This is a bad with a good outcome. There are far too many children leaving school unable to read, write or do basic arithmetic properly, and I know that at least one supermarket chain has people going from store-to-store teaching literacy and numeracy to its staff. Now, as a dyslectic from the fifties who taught himself to read in his mid to late teens, I know first-hand how this can cause problems, but thankfully I was always numerate and quick of thought! Ginny Lunn, CEO of Coram Beanstalk, is one of those trying to help and has been a ‘reading helper’ for the last four years. She spends time every week with her “reading buddy” and she thoroughly enjoys it. The aim of the group is to support 15,000 children by having 4,000 reading helpers and they are looking for volunteers. Power to them and what a great thing they are doing to help the young folk get more from life, get better jobs, and enjoy those jobs.
Chris Grayling doesn’t always get the best press but as Transport Secretary he has written to all government departments with detailed guidance on how to convert their car fleets to electric, ahead of the government’s deadline of 2030. The ‘Road to Zero’ government plan sees no conventional petrol or diesel cars being made and sold after 2040, but what troubles me is how we generate the huge additional electricity we need to power the cars. Wind, solar and water will never do it, coal and gas are at least in part demonised and would never cope either, and nuclear, which would do all we need and more, brings with it other arguments. Perhaps we should be looking beyond electric power to hydrogen. The technology already exists and there has recently been an experiment with a train. My old nan used to have a saying when we wanted something; “so where d’you think that’ll come from, thin air?” Maybe she had seen the future? She once hid under the stairs in a thunder storm and opened the back and front doors so that the thunder bolt could pass through… but that’s another story!
As is so often the way in life, this is a case where it is essential to distinguish between the principle and its effect on society and the actual event. Some months back I wrote that Dave Thompson, Chief Constable of the West Midlands force, had instructed his officers not to take action over people caught carrying or using cannabis. He was not alone and has support from other Chief Constables, but the Home Office, correctly, issued a statement saying the law should be enforced. I wrote then that I do agree a discussion is needed to re-examine the law, but that while it is the law it must be enforced. We are one country, you can’t do something that is a crime, say, in Lincoln but not in Manchester. Law enforcement cannot be selective or, as I said then, I’ll make a public statement saying which laws I don’t agree with and therefore won’t be abiding by. Law is not an A la Carte menu where citizens and enforcement agencies can pick and choose which bits they agree with.
This weekend we have enjoyed the 7th Faversham Nautical Festival and it was, as always, two days of wonderful, traditionally English family fun, on the green at Town Quay. It was a great tribute to Lena Reckie, who started it and sadly died of cancer in the last year. Now, I hear you say, what has this got to do with A la Carte law? Was the Festival illegal? No, it was fully supported by Faversham Town Council, but it brought lots of, very welcome, visitors to the town. There was no unruly behaviour, but there was totally unacceptable behaviour from dozens of middle-class people who would consider themselves to be respectable law-abiding citizens. Yes, the actual act and the principle. There are many waterside areas along the Creek and the roads are private, not adopted or maintained, and paid for by the council. There were objections to the roads being private when the planning consent was granted but the fact is it is what it is, and the residents pay for the upkeep. They are delightful roads to walk along and there are some great pictures to be taken, but it is private and that means you can’t do it. I remember asking someone if they knew it was a private road as the signs are obvious. Somewhat sheepish, he said “yes, but I’m not doing any harm.” I wonder what he’d say if, while it is illegal, one of his children or grandchildren graduated from cannabis to heroine because the law wasn’t enforced on cannabis? I won’t make the argument it is wearing the road tarmac out that the residents have to pay for, which is true, because that detracts from the issue - the principle of sticking by the rules.
Like so many of the modern ills, I see it as having been started by those who were becoming parents for the first time in the mid to late fifties. I have talked about obeying and upholding the law and rules, but of course what we are talking about is respect. Why should a kid respect their teacher’s authority if the parents or grandparents don’t respect authority?
Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York by starting with the little things. There is a poem by Wilferd Arlan Peterson called the Art of Marriage, but it could be about anything. The little things are the big things. If we really do want to clean up society, we have to acknowledge, and I can hear the screams and howls as I think this before my fingers hit the keys, the link between knife crime and the ignoring of signs that say private road. Respect is not an A la Carte menu.
I’m proud of the four stars and two rosettes my wife and I received for our hotel and fine dining restaurant, but I’m not proud of those who think responsibility is option.
After a long bad, I’ll do a short one. Idris Elba is saying he’d be in a difficult position if asked to play James Bond. He’s quoted as saying if it didn’t work, “would it be because of the colour of my skin?” Rubbish, that to me is a bad approach. He’s a good actor so what’s he afraid of? Make it work, I’m sure Luther would!
I was sitting outside a hotel with a pot of tea and a scone with jam, don’t do cream, writing notes to record my blogs on our recent Land’s End to John o’ Groats trip, when a group of ladies aged between 25 to 35, who were at a wedding, came out for a cigarette. As is usually the case at weddings, they didn’t all know each other but they had something in common, they all had long hair. One said to the others, “do you tie your hair together when you go to bed?” “No”, they all said. “You know you should because otherwise as you toss and turn at night you might strangle yourselves. It happens a lot.” Now that probably qualifies as madness already because if it has ever happened I can’t see it being a lot and no-one I have spoken to has ever heard of it; some of them have had long hair for a very long time! But when the other girls laughed and challenged the comment, the reply was, “It’s true, I saw it on Facebook”! Madness, but at the risk of being provocative one of my old Dad’s expressions comes to mind. “And she gets a vote.” Dad’s been dead 30 years, heart attack, not strangled by his hair or choked by his moustache!
The joy of the mad is that it can be far-reaching. This is joyously, eccentrically, English mad!
The village of Ruddington, Nottinghamshire, has a feline celebrity who had his whiskers put out when his owner took in two rescue kittens. So, Wilbur decided to broaden his outlook and made many homes for himself in the village shops. He’s now known as the ‘King of Ruddington’ as he prowls majestically around the village and is very much a local celebrity with his own Facebook and Instagram pages! He’s ten on the 7th July and the village is holding a party for him. I’ll be playing ‘There’s A Cat Licking Your Birthday Cake’ for him on Faversham Natters on the 8th! It’s mad, but we love mad things!