Monday, 23 May 2005
National Walk to School Week
Topic: In the News
Today is the start of National Walk to School Week. In October, there will be another event, International Walk to School Week. If your children's schools are not taking part in the National initiative then, hopefully, they will promote the International event in the autumn. Why is this important? Well, health for one thing. Children today don't get enough exercise and walking or cycling to school will help to combat child obesity and will keep them fit.
My grandchildren walk the mile or so to their school each day but, nationally, it seems that this is becoming a dying practise
. Part of the reason is that parents worry about road safety or 'stranger danger'. They are 'rushed off their feet' so they take the easy way out and use the car. Did you know that the school run contributes to 1 in 5 of all cars during the morning rush hour
? This increase in road traffic causes congestion and is directly related to the number of car accidents involving school children, which rise during term time. It seems that this accident rate could be dramatically lowered by the implementation of staggered school hours
. This is something which is already happening in the Chichester area with at least one secondary school starting extra early — although I think the real reason was the availability of school buses!
If walking is out of the question, what other action can you take? Well, car sharing is one answer - organise a rota to take your child and your child's friends to school. This simple solution will have an impact on the problem of school gate congestion. Many local schools have already registered with the West Sussex Young TransNet
to formulate School Travel Plans and make school journeys safer. Make sure you support your school by doing your bit as a parent.
Monday, 16 May 2005
Buy Me A Camel!
Topic: In the News
No, I'm not joking. You can really buy me a camel
for just #95! Oxfam Great Britain has just launched their summer, 'Unwrapped Gift Catalogue
', with a range of gifts which will be available until the end of September. Of course, I wouldn't actually get the camel, just a card! No, these are gifts in support of Oxfam's humanitarian work and they will benefit a community in one of over 70 countries, thereby helping Oxfam to tackle worldwide poverty and suffering. What a brilliant idea for that awkward person who seems to have everything - now you can give them a marvellous present and benefit a charity at the same time. If you are that 'awkward person', then get a gift catalogue from Oxfam for your friends and family to browse through.
The gift choices range from camels, cows and goats to a whole farmyard of livestock for #1,200. If you don't want to buy an animal, you can purchase school dinners for 100 children for just #6, fill a satchel with school equipment for just #16, buy medicines for a whole village for #100 or provide safe water for 1000 people for #720.
If you are getting married, Oxfam now offer an Unwrapped 'Wedding List' Service as well. Personalised wedding lists can easily be created after you have registered here
. If you already own that microwave oven, coffee maker, food mixer, or whatever and you are stuck for wedding gift ideas - why not give this a try?
In the meantime, if you are feeling generous, I would really, really, like a camel!
N.B. My grateful thanks to Oxfam GB (tel: 0870 333 2700) for permission to use their small camel picture
Updated 16 May 2005 17:17 BST
Monday, 2 May 2005
Your Turn, Darling!
Topic: In the News
What will they think of next? It seems that a Spanish designer has created a washing machine
dubbed, "Your Turn", that will not allow the same person to use it twice in a row! The idea is to force Hubby to take his turn at doing the washing.
Apparently, 'Your Turn' uses finger print recognition technology to start the machine, but only after both partners have registered their fingerprints on a home computer. However, the current design only controls whose finger presses the start button and not who actually loads and unloads the machine! A tongue-in-cheek Father's Day gift it might be but, it sounds like a pretty silly idea to me and, probably, an expensive one as well!
If Spanish housewives are so frustrated with the household chores they should thank their lucky stars that they don't have to carry the weekly wash to the local stream and pummel it with a nice round stone and old fashioned soap. I consider my washing machine to be a modern luxury - I can do something else while the laundry does itself! Yes, my dear husband would probably scratch his head if he had to sort the washing and decide on which programme button to press. But, he does help out with lots of other little jobs around the house and he mows the lawns and he helps with the shopping. He doesn't spend hours watching macho games like football or racing nor does he drink endless cans of beer, although he does very occasionally snooze in the armchair! Hooray for British husbands!
Friday, 29 April 2005
Topic: In the News
Did you watch last night's, "Question Time
"? It seems not that many people were really interested as only 18% of viewers
tuned in. I only saw the last part as we were late home after looking after the grandchildren but boos, sweat and jeers
were the order of the day!
I don't like politics very much. It is probably a legacy from my childhood because my father seemed to be completely obsessed with politics and would discuss it for hours with any poor person who didn't know how to change the subject or how to escape. Often it was more of a one-sided lecture on what had happened during the war or about the policies of the politicians of the day. In retrospect, a lot of what he said was right but he never seemed to know when it was time to change the subject, especially when his victim agreed with his every word. So I formed the opinion very early on that politics was the most boring subject of all time.
Still, some of his beliefs must have rubbed off and, in the family tradition, I always thought of myself as a conservative and voted accordingly. The first thing that started to eat away at my psyche was the abominable way the conservatives got rid of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. I felt that it was underhand and unfair. Why hadn't they waited until the next Conservative Party Conference to challenge the leadership. After all, her third term of office was nearly over. Perhaps I was naive, but my opinion of Michael Hesletine hit rock bottom. From then on, it seemed to me, the Conservative Party was in decline, a squabbling party with no firm direction. John Major did his very best but somehow he gave me the impression of being just a teeny bit out of his depth - and of being influenced by the Iron Lady, albeit from the shadows. He hung on by the skin of his teeth until 1997 when the Conservatives lost the general election to Labour. I admit I was disappointed, it had been eighteen years since a Labour government, what would Tony Blair be like? I vaguely remembered Harold Wilson - I didn't like his accent! I remembered James Callaghan much better, he had struck me as a very conscientious person who did his very best for the country.
John Major resigned as Party Leader and William Haig took over. But the media didn't like William Haig's slightly pompous aura and kept showing those awful pictures of a teenage William addressing the Party Conference. In retrospect, he was actually a highly intelligent and capable leader with an enormous sense of humour. But, he wasn't able to do enough to win the 2001 general election. He stepped back and was succeeded by Ian Duncan-Smith, who won the vote for the party leadership against Ken Clarke. I admire any politician who can stand up and say that he agrees with the opposition on some important point. I really can't abide the mentality of the politician who opposes for the sake of opposition, regardless of what is right. So, Ian Duncan-Smith had some good points. However, he was too nice and definitely not strong enough as a Conservative leader. In October 2003, he lost the party's vote of confidence.
In came Michael Howard
, (born Michael Hecht), an unopposed candidate for the leadership and one with previous experience as a Cabinet Minister. But a Cabinet Minister who always seemed to sit on the fence. Do you remember seeing that interview he gave to Jeremy Paxman
when he was asked the same question twelve times? Incidentally, did you know that Michael Howard has jumped onto the bandwagon with a Blog
? Seems he started it on 10th April 2005.
Well, I'm not happy with Mr. Howard. For one thing, he seems to be a bit of a bully. For a start, look at the way he treated that lovely chap, Boris Johnson last year! Sending him to Liverpool with his tail between his legs and then accusing him of lying over a relationship. And then his vindictive, over-reaction to that unfortunate Arundel MP, Howard Flight, after his not so secret remarks about future conservative spending cuts last month! That sort of thing is not being a leader, it is more being a dictator. (Why isn't Boris party leader? Now, he would
get the votes in.)
I hardly dare say it, but I find myself admiring Mr. Blair more and more. He is intelligent and, above all, he definitely
has leadership qualities. He has never been afraid to take decisions, whatever we might think about them. And the economy is good - very good. I have come to the sad conclusion that I would prefer him for another term as Prime Minister rather than the smarmy Mr. Howard.
What about the Liberals? Well, I don't know. They have no real experience of government to fall back on. Charles Kennedy is a decent enough chap but is he prime minister material? It seems to me that realistically, all the Liberals can hope for in this election is a few more seats. The possibility of winning a majority is actually so remote, they can promise all sorts of laudable changes that they would probably have great difficulty in implementing.
So what will I do come the 5th May? As far as the local elections are concerned, I will vote for people rather than for parties. In my working days, I met some of the local councillors and found them hard-working, responsible people with a true concern for the area. Some of those stalwarts have now retired but I will continue to split my vote for some conservative and some liberal councillors.
As for our local member of parliament, well it is really a foregone conclusion. Our Conservative MP, Andrew Tyrie
, will be re-elected. Four years ago, he had over 47% of the vote. The Liberals only had 24.2% of the vote. My single vote will have little effect on the result. However, it appears that Labour is tipped
for winning the election, albeit with a reduced majority. So, perhaps I should stick to voting for a person; one who has some experience and has already proved himself at the job. What do you think?
Sunday, 24 April 2005
World Poverty Day
Topic: In the News
Today is World Poverty Day and thousands of people will be wearing a white band during 2005 to support the campaign to "Make Poverty History
". It is a sad fact that as most of us sit in our armchairs replete after a good Sunday lunch, some 30,000 children will die today and every day because of poverty.
Gordon Brown has been trying to help by campaigning to abolish the crippling debts of Third World countries but not all western world leaders can agree. We should be proud that the United Kingdom is leading this initiative. Rich countries must stop cancelling out the aid given to poor countries by clawing back interest on dept repayments. Debt relief will boost the economy of poor countries enabling them to provide more free education, health care and to combat the spread of diseases.
the party leaders
in Britain are making this important issue of global poverty part of their election campaigns. They are calling for a fairer system for international trade, an increase in aid and the full cancellation of Third World debt.
Do your bit and support this campaign, buy Fairtrade
goods - show that you care.
Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Topic: In the News
So, the 265th Roman Catholic Pope has been elected and wasn't it quick! I thought we would have to wait a couple more days before the Cardinal electors reached the required majority. And, yes, the rumours that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger might win the vote proved to be correct!
Cardinal Ratzinger, who was 78 last Saturday, has chosen the papal name of Pope Benedict XVI. Will he be a good Pope? Of course, he will! He is highly educated and greatly respected and, above all, he is a good and holy man who understands humility. Catholics all over the world believe he is the one chosen by God to be the new Pope. And so did 114 Cardinals, who will have all accepted the vote of the majority without question and who will have all sworn their allegiance one by one to the new Pope before he emerged on that balcony for the first time.
As usual, lot of nonsense is being said in the newspapers about Pope Benedict?s youth in Germany. Why don't the press grow up and wish him luck for a change? After all, he has just accepted what must be the most difficult, daunting and challenging job in the whole world as the new head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. May God give him the courage, wisdom and strength to fulfil his role as the servant of the Church.
Monday, 18 April 2005
The Conclave to Elect a New Pontiff
Topic: In the News
By now, the 115 Cardinal electors in Rome will have locked themselves away in the Sistine Chapel for the start of the secret Conclave during which they will choose the 264th successor to St Peter. This afternoon, they will have taken an oath to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis
, which sets out the regulations for the process of election. Then, they will have taken another oath: 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church.
So much rubbish has been appearing in the press lately! Rumours are rife that Cardinal Ratzinger has secured 50 or more votes already in his quest to become Pope! Reporter, Richard Owen, in his article for The Times, "Progressive cardinals try to block Ratzinger
", states that 'Cardinals with progressive views were attempting to find a single candidate to challenge Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
'. How does he know? The Cardinals have not been talking to the press or indicating their feelings. This sort of reporting is ill-informed and contentious. Already Mr. Owen is backtracking in his later article
from Rome: 'He may not want to be the next P
The Guardian Unlimited reported
today that 'Analysts said cardinals electing a new pope faced the option of backing an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a "transitional" pope while the church absorbs John Paul II's legacy or a younger, more progressive figure, perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world, where the church is growing.
' This is quite ludicrous. Pope John Paul I was 65 when elected and died 33 days later. Pope Adrian I was around 80 when elected on 1st February 772 and died after serving for 23 years and 10 months on 25th December 795.
Speculation is pointless.
The Pope Blog
has stated that in their opinion, 'the next pope will be chosen by (gasp!) the cardinals themselves, with the influence of the Holy Spirit*--not bookmakers or the media
The Guardian Unlimited article also mentioned that: Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the archbishop of Florence, ... told believers at a Mass yesterday: "The new pope has already been chosen by the Lord. We just have to pray to understand who he is."
Saturday, 16 April 2005
Cheating in Exams
Topic: In the News
Apparently, there is an unprecedented rise in the number of people cheating in examinations. It seems that the opportunities for cheating have burgeoned with the increase in technology. The use of mobile phones
is one example. Others plagiarise essays or articles and then present them in their entirety as their own work. There are even Internet sites where you can actually buy custom-written dissertations for university courses.
This is really very shocking. I can understand a student reviewing various books, articles and essays and then extracting their own version - after all, this is what studying is all about. You should be able to benefit and learn from those who have travelled the same path before you. However, to cheat by buying other people's essays is completely dishonest and makes an utter mockery of the education system. Do cheaters think they can continue to get through life by using deceit, especially when they have to work for their livings? In all probability, these sad examples of humanity will find themselves struggling with a job for which their actual skills fail to qualify them to do. In this competitive world, how many companies can support those who do not live up to their stated capabilities?
Surely, in this cheating game, the greatest losers are the cheaters themselves. They lose out on those two most precious of commodities - self-respect and knowledge.
Saturday, 9 April 2005
An Honest Woman at Last!
Topic: In the News
The Prince of Wales has finally married his Camilla. Watching the Royal Wedding
, I felt a personal sense of closure on the past and the beginnings of feelings of acceptance for the new Duchess of Cornwall. Don't get me wrong - the English people will never forget the late Diana, Princess of Wales
. We all loved her and suffered with her. She was a sacrificial victim but - and we must admit this - Charles was also a victim. He met Camilla some thirty-five
years' ago and fell in love. Had they married then, the British people would have loved Camilla, too. But, it was not to be. Maybe the 'system' found her 'unsuitable' at the time, who knows? Certainly, Charles, as the heir to the throne, was not entirely free to do as he pleased.
The young and beautiful Diana was caught in the middle and her marriage, to a man she loved deeply, was doomed to failure from the start. Her tragic death unleashed a depth of feeling from the British people which must have shocked and surprised the Royal Family. After all, and despite her humanity, her compassion and the extraordinary and wonderful things she achieved, her own behaviour was not exactly saintly. But, if her sons can understand, forgive and move on, so should we.
A new chapter commences and, after all the preceding traumas, today's Royal wedding and Blessing went without a hitch. Camilla looked nervous but radiant; Charles was protective and supportive. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family were all beaming. The new couple are obviously very much in love - we should wish them well.
Tuesday, 5 April 2005
Keep Your Eye On The Ball
Topic: In the News
A major new iniative to raise awareness of male cancer has just been launched by the England Football Team
with well known players taking time out of their training to encourage fans to to check themselves regularly for unusual lumps. The "Keep Your Eye On The Ball" campaign, which is now in its fourth year, is being promoted by The Professional Footballers’ Association, The Football Association and the Everyman Campaign
. Its aims are to raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancer among players and fans.
Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among men aged 18 to 35, which is also the average span of a player's career. If caught early, the cancers can be cured in 96% of cases. Several football players, including Alan Stubbs and Neil Harris, have had testicular cancer but all are now fully recovered and continuing with their careers, demonstrating the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.
Prostate cancer has become the most common cancer in men. The majority of men with prostate cancer are aged over 60 years, with an average age at the time of diagnosis of 75 years. Although this cancer can also occur in younger individuals, it is very rare under the age of 50.
There are many ways to support this campaign - you could take part in a running event
or even make a parachute jump.
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