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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.

Screenshot 2019-11-02 at 14.36.20

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:

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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.

directory-1334441__480

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/

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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

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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

 

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The busy summer continues …

img_0329For the first few weeks since returning from Spain at the very end of June, life was a bit hectic. The first event of no small note was the birth of Betony (and Josh)’s baby – Chester Jax. He was born on July 3rd (and weighed just 5lbs – such a tiny thing). Chester is my step-Grandson (??), although I guess I will be Grandad to him or abuelo, if Josh speaks Spanish to/with him.

During July and early August, I had several nice long (and hot) walks. Tony and I went up above Rotcher as far as The Rose and Crown and then along Bradshaw Lane and Laund Road before descending back into Slaithwaite via Moor Side Lane and Meal Hill.  John R, Mark S and I followed much the same route but extended it along Crimea Lane, Slaithwaite Gate and the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail as far as the canal – then back to Slaithwaite.

David T and I walked along the cycle track to Bradley and back along the canal – a route John R and I often follow on Tuesdays when we meet.  This is part of the Calder Valley Greenway, which meanders through pleasant countryside all the way through to Dewsbury, although we rarely walk beyond Mirfield (where a tasty lunch can be had at Café Nosh).

img_0342

Alone, I’ve walked to Huddersfield several times and to Marsden several more. I even walked to Marsden and back on the canal with Carol one day; it’s a nicer experience when there’s someone to talk with.

Now though, the weather has turned a little cooler and I’m not as inclined to bother (although I really should).  So, I’m looking forward to my return to Spain in September, where and when my ambulatory activities can recommence.

We’ve also had a variety of people come and visit us to see our new home and/or to wish Sharon a happy birthday.  It’s been lovely to see Chris and Paul, Karen, Karen and Darren, Carol, David and Gail, Emma, Ann, and Tony and Gill.

I’m writing this en-route to London, where I will undertake some training with City and Guilds. Down there, I will meet Alison (with whom I have visited India several times), Karen, and Sue.  This time it will be a new work venture – something to occupy my semi-retired time?

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It’s been a busy month!

On Monday 30th July, we moved into our new home. That being said, it’s taken until now to get halfway settled. Our new home is a new-build, and for us a downsize 😀.

2000px-ikea_logo-svg

So, besides having to chuck a load of stuff away, we’ve also had to buy furniture that has lots of ‘hidden’ storage. Yea for IKEA. I’m sure that others might have said that it was bound to happen but – we had some issues with IKEA’s delivery service. Because the new apartment’s postcode cannot be found on large company databases we had to visit the store in Leeds to make and pay for our order. That was Monday.  They, the delivery area folks at IKEA said it would be delivered “tomorrow’ – Tuesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  Whoo-oo.

We’d given the project manager’s postcode (she lives just up the same road) and off we went looking forward to a day building stuff.

19:00pm came before we were finally told that the delivery would now come “tomorrow’ – Wednesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  And so, it did, mid-afternoon with no more than two minutes warning (which is 58 mins short of that promised). They also delivered a few other things addressed to other people in Halifax and in Huddersfield. As we were going out later to spend the evening with friends being entertained by Robbie Hunter-Paul at Elland golf club, we only managed to complete half of the delivery, which was itself ONLY HALF of the order we’d delivered. Sharon phoned IKEA on Thursday and asked whether/if/when our order might be completed.

Someone eventually phoned back and said that Leeds IKEA had now run out of stock (of the main item missing) and that they had re-ordered it via the Ashton-under-Lyne branch.  It would be delivered on Friday between 07:00am and 19:00pm.  We received another phone call on late on Thursday to say this wasn’t now going to happen as Leeds had found the missing half of our order. We eventually had the final items from our order delivered on Saturday. We’d told IKEA about the extra items (Halifax and Huddersfield) but the delivery guys were not interested. Charity shop then?

Whoo-oo, we have storage.

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Once again, I need to have another moan about my experience of customer service in this country.

Friends and family often don’t notice the same issues as me and that itself is indicative of what has become accepted here as customer service.  Being served in this sense, comes in many guises:

  • we queue to pay for groceries and the like at supermarkets,
  • we ask to be served in a wide variety of other shops (grocers, butchers, car parts etc.)
  • we stand at bars and coffee shops asking to be served drink or to order food,
  • we queue to buy take away food,
  • we sit at restaurant tables and wait to be served with all manner of comestibles.

These are just a few examples of what calls itself a service industry.

customer-service

In many ways, I accept the dour faces and lack of communication from folks who have to sit by a cash register all day, monotonously scanning goods and asking if you’re paying by card or cash. I know that there are many examples of cheerier till operatives, but they are not the norm.

What does grip my gall are the girls and boys who decide that working in a bar or pretending to be a waiter/waitress is the easiest way of earning a few extra pounds. They don’t want to be there, the just want the money that comes their way after completing their shift.

16864721353_dc47ce9c27_zThere are very few places in this country where we find food/drink service personnel who see their work as a career.  In other countries, being a camarero, serveur or Cameriere is seen as a career and something one needs to work at. I’ve mostly found food/drink service to be unobtrusive and polite (if not always prompt) in other European countries but not here.  Furthermore, where I have found good food/drink service in the UK it has been invariably presented by people from elsewhere in Europe, often Eastern Europe.

My current gripe was with being served gin and tonic the other night.  My simple request for a “Strawberry Gin and slimline tonic please, without ice” was not simple enough:

which gin is it?” [server]

I don’t know – the last one I ordered was simply served to me, I wasn’t aware you had more than one.” [me]

it’s usually Gordon’s” [manager – who happened to be passing – to server]

ok, single or double?” [server]

single, please.” [me]

And off the server went.

ice-cubes

She returned from the other end of the bar with a goldfish bowl (i.e. large bulbous drinking glass) full of ice with a strawberry gin in it.

did you say slimline tonic?” [server]

yes, I also said ‘no ice’!” [me]

At this the server looked completely blank; first of all at me, and then her manager, who simply walked away without offering a solution other than “use the tongs”.  I was then stunned to see the server walk to a sink and lift out all of the ice with tongs.  When she returned her face was like thunder.  She completed pulling the pint we’d also ordered and plonked that down with such force that I thought the base might crack.  She turned her sour face to me and said what it all came to (££) …

can I now have that extra shot in there please?” [me]

you can if you pay for it!” [server]

I have no objection to paying, but as you’ve now thrown half the gin down the sink, I’d better take it back to the table with SOME flavour in it” [me – now not being as pleasant as I prefer to be]

And again, she stormed off with the glass and when she returned, she banged that down too.

I found her attitude completely irrational as she’d made the mistake in the first place.

The manager should have stepped in at the outset, but she too would probably not have been trained properly either.

Some previous grumps:

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/margate/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/city-centre-food/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/city-centre-food-cont/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/wetherspoons/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/curmudgeon/

Image Credits:

http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/c/customer-service.html

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96223380@N02/

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=15694&picture=ice-cubes

 

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