Saturday, 29 November 2008

Children's Care.

Been a few interesting thought provoking developments this week.

The head of the local government association carping on about how the death of baby P should not be taken as a reason to bring lots of children into care and of course strain the budgets. Now children should stay home as the evidence is that children in care fare badly, out came the stats about poor educational attainment and outcome. Interesting things in words, it was not framed in an action framework with a commitment to improve service, rather, the angle was, the service is crap so we must not use it.

Some people have accused the Sun of simplistic reductionism but that is a breath taker.

We are back to the; don't expect us to divert money from roads and leisure centres (not to mention CEO salaries) to fund front line services and make them work just because people are killing children.

And the Sun wants to blame the social workers when their boss says that...

Then we had the guy who went across Britain, fathering children by his own daughters. The technique was a recognised one - team hoping. Go and live somewhere, stay until services start to notice you exist and then jump ship to somewhere up the road. Assuming anyone works out where you went they will probably not bother to phone the team in your new area and say they were worried and if they did no one would pay much attention as social workers don't seem to trust each others judgement.

This was more common than you might think when we started out, it's harder to do today thanks to one of the recommendations of the Climbie enquiry

But there has been nothing like the noise generated by the Baby P case. Presumably killing a child over a couple of months is less serious than subjecting them to years of sexual abuse.

The games people play......

Last night it was very interesting.

All computers off children round the table playing board games.

All together.

Playing a 80's game of "blockbuster" with Branwen adjusting the question levels to keep it all equal.

Three quid well spend in anyones money.

Of course today is a construction day, Tallie down in the field building his shed, me watching the rugby and management off buying stuff for her and Bethan to make a ball gown.


Friday, 28 November 2008

Another month another auction.

The direction of wind is a remarkable thing. It can switch from a balmy Southern draft to an icy northern blast within a tiny time interval.

So it is also with the management, last weeks expensive dinosaur IVECO is this weeks highly useful long wheel base high top van.

This would of course have nothing to do with the imminent arrival of the date of another auction of course, not a bit of it.

So anyway off we went in convoy this morning, her roaring off in a cloud of gravel that had a xantia somewhere in the middle and me following on in somewhat more sedate fashion in the IVECO.

Of course today was a bit different, an auction with a stat review in the middle, does no harm to let SW know that your whole life does not revolve about their every whim and desire.

But I digress, she had spent a pound here a fiver there and with the credit crunch in full swing she was buying us in to all sorts of things and ornaments. Gwion is on an inset day, for reasons I did not really fathom we bid five pounds on a fish tank for him. Another five pounds bought a big box of games and a pound bought a box of original magazines from the 50's.

Auctions are strange places and rules such as they are can be hard to fathom.

Management had decided she needed a new sofa, now with 9 kids on the plot it does not pay to spend out hundreds of pounds so management was looking for good second hand. A couple were on offer, a rather nice three seater went for a mind boggling 160 pounds. Declining that one, management opted for the one next to it, a two seater for a whole pound now, it was hard to see 159 pounds between them. Both were newish both perfectly serviceable, yet one went for a mountain one went for an anthill.

Similarly G plan stuff seems out of fashion, now you would have paid a fortune for this back in the 80's and it's built like a built thing, yet we got a whole bedroom full of the stuff last auction for 3 pound. I could not see any possible need for any more so I let it go 2 quid.

This brought us up to lunchtime and time for the stat R. Left to my own devices and with strict instructions from the management I carried on with the bidding which is where things started to unravel.

Some little while later, returning to the auction management somehow missed me and, with lots coming up she quickly got herself a new buyers number. This was all very well when she bought an immaculate 1960's era push bike for 5 pounds but of course when the carpentry tools came up she was sitting at the front of the auction whilst I was acting on her instructions, at the back.

I shan't say exactly what happened next, I'll leave it to your imagination....

But anyway the day wore on and our little pile of goodies grew into something altogether bigger. By the end we had an impressive pile and a wee bit of a dilemma.

You see yesterday I picked up 4 sleepers for Tallies shed and these were still in the van begging the minor question of how it was to be transported home.

Now lets see a drop leaf table (pound) sofa (pound) an adult bike and several large boxes of woodworking tools added to the four sleepers and of course this all had to be safe so 4 kids could travel in there too.

Not a big problem then....

Being of a managerial disposition she delegated, well, buggered off is another way of describing it.

Anyway pooling our resources we managed to shoe horn everything in.

Well we did after we had paid for it all, ahh yes paid. Now this is the sort of local auction where you pay on the day, cash being preferred though cheques are also OK. Plastic is simply that, plastic.

So of course where was our cheque book? Safely with management in the Xantia which was at that moment screeching it's way across the county. I had a slight dilemma then, fortunately there was a cash point, about 15 miles away....

Fortunately pooling all our cash the kids and I managed to come up with enough money, well we had about 75 p left over..

It meant we could not bid the pound it would have cost for her last few items, a couple of wicker baskets to hold fire wood for the best really, we would have had to leave a child behind to bring them home....

But all is well, the box of comics contains a number of 1950's and 1970's originals which management assures me will make us unbelievably wealthy when they hit eBay. Well OK maybe we will not be buying a yacht in the Bahamas but they should realise more than a pound we bid on them, if all else fails she says they will be cheaper than buying newspaper to light the fire...

Five box games for three pounds. Oh and there is a deluxe corkscrew brand new in it's box, hmm I think I might try that out later on today.

Management is over the moon, she has found one just like it on eBay for 15 pounds she says she has decided what she is giving me for Xmas....


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Oh my blog.....

Somebody said to me that to have a successfull blog you need a theme. There needs to be a thread that runs thorough it all.

Well I'm bucking that trend; sometimes I have serious issues and views and other times I am just being plain silly, you will have to read the subtext to find the clues.

Today has been brainbendingly boring trip out to Tesco and noting that the downward trend in prices of the last few weeks has stoped and even gone into reverse. one wonders if the decision to stay out of the euro was one of our better ones as a country, would not half make my life easier if we were in and i think in 20 years time the euro will be a proper currency and the pound a nothing bit of paper.

Still it's a real news day, odd how the BBC repeats the same old mantra though. People have attacked hotels in India and it's serious because there were Brits there. If 100 people died thats 100 families thrown into turmoil, it matters not where theses people were born nor what passport they carried they are people first.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Festering - a dying job??

Interesting day, speaking to an English foster carer. It seems that qualification and registration are on the way. Altogether a good thing. But lets looks at this in detail.

Qualification has been an issue in social work for a while, recognition that social work has a workforce that is woefully undertrained for the job in hand. The response was welcome; introduction of a proper degree level course combined with the introduction of central registration linked to a code of practice.

One thing that has been absent retrospective qualification, that is making those who are currently in practice go back to qualify at a higher level.

Now it seems in England the plan will be to make every foster carer qualify within two years or be barred from the profession.

So a social worker with 5 years under their belt will be deemed competent and a foster carer with 20 years will be automatically incompetent.

This kind of thing can in large part be placed at the door of the Fostering Network a national charity that pretends to represent foster carers but had historically done very little for them.

But I wonder, how many doctors, suddenly told they had to requalify all over again, would go and do it or would they just walk away.

Make them people who do not earn the kind of money that a GP earns rather put them close to benefits level income and I wonder how joined up this thinking really is.

I wonder if many people will simply walk away.

For me fostering was a way of being home when my own children needed me. They are growing up now and I could easily go off and do something else.

I am, I hope, quite good at what I do, I wonder if I am as expendible as I feel.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On the tiles again....

So the great project goes on.

This morning we hit a snag; the toilets not for moving. Having been screwed and siliconed in by yours truly in 1998 the heads of the screws are a bit beyond unscrewing. This could be resolved using the hearth kit and a chisel. Of course the danger being that there might be a slip and a shattered pan.

So management set herself the task of tiling around it. To an expert this might be nothing as challenges go but in managements case this was the real deal. As the profanity rose to tusnami levels I decided that now was an ideal eBay moment and went into town to do some posting.

Back just in time to be handed flat pack boxes and set to work building the base to take the sink. Tomorrow, she announced, I can plumb in the sink. Oh goodie....

Whats more, she informed me brightly, there were enough "spare" tiles to do the downstairs shower. I mentioned earlier that her maths was suspect, but now I am not so sure...

Taliesin who is home ill has spent much of the day scanning the horizon and wistfully hoping for snow.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Meet the borgias....

There is nothing like a family and family dynamics.

Yesterday, as the rugby loomed on the telly Bethan decided it would be nice to make sure her Xmas pressie was bought before the Xmas rush. Of course timing it with the rugby meant the only sensible thing to do was to let the girls and their mother go into town, so off they went whilst I did important things.

Hours passed and back they came with a state of the art sewing machine, which was to be duly wrapped for Xmas.

Well no, apparently not. Beth just slipped into the conversation how there would be a 6 th form Xmas ball which would of course require a ball gown. By sheer good fortune we had just bought the very tool for making a ball gown. Well for her mother to make one anyway...

Her mother of course is still basking in happiness. She got an early Xmas present herself, I whisked into town on Friday and bought her an industrial grade tile cutter. wrapped in Xmasy brown paper, festive baler twine completed the ensemble.

Management is really good at hiding her delight. Her eyes did not light up in exited anticipation as she realised she had a surprise gift. There was almost a stoicism as she unwrapped the string. When she realised what it was, she concealed her feelings behind a sigh and swiveling eyeballs, but I know she was delighted really.

She was so happy with me that she brought me breakfast in bed this morning with several cups of coffee. "It's nice to be loved" I mused as I pushed my thick roll of notes, the proceeds of Green Goddess parts sales into my pocket.

"We can go to IKEA tomorrow" she said with a smile.


There's a suprise......

Now there is a suprise.

Even in the few weeks since it was all over the papers, there has been a marked increase in applications for care orders.

And here comes the truth of social care, the cost of applying for a care order had recently been bumped up. There were lots fewer applications. The perceived wisdom was it was better not to intefere in familly life and leave children at home.

All of a sudden there are lots more kids coming into care.

Now dear reader note the timing, it is 18 months since the unfortunate death of baby P. So that cannot explain the increase.

It is a while since the interim report into events surrounding baby P's death. So that cannot explain the increase either.

It is a while since the court case that found the three guilty. So we can safely rule that out too.

No the increase has kicked in since the current bun and daily mail set their sights firmly on the social work profession.

That shows how inexact a science this whole field is, just a knee jerk reaction to media covereage. A desire not to be the next council with egg on it's face in the press. Note: just because a child is dead is not a reason to change practice, but bad press works every time.

That said, there is not some mysterious formula that says a given situation is harmful enough to require intervention. It sometimes feels like a lottery.

We have read case note catalogues of neglect where we were simply staggered that the children were left in the household, the SW only eventually deciding to act when there were concerns about the family dog, and yes she took the dog first then went back for the children!

Then we have read the case of a family where the kids were fending for themselves, and doing really well at it too. All going to school, all clean, all well fed. The eldest popped into the family centre and asked for a bit of help getting her sibs to school so she could do her GCE's and they were all whisked off into care on the day, just like that. Oh and she didn't get to do her GCE's as they moved her completely out of the area bang in the middle of them.

SW decision making can appear peverse at times.

Neither is outcome easy to predict. The children involved in the two scenarios above are reasonably well adjusted adults who work and have their own houses. So it's dificult often to see how SW does anything useful.

Mind you, I bet a few of those councillors who have been so busy making sure the leisure centre is open and the street lights work have suddenly found they are interested in child protection....


Thursday, 20 November 2008

On the tiles.....

To change the tempo and indeed the subject...

Today management decided she was having a girly fun day. This was her chance to tile the bathroom. Naturally she mixed a bumper bucket of quick setting tile adhesive and set to work.

I suppose it might have helped if she had checked to see if her new tile cutter was big enough to take the tiles she was using before she started. The new tile cutter had to be sourced as her best one, (was it a birthday present, or maybe Xmas, anniversary perhaps..) is currently in the basement of out house in Brittany.

In hindsight maybe unscrewing the door would have been a good idea too, not to mention removing the sink.

This was not the only little event.

During our lovely weekend away we had bought a few useful shopping items but not of course coffee, having been assured that our stocks were sufficient I gave it not a thought.

I am a mere man not for me to question.

Of course turns out I had made a serious mistake when I didn't count the coffee, we are running out. And because I had not checked she told me we had plenty when in fact we were down to our last packet.

This is serious, without my daily supply of French Carte noir I might be unable to function. Whats more we will not be able to resupply till after Xmas - this is an emergency.

Meanwhile, I got on with man things, this afternoon a fellow Green Goddess enthusiast came done the drive and soon we were locked in commercial enterprise and he had acquired a big stache of parts and parted with lots of money.

Funny how women can suddenly get interested in man things, especially when I have a couple of hundred pounds on the hip. Apparently I want to go to IKEA soon.....

And I have the pleasure indeed honour of checking the new part tiled bathroom, a fantastic job it is too. That's another of my functions in life; to note her excellence and ability in all things and in all areas, either that or lie.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

currant bun

Of course, when anything goes wrong we can rely on our media to be there reporting the facts, dispassionately and objectively.

In the UK we are blessed with a newspaper called the Sun, the place to go if you want real news, like photos of Pamela Andersons boobs and things like that.

Currently the Sun has decided it's open season on social workers. With fox hunting now illegal they must need to set their dogs on something else.

But anyway I would urge you all to wander over to: and sign their petition.

First though do go read the sun, well when I say read you don't really read the sun....

You do got the odd good idea mind. They point out how all the executives of public bodies that fail walk away with a big handshake and say this isn't right.

This is actually a good idea, just think if all those who preside over a disaster have to leave with nothing. That would seem logical, those who have left millions in poverty and pennyless, should be out of a job and up the road. Yes, lets start in the financial sector.....

Monday, 17 November 2008

The moral high ground

I am comfortable in the moral high ground.

Every so often I get a virus which for reasons I cannot fathom goes to my knee and locks it up. This has been a bit bad so with her out of theatre today I soldiered on and stripped out the bathroom.

Well when I said bathroom I mean what we originally meant to be a bathroom upstairs and never quite got round to finishing.

Any way I hobbled up the stairs pulled out loads of shelves moved tons of towels and bedding and lifted the carpet. Not the place is ready for the management to move in and seal the floor with UPVA so we can lay a tiled floor on top.

This is a considerable act of heroism with a knee that doesn't do knee type things.

So, I award myself the moral high ground.

She won't see it that way of course.


I am turning into a prophet....

I am begining to worry myself.

My very last words yesterday speculated that we might learn they are better at covering things up.

And what should plop on my intray this morning but a copy of the interim report into Baby P.

This it has to be said is as marvelous a piece of newspeak and spin as one could ever wish to see.

It is heartening and I am sure we are all relieved that the "lessons" such as they are, have been learnt and such a thing could never happen again, well until the next time.

Those who can get UK BBC1 might find it worth a visit tonight at 8.30 Pm uk time.

Interesting too that yesterday that esteemed rag the News of the World was able to share with us all the things that were going on in that house from the point of view of someone who was lived there. Either the sister of Baby P or the "girlfriend" one of the men had moved into the house. Either way one speculates why, if she was witness to all these things she details she did nothing about it at the time. One wonders also how many zeros there were in the cheque.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

I told you so...

With knees jerking over baby P I prophesied that it would not be long before people were calling for more children to be taken into care, reversing at a stroke the current perceived wisdom.

And here it is, in the observer today we hear that the deputy children's commissioner for England thinks exactly that.

The thinking bounces either way and every way, one might conclude they really are clueless.

As more and more comes out about the baby P tragedy one is driven to wonder if anything at all was learnt in the Climbie affair.

Though of course we have not had the enquiry yet, maybe we will find that the powers are even better at covering up....


Friday, 14 November 2008

Children in need

Yet again we get the annual night of torture television interspersed with clips of children in urgent need of assistance.

Now, I cannot deny that there are children out there who need help, I cannot deny that money is desperately needed to help them.

Would it not be better though to meet those needs by raising general taxation rather than having parade of self congratulory celebrities and collecting money which on previous patterns of charitable donation will come more from those on lower incomes than those on more money.

Is it anyway good message to send to children in need that they can have what others are prepared to give for them not what they need.

That said I think I would probably give quite a lot to children in need if someone shot a certain smug Irish TV presenter....

It has been everywhere today.

Gwion went to school as a "super hero", Jack Sparrow, of course he has no need to dress up, he IS a superhero. He shares his mum, dad, brothers and sisters with children who cannot be with their own families. He shares his birthday, his Xmas, his holidays, his days out, his whole life. That's a proper super hero and a lot to do at 9.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

We told you so....

As things continue to develop, there is a level of this being as anticipated.

Management and I have watched as this situation has developed. For years, there has been a switch from taking children into care to leaving children at home.

This has a lot going for it and I really think that many of the children in care could do a lot better by being at home and their parents helped rather than whiped into care and their parents demonised.

All that said there is also the key indicators, things that really should get people moving.

Trouble is individual social workers are less and less able to make decisions on the spot, most often they have to run it past a manager and they in turn might well be more interested in the figures on the balance sheet than children.

That is the challenge in social work, getting those higher up the ladder to connect to "the coal face" the reason why their department is there.

It is not until those like the director of Harringey lose their jobs and their pensions because the department they run has presided over a death that anything like real change is likely.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

You get the services you ask for - to a point.

So the carnival begins again.

A child has been murdered under the noses of the very services set up to protect children.

Of course this is against a backdrop where the service philosophy has been to leave children home unless there are compelling indeed overwhelming reasons not to do so.

In truth you get the services you ask for. Let the street lights go out, the holes in the streets start to swallow cars and your councillor will get phone calls and letters.

Run a children's service on a shoe string and no one says anything until a child dies and even then it's blame game at the sharp end whilst the managers who shaped the service take cover and the councillors who agreed the budget lead the baying hordes.

That said there is a growing culture of managerialism inside children's services with a lot of the money not going to children but those who manage the services. At least these days when Rome burns we have a manager to fidle shame we don't have a fire engine or fire fighters!

The quality of social workers is on the up too, those of us involved in social work training cannot fail to be impressed with the calibre of the new recruits to social work in the UK.

Whether of course they will be allowed to make a difference is another matter. we could just be recruiting for people to leave burnt out in a few years time, or use their new better qualification to go and practise social work abroad.

As I said you get the social services you demand.


Monday, 10 November 2008

Back to the grind.

We have had a nice weekend, make no mistake it was seriously good.

Friday started with a serious outbreak of social worker. Meetings that got on the boring side of interminable. For a large part because they had serious concerns that we refused to own but rather re framed in ways that meant SW would have to act.

We were not confiscating every child's mobile phone at 9 every night because one adult was not sticking to an agreement about phoning one child.

At the end of the day why should any child be sanctioned, the adult was the problem and therefore the issue needed taking to them.

Making us the bad guys for taking every one's phone was not a way for a SW to avoid confronting an adult about their behaviour. After all, we get paid to look after children they get paid to be SW...

But eventually they all went and we went into holiday mode.

Kids all rounded up and the motorway blasted up.

Daycastle and looked after ones left with mum and gran it was footlose and fancy free for the ferry.

It's hard to explain to someone who does 37 hours ever week and then goes home to their other how life how this feels.

As foster carers, we have a good life, but, we work all day every day.

We get up we get the kids to school, then we sit and deal with all the paperwork of recording, and of course we are there for whatever meetings or phone calls the SW decide to hold, but strictly in office hours. Then the kids are home and we carry on as late into the night as it takes.

So when we get the chance to have time out it's a rare event. I think we have had about 10 days properly off in about 10 years, at one stage we worked 3 years straight through. I am not sure this is good for our health.

Off we went and spirited driving saw us in Plymouth with time to spare.

When i say spirited perhaps it does not do the trip justice. Left to it's own devices the Xantia consumes miles and in a ridiculously short time we were on the ferry and ready to go.

The first thing to do was have lunch, yes with all the meetings and the day we had skipped every meal since breakfast. Still you cannot fault Brittany Ferries, for not a lot of money I got as much langoustine as I could eat followed by a steak which was perfect and a desert that I could not really understand how I could possibly have one helping of, never mind go back for two....

The beds though were a new experience and not a good one. The berth in the Pont Aven were tiny before they were put in the shrink machine and I like the idea of marble but not as a material to make mattresses out of.

Next morning and out of the ship and down into Guemene. The house was fine and the lawn mower still in the garden (coff coff). With everything sealed up again, apples collected from the garden, it was time to head off, we got all the way into town and the Trois Marchands. The most fantastic traditional restaurant. 4 fantastic courses and change from 30€ as well.

The trip back to Roscoff was suitably uneventful and not at all like us. Stoped in Morlaix to look at bathrooms (oh dear, work to come). Then admitting defeat by having just the one crepe for tea.

Fully refreshed by the last evening we were in bed before the ship sailed and asleep before the ship sailed. That's something about us having time off, we always spend a lot of it asleep, it's as if we don't get enough in a normal week.

Still it's home now and another standard Wednesday with me having a list of things to do and her off ripping down trees.

I have however booked our next trip away, next February and a early trip on the new ship the Armorique.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Waking to incredulity

I do not normally do much politics on my blog.

That should not be taken to mean that I am not a political animal.

I woke up a little while ago to almost a changed landscape.

I was frankly surprised, I half expected a wave of contested counts and broken votimg machines and a republican winner just like we had a while ago.

Instead America has a democrat president but lets look at this again.

Obviously Obama is Black, something in itself but he is also a new generation American and not of a long standing family of the American political elite. That too incredibly significant.

America has been flagged up as the best democracy money can buy but, this president was elected on peoples 10 and 20 dollars not so much on corporations billions.

Crucially, Americans have almost always not quite trusted their president. If the Republicans had the presidency there was a democratic check and balance in the congress and senate to hold them in check.

Today America threw itself behind the democrats and people turned out for democracy a turn out we in Britain can only look at and gasp.

Of course this is the American political establishment; they might yet shoot him.


Of tiles and bathrooms. and a bit of social work thrown in.

Now there is a certain first day of the holidays feel to it when the children go back to school.

Adults with the responsibilities drastically reduced can wander off and play.

Yesterday we set ourselves schedule for the first day after the children go back, not a terribly grueling one and we missed it anyway.

We struggled manfully and had lunch in the pub where Cerys Mathews got married.

So anyway today being more buisneslike we decided to go off to look at some stuff to redo the bathroom. Since selling is on hold we might as well do something with the house.

You could also argue that we were doing our patriotic duty to spend our way out of recession, you would be wrong but there we go.

Anyway a morning of tile comparing, fainting at the prices of baths, "don't worry thats not a lot" said a voice suspisciously like mine - going to kill that ventriloquist one day....

Anyway plans have been drawn measurements made, and we are ready to make a start on it next week.

Thats good, I have been putting off a few jobs on the Goddess and if she is laying tiles and putting in a bath it will be an admirable time to get on to them....

But I digress this afternoon we had a professional collegue on the phone wanting to discuss an incident that happened over the weekend. Now, you do not need to know what went down but on a scale of 0-10 it was a 6 and on a potential to place people in danger in the future a 7 worst of all, on a scale of things it was something that a SW was going to have to actually do something about and get by saying "Oh dear".

Records are of course the bane of everyone's lives and SW was very keen that we record everything that happened which as a matter of course I do. Further more SW wanted a copy of our exact records.

Now this is an odd one, it strikes me that SW are very careful not to put anything down clearlyand to write nothing at allif they feel they can get away with it.

If I had a pound for every time that I asked for something in writing before I did as they asked or instigated some response only to be met with an embarassed silence or be promised a follow up letter that never actually arrived:
I would be doing very well for myself.

We are apparently required to work in a different way and they wanted everything; chapter and verse including a lot of things that someone might ask to see under the data protection act and get very angry about if they were not historically very stable in the first place.

It is part of the new order that the Data Protection Act allows people to see what is recorded about them and know why. This can be good and helpful but can also be immensly destructive.

Funny thing is though whilst they would have us put in writing this incident this weekend, what about the child in need who was illegally not allocated a social worker, for 11 months. All kinds of legal requirements not met, had that been recorded???

Had they recorded the concerns we expressed in stat reviews and monthly supervision, did they print off and keep the emails that pointed out that their practice was illegal not to mention dangerous?



Saturday, 1 November 2008

Driving Miss D.

It has been known for people to suggest that sometimes I gild the lily.

Occasionally, so they say I will not let the truth impede a good story.

I of course always tell the truth and will be completely honest in my recording of events.

So anyway today we had to facilitate contact for little D with his mum in the South of the county having picked up his little sis on the way.

Therin came the first problem. She had phoned for directions but as far giving the MD directions you might as well give her coin and say heads is left and tales means right.

We did get the right country, that's the advantage of having the sea on three sides in Wales, you have a 75% chance. After copious wandering round we decided to let technology take the strain, on went the GPS.

Now here is the genuine technological proof that her driving is bonkers.

With her at the helm and roughly on the road we lurched bounced and screeched along and the GPS could not get a fix on our position. Millions of pounds of technology in space could not get a bead on the Xantia with her at the wheel. The yanks have spent billions on stealth technology when all they needed to do was learn to drive like management!

I did venture to share this information:

"I am only doing 40" she said indignantly and here you come across another of the MD's little foibles.

She learnt to drive on a Morris Minor which compares to the Xantia as an abacus compares to a super computer. On the minor there is a simple gauge and if it says 40 it means you are doing 40 MPH*. When she said we were doing 40 in the xantia we could have been telling me the speed, the revs or the engine temperature. And crude statistics tell you that there is only a 1 in 3 chance she got it right....

Now, she is quite miffed with me for these observations and she says that the GPS would not work because of something called a Faraday cage which was stopping it working inside the car and saying that once it was attached to the windscreen it was able to tell us where we were.

Of course I would love to believe her, but that would be letting the truth impede a good story.

* It should be noted that if the minor gauge says Zero it does not necessarily mean you are stationery; it actually means you are stationery or the speedo is having a British Leyland moment and has gone on strike. To prove that evolution is not always forwards; at least the minor speedo can be removed in a reasonable amount of time and does not require total disassembly of the car and removal of countless electronic components each of which has it's own pin number to achieve.