Today is August Bank Holiday and I always find these days are a little strange as some shops are open and some are not, most assuming a Sunday pattern in any case. As we did not do a normal shopping last Thursday, we were running short of one or two things so Meg and I went to collect our newspaper by car and then popped into Waitrose to top up our supplies somewhat. Last night our next door neighbour had popped round with some recently warmed apple pie and custard (this, by the way, is not an unusual occurrence) but also gave us the sad news that a sister who had been ill for many years has died. So whilst I was at the newsagent, I bought a 'Sympathy' card and then we popped that in to our next door complete with a tray upon which she had brought us our sweet last night. Our trip to the park today was unremarkable as being a Bank Holiday, none of the regulars with whom we generally have little chats were present. The park seemed to lack its normal complement of dogs and toddlers on their scooters so we struck off for home without any of our normal conversations. When we got home, we prepared a fairly conventional midday meal before wondering entertainments we might fancy on a Bank Holiday afternoon. We could not bring ourselves to watch 'Murder on the Orient Express' for the umpteenth time and instead tried to discern whatch we could on Prime TV as we have a Firestick that is plugged in to the back of our TV. I did not know any of the film titles but eventually did a search for 'Warhorse' which indeed they had. We watched this for about an hour and then the programme packed up wih an internet buffering error, about which we seemed to be able to do nothing. We watched the news channel for a certain length of time and then I tried Prime again, but this time managing somehow to get onto our latest network connection from BT. We managed to pick up the film from just about the point at which it had stopped about which we were mightily pleased. Meg and I have seen 'Warhorse' once before several years ago but I was quite happy to give it a second watch. I must say that I found it a very compelling film to watch emotionally and the emotional high spots came quite fast and furious throughout the film and not just in the later stages. Having successfully used Prime for the first time, I must see that if there are any more 'must see' films for later occasions when we run into a dead patch on the TV.
There is an interesting headline in The Times this morning which I did not think that I would ever see. A recent poll has found that half of the people who voted Conservative at the last election would support the public ownership of the energy utilities. When you see how the French government exerts control over Electricite de France (EDF) this is hardly a surprise but presumably support throughout the whole of the voting population will greatly exceed 50%. At the same, the water companies are increasingly subject to consumer dissatisfaction as the water companie have continued to make discharges of raw sewage into our seas and rivers. Water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers and coastal waters in England more than 400,000 times in the past year or so, Environment Agency (EA) data has revealed. Untreated human effluent poured into rivers and seas for a total of 3.1m hours via storm overflow pipes that are supposed to be used only in extreme weather to relieve pressure in the sewage system. So whilst the rationale for privatisation the water industry was to secure sufficient investment in a largely Victorian sewage system, this has taken place but dividends to share holders has also been enormous. Our railway system is in a sort of semi-public ownership as the government have taken back various rail franchises which have not performed as well as anticipated. So the fact that there is public appetite, and even enthusiasm, for public ownership of some of our core utilities is a source of some surprise, particularly as the Labour party seems to be very lukewarm tp public ownership in their most recent policy announcements. Of course the language used in thee debate evokes quite strong passions as surveys in the past have revealed a strong public antipathy to 'nationalisation' but much more supportive attitudes to 'public ownership'. In the 1950's, if my memory serves me correctly, Conservative governments deployed a policy of buying 51% of the shares of BP and perhaps other large compaies as well. In fact, the British government's stake in BP has been gradually reduced since 1977 to just under a third from 68.4% through four prior stock offerings, three by Thatcher's Conservative government. A policy of aiming to own 51% of the shares of a company, particularly if one has a large stockholding already, is fairly easy to achive if shares are bought up gradually wheever they become available. I am looking to see why such an approach to public ownership might not be tried again in the years ahead?