"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Kitchen Sink electioneering

So it seems that the main thrust of electioneering for 2015 is turning into a kitchen sink drama. First of all the Milibands have their pictures taken in what turns out to be their second, smaller, more basic kitchen:

                                                                                    and this gives plenty of other politicians something to attack including Sara Vine, Michael Gove's wife, has a 'go' at the Milibands and unable to resist a further taunt mentions the old age and poor status of her own kitchen in her Daily Mail column. As in any school playground fight, friends gather to take sides [Quoting Harry Hill: Fiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhtttttt]  and the Gruniad has the whole story of what happened next when the chef Jay Rayner [beloved of the One Show] decided to point out that the Goves had had two homes refurbished at taxpayers expense:

and the resulting twitter row is quite entertaining. Especially as poverty campaigner and austerity cook Jack Monroe got involved too. [I have a soft spot for her as she hails from my neck of the woods]

Then Dave the Cameron makes a salad:

So I am wondering about getting Kitchen Sink Blogs trending on twitter and devoting a blog to cooking and kitchens. But then I would have to admit that actually - despite all previous claims to the contrary - I can cook quite well. And actually like a nice tidy kitchen and the odd gadget or two. But the thing is this, I can too often find something else to do. And if I tell people I can cook [so just keep this between you and I for now] they might expect a meal when they come here. And then I would have to shake off my airy-fairy, hippy-dippy attitude and stop serving digestive biscuits and a bottle of elderflower water. This would mean time in the kitchen before serving and time clearing up after a meal. Time when others are talking about interesting things like politics, or organising demonstrations or just talking etc. Or I could be reading a book or something...... anything!

And then I would have to shop and put stuff away. And worry about running out of things. And get organised about menus [had to look up how to spell that]

So can you see where I am going with this? Who really cares about politicians kitchens?  I need to know about their party policies and work-in-progress and record if they are serving politicians and their beliefs. I want to know that they find the state of the country and its citizens more important than their opponents. I want to receive election addresses which will tell me all about how all our fellow citizens will have enough to eat and somewhere to live - I don't want pictures of prospective parliamentary candidates shaking hands with other politicians or stroking dogs or kissing babies.

I want to think that after May 7th we will not have the need for food banks because everyone - working or not - will be able to afford to buy food. Think benefits will not be taken away from anyone even if there is a doubt over entitlement, it will be realised that it is far better to overpay than to leave someone to starve.

I don't want sick people to have to worry that the necessary, expensive drugs will not be availble for the poorer people in our communities, or that the best treatment will only be available for those able to afford private healthcare. I want all our schools to be places of excellence with well paid teachers, all the equipment and accomadation they need and no worries about future funding.

The social services should be praised rather than constantly blamed and again be provided with sufficient funds. Public sector workers should be valued and not pilloried. Nurses who haven't seen a pay rise for years should be valued and rewarded with money and not just empty words.

Where would these funds coming from. Easy. If we can find monies for wars and defence we can find monies for peace. No point in defending a sick and ailing society after all...... and that's just the start. Rather than read about the kitchen sinks dramas, can we read about the real dramas that constitute living in this decade and what the politicians want to do about it instead of scoring cookery points off each other?

Takeaway anyone?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Jeremy Clarkson? A role model for the nation .......

So there is an online petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson, who has been suspended by the BBC for allegedly assaulting a co-worker and future 'Top Gear' shows have been 'pulled'. No surprise that the instigator of the petition is that guardian of public morals [please note that my tongue was firmly in my cheek as I typed that, not an easy feat] the blogger Guido Fawkes.

Without prejudging the facts of this case, let us just reflect on the things we do know about Jeremy Clarkson. A very few of the things we do know that he has said/done:

  • He called Gordon Brown 'A one-eyed idiot'. He later apologised for this.
  • He has made several remarks that are more than bordering on the racist side. For the controversy over his 'slope' remark look here. This is possibly one of his milder comments which I feel I can display only because I am Welsh!: 'I'm not a racist. I am currently sitting in a bar with a man who lives quite near Wales.'
  • There was a furore over the programme filmed in Argentina over whether the number plate on the Top Gear car was a set up or not.

I suppose its pretty obvious that I don't like Clarkson and I don't watch the show. But why am I bovvered [to quote Lauren] enough to write a blog on him? Well because I am so flabbergasted that 
  • There is a petition to reinstate a man who has allegedly assaulted a co-worker, or indeed anyone.
  • Over 200,000 have already signed it, a little over 15 hours after news of the incident broke. 
  • The whole incident is still at the 'allegedly' stage anyway, so the time for petitions and comments really is not yet.
  • Are we to think it is permissible to assault a co-worker if - as allegedly is the case here - s/he has somehow made a mistake/not done the job properly?
  • And also because I can't help feeling that Jeremy Clarkson is now reaching super hero/iconic status - and is this the sort of role model we want for our youth?

Why is the photo at the top of this blog of baby lambs? Well to be honest, I prefer it to a photo of Jeremy Clarkson. Fair enough?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Prayer against David Cameron's ideals

Every child must learn how money is made and "how to turn a profit" if Britain is to produce a new generation of entrepreneurs, David Cameron has said
To read the rest of this article in the Daily Telegraph please follow this link

Please God no. 
May our children learn to love one and other, learn to help one and other and care for one and other. 
May they learn to enjoy the world as it is and when necessary learn to repair the damage man has made. 
May they learn that material possessions are not the most important acquisitions in life. 
May they learn that each faith has as much right to its beliefs as any other faith. 
May they learn that all people have equal rights to live on this wonderful planet whatever their colour, gender, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs and wherever they are born. 
May they learn that the only way forward is through peace and for all to share the fruits of their labours. 

May we all honour our fellows in this world.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Learning the times tables

                                    School tables - get the joke?

Elizannie has to stick her oar in on this latest headline in the Gruniad: 
Primary school pupils face new maths and grammar tests under ToriesEducation secretary says under Conservative rule, children would memorise times tables and be able to read a novel by age 11
Since she went to school back in the dark ages when we sat in class chanting times tables every day, and once we could individually chant each one to our school teacher we got a gold star on the 'tables chart' - she feels entitled......

Actually, I used to feel smug about the times tables chart. There it sat, with all those gold stars against my name. That is not to say I didn't worry myself sick [literally] on times tables testing day. I worried myself sick about lots of things at school except home time. But actually chanting the times tables was relatively easy. What no-one realised all those years ago was that I had an extremely mathematical brain [and before someone says how unusual for a girl - don't] and conditions like dyscalculia* exist.

I hope that you have just followed my link and understand about dyscalculia. Because despite having a mathematical brain and being able to recite times tables before the hat drops and perform mental addition quicker than a calculator [which depends on how fast the operator can input the figures, don't forget] - I have an awful lot of trouble telling the time. Not a joke I can assure you. Not a joke at all if I arrive somewhere an hour early or late, which has been known if I have used an analogue watch or clock. But a form of dyscalculia never the less which lots of members of my family possess whether or not their mathematical skills are really good.

What I am trying to say is that some kids can reproduce times tables really easily, some never will. Some will parrot them back without having a feel for the numerics involved. And as in reading tests with dyslexic children - employing times table tests will not show the true intelligence of a child or young person. And although I love a good algebra problem - honestly - posing a geometrical puzzle once it gets outside the mathematical bit of adding up the number of angles in any given shape and moves on to plan and elevation I will fall by the wayside.

So teach children with love and understanding, respect their individuality and ditch this over reliance on charts and league tables. Of course this will probably cost a bit more money at the chalk face but the investment in the long term has got to be worth it.

*http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/dyscalculia   For information on both dyslexia and dyscalculia

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The patriotic duty to de-clutter ........


Have nothing in your house that you do not
   know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
                                                                William Morris

I may have mentioned that one of my New Year Resolutions is to 'de-clutter'. This is the trendy word for getting rid of the accumulated stuff that is blocking cupboards, wardrobes, sheds and garages in the homes of the middle classes in this Capitalist, over-consuming society. And of course it has become trendy to 'de-clutter' with whole TV programmes, web-sites, businesses, media articles and too much more dedicated to the subject. If you don't believe me, google!

I've even bought a book about de-cluttering - Living More With Less, by James Wallman .  In true devotee style I have had the book delivered to my kindle rather than clutter up my [almost] decluttered bookshelves....

Bear with me. This is not going to be another one of those 'clear your living space and clear your mind and soul' polemics. In fact it will probably turn into one of those Elizannie rants when I wonder how society has come to this pass?

One may have various reasons for de-cluttering. Mine, apart from a desire to see the floor of my wardrobe[s] and the backwall of my bookshelves is the impending incoming of more family members, the smallest one of whom will take up more space per capita than his grandmother. Others of my age may be [using the modern parlance] 'downsizing' - we used to say moving somewhere smaller.

Don't expect to make a fortune from things kept so long that 'they must be worth something'. Checking online, beautiful books are only fetching a penny thanks to mass cheap publishing and e-publishing; wedding present linen is scorned as it won't tumble dry and needs ironing; ditto crockery and cutlery, even those still in their boxes are not fetching a lot but always quote the 'marque' - and nobody seems to use fish knives and forks anymore!; dark brown furniture is definitely 'out'. 'Vintage' is in, but beware, it has to be the right vintage. However, my handbag obsession has paid me back reasonably well, but good photos seem to help and if you have a handy professional photographer on hand for anything for sale it does seem to help!

Consumer society will love, nay encourage us in de-cluttering. New businesses have set up to do it for us if we can't quite get the hang of it. We can be sold clever books about it and then when we have done it and decided we can't just manage with 100 items - or whatever the latest buzz is - we will re-buy everything of which we have faithfully [in the true sense of the word] disposed. Hopefully ecologically by selling or recycling or in an approved fashion, by donating our 'clutter' to those less fortunate who would love to have enough possessions to think of de-cluttering. It will probably become our patriotic duty to de-clutter, then re-clutter to kick start the economy and beat the austerity. Win win.......

Of course there are many who will be superior to those of us trying to jump on the de-cluttering lifestyle. Those minimalists who have been around since the 60s for instance. I tried to be one but as soon as children arrived and I started shelving all those lovely little keepsakes like first teeth, first curls, first pictures, first paintings I lapsed to my hippy roots of carrying my world with me. And then other considerations collide: as a historian, should the wedding album survive the marriage parting for the sake of future generations? And that despised-when-it-sat-on-great-Nan's-mantelpiece ornament, but which she really loved and now I love for her sake piece - how can that ever be de-cluttered?

Telling a friend about this blog, apparently Janet Street-Porter got there first in the Daily Fail, which I wouldn't have known as the paper is not on my reading list. But I like JSP and the internet is a wonderful tool so if you would like to share her thoughts please do so here. She seems to agree with me that de-cluttering is probably better in thought than in deed.

But I would wholly recommend decluttering the mind. Much easier said than done, I find. And especially important with the General Election on the horizon and getting closer every day. Decide what is worth worrying about, what one can change and what one can do. In life, emotions and politics probably the best clutter we can deal with, one day at a time. The quote at the top of the blog from William Morris can equally well apply to Houses, Souls and Minds.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Apologies for Absence

It may have escaped your notice, but Elizannie has been missing for a while. Although this blog has the title of an apology, it isn't really. So it's a bit of an oxymoron in truth.  It contains explanations of a sort, extremely late seasons greetings for the month of December and Happy New Year wishes for 2015. Elizannie's absence was due to extenuating family circumstances topped up with a severe chest infection. The latter was cured by our wonderful NHS and although there were times when the whole blog idea looked as if - like the little tramp* - it would disappear off into the distance it is back and metaphorically sharpening its quill pen ready for a few acerbic political attacks in the months running up to the General Election. Deep joy.

Of course, the past weeks would not have been 'normal' in the Elizannie household without 'happenings'. Like the Christmas morning happening when assembled adults and very small children were locked out on the front door step on their return from church because - in a very complicated process of events - Elizannie had managed to double lock all out into the frosty morning. Suggestions from three year old Granddaughter that if we could get Father Christmas back with his magic key he would let us in were studiously ignored. Eventually Son-in-law and Lovely Neighbour managed to break in through the most 'vulnerable' entrance which never the less took 45 minutes, heavy machinery and a bill for quite a lot of money when the locksmith and carpenter were contacted after the Christmas break. Looking on the positive side it will provide a good story for many Christmases to come: 'Do you remember that Christmas when Nana Elizannie locked us all out whilst the turkey was burning in the oven?'

The change over to vegan cooking for those not eating turkey was a great success, so much so that the actual vegans did not actually get a lot of this Christmas cake as it was - imo - the best ever home made cake. And incidentally contained no alcohol whatsoever:

New Year's resolutions were the usual: Write that book, de-clutter and a new one this year, to try and conquer the fear of going out on my own. And the big news is that I managed - with the help of copious amounts of Bach's 'Rescue Remedy' to get to my local shops on the second of January. So very small steps for [this] woman but ones upon which to build.

And as for de-cluttering - this could become a national campaign. It is truly empowering, except at bedtime when one has forgotten that the bed still has detritus covering it. May even find that bracelet lost in 2004, who knows? But this could also become a metaphor for all of our minds too, especially with a General Election looming. We need to de-clutter our thoughts to enable us to decide between all the 'lies, damn lies and statistics'^ to which we will be 'treated' by politicians and media in the next months. 

Which brings me in one of Elizannie's normal, circuitous routes back to one of the comments in the first paragraph - the political attacks. Whilst lying on the settee listening to  new radio and struggling to breathe but truly thankful for my free antibiotics which not only killed the chest infection bugs but a few others which had been hanging around [and would have killed bubonic plague and anthrax according to the notes on the internet when consulted. Which is a good reason never to look up drugs and symptoms on the internet] I heard reports of Nigel Farage's latest pronouncement. This is neatly explained in this Guardian article, so I will leave it to it to explain for now and write my own rant another day when I am fully restored to full ranting breath!: 

I have lived in a country where the second question that is asked when one visits a doctor after 'Name?' is 'Insurance Company' - before 'What's Wrong?' And depending on the answer to the second question is the treatment [if any] for the third question. I know what it is like to get a medicine that is not strong enough to treat one's ailments successfully. In that situation and offered the chance to pay more to 'supplement' medical costs once again the haves win out.

I will just leave you all with the last thought, would you trust our NHS to this man?:

OK, unfair photo. But Elizannie definitely doesn't trust the man whatever the picture opportunity result!

Stay well friends.

*The photograph is from the end of the 1915 Charlie Chaplin film The Tramp
^Often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, but this is not confirmed. Mark Twain attributes it to a 'Wise Statesman' but whether or not he meant Disraeli or in fact it is Twain's own comment is unclear.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The new 'old lie'

Along with many other TV viewers, I watched BBC Question Time last Thursday 
[7th December] It's still available on iplayer if, dear reader, you would like to
check it out.

I usually watch #bbcqt. Sometimes I join in the 'discussion' by tweeting along 
with it on hashtag #bbcqt. [See, I am down with the kids when it comes to 
techie talk. Although I am having trouble formatting this blog today and on a 
tight time schedule so bear with me and I hope you can read this in reasonable 
comfort. And the colours maybe, well, interesting] 

Russell Brand and Nigel Farage were billed amongst the panelists. Interesting, I 
thought. And it was. Brand seemed to be trying to hold himself back and not 
live up to his firework image. Farage seemed not to have the same 
principles and - imo - was his usual patronising, truth-bending, mis-leading self.
However a couple of times his hail fellow well met act slipped and then the fire
in his eyes flashed and maybe his true self showed.

Yesterday there was, expectedly, quite a bit of discussion in the media about 
which of the two 'won' the debate. I was unaware that the debate was between 
the two and that there was a winner or loser. There were three others on the 
and all were interesting and had some good points to make. Whether one 
agreed or not. How annoying to make those points and then have the media
apparently ignore your presence. It was revealed by the media that some of the
audience may have been 'plants' by the panelists [Quelle Surprise] - the chappie
who challenged Brand to stand for Parliament is apparently the brother of a 
UKIP MEP and may stand for office himself. Brand himself wrote a long piece on 
facebook talking about his experience and his views and if, dear reader, you 
care to google there are many media articles taking sides on the 'debate'.

But today the lovely poet Michael Rosen has put up a view on facebook which I
want to share beyond facebook participants. So here it is. He wrote:

"I keep thinking of the young working class bloke (or he said he was) in the 
audience of Question Time who said that the working class had been hit hardest 
by immigration. What a  terrible success of the lie that his low wages have 
been caused by immigrants. What's incredible is that he could believe this at a 
time when it has been explicit - nay, boasted of - information coming from 
government and everywhere else that they are sacking people and 
keeping down wages as part of 'austerity'. So, in the usual run of things, the 
government 'freezes' wages (that is, cuts them in real terms) and the private 
sector uses that as a means to fix the rates too. That's what employers do. It's 
their 'job' to do that. They're paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to 
freeze wages. It's what they're doing.

And the bloke in the audience says that he's been hit by immigrants.

I hope a trade union organiser finds him at work on Monday and signs him up."

Wilfred Owen in WW1 wrote about the 'Old Lie' [Dulce et Decorum est] One hundred years later, another poet talks about another 'new' old lie.

Michael and I seemed to be watching the same programme. Thank goodness, as many of the commentators in the media yesterday didn't. We are entering the General Election propaganda period now, so look out for more 'new' Old Lies. Take the Politicians up on them all. Remember that if we let them get away with them, it is people like us that will suffer. Millions of us. Remember the man who said last time 'We are the party of the NHS'?* Did you believe him? Will you believe what he says this time? Just asking?

BTW I don't support Brand's views on not voting. I think that the only way we can change anything is through the ballot box. But also we should get involved by going to meetings, asking questions, lobbying MPs and candidates. We are part of the political processes. If we don't participate in however small a way, we cannot after the election complain. And as I and many others say on election days 'Many have died to get the vote so we shouldn't waste it'.

*Of course, David Cameron.

For the first time ever, no photo. Formatting and time have defeated me. I may return later and add something inappropriate!