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Sat on a bench resting in the October sunshine yesterday after a short bike ride up Merelake Way – an old railway track – in Alsager. Talked with a man and his dog about the Way and how well used and well kept it was. He told me of the fight to keep the footbridge over the Way –  a metal and wooden structure on two beautiful sandstone stanchions linking farmland and the golf course – and how the Council had been persuaded not to knock it down several years ago but to renovate it with timber from Germany. It stands now in very good nick, the ironwork having been recently painted, giving pleasure to anyone who passes over it or just climbs up as I did from the Way just for a look around from it. Rode and walked on to Talke, turned round and free-wheeled most of the way back to the bridge.

Carried on home to find the DVD of  The Friends of Eddie Coyle had arrived, from Spain, via Amazon. A great movie, well-suited to the term of ‘classic’ that it attracts. Mitchum the Magnificent. Watched it straight through.

A great two hour discussion and study of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle today at the ‘Liberation Literature’ class, upstairs in The Bank Corner pub and restaurant. Lively exchanges on politics and history, America and Britain, literature and autobiographical anecdotes. Such a weekly pot of gold to be found under five minutes walk from my home, the thought of which while writing this has a similar effect to reading great literature such as, say, any Faulkner, that is, it messes with the breathing slightly.

Started bookmarking websites on delicious.com on daughter Beth’s advice after my Google Chrome browser mysteriously disappeared today – for a while – with all its resident bookmarks!  Inadvertently recovered my original Chrome later, though, with the high tech manoeuvre of switching off at teatime and back on again later. There it was, all safe and sound, restored by the hidden hand of the clever person who is running this internet thing.

Lost iTunes earlier too, but it also “came back” and have been writing this to the accompaniment of a nice bit of Mozart.

Today a man who is paid £168,000 a year offered to get me a cup of coffee off the buffet table at the NHS Foundation Trust Annual Public Meeting. I already had one so we had a short chat. Then I read parts of the Annual Report and Accounts 2009/10. Six senior managers of this Trust earn an average of  £136,000 each. We have all heard that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, it’s the market price for quality managers, it’s all based on equivalences in the private sector, if you want continuity you have to pay highly to keep people in post and so on. But really, if, as the Report tells us, we may not be able to afford to refurbish an operating theatre this year, we have to ask if, say,£68,000 isn’t quite a nice wage, allowing a very nice lifestyle indeed. And anyway, as the departing CEO (!) remarked, the Trust is not a business, its an organisation with the aim of making ill people better. But then halving their salaries won’t pay for a theatre refurbishment, will it. That’s not the real point though. Those amounts are just obscene in themselves. Now that “reducing the National Deficit” seems to be the overriding goal of our coalition government, perhaps such salary levels will come to resemble something more human and acceptable. And a pig will be seen flying over Leighton hospital.

The drive home included an unusual incident, partially caused I hope by my preoccupation with the above thoughts. I locked myself out of the car at the petrol pump in our local garage by accidentally flipping the latch on the driver’s door with my coat sleeve on the way out of the car and carrying on in the same movement to shut the door on the way to the pump. Instantly I recalled the 2 clicks when there should only have been one and there was the car securely locked with keys in the ignition, thanks to the ‘driver’s door only’ security set up I rarely use. Half an hour’s walk home for the spare key and a ten minute bike ride later all was well and I was able to buy 365 miles for £58 – 6.29 miles for £1. Said car and my driving style make for good economical performance too! Anyway, never again will I step out of the car without the keys in my hand, except to use the wheelchair hoist with the engine running and the door and tailgate both open and my partner in the passenger seat.

The reason to fill up from having only 18 miles worth of fuel left today is the trip to the Lowry Art Gallery at Salford Quays tomorrow to meet up with two cousins, Ann from Salford  and John from Rickmansworth. We are all in our 60s and this is the second mini reunion in a year after many years of not seeing each other. Christmas and birthday cards before, you know the sort of thing. Looking forward to a good lunch and much nattering in the Quays.

Heard on arriving home of two friends, who do not work in the same organisation or know each other, being suspended from their jobs while enquiries are made into workplace incidents that are purported to show that they may be incompetent, fraudsters or thieves, none of which can possibly be true and the amounts of money involved are so trivial. Coincidence or manifestations of the management style we have become so used to in the last few decades?

How much a week is £168,000 a year? Oh stop being so working class. (£3230 – before tax, of course)

Back in the “60s”, which by now is recognizable as a period  which started for a lot of us in the late 50s and went on well into the 70s (and is still going on for some!), we bought our Che Guevara t-shirts and posters. We are not disappointed or disillusioned with that Cuban revolution and the way things have turned out so far. In the light, though, of what we learn about the high standards of health care and literacy in Cuba in spite of the USA trade embargo and the end of support from the USSR, we read of the lives of dissenters from the political system as manifested in restrictions to free speech. In a recent NYRB article, two Human Rights Watch workers write that “Some outside observers contend that the existence of around two hundred political prisoners has little impact on the lives of the 11 million other Cubans…. [however] .. The political prisoners may be small in number , but they are a chilling reminder to all Cubans of what has been a basic fact of life for half a century: to criticize the Castros is to condemn oneself to years of enforced solitude”. Cuban prison cells for solitary confinement of 3 feet by 6, Guantanamo Bay, the Gulag, rendition, darkness at noon and it ain’t volcanic ash causing it.

In the meantime we have our coalition government proposing to cut quangos by 2% of the £80+ billion (that’s £80+ billion) they apparently cost to run, to help to reduce the “national deficit”.  That should do it.

Anyway, to get away from it all a good read is always available, the current one being The Family Mashber by Der Nister which promises to enthrall for some time to come. Makes a change too from a prolonged period of Am Lit.

I see Sting is selling his little pad on Central Park.  Probably a bit too small for him.  Our house overlooks a park too. Not so spectacular or iconic, but has its share of eccentrics and a skate park. Forgot to put the recycling out this morning so looks like a visit to the tip, always a pleasure. I wonder if Sting ever goes up his tip?

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