Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Vitriol

Much vitriol is dripped today upon Management Consultants in various parts of the public sector. Today the Daily Mail complains of the £3Bn a year it costs the tax payer... Respectfully, the Gorse Fox asks:
  • What is the alternative?
  • The same media decry the quality of Civil Servants, so exactly where should the Civil Service get its advice?
  • Should the Public Sector hire such people itself?
  • And how much would that cost - once you have added pensions into the mix?

Gorse Fox thinks it would be better to query "How can we get the best out of the Management Consultants that are used in the Public Sector?" and suggests the answers are:
  • Give them a clear brief
  • Give them timely access to the staff they need to interview
  • Do NOT expect concensus
  • Ask for regular briefings
  • Do NOT interfere unless there is a problem
  • Do NOT employ them to use up unused budget
  • Do NOT listen to Ministers (they have no concept of Strategic Good... only tactical headlines)
  • DO make sure you know what they are doing
  • Do check their billing

[File under: ]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

McCartney scores, they think it's all over...

According to a headline on the BBC Sport (Football) pages:
Lennon took pay cut to join Spurs
Imagine.

[File under: ]

Analysis: JP

The BBC Online offers "Analysis: What is John Prescott for?"

The Gorse Fox can only suggest ballast.

[File under: ]

HSE and Cheese

In a follow-up to yesterday's post the Gorse Fox sees the headline "Dozens hurt in Gloucestershire's Cheese Roll Race".
We learn
A teenager who knocked himself out while chasing a Double Gloucester cheese down a hill was among 25 people hurt in a Cheese Rolling competition.
and more worryingly:
One spectator was given treatment after being hit by a runaway cheese.


In mock indignation the Gorse Fox demands to know:
  • Why was this not banned by the Health & Safety Executive?
  • Should it be moved to a flat site? (It actually takes place on a 1:2 hill)
  • Should the cheeses be softer?
  • How many lawyers were waiting by the St John's Ambulance Station?

What a wonderful country the Gorse Fox lives in. So eccentric. So whimsical.

[File under: ]

Spin between the raindrops

An excellent article from the BBC website* Spin between the raindrops looks at the Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics of the current water shortage.
Yet to find a year drier than 2005 for most of the UK, there is no need to delve back into prehistory; 2003 fits the bill, as do 1997, 1996, 1991 and 1990.

It goes on to explain
The period chosen to demonstrate the rains' recalcitrance ran from November 2004 to June 2005.

But
October 2004 was wetter than usual.

and goes on to explain the spin. The Gorse Fox commends it... a good read.

*Gorse Fox can't believe he said that.

Monday, May 29, 2006

John Prescott's Replacement

The Gorse Fox remembers a guest from years ago on "Have I Got News for You". He suggests that a good replacement for John Prescott would be A Tub of Lard.

[File under: ]

Breaking News?

The Telegraph Online's news ticker just announced:
BREAKING NEWS: Competitors line up for annual cheese race

This raises the following questions?
  • If this is an annual event, why is it considered breaking news?
  • What does it take to become a cheese jockey (or is it driver)?
  • Is it an Olympic event?
  • Are there professional leagues?
  • Who cares?

[File under: ]

Shock and Awe

Gorse Fox sits here, stunned.

Who'd have thought it?

Gorse Fox finds that he actually almost agrees with Peter Mandelson. According to the Mail Online:
John Prescott's credibility was in new peril today after Peter Mandelson urged him to consider the interests of the party.

"All I would say about John is that he is a party man to his fingertips and whatever he does, he will do what is in the party's interests, I'm sure, and not his own."

Why, you might ask, does the Gorse Fox ALMOST agree? Well, the Gorse Fox thinks Prescott should resign:
  • For the good of the country

  • Because he has never yet espoused a policy that has worked

  • Because he is a drain on the public purse

  • Because he is incompetant

  • Because he is a bully

  • Because he is morally corrupt

  • Because he is an embarrassment to the country
NOT, however, for the good of the party!!! (Though, you must agree, he does make the rest of them seem comparitively adequate).

[File under: ]

Great Quotes of Our Time, 2

Tony Blair, in his first speech as Prime Minister:
"It's not the titles and the cars and the trappings that make government worthwhile"

And they say that satire is dead.

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Primate musings

Nature recently reported that our human ancestors interbred with chimpanzee ancestors... Then the Gorse Fox looked again at the picture of John Prescott playing croquet - and science began to take on meaning.

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Soviet Britain, 2

Gorse Fox has mentioned on several occasions how little the South East gets from the government, in comparison to the rest of the country. Well, according to the Dail Mail we now have the figures:
Scotland57%
Northern Ireland76.2%
North East64.9%
North West56.1%
Yorkshire & Humberside51.5%
Wales66.2%
West Midlands49%
East Midlands45.5%
East Anglia40.6%
London35.6%
South West46.1%
South East36.3%

Now you might assume the Gorse Fox is complaining that public spending has risen from 38.9% of GDP to 43%... well you are right. He is not asking for the proportion that goes to the South-East to be increased, he is asking that all of the others are brought into line.

That won't happen, however, because how else can the current Soviet administration buy votes?

[File under: ]

Soviet Britain, 1

The Conservative party says it has documentary proof that reveal plans to bring spy-in-the-sky technology into the next tax review. They accused the governemnt of planning to use the cameras to identify large gardens it wants to use for new housing. They will also be used by the Valuation Office Agency to review council tax bands.
The government denied it uses cameras for this purpose, but admitted it could in the future.

[File under: ]

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Great Quotes of Our Time

Peter Allis, at Wentworth this week:
"It's in remarkable condition, after the wettest drought in history."


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Framed

No, this isn't a follow-on from the post below regarding the Criminal Records Bureau...

The framing for the deck on the east patio, is just about complete. Now the Gorse Fox needs to plan the next part of the exercise, and order sufficient deck boards to cover the area and build the planters requested by the Silver Vixen.

No doubt all of the improvements will end up taxable through the Council Tax revaluation. Posted by Picasa

Contempt upon contempt

Last week the news broke that the Home Office have at least 2700 known criminals, who are innocent. You couldn't have missed it - but if you happen to have a name that sounds like someone with a criminal record, and could possible have been born at more or less the same time... then if someone requests a Criminal Records Bureau check against you (for reason of employment reference, for example) then you may well show up as a heinous criminal, with a serious record. That is reason enough to be concerned, but apparently it gets worse. According to the Mail on Sunday:
But a Home Office spokesman said last night: 'People can appeal and the onus is on them to prove they aren't the person on the form. The CRB normally deals with appeals within 21 days. We do not intend to change the system.'

Err, has the law been changed without the Gorse Fox being aware? Can we now be Guilty until proven Innocent? Is the CRB immune from libel laws?

Would anyone like to guess what civil liberties will be left to us once the current Soviet regime is voted out, assuming:
  • people with jobs are still allowed to vote

  • people paying tax are still allowed to vote

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Prescott eh? Gorse Fox can't even be bothered to heap further disdain on this execrable man. Fancy playing croquet, without a jacket! How low can he stoop?

[File under: ]

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sawdust, again

The forecast rain held off long enough for the Gorse Fox with the assistance of Sir Lancinglot to prepare the risers for the step that will surround the deck. This allowed the Gorse Fox to play with his big table saw, which has sat idle for the last year. Piles of sawdust are building up in the garage, up his nose, in his hair, in his pockets, in his shoes... in fact in every nook and cranny where it could possibly accumulate.

[File under: ]

Friday, May 26, 2006

The idea of driving back from Worcester to West Sussex did not fill the Gorse Fox with enthusiam on the Friday of a Bank Holiday Weekend which coincides with a school half term. The actual experience lived down to everything he expected...
  • Stupid drivers unfamiliar with motorways

  • Caravanners weaving all of the road

  • Caravanner blocking hills by trying to overtake trucks

  • Crashes

  • cars filled with parents trying to slap their kids instead of watching the road

  • more crashes

  • Breakdowns

  • Queues

  • More Breakdowns
But the Gorse Fox is home... unscathed
[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox has received a missive from Old Father Time, that is worthy of sharing.... (usual acknowledgements to original author):
> Subject: Being British

"Being British is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV. And the most British thing of all?

Suspicion of anything foreign."

Oh and!!!!! Only in Britain... can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in Britain... do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in Britain... do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a DIET coke.

Only in Britain... do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters.

Only in Britain... do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive and lock our junk and cheap lawn mower in the garage.

Only in Britain... do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't Want to talk to in the first place.

Only in Britain... are there disabled parking places in front of a skating rink.

NOT TO MENTION...
  • 3 Brits die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.

  • 142 Brits were injured in 1999 by not removing all pins from new shirts.

  • 58 Brits are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

  • 31 Brits have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.

  • 19 Brits have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate.

  • British Hospitals reported 4 broken arms last year after cracker pulling accidents.

  • 101 people since 1999 have had broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet.

  • 18 Brits had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth. A massive 543 Brits were admitted to A&E in the last two years after opening bottles of beer with their teeth.

  • 5 Brits were injured last year in accidents involving out of Control Scalextric cars. and finally.........

  • In 2000 eight Brits cracked their skull whilst throwing up into the toilet.

I am proud to be British RULE BRITANNIA


[File under: ]

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Trouser Quandary Resolution: The Dai Vinci Cold

David's back... and he's humming
The Trouser Quandary Resolution: The Dai Vinci Cold
The Gorse Fox notes how much the River Severn has risen since the weekend, thanks to the incessant rain which has now abated. The river is flowing quickly downstream, leaving interesting whorls and eddies taht are quite hypnotizing.

[File under: ]

Moo?

The Gorse Fox wonders how the Thai language developed and came up with "Moo" as the prefix for all pork dishes on the menu.

[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox is back in Worcester - the day has been filled with the thrills of planning workshops and similar... then a meeting with some of our Starfleet Consultants. That went well (no it didn't) !

As GF walked i, he could see in a millisecond that Mother Superior was not happy. After listening to said consultant for a couple of moments he could see why. Fortunately another colleague leapt in and took control before Mother Superior threw him out.

[File under: ]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Gorse Fox has an innate sense of fair play. When he watches the news, reads the papers, reads other blogs, watches football teams, or listens to politicians, he ask himself "Is that fair?".

He sees fairness as one of the great traits at the core of English-ness. That is not to say it is not present in other nations or cultures; it is. But it should be integral to being English. (Gorse Fox does not believe Englishness is based on racial or religious origin:- it is based on an attitude of mind and geographical accident).

Test yourself on this trait:
  • Is it fair that our taxes contribute to the support of the weak, or infirm? - Yes
  • Is it fair that our taxes contribute to the support of the indolent? - No
  • Is it fair that our taxes support people who are come to our country having suffered persecution in their own country? - Yes
  • Is it fair that our taxes support people who have come to our country to live off the generous benefits lavished on them by the government? - No
  • Is it fair that English taxes support the Scots and the Welshmore thn they do the English? - No
  • Is it fair that industry and hard work are rewarded? - Yes
  • Is it fair that John Prescott still has a job and a vast unwarranted salary? - No
Anyway, you get the drift... which brings the Gorse Fox to his latest conundrum:
  • Is it fair that NIC contributions are going to increase, whilst the pension is decreased by nearly 50%?
  • Is it fair that an MP only has to work 26.6 years to qualify for his full pension, whereas other workers have to complete 40 years?
  • Is it fair that Minister can retire at 60, when other workers will now be required to work until 68?
  • Is it fair that the PM and the Chancellor's pensions are not capped?
  • Is it fair that the PM has accumlated a pension worth £123,000 pa?
  • Is it fair that John Prescott (who has never implemented a single documented successful policy) will receive a £50,000 pa pension?

Gorse Fox leaves it as an exercise for the reader to answer these... but the supplementary question is:
Based on the original assertion in this post regarding fairness, is our government English?

Bring back the English.

[File under: , , ]

The Gray Monk: A thought for all the safe society nannies and would be nannies ....

The Gray Monk: A thought for all the safe society nannies and would be nannies ....

A great post from the Grey Monk... those were the days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Long drive back... but home in Sussex at last

[File under: ]
The Silver Vixen will again occupy the day with detailed examination of every fabric shop, needlework shop, and so forth. The Gorse Fox will collect her at the end of the day.

The Gorse Fox has end to end meetings throughout the day - then the drive back down to Sussex. It is unlikely that he will have time to share his thoughts of Cabinet Ministers pensions...

[File under: ]

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Gorse Fox would upset Dave Cameron. He has spent much of the day reading background information on workflow and business process management systems. These of seek to enforce the protestant work ethic, and suppress the and "pink and fluffy" tendencies towards a government imposed feel-good factor

[File under: ]
Mid-afternoon the Gorse Fox collected the Silver Vixen. Expecting several cubic metres of fabrics, he had cleared the boot. She had, however, restrained her enthusiasm and walked out with nothing but a couple of plastic bags full of assorted fabrics and patterns.

Returning to hotel for a snack we watched as the rain cleared, the clouds cleared, and the sun burst through. Gorse Fox was less than amused! He kept imagining that he could hear a celestial raspberry being blown. Had we not planned supper with Mother Superior (previously known as the Esteemed Client), he might have been tempted to pop back out. He resisted and will save the adventure for another weekend.

[File under: ]

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Heaving backstreets

The heaving backstreets of Upton-upon-Severn Posted by Picasa

Town Museum

The museum in Upton-upon-Severn Posted by Picasa

Ye Olde Anchor Inn

As the rain swept dow, the thought of an anchor seemed somewhat appropriate. Posted by Picasa

To be or not to be...

In Court Street. This building is opposite 2b... so is not 2b. Any questions? Posted by Picasa

Classic Olde England

Classic half timebered English buildings in Upton-u-S, probably dating from the 17th century Posted by Picasa

Further Education

Evidently crime is taken seriously in Upton-upon-Severn.

This sign, the Gorse Fox assumes, indicates the entrance to a further education establishment for muggers. Posted by Picasa
Sunday, as predicted started wet and got wetter. The Silver Vixens plans for the Quilt Show were not affected, but the Gorse Fox's plans for a walk along the Malvern Hills seemed pontless, given that the hills were actually invisible, due to the low cloud.

If the Gorse Fox's readers wanted pictures of the inside of a cloud they may as well have walked into a steam room... but fear not, GF (having dropped the Silver Vixen off) headed on to Ledbury, along the east side of the Malvern Hills. Ledbury was a little underwhelming in the driving rain. The Gorse Fox moved on. He head back along the west side of the hills, but there was nor break in the cloud, nor lessening of the rain.

Upton-on-Severn was his next target. A brief respite allowed the Gorse Fox to park up and take a stroll with his camera.

[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen finished off yesterday with a fine meal at Saffrons. This is becoming one of the GF's favourite restaurants, and the Silver Vixen admitted it was the best meal out she had eaten in years... and so
"Excuse me, Miss" called the Gorse Fox
The waitress scurried over.
"My wife has been through the menu and finds there are too many choices for a single sitting. Would you be kind enough to reserve a table for us on Sunday evening. And you'd better make it a table for three, so that she can try twice as many dishes"
The waitress stared at the Gorse Fox for a moment. She looked at the Silver Vixen, who was suppressing a giggle. Then went off to make the reservation... not quite sure if the Gorse Fox had meant what he'd said.

The Gorse Fox and Silver Vixen returned to their hotel room, and switched on the Eurovision Song Contest - fortunately just late enough to miss the songs. This was, however, followed by the inevitable lottery of the scoring... which was riveting TV. The trick being to guess who each country will vote for before the votes are cast. GF seemed particularly adept at this... but in the ned was delighted ath the Finnish victory, that seemed to be the population of Europe thumbing their nose at the contest and saying a collective "up yours".

[File under: ]

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ruins in the Gardens

More ruins in the gardens of the Cathedral Posted by Picasa

Bust

It looks like the locals are so impressed they have created a bust of the Silver Vixen na placed it on a brick plinth Posted by Picasa

Wisteria

The Silver Vixen brings out the best in the now fading Wisteria of the Cathedral Gardens Posted by Picasa

Buttresses

More perspective - the buttresses of the Cathedral support the massive walls Posted by Picasa

Worcester's Tower

The great gothic Tower of the Cathedral rips the clouds to reveal the blue sky above... and aims the prayers of the worshippers straight to God's ear. Posted by Picasa

Worcester Cathedral

Details and depth - perspectives of the Cathedral from the River Severn Posted by Picasa

Worcester along the Severn

Walking along the Kleeve Walk from the Diglis Basin towards Worcestee Posted by Picasa

Worcester Cathedral Gardens

The Silver Vixen and Gorse Fox went for a walk so that he could point out some the sights that he sees during the week.

These ruins nestle in the Cathedral Gardens Posted by Picasa

Birdlip

The hazy, rain soaked view from Birdlip at the edge of the Cotswolds, overlooking the Severn Valley Posted by Picasa
The weather was foul as the Gorse F|ox and Silver Vixen made their way across the country to Worcester. At the edge of the Cotswolds, near the summit of Cricklade Hill, they stopped to take in the view but the relentles blustery rain prevented any but the most cursory of views.

[File under: ]
Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen are planning to go up to Worcester for the weekend. SV wishes to attend the Malvern Quilt Show, and GF wishes to walk the Malvern Hills. GF is sure that the former will happen on Sunday, but having seen the weather forecast is less sure about the walk!

Cousteau-cub has posted some moody, atmospheric photos of her brief trip to Scotland. GF is pleased that she "gets it"; but hopes that here feet are feeling better soon.

[File under: ]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Gorse Fox has had a fairly frantic few days, but is back in West Sussex at last.

Yesterday saw him translocating from Worcestrt to the ouskirts of Coventry for an important meeting. This meant that the journey home took a different route, and whilst the distance was similar the journey time was longer - a fact that was exacerbated by the decision of one of the knights of the road to allow his truck containing metal ingots to lie down across the carriageways of the M40. GF hopes nobody was injured, and thanks God that he was not stuck in the queue heading North.

[File under: ]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Champions League - what happened to the concept of fighting till the final whistle? What happened to losing with dignity?

[File under: ]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Walking back to his room, the Gorse Fox (and his colleagues) passed an up-market bar in Worcester. Outside, stood three bouncers. Inside were, maybe 4 people.

Why do you need bouncers at eight in the evening, on a Wednesday night in Worcester? Even if you want one, why three? It's hardly a hotbed of trouble

[File under: ]

Shock news

In a surprise break from tradition Arsenal (The Forces of Darkness) have two Englishmen on the pitch.

[File under: ]
The Abbot revealed, over dinner, that has just bought a motor bike in response to his male menopause.

This got the Gorse Fox thinking, One day he may reach a male menopause. How would the GF react?

After a nanosecond's pause he decided he'd have a Jetski*. The discussion ranged across the engine, the seats, and the fuel.

"I often think of you, dressed in neoprene" announced the Abbot.
There was brief pause

"So many people do" replied the Gorse Fox


The meal drew to an end and the cluster moved off to find a suitable hostelry - the delay, however, had meant that all suitable venues were packed.


* This of course assumes that a) he will reach a male menopause; b) he has vast reserves of disposable cash.

[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox is often amused by the search arguments that people have entered and resulted in their arrival at this blog. recent days have seen some classics:
  • Mouth breather Gordon Brown - Hey, what about knuckle-dragging?
  • aunt ethels tuna press - What?
  • big mans formal trousers west sussex - Well, you would
  • Importance of being earnest- A handbag!


[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox got a text message from Cousteau-cub... she and Whelk managed 28kms yesterday, and are having a great time. Still planning to bag a Munro today, if she doesn't panic over the height.

[File under: ]

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Special Offer

Gorse Fox, always intrigued by his surroundings, spotted this offer in Worcester this evening.

He wonders how small a lift has to be in order to be suitable for just your thigh and bottom? Posted by Picasa
A late change in today's schedule meant that the Gorse Fox spent much on Monday evening driving to Malvern so that he could be in Worcester for an early meeting. Hotels in Worcester were full, so he plumped for his favoured hotel on the side of the Malvern Hills.

Arriving late, he checked in and checked that it was not too late for room service (after all he hadn't eaten!).
"No problem, Sir. You could also have a snack in the bar"
Taking his gear to his room, he decided the bar sounded like the best bet. Two residents slouched in one corner, and the counter was deserted. He waited a while and just as he was leaving a young lady came and asked for his order.
"A pint of Wyre Trekkers and a Club Sandwich, if you please" he requested.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I've just been informed by the kitchen that we have a problem and cannot do any more bar service."
The Gorse Fox was hungry. This was not the plan. He took the beer, and went up to his room, then picked up the phone and ordered room service.
"A club sandwich, if you please"
A few minutes later there was a tap on my door and the club sandwich arrived, delivered by the same young lady who had been in the bar.

Fleetingly, GF wondered if this had just been an excuse to get up to his room. Then the delusion faded.

[File under: ]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Green

The Gorse Fox is feeling a touch green with envy Cousteau-cub is off to Scotland for a few days to do some walking.

[File under: ]

Saving £1Bn

According to a report from the CBI (reported here on BBC Online) working days lost through sickness absence are at their lowest level in 20 years. The report notes that in general absence through sickness is dropping. Whilst workers in the Private Sector take on average 6.7 days per year, those in the Public Sector take 8.5 days. It goes on to report:
If the public sector could reduce its absentee levels to that of the private sector then £1bn of taxpayers' money would be saved, the report claims.

GF knows of some parts of the Public Sector that sees nearly 30% absenteeism, and is eager to save the tax-payer money.

Some other ways of saving the tax-payer money:
  • Change the year end farce where extra money is made available and everyone tries to spend it, whether they have any genuine need or not. GF has seen it himself, and Urban-cub reports that in her place of work the head of the stores department did the rounds in January asking everone what they would like as they had a huge surplus to spend.
  • Allow budget surplus to be carried forward to the following year
  • Cut unnecessary attendance at pointless meetings
  • Ignore statements from ill-informed Ministers
  • Get rid of huge departments of paper-shufflers and demand online filing
  • Get rid of the current government
  • Stop paying healthy people who are not working after 13 weeks
  • Stop rewarding teenage pregnancy by giving the mothers the keys to a house.
    Urban-cub reports of a a trend amongst young girls for 4 by 4s... that is 4 children by 4 fathers. This, they reckon, works out financially perfect with the investment spread between the state and 4 separate men, thus protecting against changes in the economy.
  • Require Public Sector workers to work until the normal state retirement age


[File under: ]

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gorse Fox and the Silver Vixen are heading for the wilds of Hampshire to see Betty & Barney Rubble. This means the GF will be unable to continue work on the deck today (which, whilst frustrating, is probable good), but gets the chance to meet up with dear old friends. GF, would point out, that he has always been taught to respect and care for his elders, and today gives him a chance to practise.

[File under: ]

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Gorse Fox is knackered. He has worked throughout the day, with Sir Lancinglot, to complete the laying out of the deck frame. There are still joists to add, and a little more concrete to sort out... but the hard work is done.

GF was so absorbed that he missed the Cup Final

[File under: ]
The Gorse Fox has it confirmed today (in the papers):
"The gap between rich and poor has shrunk to its narrowest for two decades as hard-working families pay record tax bills, official figures revealed yesterday"

Let's not forget the impending addition of road use charging to that!
Families disposable income is rising at the slowest rate since records began

Our silent opposition party muttered something about
"a stark illustration of how the highest tax burden in history is impacting on Britain's hard-working families."

The statistics go on to show that
Those [taxpayers] from Berkshire and Sussex have the dubious honour of the bigger tax bills than anybody else with incomes not that much bigger
Gorse Fox would add that the local Council gets the smallest precept from the Government of any County in the UK. Surrey is similarly troubled
"Ministers feel that because Surrey has an average salary above the UK average, they can pick-pocket taxpayers without fear of retribution from their own voters"


[File under: ]
The Silver Vixen has left for a day with her coven and the Gorse Fox has started with a blitz on unanswered emails, and updates to some of his websites. So much more to do, but so little opportunity. Sir Lancinglot is expected soon... and hopefully we'll make sound progress on the deck.

[File under: ]

Friday, May 12, 2006

Comparisons

Google have launched yet another goody. Google trends allows you to compare the amount of interest in two things, based on the number of searches made on each.

GF has had a play and quite likes it. This image is a comparison of John Prescott, Ruth Kelly.

[File under: ] Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Gorse Fox is rushed back from Worcester to participate in local democracy and attend his Council Meeting.

Here at the cutting edge of the democratic process we debated the things that really matter in the country... and in particular the provision of dog-bins.

[File under: ]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Price of Petrol - it would be worth it

Old Father Time just sent the Gorse Fox an email with the following heartwarming story:
A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. Nothing is moving.


Suddenly a man knocks on the window. The driver winds down his window and asks, "What's going on?"


"Terrorists have kidnapped Tony Blair, John Prescott, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw. They're asking for a £300 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to douse them with petrol and set them on fire. We're going from car to car, taking up a collection."


The driver asks, "How much is everyone giving, on average?"



To which the man replies, "about a gallon".

Acknowledgments to the original author!!

[File under: ]

Trolls - you can't win

So the Gorse Fox decided to extend an olive branch to the Trolls.

Knowing that he was about to embark on a lengthy process to select and procure some significant software, he asked the team to set up a meeting with a "Buying Troll". "Let's ensure some emotional attachment, and buy-in and make sure they are involved right from the outset" he said. Said Troll accepted the meeting request and we were set.

So the GF has made his way to Worcester for the meeting... only to find that said "Buying Troll" hadn't turrned up, and neither had her two possible stand-ins. "Could we please reschedule to fit their schedules". The Gorse Fox was not amused, but the Abbott was incandescent... GF expects Troll does not know what's about to hit!

[File under: ]

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

ID cards

Frank Abagnale whose life was depicted in "Catch Me if You Can" with Leonardo di Caprio, made his name by assuming other people's identities and identity fraud. He now works for the US Security Services and was here in the UK today talking about identity fraud at one of the Banks' call centres.

When interviewed by South Today, his view was that Id Cards were a wonderful idea... all the information you need about a person in one place, it'll save so much time for the fraudsters. Oh yes, he estimated it would take 6 months before the system was compromised... just like chip and pin

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Friendly local bobby

Gorse Fox was thinking about the now mythical friendly local bobby. In the old days Police had a "soft-hatted" approach to most things. Keeping things running smoothly meant the odd ticking off, a clout round the ear, or if necessary force, arrest and prosecution. The Silver Vixen was telling the Gorse Fox of a middle aged friend of hers. She was driving locally in her new car, and was stopped by two Police. She got out of her car to meet them and the Police woman asked

"Do you know why we stopped you?"

The SV's friend, always bright, breezy, and happy smiled and said "Hello, was it my pretty dress?"

The woman Police office said "You're rear light isn't working" slapped a penalty notice on her, demanded she had fixed and checked at a specific garage, got in her car and drove off.

Now GF has looked at this and thought
  • Brand new car with faulty rear light - what's the chance the owner knew
  • Owner was polite and cheery, surely a quiet word was all that was required.
  • The Officer has one more notch on her clear-up rate and the Police Force have irritated a nice middle-aged lady.
  • The nice middle aged lady is so irritated that she is telling all her friends, and they in turn are relating to the friends and loved ones.
  • The Gorse Fox has put it on blog (with a readership of at least 3)
  • What a coup that was for community relations


Was it a typical police response, driven by the State targets? or was it just this Police woman?

Gorse Fox remembers being stopped, years ago, in his new car having whizzed past a Traffic Car, hiding in a side turning. The car gave chase, and the GF immediately pulled over. The Officer looked at GF - who apologised and explained it was a new car and he hadn't quite got used to it. The Officer looked at the mileometre, and told the GF to "Watch it. I won't be so lenient next time"... and that was that. GF was grateful, and very careful after that. That was a result for the boys in blue.

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Real life Google

There's something slightly disconcerting about driving past a prison and seeing a "Police Specialist Search Unit" van half a mile up the road. Gorse Fox guesses they are Police equivalent of Google.

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The Gorse Fox notices he's had several visitors from the server at the Houses of Parliament. As a young cub he should have been taught that poking a wasps' nest is not necessarily a smart thing to do.

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IT Spend in Government

The excellent Adam Smith Institute has a great article by Tim Worstall "Three time over budget and you're out" which reveals a catalogue of IT overspend in Government and quotes:
A friend involved in these projects, just before Christmas, tried - using publicly available search technology - to produce a rival to the DirectGov portal. "Our tests," he reports, "show that DirectionlessGov is much more effective at most common searches than DirectGov. "While full cost data is not available for the first year of operation, the publicly funded DirectGov has been built from a group with an operating budget of £4.4 million and a team of 39. At the time of writing, total development time for DirectionlessGov is approaching 26 minutes, and is reported to be on schedule."

This made the Gorse Fox review his experiences and what he has learned from the experiences of colleagues.
  • Never start a project because a Minister has made a commitment in Parliament - you can guarantee it is ill conceived, there insufficient budget, and the timetable is utter fantasy.
  • Never put a "policy" person in charge - they will never freeze the requirements long enough to allow any sustained development activity.
  • Accept that you will have a list of stakeholders as long as Peter Crouch's arm - inform them but DO NOT involve them.
  • Recognise that most of the week will be taken up with meetings
  • Recognise that all meetings need (by Civil Service mandate) to have at least 47 people attending and every one of them must give their view for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • Recognise that the person in charge (SRO) probably has about as much idea of what is needed and how software is developed as the Gorse Fox does about brain surgery. (Well you just saw through the cranium and poke about inside for a while, don't you? It can't take that long.)
  • Recognise that if software has to be purchased it will take a minimum of twelve months - this is because a) they always want the most expensive product in the belief it is the best; b) they want to drive the price down; c) they have no budget allocated for it; d) they have to follow ridiculous OJEC rules which are designed to make things fair for all vendors by preventing the Government from ever buying anything
  • Recognise that your architects and designers will stop going to meetings, because life is too short already
  • Recognise that your project manager will be changed after the "honeymoon period" as he will take the blame.
  • Recognise that there will be a significant cadre of people actively hoping that you will fail, and doing everything in their power to make sure everyone knows what a disaster is looming.

Gorse Fox cannot escape the realisation of how lucky he is working with the Esteemed Client where his biggest problems are his own Trolls, and external interference.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Gorse Fox's car/train solution worked well... home in under 2 hours.

He's eager to have a rant, but having just checked the fridge, it looks as if the few he had have passed their sell-by date. So he will leave the following subjects:
  • John Prescott
  • Pension theft
  • Huge meetings of civil servants trying to find ways of working together, but actually stopping anything from really happening
  • OGC reviews
  • Integrated transport
  • Speed cameras
  • Planning laws
  • Fuel duty
  • Penalising the more efficient and more economical diesel fuel
  • Heavy handed policing, by default (rather than when needed)
  • Trolls... (he nearly forgot trolls)
until he can get a fresh outburst.

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SNAFU (the Sequel)

How prescient, that last posting. It was made whilst on the train, and evidently the emailed content never arrived (even though the title did ?)

What the Gorse Fox was actually reporting (or trying to) was the fact that he was on a train for the last 10 miles of his journey and it was running late. Ariiving at Bramley staion he noticed the customer information system reporting the delay to the train and the statement
"No apology for delay".
That's telling us. No sense in getting ideas above our station, eh?

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SNAFU

Great walls of water seemed to fall from the sky throughout much of the night. (No doubt it was global warming that caused it to rain).

Gorse Fox has to find his way to Reading for a meeting today... Being environmentally conscious - though not fanatical - and alert to the pathetic traffic problems of Reading he spent some time with the train timetables.

Ridiculous. 65 miles from home, and journey times ranging from 2.30 and 3.30 hours with choices involving between 1 and 4 changes. Gorse Fox will therefore resort to his car to take him as far as Basingstoke, then do the last 10 miles by train. Even when you try to use public transport you can only do it by sacrificing most of the working day or your evening.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

All hands

Work on the deck (for the east patio) inches forward. Progress is slower than expected, but GF wants it to be right! Posted by Picasa

Evidence

Gorse Fox was told to take a photo of his study as evidence that it has been cleared and as a reminder as to how it should be kept.

He's even taken the Esteemed Client's corporate data model down from the wall. Posted by Picasa
Gorse Fox was too traumatised to write about this last night, but he's feeling stronger now.

The Silver Vixen was away with her coven for the day yesterday and the rain on the South Coast put an end to the Gorse Fox's ambitions regarding the concrete posts for the deck... Plan B was pushed into action and some preparatory work done for painting in the living room...

Urban-cub had come round and her view was that Plan B could wait, and Plan C (not that I have revealed the content of Plan C) should be postponed. She had a Plan D. "Dad, we're going to clear your study" and so it began. Big items was hauled out and left in the hallway, books and papers were shifted, computers moved, and piles of re-cyclable and non-recyclable rubbish accumulated. Things we found:
  • Crossword books from 1974
  • Birthday cards from a similar era
  • Token ring cards
  • Speaker cables
  • Printer cables
  • Ethernet cables
  • Scart leads
  • An old Wireless Access Point
  • 5 old mobile phones
  • old chargers
  • 146 diskettes
  • 90 CDROMs from the front of magazines
  • Numerous certificates
  • Numerouse award plaques
  • Several unopened cases of wine
  • Two hats
  • 5 rain ponchos in their original wrapping
  • A pair of binoculars

We also boxed up two cases of books for which we could find no shelf space, and a sealable plastic crate full of cables. We filled (to the brim) a tall wheelie bin with papers, magazines, old envelopes, and cardboard... and shredded six bags full of confidential waste.

Overall, theis exercise took about 6 hours and was a great shock to the Gorse Fox, who, you may gather is a bit of a hoarder!

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

BBC NEWS | Politics | Anger over Prescott deputy role

Too damned right there is: BBC NEWS | Politics | Anger over Prescott deputy role.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said: "John Prescott loses his department but keeps the trappings of office - including the car, the salary, and the two grace and favour homes.

"Add it all up, and the taxpayer is going to be paying more than a quarter of a million pounds a year. If you're looking for ways to cut waste in government, you can start with John Prescott."

And it wasn't just the Tories who had something to say:
Ms Hoey, a former sports minister, said she was "surprised" and "disappointed" that Mr Prescott was still in the Cabinet.

"I think people will want to ask what on Earth he's going to get paid for, what's he going to actually do," she told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

It all then becomes clear. Apparently he keeps his salary (£134,000 + Ministerial car @ £49,000) and his plush grace and favour home (rental value £400,000) because he "was taking on a heavy workload chairing several Cabinet committees, which justified the retention of his salary and benefits."

Give me a break!

The NHS

Recently a thoughtful post from The devil's Kitchen caught the Gorse Fox's eye: The Devil's Kitchen: DK reforms the NHS.
GF notices today a further post on the subject from the Adam Smith Institute Swiss cure for the NHS.

Both of these deal with the thorny problem of what should be done about the NHS and the unsustainable finance model on which it is predicated. From the ASI we learn that Dr Berhard Ribiero (President of the Royal College of Surgeons) has the view:
Gordon Brown has doubled the NHS budget, but its productivity has hardly changed. Money, we now know, was not the answer. This system, almost unique to Britain (though Cuba has something like it) is a failed model.

The strains will grow:
There is the cost of the ageing population, and medical technology. With more focus on the 'work-life balance' and a 48-hour week coming in 2009, health work will be seen less as a vocation, more as just a job. A growing proportion of female workers in healthcare will demand more part-time working. It all means a larger workforce just to do the same volume of work.

And the ever readable Devil's Kitchen concludes:
The point is that central planning simply doesn't work, either in terms of cost efficiency or in delivery of the services. What I think that we would eventually see is more smaller, local hospitals; the re-emergance of the cottage hospital, if you like. This is because a smaller facility would require far less capital expenditure to build, would be easier to manage and would be more responsive to local needs.
This should be funded
Treatment would be paid for by private medical insurance. Most working people can afford £50 a month (especially if NICs were totally abolished, which it should be, and if my commensurate plan of bringing in a £12,000 Personal Allowance were also implemented).

"But what about the poor?" I hear you scream, "will they die like rats for want of a credit card?" No, for this is where we look at the alternatives. As part of unemployment benefits, the government will pay your health insurance premiums for you (as NI was essentially supposed to do). They will not pay it to themselves, they will pay to a private company, who will be chosen by you (or your existing supplier if you had one) so that you know that your premiums will actually go towards providing healthcare...

If someone should be left without medical insurance, then the solution is simple. If they need medical treatment, they will simply pay back the charges over x years, paying a monthly amount until the debt is paid off. If you can get free credit with a new sofa, then I see no reason why the same thing should not be the case with medical care.

Gorse Fox welcomes this reasoned approach, but fears that no government actually has the guts to debate this, let alone bring in the reforms to implement it. Bit by bit, the NHS will bankrupt the country because it is seen as some sort of holy cow by people with the rose-tinted nostalgic view of what it should have been, as opposed to what it is.

Gorse Fox would like to remind you all that the NHS is largest employer in Europe and the third largest employer in the world... and give you a moment to let that sink in.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Cop pulls over car - on foot

Gorse Fox is a little worried that news of this may reach West Sussex: Cop pulls over car - on foot
A Dutch driver who was driving along a motorway at just 6mph was pulled over

This would probably be considered a little reckless by many locals... but fear not, the police stepped in (quite literally):
The officer... jumped out of the car and ran after the slow car before jumping in the passenger's seat and ordering the driver to pull over.

GF suspects this driver practices on the road between Petersfield and Winchester on the mornings that GF drives to Worcester.
Cabinet reshuffle: "Department for Education: Ruthless"

Sorry !

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Nailing it

Gorse Fox has been pondering the results of the local elections, and today's Cabinet reshuffle. A series of thoughts have fought for space in his distracted mind:
Firstly the local election:
  1. Gorse Fox did not get a chance to vote this time round...
  2. People have a habit of giving the government a "bloody nose" at local elections, but do not have the courage of their convictions at General Elections (which is depressing)
  3. It is no surprise how many seats the NuLabour Government of National Sleaze, Corruption & Depravity lost...
  4. ...it is a great worry that some people saw fit to to allow them to hold on to many others. Have those voters no shame?
  5. Is this latter fact a reflection on declining education standards, apathy, moral decay, the burgeoning wefare sector, or burgeoning public sector?
  6. What powers do loacl elections actually grant, now that the NuLabour Government of National Sleaze, Corruption & Depravity have taken so many powers back to the centre?


What about the reshuffle?
  1. Working in the private sector, which of the Cabinet Ministers would you offer a job to?
  2. Given that you have had a total mental breakdown, or serious lapse in judgement and hired one of the Cabinet Ministers; based on their track record and performance, which would still have a job at the end of 3 months?
  3. How can such utter mediocrity and incompetance (ignoring, for now the sleaze, corruption and depravity) be rewarded with such prestigious posts.
  4. Have they no shame?


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Gorse Fox suspects that there may be a big party to welcome St Tony's decision to move Amy Johnson Margaret Beckett from Defra.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary and the minister in charge of Labour's response to global warming, is also under fire for regularly ordering the aircraft, based at Northolt, near London, to fly to East Midlands airport, near her home in Derby, to pick her up for Government trips.


Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett took 106 RAF flights between 2002 and December 2004 - many to East Midlands airport, near her home in Derbyshire.

Conservative transport spokesman Chris Grayling accused ministers of using the planes as a "private taxi service".


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Gorse Fox asked yesterday "Hay fever... what's the point?"

Today, research provides an answer. The Daily Record reports that 30 minutes of passionate kissing "may alleviate allergic responses."
They found a 30-minute snog could dampen the body's allergic reaction to pollen.

Test showed it relaxed the body and reduced production of histamine - a chemical cell given out in response to allergens.

Now as a hay fever sufferer, the Gorse Fox commends this research and will go forth and seek relief at every opportunity.

However, as one has to think of the non-sufferer who may be involved in the cure, and the rather unfortunate sight of a a sufferer approaching, eyes streaming and puffy, nose streaming, and blasting huge sneezing fits into the atmosphere.... No! All in all, GF suspects this may not work out!

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kimi B Ley: 10 minutes where I work

Cousteau-cub has been blogging again. This posting: 10 minutes where I work hits the right level of whimsy and surreality.

GF will be checking the price of cheese in future. He hadn't realised the significance.
Hay Fever... what's the point?

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cherry blossom peeks above the wall that runs allong The Kleve. Worcester Cathedral peeks above the blossom. Posted by Picasa
The River Severn as it passes through Worcester.

It seems so innoccuous now in the spring, but the levels shown on the brick of the last post give witness to how troublesome it can be in winter flood. Posted by Picasa

Flood levels

These bricks cut into the wall, by The Kleve, show the levels to which the flood waters rose in some of the great floods that have hit Worcestr over the years.

The level for the year 2000 was above the GF's head... and was not the highest. Posted by Picasa

Worcester Cathedral grounds

It was a lovely warm spring evening and too nice to sit in the hotel. Gorse Fox's colleagues were scattered amongst the local hotels and villages... so he decided to eat alone after a walk by the river.

These are ruins that stand in the grounds of Worcester Cathedral and can be seen from the green around which the houses of King's School are clustered. Posted by Picasa
One of the hotels where Gorse Fox tends to stay when in Worcester. This hotel was an old glove factory and was converted to a hotel a few years ago.

He was releieved to find that he was in a room WITH a couple of beds despite the booking confirmation. Posted by Picasa