Wednesday, 22 April 2015

My Manifesto

Here is my election manifesto for 2015

I wish the political parties had a few of these - they all seem to be pledging the same boring things - no ethics or ambition involved !  What one would you add or write your own manifesto for change !

1    Children - children deserve the best start in life. Families deserve time to learn to become a family and to be able to understand their child's needs. Many families need support in learning how to play with their children, how to feed them and how to enjoy being with them. This means families need funding.  Funding should not just be going to pay for other people to care for young children. Our brain pathways are built in those first precious months and years of development. If the early years are stressful out brains in future will react quickly to stress and produce more cortisol, the stress hormone - this is a fact.  So come on politicians, FAMILY FUNDING PLEASE ! And this should take account of total family income, as parents often give and take - it really does take more than one parent or adult to help bring up children.  All family circumstances are different, some have lots of friends or grandparents, some have two parents, some have one parent. Some have a parent who works for long hours or works abroad (very common where I live). For this reason I believe that family funding should be based on total income and should perhaps follow the child themselves.  But whether parents use childcare or do the care themselves BOTH MUST BE RECOGNISED.   And I don't know an awful lot about Sure Start centres, but they might form the basis of a good idea. And toddler groups and playgroups should get the full support of society.

2   Animals - animals also deserve the best. We have lived alongside dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs and horses for millions of years of human development. These animals are mammals and care strongly for their young. So they should be allowed to grow in family groups. We should not overexploit them for their milk. Currently dairy cattle have their calves removed at birth and must produce vast quantities of milk. This cant be comfortable for them. Surely someone somewhere can work out a method where the cattle can filter through the milking barn with their associated calf alongside ?  I mean the calves are still going to drink the same amount of milk overall.  And do you know that pigs are highly intelligent and can play football ?!  Yet in the EU there are still some places where they are kept in small stalls. This should not be allowed.  And even with regards to hens/chickens these need better treatment. Who wants to eat meat from an animal which has had virtually no life. The current breeds of chicken are developed to produce meat as quickly as possible and look quite ridiculous. I wonder how good this really is for us to be eating.  We should also be promoting more vegetarian options in some way, encouraging people to eat the wonderful vegetable produce produced by our farmers.  And finally we need to ensure that slaughter methods, if these have to be used, are the most humane possible. They should probably be killed by the captive bolt method and this should be supervised by CCTV. The animals should not have any fore-warning of what is happening. But as I type that it makes me feel physically sick to think that we would do this to peaceful animals. We should only be caring for them, not eating them.  For the sake of the planet as well, we get more energy from farms if we eat crops directly rather than feeding them to animals. So it makes sense ecologically and economically. And we must not give in to religious pressure to change the way animals are killed. Surely any religion would agree that we must look after the animals.  Simples - as the Meerkats say !

3 Climate Change
This is a big concern and needs sorted - guy on Radio 4 this morning talking about how this should be in election manifestos. (22 April 2015)

4  Nuclear Power
As a scientist I have a fair understanding of nuclear power, but the after effects are shocking. The time that it is going to take the products to decay are unacceptable. We need to find another method of power.  And how stupid is it to build Hinkley B (is that the name of the new one ?) right next to the sea when sea levels are inevitably going to rise ? Doh !!!!

5  Finance
World finance needs sorted out. Banks and accountants have pulled the wool over many people's eyes and completely disrupted the world financial systems so they are in a terrible mess.  Gamblers and crooks should not be in charge !

6 Monsanto
MOnsanto should not be allowed to control the world's seeds. This company needs to be stopped. And rumours are that the weedkiller it produces - RoundUp is carcinogenic.

7 Other big organisations
The same goes for Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) - many companies have been caught up in less than ethical practises and need to be stopped. Its not like any of these companies (and others eg Starbucks, Amazon) actually need the money !

8 Ecopackaging - biodegradable materials
Following on from the previous issue, companies should be required to use biodegradable components in for example nappies, pads, packaging, feminine hygiene products, washing powders etc.  Companies should be required to use such things as starch etc which will biodegrade, unless they can provide evidence that the material they have used is the only possible material that can be used.  For example look at how many solid plastic boxes for Persil washing liquitabs are just being thrown away and not used - this is ridiculous - the liquitabs could be in a dispenser at the shops and you could bring your box along to be re-filled. Easy to do and masses of plastic saved. Good for the environment and good for saving valuable and finited natural resources.

9  Online Pressures on Teenagers and Children
Children are living with a very different environment even from 10 years ago and need to learn to live with it but also to be protected from it. They need to be able to discern what is good to watch and what is not good to watch. What is a good way to live ? What do you want out of life and are you going to consider other people too ?   Society has become very materialistic.  Personally I am quite horrified by some people I see, driving gas guzzling cares too fast (bought on credit! or via dodgy business expenses), along with dyed hair/false eyelashes/fake tan.  I'm sorry but how did we come to this ?  Lets get our kids out playing, walking, enjoying life. My kids enjoyed visiting an outdoor centre but were confined to their rooms some of the time due to the experience in previous years where other kids misbehaved. Some just do not have any idea nowadays where the limits of behaviour are. And I have seen this at kids parties too. So we need to get our kids onto a firm foundation again (this follows on from Point 1). Then we might have some hope that they can withstand the onslaught of celebrity trash/porn/self harming sites/social media comments etc. And they will hopefully have some ambition then to improve society themselves as well.

10 Care Homes / Nursery Businesses
These are two areas where functions used to be done by the state and are now increasingly in private hands. A friend pays £1,000 a week for her father to be in a care home. So all that money has come from selling his house. Yet even at that he doesnt seem to get particularly good care. When I looked up the profits of the big Care Home companies, they appear to take 33% profit and many companies are linked to each other. Disgraceful !
The same happens with nursery businesses and nursery chains. Many of these are active on Twitter and Facebook etc, and via all sorts of lobbying organisations and are gradually getting money out of out gullible MPs who believe everything they say.  Organisations backing the family are unfortunately more pre-occupied with actually caring for their own kids and just don't seem to get much airtime/lobbying time etc.
But this is not how it was supposed to be. There seems to be two extremes - wasteful resources and people if its public sector (I have heard many cases from people working there and have done myself although most people work very hard) but the situation is probably even worse when the private sector is involved.

11  Huge retirement funds in public sector - particularly national government and MP, MSP jobs  - Also dealing with Retirement Age - "active" jobs and "slowing down a bit" jobs
Why should MPs retire with a full pension as though they have worked for 40 years ? This should not happen. I dont know how extensive it is but I have heard of it happening. Maybe they can get a small payout if they lose their seat, but many people are now in temporary employment - its pretty normal now.
Secondly if some people have retirement age set at 67 then so should everyone.  National government civil service jobs I suspect are still sitting at age 60. This is not on. And fireman are retiring at 50 = ridiculous ! They should perhaps be assigned a less active role eg a desk job if they are no longer fit for the job. But again why does anyone feel that the employer is responsible for employing them for life ? I mean where did this idea come from ? As a person who always worked in temporary jobs, much as I'd have loved a permanent job, I just do not get this !  If you can't do the job then you are redundant ! End of !!  I am sure many people working in physical occupations need to have a re-think at about age 50 eg foresters, farmers, footballers !! etc  Much better to employ all those under-employed young fit people who seem to have to work at Tesco, in the active roles and let those who want to slow down a bit work at Tesco for a while !!
So really that is two issues to do with retirement,

Friday, 17 April 2015

Woman in a Man's World ? or Man in a Woman's World ? Never Easy !

I just heard today about a young man who had given up on his dream of becoming a primary teacher as even though he is gifted with the children etc, he was not being encouraged and was continually being placed from college into schools with only a female staff. That is not easy for a young sporty man, and eventually he ran out of "small talk". The chatter in the staff room of our local school would have been a nightmare for me as a woman, let alone for a young man.

And yet we desperately need more men in our primary schools. Whenever my sons had a male teacher, he was just "the best" ! But our school never seemed to be able to hold onto them. They moved abroad or were snapped up by other schools. And meanwhile the women teachers (prepare for bitchy comment ...) seemed to just out-compete each other on how high a heel they could walk on !! Not great for active teaching and learning in the classroom !!  Well they didn't quite all do this but there was a bit of a tendency among some.

I myself worked in science related jobs and IT among mostly men. There would be an occasional other woman/girl to have a chat to, but they tended to work in the department offices and sensibly didn't venture out into the wider department.  So it's not easy being a girl in a man's world. Even when most of them "behave". I have to say that most of the ones I worked with were fine. There was the occasional older man with his sexist comment about women working or women's driving etc. but most were fine. But another problem is just that perception that if the job you do is normally done by a man, then if you come along as a woman then you almost have to first prove that you can do the job, before things go any further. The same does happen for the man who is assumed to be able to do it even though he may well not be as good as the women, but he fits the stereotype.

And a family member works in a factory environment and he reports that the roles are almost 100% either male or female eg only men in the factory, only women in reception, even though there is absolutely no reason why men or women couldn't do either role.  But...once there is a complete male workforce or female workforce it is hard for the opposite sex to break into that environment.
And I have a feeling that in some circumstances it just might not be wise either if not downright unsafe for a woman to work in an all male environment in certain areas. And vice versa, but I would love if people could prove me wrong on that one and dispel my suspicions.

But these are barriers and big ones. To me they seem much bigger than programmes such as Woman's Hour's pre-occupation with getting so called "equality" on boards of companies. Maybe it would be better to start at the grassroots.  At least support women or men who are working in an environment where they are just "one among many".

Because I know for me there are a few jobs I'd have maybe have liked to have a go at, but I am put off by the fact its either all male or all female typically.

Oh and another problem is environments where its all young folk working, then these are very hard for older workers to see themselves working in them, and yet the older worker might well be far more ideal for the job.

So lets start seeing some real moves towards equality - not towards unrealistic targets but supporting the brave souls who want to break the mould !

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Not Grandparents Harriet !

Harriet Harman proposes that Grandparents should receive funding for caring for grandchildren. (An exception to my argument that follows is if they are the main carer...where they are currently treated as an exception I believe). BUT ..... we must avoid this slippery slope as if this became the case then the ONLY ! THE ONLY !!!! person who was not entitled to be subsidised / paid to care for a child would be that child's own mother.

This flies in the face of everything.

In the animal kingdom mother animals care for their young.

And many of us still want to care for our young. At least at that very young age when you can show them the world. Why would you want to hand this over to a childcare worker ?

 At age 3, if you know about child psychology, at that point, interactions with other children become more important and at that age a few hours at nursery or playgroup can work well. And then at age 5, maybe with a run in of a few half days to get everyone used to it, then 9-3 school days work well. Now it may be that the next best model once kids are at school is for a parent to work part time, at least one of the parents anyway, and this is the preferred option among about 80% of parents surveyed. So maybe kids can cope with a couple of days of breakfast club or after school. But on the other days its great to be able to come home, bring a friend home some days or go to play at a friend's house, or come home after a hard day at school, switch on Children's TV/Minecraft or whatever your "thing" is, and have a snack and drink and put your feet up. Surely we can afford this for families - it's called "family life" - what happened to it ? It still happens in many families, but that is no longer acknowledged in the political classes....but in other families its been lost .... and for some, they say that working is maybe a necessity and for those families there should be financial support. But... if working is really for "you time" or a BMW, or a holiday in Dubai ... then think about it.

What is important ... 

material things ?    

... or human relationships and your relationship with your kids ?

Because kids grow up .... and even more important is your relationship with your teenagers / young adults - if you can keep communications flowing then its better for everyone - and better for "family" !

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Don't Tamper with Tampons Tampax !

Well this is not really a topic I would have chosen to write a blog post about. But after the intransigence of Proctor and Gamble Customer Services, I am afraid I have been pushed into it.

Tampons are a necessary feminine hygiene product - essential. And almost synonymous with them has become the product Tampax.

Now, Proctor & Gamble who own this brand have decided to play around with the design of the regular Tampax. Previously the paper wrapper had a thin plastic thread which meant the product could be opened quickly and in one go. No longer. For whatever reason, perhaps they want to make customers move to Tampax Pearl (which has plastic applicators = very bad for environment). Why would you change something that has worked for years ?  Something which means that the products can be used quickly with minimum fuss and presumably least chance of infection etc i.e. Toxic Shock Syndrome, something that people probably hardly hear about nowadays. But if people are having to remove wrappers bit by bit, they will inevitably end up touching the product as opposed to leaving it clean. This will surely lead to infection and may well be something which should be reported to the Department for Health as really these are verging on medical products, not something which should be tampered with, when you already had a good design.

Why would they do this ? Let's find out more about the company and their market to see if we can spot why. Or are their designers just thick ? Is that all it is ? They don't realise why they had a plastic strip in the paper and think they can just save money by removing it ?  I also read in some references online that they changed the way the thread in the product works and this has lead to more leakage etc.

Who Owns the Brand ?
Proctor & Gamble acquired the Brand in 1996. P&G is an American Multinational consumer goods company with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. Founded by William Procter and James Gamble from the United Kingdom.  Interestingly they have 5 women on their board of 12 so maybe they might pay attention to this issue !  Of more interest is they were involved in a controversy about Toxic Shock Syndrome in 1980 with the Rely brand of Tampon :

How Much do P&G Earn ?
They had a turnover in 2014 of $83 billion !! and a net income after tax of $11 billion !! so they can afford to not make the changes I have mentioned !

How Big is this Brand ?
The Brand has a 45% market share in the US, with a market worth $1 billion, although in the US it lost a percentage point share in 2013 to rival Kotex. However it is not one of Proctor & Gamble's biggest brands, which are listed here:

Interesting regarding advertising and categories

The companies for this product have a guaranteed market and that age range is declining so they are going to try and make us buy dearer and dearer products - so maybe they dont really want us to buy a nice cheap cardboard product which has always worked perfectly well .... and is recyclable :

The big new market share product is apparently "U by Kotex" - I haven't seen this in the shops yet but have to say I swear by the Kotex black packaged towels (see below) which are the only product of their kind for absorbency and for some reason are no longer stocked by the big supermarkets so I have to buy them on Amazon and at the local chemist.


These products are affiliate marketing links and I may earn a small amount if you follow the link and purchase a product.

This has to be stopped - especially when there is the perfectly good cardboard alternative

and this :
I am going to contact this person to see if we can do anything :