Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A Black Day For Traditional Dancing

A group of Morris dancers say they are "disappointed and frustrated" after performances were cancelled because they wear traditional black make-up.

The Motley "Border" Morris Men from Dartford in Kent, follow a tradition which originated in the Welsh borders, where faces were blackened using burnt corks.

Chantry Primary School in Gravesend is one of three event organisers which have cancelled perfomances this year.
The school said it had to weigh up any potential offence to its community.

The Motley Morris Men's Squire, Pete Hargreaves, said it was clear from its website, that the dancers wear black make-up.

"It is the third event this year that we have had cancelled," he said.
"We get to the point where everything is set up and then they suddenly realise that we are a black-face Border group.
"They say people might be offended without investigating why we dance with black faces."

Blackened faces are believed to have been used originally as a disguise by Morris men who danced for money and did not want to be recognised.

Head teacher of Chantry Primary, Hazel King, said it apologised for any inconvenience caused to the Morris Men.

"We organised the event to bring a diverse and fragile community together," she said.
"To celebrate all cultures we booked a Morris troupe, having failed to recognise the possible significance for our community of their tradition to perform with blackened faces.
"We found ourselves in a difficult position of weighing up any potential offence versus not wishing to compromise the Morris dancers' tradition."

I know this school, as I happen to have been born and bred in Gravesend. It has a high proportion of Sikh children in its classrooms.

Personally I find this an insult to them, not because the dancers wear black makeup but because the school is implying that these children, including their white schoolmates, can’t differentiate between ‘dressing up’ and real life.

Every year these morris men perform in front of thousands of people at the Rochester Sweeps Festival, organised by Rochester Council. Not one single person has ever complained that these dancers may be racially motivated.

Is it me, or is political correctness absurd?

Now a conundrum for you.

If a black pop singer was contracted to make a fifty date appearance at the O2 Arena in London, lets say in July, would the organisers cancel it if they found out that he performed with a white face?

If they want non-PC they can have non-PC. So sue me!

Monday, 29 June 2009

A Hero Made Of Gold, Not Plastic!

It has been announced that Britain's oldest Olympian Godfrey Rampling, who won medals at the 1932 and 1936 Games in Los Angeles and Berlin, has died at the age of 100.
Godfrey was the father of actress Charlotte Rampling.

A 400m runner, he was a member of the Great Britain 4x400m relay teams which won silver in 1932 and gold in 1936.
In the 1932 Los Angeles Games, he anchored the 4x400m relay team to silver behind the US.

Four years later, in the notorious Berlin Games, he ran a superb second leg alongside team-mates Fred Wolff, Bill Roberts and Arthur Brown to overtake his American rivals and help secure gold for his team.

Godfrey narrowly missed out on individual medals at both Games, but won gold in the 440 yards at the British Empire Games in 1934.

Mr Rampling served 29 years in the Royal Artillery before retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1958.

Will Sky News and the dailies be giving this story 24/7 coverage on a par with an inconsequential pop singer?

Silly me, of course not, we’re not interested in real people!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Trust The Prison Reformers

According to a report by the Prison Reform Trust, the government should stop building prisons and invest in treatment for addicts and effective health and social care.

What an excellent idea! This would go some way to compensate offenders for being unlucky enough to be caught and even unluckier to be sentenced.

My thinking is, reintroduce hard labour and capital punishment, then perhaps the prisons would have fewer ‘customers’, allowing some of the existing prisons to be closed down and demolished.

Job sorted, at no cost to the taxpayer!

Friday, 26 June 2009

The News Is That There Is No News

With the death of Michael Jackson yesterday, all news appears to have stopped.

Judging by the coverage on this morning’s TV, he must have been as famous as Jade Goody!

In an interview, someone, presumably famous, described Jackson as “A great singer.”
Says who? If he was that great, how comes I can’t buy a recording of him singing ‘Nessun Dorma’!

Nuff said.

RIP Mikey.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Wonder Of Woolworths On The Web

Here’s some good news for all of you nostalgic old softies. From 7:00am tomorrow, ‘Woolworth’ will be coming to a computer screen near you!

The Woolworths brand is to begin trading as an online business, six months after the ex-High Street store giant went into administration.

Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd, part of the Littlewoods group, reportedly paid administrators between £5million and £10million for the brand name.

Within hours of the announcement that the brand was to return online, 20,000 customers were said to have registered. They were then given the opportunity to suggest what they would like the store to sell. It is understood that the good old ‘pic ‘n’ mix’ will definitely be one item that you will be able to add to your shopping basket!

"Families wanted us to bring back Woolies as soon as possible, so that's what we've done," said Shop Direct chief executive, Mark Newton-Jones.
"From acquiring the brand to launching it has only been 20 weeks; something you could never achieve with a High Street business but can do online.
We're aiming to create a fun, family web experience which keeps on getting better and better."

God forbid that this never happens with MFI!

* This is not an endorsement because, like most people, I haven’t seen the site yet, but if you have a need to explore the wonder of Woolworths yourself, you can find it at:

Monday, 22 June 2009

A Publess Village? Unthinkable!

"A chronic shortage of affordable housing" is forcing "unprecedented" numbers of village pubs and shops to close, an alliance of the National Housing Federation (NHF), the British Beer and Pub Association and the Rural Shops Alliance have warned.

They calculate that 650 village pubs and 400 shops will close in the next twelve months.

The reason for this? Wealthy commuters and second-home owners are out-pricing locals, the mainstay of local trade. People whose families were born, lived and died in these villages for hundreds of years can no longer afford to buy homes in them.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: "If the local pub and shop disappear from a village, it rips the heart out of community life.
"Many villages are now in real danger of losing their unique identity. They are becoming holiday zones preserved for tourists and second home owners, which close down for business in the winter."

The NHF estimates about 100,000 new affordable homes need to be built in England alone to meet demand in rural areas over the next ten years.

That’s all well and good, but who’s to say that there isn’t 100,000 wealthy commuters and wannabe second homers out there waiting for these new homes to be built!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Who's Right Is Right?

Yesterday we saw the first criminal trial without a jury for 400 years. I’ll spare you the details of the case, my concern is that the British equivalent to a Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, is slowly being eroded.

The Magna Carta clearly states (in Latin) that, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

Even in recent law, the Human Rights Act 1998, Schedule 1, Article 6 states:
(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

The courts brought Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 into play in this case. A trial may be held without a jury if there is proof ot concern that there might be some kind of jury knobbling. The Act states:
(6) The following are examples of cases where there may be evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place—
(a) a case where the trial is a retrial and the jury in the previous trial was discharged because jury tampering had taken place,
(b) a case where jury tampering has taken place in previous criminal proceedings involving the defendant or any of the defendants,
(c) a case where there has been intimidation, or attempted intimidation, of any person who is likely to be a witness in the trial.

All well and good, but are judges above tampering and intimidation?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

From School To Dole In One Easy Step

Yesterday it was announced that unemployment is up to 2.26 million and that youth unemployment surged to its highest level for 15 years.

Official figures show that one third of pupils aged 16 and 17 who have already left school were out of work in the three months to April. The number of young people claiming benefits has soared by 80 per cent to 456,400 in the year to May and this will be added to in the next few weeks when the current school year ends.

This may, in some way, be caused by the current economic downturn, but it may have more to do with the fact that the population is increasing year upon year, workers from EU member states having the right to work here in the UK and people approaching retirement age being urged to stay on at their job because the government is running out of State Retirement Benefit funds.

Even in times of plenty there are only so many jobs to go round, so what chance do these school leavers have?

In the not too distant future, 2.26 million unemployed may equate to almost full employment!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Back To The Future

According to the ’Digital Britain’ report, outlined by Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw in Parliament yesterday, you, me and everyone else face a new "broadband tax" on their landline telephones to pay for super-fast internet to be extended nationwide under new Government plans.

The £6-a-year levy on fixed phone lines would subsidise the cost of installing next-generation broadband networks in areas where they would not otherwise be economically viable.

Every home and business in the UK will have access to at least 2Mbps broadband by 2012 under the plans.

Hold it just there, Mr Brown. What about people like me? I am already on a service receiving 20Mbps which has the option to upgrade to 50Mbps! Will I have to pay this tax?

Many years ago, the then Telewest, now Virgin Media, had the foresight to install fibre optic cables in many areas to supply cable TV, telephone and then a few years ago, highish speed broadband internet.
In all that time, BT have been dragging their heels, claiming that laying fibre optic cables would be too costly.

At 2Mbps this much vaunted, tax funded “super-fast” service will obviously still be using the old, copper cabled telephone lines, a technology well over a hundred years old.

As Robert Fulford said, “I have seen the future and it doesn’t work.”!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

I Reckon Euro Fool, Peter

Peter Mandelson, First Secretary of State, the man who was forced not once, but twice from Tony Blair's government while holding Cabinet positions, has suggested that dropping the pound in favour of the euro remains an “important objective” for Labour.

That's rich coming from a Government that, time after time, has failed to honour its manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the European treaty.

This latest attempt at political suicide surely wont work because, a. most of the UK’s population want to retain their national identity, and b. do they, the Government, really want to highlight the disparity between UK vs European prices.

Try to dream up something else to justify your existence, Peter!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Buyer Beware

It transpires that the Governments car scrappage scheme, you know the one, trade your old car in, the Government gives you £1000 and the dealer gives you £1000 against a new car, ‘nobody loses, everybody wins, Rodney‘, has turned out to be a loser!

Quote from today’s ‘Times’: “Manufacturers who normally offer loans with interest rates as low as 3.9 per cent are charging customers on the scheme up to 10.4 per cent. Drivers could be better off ignoring the £2,000 grant and obtaining a more competitive finance deal after selling their old car separately, according to a study by Parker’s car price guide.”

For example, selected Seat models are being offered with 0 per cent finance outside the scheme, but if you apply for the grant, 8.5 per cent is what you will be charged.

Manufacturers were unhappy with having to fund half of the scrappage grant, and I for one don’t blame them. They see this as an opportunity to get their money back.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said: “Unlike most European scrappage schemes, which are entirely funded by government, the UK scheme demands an industry contribution of £1,000 to match the Government’s own input.
In some cases, where manufacturer profit margins are low, they are not able to offer additional incentives which may still be available on non-scrappage models and this may be reflected in the finance arrangements.”

That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Gordon!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

If Anyone Can, Ann Can

Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald, has announced that she is to stand as Speaker of the House of Commons.

Miss Widdecombe said the job "will certainly be an enormous challenge, because we do have to get the reputation of parliament restored in time for the next election. It's not something which can be postponed until afterwards''.

She said that she wanted to "clean up the place".

If anyone can do the job, straight talking, no nonsense Ann can, after all, she was one of the most frugal MPs in the recent expenses scandal!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Portfolio Without Minister

The Whitehall farce just runs and runs, and I don’t just mean the in-fighting and back biting over the last couple of days.

Last week, Mr Brown appointed Glynis Kinnock, wife of ex-Labour leader Neil, as Europe Minister.
OK, so she’s not an MP, but I can live with that, after all Gordon is running out of trusted sidekicks in the House.

Yesterday it emerged that she could not do the job because she was still an MEP!

Under EU Parliament rules, Glynis is not allowed to serve as a minister in a national Government until she steps down as an MEP on July 14.

She is reluctant to quit her job as an MEP as she would have to give up some of her rather generous pension and the golden handshake that goes with it.

What more proof do we need that we are being governed by headless chickens and a Prime Minister with a bullet hole in his foot?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Explain This One

On reading the results of the European elections I was struck by a thought in the form of a riddle, conundrum, enigma, call it what you will.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has come second in the polls behind the Conservatives, beating Labour into third place.

My thought? If UKIP’s slogan is ‘Say No To European Union’, why do they field candidates for election to the European parliament?

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Happy Birthday, Henry

Today, June 6th, the 65th anniversary of D Day, Henry Allingham, Britain’s oldest man celebrates his 113th birthday.

Living in three centuries is no mean achievement. Henry is the first British man in history to have 113 candles on his birthday cake!

Born in 1896, the year that Queen Victoria became England’s longest serving monarch, the first Olympic Games of the modern era were held and Guglielmo Marconi patented wireless telegraphy, what world changes he has seen!

We wish him the happiest of birthdays and look forward to toasting his 114th in twelve months time.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Et Tu Purnell?

Last night, James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, stepped down from the cabinet and told Prime Minister Gordon Brown to "stand aside".

With the government crumbling before his very eyes and almost certainly poor, no, make that bad results in today’s elections, poor old Gordon has nowhere to go now, so as a Parthian shot, why doesn’t he teach all of his ministerial toe rags a lesson by going to the Palace and calling for the dissolution of parliament?

He can then sit in his garden on sunny summer mornings, writing his memoirs, while his old “mates” are all out looking for a proper job!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Whitehall Farce

As everybody knows, tomorrow (Thursday) is Election Day.
This time around it won’t be so much an election to vote for your county councillor, more of a referendum on whether Gordon Brown should call a general election.

The government is in so much disarray, the outcome doesn’t need predicting.

The lower house has turned into the real, reality show. Forget next week’s forthcoming new series of ‘Big Brother’, it will be no contest.

So far this week we have had three government ministers falling on their swords. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, Tom Watson, the Cabinet Office minister, (that ones a surprise, he is a close ally of Mr Brown), and Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, are all leaving the Government. We are still waiting for the top scalp in this massacre, Alistair Darling. Surely he must resign!

The Prime Minister is now forced to have a Cabinet reshuffle, but wait, some ministers, including David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, are reluctant to drop their post to take up another.

Four Labour MPs caught up in the expenses scandal, namely Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Ian Gibson and Margaret Moran were all barred from standing at the next election by the party’s disciplinary panel. Jim Devine has also been referred to the panel over allegations that he submitted receipts from a firm that may not have existed.

To top it all, there’s a rumour going around that senior Labour MPs were urging colleagues to sign a letter declaring that they had no confidence in Mr Brown.

All we need now is sex! Are we only days away from seeing a couple of back benchers copulating on a bench at the back?

Expenses scandal? Tony Blair must be sitting in his £4m mansion laughing up his Armani sleeve!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Britain's Got A Lot To Answer For

There’s not a lot to choose from today, Alistair Darling or Susan Boyle. Miss Boyle hasn’t appeared on ‘Here’s George’ before so it’s got to be her turn.

It is reported today that Susan has been admitted to the Priory Clinic in north London, suffering from exhaustion after she (unexpectedly?) came second in the final of the ITV show ‘Britain‘s Got Talent’.
Apparently, Miss Boyle, who has learning difficulties, threw a wobbly at her London hotel and was interviewed by the police under the Mental Health Act. She then admitted herself to the clinic voluntarily, on the advice of a GP.

I’m not casting aspersions on Susan, she is who she is, my beef is with the production company of the programme.

Susan has a better than average singing voice but there are mezzo soprani in amateur operatic societies up and down the land with far superior voices to hers. I dare say that there were even some women auditioned for the show that had better voices than hers, but they were probably passably pretty.

In my opinion Susan Boyle was selected as a freak show exhibit. I can just imagine it now “She’s plain, dowdy, overweight and not quite the ticket, and she can sing a bit, let’s keep her in and we’ll get a couple of million extra viewers!”

They have probably promised her the earth, a promise they know they could never deliver. Yes she will make a few million quid from a record deal, yes she will be very famous for a few months, but it is all founded on her curiosity value. She has neither the temperament nor the mental stamina to become a superstar so why make her suffer?

Let the poor girl go back to West Lothian, back to being just plain old Susan Boyle, charity worker, before it‘s too late. Forget the recording deals and media coverage, for her own sanity, let her go!

The way she’s heading now she could become the Amy Winehouse of light music!

By the way. One of the boys in the winning dance troupe, ‘Diversity’, that went on to win the show, lives not five miles away from this very keyboard, so good luck to him, and them and well done.