Chameleon man

New Labour has decided that it can't fight David Cameron's policies, so it's going to launch a stinging ad hominem attack. Entitled Dave the Chameleon, it attempts to depict DC as someone who can - and does - change his political colours at whim.

Nasty stuff, of course. And ironic too, given some of the significant policy flip-flops we have seen from the Labour Party since coming to power. Twenty-four hours to save the NHS? I think we have rather less than that now, Tony.

What should Cameron do? Clearly he needs to embrace the moniker. The Conservative should claim Dave the Chameleon for themselves and start to brand the Party with it. Perhaps we could introduce - say - Dave the Funky Chameleon ringtones (singing such ditties as "Red Red Wine" and "Blue Moon") to match.

And as for Labour. Shame on you. Your policies are so weak and failing that you have resorted to playing the man, not the ball.

Labour's public sector woes

Open up any business text book on management and you'll soon come to the sentence "You can't delegate responsibility" (see a little explanation here). As a manager, you can ask other people to perform tasks for you - that's delegation. But if they screw it up, it's still your fault.

People can forget this when living their lives. But just because the State provides you with a state pension, the National Health Service and state education, doesn't mean that you have fulfilled your responsibility to ensure that these are adequate.

All too often, what the State provides is inadequate. Where we live there is simply not one State secondary school that produces adequate results. They are all crap. Go check it out for yourselves. And our local hospital is running up huge debts.

But when the middle classes seek to take back their responsibility (as any good manager would) because the State isn't delivering, they are criticised, often with pejorative references to their "sharp elbows." Or, absurdly, parents are criticised for undermining local state school provision by sending their children to private schools.

The best response, of course, would be to allow a free market in the provision of education and healthcare. Give people a voucher to spend on the service of their choice. After all, it's our money and our responsibility.

Poor New Mexico

"Poor New Mexico, so far from Heaven, so close to Texas." - Mexican Governor Armijo, 1841

Such a beautiful, perfect, pants-wettingly funny quote. It inspired Richard Bradford's excellent novel, So Far From Heaven, which I have just finished reading. It is so wonderful to be able to visit my homeland without having to board a plane. I just wish I could experience the food through reading the same way I can smell the trees and the dusty red earth.

In a few hours my mom will be waking up to a glorious sunrise (they always are) and taking a look around her mountain home. She'll smell the juniper, the pinons, the geese next door, dust stirred up by a passing truck, and maybe even some coyote scat. She'll have oatmeal with seeds and nuts for breakfast, but she could have a plate full of beans and chile and eat it all with a tortilla. I'm not saying this is what she should do, but to just to have the option is divine.

I spent seventeen years in Albuquerque. The last five were dedicated to getting out. I could not wait to graduate and head off to pastures new. I am so happy that I did just that. Leaving home has given me the best possible appreciation for New Mexico. What I thought was a barren pile of dirt now calls to me intoxicatingly. The clear skies so blue they're almost purple. The one-of-a-kind smell of chiles roasting in that giant turning vat they use. The overnight foot of snow that melts into shorts weather by noon. And oh my god the sunsets.

The pervasive anti-Texas sentiment is probably rooted in envy. I suppose any place feels it towards their bigger, richer, more powerful neighbour. Canada feels it for the US; New Zealand for Australia; Liechtenstein for Germany (I'm guessing). I'm sure - aside from very serious water battles - Texas doesn't even notice grumpy New Mexico to the West, fuming and rolling its eyes. It's not Texas's fault. Who could care about a poor, backwards, empty state battling it out for last place in nearly all things the US cares to measure? There aren't even a full two million people living in a state roughly two and a half times the size of England (which has nearly 25 times the population). When we drove back from Durango, Colorado in January, I pointed out something striking to Katie. I told her to look to her left as far as she could see, and then to her right. I asked her how many building she saw. None. How many people? None. There aren't many places on earth you can do that. If you fancy a four-hour drive passing only a handful of other humans, New Mexico is the place for you.

Homesickness aside, Greenwich is our home now. We've put down deep roots here. Work is here, school is here. Life is good here. We do think seriously of retiring to Albuquerque in two or three decades. It would be a nice existence. I am so happy that I left, got some perspective, and now know how to appreciate the land of enchantment. Still, shame about the neighbours.

Dear Mom,

Right now you are five and a half hours into the flight that is taking you away. We miss you already. Come back soon! In honour of your visit and in wishing your speedy return, I have made two lists. One is what we did when you were here, and two is what we didn't do. I'm not sure which list will be longer.

List One (what we did)*:
Enjoyed the frigid walk up to Katie's school and back
Drank Starbucks
Ate Pizza Express
Ate Cafe Rouge
(You) babysat while we (Andrew and I) went out with Katie's teachers
Cleaned the house (ish)
Christened Buffy
Had loads of people over to the house
Welcomed Aunt Joanie
Got Katie well and truly launched into her fourth year
(You and Joanie) went to Scotland
Windsor Castle
Took Buffy swimming
Watched all the Harry Potter videos
Walked a lot
Talked even more
(We) had lots and lots and lots of fun (with you!)

*Thank you for every single one of these and so, so much more!

List Two (what we didn't do)*:
Tower of London
Tate Modern
See a show
Boat trip
Clean up all the cat wee (still trying!)
Sort all files
Sort through all children's clothes
All the Geocaching we could have
All the walking we could have
All the talking we could have

*Obviously, you must come back very soon.

We really had a wonderful time. Thank you for coming and being so wonderful. Call or email when you're safely home.


Christos Voskrese!

Response: Voistinu Voskrese! (Indeed, He is risen)

Happy Easter, everybody.

Bookworm Katie

I notice it's been several days since I bragged about Katie's reading. As I've said before, early reading is only significant for a short time. So, we're bragging while the bragging's good.

In this photo you can see Katie reading a CHAPTER BOOK to herself in bed. She still reads aloud (and therefore moves her lips) so she still has plenty of room for improvement. But, hey, she just turned four!

Now we just have to help her understand that each chapter is part of a story, not a whole story unto itself. :)