24 October 2006


Not to be outdone by David Cameron, here is my first video blog post.... to record the first smiles from my daughters, taken at the weekend.

22 October 2006

Fame at last?

Many thanks to King of the Bloggers, Iain Dale, for linking to this site. I am now just waiting with bated breath for another reader to come my way and live in hope for a second comment.

In the vain hope that Google had registered the presence of this site, I ran a quick check - I am still under the radar, although, I am sure, not for long. I have, however, been a topic of discussion on another message board, dedicated to all things royal, where my juvenile brush with greatness has not gone unnoticed. The link to the original post is here.

21 October 2006

The Oatens - the new Hamiltons?

Opening the Times this morning, I find myself reading about the Oaten's much publicised trip to Thailand to "MOT" their marriage (although an MOT is just a test - the repairs are always separate - and I would have thought that a rent boy up the exhaust pipe would have been an automatic fail, but then again, I am not a mechanic). Is Belinda Oaten the same woman who appealled for privacy and declared that she would not be giving any interviews (see: BBC News in February 2006)?

This all makes me wonder how long before they are doing panto in Scarborough and being featured on the next series of Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends? But however much they try, somehow I can't help thinking that a Libdem scandal will never hit the highs of a good old Tory downfall and that the Oatens will fail in their bid to knock the Hamiltons off their perch as the top odd-ball former political couple.

20 October 2006

Congestion Charging

A few months ago, TFL installed an ugly thick black mast outside my house and covered it with cameras pointing directly at the Earls Court Road, the boundary of the new improved congestion zone.

Last week, we received a leaflet and a form from TFL inviting us to register as residents living in the new zone and apply for our 90% discount on the charge. Although the new zone only comes in to force next February, as a ploy to get everyone to register early, we can have the discount apply right away. So instead of paying £8/day to drive through Central London, I can pay £4/week or just over £200/year.

In one fell swoop, the congestion charge has gone from being a device to stop people driving into central London into a scheme to keep the streets of central London clear for the "wealthy residents" of Kensington & Chelsea, driving to work in Covent Garden or the City in the Chelsea Tractors.

This is mad. I do not particularly mind the £200 charge (although I heavily resent the £10 registration charge payable to TFL - paying a fee to pay a fee sounds like double taxation, which I thought was generally illegal), and I will ensure I get value for money by regularly driving into the central part of the zone, for which I would have previously paid £8/day.

I do mind that my parents and in-laws will have to pay £8/day (on top of what they pay for parking) if they want to come up to London to visit their grandchildren during the week. They could take the train, it is true, but my father-in-law is registered disabled and my parents live so far from a station that they are already halfway to London they might as well keep going. Actually, they do occassionally come up by train, but it is the principle, damn it!

I do also mind that the extension to the zone is going ahead in the face of huge local opposition for no good reason related to traffic control. I just find it bizarre that a huge benefit is being given to local residents whilst a huge handicap is being imposed on local business.

Finally, having worked as a courier in London prior to the CC coming into force and now, from time to time, cycling to work through central London, I cannot see that there is any less traffic than before. If anything the congestion is worse along the major arteries because of all the other daft traffic control measures put into place.

18 October 2006

Madonna and Child

Why all the fuss about Madonna adopting the little boy, David Banda, from Malawi? Isn't it clear that his life will be transformed for the better to an incredible degree? He has hardly been snatched away in the night from the arms of a loving family - having been placed in an orphange after the death of his mother. He has won the lottery of life on a triple rollover week and is keeping the jackpot all to himself. And so what if Madge has ridden roughshod over the adoption laws in Malawi and the UK as some say she has. These laws were not designed for millionaire pop stars rescuing orphans from abject poverty. Will Westminster Council object on the grounds that Madonna is over 45 or that she is married to man who made a movie called "Snatch"? On any objective basis, to act in the best interests of the child must be the top priority. By all means, let the authorities check out that he is being properly looked after, but to impose value judgements of marginal worth is not a legitimate function of social services. If this case does anything, it might shed some light on the crazy restrictions imposed on couples who wish to adopt and maybe bring some sense to bear.

17 October 2006

Rooms for Rent

This is on behalf of my friend Genny:

Two double rooms available for rent from end November in 4 storey, spacious, 4 bed Georgian terraced house on St John Street, EC1. House has separate dining and living rooms, three bathrooms, spare room/study and sizeable garden.
2 minutes walk from Angel tube. Walking distance from the City and good bus links to Waterloo, Victoria and the West End.
Room One: top floor, large, two windows, rent of £680 pcm (unfurnished).
Room Two: first floor, medium, garden aspect, rent of £545 pcm (unfurnished).
If interested please contact Gen Hardy on 07855 520 338 or by email at ghardy@1chancerylane.com. Professionals preferred.

16 October 2006

Old Labour - Alive and well

The Post Office wants the government to give 20% of its shares to its workforce, in the hope that this might motivate them and share the benefits of its future success. The government is reluctant and the unions are completely opposed to the plan, despite the obvious benefits to its membership.

I am surprised that this important political story is being treated by the media as a "business" story - see the Times and the front page of the Telegraph's business section today.

The reason the unions oppose it as they are worried it is a "backdoor privatisation".... this is politics through and through. And here's me thinking we had moved beyond these old lefty arguments. The fact that the Post Office has quietly pulled itself back from the brink of financial oblivion in the last few years by becoming more independent of government control - not less.

Still, I can't help but think that the unions oppose this measure as they see it as something which will undermine their control of the Post Office workforce. Sad that after 20 years of successful privatisation in this country, some people still don't get it.

15 October 2006

A Tory meets the NHS - part 1

I have never spent so much as a single night in hospital since I was born. The inevitable effect of ageing mean that in the past two or three years I have seen more of the medical profession than is ideal, but all of those invited to poke and prod me have been private practioners, paid for out of my own pocket or that of PPP (my insurance company). I am not even registered with a GP and I have no idea what my NHS number is.

My wife, on the other hand, is an organised soul in touch with her thrifty(!) Scottish roots. In the early days of her pregnancy she saw a private gynaecologist, but on discovering that his fee for caring for her throughout the next nine months would be in excess of £10k, I was relieved that she was prepared to look at what was on offer from the NHS. The good news was that for twins the NHS offers an obsectrian who will see you during the pregnancy, and, more importantly, will perform a caesarian on the big day itself. Such service is not, however, available to the run-of-the-mill singletons, who, if they wish to have this must go private. Of course, there was a certain smugness in knowing that my brother shelled out the aforemention large wedge to secure the services of the renowned Gubbay Ayida for his wife's pregnancy, whereas Sarah got to see her for free.
Up to this point, it was all going so well.
The Chelsea and Westminster is a flagship hospital with impeccible New Labour credentials having assisted Cherie bring Leo into this world. It is clean, new and shiny - modern medicine, here we come.
The first visit for the all important 12 week abnormaility scan (when you first see the baby - or in our case - babies and the doctors check for Downs syndrome and other nasties) was basically fine. The slightly-longer-than-necessary wait, which is a quintessential part of any NHS visit, was bareable, although I fail to understand why a 10.30am appointment means that you will not be seen before 11am.
Having done my fatherly bit, Sarah faced her next appointment alone. This was the first disaster. The highlights were that the hospital had lost her notes and the consultant had no record of her appointment. She left feeling bewildered and upset.
Being pushy middle class types, we did not leave it there, but tracked down Ms Ayida's (the consultant) email address and sent a polite but firm letter complaining about the visit. To her massive credit, Ms Ayida rang Sarah the following weekend and spent 20 minutes with her on the phone going over her concerns, and it was decided that Sarah would keep her own notes and bring them to the hospital for each appointment. I later heard Ms Ayida said that she had never had a letter like that from a patient.
So what? A minor gripe in the scheme of things, I hear you say. But two simple things would make life so much easier, more efficient.
(1) The government's insistence on a single IT solution for the entire NHS means that a patient's notes cannot be held on an internal hospital IT system, and thus never be lost. How is it that the nice people at Blogger can make it so easy for me to share my thoughts with whole world, but it is impossible for a hospital to have a simple internal system for storing notes (like the nifty one they have at the private dental surgery I go to in the City)?
(2) Why do all appointments have to be face to face? Obviously samples have to be given, scans made and arrgghhs and coughs performed with the patient right there. However, most of those procedures are increasingly done by skilled techicians and nurses. Especially for maternity, but also for other patients, there is a lot that can be acheived by speaking to a consultant or senior doctor (who has the results of the tests, scans etc) - and guess what, this could be done over the phone.
Anyway, that is enough for now... it is nearly 9.30pm and the girls have not properly settled from their last feed at 8pm and soon will be wanting another one, as will their parents...
In my next post, I will cover the birth and post-natal care and why David Cameron's line that the NHS will be safe in his hands because his family is so often in the NHS's hands made my top lip quiver.

13 October 2006

My girls...

...are Francesca and Georgina. They are nearly twelve weeks old, but were born seven weeks early (on 28 July 2006), so are really only five weeks old.

Here they are at six (or minus one) week (Georgina is on the right):

They are not always this cute, especially during the witching hour(s) between about 7pm and 11pm...

11 October 2006

My First Blog


This will be my Blog.

That is all for now.