Thursday, April 26, 2007


70 years ago, 24 bombers from the Nazi 'Condor Legion' dropped their loads on the Basque town of Guernica/Gernika in Spain. From the bombs and the resulting fires, hundreds of civilians were killed.

It was immortalised by a Picasso mural named after the town. He was actually working on it before 26 April, for the Paris Exposition and was shown on the Spanish Pavilion during July of that year.

Ten days ago, I was looking at the painting, which now hangs in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. Until 1981, it had never been in Spain, although prints and photographs were clandestinely produced. A full size copy is in the United Nations building (it was covered over in 2003 when Colin Powell was giving a press conference to promote the invasion of Iraq).

As powerful works of art go, Guernica is incredible, and full of the horrors of war.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Life Expectancy - the elephant in the room

The Crawley News has obtained comparitive figures for Life Expectancy across the town. There is (and this is not a surprise to me as I've seen similar figures in the past) a significant difference between the highest and the lowest wards:

Maidenbower 83.5
Southgate 77.1

The low figure for Southgate can be partially explained by the disproportionate number of residential care homes. So they don't compare my neck of the woods with Maidy, but they take the next lowest, Bewbush (77.6).

Now, they make the usual statistical error of mixing up the people with the place - by suggesting that if you move, it will improve your prospects. Of course, the figures are an average based on the people currently living there. If you personally have a low life expectancy, moving to Maidenbower or Pound Hill is not likely to increase your time in this mortal coil (although it might slightly reduce their average...). Fair enough, it's a standard misconception and it's easily done. Oh, and these are the expectancy at birth based on data from 1998 to 2002, so it's not even relevant to people born outside Crawley, or before 1998!!

Of course, it's not like we can actually get accurate figures for life expectancy for areas which had virtually nobody living in them less than 60 years ago (most of Crawley), but we can do for the people who live there now.

However, when comparing Bewbush and Maidenbower, and casting around for possible reasons, they are a bit blinkered. A Maidenbower resident jokes that it is 'easier to be stabbed in Bewbush', which is particularly crass (I don't know anyone who has been stabbed in Bewbush, but I did once work with a guy who got stabbed in Horsham - and it was easy for him as he was the wrong colour). A Bewbush resident also mentions crime and violence. Another Maidenbowerite who uses the word 'one' for 'I' puts it down to diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, these are possible contributory factors (although it's not like people in nice areas don't get murdered, such as in Poles Lane.

The one factor that is completely missed is the also one that tends to also influence crime, diet, lifestyle etc.

Wealth, or the lack of it.

Poverty levels in Bewbush are much higher than in Maidenbower. The correlation between income and life expectancy is very close. Similarly, Broadfield has higher levels of deprivation (although it also has some more comfortable parts), and Pound Hill is also relatively wealthy.

However, there are pockets of deprivation in Pound Hill, and even in Maidenbower. The average life expectancy for those people will likely be lower than for their near neighbours.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Who the FAQ is Danivon?

  • Who is Danivon?

Well, my real name is Owen Richards. I was born in Crawley in 1974. I've lived there most of the time since, apart from a few years in the 1990s when I studied and worked in Manchester. From February 2009 I've been living in Rugby.

I was a councillor on Crawley Borough Council from May 2000 to June 2004, representing my home ward of Southgate for the Labour Party. I stood down after a single term due to the problem of balancing work and a social life with political office. As much as I enjoyed it, I was getting too tired to keep doing the job to the best of my abilities.

  • So why do you use a pseudonym?

Why not? When the internet was first popular, people were always using pseudonyms. I don't use it to hide who I am, it's just not a big deal to me to use a different name. I have been using the name on other sites for some time, and it's easier to keep things the same all over the place.

While I am not concealing my true identity, I am also wary of being too open on the internet, where people and software can trawl through data to get a lot of information. I get enough spam as it is, thanks.

  • Where did you get the name 'Danivon' from?

From the book Sideshow, by Sheri S Tepper. Danivon Luze is one of the main characters. I don't identify with him per se, it's just I quite liked the name. To be honest, I got him mixed up with the character Cheradenine Zakelwe from Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks when I first used it, back when I was playing Command&Conquer: Red Alert online (and getting trounced every time).

  • Who is Rodney McAree then?

He is a football player, and the subject of an old terraces chant at Craven Cottage from the glorious 1996/7 season. See more here:

  • Who do you work for?

I'm not going to say. I don't intend to discuss work, let alone my employer, so it isn't relevant. All I will say is that I work in the private sector, for an IT company.

Despite what some may think, I don't work for the Labour Party. I am a member of the Party, and I am involved at a local level. I have views that I want to express, which may or may not be in accordance with local (or national) Party policy. I did hold the post of 'Press Officer' for one year, which is confined to drafting Press Releases. I don't view blogging, or commenting on other blogs or internet forums as part of that activity, and the views expressed on this site against my name are mine alone.

  • Why are you in the Labour Party?

Well, my family were all members. My dad was a councillor in the 1970s, and his dad was one in the 1950s. My parents were active in the 1980s, and I can remember them raising money for the families of striking miners in 1984 and my dad going up to printworks to assist the pickets during the Wapping dispute. I joined at the age of 15, when Thatcher was still the PM. Then I was purely an 'emotional' socialist - I didn't really understand the 'why'.

After getting an interest in History at school, I developed my theoretical and philosophical political views. I think that is long journey to start, and I'm by no means finished.

  • Are you a New Labour apparatchik?

No. In 1994 I opposed Blair's leadership bid and the changes to Clause 4 of the Party constitution. While feeling a bit young to take on the label 'Old Labour', and not comfortable enough in dogma to stick with people like the Campaign Group, I have always been critical of the Party Leadership where they deserve it. However, I still think that the Labour Party, even one dominated by 'New Labour' is the best of all of the available alternatives for government. I worked my socks off in three constituencies during the 1997 campaign, and like many people was jubilant at the victory, and the scale of it. However, I said at the time:

"I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied"

That still applies today. Labour has done a lot of good in this country over the past 10 years, but they have also been timid in important areas. The Iraq war has overshadowed and undermined the whole period, and I am concerned about the tendency towards illiberal policies like detention without charge and ID cards.

However, I am proud to be a member of the Party, and there is a lot that should be celebrated and built on.

  • Is that all you're going to say?
Not necessarily. If you want to ask a question, put it in the comments, and I'll answer it if I can.