April 7th 2013
Many congratulations are in order to Mr & Mrs Guy Cooke, who got married to each other yesterday. Guy and I got to know each other in my first year at Uni, mainly through serving hot chocolate to our fellow students on Monday nights in a CU initiative called, imaginatively, 'hot chocolate': the hot choc itself may not have been the most deluxe of products - hey, we were working to a budget, and most of the people drinking it were fairly drunk anyhow - but it was a great way to let Warwickians know about CU events. It was also a great way to get to know my fellow CU-ers, and one of the most dedicated hot chocolate servers was Guy. He is also one of the nicest people I know and it remains an honour to call him a friend. Anyways, I don't have any pictures yet from his wedding with Shona (whom I met for the first time at the reception), but I have an iconic photo of him with a tea towel. Amazingly, this picture wasn't included in the wedding order of service, nor was it blown up 100 times and used as a banner for the reception, but such oversights are inevitable when planning such a big occasion. Actually, despite the 100% dearth of towel-related photos, the wedding was excellent, Guy's speech was very good (some great one-liners), the best man had a PowerPoint presentation with a pundulum - that's right, a pun pendulum - and there was a wedding-related quiz at the reception written by everyone's favourite actuary. OK, it was by me. But I make it into most people's top five favourite actuaries right? Anyways, I'm sure you'll join me in wishing Guy & Shona all the best. The next Warwick-related wedding on the horizon is between Jenny and my old housemate Matt; hopefully this will soften the blow for him of Bristol City's upcoming relegation. In other news, having been taken in by the April Fool's claim by my good friend James Lee that he and his wife were expecting triplets - I'd seen the sonogram already, so there's no real excuse for this one - I completely missed the fact that the Times crossword on 1st April had identical answers to the crossword on 23rd March. This despite the fact that I did - and, I think, finished - both crosswords: I remember thinking that the word 'screwy' was coming up more often than usual, but didn't bat an eyelid at the other 31 answers. I'm an odd mix of proud and ashamed, kinda like when I correctly named the first two Steps albums in a recent pub quiz.
April 14th 2013
It has long been my contention that nothing in this world is as reassuring as a urinal, when you're not sure if you're in the right toilets (I imagine the reverse is true for women). You know how it is: the picture on the door was of a faded stick figure who might have been wearing a skirt, but you were hoping they were just baggy trousers, because the other door had an almost indistinguishable figure with what might have been slightly baggier trousers, but hopefully was a skirt... so you open the door cautiously before catching sight of that glorious, gold standard of reassuring sights: the urinal. Which leads me onto Margaret Thatcher. Not because I intend any slight on The Lady, but because she is connected to the second most reassuring thing in this world: knowing that you have taken the opposite side of an argument to both George Galloway and Joey Barton. With the death of Baroness Thatcher last week, the internet (and, indeed, real life) has been filled with conflicting opinions on her legacy, and having placed myself in the pro-Thatcher camp I was not entirely sure I'd made the right decision - but gained much conviction on discovering that Galloway and Barton, both delusional buffoons whose opinions I neither respect nor ever, really, agree with, were strongly anti-Thatcher. I don't want to define my opinions simply to disagree with others (sidebar: my brother claims that he voted 'Yes' to AV just because I was voting 'No'), even if that seems to be the default policy position of every political party when they're in opposition, but it provides what my friend Sammy called the 'litmus test' of my existing opinions.
If the Thatcher question were simply a matter of Thatcher vs Unions, it would be entirely easy to decide in Thatcher's favour: union leaders in the 1970s and 80s were even more preposterous than they are now, and the greatest success of Thatcher's premiership was that she took on their power and beat them. I was not alive until 1985, so I'm relying on the history books (and the Times) to tell me what a mess this country was in in the 1970s, and how the government repeatedly bowed to the desires and demands of union leadership at every turn. Not only was Thatcher victorious, but her victory was of a lasting kind: for example, who now thinks that unions should be able to declare a strike without taking a ballot? As Tony Blair said about his time in office, Thatcher banned things that should never have been allowed. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple, and you can't sum up 11 years of power in one field of policy alone, so I'm trying to look at the bigger picture. In writing up my own fairly hastily knocked together Thatcher pros and cons, it seems that every silver lining has a cloud. Pro: successfully defending the Falklands, despite being under pressure to cede them to Argentina; con: the sinking of the Belgrano. Pro: the 'big bang' which helped place London as one of the world's key centres of finance; con: deregulation that played its part in producing the recession. Pro: taking a hard line against the IRA (and the nonsensical claims that she let Bobby Sands 'die a hero's death' should make the Guardian ashamed); con: in doing so, she missed the opportunity later taken by John Major and Tony Blair to aid the Irish peace process. Pro: she believed in meritocracy and personal achievement; con: this meant she could be - or, at least, appear to be - uncaring to the disadvantaged. I can only conclude that Margaret Thatcher was (surprise, surprise) neither the angel of light that she is painted by many on the Right, nor the angel of death she is proclaimed to be by many on the Left. They say that history is written by the victors: well, Thatcher won three elections and lost none; when she was finally ousted by her own party they went on to win again, and only lost power when the 'New' Labour party were led by a man who understood - like Thatcher - that the old leftist ideals were immature and unworkable. If history were written by the victors, there'd be a statue to Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square by now. There is a danger that history will instead be written by whoever is most vocal, and as the brickbats get thrown harder the defences grow stronger and a little more blinkered (if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor). This last week has seen a lot of passionate but not entirely sensible claims and counter-claims, and the only consensus is that Thatcher was a 'unique and towering figure', in the words of Ed Miliband (who is neither; but, then, nor is David Cameron). Maybe we'll gain a bit more clarity as the years pass. Probably not. For what it's worth from someone who was 5 when Thatcher left power, I think she was a good Prime Minister. Joey Barton doesn't. Pick your sides.
what was I listening to?
Rock of Ages soundtrack
what was I reading?
A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson