the far side of Marbella for all sorts of reasons, including a new debit card for Sharon which could not be posted to our apartment – (“we can only post these to your home address but cannot post them outside the country and your home address is in England”!!).

We also found the local branch in Los Boliches so unhelpful at all stages that we decided to change banks. That isn’t easy over here, there’s no real help from the banks themselves, but we were lucky enough to have Banco Sabadell recommended by the local lawyers we are gradually transferring our business to.  The manager we dealt with helped us with everything he could – which did not include closing our Santander account.  Following yet another unsuccessful visit to the Los Boliches branch (along with a Spanish speaker) we had to go to the Marbella branch (again!).

indexWe phoned first and were assured that we could (only) close the account at the branch that held the account. So off we went.

Only to be told, after they had cut up our bank cards, that they COULD NOT CLOSE the account because there was a c.€55 charge due on 8th January (to cover charges for period ending 31st December). Why couldn’t they take cash for that?  “es impossible!”. Our Spanish speaker was as perplexed as we were but, in the end, we had to leave €100 in the account to pay whatever the exact charge would be on the 8th January.

We are assured that we can then close the account at the Los Boliches branch.

Assured!

We’ll see.

Photo Credits:

https://www.bitterwallet.com/complaints/complaint-about-santander-youre-not-the-only-one-36262

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.santander.co.uk