"What’s in that nice Mr Balls’ Children’s Plan? Lots of cool stuff. Youth clubs, play areas, nurseries, a new primary curriculum. Lovely. But not a sniff of the money we need. Cos all the back-to-work schemes in the world, all the things-to-do and mentors and climbing frames don’t get us to a 50% drop in child poverty by 2010. We need £4 billion, spent on tax credits and benefits. You promised, Mr Brown."
Meet Antonia Bance, Oxford blogger, member for Rose and Iffley ward.
At the start of this year I wrote a feature about families and inherited diseases. I interviewed the woman who wrote this:
"It's easier to imagine now that I could walk away, when I haven't spoken to her for several weeks, that I could stop speaking to her. That I could do it and not be riddled by guilt. That I could do it and she'd be OK. That I could do it and people wouldn't judge me. But what about family gatherings? What happens then? We've got a big family gathering in a couple of weeks, and Mr F and I are getting married next summer (hence the delay on the IVF). What about Christmas and Mothers' Day? Is me walking away putting undue pressure on others to spend more time with mum than if I was still talking to her? My head is spinning. I just don't understand how it works, cutting someone out of your life."
I go past this brute of a block when approaching the southbound Blackwall Tunnel. Please note Canary Wharf tower in the background. I wonder to myself if whoever designed it believed, or talked themselves into believing, that it was lovely to look at: modern, bold, cutting-edge, something like that. Is it remotely possible to see the building in that way today? If not, is that fair? I mean, looked at a certain way it could almost be something out of Star Wars. Or am just a little short of sleep?
I'm sure I recognise these people. In fact, I believe I'm related to them. I recognise that river, too: it's the Thames, flowing choppily through Berkshire yesterday afternoon. Arguably, it would have been drier in the river than it was out of it. But we still had a lovely time visiting a certain blogger and his charming family. (On Friday, he kept telling me, the weather had been sublime.)
"We have a small piece of Burma right here in Tunbridge Wells. The Burmese Bell, a one-time feature of Calverley Grounds was a gift to us from Colonel Sydney Sladen, a former mayor of the town (1910-1912). Sydney inherited the bell from his father, Sir Edward Sladen, who was the British Government's representative to the court of King Mindon of Burma in 1864. Sir Edward, knighted for his aid in defending a rebellion against King Mindon, had the bell cast in 1869 with permission from the King, as bells should only have been used for religious purposes."
"The Booth Museum was created by the Victorian ornithologist Edward Booth. It was built in 1874 to house his collection of stuffed British birds, but the collection expanded to cover over half a million specimens from around the world, collected over the last three hundred years. Currently on show there is Life in Death: The Victorian Art of Taxidermy, an exhibition highlighting the popularity of taxidermy in the Victorian period."
Taxidermy is considered a bit wacky and weird these days, but in the 19th century it played an important part in bringing natural history to the masses. Edward Booth, it seems, would go to extreme lengths to sketch a new bird species in its natural habitat. The stuffing part came later. Now read on.