Archive for January, 2008


An inconvenient marriage between finance and philosophy has brought doubt and turmoil into the lives of vulnerable people.

The philosophy apparently backed by the government and local authorities is that “people with learning difficulties” should live in the “community”, and be able to walk to the pub, and shops. This will apparently improve their lifestyle from the CSCI inspector’s report of EXCELLENT to what I don’t know.

How can you improve on excellent?
The fact that pottery and woodwork take second place to shopping and drinking in pubs under this scheme is perhaps typical of this government, and their warped notions.
Is the community ready for our vulnerable relatives, who are for the most part more trusting than your average person?

Will our relatives’ new homes be placed in those deprived areas of small towns that already face enormous problems with their bored disaffected youth?

Follow the link below to see the possible scale of the problem.

I don’t claim to know the details of the funding problem with “care in the community” funded from a different source than “intentional communities”. One is funded by central funding and the other from local authority funding.

I do know that this financial anomaly and this philosophical theory have come together at a very convenient time for some, because the rural sites bequeathed for the use of the charity’s beneficiaries have become incredibly valuable.

One of my sources informed me a parent was told by an official “I can’t afford to live on Exmoor and it may be that your son won’t be able to live there either.”

The charity trustees sold in December 2005 a site near Sevenoaks in Kent, and came away with £3.9 million. The developers then built about £40 million of property on the site.

It was too isolated for people with learning difficulties, but the location was ideal for the very rich who paid £3.2 million and upwards for the luxury houses on the development. [There were some more affordable apartments and mews cottages from about £500,000-£750,000; I think my eyes became a bit blurry when I read all of this.]

You might agree with me that it is strangely ironic that while vulnerable people are being thrust into society, the rich are seizing the opportunity to isolate themselves on the very same rural site away from that society.

I am pretty certain that in years to come we will want to go back to the village concept started by Peter Forbes, because the care in the community option:

1) Will be more expensive to monitor smaller more scattered units.
2) It will not be possible to obtain sufficient suitable staff.
3) There will be scandals such as the tragic death of Steven Hoskin in Truro. [See link]

And you might find this article interesting and quite disturbing:

What can you do to help stop the closure of Blackerton village?

Firstly comment on the blog, and if you feel care in the community is the way to go put your point of view.
Secondly if you agree with me that it is a disaster waiting to happen email my MP Ben Bradshaw at

Or the local MP for Blackerton, Nick Harvey at
The last time I was in contact with Nick he was very much against the closure, and supports the campaign to keep Blackerton open.

Or you could contact the management at:

Chief Executive Officer: Patrick Wallace 9 Weir Road, Kibworth, Leicester LE8 0QL

What I have learned from all this is that charities and housing associations are really just like any other business, with some CEO’s earning six figure salaries.

How many of the general public realize this when they so generously put their hands in their pockets?

How many people have bequeathed legacies to CARE over the years simply because they believed in the ethos of the village community?

Apparently the trustees can ignore the ethos of the charity and go ahead with the closure. I believe this is wrong and I think Blackerton and the other villages should be left to continue their excellent work.
“It’s home, I love it here…. we must save Care village”
Kylie Jarvis, aged 22, a resident of CARE Shangton who has Down’s Syndrome


The care of people with learning difficulties used to leave a lot to be desired, and many ended up in large institutions where their abilities were not recognised or given a chance to flourish. Others were kept at home with elderly parents, stagnating as the parents became too old to provide the stimulation they needed. But some people had the vision to see there was a better option that promised a good life for them without being in anyway patronising.

The innovative charity Cottage And Rural Enterprises Ltd [CARE] was set up over 40 years ago by Peter Forbes to provide “a semblance of normal life without its hazards” in beautiful rural village communities. He believed the residents could fulfil their potential “within a compact secure background that would remain unchanged through their lifetimes.”

Peter Forbes was ahead of his time when he began the charity on a farm in Devon with rural crafts, gardening, catering and growing things organically. It’s always been part and parcel of CARE’s ethos. The charity grew with parents, relatives and donors impressed by the concept, and eventually consisted of eight rural villages.

The first of these villages at Blackerton is only 15-20 minutes by car from South Molton or Tiverton, which enables the villagers to participate in local events such as the South Molton Carnival. They can also attend East Devon College in Tiverton for various courses in living skills such as cookery, and IT.
On the site itself they could participate in music, cookery, pottery, woodwork, textiles and gardening. An away team of gardeners worked for local people, and a lively rock group the Honeytones was good enough to get a lottery grant.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection [CSCI] rated the lifestyle at Blackerton as EXCELLENT.

The resident villagers, some of whom have lived at Blackerton for over 30 years were happy and contented, and the “hands on” carers were a skilled highly dedicated group.
My own son Jacob could hardly wait to get back to his mates after his visits to his old parents.

What has gone wrong with this rural idyll that has operated so successfully for over 40 years?

Why do the trustees intend to close Blackerton and another village at Shangton, in Leicestershire?

Why will they will probably eventually close all the villages, and cause Peter Forbes to spin in his grave at their actions.

[To be continued]


Posted: January 31, 2008 in Uncategorized


Just to remind readers that there is still time to enter the Quirky Quiz:Winter Edition and that entries should be in by the morning of Tuesday 5 February UK time.

I knew that my regular readership were very attractive, or very intelligent, or both, but I did not realise that some were that brilliant, and they could worm their way into the devious section of my brain that sets these questions.

I thought I had made the questions so difficult, that 3 or 4 correct answers would be the best anyone could offer.

I was wrong….but there is still a chance to come up with a winning entry.

Answers next week.


Posted: January 29, 2008 in Uncategorized


The talented Maxine at Petrona has embellished my undeserved title as Euro Crime’s Italian expert, upgrading it to “Euro Crime and everyone’s Italian expert.”
“Euro Crime and everyone’s Italian expert, Norman Price, has done it again — his review of Death’s Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto has provided me with yet another author I simply must read.”
Having been also quoted at the brilliant It’s a Crime! (or a mystery…) in the last few days over the Totnes smelly cobbler caper I am in danger of becoming a little big headed.


Karen of Euro Crime has posted my review of the hard hitting Death’s Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto at:

Karen has a sense of humour as she introduced me as Euro Crime’s Italian expert, an undeserved designation, which I willingly accept if it means more excellent Italian noir to review.
I must admit I do find Italy fascinating, not only the excellent crime fiction and wonderful food, but also the history of that beautifully imperfect country.
“Please thank the above named gentleman for the sentiments that he expresses…….but Il Duce was unable to grant his request.”
No prizes for naming the “above named gentleman” who in 1927 was requesting an inscribed photograph of Mussolini.


Posted: January 25, 2008 in Uncategorized


A prize-winning novelist has won a settlement of more than £100,000 after she claimed to have become so intoxicated by fumes from a nearby shoe factory that she was reduced to writing thrillers.
Joan Brady, who beat Andrew Motion and Carol Anne Duffy to win the Whitbread Prize in 1993 with her book The Theory of War, has received £115,000 in an out-of-court settlement after she suffered numbness in her hands and legs allegedly caused by solvents used by Conker, a cobbler based next to her home in Totnes, Devon.
She told The Times that the fumes were so bad that she was unable to concentrate on writing her highbrow novel, Cool Wind from the Future, and instead wrote a brutal crime story, Bleedout
, which she found easier. The violent plot of the book also allowed her to vent her frustrations on the factory and South Hams District Council, which failed initially to detect the smells. According to Nielsen Book-scan, Bleedout has sold a respectable 10,000 copies.

[from the Times]

I was in Totnes, Devon yesterday, actually wearing shoes by Conker and underpants by Tommy Hilfiger, in case you are interested.

In all my visits to this interesting market town I have never smelt anything other than the strong fumes of Marijuana. They add immensely to the quaint ambience of the place.

I only wish I had enough hair for a pony tail then I am sure I would fit in better.


Posted: January 24, 2008 in Uncategorized


Albuquerque N.M., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —

Best-selling novelist Tony Hillerman, author of the critically acclaimed mystery series set on the Navajo Nation, will receive the Owen Wister Award for lifetime contribution to Western literature, Western Writers of America has announced.
Hillerman will be honored June 14 at Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale, Ariz., during the organization’s annual convention. The nonprofit Western Writers of America was founded in 1953 to promote and recognize literature of the American West.

“Tony Hillerman is truly a national treasure, bringing all of us wonderful stories of the modern West while giving us memorable glimpses of the distinctive ways of the Navajo Nation,” WWA President Cotton Smith says. “Western Writers of America is proud to present him with the
Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement.


Posted: January 23, 2008 in Uncategorized


I have stopped trying to read two or three books at once, because my memory confuses one plot with another, it’s my age.

Also the general quality of the books I read lately seems to be much higher and I don’t get bored with one. That is probably due to the excellent advice I get from various brainy, loquacious and beautiful bloggers. I am sure you know who you are, and can work out which is which. The kindly Karen of Eurocrime also allows me to pick and choose the review copies she sends me, which usually means I pick those authors recommended by my past reading experiences, or on recommendation from bloggers and reviewers.

But this morning we had to take mother-in-law aged 96 to the doctor, and because my current read A Vengeful Longing by Roger Morris [review to appear on Eurocrime in due course] was too large to slip into my pocket I took out and started reading another smaller book.

It was obviously too early for most patients as the wait was not as long as usual, but I was able to get involved in my supplementary read, Looking For Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker. I had collected a number of classic P.I. novels over the last eighteen months to read if the supply of translated European crime novels dried up. I was foolish as I have not had time to read one page of these books before this morning.

The crackling dialogue between Spenser and Rachel Wallace, a militant lesbian feminist, was in total contrast to the polite tones of 1868 St Petersburg in the Roger Morris novel.

It was a culture shock, which made me wonder do people like all types of crime fiction, or are they fixated on one form of the art?

What sub genre of crime fiction is your favourite?

Police procedural or P.I. novels, mysteries in the style of the Golden Age or modern day terror related, European or American, historical crime fiction or psychological thrillers, exotic locations or English home counties?


Brent Martin was, according to his family and friends, a caring and trusting man.
Even when the 23-year-old – who had learning difficulties – was being subjected to an onslaught of violence, Newcastle Crown Court was told he did not lift an aggressive finger to his attackers.
The two teenagers – one aged 16, the other 17 – and a 21-year-old man who killed him have been warned they face a mandatory life sentence.

Disability Now, the magazine covering disability issues, has put together a dossier of what it believes are disability hate crimes.

Over two years it identified fifty-one cases of people with a wide range of disabilities being attacked. Detailed in this dossier are some truly horrific attacks:

In Cornwall in 2006, Steven Hoskin, who had learning disabilities, was murdered by people he thought were his friends. He was led around on a dog’s lead and then made to hang from a viaduct by his fingertips. He fell to his death when they stamped on his hands.

In the Forest of Dean a few months later, Kevin Davies who had epilepsy and learning difficulties died after being tortured and kept in a shed. His tormentors were jailed for unlawful detention.

And in April of last year, Colin Greenwood who was blind, was kicked to death by two teenagers in Sheffield. He told the woman who went to help him he had stopped using his white stick because it attracted attention and he’d been attacked before.

Katharine Quarmby, news editor at Disability Now, was shocked by what she found: “I think it tells us that disabled people are targeted by a certain number of people in the population and they are seen as easy targets because of their disabilities. [From the BBC website 23/01/2008]

Why when these despicable attacks are becoming more frequent are certain charities closing down rural village communities and pushing the concept of care in the community?

These rural communities are usually situated in pleasant surroundings with beautiful views. They provide both safe accommodation and the chance to enjoy crafts such as pottery and woodwork. Yet are close enough to towns to allow residents to go to college and take part in local activities.

Why close them? Why deliberately move the residents into flats and houses in the more deprived areas of towns where they will be in danger of adding to these statistics?

Apparently the residents will be able to walk to the shops and to the pub. Of course whether they will be able to walk back home again is questionable in our broken society.

I shall be posting again on this subject in the next few weeks, and perhaps explaining what happens when there is an unholy marriage between philosophy and finance.

[to be continued]


Posted: January 22, 2008 in Uncategorized


Yesterday we went to see No Country For Old Men at Exeter’s excellent and civilised Picture House.

I know that Cormac McCarthy’s books are bleak, but this film made All The Pretty Horses seem like a Miss Marple story.

Directors Joel and Ethan Coen and actor Javier Bardem, who plays the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh, will no doubt be nominated for awards, but the mindless violence and bleak message were too close to reality to say I enjoyed the film.
We never really get inside the mind of Llewellyn Moss, who finds $2 million dollars as a result of stumbling on a drug deal gone wrong, and then goes on to make some rather poor decisions.
Javier Bardem sleep walks through the film killing people in various ways, and carting a “cattle gun” around with him. He uses this to kill and to blast out locks; I wondered what had happened to door security bolts. I heard an interview in which Bardem said he does not drive, speak good English or like violence……
Tommy Lee Jones, as bitter Sherriff Ed Tom Bell, does a workman like job with his part and utters most of the clever lines in the film in a suitably deadpan style.
Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells, a hired gun, makes a cameo appearance, but the star for me was Kelly MacDonald. The young Scottish actress, who played a maid in Gosford Park, is Carla Jean Moss, Llewellyn’s wife, she speaks with a believable American accent and shows she has a fine career ahead of her with a virtuoso performance.
The stark empty beauty of the American South West contrasts well with the sad run down motels along the roadside.

Go and see this film and decide for yourself whether the unremitting violence and the very bleak message that our society is being overrun is just too full of despair to stomach.
I was reminded of driving from Santa Fe to Taos and watching the young pilgrims walking to the little adobe church at Chimayo for Good Friday. The sun was hot and the scenery beautiful, and so very different from green England.
The next morning in Taos were found out that two of those young pilgrims had been murdered and left near the roadside.