This is Bodiam Castle in East Sussex. From the photographs, you can clearly see that it’s a pretty spectacular construction. Indeed, it looks like the kind of castle immortalised in books and films as the type of defensive military stronghold we all associate with knights and soldiers, sieges and battles – “everyone’s idea of what a medieval stronghold should look like”, as the guidebook puts it.
It certainly has all the outward trappings of a classic medieval defensive building, although now ruined inside: thick stone walls and tall towers with battlements, a wide surrounding moat, a rare 14th century wooden portcullis, arrow slit windows, murder holes in the ceiling of the gatehouse (and even a much later piece of defensive kit in the shape of a World War Two-era pill-box) – all the things you’d expect to see in such a castle. Ostensibly, it is such a castle, and it has the kind of history you might expect from that too.
It can’t have failed to escape your notice in recent months that most of the major supermarkets have been pulling beef products off the shelves at a rapid rate of knots due to the fact that it has been discovered that they have been adulterated with horsemeat.
Unlike many other cases of food adulteration, this isn’t necessarily a public health issue. In Britain, at least, the decision not to consume horsemeat is a cultural choice (although this hasn’t always been the case); however, this is more a case of whether we can assume honesty and are able to trust the products that we buy – or not. If our microwave meal claims to contain beef, for example, then beef is exactly what it should contain.
What is in our food is actually regulated by law, but that hasn’t always been the case either – and the horsemeat scandal shows how ineffective even these modern laws can be against those determined to make a fat profit out of the food we eat, whatever the consequences. However, a horsemeat lasagne is really nothing compared to some of the highly disturbing things that have been found in foodstuffs in the past.
In March last year, I wrote about the impending cuts to our library services and why it’s just so important to save these vital community resources from closure and ‘rationalisation’. Recently, I was interested to note that the Public Libraries News had put together a list of library closures – and of those libraries still under threat from government policy.
[W]e are seeing a reduction in opening hours, book stock spending and staff in many library services. Local communities, families and individuals are more than ever facing a postcode lottery when it comes to the quality of library services they can expect to receive.
And good quality library services are a crucial aspect of any healthy community. I’m a regular user of my local library – and not just in order to borrow books, although I do that frequently. The libraries in my local area also offer everything from local history services and access to education information, newspapers and the internet, to storytime sessions for the little ones and book groups, family history tutorials and craft workshops for the grown ups.
Less than a month ago, I posted a picture of the snowy view from my front door. During this last week, conversely, it appears that Spring has decided to put in an early appearance instead.
This photo was taken last weekend at Syon Lane Community Allotment, which is already beginning to look a lot greener than it did the last time I was there back in January, with blossom starting to appear everywhere.
Despite what the weather forecast is saying, I’m hoping this really is the beginning of a new Spring…
What with all the vicious media ranting and disapproving government pronouncements recently, you might be forgiven for thinking that almost every single person claiming state benefits of any kind in this country is actually on the fiddle – and thus getting away with ripping off the Treasury and the tax-paying public to the tune of billions and billions of pounds.
Let me repeat that: Not. True.
I’ve written before about how those on benefits, especially the sick and disabled, become an easy scapegoat for a government who are more concerned with feathering their own nests and protecting the interests of big business than looking after the most vulnerable in our society – and that the levels of fraudulent benefit claims are much, much lower than most people think they are.
This afternoon, I’ve been looking at the official Department for Work and Pensions report Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: 2010/11 Estimates (Great Britain), which was released last week and contains some very interesting statistics indeed; statistics that clearly demonstrate that the current spate of media and political poor-bashing and the demonisation of benefits claimants is based on a tissue of lies.
[Lansley is] gutless. He knows he is wrong, but he can’t face the people. If they just had the courage to do a U-turn, just say, ‘I’ve made a bloody big mistake here, we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.’ It is clear to everyone that is what they need to do, but they are not brave enough.
I am sticking up for people like my niece’s husband who has had a brain tumour. He has had fantastic treatment on the NHS which would have cost millions of pounds. His treatment has enabled him to keep on fighting so I will keep fighting for people like him.
What they are doing is immoral. The NHS should be there from cradle to grave and I’m not in my grave yet. The public have not had a say on any of this. It’s our money that pays for the NHS, we should have a referendum on it.
The other thing that gets me cross is this talk about choice. I don’t want choice, I want all hospitals to be as good as each other not to have to travel around the place. It’s about trust and I don’t trust them. The Tories don’t like the NHS and they never have…
He told me he wasn’t privatising the NHS. How dare he lie to me like that? It’s in black and white for anyone to see. It started years ago in 1979 under Thatcher. It really upsets me to be honest.
He wanted to go by and turned his back on me. It annoyed me, I was upset, how dare he turn his back on me, he tried to brush me off, like his government is brushing us all off.
I feel really sad for the people who will in the future have the misfortune to fall ill or be born with a disability.
June Hautot, you rock. This is the elderly lady who confronted Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over NHS reforms at Downing Street yesterday, rather excellently putting him in a publicly embarrassing position. Her words, quoted above, come from an interview she gave today to The Mirror, in which this feisty lady explains in no uncertain terms exactly why she had to take a stand against the government’s proposed healthcare policy.
You can read the full interview with Mrs Hautot here.
If you live in the UK, you may possibly have noticed that it’s been chucking it down with snow this evening. Of course, that means the whole country will grind to a halt tomorrow (after all, it’s not as if we have a winter every year, is it?), but it looks quite pretty in the sodium glow of the street lights right now.
It’s 11.30pm, and I just nipped outside with my camera (in my dressing gown and flip flops – am I mad!?) to take a few shots. The photo above shows the view from my front door in west London right now, looking across the car park to the allotments beyond. And it’s still snowing…
Oh, and please don’t forget to feed the birds during this cold snap!
You might remember that some time ago I blogged about the weird things people leave behind in hotel rooms. So naturally I was fascinated to discover that a large hotel chain has recently released data on the equally random things light-fingered guests liberate from their establishments across the country.
It seems that people indulge in a serious amount of hotel thievery at this time of year – and I’m not just talking about bottles of shampoo or those fluffy bathrobes either. Everything from tinsel, fairy lights and baubles to a Christmas tree and an entire Nativity scene have been pinched by guests from various Best Western hotels in the run-up to Christmas!
And that’s not all. People must check out and bring a Transit van round to the back of the car park. How else would they get a leather two piece suite home? Or a suit of armour? Or a twelve foot model Concorde? Or a papier mache full-size model of a man? Or even the entire movable contents and furniture from a hotel room (except the bed)?
Last Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, and to celebrate (ahem) this momentous date, thousands of disabled people and their supporters took to the streets of London in an angry and powerful protest against the government’s planned welfare and healthcare cuts; cuts which are set to have a disproportionately negative effect on those claiming disability benefits and/or those with particular social care needs.
After two years of fighting to find out exactly what happened to Ian Tomlinson on the evening of April 1st 2009, today his family came one step closer to justice after an inquest jury unanimously decided that he had been unlawfully killed by PC Simon Harwood, who may now face prosecution.
Here’s the verdict, as quoted on the Tomlinson Family Campaign website:
Time, place and circumstances at or in which injury was sustained:
Mr Tomlinson was on his way home from work on 1st April 2009 during the G20 demonstrations.
He was fatally injured at around 19.20 in Royal Exchange Buildings (the Passage), near to the junction with Cornhill, London EC3. This was as a result of a baton strike from behind and a push in the back by a police officer which caused Mr Tomlinson to fall heavily.
Both the baton strike and the push were excessive and unreasonable.
As a result, Mr Tomlinson suffered internal bleeding which led to his collapse within a few minutes and his subsequent death.
At the time of the strike and the push, Mr Tomlinson was walking away from the police line. He was complying with police instructions to leave Royal Exchange Buildings (the Passage). He posed no threat.
Conclusion of the jury as to the death:
After the appalling behaviour of the Metropolitan Police in recent days and their chaotic policing of both last year’s student protests and the March 26th TUC anti-cuts demo, this verdict must surely come as at least some good news – it is about time the police were truly held accountable for their actions and their treatment of both protesters and bystanders like Ian.
But this is only the beginning. I hope this verdict is a step forward in the long process of gaining justice not just for Ian Tomlinson’s family, but for all those injured by or who have lost loved ones to police brutality.
I wish all the best to Ian’s family – they have faced this horrendous ordeal with a quiet and inspiring dignity. I hope they can now finally begin to find peace.