Saturday 24 March 2012

I'm a mite bit worried!

The NHS in England is introducing a Summary Care Record whereby your medical details and history will be available to medical personel seemingly all over the country at the touch of a button. In a way no problem but alarm bells are ringing and I'll tell you why. Am I being unecessarily wary. I would not like to stand in the way of progress BUT!!!
Only last week the Sunday Times uncovered a scam involving call centres in India. Some unscupulous workers were/are offering credit card details of individual customers for 2 pence a shot! They could be your or my details, there are 500,000 British customers and 330.000 call centre workers in India. Information passed on included confidential details of both a health and financial matters.The scale of the problem is unknown.
Now three items that are not gleaned from the press. Last week my wife attended hospital concerning a serious heart problem. The hospital is massive, new, modern. We (I attended for support) move twice through two waiting areas as we followed procedures. Eventually a pleasant little consultant popped his head out of his room and called out 'Mrs Stevens.' My wife duly followed the smiling little man and entered his room.
She thought it strange when he asked about her brother and referred to her anxieties on her previous visit. And thought it increasingly strange when he assured her the tests had all proved negative. Mainly because as yet my wife, after some considerable time has not reached the testing stage! A covert glance at her file gave my wife her answer. 'I'm Paulette Stevens' announced my wife, 'the file you have there belongs to a **** Stevens.' Embarrassment and apologies all round. Compounded by the fact that the other lady of the same surname was in the consulting room of the consultant my wife should have seen in the first place. No real harm done, as one of the consultants said. 'You're lucky, seeing two doctors for the price of one.'  BUT the implications as to what might have happened are interesting.
 A lady of my acquaintance, of impecable standing and morality, over fifties years married had reason to be tested following ill health. She was duly sent for and informed of the results. 'Sorry but you have venereal    disease!' Imagine the shock to anyone, never mind an elderly lady. Plus the consultant was adament the tests were correct. There could be no mistake. As the lady exclaimed, 'I must have inherited it, I assure you.' Fortunately her husband found it funny. And the reason, a mix up again of two people of the same surname; result, one written apology. Which is better than nothing, or is it.
A cousin of mine and her husband, living in the wilds of Lincolnshire had to travel twenty five miles for hospital treatment. One one occasion there was much confusion and dispute over records and National Insurance details. It turned out that someone had the husband's details, and the paperwork to prove it. Don't ask me how plus he was drawing benefits to which he had no entitlement. Which is of course both bizarre and criminal.  
If these are experiences from my little sheltered existence, how typical of our complex technological world I wonder. And it does all make you wonder what happens to all this information on us that is recorded and stored. Machines, commuters, systems rely on humam beings and I don't particularly trust human beings. What do you think? 

Saturday 17 March 2012

Subtle change, Blink and You Miss it.

    An Indian reader recently took me to task for daring to suggest India was a Third World country. (The point I was making if I rightly remember was that your survival in early years was partly dependent on where you are born.) The writer seemingly had qualifications, lived in a city and had an 'important' job. All very interesting. A recent Indian government report states that more Indian households have a mobile phone than a toilet. (private toilets 4% of population) 17% need to fetch water from more than a kilometre away. Only 2.3% of households have a car; 66% of Indians still cook on firewood, cow-dung, crop waste or coal. I suspect, sadly that too many either do not know how the other half live or are in denial.

    I am seventy two years of age. So I clearly remember life and changes over the past sixty plus years. You might find some of the following interesting. They are NOT world shattering observations, just small things in the main that show subtle changes in one man's lifetime.
Toys at Christmas and birthdays. In particular I remember a small, around 4 inch long jeep. A WIND-UP toy. I wonder at what stage wind-ups vanished from the scene. (It was my eight year old grandson Tommy's birthday this week. Presents included an IPod and a Wii game.) 
I also had a pocket watch, again wind-up. I probably swapped it for something else. Much, much later in life I had a computerish type watch that was all singing, all dancing. (The children I taught in the seventies had noisy alarms on watches that went off in lessons until I took a fire bucket into a lesson!) When did this sort of technology creep in I wonder.
    I had a bike, second hand with a dynamo that created light by a wheely thing rubbing against a tyre. Hard work, the faster you peddled, the brighter the light. I remember it well!
We collected BRS numbers and the obligatory locomotive numbers and names. Gradually diesel trains became the norm, far less interesting than their dirty, smokey predecessors.
We listened to Dick Barton on the radio and in the blink of an eye he was no more. They filled in our canals, called schools comprehensives and built bypasses round town. (Derby has just completed an inner ring road designed forty years ago!)
    People worry when they start to forget things. For goodness sake, what do you expect if you live to be over thirty! I remember the first Eagle comic (1950) and the moon landings; (1969) they have specific dates. Most things do not; like us, they just fade away. Remember drip dry shirts. Where and when did they go. When did you last see a 'What the Butler Saw' in an amusement arcade? Do you remember 78 records going and did you have a Dansette record player? I remember when they hanged people for murder in this country (In the morning whilst we were in school assembly) but wireless accumulaters and cameras with a film in them, not so sure; nylon stockings with seams, horses delivering milk and groceries, dubbin and smog, all gone.
    By the way, my Indian friend, I too lived in a house with no inside toilet. A pair of toilets, side by side down the garden. With pans underneath that they emptied on Fridays. But all a long time ago. Happy days!

Saturday 10 March 2012

February, from the Sublime to the Ridiculous; Grumpys Alternative News.

There's nothing like people to make the news. Some examples who caught my eye.

Forty elderly people were arrested on Cyprus for holding weekly poker and bridge sessions. On player was ninety eight! Now you know what to do to keep you young.
A lady in Kent has unusual symptoms after a bout of flue. Birmingham born Debie Royston now speaks with a French accent. Evidently its called Foreign Accent Syndrome.
A man who rambled naked except for his boots and a baseball cap was fined £315 in Leeds Magistrates Court. What particularly amused me was that he kept score of people's reactions. (Adverse versus positive.) Evidently it was 15 to 0 positive until someone took offence!
Another case at Leeds Crown Court involved Michael Rogers of Castleford. He was a juror in a sex trial but stopped attending half way through. His reason, it was 'really boring.' Result, costs of £16,000 and the case had to be rescheduled. No further action was taken because of his 'dire financial circumstances.'
What else can a judge do!
A man was arrested down a manhole in Essex but pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal copper cable. I would love to know exactly what he told police he was doing. He was found guilty!
And a woman worker who was fired by a Brazilian branch of Weight Watchers after she put on 3st. is suing them for unfair dismissal. Again exactly what do you say in your defence in such a case?

When does 'funny' become serious? Xavier Alvarez evidently is an habitual liar. He lies about everything. Which is acceptable, I am led to believe, (guess where, folks) until you overstep the mark. (A court ruled 'it would be terrifying if the truth police could go after people for the exaggerations and deceptions that are an integral part of human intercourse.')
Xavier claimed dishonestly to be a holder of the Medal of Honor and that is an offence under the Stolen Valour Act. EXCEPT that he has now claimed everyone has the right to lie under the First Amendment. Evidently it all went to the Supreme Court. Any of my American friends care to share with us all the outcome?
Lest I'm accused of American bias, they do come up with good sense occasionally. Joseph Bray of Florida was violent towards his wife and landed up in court charged with domestic assault. His wife pleaded for leniency. His sentence? He was ordered to buy his wife flowers, take her to out for a meal at the Red Lobster Restaurant and then take her bowling. Nice one, Brown County Judge John Hurley.
Two contrasting police stories. Deputy Chief Constable Adam Briggs retired rather than explain how he spent an expense claim for £11,750 given him by North Yorkshire Police Authority. The Independent Police Complaints Commission are not happy. Such arrogance frightens and depresses me.
For 31 years, 1957-88 policeman Pavel Grechikhin stood at a traffic junction in Belgorod. He fined pedestrians who jaywalked, and kept traffic in order, fairly, without favour. (He even fined his own wife for crossing at the wrong place whilst bringing him his dinner!) A bronze statue has been erected in his memory. Don't you believe Russia is the land of corruption and the UK is squeaky clean.

Laugh or cry time.
An Australian born community warden is taking Kent County Council to the European Court of Human Rights because he's fed up with his colleagues greeting him with "G'day sport."
Portcullis House (an MP's office block) has been costing you and me £30,000 a year to pay for a dozen fig trees for decoration. The contract has not been renewed.
I know the police try to be helpful but how much does it cost to come up with guidelines on plants around the house to keep thieves off your property. Plus listing rhubarb is dubious; are the authors gardeners, its not exactly a lightning fast grower. (Metropolitan guidelines.)
I thought the criminal who donned a wig and gown to defend a mate in Plymouth Crown Court deserved a medal for nerve if not for brain power. So now he's in court as well charged with 'wilfully pretending to be a person with a right of audience.
Talking of crime and criminals, a restaurant has opened inside Cardiff Prison run by the prisoners. Serving three course meals with food sourced from the prison farm, I think it will do well. And its name, The Clink of course!
Luckiest people in the month seemed to have been refuse workers and street cleaners. Refuse workers in Cleethorpes found £2,700 in £20 notes whilst sorting through commercial waste. Its not been claimed and they've kept £150 each and given the rest to charity. Street cleaner Arron Large who works for Southend Council found a £21,000 Rolex watch down a drain. PLUS he's since found two more Rolex's, a Frank Muller watch and an Omega. Total value over £60,000 if no-one claims them!
Finally, who are the happiest people in the UK. Evidently, according to a Government wellbeing survey, the happiest people tend to be married, work part time and live in Northern Ireland. Mind you, the least happy in partnerships were those married forty years or more! And the least happy of all those surveyed? Evidently it was divorced males around forty five years of age who live in London! So now you know. If you want to know some less than useful information come to Grumpy!

Saturday 3 March 2012

Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be. Conclusion.

This piece is the actual end of the ebook I've been preparing. Funny business this writing milarky. An ego trip in a way. Some way to go re the technical side but nearly there I reckon. Don't they say there's a story in everyone waiting to get out. Hope these memories amuse.

'I remember the days when ‘No spitting’ signs were commonplace, particularly on public transport. So much so that a ‘clever dick’ in a local newspaper was moved to pontificate ‘Gentlemen who expectorate should not expect to rate as gentlemen’.
Memories of trains with a unique smell that blew out real soot; times when you wore socks not gloves on your hands to keep out the cold; coats on the bed for added warmth in winter and going to bed in daylight in summer. Omo and Ajax washing powder, Robin starch, Izal toilet paper for the posh and squares of newspaper on a nail for the not so well off. Beecham Powders, Venos Cough Mixture and Iodine, dolly tubs, tin baths and steam, always plenty of steam. Visits from the ‘Pru’ and the ‘tallyman’, both eager to collect money hard earned but easily spent.
The days when you had a choice of mild or bitter in the pub; dark mild to be avoided as the slops of other beers tended to be surreptitiously returned to the mild barrel by some unscrupulous landlords. And a time when some customers used the beer off, a side door to the pub. From where they fetched beer, one, two or four pints, usually in enamel jugs; taken home and drank in the privacy of their own homes.
I Spy Books, plasticine, fuzzy felts and cap guns; basin on your head haircuts, Beecham Pills, Cossor and HMV televisions; Vapex inhalers and Liberty bodices; Zal, Rinso and Quix; Elastoplast and SR toothpaste. Sunlight Soap and Opal Fruits, Dacron and drip dry shirts; brothel creepers and bootlace ties. Roy of the Rovers, ace goal scorer and Alf Tupper, world class sprinter who trained on fish and chips. Brown paper bags and kites made from newspaper. Plus scrap books, French knitting with the aid of a wooden bobbin and honing one’s tracing skills with the aid of greaseproof paper. Epilogues on the television; Bob a Job Week, bubble cars, bus conductors and Berni Inns; Tiger nuts, locust beans and gob-stoppers that changed colours; Formica and H-shaped television aerials dominating the landscape. Lone Ranger masks in puffed wheat packets, collecting BRS lorry numbers, Skiffle and the smell of Germicide toilet paper.
Summers when it never seemed to rain for weeks on end and winters when snow fell with regular abandon, especially at Christmas. Our bikes had poor brakes, our sledges no brakes plus we wore no helmets. We climbed trees, slowly and fell out of them quickly. We drank from wells, streams and public fountains and we shared luke warm water with numerous friends from far from clean bottles. We drank cow’s milk fresh and unpasteurised. We chewed all manner of grasses, bulbs and plants, some species known, others guessed at. We roamed the fields and barbed wire and nettles frequently inflicting pain but soon forgotten.
But the majority of us survived. Happy days! Look back and wonder but with few regrets. Look back and wonder, yes, but look forward too; for this individual at least it’s not over yet. Without becoming maudlin, I hope there were more than just a few laughs along the way. So you too must look in the mirror, wince if you must, but recognise what you see; a unique individual, shaped by life’s idiosyncrasies.'

Any more memories welcome. Any help, advice also welcome. The pictures, by the way are not me or family. Even I'm not that old!