Monday, 11 March 2013

In praise of...Dermot O'Leary

So, somewhere during the past 3-4 years it turns out that I became middle-aged.  I listen to Radio 2.  Mostly on a Saturday.  But guess what - R2 on a Saturday is really good!  Graham Norton in the morning and Dermot in the afternoon.

Dermot was unknown to me until, following my return to work, I found myself driving around on Saturday afternoons, and needing some light entertainment, so I tuned into R2.  Like I say, I needed some 'light' entertainment, work is serious enough.  Only, Dermot's show is thoughtful and seriously musical and fun and interesting and has introduced me to music I would not ordinarily have heard of or bothered to try.

So go on, tune in on Saturdays 3-6pm, surprise yourself and be surprised.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


Caitlin Moran is BM's current fave girl crush (it used to be Ros in Spooks but hey..).  BM sneaks a peek at Twitter during the working day sometimes to break the gloom and yesterday, I almost came undone because of her tweet about the John Lewis ad, which I won't link to because by now you have probably seen it.

John Lewis, as readers will know is BMs fave retailer.  Because they edit the baffling choice; because their edit is pitch perfect and because it feels like...home...even if it's a fantasy home.

Anyway, the ad brought me up short; not because I anticipate this from my children but because of how I remember just how it felt having a secret that was so hard to keep leading up to Christmas...and the very first gift to my parents that I remember organising (as the eldest and it was for Mam) was a box of Cadbury's Contrast chocolates.   I had forgotten all about it until this ad and it made me cry.

Okay I give it is

Good times

Health matters

Many years ago, when I first came to work in London it was as a Nurse.  I didn't last long, for lots of reasons which I may return to another time.   Fast-forward 25 years and that Nursing background informs my day to day work so that I would never consider those years wasted.   I take no satisfaction in reading about the latest 'crisis in nursing care' report but equally I'm not surprised by those reports.   NHS hospitals in particular have become adept at providing treatment, without care.    

Care matters.  I would actually disagree that it is unskilled work.  During my training, it was a cardinal rule that physical care allowed you to observe and assess the whole patient; to consider their hydration status, mobility issues, level of consciousness and orientation and to detect any changes which might be significant so that treatment would be adjusted as appropriate.   

When I started my Law degree and others learned that I used to be a Nurse, I became used to comments about how it must be a relief not to have to do bed baths or wipe bottoms or whatever.   Again, I would say that it takes considerable skill and sensitivity to engage with another human being in such an intimate way and yet allow them to retain their dignity whilst maintaining a degree of professional detachment.    If close personal care is delegated away from trained Nurses without maintaining close supervision, Nurses lose their ability to know their patients and then what are they?   Drugs administrators?   

I fear that the growing number of stories in the media will be as nothing compared to the storm to be unleashed with the publication of Robert Francis' QC's Report following the Public Inquiry into the Mid-Staffs Hospital scandal, due in Spring 2012.  

And why is this likely to be a major scandal and possibly lead to the next big institutional crisis (after Banks and MPs expenses )?  Well because it was a Foundation Trust.  There was a rush to convert to FT status by lots of Trusts and it is emerging that the quality standards monitors appointed to check that they were fit to manage themselves as FTs, each thought that the others were checking.  Classic.

Before I returned to the big City to work, I would have said that I was pretty well informed generally but the meaning of Foundation Trust had sort of passed me by.  Turns out they are almost like a privatised part of the NHS or to put it another way, FT status allows the Trust to BORROW.  Yes, read it and weep.  

In order to re-build our hospitals nationwide, the last government (and the Tories didn't object at the time) created these entities, so that their borrowing would be off-balance sheet essentially.  

The Health Service Journal estimates that about 30% of these FTs are so indebted that they cannot make their loan repayments...but they are too big to be allowed to fail.  

Enter Circle and their acquisition or management contract for Hitchingbrooke Hospital.   In the clamour by Labour MPS over the past couple of days to condemn this move, where I wonder was Andy Burnham MP, who presided over the unseemly rush to convert as many Trusts as possible to FTs in the dying days of the Labour government?  

The hard reality is that it was either Circle takeover or closure.  We had better hope it works, because it's unlikely to be the last and if it doesn't work, what then?  Another massive bailout?

I feel tired.


Saturday, 5 November 2011


The annual BM christmas cake mixing session is nearly upon us.  But this year, we are confounded by choice; whether to go with the tried and tested (ie sticky pages) Delia Complete Cookery Course recipe or these tempting time-savers:-

1.  I give you Delia's pre-measured Christmas Cake Mix from Waitrose 

Waitrose Delia's classic Christmas cake box image
But it is £10 and you still have to buy eggs, plus icing etc


2.  Competition from the venerable Mary Berry for Tesco Finest, with her Christmas Cake mix in a less attractive bag.  It is also £10.00 but it contains marzipan and icing sugar and tells you clearly on the bag, exactly what additional stuff you need to buy.  

Sadly no photos of Mary's product, because the Tesco site won't let me copy it.  

Even though I scoff at the idea of having it all weighed out for you, partly because it takes some of the fun out of it for the children, I have to say, it probably makes more sense than ending up with leftover sultanas, raisins and mixed peel knocking about a cupboard for months afterwards destined (eventually) for the bin.

So while the Eurozone may be collapsing, there's a dearth of any meaningful political leadership about and a disconnect between what people want and the political will to reform financial markets...BM takes refuge in cake-making.   

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Surreal poster watch

Craig Revel-Horwood and Ann Widdecombe (playing 'Widdy in waiting') in Dartford... 

I'm tempted to ask, what is the world coming to, but I have to confess a sort of weird admiration for AW; she's clearly bonkers and maybe always has been.  On the other hand, she seems to be having fun, someone is obviously paying her good money to ham it up and if nothing else, she's a good sport.  She is growing old disgracefully, just as she said she wanted to, and good luck to her.  

Having said that, and each to their own 'an all, but BM squirms at the thought of ever sitting through this particular performance...much as I admire her pensioner spirit,  it is a fact that she ruined SCD for me last year!  

Saturday, 3 September 2011

In a state of flux

I wonder do we ever realise when we are living through a period of relative calm, or do we just take it for granted?  Because it seems as if everything from the personal and private to the wider world is going through a period of great upheaval and uncertainty at the moment, and it's unnerving.   BM is a creature who craves security and there's not a lot of that about right now.

One thing that I find fascinating, is the emerging theme that capitalism or our version of it,  hasn't worked and we need to develop something else if we are to continue living in a civilised way.  John Lanchester, writing in the LRB has been developing this theme over the past 3 years.  His book 'Whoops' about the collapse of the banks in 2008 manages to be simultaneously a delight (for the writing) as well as stomach-churningly worrying because of the reality and scale of the problems he describes. 

So far so predictable.  The 'Left' for want of a better word, had for some time pre-dating the crash of 2008 engaged in analysis of the problems associated with unregulated and unfettered capitalism.

More surprising and I believe encouraging,  have been Charles Moore's recent pieces in the Telegraph and Spectator expanding on the theme and to some extent, attempting to reclaim a more conservative (small c), decent brand of capitalism.   Then listening to Any Questions (lunchtime repeat) today, I heard Norman Lamont  - hardly a revolutionary figure - commenting that the changes to regulation  of the banks, which Vince Cable has been seeking for some time, should happen without further delay!

And just when I was feeling a little optimistic about the near future, browsing the business section of the Guardian, I see that James Murdoch has declined his £4m bonus this year...but will still earn $12m in salary.  Clearly I'm not an economist but how can that sort of executive pay be explained?    'Because I'm worth it' seems to be the preferred explanation when this level of remuneration is questioned.   

It's clearly not  sustainable but these people live in a different sphere and can governments really intervene and press the re-set button?   I think most ordinary people want them to.  But if we are to be mobilised to have our voices heard and our votes counted we need to see a compelling alternative to replace what's been broken.