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Out of ideas

In 2008, Dame Carol Black said:

Replacing the sick note with a fit note would switch the focus to what people can do instead of what they cannot.

Gordon Brown’s government subsquently replaced the ‘sick note’ with a ‘fit note’ which put a new focus what people could do instead of what they could not.

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak said:

We need to change the sick note culture so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t.

It might seem like money for old role, but nevertheless, let’s focus on what Sunak can do, not what he can’t.

In 2008, 2.4% of all working hours in the UK were lost to sickness absence. By 2022, this had ‘spiralled’—Sunak’s word—to 2.6%. For what it’s worth, at the demise of the last Tory government in 1997, it was 3%.

In 2008, 2.6 million people were waiting for NHS treatment. By 2023, that had almost tripled, from 2.6 million to 7.7 million.

Here’s what Sunak, and perhaps Sunak alone, can do: look at those figures and conclude that people are staying off work too readily, and that the welfare system needs to be—Sunak’s word—’tightened’.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics, .

‘The Reluctant Traveler’

Over the last few weeks, Wendy and I have enjoyed the first two series of the Apple TV+ series The Reluctant Traveler. The series features 77-year-old Canadian actor Eugene Levy holidaying in a variety of exotic locations in the first series, and European locations in the second. Most episodes feature an impressive hotel and some regional food, along with unique local experiences.

The tone of the series is comfortingly warm, which is attributable to both Levy’s affability and the astounding happiness and enthusiasm of every single person he meets during the series. It’s also very funny (I don’t think there was a single episode that didn’t make us laugh) and beautifully shot.

We hope it’s renewed for a third series.

This post was filed under: TV, .


This post was filed under: Photos, .

‘Fallen leaves’

I steamed this 2023 Finnish film, which is by Aki Kaurismaki, who is apparently a noted filmmaker, though he’s unsurprisingly unknown to me.

I was attracted to it in part by its very manageable 80-minute running time. It turned out to be a beautifully made, understated and gentle romantic comedy. To me, it seemed tonally similar to a Charlie Chaplin film: think meaningful glances and swelling strings (the varied soundtrack is a highlight). But it is set in present-day Helsinki.

Throughout the film, we hear radio news reports regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which made me reflect on how different that horrific war must feel in a nation on Russia’s border.

A gentle film it might be, but it doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter: alcohol addiction, exploitative zero-hours contracts, and chronic loneliness are all major themes. It’s also genuinely funny: I laughed out loud while sitting alone.

Fallen Leaves was understated, warm, and full of heart. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This post was filed under: Film, .

A manifestly different outcome

Since I spent far too much time looking at the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto when writing yesterday’s post, here’s another astonishing insight.

Only one of the 22 Conservative politicians pictured in the 2019 manifesto serves in the current Government.

It’s Kemi Badenoch, if you’re wondering… and even she’s resigned from the government once since the last election.

This post was filed under: Politics, .

Forgotten promises

On the front page of yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, a Conservative source is quoted as saying:

The Government was democratically elected on a mandate to stop small boat crossings. It is a fundamental threat to our democracy if an unelected overseas court is stopping that delivery and leaving the European Court of Human Rights must be on the table if it is the only option to uphold that promise to the British people.

Small boat crossings weren’t mentioned in the Conservative Party’s last election manifesto, so I’m not sure where that mandate came from.

The phrase ‘get Brexit done’ appeared an astonishing thirty-three times. Jeremy Corbyn received thirteen mentions—his plans were a ‘recipe for chaos’, something we can hardly claim to have avoided. Even the phrase ‘We love Boris’ appeared once—the clownish egotism promised by its inclusion was delivered in buckets.

Migrants crossing the English Channel, however, didn’t make the cut. For what it’s worth, small boats in the Mediterranean were mentioned in Labour’s manifesto, even if they weren’t on Conservatives’ minds.

On the other hand, human rights made six appearances in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, including this committment:

Getting Brexit done will allow us to do more on the international stage. We will continue to be an outward-looking country that is a champion of human rights.

Threatening withdrawal from the world’s most effective international court on human rights would be a peculiar approach to keeping this promise.

Things have reached a pretty pass when a Government seeking re-election can’t accurately recall what it promised last time around.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Politics.

Souter Lighthouse

This post was filed under: Photos, .

Mul’s at the pub

This post was filed under: Art, Photos, , , .

The hazards of changing a battery

Yesterday, I changed the battery in one of the office clocks. I am the person in the office with the lowest tolerance for stopped clocks, so this job often falls to me.

When I removed the AA battery, I was surprised by how light it was. On further inspection, it turns out that it’s a carbon-zinc battery. I don’t recall seeing one of those before. The displayed manufacturing date is February 2004, so someone must have found it in the back of a cupboard: I’m not sure my current employer bought it!

Wikipedia tells me that ‘zinc-carbon batteries today have been mostly replaced by the more efficient and safe alkaline batteries’, which raised some questions. ‘Alkaline batteries offer up to eight times the battery life of zinc-carbon batteries’: so why not use them in the bloody clocks and save me up to seven jobs?

Anyway, I found the brand’s website. I perused the ‘frequently asked questions’ section. In response to ‘How should I dispose of carbon zinc batteries?’, they offer ‘It’s safe to drop them right in the household trash.’

The battery has the crossed-out wheelie-bin symbol right there on it. Batteries shouldn’t be dropped into the household trash. Not only is there a high risk of causing fires, but, in many places, they’re classified as hazardous waste.

So next time you’re browsing the battery aisle and wondering whether to choose an Eveready / Energizer product, remember that they choose to encourage their customers to dispose of products irresponsibly. Consider whether that’s an approach which really has your best interests at heart. Then, make whatever choice you feel comfortable with.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

The price of flour

Here’s a question: what’s the price of the cheapest 500g bag of plain flour at your local supermarket? Here’s what I found:

Retailer Price
M&S 45p
Sainsbury’s 45p
Waitrose 50p
Morrisons 55p
Asda £1.30

That might not be as you’d expect: it’s not what I expected. I popped into Asda with the intention of buying a 500g bag of flour, and after seeing the price, walked over to M&S. I was so disbelieving of the price that I confirmed it later on the Asda website.

In fairness, Asda does sell much bigger bags of flour in a range starting from 70p, but I didn’t want a big bag. I am surprised that their premium for a small bag is so disproportionately high.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

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