Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Conkers Head sends readers goggle-eyed

An interesting piece in the Comment is Free part of the Guardian today, as Shaun Halfpenny, head of Cummersdale Primary School in Carlisle, tells the truth about the "Schoolchildren wear goggles to play conkers" story that, frankly, spawned a monster. Mr Halfpenny, it turns out, was the man who initiated the wearing of goggles whilst playing conkers. Unfortunately, thanks to some digging by Guardian readers, developed in the comments section, it turns out that what he's actually writing is, at best, poorly remembered, and at worst an attempt to completely revise the whole history of the event.

In the Guardian piece, Mr Halfpenny says "It was a child who actually asked if they could wear goggles". This, however, is not what was reported at the time. The BBC covered the story by quoting Mr Halfpenny as saying "
I said they would have to wear goggles to play, mainly because they could get bits of conker in the eye. They thought it was a great idea."The Cumberland News also reported that "Mr Halfpenny said he had no choice because of health and safety rules...'The children asked to play conkers in school and I thought it would be really mean if I said no. These days you cannot be too careful, especially when health and safety inspectors are watching.'"

"What are they doing?" "They're playing conkers, without wearing goggles." "Fuck it, that's too dangerous. We're going in."

The BBC also quotes Mr Halfpenny as saying "It's just being sensible", to which the only correct reply is "No it fucking isn't". A few people have said to me "Oh, Health and Safety is just common sense", which is fine, until you spend 30 seconds thinking of some of the idiotic things your workmates do, and then realise that you may have to rely on their "common sense".

The thing that really baffles me about this Guardian piece though is that after having kids wear goggles, Mr Halfpenny then went to the media and told them about it. The "Health and Safety has gone completely over the top" attitude was well underway by then, as shown by this article by Jeremy Clarkson. How the Head didn't realise that the story was going to run and run is frankly, remarkable. It seems in this case, the Head didn't use his, well, head.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Tories go after health and safety, brick by brick

In the time that has passed since I last updated this blog (apologies for that), I turned 28. Time to start getting respectable, stop dressing like a student and acting like a proper grown-up and everything. Well, no. As exhibited by my choice of advent calender, which this year is Lego Pirates (I suppose technically the fact I have an advent calender at all is really an indication that I haven't really grown up yet, but there you go). Honestly, it's great, you get a few bits of Lego each day that make up a character or some Pirate furniture or something. Behind the first window was a cheery Pirate captain. I noticed that the stud at the top of the head of the character was open, presumably so that if a child swallowed it, they wouldn't choke (as much) on it as air would pass through the head. I mentioned this at work, which was obviously a mistake, as people started off on the "Oh, how did we survive all when we were kids" bollocks, before someone launched into an anecdote about how they were in a shop that wasn't allowing anyone under the age of 21 to buy crackers because there's a bit of gunpowder in them and how health and safety has gone too far nowadays. I said it was probably something that the shop had bought in itself, and wasn't part of actual law, a bit like when it was claimed that "Health and Safety" (by which most people mean the Health and Safety Executive) had banned kids in school playing conkers, when that hadn't happened and it was the head of one school that had made children wear goggles when playing conkers until someone had said to him "Don't you think that's a bit daft?" Unfortunately it seemed like the only words of my explanation my work colleagues heard were "goggles" and "conkers" and they went away now believing that all schools had to put kids in some sort of protective coccoon before they went outside, and I was left banging my head against my desk in frustration (metaphorically speaking, obviously).

With ignorance like that, it's no wonder newspapers spray the "Health and Safety gone mad" routine all over their print and web editions. It's so much easier to believe the lie or exageration than to actually find out the truth. What's even more depressing is that the Tories have swallowed all those lies and are now using them to try and win votes. The anecdotes used by Cameron in his speech (and, as uksceptic once said to me, "remember, anecdotes ain't worth shit) are a mixture of half-truths and some rare, slightly over-officious people. But just because a few people are a bit over the top shouldn't taint the whole health and safety industry - you wouldn't say that the guy that you got in to do your bathroom, who made a right mess of it is an example of "plumbing gone mad".

Cameron goes on to say:

The Health and Safety Executive enforces 202 statutory instruments – or regulations: two thirds of these were passed in the ninety-nine years before Labour came to power...

...a third of them in the twelve years since.

Some of these over-officious, bereaucratic nonsense regulations bought are to do with (list from the IOSH website):

Control of asbestos
Decommissioning of nuclear reactors
Offshore safety
Control of lead
Pipelines safety
Control of major accident hazards
Control of noise at work
Export/import of dangerous chemicals

According to IOSH, 180 people died last year in accidents at work. 180. The Health and Safety Executive lists some of them here. That is the real work of the HSE, preventing those deaths and injuries that are all too easy to stop. But Cameron has decided to focus instead on lies and media exaggeration instead.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Flintshire Councillor is a bit of a Richard

Canteen staff at Flintshire County Council have renamed Spotted Dick "Spotted Richard" or "Suet Pudding", basically because they're sick of people continually making jokes about the name. Of course, you can't change the name of anything anymore without someone uttering the phrase "Political Correctness gone mad", and filling this role admirably is councillor Klaus Armstrong-Braun. He's not happy, and neither, rather predictably, are the commenters at the Daily Mail's site. Honestly, over 100 comments about the changing of a name of a fucking cake?

Seriously, how stupid does someone have to be to be uptight over staff changing the name of a dessert? And how is it political correctness? Let's face it, reading the article, it seems there's a good few Colin Hunts in the canteen repeating the same joke over and over every single time Spotted Dick is on the menu. Frankly I'm surprised the canteen staff have taken the route of changing the name of the pudding, my tactic would have been attempting to batter the twat to death with his own tray. Maybe we should make councillor Armstrong-Braun endure the bad jokes every single day and see how long it takes for him to stay sane.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Unbelievable, Jeff!

I was, frankly, waiting for this. After the violence that surrounded the West Ham - Millwall Carling Cup game on Tuesday, Jeff Powell, in - of course - the Daily Mail, reckons that the days of hooliganism in football are back again. Jeff's argument seems to be that the recession we are currently in (or may be coming out of) means that the jobless are taking out their boredom and anger on the terraces. Which was, funnily enough, also his theory in October last year, when Millwall fans clashed with Leeds fans and someone threw a coin at Harry Redknapp (which is strange because allegedly Redknapp is no stranger to receiving money. Maybe it's because this time it wasn't in a brown envelope). Of course, I'm sure you can remember the onslaught of violence in football grounds that occured after these events last season. I myself was caught up in fights with over 26 different "firms". Oh no, hang on. That's not what happened. What happened is I went to some football matches and didn't see any violence whatsoever. I even shared a tram back to Sheffield train station with some Sheffield United fans, and no-one got glassed, head-butted or drop-kicked in the face.

This being the Mail, of course, there's bit of good old-fashioned class hatred. Obviously those that lost their jobs are from the working classes, and the working classes are the "underbelly, in this case bulging and tattooed, of British society" that love fighting. Powell speaks of "the mob" and "yobs" like a Seventeeth Century writer describing the Gordon Riots, despite the fact that a lot of these people fighting will be the same people that fought in the 1980's, now with middle-class jobs in the city and middle-class houses in Essex and Hertfordshire. And he's appalled that the "...more chic, corporate enclaves of the game [are not] immune. While there is a history of violence between West Ham and Millwall, residents of west London complain of disorder outside their million-pound homes when Chelsea play at home", clearly forgetting the days of the Shed End and the Chelsea Headhunters.

As an aside, Jeff also seems to want to take the credit for all-seater stadia in England, obviously forgetting about the Taylor Report -

"... I went to No 10 and began urging then-Prime Minister Thatcher to enforce all-seat stadiums in this country."

I'm not suggesting that the scenes at Upton Park and the surrounding area were welcome. But let's get some perspective here. A small percentage of people have been taking their cues from Green Street, Danny Dyer documentaries and the Hoolie-porn of Cass Pennant and his ilk. It is not a sign of impending doom in our national game. Jeff Powell, lest we forget, is a man that feels that the birth dates of former England players should influence the selection of teams for World Cup qualifying matches. The sooner he is pensioned off, so he can sit in some care home wanking himself into a stupor over the 1966 World Cup, the better.

*The blog may not get updated for a while now (so what's new?), as I'm off on holiday to the US from tomorrow until September 7th. I may blog from there if I get a chance, although given the itinery the Missus has planned I doubt I'll have much time. If not, I'll try and make some notes as to my thoughts over there and blog about them when I return. It might be best if I take a different notebook to the one I'm currently using, which has the design of a cover of a Leon Trotsky book on the front.*

Monday, 24 August 2009

What the diddly-damn-doodly?

So, from what Channel 4 have cut from The Simpsons, the broadcasters aren't keen on hanging (cutting Ned Flanders attempting to kill himself in Viva Ned Flanders), but have no problem with Bill Clinton screwing pigs (Homer to the Max). Interesting.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A thought on the release of the Lockerbie Bomber

Part of this afternoon has been spent trying to put in to words my thoughts on the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie Bomber. Then I read the words of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and find he says it better than I could:

"Mr al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not
allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them."

"But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days. Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available."

"Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs the we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people - no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated."

Friday, 14 August 2009

Buckingham Palace goes Health and Safety Mad

No idea how I missed this one, but a few days ago, the Daily Mail, among others was aghast over Buckingham Palace discarding one of the traditions relating to the Royal Family. So, what tradition was this that has ended up on the scrapheap due to our Politically Correct Loony Left overlords? Maybe the rising cost of stamps has led to the Queen scrapping the sending of letters to people who are celebrating their Hundredth birthday? Have those bonkers bureaucrats in Brussels killed off the changing of the guard due to the Working Time Directive? Are animal welfare groups demanding that Ravens be allowed to leave the Tower of London?

Well, no. The tradition that is being scrapped is the tradition of walking backwards away from the Queen. It's Health and Safety gone mad! Well, maybe. The Mail states that the tradition has become "the latest victim of Health and Safety regulations". Now, it's probably apt for me to admit my interest here. I work as a Health and Safety Officer. As part of my job I have to keep an eye out for any new regulations that may affect the company I work for and make sure we act on them. The best place to find them tends to be here. Although meeting the Queen doesn't really fall under my remit, I'm sure I would have noticed regulations coming through mentioning not walking backwards away from the Queen. So it's not a regulation then. It's a recommendation. Possibly. There's no direct quote anywhere in the piece from anyone described as being involved in the decision, except for a Buckingham Palace "spokesman", who states that "there was no major decision made...the tradition just melted away".

The decision to stop the practice is apparently to stop people bumping into things as they exit and suing the Palace if they get injured or something. Now, I would think that you've got to have balls the size of the Commonwealth to sue Buckingham Palace, but let's be fair, meeting the Queen isn't something that happens to you every day. No matter if you're a fervent royalist, or a republican, you're going to be quite nervous about meeting the Queen. There's a possibility that you may be concentrating so much on walking backwards, you could crash into something and break the antique vase that was a gift to George II from Louis XV. Which would obviously be quite embarassing. So I can see why it might be thought sensible to do away with it.

As any seasoned Daily Mail reader will know, the last couple of paragraphs of a story will often contain the kernels of truth following the foaming hyperbole of Mail reporting. As is the case here. Robin Cracroft-Brennan, from the Heraldry Society, states

"The present Queen has always hinted that she's not particularly fussed by it... I think she takes the view that it's far better for someone to walk normally than to fall over."

Which sort of makes you wonder why the Mail gets that bothered, really.

Monday, 10 August 2009

They'll be Dancing in the Streets of Field Electrical Tonight...

The Elite Ice Hockey League champions, Sheffield Steelers, are no strangers to controversy. From their days being managed by former Rotherham United chairman Norton Lea, to their play-off win in April, British Ice Hockey's most hated club are never far from the headlines (or what passes for headlines given the small amount of coverage the sport gets). Today they risked enraging many of their fans by announcing via the Sheffield Star that they are dropping the Sheffield part of their name to be replaced by the name of their principal sponsors - they will, for this season at least, be known as the Field Electrical Steelers.

Steelers' General Manager Mike O'Connor defends the name change by saying that, given the ongoing move from Sheffield Arena to the Rother Valley based YES! Project site, it would be not be apt for the team to keep the Sheffield moniker. Which would be fine, if it wasn't for the fact that work on the site hasn't actually started yet, so the Steelers will be still in Sheffield for at least 2 years. But moving out of the area needn't stop you keeping the name - O'Connor clearly hasn't been paying attention to the Don Valley Stadium, just 100 yards or so from the Arena, which now houses Rotherham United FC, after the club made the reverse of the journey the Steelers will be undertaking. Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the World, don't currently play in Sheffield, they play in nearby Dronfield. Grimsby Town have been playing in neighbouring Cleethorpes for years. Even moving away from football and back to ice hockey, former Elite League, and now English Premier side Manchester Phoenix are located in Altrincham, and Newcastle Vipers will be playing half their games in Whitley Bay this season.

Of course, most fans will probably believe that the name of their team has been changed for purely commercial reasons, to highlight the name of their main sponsors this season. But the club have, in previous sponsorship deals, been known as the Unison Sheffield Steelers, the Liberata Sheffield Steelers, and last year, the Eurologix Sheffield Steelers, so why they can't just be the Field Electrical Sheffield Steelers, heaven knows. The problem with abandoning the geographic location from your name though, as has been shown before, is that people will just ignore it. Due to sponsorship deals, my club, Chelmsford Chieftains (just to clarify, I mean the club I support, I don't own the team) were known as the Wavetek Chieftains for a couple of years in the early/mid-nineties, and the previously-mentioned Newcastle Vipers were known last year as the Mincoff Vipers. Outside of official club documents, however, it made absolutely no impact on fans, media, or indeed the league tables, both teams were still known by the location of the team. Fans of both the Steelers and other teams will still refer to the as "Sheffield", and given the record of the Steelers for going through title sponsors (they've had a different title sponsor each season for at least the last five years), they'll no doubt be known as something slightly different next year.

I understand that UK Ice Hockey is in a tough situation cash-wise, but Sheffield Steelers are one of the biggest clubs in Britain, and surely some things are sacrosanct.

UPDATE - 17/08/2009

The Steelers now confirm that they will retain the name Sheffield Steelers, for now, anyway. After a campaign by the Sheffield Star and fans, it seems there are some clubs who listen to their audiences after all.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Doncaster starts flushing itself down the toilet

Recently elected Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, has been in office for about two months, and has already been making headlines. He was the English Democrat candidate for the position, standing on a platform of cutting "PC non-jobs", cancelling funding for Doncaster's Gay Pride march, and reducing the number of councillors in Doncaster to a third of what they were before his election. Before he had even managed to take up the role, he was pretty dramatically batted about by BBC Radio Sheffield's Toby Foster, and he has since done an about turn on one of his election promises, as Doncaster Council has now released the funding they had earmarked for the Pride march. A great start then. Boateng & Demetriou have a look through the rest of his policies here, as well as making predictions as to how successful he will be.

Mayor Davies is striding ahead regarding one of his manifesto points, though. The Sheffield Star announced today that Davies has brought in Laura and John Midgeley, heads of the Campaign against Political Correctness, to go through the services the council offer and decide which ones are PC, and which ones aren't. Apparently, the couple are "experts on the subject". One look at their website, which appears to have been designed in 1997 and shows no signs of being willing to come into the 21st century, will tell you otherwise. The Campaign feasts on half-truths and myths (the changing of Christmas to a Winter Festival by some councils is a favourite, even though such a thing has NEVER HAPPENED), believing that a few people occasionally getting the wrong end of the stick or being a bit jobsworthy constitutes a menace to society. My favourite part of the site is "Not in my name", where you can send in your details of who you are, and why you're against PC, and they'll detail it in a nice little table for you, categorising you by your minority, and thereby completely missing the whole point. They've even got a Twitter account, although they've not actually said anything on it. Or maybe they have, and it's been deleted by the PC Brigade.

One of the PC departments the CAPC are targeting is the Ethnic Minority Welfare Rights Service, which assists those of Ethnic minorities to gain benefits they are entitled to. This was set up following the Gus John Report of 2002, which showed that black people in Doncaster felt keen racial divides in the city and that the Council was institutionally racist and would not give the same assistance to ethnic minorities as it would the white population of Doncaster. The report itself was seen "as a watershed in Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council's relationship with black and minority ethnic communities". Now two people want to
close down something that is attempting to bring minorities into the community.

Not just 2 people though, two people unelected by the people of Doncaster. A better place to have this debate would be in the council offices of the city, where people of the borough, elected by people of the borough, could discuss it. Bringing in 2 people who don't live in Doncaster, who have no ideas of the needs of the people of Doncaster, and who have a pretty obvious agenda already, and letting them put big marker-pen crosses against jobs with the words ethnic, minority, and diversity, is not a great way to run a democracy.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

And he brought forth the people that were therein...and made them pass through the Brick-kiln...

Do you love Lego? Do you also love the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for all our sins? Ever wondered how you could possibly combine the two? Well fear no longer, I have just the website for you. The Brick Testament is basically a version of the Good Book using scenes made entirely out of Lego. Frankly, as someone that's never really grown out of Lego, and owns all 3 Lego Xbox Games (Lego Batman is the best, by the way), I think it's hilarious. My favourite so far? Has to be the story of Cain and Abel, if only for this shot.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Sinister Characters in the Background - Manipulating the public for over 200 years!

Via a Twitter post from Phil Plait, and following a couple of links, I ended up reading a post on the website of David Icke, everyone's favourite goalkeeper turned tinfoil hat wearer. Now, the vast majority of it is your typical "Swine flu was released by the Illuminati/Bilderberg Group/Reverse Vampires to cull the population" batshittery, but part of the post talked about, well, I can't really put it better than David himself:

"The Illuminati plan for the world includes...the microchipping of every man, woman and child. Microchips would allow everyone to be tracked 24/7, but it goes much further than that.

Computer technology communicating with the chips has the potential to manipulate people mentally, emotionally and physically. This could be done en masse or individually through the chip's unique transmitter-receiver signal. Killing someone from a distance would be a synch (sic)."

Apparently these chips are, due to the wonders of nanotechnology, so small as to be able to be injected into people along with their tamiflu jab. Anyway's, the interesting thing about that quote was that it reminded me of the strange story of James Tilly Matthews, who I read about roughly this time last year. Matthews was a Welshman, working as a tea broker in London in the last 10 or so years of the Eighteenth Century. He is also pretty much acknowledged to be the first recorded case of paranoid schizophrenia.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm by no means an expert regarding the brain, and I'm not suggesting for one moment that David Icke is mentally ill. However, the parallels between Icke's "They'll control us from afar" reasonings, and the ideas Matthew's had that led him to be admitted to Bedlam Hospital, are striking.

Matthews believed, as revealed in John Haslam's 1810 book Illustrations of Madness, he was under attack from a gang of criminals who were could manipulate his thoughts and ideas by use of a gigantic machine called the Air Loom. The "Air Loom Gang", as he called them, consisted of Bill the King (the ringleader), Jack the Schoolmaster, Sir Archy (a woman dressed as a man), and the Glove Woman, who operated the Air Loom. The Air Loom itself was located in London Wall in Moorfields, not far from where Liverpool Street station is today, and was drawn by Matthews during his treatment at Bedlam:

(I've always thought that image would make a good album cover, by the way).

When Matthews "saw" the Air Loom, he could never make out the top parts of it, as they were so high up, which is why they are sketched rather than drawn solidly. It may well be that the character in the top left of the picture is supposed to be Matthews, if that's the case, it's the only picture of him we have.

The Air Loom worked by combining chemistry with the new "science" of Animal Magnetism. By mixing a number of frankly disgusting substances, including seminal fluid, "effluvia of dogs", "putrid human breath", and "gas from a horse's anus", the Glove Lady was able to alter the flow of magnetically charged air around the patient, causing ailments including "thought-making", or pushing the ideas of a person out of their brain and replacing them with thoughts chosen by the gang, and "lobster-cracking", increasing the pressure of the magnetic atmosphere around the victim, which would stop his circulation, "impede his vital motions", and kill him. But it wasn't just Matthews they were after. He believed that there were dozens of similar gangs all around the capital, working their influence on the important people of the day, including then Prime Minister William Pitt. Indeed, so sure of the influence of these machines was Matthews, that he was originally admitted to Bedlam after entering the public gallery at the House of Commons and shouting accusations of treason at Lord Liverpool, the Home Secretary.

So what had started off these illusions in Matthews' mind then? Why would a tea broker from Wales suddenly become convinced he was being got at by a secretive gang intent on using him as they wished? After the French Revolution, there was a real chance of France starting a war with Britain. It seems Matthews travelled over to France with David Williams, who was well known to the Girondists who originally made up the government of Republican France, to try and broker a peace deal between the countries. Matthews gained the trust of the Government, and also of the Government of Britain, but was thwarted when, whilst he was back in Britain, the Girondists were usurped by the Jacobins. Upon returning to France, Matthews was arrested due to his connections with the previous government, and was imprisoned in France for three years. He was released after the French became convinced he was a lunatic, and returned to Britain. However, the UK Cabinet denied having any knowledge of him, leaving Matthews to send two letters to Lord Liverpool accusing him of treason, and eventually his House of Commons outburst, which led to his incarceration in Bedlam. It was once in Bedlam that he was looked after by Haslam, who later released his, and Matthews's own, notes on Matthews in Illustrations of Madness (you can see excerpts from the book here). After some years in Bedlam that were almost as eventful as events proceeding, but can't really be covered in a 1100-word blog entry, Matthews was moved to London House in Hackney, where he died in 1815, aged 45. In the last 15 years or so, his case has moved slightly more into the public eye, and has been the subject of a play, and a novel, as well as getting a mention on CSI. In 2002 artist Rod Dickinson built a full-scale Air Loom, which has been displayed in Newcastle and Heidelberg, Germany.

It's interesting to note that almost 200 years after the publication of Illustrations of Madness, David Icke believes, like James Tilly Matthews, that new science is behind sinister plots to alter the way people think and behave. As writer Mike Jay says, "For everyone who has since had messages beamed at them through fillings, mysterious implants or TV sets, or via hi-tech surveillance, MI5, Masonic lodges or UFOs, James Tilly Matthews is Patient Zero".

If you're interested in looking at James Tilly Matthews's story in more detail, you couldn't go wrong with Mike Jay's book "The Air Loom Gang", available at Amazon here. Pictures of Rob Dickinson's Air Loom can be seen at this site. Finally, author Robert Rankin took the idea of the Air Loom Gang and weaved another of his tales of far-fetched fiction around it, which is how I came across James Tilly Matthews. The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code can be bought from here.