Things are changing

June 10, 2008

On Saturday morning, I picked up a letter in braille, addressed to me by an official of our city council. If I’m correct, he’s been in post, at least since 1992, when I had cause to actually meet him and call him on a number of occasions.

He had refused to send me some communication in braille, and I was furious. To prove to him that we all use different reading methods, I sent him a letter in braille; he sent it back saying he couldn’t read it, but he still didn’t change his mind.

When I picked this letter, addressed in his name, I thought how things had changed since then. I don’t know if other blind people are thinking like I am, but I’ve noticed that the private companies are now slower to send me braille things than government bodies. It used to be the other way round. When I came to England, I didn’t even know I could get things in braille until there was a problem with my bank account and a bank official wondered why I hadn’t asked for my bills in braille. The banks still send me braille bills. But I’ve had to remind some other utility companies so often recently. It’s one of the things I hate about changing utility companies. After months, we’re still having the same conversation, they’re still promising to send my statements in braille, and at the slightest opportunity, (maybe after they’ve managed to send two or three) they forget again, and we start the process all over again. I actually returned to a utility company that used to supply my bills in a timely manner before. Since last year, I haven’t seen a braille bill. I reminded them they used to do this very well before, they promised to send them. I’ve stopped caring now, I just dump their letters on a ledge next to my frontdoor. It’s piled up with letters now.

Hey! My city council hasn’t failed to send me braille material in the past 3 years. It’s wonderful!

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Recent news stories

June 10, 2008

I’d been thinking of this for a while. It started as I listened to BBC 5live one evening and the financial reporter came on briefly before the news. He said share prices had gone up and there was a cheer in the studio. You’d have thought that the guests and presenter each had huge shares and they’d been watching the news. But it’s all because economic news has been so gloomy lately, that one bit of good news had to raise a cheer.

Hey! But what do I know about these economic indicators? At about the same time, the World Food Programme was taking place. Some top official had been interviewed on the BBC World Service. He’d said the advanced countries needed to invest some staggering amount in developing countries, to avoid a food disaster. The interviewer asked if that was possible, giving the current levels of investment, and general reluctance of advanced countries … you know, promises that were not kept, … that sort of thing? He said it had to be possible if these same advanced countries kept spending so much more on arms.

Of course, the main topic of the interview was the presence of Robert Mugabe at the meeting. What was he doing there the interviewer asked? In reply our WFP official said he’s the head of state and (not in so manhy words) they need him there.

Mugabe certainly enjoyed his moment, using the opportunity of a rare trip to Europe, (where he is universally condemned by leaders) to condemn the West for wrecking his country, (presumably without his assistance). Apparently, Western disapproval is solely responsible for the mass starvation and superinflation in Zimbabwe. I’m sure Western leaders will soon be queueing up to invite him for a visit after such ringing endorsements.

But let’s get back to food. The UN Secretary-General wants 50 times more investment in African agriculture. MSF are predicting that Ethiopia is set for another crisis, as a result of rising food prices. So, that one bit of good news on the stock prices front was probably worth a huge cheer after all.

Interestingly, I’m so rubbish at stocks and shares that I haven’t even checked to see that the trend has continued. What I have observed though is food prices. I recently went to my local store and found the price of my breakfast cereal of choice had risen from 2.59 to 2.79. I was really unhappy especially because not too long ago, there had been a special offer on if you bought two packets. That set me thinking, and I soon realised that the prices of several other things had gone up lately. Soon, I’d have to remortgage to afford my shopping bill. But where? Aren’t all these banks suffering financial hardships too? Bradford and Bingley has just had an American investor in to save them from the plight of Northern Rock.

Apparently, all these unrelated news stories are actually the result of one factor, the rising price of oil. It’s blamed for everything, and when I compare the prices two years ago to current prices, I have to admit there’s something in the argument. It’s so serious that the BBC World Service held a 1 hour discussion on this issue on their ‘Have Your Say’ programme yesterday. So, go on, what do you all think of the oil price rise?

What do I think? First that the Oil producing countries have achieved what they failed to do for political reasons in the 70s. When they had the two oil embargoes, they probably brought the West to start thinking of alternative sources, to label OPEC a political, not an economic organisation, etc. But that was temporary. Soon, there was even an oil glut, the beginnings of Nigeria’s economic woes. Now that we all know that it’s not some political vendetta on the part of OPEC, we have all these top economists and experts scratching their heads and wondering why nobody had heeded the warnings that we were all getting too dependent on oil.

I heard an oil expert say recently that oil is indeed running out, and there is not much room for overcapacity. My simple mind asked if the demand for oil suddenly shot up? I thought the projections were for about 2020? And if our projections had been for 2008, then how come we weren’t warned earlier?

My second thought; Nigeria must be bringing in the cash now. Why don’t we hear about huge development projects like we did in the 70s when there was an oil boom? We don’t even know what the country is planning to do with all the money it’s making. Is it being saved? Used to pay all the debts that were cancelled a few years ago? Or perhaps someone has thought up the clever idea that at last, it’s time to repair our damaged refineries?

Meanwhile, that remortgage isn’t a bad idea, when you consider the prices of food, (which I eat a lot of) and of gas and electricity. I even hear that fuel prices in the pumps have gone up. I haven’t experienced that one yet, because I don’t have a car … good news for all my neighbours and the inhabitants of our good city.

Apparently, Yahoo Hotjobs is running a story on how workers can reduce commuting costs. Well, walk, take public transport, … that’s what I do. So when you’re late for something, you won’t blame the traffic, just the appalling public transport facilities, and horrible drivers who won’t let you cross the roads unless the traffic lights tell them to stop, or even the surprising walking distance between your ouse and where you were going, which you hadn’t calculated when you decided to leave your home five minutes before your appointment.