Monday, 28 September 2009

With a jerk of the knee...

With a jerk of the knee the cycle is complete. Today’s news contains a perfect example of the modern world’s most infuriating malady. The knee-jerk cycle. The story so far: Two police officers agreed to look after each other’s children while they were on shift, thus saving each other £300 pounds a month. Ofsted says they’re breaking the law because it’s more than two hours at a time and the arrangement is for more than 14 days a year. They could now be prosecuted. Read the full story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8277378.stm


The story in itself is not a new one. Charles Dickens was the one who coined the phrase “The law is an Ass” and it stands today. The righteous indignation and calls for the heads of the law makers is all to familiar too. The echoes of “Something must be done” barely have time to fade before the same people cry “Nanny state!”. The Childcare Act which is at the heart of the story was brought in to stop cowboy (or cowgirl) carers abusing children in their care. It was brought in on a wave of public indignation after high profile cases of kids being mistreated by people who’d not been checked. The government, ever seeking to please the illiberal mob, rushed a piece of law to statute and handed it over to non-partisan civil servants to enact. This they have done with gusto. But the mob is fickle. It wanted this law. Now it has it. Now it doesn’t want it.

Consider this hypothetical: An unqualified friend offers to look after a child in exchange for some kindness, walking the dog for instance. The friend takes pictures of your naked child while you’re at work and flogs them to an internet paedophile. When the story hits the papers there are cries of “Something must be done”. But of course something has been done. It’s called the childcare act. If Ofsted had failed to act on the breach it would be condemned for not doing its job.

Now, if anyone can tell me how the law could have been differently drafted to allow the two police officers to continue but stop our hypothetical predator I’d be pleased to hear it. In the meantime I’d appreciate it if you could all try and keep your knee relaxed and your right foot firmly on the floor.

Monday, 21 September 2009

To the far horizon.

So here it is, a Mallin blog. It's perhaps a symptom of my muddled ideas on blogging that I feel the need to provide a prologue, just like a traditional written format. No one will ever read it perhaps but I feel such a thing deserves a beginning, a proper launch. So permit me a flight of fancy, dear reader. Allow me a little pretence. If an analogy is worth whipping it's worth flogging.
Here she is on the slipway then. Imagine, if you will, a woman with a flowery hat and a name with a hyphen, poised with a bottle of champaign on a rope to christen the bows. In the crowd the general feeling is of anticipation but the riveters know there's a few seams that will only hold with the grace of god, the shipwright himself feels he could have done more to make her seaworthy, and the boilers aren't even connected yet. The majority of the fitting-out won't be done until the keel's wet and after that it'll be too late to bring her back on shore to fix the bits that weren't thought through.  She's a little broad in the beam and likely to roll some in heavy seas. She'll make a few people queasy once she's out of the harbour. There's a sense of occasion nonetheless, even though there are plenty of better ships out there already. She's not even got a mission yet. Carrying coals is more likely than a voyage of discovery, for what's left to discover? The sea level will rise a fraction of a fraction when she's afloat, but that's just displacement folks.
The woman in the hat says "God bless her and all who sail in her" (as so many have said before) and another good bottle of bubbly is sacrificed to superstition. As it bursts someone adds "To the far horizon!" but there are mutters from the old hands that Grimsby is a more likely destination.
Off she goes down the ramp nevertheless, with a patter of applause from the crowd, a shriek of blocks and the sound of a lot of gravity arguing with a lot of inertia.

Thought for the day: The story of the Titanic proved the most important man on a ship is not the captain but the lookout.