Archive for the ‘The World’ Category

Well, the Christmas decorations are back in their boxes and up in the attic for another year. So, that’s it for 2012, but these two will be back next Christmas as a reminder of what a year it was.

So I guess this is about as late as a review of 2012 can be posted, right? Okay, some lists and photos coming up, no great insights. If I had any of them I’d have posted them at the relevant time.

The You-Know-What Games

I started work at Visit London back in April 2005, so I’d been there just three months when we won the 2012 Olympics. The next seven years were all building up to that event. Was it worth it?

Yes. I was lucky in the ballot of tickets and got two lots of Athletics tickets – morning sessions, “just” heats, but I got to see both Jessica Ennis and Mo Farrah in action.

More photos of my London 2012


After the games were over Lettice and I had a holiday in Bath – I’ve never been before. Loved it – the Roman Baths, loved the American Museum, loved the Postal Museum, everything.

More photos of Bath


For books, see the last post. Museums and art, apart from all the stuff in Bath, I went to Mapping the Underground at the London Transport Museum, Bronze at the Royal Academy and the Crossrail archaeology exhibition.


I managed five trips to the cinema, more than in the last few years. The Iron Lady, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Prometheus, Avengers and Skyfall. They are all films that reinvent icons. Is that a theme at the moment?


I also manged six trips to the theatre. Noises Off, The Ladykillers, One Man, Two Guvnors, Timon of Athens, Hedda Gabler and Chrous of Disapproval.


Adam Ant at the Fairfield halls! Also saw Ben, Howie, et al at the Surya; and The Life and Death at the Cavendish Arms – first time I’ve actually seen Justin play live in the ten years I’ve known him.

And the rest

I joined the 21st century and bought a smart phone. After seeing me get very lopsided carying my old SLR around Bath, Lettice bought me a new camera for Christmas. And as I replaced my PC last Christmas, I’ve had a near complete technological upgrade this year. Still no jetpack though.

For my birthday, Lettice took me to East London – Mudchute City Farm, the new cable car across the Thames, and treasure house that is the Who Shop. I love this crazy city where you have a World War II anti-aircraft gun in the middle of a farm, within sight of the towers of high finance.

Well, come on 2013. So far you’ve been full of stress, germs and broken boilers. Let’s see if you can do better?

There was a leaf perched on top of his head.

He was sitting at one end of the train carriage. Middle aged, slightly podgy, blue business suit and on top of his dark, side-parted hair was a solitary autumnal leaf.

It was easy to imagine how it had got there. Walking to the station gravity had tugged the leaf from a branch and gently floated it down onto his head. So gently that he hadn’t noticed.

Everyone else in the carriage must have noticed. But no one said anything. Not the smartly dressed couple sitting next to him. Not the young woman sitting opposite him. Not the trendily dressed man with the iPod across the aisle. Certainly not me standing halfway down the aisle. How could we?

The leaf was gone by the time we reached London Bridge. I don’t know whether gravity had taken hold of it again, or whether a casual touch of the hair had dislodged it. I do know that I didn’t hear anyone say anything.

“Good morning. Thank you for waiting. Would you like a small bag?”

“No thank you” I said as I unzipped my rucksack.

At least she looked slightly embarrassed as I took everything out of the carrier bag she’d put them into and transferred them to the rucksack.

She had sunglasses perched atop masses of curly blonde hair. She wore a full length blue dress that was cut low at the front to reveal a very small dog nestled contentedly in the cleavage of her rather ample bosom.

She was wandering round the One-Stop, looking for the wine, chattering constantly to herself, her mate and her dog.

Only in Croydon.

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I’ve just voted. If you haven’t already done likewise, you have two hours left to do so.

I voted Yes.

I don’t think that AV is a great system – it’s no more proportional than FPTP. But it’s what’s on offer and it is slightly better than FPTP in two respects.

It helps to mitigate a situation where a candidate is elected to whom the majority of the electorate are opposed. e.g. a Labour candidate getting elected because the right wing majority in the constituency is split between UKIP and Conseratives. MPs that are at least tolerable to the majority of their constituents must be a good thing.

And it helps us to more accurately judge the support for medium and small parties. Under FPTP many people don’t vote Green, etc., because they see it as a wasted vote, and hence we have no idea how widespread the real support for these parties is. Better knowledge about what people really support must be a good thing.

I think we’re going to lose, and that we’ll be stuck with FPTP and (with a Lib-Dem collapse likely) a strengthened two party system for another generation. That seems like a bad thing.

As asked for it, here is my theory on clothes.

Clothes fall into two categories. Those that generate fluff and those that attract fluff. The only way to maintain sanity is to maintain two separate wardrobes, two separate laundry baskets, two separate washing machines and even two separate irons and ironing boards. Every day has to be either a fluffy day or a non-fluffy day. Only with this level of discipline can the fluff generating clothes be kept away from the fluff attracting clothes.

Something to think about when contemplating your Christmas jumper.

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Seen today – a police officer outside New Scotland Yard with a Rebel Alliance insignia pin on his stab vest. In light of the demonstrations (lots of police vans and horses around today but no sign of any confrontations) some people may find that slightly peculiar.

Checking out the Broad Street colleges on Google Maps and I saw something interesting.

Good: Balliol is shown with an appropriate higher education icon, whilst Trinity is shown with an appropriate primary school icon. 😆

Bad: Trinity seems to be located in the middle of Balliol’s front quad. 😕

A week is a long time in politics. On this blog it’s clearly ten days.

The Election

I have never yet voted (in a general election) for a candidate who got elected. This didn’t change. Overall, happy that the Greens got their first MP, happy that Cameron didn’t get a majority, disappointed by mostly everything else.

The Coalition

A Lib-Dem/Labour coalition was clearly not going to work, the numbers, personalities and media. So with the option between a Lib-Dem/Conservative coalition and a Conservative minority government, which would be the lesser of two evils? Considering that neither Labour nor the Lib-Dems can afford to fight another election and that Labour need time to pick a new leader and a new direction, I think that a minority government would have been asking for trouble. So, the Lib-Dem/Conservative might have been the least worst choice, not just for Nick Clegg, but for everyone.

The Government

There are a lot of people in the new cabinet that I don’t like. There are some I grudgingly respect and a few I actually do like. Taking a 5% pay cut is a good sign (but when the company I worked for ten years ago was getting into trouble we took a 10% pay cut…). Other than that it’s all noise and promises so far.

Rewriting the Unwritten Constitution

There seems to be a lot of confusion between the ability to bring down the government and the ability to dissolve parliament. As I see it the proposal (which currently lacks a lot of detail) will change things like this:

Currently Proposed
The Prime Minister has the right to dissolve parliament and call an election at any point, and must call one after five years The Prime Minister has no right to dissolve parliament and call an election. An election will take place automatically after five years.
MPs may force the resignation of the Prime Minister if more than 50% vote for a motion of no confidence. MPs may force the resignation of the Prime Minister if more than 50% vote for a motion of no confidence.
MPs have no way to dissolve parliament. MPs may dissolve parliament if more 55% vote in favour.

So the PM is giving up power, and MPs will gain a new power. So far so good.

The problem is with what happens after a vote of no confidence brings down the PM. Currently it would likely lead to the defeated PM resigning and calling an election. In the proposed system it would only do the first. So what if more than 50% but less than 55% of MPs hate the current government (e.g. in the current parliament, what happens if the Lib-Dems decide they want to get out of the coalition)? The PM would have to resign and then we’d be back in the same situation we were in after the election – horse trading and squabbling between the parties to form a new coalition or minority government.

If the proposed changes do become law, and if that 55% is, as the critics fear, high enough to prevent parliament being dissolved early, then Gordon Brown’s lasting legacy will be to have set the first Thursday in May as the date for all future elections.


My local candidates, assessed on the quality of their web sites.

Tessa Jowell, Labour

IA and Design: Nice use of YouTube and Google Maps (don’t re-invent the wheel, use the market leaders where suitable). Two equal width content columns means the user doesn’t know which piece of content is more important. Labour Party banner ad at the top looks like a banner ad. Accessibility and Privacy links go to so how can we tell whether they apply to this site?

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 10 validation errors. Layout breaks in Opera 10.53. Email sign up things doo.doo is a valid domain name and dfsfsfd a valid postcode. JavaScript for TinyMCE and something call admin-interface.tao are loaded on every page – maybe these should only be loaded on admin screens?

Kemi Adegoke, Conservatives

IA and Design: Best looking site, not much else to say about it – simple but efficient.

Technical: Based on WordPress. Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Strict, has 85 validation errors. Kemi claims to “enjoy web development and writing the occasional bit of code”. Layout breaks very slightly in Opera.

Jonathan Mitchell, Liberal Democrats

IA and Design: It’s a Blogger blog – with commenting disabled. Only been blogging since February apparently. Black text on a mid-green background. All the text is in bold.

Technical: It’s a Blogger blog – claims to be XHTML 1.0 Strict, has 363 (!) validation errors.

Shane Collins, Green Party

Couldn’t find an individual site, so

IA and Design: Video should probably be instead of mugshot instead of tucked away at the bottom. Otherwise clean and efficient, if a bit basic.

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 41 validation errors.

Elizabeth Jones, UKIP

Couldn’t find an individual site, so

IA and Design: Photo looks like it came from MySpace. Nice use of UGC in the Q&A section (but … how can blood sports be “a matter for the individual to decide”?)

Technical: Claims to be XHTML 1.0 Transitional, has 131 validation errors. URL is terrible from an SEO perspective.

So, we’ve learnt that the big parties spend more on web sites than the little ones; that no candidate can make a site that actually validates; that XHTML is hands down winner over ye olde HTML 4 or bright shiny new HTML5. Not much help in actually deciding to vote for. 🙁