Friday, 27 January 2017

A small wager

Ladbroke’s have quoted me odds of 50/1 that Britain will still be a member of the European Union at 09.00 on Wednesday 27 January 2117. I intend to bet £Sc20 on it.

I have absolutely no idea at all who will collect the money, or how, should I have predicted events correctly. I shall still win my bet if Britain leaves the EU, turns around and goes back in again, but what I think more likely is that Teresa May will go to Brussels and bugger about for a few months and then announce that we have left the European Union, apart from still being in it.

I shall likely give the betting slip to charity unless my children promise faithfully to live for an unusually long time. You never can tell. With this wager as an incentive, one of them may go on to develop a remarkable drug.

In the last hundred years the price of a loaf of bread has increased by a factor of seventy two, from 5d. to £1·50 (see the web site ‘Back in My Day’) so the winnings will not make anyone rich.

Loaves of bread aside, I can’t find any prediction of inflation over the next century, so I can only estimate the value of the winnings based upon inflation over the last hundred years. That data, which comes from This Is Money, tells me that in 2117, £Sc1020 will be worth £64·48 and that in turn will be worth £Sc64 9s 6d if they reinstate real money.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Let's hear it for junk food

My favourite on line newspaper, the Daily Mail, reports that a nutritionist called Lily Soutter has analysed children's menus at five fast food chains.

Ms Soutter claims (here) that her "extensive knowledge of the science of food and health enables me to help you be the healthiest version of you," but sadly her findings are predictable. "Don't buy your children a cheeseburger or chips at Macdonald's," she nags, "and don't buy them fried breaded chicken and fries (chips) at Pizza Hut, and don't buy them a Kids' Burger at KFC." On and on it goes. Why can't a nutritionist write that chips are good for us, for once?

I have in my otherwise undistinguished life had three children, so I can at least claim to have had a little experience of trying to persuade them to eat. To misquote the great George Orwell, one who believes that the road to health and beauty is paved with uncooked vegetation may fancy dining on lettuce and carrots, but children don't, and I don't blame them. If you gave my children a lettuce or a carrot they would pick it up and ask "What is it?" even though they knew perfectly well. The whole point of a burger bar is to give children food that they want to eat, cheaply and in large quantities. The reason that the whole point of a burger bar is to give children food that they want to eat is that parents are constantly exhausted. We parents want to sit down and have ten minutes' peace and not have to wash up afterwards.

Does Ms Soutter imagine that parents take our children to a burger bar so as to show off our knowledge of dietetics? When I saunter into a burger bar, I invariably order filet mignon with a side order of moules marinières and alfalfa beans with a nice chianti. My children's needs are different. They go to burger bars expecting to play with their mobile phones, assail each other with any weapon within reach, yell, feed other customers' dogs, eat junk food and get grease and synthetic sugary orange juice all over themselves, just like they do at home. All children do. Ms Soutter is a sad, Canute like figure, ordering back the tide of delicious cheeseburgers, chips, pizzas and sweet fizzy drinks, with no success in the offing.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Hobson's Choice: the referendum in Surrey

The last regular blog that I kept of my political opinions is on a site,, which no longer seems to offer a working blog server, so I am opening a second blog here. OhNoItIsnt exists to give me a platform where I can set down what I think of the news that interests me. I am under the illusion, as I suppose all bloggers have to be, that what I think is of interest to other people. We shall see whether the effort is worth while.

29 January 2017: To my astonishment I have found an archive of the first blog I ever wrote, which I kept between about 1996 and 1998, which makes it one of the first blogs ever. Indeed, according to Wikipedia's History of Blogging, the word blog was first used in 1997.

After that, I kept a blog in, which has suffered from so many technical problems that I have had to abandon it and take up residence here.

Hobson's Choice: The referendum in Surrey

According to my favourite newspaper, The Daily Mail, (here), Surrey county council is planning a local referendum on whether to raise council tax by 15% in order to finance social care.

Now, if you want to be irritated, if you want to be annoyed, if you want to be made so angry that your blood boils, steam comes out of your ears and someone has to phone the men in white coats, then take advantage of the couple of weeks each year when you are allowed to inspect all the receipts for all the money that the council has spent in the financial year. In Edinburgh, the sorts of payment that anger the tax payers are, above all, Edinburgh Festival. Then, I suppose, come the trams: I happen to be in favour of the trams but they're controversial, so they shall go into my referendum notwithstanding. But, and to many who live here this will come as a surprise, Edinburgh is not the only local authority that has wasted a lot of money. A few minutes spent on Google suggests that Surrey has acquitted itself handsomely of its share of waste. Indeed, Surrey has been singled out for criticism by the fascist demagogues of the Taxpayers' Alliance on several occasions.

Within the past couple of years, Surrey Police entered into a contract for an IT system that doesn't work and another contract, for administration, that also came to nothing. Surrey's refuse collection has recently wasted a huge amount on a contract with a private contractor, and Surrey has also wasted hundreds of thousands on a "core strategy," whatever that is. Those, and £6,000 spent on jewellery for the Mayor of Reigate, are the things that should be decided by referendum.

Social care is, of course, a legal obligation on the council. A council has to provide social care whether it likes it or not, so there is little point having a referendum on the subject. What social care probably needs is an audit, to make sure that the social care money is being spent on caring for people, and not on managers. But core strategies are not indispensable, and neither are baubles with which to decorate the Mayor, so let's vote on them and their likes first.

7 February 2017: Today Surrey county council abandoned its plans for a fifteen per cent increase in council tax. They have decided to raise it by just under 5%. This change, while doubtless welcomed by everybody in Surrey except those who need social care and aren't going to get any, doesn't really do anything about the underlying issue, which is that Surrey county council spends money on things which don't appear important.