Thursday, 30 April 2009

Die Katze schnarcht auf der Bettdecke .....

As Madam Paddy Cat gets older she gets more affectionate and more and more particular about where she takes her twenty two hours of naps... She has laid claim to one half of the bed, though sometimes, just to be pernickity she will insist on taking my side. Still for a seventeen year old she's not doing badly.

During Mausi's visit she managed to catch some good pictures of Madam snoring her head off as the saying goes and today, it being rainy and rather cool, Madam has taken up her usual position with that "rainy day" cat look, paws well tucked in, tail over the nose and snuggled against the pillows. Except, of course, when we have rise and demand our snack and meal offerings. And Madam being the vocal lady she is, she can certainly make her wishes known.

And for a small animal this is one old lady that can really snore.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Late home from London

Sorry folks, I've been to London Town today and just got home.

Better things tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Inherently good?

The recent release of the film "The God Movie", punted as a "documentary" which claims to prove that Christ did not exist and is a figment of the politics of first century Palestine prompted me to take another look at a raft of assaults on religion in general and Christianity in particular currently occurring in the press, on radio and on television. The God Movie is not a cheap production, it has the full weight of Hollywood behind it which means it will be short of fact and long on myth and fiction even though it is supposed to be documentary. One wonders who is putting up the money for this and all the other attempts to "prove there is no God."

Again and again I find the statement from otherwise (I hope) sane and intelligent people, "that religion is the root of all the major wars in history" and sometimes that is refined as "Christianity is responsible for ..." Invariably when this is challenged one is confronted by the "evil crusades" or "the Spanish Inquisition" or "the Catholic wars of domination" or "the suppression of the Inca" and even with the "troubles" in Northern Ireland and English Civil War and Cromwell's excesses. Invariably one is told that "religious conflict" has killed "millions", figures difficult to support or refute since there are in fact very few records of the numbers actually killed or dying in any of these conflicts - and by most accounts, the bad hygiene practices of most crusaders carried off more of them than of their supposed victims. The fact is that while many have died in the name of religion, when this is looked at in the context of the historical timeline, more Christians died under the Roman Emperor's persecutions in the first two or three centuries of the Christian era than in any one given period since. Equally the dead supposedly piled up around the "Crusades" (Read any conflict between Christian and non-Christian worlds in the minds of the Atheist/Humanist lobby) include many who died of diseases introduced by freebooters along for the ride and no more Christian than any good atheist would claim to be.

OK, so there is something in these arguments, but I find no mention among them of the Islamic wars of conquest, nor of the invasions of the Mongols under Genghis Khan, famously atheist. Nor do I find any reference to the fact that, while religious issues might have been promoted as a propaganda front to whip up support, most of these wars were really about grabbing power - a particularly nasty human trait - or holding onto it. And I would hardly label any of the people who promoted and led them as "Christian" or even as "Muslim".

Then one arrives in the "Age of Enlightenment" in the 18th Century and runs up against the French Revolution. Notably there, the many thousands who died at the blade of Madam Guillotine (Including its inventor) were nominally at least Catholic and almost all of the Revolutionary Council were Atheist/Humanist. A blip in the history? Or something else coming to the fore? Similarly in the Napoleonic period, religion was certainly not what drove Napoleon to subjugate as much of Europe as he could, to deface churches and "secularise" everything he could. But then, his victims - numbered in hundreds of thousands - were merely "making way for the newer enlightened and godless society that was the Revolutionary "vision". Nor can the European Wars of the 19th Century be laid at the door of "Religion" or even of Christianity. These were a straightforward power grab exercise even though elements of the churches on all sides supported them. However, any reading of the Gospels soon dispels any thought that "God" or any belief in a Divine Spirit lay at the root of them. Likewise the land grabs that saw millions of Jews and peasants displaced from towns and villages across Russia as the aristocracy made a grab for land and power. The Pogroms of the Russian Tsarist State were justified by the publication of that most evil of all "enlightened" tracts, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" a work of pure fiction assembled by the Tsarist Secret Police and now regarded as "truth" by all anti-Jewish societies - including most atheists I have encountered.

Then we hit the 20th Century and find the victim count rises swiftly into the millions as war becomes the great game played by "enlightened" atheist dictators. There was no "religious" element to the declaration of the Great War, it was about land and power. Likewise the Second, yet now, the Atheist leader of Germany and his atheist henchmen declared a campaign of ethnic cleansing that beggars belief - yet is again denied by many now punting films like "The God Movie". Nor was Hitler alone in this. From 1923 to his death in 1951, Uncle Joe Stalin, beloved of the Left and Intelligentsia in the UK for his "Workers Paradise" calmly supervised the murder of thirty million of his own countrymen, Polish, German, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Romanian, Georgian and other Central and Eastern Europeans. And Britain's atheist Labour Party under Attlee colluded in the murder of 43,000 Cossacks they returned to the USSR knowing full well what Stalin intended. But let's not stop there, for we must not forget Pol Pot with six or so million of his countrymen to his "enlightened" credit and the unknown score for ho Chi Min and Kim Il Jong, Chairman Mao and our old pal Sadam Hussein (Who admittedly knew - like Joe Stalin - when and how to play the "religious" card to advantage) none of whom could ever be called "religious" and all of whom at one time or another declared themselves "atheist".

So what does the movie actually tell us about Jesus? Not a lot really, it draws hugely on the writings of the Gnostic branch of Christianity and the "library" of Arian Gnostic literature recently rediscovered in Egypt. It makes great use of our old friend Richard Dawkins who may be a great biologist but who patently knows nothing whatever about theology. It ignores or dismisses every document, book, historic fact and any evidence that supports our faith and concentrates on all the negatives it can find.

I think this is a film which tells us very little about Christ, but a great deal about those who do not wish to believe and who think that by destroying the faith of others they can somehow "elevate" society. As I look around me at the results of their "secular" society with no moral compass, no hope of higher things or guidance from anything other than "the inner being of human goodness" I do not think I see any hope for our society or our future. The greatest wars and the worst examples of "ethnic cleansing", the greatest slaughtering of innocents and the greatest enslavers of other humans have, to a man, been Atheists and their guides and henchmen frequently were Humanists.

Mankind inherently good? Mankind needing no "superstitious mythology"? Just take a look at what we do without it. Then go figure for yourself which is the greater evil.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Rain on the roof?

Today has seen some very heavy rain during the day, some hail as well just to give it a little more interest. Of course, now that we have a small part of the Abbey roof dismantled so that we can erect a scaffold on it to repair the tower, keeping the rain out is a small problem, though the contractor is doing his best.

The weather certainly isn't helping a difficult job. What are we doing? Well, in any building built of stone there comes a point at which some of the stone has eroded to the point that it needs to be replaced. As rebuilding isn't an option, this has to be done in one of two ways. Really damaged stones have to be partially broken out and refaced or replaced with new stone of the same type. Stones which are not so badly damaged can simply be refaced and the joints - which is where the erosion often starts - can be repointed or resealed with mortar. And sometimes neither of these options is suitble. Then it gets really creative, but always it has to be overseen by an archaeologist and all the necessary consents from the heritage monitoring bodies all have a say in how things are done.

But, stage one is getting access. Hence the scaffold, and this has proved more difficult to achieve than it was originally thought. But then, nothing to do with repairs on this building is ever straightforward!

And right now heavy rain is not what we need.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Chatham Dockyard contains an interesting structure now known as the BIG Store. In fact it was originally a covered hall in which the great "Wooden Walls" such as HMS Victory were built. At some time in the early 20th Century the slipway it covered was levelled and filled in and a mezzanine floor inserted as a storage space for ships' boats.

The main structure is all oak beams and the engineering is quite remarkable. This roof had to span over a hundred feet - a ship like Victory is 90 feet in the beam - and in length cover the full overall length of the largest ship being built within it's confines. And it had to do it without any internal props or supporting columns. The picture was taken on the mezzanine floor and shows the length of the hall, but not the depth - the mezzanine is around fifty feet above the main floor.

Ships built in the age when this was created (Mid-18th Century!) would have been "framed out" and then the bare skeleton allowed to stand unplanked over a winter season to "season" the frame and allow the joints to settle and "marry" properly. These frames were held together and in place using wooden pegs called "trenails" and after seasoning a Master Shipwright would have supervised his team of men to go round the ship and drive all the trenails fully home before planking started on the hull. The building ways were covered to prevent the rain, snow and damp from allowing fungus or rot to get into the timbers and, even once launched, the ship might have a "roof" built over her upper decks to keep them dry while the internal fitting out was done.

The methods may have been crude and the materials simple - but these fellows knew their trade.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

All good things .....

Today Mausi heads home for Germany, her holiday at an end and no doubt with a huge pile of work waiting at her desk. Still, judging by the photos she has left me of her stay, she has enjoyed it. It has included touring with my Iranian student friends - seen here at Newent on the Severn Estuary - and exploring castles and dockyards. 

Holy week and Easter are among the highlights she enjoys and the Iranian guys were fascinated by the preparations and celebrations. Our trip to the wilds of East Sussex and Kent added some more experiences and in this last week she has found herself helping with some of the matters I am responsible for in the Abbey, including testing new components of the audio system and discussing the possibilities of a new lighting scheme for this ancient building.

Bodiam Castle is a beautiful place, one we enoyed immensely exploring. It must have been a truly magnificent home until Cromwell and his supporters visited it, robbed it out and burned the interiors. Even crowded with people you can still get a feel for the 'home' it must have been to a fairly large household. The chapel in particular must have been really splendid and the Great hall range (to the left in the picture) and the Lord's quarters (the right hand wing) were luxurious in their appointments. The lake it sits in is an artifical one and the River Rother used to be deep enough for ships to come to a harbour created on the reverse of the bank from which this picture was taken.

Our visit to Chatham finished with a dinner in the George Vaults in Rochester, one of the so-named "Medway Towns" with its Norman castle and even older cathedral. There was a Saxon Cathedral here when the Normans came and built the present one. This is where the Monk was first Licenced as a Reader and he has fond memories of doing chaplain duty here on summer weekends. 

Finally it has been a busy week at home and with the Abbey demanding attention once more. This gave Mausi the opportunity to take some photos in areas she has previously visited, but not photographed. Some of these will appear here in due course I hope, though, for now, I will share just one more.

 When Mausi arrived the Copper Beech in the Abbey grounds was bare. In the last few weeks it has decked itself out for the coming summer with its full panoply of rich copper coloured leaves. Summer has arrived and Mausi will be heading home to the first signs of it in the Rhine-Pfalz with, I hope, a lot of happy memories.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Guido Fawkes' Blog has a very good take on the latest Budget. The top rate increase in tax means that the most entrepenuerial among us will now pay a minimum of 63.8% of their income directly to the government. When you add in all the stealth taxes Labour have brought in, the take becomes unsustainable. It seems that Labour will never ever learn that if you try to steal the rewards that these people generally earn by working longer hours than anyone else and harder than anyone else - you simply drive them away to go and earn elsewhere.

This principle was recognised in the 17th Century by Louis XIV's Minister of Finance who invented the "Laissez faire" approach to economic management. He felt that by liberalising fiscal policy and reducing tax he encouraged the attraction of wealth by enabling the entrepeneurs to flourish. He was right, and France has never been wealthier than under his management. A pity his successors tried to do what Labour always do - and steal more money from the hardworking to pay for ideological folly.

Time will, I think judge this budget, and I'm pretty certain it will be a damning judgement. I suspect that this budget will introduce a terminal decline in this nation's fortunes as a world centre for trade, finance and investment. The stupidity and dishonesty of the tax system here is becoming all too apparent - even the lowest paid are now paying over 40% of their income in direct and stealth taxes directly too the government. What do we get in return?

Not a lot, most of it pays fat cat Civil Servants to do as little as possible and prevent anyone actually getting anything like the services they are supposed to provide. And don't forget that under Labour the Civil Service has grown by a full 5th of its size. That is where your and my money is going - into worthless and pointless jobs for Labour supporters who are not providing the services they are supposed too because they are too busy shuffling pointless forms and setting equally pointless "targets" for each other.

Time to throw the lot into the sea. (Or the Thames - except that would render it unusable for far to long..... )

Thursday, 23 April 2009

St George for England!

It's St George's Day, England's national day and all around our town the St George's Cross is on display to mark it. What a pity our political leaders have spent the last ten years in particular and the last sixty odd in general denigrating and trying to destroy all vestige of the concept of being "English". Our Foreign Secretary, the aptly named Jack Straw, is even on record as saying there is "no such thing as an 'English' nation". Try saying something of the sort in any other European Nation or in Scotland Ireland or Wales and you'd very likely be torn apart by the public if not the media. Your political career would certainly be finished for good - but not in a political climate where the "victim" culture has such firm roots.

For far too long we "English" (And though I am foreign born all my roots are in England or Northern Ireland!) have allowed the Labour Party to get away with their promotion of the "English" as oppressors of their constituencies in Scotland, Wales and the North East. We have allowed their poodles in academia and the press/media to present the Scots, the Welsh (and even the Cornish now) as being the downtrodden minorities the "English" have discriminated against, stripped of their nationhood or shipped abroad. Certainly the "Plantation" of Ireland by the Normans, then the Elizabethans (On a much smaller scale than the Norman one) and finally the Stuarts who quite literally seized almost the whole of the North of Ireland (Including lands already purchased or awarded to "English" plantationers from the previous reign) and handed it out to their Scottish supporters. If anyone has been "downtrodden" since the Stuart reign it seems to have been the English and now the propaganda of the literary giants of the 19th Century has become the "Fact" rather than the fiction it was, replacing reality and truth with the much more exciting versions of events that the fiction author can create. Sir Walter Scot certainly based his work on historic events, though his portrayals of his "heroes" is usually far more romantic and very wide of the facts.

Perhaps it is time, on this St George's Day, as we once more contemplate a government hell bent on "tax and spend" regardless of the impact on the taxpayers, that is dominated by Scottish and Welsh MP's whose constituents are not affected by the measures they enact in Westminster, just who the "downtrodden" people of this United Kingdom are. Scotland has its own Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own Assemblies. Their affairs are decided by people elected by them in their own legislature. Westminster has become therefore an anachronism. It claims to be the "Parliament of the United Kingdom" yet, for the most part, its writ runs only to England and sometimes Wales. Labour's majority is made up of MPs elected in Scotland and Wales who have no constituency in England, yet they vote and rule in England and on English matters. Surely it is time this was addressed? Surely it is time to acknowledge that the United Kingdom exists only as an administrative exercise and Westminster is redundant. As the Treaty of Lisbon, aka The European Constitution, makes abundantly clear, the real power is vested in the Commission in Brussels and the Parliament in Strasbourg - not in Westminster.

So, the Monk's message for St George's Day to Mr Brown and his cohorts from North of the border and west of the Wye. Pack your bags and go home, the English have put up with you and your fictions for more than long enough. You do not represent us, you were not elected by us and you have sold our sovereignty to your Socialist pals in Brussels.

St George for England!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Historic Lifeboat Display

" They that go down to the sea in ships and do business on great waters" owe a lot to the volunteer crews who have, since the 19th Century, manned the lifeboats and lifeboat stations around the British Isles. These men and women put to sea in conditions that make experienced seamen go pale and they do it in small craft performing a huge task.

The RNLI uses boats designed to be vitually unsinkable. They can capsize, but are self-righting, they can be swamped, but remain afloat and drain the water out of themselves. Modern boats are powered by twin diesel engines specially adapted to the punishing task that is demanded of them, but, as the picture on the right shows, in the early boats there was a need to make use of sails as well. Look back to the earlier boats - some in use well into the 1930's - and you find that they were powered by oar. Many of these were launched into surf from specially designed cradles - and the shore party doing the launching were usually the wives of the crews.

An example of one such boat is shown on the left. Horses pulled the boat on its cradle to a beach near the wreck or distressed ship, then the crew climbed in and the "launchers" got to work, often walking neck deep into the surf to get the boat away. The closed sections at each end of the baot in the picture are flotation tanks which also serve to assist in righting the boat should she be capsized.

From the 1950's onward the boats have become both larger and more powerful and the self-righting more sophisticated. The bravery of the crews though, remains the key to the success of their service.

The picture on the right is of one of the larger boats from the early 1950's. Her crew spaces are enclosed and provided shelter for the rescued victims below decks though the crew and the coxswain in particular, remained exposed to the elements. The modern boats can be seen on the RNLI's website and on Wikipedia. They have fully enclosed helm positions, are fully self-righting and considerably faster than their predecessors.
As the Psalmist says, "These men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders of the deep." If you are looking for a nice smooth and comfortable trip around the bay - a trip to sea in one of these boats is probably not for you! By the same token the men who do take these boats out in response to any call for assistance deserve our respect and our support.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Diving deep ....

It takes a special type of person to make submariner, space is very confined, the hull is surrounded by a hostile element and the atmosphere inside the hull not much better. Modern submarines can dive to depths in excess of 900 feet and crews are trained to escape, in emergency, from depths of 600 feet. With crews of over a hundred men these "boats" are capable of spending three months or more submerged on patrol and, as recent events have shown, are very hard to detect.

This picture was taken of the helm position on a preserved submarine and the similarity to an aircrafts control column is evident. The helmsman or "Coxswain" controls both the direction - port or starboard, and the "altitude" of the boat. While this Control Room is now obsolete, modern "boats" are very similar, although frequently a lot more spacious. HMS Ocelot was diesel/electric, though her diesels did not connect directly to her propellors but served only to drive the massive generators that kept her battery banks charged. Using a snorkel she could run silently submerged while charging her batteries.

Cramped as they are, these boats don't have room for luxury and carried only enough water for drinking and essential use. The atmosphere got pretty rank as clothes and bodies went unwashed for the duration of a patrol. Modern submariners have it a little better and more comfortably, even though it is still a little Spartan by civilian standards. This can be seen in the picture alongside of the Petty Officers Mess.

One more point, submarines are always refered to as "boats" and not as ships. This is historic and goes back to their original classification as "submersible boats".

Perhaps the old Admiral who declared submarines "Underhand, under water and damned un-British" had a point. But I would also have to admit that if I were selecting astronauts for a prolonged spaceflight - I would select submariners!

Monday, 20 April 2009

A lovely morning...

Mausi is again enjoying an Easter vacation in Tewkesbury. Much of her time is spent in and around the Abbey - of course. Today is a lovely day with blue skies, lots of sunshine and temperatures just right to feel comfortable outside. Mausi took the opportunity to take a stroll around the Abbey in the morning as the sun seems always in wrong position to take good photographs of this magnificent building in the afternoon.

Abbey seen from the South

As soon as Mausi had knelt down by the water to take the photographs the ducks came to bid her a 'Very good morning!'.

Mausi ambled on around the Abbey to admire the 300-year-old Copper Beech at the northeastern end of the Abbey grounds that is just unfolding its leaves.

Only nine days ago not a single leaf was to be seen. One has to marvel at how nature tackles things once it has made up its mind.

Mausi just hopes this weather holds on for a bit longer....

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Reversed currents .....

Last week a long overdue repair to a damaged cable for the Abbey's electrical supply was carried out. All seemed fine, but I noticed that the organ's blower motors (there are four!) seemed to be making rather a lot of noise. As this is potentially dangerous and expensive, I went in search of the reason during the 0915 Mass. The Apse Organ blower is the most accessible and seemd to be making the most noise, so, having had a look at it, the duty Verger and I isolated it (It was running at the time!) and opened the bearing cover.

It wanted only a very brief check to tell us that it was running backwards. A swift check on the Tuba Blower revealed it was doing the same .......

Now this may seem strange, but in fact the type of fan used for this will actually "blow" air whichever way it runs, but it is much less efficient in one direction than in the other. Also, with the motor running backwards it isn't being cooled properly so there is a potential for overheating. Now, if two of the motors are running backwards, that tells us that all four are doing it, which means that at least one of the phases in the three phase supply has been reversed! As it is only the organ blower motors that run off the Three Phase supply (415v/45 amp) - everything else is single phase 240v/15 amp - we hope that it is ONLY the blower motors that have been affected. It still means that the Electricity supplier will have to get his team back here PDQ to fix this or face a large bill for any damage to the organs.

Now, a brief explanation is probably due as to why the organ will still run with the reversed phase. First, even if the blower is running at half its normal efficiency the instrument will still get sufficient pressure to play because all the blower does is inflate a "bellows" which is what gives the pressure and the stbility of the wind supply. What would become obvious is if there was a sustained crescendo with the biggest pipes and stops pulled because at half efficiency, the blower would not be able to sustain the wind supply required.

More worrying is that these fans are secured to the motor shaft with a large threaded nut. This is normally tightening itself as the motor runs, but with the motor reveresed, it is probably unscrewing itself and could come off the shaft at any moment. If it does, the force will wreck the fan and could do damage to other parts of the instrument.

Watch this space - especially as we have a visiting choir and organist and the Monk is taking tonights Evensong ......

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Chatham visit

Chatham Dockyard was established in the 1590's as a repair and building facility for the Royal Navy. It closed as a Naval Base and Dockyard in 1984 and is now a museum, home to a fascinating collection of ships and artifacts. Well worth the effort to visit it.

HMS Gannet
HMS Gannet is an interesting little ship, a survivor by accident almost from the Victorian navy. She has a composite hull, wooden planks on iron or steel frames, with a steam compound engine driving a single screw which could be disconnected and hauled into a housing under her stern when under sail alone. Under power she could achieve a steady 14 knots, under sail, somewhat less. Three boilers supplied steam to her engine and these required a long heating time to raise sufficient pressure. Unlike modern boilers, they were simply large tanks with a fire box beneath with a number of tubes taking hot gas and smoke through the water to discharge into the funnel. Modern boilers reverse this with the water in tubes and the heat around them.

Her armament was four 4 inch guns in raised positions (They can be seen on the fo'c's'le and poop with their splinter shields), a pair of Nordenfledt Quick firing guns and a large Muzzle Loading Rifled 64 pdr hidden beneath the fo'c's'le and firing throught the ports on either bow.

Breech-loading 4 inch gun

Muzzle Loading 64 Pdr Rifled gun, one of the gun ports is visible over the breech.

Nordenfeldt Quick Firing Mounting.

The Gannet spent most of her active service in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea suppressing slavery. Here she was engaged in a number of local battles and one of her officers was "murdered" and several of her seaman killed by slavers during raids. The ship took her revenge in due course and many slavers found themselves in irons, their ships sunk and their "cargo" returned to freedom.

Ironically she survives because by the time she returned to the UK after her deployment she was obsolete and was relegated to the role of training ship and then accomodation ship. Finally she was "lent" to the Maritime Society as a School ship becoming the TS Worcester, a role she held until the school closed in 1968. When she was recognised and her value realised, she was preserved and has undergone a lengthy restoration to bring her back to the state she would have been in in her slave patrol days. Still minus her engine and boilers and much of her internal furnishings, she is still well worth the visit.

Happy Birthday

Today is Mausi's birthday - many happy returns of the day to you. Hope the year ahead is full of fun and pleasant things.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Home at last

Home again, despite some interesting traffic on our way. The weather forecasts were wrong, we had rain all the way to Swindon when what was predicted was a South Coast clear and sunny.... 

Oh well, at least we were able to visit some interesting scenery and the Roman Palace at Fishbourne near Chichester. This enormous place was built within a few years of the Roman conquest of Britain and remained in use until it was destroyed by fire in 270 AD. No one knows what caused the fire, though the building was undergoing some changes at the time. Who can tell now, but it seems it may have been an early example of a fire caused by a workman's momentary inattention.

Porchester Castle remains to be visited - there simply wasn't time after a few traffic holdups passing through Brighton, and several other towns along the coast. The sea looked calm, depite the rain and it was great to see and smell it. Having lived two thirds of his life next to the sea the Monk misses it! 

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Exploring Chatham

The plan today is to visit the Medway, a bit of a haul from Hever, but an area with a rich history, Rochester has both a cathedral - one of the countries oldest - and a Norman castle, but we plan to visit Chatham where the old Naval Dockyard is now a museum with sevral preserved ships and recreations of the building docks and sheds.

Chatham was an important Naval Base as well as a dockyard and is where the ship which gave her name to a new breed of battleship was built. HMS Dreadnought changed the face of naval warfare with her "all big gun" armament, yet, just four years later she was almost obsolete as the "super dreadnoughts" began to take their place in the Fleet.

Pictures will, we hope, be available eventually!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Sea, shingle and castles .....

Staying at Hever Hotel for a couple of nights, just down the road from the famous Hever Castle where Henry VIII met Anne Boleyn. After a late start (due to a sales pitch that the Monk steadfastly refused to see any benefit in signing up too!) we made our way down to Bodium Castle  and spent several pleasant hours exploring the remains of what must once have been a really beautiful home until Cromwell's mob destroyed it.

Bodium is the last truly medieval castle built in England, but it is really a fortified manor house and a rather palatial one at that. We took a number of photos and will post these as opportunity serves. The castle is built in a small artifical lake, created by diverting streams and building dykes to create several large ponds. It is square in plan with corner towers, a Gate Tower and a matching second gate tower on its south side which is built over the Great Hall range. Approach is over a wooden bridge, riginally builtat right angles to the gate and ending on an outwork from which a short draw bridge allowed access to the Barbican Tower which protected another drawbridge which gave access to the main gate. Another bridge and drawbridge gave access from the South where a harbour had been created and the River Rother limited access for an attacker. Luckily, the castle's owners have preserved most of the main structure, lost however, are all the internal buildings which the Parliamentarians destroyed.

From Bodium we made our way to Rye, one of the ancient Cinque Ports, and then to Winchelsea Beach where we sat on the huge pebble bank and watched the sea, the ships and the fishermen for a while. Then it was time to return to Hever via an interesting route with many twists and turns along sunken lanes and clogged A roads until we found ourselves once more in our converted stable yard.

Pictures will be posted eventually. The one thing to mar the day was a pheasant who decided to make a kamikaze flight across our path - bird met wing mirror obliquely. Wing mirror one, an explosion of feathers, a smear of bird poop down the side of the car and a dead pheasant n the verge for the foxes later. Not a high point methinks but pheasant have to be the stupidist birds I have ever come across! 

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Dirt sticks .....

I'm not at all surprised by the revelations that have exercised so many in the political arena these last few days. Labour have always excelled at treachery, at smut and at smear campaigns. They used smear tactics to unseat Winston Churchill in 1945, they used the same tactics against the later Conservative governments of the 1950's once the Conservatives had lead the nation out of the massive debt Labour saddled them with in 1945 - 51 with all their seizure of private property and nationalisation of everything in sight. They used these tactics throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's and have carried on the smear and sneer campaign throughout their latest term of office.

There isn't an honest or decent sentiment in the Labour Party and there never has been. My father once described them as "Closet Communists" who tried to disguise their real intention to drag this country into a soviet style "Utopia" by calling them selves "Socialists" - but you don't need to look far to see their real nature. The McBride affair is just the tip of the iceberg. How much more isn't revealed? Gordon Brown's lukewarm response is surely telling - he knows full well that his "advisers" are hard at it with their chums in the Red Top media and the Murdoch controlled broadsheets cooking up the lies and the poison they hope will keep them in power.

Labour is a lie and it is founded on lies. Look at the leadership and the paymasters, all of them from public school and moneyed backgrounds. Where are the actual "workers" in their ranks, there are very very few and most of them in very junior positions. NuLabour/Old Labour makes no difference, their only stock in trade is to engender greed in the idle, envy in those who work for those who have money and position and to perpetuate the mythology of the "victim". In their definition we are all "victims" if we don't share the privileged backgrounds they enjoyed - but have no intention of allowing us to reach.

Dirty tricks is the stock in trade of this party of dishonesty and self-indulgence. Their only mantra is "Tax and Spend" and this shower of worthless parasites, the majority of whom have never done a useful days work in their lives, prove it. The last few years have seen our hard won freedom eroded to the point where they dictate what we may say, what we may think, and what we may do. We have no right of self defence should one of their "deprived" drug-taking, benefit claiming liberators of other peoples possessions decide to attack the rightful owner and we are monitored and filmed everywhere, even in our own homes. Send your PC for repair? Take care, someone at the repair shop will do a "hidden file" search and find all those naughty pictures you've been looking at.

I'd like to see Mister McBride's computer hard drive examined. I suspect the contents of his and every other "adviser" in this shameful Party that governs us would make extremely interesting viewing to the Thought Police. Oh, except that said Thought Police are in the Party's pay .....

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bristol fashion.....

Had the fun of taking the Iranian students currently studying at my former employer's faculty on a day out to Bristol. They are fun, there are five of them and though they are all 30+ and have wives, children and responsible positions in their home country its a bit like having five overgrown schoolboys in one's charge, yet their interest in everything you show them. Today we visited the ss Great Britain in her dry dock and the surrounding museum displays. Watching their reactions to this amazing ship and the re-creation of her accommodation which shows in stark contrast the difference between the comparative luxury of the First Class versus the Steerage. There was a moment of huge amusement when a young woman sitting on her own in a saloon in First Class was mistaken for a dummy (The dummy "lady" was seated at the other end of the upholstered bench) and one of the students seated himself giving excited instructions for the cameraman who only realised the mistake when the young woman began to giggle. Fortunately, she thought the whole thing was hilarious and rather flattering.

Last Saturday we took the same group to Chepstow and Caerwent. At Chepstow we were lucky enough to encounter a group of re-enactors who happily explained the armour, the long bow, the weaponry and gave the guys some fun demonstrations. Perhaps the most impressive one being the 16 year old who shipped the string and then bent his Yew wood long bow which has a measured "pull" of 150 pounds. Even the largest of the students could not draw the bow to its full extent, something I think they will remember for a long time - especially after the owner - the sixteen year old - then notched an arrow and sent it clean through the target at around 25 yards! The castle itself is now largely a ruin, but there is a good display and a number of well thought out re-creations in some roomswhich give a really good idea of how it functioned and its inhabitant's lived.

Caerwent was a little disappointing, but I will have to take another look at the remains of the Roman town another day - perhaps when I can do so without having to worry about my charges scattering like a herd of cats across a working farm!


Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all! Easter is at the very heart of the Christian faith, it is, after all, in the Resurrection of Jesus that we all live in the hope of a life hereafter.

Recently I was asked why I believed in the Resurrection and why I did not consider the whole thing just an elaborate confidence trick perpetrated for political reasons by the disciples. I will leave aside the "political" part at this stage and explain that the evidence presented by the Gospels, if examined forensically, would be sufficient to convince a court that it was real. So what is that evidence?

First the tomb was sealed and guarded, precisely because the authorities were afraid someone would pull of a body snatch. From the description it needed several men and probably some tools to shift the stone sealing the tomb and probably some device to remove the "seals" placed there by the Sanhedrin's officers. Something, during the night, caused the guards, not superstitious and badly paid bumpkins, but seasoned and battle hardened troopers, to run away. Whatever that was, it also opened to the tomb so that when Mary Magdalene and the others arrived, it was open.

Right, so that still doesn't rule out the intervention of a gang of men, or does it? Grave robbers would have snatched the body, wrapped temporarily in a linen grave shroud, as it was, and made a run for it before the guards could get back with reinforcements. That is not what happened. Now comes the interesting bit, the grave clothes were left as if the body had been slipped out of them, not possible if the descriptions of how a body was wrapped are accurate. But another key element is the position and condition of the clothe used to wrap the head - lying apart from the grave cloth and carefully rolled and placed. Again, this is not the action of a grave robber or body snatcher and the evidence suggests that both of these conditions where directly the cause of the frenzy of the Sanhedrin. What needs to be clearly understood here is that a host used the rolling of his napkin and its careful placement on the table as a signal to his servants to clear away the meal - in other words, a signal that the meal is complete.

So, we have a stone opened apparently without the use of tools, a body removed from its grave wrappings without disarranging the wrappings and a head clothe used to indicate that the task is finished. And now we come to the witnesses who all fail to recognise the risen Christ until, by some small gesture, action or, as in the case of Mary Magdalene, the use of a name or a tone of voice, reveals Him to them. What does this suggest? That the resurrection occurred in a manner that was beyond normal human experience and that the disfigured and broken man laid in the tomb rose from it renewed and in a form which we may all one day experience.

The work of a gang staging an elaborate ruse? I think not, there was not the time or the opportunity to pull this off. Those who were there did not doubt that what thy were witnessing was something extraordinary and the very diversity of experience and of witness description and detail lends strength to the physical evidence of the grave cloths.

Christ IS risen. Alleluia!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday and beyond

Its been a busy day, as it always is for those of us who try to keep this most important Christian celebration. The Solemn Liturgy of the Cross is really a continuation of the Maundy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper, a service which culminates in the stripping of all the altars and all decoration from the church except for the chapel in which the Consecrated Host is kept in readiness for the Solemn Liturgy.

Symbolically the reservation of the Sacrament in this chapel reminds us of the night spent by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and a number of "watchers" keep the watch through the night, praying in the chapel before the Host. The Solemn Liturgy on the Friday commences with the Sacred Ministers prostrating themselves before the High Altar then prayers and a reading from the Epistles are followed by the unaccompanied singing of the Gradual Hymn and the sininging of the entire Passion Gospel from St John.

At the end of the Gospel prayer precedes the carrying in of the veiled Crucifix by the Deacon which is unveiled with the proclamation at three "stations" in the nave of "Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Saviour of the World". At the head of the nave the revealed crucifix (A very large one) is venerated by the ministers, servers and congregation then carried to the High Altar and placed on a stand. The reserved Sacrament is carried in by the Sub Deacon and the congregation is communicated. Then a short collect is said, the Priest flings the book aside, strips off his vestments and these and those of the Deacon and Sub Deacon are flung onto the altar at the foot of the crucifix - and everyone turns away and walks out.

Symbolically this is one of the most powerful reminders to us all of the despair of the crucifixion and the loss of hope by His disciples.

The day continues with the Three Hour Devotion and a reflection on the love that hung on the cross for us all. What a preparation for the joy that is Easter and the Empty Tomb.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Changing climate

One of my regular reads is an electronic version of Scientific American which covers a wide range of scientific matters I find interesting. The latest covers a range of things scientists are doing in an effort to get a better picture of what is really happening in our atmosphere. Some may seem totally wacky, but all have a serious purpose and - to me at least - seem to be far more valid than some of the simplistic and often politically motivated ideas the idiots of Greenpeace and Fiends of the Earth scream, protest and campaign about.

Entitled Ten Important Atmospheric Experiments the ten snapshot articles are worth looking at. They certainly give a better picture of just how sciences is getting to grips with the problem of getting data that gives the real picture and some things that might possibly be done about correcting it. It's well worth the read.

Did you know that atmospheric carbon appears to be collecting at the North Pole and Oxygen appears to be richer at the South? No, neither did the scientists until recently and this is just one thing they are now having a better look at. Another is a proposal to change the inefficient, smoky and carbon soot producing stoves used by huge numbers of people in India for more efficient ones. This will reduce the atmospheric discharge of "black carbon" vast clouds of which drift over the Indian and Pacific Oceans at present and is apparently largely from these stoves. Changing them as part of a philanthropic programme will helpresearchers identify the effect this has on the carbon clouds observed drifting away from these countries.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

And the answer to yesterday's question ...

Is this. The picture yesterday is of the "action" that links the manuals shown here to the valves on the windchests that allow the pipes to "speak". And yes, it is programmable, though not in the sense of allowing it to play itself. The "Stops" visible on the side panels determine which ranks of pipes will speak on each manual and the keys determine when.

For the non-players among us, the top "manual" is the "Solo" and "Apse" organ, the next down is the "Swell Organ", the third is the "Great Organ" and the lowest is the "Choir Organ". Out of the picture is the "Pedal Organ". The "Pistons" visible between the manuals allow the organist to select a particular set of stops which he has pre-selected (The little row of "Programmes" visible above the upper manual in the Right hand corner of the face) which means he can change the register without having to take a hand off the relevant manual to do so.

This is the driving seat for the Mighty Milton which has 4,600 pipes and 64 speaking "stops" for the organist to use. And yes, it does take a maestro to make it perform well.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

In the works ....

A bit of fun for today. Anyone care to identify what this is?

As a bit of a clue, it is an essential part of something, which, despite appearances, is nothing whatever to do with a telephone exchange, although, in one sense it could be said to be programmable!

Monday, 6 April 2009

On Holiday at last!

Mausi has come to the UK to spend her usual Easter time-out at Tewkesbury. Today she has accompanied the Monk to Worcester Fire & Rescue Services and listened all day to an introduction to the new Code 9999 for Fire Safety. Absolutely ripping! To be honest, it wasn't that bad. Mausi learnt quite a few interesting things today. And it was good fun listening to a lecture in the secure knowledge that she was doing it for fun and wouldn't have to remember anything from it to pass an exam.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, a busy week for those involved in services of worship at the Abbey and a busy one for the worshippers themselves wherever they are. The services today have been very full, with many visitors and a big turnout of the normal congregation as well. Bishop John, the Bishop of Tewkesbury, Assistant Bishop to the Bishop of Gloucester, presided at both the Parish Eucharist and at the Sung Eucharist at 1100.

Tonight, instead of Evensong, we have the St Mark Passion, a Cantata by Charles Wood entitled The Passiontide Cantata.

May all my readers have a blessed week of preparation for the great Feast of Easter.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Thought for the day

Thought for the day on Radio 4 is often stimulating, but one I heard yesterday was a good wake up call. The UK's Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, spoke very powerfully of the cycle of history. It has a nasty habit of repeating itself as soon as it fades from human memory. This is something I am all to well aware of myself as in my own chosen profession and career I have seen lessons learned in blood and lives change the face of our operations more than once - and I am now seeing those who have displaced, replaced and otherwise assumed the posts us "dinosaurs" have left discarding everything we learned and adapted to deal with - and now they are repeating the mistakes that cost my generation so dearly.

The Chief Rabbi used the Passover tradition, where the Jewish gather the family and tell the story of the Exodus - an event 33 centuries old - to their children and grandchildren. Why is it important that they remember such ancient history?

Perhaps most importantly it is that event that defines them as a people, they passed from being a suppressed minority into being a nation that not only has its own history and traditions, but came to be the "chosen" of God. Secondly, as he pointed out, nations that forget or abandon the teaching of their national history, that do not give their children and their children's children that same sense of identity soon cease to exist. He pointed out that British History and perhaps more specifically English History is now taught, if at all, in a derogatory manner, emphasising the worst and denigrating the finest achievements. If that continues, we have no hope of survival, for the tide of history will engulf us in a morass of the mistakes of the past.

His second example was the Great Depression of 1929. Those who lived through it vowed it would "never happen again" and, as long as they were alive it was a promise they managed to keep. But, and this is telling, one of those survivors wrote in 1954 that it could happen again - as soon as his generation was no longer around to recall how it had happened and what had caused it. And now, 80 years on, it has happened again - and for all the same reasons.

Our present UK government suffers from a peculiar form of hubris. They do not believe that there was ever a "great Britain" and they do not believe that there is any purpose in studying history. Both of those doom this nation to oblivion - unless some of us make the effort to keep that history in perspective, keep it alive and, perhaps most importantly, keep alive the lessons that it teaches. If we do not, there are any number of really nasty events that are likely to be repeated.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Strident atheism

Recently I have noticed an increasing number of extremely strident and vituperative attacks on faith, specifically, on any form of Christian belief. One, on a forum I follow dedicated to Scifi, contained what I can only describe as a virulent attack on God, describing Him as a "baby killing ..." and the rest was equally ill-informed and offensive. The following day there was a news item trumpeting the availability of a "parchment" certificate of "de-baptism" accompanied by the statement that "a hundred thousand people in the UK are actively seeking to have their baptism annulled." Sadly, what this tells me more than anything else, is that they do not even begin to understand what baptism represents or that it is not some sort of permanent marking - failure to live up to the vows made at baptism or simple failure to even attempt to grasp the essential elements of the faith you were baptised into is sufficient to annul it. One of these rather sad people - aged he says 54 - is planning to sue the Church of England to have his name 2erased from the baptism registers" of the church in which he was baptised.

All I can say is that tells me that he is afraid of something - perhaps even afraid that his avowed "rationalist atheism" might turn out to be wrong and that nasty indelible baptism may turn out to mean that he winds up in an afterlife he doesn't believe in. What a shame, and what a great shame that those who are so quick to attack faith, don't take the trouble to find out what it is they reject.

I find it fascinating that these attacks are almost exclusively directed at Christian beliefs by a group who seem to be afraid that they are losing the battle to spread their message of unbelief. It is equally interesting to see that they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on Christian Forums and in Christian Chat rooms trying to denigrate the faith of those in these electronic discussions. Visit the BBC Faith Forum and what you find is a small number of truly angry and offensive individuals attacking everyone who dares to challenge their vitriolic attacks on our faith.

It is pointless trying to reason with these people, it simply drives them into an even more offensive frenzy. Considering that most of them will loudly and constantly proclaim that they are being rational and anyone of faith is not, you have to wonder why they get so angry when you try to discuss your point of view. Richard Dawkins is a case in point, he almost froths at the mouth as soon as he is confronted by someone who does believe in the Almighty and His Grace and, if you have the time to waste and read his book, you very rapidly discover that his understanding of Christianity or any other faith is so superficial it is nonexistent.

That much was obvious from the post on the Scifi Forum, the poster (and I note that his comment seems to have been removed by the Moderators) was trying to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his statement that we cannot expect God to rescue us from the folly of destroying our planet's ecosystem, was saying that there is no God. Having actually heard the Archbishop, rather than having read the selective report on it, I can say that is most certainly NOT what he said and nor would he ever imply such a thing. Only someone with a completely closed mind and a lack of any understanding of the manner of God's working in the world could possibly make the conclusion he did.

As I said, I do wonder what it is that drives the atheist adherents to feel that they have to attack the faith of anyone who doesn't share their rather sad view that our existence here is all there is? I can only think it must be the fear that they may be excluded by their own actions and want to make sure everyone else is too. Fortunately for us all - including them - God is far more merciful and just than we can even begin to imagine and they may yet be pleasantly surprised by Him.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A new Darien Adventure?

Or perhaps it was the South Sea Bubble revisited? Am I perhaps reading too much into the fact that the two UK banks who seem to have brought our entire financial system crashing down and plunged the English based one's in jeopardy are both Scottish? Royal Bank of Scotland is considered "too big to be taken over" so the UK taxpayer has had to rescue it, unlike HBOS (also known as Halifax Bank of Scotland) which our Scottish lead Cabinet approved a buyout by Lloyds TSB - without apparently disclosing the fact that HBOS was so deep in the mire that it has dragged Lloyds, one of the best managed and safest down into the mire with it. I should perhaps explain that Halifax Building Society became a "bank" and went public, only to find itself taken over by Bank of Scotland as the two biggest Scottish Banks tried to outbid and outgrow not only each other but every other UK and EU bank they could find.

It was the recklessness of the Scottish Parliament in the late 17th Century that brought the Scottish economy to its knees and it seems that the Scottish extravagance exercised by our Scottish Labour MP Chancellor and now PM has ruined the UK economy just as surely. The Darien Adventure saw the Scottish Parliament "buy" land in South America from the Spanish. They then sent out shiploads of Scottish peasantry (and a few middle class folk just to govern them) and tried to establish a colony on the Darien coast. The equivalent of buying swampland in Florida today to build your dream home. They compounded this a few years later (After the English had bailed them out and forced through the Act of Union 1707) by throwing even more money into an investment scam that came to be known as "The South Sea Bubble". The bubble burst and scuppered Scottish dreams of buying independence from the Union for three hundred years.

Now they seem to have tried it again, only this time Labour's Scottish MPs and Cabinet are ruling the English and paying the bills in Scotland out of Union taxes, the bulk of which are raised in England. And once more they have been profligate with the money. And once again, the bubble has burst and the economy is in deep trouble, they have borrowed to the hilt, sold off the industries we used to have, cut the armed forces to the bone, reduced the fleet to a skeleton and the RAF to a shadow. Our banks are now in the hands of Civil Servants who couldn't manage their way out of wet paper bags or sold off to the Spanish. (Santander, the Spanish Financial giant has swallowed everything the Treasury hasn't yet managed to ruin.) Our Merchant shipping fleet is no longer British flagged or owned and the few remaining industries are owned by French, German or Japanese corporations. Even the Vauxhall car plant is likely to go as a result of GM's woes in the US and Mister Obama's insistence that GM must cut back and reshape itself. Very little of the UK's commercial activity is now UK owned and even less of our service providers. NPower, the former British Nuclear Power generator is now owned entirely by a German power supplier, the French on SE Power and London Electric and Thames Water and Severn Trent are also owned by European companies.

I have wondered before this whether our present government, the cabinet was, until recently almost exclusively Scottish or Welsh, wasn't running an agenda which was to completely destroy the "English" in revenge for their imagined "victimisation" under the Union. The recklessness of the spending plans they have espoused, even though these often contained elements of double accounting, were simply unsustainable and have led us to a position where the pound has crashed in value and the threat of our foreign owned industries closing down to save the jobs in their own countries is very, very real. Today we have suffered yet another rise in fuel tax - the government hoping that we won't notice in the plethora of stupidity that is the demonstrations against the G20, but we will and we have. As for the morons who want a return to the "Fuel Tax Escalator" all I can say is that there is some swampland owned by the Scots that needs a new bunch of settlers. Oh, and it won't be accompanied by the benefits and handouts you currently enjoy.

Labour's Darien Adventure has brought our economy to its knees, we can only hope that we can save enough of it to bring this nation back to productivity and restore our fortunes. It is time to put an end to the Tax and Spend of the socialist left and restore some common sense. Perhaps we can even persuade Mr Brown to remove himself and all his PC Brigade North of the Border - and invoice his Party for the £400million they shelled out to build a Parliament that now costs several billion to run - and is probably another major cause of the economic woes we face.

As I believe Cromwell told Parliament - "For too long you have disgraced this House. In the Name of God - go!"

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Boys behaving badly ....

A conversation a few days ago set me thinking and doing a little digging into the reason that so many young men and teenage boys seem to have social problems today. Several reasons suggest themselves as pieces of what does seem to be a very complex puzzle, and some of them certainly aren't rocket science.

Where women were at a disadvantage fifty years ago, young men are increasingly disadvantaged today, particularly, it seems, if they are white and lower middle or working class. Young men and boys are now routinely portrayed on TV as stupid, inept and generally incapable of getting anything right. Girls on the other hand are portrayed as bright, adept and always in control and this theme carries through a range of media. Look at the Harry Potter series, Harry and Ron are always clumsy and obsessed with sport or dodging study while Hermione is always on top of the game, way ahead of Harry or Ron and certainly the brains of the outfit. Yes, Harry or Ron sometimes behave heroically, but generally they are shown in a rather negative light against the brilliance of Hermione.

Studies recently have shown that boys and girls have different learning processes, yet our education system is now geared only toward the system by which girls learn best and placing the boys at an immediate disadvantage. There is a reason truancy is higher among boys than girls and it is, quite frankly, that the education system is designed to demotivate the boys. It is no accident that boys do well in "Boys only" schools, and girls do even better in "Girls only" environs, but this does not fit the current trend to socially engineer a society in which white men are relegated to second class citizens. All too often at present one hears politicians calling for quota systems to be introduced to "redress the balance" and "raise the profile of the under represented", all of which directly impact on young white males. What does this tell the teenager struggling through the feminised Comprehensive (Failure) School where he is unlikely to get the sort of education he needs to rise above the herd and get that boost into university (Assuming if he is in England, that he can afford the fees or find the means to pay back the loan which pays for them.) which may eventually enable him to get a well paid position in a career of his choice.

I recently asked a young man what he intended to take as his A-Levels once he has his GCSE's (He's bright and predicted to get A's and B's for the GCSE's he's taking.) and his response was disturbing. It was simply, "I'm not taking any. What's the point, I won't get a better job with them, all the good jobs go to girls now." How do I persuade him otherwise? On the same day the Chairman of the Local Government Association was demanding that my former profession must be forced to recruit women only until the service reflects 40% women and 5% ethnic minorities. I have nothing against women or any other section of society, but I do have a very strong view of anything that smacks of discrimination, whether dressed up as "positive" or otherwise. The line between "positive" discrimination and "negative" is extremely thin and our present lords and masters are walking a very dangerous line in promoting a policy that our youth see as biased and unfair to anyone white and male.

Then there is a apparent increase in violence practiced by our teenagers. Again our government has disarmed the populace, removed the right of self-defence (It's so tied up in legal niceties its almost impossible to prove that you were defending yourself, a situation not helped by every criminal charged with violent and deadly assault trying to argue that he was "in fear of his life".) that the only people who now routinely carry weapons are the criminals - and the youngsters who have no role models worthy of the name to emulate. Take a look at the most popular video games, almost exclusively gory and violent and then tell me yet again that these have no influence on the mind of the player. In my own youth we played with toy guns, and we knew it was all make believe. None of us would have dreamed of taking out our father's service pistol or rifle and playing with that, we knew what the consequences were likely to be. Now we here of "anger management" counselling for the violent, but this seems to include encouraging the afflicted to play his favourite and frequently truly violent game!

I will say that I am no prude, yet I am now probably going to prove that I am by saying that I find the dress (or lack of it) of many young girls (and I do mean young!) disturbing. Then these same girls complain that the boys are only interested in sex. And the boys find themselves accused of harassing the girls or, worse, of molesting them or even in extreme cases of rape. Yes, I'm getting older, but no self respecting girl would have dreamed of dressing the way so many now do when I was a teenager, for one thing their parents would have banned them from setting foot outside, let alone run off to see the boys like that. So what do we expect our boys to do or think when an attractive girl wears a provocative outfit and then sends such mixed signals? Why are we, and they, surprised when the boys respond inappropriately?

Our boys today frequently have no real role model, no one who sets an exemplar pattern that inspires any boy to follow in that lead. Who are these kids "heroes"? pop stars, most of them drug takers and most of them really socially repugnant. Football stars, many of them with "anger management" problems and some really anti-social attributes. Where do we think the boys get this habit of spitting everywhere and all the time from? On the one hand they are constantly told that discipline at home infringes their "rights" yet we expect them to impose their own "self discipline" without ever having any guidance on what is, and is not, socially acceptable behaviour until they get hauled before a magistrate for the routine slap on the wrist in a family court.

This flows over into the perceived state that a "single parent" home is better than a home with a father in it. Yes, some fathers are bad parents and yes, some marriages should not be perpetrated at all cost, but far too many young mothers seem to think they can do the job better without a father around and many seem to be encouraged into this by the ubiquitous "Social Worker". Fatherhood has been given a very negative image in recent years again creating the mindset among many teenage boys that once they got the girl pregnant they have no further role or place in her life. Many of these do not even know for sure who their own fathers are because they are themselves from a home in which "father" changed regularly according to their mother's latest fling.

This is, as I said at the outset, a very complex issue and political ideology which pursues a "social engineered" society is not helping it at all. In fact it is a major part of the problem. Our young men and boys are being made to feel that they have no place in our future society. They feel they have been sidelined and are cut off from any hope of a meaningful place in that society. They are not given the best educational opportunities because the system has been slewed against them and feel they have no real chance of finding a suitable career and future. So what have they got to lose when they pick up a knife or a gun, deal in drugs or get a girl pregnant. In their eyes nothing and our society will have no future unless this trend is reversed - but it may already be far too late for the present generation.