Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

DINOSAUR: Modern Times

In Dinosaur on January 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Cold calling by phone:

dinosaurLike many readers I’m sure, I get more than my fair share of “nuisance calls” on my telephone. The sort that are trying to sell me something that I don’t want, or ask me if I could “answer a few questions” that “won’t take a minute”. And many of them can be very persistent.

I have tried such strategies as, “sorry I’m just on my way out”. or even, “there’s no-one of that name here”. But even these don’t always work. Once I just slammed the phone down. Within seconds the cold caller had rung me back. “Why did you hang up?” he asked accusingly.

It’s no wonder that a new survey finds that more than three million of us are afraid to answer the phone in case it’s one of those unsolicited calls. Many of such calls, it suggests, are from pay-day lending companies touting for business.

The findings are based on a YouGov survey, and have been published by a debt charity called StepChange. It says that about 45 million people have received nuisance calls in the last year – with 26.3 million of them being offered high-interest credit such as “payday” loans.

You wouldn’t think, would you, that such outfits would need to tout for business in this way. It’s like giving sharks access to the telephone. But it’s yet another sign of the times we live in.

Posh people still prevail:

Talking of surveys, there’s been a certain amount of publicity given to a new study by a couple of academics suggesting that the same families still dominate the upper echelons of our society, forming an unbroken link back to the time of the Norman conquest (1066, and all that).

Names such as Darcy, Percy, Mandeville and Neville still crop up from generation to generation. They are the families that still maintain power and wealth – in England, at any rate. Those with names such as Cameron can trace roots back to Scotland, and that’s a slightly different story.

One commentary I read suggests that it’s the public school system that has helped to maintain this exclusive hold on power and wealth. Public schools are based on drilling certain assumptions into their students, with the sort of education to back them up. (rather like joining the Bullingdon Club at Oxford?). But I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.

After all, back at the time when “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” was written by Thomas Hughes, the public schools were the province of the middle classes. Those in the upper strata of society had their offspring privately tutored, and introduced to the world of privilege that they’d inherit.

But going off at a tangent, what, I wonder, happened to the Saxon aristocracy after the Norman conquest? Were they simply wiped from the social map? Maybe there’s another study to muse over there.

Telling it as it is:

If we believe Ed Miliband, we’re in for a rough ride this coming year, as we approach the date of the  2015 General Election.

He predicts that the Tories will engage in such an orgy of mud-slinging that we’ll be bogged down in all the dirt heading in our direction. In this they’ll be backed up by their allies in the media – the Mail and the Murdoch press, to mention but two examples. There’s a saying that if you throw enough mud, some of it’s bound to stick. All the more need then to spell out our arguments, and clarify our alternative (once we’re agreed what it is of course!) – and repeat  it loud and clear, and as often as possible.

Those were the days:

Many tributes have been paid to John Cole, for many years the BBC’s chief political reporter. With his strong Northern Irish accent, he was unmistakeable.

And many stories have been told about him. The one I liked best was one he told himself, many years ago, in a radio interview. It was how he got his first break when he was a young cub reporter on the Belfast Telegraph.

Clement Attlee (then PM) was visiting Northern Ireland. Cole discovered the route he’d be taking (towards Antrim, as I remember) and drove out to intercept and interview him. The Attlee’s modest Austin Ten duly appeared in view, driven by Mrs Attlee. John Cole walked out in front of the car, flagged it down – and got his interview.

Can anyone imagine anything like that happening these days? Roads would be cleared, tight security imposed – and any rash reporter would have had his career terminated abruptly! Oh, happy days!




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