There is something special about spending time with an older person

October 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Today Vee and I took a dear friend out for lunch to celebrate her 85th birthday.

Hana Ludikar has led a remarkable life, largely as a result of having a father who was a Czechoslovak politician who had to flee the Nazis in 1939 and the Communists in 1948. You can read the story of Dr. Ladislav Feierabend (1891-1969) here.

Most of us take our freedoms for granted. We have not had to fight for them and we have not experienced losing them. But the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Posted in History, My life & thoughts | Comments (0)


At last, an article on the problems facing the British economy which is concise, clear and honest

October 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

What are the origins of the current deficit?

“Contrary to the Conservative portrayal of it as a spendthrift party, Labour kept the budget in balance averaged over its first six years in office between 1997 and 2002. Between 2003 and 2007 the deficit rose, but at 3.2% of GDP a year it was manageable.

More importantly, this rise in the deficit between 2003 and 2007 was not due to increased welfare spending. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, social benefit spending as a proportion of GDP was more or less constant at about 9.5% of GDP a year during this period. The dramatic climb in budget deficit from there to the average of 10.7% in 2009-2010 was mostly a consequence of the recession caused by the financial crisis.”

But, even if Labour didn’t cause the crisis, aren’t the Conservatives doing a good job tackling it?

“The success of the Conservative economic narrative has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts.”

Who says so? Ha-Joon Chang who teaches economics at Cambridge University and has contributed an article to today’s “Guardian” newspaper. You can read his piece here.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)


A review of the recent movie “The Monuments Men”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

This unusual World War Two film was directed, co-written and co-produced by George Clooney who also plays the lead character. It is not his best work, but certainly worth viewing. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues, History | Comments (0)


A review of the book “War. What Good Is It For?”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I try to alternate reading fiction and non-fiction. The latest work of non-fiction that I have read is “War. What Is It Good For?” by Ian Morris. You can read my review here.

Posted in History | Comments (0)


A review of the novel “The Shock Of The Fall”

October 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I try to alternate reading fiction and non-fiction. The latest work of fiction that I have read is “The Shock Of The Fall” by Nathan Fidler. You can read my review here.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


The future of our post offices

October 18th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been interested in post offices since 1978 when I became Research Officer at the Post Office Engineering Union (POEU) which later became the National Communications Union (NCU) and is now the Communication Workers Union (CWU). I spent 24 years as a trade union official before taking early retirement.

This week, I chaired the Post Offices Advisory Group (POAG) of Consumer Futures which is now part of Citizens Advice. This is something which I have done for six years now, dating back to when I was on the board of the then Consumer Focus (before that I was on the board of Postwatch, which was merged into Consumer Focus, when I attended the predecessor body to POAG).

At its post-war peak, the size of the post office network was around 24,000, but today it is down to about 11,500 and the Government has committed to maintain the network at this number of outlets. I can remember when Post Office Limited (POL) proudly claimed that there were 28 million customer visits a week but that figure is now down to about 17 million a week.

So the network is currently undergoing its third major change programme in a decade. Urban Reinvention involved the closure of nearly 2,500 post offices and the Network Change Programme required another 2,500 closures with around 500 new outreach locations. The current project is called the Network Transformation Programme and, while the size of the network should stay the same, every office will be modernised, redesignated or relocated.

Outside the 370 or so Crown offices (owned and staffed by POL itself), the network will consist of three models: main offices (open plan section in another retail operation), local offices (till in another retail operation) and community offices including outreaches (effectively the last shop in the community).

The Network Transformation Programme has so far involved just over 3,200 physical changes and the whole programme is due to be completed by 2018.

So, if you value your local post office, use it.

Posted in Consumer matters | Comments (0)


An account of my trip to Malta

October 17th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Last weekend, I made a short visit to Malta with my sister Silvia. Although at the time I posted daily reports on the trip, I have now stitched these daily reports into a single narrative and added links and photos. You can check out the account here.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (0)


Today is Blog Action Day 2014 #BAD2014 and this year’s theme is inequality #Inequality

October 16th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Today is Blog Action Day when bloggers around the world post items on the same theme and this year the chosen subject is inequality. Conveniently this week Credit Suisse has published its annual Global Wealth Report.

Among the mass of data, the report tells us that, taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets.

The report, which calculates that total global wealth has grown to a new record – $263tn, more than twice the $117tn calculated for 2000 – found that the UK was the only country in the G7 to have recorded rising inequality in the 21st century.

Why does inequality matter? Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett explained this really well in their seminal 2009 work “The Spirit Level” which I have reviewed here.

Posted in British current affairs, World current affairs | Comments (0)


Conversations with Catrin (21)

October 15th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

My granddaughter Catrin is now three and three-quarters and continues to entertain me with her little conversations.

*****

She was kissing my hand a lot as we made our way to my home.

Me: “You’re a little bit excited about going to granddad’s house, aren’t you?”

C: “Just a little bit. Not too much.”

*****

When she had stayed overnight with us, we had this conversation.

Me: “It rained in the night.”

C: “There are children in the clouds and they pour water down.”

Me: “Really? How many children are there?”

She counts faultlessly from one all the way up to 39.

C: “There are 39 children. 39 in each cloud.”

Me: “And how did they get there?”

C: “They climbed up tall ladders.”

Me: “Well, it’s stopped raining now.”

C: “The children have gone for more water.”

*****

One of her friends at nursery was given some pieces of cake by her mother but refused to share them with Catrin.

C: “Sharing is caring.”

*****

She used a notepad to pretend to write me some letters but, since she can’t write, she scribbled on the notepad and spoke out loud the ‘words’ she was writing.

C: “Dear grandad. This is zig zagging. Up and down. Up and down. I hope you like your zig zagging.”

*****

I explained that I was taking her to Hamleys toy shop in central London.

Me: “Tell me when you want to go to the biggest toy shop in the world.”

C: “In a little bit soon.”

*****

When she has an announcement to make or wants to show something, she has her own declaration:

C: “Dee-dah!!”

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (2)


How democratic is the United States when a tide of dark money is swamping the electoral process?

October 14th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

“More than half of the general election advertising aired by outside groups in the battle for control of Congress has come from organizations that disclose little or nothing about their donors, a flood of secret money that is now at the center of a debate over the line between free speech and corruption.

The advertising, which has overwhelmingly benefited Republican candidates, is largely paid for by nonprofit groups and trade associations, some of which are established with the purpose of shielding wealthy individuals and corporations that contribute.”

You can read more in a “New York Times” article and view a a three and half minute video here.

Posted in US current affairs | Comments (0)