Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Slippery Exodus



I have been something of an insomniac for well over a decade now, but one of the things that seems to work reasonably well (at getting me off to sleep) is listening to the radio. I think that it is likely that a settled mind best lends itself to sleep. I am given to believe that for many insomniacs the issue is more specifically that they (insomniacs) struggle to get to sleep whilst in bed, that is whilst actively trying to get to sleep, whereas reading a book, watching TV, even attending a lecture often seems to ease the process, whether this is always convenient or otherwise. Isn't this the basic premise behind 'counting sheep,' introducing to the mind the process of 'simplifying and decluttering?'

Specific (radio) material works best for me. I find that topical comedy will too often have quite the opposite effect. Classical music and some forms of jazz work reasonably well, as does ponderous conversation, but the subject matter must be worthy of attention; that is to write, no contemporary pop, or any conversation/broadcast that might somehow involve Piers Morgan. Invariably the more interesting the subject matter the more likely it is to aid transition. Focus the mind, shut out the peripheral clutter, and we're half way there... sometimes.

Of course, this doesn't in any way guarantee that I won't be wide awake again by half-past-one.

Quite naturally a great deal that is selected is from the pallet of BBC Radio, invariably BBC Radio 4. Featuring prominently in recent months I have found 'Woman's Hour' to be both highly listenable and thus wonderfully conducive to sleep. The subject matter is colourfully varied, invariably contemporary; I don't recall it being quite this good when I used to listen to Radio 4 a great deal more  when I was a student.

West north-west
Anyway, several months back, Jenny Murray (Woman's Hour) was speaking with a guest, a mother who had recently served a prison sentence for the non payment of council tax arrears. The woman in question had been trying to 'catch up,' she was juggling with more than one job and trying to look after her school-age son. The third party in this conversation was a lawyer, and she (the lawyer) pointed out, for the interested listener, that the UK (and even so only in England and Wales) is the only country in Western Europe that currently still operates debtor's prisons, much like it did in Dickensian Britain.

It was also pointed out that whilst serving time any 'debtor' is liable to lose both home and job, and therefore much of the means to best catch up on arrears. The two jobs that the lady had were both zero-hour affairs, so were not really proper employment at all, but her home and the home of her child? That was very real!

I was expecting Jenny Murray to reasonably sympathetically cajole from the lady the more specific details and then, in some Woman's-Hourly manner, to lay down some sort of critical view of this practice. But instead, and quite shockingly so, she stuck steadfastly to the government line. She instead held the woman to task and repeatedly questioned her recounting of the events leading up to her eventual imprisonment. '"We' have been told that it was £10," Jenny contradicted her guest, "not £20."

The lawyer was able to clarify that the lady had been paying off £20 a week of her arrears, ahead of the court ruling of £10, because she had wished to more swiftly get the system off her back. "Many 'just-about-managing' families would have little sympathy with your predicament," Jenny led the neutral listeners to conclude. "You have then made yourself, and your child, intentionally homeless," Jenny contested, without breaking stride.

Quite how it was so 'easily possible' for Jenny Murray to 'imagine' attempting to survive and to escape debt in such circumstances is difficult to fathom. The guest remained all the while entirely subservient, meekly accepting of Jenny's contentions, judgements and consequent condemnation. At no point did Ms Murray elect to encourage or to entertain any more empathic thoughts. Much like we may have witnessed upon numerous other BBC programmes, she seemingly blindly toed the governmental line.

Those of an older generation  may well recall a time when the BBC was regularly accused of harbouring swarms of old communists and socialists, simply because a more balanced approach was sometimes sought. In reality the 'communist and socialist' accusation never reflected the reality, but as Lenin was once quoted as having said, "Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth." Even though our (BBC) airwaves and screens are now quite awash with old Conservatives, and rather too many old-New-Labourites, the likes Of Edwina Curry are still eager to 'regale' us with the tired-ol' Tory line, tell a lie often enough, eh Edwina...

West north-west
Anyone who may have spent more than about half-an-hour in my (author of this post) company will have quickly deduced that I am no fan of our government, but even so I was surprised to learn that quite so many of our citizens are currently incarcerated within debtors prisons. And I would contest, until my dying day, that such practice is highly indicative of a 'society' that has slipped up!

Do we always need to slip quite so very far before such a howling glitch is addressed? Or, is the question more, who's interest is best served when such slippage occurs? 

I think also on Woman's Hour, although the issue has been known about for a while now, the topic of up-skirting was recently discussed. Here at least there is not a governmental 'concern.'

The up-skirting article was seeking to highlight the growing problem for both female staff and pupils at some of the UK's secondary schools. For anyone who is unaware, up-skirting is the practice of surreptitiously lowering one's mobile phone until the camera is able to 'see' up the skirt of any female and then taking a photograph, which may shortly be shared with other 'friends' (usually boys), or/and posted on social media.

I doubt that there would be many people who would be bold or stupid enough to openly celebrate this act, so the questions are, 'who benefits through the practice of allowing pupils phones on to school premises?' and, 'in who's interest is it not to more stringently police social media?' Or, more generally, 'who most benefits through every child having in their possession, all the while, his or her own mobile phone?'

Have we allowed standards to slip, and in who's best interest is this?

The appreciation of any sport may be a very subjective matter, but then one can only appreciate from the array of sports that are on offer. I am going to suggest that it is quite probable that many amongst us may not have watched any reasonable form of proper cricket (test matches or one day internationals) for an age or, in the case of many younger citizens, 'ever!'  Of those who have rightly grown to appreciate the wonders of test cricket even many of these will not have properly watched the spectacle for a while. Instead, many will have quietly had to settle for the services of BBC Radio 5 LiveX, a non-visual format. Maybe, at the end of the day, or late into the night, they will have salvaged the 'highlights,' presented as if every ball is either smashed to the boundary, or else gloriously dispatches the batsman (or woman). Wielding his cleaver like a mighty war axe, the editor will have hacked the spectacle to within a hairsbreadth of its life!

North-east
Speaking briefly, for those I know who like(d) to watch and listen to cricket coverage, 'we' enjoy the subtleties and the ponderings of the game, we enjoy the speculative side of the game, the tactics, the immense skills of spin or swing (and reverse swing) bowling, the spectacle of blistering pace against the best of batting prowess, the setting of field placings and traps, all these things and many more. We do not so much like to speculate about which ball in the over will be a (potentially preordained) no-ball, about which ball will be dispatched for a six, about how many balls in the match will be lofted over the boundary ropes, and we do not like to spoil our enjoyment of the game, by speculating with sums of money which we cannot afford to lose, which players will best defy or confirm what the bookies will have predicted and to which they will have apportioned most-ungenerous odds. Thus, we are not so much fans of the fish-bash-bosh form of the game that is Twenty20.

For we fans who are also fans of BBC Radio 5 LiveX things are about to change. TalkSport, yet another branch of some Murdoch Empire conglomerate, has just snatched one last ember from the dying Ashes (pun half intended) of that which once was a proud tradition of wonderfully accessible cricket coverage upon various BBC channels. That is to report that they have snaffled 'Test Match Special.' I have found it to be the case that the Sky is seldom these days anything other than very murky!

So, the same megalith group who currently presides over, or colludes with, the frequently and easily corruptible betting groups, and with Twenty20 cricket, now holds all of the aces. One might sensibly conclude that any deck that never deals the aces to anyone else might be a deck best avoided but gambling, we know, is not based upon any degree of sensibility.

"We want the whole nation to get behind England's cricket team!" I seem to recall Alistair Cook, then captain, once requesting of the fans. Quite how this might be best achieved he did not go on to elaborate. Michael Vaughn might have an opinion, more likely he'll have an official and an unofficial one. That we cannot, without conforming to at least some of Murdoch's demands, watch or now instead listen to our own national side playing matches at home upon it's own national ground suggests that something is not right!

So, have we again allowed standards to slip, and in who's best interest is it this time?

East south-east
As with all political subterfuge we invariably find that nothing ever evolves in complete isolation, although it may well be pretended and presented as such. Turn over enough rocks and there we are likely to discover the constantly creeping fibres of spreading political mycelium... follow the money, perhaps!

If we were to speculate upon the 'evolution' of the UK's police forces we might be here a while and thus discover more than a few fingers in that particular pie. And, given that numbers are undoubtedly down, we would all likely agree that dealing with the UK's abuse of vehicular exhausts is not likely to be topmost upon a daily-growing list of should-be-police-priorities. Yet a more open-ended debate could scarcely fail to recognise that this is an issue that has escalated, and done so because it has been permitted through neglect to fester. Leave a toe to fester long enough and we might well lose the toe, lose the whole leg, the entire living entity! It really doesn't take a genius to draw the conclusion that if 'children' are encouraged to make enough noise, then they will soon be looking to find out what else may be up for grabs.

Blighted neighbourhoods, escalating instances of aggressive and dangerous driving, fatalities, road rage, yet another manifestation to heap onto the mountainous tip that is so amorphously labelled as, 'pollution?' It's not just shiny pipes and a questionably-warm throaty growl, is it, despite what the advertisers might have us 'believe!'

Have we yet again allowed standards to slip, and in who's best interest is it this time?

Speed bumps we find are swiftly replacing the sleeping police forces; sleeping policemen in exchange for sleeping policemen? But the bumps do tend to knock the street-life off the best of vehicles- we can literally hear the years falling away- so not everybody is losing out. And so much of that political lobbying is being done behind closed doors, we find that it eases the transit of all that cash!

In who's best interest is the slip-up this time?

East south-east

Watching and being rightly horrified at current news stories, regarding the huge volumes of plastic litter in our oceans, 'we' might almost be forgiven for 'seeing' this as somehow a recent development, except to write that in no way is this really excusable. Such is the current concentrated news coverage that it might yet help to obscure the fast sinking Grenfell tragedy or to somehow dilute the Windrush debacle. Today is a good day to bury a bad news story, as might these days be said of so many (news) days and stories.

Others, with a less easily distracted eye, might well contest that litter, especially that of a less biodegradable nature has been a ballooning issue for, at the very least, the last few decades. The over-packaging of 'goods' has been argued against for a lifetime, and some! What will the supermarkets, amongst others, be doing to redress this concern, we have been encouraged to think, then to re-think, then to unthink, then ultimately to forget about! Which to bury behind which... litter, sugar... sugar, litter?

Is it really in anyone's interest to allow this one, or two, to slip? You can bet your life that it is!

It might almost be better if the issue concerned solely plastic litter, almost. Have you walked along many supermarket-adjacent lanes recently? Recycling, we've got it covered! Of course we have! Or somebody has... just as long as their questionable 'coverage' doesn't result in the rest of us also being covered! Voluntary codes in the wrong hands can be such slippery things.

It could be contested that the above listed matters are all separate and individually-separable issues, that we are merely in the throes of an unfortunate and unique concentration of many different, variable concerns. If this were indeed the case it would be fair also to contest that any beneficiaries, should such happen to arise, might not always transpire to be from one and the same small group, although, curiously enough, invariably these days they are. And if we in the UK are to consider ourselves operating in the guise of a democracy- naive admittedly- then we would have to consider that much of this 'unique concentration' is slipping by design, through exactly the same fingers... or at least greasing the same fingers... again and again and again...

If we in the UK were a functioning democracy then surely the beneficiaries would be almost instantly traceable, invariably by virtue of these same beneficiaries invariably being us. If only!

Spread the benefits adequately and, highly satisfactorily, there should actually be far less need for benefits. We might also be able to dispense with food banks, operate ideally no zero-hour 'contracts,' need no longer concern ourselves constantly with the paucity and poverty of the nation's housing, need not redraft 'our' 'education' 'policies' every season... no longer need to adopt such a moving target mentality! 

Of course, 'those' like Edwina Curry will always be on hand to happily thrust a frightful face at any camera and to boldly state that, "Food banks are far more a cause of the problem than they are a solution." Curiously far fewer breadline families are lining up to agree.

Were the UK a functioning democracy we wouldn't need to ensure that our much-heralded 'free' press was always to be concentrated in the hands of so few invested multi-millionaires, most being happy to report such bilge as that spewed by Edwina as a given fact. Were democracy more at hand we might well by now have solved our currently insurmountable plastic ocean-islands issue... if not solved then we may well have headed it off at the pass!

You see, it's not really so very slippery... that is, it doesn't need to be.

South-east
A sudden and most welcome upturn in the weather recently saw us (family) enjoying our local park. We had bravely, or perhaps foolishly, elected to remove the stabilisers from our granddaughter's bike. This once peaceful recreation now involves a great deal of crouching at speed, with the accompanying greater volumes of anxiety. One can't wrap them up in cotton wool, if only we could... Still, let's at least try to minimise the dangers!

'We'd' just dismounted- standing at the edge of the playground area- when I happened to detect a discernible rise in the intensity of the buzzing of the wakening insects- another subject we could add to 'the list.' "Should this be a swarm it might be best to alert other park-goers at the soonest, rather than to wait and to observe potential developments," I had mused.

Of course, it wasn't a swarm, neither bees nor wasps, instead it was a drone! This somewhat hefty device was seemingly fixed at a constant height, perhaps 80 feet above the busy park. Decidedly miffed, I scanned about for the childish dolt at the 'helm'... nothing!

"Mmmm,' I considered, "I wonder if our 'friend' has considered the damage that 5kg of fast falling plastic and metal might cause to any child's skull, should the device suddenly lose power?" The government site is jolly helpful in this regard; it completely set my mind at ease (not) when I referenced it later that day. Take a peek, why don't you?

I have, more than once or twice in recent years, been given cause to consider the potential consequences of any sudden spurt in the ownership of variously-sized-and-or-capable drones in and about our cities and our countryside, so to have found this site came as little real surprise. It is both helpful and it is not, entirely dependent upon how slippery you wish such things to be.
I thought that I would just cut and paste some 'highlights' for your perusal:

Drones are readily available on the high street and Internet, and are being sold in their thousands... they are great fun to fly or operate, and have great utility.

Essentially your responsibilities are:
  • to know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law
  • to understand that the operator is legally responsible for every flight
  • to keep your drone in sight at all times – stay below 400ft
  • not to fly your drone over a congested area, never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
  • ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws
  • avoiding collisions – you should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft. It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight
There are several other things to think about – what is your drone going to do if it runs out of power or fails? Is it going to land/fall somewhere safe? Are you far enough away from people, buildings and more importantly airfields if you lose control of your drone?


Now, stick with me here, if you will. I'm going to suggest that anyone who might consider that they have all of these bases covered either lives and intends to operate their 'toy' in a desert or, far more likely, that they intend to pick and to choose which guidelines to consider- and they are still presented much as guidelines- and which to ignore, entirely reliant upon their own peculiar wants, much as they did as a egocentric child. "Oops, did we forget to ask the customer if he was a diagnosed sociopath?" It's the UK's equivalent of the US gun laws. I'm obviously hoping that we'll keep casualties down to around zero on this side of the Atlantic. 
We can expect to see the first government redraft fairly hot upon the heels of our first child fatality. I wonder what the drone-owner's equivalent of, "He's never shown any signs of wanting to attack and kill a child before," might be. Hell, let's not beat about the bush, many drone-inclined males- this group is going to comprise almost entirely of males- are highly likely to be already proudly numbered amongst the nation's dangerous dog owners.

'Hidden in plain sight' has perhaps become a somewhat cliched term... perhaps? To clarify might I just point out that it means, 'to obscure without hiding, by virtue of an item/event/whatever nestling amongst other, perhaps more obvious, choices?' The concept itself is almost self evident, although the frequency of its regularly-amended usage appears these days to operate often more counterintuitively. So, when we hear the term 'hidden in plain sight' it may now be clearly appended to that to which it refers... thus not actually hidden at all. So, now that we are made 'aware' the enveloping chess is required to have effectively upped it's game! 'It' may well be hidden (or rather displayed) in plain sight, but the 'it,' waved before our eyes, may no longer be quite the 'it' that most urgently needs to be addressed. The term has become rather a slippery one.

When Thatcher sold off all of those council homes, supposedly to their respective tenants, the idea was, we may now easily surmise, to transfer ownership into the grasping hands of the landlordly classes. She may not have been the biggest fan of democracy, but 'democracy' was to serve as her cloak of convenience. The electoral minions had already fallen for the privatisation of the nation's social foundations, gleefully opting in to the markets and effectively out of any sort of social cohesion or responsibility. With the proffered crumbs to hand the minions behaved as if unaware of the slicing up of the real loaf! They barely noticed that the markets remained all the while immune. They barely noticed those homes slipping through their fingers! Yet, the design was all the while kept in plain sight... almost.

So, when the market-unsavvy tenants gained 'control' of their knock-down homes, it was reasoned to be only a matter of time before many of those same homes also became marketable commodities. Result, a highly marketable housing crisis that is currently being sustained by the bigger crumbs, in order that they may rest slightly closer to the top of the accumulated debris, and ever-so-slightly closer to the cleaner air... 'investment' homes ltd.,' care of your updated BBC.

Heavens, why make decent housing accessible? Why make education any less market-fodderable, why consider 'public' transport for ordinary people to be an essential service, or the general public's health to be a social responsibility? Instead, why not consider giving every youth £10,000 to reinvest in the markets? Re-balance society!

It really doesn't need to be quite so very slippery! If only the wrong people, with entirely the wrong vested interests, weren't constantly greasing the wrong poles! And, lest we should for a moment doubt ourselves, seventeen 'identified' as 'unnecessary' procedures that NHS England is proposing to cut should more correctly be understood to mean seventeen procedures that have been lined up for privatisation. The slippery exodus is well underway!

* I think that it is called a Hextaptych?



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