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Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Another post. Not the NHS as promised but Mhairi Black and Deborah Orr.

The NHS will come soon. As will my not quite tall enough hollyhocks and the apple tree that had no blossom this year and how inexpensive geraniums are - that kind of thing.

* * *
For the sake of those who don't know of her:
Mhairi Black is 20.
She is an MP.
She belongs to the SNP.
In our recent elections she beat the (Labour) Shadow Chancellor (Douglas Alexander) to a seat in parliament.
She's the youngest MP to be elected to Parliament since 1832 . . . or is it since 1667 . . . ? This, I think, is yet to be decided. Youngest for a long time anyway.
She hadn't yet graduated from her university (Glasgow) when she won her seat.

* * *
Deborah Orr is a respected Guardian columnist.
* * *

Ms Black made her maiden speech (in other words, her first) to Parliament on 14th July.

Here it is in full. If you haven't listened to it already - listen now! Seriously, it's the most inspiring speech to the House of Commons many of us have ever heard.

Here's Deborah Orr's article about it in the Guardian where she contends that however inspiring it was, it was also flawed. Here are her reasons.

First, the SNP can champion the poor without having to bother about deficits or borrowings or paying back borrowings or anything like that. They can say what they like because they won't be in a position to put their ideas into practice.

The other is that however generously she offers the hand of friendship to the Labour Party it will be refused because
a.) The Labour Party doesn't like the SNP because it zapped it's prospects of forming a government when it won all but one of the Scottish constituencies. (It didn't fare too well in England either.)
b.) The Labour Party wants to maintain the union between our countries whereas the very point of the Scottish National Party is independence for Scotland.

But . . . except . . . I'll say something about what I think . . .

(I'm enjoying these firsts and seconds)

I'm a bit confused about my own identity. Ages ago I lived for six years in Scotland. Six years isn't long but at that time it was a significant proportion of my life - long enough that I forgot I was English. I still can't shake away that adopted nationality. So when the Scots want independence - I sort of want it too.

Second, the English part of me would like England to be independent of Scotland. What right has the SNP to interfere with English lawmaking as it did with the bill about fox-hunting - even though I don't like hunting either?

And but . . . . and except . . . this is giving we English a taste of our own medicine. No?

I like the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon. I wish she could be Prime Minister for all of us, not just the First Minister in Scotland.

And . . . but . . . 

There's the Labour Party itself. Did it lose the General Election because it was too left wing as is sometimes suggested? Or was it because it didn't have any wings.  It was lacklustre and bland. How could it be expected to fly?

When you see Nicola Sturgeon and Mhairi Black energetically campaigning - whether it be for independence or for supporting the weak and poor instead of blaming them for all our woes; when we see they want a nation (nations) we can be proud of . . . dynamic, imaginative, fair . . .what I find so inspiring is their joyful belief that the deficit is not a starting point, nor is the national debt. We can only know how to solve our economic problems once we know what kind of country we want to live in. The Tories know what they want so why can't the rest of us too?

The British Public doesn't usually tune in to hear parliamentary speeches in our millions! So why did we this time?

Dear Labour Party. I think I speak for many (I certainly speak for myself) in saying that what we liked about Mhairi Black's speech wasn't so much its content (though that was pretty much spot on) but the light, the commitment, the joy even, expressed in and throughout it.

Dear Labour Party. Stop being so horrid and boring. Stop grovelling. Stop caving in pointlessly. Try to work out how to put your vision into practice within the resources we have. For heaven's sake - Find a Vision! How can we expand our economy if we're putting the blame for an economic mess on people with more than three children. What?

* * *
If you still haven't listened to Mhairi Black's speech - here's the YouTube link again.

* * *
Apparently, to have three children if you are a senior politician is not irresponsible - even if, just like any of us, they could one day find themselves out of work and unable to support their spare children. (David Cameron has three, Harriet Harmon has three; Iain Duncan-Smith has four . . . and so it goes on.) It's no good saying they are so rich they will never find themselves short of food or a home. Money is a slippery things. (And it isn't the point either.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015


First, thanks to those who commented on the new design. I've changed the link and the 'visited link' colours. With some on a light background and a load more on dark it's difficult to achieve elegance but I hope these are more consistently visible.

I have to say though that I'm beginning to tire this design already. It's a bit 'in your face' and I was fond of the funny little pictures on the 'how it used to be'. I may have another fiddle with it some more in an odd moment or on a rainy day.

Rainy days! This blog has become more intermittent and less gardeny than I ever intended. But in the summer all I have to say is how many plants have died because I didn't get round to water them; and how many have been eaten by slugs when I have (watered them). And when real rain comes (as opposed to the watering can variety) and I should celebrate because I don't have to carry cans backwards and forwards, those same slugs come rushing out of the soil where I would have expected them to bake to death and they go into attack mode. The last time it rained they even attacked the house and a whole contingent crawled under the kitchen door and made a mess when we inadvertently trod on them. I suppose they had been emaciated by the drought-time, poor things. Otherwise they wouldn't have fitted.

There you are. My gardening experience over the last couple of months. Tales of woe and desolation!

But I'm here today because there are two items in the news I want to rant about. I'll keep the rants short but I also want to get them out of my system.

Working backwards . . .

This morning there's a fuss because one of our national papers has printed photographs of the Queen as a little girl making a Nazi salute. She was with her family - her mother, her uncle (later to be King Edward Vlll) and her little sister who was three at the time. She herself was seven.

A cursory scan of the news suggests there are two lines of approach (apart from manufactured shock). One is that some members of the Royal Family were sympathetic towards Hitler at the time. The other is to point out it was taken in 1933 - the year when Hitler became Chancellor in Germany and when few in this country had twigged what he was about. He became Führer in 1934 and war between this country and the Nazis didn't break out till 1939.

But what I'd like to add is this. That as a child in the 1960s it was not uncommon for us to put our fingers across our upper lips as pretend moustaches, to raise our arms in Nazi salutes and strut around a bit with the Nazi goose-step. We had, of course, been affected much by our parents. How we responded depended in part from their own ages and how they explained the war / dealt with its memories; and in part from old news-footage on the television. You know how daytime TV nowadays is all about how to buy houses and do them up along with re-runs of 'Murder She Wrote' and 'Columbo'? Well in the 60s it was black and white war films. (I speak loosely. TV didn't run all day.)

Were we Nazis? Were our parents Nazi sympathisers? Of course not. What we had learned from them was that evil does not like to be laughed at; that tyrants would rather be feared than mocked; and that one way to cope with our own fears is to ridicule their cause. This was in London. The next generation up from us had been bombed. There were still ruins around us (bomb sites). None of it was  funny. That wasn't the point.

By then, no-one could pretend they didn't know what the Nazis had done. So this larking about was in no way because we didn't know. Along with black and white films about heroic British soldiers we children saw footage of people in concentration camps. We saw photos of piles of hair and spectacles. We saw films of walking skeletons and dead bodies. For all that we were seven or eight - we knew.

If I were a Jew I might feel differently.

But I am not a Jew.

Clearly I am not the Queen.

Nor am I a member of the Royal Family.

I lived neither before nor through the war.

I cannot speak for groups I am not part of.

However, however, I know that we, as children, laughed at Nazis. And I want to put it on record that we made moustaches with our fingers and strutted about. That the Nazi salute was risible, not a sign of nationalistic fervour or racism. Nazi games were brief interludes and totally unconnected with thoughts of cruelty or genocide. They weren't extended games. Not like 'Mothers and Fathers' or 'Cowboys and Indians' which we could play for hours. It was brilliant to make bows and arrows from twigs and pieces of string, to put pigeon feathers in our hair and whoop as we charged our opponents. (I had a lone ranger cap gun too.) Along with other girls I cooked on invisible cookers, cradled invisible babies and looked after invisible children.

Both these ways of entertaining ourselves might now be counted as questionable. But to complain about them from a later view point is silly. There's no point in history if history doesn't move on. And there's no point in reflecting on things if we impose the viewpoint we have now on the viewpoint we had then and turning ourselves into retrospective criminals.

It would be a form of lying.

Bother. No room for the National Health Service. As ever I'll have to have a 'Rant Part Two'.

Friday, May 22, 2015


What do I grow in my garden?

Anything which fits and easily grows.

Dandelions, cowslips, marjoram and mint.

Aquilegea we were given by friends long ago.

Honeysuckles from cuttings.

Autumn cyclamen and sedum.

Lots of willow herb which grows ten inches tall.

And petty spurge foaming over the edges of pots.

There are foxgloves; those million-seeds-each-year makers. And orange crocosmia which doesn't know when to stop.

I had a nettle in a pot. It died.
But now I have a new one; it came up in a seed tray and is still very small.

I have an apple tree and a bay tree, two cordylines and three contoneasters.

I have loveage and balm and box.

And three tomato plants in a grow bag.

In winter nearly everything dies and the garden goes flat and boring till daffodils pop up in the spring.

By summer it's lush.

I have to tell you these things because I've made a surround for my page and you may wonder why dandelions feature so strongly - it's because they are cheerful and yellow and I planted them there.

P.S. What do you make of the new design? It's not that I'll suddenly start posting photos (I don't think so anyway . . . ) but it's quite cheerful, don't you think?