The grass is greener? Or lemmings? Or rats leaving?

These are interesting questions.

I don’t have the answers – and frankly I don’t think that anyone does.

According to figures released today by University College London (on behalf of MigrationWatch), 130,000 Brits left the UK last year – just for Australia (71,000) and Spain (58,000).

I appreciate there’s a general air around the country that the UK is going downhill fast, but come on folks, surely we can all see that this is an attitude that sparked in to being within Parliament and has been wildly fanned by the British media.

Surely we’ve rumbled by now that keeping a population subjugated by fear is how those in power manage to maintain their power?

It seems to me that we have made a fundamental shift in our governance.

We have moved to top-down democracy instead of bottom-up democracy.

Power no longer comes from the voter; it may have originated there but through our political apathy we have granted total authority to our political parties.

We have now reached the point where we the voters have lost control of the country.

Don’t believe me?

Well how about this…

For the last eight general elections the winning political party that took power was voted against by the majority.

Yep, it’s true.

On a single-party comparison more people chose to vote against the last eight governments than voted for them.

So our democratic power is where?

In the rubbish bin – along with the mandate from the people that our last eight parliaments have claimed they had (but don’t).

Faced with a political system like this and the continued ‘climate of fear’, is it really any wonder if people choose to live elsewhere?


Book review: Out of the Tunnel by Rachel North

The strapline on this books reads:
‘Before and after 7/7: one woman’s extraordinary story’

I have been reading Rachel’s blog for years, and in this small way I feel as though I know her – or feel as though I know something of her.

So when I picked up the book I thought it was going to be difficult to write a dispassionate, objective review.

It wasn’t, it was very easy.

And this is entirely due to Rachel’s relaxed style of writing, her easy narrative and how unafraid she is of facing deeply painful, personal horrors.

The situation surrounding her rape is awful, Rachel’s detachment is exemplary.

And then she is caught up in the 7th of July bombings on the London underground.

Rachel details the events and aftershocks of the two cataclysmic events; her rape and physical assault and the aftermath (both medical, investigative and legal) of the event that occurred when a stranger forced his way in to her flat…

And – is if that wasn’t enough – the event of and aftermath surrounding her involvement on the King’s Cross underground train explosion when it was blown up by Mohamed Siddique Khan on 7/7 (or 7th of July if you speak English rather than American) is very moving.

The author pieces together in a thoughtful, carefully considered manner ‘who-did-what’ (and sometimes ‘who-didn’t-do-what’), and goes six months beyond the bombings to a happier time in her life.

One sad aspect of Rachel’s tale lies outside the harrowing scenes.

The horrendously poor quality of life that she and J endure.

There are a number of examples that go to highlight how poor the quality of their work/life balance is, yet this fact is unremarked upon.

I hope Rachel’s emergence as an author acts as a catalyst for change in this area.

Out of the Tunnel is a well told story brought to us from a gifted, naturally talented writer.

But occasionally she tries just a little too hard and when she does it shows.

In places the book is in need of a bloody good edit – displaying slight signs of tiredness and being occasionally just a little metaphor-heavy.

However I put these minor niggles down to Rachel’s immaturity as a writer; I feel she is so talented that as she grows in to the role she will – as all authors must – become an even better story teller.

But it’s a worthwhile read – for the way Rachel deals with the events in her life and for the example she sets in the way she conducts herself (both as a victim of outrage and in the way she deals with governmental attitude).

Out of the Tunnel by Rachel North.

I look forward to reading many more of her works in the future.


The saddest thing about Big Brother 8…

There are lots of good, bad, high and low events in the 2007 bunch of cnuts Big Brother inmates.

But the saddest thing by far has been exposed by the requirement that housemates read aloud portions of text printed on cards.

Sam and Tracey; they’re at the lowest end of literacy.

Neither of them is a competent, confident, fluid reader.

They stumble over the simplest words.

They are unable to pronounce common words and phrases.

And this, my friends, is the saddest thing about Big Brother 8.

That our schools – and the teachers in those schools and the parents of these children who attend these schools – are happy to produce young adults to a standard of education that third-world countries surpased a decade ago.

That’s the really sad thing about Big Brother 8.


Let’s have another go…

Fresh from our gloriously non-competitive outing at The Deer Park on Sunday it’s time for another go…

This Sunday there’s another combined training competition at Allenshill – Prelim 7 this time.

So Vinnie and I are entered (isn’t this internet-thingy wonderful?).

We’re going to do two classes.

Punishment and glutton.

The last time Vin and I did P7 we were placed so we’ve got a very tangible target to beat this time – 125 points.


I received a text from Sue at the yard this morning to say that Beech is having his (hopefully final) x-ray on Wednesday.

Fingers and crossed.


I am NOT a pussy, ok?

We didn’t do the two-phase competition today.

We did go.

‘We’ being The Lovely S, Vinnie (the horse formerly known as ‘muckbucket’) and me.

We just didn’t compete.

The weather and the going were so awful when we arrived that I left it to the last possible moment to decide whether we would compete or not.

And then the decision made itself anyway.

The day went a little like this:

Up at stupid o’clock; stagger and lurch about the house trying to get brain and body talking to each other in the same language instead of one speaking a kind of Serbo-Croatian dialect whilst the other only ‘spoke’ British Sign Language.

Breakfast and morning tea delivered to The Lovely S in bed.

We left the house with the usual things completed and arrived at the yard more or less on time to find…

Well I’m not altogether sure what it was we found.

It was in Vinnie’s field and it looked vaguely Vinnie-shaped but whatever it was it had been hand-sculpted out of Worcestershire’s finest mud.

Then the pile of mud looked at me and made a Vinnie-flavoured whicker so I guessed that my horse had been used as a kind of mould-maker by a group of itinerant countryside mud-sculptors.

I approached the Mud God.  He took one look at the head-collar in my hand and legged it pronto – proving that he wasn’t a mud-sculpture after all!

I tried to approach him again; he ran away further and broke in to a canter around the field.

Hey, I studied military strategy. I know when to withdraw to strategically regroup.

I regrouped.

In the kitchen.

With an apple, a sharp knife and the washing-up bowl.

Then I picked up the head-collar, the apple slices in the washing-up bowl and advanced again on the Mud God.

As soon as I entered the field he spotted the head-collar, trotted and broke in to an effortless canter.

Then he spotted the bowl.

I could almost see the word ‘food’ form in his head.

He did a 90° turn and made straight for me, reducing his speed as he gained on his target.

He skidded to a stop right beside me. I fed him the first slice. Then the second.

But to get his mouth to the third apple slice he had to put his nose in to the head-collar.

I thought: Gotcha!

Back in the wash-down bay it took me almost half an hour to remove the mud.

With Vinnie looking distinctly equine I finished loading the lorry, put him in his stall, put the tail up and drove out of the yard.

A hundred minutes later we arrived at the venue.

Fcuk me it was raining.

Like a couple of soppy (quickly becoming soggy) loons The Lovely S and I walked the cross-country course.  We got back to the lorry soaked.

I was now feeling very edgy about Vin going cross-country in sheeting rain with the take-offs and landings turning to mush.

He’s a green, young lad. At this stage of his development and training I need every experience he has to be good, relaxing and rewarding.

The Lovely S and I had a reviving cup of tea then I inspected the show-jumping. The warm-up take-offs and landings were dire. To compound matters – out on the track the landing after fence one and the take-off over fence two were shocking.

Decision made.

The Lovely S and I had lunch and then I drove us back to Worcestershire.

With Vin back in his field (rugged up!), the lorry cleaned out, back in its bay and oil-level checked we swapped to the car and drove home…

Where we cuddled up on the couch and watched the first of the Bourne films.



This evening we’re watching Big Brother prior to crashing out in bed.

I have to be up early tomorrow to drive to Wiltshire for the start of a new job.

It’s been a disappointing day.

If I’m honest… despite the fact that I was absolutely crapping myself, I really would have liked to have competed today.

But it would have been wrong for Vin.


Saturday (getting wet)

In the torrential rain I drove down to The Deer Park cross country in Gloucestershire to walk the show-jumping and cross country track in preparation for tomorrow’s two-phase competition.

My first thought was that unless there’s some fences hidden that I couldn’t find they’ve got a pretty crap cross country working in area.

My second thought was that the grass was a bit long in places, and with all the rain the surface was very slippery.

Then I thought that Vin’s shoes haven’t been fitted with stud holes!


I walked the track.



I also wondered how Vinnie would take to the course.

He’s young and green and some of the fences are mentally challenging as well as physically demanding.

Then I walked it again and thought it wasn’t quite so bad. Really.

But still scary.

And big.

And I’m still worried about Vin.

Then I drove back to Bromsgrove with a quick stop-over at Morrisons to do a little emergency shopping.

Soph’s parents came round for tea so I cooked a kind of (minced Quorn) Shepherd’s Pie with lots of veg; cream cakes for desert. It seemed to go down fairly well.

This evening there’s been a lot of off-course activity.

But first you need to know that tomorrow’s two-phase is a Team competition and each team has four members.

The three best scores go forward, the worst score is a discard.

My team (The Warriors – very aggressive. I wondered if we should get together before we compete and do a Haka!) consists of two people I’ve never met before as well as Sue from the yard and me.

Back to this evening.

Sue sent me a text saying her horse has had his back treated by the chiro today and as a consequence she’s pulled out of the two-phase.

So our team has no discard and consists of me and Vin – a novice pairing and threfore not exactly a short-odds bet on completing the competition!


Then I received another text saying that Christine from the yard has pulled out of an earlier, lower-height class – and asked if I’d like her slot.

Well yes, was my immediate reaction.

Given the difficulty and complexity of the track a lower height would probably give Vin an easier ride; could also give us more opportunity to gell our partnership.

But before I could do anything about it the organiser rang asking me not to drop out or shift to a lower height – because that would bring The Warriors down to just two competitors.

Oh well.

I’m still nervous as hell about the whole thing but I’ve decided that we’ll go down and look at it.

If I’m not happy with anything ‘on the day’ we can always pull out; yes it would mean disappointing people but Big Vin’s safety and welfare comes first in my book.


Get up you lazy sod!


Yes you in the green bathrobe; sitting there on the couch. Expression like a half-intelligent zombie while you’re bashing away at that laptop.

Haven’t you got a million things to do, f’crissake?

You’ve got a horse to exercise – prior to competing in Gloucestershire with him tomorrow.

You’ve got to drive down the motorway then walk and learn a cross-country course (see above).

You’ve got to run through your final pre-competition check-lists and load the lorry.

And your in-laws are coming at 2-ish, staying for tea and you’re cooking!

And you haven’t done the shopping yet, have you?  No, I knew you hadn’t.

You haven’t even taken your lovely wife breakfast in bed yet – haven’t even made breakfast yet!

Idle, that’s what you are; bone bloody idle.

Now get cracking before I tell everyone how you’ve been sitting there wasting time for the last two hours.

Go on, get a bloody move on.



The welfare of the child is paramount

This is a quote from a piece of legislation that is the centrepiece of English and Welsh childcare legislation: The Children Act (1989) as updated in 2004 under the Every Child Matters guidance.

The Children Act (1989) sets the legislative framework for a number of childcare policies that were already established case-, statute- or common-law.

It brought together and formalised a number of assumptions regarding childcare rules – and went on to establish diverse standards that would be applied within a regulatory framework.

What was new was the one simple statement which became a pivotal, doctrinal mantra for childcare: ‘The welfare of the child is paramount’.

Unfortunately this statement of imperative has been continually eroded since it was enacted; as if it were a large block of cheese persistently nibbled by an ever growing mischief of mice (details on request).

But one Rotherham-based GP – Dr Matt Capehorn – wants to put the welfare of the child back at the forefront of parental and legal thinking.

Dr Capehorn, who runs a paediatric obesity clinic, feels that parents who allow their children to become obese should be removed from the job.

Have their children taken in to care.

Dr Capehorn argues that obesity is a child protection issue; believes that parents who allow their children to become obese are killing them slowly.

But obesity is a growing problem.

So shouldn’t we be treating the cause of the problem?


What to do?

How about…

* Reinstituting competitive sports in schools
* Putting phys ed back on the compulsory timetable
* Forming a national programme of sporting disciplines
* Ensuring children have six-monthly weight checks (not BMI, that system is plainly broken)
* Compulsory six-monthly fitness examinations for children

Yes, let’s start there.

Of course then we’ll have to deal with the parents who think feeding crap to their children is a good idea.

Off with their heads?