Saturday, 27 March 2010

Ted Hughes and Poets' Corner

The news that Ted Hughes is to have a memorial plaque in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey is very welcome, though I can't imagine why there should have been any doubt in the first place.

Ted Hughes (1930 - 1998) was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death from cancer in 1998.   He is one of the greatest of English 20th century poets, his poetry darkly redolent of his native Yorkshire and his close connection with the land.

At his memorial service in Westminster Abbey, Seamus Heaney, who gave an address, said:

"No death outside my immediate family has left me feeling more bereft.  No death in my lifetime has hurt poets more.  He was a tower of tenderness and strength, a great arch under which the least of poetry's children could enter and feel secure. His creative powers were, as Shakespeare said, still crescent. By his death, the veil of poetry is rent and the walls of learning broken."

I knew Ted Hughes fairly well, and regard it as a privilege to have done so.   He wore his fame lightly and was a kind and thoughtful man, not to say excellent company.   His great passion was fishing.

Poets' Corner has been the repository of memorials to our poets since Geoffrey Chaucer was buried there in 1400, and among others the following are commemorated there:

John Betjeman, Robert Browning, Thomas Campbell, William Congreve, Charles Dickens,
John Dryden, John Gay, Thomas Hardy, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling,
John Masefield, Edmund Spenser, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ted Hughes will join them in 2011,

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Labour's Legacy

I think the following figures deserve a far larger audience than I can give them, and I hope serious commentators will make sure that everyone realises what has been done to this country in the last 13 years.

When Gordon Brown arrived at the Treasury in 1997 he inherited a deficit of £6 billion.   It is now £67 billion.

The UK was the seventh most competitive economy in the world.   It is now 13th.

It was the fourth most competitively taxed:  it is now the 84th

It was the fourth most lightly regulated:  it is now the 86th.

The scale of Labour's failure is scarcely imaginable.   We cannot go on like this - but we will, if Labour are re-elected, and we shall truly end up a bankrupt, third world country.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Whistle Down The Wind

The figures reported yesterday for the production of electricity from wind farms show more or less exactly what we already know - these things are pretty useless.   20% of the sites produce less than 20% of their maximum capacity, and some produce less than 10%.

The problem is the grants for green energy, which encourage developers to build wind turbines on unsuitable sites.   Without these subsidies, it is doubtful whether many of the turbines which so mar our landscapes would have been built.   And the Government is still planning to increase research and development funding - though probably for offshore sites, which are not so objectionable.

Obviously renewable energy is important, but the impact on the landscape, and the importance of beauty and tranquillity are also extremely important and should be taken into account, as should the fact that they kill so many birds.   In view of the inefficiency of these monsters in relation to their cost, and the destruction they cause, not to mention their unreliability, my view is that we should regard them as a failed experiment and concentrate on something silent, invisible, efficient and reliable.   Nuclear energy perhaps?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Too High a Price to Pay?

I have been reading what is going to happen to Greenwich Park when they start preparing for the Olympic equestrian events which are to be held there in 2012, against the wishes of most people in the horse world, not to mention the locals.

Parts of the ancient park are to be closed and fenced off for five years, starting next month.   A 9ft. security fence will be installed, with spotlights every 80ft and CCTV cameras on 16ft. poles.   The soil will be quarried and replaced, the ground will be levelled, the paths excavated and 72 trees pruned, with some losing main branches.   Dozens of temporary buildings will be erected, including a 23,000-seater stadium.   Historic gates will be removed.   There will be a total of 6,500 lorry movements in the park  - about 60 a day - together with 36,000 vehicle movements during the actual events.

Greenwich Park is home to a number of sweet chestnuts which are among the oldest living things in London.   As Andrew Gilligan says in The Daily Telegraph, they were young at the time of the Great Fire and 130 years old during the French Revolution.   Their branches shaded King Charles II and his mistresses.   It is beyond understanding that such a place should be subject to the treatment proposed.

The planning application is to come before Greenwich Council on Tuesday, and the fury and disbelief of the local residents is apparent in more than 2,000 objections.   The application provides for the preservation of some of the heritage features, but others will only be "preserved by record", which is to say destroyed, but only after records have been made of them.   It is doubtful what funds will be available for the restoration of the park after it is all over.

Why did those in charge not choose Windsor or Badminton for the equestrian events?   Both places are used to hosting large-scale equestrian competitions, and both were available.   Windsor is near enough to London (Eton has been chosen for the rowing events), so why wantonly destroy an ancient and beautiful park for the sake of a few miles?    And why did the Royal Parks Agency allow it?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Where Are The Daffodils?

"Daffodils, which come before the swallows dare,
And take the winds of March with beauty"

Just about everyone in England is waiting for the long-delayed arrival of the daffodils.   It is hard to remember a year when they have flowered so late - usually they are with us by late February, but after the coldest winter for 31 years there is as yet there little sign of the seas of gold which so lift our hearts in early spring.

In my own small garden the forsythia is just beginning to show a haze of yellow, but our magnolia stellata, which by now is usually in full bloom, is still keeping its buds tightly shut.  

Spring may be late, but it will be all the more welcome when it finally arrives, and there is nothing in the world to compare with an English spring!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Where Our Money Goes (4)

More details of EU spending have emerged, for instance:

*   £72,000 for a trip to the Italian Alps for the children of MEPs and officials (£72,000!! Did they stay in a five-star hotel?   How can this possibly be justified?)

*   £8 million - the budget for Europarl TV, the European parliament's online TV channel, which broadcasts live parliamentary events and debates, and is little more than EU propaganda (and I don't suppose anyone watches it anyway).

*   £2.4 million for a renovation of the parliament sports centre.

It was also disclosed that in 2008 47,781 days were lost to sick leave, an average of 8 for every one of the EU parliament's 6,000 workers.

The total budget for the European Parliament is £1.3 billion, a great deal of which is squandered on unnecessary luxuries, perks and self-promotion.   Some MEPs, in particular the brave souls of UKIP, do their best to rein in the extravagance, or at least bring it to our attention, but, as we all know, there is little we can do about it.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Blanket Repeal Bill

Matthew Parris, in this week's Spectator has produced a brilliant idea for the Conservatives when they are back in power.   He suggests that they should introduce a measure, which he calls "The Blanket Repeal of Legislation (Failure of New Labour 1997 -2010) Bill.

The effect would be to repeal at one stroke all the new legislation brought in since the fall of the Conservative government in 1997, the only exceptions being "those measures which, by affirmative resolution of both Houses, parliament votes to rescue".   All the needless, pointless or positively dangerous new laws made over the last 13 years, such as the fox-hunting ban, ASBOs, hate-speech crimes, identity cards, badly-drafted anti-terrorism legislation which results in no one being able to take photographs in a public place, etc. etc, would vanish in one go, and if anyone thinks any of these are a good idea, it would be up to them to persuade parliament to keep them.   The question for parliament to answer would be "Why?", instead of "Why not?".

After the last, disastrous 13 years, the thought of wiping the slate clean of New Labour interference in our lives is hugely attractive.   It would take very little time to achieve and leave the next government free to concentrate on rebuilding our shattered nation.  

I am with you, Matthew!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Lovely Bones

The other night we dined in a fairly upmarket restaurant in Fulham - a first-class dinner, which we all enjoyed.   After he had finished his rack of lamb (deliciously pink and tender), my son was left with the bones on his plate.   He asked for a doggy-bag to take them home to our dog, who would greatly appreciate them.   The sweet young waitress disappeared and came back after a few moments to say that "Health & Safety" would not allow this.   The dog might suffer in some unspecified way from the bones and we might sue the restaurant - so no doggy bag.

What has happened to this country?   Well, actually I know what has happened - 13 years of New Labour have produced a culture in which it is almost impossible to lead a normal life.   The European Union has helped, with its mad rules and regulations, under which we struggle with remarkably little protest.   The election of a Conservative government might help to change things, though it is by no means certain.   Maybe things have just gone too far.   Will there always be an England?   With a heavy heart I am beginning to doubt it.

We wrapped the bones up ourselves and took them home with us, where they were indeed much enjoyed, to the benefit of the dog and the environment both.