Sunday, 26 November 2006

London in winter: freezing outdoors, boiling inside

Here we go again. Another sweltering summer while we freeze in our air-conditioned offices. Just so men can work without the faintest glow of perspiration trussed up in their ties and suits that don't seem to change weight from winter to summer, socks and closed shoes. I suppose it's so we can all pretend we're working in London.

I see women smartly dressed for the climate in bare legs and strappy sandals. Fools, because they're blue with cold by 11am. On Wednesday there were a couple of brief outages as the electricity grid struggled to cope with keeping us in a state of mild refrigeration. But God forbid men should turn up in short sleeves, shorts or sandals.

Can't we design a professional summer dress code for men? At least ditch the socks. Mind you, those sandals men wear on weekends look as though they're made of ripped-up car tyres.

Can we get Mr Armani to design smart men's shoes with perforations that let feet breathe? And how about designing buildings with awnings instead of glasshouses that force us to work the air-con even harder?

Ilma Cave, North Sydney

-Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2006.

Sydneysiders might be pretending to work in London, but here in my office in London, we have been wearing short sleeves and sweating in stuffy rooms over 30 degrees for over a week. Ouside, it's been more like 10 degrees. To be fair, this is caused by a fault in the "heating algorithm", but even where the heating is under control, buildings are heated much more than they really need to be. Why should an office be the same temperature all year round?

Obviously well built buildings should shield us from the extreme temperatures of summer and winter, and this may require colling and heating systems, but I really don't like it when the temperature difference is extreme, either.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Lord Mayors and ghosts

On the Saturday before last, a group of us (mainly international studenty-people) went to see the Lord Mayor's Show. The Lord Mayor's Show's history stretches back to 1215, when King John's charter allowing the citizens of London to elect their Lord Mayor stipulated that each year the new Lord Mayor must make his way to Westminster and swear fealty to the Sovereign. These days, it is an hour-long parade with bands and all sorts of floats, including figures of the City's mythical guardians Gog and Magog (recently inflatable, but now made of wickerwork).

Last year, Amy was in the parade with a group of children from the school she was working at:

This year, however, we were all standing on the Victoria Embankment on a fairly chilly November day. When the parade finally finished, we headed to find somewhere to sit down and have some warm drinks before the fireworks in the evening. We ended up in the Front Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, and discovered that as part of the London Jazz Festival, there was a free event, so decided to wait and see it.

It was called Gathering Ghosts, and featured a saxophone, double bass and a vocalist. The three of them proceeded to make all sorts of ghostly noises, with great enthusiasm. We didn't hang around for very long, and not just because we wanted to find a good spot for the fireworks. I guess it was a work of art, but I am very hesitant to call it music. Sebastian took a short video, so you can judge for yourselves by watching it here (AVI file, 6.76MB).

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Indepently parallel news

Living in London, but still reading news from Australia, I find it interesting how often there are parallels in the news, especially to do with political issues. Sometimes there is a clear link between events on different sides of the world, but on other occasions it seems to be a coincedence

Here in the UK, there has been a bit of scandal about the ruling Labour Party giving out peerages in exchange for "loans". There is an ongoing police investigation which it is thought envolve Tony Blair, as well other other prominent Labour figures. The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner have said they will stand aside from decisions relating to the case, due their close connections with Blair. Earlier this week, there were suggestions that the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, should also not be involved. He said that to step aside would not be right due to his constitutional position, and promised to act "in the interests of justice", seeking indepedent advice and making sure that reasons are explained.

Later in the week, the New South Wales Labor government, having already had ministers accused of misleading parliament, speeding offences in a ministerial car, corruption and child sex offences, was hit by another allegation. The opposition leader, Peter Debnam, implied in parliament that another minister was under investigation by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC). The following day, he referred to a "complaint lodged with the PIC" about the Attorney-General, Bob Debus and suggested that as the PIC is overseen by the Attorney-General's department, the process is not independent enough. The response from Debus so far seems to have been focussing on Debnam's original wording "under investigation", ignoring the possibility of a complaint and how that should be dealt with.

How much independence is needed in these situations? Being appointed by a minister might well be a conflict of interest when dealing when that minister is under suspiscion, but if we take that principle strictly, it is hard to imagine a system which can satisfactorily deal with any possible event. Clearly, if Lord Goldsmith cannot be trusted to act appropriately he wasn't the right person for the job in the first place, but justice must be seen to be done. Is it enough for him to give detailed reasons for a decision not to prosecute, and be accountable to parliament? Would it be better if the PIC's usually secret operations were made public in this sort of case, or is some other body needed? Who should be the judge, when it is the independent umpire that is accused?

(Yes, that does make me think of something else, but that's enough for now...)

Friday, 17 November 2006


Welcome to my new blog! I don't expect it will have too much of a theme, but will just be my ramblings on whatever comes into my head.