19th November 2017

...then I'll huff and I'll puff
And I'll blow your house down
                                    old nursery rhyme
I grew up remembering by heart colourful oral stories of big bad wolves.They helped me make sense of the world and provided a moral framework. Yet here in the UK the Chief Inspector of Schools has said they are no longer to be taught in schools. Ask any schoolkid today and have they even heard of them? Something has been lost. On Tuesday the French PM promises tough new measures to combat homelessness, and on Wednesday here the Chancellor is to announce plans to build more homes.  Yes, but will it be enough? Four months ago we ourselves bought an efficient new-build, affordable house in Bham. That's what's needed: more and more new, affordable houses like ours. Fly over the UK at present and you see acres of empty food-producing land, no longer needed. Houses are.  So, Mr. Chancellor, forget the 'sacrosanct' green belt and build lots of new garden cities like beautiful Bournville here in Bham, comprising parks, green areas and transport links. At a stroke this will give young people their first, affordable, step on the housing ladder, reduce crime caused by homelessness and improve life prospects and the economy. No longer Old Mother Hubbard who lived in a shoe, but the little pig who built his house of bricks. That's the way to stop the big bad wolf.

12th November 2017

If I should die 
Think only this of me
That's there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England
Rupert Brooke
Today millions will attend war memorials. Why oh why do we do this? I'm not talking about remembering those who have died. Heaven knows we must all remember those who have lived on this Earth - otherwise for what purpose their lives? No, I'm talking about sending young men, full of life, into front-line war zones where they are trained to kill and be killed. I know many are the times when mad despots rise to positions of power with murderous intent - Hitler and Stalin come to mind - and they must of course be stopped at all costs. So, what's the solution?  Ask Alexa!  I kid you not. Now is the age to stop all human killing. At last we have the technology to build and programme silicone robots to do the job of killing for us. They should be the soldiers of the future, programmed to wipe out just enemy robots in the field. Just think not only of the human lives saved but also the food, accommodation and salaries no longer needed. We know it can be done. Already countries like Japan have replaced human hotel staff, butlers, car makers etc, and surgeons use robots for delicate surgery, so why not replace human soldiers? On this day, at the 11th hour, make a wish:  stop killing our young men in war for ever.

5th November 2017

"Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot.."
Nothing like coming back to England and seeing everything with newly objective eyes. The above poem of course refers to Guy Fawkes when, in the 17C, he was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. It wasn't just his sentence as a traitor but the barbaric, inhumane, means of his execution - the most horrendous ever practised (hanged, drawn and quartered). So why, in today's more liberal age, are we still commemorating it by burning effigies of the poor man and lighting fireworks? Schadenfreude still? There are many news items today that could be deemed treason - acting against the interests of one's own country. Yet, what is in all the news this week?  Sex. Lots of it. Since the days of Jimmy Saville, no man is immune. From celebrities to MPs. Could it be that the very salaciousness of the topic overrides more mundane, yet eminently more serious, crimes? Roll over Mr. Fawkes. You're soon to be joined by every male celebrity that ever lived. The police, as we speak, are uncovering every juicy bit of evidence over which they can possibly salivate. Meantime the real criminals - murderers, thieves, traitors etc. - are going scot free. Welcome back to England! 

29th October 2017

The clocks went back today. Is Europe following?
A bad week for Spain. No, not just their football loss yesterday to England. Their country is breaking up. Rumblings from other groups too: the Basques, Brittany, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland. Following Brexit, the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians are also muttering about leaving the EU.  It's foolish to think all this is none of the EU's business. Its blundering inflexibility has already lost it the UK. No other country now dares hold an exit referendum. So, what exactly is the problem? Originally its '50's concept was for just a trade zone - hence the term Common Market - and to avoid all those past wars within its borders, but as usual the problem is....Germany! Its domination of the eurozone has blighted the Spanish and Greek economies and is mainly to blame for the present crisis. Hitler would be dancing a jig. The EU under Germany's rule cares not a jot for regional identity, nor for devolution. The EU concept should never have allowed one large country to dominate over all the others.  It was meant to be an equal, round table, partnership just for trade. So, Catalonia is about Europe as much as about Spain. Europe: the warning alarms have sounded.  Don't go back to sleep - do something about it before it's too late.

22nd October 2017

In this life you have to be flexible.
   In the Apprentice on Wednesday, the contestants had to design a robot so that it could interract in today's world, and then sell it to interested parties.  As expected, the egotistical youngsters were so focused on themselves and arguing with each other that they missed the main picture.
   On Thursday Theresa May arrived at the EU summit in Brussels, following a press conference with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.  She was armed with precise instructions from her Cabinet and focused on one aim: what was best for Britain.  In turn Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker arrived with precise, voted-on, instructions from the council comprising all the other EU countries. In business, politics and in life flexibility is required.  In critical negotiations always give the negotiator carte blanche to make individual decisions.  At such times you cannot be robotic:  you must have the power to duck and dive, bend and move at will, not hampered by pre-instructions. In Brussels neither side had this flexibility. What would Alan Sugar have predicted? Stalemate.

15th October 2017

It's good to love your country. Yet, yet...
   In France Macron has agreed that French should no longer use the masculine domination of grammatical gender - a form of 'sexual tyranny' - to be replaced by a new gender-neutral version 'ecriture inclusive'. Normally, French plurals use the masculine form if both genders are involved, but now a plural like amis (friends of both genders) will become 'ami.e.s'. However, as expected, many are the French voices of dissent, including the prestigious, but traditionalist, Academie Francaise. In the US and S. Africa, many are the statues of past 'heroes' that are being pulled down due to changed, current views about race and slavery. And what of ME countries where women are still being subjugated due to traditional practices and where men are traditionally expected to behave in a particular way?
....So the question is:  how can good citizens swear an oath of allegiance if that very country's traditions are no longer relevant today? Those who love their country become good citizens based on their love of the traditions of the past, but what to do when so many of those traditions are now no longer relevant? Do we, like Macron, tear up the rule book or, by so doing, do we destroy the very fabric of what makes a country great?

8th October 2017

Did you see The Apprentice on Wednesday? What you see is what you get. This UK series is the last in a 3-year contract, Sugar's fee going to charity. When asked whether he thinks Trump, the original US host, is "up to the job", Sugar replies "Why not? I think he is up to it. Actually, if he didn't open his mouth so much and put his foot in it. He thinks he's still on The Apprentice. He chucks people out who don't agree with him."  Well, yes.  Trouble is, the show worked wonders for Trump by convincing many Americans that he was a master dealmaker.  As Sugar says "If you owe the bank $2,000, they'll shut you down and make you sell your house.  If you owe them $2bn they'll take you out to lunch!" Does Sugar see himself following in Trump's footsteps by putting himself forward as a future PM?  No, it's a thankless task, he says.  You just can't win. These days image has a lot to do with it. No good putting yourself on a stage, as May did this week, and have the letter F fall off behind you (F off?), plus images of standing in an empty market hall, contrasted with your opponent's newly-groomed image amidst cheering supporters. Nothing to do with politics then. Image is everything. Just watch the next episode of The Apprentice. As with politics, schadenfreude is all.