August 29th, 2007

Honey Badger

heroes fit for homes

Ben Parkinson is 23 years old and he's a Lance Bombardier with the 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery.
Last September, he was serving in Afghanistan when he was gravely injured in a landmine explosion. He lost both legs, suffered injuries to his brain, spleen and chest, and fractures to his head, face, pelvis and spine. He wasn't expected to survive, and indeed he's thought to be one of the most gravely-wounded British soldiers ever to survive his injuries.
How did we take care of him when he came home? We took care of him like this. The bureaucratic bean-counters at the MoD granted Ben, who will need round-the-clock care for the rest of his life, just £152,000 in compensation.
It's no wonder his mother describes it as an insult. Our flat's worth more than that. There are footballers earning more than that a week.

The MoD, trying to claw back some credibility, says that the one-off payment and tax-free payments when he leaves the Army "could exceed £1 million over his lifetime." Well whoopee fucking doo. He's 23 years old; if by some miracle he does get the right care he could live another forty years. Will that million quid stretch that far, considering his nursing needs?

This is not new. It says something about Britain that it took a comedy programme to sum this bloody scandal up, but a few years ago Uncle Albert, a character in Only Fools And Horses was talking about the Second World War, and the men who came back dreadfully injured, hoping their country would look after them, and he said, "They promised us homes fit for heroes, and what did we get? Heroes fit for homes."

I don't know why Ben Parkinson joined the Army and I don't know what he thought about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I do know we owe him better than this. If this is how we treat our wounded servicemen - and Ben's case is not the only one - we don't deserve to have an Army.
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The Cat of Death

the wrong kind of trains

Regular Villagers will know that commuting in the southeast of England is something of a bugbear for me. This is partly because I commute a lot and I rely on this stuff to get me to and from work without losing my reason at least once a day, but it's mainly because the people who are in charge of running commuting in the southeast of England are a bunch of evil sadistic clowns. But sometimes they do something so elementally stupid that even I have to tip my hat to them in admiration.
When I first came down here trains were wrongfooted every Autumn by rotting leaves falling on the track and causing the wheels to lose adhesion. I used to fantasise that there was someone, somewhere, whose only job was to think up a new euphemism for this phenomenon. We had `leaf-fall problems,' `leaf-fall season,' `track adhesion problems,' and a number of others, but basically all it meant was that our trains were late.
Then we had the memorable year when we had the wrong kind of snow. It was dry and powdery and it got sucked into a place on the trains where snow is not meant to be, but all it meant was that our trains were late.
Summers were not immune. The heat causes the tracks to warp, you see...
And now the trains are too heavy.
I shook my head in despair when I read this - as, I suspect, did many commuters. But really this is a magnificent excuse, and I congratulate Southern, Southwest Trains and the Southeastern companies involved in this fiasco. I had honestly thought that the leaves and the snow and the heat had exhausted their stupidity, but they've managed to surprise me again.
The trains are too heavy. God help us.
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    the tragically hip