On this cold Monday it feels fitting to pay homage to the season of birth, spring, even though it is only January 11. As a Pisces woman it is almost my season I guess.
Spring officially begins on March 31 in the UK.
If the weather is being kind it may feel as if it has already begun much earlier; sometimes though we experience bad weather, and even snow, well into March.
That could be the case in 2016 as our seasons continue to become mixed and timelines blur.
Winter 2009/2010 lived up to its reputation with a deluge of snow but that was the last traditional winter here.
In recent years we have had much milder winters and less snow, but 2009/2010 record cold temperatures in the UK brought heavy snow.
Yet in no time at all, this should change
Spring in my part of the world brings the return of Blackbirds; these lovely birds never seem quite so lovely when they waken you early in the morning chirruping away. A family of Blackbirds used to nest in the one large tree, in our small front garden, but sadly this tree had to be chopped down.
When flooding struck our city we were one of many households left living in a caravan in their garden for many months. Still the birds appear in our garden looking for worms, searching them out and throwing them, and tons of soil, all over the place so they must have found new accommodation.
One of my favourite things about spring is the appearance of Daffodils
Daffs will soon be cheaply bought for display around the home unless the weird weather ruins flowers. These bright yellow treasures certainly chase winter away; so many of my favourite spring blossoms are yellow.
My Forsythia plant looks dead at the moment, but within a few short weeks, it will begin to show its golden glow again.
Although I live in a city, frogs will soon be croaking also. They have mated for quite a few years in the garden ponds of where I live. However, with many of these ponds now filled in and no-more, they struggle to survive. Yet, each year they return and I know that some never leave. In winter, occasionally, as I move a plant, some earth or pick up paper a large frog will jump out and half scare me to death.
The pink blossom of flowering Cherry trees will arrive a little later. This beautiful flower lasts briefly. A sharp cold spell with strong winds and it will soon be blown off branches, to resemble snow as it falls to the ground. What a mess it will make but it is worth it.
There are so many attractions with spring
The promise of summer is a feeling of hope lifting your spirits and an end to that sad, heavy-hearted feeling which winter can bring.
My final favourite though is bright blue skies. Those heavy grey skies and dark days become less frequent and a bright blue replaces this dullness. Of course, if the sun is shining and emitting some warming rays also, then all will be right with world.
But it is still only January and spring could be months away; yet these days who knows that for sure.
Op-Ed: It seems like there is a revolving door between the UK Tory party and Ukip. At one time it appeared to be a one way swing door which various Tory politicians were using to leave their party and join Ukip.
However on Friday Amjad Bashir a Ukip MEP said the party had become a "party of ruthless self-interest", was "pretty amateur" and had a "ridiculous" lack of policies before hot-footing it to the Tories.
Ukip have retaliated saying they had suspended him over financial and employment concerns and Ukip leader Nigel Farage said "there were "extremely serious" questions which Mr Bashir had not answered."
David Cameron has welcomed Mr Bashir into the Conservative fold and the defecting 'kipper' has said the allegations are simply not true.
The suspension announcement from Ukip was not announced until it was already known that Bashir was switching to the Tories. Some have said the suspension was simply delivered as a way to rain on Bashir's parade.
This writer however is left wondering what actual politics any of these so-called politicians actually have?
Bashir was previously a Tory party member before losing faith in the Conservatives and switching to Ukip. Now he is disheartened with Ukip and off back to the Tories.
But you notice it is a two way street between the Conservatives and Ukip?
Two right wing parties that are in many ways one and the same. They may have some differences especially over the EU and Britain's membership of that Union but they have much in common.
Two political parties that would make an easy coalition if necessary.
David Cameron may have previously called Ukip the party of fruit cakes and loons but he will shamelessly cozy up to them if necessary.
Will Mr Bashir be the last Tory or Ukip politician to use the revolving door. Probably not.
Nigel Farage Ukip leader was a Tory until a disagreement over Europe. That it seems is the way of the Tories and Ukip.
UKIP MEP calls constituent a ting tong from somewhere
Opinion: News that Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell are reappearing on the UK political scene worries me.
I am a long standing Labour voter yet these people worry me so how will floating or less committed voters react?
Peter Mandelson, so-called Mandy, was the mastermind behind New Labour's successful election campaigns but is he actually true Labour?
After Tony Blair's successful election campaign I watched a documentary in horror which included Mandy showing campaigners how to secure a win. It was anything but my idea of a socialist at work and after all Labour is or was the UK's socialist party.
Reinventing as New Labour worked on a British public sick and tired of Tory pain and lies but the electorate had experienced many years of Tory miss-rule and were ready to embrace change.
Labour according to the mainstream media has struggled with its identity after those heady New Labour days but many of the words written are little more than propaganda.
For me Ed Miliband the current Labour leader is the real deal but he needs people to take a chance.
As Miliband tries to push his election campaign forward the reappearance of Campbell, Blair and Mandelson is bad news.
Tuesday we learn that selfish Mandelson, now a Lord obviously, has denounced the mansion tax, which will form a key part of Labour’s general election manifesto, as a “crude short term” measure that will clobber homeowners. Guardian.
He would prefer Labour to adopt the Lib Dem plan of revising council tax bands which will surely hit some poorer homeowners along the way.
Most people struggle to pay their annual council tax.
Some government council subsidies are due to end and people will face massive cuts in services, hefty council tax increases or both. Council tax banding may be long overdue an overhaul but if that is not handled correctly expect more debtors and a further increase in homelessness.
If Mandelson's Lib Dem plans simply mean adding higher council tax bands perhaps it will be fair.
But what is so wrong with taxing those who can afford to live in huge mansions, which are under occupied? The Tory led Lib Dem government thinks it is OK to in effect tax the poor by way of the bedroom tax applied for any spare rooms.
Mandelson is not the only New Labour babe who does not support the Mansion Tax. MPs with London constituencies tout older people who live in expensive properties in the capital city but have little money; remember though the Tories and Lib Dems think poor people in an equally painful situation because of the Bedroom Tax should move on.
Safeguards could be out in place but means testing costs; so do reforms that do not work and are quickly scrapped.
Many ministers who voted to keep the Bedroom tax in a recent Common's vote occupy mansions and second under-occupied homes paid for by taxpayers; how many oppose the Mansion Tax for selfish reasons?
Having lived with the 'rates' perhaps younger readers need reminding of earlier reforms
The rates were replaced by Margaret Thatcher's infamous Poll Tax. For once Britons got of their backsides and protested. This led to a U Turn and the introduction of the Community Charge which was also doomed from day one. Enter the Council Tax which following on the back of those earlier reforms seemed reasonable.
But all of those reforms that hit the most vulnerable and ordinary working and middle classes of the UK were Tory policy.
It takes a Tory to devise measures such as the gagging bill and the bedroom tax.
So why is Mandelson weighing into the debate so close to the May 2015 General Election? Is he a closet Tory along with Tony Blair and others? Now they have wealth have they lost any political loyalty?
Perhaps the answer is they never had any true politics from day one but were only ever self-serving?
As this Labour supporter looks forward to a new Labour government post May 2015 she worries those greedy and self-serving individuals will undermine Ed Miliband's political hopes and aspirations.
Mandelson aired his view that the Mansion Tax would be short-termist and crude on BBC"'s Newsnight. "He did not like the idea of "clobbering people" and preferred a Lib Dem idea of adding new council tax bands" but people are being 'clobbered' financially all the time by the government. Are his motives selfish? The money will be used for a short term quick fix for the NHS.
In January 2010 the Mail Online reported "An emotional Peter Mandelson has hit back at criticism of him for buying a £2.4million Regency villa after his mother left him nearly £500,000 in her will." We wonder what that property is worth now?
Sack Blair campaign and the Killing of Tony Blair
GQ has a laugh naming Tony Blair philanthropist of the year
This is a classic 'where but the UK' story.
You work nights for supermarket giant Asda on the shop floor. You work there for more than 11 years and the pay is relatively good but stresses take their toll and 10 months before you are due to retire you walk out of your job following a silly session.
You decide you cannot take any more and for the sake of your health unceremoniously leave.
You are not sure if you are due any pay but also expect you may have taken more holiday days than you are entitled to when you leave in late December. Two weeks into January you receive the letter shown in this report telling you that you owe Asda £4348.00 and must pay up within the next 7 days!
Asda night-rate of pay may not be bad but it is not that good!
So you set about finding out what is happening and need to utilise any Sherlock Holmes' skills you or rather your wife has.
The telephone number on the letter proves pointless.
All you get is something like your call will be dealt with next and nerve stretching music in between these untrue messages. As you quickly realise your phone bill will go through the roof holding on to this out of town number you try a different approach.
Surely the store where you worked will be able to help?
Well yes, partly.
You are told that they have contacted the people who work out Asda payments and the figure is wrong but you must ring the other number until you get through to sort the issue out.
As you feel your nerves getting rattled the tone of your voice begins to show the strain. While you remain polite and upbeat your anger is plain for all to hear.
During these calls you are told that a solicitor, turns out it is a collection service, deals with Asda outstanding monies, however that does not reassure but rather causes worry.
But your Sherlock Holmes genes noted that the firm Ceridian were mentioned along the way.
As finding another Asda contact number online was hopeless Ceridian receive your by now irate call.
Bingo! You speak to a sensible person who listens, explains and promises a call back.
Was it the fact that contacting the mainstream media was mentioned or the fact that the couple involved are aged 60 plus?
Whatever the reason the person we reached explained that staff were at a meeting or training but that as soon as possible she would get someone to ring back. She took all the details and by the time a person called back the issue was resolved.
It seems the decimal point was placed wrongly and the amount owing was actually £43.48.
But we also learned that the man at the heart of this affair was owed some pay when he left. It was a small amount and the outstanding holiday pay was taken from this. The £43.48 was a leftover amount.
As he has received no final pay slip how would he have known any of this?
So the advice to huge company Asda is get your facts straight and work on your administration.
We can all make mistakes but such errors can cause ill health and more especially when the person involved is a senior citizen.
Free speech and Asda or the lack of it
Do you think calling your place of work a shite factory when you are cross is that bad? Is swearing about a boss, from the safe-haven of your home, without naming him or her, harassment; should it jeopardise your employment after 11 years?
Maybe if you are rapidly approaching retirement and no longer wanted?
Still this report is posted using my right-to-offend.
David Icke forum has a complaint dating back to 2009
If we are all allowed the right to offend Historian David Starkey was going for broke on Thursday's Question Time which as usual was chaired by David Dimbleby but this week took place in Lincoln.
Starkey has managed to cause offense whenever he takes part in the show so how come he is repeatedly invited?
BBC QT does like a good mix on the panel such as when comedian and rebel rouser Russell Brand appeared on the same show and panel as UKIP leader Nigel Farage; David Starkey has also appeared alongside controversial Respect party leader George Galloway.
Is the BBC courting controversy, aiming for a good mix of political and social views or just trying to be its most entertaining?
As a regular viewer of Question Time it is obvious that bland panellists make for a bland show but the show must surely avoid bigotry and racism?
Twitter was a blaze during and after Thursday's show debating Islamaphobia in the UK and although there were the odd people tweeting in support of Starkey the vast majority were not.
Mehdi Hasan, Tory MP Anna Soubry and Labour's Douglas Alexander calmly gave Starkey a run for his money but it was probably wasted on him.
He is an Historian who appears to live in the past in every sense.
Mehdi Hasan of course was an obvious choice to be on a panel that included Starkey. In light of the killings in France last week they were bound to clash.
This week's panel was selected January 9 after the French terrorist attacks.
The entire panel were in agreement about the horror of the Charlie Hebdo killings and the terror attack on a kosher supermarket but there the agreement ended.
It made for interesting viewing as the audience asked pertinent questions and the panel responded.
But Starkey went from bad to worse.
At one point he called Mr Hasan Ahmed either because he is an ignorant man who failed to know the names of the other members of the panel; or as a pointedly insulting intentional error; or maybe to highlight that people know Starkey's name but not Hasan's.
But whatever the reason Mehdi rightly picked up on it and it was Starkey who looked small-minded and insignificant.
Many media sources Friday are carrying reports labelling Starkey a bigot and xenophobe following the name mix-up.
While it gives that silly old fool more publicity it surely shows that he is not fit for purpose on QT?
But with many people tweeting that the BBC stop inviting Starkey to be part of QT, a current affairs and political debate show, hopefully his days of causing offense on TV are numbered.
Just how much does he get paid for all of this?
Who is Mehdi Hasan
According to Wikipedia Mehdi Hasan was born in 1979 and is a British political journalist, broadcaster and author.
As a journalist and author, Hasan is the co-author of a biography of Ed Miliband and the political editor of the UK version of The Huffington Post. His ethnic roots are British Indian and he is the presenter of Al Jazeera English shows The Café and Head to Head.
In 2015, Hasan will move to Washington DC to work full time for Al Jazeera; America's gain is the UK's loss.
BBC Question Time is on air on BBC1 Thursdays a little after 10.30 pm. You can apply to be in the audience of the show. It continues on radio in extra time and is repeated on another BBC channel at the weekend.
It is not on air during the Christmas period and similar times during the year.
Op-Ed: In May 2014 as the European elections drew near we wondered if it was time for real change and if some would vote for the Greens?
As May 2015 slowly draws near the Green Party are reporting a surge in popularity but we wonder just where the support is coming from?
Prime Minister David Cameron is using the Greens as a reason to chicken out of the scheduled televised election debates. That is at least in part as he sees the Greens as taking votes away from Labour his main opposition.
Yes Ukip and the Liberal Democrats will also be in the running but political pundits expect the Labour and the Conservatives to garner plenty of votes and then one of them face forming a coalition government with one or more of the 'also rans'. That could be with the Greens, Ukip or a combination of a couple of political parties.
That may satisfy politicians but maybe not the majority of the electorate.
The UK voting system is a first past the post affair but a coalition which includes any political party that did not win an outright majority seems wrong.
But British voters who are sick to the back teeth with the current coalition government should be careful who they give their vote to.
A vote is a valuable commodity which should not be used lightly.
In the 2010 General Election people were persuaded to take a chance on the Lib Dems. Ultimately not enough people were persuaded but enough to give that party the balance of power. They could have formed a coalition government with Labour but instead leader Nick Clegg opted to go with the Tories and his old school chums PM Cameron and Chancellor Osborne.
That left many voters sickened with events. They had experienced a sucker punch.
Will a vote for the Greens deliver such a sucker punch once more?
While sections of the electorate yearn for real electoral reform squandering your vote is not encouraged. If all you do is help the Tories lead another coalition government or even secure a majority victory you could be kicking yourself for the next five years.
The Guardian reports late Thursday that the Green "Party signs up 2,000 in a day amid blaze of publicity over exclusion from general election leaders’ debates."
The party’s leader, Natalie Bennett, said: “This second significant advance in a day reinforces the Green party’s case to be included in the broadcasters’ proposed leaders’ debates. “At the May 2014 European elections we saw three Green MEPs elected to the Lib Dems’ one, we are polling level or above them with several pollsters, and now we have more members than them. “I offer my thanks to everyone who has joined us and help send a message to the broadcasters and the regulator, Ofcom, that the Greens’ anti-austerity message – that we have to stop making the poor, the disadvantaged and the young pay for the errors of the bankers – must be heard.”
Good luck to the Greens and the electorate but watch out for a Conservative win as they enjoy a divide and conquer scenario.
"Under the new approach, families where one parent earns between £50,000 and £60,000 will have their benefit reduced on a sliding scale, and will only lose the benefit entirely when earning over £60,000" The change will cost families with three children and at least one parent earning more than £60,000 about £2,450 a year - the equivalent of a £4,000 pay cut." Administration costs will be higher.
Well sorry but this blogger's heart is not bleeding for those who will lose out. When people are having their often paltry incomes cut to the bone it does not trouble me that people who have an income of at least £50,000 may lose child benefit.
The current levels of CB are:
Child benefit currently stands at £20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for each child after that.
Already it has been pointed out that a married couple who both earn £48,000 a year will not see any reduction in CB. That is nonsense and a slap in the face for those who already live on a pittance and face more income cuts.
The best is yet to come though.
Now it seems that this proposed CB change may face legal challenges. In fact the Condems have been warned that this was a possibility for some time. This is why we wonder if all along that is not what was hoped. A cunning plan!
However as we have already said they are stupid and perhaps that would be a much too clever plan for them.
What may happen is that the changes could break "European Laws". That has never stopped a Tory government before, has it? Migrant workers in the UK could receive a more beneficial child benefit payment through their own country's Social security plans. This could mean that British workers are unfairly discriminated against.
The changes come into effect in January 2013. Some people are expected to up their pension contributions to avoid a loss of CB or income. The change will go back to the pre Thatcher days when Child Benefit was in effect means tested by taxes.
What really makes you want to throw up is the fact that failed former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is introducing a universal credit. This will abolish many of the familiar but meager unemployment benefits. It will be introduced in October 2013. Smith has said that the Universal Credit "will help millions of people by making them better off in work than on benefits".
You want to bet? Watch out for the abolition of the long fought for minimum wage. This will have to follow in order for these diabolical plans to work. The Condems are systematically putting working people's rights and standard's of living back decades, if not centuries.
So does my heart bleed that those earning a good wage may lose Child benefit? Does it Hell.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "Today's announcement is just another symptom of a drug appraisal system in meltdown."
Claims that drug companies have worked with NHS chiefs to ensure best prices is not reassuring.
Yes the NHS has tough decisions to make in these austere times, when the government of the day will not increase taxes to the uber-rich, but cutting the chances of survival for cancer patients should not be an option.
Dodgy Dave Cameron is making a series of pledges in the run up to the election. Most are aimed at satisfying right-wing voters and will do nothing to protect or save the NHS.
That will be down to us and will be done by voting the current government out of office.
Based in Yorkshire, in the middle of the UK, almost, this blogger offers her own unique perspective on life in GB