Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas II preparations


Well, Christmas is over again for another year. A lovely time was spent with the inlaws in Telford, which meant we got to enjoy spectacular views of the River Severn frozen over from bank to bank and Ironbridge Gorge generally in the snow. Most enjoyable.

But now, it means that it is nearly time for Christmas The Second, the highlight of the social calendar. Christmas is faithfully recreated in its entirety, but with your mates over instead of your family. I have prepared the pass the parcels, written the quiz, and today it was time to start readying the food.

Full Christmas dinner will be made on the day, so today was the day for making snacks. I made a Christmas cake, which I admittedly should have done earlier, but who actually cares? It was from a competition win, a Delia Christmas cake pack from Waitrose. It's smelling awesome after its alloted 4 hours in the oven and I've already fed it with brandy, port, whisky and some elderflower cordial. Lemon vodka will be added shortly before I cover it with dried fruits and nuts!



Rocky Road
In anticipation of the angry hordes, I have also created some more delicacies. Some pate and cheese mini scones (with cheese only for the vegetarians), which have come out excellently crumbly. There are also a batch of flapjacks, a tonne of rocky road biscuit and my piece de resistance, some apple and white chocolate muffins and mini muffins.







Savoury Scones
This was borne out of me having a big jar of apple puree in the fridge that I wanted to bake something in. And as it happened, cooking apples were reduced to 10p/kg in Tesco when I nipped in before (woo hoo!) and so now the muffins have both apple puree and chunks of cooking apple in them.
Flapjacks and muffins

I shall update on the status of these delights post the Christmas Part Deux celebration.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

UK Cuts - am I the only one that's scared?

I've been watching media and online coverage of the recent student protests and have been increasingly angered by biased coverage in the media and the ongoing downplaying of clear incidents of police violence in the capital. I completely support the right of students to peacefully protest against the huge increases in tuition fees that the government will be putting into place. After all, when I have children I want them to choose whether or not the want to go to university, not to be put off by the spectre of massive debt. I went to university after grants, but before fees - and I'm still paying off my student loan, despite having earned over the threshold for the last 5.5 years. I still have an indefinite amount of years left to pay - yet already I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

The rightous indignation of the public is today being directed at the Gilmour lad, for foolishly swinging on the flag of the Cenotaph. I can't agree with what he did, but you'll always get a couple of idiots at a protest. However, why has the news coverage dried up regarding Alfie Meadows, the student hit so hard by a police truncheon that he required emergency brain surgery yesterday. Or the pictures showing a row of 5 students, all with head injuries, sitting by the protest. I have been informed that it is illegal for police to use their truncheons to attack the public in the head - presumably because they might accidentally end up needing brain surgery that way.

All of these things sicken and worry me. As I student I protested against the Iraq War and Afghan Wars, which I still believe to be unjust and to be the cause of a senseless waste of life of those in our armed forces as well as innocent civilians on the ground. I also protested against the introduction of Tuition Fees - I had a feeling that it would open the floodgates for untenable fees in the future. And what did the peaceful actions of myself and thousands of my peers achieve? Absolutely nothing. And here lies the fundamental questions that I wish to address. How many people in this country need to take direct, peaceful action for politicians to take heed? Why does the media vilify people for exercising their democratic right to express their anger at Government decisions? The Government is supposed to represent me and my friends and my family. Presumably they should be taking decisions which make my life better.

But they aren't. I am a public sector worker, so my pay has been frozen. I work in a local government department which is already hugely underesourced. My colleagues and I are working extremely hard to provide high quality services despite a complete lack of resources. We're doing all this in the full knowledge that first thing in the new year, our Council will announce what will be cut when another 11% is taken off our budget this year. This means a lot of people are working very hard, but not a single one of us is safe from redundancy notice in just a few short weeks.

And while we struggle on, the Government allows energy companies to continually raise energy bills, without any regard for the fluctuations in wholesale prices. Rail companies are once again given permission to hike up fares way above the rate of inflation. Living a normal life is becoming more and more expensive, but thanks to government cuts, we have less and less money.

How can massive public sector cuts improve the country's economy? Reducing public services and putting thousands of people out of work will not help anything. I often wonder if it is my basic level understanding of politics and economics that means I don't understand the bigger picture. Maybe that's true, but it doesn't stop me being scared. I see clear evidence that over the next few years it is going to be harder and harder for me to support my family. I may well lose my job, and if I am lucky enough to keep it I still know a lot of my colleagues are likely to lose theirs. This means that I will have to work even harder to provide high quality public services. Once we start to close museums, galleries, leisure centres, we won't ever get them back. Once people are overworked to the point of going off sick, it costs a lot to support them and get them healthy and able to return to work. This is going to happen across sectors, across the country. Many people in this country are already suffering financially and many more will be feeling the pinch over the next few months.

But who do I complain to? How do I get the government to listen to my concerns and take them into account? If I am scared, about my own situation, about the potential riots and peaceful protests that are likely to rock this country over the next few months, then surely a lot of other people are scared to.

The Cenotaph commemorates the brave people who gave their lives to protect this country from a direct threat. Thanks to them we kept our democratic rights and are able to lead a free live. I contend that current governmental action is the real attack on the Cenotaph. Ignorance and media bias are ripping the flag that represents our rights. But will anyone listen to this lone blog post and give me answers? Probably not.
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