Wednesday, 30 November 2011

STRIKE A POSE

It was the day of strike action today, in case you hadn't noticed. Call me a fence-sitter if you want, but I'm not going to comment publicly on whether I think the teachers, as one example, are right or wrong to withdraw their labour at the urging of the unions. Obviously, for many parents up and down the country the strike seems to be viewed as an inconvenience they could well do without, particularly when you consider that a whopping 24 Thanet schools are believed to have been closed today.

However, it's worth remembering the vitally important role that teachers have in society and how we owe it to our children to take heed of their understandable concerns about pension reforms. Whether going on strike is a suitable way to address those concerns is up for you to decide, but I do err on the side of sympathy.

I'm not usually one to go in for these internet-based viral things, but I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook had posted this, so I felt compelled to share it:

Are you sick of highly paid teachers? 

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit! 

We can get that for less than minimum wage. 

That's right. Let's give them £5.93 an hour and only the hours they work; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be £41.51 a day (8.30 am to 3:30pm with 60 minutes off for lunch and play – that equals 7½ hours). 

Each parent could pay £41.51 a day for these teachers to babysit their children. Now how many children do they teach in a day... maybe 32? So that's £41.51 x 32 = £1328.32 a day. 

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any holidays. 

LET'S SEE.... 

That's £1328.32 x 180 = £239,097.60 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries). 

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage (£6.90), and just to be fair, round it off to £7.00 an hour. That would be £7.00 x 7½ hours x 32 children x 180 days = £ 302,400 per year. 

Wait a minute – there's something wrong here! There sure is! 

The average teacher's salary (nationwide) is £25,000 ÷ 180 days = £138.90 per day ÷ 32 children = £4.34 ÷ 7½ hours = £0.58 per hour per student – a very inexpensive babysitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!

Make a teacher smile (or cry!); repost this to show appreciation!

Clearly, if the above is true, we should consider ourselves lucky that we pay teachers as modestly as we do. Just remember – not all of those who work in education or the public sector are riding a gravy train. Most are not-so-lucky. 

If a teacher can walk away from a long career at the age of 65 with an average pension of around £9,806 (as the Hutton report states) then the whole 'gold-plated' argument much-loved by the gutter-press falls apart like a stale cookie. At the very least, that should be a reason to listen to the strikers rather than berate them, should it not?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

DEV BISWAL GETS SAUCY

It's been brought to my attention that Dev Biswal – Thanet restauranteur and head chef at The Ambrette – featured in an issue of The Grocer magazine earlier this month in which he slams some of the own-label curry sauces sold in supermarkets. In an investigation into the quality of said sauces, the Michelin Guide-recommended kitchen maestro tasted some of the offerings from Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons and concluded that they could barely be considered 'curry' at all:

"The leading supermarkets make a big contribution to the degredation of so-called 'curries' by introducing such uncared for and low-end products. The general public has a right to eat authentic, healthy, affordable and good-tasting food."

I'm sure Mr. Biswal will be mighty pleased if the day finally comes when the masses descend upon Margate's proposed Arlington Tescos with bagfulls of Tesco Value Curry Sauce at 17p a tin, don't you?!

Many thanks to Dev Biswal who granted me permission to use the above image for this post. Please make sure you read his blog.

Friday, 25 November 2011

CLLR JOHN WORROW RESIGNS THE WHIP

I see that councillor for Birchington South Ward, John Worrow, recently set up a local blog and has dropped the bombshell today that he is resigning the whip of Thanet's local Conservative group. The implications of this on our 'hung' council could be seismic in that it brings the amount of Labour and Conservative councillors to level pegging with 26 councillors on both sides. Since neither party has a majority, what's to say John's resignation won't lead to a future council leadership struggle? Interesting times indeed. 

Perhaps John's entry to the blogging scene was due to all the glowing adulation he received after being voted TDC's 2nd 'sexiest' councillor here on Thanet Waves back in June. Maybe the allure of social media channels proved so strong that John simply couldn't resist reaching out to his online fanbase. Don't let the newfound fame and independence get to your head, John! I'm kidding, of course, but in all seriousness, please make sure you visit John's blog. It's well worth a read. He accuses the current local Conservative administation of behaving in an "unbending, unrealistic, and unsympathetic manner" particularly towards live animal exports protesters and small business owners within John's Birchington South Ward.

On a separate note, it is refreshing to see local councillors engaging with their constituents through the medium of blogging. I honestly think that the majority of councillors should embrace blogging as it is undeniably good for democracy and enables voters to find out more about their elected representatives. To their credit, Thanet Labour Group have been using the Thanet Lab blog in a very collaborative fashion to air the views of a number of Labour councillors. In fact, according to my analysis, 14 local Labour councillors out of a potential 26 have either contributed to or ran a local Thanet blog of their own.

It's just a shame that the local Conservative group don't appear to have been as unified in their embrace of blogging. At the moment, we have Simon Moores and Ken Gregory. They could've had John Worrow joining their ranks but his resignation now means that only 2 Tory councillors out of a potential 26 are now blogging. Well, I suppose it's a start, isn't it?!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

NICK ROBINSON CALLS TURNER 'A BIT OF FLUFF'


Nick Robinson did a rekkie to Margate as part of Your Money and How They Spend It, a documentary investigating how taxpayer's money is spent, which aired on BBC2 last night. As Daily Mirror columnist Jane Simon has noted, the bespectacled Political Editor "smugly zeroes in on some spending decisions that seem particularly unsound" with one such 'example' being the Turner Contemporary which Jane describes as "a multi-million pound art gallery in struggling Margate."

Standing in front of the Daniel Buren window installation, Gallery Director Victoria Pomery was interviewed by Nick Robinson and did a fairly good job dealing with some tricky questions thrown at her. After referring to the £14m of public money that went into building the Turner Contemporary, Nick went into 'attack dog' mode. Here is a transcript of how the conversation went:

NICK: You must at times see the real poverty that there is here [in Margate]. How, in a sense, do you argue to yourself the reason why people in very low-paid jobs should pay their taxes to build what is in a sense a real luxury?
VICTORIA: I don't see any of the arts as a luxury. I see the arts as integral to our lives, all of our lives, whoever we are. And I think for me it's really important that everyone can access fantastic arts that make them think in different ways about themselves and the world that they live in.

NICK: Isn't this just in the end a bit of fluff?
VICTORIA: I don't think this is fluff at all. I think this is serious. We are really ambitious. We want to be part of Margate's history and part of its future. And we feel we can really help and support the wider regeneration and renewal of this area.

Exploring the opposite side of the argument, Nick Robinson interviewed Dawn McClaren, a local mum who said she was angry about the use of taxpayer's money to build an art gallery given the fact that her college-educated son can't get a job due to the chronic lack of jobs in the area. Also making a very brief appearance was Labour councillor Ian Driver who expressed optimism about the gallery and predicted we'd soon feel the benefit in a few years time when the local jobs market eventually picks up.

Concluding his investigation, Nick Robinson pointed out that arts funding for the whole of England adds up to about £447m which he describes as "a drop in the ocean of public spending, and a lot less than Winter Fuel Allowance." From that, I think we should take comfort in that as far as investment in the arts goes, there are far more cost-heavy areas of public expenditure that deserve far more scrutiny.

Besides, only a fool would have failed to notice the immediate impact the opening of Turner has had on the local area in such a short space of time. Personally, I'm of the view that the arts are vitally important to society, particularly in how those in the arts industry can engage with the education sector, so I couldn't be more pleased with the progress that Turner Contemporary is making and the effect it is having on the local area.

The rebirth of Margate is already starting to occur in the Old Town (for which the Margate Renewal Partnership recently received an award for Great Neighbourhood from the Academy of Urbanism at a national ceremony) and The British Guild of Travel Writers even gave an international tourism award to the Turner Contemporary earlier this month.

The proof  as they say  is in the pudding. Jobs may be sparse, sure, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Let's just count our blessings and be thankful that the Turner Contemporary isn't quite turning out to be the 'white elephant' that some people thought it would be.

You can still watch Episode 1 of Your Money and How They Spend It on BBC iPlayer and make up your own mind.

Friday, 11 November 2011

CAT-ASTROPHE!!!

I see that CCTV footage on Kent Online of the Ramsgate wastrel who was caught swinging a cat around by its tail has gone viral. Now, it seems, the national press have joined the chorus of outrage. The story has since been picked up by BBC News, Sky News, The Sun, Daily Mirror, The Independent and The Telegraph in the same sort of hysterical coverage that accompanied CCTV footage of a woman who dumped a cat in a wheelie bin last year.

The RSPCA has appealed for help to trace a man caught on CCTV in Kent swinging a cat by its tail.

This sort of sickening behaviour is appalling. The man deserves to be prosecuted, so I fully support the efforts of the RSPCA to catch him, bring him to justice and make him answerable for his actions. However, as much as I detest violence towards animals, isn't it odd how people who complain about animal cruelty to cats in this particular instance weren't so kind about Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi when he was being swung around by rebels, kicked in the head until his hair dripped with blood and allegedly sodomized with an iron rod before being shot in the head?

As evil as Gaddafi's regime undoubtedly was, isn't it peculiar how some people seem to think it's OK to condone the abuse and near-torture of a human being – even if he was a despot – yet to swing a cat by its tail is suddenly beyond the pale? Has the world lost its sense of perspective? Surely if you agree that swinging a cat by its tail is morally deplorable, then the similar treatment of another human being should be treated as cruel in equal measure, no matter what level of wrongdoing Gaddafi was guilty of?

Needless to say, I feel that swinging a cat by its tail is a disgustingly heartless thing to do, but my point is cruelty to humans should be equally reviled. However, looking at some of the vile comments on Kent Online, it seems people are happy to embrace the same punitive braying mob mentality that the Libyan rebels were guilty of when they got hold of Gaddafi and beat him up, arguably making them morally no better than he was. "I would personally like to see the thug swung round by his neck!" says Ferry Tuckwit. "Absolutely disgusting," says JaneAnne. "What a vile little chav. He deserves to be locked up and tortured."

Be careful, folks. You might love cats, but I think you're getting a bit hysterical here. This isn't Libya, this is Britain. Civilised behaviour can't be taught to thugs by tit-for-tat violence. And why? Because in resorting to violence you become uncivilised and thus destroy the whole basis of civil obedience in the first place. We should remember that justice should not be vengeful. Don't form a vigilante group and bugger people with iron rods, OK? That won't solve anything! Just show a bit of bloody decorum, will you?!

Monday, 7 November 2011

EMIN PLANS 'HARDCORE' TURNER EXHIBITION

Tracey Emin has told BBC's The Culture Show that her exhibition at the Turner Contemporary next year will be rather naughty indeed. Never one to shy away from what may be considered a sexual faux pas, Emin suggested to interviewer Andrew Graham-Dixon that the 'hardcore' tone of the exhibition looks set to be quite raunchy, with her work featuring alongside J.M.W. Turner and Auguste Rodin. She told him:

“Basically, it's all erotic art. Not everyone knows that Turner did a lot of erotic paintings and watercolours – and, well, obviously Rodin did – but much more raunchy than people ever... All everyone knows is about The Kiss but his other stuff was really hardcore, you know. So I think they'll be bringing that out and I'll look like some placid nice young lady, I think, in comparison to them.”

I'm sure all the nation's perverts will be rubbing their trousers with great enthusiasm at the news. So there we have it – it looks like we'll be treated to lots of nudey bits and bobs being flashed in front of our faces to mark Tracey Emin's homecoming. Oh, joy of joys.

Friday, 4 November 2011

RIGHT ROYAL PALAVA

It's been reported by Kent Online that Queen Elizabeth II is planning to visit Margate for Remembrance Day on Friday 11 November. Though the announcement is official, there is no futher information on royal.gov.uk on the details of her visit, so nobody knows for certain what she'll be doing here. However, I have heard rumours that she may be visiting Margate Old Town to meet some war veterans from the local area. I think this is great news – given the poignancy of the occasion, I'm sure the media will be watching like hawks so it definitely stands to give our local area some positive publicity.

As it happens, I'll be working that day, so I won't be available to say hello to our Queen, which I'm sure she'll be disappointed to hear. Unfortunately, I actually have to go out and earn my money rather than rely upon £40 million a year from the taxpayer to spend on lavish trips abroad to the likes of Australia, Canada, Bermuda and Trinidad under the guise of a 'royal visit'. Since becoming Queen, our monarch has been on approximately 386 trips abroad to far-flung corners of the globe. Nice work if you can get it, eh?! That being said, the Queen does work incredibly hard for an 85-year-old, but whether her work is worth £40 million a year is up for debate, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, I'm not gonna rain on her parade. I'm beginning to sound like an anti-monarchist, which I'm not, as given my cynicism about politicians, I'm even struggling to see the benefits of republicanism, to be fair! By and large, I'm pleased with the news and I'm sure the Queen's visit will be wonderful for the town. I did notice that by an amazing coincidence, a quick visit to the Turner Contemporary website reveals an announcement which states:

'Due to exceptional circumstances Turner Contemporary will be closed to the public on Friday 11 November 2011. We apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.'

Hmm, closed to the public? On the same day the Queen is visiting? Would it be fair to speculate that the reason Turner Contemporary is closing on that day is because the Queen is possibly planning to have a snoop around their Nothing in the World but Youth exhibition for a private viewing? I certainly wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. Of course, I'm not one to peddle mindless gossip, but it does make one wonder, does it not? Does anybody else think it's possible the Queen might visit the Turner Contemporary after shaking hands with the great and the good in Margate's Old Town?

If the Queen does fancy herself as a bit of an art lover, I'd be curious to find out what she thinks of Jamie Reid's poster for the Sex Pistols 1977 "Holidays in the Sun" single which is hanging up in Turner Contemporary's South Gallery. Jamie Reid, lest we forget, is the anarchic artist who created what The Observer's Sean O'Hagan described as "the single most iconic image of the punk era" by designing a picture which depicted Her Majesty with an added safety pin through her nose and swastikas in her eyes. Speaking of the Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" single, Jamie Reid later said:

“That single made world wide news. In retrospect, it was probably the last public protest against the monarchy. We have really been duped in the last few years: royalty has taken over media space to the extent that they’re now a living soap opera”.

Oh dear. If our monarch does visit the Turner Contemporary, does that mean she could inadvertently be exposed to anti-monarchist propraganda? Good grief! Well, let's just hope Her Majesty doesn't happen to remember who Jamie Reid is if she happens to see the picture, shall we?! That could be very embarrassing! Then again, I'm probably wrong, she might not even be visiting the gallery after all. I'm only speculating. The Queen's probably got a very busy itinery for that day, what with it being Remembrance Day and everything, so the sudden announcement that the Turner Contemporary will be closed to the public on that day is probably just a coincidence. What do you think?