Monday, 31 December 2012

Christmas 2010

Two years ago (Christmas 2010) we spent Christmas at Butlins in Bognor.

We saw Dora.

A reindeer or two.

Ate cakes.

And celebrated with fireworks.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas PJ's

What do you think of my Christmas PJ's?

Christmas day: The food

Last week I posted the Christmas menu

This is what the food looked like.

Some nibbles to start.

My sprout surprise was a single pasta parcel, filled with sprout, bacon, ricotta and garlic. The plates are smaller than they look.

Then a home made Chicken liver pate. (Clarence the Angel Surprise)

Then we each got a single Avocado Prawn Tempura with a home made dip.

And a mini Spicy Parsnip soup.

I made a sorbet but forgot to take a photo.

Then we had Cheese Cauliflower. Fried Camembert (Panko Breadcrumbs) served with cranberry sauce and a cauliflower sauce.

Then a mini roast with fondant potatoes.

A mini home made chocolate orange mouse served in a little edible chocolate pot.

And finally. Christmas Pudding and Vanilla Ice Cream. I cooked the pudding and mixed with the Ice Cream the day before and put it back in the freezer.

Wrexham vs Tamworth 29 December 2012

Watching the football.

Sarah and Paul are enjoying the game.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas menu 2012

This year is the first year we are spending Christmas at our own home with George. So it gives me an excuse to do a a different sort of Christmas lunch. What do you think of the menu?

Update: I've now posted some photos of the meal here.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Government sleight of hand on Disabled Facilities Grant

This week’s announcement of an additional £40 million central Government investment in disabled facilities grants (DFG) is very welcome (1). But unless the investment is properly evaluated, there is a risk that the additional funding will not reach those who need it most.
The DFG provides small grants which support adaptations to the home to allow people to continue to live independently.
These grants seem to be cost effective. Speaking at the announcement of the additional funding, Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb MP noted that “for every £1,000 spent through the Disabled Facilities Grant, the quality of life gains are estimated at £1,723 per year.” (2) The London School of Economics (LSE) Personal Social Services Research Unit, revealed earlier this year that investment in aids and adaptations could result in a net saving of £1.10 for every £1 spend. (3)
Government seems to have recognised the importance of the DFG with funding increasing from £56 million in 1997 to £180 million this year (plus the newly announced £40 million). (4)
Yet demand (and potential demand) far outstrips the funding available. In 2011, the Building Research Establishment undertook analysis of the English House Condition Survey, revealing that the total amount required to cover grants for all of those who are theoretically eligible under the current rules is £1.9bn at 2005 prices (4). In September this year, the BBC reported on delays in payment, with Newport council cited as taking an average of 638 days to pay the grant.(5)
In tight fiscal times, we must welcome the additional investment to a grant which has been relatively protected of spending cuts.
But, and there is a big but, not only does the additional spend barely scratch the surface of the potential demand, the additional funding is not ring fenced. In other words, in the spirit of localism, the funding can be spent as the local authority wishes. And local authorities are strapped for cash. The LGA reacted angrily to last week’s autumn statement arguing that “local authorities already face a possible £1bn cut to funding for 2013-14 on top of the 28% reduction set out in the spending review and the further 2% now announced for 2014-15.”(6)
So, the Minister announces £40 million for DFG’s. But local authorities, facing other spending pressures can use the money as they wish.
The Minister can of course act to ensure that the investment in DFG’s reaches the people who need it. He could find a way of evaluating the impact of the additional spend, alongside perhaps a broader evaluation of the impact of the DFG and its current administration. If central government wants to avoid the accusation giving with one hand, whilst taking with the other, this is essential.
David Sinclair
(1) £40 million for England.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Moving to the Seaside

This time last year we moved from the big smoke to Bognor Regis. Gipsy Hill is a nice bit of London. There are a couple of nice restaurants on Gipsy Road and the Paxton is a nice pub. There is a nice community feel in the local shops and a great local bakery (I do miss the bread). Walking distance from West Norwood and Crystal Palace, a good bus and train service into town, and some nice local parks. It was certainly a nicer area than South Norwood (where we moved from).

And I liked the house in Rommany Road. But I don't think Michelle did. This is what it looked like, and this is as tidy as it ever got.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Adult vaccination and healthy ageing

The presentation I gave earlier this month in Dublin, on adult vaccination and healthy ageing, is now on slideshare.

Nudge or Compel

My presentatation from yesterday's launch of the ILC-UK report on digital exclusion and behavoral economics ("nudge or compel") is now online.

Can we “nudge” older people online?

Seven and a half million people in the UK, the majority being older or disabled, have never been online. Yet despite the common perception that this is an issue that will go away, progress on getting older people online is slow. The latest Office of National Statistics report on internet use highlighted that progress in getting the over 65s online is much slower than for under 65s.

We know a lot about why individuals don’t go online. The barriers can be categorised within three groups: access issues, skills issues and behavioural choice. Yet whilst significant work has been undertaken to understand access and skills issues, there has been little focus on tackling the behavioural barriers to getting individuals online.

ILC-UK’s new report, published this week, “Nudge or Compel: Can behavioural economics tackle the digital exclusion of older people?”[1] seeks to rectify this. The report reveals that there is growing evidence that behaviour and attitudes play just as great, if not a greater role than access and skills in getting people online.

In “Nudge or Compel”, we explore whether internet users show different behavioural traits to non-users. The findings are striking. Our analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found that older internet users were more likely to feel in control of their life, and less likely to be isolated or lonely.

Our report explores how we can use behavioural economics to “nudge” older people online. We know that “status quo bias” can be a barrier to getting online. Older people may be comfortable with existing ways of receiving services and a jump to online could be daunting. To tackle this, we argue that service providers should offer the opportunity for people to ‘go back to paper’ if they are unsatisfied with their digital experience.

Behavioural economists tell us that people tend to over-value the present and under-value the future. This suggests that non-users of the internet might be unwilling to make initial investments involved in getting online. Simple solutions might be for service providers attract new customers by finding ways of discounted installation and connection deals, and initial periods of free internet access. Once online, older people are likely to stay online. Moreover, because of the tendency to discount the future, customers are likely to be more willing to agree to longer-term contracts in exchange for discounted or free initial access.

If older people have experience of performing certain tasks offline, they may assume that these remain the most effective way for them. Yet again, service providers can overcome this barrier by better promoting online services as quicker, faster and delivering a better quality of service than offline alternatives. 

We know that people are influenced by the behaviour of others. Given that many peers older people’s peers are offline, it is perfectly understandable that older people don’t consider using the internet a social norm. Companies advertising technology and opportunities to learn technology must do so using imagery of both older and younger people. And older people who are online should be encouraged to talk through their experiences with their peers.

“Nudge or Compel” identifies some powerful examples of possible nudges we could use to help get older people online. But will a nudge will be adequate? Particularly as the Government makes more services exclusively “digital by default”.

Martha Lane Fox has argued that Government should look towards compulsion to get people online. She said “By switching services, like what we have done with analogue TV, there is a real opportunity to carry people on [to the internet],… I think that shutting down services would be the best way of carrying through the most amount of people, as long as it is carried through with training” [2].

Given recent and continuing cuts to adult learning, nudging people online might become the only alternative to compulsion.

David Sinclair

[1] ‘Nudge or Compel: Can behavioural economics tackle the digital exclusion of older people?’ is available to download now.
[2] News story: Government services should be online-only to up web use

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Christmas Party Time: Drunk in the underground

One of my favorite public safety posters of the last year. If I had a top 10 public safety poster list, I am sure it would feature.

And the message is. It is much more dangerous to carry bags on the tube than to drink alcohol.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

This time last year I was at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert organised by the queen fan club.
The SAS band played. And a certain Dr May turned up. I found clip on youtube. You can see what you missed.

Guests on the night included Chris Thompson, Patti Russo, Tony Vincent and Madeline Bell. Led of course by Mr Spike Edney.

And this was the setlist


I took a couple of pictures. They werent very good.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Burlington Hotel, Dublin

I stayed at the Burlington for two nights in November 2012. It's located a 15 minute walk from St Stephen's Green. It's not the prettiest of hotels from the outside but nicely decorated.

The room was large, clean and comfortable (althought the bath a funny shape I thought). The breakfast on day one was excellent. The hotel offers free WIFI.

The guide- book in the room said a running map was available which included details of local trails through parks. But reception claimed it didnt exist and concierge wasnt available the couple of times I went.

Whilst the hotel was generally very clean, the corridors were littered with the remains of room service at 9am the following day.

My room rate included breakfast but I had an early start on day two. I asked the night before if they could give me something to take away but all they could offer was a coffee station (but even that wasnt there at 5.30).

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

#gamesmaker Victory Parade

I got to see the London 2012 Victory Parade from the Mall earlier this year alongside lots of other volunteers (including Eddie Izzard).



Saturday, 3 November 2012

De Vere East Horsley

A nice hotel in large grounds. It is mainly a conference hotel so was very quiet (and cheap) on a Sunday evening. It's spotlessly clean and the room was nice and large. There is a swimming pool and large grounds with a running track. The breakfast was great. They even managed to do nice scrambled egg. The only downside was that there was a long walk up and down lots of sets of stairs to the room.

Queen at Hammersmith. July 2012

After my failed attempt to see Queen in Moscow (they moved the date after I'd paid for flight, hotel and Visa), I got to see Mssrs May, Taylor alongside Adam Lambert in Hammersmith over two nights in July (11th and 12th). Pleased that they played some of the old stuff (Keep Yourslf Alive; Seven Seas of Rhye). And that they played Don't Stop Me Now, the first time I'd seen them play that one. I stood up by myself on the first evening but got seats right at the back with Michelle on the second night.

Hammersmith, 11th July: Set List
Flash (intro)
Seven Seas Of Rhye
Keep Yourself Alive
We Will Rock You (Fast)
Fat Bottomed Girls
Don’t Stop Me Now
Under Pressure (Roger/Adam duet)
I Want It All
Who Wants To Live Forever
A Kind Of Magic (Roger)
These Are Days Of Our Lives (Roger)
The Show Must Go On (part) (Brian)
Love Of My Life (Brian)
‘39 (Brian)
Dragon Attack
Drum Battle / Guitar Solo
I Want To Break Free
Another One Bites The Dust
Radio Ga Ga
Somebody To Love
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Bohemian Rhapsody
Tie Your Mother Down (Brian)
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hit from behind

On Monday night our car was hit from behind at speed. Fortunately we are all OK (with some painful whiplash - but it could have been worse). The car. Less so.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Some good news on pensions?

Current retirees are living on, on average, 72% of pre-retirement family income, according to wave five of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) launched last week. The study highlights how the poorest income quartile saw a 105% replacement rate post retirement. Those in the highest income quartile saw a 61% rate.

ELSA also provides us with some evidence that gradual retirement, something ILC-UK has been supporting for many years, may be becoming a reality. The research shows that drawing a private pension income is not synonymous with leaving the labour market. In 2010-2011, 47% of men and 31% women aged 60-64 who were in receipt of an income from a private pension, were still in work.

The likelihood that we will continue in work after beginning to draw our private pension has increased overtime according to ELSA researchers. But women are more likely than men to leave work at the point they start drawing their private pension.

ELSA also highlights a number of other interesting facts. For example, 83% of men and 61% of women aged 52 and over have at some point accrued rights to a pension payment.

But whilst the researchers found that w the proportion of individuals contributing to a private pension increases in the years immediately before retirement, average pension contributions do not generally increase over this period.

On the surface, the replacement rate looks very positive. But we should wary of getting too excited about the redistribution towards the poorest pensioners. Those living in the bottom quartile continue to live on very low incomes compared with the richest.

The figures above do not take account of for example, housing wealth, which could be decumulated. It is interesting in this context to note that while pension wealth is decumulated through retirement, ELSA reveals that other forms of family wealth do not, on average decline with age.

Looking ahead, it is hard to be optimistic that future generations might see the same replacement rates as today’s older people. Some would argue that makes a case for a redistribution of resources to the young. Yet younger people today should be wary of campaigning for poorer old age/pension benefits for older people. After all, we all hope to reach old age one day. And whilst auto enrolment may play a part in increasing savings rates among younger people, current levels are clearly inadequate to provide a decent income in retirement.

In some ways it is surprising that individuals are not choosing to invest more in their pension in the years just before retirement. At this stage, older people may have paid off a mortgage and children may have left the home or finished studying. The 25% tax free incentive should be proving attractive for people who could realise this advantage quickly.

The fact that other forms of family wealth are not on average being decumulated in old age is surprising. Older people should increasingly look to housing and other non-pension wealth to help support their needs for income in retirement.

The new wave of ELSA will undoubtedly offer significant opportunities for better understanding the current wellbeing of the older population. This wave paints a pretty rosy picture in terms of average replacement rates today. But it is hard to be confident that future generations will see similar returns. Auto-enrolment is a good step forward. But will we need to move towards compulsory saving sooner rather than later?
First published at

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Mallowstreet Awards

I was recently a judge at the Mallowstreet Awards. As these things do, it included a dinner. In Vinopolis.

No, I don't know why either?

And I'm not really sure what these were supposed to be.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Making Sunday Roast

Are you thinking about making a Sunday Roast? This is what I do.

Put a bit of meat in the oven. Lamb this time. Pop a bit of rosemary and garlic in and cook slowly on a low heat (shoulder)

Put some celery and carrot ends into a pot of boiling water to make a stock (for the gravy).

Peel some potatoes.

Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes.

Make some batter for yorkshire pudding. I tend to use a different recipe each time I do it.

Put the batter in the fridge for a while. Then after everything else is almost ready, I put it in hot fat in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

Add a few herbs to my stock. Which I then use to make gravy using the juice from the meat and a little flour.

Put the par-boiled potatoes in a colander and put some flour or polenta on them.

Give them a shake. Then put them in hot fat in the oven.

Cut the carrots then put them in the a pan of boiling water (or steam them).

Put the food waste in the compost.

 And. All done.