Let there be bells, fireworks and dancing in the streets!

Downtown Grand RapidsLet there be national rejoicing! Gove has gone from our schools! No more of him messing around with the curriculum! No more ludicrously dogmatic favouritism towards free schools! No more trying to take the exam system back to the sixties!

Let there be unalloyed joy! In future he will whip Tory MPs and appear on TV to turn people off voting Tory in their millions!

Photo by Kirsten

Please be careful about where you put down items in the supermarket

You know the situation. You’re in the supermarket. You pick up something you’re after. Say, some Innocent smooth orange juice at £3.25, and then you wonder on.

Then, you chance upon the special offer display at the end of an aisle. There, you see Copella orange juice and apple juice on special offer at £1.50. You pick one up. And then you want to get rid of the Innocent Smooth Orange Juice. But you can’t be arsed to walk all the way back to the original shelf from which you took it. So you simply place it down with the Copella juices.

No problem.

For you.

But spare a thought for the poor unsuspecting numpty (me) who comes by the special offer display just after you.

The ticket at the front of the display says “Special offer – £1.50”. Great, I think. Innocent Smooth Orange Juice for only £1.50. I’ll have some of that.

So I bought it.

Then I got home and looked at the receipt. Oh, they’ve charged me £3.25 instead of £1.50. So I then trek all the way back to the shop, emboldened by my nearest and dearest. I’m ready to challenge the Customer Service desk person. But then I look at the shelf and realise what happened.

Ho hum.

I intend to fully enjoy that Innocent Smooth Orange Juice. As you can see from the photo above, I have already greedily necked a healthy swig or twain from it. It goes down beautifully on a hot day such, as today has been!

And my trip back to the shop wasn’t wasted. My nearest and dearest got me to get some Taco bits. The tacoes were (eventually) delicious!

The finances behind successful songs

Gold records on the wall.The Richest Songs in the World is an excellent programme from BBC4, available on iPlayer. Introduced by the excellent Stuart Maconie, it a must-see for anyone vaguely interested in music.

As well as explaining the finances of songs, the show reveals the, at times, surprising top ten richest songs in pop music and their fascinating stories.

I didn’t know that “Yesterday” started life as “Scrambled Eggs” and is thought to have played a part in the eventual break-up of the Beatles, because it was the only song Paul McCartney wrote on his own, although it was credited, as per normal, to Lennon McCartney.

I was most enchanted by the story of “Stand by me”. It has earnt $28 million. $14 million of that has gone to the publishers. And, if I have done my maths right, $7 million went to Leiber and Stoller, two of the writers, and $7 million went to Ben E King, the main writer. Not bad for one song, eh?

Ben E King, bless him, has ploughed some of his earnings from the song into the Stand by me Foundation to help educate underprivileged children.

The Daily Mirror has its excitement. The truth is probably not that alarming.

imageMy favourite book is A Handful of Dust. My political views are somewhat antipathetic to those of the author, Evelyn Waugh. But I love the dark comedy of the book and its wonderful setting: The gothic pile and its owner Tony Last living in aristocratic splendour with the world at his feet. Except it all falls apart and he ends up endlessly reading aloud Dickens to a tribe in the darkest Amazon.

In a similar way to my being on the opposite end of the political spectrum to Waugh, I am in extreme antithesis to my MP, Richard Benyon. He’s keen on the Royals, tradition and hunting. I am not. I think there are two subjects on which I have found myself in agreement with Richard in twenty years of bumping into him: Zimbabwe and river management.

For some reason, Richard Benyon has always made me think of Tony Last, from A Handful of Dust. However, I think the similarity is simply that they both live in huge Gothic piles. (The Benyon pile, Englefield House, is pictured above). I don’t expect my MP’s life to unravel and end hosting infinite Amazonian Little Dorrit literary soirées.

This week, the Daily Mirror has run a story about an East end London housing estate managed by the Benyon Estate. It was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions. Newbury Today has a balancing article.

Only time will reveal to us mortals what the truth of the matter is. What I do know is that there is plenty on which to disagree with Richard Benyon politically. He is rather unimaginative in much of his political thinking. And that is choosing my words with kindness.

But I doubt there is much of public interest to be found by rummaging around in his family’s interests. Yes, some of their farming and forestry methods may raise eyebrows. But I suspect their treatment of tenants is reasonable. Richard Benyon’s father, Sir William Benyon, now recently deceased, was a good man. A good sort. I suspect his family carry out reasonably benign estate management practices based on his good example. The Benyon Estate proper, based in De Beauvoir Town, appears to be an enlightened example of sound and caring estate management. The family’s Englefield Charitable Trust gives very generously to a charity with which I am involved, which actively helps genuinely very needy people, week in, week out.

While I am not saying “Move along now, nothing to see here”, I doubt that the truth of this story lives up to its rather sharply defined Daily Mirror billing. That said, it is rather fascinating reading about the activities involved in running the Benyon estate and its spin-off management activities. If you’re managing an estate, as in this Hoxton (New Era Estate) case mentioned by Daily Mirror, on behalf of an “American private equity firm“, with only a minority 10% interest yourself, it must put you in a rather invidious position. It is a very strange situation, but not unusual these days. Ho-hum.

Photo of Englefield House by Richard Croft via CCL