A while ago I mentioned this blog would gradually change into a more open, free-flowing account on anything that interested me about the public sector. I should have added ‘and beyond’. On this the longest day of the year I am posting the account I kept of my day. I’ve edited a few personal details out. I know that for a blog it’s far too long. But today I don’t care.
Woke at 6.10 a.m. Decided to take the road less travelled on these occasions – to wake up and get up. The road more travelled of course is to roll over, close eyes and go back to sleep. Instead I resolved to start and maintain an extended diary entry on ‘the longest day.’
So far – 35 minutes – it has been one of unremitting greyness and gloom. Greyness outside where the weather looks set to fulfil the forecast made of it yesterday – cloud followed later by rain. At the moment the sky is just filled with high, uniform grey cloud, not a break in it anywhere.
Switched the radio on at 6.20 a.m. and the greyness continued on Radio 4 – the Today programme with John Humphries and Jim Naughtie.
Some investment adviser was talking about a ‘fire sale’ (‘It’s not quite that yet’) of assets by banks in the hardest-hit Eurozone countries. It seems they are ‘restructuring’ their businesses to dispose of ‘equity shares in a wide range of companies’ as well as ‘portfolios of debt.’ Oh God, the number of times I’ve wanted to buy a portfolio of debt. How much better it would make me feel. ‘Who’s buying them?’ asked the journalist. The phrase ‘private equity’ was mentioned.
Yesterday it was revealed that a millionaire comedian (yes, they exist), Jimmy Carr, who would be described in the language of the times as ‘edgy’ and who has a baby face and strange starey eyes (many find him funny, I find him mainly cruel) placed his earnings in a ‘tax efficient’ scheme in the Channel Islands called ‘K2’ (the scheme not the island).
There were cries of outrage led it seems by the presumably less tax-efficient prime minister. Political jumping up and down all round, supporting, condemning, accusing. I assume Mr Carr will be getting additional and specific doses of heckling these next few months and will no doubt work out appropriate humorous and cutting put downs.
Carr announced that his aim was to pay as little tax as possible. Fair enough, I shall make it my aim to laugh as little as possible at his anyhow mostly unfunny humour. There was a brief shot on the TV news last night of his house, a large brick affair with a paved front drive and gates. Clearly not all the money has gone to the Channel Islands. [Update p.m. – Carr now says he’s discontinued using the K2 scheme. He didn’t say when.]
Meanwhile back at Radio 4, the ‘banks’ item was followed by sport and some talk about a racehorse by its trainer, one of the inevitable Irishman they always seem to wheel out when there is a horse race that is said to be of some note. It is what is called Ladies’ Day at Ascot today so this apparently matters. There was mention of England (that is England as in the organisation that runs the national football team) being fined £4,000 by something called EUFA for a ‘pitch invasion’ or perhaps it was an attempted invasion, by ‘fans’ in the current European Cup competition.
In the run up to the 6.30 a.m news, the programme provided an update on the UK national ‘strike’ of doctors today (I write the word in inverted commas because they say it is not a strike, they will still attend to patients who are ill). Their first national industrial action in 40 years they (or their trade union, the mis-leadingly named British Medical Association) state in mitigation.
The radio gave us the essential details. A GP earning £120,000 – it seems they can – currently retires at 60 on a pension of £48,000 with a lump sum of £140,000. They are objecting to proposals to move them to the lesser pension terms and conditions that many other public sector workers have had to accept. It must be difficult for them to get any public sympathy for their desperate plight.
Perhaps Jimmy Carr will lampoon the medics on TV for their greed.
All terribly important and as ephemeral as the blink of an eyelid. The news followed at 6.30 a.m. and apart from the items already noted that preceded the news and may have been summarised again none of it gladdened my heart so much that I could remember it half an hour later.
So far all is silence in the house. I have switched the radio off. I can hear the tick of a small clock in front of me on the windowsill but that is all. The one cat in the house lay in her basket, looked at me, yawned when I approached her, rolled on one side to exposes her giblets for stroking, purred, and watched me indifferently as I walked away.
I shall now stop writing to commence the essential tasks of any day – switch my internet browser on, check the half dozen sites I do every day, and then go for a shower. I may even enjoy some more unremitting gloom from the radio.
8 a.m. The Radio 4 news, complete with unremitting gloom …
- Doctors’ industrial action
- Education Secretary of State Michael Gove’s (educated at the private Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen) proposal to reintroduce O Levels in England
- Invitation by HMG to ruler of Burma to visit the UK as both ‘reward and incentive’
- Continuing attempts of Egyptian military to thwart people’s desire for democracy (Why? Well, inter alia they run a number of profit-making companies) by postponing announcement of the result of the presidential election. Since it was a run-off between an ex-general/Mubarak henchman and a Muslim Brother not much progressive change either way can be expected
- Civil servant suggests public sector cuts could continue for ten years – shock, horror, yawn
- Greek political crisis and attempts by their government to get conditions attached to their international loans alleviated
- Spanish inability to sell bonds on the markets…next Euro government needing a ‘bail out’?
- 0800 telephone numbers and ‘scandal’ that insurance cos. etc. only allow new customers to use these free numbers.
8.50 a.m. Last night (said Radio 4) was the summer solstice at 23:09 precisely. I went into the garden at midnight to see if I could get a photo of the light. 100% cloud cover. Not possible.
10 a.m. Now fiddling around wasting time on the web…
12.10 p.m.– alerted by a tweet, watching the wonderful videos created by Matt Harding on the ‘Where the hell is Matt?’ web site. Still grey outside but no rain yet.
2 p.m. to our local Parish Church for the funeral of our late neighbour x aged 89. She and her husband moved out 4/5 years ago to a modern flat that would be easier for both of them, especially him: he pre-deceased her by 2/3 years. A lovely woman remembered simply and beautifully in a service led by the retiring minister.
Came back to realise I was just in time to see the address by Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the Houses of Parliament on the BBC Parliamentary channel. I nearly wrote ‘martyr’ because that’s what she could have been – 24 years mostly under house arrest in her own country isolated from her husband and two sons, her husband Michael Aris, an Oxford academic who died while she was under arrest (she refused to go back to see him when he was dying because of her fear that she would not be allowed back into her country). Known, understandably because of her great dignity, as ‘the lady.’
The BBC, who so comprehensively botched and trivialised the Diamond Jubilee Thames pageant, set precisely the right tone for this event.
The front row of senior Commons parliamentarians (and it seemed ex-PMs) comprised – Cameron, Milliband E, Cherie Blair (presumably for Tony, absent no doubt earning money), Gordon Brown (understandable) but also Sarah B. Why her? When ASSK was chatting to others nearby, she took a pic of her with what looked like a mobile phone camera. Crass or what? On the basis of the two Bs being there or represented I would have thought John Major might have been afforded the same privilege. But no. Perhaps he was tucked away somewhere else.
10.45 p.m. Just finished watching on BBC4 the wonderful Venezuelan Simon Bolivar Orchestra perform an open air concert in Stirling where ‘La sistema’ seems to be transforming the lives of many of the children on the Raploch estate. And so, as the great Pepys wrote, to bed.