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26 January 2010

Cheese and Chocolate

After last week's takeover of the UK chocolate company Cadbury by the US Company Kraft, I was amused by an observation made by Michael Portillo the other day.

He said a British company who made chocolate that was not recognised by the rest of Europe as real chocolate had been taken over by an American company producing something that he could not associate with cheese.

We understand, of course, that Kraft does rather more than produce cheese (real or otherwise), and that Cadbury does produce a darker, more cocoa-rich product for the purists. The fact remains that for a few days Britain felt sad to see such an iconic British independent company with an illustrious past (originating with a Quaker family with the typical social-reformist and caring attitude towards its workforce) at last succumbing to the cruel winds of international capitalism.

As usual, though, the Daily Telegraph's resident cartoonist, Matt, was able to lighten our mood with a picture of a Kraft executive yelling down the phone, "I told you to buy the whole of Cadbury's except the Coffee Creams!"

20 January 2010

Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat

I see Massachusetts has landed Obama in the Brown stuff.

As an unashamed supporter of universal health care I regret the difficulties this loss of Ted Kennedy's senate seat to the Republicans might cause for the Health Bill.

Kennedy's successor supports "waterboarding" as an interrogation technique, and opposes measures to reduce carbon emissions. Nice to know the Republicans are still such a loveable party!

19 January 2010

Haiti Disaster - Finding the Better Side of Humanity

As we sit in our waterproof, weatherproof, heated homes complaining about life, government, the cost of living, and the weather, it is sadly true that it takes something like the Haiti earthquake (or any other major disaster, come to that) to bring it home to us that, for the most part, we have little to complain about.

I have been moved to tears by the images daily shown on our TV news reports of the injuries and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the absence of basic facilities, the difficulties in getting aid to the places where it is needed. You would have to be a hard person not to be affected by the sight of a young child dragged, still alive, from days of captivity beneath mountains of rubble.

And I have been heartened by the coming together of nations, organisations and agencies in the joint effort to bring back some semblance of hope to this devastated country, a further example of which was shown on today's news: a young girl in a rural area with a damaged leg urgently in need of hospital treatment. A French camera crew came across her. The camera crew then encountered a British rescue team and told them of the girl. The rescue team went and collected her and did basic first aid but were unable to give her further medical treatment. But medical treatment is what she got, because of the arrival of an American helicopter that took her to a hospital.

That was one small example of an international effort that paid off. There are doubtless countless others occurring all the time.

If you have not already done so, please donate some money (however small the amount) to an appropriate disaster emergency organisation or national committee existing for that purpose; in the UK it is the Disaster Emergency Committee, and you can donate on-line at

08 January 2010

It's still Winter like it used to be!

The whole of the UK is now in the grip of ice and snow.

In my part of North Yorkshire we had 8 inches of snow yesterday evening (on top of the of the 4 or 5 inches we already had).

Today all the schools were closed - a source of relief since, as a school transport driver, I doubt if I could have even got out of my road, let alone reach the outlying farms and villages on my run.

My neighbours and I have just spent a back-breaking two hours snow shovelling and salt spreading. Our road is now just about passable (until the next snow fall - forecast for today).

We seem to be breeding a society of idiots: I've been watching a news item on TV about young people in Newcastle determined to ignore the sub-zero weather conditions, snow and ice, and attend city night clubs for their usual bouts of binge drinking, drunken fights, street urination and vomiting.

What are the girls wearing as they stagger about the streets? High heels, miniskirts, and sleeveless tops. What are the boys wearing? Jeans and short-sleeved T-shirts. Moreover, there is a charitable organisation that makes a practice of touring the streets with the specific purpose of providing thermal blankets and hot drinks to save these guys from their own stupidity.

Another example of current society's madness was recently provided by the final TV episode of David Tennant's portrayal of Dr Who. His final moments saw him dying and metamorphosing in time-honoured fashion into the regenerated Dr Who (now to be played by Matt Smith). As the new Dr Who checked himself out - arms, legs, face, etc., he found everything in order, and also noted he was "not ginger".

Most people I suspect would find this amusing, but of course about 140 people apparently complained to the BBC about this shocking piece of anti-ginger prejudice! More people, I regret, with tiny brains, who are quite happy to turn their own kids into "victims".


Happy New Year!