Justice, Jobsworth and the banning of Passion in Oxford

April 22, 2014

Months have passed since I last wrote anything here, mainly because I am usually either writing thousands of words a week elsewhere or am travelling. It has been a week of interest and oddities, in the press and in real life, and I thought I would capture some of it here. It is a kind of palate-cleanser for me, not an alternative to writing about eDiscovery / eDisclosure but a relief from the weekend spent largely doing just that.

The Ritz, the Tower and the Thames

RitzPhoneBox_250I gave a day-job talk on Tuesday for HP Autonomy at the Ritz. My subjects were twofold: the first was a reminder that the purpose of eDiscovery is to find evidence and improve one’s understanding of the case, not merely to find documents; the second was to suggest that whilst civil justice seemed to be going fast down the pan thanks to a combination of an ignorant Justice Secretary, a useless Ministry of Justice and some Court of Appeal judges whose idea of real-life bears no relation to real life, there were nevertheless opportunities for those ready and willing to take them.

My next meeting was close to the Tower of London, and I came out of it into the beginnings of a glorious evening with time on my hands before my train. It was an opportunity to merge two of my passions – walking city streets and photography – and I have some new camera kit to get used to. I entirely buy Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that you need hours of practice to be good at anything and I need to practice in the same way as soldiers learn to dismantle and reassemble their guns so that it became second nature. Equipment includes a tripod, the camera, a wi-fi trigger and an iPhone, all of which takes some assembly even before you get to the controls and settings. It is also slightly cumbersome to carry amidst the tourist throngs of Tower Hill

You don’t need all this kit to take decent photographs of the Tower and the Thames on a sunny evening. What I do find, and it is one of the reasons why I carry a camera, is that I become much more observant if I have a camera with me. I am not sure, for example, if I would have noticed this arrangement of two Wren churches and the Monument if I had not been equipped to photograph it. Read the rest of this entry »


Labour lies about rats in rubbish

June 10, 2008

One of the least appealing aspects of the Blair-Brown administrations – in a very long list of unappealing things – is the institutional dishonesty which these two men and their advisers have brought to government. The dishonesty comes with added hypocrisy since both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in their different ways, have expressly laid claim to a religious and moral basis to their lives.

This dishonesty is not just morally wrong. One is left gaping sometimes at the political stupidity of lying about subjects on which you are bound to be found out sooner or later, particularly things which, however important, are not matters on which governments fall. Governments are entitled to make some mistakes, to experiment, to assess the consequences, and to accept they got it wrong. What loses the votes is the persistent feeling that we are being lied to daily on every subject. Read the rest of this entry »

Blears smears Oxford estate

May 5, 2008

A few days ago, Hazel Blears’ spokesman said that she supported “whatever the Prime Minister said”. Who would say that now?

Not everything which pours from Hazel Blears’ mouth is nonsense, and her observation in a recent speech that “brutal, ugly buildings and estates contribute to crime, antisocial behaviour and social exclusion” is quite correct. She made two mistakes.

One is that New Labour has been responsible for plenty of brutal, ugly building, much of it on grass, including former school playing fields. The opposition which it faces to its house-building programme derives largely from the certainty that most of the result will be hideous, as well as badly planned and divorced from the infrastructure which would make the houses work. Read the rest of this entry »

Condemning the sludge in the public service pond

April 23, 2008

I do not often run ad hominem attacks on public servants. It is often hard to distinguish between their personal failings and those of the system which they work in and, for the most part, it would be like criticising the dog because his treadmill malfunctions, or beating one of those bovine creatures who push a pole round a well because the water dries up. We employ whole offices of people like that – whole departments of state in the case of DEFRA or the Home Office – and can’t really complain because dull unthinking drudges perform dull unthinking tasks in dull unthinking ways.

Politicians are different, of course. They solicit our votes by their claims to competence, honesty and personal charm, and if Ed Balls fails on all three counts, it is proper to say so. Caroline Flint cares about us all so much, but we don’t care for her and I hope she knows it (although she, of course, has more in common, intellectually speaking, with the pole than with the ox which pushes it, and may not notice the general air of mockery and contempt which attends her every pronouncement). Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Stoppard’s message to Gordon Brown

April 7, 2008

I went to hear Sir Tom Stoppard speak this morning at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. I usually come away from such a session with my notes in my head, confident that I can do a reasonable précis from memory. Stoppard taken aurally is as densely packed as Stoppard in print. Each memorable statement (as one thinks of it as he speaks) is immediately overtaken by the next, and most were lost to me by the time he finished.

A few points stuck in my mind as I wandered homeward – can one better, by the way, being in Oxford on a day when deep snow had fallen overnight, Stoppard had talked, and the sun shone on stone buildings from a brilliant blue sky? One could forget, temporarily at least, the Brown unpleasant land around one.

Merton College in the snow Read the rest of this entry »

Meet the Managers at First Great Western

January 24, 2008

My fury at First Great Western’s inability even to be honest (one does not expect competence) as I eventually pulled out of Oxford Station on Tuesday (see Incompetence or Dishonesty at FGW) made me determined to take up their invitation to Meet the Managers on the way back.

Unlike at the ticket office, there was no great queue to meet the drone who had been delegated to field the complaints, and I stood behind a couple who were complaining about the removal of the Travel Centre which, they said, they had often used and much missed (see FGW closes Oxford Travel Centre) . Read the rest of this entry »

A journey by train from Oxford to London

December 9, 2007

An evening trip to London by train illustrates how the “customers” are let down by those who provide their “services”. It affects life more than New Labour corruption.

The extent to which we are serfs to the so-called service providers was illustrated four times before the train pulled out of Oxford station.

First you have to get to the station. Every time I queue down Hythe Bridge Street, I curse the valuable time taken from me by the thickest of all thick public servants, the highways officers of Oxfordshire County Council. What inversion of society’s priorities means that flotsam like that can waste hours out of the lives of so many real people, people with jobs and lives that matter? Read the rest of this entry »