Archive | October 2021


I must apologize for giving this blog such a coarse and vulgar title but I couldn’t think of another one that was more suitable because this week the news has been dominated by raw sewage, which our private water companies are being allowed to dump in our rivers and lakes and all around the sea coast. As you see here.

The Labour MP for Streatham, Bell Ribiero-Addy, (Respec’ Bell) put it very succinctly on Twitter

Private water companies,’ she wrote, ‘are crapping on us from a great height. The average household in England pays £53 a year on top of their water bills to subsidise shareholders’ dividends. How do they repay us? By piping sewage into our rivers, lakes and the sea.’

And Jon Trickett MP (Respec’ Jon) listed the private water companies at fault. Here is his list

‘70% of our waterways,’ he wrote, ‘are owned by:

  • Malaysian Corp. Cayman Islands based
  • US Hedge funds
  • German Asset Firm
  • US Equity Corps
  • US Bank.
  • UAE, Kuwait and China Investment
  • Australian Global Asset Corp.

‘They pollute our waters,’ he says, ‘overcharging and move profits abroad. Public ownership is the answer.’

So what had happened to make the water companies feel secure about behaving in such a high-handed and anti-social way? Well to put it briefly, 265 Tory MPs had voted against an amendment to a government bill put down by the Duke of Wellington which would have made such behaviour illegal.

The amendment is very clear and seems absolutely reasonable, I quote it here:“141ZA Duty on sewerage undertakers to take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows“.

Nevertheless 265 Tory MPs either decided to vote against it on their own behalf or were whipped into into voting against it. And the news of their decision broke on social media early in the week when all of the 265 were named and shamed and had their mug shots on display. The outcry against them from their constituents and others was immediate, massive and furious. ‘Allons enfants’ I could almost smell the gunpowder.

And in Wednesday’s Guardian, a guarded article by Helena Horton headed ‘Ministers in partial U-turn over sewage amendment’

22 Conservative MPs had rebelled against the government to vote in favour of the amendment and after the outcry against the 265 one of the rebels who is called Phillip Dunne and is the chair of the Environment Audit Committee admitting that ‘although it was just 22 of us last week, awareness of this issue has been raised. There were many who abstained and many who did not understand the gravity of the issue, who have been made aware by constituents and colleagues.’

Certainly the figures she quotes in this article are big enough to make the more timid MPs think again. There were 403,171 sewage spills into English rivers and Seas in 2020, according to the Environment Agency, totally more that 3.1 million hours of spillages.

Entendez-vous, dans les campagnes

Mugir ces féroces soldats?

Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras

Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes.

The 265 have certainly done their fair share of Mugir-ing and although they’re not yet cutting throats, they are certainly risking the health of all our citizens and I kid you not. The sort of infection that you can catch from untreated sewage is hideously and painfully unpleasant. I know because it happened to me when I was seventeen. I’ll explain briefly. I spent a lot of my time during summer holiday swimming and that summer I had swum most days from a battered red buoy about a mile out at sea, I didn’t know it marked the outlet for raw sewage, but the result was that I caught streptococcus and was seriously ill for more than six weeks. To give you some idea how seriously, I weighed 9st 10, when I caught the illness, but 7st 4, by the time I could stand up again. Raw sewage is bloody dangerous.

I’m going to give the penultimate word to Pam Ayres who has written one of her splendid poems about it all. Respec’ Pam.

Now river life is dying
And turning up its feet
Along the Shitcreek River
Where vapours ain’t so sweet
Where water ain’t so crystal
Where sewage oozes down
Along the Shitcreek River
Where the waters turning brown.

And the final word is another poem and that’s called ‘It’s no good thinking about it.’ I wrote it in March 1978 at the start of the Winter of Discontent.

A plastic mind is cheap and closed
And will admit no growth,
All change resisted till it warps or splits
Or both.

Neon opinion’s automatic flash
Requires no thought,
Will change electric colour in an instant,
And can be bought.

Flotsam democracy of empty heads;
One name, one vote,
Even on tides of grief and poverty
Will simply float.

Fear is the silencer on tyranny’s gun.
The observant know what’s wrong
Yet acquiesce because the threat is aimed
At their own young

An open mind can suffer fear and pain
As well as growth.
Perhaps a lack of thought is preferable,
Defence not sloth.

Our helpless anomie in the grip of power may prove
That atrophy is best,
Since we survive if we reduce ourselves
To plastic like the rest.

And yet. And yet. The happy tyrant should not quite forget.

Plastic can warp, can split,
Or can become
In the ultimate despair of powerlessness,
A terrorist bomb.

People not paper

This illustration probably looks rather odd, but that is because it is rather special. It is a picture of my old darling and me on one of our jaunts with our grandchildren, taken by my lovely granddaughter amanuensis, a copy of which I’ve had on my wall ever since. But this is a different copy, because it’s a mosaic composed of more than 300 pictures of my family. Hanging on the wall now, it is possible to see one picture after another, which has been a great comfort in these days of lockdown and uncertainty.

In fact, I went back to it for comfort after I’d read a tweet from a new writer asking us how other writers coped when people arrived and wanted her attention and she wanted to write. I wrote back to tell her that the people who are visiting her and especially those who were friends or related to her should always come first, because people are the important thing. In short people not paper.

I knew that even before the pandemic but oh, how the pandemic has driven it home. It was absolutely horrible to be able to see so few of my family when I wanted to see and cuddle them all, the way I always had. Being in a bubble was and is so limiting. I have a lot of family, two daughters, five grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren, seven of whom I see frequently and love to bits.

A loved family is a tangle of gossamer threads that bind us to life. I cannot imagine any torture more terrible then living on my own.

So greetings all you families everywhere, take joy in one another whenever you can. You are worth it.

This entry was posted on October 22, 2021. 3 Comments

When did you last see your doctor?

And by that I don’t mean consult your doctor, but actually see him or her face to face. It is apparently quite a rare thing these days to be allowed to the surgery to actually sit in a room and see your doctor and get a few answers about what is wrong with you.

Personally, I can’t remember the last time I did that. I have quite a lot wrong with me now – bits falling off every time I turn round! – so I do tend to use the surgery rather more often then younger and fitter people. But the appointments are usually over the phone, which would be all right if I could hear well (which I can’t even with hearing aids) or augment my hearing by lipreading, which is what I usually do, but there are two drawbacks to lipreading as I rapidly discovered. One is that you can’t do it if you’re both wearing masks as most sensible people still are, nor can it be done over the phone.

Yesterday I found that I had a repeat of the vertigo that spins my head round a great deal, makes it difficult to stand unaided or to turn round, so I rang the surgery and to my great surprise I actually got to talk to one of the doctors in the team. Unfortunately, although she was kindly, she sounded as though she was Indian and spoke softly, so her English was very difficult for me to understand and hear. She did her best and I did mine, but it was tricky. But even so, we made a sort of sense of it and she was very kind and very helpful.

And now this morning the Guardian has run a headline to say ‘Face-to-face appointments plan could lead to exodus of doctors’ and goes on to explain that the Governments plan to force GPs to see every patient in person will make life so difficult for surgeries that there will be an exodus of doctors who are already under serious pressure because of the pandemic. Oh how I wish we had a government that would listen to the needs and problems of the people they purport to lead instead of just bullying them.

There are some alarming facts and figures that Government ministers have failed to read and/or simply ignored, NHS Digital official figures show ‘that the number of full time equivalent GPs in England has fallen from 29,403 in September 2015 to 28,023 – a fall of 1,380.’ ‘In addition, the 4% rise in England’s population since 2015 means there is now just one full-time equivalent GP for every 2,045 patients.’

I would call that a cause for concern, not a reason to apply a bullying technique. We need our doctors, paramedics, nurses, surgeons and we have always needed them because none of us know when we will fall ill and need them desperately and now we have a pandemic to contend with as well as all the normal illnesses ‘that flesh is heir to’. Perhaps we need some genuine face to face talk between doctors and MPs but that would require the sort of humility on the part of the MPs that very few of them now show any signs of possessing.

Perhaps we should be standing up and shouting ‘we need our NHS. WE DO NOT WANT IT TO BE PRIVATISED!’ It is horribly possible that this government will make the morons among us hate their doctors by using this campaign to get them overworked as they are, to obey government rules and see all patients face to face, but the rest of us will recognise bullying for what it is and go on admiring and being grateful for our NHS. Oh if we only had a government that understands the meaning of compassion and cooperation.

And in the meantime our Prime Mendacitor is on holiday in a costly property in Marbella posing in the sun, pretending paint and pretending to be Winston Churchill. Yuck!

This entry was posted on October 15, 2021. 5 Comments


After years struggling to get an answer from any of the three members of the Blake Cottage Trust without any response from any of them at all and with the cottage visibly decaying, I have at last found a chink in their armour.

On November 13th from 11 o’clock in the morning, there is going to be a literary event in the new conversion in Bognor station called The Track, I shall be among the local writers who will be present with their books, which is a very pleasant thing to be able to tell you, but when I read the leaflet about ‘Novels set in Bognor Regis’ which is prepared by the Bognor Regis Heritage Partnership I found something which I didn’t expect at all.

On the title page under the title ‘The Authors & Novels of Bognor Regis’, there is something about Blake’s Cottage that took my breath away. Here it is verbatim:

‘The town is also blessed with having within its environs the cottage in which one of Britain’s most creative artists and writers lived, William Blake. THE MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONALLY RESPECTED BLAKE SOCIETY MAKE FREQUENT VISITS TO THE COTTAGE WHILST RESEARCHING THE WORK OF THIS GREAT MAN.’

When I got my breath back, I sent a message to Irene Campbell who has been organising the event and is a member of the Bognor Regis Heritage Partnership to ask her where she got this information from or from whom and she told me, so I sent a message to the person she’d named who is the Chairman of the Bognor Regis Town Council’s heritage partnership and as it turns out, a splendid man. I left him a message on his official website and he came back to me with impressive speed and told me, among all sorts of other things, (it was a long and productive conversation) that he had been told about the ‘respected Blake Society’ and the ‘frequent visits’, by none other then Tim Heath himself (well, there’s a surprise!). And as you can imagine, I told him what a lie he had been sold and what the true state of the cottage is now. To my great delight, he’s following the case and has already contacted the Charities Commission. We have an ally folks and an ally with power!

I’ve cheered up so much I found poem I wrote 43 years ago, which I hope will bring a little fun to the end of this blog and celebrate National Poetry Day. It’s about political liars, I’ll bet that surprises you!

Good Guys Don’t Win – February 1978

(with apologies to Ogden Nash)

The assumption of superiority
Is, without question, a No 1 priority
If you intend to have the temerity to compete
With all those pushing, shoving, crawling members of the new bureaucratic elite.
You can commit adultery, fiddle the books, con, borrow or steal
Providing you do it in secret, and hide it even from yourself,
Because if you are so stupid as to reveal
Anything to anybody, even the hairline fracture of a mild self-doubt
Then you shouldn’t be surprised when hordes of insecure bullies come screaming down determined to knock you out.
For quite the most dangerous of any commodity
Is honesty.
And really, if you’re going in for this game, for your own protection
It’s the first of the virtues you should jettison or hide away from any possibility of detection.
There may have been a few honest politicians but nobody has ever noticed ’em or missed ’em
Which is no surprise really, because you can’t expect natural justice from the British parliamentary system.
So if you want to be a success in our society you’d better try hard,
No matter how imperfect you may be, to acquire a facade
And if you’re thinking of kicking your way into the political scrimmage
Remember it’s not the personality that counts, nor the party, nor the issues – just the image.

This entry was posted on October 7, 2021. 2 Comments