Leadership and the Tipping Point

Donald Trump

Presented with the example of high-profile leaders (such as Donald Trump for example), how do we define good leadership qualities? What we see with Trump is conviction, perseverance and decisiveness. And, on the face of it, these are all admirable attributes for a good leader. But are they really? What if they tip over into stubborn bull-headedness and inflexibility? If someone refuses to acknowledge the possibility that they’re wrong, is that a good thing? Where exactly is that tipping point?

If you persist with an idea or an opinion, and you insist on making your point, even when you know that others have valid objections, you’re probably teetering on the edge. If you feel frustration and impatience, possibly even anger, when others try to persuade you of something you don’t agree with, you’re in serious danger of losing your balance. If you shut down debates and conversations without making any attempt to process other people’s opinions because you believe there is only one viable course of action, make no mistake – you’re spiralling out of control. And if you’re digging your heels in when you know that you’re wrong, that’s inexcusable… and, frankly, you deserve a bumpy landing.

Obviously, we don’t want leadership that is paralysed by equivocation and indecision, but good leaders should always welcome a challenge to their convictions and assumptions. They should be prepared to entertain other possibilities that weren’t initially in their purview. They should be persuadable. They should be capable of surrendering a dearly-cherished belief if the situation warrants.

In short, I firmly believe good leadership entails holding your ground in a stoic and no-nonsense way whilst remaining open to the possibility that there might be a better rationale out there….

But, um, obviously I might be wrong about that?!

Posted in Opinion Tagged ,


loo roll

When I get bored in lockdown,
And feel my patience ebb,
I gossip with a spider
I discovered on the web.

I try to do some yoga
(But cannot cross my legs),
Make castles out of loo rolls,
Draw faces on the eggs.

When people speak of furlough,
I wonder what they mean.
Is it something like probation?
Or a place near Cookham Dean?

I forget my mask in Tesco
And use a bag instead.
Twice this week I’ve passed out
Before I’ve reached the bread.

I watch TV and laze around,
And, if the truth be told,
Most of my ‘new normal’
Is rather like the old.

When the R number tumbles
And Covid goes away,
We’ll reflect how 2020
Led us all so much astray.

Posted in Humour, Nonsense Tagged , , , , , ,

No U-turns!

Boris U-turn

How much credibility can a government retain when it makes so many U-turns, careering from one crisis to another, lurching from one populist headline to the next, equipped with nothing but the flimsiest of straplines and slogans for brakes?

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Humour, Opinion Tagged ,

Pandemic? Don’t panic! (Lies, damned lies and statistics)

Coronavirus slogan

With a second wave of fearmongering now being orchestrated by the mainstream media, a bizarre fraud of staggering proportions is starting to come to light.

A prominent feature of the daily Downing Street press conferences during the lockdown was the Public Health England’s death count. It’s now becoming clear that the statistical data presented to the public has been disgracefully misleading. Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of PHE’s National Infection Service, has acknowledged: “Although it may seem straightforward, there is no WHO agreed method of counting deaths from Covid-19. In England, we count all those that have died who had a positive Covid-19 test at any point, to ensure our data are as complete as possible.” Essentially, the death of anyone who has ever tested positive for the virus in England has been automatically counted as a coronavirus death. As far as PHE is concerned, anyone testing positive, fully recovering and then having the misfortune to be run over by a bus a couple of months later is counted as a COVID-19 death!

Frankly, that constitutes propaganda and deceit on a truly monumental scale, and Dr Hopkins, along with many others, who have been complicit in this conduct, should be struck off. Furthermore, there is a case for declaring PHE not fit for purpose. It should probably be scrapped.

Is it not conceivable that our leaders have created and then exploited our suffering? Is it not possible that ministers, using erroneous PHE data to determine the government’s response to the virus, have been intent on creating a realm of doom and disaster, so that they might ultimately appear like knights on white chargers to save the day, waving their strategy banners in gung-ho and buccaneering fashion. Boris Johnson will be doing just that today as he “rescues” our children’s education with his back-to-school announcement.

Unless and until there is irrefutable evidence that there is long-term damage to a significant percentage of those who have been infected, it prompts the suspicion that the real fatality rate of this coronavirus may be an order of magnitude lower than authorities have led us to believe. The devastation it has wrought on the economy is something else. As is the impact on excess deaths (by non-COVID related conditions) caused by the misappropriation of vital NHS life-saving treatment. The ramifications may be felt for quite some time.

It’s time we all stopped panicking and it’s time we all insisted on much less fearmongering and sloganising… oh yes, and it’s certainly time we demanded much more transparency from those who are currently wrecking our lives.

Posted in Opinion, Science Tagged , , , ,

MMR Vaccine and Link with Autism

MMR vaccine In 1998, a study was published in the Lancet medical journal, purporting to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. When the truth eventually emerged, the paper was retracted. The lead author, Andrew Wakefield, was disgraced and lost his medical license in 2010. What was the story behind it?……

Click here for the full story.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , ,

“The important thing is to have a target.”

Matt Hancock

Deadlines make headlines. Whether the Health Secretary’s target gets met or not, all the attention on the target will serve as a smokescreen, distracting the public from the truth that far too few tests were carried out during the first months of the pandemic.

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Humour, Opinion, Personal, Science or Pasta Tagged , , ,

Lockdown Blues

loo roll

I’ve been buying only essentials
And obeying the government rules.
I’ve been doing the clapping for carers
And plenty of video calls.

I’ve run out of pasta and loo rolls
And queued at the chemist for meds.
I’ve done quizzes with friends on Zoom
And seen just the tops of their heads!

I’ve been planning more running and walking,
But I haven’t persuaded my legs.
In the stores, I’ve kept to two metres,
And danced in the aisles when there’s eggs!

I’ve promised to write a to-do-list,
But each day I go and forget.
I’ve bought lots of books for my kindle,
But haven’t got round to them yet.

I’ve remembered that Mondays are bin days
And made sure they’re out there by eight;
And then I’ve discovered it’s Tuesday –
I’m twenty-four hours too late!

I’ve watched all the daily news briefings
And marvelled at all of the stats;
When R equals one, I nod wisely
And pretend I’ve grasped all the facts.

I’ve bought wine for that special occasion,
When the end of the lockdown’s in sight…
But then I’ve succumbed to temptation
And drunk it the very same night!

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Or is it an oncoming train?
I hope you cope better than I do…
I can’t wait to see you again.

Posted in Humour, Nonsense Tagged , , , ,

I’m Under House Arrest?! For how long?

CoronavirusI never thought I’d echo a thought expressed by Donald Trump, of all people, but if we’re effectively under house arrest, maybe we should be worrying about the cure for coronavirus being worse than the disease?

Draconian restrictions of liberty are difficult to justify in almost any circumstances. The government is heavily hinting that a variety of lockdown scenarios will extend way beyond the three-week period initially announced by the Prime Minister. Estimates vary between three to six months, and maybe even further. As it stands, the current lockdown is likely to carry on into May and June. Some permutations of it may remain in place until September (and if there is a severe second wave of the virus, a lockdown would almost certainly be re-imposed in the autumn). Given this kind of timescale, I believe we should scrutinise the strategy very rigorously, evaluate the impact and consider alternative approaches.

Boris Johnson may tell us that “there really is such a thing as society”, but strict lockdowns where people are deprived of social contact could conceivably fragment society and jeopardise community cohesion. Indeed, the fabric of society could quickly become unstitched and fall apart before our eyes. There’s the potential for democracy to be hijacked and for the UK to be turned into a police state. A top police officer has already warned that his force will consider setting up roadblocks and searching shopping trolleys to stop lockdown flouters ‘putting lives at risk’. I wouldn’t go so far as to speculate that people might get a criminal record for buying their kids Easter eggs. That would be ridiculous. Nevertheless, we should be very wary of authorities imposing overzealous rules and enabling overzealous enforcement of them. Also, no one should underestimate the detrimental impact of social isolation on people’s mental health.

It also doesn’t help that government and health officials frighten us with misleading statistics. For example, according to a study by ISS (Italy’s national health authority), the vast majority (more than 99%) of the country’s coronavirus fatalities so far have been people who were already suffering from one or more severe medical conditions. It is not being made clear to us how many people are dying of coronavirus, as opposed to dying with coronavirus. There’s so much iffy data out there. When the health secretary claims that 761 million items of PPE have been distributed to front line health workers, I can’t help wondering if he’s counting a box of 100 pairs of disposal gloves as 1 or 100!

Our leaders neglected to close our borders and failed to urgently address the inadequacy of testing kits, PPE and ventilators. Meanwhile, our lives have morphed into a strange quasi-science-fictional scenario, where government policy is determined by statistical modelling (based on partial and selective data) and communicated by means of a “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” mantra which implies that what should have been treated as a public health emergency is being treated as a public order issue.

So, what are the alternatives to lockdowns? Obviously, the development of a vaccine is, if you like, the holy grail. But the process of research, followed by clinical trials, followed by manufacturing and deployment, means that a viable, safe and effective vaccine will not be available until the early part of next year at the earliest.

That leaves the policy, favoured to some extent by countries like Sweden, of an effectively managed infection control programme, leading to a degree of natural ‘herd immunity’. When the outbreak first emerged in the UK, this was apparently the UK government’s preferred approach (although the Health Secretary has since denied this). Self-policed social distancing was considered an adequate response, but they got cold feet when health experts predicted a high peak of hospitalised patients requiring intensive care. The potential impact on the scandalously underfunded NHS became evident and anything short of a strict lockdown was deemed to be politically unpalatable, prompting a change of strategy. Everything was then focused on protecting the NHS. Well, obviously, none of us want to see the NHS overwhelmed, and we all recognise health workers as heroes, particularly at this time. I hope government ministers reflect seriously on the lack of PPE and testing kits and critical care beds when they join in the ‘Clap for Carers’ tributes.

We know so little about this virus. Is it seasonal? What if lockdown measures barely succeed in containing the outbreak? And what if relaxing the measures after a few months simply gives rise to a further escalation of the epidemic? And, in any case, what is the point of just kicking the can down the road? There can be no definitive resolution to the problem until the population acquires immunity.

Immunity can only be achieved through vaccination or by populations surviving the disease and acquiring antibodies. The trouble with draconian lockdowns is that even if the spread of the virus is slowed down, the majority of survivors fail to become immune and therefore remain at risk. Effectively shutting down the economy and imposing strict regulations limiting public movement may be acceptable over a timeframe of a few weeks, but most of us need social contact in order to function properly. I’m very worried for our collective mental health if our lives were to be impoverished in this way for the year or more it will take before a vaccine is ready… a period in which we will suffer individually as sentient human beings and society may get torn apart. How many lives will be lost to the side effects of the lockdown treatment (poverty-related factors, violent crime and suicide)?

Understandably, we’re all having emotional reactions to all the stuff that’s going on. At the top of this post, I referred to the lockdown as like being under house arrest. I’ve now calmed myself down by considering a different analogy – perhaps an extended period of salutary hibernation? It’s a complex issue and none of the solutions available to us right now is benign, but when we’re comparing evils, it’s incumbent on us to determine which is the lesser of them.

In the meantime, I don’t wish to give the wrong impression – much as I would love to go out and meet up with friends and family, I’m obeying the rules for as long as this remains the consensus of the scientific and medical communities. Now more than ever, we must all take personal responsibility for our actions and inactions, own up to mistakes, learn from them and put other people first whenever possible. After all, those principles underpin an ethical, empathetic and civilised society. And we must certainly expect those principles to be applied by those who govern us. This is a test of our humanity.

So, let’s come back to the question: is the cure for coronavirus possibly worse than the disease?  It would almost certainly have been better to have adopted better isolation measures at the outset. And better distribution of protective equipment would possibly have avoided the tragedy of frontline NHS workers losing their lives. Unfortunately, we’re hamstrung by the government’s lack of early decisiveness and lack of preparedness. Their shift of strategies came too late and we’re competing with countries across the world for components and chemicals required to conduct mass testing. This means contact tracing and isolation of cases is not as effective as it might otherwise have been. On balance, right now, I guess we have to accept that the worst case scenario is the NHS becoming entirely overwhelmed, such that people would struggle to get treatment for anything life-threatening, whether it’s related to COVID-19 or not.

Yes, we should go with the current protocols… for now… but we should monitor the impact on people’s psychosocial well-being. We certainly shouldn’t put too much credence in the principle of Occam’s razor and assume that simple solutions are the best just because they’re easier and more convenient to execute. Obviously, public health is vitally important, but our freedoms, rights and liberties are very precious too. I know it may seem unconstructive, in these unprecedented times, to criticise our government. There will be many who feel we should simply trust that they’re doing their best for us. But I believe we should continue to question everything and have a debate… because it’s so important that the policy makers get it right.

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Opinion Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Animal Astronauts

LaikaSeveral tales of animal astronauts such as Laika, Ham and Felicette are well-known within popular culture and have lasting memorials, but very few people are aware of the ordeals they were forced to endure to facilitate human exploration of space.

At a time when we are also transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so drastically that thousands of plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, we need to address our role and relationship with nature….

Click here for the full story.

Posted in Dark Mutterings Tagged , , ,

Wishing Shelf Book Awards

The Wishing Shelf Awards 2019 Finalist

The Moon Pigeon has been shortlisted as one of the 2019 FINALISTS in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

The children’s books were read and judged by children in 8 UK primary and secondary schools, the adult books by 2 Reading Groups, 1 in London and 1 in Stockholm. The books were marked according to EDITING, THEME, STYLE, COVER and, in the case of many of the children’s books, ILLUSTRATIONS.

A curious incident occurred during the 1969 Apollo 10 moon mission. A white object, later dubbed a ‘moon pigeon’, was filmed moving above the moon’s surface below the spacecraft. An official NASA report entitled “Moon pigeons and other unidentified visual phenomena associated with space flight”, published in 1970, attributed the Apollo 10 ‘moon pigeon’ to either a piece of ice or a reflection from the window of the spacecraft.

This is the story of a pigeon named Phoebe Featherbelle, who met a NASA scientist and set out to discover the truth about the incident.

What happened to her is described by a pair of Trafalgar Square pigeons.

Click here to order the audiobook.

Click here to order the paperback.

Click here to order the kindle edition.

Posted in Humour, Story Tagged , , ,