Christmas minus four days

Listening to Billie Holiday on Apple Music

Reading Bernard Cornwell, Samuel Richardson, Balzac, Dickens, Ferrante

Watching Force Awakens

Thinking about how when I retire I'm going to live in small spare flat with a small spare garden with a terrier and a couple of turtles and learn how to write poetry, paint pictures and play the trumpet

Christmas hols

Hooray I'm on holiday for two weeks!

Yesterday I made and put the marzipan on the Xmas cake.

Today I'm going to Sisters using my Cineworld Unlimited card.

Tomorrow we're going to see the Force Awakens

Other stuff I'm doing:
- trying to find O2 Floor tickets for Strictly 2016 tour (we love you, Jay McGuinness, the human equivalent of the Andrex puppy)
- trying to get day tickets for Dominic West in Dangerous Liaisons at the Donmar Warehouse
- trying to get returns for Nutcracker, Cavalleria Rusticana at Covent Garden and Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol
- going to look at the West End Xmas windows with Laura
- going to Go Ape in Battersea Park with Alice
- going to Hampton Court as I've just realised I've got Historic Royal Palaces membership
- read, read, read!
- listen to unlimited music on Apple Music
- make mince pies (Delia)
- make Chana masala (Guardian)
- update this blog daily

Happy days

Safeguarding: Southwark diocese

Tea and coffee turns out to be a kettle, some tea bags and a pint of milk.

Then there's a big kerfuffle about where you sign in: at the back, at reception, "I've signed in three times now"

Then someone wants to open a window, but the windows don't open

Oh God someone I know is here. I'll make like I haven't seen her

Three hours later: actually it was really informative, if hair-raising. Obviously some parishes are a lot more problematic than others

Things We Argue About

Driving down to Bristol for sister's wedding. We pass an estate agents window which has little model houses in the window like at Bekenscot.
Me: Laura, look at the cute little houses. Which one would you live in?
Laura: I can't really see them.
Me: I like the white one best, but the green one has bigger windows.
Laura: oh those houses. I thought you meant the houses they were advertising in the window. I was wondering how you could possibly see them.
Chris: I thought you meant the ones in the photos.
Alice: so did I.
Me: how could I possibly have seen the ones in the photographs? What, have I suddenly developed super eyesight?
Chris: that's what I thought. So I thought you must be talking just for the sake of saying something.
Me: when do I ever do that?
Chris: exactly. So I thought you must have gone mad.
Me: so you'd rather ignore everything you know about me and assume that I'd gone mad, rather than entertain the possibility that I might have been talking about the cute little model houses, which only that estate agent has, rather than the photos of houses, which every estate agent has?
Chris: I didn't think they were cute.
Me: surely it's more plausible that I meant the model houses but that what I think is cute is different from what you think is cute, rather than that I'd suddenly developed super eyesight and also lost my mind?
Chris: your position is indefensible
Me: my position is defensible. I am defending it, unfortunately I appear to be dealing with a bunch of dopes
Laura: we can't all be dopes
Me: well, apparently you can
Laura: the families in cars in adverts are never like this

Fall Out Boy

I'm in the grip of several slow-burning obsessions at the moment. Fall Out Boy, for one, I'm sort of crushing on them collectively. What a difference a live gig makes! It's hard to say why as most of the time you had to watch them on the big screens (and why is that different from watching them on YouTube?), but that is the mystery of human presence. Being there, in the same air as people, makes a difference. Why? Maybe they seem more real. Maybe you see everything, not just what the cameraman directs you to see, which helps to fill in the reality of someone.

Then I've started my new Elena Ferrante book. I wonder if a Lila really existed, or if the author is simply applying herself into two and writing about both halves. I wish I could get the girls to read it: it's such an eye-opening validating piece of work, especially for women. Some woman in the paper was worrying that it wasn’t really literature. Why? Why not? What is
unliterary about it? The fact that it’s enjoyable? The fact that it acts as
though what two young girls in Naples in mid-twentieth century thought or
felt is important? I don’t see how you could find a book more serious intelligent and authentic than these novels are turning out to be.

On a more trivial note, I've been reading about Kate Moss’ new squeeze in the Telegraph: Nikolai von Bismarck, who from a quick piece of deductive work via Wikipedia, must be the second nephew of Gottfried von Bismarck (the first cousin of Nikolai’s father Leopold, who was the younger brother of Gottfried’s father, the
Prince von Bismarck). I knew Gottfried from Oxford when we were both in a
Ionesco play, The Lesson, being directed by an acquaintance from New College. I didn’t really know Gottfried, what with him being such a posho, but he seemed perfectly nice. He moved with the Olivia Channon set and died himself a few years ago, essentially from his lifestyle (drugs, gay orgies etc). All rather sad: gilded youth! This was all post the ITV Brideshead craze. Little did I think, as I was living through it, that people would be looking back at the eighties in a haze of nostalgia.

At lunch I went out and bought some Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum because it
was on a Guardian list of best skincare products and I’m running out of
face cream. I don’t even know how to use it! It was £5 off. I wonder if it
will have any detectible effect on my skin, that wouldn’t be just as well
achieved with a £5 pot of generic moisturiser. Anyway, when I went to pay,
instead of the self-service checkout asking whether I wanted to buy a bag,
there simply were no bags. There was only a little Boots man wandering
around with a handful of bags. I told him I wanted to buy one, but I had no
change. He shoved a little paper bag into my hand and whispered, “Go, go,
run away!” which I promptly did. Hilarious.

Shopping on a real tight budget (again).

Went for a walk earlier because like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare .Didnt have a lot of cash so first stop was the fruit/veg market as they were packing up looked through a few boxes and ended up with about 40 apples.a pineapple,6 nice carrots,garlic and all for the bargain price of £0.00.Next stop a Health food place that every night puts out a few bags of goodies just reaching the sell by date ,its all perfectly good food.the haul was 200g of Cornish Camembert,125g of goats cheese,18 Glenilen Farm probiotic yoghurts 160g jars I kept 6 and redistributed the others to homeless people on my journey home.I called at Sainsburys and was able to splash out on Normandy butter ,a sunflower+honey bloomer loaf,Youngs fish ,a £4 ham and pineapple pizza so its good eating today.After washing/scrubbing the free fruit/veg it was juiced and produced 4 pints of juice better and fresher than the stuff bought in the shops.It still amazes and pisses me off the amount of good food throw away and destined for landfills while so many people are havuing a hard time and starving.Just grateful Im not one of them.

SELLING BIG ISSUES ,a honest profession.

   Its my opinion that selling Big Issues is a honest honarable way to make a living.Ive been doing it on and off from the very begining, sure Im critical of the way its run but the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.So the wages are not the best in the world but your rewards come in the form of the great orduinary people that you meet.Im not the sort that pushes it in peoples faces,I like to think that people who buy from me do so because they want to not because Ive put pressure on them or made them feel guilty in any way.In the past year Ive had a professional fundraising org headhunting me,telling me I could make 4 times as much for less effort.Truth is if I was to shake a bucket claiming the money was for starving third world children well thats where it would have to go,not in my pocket.Im no angel and while selling Big Issues if anyone asks I tell them the money is for me and if asked I tell them my housing status.Like I say Im honest like all the other venders, we dont make a living from other peoples misery - only our own.My advice before parting with money to a charity think about how much reaches those that need it.

If hostel systems work,why do so many end up back on the streets.

My apologies for ranting about time spent in the  hostel system but in my opinion it was 6yrs of my life wasted.6 years where I had to have a keywork session with a moron every week and awnser the same questions over and over again.FFS how long does it take to asses someone and see if they are suitable for housing.Im of the opinion its a deliberate conspiracy to prove to society how essential they are in the rehabilitation of poor unfortunates like myself.Only thing is Ive never thought of  myself as unfortunate no matter what apart from the times I had to sit and listen to all their fucking crap.I put up with it because I wanted a permanent place of my own without them having acsess to my room or supported housing unit so the nosey fuckers could snoop while I was out.I often used toleave little notes for them to find but only offensive ones.They couldnt say anything about this as they shouldn have been snooping .Its a fact if I had a key to their houses and did to them what they do to their residents I would probably be branded a pervert and locked up for a long time.In a nutshell hostels dont work as most residents end up back on the streets or are kicked out for raising hell about their draconian rules.

The Drugworker

Not all of the people working for homeless orgs are money grabbing careerists,or worse stupid.sOME ARE ANGELS i DONT HAVE TO NAME THEM THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE its a tradgedy that they are more often than not in a surbordinate position and stick with their job to genuinly help.
 I know a girl ,I say girl even though shes in her mid 40s now,she was a teenager when I met her begging on the Hungerford Bridge in the 80s.For over 20yrs she was a hard core heroin user,she knows everey trick in the book that drug users follow,maybe she even wrote it.She got of the drugs sorted her life out got a job with an org that deals with rough sleeping drug users,shes very familiar with the problems and bigotry and difficulty these people face when sorting their lives out or trying.Happy ending - no way,all she gets todo is the donkey work she feels and justibly that she is more qualified than her co-workers,she thinks she has been hired as the token ex-junkie.What a criminal waste of what could be that orgs most valuable asset.Is this her 2nd chance at life,and who could blame her if she went home everynight and stuck a needle in her arm.

  So it been established that rough sleepers have a pretty rough time,one night a outreach worker eventually finds them hidden in some out of the way place,they say I can get you a hostel place,meet me tomorrow.Let me tell you it feels like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.So you meet you go through all the procedures you think peace,safety ,escape from alcholuism ,petty crime,drug addiction  and all its related baggage,you feel exstatic but that soon wears off when you are in your cell like room ,it begins to dawn on you that what you are holding in your arms like a new born baby is not as you envisaged a pot of gold but in reality its a bucket of shit.You are so run down tired you dont care anymore so you sleep.You awake to the sound of footsteps in the coridor,keys getting pushed intolocks door slamming obcenities being shouted,youre half asleep thinking shit slop out already,you rush to get dressed looking for the bucket there is none.The door opens you have one leg in your trousers a voice booms room check ,it then dawns on you again you are not in the Holiday Inn ,but a hostel ,you dont yet know youve been sentenced to 6yrs.

Winky Face!

I'm just going to come right out and say it.  I am not a huge fan of emoticons.  I do not use a happy face to indicate happiness, or a sad face to indicate sadness.  I don't even use LOL when texting or IMing, as I prefer a simple "ha!" to get the idea of laughter accross.

However, I will acknowledge that I am in the minority.  If there was a battle, I lost.  Emoticons have won, and I accept their place in the world.  I will even admit that they can make the tone of an email or text or whatever clear if the words themselves don't convey the proper meaning.  I don't use them myself, but if someone sends me a frowny face or a confused face, I understand their meaning and move on with my life.

Except!

The winky face.  If there is one emoticon I cannot stand, it is the winky face.  You know the one I mean:

;)

The intended meaning, as far as I'm aware, is to convey cheekiness or sassiness.  And it drives me up the freaking wall.  Because here is the thing.  In real life, people smile at each other, or frown, or have big smiles, or stick out their tongues (which, ugh), or look surprised.  All of which have a corresponding emoticon to convey these expressions.

Do you know what people don't do?  Wink at each other.  Constantly wink at each other.  And if they do, they should stop, because I'm sure they'll just develop a twitch of some kind.

There only two contexts I can think of where winking is appropriate in real life.

One:  If you are playing a joke on someone and want to let someone they are with in on the joke subtly.  A wink at that person while continuing the joking will get that message across, and then hopefully they'll get in on the joke and you'll all have some fun times.

Two:  A pickup wink, done in jest.  Possibly accompanied by finger guns.  This works in almost any circumstance in life, and is generally delightful.

That's it!  Those are the only two situations in which you should be winking!  Or maybe if you're trying to get a contact back in place.  But blinking would also accomplish this, so let's forget that one.

Two!

So, when I see people (and god help me, so many people do this) use the winky face after a comment they mean to be funny, all I can think is STOP STOP STOP!  If you need to use an emoticon (and I really must stress that no one needs to use an emoticon) in that case, will the smiley face not do?  What is wrong with the good old smiley face?  Are you too good for the smiley face??

Your cheekiness comes across as far less cheeky if you have to tell me you're being cheeky!  (Also, the work cheeky looks funny when you write it too many times. Cheeky.) Would you really wink in real life after you said whatever you just said?  I thought not. It's just dumb.  Stop it.

However, if someone develops an emoticon for the double finger guns, I will have to bow to their genius and gladly allow all winky face/double finger gun emoticon combos, as they will be hilarious.

Mug of the Day - 3 August


Cuba!

Mug of the Day - 2 August


Bruges! It's my most multi-lingual mug, as it also says "Bruges" and "Brujas".

Mug of the Day - 29 July


The kings and queens of Scotland.  Educational!

Mug of the Day - 28 July


Barcelona is one of my favourite mugs. I think it's so pretty.

Politicians and journalists, put the statistic down and step away.

A person with a little bit of information is usually a danger to themselves and possibly society.  This is particularly the case at a time when something must be done.

A good example of this is the present scandal on MPs' expenses (does it have an official name yet - "Duck-gate").  A number of people have jumped on some analysis by Mark Reckons, a LibDem blogger, that seems to indicate there is a positive correlation between the size of an MP's electoral majority and the chances that they will abuse the expenses system.  In essence, the more safe an MP feels, the more likely they are to be a crook.

This apparent correlation has led Mark and a number of other people (such as Polly Toynbee and Ben Bradshaw) to suggest that we move away from the First-Pass-The-Post election system.  Their reasoning is that a PR election system would lead to lower majorities for MPs', and according to this correlation, more honest MPs.

Now, the first problem with this is that (I think) the analysis doesn't stand up to scrunity (details of my concerns are here).  Mark has been careful to caveat his statistical conclusions, though I don't think his caveats go far enough.  The caveats, of course, have been ignored by everyone else.

Secondly, even if there is a correlation, it does not mean there is any real or useful link between majorities and honest MPs.  A classic example is the correlation that areas with high level of policing having a high level of crime, leading to the policy conclusion that policing should be reduced as it causes crime.

And finally, what no-one seems to have tried to show is how PR will help, even if the correlation holds.  Though there may be many reasons for PR, tackling MPs expense dodgies seems the flimsest.  Consider:
  • While PR will change the majorities of some MPs, it needn't necessarily lead to the fall in the majorities overall.  You could have some MPs, which after first and second votes, have a larger majority.
  • Some forms of PR can lead to more corruption.  For instance, voters have little ability of getting rid of a hated MP in some forms of close list systems, where that MP heads the list.
  • It would seem from the evidence of the unseating of Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election, and the current mass sacking of tarnished MPs, that the current system can act to get rid of sleazy MPs when the voters have the facts.
So please, before advocating constitutional reform, can we stop and think for one moment.

Sorry is the hardest word, but I can do regret

What I can't get is why Gordon says sorry so badly. The secret of political apologies to so say sorry quickly and completely, to close the story down (you may also want to say sorry because you mean it, that works too). Brown's apologies are slow and grudging.

Gordon has waited five days before apologizing about Smeargate.  By waiting and then saying sorry, he's guaranteed further damaging coverage of the story as the morning paper report his apology and analysis it. If he had said sorry straight away when McBride had resigned, the story would have been over already (assuming there's no further emails).

Also, his apology is so mealy mouthed.
I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately.
If you take full responsibility, you take full responsibility. You can't say I take full responsibility, but in the same breath say I'm not the responsible person. And I'm sure that Gordon is "sorry for what happened", but is sorry that people in his office considered smearing people.

Tail wagging the migration dog

Is the Home Office insane, listening to a BNP dog whistle?

Jacqui Smith is proposing that skilled work must first be advertised in the Job Centre before it may be given to a migrant, so that British workers have a chance. Non-EU migrants need a master's degree before coming to the UK for skilled work; EU migrants can come as they please unless they're a Dutch Parliamentarian. How many master-level jobs are advertised in Job Centres at the moment? How many master-level British workers look for jobs in Job Centres? Pure posturing.

Welcome to Balham Bou's Style Blog


We would like to welcome you to Balham Bou's first post on our style blog. We hope to inspire you with our ideas and fashion advice.
We would like to generate a on going discussion between Balham Bou and you! :-)

balham bou on bbc2 "Mary queen of shops"@9pm


thank you for all the surpport you have showed in the passed and hope you enjoy the futrue at balham bou
working with mary portas was priceless
30 june one to watch"mary queen of shop"bbc2@ 9pm

Taking a leak

The Government has just sprung another leak.  As reported by Iain Dale, an email has just been leaked showing that Harriet Harman is to have a meeting with the Speaker's Office and the Serjeant at Arms to discuss the Speakers statement to MPs on Wednesday about allowing Police to search Damian Green's Parliamentary Office.  Other invitees to Harman's meeting include Gus O'Donnell, Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw.

However, apart from the irony of another leak (and the desperation of Labour's news management), the best bit about this story is Harman's office attempt to wriggle out.  According to the BBC, her spoken has said:

"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the parliamentary business and handling of issues that arise from the fact that the speaker's statement and the Queen's Speech will be happening on the same day."


Yes, if you are going to have a meeting about Parliamentary procedure,
you invite the Head of the Civil Service, the Justice Secretary and the
Home Secretary (as well as the Labour Chief Whip) at less than 24 hours
notice; they are busy people, who enjoy nothing more than talking about
seating arrangements.

Putting destruction in context

The third headline on the BBC news website was "Amazon deforestation accelerates".  The article, in doom laden tones, usually consider appropriate by the BBC for environmental stories, states that:
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has accelerated for the first time in four years, Brazilian officials say. Satellite images show 11,968 sq km of land was cleared in the year to July, nearly 4% higher than the year before...

In recent years the Brazilian government has been able to celebrate three successive falls in deforestation. But the latest estimate from the National Institute for Space Research, known as INPE, shows that this trend has come to a halt.
Now, at a time that the world seems to be falling apart, with the terror attacks in Mumbai, protests in Thailand, the end of Western capitalism, and the assault by the Met police on Parliamentary sovereignty, you would think the ordering of BBC stories is strange. But the biggest sin, is the poverty of the story.

The lesser error is the suggestion that one year data can signal an end of a trend. To be honest, I wouldn't be sure that three years of downward data shows there is a downward trend; but there there is no way to tell whether this year's rise was a new trend or a blip.

But the howler is saying the 12,000 sq km were destroyed (as opposed to trees just being cut down) without any context.  How big is 12,000 sq km?

Using what seems to have been the international benchmark of choice when discussion Amazon destruction, 12,000 sq km is around half of Wales; that seems big.  A more appropriate comparison is that 12,000 sq km is but 0.2 per cent of the total rainforest area of 5,500,000 sq km.  Or put it another way, this rate of loss would have to continue for 50 years for the present rainforest to fall by 10 per cent; hardly disastrous.

So the bottom line of the story is there is no evidence that the slowdown of a already very slow fall in the Amazon rainforest has stopped.  A good news story.

Balham Bou on BBC 2 'Mary Queen of Shops'

If you missed the show you can check it out on BBC IPlayer!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/page/item/b00ccg5m.shtml