Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Cracking the whip

While scanning the 'sits. vacant' columns recently, I came across a reference to staff being involved in 'driving customers online'.

Something about the implied coercion rankled and I later tried to find the advert again to investigate further. I didn't succeed but, to my surprise, a quick google of the phrase produced a veritable cornucopia of books, webinars and courses devoted to the subject using exactly that term, along with a collection of self-congratulatory reports (among which was the rather worryingly curtailed boast that:
'We've been a key part of the Sainsbury's Groceries online team for a long time, driving customers online through many traditional channels, including execution...' [sic]) 
Restaurants, retailers, power companies and banks all appear to be utterly unabashed, not to say enthusiastic, at the idea of compelling customers to contact them via the internet. It's not a new phenomenon (see 'The Bank that likes to say "F**k off"') but, judging by the amount of training material out there, it has become a lucrative and widespread business in both private and public sectors.

Perhaps it's just me, but I find this suggestion of 'driving' people into changing their behaviour more than a little repellent and no more so that when it concerns basic services; while customers can choose not to patronise a shop or restaurant which is trying to force them online, the same tactics used by the NHS or local councils are little short of bullying.

In between, there are the banks and utilities, where customers have a nominal choice but cannot easily dispense with the service altogether. It's bad enough for those of us who are computer-literate and can make the change, albeit under protest; customers who cannot comply often end up paying more and finding it hard to access their own accounts.

I'm quite happy to deal over the internet with companies where that was my first port of call but, where I initially chose to contact the organisation in person or over the phone, I expect that to continue where possible and, more importantly, particularly over financial or health matters, I neither expect nor want to be pressurised into putting my personal details online.

I've long thought that the banks and utilities are effectively treating us as somewhat recalcitrant livestock, applying the Patrician's principle of extracting money from the populace:
"Taxation, gentlemen, is very much like dairy farming. The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum of moo." ('Jingo': Terry Pratchett)
To talk of 'driving' customers anywhere suggests that they see us that way too.


To lighten the mood a little, the same trawl through the listings turned up this little gem of unfortunate phrasing:
'Richmond Vale Academy offers an A-certificate in “Fighting with the Poor” in St-Vincent and the Grenadines.'

Monday, 31 July 2017

What I Did On My Holidays

I'm happy to announce that the Tavern is re-opening for business; please come in and find yourself a seat at the bar.

Now, while I set about serving the drinks, I should perhaps offer a word or two in explanation (mitigation?) for the long silence. Blogging fatigue had well and truly set in when I hung the towels over the pumps and locked the door 18 months ago; whenever I spotted a news story ripe for comment, it turned out I had already subjected the regulars to a rant on the subject and I was in danger of recycling the whole repertoire.

To combat the blogging fatigue and a certain amount of overload at work, the Spouse and I have been spending most of our free time doing a bit of this...

(albeit in a rather more mundane vehicle) 

...leading to quite a lot of this.....

...and occasionally this...

...in order to restore a sense of proportion. 

It's certainly an effective way to get away from it all and, of course, we're not the only ones hoping to shake off the day-to-day stress in the mountains; we haven't yet bumped into the Prime Minister or Angela Merkel halfway up an Alp but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

All this got me thinking; I recently noticed a picture of Mrs May in full poles-and-rucksack walking regalia in close proximity to this headline:
We're becoming a nation of couch potatoes: Number of British adults going for a stroll plummets 20% in a decade

I've written elsewhere of the peculiar phenomenon of otherwise sane and well-educated individuals becoming completely irrational at the mere mention of the name 'Margaret Thatcher', much as the playground gangs of my childhood lost all sense of proportion over opposing football teams; no self-respecting Rangers fan, for example, would join the Cubs and have to wear the detested green, while mere possession of a blue pencil-case would entitle the owner to a sound kicking from the Celtic contingent.

The juxtaposition of the two news stories led to an intriguing proposition; what if the rabid anti-May brigade are starting to conflate the woman and her much-publicised recreational pastime? Never mind the Communist-inspired mass trespass at Kinder Scout ('the embodiment of the working-class struggle for the right to roam') or our grandparents' tradition of a Sunday-afternoon stroll in the park; "We can't go for a walk; that's what Tories do!"

It's a far-fetched idea, perhaps but having seen at first-hand the mindless anti-Tory venom of the eighties, I can well believe there might be some kind of subliminal persuasion at work, aided and abetted by the myriad lures of electronic entertainment or the local shopping mall.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Ashes to Ashes

''Fame: puts you there where things are hollow'

It is something of a shame that the man who, even while assiduously courting it, regarded celebrity with a certain amused cynicism - "I'm an instant star. Just add water and stir" -  could not enjoy what has turned out to be a mass media hagiography of epic proportions (unless, of course, we have just collectively witnessed the pinnacle of a career dedicated to performance art; think of that 'Lazarus' video...).

While it was reasonable to recognise in a news broadcast the importance of his influence on popular culture, Radio 4's Today Programme went so far overboard it ended up effectively scraping the bottom of the ocean. A veritable host of callers popped up to describe even the most fleeting interactions with the star, while the programme itself turned into a rather trendier version of housewife's choice as enough exerpts from his records were played to make the copyright owners very happy indeed.

As the day wore on, endless interviewees from the music industry queued up to explain in lavish detail what Bowie meant to them personally and - more importantly - how he influenced their work. You can't blame them, I suppose; as always, behind each banal celebrity is a ruthless agent demanding that the client somehow shoehorn in a reference to his or her own latest opus.

As a culture, we seem to be experiencing some difficulties in adopting a suitable f]degree of response to the death of a well-known public figure. While the Victorians admittedly threw themselves into the whole business of mass mourning with unaccountable enthusiasm, the British attitude in general has traditionally been one of restraint - possibly because there were usually more important things to worry about like civil war, plague or taxes.

What we have seen this week is largely the product of a solipsistic media caste heavily influenced by their own personal priorities - the same phenomenon that produced the wall-to-wall coverage when Nelson Mandela died in 2013. It's all part of a growing trend towards collective sentimentality - remember 'the People's Princess'? - and an emphasis on the outward display of emotion, whether genuine or synthetic.

While I applaud the unseen hand that put Bowie on the PA system in my local shopping centre last week - infinitely better than the usual X-Factor warblings - and I may well play my CD of 'Ziggy Stardust' in the car this weekend (and sing along when there's no one listening), I see no reason to join in with a communal and irrational manifestation of grief played out to the extent that the mourning becomes in itself the news story.

There is a certain irony in the media descriptions of Bowie's quiet last months with his family and the private cremation interspersed with lurid accounts of candlelit vigils by tear-stained, elaborately-dressed fans (not for nothing is the term short for 'fanatic'). According to one paper, 'Rosie Lowery, 21, who painted her face with a lightning bolt in tribute, was crying as she laid flowers in Bowie's memory'; is it cynical to think that young Rosie's touching display may owe more to the omnipresent news cameras than to veneration of an ephemeral persona created twenty years before she was born?

Still, regardless of my views on conspicuous lamentation, I have to say that I have admired Bowie's musical and creative talent since I first heard 'Space Oddity' as a science fiction-obsessed teenager. Clearly I am not the only one for whom the song had a certain resonance - the internet sensation generated by Commander Chris Hadfield's performance suggests a sizeable intersection of enthusiasts (though it helped that Hadfield had already achieved online fame with his excellent tweet about having to wear a red shirt).

That being so, it is, perhaps inevitable that - and I've been saving this treat until last - there is an asteroid out there called David Bowie. It's not likely to be dropping by Earth any time soon but there's something rather agreeable about the idea of it sailing on eternally through the asteroid belt; perhaps, if online speculation proves correct, it will one day be joined out there in space by the cremated remains of the man himself.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Back soon...

Due to circumstances beyond your host's control, the Tavern bar is currently unmanned.

Having found your way here, you are clearly a reader of discernment and excellent taste and can be trusted to help yourself from the barrels in my absence.

You are therefore cordially invited to pour yourself a drink and peruse the archives  - I expect to be back in just over a week's time. A good place to start might be the attached label 'Seasonal Insanity' - some things never change.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Holey argumentation, Batman!

The reappearance of Camila Batmanghelidjh in the public arena has, as ever, brought some wonderful turns of phrase such as Civil Society's suggested motto,'Never knowingly understood', or Quentin Letts' memorable comparison of Alan Yentob, seated at her side, to "a junior pudding waiter next to an urn of fruit salad".

Such verbal delights are merely the icing on a cake made from such rich and diverse ingredients as £150 shoes, brown envelopes of cash, tax payments being 'conceptualised' into thin air and 'abusive limericks' (for which, I should perhaps assure regular readers, your humble host was not responsible - despite the temptation).

Yentob was, his unsavoury attempts at shroud-waving notwithstanding, comprehensively upstaged by the sartorial migraine that is Batmanghelidjh in full battle dress - one wonders, now Kids' Company is no more, who has replaced the organisation's accountant as her dressmaker-in-chief - and quelled into a supporting role beside her truly astounding self-belief and looking-glass logic.

One can certainly sympathise with - and secretly envy - Paul Flynn's exasperated protest at the “spiel of psychobabble" and "verbal ectoplasm,” that constituted Batmanghelidjh's circumlocutory obfuscation over issues such as the notorious brown envelopes full of cash:
“It has turned into the notion that it was handed out willy-nilly,” she said. “It wasn’t. It was accounted for.”
All very reassuring - except that the issue was never whether the payments were recorded but rather why they were made at all; even the 'client' who described the scene during the handout on Fridays was happy to say she and the others signed for the cash:
'Then we would go to the shop and buy whatever we wanted with that money. It was weed heaven on a Friday, you could smell it coming down from the landings.'
Amid the Protean coils of Batmanhelidjh's convoluted rhetoric, however, this somehow became “The myth that we handed out cash in envelopes”. By this point, the committee were clearly struggling:
“But it’s not a myth, is it?” said Jenkin.
“No, it’s not a myth,” said Batmanghelidjh happily, and carried on, her point proved.
Somehow I can't help thinking of this...
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't - till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
While a fair number of Kids Company office staff seem to have been occupied - like the accountant - with the important business of stitching together the Empress' new clothes, some were clearly not so devoted; Batmanghelidjh's assertion at the enquiry that the money was for essentials is undermined by the assertion by a member of the accounts staff that
...money is not given according to need but, more often than not, because “people turn up and cuss and make a noise until they get their money”.
In any case, the way Humpty Dumpty - sorry, Batmanghelidjh -  herself viewed these payments is, perhaps, indicated by her comments in a BBC radio interview some months ago:
“Middle-class parents give their children pocket money. Why does it become a problem when it’s a poor child that’s being given money?”
Er... because it's money donated expressly to tackle the damaging effects of poverty and deprivation rather than for recreational spending? This, remember, is the woman who, by her own account, regularly gave 'clients' Christmas and birthday gifts of  'big bags of clothes' bought from John Lewis and Selfridges.
They get so excited when they open them, it always brings tears to my eyes.
Presumably she derived the same warm glow from giving out weekly 'pocket money', however it was spent. Like Batmanghelidjh herself, the monstrous cargo cult she created represents the supreme triumph of sentiment over reason - a dangerous thing indeed when applied to the serious business of raising and educating children,

The enquiry was never going to achieve much - beyond supplying material for facetious bloggers - when it depended on getting straight information from Alan Yentob and Camila Batmanghelidjh; all we can hope is that the Great and the Good walk away from this with the determination never to be fooled again.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Trick or Treat?

No, it's not the reappearance in the media of Camila Batmanghelidjh - don't worry; we'll have more on her soon - but a Hallowe'en Special in the form of 2015 TB145.

Data released this morning show that this asteroid, estimated at between 290m and 650m in diameter will fly by around 450,000km away - a mere whisker in cosmic terms - at an 'unusually high' relative velocity of 35km/s.

For those of us near the Greenwich meridian, the closest approach will be around teatime on Saturday October 31st - too early, perhaps, for the Tavern's traditional fly-by carousing but about the right time for a celebratory slice of cake.

At such proximity, there is always an outside chance that some unforeseen perturbation in its orbit may nudge it Earthwards - the Express is doubtless even now preparing its 'DOOMSDAY!' headlines - to send some of us, at least, the way of the dinosaurs.

If that is the case, what better day for the fire and flood to strike than the annual festival of tat and pointless consumerism that has swollen in recent years to a monstrous, bloated retail extravaganza?

What makes it even better is that, should the alarm genuinely be raised that day, the public response might well be the reverse of that inspired by Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' - secure in their assumption that it must be a seasonal hoax, countless thousands would, instead of retreating to higher ground, spend their final hours on Earth clad in scratchy polyester costumes eating themselves sick on chocolate eyeballs.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Ironic posteriors and the Cotton-Spinners' Gazette

We have been musing this week on the topic of feminism. While this is territory already visited in the Tavern, the chance discovery of an article in the Guardian - where else? - has led to a certain boggling of minds.

It concerns a French artist and a series of drawings inspired by the work of one Nicki Minaj, a hip-hop artist whose performances are something of an eye-opener for those of us who had stopped watching music videos by the late 80s. Camille Henrot has 'reworked' the single 'Anaconda' into 'a piece of social commentary' described in vintage Guardian style:
One of the drawings is called 'My Anaconda Don’t' – a lyric repeated throughout the song. Each snaky, filigree-like ink line seems as if it's a riff on postcolonialism, adding up to a poignant collision of high art and pop culture.
Those of you who have been paying attention to the youth scene will doubtless know already that there was a public rift between Minaj and 'pop princess Taylor Swift' (nope; me neither) when the video of 'Anaconda' missed out on some kind of award. Minaj appears to have suggested it was 'cos she is black' but, having taken a look (here, if you really must - but don't say I didn't warn you), I can think of other reasons.

I can appreciate, for example, that Minaj wishes to ridicule the objectification of women, but I have to admit to some difficulty in seeing exactly how this is achieved by writhing around slathered in baby oil and pouting at the camera, patting the rear of a shapely bikini-clad dancer or crawling on all fours around a seated man, however ironic the intention.
“I like to think she created Anaconda to evoke criticism. She has abused the typical ‘black music-video girl’ archetype to the very end, to catch attention and create hate – if only so we too can realise our aversion to the sexualisation of women.
Now I can't speak for the male of the species, but it seems to me that, presented with four and a half minutes of Minaj's ample and impressively mobile buttocks undulating in a variety of insubstantial garb alongside a quartet of equally callipygian acolytes, the response is not necessarily going to be "Goodness me; the objectification of women is a terrible thing!"

While the lyrics - as far as I understand them - are full of mordant, if crude, irony directed at men who judge women by their physical attributes, this message seems to have entirely escaped the visitors to a Las Vegas waxwork exhibition who amused themselves taking a variety of inventive and explicit pictures of each other with a replica of the singer depicted, mid-twerk, on all fours .

Henrot - along with, presumably the Guardian - is in no doubt, however, hailing Minaj as a feminist icon. In fact, the Guardian seems to have something of a Minaj obsession, which suggests that its journalists believe an oiled and gyrating posterior can have impeccable feminist credentials as long as it is intended ironically - it's a very long way indeed from the earnest articles I devoured back in my boiler-suit days.

As it happens, another issue altogether may be tipping the balance in Minaj's favour (a tip of the tricorn here to JuliaM); given the paper's perennial preoccupations, it is perhaps something of a giveaway that, even in the piece on Henrot's drawings, the critic manages to shoehorn in a load of post-colonial guilt for good measure.
In her new work, the elegant line drawings inspired by the sweatiest, most sexualised scenes from Minaj’s video play with the ghosts of colonialism and racial stereotyping in contemporary culture.
The Manchester Guardian as was - there's nothing quite like it!

(If you did watch the video, you might enjoy this parody as an antidote.) 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Corbyn addresses the faithful

It's good to see Jeremy Corbyn's commitment to recycling: full marks to Alex Massie at the Spectator for listing the verbatim borrowings from a 2011 speech written for (and rejected by) Ed Miliband.

Personally I'm not sure how much it matters. In the great tradition of party conferences, no-one there really bothers too much about the minutiae of  the leader's speech; they just join in when they like the tune.

Since I have decided I am allergic to politicians (or perhaps it's just an intolerance), I shall, at this point, refer you to Caedmon's Cat, who comments at length on the rise of Corbyn far more stylishly than I ever could -  I invite you to join me in a raising a glass to the author of phrases such as 'a boil on the buttock politic'.

Meanwhile, having taken the tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) quiz from the Telegraph (back in August), I have been told that
"You don’t like Corbyn, or his ideas. No matter who you vote for, extremist Corbynistas condemn you as an Evil Tory."
I can't say it comes as a complete surprise - though coming from the Telegraph, I do rather wonder whether that is the default response.

Actually, there is one idea of Corbyn's I do find palatable; the end of the Punch-and Judy PMQs - although I'm not so sure about the 'Housewife's Choice' sourcing of his questions. Still, whatever else he brings to the table, anything that makes Westminster less infantile is alright in my book.

(I am indebted to the Tavern's resident Wise Woman for the picture, a serendipitous find in an old book of Irish Folk Tales. The resemblance is striking, don't you think?)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Down Memory Lane to Dolphin Square

Let me take you back to the time when 1970s brown-and-orange was about to give way to the brave electric-blue world of the 1980s.

Like most teenagers, I spent much of my time day-dreaming. Camped out in the spacious attic of my parents' rural bungalow with Radio 1 and a bag of sherbet lemons from the newsagent's shop, I eagerly devoured the Sunday papers and imagined life in the fast lane hundreds of miles away.
All things were grist to the mill, from reviews of films I would not see for years (our local flea-pit had by then reinvented itself as a bingo hall) and descriptions of up-market restaurants to avant-garde fashions which, had anyone ventured out in them in my local high street, would have rendered the townsfolk helpless with laughter.

In my mind's eye, far from my sagging corduroy beanbag in the loft, I happily trawled the bookshops of Charing Cross Road and listened to records in HMV, then headed for the South Bank for coffee or browsed the rails in Oxford Street, choosing an outfit for supper round the corner at the Wardour Street Pizza Express and a trip to the Screen on the Green for the latest must-see film.

Naturally, at the end of such a busy day, I would need a place to lay my head - a sophisticated city pad with all the amenities - and I had already chosen the address. Dolphin Square had it all; a central location, concierge service and historical significance, not to mention the reflected glory of the rich and famous then in residence.

It was, as far as it could be at such a distance, an informed choice; I knew the layout of the complex and had a good idea of what some of the flats looked like inside thanks to the newspaper's property section and a detailed article or two. Fascinated by the stern 1930's architecture and design, I could have described the entrance halls or the corridors with a fair degree of accuracy or drawn from memory the central fountain which appeared in every property advertisement.

That familiar image still catches my eye whenever I see it, although it is more likely now to appear in the News section. Research has shown that teenagers are capable of absorbing and retaining a phenomenal amount of information and some of it, at least, was still there thirty-five years later when Dolphin Square acquired its sudden public notoriety and tarnished my innocent juvenile aspirations.

I neither intend nor want to delve into other people's darker territory with this post but, in the context of certain allegations dating back to the 1970s, I think it worth pointing out that, to my certain knowledge, it was possible at the time for a fourteen-year-old who had never seen London to construct an imaginary life there in meticulous detail from nothing but the Sunday papers, television and a tattered AtoZ.

(Footnote: Reader, I did not pine in vain. I'd like (albeit belatedly) to thank my wonderful mother for my sixteenth birthday treat - a day in London, bookshops, coffee and all, culminating in a blissful spree in the Oxford Street TopShop.)

Sunday, 30 August 2015

"I predict a riot."

"Without a functioning space for hope, positivity and genuine care, these communities will descend into savagery due to sheer desperation for basic needs to be met."
Thus spake Alan Yentob (if BBC News is to be believed) in an e-mail to the Cabinet Office explaining why a further £3 million should be poured into the gaping maw of Kids Company, the only thing standing between us and criminal dystopia.

The author of this Jeremiad leaves no doubt of the consequences should funding not be forthcoming:
...a "high risk" of looting, rioting and arson attacks on government buildings...."increases" in knife and gun crime, neglect, starvation and modern-day slavery
This, apparently, is what London will be like without Kids Company - read it and tremble! No wonder civil servants have described the language used as 'absurd' and 'hysterical'. Interestingly, the document bears more than a passing resemblance to the literary style of Batmanghelidjh herself; a blend of psycho-jargon and self-importance (not to mention the odd dangling preposition):
Our cause for concern is not hypothetical, but based on a deep understanding of the socio-psychological background that these children operate within.
This last quote raises an intriguing point; if the beneficiaries of Kids Company can be repeatedly described as 'children', for whom it fills the role of 'primary care-giver', who exactly is going to be out rioting and burning down government buildings?

Surely it will not be the well-groomed and photogenic pre-teen girls marched under escort to Downing Street in matching t-shirts to tug at the nation's heartstrings - though I wouldn't put it past some of the mothers vociferously complaining on television about the derailed gravy train of free meals, clothes and residential activity holidays for their offspring.

Instead, I suspect the potential rioters belong to an altogether different stratum of  'clients' who came to light in the Mail today thanks to files leaked by 'a Kids Company insider'. By Batmanghelidjh's own admission elsewhere,
‘Because we have been going for 19 years, some kids that we had in the early days are now older. [...] To give them a daily routine we get them to do things round the place so they are hanging round.’ 
In real terms, this translates into adults - some into their thirties - on the premises on a regular basis and being given substantial cash handouts from Kids Company funds despite evidence of criminal activities and drug abuse.

Personally, I'd have thought that having a number of adult male drug users, some with a record of violence, constantly 'hanging round' would have severely compromised the charity's aim of providing vulnerable children with a place where they could feel safe.

Certainly it must have been more than a little traumatic for youngsters to witness the abuse of kitchen staff by a 26-year-old 'crack den landlord' angry that queuing for food reminded him of being in prison. There was an even worse ordeal in store for one girl:
A handwritten note claims he sexually assaulted a girl on Kids Company premises and worked for the charity in return for cash in hand.
Presumably he qualified for personal attention from Batmanghelidjh herself, like the 29-year-old drug addict, alcoholic and convicted thief banned from seeing his children because of his 'aggressive behaviour' - though it has to be said Kids Company's lengthy (and expensive) involvement in the latter case does not appear to have steered the man away from a life of crime:
 A note says he received a total of £70,000 last year from Kids Company – and stole a further £10,000 from it
It all begs the question, what has Kids Company actually accomplished if, twenty years on, some of its earliest 'clients' are still battening onto it for financial gain at the expense of today's children? Although Yentob's e-mail looks like a threat, it may also be an admission that the charity has - whether through misguided optimism or fear of recidivism (or reprisals) - been bankrolling a group of disaffected career criminals, giving them a common focus and a monstrous sense of entitlement.

Like the clueless women who bought 'handbag pigs' only to find themselves responsible a few months later for large, hungry and destructive boars with distinctly antisocial tendencies, Ms Batmanghelidjh appears to have ignored the possibility that some of the children in receipt of her much-publicised vicarious generosity could, if indulged and encouraged in their dependency, one day grow into something she and her organisation could not control.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Who ate all the pies?

Cruel, perhaps, but she's got to be living on something.

Hot on the heels of Ms Batmanghelidjh's assertion that she needs a personal chauffeur because she can't drive and public transport is impossible as she 'can't walk long distances' comes her latest claim:
"I'm a dire cook. I've never even turned on my oven."
It is, of course, possible that she was indulging in a spot of self-deprecating hyperbole for dramatic effect; if so, this is more than a little unwise at the moment, given the intense scrutiny currently directed towards her and Kids Company. On the other hand, if true, such assertions should surely call into question whether she actually has the practical skills and experience to help her 'clients' become productive members of society.

There is something odd about her repeated insistence that she does not do such everyday things as using an oven or taking a bus or tube, or her claim 'never' to have worn off-the-peg clothes; it rather suggests she considers such mundane matters to be somehow beneath her, fit only for lesser mortals.
"Even when I have surgery I refuse to wear the ugly hospital robes and I delight the operating theatre team with my avant-garde pyjamas."
It's clear she regards herself as entitled to special treatment and attention. I understand that she must be very busy at work - although not too busy to comb John Lewis and Selfridges for designer-label gifts - and might need some assistance, but, as more revelations emerge about Kids Company, she is starting to look like a one-woman job creation scheme.

First we have the chauffeur (receiving not only his salary but a contribution towards his children's private education), and his sister-in-law, recruited ‘not because she is a crony but she is an extraordinarily brilliant accountant’, which is presumably why the organisation is in such great financial shape.

Let's be charitable, though; perhaps the accountant's mind wasn't always entirely on the job since she, together with her niece, is apparently also responsible for sewing Ms Batmanghelidjh's elaborate outfits from random fabric pieces brought in by staff and children. Another staff member supplies the earrings and turbans, while two more work on her signature fingerless gloves (a clear sartorial indication that, whatever needs doing, she won't be getting her own hands dirty).

By my reckoning, that's six employees devoting at least part of their time to her personal service (to say nothing of the staff and children roaming the streets and picking a pocket or two finding ownerless pieces of fabric) along with the half-dozen or so personal assistants needed to do all the paperwork due to her dyslexia - although they may, like the multi-tasking accountant, be numbered among the seamstresses too.

And now, it seems, we need to add to the roster whoever it is who is providing her with food, since she is, by her own admission, almost certainly not self-catering. Whether she takes all her meals at Kids Company or subsists on daily takeaways at home, a pattern is emerging of someone unwilling - or too self-important - to take care of her own needs rather than imposing on others.

There's something very familiar, at least to a beekeeper, about a female who is waited on, groomed and fed by a coterie of dedicated workers. The hive exists primarily to maintain the Queen Bee as she produces the next generation; it's starting to look as if, substituting hugging for egg-laying, the ultimate purpose of Kids Company was much the same.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Invasion of the Brummie Snatchers

There's proof today, it if were needed, that the silly season is well under way. A Freedom of Information request by staff at a Banbury newspaper (who surely have better things to do) has revealed a fascinating fact:
It may sound out of this world but Thames Valley Police has dealt with 15 reports of aliens in just four years.
This includes sightings in Milton Keynes, Oxford, High Wycombe and Chipping Norton, where 'residents claimed to have spotted little green men twice'.

Here at the Tavern, we like to keep an eye out for tales of visitors from beyond the void, particularly since I was one of a number of people who saw an unexplained object in the sky over rural Scotland one night in the mid-70s. (Occam's razor - always a useful tool when dealing with the paranormal - suggests it was a prototype drone from a nearby military base).

According to the news article,
Back in 2007, UFO expert Michael Soper claimed the Thames Valley area was becoming an alien hotspot.
Which is quite odd, because back in March, Birmingham Mail readers were told....
Back in 2010, UFO expert Richard Lawrence claimed Birmingham was becoming an alien hotspot.
,,,in an article beginning:
It’s out of this world – West Midlands Police has dealt with 23 reports of ALIENS in just four years.
Spooky! Or, alternatively*, lazy journalism; "It's summer, half the staff are off on holiday and we need a front-page article by midday on Tuesday - see if you can nick a piece from someone else's archives".

It's not even as if Thames Valley can compete with Birmingham's grand total of 23 sightings:
Three of the cases concerned alien abduction plots while two others claimed attacks were mounted by extra terrestrials. 
Four more were reports of people talking to or hearing aliens, while the majority – 14 – were sightings of little green men.
According to the police, five were registered as false alarms and advice was given in three cases - sadly, the report does not say what it was, although I'm guessing it had something to do with laying off the illegal substances - leaving fifteen presumably unaccounted for; heady stuff for local UFO enthusiasts.

I'm particularly intrigued by the 'alien abduction plots'; I must admit that I am having some difficulty anyway with the idea of the West Midlands as a point of first contact, and why extra-terrestrials would want to make off with the locals there, as opposed to, say, CERN (assuming their intentions are intellectual) or their usual remote rural USA (for more fundamental purposes) is more than a little baffling.

Surely they would be better off in Chipping Norton, where it would actually make sense to say, "Take me to your leader".

*Unless, of course, it is an orchestrated campaign for an as-yet-undisclosed purpose and we are being softened-up by advertisers (or aliens).