Sunday, October 31, 2010

None so blind as those that won't turn their car lights on?


Your Reaper heard a particularly stupid advert on the radio this afternoon. I was flicking through one of the Sunday papers whilst the wireless was on in the background, and I heard an advert coming on reminding people to... use their car lights more during the winter.

I kid you not. People seriously need reminding of this?! People seriously need reminding of the fact it's now going to be getting darker earlier in the day than before? People seriously need reminding that they're going to need to switch on their headlamps earlier in the day than before? My god, what on earth has this country come to?

Although as it happens, there may just be an audience for these sorts of adverts, believe it or not. I was driving through Enniskillen on Friday night and I saw no less than three people driving around the town with their car lights off. Yeah, seriously. Not even on sidelamps, but completely off. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Highway Code stated that car lights must be switched on at the same time as the street lights come on?

What a shame that we're probably paying for these adverts, eh?

* Although your Reaper must admit to a lapse of concentration once behind the wheel. I was once driving out of a town in a 40mph zone. At the end of the road, I had to turn right on the roundabout onto a national speed limit road. At that point, the street lights would finish. When I noticed that everything had gone dark, I suddenly got very scared. The car lights went on quicker than the speed of... well, light. File this one under the "you only do it once" category.

Sex!

Okay, now that I've got your attention, onto the matter at hand we go. No pun intended there. Everyone seems to be masturbating themselves into a fury this afternoon over comments allegedly made by Stephen Fry. He recently gave an interview to Attitude Magazine, and excerpts were quoted in today's Observer. We now live in an age when, apparently, a gay man can officially proclaim that "women don't really like sex".

Your Reaper is, quite honestly, perplexed by a few things. Firstly, I don't quite understand how a gay man is qualified to pass judgement on whether women actually like sex. Secondly, his assumption that women don't actually like sex is utterly daft. I'm settled down in a relationship right now, but I am well aware that there are a hell of a lot of women out there who absolutely love having sex. Probably even more so than the men.

The Observer seem desperate to keep their doyenne of choice on side and have actually responded to criticism doing the rounds. Personally, I don't see what he's done to merit this reply. Had something like this appeared in the Telegraph, the Mail or somewhere like that, they would have gladly told him to get stuffed and wouldn't have bothered indulging his nonsense.

To be honest, I don't quite understand why Stephen Fry is in the position he is, to be honest. As far as your Reaper can deduce, he doesn't appear to have any discernible talents. He's not even especially funny. Whenever he speaks, he simply comes across as a pompous, smug git. Yet he's feted by large parts of the Left almost as if he was a saint. You may recall he was one of the architechts of the cringeworthy wankfest that followed Jan Moir's article last year about Stephen Gately's death being a little bit dodgy. A few weeks afterwards, he threatened to quit Twitter because someone dared call his Tweets "boring". I don't see the problem - they are boring as hell. Even more boring than mine, and that's saying something.

Now he seems to be threatening to do the same again. Frankly, he just comes across as an attention-seeking ponce. Want to leave Twitter, do you? Good. Close the door on your way out and don't come back.

Desperate times, useless measures

He's constantly being named when scandals are doing the rounds, his government's mired with in-fighting and the government is deeply unpopular thanks to austerity measures being implemented to deal with a large deficit. Oh yes, and his approval ratings are now down below 40%.

Yet Silvio Berlusconi's government is STILL regarded as a better option than the opposition. Which begs the question:

Just how bad must the opposition to the Italian government be?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Black? Black! BLACK!

It's probably safe to say that everyone gets days when they're feeling a bit down in the dumps, or one of those days when you realise something's changed and not for the better. For your Grim Reaper, that day this year is going to be Monday, November 1st. I'm sure you all know by now that the clocks are going back one hour tonight. It has one major upside. We all get an extra hour's sleep tonight.

Hooray! Personally, I'm going to be out this evening with my girlfriend watching Paranormal Activity 2 at the flicks. She wants to see it. After that, I intend to have a glass or two of red wine and I might even decide to watch some of The X Factor then, if only so I can aim several swear words in the direction of Louis Walsh. I then intend to make the most of that extra hour we've been given - by sleeping right through it. Isn't life grand?

However, there is a big downside. From tomorrow, it's going to be dark come about 5pm. I won't really notice it too much on a Sunday afternoon. I tend to spend my Sundays indoors, taking it easy, so I pay little attention to outside. It'll be Monday when it really hits me. If you're working a 9-5 shift at work, you'll be going into work just as the sun rises and going home in total darkness. Your Reaper obviously has a more varied lifestyle - people don't decide not to die simply because it's half past five, after all - but it'll still makes me feel miserable come Monday afternoon. Though I suspect the Express is putting it a little too strongly when they state we're facing "a day of chaos tomorrow". Get a grip of yourselves.

There's been much talk in the newspapers about this over the last few days. This video from ITN News explains more.



Inevitably, when environmentalists start banging on about something, your Reaper immediately gets suspicious. They claim it would be good for the environment to keep to British Summer Time all year round, because it wouldn't be dark when we get home from work or school or whatever. Er... no, that isn't right. If you've ever observed at the end of the day, it doesn't go from light to dark immediately, it takes time. Roughly about an hour or so for the sun to go down, I'd say. Admittedly, it wouldn't be as dark if we did this, but don't seriously pretend you'd still have daylight. You'd probably still have to switch your lights on anyway, so that's not going to work.

Next, the British Medical Journal talks about extra daylight hours in the evening being good for our health. It would encourage us all to get out more and exercise more, they say in a report. Again, your Reaper just isn't convinced. Those people who want to get out and exercise can always go to a gym. Those people who walk their dog in the evening will continue to walk their dog in the evening. Those people who sit around on their arses all night, shovelling food into their mouths and watching crap television will continue to... well, sit around on their arses all night, shovelling food into their mouths and watching crap television. A bit of extra daylight isn't going to change that. I'm surprised that a blogger needs to remind the British Medical Journal of that fact.

Anyway, what happens if we move the clocks forward? Yep, it'll be darker in the mornings. In other words, children will have to go to school in the dark and people will have to go to work in the dark, instead of coming home in it. No doubt someone will then propose that the school start time is moved forward to 10am instead. Unfortunately, that doesn't work either, for the simple reason everyone else would have to move their days forward by one hour as well. To put it in layman's terms, despite the time being different, exactly the same problems would persist as beforehand.

I've heard one or two people claim this is the last time we'll have to move the clocks back. At the moment, this claim is false or possibly premature, depending on how you look at it. There hasn't been any law change as of yet, but a private member's bill is being put forward in the House of Commons on December 3rd. Whether it gets through where several others have failed remains to be seen, however.

What nobody seems to have grasped yet is that there are only 24 hours in each day. Out of those 24 hours, there will only be a certain amount of hours of daylight available. There's absolutely nothing we can do about any of that.

It looks like the forthcoming bout of Monday Afternoon Misery is just something I'll have to live with.

I need a degree to make sense of this - Part 3

Just when your Reaper thought the coalition's policy on university funding couldn't get any more confusing, (see my efforts HERE and HERE to previously attempt to understand it) it does. And all this in the space of one week.

A summary of the policy so far first. It was first proposed that those people who earnt more money after leaving university pay more interest on their loan - as I said at the time, I considered this "a frankly perverse idea and a disincentive to want to earn a bigger salary". I accept now I may have put this too strongly. After all, I can't see anyone refusing to accept a pay increase on the grounds they'll have to pay more interest on their student loan, but the rest I stand by. Then it was revealed that they wanted to penalise people who paid their student loans off early. Punishing people who are good with money, in other words.

What's the latest proposal, I hear you ask? Well, the Government is due to announce in November that "leading universities will be able to charge students up to £9,000 a year providing they are offering a 'public benefit' by recruiting teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds". Fucking great.

I give up. These morons are officially incapable of thinking anything through. Tories used to condemn attempts at "social engineering" by Labour when they were threatening to fine universities that didn't take on enough "poor" students, yet here they are doing the same thing, but in reverse. Instead of fining them, they're going to positively incentivise universities to do it. How the fuck are universities supposed to do this, then?

By allowing universities to charge MORE under the current system, you are actually providing a disincentive for "poor" students to want to go to university, but you are also providing an incentive at the same time for universities to take on more students whilst pushing their fees up. Is it just me, or does this make no fucking sense whatsoever?

David Cameron, George Osborne, Vince Cable, Nick Clegg and every other member of the Cabinet, I have a message for you. It'll come of surprise to you, but of no surprise whatsoever to anyone else. You're all braindead morons.

Harriet Harman and The Grim Reaper agree on something

Did that get your attention?

If so, don't worry. Your Reaper hasn't completely lost his sanity - well, not yet. Harriet Harman's paying a visit to the Scottish Labour Party Conference today. It does make me wonder why Ed Miliband can't go himself, perhaps he just has the sense to not want to go to Scotland, I don't know. Regardless, Harriet's not happy with the coalition government, as one might expect. She has branded Danny Alexander, the Chief Treasury Secretary a "ginger rodent".

Given that I've managed to insult a number of politicians ever since starting this blog, and insulted many more beforehand, it would be downright hypocritical of me to criticise a politician for name-calling someone. So as much as your Reaper absolutely loathes to say it, I rather agree with Harriet that he's something of a ginger rodent.

Now, if Harriet Harman was an animal, what sort of animal would she be? Answers please on a postcard addressed to my comments section.

Calling it a day. No, not me...


Your Reaper normally checks his emails quite early in the day, both for his personal stuff and for ones relating to the blog. Each time a comment is left on the blog, an email is sent by Intense Debate to inform me of its contents or whether it's been putting stuff into bloody moderation again. It was a rather pleasant surprise to discover that, earlier this morning, I'd had a visit from none other than the great Iain Dale, who left a comment on my last post.

Fresh from that, I went onto checking the RSS feed and I discover that yet another libertarian blogger has decided to call it quits. First, Constantly Furious disappeared. Ranting Rab soon followed, Obnoxio The Clown called it a day, Anna Raccoon rightly decided the abuse was simply too much, and now Mr Eugenides has thrown in the towel. Boatang & Demetriou were heavily criticised for saying it, but they were right - bloggers do seem to be dropping like flies at the moment.

Elsewhere, many bloggers don't post anywhere near as much as they used to. Old Holborn's been significantly quieter in the last few months, for example. Wheras he was posting an average of about 80 or 90 posts per month until may, his average is now down to less than half of that. Perhaps he's just busy with work nowadays - in his case, I don't detect he likes this lot any more than the last government.

Holbers might be the exception to the rule, but there does seem to be something weird going on at the moment. A lot of libertarian bloggers appear to have been taken in by the coalition government. Maybe it's simply a case of people hoping that something better was about to come along, or people simply attempting to be enthusiastic, trying to give the coalition government a chance to show what it could do or whatever.

Your Reaper's opinion? I honestly think the libertarian blogosphere had it far too easy during the New Labour years. Think about it - there was an endless supply of material to work with. Day after day, crap plans were leaked to the press which hadn't been thought through. That provided plenty to write on in the first place, and then there was the plain weirdness and mendacity of the people at the top of the government.

Having given the coalition a chance myself, I have come to the conclusion they are almost identical. They're almost as bad at leaking stuff to favourable newspapers as Labour were. The politicians in it are more difficult to hate, but simply because we don't know them very well yet. Personally, I can say my levels of hatred for them is rising by the day, and they've only been in office for 6 months.

Quite why so many don't yet feel the same way baffles me slightly, I must admit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Well, no sweets for you!

Iain Dale yesterday,
hiding behind this cauldron.
Your Reaper is probably getting something of a reputation for having a blog which seems to move from one subject to the next with no plan whatsoever. And that's exactly how I like it. Whilst flicking through my RSS feeds, I came across Iain Dale's obligatory advert for his evening show on LBC. Tonight, they're going to be discussing... well, almost nothing of any importance, really. Example, please:

"It's Hallowe'en this weekend? Does it encourage crime and isn't it time we abolished it?"


I wonder how long the meeting was earlier when Iain and his team on the show were discussing subjects to feature on the show. Shall we discuss Cameron's bullshit claims about being successful in wasting yet another £450million of our money each year on the EU? Perhaps we'll ask what people think of the jailing of Michael Williams? Maybe we could inquire what our listeners have to say on the way Barack Obama is seemingly going to get his arse kicked in next week's elections? Nah, we'll just ask if Hallowe'en should be banned instead.

For the record, your Reaper categorically does not think Hallowe'en should be abolished. It would be like banning Christmas on the grounds that some people use the opportunity to eat far too much food and get fat. Perhaps we can ban pubs on the grounds that people might choose to get drunk whilst in one? It's ridiculous to state that something should be banned on the grounds that someone somewhere might decide to use it to cause trouble.

Though even I must concede it's far from the worst suggestion of a topic of discussion I've ever heard. I remember many years ago, I came across something called The Phoneshow on Dublin's FM104, hosted by someone called Adrian Kennedy. The debate was about travellers and the show aimed to look at the differences between various groups in the traveller community. In the end, it did nothing of the sort. Instead, two callers to the show proceeded to spend the next 40 minutes or so endlessly abusing one another, whilst threatening to come over and beat each other up roughly once every 30 seconds.

Car crash radio at its best.

This is not a good day

GrumpyOldTwat is fuming this evening about the case of three Merseyside Police Farce officers beating the shit out of someone who'd been stabbed. Yeah, that's just what you need when you're quite possibly bleeding to death, isn't it? Head over to Gotty's to read more and see the evidence, although be warned, it's pretty brutal. What's more irritating than anything for me is the response by the police farce's spokesweasel who says "I would like to stress that CCTV images can never show the whole story.".

Yeah, right. Pardon The Reaper for being a cynical bastard here, but that defence deserves nothing but contempt. Say that there was a criminal up in court, accused of committing a bank robbery. If he told the judge "yes, but the CCTV images from the bank's cameras don't tell the whole story", he'd be laughed at and quickly locked up. And rightly so. Yet three coppers use the same defence and seem to get away with it. Unbelievable!

Elsewhere, "Mehere" informs me in the comments section of the last post of another story on Mail Online. This time, it concerns a grandfather who is terminally ill with cancer. Truly tragic circumstances for any person to be in, and you'd want to make sure that he had a decent few months to finish his life, wouldn't you? Reece Kent - are they sure that name hasn't been misspelt? - didn't. This drunken thug decided the way to treat this man was to "repeatedly punch... Ken Oliver in the head before kicking him on the floor", kicking his head "like a football" and leaving him "in a pool of blood on his doorstep with horrific injuries".

This is absolutely sickening behaviour. Kent claims to be remorseful for it now, but frankly, I don't believe him. And what's the worst thing about it? It's not just the fact a court has actually set him FREE, instead of throwing the bastard into a cell and letting him rot for eternity, oh no. It's the fact Hertfordshire Police Farce didn't even want to know! They didn't even attempt to catch his attacker at first, meaning Mr Oliver's family had to track him down themselves. What on earth do we pay the police for?

As for Ken Oliver and his family, if any of you do read this, words cannot express how sorry I am to hear of what has happened to you at the hands of this yob. As you may have noticed, I'm as disgusted as Mr Oliver is about the result. I sincerely hope that you can now get on with your lives, even in these difficult circumstances. As for Mr Oliver, I am sure you don't need any reminders of this, but please try to enjoy the time that there is left for you. Please don't let this yob win.

Michael Williams - right or wrong?

Back in April this year, 25-year old Anthony Kershaw decided to take a piss through someone's letterbox. You already get the impression of a charming character here, don't you? Anyway, Michael Williams, the man who lived in the house Kershaw was urinating into, was sick and tired of filth like Kershaw making his life hell. In the past, he'd had his front door covered in paint and suffered a previous attack of a similar nature. Williams had simply had enough - he grabbed a knife from his kitchen, swung open the door whilst Kershaw was taking a piss, and stabbed the cunt. Kershaw then showed just how eloquent he was - as if he hadn't done so already - by smashing up the windows and threatening to "burn [Williams] alive" inside his flat.

Today, Michael Williams was jailed for five years for daring to protect himself and his own property.
I'm absolutely disgusted. As far as your Reaper is concerned, Michael Williams should not be in prison right now. At the very most, he should be doing a community sentence and I question if he should be punished at all. My view is that people's private property is their private property. When you own a house, it is your right to decide who gets to come into that house. It is also your right to decide how long they get to be in your house, your right to tell them to get out of your house, and you have the right for your house to be respected. I also believe that when your personal space and property is violated in this way, you should be allowed to deal with the matter in almost any way that you wish.

I loathe to say this, but it was wrong to kill Anthony Kershaw in this way, even though the man was complete scum. However, I think that Williams is a man who was pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Nothing was ever done to get this neighbourhood under control - lowlives such as Kershaw would have known that the police farce weren't going to do anything about it. Far too busy chasing down people guilty of minor traffic offences than to deal with yobbery and thuggery like this, isn't it? As such, I believe cases like this should be treated with the utmost of mercy and understanding.

I would say that Kershaw's death was a tragedy, but frankly, I'd be lying. I certainly won't miss the likes of him. Which makes me ask - just WHAT is it going to take to deal with the underclass in this country? They're a group which has been endlessly indulged for years. Allowed to do whatever they want whilst everyone else deals with the consequences. Had money shovelled towards them by misguided politicians who give it to them on the grounds that they don't have to deal with the consequences themselves. How on earth can we even begin to deal with this problem?

Who buys all this perfume?

Just over a fortnight ago, your Reaper wrote about the way every celebrity seems to have their own fragrance nowadays. Quite why anyone would want to smell like Calum Best, Britney Spears or whichever third-rate "celebrity" you can think of is beyond me.

Obviously I hadn't considered the fact that Kim Kardashian would fit into that category perfectly. And she has - she's now got her own perfume out. Who buys all these things?

Oh yeah, one other thing. If you've got no idea who she is, that's alright. Neither do I.

Barack Obama and THAT Daily Show appearance

The wheels have certainly fallen off the Barack Obama bandwagon ever since he was first elected, haven't they? Your Reaper remembers all too well when Obama first came into power. When he was fighting his election campaign and forever going on about "change", one could have been half-forgiven for thinking he sounded more like a homeless man than a potential President of the United States of America. I must admit to being somewhat taken in by the first speech he gave on the day he was sworn in to the job and I wished him good luck. Frankly, with the USA being in the state it was, he was going to need it.

In recent months, probably the biggest threat to Barack Obama and the Democrats has been the Tea Party Movement. This is something that I've been meaning to blog about for quite some time, but I've never really got around to it. Much debate has focused on the way that the Tea Party Movement seems to be "taking over" the Republican Party, and they'd be right with that. The fact is, for a long time, Obama was the President with the highest approval ratings of any president in recent history. That sort of stuff is bound to worry any party in opposition. From what I know about US politics, there's been something of a power vaccuum amidst the Republicans for quite some time, so the Tea Party Movement striked when they knew the Republicans were weakest and would be able to put up the least resistance.

What's developing there now is a party which is significantly more Right-wing than anything the UK has. They've made some pleasing noises about the banking crisis which your Reaper has noticed. Many Tea Party politicians believe that the banks should not have been bailed out - that they should simply have been left to fail. It's a view many libertarians in this country have had for a long time, and one I sympathise with. However, their views on issues such as abortion, and the way they make such a personal issue so political, worries the hell out of me.

I'd say the Democrats have completely underestimated the threat that the Tea Party is to them, and have only noticed it now that it's too late to do anything serious about it. Which is why Barack Obama appeared a few days ago on The Daily Show, a US spoof news programme that's pretty popular with the younger demographic - read that to mean the ones who helped get Obama into power in the first place. He's desperate to try and reach those voters who could make the rest of his term as President easier - and ultimately, help him into getting his second term. It's forecast that the Democrats could lose control of the House of Representatives altogether, and could make big gains in the Senate. Not enough to give them a majority, but enough to drag out Obama's legislation and make life very difficult for him.

With all due respect, Obama's appearance just didn't work. I saw the entire programme and I was deeply unimpressed. In the past, he came across as a man who could listen and was thoughtful in his responses. This time, he just came across as slightly desperate. Not just that, but he took what was meant to be a relatively light-hearted discussion too seriously for my liking. His responses to most questions weren't terribly convincing and he quite honestly looked like a man who just didn't want to be there.

I certainly don't foresee good things for the remainder of his Presidency, that's for sure.

A liberal gene? What nonsense!

Your Reaper hates to be the one to spoil the party, but I'm really not convinced by the story doing the rounds that Lefties are Lefties on the grounds that they have some sort of "liberal gene" in their bodies. I simply don't buy this, unfortunately.

Why? Well, it's slightly personal. When he was a teenager, your Grim Reaper was something of a Leftie himself. Not the raving mad communist sort of Leftie that fills the modern day Labour Party, you understand. And I didn't really have time for politicians of any views even back then. No, it was partly because "Left-wing values" - I'll come back to this term in more detail in a minute - did have some appeal to me. Even now, they still do. Most Lefties want to see a society where the poor, the elderly and the disabled are looked after. That's no bad thing to believe, is it? Many of them want a society where people pay their fair share into the tax system. Again, I don't think that's a bad thing. It just depends on the way you interpret that.

Which is where this gets complicated. The problem now arises of how you define Left-wing values. As I stated before, many Lefties want to see "a society where the poor, the elderly and the disabled are looked after". If you asked Right-wing conservatives or libertarians about that, just about all of them would also agree with it. The same goes with the tax issue - it's simply the interpretation of the statement that differs. Left-wingers are more likely to say the state should look after the poorest in our society, by giving them tax credits and the like. Right-wingers are more likely to say the state should simply give them the tools to help them look after themselves, saying it's better in the long run.

I know I'm generalising a lot here, but I'm making the point as clearly as I can. Myself, I view tax as a necessary evil which should be kept as low as possible at all times. It doesn't mean I don't care. Far from it. I believe those who are richer should pay a little more in tax than the poorest in our society, but not too much more. I think the state has a role to play, but it should generally stay out unless explicitly wanted - hence why I don't believe the welfare system should be scrapped. Just scaled down.

Back to the article. The theory these scientists have come up with states that:

"The effect is caused by a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4 which could be stimulated by the novelty value of left of centre opinions, say US researchers. In people who are naturally outgoing, the feature encourages them to seek out companions with unconventional views as they grow up. This in turn means they tend to form less conventional political viewpoints as adults, according to the study by the University of California and Harvard."
Again, I'm not buying this theory at all. Without a doubt, there are definitely people out there who fit into this mould. But stating that all Lefties are outgoing people is stupid. There will be a lot of them out there who are far more shy and reserved as individuals. Nothing wrong with that - despite what this blog may suggest, your Reaper adopts an "only speak when you have something to say" sort of approach to life. Similarly, there are a lot of Right-wingers out there who are nothing more than cocktrumpets - droning on endlessly whilst nobody listens.

As for the idea that Lefties hold "unconventional views" - I have to ask questions. I have found this to be true of many modern socialists, but this is a fairly new development, I think. Evidence? Well, when the Labour Party was being founded, it's safe to say there was a huge influence from Christians with a deep moral conscience in the leadership and throughout the party - the sort of Labour people who would be appalled by some of the stuff today's Labour Party believes. When the welfare state was set up, for example, I do not seriously believe that the likes of William Beveridge and Clement Attlee thought it was right that families receiving over £100k per year should be receiving Child Benefit. Something which the modern day leadership defends vigorously, to its utter shame.

The influence of basic morality was part of the party for a long time. Hence why I believe - and I suspect few will agree with me here - that Labour was once a party filled with decent people. Their ideas may have been completely wrong, but I didn't doubt their hearts were in the right place ultimately. I can't say anything of the sort about the modern day Labour Party, filled with career politicians and multi-millionaires.

Ultimately, I'd say that people's views are formed from their experiences in life and from the people who are around them. A so-called "liberal gene" has little, if anything, to do with it.

Comment on comment on comment. Or something.

Guido Fawkes may not like commenting on comment, but your Reaper begs to differ. I try not to do it too much, but sometimes I can't resist. This has got to the post title of the day, from Boatang & Demetriou's place - which I still link to despite them not wanting any bloggers to do so. The piece is eloquently titled "Equity Investors are such moronic fucking cunts".

The language may not be everyone's tastes, but then again, neither is the language on this blog. As it happens, it's a pretty good post too. Your Reaper must admit from the outset that he doesn't know a huge amount about equity investment, the way the stock market works and various shit like that. Having said that, I can definitely see Demetriou's point when he talks about investors being worried and the way there seems to be almost no logic at all to the way they react to anything.

I understand full well that people are going to be worried by some news stories. A lot of people have been worried, for example, about the stories doing the rounds throughout the summer of "spending cuts" in various areas of government and public services. Although not always well-founded, such anxiety is a human trait and perfectly understandable. However, should we expect better from the likes of equity investors, people who are meant to know their trade inside out? Shouldn't they behave in a more calm and rational matter instead of speculating like mad?

Let's get one thing clear here. Your Reaper supports the capitalist system through and through. I believe that, whilst it's far from perfect, no better system has ever emerged. Although having said that, some of the people at the top of the world of finance seem determined to make it more and more difficult to defend them.

Not just the young drivers

Only a few weeks ago, changes were announced to the driving test. Yet not even this has shut up the whinging insurance companies. Your Reaper refers you to this article on Radio 1's Newsbeat - they're now calling for the government to "improve the extra training offered to young drivers after they pass their test", due to the extremely worrying discovery that 1 in 3 of all those killed or seriously hurt in a crash is between 17 and 24 years old. The group who pay by far the most for their car insurance, incidentally.

Listening to the report, I must admit I was slightly worried by some of what I was hearing. One person complained that she was always getting into the wrong lanes on motorways and didn't know how to change lanes properly. My first thought was "good god woman, how can you not know that?". However, I think my position blinkered my judgement slightly there. I'm still a young man - only 25 years old - and I have been driving for almost three and a half years. In that time, I've probably done about 70,000 miles worth of driving and I've never had an accident. I haven't used motorways a great deal in that time, but I do know how to use them.

To someone who's only just started driving, however, it's a different story. Learner drivers are subject to utterly ridicilous regulations which stop them from learning to drive properly, and the authorities are hellbent on making the problem even worse. I don't know whether it's the same in the rest of the UK, but here in Northern Ireland, learner drivers are restricted to a maximum speed of 45mph. That's fine in a speed limit area, but it's a bloody nuisance to everyone including themselves in a national speed limit area. Unless you've got a very fast car, overtaking someone quickly at that speed isn't easy. They're also banned from driving on motorways and dual carriageways. How the hell is anyone supposed to get a feel for the driving experience when subject to these kind of restrictions?

I'm afraid the only answer to this problem is for driving lessons to go on for longer and cover far more stuff. Once I'd passed my test, for example, I quickly noticed I had no idea what driving at night was like. The first time I drove alone at night was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Admittedly, I now prefer driving at night, for the simple reason there's a lot less traffic around, but I would definitely have relished the opportunity for lessons in night-time driving. Same goes for driving on motorways, dual carriageways and in all sorts of weather conditions.

Mind you, a lot of these criticisms could be made of drivers of any age, I suppose. The last winter showed that much. It was the coldest winter for about 40 years and road conditions were significantly poorer than normal. The roads were soaking wet with this dreadful mush all over the place - which you'd get all over the car each time a lorry whizzed past, of course. Roads which weren't gritted were sometimes reduced to nothing more than ice rinks which were hell to drive on. Conditions were 100% worse than normal, yet a fair chunk of people seemed to adjust their driving style by precisely... well, 0%, to be totally blunt about it. I saw more than one person nearly crash into the wall because they were driving too fast and couldn't stop their cars in time.

What's the conclusion to all this? Simply that everyone's got to improve their driving. As far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as the perfect driver. Everyone can improve - I know full well that I can. It's those who don't admit to that truth which are the real danger on our roads.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just WHY do people do it?

Dreadful story, this one. 12-year old Samantha Arnold was travelling with her mum and sister in a people carrier through a 50mph zone. The drunken David Stannett was driving a Toyota Celica the other way with his father, also intoxicated. He effectively ploughed the car into the people carrier at a speed of 106mph. Samantha's mother was left in a wheelchair, but she lost her life in the event. Stannett's father was also killed.

If the last word Samantha said about this David Stannett creature was "idiot", I'd say he got off lightly. Rest assured your Reaper has said much, much cruder Anglo-Saxon words when confronted with the countless examples of bad driving I see each day. I'd criticise him very harshly, but I suspect even he knows just how bad what he's done is.

The only question I really have to ask in these situations is - why the fuck do people still get behind the wheel when they're drunk? These stories come round all too often and everyone knows what the consequences can be of doing it. Personally, I follow a very strict rule. If I've had even one drink, I won't be driving for at least a few hours. Perhaps I'm being over-cautious with this approach, but I simply don't want to take the risk. It frankly baffles me that anyone else would.

Bending over and taking it - yet again

Outrage over Call Me Dave's capitulation to the European Union over its wanting its budget to be increased by some 400% over the next 3 weeks (or something equally daft) is around aplenty. Look in the Other People's Grim Reading section if you want some links.

However, there is one part in the Beeb's report on this which stopped your Reaper dead in his tracks. No pun intended.

"Prime Minister David Cameron has phoned several of his European counterparts, hours before the start of the EU summit in Brussels, urging them to reject a big rise in the organisation's budget. The PM spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy among others and argued for the 'lowest possible' increase. His plea came amid fears that a 6% rise would cost the UK another £900m a year. Labour has accused him of failing to stand up for British interests."

Yes, you did read that correctly. Whilst David Cameron deserves all the criticism he gets over this, I suspect that even he must laugh when he's accused by Labour of failing to stand up for British interests.

Funnily enough, it was Labour who were responsible for the UK having to pay an extra £9billion to the EU between 2005 and 2009, following Tony Blair's attempt to cosy up to his European cronies.

Ten out of ten for hypocrisy on this, Wallace Miliband.

One trampoline we don't need

Guido Fawkes has got a post up at the moment wondering who would be suitable for the current vacant position of Chairman of the BBC Trust. He makes three suggestions for the job - Paul Dacre, Kelvin MacKenzie and Andy Coulson.

The idea of Andy Coulson leading the Beeb is, to be honest, absurd. He'd never be able to escape from the accusations of phone-tapping at the News of the World, and he'd be forever dogged by claims he was biased for the Tories. It may well be a nice change to have someone with Right-wing views in a prominent position at the BBC, but it simply isn't going to happen.

Unfortunately, I can't say I'm particularly convinced by his other two suggestions either. I can't see the likes of Paul Dacre being anything more than a man of talk on this issue. He slags off the Beeb endlessly, but the idea of him going to work for them to try to change them from within just doesn't make sense to me. As for Kelvin MacKenzie, put him in charge and we'll soon see the return of Rusty Goffe, the "Bouncing Weatherman".

Nah, to me, it still looks like the answer is to privatise Aunty completely.

Julian Assange - stupid, paranoid, but also correct

This may not be an especially popular view, but your Grim Reaper has to side with Julian Assange on this one. He claims that the deaths of over 109,000 people are significantly more important than the allegations doing the rounds about his private life. I can't seriously disagree with that assessment.

Although frankly, his claim that this is all part of a smear campaign by defence officials unhappy with WikiLeaks publishing confidential documents just makes him come across as rather paranoid. Give up this line, Assange, it's doing you no favours.

And whilst I'm at it, I really can't sympathise with him on this one. Only a few days ago, he walked out of an interview on CNN after they brought up the sex abuse allegations. So what does he do? He goes back onto a different CNN show a few days later. You really don't do media management very well do you, Julian?

Civil partnerships for straights?

Your Reaper doesn't quite understand why a straight couple would want to create a civil partnership instead of getting married. So far as I can tell, the two institutions are very, very similar - it's simply that there tends to be more religious connotations with marriage, and the word "marriage" itself is different. Although if I've got this wrong, please don't hesitate to tell me in the comments.

Mind you, none of this stops the Reaper from having an extremely relaxed view when it comes to these issues. If they'd prefer to go for a civil partnership, I see no reason why they should be stopped. They're doing no harm to anyone. The next step will be that homosexuals demand the right to get married - religious nuts will complain, but then again, religion nuts will always complain.

I even believe that, say, two sisters who live in the same house should be able to take out a civil partnership, simply in order to protect themselves legally. Let's say you have these two sisters, and the one who owns the house dies. Unless she's expressly stated in a will that the house should go to her sister, there is no automatic assumption she'll get it. The answer to that is make sure to write a will, you'd say? Perhaps so. But even then, I believe it should be made as easy as possible for people to look after their own families.

It's not Bishop Brennan who needs a kick up the arse today

There can only be one suitable answer to the news that Vince Cable has pulled out of a planned visit to Oxford University - it's cowardly. The idea that "police advice" had something to do with it is laughable. Politicians such as Cable couldn't give a shit about things such as the cost of policing, as far as I'm concerned. It's far more likely he was worried he'd receive the same sort of treatment that former Aussie PM John Howard received earlier this week.

Admittedly, the prospect of not seeing a size 12 boot being thrown at Vince Cable's smug face does disappoint me.

The Government seems to be making a bit of a habit of hiding from its critics this week instead of directly taking them on. Only last week, Call Me Dave personally told Baroness Warsi not to bother going to a conference dealing with the causes of Islamic extremism. Warsi is one of few Tory politicians that doesn't make my skin crawl, and I found that decision baffling enough on its own.

New Labour had an awful habit of refusing to discuss with people whom they didn't agree with - regularly attacking people who criticised the level of immigration into this country by insinuating they were racists, for example. Old habits die hard for the heir to Blair, it seems.

This post title cannot be published due to an injunction

Unfortunately, The Grim Reaper Writes
is prevented by a court order from publishing
the picture we want to publish alongside this
entry. So instead, here is a picture of a cute
little cat. Everyone likes to see a picture of a
cute little cat. Even injunction-seeking lawyers
that eat kittens for breakfast like to see a
picture of a cute little cat. This caption has
gone on for way too long now, hasn't it?
Your Reaper is probably not alone in noticing the trend in the last few years for injunctions to appear left, right and centre to prevent information being published. Whether it be the likes of Andrew Marr going to court to prevent "private information" from being revealed about him to John Terry running towards the arms of a lawyer in order to stop the public finding out about his affair with a fellow team player's girlfriend, it seems to be all the rage these days. For years, newspapers appeared to reluctantly accept this disturbing free speech hindering development.

Nowdays, they tend to challenge them a lot more, testing the law almost to breaking point. Only earlier this week, the Mail ran an article about a man who was allegedly blackmailing what they described as an instantly recognisable "pop superstar". There's a court order in place banning us from being told who the person is, whether they're in a relationship or whether they have any children. All we know is that she is female and she is British. I suspect the lawyers at Associated Newspapers checked this one very thoroughly before letting it go to press.

With newspapers and the media stepping up their campaigns against Britain being the libel capital of the world - Arnie Schwarzenegger's California has passed a law preventing our libel rulings from being applicable in their jurisidiction, for God's sake - it makes me wonder where all this is going to lead. Are we soon going to see adverts from legal firms such as Schillings or Carter Ruck on the TV, advertising in the same way as those ambulance-chasers at the no-win, no-fee legal firms on daytime television? There's a new market there for the legal sharks, though I suspect it would be Jeremy Kyle's worst nightmare come true.

The worrying thing is, I can almost imagine what it would look and sound like. You'd have the obligatory modestly attractive in a very ugly kind of way woman in front of the camera - or the obligatory former EastEnders actor, in the case of one of them - saying something along the lines of "Have you got a story you'd rather people didn't know about? Perhaps you've had an affair that you want to keep hidden from the public? Maybe you have sponsorship deals that could be in jeopardy were unfavourable information to come out about you? Well, that's no problem!

"Here at [insert name of legal firm here], we've got the best lawyers in the country available who can make sure that nobody finds out anything you don't want them to know. Our team is here 24 hours a day, ready to take your call and get you the injunction that you need. Believe it or not, but you do have the right to privacy. Even when that right involves inviting the media in when it's convenient and shutting them out when they want to report something you don't like, you can now call the shots! If you win, you can force the losing side to pay your costs. If you lose, you'll have to pay us yourself. But so what? You're stinking rich anyway. So what are you waiting for? Call the number on-screen now or visit the website. We're waiting to hear from you.".

At this point, you'd probably hear a crappy little jingle. I can just about see this happening too...

* I shouldn't have to state it with these sorts of threads, but I do. Comments are on and you are welcome to say what you think, but behave yourselves. Any information which could breach a court order will be deleted, so don't waste your time. Comment moderation is a bore, but it'll be switched on if necessary.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roadworks

I don't know if it's just me, but there seems to be an awful lot of road re-surfacing work going on in my area at the moment. Your Reaper doesn't think it's been especially well-timed, to say the least. Winter's kicking off shortly, the clocks are going back this Saturday night, and it's going to be dark come about five o'clock.

Not to mention the weather's pretty shit. Though arguably, it always is. I know there's never an ideal time to do roadworks, but the timing seems rather daft, to be honest.

Anyone else seeing this where they are?

The Grim Reaper's Christmas Catalogue

Are you searching for that ideal Christmas gift? That present for that someone who you never know what to get? Then you could far better than buy this book. Yes, it turns out that Gordon Brown's brand new book, which is due to be called "Beyond The Crash" and appears to have a cover which shows Gordon biting his fingernails, is due out on December 7th here in the UK. Just in time for Christmas, and just in time for you not to buy it!

According to Gordon, the book will contain his "analysis of the financial crisis. I wanted to help explain how we got here, but more importantly to offer some recommendations as to how the next stage of globalisation can be managed so that the economy..." Zzz....

Sorry, nodded off there. Where was I? Erm... ah yes. Amazingly, the lovely people at Simon & Schuster who are publishing Gordon's book have somehow managed to get the book down to a relatively manageable - but most likely still completely unreadable - 336 pages. Which makes me think that Gordon spending several hours every single week writing thousands of words for the book instead of, say, going to Parliament and representing his constituents was something of a waste of time. It looks like most of what he wrote will never make it in. Just as well for the rest of us, really.

The publishers say the book will cost £20. You don't need your Reaper to tell you that there are considerably better things you could purchase as Christmas gifts for the aforementioned £20.

If you liked this recommendation, you have no life. Or you are Ellie Gellard. Either way, seek help. Now.

But if you didn't like it, here's another recommendation. How about this Gordon Brown face mask from the Partyrama website, as pictured on the left-hand side of this post?
Be sure to order now in time for Hallowe'en. Great for scaring the children!

Does anyone still respect the Police Farce these days?

That dwindling band of people who still actually believe the police is on their side will probably shrink in number in a minute or two. Take a look at this.

"Three police officers were sent to measure how much space a car was taking up - after a retired superintendent complained a neighbour was parked too close. Anthony Green, a former Lancashire Constabulary chief, called police complaining he could not get into his driveway without mounting the kerb. Three officers were duly dispatched with a measuring tape to check the ex-superintendent's concerns. The case ended with the neighbour suing for wrongful arrest after he was taken into custody. He has now been awarded £5,000 in damages."

There's no other word for it. Fail.

There truly is no hope

A word in advance - don't worry, I'm not going to make a regular thing of this. But according to my Google Analytics page, between September 27th and October 26th, this blog had a total of 1,466 absolute unique visitors. Click for the big version.


On the one hand, your Reaper is impressed and quite touched. The blog started on September 19th officially, but due to a cock-up on my part, Google Analytics wasn't able to start collecting data until the 27th. Thank you all for reading the blog, thanks to those of you who leave comments, thanks to those of you who follow the Twitter account, thanks to those of you who email me with various stuff. I'm fairly pleased that I've got 1,466 visitors in the first month alone.

On the other hand, your Reaper is now extremely worried for the sanity of the human race. There's nearly 1,500 people who actually read this?!

You mean people foresaw the recession?!?!

Charles Bean photographed last night, possibly
shoving Mervyn King's head inside the turkey.
Does the name Charles Bean ring a bell? It does to your Reaper.
Fresh from his previous disaster, Le Fuckwit Extraordinnaire has put his foot in it once more. This time, he's admitted that the Bank of England completely failed to foresee the recession coming. Oh, and he's also criticised the public and the media for having the temerity to expect that the central bank, which he's deputy governor of, really should have some idea about these things.

Listen up, Bean. The Grim Reaper is only going to say this to you once, because frankly, I'm starting to really lose my patience with you. There are several banks around the world, several financial organisations around the world, which saw this disaster coming on from a mile off. The Bank of International Settlements saw this. Several Middle Eastern countries saw it coming. Numerous banks in the likes of Asia saw it was on the way. Heck, just about any member of the public who'd thought about it for a few minutes would have foreseen what was going to happen.

And despite Gordon Brown's protestations, deep down, even he knew that this was coming. Don't believe me? Look back to the budgets in 2005 and 2006. Amidst the usual obfuscation in his budgets were tacit admissions that public spending was not going to be rising as quickly in the following years. It would still rise, but by a much slower rate than beforehand. Strangely enough, nobody seems to have picked up on this. Did it not seem unusual to anyone? The man pissed money away like there was no tomorrow, and suddenly he was being all cautious and careful. Didn't this seem rather out of character?

The recession proved that wasn't the case. If anything, Gordon was wasting money even more shamelessly during the recession than beforehand. So the only conclusion I can reach is that he knew this was on the way, along with the Treasury.

Give Charlie Bean and the entire board of the Bank of England the sack. And whilst you're at it, haul Gordon Brown to court to answer for his crimes against this country.

Anyone fancy a pint?

Perhaps this is the sort of establishment you could find The Reaper in someday?


* Seen over at Twenty Major's place.

Have a politician sacked - start a false rumour


"A council leader has sacked one of his predecessors from his cabinet over 'untrue rumours' about the possible closure of a cinema. Denbighshire leader Hugh Evans said Rhiannon Hughes had not corrected 'misleading' talk about the Scala Cinema and Arts Centre in Prestatyn. He said she undermined his position and damaged the council's reputation, after it pledged commitment to the centre. She voiced disappointment and said her 'responsibility is with the community'."

Has nobody considered the fact that, if every single politician could be removed from office on the grounds they failed to correct untrue rumours about something or other, we'd probably have a new Prime Minister every week of the year? Come to think of it, there'd be almost no one else left either?

Actually, on second thoughts... let the sackings commence!

Call Me David Milošević!


David Cameron yesterday,
as depicted by the mind of
Sunny Hundal. Probably.

Your Reaper really cannot understand the fuss regarding the alleged "social cleansing" that's due to take place in the likes of London, as documented by Liberal Conspiracy. Quite frankly, I find it all rather baffling. Sunny Hundal notes that a Tory MP said last night: "We are going to be packing trains full of the poor and most disadvantaged and packing them off to outer London.".

My view? I honestly have to question how much of this is going to happen. There's already reports doing the rounds that the current plans are due to be watered down, so not much is for certain yet. However, if there is indeed going to be a "social cleansing", I'd argue this might not necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Allow me to explain myself. I happen to believe that London as a city is vastly over-rated. Hence partly why I don't live anywhere near the place. The place is absolutely filthy, for starters. The last time I stayed down in London, I had to have a shower at the end of each day due to the amount of pollution and dirt around. Getting around the city is a pain in the arse and takes forever, although there's certainly no shortage of transport around. And don't get me started on the Tube. If you forced cattle to travel in those conditions - packed in like sardines into tiny carriages which get ridiculously hot in the afternoons - you'd end up in court. Yet it's acceptable to transport human beings in those conditions. Weird.

Slobodan Milošević yesterday,
as depicted by the mind of
Sunny Hundal. Probably.
My view is that people are entitled to live wherever they want, as long as they're funding it themselves. You want to live in Central London? I think you'd have to be mad to do so, but if you're paying for it yourself, go right ahead. Don't expect anyone else to pay for the privilege. If you're taking taxpayers money, and you're complaining that the forthcoming cuts in spending will affect you, that's your own problem. Move to a part of the city where the cost of living is lower.

Alternatively, move out of London altogether. It'll be good for your health. The air out in the country is nice and clean, for starters.

Right, I'm going outside for a few minutes to enjoy the aforementioned fresh air.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Have Failblog seen this yet?


If they haven't already, they soon will.

Seen here.

* Oh, and if you don't know about Failblog, you really don't know the internet very well.

Just thinking about this makes me grow old

Your Reaper has, in the past, read pieces by several libertarian bloggers describing national insurance as effectively nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. My favourite one was written by Devil's Knife earlier this year, back in his Devil's Kitchen days. I would link to it, but almost everything written under the Kitchen name has disappeared, so I can't do a thing about it.

Personally, I believe that the state pension is effectively like a pyramid scheme. Basically, everything works fine when you have a small number of people receiving money being paid into a fund by a significantly larger number of people. Indeed, the idea behind the state pension is reasonable enough. However, the problem in the last few years is that the birth rate in the UK has been falling. It's increasing again now, mostly due to immigration. This means that there are a lot more people at the top than there were and fewer at the bottom. If this continues, there will ultimately be more at the top of the pyramid than the bottom. There won't be enough money coming in, and the whole system would eventually collapse.
Which is why government has been tinkering frantically for the last few years with the pensions system. Labour started all this, although their solution was blinkered by the fact they believed there was an endless pot of money available and that anyone saying the state pyramid, sorry, state pension could collapse was dismissed as a Tory apologist. They introduced Pensions Act 2008, which meant that people would be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme unless they explicitly stated they didn't want to.

It was essentially a sticking plaster solution, merely to cover the cracks in the system. The Tories know that this system is ultimately unaffordable, but they won't admit this in public, for fear of being branded "nasty" or something equally silly. So what have they done? Ah yes, they've decided they're going to force the private sector to pay for all this instead. From 2012, every UK business will be forced to provide a company pension scheme, no matter what size it is.

Once again, the unpalatable truth is being conveniently ignored for selfish political reasons. The disturbing truth for the younger generation is that eventually, the state pension system is going to collapse. It's already becoming completely unaffordable, and the problem is getting worse every day. Indeed, your Reaper is still a very young man, and he can honestly foresee a time in the next 50 years or so when this becomes a reality.

The thought rather terrifies me, to be honest. What on earth are the alternatives to making sure you have a comfortable retirement? After all, I'm hoping to work hard for many, many more years and I want to be able to live in some comfort when I decide to hang up my cap. Many investment funds have also collapsed, and property doesn't seem to be anything like the reliable sort of source for funding a retirement that it's been made out to be in the past.

Help!

Has someone bin had here?


"A PAIGNTON woman wants £5,000 compensation from Torbay Council claiming ‘unsightly’ green wheeled bins have decreased the value of her property. She is encouraging other residents to follow suit. Judie Chisholm, 57, from Clifton Grove, says she does not object to recycling but she claims the ‘bulky’ bins that are ‘unsuitable’ for her needs have killed off her property’s ‘kerb appeal’. She has written to Torbay Council’s legal department informing them of her intention to claim compensation and is encouraging as many other Bay residents as possible to join her in action against the local authority."

Judie, there are simpler solutions to this problem, you know. The one I propose doesn't even involve spending a lot of money on a lawyer. Why not just take your rubbish to the skip once a week? It's pretty much where the council intend to take your rubbish anyway - if they bother collecting it at all, that is.

Although your idea about wanting to see a council tax rates that "mirrors the £10million of savings the authority says it will make during the next decade" has some merit, admittedly. They say when you take out a mortgage that the value of your house can go down as well as up. Perhaps council tax bills should by law be forced to state that the bill can only go up.

Another day, another Facebook campaign, another Xmas No. 1, another post title re-used

Over the weekend, I ended up catching some of The X Factor. On the whole, your Reaper would file this show under the brain-wilting category. Not that this especially matters on a Saturday and Sunday night, you understand. Aside from a few people - Treyc Cohen, Matt Cardle and Mary Byrne - I think this year's show is pretty dismal.

My girlfriend predicted that last weekend, the one to leave the show would be Wagner - or Wanker as your Reaper prefers to call him. I predicted, in turn, that he would stay on the show. Sadly, I proved to be right. Even his car-crash performance of "Living La Vida Loca" kept him in.

Now it emerges there's yet another Facebook campaign to try and get a different Christmas number one. First, it was John Cage's silent piece 4'33". Then, it was The Trashmen's "Surfing Bird". Now, it's... whatever tune Wanker, sorry, Wagner makes when he's finally kicked off the show.

Me? I've never looked forward to January so much.



Baby Peter Connelly was failed by the state, says review

That's what the report which has finally been published into the horrific circumstances regarding his death says. Your Reaper honestly thinks it couldn't be much more damning. Every single person who could have done something to prevent his death - one that "could and should have been prevented", according to the minister, badly let him down. Frankly, it's as if nobody cared for the poor guy.

I remember reading, when the story first came to light, about the brutal way this boy had been treated. A few years on, I'm no less angry than before. If anything, I'm even more so. And it's not just because of the way he died and nothing was done about it. It's because of the way the major players in the story refused to own up to any wrongdoing, or even refused to accept they might have some responsibility for his death. Sharon Shoesmith? Tried to go to court on the laughable assertion she was "wrongfully dismissed". Maria Ward? Attempted the same trick. Gillie Christou? Same again. "Doctor" Sabah Al-Zayyat? Claimed to be feeling suicidal and was unable to face a disciplinary hearing.

Same old, same old. Now, is there any chance that Edward Michael Balls will kindly explain why he wanted this report kept secret? We're waiting, Blinky...

* Feel free to comment on this one, but I do request that you behave yourselves. Your Reaper doesn't like moderating comments, but he will if he has to.

Your Reaper and a bad bout of GP Reception-itis

Your helpful local receptionist
working hard this morning.
Your Reaper notices that Wrinkled Weasel isn't happy today. I think his tangent about women in lower-level customer services being poorer at their work than men working in the same jobs is questionable enough, but the example he provides deserves more analysis.

When one is talking about GP receptionists - or indeed, receptionists at just about any hospital in existence - one has to remember at all times that they are experts on every known medical ailment and disease on the planet. They also know absolutely everything there is to know about a large number of medical ailments and diseases that no one else seems to have found out about yet as well. Generally speaking, the GP receptionist exists solely to avoid you from seeing the doctor when all other methods of preventing you from seeing the doctor whose wages you probably pay in your taxes have failed.

I remember up until a few years ago, all I had to do to see my GP was phone a local number and I'd be able to get an appointment with any of the practice's three doctors quickly enough. If I wasn't able to get one the same day, I'd definitely be able to see them the next day. The receptionists were generally very helpful and actually helped me to see the doctor when I needed to.

Then, someone from health and safety came along and said the large house which was being used for the surgery was no longer suitable. The stairs were no good for someone with a disability, you see. On one level, that's entirely fair enough. On the other hand, it was bloody stupid. At least one doctor and one nurse were based in rooms that were downstairs and the doors in the building were huge. Perfectly functional, but not for the jobsworth.

The local authority was told to build a "health centre" in its place. Up went a brand spanking, shiny new building and that was where the surgery would be based from now on, alongside a wealth of other services previously not available. All would be well from now on, we were told. Initially, I believed them. Unfortunately, as soon as I needed to use it, it quickly became apparent all was not well. All was quite shit, truth be told.

Firstly, the old local phone number had been scrapped and replaced with an expensive 0845 number. Secondly, instead of simply getting through to one of the reception staff who'd been there for donkey's years and knew exactly how everything worked, you now had to go through a series of menus where you'd eventually find an option to talk to an "assistant" to book an appointment and such.

When I got down there, the car park is absolutely crap, with spaces that people who even drove little Mini cars would have trouble getting into. And then there's the receptionists...

Turned out all the old ones had been transferred to new duties - only to be replaced by some women whose job appeared to simply be a pain in the arse. No matter what the query was, you'd find yourself being stonewalled or simply told to get the answer to your question elsewhere. Wanted to book in for an appointment? You'd immediately be sent to a computer which asked you a million questions and would still not find your appointment in it. Wanted to find out which room your doctor was in? The reply would usually consist of the receptionist pretending to be really busy, pointing with one finger in a vague direction and generally sounding like you'd rather you weren't there. Service with a smile, my arse.

As a man, I already hate going to the doctors as it is. Not due to any embarrassment on my part on discussing health issues with my doctor, you understand. Rather because frankly, dealing with their bloody receptionists makes me makes me feel worse than I was when I went in.

I wonder if you can get any medication which makes dealing with them easier? The pharmaceuticals are missing a trick here...