zondag 7 juni 2009

D-Day Landings remembered

Sixty-five years ago the allied forces landed on a beach in Normandy, France. The Canadian, British and US soldiers who risked their lives on that historic day, as well as the ones who perished, were honoured yesterday by important leaders such as US president Obama, the French president Zarkozy, PM Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales.
The attendance of this member of the Royal Family was especially appreciated by the British veterans since the host of the commemoration ceremony, Zarkozy, had not invited the Queen. Some of the veterans had a picture of her on them, as a way to protest against this snub.


Personal reaction:

First of all, I think it is good to keep remembering the Second World War and to be aware of the fact that we are living in peace and freedom thanks to the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives. The attendance of so many important people at this ceremony underlines the importance of this awareness.
The little uproar over Zarkozy and his decision not to invite the Queen made me smile a bit. I reckon that the attendance of Mr. Brown as PM of Great Britain should really enough next to the leaders of the other countries. There is no need to be offended when the British Queen is not regarded as the most important person on the planet. The reaction of the veterans was probably fuelled by the strained relations that have always existed between the French and the British

zaterdag 6 juni 2009

Class sizes prompt teacher’s debate

Scottish teachers are becoming increasingly discontented with the sizes of their classes. They are even considering going on strike.
The government has stipulated that classes in primary education should not have more than eighteen children. However, in practice this aim is only reached in half of the councils in Scotland. Most councils claim that they do not have the financial means needed to cut down class sizes. Ronnie Smith, general secretary of Scotland’s largest teachers’ union – the Educational Institute of Scotland – is of the opinion that the Scottish government should take its responsibility, and that members of Scottish parliament should make sure that the promises they made about this subject are kept.


Personal reaction:

It seems to me that this problem has a political nature, based on how the Scottish authority is structured. First, there is the Scottish government that is also linked to the government of Great Britain as whole. Then there are the local councils, or local authorities. They enforce the government’s acts in their respective territories.
In this case, the local councils have not obeyed the laws that were fixed by the government. I am not sure if the Scottish government has the power to take measures against this kind of behaviour, but I do agree with Mr. Smith that if MSPs promised to reduce class sizes, than the local governments should be forced to make sure that this really happens.

zaterdag 30 mei 2009

Julie Kirkbride's £50,000 extension for brother - MPs' expenses

The Daily Telegraph brings news on the expense claims scandal. This time the target is the conservative MP Julie Kirkbride. She has been using thousands of tax payer’s pounds in order to facilitate her brothers and sister. Her husband, Andrew Mackay, also an MP, has already resigned after a serious discussion with his constituents. They no longer support him as their representative in parliament. Mrs Kirkbride does not wish to go into debate with her voters, but wants to spend time with her son. She has stated that she wants to continue being an MP, but that this is her local party’s decision to make; not hers.


Personal reaction:

The Daily Telegraph has tasted political blood and is now greedy for more. The newspaper first started reporting on this MPs’ expenses scandal a fortnight ago, and has been coming with more and more claims: from Cabinet minister to backbenchers. Of course, this is an issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, and I think that the members of parliament have shamelessly misused the parliamentary expenses system. Even if the rules of the system are too lenient, the politicians could have had the moral decency to stop and think if what they were doing was right. Some of them have now started to pay the cost for their misbehaviour: a growing number of MPs has decided to stand down, and a large group is trying to stay in parliament by promising to pay back the claims or unrightfully gained benefits.

woensdag 27 mei 2009

Baby P Killers May Get Heavier Sentences

The Guardian reports that the attorney general, Lady Scotland, has requested the Old Bailey to send her all the papers concerning the Baby P case. It is her intention to send the papers through to the court of appeal in order to reconsider the length of the prison sentences passed to the three people convicted for the death of the toddler.
Especially the minimum sentences are thought to be too lenient by the attorney general, as well as children’s charities and The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The mother, for instance was given an indefinite sentence with a minimum of five years in jail. This means that she might possibly be released in three years, given the time she spent in prison before and during the trial.


Personal reaction:

During the Cool Britannia course I learned about this horrific case. It reminds me strongly of a similar Dutch drama. It is probably because I am a mother of two myself that cases like these affect me deeply. Baby P was a two year old toddler named Peter. His mother left his father, got involved with a sadistic man, and they took in a lodger who was on the run with his fifteen year old girlfriend. These three adults around the little boy turned out to be a lethal combination. When his body was found, his head was shaved, and he had several injuries all over his body. Just looking at the picture of this beautiful blue-eyed child makes feel sick at the stomach.

zondag 17 mei 2009

Susan Boyle's secret crush on an older man

The Sunday Mirror reports about Susan Boyle, the 44 year old woman from Scotland who became a star overnight after her stunning performance at the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. During this show she had declared that she had never been married and never been kissed before in her life. Now, she has admitted to The Sunday Mirror that she wants to become involved with a man who is 16 years older than her. The two regularly see each other in the Catholic Church, and Susan has had a crush on him before. Unfortunately for Susan, her feelings are not mutual. Helmut told the newspaper that he regards Susan as a good, reliable friend. He hopes she will win the show but he is too old for a love affair with a younger woman.


Personal reaction:
This Susan Boyle is really becoming a phenomenon. After the mini-debate about her case, I had become somewhat curious about her. Now, after reading this article, I decided it was time to take a look at her on YouTube. It is true: she has a beautiful voice, and her looks are not a reflection of an angle.
Watching the exaggeratedly stunned expressions on the jury’s faces, however, I could not help feeling that it was all a put-up job. All three members of the jury knew perfectly well how well can sing, and that she not a good-looking lady. It was decided beforehand that Susan would be the living example of the saying that ‘looks can be deceiving’.
Nevertheless, I wish Susan the best of luck, and I hope she will find true happiness in her life.

zaterdag 16 mei 2009

Schools switching to clip-on ties

All over the UK, schools are changing the ties that are prescribed to go with the school uniforms. Traditionally, boys are required to wear knotted ties. Recently, however, more and more schools are considering switching to so-called ‘clip-on ties’. One of the reasons for this is that knotted ties can cause dangerous situations; they might catch fire or get strapped into equipment. The Schoolwear Association, that represents the school uniforms industry, says that with clip-on ties pupils will be able to run around school safer.
Another reason is that pupils try to stand out with a knotted tie, making elaborate knots. This is not beneficial to the standardisation of the uniform that most schools aim for.


Personal reaction:

To most Dutch people this is probably a funny story and a proof that school uniforms and standardisation do not work. People, young and old, want to show their own identity, and if they cannot do that by wearing whatever they want, they will do it by making funny knots in their ties. The mere thought of having to wear a tie every day to school would make every Dutch teenager roar with laughter.
For the British, however, I believe this is a dead-serious matter. This is one of their many traditions they do not want to part from, even though probably almost everyone absolutely hated wearing these ghastly school uniforms as a scholar.
The article does not make clear if there have in fact been accidents due to the knotted ties.

zondag 10 mei 2009

West Ham 0 - Liverpool 3

In yesterday’s football match, (May 9th) Liverpool beat the Hammers – the nickname for the West Ham United Football Club – by 3 to 0.
Liverpool’s skipper Steven Gerrard played an excellent match. He already succeeded in putting the ball into the net in the second minute. Later in the first half, Liverpool was granted a penalty by referee Alan Wiley. At first Gerrard’s shot was brilliantly stopped by West Ham’s keeper Green. However, he lost control of the ball, and Gerrard scored in the rebound. Just before the final whistle, substitute Ryan Babel put the final score to 3. This result is a big boost for Liverpool that has been dreaming of becoming champion in the Premier League.


Personal reaction:

It was quite hard to make a decent summary of an account of a football match that I have not seen myself. I am not familiar with English football, although I do watch it occasionally – especially when my husband pushes the buttons of the remote control. This means that I am not acquainted with the names and nicknames of the football clubs and players stated in the article, such as “The Hammers “.
Then there is the style the Sun uses to describe a football match: it largely consists of player’s quotes, and it is clearly meant for football fans, not the outsiders such as myself. However, I do think that articles like these give a good view on what the British talk about.

Brown set for election wipe-out

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in heavy weather in a period when there are local elections and elections for the European parliament are coming up in June. It is feared that Labour will come out of these elections behind the Tories and the Liberal Democrats and thus will lose its leading position. Such a defeat could well mean that Brown’s career as PM is nearing its end.
The cause for this gloomy prediction is the revelation about taxpayer-funded expenses by Labour ministers and backbenchers. They allegedly made profits on their homes without paying taxes. High-ranked members of the Labour party have described Brown’s political tactics as “a disaster”. Brown is expected to axe a number of ministers in an attempt to repair the damage.


Personal reaction:

I think Gordon Brown never was a popular as his predecessor, Tony Blair. This is not the first blunder he made as PM, so to me it does not come as a surprise, and even without this scandal about taxpayer-funded expenses I do not think he will win the next general elections. Great Britain has changed since Tony Blair left No 10; the economy is failing, the sky is no longer the limit. Therefore, people are longing for new political and economic ideas.
Where the expenses scandal is concerned, I was actually quite relieved to read this. Apparently it is not just Dutch politicians who do not know morally right from wrong. Like the Labours ministers in this case, politicians are eager to claim that they acted according to the rules. However, they neglect to ask themselves if they acted according to moral standards.

zaterdag 25 april 2009

"I just wanted to look like her"

Janet Cunliffe, a woman in her 50s, living in Lancashire, was suffering from a broken up relationship and a lack of self confidence. She took a look at her beautiful, slender, 29 year old daughter and decided she wanted to look exactly like her. She spent about £ 12,000 on a complete make over. She had her breasts enlarged, her eyes lifted, her nose reshaped, and her lips filled. Now, mother and daughter go shopping together, wearing each other's clothes. They go out together on Saturday nights, asking men to guess their age. Their appearance gives them a lot of attention, but they also get laughed at behind their backs.


Personal reaction:
It is incomprehensible to me how people can do these things to themselves. They think they can fool time and nature, where in fact all they do is make a fool of themselves and take irresponsible health risks. How can a normal, healthy person willingly have foreign objects put into her body, only for their appearance? This kind op people lack any kind of self respect or self esteem, and they will not gain this by trying to look like their daughters. This woman really did not succeed in her attempt, because some of the passers-by took her for around the age she truly is.

vrijdag 24 april 2009

"UK Revises rules for Gurkha veterans"

British government has issued news settlement rules for thousands of Gurkha veterans who want to come and live within the UK. Gurkha veterans are Nepalese men who fought battles in the name of Great Britain. According to solicitors representing the Gurkhas, the government is afraid that around 10,000 of these veterans, joined by their families, enter the country. The new rules imply that in order to be eligible for settlement, the Gurkhas have to meet certain criteria. The actress Joanna Lumley, whose father fought together with the Gurkhas, says that the new rules are a disgrace, as they will keep most of the veterans out of the country they fought for.


Personal reaction:
Of course, my first reaction to this article was that the government indeed betrays these Gurkha veterans by coming up with rules that make sure that they will not be able to settle into the UK. Gurkhas were highly esteemed members of the Great Britain’s army and made a meaningful contribution to it. They have become a symbol of hardiness and heritage, with their famous curved Kukri knives. On the other hand, were they forced to join the army? Nepal was never a colony of the UK. Did they get paid to fight for the army? If this is the case, then I personally do not think that the UK is obliged to take these people, and their families in.

zondag 19 april 2009

"Five die in M1 horror crash"

Police are looking for witnesses of a car crash that occurred on the 18th of April last. The accident happened at around 11:30 pm between the junctions 10 and 11 on the M1 near Luton. The driver of a VW Passat was heading south on the motorway, when suddenly he turned around and started driving in the wrong direction. The car collided with a Jaguar, in which two men and two women were seated. Both cars were completely demolished by the crash and paramedics who arrived at the scene said the people in both cars were killed instantly. Police are in the dark about the Passat driver’s behavior.


Personal reaction:
It is always shocking to read about terrible car crashes like this one, in which people get killed. I feel especially sorry for the people in the Jaguar, who were just driving around on a normal Saturday evening, when suddenly a Volkswagen appeared in front of them. What was wrong with this – said to be Polish – man? Was he sick? Was he confused? Did he want to commit suicide? If so, then he certainly succeeded. Unfortunately, he also took the lives of four others, who were probably not suicidal. There are occasional warnings for motorists driving into oncoming traffic in Holland as well. Usually, these situations do not result in fatal accidents. One has to wonder why it went so terribly wrong this time.

“Boys who stay on at school will earn more“

The minimum school leaving age should be risen to 17, and perhaps even to 18 years.
This statement can be justified by recent research by Dr Matt Dickson in which he investigated the income of 2,266 men working in Britain between 1991 and 2006. His research shows that boys who have spent one year longer at school earn 13% more than those who have left school at the minimum school leaving age of 16 years. Even though Dr Dickson points out that the higher wages might also be caused by higher abilities or personal characters, he is convinced that prolonged education with just one year does have a positive effect on future wages.


Personal reaction:
Longer education is not a bad idea. A child of 16 is not adult enough to enter into the life of responsibilities and duties that a working life entails. Furthermore, most people have not chosen a profession at that age. They still need to learn, experiment, and let their personalities grow. This is done best in a safe environment: a school. Here, they can be guided through the choices that will greatly influence their professional lives, as well as their personal lives. In this respect I agree with Dr Dickson, although I wonder why he limited his research to boys. In my opinion the wages of working girls would have been just as interesting.