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Month: September 2012

‘I’m not lonely, I’m alone’

The words of Emma Morley in One Day. These are however words I have also uttered in my lifetime. This evening I sat down and watched this movie and did so with a genuine interest. Rarely do I sit down and actually watch a film that I have heard about and actually wanted to see. Usually my film watching habits involve being bored but I actually did go out of my way to watch this one.

Now I haven’t read the book and my subsequent peruse of the reviews of this film indicate that this was not a bad thing. The book is apparently quite wonderful and the film did not live up to the material of the manuscript but I can’t judge it on that. For me all I saw was a quirky little film with a strange feel-good factor despite the character you grow to love being killed and the character you hate getting the girl he doesn’t deserve. Also I didn’t care that Anne Hatherway’s character was ‘too attractive’ and had a rather clear shifting accent. I’m not sure people who actually watch films care about this. I’m sure it is just for the critics. Most people just like a couple of hours of escapism.

I thought about my past and looked to see if any of the characters related to me in any way. I always do this when watching films. I’m pretty sure it isn’t normal but still. Unlike Dexter I am pretty sure that I don’t have a close female friend who is deep down in love with me. Also as far as I know no friend has ever had a crush on me. That might be a rather depressing sentence that I just compiled. I think I should move on rather swiftly.

The other thing I did mull over in my mind is the type of girl that I deep down yearn for. Once more linking it back to a blog post I read earlier in the week entitled Typecasting: The Myth of My Ideal Man – we all have the people in mind that we believe and hope that we will fall in love with.

Looking back at my history of women I have either dated or had interest in physically there doesn’t seem to be an obvious link. I always thought I had a type and yet I realised that I have dated more people who don’t fit into my type than do. If we just narrow it down to the big three of people I have had real interest with in my adult life physically there are no similarities whatsoever.

If we move it on to personality then yet again nothing too clear if you look at the three of them and yet again I always thought I had a type. I thought that I had a type of the quirky girl who would like to spend her Saturday’s baking cupcakes, being read to in the park, sitting watching the world go by in the countryside or by a lake. Very much the creative type with an interest in the arts. Now to most people who know me they might be stunned by this as they see me as a guy who loves his sport and not much else. I just think I very much want someone who is the polar opposite to me to light up my world. Someone with a positive and sunny outlook.

That is what in my head I have as my ‘type’ as it were but yet there was another moment in the film that summed everything up beautifully. In the film Emma dates a nice guy called Ian for several years but is never in love with him. She is always deep down in love with Dexter. A couple of years after her death Ian speaks to Dexter and says, ‘I used to hate you…because she lit up with you just in a way she never did with me and it used to make me so angry because i didn’t think that you deserved her… She made you decent and in return you made her so happy, so happy, and I will always be grateful to you for that.

Now that sums it all up for me. I just want to find the person I light up with and who in turn gets lit up around me. Isn’t that deep down what we all want and all not only want but deep down just yearn for? I can safely say that up to this point only the three people I hinted at earlier ever made my heart beat that little bit faster when I saw them or spoke to them or whatever. Only these three have made me smile at just the thought of them.

We all have this idea of the perfect partner in our heads but yet you never know when you will find that person who just makes you smile when you think about them. The person with whom you do nothing but nothing is everything. The person who even on the gloomiest day and at your lowest ebb will be there for you and assure you that everything is going to be all right – not just that – but you actually believe them that everything is going to be all right.

One day was a nice little quirky film. It made me think and I like films (and people) who make me do that. Emma was never happy with anyone except the person she deep down wanted to be with and I can relate to that. I see no point in dating people who don’t make me light up. It is better to be single and happy with yourself than be in a relationship that isn’t truly special. I honestly believe that and whilst so many people say I should settle for some happiness and not wait for that special someone I think that happiness can be found from being single and unhappiness can be found from not being truly happy in a relationship.

As the title says I’m not lonely, I’m alone…

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This ‘No More Page 3’ petition is highly unlikely to do anything but the sentiment is fab

In the past few days some momentum (well I say some momentum – a few people have blogged on it but actually at the point of writing only 8,772 have signed the petition despite featuring in national newspapers) but lets ignore that and pretend the momentum is gathering.

I have strong feelings on Page 3. I don’t like it but I don’t feel that it should be banned. This petition though isn’t about banning it. It is about getting the editor of The Sun to decide that it is time to move on and ditch this aspect of his newspaper. Sounds good in practice but one of the posts talking about it entitled ‘For what it’s worth‘ sums up exactly why the petition has very little chance of succeeding:

The campaign isn’t trying to censor The Sun, either; no one is seeking to “ban” Page 3, but merely wishes to implore Dominic Mohan, the editor of the paper, to do away with it. It is not good enough to merely cease to buy the paper, or skip the page; firstly, because many of the supporters of the campaign probably do not read the paper in the first place, but also because ignoring a problem does not fix it.

So as the author says herself the petition isn’t exactly aimed at the people who buy the newspaper so why would the editor of a national newspaper give a damn what people who don’t buy his newspaper think? I mean seriously? If I was the editor of a newspaper and was told that a lot of people who didn’t buy the newspaper anyway were pissed off with a part of my publication then would I give a damn? Of course I wouldn’t and more importantly nor would anyone else.

The problem with this petition (and all of the Page debates) is that The Sun will not stop until they are either banned from doing it or it is not worth it financially. That is it. That is the list. Now I have no doubt that News International do extensive research on this issue and I fully expect they know that if they ditched it but it wasn’t banned then one of their tabloid rivals would straight away go with it and pick-up a significant percentage of their circulation.

If they knew (or believed) that by ditching the Page 3 girl they would increase their circulation as all the people who don’t buy The Sun would suddenly buy it then they would. However they know that the people who don’t buy the newspaper don’t do so primarily because of the tits on show. They lost half a million off their circulation in the past year but that wasn’t because of tits it was because of phone hacking. They’ll also very closely monitor the circulation figures after the Hillsborough report finding what it did. So the newspaper may well see a drop in sales again over the next few months.

Page 3 to The Sun is nothing to do with their thoughts of sexual objectification. It is all about money (like most businesses) and financially it obviously is worth it to them otherwise they wouldn’t do it. The people who don’t like it don’t buy it anyway so why would they care what these people think? Isn’t that a very bizarre way to run a business? Would you run a business where the people who make you money like what you do but those who don’t make you money are complaining and you listen to the latter and not the former?

Look if you want to sign the petition then go for it and good luck to you. I would like to see it succeed as I don’t like Page 3. The link is here but in the real world the likelihood of this petition making waves in the boardroom of News International or even at the editorial level at The Sun is extremely extremely low. You can debate whether that is right or wrong until your heart is content but that is a fact.

The Sun is not going to change its philosophy on Page 3 out of the goodness of their heart. They just won’t. Even if they hit the million signatures that they are aiming for, if they see no drop in their circulation figures then they won’t do anything.

Sometimes we see the world from our own point of view and not from the point of view of others. Page 3 sells newspapers. I don’t like it. You probably don’t like it but it is a fact and until it doesn’t then why would they stop? The Sun as we all know isn’t the bastion of moral fortitude and it doesn’t pretend to be. It is a newspaper that serves as the news of the lowest common denominator. I don’t think that is an unfair statement and the people that buy it are not those who care about tits on Page 3.

If we want to change the perceptions of women and get Page 3 consigned to the history books then this isn’t the way forward. Attitudes need to change within the people that buy the newspaper and not the other way around. A newspaper is not going to take the lead when money is at stake. So it needs other avenues to succeed. What they are I don’t know but I sure as hell know that this won’t change a thing.

Sexism is still prevalent in our society and whilst it is slowly changing (it is slowly changing) there are still many problems. Would killing Page 3 make any difference? Maybe but killing Page 3 is unlikely when there is a willing audience both to buy it and star in it. Change has to happen from the bottom up and a media outlet with shareholders to answer to will not lead the way unless they believe it is financially worthwhile. Like it or not that is the bottom line and that is where the buck will stop.

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The Newsroom was hated by critics but loved by the audience. I can’t wait for season two.

It is rare that a TV show gets pilloried so robustly by most of the mainstream TV critics yet still sees substantial audience growth and recommissioning after just its pilot but HBO’s Newsroom shown over here as The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic did just that.

The season finale was this week and whilst not being as genuinely amazing as the pilot episode it rounded off a couple of plot lines whilst cleverly opening up a couple more for next year. The Newsroom grabbed my attention from the start and I’m not one that gets dragged into these American shows on Sky Atlantic. In fact this is the first one that I have given time to in my extremely busy TV schedule of reality TV shows and live sport. God that is depressing but strangely accurate.

Set in the newsroom of a cable news channel I was always going to give it a chance. I mean hello frustrated journalist here! Jeff Daniels is wonderful as Will McAvoy and brings a gravitas but also a charm and likeability factor. His world gets turned upside down when at Northwestern he is asked ‘Why is America the greatest country in the world?’ and he goes off on one because he thinks he sees his ex in the audience. It turns out that he did see his ex and soon to be new Executive Producer up there and it was without doubt one of the best (in my opinion) opening scenes of any show that I have watched. If you haven’t seen and would like to well YouTube is your friend…

The show has a bizarre series of sub-plots regarding love triangles (heck maybe even squares) including Will and his ex and her ex with whom she had cheated on with whilst with Will. Also Will’s former EP is dating another member of the newsroom but she falls in love with another member of the team who is then set up with her flatmate by her partner. Yes confusing but it makes sense if you have ever seen the show. The love plots do have some interest but aren’t a prevalent feature.

However the real dynamic that I feel brings the whole thing together is Sam Waterson’s character of Charlie Skinner. Skinner is the head of news and is a guy who wants to do the news the right way. He’s a smart man and brings a real quality to the show. Many of written that Aaron Sorkin has struggled writing roles for women and that does hold light once you look at this show. Of the three major female roles all are flawed to some degree but all are believable. The rise of Sloane Sabbath from nervous business guru to confident woman was believable. Maggie is believable in her love of Don but whilst deep down falling for Jim and as for Emily Mortimer’s portrayal of Mac the EP who deep down wants to get back with Will but also produce a great news show – all believable if flawed.

It opened to 2.1million viewers and the season finale cleared 3million. Not bad for a short ten episode run and showed substantial growth despite clear hatred from the media Just google ‘The Newsroom review’ and you’ll see a lot of positive bloggers and a lot of very negative newspaper TV critics. An interesting mix.

However the final episode of the run tied off all the unanswered questions neatly in a box – except for the two love storylines – which are open and we all know in TV land that Will and Mac will get back together one day and Jim and Maggie will get it on. Whether it happens soon or whether we have to wait in another matter altogether but it will happen. Well it had better…. Will, Mac and Charlie successfully blackmail their boss thus enabling Will to keep his job.

The scene at the hospital where Charlie and then Will realise that the only source knowing that he was high the night Osama Bin Laden was killed was him (from a phone call he’d made to Mac telling her that he was high but still loved her) but she never received it as her phone was hacked and the message deleted as a wonderful scene. Twice in the ten episode run we had that scene where suddenly the momentum kicked in and everything got going (also in episode one where Will threw out the run-down to lead with the BP oil spillage). If you haven’t seen the show but want to get an idea of what I mean think of Rocky II where Adrian wakes up from her coma and tells Rocky to win. Yes it was like that.

The attacks on the Tea Party by Will were finely delivered and the ending where we saw the girl who had first asked the question ‘why is America the greatest country in the world?’ applying for an internship because Will had motivated her was a very nice nod to the audience. Hopefully she’ll actually be a character in the second season but all in all despite clear plot flaws and not terrific writing of the female characters the show holds good. I won’t pine for it over the winter but when it returns next summer I’ll be more than ready to see what happens next and I have high hopes that the show could run for several years at a very high level.

PS: I think it may inspire me to rant about Jim/Maggie and Will/Mac and the whole true love thing. Seriously I know your are fictional characters but why can’t you be more open about your feelings but that is a question (for question read blog) for another day…

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A dating timetable? I like this idea!

I have discovered a new blog today (well late last night if we are being strictly accurate) and it is one of my favourite things on the internet. The wonderfully named Confederacy of Spinsters is a fascinating read and is written by three women in Texas. The blog post that drew me to the site was one entitled ‘I think you’re neat, let’s date.’

In it the author proposes a way to take out all the awkwardness of those early dating days. At what point do you go from a date to something more? I think we are all very similar when we have a date with someone and then actually want a second date. It is fraught with worry as you try to work out what the other person is thinking. The author uses the following examples, The beginning of a relationship seems especially fraught with danger.‘Does she like me? Does he think my teeth are crooked? Does she want me to kiss her? Is it weird that his last name rhymes with my first name? So many worries!’ and yes some of those really hit home.

The problem is we are creatures that struggles with communication. Communication is easy but we struggle mightily with two things – saying No and talking about feelings. The former is a debate for another day but the latter is one for right now. When you are seeing a boy or a girl you have many thoughts running around your head and the other person also has many thoughts running around their head. All that needs to happen is for both people to know both people’s thoughts and then everyone is good. However the expression ‘ignorance is bliss’ is just too darn accurate.

Sometimes it is easier to live in a world where good things can happen than live in a whole where bad things can potentially happen. If on a date I told the (un)lucky lady that I liked her and wanted to see her again and she just turned around and said ‘fat chance loser’ then I suspect I would not react too well. On the surface I’d be fine but deep down I’d be taking a kicking. However it also works the other way. I struggle telling someone that I’m not interested and yes it has happened and yes I have been in that situation. Telling someone who likes you that you don’t like them makes you feel like an arsehole and you’ll be a bad guy – but the truth is doing that isn’t being an arsehole.

The truth hurts but do you know what hurts more? A lie – certainly an ongoing lie. Now see this blog post inadvertently came about because of a situation in the HBO show The Newsroom involving the bizarre love square of Jim-Maggie-Lisa-Don. Had Jim and Maggie just been honest with each other then they would happily be together. Instead they are dating other people knowing that deep down they love each other but don’t want to hurt other people. Sounds noble but deep down it is a lie and living a lie will surely not lead to long-term happiness.

Being hurt by someone you are forming feelings for sucks but compare that to being hurt by someone you have long-established feelings for and finding out that deep down they were never in love with you? Now that is a sledgehammer to the heart. Luckily I have yet to experience this but unless the whole world has been lying to me then I think I’m right in that assumption.

So trying to wrestle this blog back on track. Those early dating days are awful but they needn’t be. If people after a first date or second date just say something like the lady suggests in her blog post:

“Hey! I think you’re really neat. How about we go on a few dates, make out a couple of times, then become boyfriend and girlfriend, after a month or two?”

Then dating would be oh so much simpler. Then both parties know the situation and if one isn’t happy then they can speak up. It sounds so easy but yet will people do it? I have no idea. I’m sure when/if I have my next first date I’ll go home and cringe and relive the date in my head and pick apart every single thing I did wrong and every bit of negative body language that I see. I’ll obviously ignore the positive bits as you don’t think about them after a first date. I remember when I was seeing someone at the turn of the year we had several dates and were still unsure of our ‘status’ as it were and it took a week of discussions (yes that is right – genuinely a week of discussions) to decide we were in a relationship. Then pretty quickly she realised that I wasn’t the guy for her so there wasn’t prolonged awkwardness but still a week of discussions about a relationship status is not good!

So next time I have had two dates with someone that I do like and see potential for a relationship with I promise to propose something similar to what this lady blogged about. I’ll say that I like them and that I want it to go somewhere and we have some more dates and make out a couple of times (I love that Americanism) and if we are still replying to each others text messages then we’ll be in a relationship.

Yes sounds simple enough. Now for that getting a date business…

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The rise of Jo Swinson continues as she now gets one of the jobs Lib Dems on the ground worry most about

Do you remember the scary days of last week? When the sky was closing in on Lib Dems? Equal Marriage was toast and any hopes for women doing anything successful for the next generation was scuppered because Nick Clegg (yes a privileged white man) basically traded all his assets to the Tories to get David Laws (yes another privileged white man – and also Clegg’s key right-hand man) back into the cabinet?

I remember those days. I remember them well but I have a good memory so that isn’t a huge surprise. It was a turbulent era though. The Lib Dems on the ground thought that it was pointless even fighting any more. Moving Lynne Featherstone to a job she’s be fantastic in was clearly a sign that Clegg didn’t care any more. He was a Tory by-proxy. The Tories not only got their hands on Equalities so they could outlaw gays and get them rounded up and dumped on the Isle of Wight but also their devious plans to outlaw adults not being marriedand kids outside of wedlock would become things of the past. Yes the family unit would flourish once more. The evil Tories had won.

The thing was though. None of that happened (well except the Lynne moving to another job that she’ll do extremely well in – that bit did happen). I mean hands up if you think Lynne Featherstone won’t be terrific in the Department for International Development. Anyone? I thought not. Oh put your hand down Labour tribalist who thinks all Lib Dems are evil – your views are tainted by your lack of being able to form an opinion.

The fact is as everything came out in the wash Jo Swinson was promoted to Lynne Featherstone’s old job – and the move isn’t one that should be overlooked. Equalities is something that runs through all Lib Dem veins but do you know what else is important? Reducing poverty and Lynne is now involved in that as well. Jo Swinson is a star. I have said before that I think she should lead the Lib Dems into the 2020 General Election should she continue on her career path and is both a) still an MP and b) interested in doing such a thing. However with Lib Dems now in cabinet it would be hard for her to win the leadership without any experience (hence why I think Tim Farron despite all his twitter love might struggle).

Getting a Lib Dem into Equalities was extremely important to most Lib Dems. It is kinda part of our core. Getting a popular hard-working Lib Dem in there was a bonus and Jo Swinson fits the bill perfectly. Personally I am thrilled about this. I truly am. I know I should love and respect all Lib Dems the same but the truth is I don’t. However with this appointment I totally trust Jo to continue to work hard and do a fantastic job promoting equalities and getting equal marriage sorted – along with other issues.

I do hope those who quit the party over Lynne going last week are feeling a bit sheepish. No announcement was ever made about who would be directly replacing Lynne and you could tell something was going on. Many who didn’t quit because of this (to be fair I only know of one who did but still) were still seething and were very much on the ledge. I hope they take a deep breathe and a step back and acknowledge (even grudgingly if they need to) that Nick Clegg despite being a privileged white man with no women in his cabinet doesn’t actually hate all women. He is bringing Jo Swinson along quickly and clearly sees something special in her – like most of us do and is fast-tracking her to the big jobs – and I suspect there is no bigger job for Lib Dems outside of the actual cabinet than Equalities.

Pretty darn good news.

If you haven’t read the e-mail from Nick Clegg (hah) ok purporting to be from the big cheese himself is a more accurate description – if you haven’t read it then here it is below:

Dear Neil,

Tonight I’ve been hosting a reception to celebrate the Coalition’s commitment to equal marriage, an issue I’m very proud that Liberal Democrats are delivering on in Government.

I was delighted to be joined at the reception by Jo Swinson MP – who I’m pleased to announce is our new Equalities Minister, in addition to her role as Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

Jo is one of the new Liberal Democrat team in Government; I am also delighted to welcome back David Laws and to bring Jenny Randerson, Don Foster and Tom Brake into Government roles. Their ability, enthusiasm and wisdom will be crucial as the Coalition puts Liberal Democrat policies and values into action.

I would also like to pay tribute to Sarah Teather, Paul Burstow, Andrew Stunell and Nick Harvey. They have all played a big part in making our country more liberal and have a number of significant achievements to their names. I know they will all continue to have a huge role in our party.

You can see the new Liberal Democrat Ministerial team here and the full Government here.

Equal marriage is just one of the many Liberal Democrat achievements in Government that our new Ministerial team are committed to delivering. We’ll also be fighting to make tax fairer, promote jobs and growth, improve education and protect the environment.

That is what Liberal Democrats are in politics for – and what Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government will deliver.

Best Wishes,

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Can you Sam Ficken believe it?

Regular readers of The Rambles of Neil Monnery will have no idea who Sam Ficken is. As I’m kind I shall put you out of your misery. Sam Ficken is a student-athlete who attends Penn State University. He is the kicker on their football squad. He had what you might call a rather bad day on Saturday. When I say bad day I’m talking like he did a Ronnie Rosenthal but not just the once – several times during the game. You felt for him but despite the loss so much felt so right.

Ever since the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal engulfed Penn State and the NCAA decided to not bother with following their own rules football has been hard to watch. Not seeing the grumpy old man either up in the booth looking through those glasses (that he didn’t even need to wear any more) or prowling the sidelines is hard. There were no rolled-up khaki’s and no records to break. The future is now and last weeks defeat to Ohio was hard but deserved. That game was live over here on UK television so I could watch in glorious HD. This week in a late switch the game with Virginia was also on so I could watch on the TV instead of via the PC and the healing process started for me.

I like winning. Heck who doesn’t? However I also like competing and enjoying a proper match. That is what I got to do on Saturday. Penn State may have lost 17-16 to a Virginia side that they totally dominated but they competed and showed the heart that I want to see from my team. I got to stand up and yell about how great Michael Mauti is (seriously that kid is going to star on Sunday’s) and see a front seven dominate what was meant to be a very strong Virginia O-Line.

Matt McGloin even showed us that he was capable of running the new offensive system more than adequately. The O-Line looked more than decent despite losing four players to graduation last season. Yes there were downsides like our inability to stop the big 3rd down completions on Virginia’s final drive and the fact our secondary looks bad but they aren’t big issues in the grand scheme of things.

One thing I want more than anything from rooting for my team or favourite player (depending on whether it is a team sport or individual) is I want to see heart and a compelling game. On Saturday for the first time since we went into Ohio State with tom Bradley as Head Coach last year we saw that. These players have been put through the ringer and yet they chose to stay on when they all could’ve moved on and played elsewhere.

I once more found my voice and my passion for the Nittany Lions. I know Sam Ficken missed four Field Goals and had a +1 blocked but in this era of Penn State Football wins and losses don’t matter anyway. The team haven’t officially won a game since 1998 thanks to the NCAA. What matters football wise is they show what it still means to come and play for the university. Recruits will quite possibly shy away from Penn State until after the sanctions are lifted but if a team can still compete – on the road – at a pretty darn good opponent then it’ll show recruits that they can still do ok in coming to Penn State. If players like Michael Mauti can have great years and get drafted high in the NFL then the dark days might not be too dark nor too long.

Sadly for me Navy will be an internet job but luckily I have a good friend with a slingbox who gives me access so I will get to see the game. What I look for is heart and passion. These bunch of kids seem to have that and if Ted Roof can learn that blitzing on 3rd down might not be the greatest plan every single time then we might just get the first win since I started growing facial hair…

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I don’t get all the Lib Dem hate for David Laws. Do we not believe in second chances in this party?

David Laws returned on Monday. Cue a curious response but not from the usual suspects – from those within the Lib Dems – certainly those on the ground as it were. Apparently many Lib Dems don’t feel the need – nor have any want – to defend the Yeovil MP.

Things were once different. Laws was a shining light in the party. Someone with foresight and genuine insight into banking. Most people agree across the political spectrum that Laws is a smart man. A really smart man. Someone who would be Nick Clegg’s right-hand man in the coalition. Someone who might be able to steer the less financially savvy George Osbourne through the turbulent waters that was the UK economy. Then everything came crashing down around him.

His private life – and expenses he wrongfully claimed for came to light. His position in the cabinet lasted just seventeen days and he resigned and went to the backbenches with a hefty slap on the wrist. His excuse was weak but it was also one that despite being weak did hold firm against a lot of the mud thrown at him. He didn’t want his private life to be own in the public domain. Heck I can understand that, most of us can. However he broke rules and as Al Murray would say, ‘rules is rules.’

So am I here to defend what David Laws did? No I’m not. Does he need defending? No he doesn’t. He is a big boy and knows he did wrong. He has accepted the punishment handed down to him and now it is time for his punishment to turn into rehabilitation. Many people on the street can’t tell the different between an MP breaking the rules for financial gain and what David Laws did. The truth as is not as widely advised is that had Laws declared his gay lover as his partner then he would have actually been entitled to more money. Whilst that doesn’t defend himself against the fact he broke rules, it does dictate that he broke the rules not for personal financial gain. A distinction that needs – and deserves – to be heard.

But the past is the past. I am a man who looks to the future. Is the cabinet better or worse for having David Laws in it? I think it isn’t a huge stretch to say that the cabinet is a stronger place with David Laws in it. He’s smart. Like proper smart. Not the type of smart that would go on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? but the type of smart that would go on University Challenge should of course he be at university, which he isn’t.

In life people deserve second chances. I’m pretty sure nobody in perfect – except maybe Sophie Ellis Bextor – but this isn’t about her and in all honesty she might not even be perfect either (blasphemy – Ed). Laws cocked up and what is the best way for him to put right the wrongs of the past? Is it by ‘counting paper-clips in Whitehall for a few years’ as I saw one Lib Dem write the other day? What good does that do for the country? Why not have him work his butt off and make things better for the millions of people in this country? He’s been jimmied into Education and boy Education is a big job and a department where changes can be implemented for the good of young people up and down the country.

The school system in my opinion needs a major overhaul. I have said this for years. I’d like to see a longer school day but not for bog-standard lessons. Use the extra hours to teach vocational classes or sporting activities or have this time dedicated to helping those who need a leg-up with their school work. I remember my school days and after school you basically wasted the time between the end of school and dinner – whatever time that would be. After school clubs should be more proactive. So many things can happen and I for one believe that David Laws can be a huge asset to not only the government but also to the people who live within this country.

Should one mistake – a huge mistake yes but one made with some significant and legitimate reasoning behind it lead not only to his career being derailed for a long period but also lead to the detriment of the people in this country? David Laws was voted in to do a job and as part of that job he is eligible to do a job not only for his constituents but also for the rest of the country. I see no reason why David Laws doing wrong should lead to the end of him. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Many people who are attacking his return to front-line politics are also dismayed that Chris Grayling has taken over from Ken Clarke at Justice. Grayling is a far more right-wing bloke than Clarke who was more liberal and saw punishment and rehabilitation as part of the judicial system. So those who don’t like Grayling as he’s more a punishment first and foremost guy also think Laws should be punished first and foremost and not rehabilitated. Doesn’t really add up does it?

To sum up it is all pretty simple to me. Laws effed up. On a scale of 1-10 it was a good seven but what better way to erase the mistakes of the past than by doing his bit for making life better for the rest of us. I know I prefer Laws inside the cabinet than outside. I want the cabinet made up of the best and brightest and whilst I wouldn’t say the Lib Dems have all their top dogs in there for various reasons – Laws would be at the top of my list along with Cable.

Laws eff up is sad mainly because Laws and Cable between them could really have driven this economy. No offence to Danny Alexander but he’s not David Laws. Some say that two years and three months or so isn’t even time for him to have served his punishment. I say pish. Time to rehabilitate and whilst I can’t defend Laws’ actions – I can defend his return because the party – and the country will be – and are better off for it.

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Reshuffle thoughts and why the Lib Dems biggest loss wasn’t even a Lib Dem.

Yesterday was the big day. The much anticipated cabinet and ministerial reshuffle. The excitement was palpable. However when it became clear that changes were going to be more Claudio Ranieri than Roberto Mancini the excitement seemed to wane. In fact I even went to ASDA and whilst I was disappointed their hot deli counter didn’t have any Cumberland ring sausages I was able to procure calamine lotion for all those bites I seem to have taken on Sunday.

Anyway I digress.

So what do I think about the reshuffle is the main question that is holding this blog post together and as a Lib Dem I should start with the Lib Dems but they weren’t the focus of my attention. The movement of Ken Clarke is a huge blow to the party – and to the country. The moving of Ken Clarke out of Justice was a clear nod to the Tory right who prefer the old adage of ‘hang ’em and flog ’em’ or ‘lock ’em up and throw any the key’ neither of which are what you’d call the modern way to rehabilitation. Sadly this view of the justice system is one that is shared by a large proportion of the country and therefore having a forward-thinking man in that position was harming polling. Clarke wasn’t moved because he was ineffective. He was moved to placate both his party and a large section of the electorate. Boo.

I suppose in many ways I like politicians who don’t really care about their career and just doing a good job and making the right decisions. Too often politicians will jump on bandwagons if they believe that is the way the waters are flowing. At the moment the electorate are becoming more and more disillusioned with everything and when that happens people tend to drift towards more extreme measures. When it comes to crime people want tougher sentencing. They don’t want rehabilitation they want punishment. Surely a progressive society would find space for both in their justice system but at the moment we aren’t a progressive society and therefore a hardliner was brought in placate the masses. Extremely disappointing.

I could go on about George Osbourne but I won’t. He’s an idiot. Imagine a Treasury including Vince Cable and Ken Clarke. Go on just imagine it for a moment. Two of the elder statesmen of politics who aren’t really in it for the kudos any more but more to actually you know – do a good job. The economy is what we like to call – rather important – and having the best brains trying to sort it out seems like a wise move but alas that isn’t the case. This might be David Cameron’s biggest weakness that he can’t see when someone is out of their depth and he needs to throw them a rubber ring and let them float away. Look at Osbourne, Lansley and Hunt.

Speaking of Hunt. Moving him to Health? I don’t think I need to write 1000s of words at this point to get my point across. This is just a bizarre decision and either shows that Jeremy Hunt is really very good (despite the compelling evidence to the contrary) or that David Cameron is scared of Jeremy Hunt. Could Hunt take down Cameron in some way? Maybe his closeness to Murdoch could be Cameron’s undoing. Maybe I am way off the mark here but that move is a bit like when the likeable but clearly out of his depth candidate in The Apprentice keeps surviving because he reminds Lord Sir Alan of himself. Yes I know it’s not Lord Sir Alan but I like to call him that.

Also the woman in charge of Transport who didn’t like the idea of a third runway at Heathrow gets moved on just a couple of weeks after the PM was challenged by one of his own about his manhood or rodentness with regards to the third runway. He has reiterated in the House of Commons today that he won’t back a third runway but he certainly didn’t say he would block it. It was very interesting language of the PM.

As for the Lib Dems not a huge amount to talk about. David Laws is back is the fray but doesn’t have a big brief and Jo Swinson’s rise to power continues. Lots of chagrin about Lynne Featherstone’s movements but I have little doubt she’ll continue to do a fine job in her new role – another one I think she’ll excel at. Norman Lamb has come in as well but no place for Julian Huppert who’d be excellent with a junior transport or green brief. I see no reasons to be jumping off a cliff but as I’ve noticed about the Lib Dems – a lot of people will find a reason.

Is it a reshuffle that we should be proud of? No. No it isn’t. Is it a reshuffle we had much say in? No. No it isn’t. Is the reshuffle bits and pieces that we did have a say in – i.e. the Lib Dems – something we should throw ourselves in front of a train over? No. No it isn’t. The Prime Minister decided he had to pander to one portion of his party. Sadly we can’t stop him doing that. All we can do is carry on trying to do our best in the jobs that we do have.

So all in all it was a disappointing reshuffle in general but as for the portion we had some influence over – there were some upsides. The downsides came squarely from our coalition partners and sadly we can’t control them.

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Sky Sports sign three year extension to NFL deal

If you are an NFL fan in the UK then until the past few weeks you have been looking forward to the new season with very few flies in the ointments. However slowly it has dawned on people that there was no TV deal in place in the UK and in fact NFL coverage could all but dry up but happily with the opening game less than 36 hours away those worries have been erased with the announcement today that Sky Sports will once again be showing comprehensive coverage of the sport in the UK.

Now other coverage had slowly been drip-fed out over the past couple of weeks as NFLUK confirmed that Channel 4 would once again be showing NBC Sunday Night Football with Nat Coombs replacing Danny Kelly alongside everyone’s favourite pundit Mike Carlson. The Sunday Night game is often the best game of the week and will be shown in HD and be available on 4oD for the first time this season.

The BBC also renewed their rights. They will show the Superbowl live and have highlights of the International Series game as well as playoffs which will be available on BBC Sport online. They also have radio rights for the forthcoming season.

However most people were worried that the big rights had still not been given out. Were Sky playing hardball? Did the NFL want to ditch Sky and get everyone to buy Gamepass? Was the size of the Thanksgiving Turkey to blame for the delay? Was Cecil Martin too cool for Sky Sports? You should read the NFL on TV thread on NFLUK if you want to see NFL fans in meltdown. Many thought no deal would ever be done. Some thought Premier Sports would be involved. Some even wanted no deal so there would be no blackouts on Gamepass.

The fact is though once the NFL announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars were to play for four years at Wembley Stadium then that assured us that the NFL were extremely keen on the UK market and that they would be broadcasting their league in the UK – and not just one game a week. The NFL genuinely has interest in placing a franchise in London so they know they have to grow the game. Taking it away from Sky and lumping it on Premier Sports or Gamepass only was never an option. ITV4 was the only other options for the NFL and that didn’t come about once they made it clear that Sky were their preferred broadcast partners a deal was imminent. All that needed to be sorted was NFL programming and red button options.

In a surprise move the BBC were given rights to Monday Night Football but will only be broadcasting it behind the red button and on the BBC website. Not like the BBC has much else to broadcast at 1AM on Tuesday morning’s but ho hum.

So there we have it. The full statement that had been embargoed until 5PM this afternoon is behind this link but here is a run-down of all the NFL TV rights in the UK:


Two live Sunday Games – 6PM and 9:15 PM
The Red Zone on the Red Button
Thanksgiving and all TNF Games
All Playoffs and Superbowl
NFL Total Access plus more NFL programming tbc.


Superbowl – Live
Monday Night Football – Live (Red Button/Online only)
Playoffs – Highlights
International Series – Highlights

Channel 4:

Sunday Night Football – Live

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Neil’s ‘cook at least once a week’ challenge – week one – Sausage Casserole

Last Monday I was out and about in London town. Whereupon I was told that the fact I lived off take-away food and microwave meals wasn’t very healthy. So whilst the rest of the Lib Dem blogosphere is worried about what is going down with the reshuffle I was busy as I have been challenged to actually cook a proper meal once a week. Well I’m not one to run away from a challenge…well in fact that is a huge lie as I always run away from challenges as I like my nice quiet simple life but still this one I haven’ yet.

So today on week one and I sit here having eaten a meal that I cooked myself. One that involved more than stabbing plastic with a knife to ensure a meal doesn’t explode in a microwave. One that involved more than opening up a take-away carton and placing it in a bowl and yes even more than bunging something in the oven and taking it out when cooked.

Tonight I cooked…sausage casserole.

However I can’t just say I did it as apparently I could lie so I needed photographic evidence of the adventure. So we’ll start with my raw ingredients:

raw ingredients for sausage casserole
What I started with…

So as you can see I have six Sweet Chilli Sausages, a casserole pack that consisted of leeks, onions, potatoes, swede and carrots as well as some stock. What I did first was brown off the sausage in a frying pan like thus…

frying sausages frying pan
Frying sausages in a frying pan…

As this was working I put the contents of the packet mix into 3/4 pint of cold water. If you don’t believe me look below…

sausage casserole packet mix
See. A jug with a vile looking liquid in it.

Once this was I put all the ingredients together in an oven-proof dish. I am feeling semi-confident at this point but it should be noted I decided not to boil the casserole mix first. In retrospect this may have been a mistake…

uncooked sausage casserole
What it looked like before oven time…

45 minutes later after that length of time with 170 degrees of heat it looked like this…

cooked sausage casserole
This was the look of love…or the sausage casserole if I wasn’t doing a bad music related pun.

On my plate – well in my bowl – this was my dinner…

sausage casserole
Sausage Casserole Dinner

Not sure Gordon would be very pleased with the stock drips on the bowl though I must say…

My conclusion is clear. It was a decent dinner and relatively cheap at £3.66. Apparently it would serve four but I’m not sure how. Some of my vegetables were still hard – clearly those that weren’t covered by stock in the oven. This really dragged down the taste for me. Also I remembered that I’m not a big lover of leeks so I really had to force them down.

Overall I’d give the meal at six out of ten and that might be generous. Will I continue and cook again in week two? Will I get overly excited and cook again tomorrow? Will I blog every single proper meal I cook and turn this from a semi-interesting blog to one that drives people away in their droves?

So many questions and so few answers as I type but at this juncture I know this. I gave it a shot and I should be praised for trying!

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