Archive for February, 2009
Are human rights at risk? Inside today’s Guardian Jack Straw argues that Britain is the asylum seekers’ country of choice because people still have more rights and protection here than anywhere else. Oh yes? On the front page of the paper there is another article which gives a clue as to why tomorrow’s Convention on Modern Liberty is sold out in London.
A lot of UK citizens take a different view to Jack Straw. The convention is also happening in cities across the country, including Glasgow, with video streaming as speaker after speaker explains why they are involved. And you can take part online. So though I am late registering this event it is not too late to listen to powerful arguments put by the likes of Helena Kennedy, Shami Chakrabarti. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Vince Cable, Timothy Garton Ash…the impressive list goes on and on.
And never too late to care, though if we don’t pay attention to what is happening now it may be too late to stop very stupid legislation. That Guardian front page story is about Jacquie Smith’s determination to store DNA samples of innocent people for future use. Add to that the Government’s stubborn pledge to carry on with the extraordinary expense of creating a mega database for a national ID card. (Why it makes Fred’s pension look positively cheap.)
“as if Paine, Voltaire and Mill had never existed…”
The Human Rights Act is not an easy read (I wimped out and went for the BBC extract rather than the official site), it attracts the same kind of misinformed scorn, and accumulates almost as many myths, as health and safety regulations. But we should guard with our lives rights to privacy, freedom from torture, freedom from forced labour, freedom of assembly…
So even if it’s too late to go to London you can log on from 9.45 am to the excellent website made by my mate Rob Sharp (here’s the page with the days programme) – and while you are at it read his blog and another view on the arrogance of politicians, many of them lawyers, who assume that we citizens cannot understand such difficult concepts as liberty.
Lets show em. For in Britain as things stand now we are all guilty until proved innocent. While I think of it, dear Jacqui, you must remind me to cc you into every email I send, especially on 15 June. This is one Facebook group worth joining I am so pleased to discover there are so many like minds. As Rob says we are not afraid. Or at least, I think, not nearly as afraid as you claim we are, so stop trying to ‘protect’ us by nibbling away at our rights.
February 27th, 2009
Red squirrel, Blue Motion, what’s the connection?
Well there’s a nice surprise. I just paid my car tax online and it turned out to be a pleasant experience. Not only because a dinky little car guides you along each stage of the journey on the DVLA website but at the end of it the bill was less than a third of what I expected to pay. Last year it cost me over a hundred quid. This time a year’s excise duty is £35. That’s our reward for choosing our new, less polluting (though now quite grubby) Blue Motion Golf.
I’ve had occasional urges to write about cars but until now managed to suppress the inner Clarkson (someone has to). However, must admit I’m an eco-warrier with nostalgic memories of my first car, a Morris Minor with a split windscreen and left-right indicators that shot out from somewhere just behind the doors, in those long-ago days when the Highway Code meant learning handsignals as well as how to stay on the road.
None of that kind of thing in our new Blue Motion which has so many automatic functions you barely need do anything more than stay awake at the wheel, taking occasional awestruck glances at the dashboard. I am learning to overcome the distraction of the little computer screen that tells you how much diesel you are consuming along every millimetre of the journey. A nice smooth run can clock up 75mpg but a trip to the shops could register 20mpg. (If nothing else it puts you right off driving in town unless you absolutely have to!)
But no time to gloat. I am packing for a week at Pond Cottage where I hope to see the two red squirrels now reported to be visiting the bird feeder. Funnily enough greys are much less visible since the first red arrived which makes me wonder about the culling fever that is now heating environmental circles. Hope I have time to explore that one a bit further. Maybe I can think about it while the Blue Motion is driving me up the M90 past that hellish eyesore of the open cast coal mine at Kelty. I wonder if local habitat destruction has had anything to do with displacing red squirrels to Pond Cottage.
February 16th, 2009
The next instant it was gone – and so was our dinner. Ed Malone in the Lost World
Hot foot in the snow to St Andrew Square to check poetry stakes are still in place. So far so good, though last week I obviously blogged too soon. The Lost World vanished from the garden within a day of me writing about it. Prose, poetry, pictures and willow stakes: gone without trace.
Take 2 (or, actually, please don’t take any just yet): Lost World poems and pictures replanted in St Andrew Square in fading light on Friday afternoon. I shot up to the square on Saturday morning to capture the scene but, would you believe it, the camera battery died just as a group of young people gathered to read poems by the pond. You will just have to take my word for it.
Two days later. This time I’ve got new batteries.
So I catch a couple of readers.
And another one.
That’s it. City of Literature Lost World Read is on for the month of February. It’s anyone’s guess how long the poetry will stay planted in the garden. But if it’s gone by the time you get there, you can catch lots more at the Scottish Poetry Library in the High Street.
A huge black shadow, twenty feet across, skimmed up into the air; for an instant the monster wings blotted out the stars, and then it vanished over the brow of the cliff above us. Ed Malone in The Lost World
February 10th, 2009
On the No 8 bus this morning I peered anxiously out of the window as we passed St Andrew Square. Ever since I helped to plant poetry in the garden for the Lost World Read the weather seems to be doing its best to blow the whole lot to the kingdom of Fife. Or some dark corner of Harvey Nicks, maybe. Come to think of it, that would be a nice poetic irony.
The Lost World Read is this year’s big give away for Edinburgh City of Literature. Along with Glasgow and Bristol, they will be handing out thousands of copies of Conan Doyle’s adventure. All free of charge. Not only that but there are free exhibitions and flights of fancy in unexpected places.
While the Titian painting has been secured in the National Gallery for a mere £50 million, creative souls elsewhere in the capital city are achieving small miracles for next to nothing.
Looking out the bus I could see the poetry stakes were still there. Willow wands were doing what willow always does, bending to the wind, poetry labels were fluttering valiantly in the storm. It’s an unobtrusive kind of display, almost just a part of the garden. The idea is that people can find hidden messages, brief thoughts hanging in the air. and if they feel like it they can stop to read as they take a short cut through a public space. Amazingly people were stopping to read almost as soon as the poetry was planted.
Take the No 8 a few stops in the other direction and you will find more poetry hidden among the lost world plants in the Palm House at the Botanics. Along with extracts from the Conan Doyle book, and discreetly placed stories about plants from a world of nature that may soon be truly lost.
All this on a budget of next to nothing – unless of course you add up the time and imagination enthusiastically given by small but richly talented groups like City of Literature, the Scottish Poetry Library and the remarkable behind-the-scenes folk at the Botanics.
At the end of the journey I picked up my free copy of The Lost World. If there is a moral to this tale it is that, in the right creative hands, a little money can go a very long way. I just hope the willow stakes will stay where they are for at least a few more weeks.
February 2nd, 2009