Twee but effective
Judith O'Reilly, an engaging young mother recently uprooted from London and moved by her romantic husband to the wilds of Northumberland (aah, poor thing), has won a £70,000 deal from Viking Penguin for a book version of her blog "Wife in the North".
She deserves it because her writing is fluent, entertaining and frequently very funny. It's clever how she manages to come across as a victim and at the same time almost unbearably twee. The victimhood may not be the whole picture, mind you: she complains about having too many cars, and seems to be able to dump her kids on someone while she swans off for the occasional break in central London where she spends, apparently, wads of cash. The tweeness, on the other hand, is probably genuine.
However, she's made her husband look like a total plank who (a) uprooted her against her will in the first place, (b) is hardly ever there because he still has a job in London, and (c) is bad-tempered and unsympathetic on the rare occasions when he is at home. So her success comes at quite a high price - though it's not Her Tweeness who'll actually be paying it.
Oh, by the way. If there are any publishers out there, the GOS would be quite happy to pillory Mrs.GOS in exchange for a fat book deal. And he can guarantee no tweeness at all.
Nuclear is green, all of a sudden?
Now here's a turnup. James Lovelock, the scientist who invented the Gaia theory and so made environmentalism and global warming fashionable (at the time they spoke of global cooling, but hey, why split hairs, right?) has now decided that nuclear energy is the way to save the planet, and is attacking Greenpeace for trying to delay the government's plans to build new nuclear power stations.
"What an incredible mistake Greenpeace made " he writes in this week's Sunday Times, "it increases the burden of CO2 the Earth has to bear "
He reasons that we should follow the example set by France, generate stacks of electricity with emissions-free nuclear power-stations, and use it to travel about in super-efficient TGV trains. And he doesn't pull his punches, either - "global heating, like a fire, is accelerating and there is almost no time left to act". Jolly good. We like a man who knows his own mind, and doesn't allow himself to be confused by paying too much attention to facts.
He likens the present crisis to the time 60 years ago, when the world knew some sort of conflict was coming but didn't know what form it would take or what they should do about it. The Kyoto agreement is uncannily like the Munich pact, with politicians out to show their eagerness to respond while in reality merely playing for time. The analogy might be a little stronger if we didn't all suspect that while the situation in 1938 was real and involved the ambitions of people like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, the current position has been dreamt up by scientists anxious to make their mark in a world in which the media prizes sensationalism more highly than truth and accuracy.
Lovelock's Sunday Times article does have one omission that some might find significant. It may be adorned with the usual and obligatory photograph of a cute polar bear standing on an ice-floe (amazing, isn't it? The ice is disappearing faster than Britney Spears's hair (or brains) but they can always find a polar bear standing on some ice), but nowhere does it explain where we're supposed to put the nuclear waste the stations will produce. If Lovelock's Gaia theory is correct and the Earth really does function like a living organism, burying spent fuel-rods in mines and crevasses must be the equivalent of sticking burning matches under someone's fingernails.
Still, what the hell. It's just nice to see the tree-huggers at each others' throats for a change.
(The GOS has a neat new plan for the next generation of nuclear power stations. We should build 'em really cheaply, and place them where they'll do the most good, near to the major centres of population that'll be using the power they generate. Peckham is looking good .)
Tony Bliar's listening government. Not.
Much fuss in the newspapers this week about the e-petition on the government's own website which has been signed by one-and-half million people protesting about the plan to introduce road pricing. There are currently 3,150 petitions, but this is by far the largest. Just why anyone should be surprised about the opposition to the plan is hard to understand - I mean, satellite spies watching every mile you drive, government agencies gathering details about every journey you make and then probably selling them to commercial companies, a monthly bill for using the roads that you paid for in the first place - it's not exactly an attractive prospect, is it?
And that's assuming that it actually works, which of course most of us know it won't. The government doesn't exactly have a great record with new technology, does it, and if two million motorists are currently able to drive around with no tax and no insurance, you can bet your bottom dollar they'll find a way round this too. And if they really think they're going to give council officials the power to stop you and search your vehicle, I suggest they think again. People are just as protective and territorial about their cars (and even the road-space they're driving in) as they are about their houses. Where do they think "road rage" comes from?
Still, the really heart-warming thing is to hear ministers describing as "a prat" the man who thought of the e-petition idea, as if anyone at Westminster is actually interested in what people think. And to know that already, before the petition has even closed, the government are pronouncing that they aren't going to take any notice and that anyone who signed it needs "education". As Bertolt Brecht said, "when government doesn't agree with the people, it's time to change the people".
For those who are naοve enough to think that their opinions make the slightest bit of difference, the e-petition is here, and there's also one about speed cameras.
And on the petitions homepage you can see that apart from the road-pricing one, the next four most popular petitions are against inheritance tax, against the hunting ban, demanding continued funding for the Red Arrows, and asking for a reduction in the classified period for census data from 100 years to 70 years. So the government will stop stealing our savings when we die, they'll let country people mind their own business in their own way, they'll preserve something we all enjoy and feel proud of, and they'll reduce the length of time they keep from us information that's all about well, us.
Yeah, right. That'll happen.
Charles throwing his weight about
Following the (modest) success of Poundbury, his model village in Dorset, the Prince of Wales is starting another one in Cornwall. It's near Newquay and will be called Surfbury.
But he's going to terribly careful, he says, about second-homes. The Duchy of Cornwall will work closely with the local council to prevent people buying properties in Surfbury and only using them for holidays.
Fair enough, you might think. Until you remember that this is the man who lives at Clarence House in London and Highgrove in Gloucestershire ... and Birkhall on the Balmoral estate ... and a farm in Carmarthenshire ... and then there's his suite at mummy's place, Sandringham ...
Shootin' up in da hood
We don' got much to say about the homeboys pumpin' each other full of lead in da hood, except that on balance it seems quite a good idea. If we really want to stop them, though, there is one idea it's a bit off the wall, you know thinking outside the box but hey, let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes we could, like, get a lot more policemen and give them really big guns? No? A bit too radical for you?
OK, then, let's try something else. Let's see what the Reverend Nims Obunge says. He's the Chief Executive of the Peace Alliance, a voluntary group that tackles crime, and this week he wrote "How have black communities arrived at this desperate position? It is true that the breakdown of family structures and the absence of fathers and working single mothers have blighted the lives of potential offenders. This is compounded by social and economic deprivation."
"We have all been working on strategies to stop young people drifting into crime at an early stage. For instance, a number of educational tool kits including "Untouchable?" the gun crime videa and teaching resource pack, and the "Don't Shoot" education resource pack, have been created by local organisations schools, however, are reluctant to use them "
"The church is the largest voluntary provider of services to the black community and its role in crime prevention must be recognised and supported".
So, that's all pretty clear, then. These children aren't at fault - they have been turned into murderers by social and economic deprivation. They've thought to themselves "Oh dear, my mum's out, I haven't got an X-Box and the local youth orchestra is closed to me because I don't play an instrument, whatever shall I do? I know! I'll go and kill someone!"
And the way to prevent this from happening? Schools must cut back on lessons in maths, English, history, metalwork, languages and useless, irrelevant things like that, in order to allow more time for watching gangsta videos and playing educational games about what might happen if you shoot someone. And the churches must be given lots of money.
And the Revered Obunge knows what he's talking about, too. He says "a gang member once came to me and said he wanted to opt out. He told me he was ready to hand in his guns but wanted reassurance that he would be relocated so that neither he nor his family would be targeted by a rival gang. I did all I could, from speaking to a Home Office minister and to leading police officers and housing officers, and I found that there was no way out because to get what he wanted he was required to sell out his friends and former gang members".
Oh, poor gang member. He made a perfectly fair offer, that if he stopped being a criminal he should be rewarded with a new house, but the authorities wouldn't play ball. How very mean of them.
It would have created a tremendous precedent, though, wouldn't it? I mean, where would it end? Motorists could offer to tax and insure their cars and stop speeding if the DVLA gave them brand-new Mercedes. Jade Goodie could offer to stop making racist comments about poppadoms if Channel 4 give her a chat show. And the GOS could offer to stop whingeing about everything if the government doubles his pension and halves his council tax. And I suppose a replacement Mrs.GOS would be out of the question? Say about 22, blonde, with legs up to her bum? No?
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