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.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

In praise of...Michael White

In case you missed it, his views on the London looting etc and the politicians prescription for dealing with it.  One thing I will say about Tony Blair, he never took his eye off the ball in office, it was Gordon Brown who dismantled the Respect Taskforce and did not replace it with an alternative, leaving the issue of the growing underclass, neglected during his 4 years in charge.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Who owns feminism?

That's what occurred to me today when I read the piece written by Julia Raeside in today's Guide supplement, ostensibly reviewing TV shows by Cherry Healey and Dawn Porter (here I have to confess an interest as Dawn is a neighbour).  It was a very personal poisonous rant about 2 women who make shows of which she is contemptuous...on the basis that they are somehow false feminists.

I felt a bit angry for Dawn and also sad that in 2011 there are women who don't fully understand what seems to me to be self-evident - that the whole point of feminism is to be the kind of woman you want to be.

Not the sort of woman who is defined by men; or by intellectuals of either gender or just by poisonous TV reviewers.

Poison is an easy way to grab some attention I suppose and it certainly works at the Daily Mail (Jan Moir).  But I didn't think or expect to find it in the Guardian.  Perhaps it was a sort of job interview for the DM?  Let's hope so!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In praise of....Frank Field

 A couple of weeks ago, Frank Field MP set off a small firework on the Today programme by suggesting in a very honest way that some children reach Nursery School age at 3/4 unable to say or recognise their own name.    It seemed to shock John Humphries at the time and even led to a question on Any Questions last weekend.  No-one working in Early Years will have been surprised.  By the age of 5 it is possible to predict with chilling accuracy the life chances and future achievement of every single child.

You can predict the ones who will go to prison.
You can predict the ones who will never find a job.
You can predict the ones who will have mental health 5.

That's because the gap in achievement on entry to Primary school between those at the top and those at the bottom does not narrow as they progress through to Secondary school.   Even though children pick up basic skill sets along the way, that achievement gap remains broadly the same.  How depressing is that?

Well Surestart was meant to address that.  ' Narrowing the Gap' it's called in the jargon.  Except that it hasn't really worked.  The political view which is easily expressed was that professionals could work some magic and re-start those children's life chances with early intervention, if only there was more investment.  The alternate view which was held by many of those professionals and not so readily expressed by politicians (for obvious electoral reasons) was that actually parents are much more important and unless they are engaged with their children and have aspirations for them, nothing is likely to change.

Another jargon term:  'Hard to reach families' a euphemism for those parents.  Trouble is that they have more children than their better educated and more aspirational peers and their lack of engagement and aspiration is replicated in their own children.  So in very crude terms, the problem is growing.  How to break the cycle?  I'm not sure anyone has a magic solution but it starts with honesty and Frank Field has been telling it like it is for some time now.  And he does offer solutions but no easy magic formula; just better targeted engagement with those families using a whole range of measures adapted to individual circumstances.    Not sexy, not 'bite-size news' and therefore unable to be picked up by any ambitious politician...

BM is back... and not altogether optimistic about the world.

Friday, 24 June 2011 your heart out

BM was somewhere in this crowd in 1987...BEST.CONCERT.EVER.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Politics and anniversaries

It's a year today since our lives changed overnight and that experience is no doubt being felt all over the country as several hundred local councillors (mostly LibDems it has to be said) lose their seats. For some of them it will not be too much of a wrench since outside of the metropolitan areas, few people choose to devote themselves to it full time (perhaps wisely some might say).

However there are many who have devoted themselves to full-time local politics, delivering the services that matter most to people's everyday lives ie clean streets, planning and urban regeneration, policing and education.    Most of them will not receive any redundancy package and this weekend won't be much fun as they try to work out what to do next.     I'm not sure that our experience would bring them much comfort (in that it has taken a year for life to start to look a bit brighter) but there is no denying for BM at least, the upside of losing that election which I would list as follows:-

- freedom, as in no longer feeling responsible for everything that goes wrong;
- more family time - invaluable despite the tricky 'getting to know you again' phase
- the sense that once again, we are in charge of our own destinies and are no longer at the mercy of the electorate and/or media
- rediscovering friends and being able to spend weekends as we please
- for BM personally pressing restart on a dormant career.

So many ironies over the past week that I have lost track.  Not least that the electorate, in what must be a mass example of cutting off their nose to spite their face, have almost certainly gifted the next century in power to the Conservative party.   

In terms of dishonest and hateful politics, surely the worst must be those diehard Labourites who went in with the Tory led No to AV campaign, and for what?  In the foolish, utopian belief that they will ever have a majority again (without Scotland) under FPTP and more poisonously, to destroy the LibDems and wipe their noses in it?    They may appear to get their wish insofar as the Libdems are concerned but at what cost - almost certainly the SNP will go ahead with a referendum on independence and not many would bet against Alex Salmond succeeding on current form.   England has not turned red over the past week and is unlikely to in the future either.   

And even if the LibDems tough out this Parliament in Coalition and reap some reward in 2015 for doing so, have the past few weeks so poisoned the relationship between LibDems and Labour that the prospect of any future Lib-Lab Coalition is out of the question?   If so, the left is split and the Tories romp home to a (probably handsome) majority. 

Interesting times but it seems to me now, from a safe distance, that the levels of dishonesty are worse than ever.  It may be a while but there will be another MPs scandal and at the root of it will be the complacency of rock-solid safe seats, earned by a FPTP system which the electorate voted to retain.  Why?  Because it was another way of poking Nick Clegg in the eye.  And yet, the Politics Show last weekend (1 May) commissioned research from academics which showed that so far in Coalition, the LibDems have delivered 75% of their manifesto promises...wonder how that ranks alongside Labour majority administrations 1 year in...

Also curious that that research got no replay.  Like I say, there's a lot of dishonesty about, not least in the media which is either red or blue, so no obvious champion out there for the LibDems.  Still, despair is not really an option and like any news story, this one will change when the media tires of it and the shine (almost visible, don't you think?) wears off Mr Cameron.    I wonder how long that will take?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Blue

It occurred to me the other day that despite its title, this blog has not given Bermondsey much of a mention for a while.   So it was serendipitous when BH brought home a book sponsored by the South Bermondsey Partnership and written by local historian, Debra Gosling titled "Down the Blue". 

For those amongst the readership of this blog who are unfamiliar with the area, 'The Blue' is an area at the intersection of Southwark Park Road, St James's Road and Blue Anchor Lane.  There are shops, caffs (sic) , a  library and a market.   Here is a little map:-

When we first moved to this area, 'The Blue' was a bit of a mystery to BM - especially the name, it didn't make sense unless you assumed it was because of the 'Blue Anchor' pub.  After a while, I got used to the name,  grew to appreciate the usefulness of (some) of the shops and gave no further thought to the matter.
But I love a story and Debra Gosling has conducted extensive research into the issue and her book makes fascinating reading.  

It starts with a colour - blue, which for centuries was associated with all things holy.  'Anchor' could of course refer to the river and maritime connection but in ancient times, it also denoted a pious hermit or Anchorite who gave his life to God and lived in a small hut on whatever food or alms he was given by kindly passers-by.   In medieval times, Bermondsey Abbey along the road, stood as a fortress of godliness south of the river but served primarily the aristocracy (dowager Queens of England were sent there to die) and the upper echelons.  To the west of the abbey, lay marshland and meadows and the lonely road to Canterbury, the destination of many a pilgrim.     Since they could not rely on the Abbey monks for spiritual guidance, many of these pilgrims would stop and pray along the journey with Anchorites.   They were revered and received bequests in wills from the better-off among their visitors.  One such will dating from the 15th century refers to a hermit 'in the meadows beyond the Thames'.  

After the Reformation, its not clear what became of the hermits but from at least 1696, a map from the local studies library shows a gate at 'Blew Anchor', the site of the current Blue Anchor pub.    

There endeth the history lesson - go and buy the book (or borrow from Blue Anchor Library). time some photos of the new 'Blue'.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


And yet, she sounds like she understands heartbreak

Monday, 14 March 2011


And he looks a bit like our neighbour, Potato...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Reasons to be cheerful

1.  Spring is sprung
The evidence (despite the cold over the past few days) is everywhere.  Crocus', narcissus and even tulips are appearing in BM's garden.

2.  Daylight morning and evening
It makes such a difference to the daily toil and to BM's mood.

3.  Woolfson & Tay are nominated for Independent Bookseller of the year
Which goes to show that quality always wins out and virtue does not go unrewarded.

4.  Book for this month - The Help by Kathryn Stockett
It's astonishing and moving and surprising (also an example of why a book cover should not put you off reading it but often does)

5.  Monty Don returns to Gardeners World 11 March!
All is well with the world again.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The new whipping boy

Poor Nick Clegg; everyone from Jonathan Ross and Jeremy Clarkson to readers of the News of the World thinks he deserves a good kicking.  For what, I wonder?  Doing the right, however politically uncomfortable thing?

I grow tired of hearing otherwise quite rational people exclaim, much as in the same way they do about Tony Blair for slightly different reasons, that the Lib Dems are finished as a political force.  How easy it is to throw stones and I have no doubt that the Lib Dems have done their share of it over the years, so perhaps that explains the public animosity towards them? 

And yet, there's a petulant refusal it seems, to acknowledge their positive role in Coalition government.  Again the NOTW (paywall) poll on Sunday suggested that a majority favoured the Coalition over either a single Tory or Labour government but at the same time, 73% felt that the Lib Dems would be seriously damaged by Coalition come the next general election.    It's as if we know that something's got to be done, we are prepared to grit our teeth and go along with it but we want someone (other than ourselves and our credit habit) to blame for it - the bankers won't do because they are well insulated by their money, so the Lib Dems with fresh-faced, eager-to-please Mr Clegg will. 

I don't have any answers for the Lib Dems except to say that they have got to see this through.  I suspect that Mr Clegg has already accepted his fate but believes passionately that this is a chance to re-balance the economy and the country, onto a surer footing, thus ensuring the right legacy however damaging politically in the short-term.

In the BM household, we watch as Southwark Labour councillors (3 so far) with either criminal convictions or charges pending (in one case for alleged internet paedophile activity) cling onto power and wonder how times have changed.  A year ago this sort of scandal (and it is) would have sunk the LibDem Council administration without trace but now...well it barely raised a murmur in the local press.  BBC London ran a brief piece and even that failed to gain traction.  Not for the first time BM feels that alls changed...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

January 27

This is the day my mother died 12 years ago.  It was sudden, unexpected and overwhelming.  She was 54 years old. 

Until then, I had taken her for granted as one does, getting on with my life and I think not having any real comprehension of how much I loved her.  For a while the loss of her shattered our whole family but slowly things got better in their own way for each of us.  My father who was and remains most clearly lost without her, has lived to see 9 grandchildren, something she would have loved. 

It seems to me sometimes that I am now navigating without a compass.  Pregnancy, childbirth and child-rearing in particular have all perhaps been slightly more anxious as a result.  And of course, she has not been around to share the joys either. 

So this is an important day.  For various reasons I will not be in Ireland as I would have liked.  Instead I will be at work and in the evening, meeting friends for dinner.  These are the same people who were with me when I heard she had died and who, whether they realise it or not helped get me through the months which followed.  

This is a picture of her in 1971, wearing a mini-skirt and lacy cream tights which you can't see but I remember them because we were all having our picture taken that day and at one point I was sitting on the floor and I could put my finger through her tights.

She had 4 children by then and would have 6 in all before she was 30. During the mid-seventies she grew her hair long and (shockingly for our small farming village community) wore trouser suits.  With the arrival of my own children has come a recognition and understanding of her need back then to cling onto some sort of identity beyond that of farmer's wife and mother.
My youngest sister and I were talking last Summer about fashion and stuff and she remembered a comment that one her work colleagues had made about Mam, which made us smile because it was so true and perhaps even more than us, she would have loved to hear it - "She always had great style".

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Reach for the stars

To BM, the Shard is one of the most exciting, invigorating sights in the skyline over spies confirm that the concrete core has now reached its peak at 88 floors and from here upwards it will be steelworks and glass.  I am an unapologetic speaks to me of optimism and confidence and SE1 showyoffiness.   This is a birdseye view and account of what its like to work there which will have to do until it opens in 2012 and we, the great unwashed can visit the viewing platforms on the 30th floor and possibly even the top floor (according to BH) although another source tells me that the penthouse flat (wraparound) has already been sold for a cool £20m...

(Picture:  Susannah Ireland)

The myth of a low-tax economy

Daniel Hannan MEP believes that Joe Higgins MEP, is the most honest man in Ireland...but then that narrative suits him now that the miracle that was the Irish econony of the 1990s & noughties has been exposed a cheap con trick.  I think Barrosso tells it straight here; but that interpretation of Ireland's current woes does not fit Hannan's economic instincts of low tax, free market enterprise.  The truth as BM sees it is that Ireland benefitted from the easy money available to it through being a member of the Euro, enabling it to have infrastructure built funded by (mostly) other European countries whilst at the same time because of the fiscal freedoms the Euro offered, allowing it to entice all sorts of tax evaders (oops, avoiders) to work in the country paying only 12% corporation tax.  I knew very few people who returned to enjoy the  'boom' years who were actually employed - au contraire, they were self-employed.  Why join the PAYE and pay 35% upwards on a sliding scale when you could incorporate and pay only 12?  The cult of the cute hoor is embedded in the Irish psyche and this time, the government was actively encouraging it.  

Over the past 10 years or so, the government began to share some of its largesse from tax receipts with the people and true to its conservative instincts, gave the people the money to spend as they pleased.  Benefits went up,spending on schools and hospitals decreased but that was okay, right ?  People now had the money and could decide where to spend it themselves - the market would take care of the rest.  Until it all came tumbling down...

Maybe in a roundabout way, Hannan's argument is right.  The real lie of a common Eurpean currency was that it was possible to succeed sharing monetary policy only.  The Eurosceptics have always feared a larger plan ie shared fiscal policy and perhaps what we are seeing in the fracture of those weak spendthrift economies is the exposure of the reality that European and Monetary Union can only succeed if there is a common fiscal policy as well.  But I'm not an economist... or a politican...or even a politician's wife anymore so what do I know?  Anyway the clip is short and interesting if only because it reveals a level of exasperation from Barrosso that he usually manages to keep under control.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Tweet Mirror

Just as I was thinking that Mary's new programme just wasn't up to the standard of the previous offerings, she goes and does something quite wonderful and surprises me!   Like every other piece of technology that has come along, I found myself thinking, "well of course, I'm just amazed it hasn't been done before".  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the tweet mirror.  Seriously, if I were a teenage girl again, I think I would wet myself with the sheer fun of it!

Judge for yourself if you haven't yet seen the show.  And BTW, like I say you could easily skip most of the first two thirds of the show .  All quite depressing stuff about people shopping for cheap disposable fashion in cheap disposable places with cheap disposable shit sherlock, for who knows what reason, people are prepared to put up with it. 

But then, when it seems a bit repetitive and hopeless, she pulls a rabbit out of the hat -  the tweet mirror.... and I'm telling you, the woman is a genius!  That mean little guy in charge of Pilot wasn't giving anything away at the end but you just knew that he wasn't about to shell out the best part of £1m if he hadn't already seen some pretty amazing results.  Mary Rules! 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Over the past several weeks, this has been steadily reducing.  Long archived material has had to be retrieved, refreshed and re-loaded.  Quite a bit of it turned up at the same time so now, BM feels like it's so crowded in there that finding any detail on demand is tricky.  Some stuff just stubbornly refuses to emerge because so many files have suddenly been re-loaded at the same time.  The brain is a complex organ, no?  It's not like we can buy some more memory, is it?  (Don't be fooled by that casual IT reference there, and for pity's sake don't ask me to explain it).

So what's to be done?   I could try simply ditching extraneous stuff.   BM's version of juggling - but dropping the balls.  As in resigning as Chair of the children's centre.  What does that tell you about working mums and the Big Society?   Also cleaning but at least it's possible to delegate that to someone else, a no-brainer.   So far, so small stuff.    Space as I said,  is limited.  The big stuff will have to wait.