Friday, May 25, 2007

This Week I Have Been Mostly....

...messing about with Facebook. It is horribly addictive. I opened an account on it about a year ago, but it was boring because no-one else was on it. Now, everyone is on it, and I seem to want to check it for updates every 5 minutes. This can not be healthy.

This week I have also got my Powerbook back. Woo Hoo! It took over four weeks, and in the end the whole motherboard was changed. But I didn't pay a penny for fixing it. Which is nice. I HEART Apple.

My life without my laptop has been very different; I've read three books (good), I've watched more TV (bad), I've started buying Private Eye again (v.good), I gave money to the evil Murdoch empire, by buying The Times everyday just for the Killer Sudoku (v.bad), and I've blogged less (I'll let you decide). I will try and take some of these better changes with me into my renewed laptop-containing life, but I will stop buying The Times.

One thing that hasn't changed though is that FGW are still late. No trains have been really late, just consistently 5-10 min late. Which, to be honest, I'm getting used to and beginning to ignore -It think I've turned into a commuter! I am becoming immune to 10 minute delays and shrug them off without a moments thought. It's taken 8 months, but apathy is starting to slip in. The bastards have ground me down, and I'm ready to give in. This is what happens to commuters.
Damn it.

Thankfully help is at hand for the apathetic protester. After reading Mark Thomas' fantastic book about the UK arms trade, As Used On The Famous Nelson Mandela (I highly recommend), I was browsing his website when I came across a company he has set up called McDemos. This company organise bespoke demonstrations on the topic of your choice without having to leave the comfort of your chair (or more importantly give FGW money by going to London in my spare time). Demonstrations start at just 99p for a 30 second demo. I was feeling flush and went for the £5 happy Demo option, which includes all the proper paperwork. So in the words of a famous 80's tv programme; why don't you go and do the same?

It doesn't have to be a demo against FGW, this company is set up to make a mockery of the serious organised crime and police act (SOCPA) which stops people freely expressing their opinion outside Parliament without permission of the police. Maybe you could protest against having an unelected Prime Minister or MPs who are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, it's up to you. But as Mark Thomas says on his website...

If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.

Picture from harryharris on

Thursday, May 17, 2007


as defined in the dictionary;


1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

2. a state having such a form of government.

3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.

4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.

Read that definition again, and take in every last word of it.

We, in the United Kingdom are supposed to live in a democratic society. We are given the opportunity to vote for our MEPs, MPs and councillors. Hell, if you are a member, then you probably have a say in who's on the committee of your local Women's Institute or pub darts team. Almost every aspect of our community is based upon the fact that we all have the same rights (point 3), and as such have an equal right to chose who we want to take the supreme power as our elected officials (point 1).

Democracy works only if our democratically elected officials can be held to account by the people who voted for them (more on this later). In this way, if (or more realistically, when) an official is seen to be corrupt, or not doing their job to a sufficient standard, we can vote for someone else and ask them to do the job instead. Simple really.... when it works.

However it doesn't always work out that simply, and two key blows to the democratic system are on the horizon this week, and I'm pissed off about both.

Firstly, Gordon Brown. Know anyone who likes him? No, me neither. But that's beside the point. Know anyone who voted for him? Unless you live in Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath the answer to this question is, No.

Take another look at definition 1 for democracy. The supreme power (running the country) should be exercised by an agent elected by the people under a free electoral system. And yet the supreme power of this country is about to pass to a man that no-one has voted for. So why is this happening?

Well, it's a long story, which I'm sure you all know, but basically Ant got a new toy in 1997, and he said he'd only play with it for a while, then he's let his mate Gordie have a go. However, Ant played with his toy for ages and ages, and when he finally got bored of playing with the toy, everyone decided Gordie should be allowed to play with it a while, after all, he was promised a go.

Two grown men fighting over who gets to play with a toy. Sounds stupid, doesn't it? But this isn't a toy, it's the running of this country, and who does that job should be decided by the people of this country, not by one man who promised another man he could have a go later. It's absurd.

I'm not naive enough to think that just because Blair is resigning I should have a say in who replaces him, but this country voted for a Labour government at the last election. The Labour party was at that time led by Tony Blair, a man elected by all members of the Labour party. If I was a member, I'd be livid that I don't have a say in who replaces him.

It is a joke that way less than 45 Labour MPs (be they Brownites or not) had the balls to back John McDonnell so that at least a token gesture of democracy could take place (though that gesture would probably have been Gordon waving two fingers). Even Robert Mugabe manages to arrange fake elections in Zimbabwe so that he could point and say "look there's democracy in action." It's gonna look a bit stupid now when Brown lectures the Iraqi people on "embracing democracy." Why should they Gordon? You've shown quite brilliantly that it's much more effective to gain power with dodgy deals, back-handers and bullying.

So, on to my second point, and this is turning into quite some rant (obviously been saving up for a while since my last post), so I'll try to keep this short.

On Friday an amendment to the Freedom of Information act is being debated in the house of commons. This amendment, if passed, would make make all communications between MPs (your elected representatives) and public authorities, exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Basically it would mean that your MP would become unaccountable. You would not be able to find out for example, what expenses they claimed, or what opinions they had given to local planning applications etc. This motion is presented by the Tory's and is also supported by a number of Labour MPs.

That's not what democracy is about. Your MP should be accountable to you. That way you can tell them what you think about them next time you have the opportunity to do so.

This is what democracy is about: Go here, write to your MP, tell him/her that you believe that as democratically elected officials they should be accountable and their actions visible. And that you urge them to stop this bill going through parliament. If enough of you write, they will listen; that's how democracy works. And you can always look at how they voted on this site, and ask them why they were such a pillock next time they knock on your door.

Picture from

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rude Companies

A and I are getting married later this year. It's not going to be a massively lavish do, but with all our friends there it's gonna be one pretty sweet party.

Given there are more than 6 months to go, we are pretty organised too; we've booked the church, hall & caterers, A has found her dream dress under budget (best not to ask what the budget was though!) and I have nearly nailed down the bestest student band in the world to play at the reception.

Hopefully it's plain sailing all the way now. Just filling in around the edges, if you will. So last week my job was to try and find a company to set up and run a bar at the venue.

A and I are both fans of real ale and we had hoped to have one of the local breweries run the bar for us, so that we could show off the best local ales to our guests. So imagine my joy when walking home from the station last week I spotted an Abbey Ales van driving through Bath, with the slogan "Mobile Bars - We Bring The Beer To You" (or something to that effect) written on the side. Woo Hoo - I'm in luck here, and I don't even need to dig out the yellow pages.

Next day I rattled off an e-mail with my details asking how much they charge for their services. Hoping that all breweries ran the same service I also fired off an enquiry to Bath Ales, who, in my humble opinion brew superior beers to Abbey ales, and would be my first choice beverage provider.

Two days past and I heard nothing. So I consulted the yellow pages and fired off e-mails to four more companies, this time specialists in providing bars at, what would otherwise be, dry social events.

That was last Thursday, and I've heard diddly-squat from them too.

Six companies; none of whom have even the courtesy to e-mail me back and say "Sorry we can't help you". How do businesses survive if they don't even reply to enquiries from people offering to pay for their services?

I know you always get a much more satisfactory answer from actually phoning people and speaking to them, as e-mails are very easy to ignore, but this is the 21st century, people expect to get replies to e-mails. It's just rude not to.

Pictures from