Sunday, 30 August 2009

Family ties?

I have long known that I have German relations, but more recently I have begun to wonder if they lie a little closer than "by marriage". One thing that has sparked this thought is the Genographic Surbey and Family Tree DNA project to which I submitted a DNA sample. It has turned up the fact that genetically I am a European, I have the typically Western European Haplotype (R1b1) and the dominant end Y Marker M343. This means I belong to the human group that migrated along the edge of the Ice Sheet covering Northern Russia and Europe and then down the west of Europe and the British Isles. Not surprisingly I have found a number of genetic matches (Or rather FT DNA have!) scattered across North Europe and the low countries. Some in Normandy, a lot in the UK and in Ireland. The genetic group is a major part of the Keltoi people - the Celts.

So I have been looking at my father's family line again. His mother's family name was Nielsen and it was always said that the family was Danish, but now I begin to wonder. In the time that he was born, Schleswig-Holstein was, at least partly, ruled by Denmark and he seems to have arrived in South Africa around the time of the big "German Settler" migration which was largely the Hanoverian Legion's soldiers who were given land grants in what is now called the Ciskei. He certainly settled and raised his family in an area that was strongly associated with that settlement. Sadly I do not have sufficient information at present to do a proper trace on him and his roots and the response from South Africa to any enquiry for Births/Deaths information meets with a total lack of response.

I shall have to track down my surviving cousins there and see if any of them can throw any more light on this.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Baltic Interlude

Mausi and the Monk are having a short break in Lubeck, the ancient Hanseatic League city in Schleswig-Holstein, North Germany. We are using the opportunity to discuss our future and to enjoy exploring the city where Mausi was born. It will be a busy three days.

Pictures will follow in due course.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Heading out

Posting will be a bit sparse over the next few days as I am heading for the airport and thence to Hamburg and Lubeck for a short break.

Pictures and reports when I am back. THis will be the last opportunity for a break and an important discussion with Mausi before I head to Tehran once more for three months work there. There is a lot to settle and discuss before I go.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Death of a Fire Fighter

The death of Watch Manager Paul Fletcher of the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service on Monday night is a tragedy for a service used to a very low casualty toll. I had the privilege of training Paul some years ago and know he will be missed by his crew and certainly by the service.

Unfortunately the rising toll in Fire Fighter lives since the "modernisers" ripped the heart out of the service, threw out the Discipline Regulations and introduced "Itsy Pitsy Diddly Squat" as a training system at the behest of the Union, the Civil Service (who hate professionalism in anything they can't understand) and the Chief Fire Officers Association and their Puppet Masters the Local Government Association so that they could parachute into command positions people without the experience or the knowledge necessary, is now coming home to roost in terms of increasing Fire Fighter fatalities. Equally unfortunately they will never be called to account for this mess because their Lords and Masters in Westminster and Whitehall are busily covering it up.

It is a disgrace that people like Paul are paying the price. Pray please for his family and friends - and for the repose of his soul. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hurricane's seldom happen ....

The tail end of Hurricane Bruce is busily passing the west of the UK today bringing wind and yet more rain to our shores. I wonder how long it will be before the media start whipping up a panic based on "Global Warming/Climate Change will see the UK suffer hurricanes on a regular basis"? I'm expecting to hear at least some such claim within the next few days.

An interesting item on Watts wrong with that recently raised an interesting point. It points out that a crucial dataset being used by a prominent leader in the whole "Climate Change is All Down to Human Activity" debate - and one of the Obama Administrations "favoured" advisers, is excluding a large section of the record which shows a deep trough and record high in temperatures. They have chosen to start their dataset in the years immediately following that which shows only a steady rise in temperature. Reading these pages I am reminded of an after dinner speaker I once enjoyed listening too who said of transport safety statistics as "You draw a line above the Titanic and then only count everything that happens after that."

It seems to be a trick our Climate Change lobby have mastered pretty well. Only count the stuff that makes human (particularly western human) activity look bad. I wonder what the real agenda is?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Keeping up with science

Writing SciFi is quite a challenge these days, it often seems that scientific advances and technology is advancing so fast it is almost impossible to come up with something "futuristic". When I started writing my Harry Heron series, the idea of ships that were run by "intelligent" computers seemed like a suitably "future" scenario. The book was no sooner in print than I discovered that there were already plans for a computer that ran on a sort of neural net rather than on banks of processors, hard drives and so on as we have now. I had already envisaged my future computers running on fibre-optic type wiring, so in the next I took that step further and made the ships self aware and able to "converse" with the heroes. Book 3 takes that to its ultimate expression with the ships experiencing a range of "emotions" and emotional problems. Where to from there?

Reading several scientific journals and blogs I find myself sometimes wondering whether this is a sustainable growth or whether it will eventually lead to something like the human race dividing as H G Wells "Time Machine" envisaged with one group of tree-hugger types being cultivated by the sinister sub-surface dwelling cannibals. The world seems to be dividing into a scientifically adept and aware group and those among them who use science (or a "media ready" version) to manipulate politics and the people they rule, and those whose scientific understanding is best described as "limited" and rely on what they are told in the media to even begin to grasp some concepts. Hence the whipped up storms over things like GM foods, irradiated fruit and the "Sky is falling" Global Warming debate. The divide is gettig wider all the time and is made far worse by the refusal of some members of the science community to consider anything which challenges their own favoured theories or to consider data which comes from another discipline which may suggest a different path to the one followed by a particular line of theory.

Part of the problem is the misuse in the media of the word "theory" which, in scientific terms, has a particular meaning. It is further complicated by the use of statistical analysis in "proving" theoretical work. Statistics can be used and misused in a number of ways and almost all the data used in the Climate Change modelling or reporting is "smoothed" in some way. Put simplistically, "smoothing" involves "averaging" the data so you end up with a "mean value" which is easier to work with, but this excludes sometimes significant variations in the measurements. That is not, in itself so significant, but it can, if extrapolation is then applied, produce some very dubious results. Statisticians look for "significant trends" in their numbers and most would be very quick to tell you that it still provides only a snapshot of what has happened, not necessarily what will. And therein, for the wider public lies the problem, most of us do not have the technical expertise to understand the processes or the significance of a very complex process of analysis - and most media reporters don't either, so they go for the sensational interpretation and the politicians encourage this.

What concerns me more than anything else as I try to stay abreast of science is the knowledge that the vast majority of the human population of this planet don't even have a basic understanding of the science or the technology we in the "developed" world take for granted, but seldom fully understand ourselves. This gap is getting wider as well and I'm not at all sure it can be bridged. Which leads me into my final point, one of the things I have had to consider in writing about the future. What will the future world population look like?

I'm still not sure, though I think it will be much more racially mixed than at present, I think the divide between the educated and the under developed will get wider - but above all the ppulation will have to be reduced and that is neither popular nor easily achievable in any forum. Study of the socio-economic relationship between wealth and population quickly exposes that poverty and population are linked, so is education and wealth. Poorly educated populations with a low per capita wealth index are much more likely to be found in overpopulated areas than in wealthier ones. How one addresses this, particularly in fiction is tricky and in reality I suggest impossible despite all the good intentions in the UN and various governments. That makes one aspect of writing SciFi easy. Human nature doesn't change - the human propensity for corruption, self-interest and their opposites provide plenty of fodder for storylines and will do for as long as there are human beings telling stories.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Book reviews

Just as I was starting to think I wouldn't see another review of The enemy is within I have been pleasantly surprised by the appearance of this on Blogger News. I'm flattered by the reviewers take on my time travelling trio and their development in their new roles. It took quite a while to get that book into the right shape.

It is encouraging to learn that someone found it a rivetting read. Now I hope it will move me a step or two closer to finding a publisher for the third book.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Justice and liberal sentiment

The release by the Scottish Justice Secretary raises some interesting issues, both moral and legal. In the first instance, and after listening to Lord Mandelson, one of the architects of the rapid demise of Britain as a power of any sort, defending the decision to release the Lockerbie/PanAm bomber, I was left wondering just what the purpose of maintaining the pretense that Westminster represents the UK is. Lord Mandelson claimed that the Scottish Justice Secretary had the authority to order the release without consulting Whitehall or Westminster.

Fair enough, if this was not a matter of some diplomatic or international importance. Then, surely, if the Scottish Parliament is really supposed to handle only "Domestic" matters and leave "Foreign Affairs" to the Foreign Office in Whitehall - why was the Foreign Office not involved? What this clearly says is the Scotland is now a completely independent nation setting its own foreign affairs agenda and to hell with the rest of the UK. That is the legal issue to be addressed by someone.

Then there is the moral confusion in this instance. Certainly the bomber is supoposedly dying and has only weeks to live. So they say, but who really knows and how was that determined. The "liberal" lobbyists demanded his release on "Humanitarian" grounds, but I am forced to ask, where is the bombers "humanitarian" consideration for his victims? WE were recently reminded by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the Prosecution of criminals does not take into account any consideration of the victim, that is not the purpose of the Prosecution, and this is where our "justice" system is failing badly. The focus is so much on ensuring the "rights" of the criminal are not infringed that the victims have got lost out of the equation.

Years of "liberal" intereference has taken all element of "punishment" out of "justice" and argued for "reforming the character" of the criminal. Constantly we are told that "custodial sentences do not reform and simply reinforce criminal activity". That jail is a "training ground for crime" and that "Life sentences" should not be draconian and remove all hope of eventual release. So now someone who kills another with premediation can expect to spend twelve years behind bars and then be let out "on licence" - another myth hiding the fact that most vanish and can't be traced - to live a normal life fully equipped with new criminal skills and probably the legal training to know exactly how to get away with it all. No wonder crime increases exponentially year on year despite this governments constant massaging of the numbers to try and disguise the truth that "justice" is no longer meted out and no longer served by the system they have created.

To be effective "Justice" needs to provide punishment for the perpetrator and some form of closure for the victim. To often the victim finds that their need for closure is forgotten and all to often have to face the sort of triumphal celebration by the criminal's supporters that we have seen recently with the release of the Lockerbie Bomber. Or the preganat drug smuggler sentenced to "life" in a Thai jail, yet released already from the British jail campaigners fought to get her repatriated too on "humanitarian" grounds. Justice? For who? Someone who plants bombs for whatever "cause" and someone who knowingly accepts money for smuggling drugs they know will cause untold misery does not deserve sympathy, but their victims do deserve justice.

To be effective, Justice must be seen to be done. It cannot be viewed as yet another "Social Engineering" tool devoid of deterent or punishment. To often it is seen today as a "reward" or a "badge of honour" by the criminal classes when it should be something that sends a shiver of fear through anyone even contemplating a crime.

This imbalance must be addressed - and soon.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Like a duck to water ...

My son has a new hobby - sailing. He has acquired a boat which he keeps on the medway, a fast sailing dinghy and a lively one too. He has also taken a course in sailing with a professional sailing instructor and can now probably teach me a few tricks at the helm of his boat. Many years ago I owned and sailed a Fireball, a super fast dinghy that was a real handful in a good blow - but could it move! My son's boat is a similar mover, more recent in design than the Fireball it has aneat hull and a big sail area. As can be seen in the picture he sent me, it can a wet sail but an exhilirating one - and the spills, as wih my old boat - are spectacular as well.

My boat was named Extravagance, apt because it was, Nic and his boating partner have named theirs "Hannah May" in honour of their girlfriends. Sailing is obviously in the blood, because I got my love of it from my father and now my eldest daughter has joined my son in sailing when he'll let her.

Friday, 21 August 2009

New book draft

It's a while since I've said anything about my writing on here and some of you may be wondering if I have given up on it. The answer is no, but I have been rather busy trying to get sales going on The enemy is within while also taking into account a publisher who pays nothing on sales through Amazon because of the size of the discount they demand. Oh, and they have changed ownership as well and the new contract isn't quite what the old one failed to deliver anyway.

Despite that, I am encouraged by the fact that it is selling, albeit slowly and only through the UK Amazon site. And I have been busy canvassing agents in the search for a more mainstream route to publishing my books. After all, that is why we write isn't it? So Book 3 is well developed and in its third draft now. I'm pleased with it though there is probably a lot that can still be improved on. It is provisionally called "On the Run" and takes Harry and his friends into a very dangerous and potentially deadly situation.

In parallel with that I have a fourth book almost completed in first draft. This has the working title "Their Lordships request.." and tracks Harry and Ferghal's (and Danny Gunn's) early career on the voyage that took them to New South Wales, the Coral Sea and India before they were snatched into the future as told in "Out of Time". Like Out of Time I have two storylines running in this one - one in Harry's present and one in their future ....

It has proved interesting, challenging and is turning up some glitches from my earlier books too. Fortunately none disasterous! Do keep your fingers crossed for the acquisition of a reliable and effective agent so these books can find their way into print and onto bookshelves. I may never get rich from this, but it does give me pleasure to know that some of you read them and enjoy them. Thanks for the support.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Renewing stones.

Nine hundred years can be hard on a building. It needs a lot of TLC to keep it looking good and to keep it standing and stable. One reason the Abbey is still standing is that in the 19th Century the architect Gilbert Scott was commissioned to undertake a major restoration. Scott's radical repairs and even more his ruthless removal of all the 16th, 17th and 18th Century clutter from the Abbey triggered protests in Parliament (As if they'd know anything about churches) and eventually the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and English Heritage.

If either organisation operated on common sense and recognised the fact that these buildings are here because they have evolved, changed and adapted to changing circumstances I would have more sympathy with their attempts at preservation. But the work on the Abbey tower is an effective case in point. The West Face of the Tower is badly eroded. In fact some of the detail on the blind arcading will no longer even be visible in as little as ten years, yet English Heritage and the SPAB are adamant that what little remains is "historically important" and must under no circumstances be replaced. Until, of course, it crumbles and vanishes altogether. So now we have the crazy situation where in order to preserve the building we are replacing some stones, beautifully carved to be exact replicas of the original and even using tools identical to those used by the original workmen - yet these are set in place among stones so worn the pattern is already all but lost.


But here, for those interested, are some views of the work and of the damage that must be addressed. If you are interested in offering us some assistance in completing the work or assisting the work of the Abbey, please contact the Abbey Office through the website.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Student fees/Student debts

Listening to the debate currently in the news concerning the level of student debts as our "Socialist" NuLabour Gauleiters try to drag more young people into university courses I am once more struck by the gap between the student reality and Whitehall/Westminster perceptions of reality. The Minister for Higher Education believes, because his puppet masters in the Civil Service tell him it is so, that student debt is reducing because although 43% are now taking up university places, only 58% are "in debt" and they claim this figure is down on previous years. Of course, you do have to look at how these figures are derived, and they are based on how many graduates are owing more than the Departments "average". Yet, in the Today programme on BBC Medical students and law students typically finish their courses owing the government or the banks more than £40,000 while a teacher may owe in the order of £25,000 (Around £2,000 above the average). Given that the "average" was, until recently, £15,000, this is a bit disingenuous.

Then there is the lottery of how much a family may get in support. Student grants are "Means tested" so that the poorest families may qualify for a full support grant (The student may still have only around £45 per week to live on) or a lesser amount if your parents combined incomes are below a "threshold" above which they are considered "wealthy". This is the trap that my family have always fallen into - my income and that of my ex-wife's have always been just above that threshold and some Whitehall W*nk*r has always taken great delight in simply rejecting every application and then billing us for everything they can - because we're supposed to be wealthy. So the Minister cheerfully announcing that "There are always those just above or just below the threshold who will win or lose ..." made my blood boil. Since the W*nk*rs that make up these rules and set the thresholds they are so rigid on are all able to send their children to private schools and the best universities at my expense because they are paid inflated salaries and - being the insiders to the rules, know exactly how to manipulate the system - make me pay again to support their childrens education by drawing the very support and benefits they deny my children. Someone somewhere needs to start asking how come some of the oiks now running Whitehall Departments can amass the sort of incomes that allow them to buy properties worth half a million or more in choice locations on what they claim are "average" salaries. Lies, damned lies and Civil Service statistics?

The government and the Civil Service argue that any student with a degree can earn "more than £100,000 more than someone without a degree - over their working lifetime. That last bit is the catch. As one architecture student said on the show yesterday, he would be looking to start work as an architect on £19,000 a year - assuming he could find a job - and unless he could set up his own practice or buy a partnership at some stage, would be unlikely to earn more than the equivalent of £50,000 a year by the end of his working life. In the meantime he had a debt of £40,000 to pay back and this meant, if he got a job, being unable to set aside anything for a pension until he earned considerably more.

On top of this universities in England are charging, at the government's behest (Remember that this Government is dominated by Scottish MP's whose dictats in Westminster have no impact on their constituencies in Scotland) Tuition Fees of up to £3,000 a year. Sounds OK until you learn that in Wales the Assembly subsidises this for Welsh students and in Scotland there is no such fee - unless you are a student from an English home. EU students are exempted by EU Law which states that they must be treated in the same manner and receive the same benefits as "nationals" - but apparently this does not extend to students who are "English" because the law in England says you can charge them .... Only a Civil Servant could create a system as unfair as this and only a socialist w*nk*r in NuLabour could ever argue that it is "fair" and a "matter of choice". And in the meantime the English taxpayers subsidise the Scottish students and the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Labour MPs constituents benefits.

The most amazing part of this entire debate is that almost all the politicians who have set up this system are the beneficiaries of the 1960's - 1980's free education system, which most of them abused horrendously. Now they are in the top jobs, in control of access and looking after their children and dynastic ambitions - they have pulled up the ladder behind them and locked everyone else into a debt trap.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Internet myths

An email is circulating again with some pretty gruesome appearing pictures showing a child apparently being punished for purportedly stealing bread in a market in Iran. It causes great offence in Iran where the pictures may originate and actually show a hustler who was using this set up scene to hustle money from bystanders. Snopes actually has the full set of the pictures which includes the final one showing the boy crying but otherwise uninjured.

I have done a bit more digging on this and have learned that under current Iranian law anyone doing this to a child would face a very stiff jail term themselves. It is believed in Iran that these pictures were made in Afghanistan where there are some very unpleasant practices involving children in some parts of the country. Iranian law actually forbids the awarding of severe punishments to children under the age of puberty which in Iran is set at 15 for boys and no Sharia court will award amputation or mutilation, both of which are "ultimate" sanctions, on a child or even on an adult for a minor offence. Yes, there have been some very harsh sentences handed down in Iran, usually on adults and usually for crimes which would make a splash in most of our "Red Top" tabloids.

I am not an apologist for the Iranian regime and I have good reason to know what it is like to work there and visit. I am not an apologist for Islam or the Sharia, the bulk of which is a sensible legal code along similar lines to the French Code Napoleon. What I do find distasteful is the presentation of something less than truthful and biased as "the truth" in an attempt to stir up passions against a group, nation or religion. This is the origin of the bulk of anti-Semitic scribblings and in Muslim countries it is the origin of almost all the anti-Christian propaganda. There is no excuse for Christians to respond in kind.

This is how wars originate. We in the West have to recognise that many of the cultures that we find difficult to grasp, find us equally baffling and in some instances totally unacceptable. Iran was civilised long before any western nation and has seen invaders come and invaders go. They are proud of their heritage and trying to find their own way forward while clinging to values we in the west do not share. But then we cling to values they find conflict with their understanding of the world. And I say again, I do not approve of much that I see there, but I also believe that there is no mileage and standing on the sidelines and accusing them of being uncivilised because they don't do things our way.

And less Goebbels style propaganda on all sides would be a good starting point to actually get some understanding between us!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Big bird

Residents in Cardiff have a problem. There is a big and potentially dangerous bird on the loose in the suburbs. It's a European Eagle Owl, one of the largest predatory birds around. No one knows where the bird has arrived from, though it's a fair bet it has escaped from somewhere as the Eagle Owl is not native to Britain. And these birds are big and hungry. In the wild they are known to take fawns, lambs, dogs and any small animal they fancy. The bird has a 2 metre wingspan and like all it's famillias - you don't hear it coming!

Warnings have gone out to residents about the danger to pets, but I wonder if anyone has thought this through. A bird big enough to take something the size of a fawn or a young goat and fly off with it for an alfresco supper - could take a child out of a perambulator - stroller to readers in the US.

These are magnificent birds, but Wales is sheep country and farmers there are not very tolerant of anything that eats lambs. OK, this ain't lambing season, but I'm willing to bet that as soon as it appears over a farm in the valleys - it's a goner. From the news I gather that several agencies are already at work o try and track it so it can be caught and moved to where it will be safe, probably somewhere like a bird park. Since the bird is not native, it is unlikely to be able to find a mate and it would be a shame to have such a magnificent bird waste itself in a brief existence alone in the Welsh capital or the valleys.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

National Health?

The debate on Twitter and elsewhere about the merits and demerits of the UK's National Health Service and whether Mr Obama wants to impose it on the US is certainly attracting a wide range of opinions. I am a critic of the NHS. It is expensive, overly bureaucratic, run by Civil Servants (Which is, in itself, enough to make me skeptical of its ever achieving "value for money" or efficiency) and very selective. That said, I do believe that some form of "social" health service is needed.

The myth that the NHS is "Free at the point of delivery" is just that. A myth. It is an expensive myth too, and the older you get the more of a lottery it becomes, though one advantage of being over 60 is I now get my prescribed medicines (I suffer from Hayfever) free. The downside is that many expensive treatments are "rationed" and the older you are the less likely you are to be given them. The hospitals are an expensive part of the whole and used to be run by fearsome Matrons whose iron rule kept them spotlessly clean and efficient. Now they are run by "managers", frequently non-medical personnel who may have a "qualification" in some nebulous "Management" course whose focus is on some target set in that Palace of Waste, Whitehall, or on "cost", also determined in a Boardroom somewhere. The bulk of the money thrown at the NHS, some £70 billion last I heard, goes in paying the medical staff and the army of civil servants that "manage" them. Our hospitals are filthy, you have long waiting lists for appointments to see specialists and then you have to sit in filthy waiting rooms and if you are unlucky enough to need to spend time in hospital you have a good chance of having to stay in a mixed sex ward and of catching an antibiotic resistant bug. And it is most definitely NOT free.

OK, so you don't pay at the point of delivery, but you pay a premium every month out of your taxes and you also pay a "fee" for every prescription. If you need a dentist you have a job finding one on the NHS contract who will treat you on the NHS, so many of us have "Dental Insurance". Need glasses? Go private and pay for them yourself. Need an appointment with your GP? If you're lucky you might get one this month. Need an ambulance? We used to have the best service in the South West, but since that was merged with two other failing services you're lucky if there is one in the County - but the bureaucrats reckon that's an improvement. Of course, it does save money for the NHS, you're probably dead or past being resussitated when it finally reaches you.

Personally I believe that the NHS is generally a good idea but one that needs major reform and restructure. I believe that it could be made far more efficient and effective by being reshaped on the German model which has some "insurance" and some state provision. As the US debate hots up the one thing I would say is that the last model you want to adopt is the UK one. Look to Europe and particularly the German model and you'll probably find a better solution which will give fair and reasonable access to medicine to everyone in the US at the level and standard you are used to - assuming you can afford it on the present system in operation there!

The old Irish joke about the tourist lost in the west asking for directions applies. "If you want to go there, you can't start from here."

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Watching History Channel this morning, the programme Battle 360 made me think about a number of things, most specifically, it made me think about the total lack of compassion shown by the Japanese toward prisoners and the populations they overran. But against this there was also the image of US forces machinegunning Japanese survivors in the water after the battles fought in and around Iron Bottom Sound. I can understand why this was done, I can even understand the hatred of an enemy that drives one to do it. After all, I grew up in a household headed by my father who had fought the Japanese at sea along the Burma Coast and among the Island chains and even into the Coral Sea itself. He had no love for the Japanese at all and the horrors he witnessed eventually consumed him.

What struck me most forcibly in watching this was the heroism displayed by individuals on both sides and the sheer scale of the tragedy unleashed in the battle between the West and the Empire Ambitions of the Japanese. Two very different philosophies underpin the two cultures and these met head on in the battles fought in the Pacific and the Far East. The west won, through sheer industrial strength and muscle, we out built, out resourced and eventually out scienced the Japanese.

Yes, by our lights they were savage and barbaric fighters who treated prisoners of war abominably and subject populations worse. Yes, we find their culture abhorrent, but there are aspects of ours that they find not only incomprehensible even now, but equally abhorrent to theirs. I will not forget my father's description - relayed one night when I was in my teens and he had taken on a lot more alcohol than was good for him - of the scenes in Rangoon after they had driven the Japanese out. Scenes of men buried to their necks in pits and forced to eat dry rice, then drink water, and the agonising deaths they suffered. Or of the emaciated prisoners they found who could not eat anything other than small quantities of soup and died if they were given too much at one time.

But then you also encounter men who having gone through this hell and worse, have sought out their former guards and made their peace with them. That, to me, shows humanity has some hope, for it is in the forgiving of enemies and the rendering of aid to an injured enemy that our true humanity is shown. Homo Sapiens is unique in the animal world in that regard, no other species indulge in that action. A defeated lion will be driven away to die or will be killed. The same happens among wolves and among the great apes. Humans alone, render aid to our injured enemies. Its one of the things that marks us out as humans and it is all the more tragic when we lose the desire or the will to do so.

I am proud of my father and of his fellow sailors, soldiers and airmen who fought for the world they believed in. I am even prouder of the fact that the vast majority of them never lost their humanity, never lost that urge to render aid to a wounded or dying enemy. Perhaps that is what makes the difference between the terrorist fanatic "dying" for a "cause" and the true service man. Once the shells stop falling and the bullets flying, the real service men and women of our armed forces will render assistance to all the wounded.

Perhaps that is what the fanatics on all sides need to remember. To do otherwise is to lose that most precious thing. Our humanity.

Climate science?

A new paper on the use of "statistical smoothing" in the merging of datasets and the interpretation of the findings by the "Global Warming is all the Fault of the West" are badly sewed in favour of their particular agenda. The article can be accessed at Watts up with that, a blog run by a scientist at Heriot Watts University who is a Global Warming skeptic. Reading the article by a guest blogger - a noted US Climate Scientist not in favour with Mr Obama's climate lobby. The basis of his paper is that far to many climate change "proofs" rely on data which is being biased by the "smoothing" of the data toward showing a higher rate of temperature rise than the data sets show if the bias is removed.

The problem is that there is a significant difference between datasets of suface temperatures and those taken by tropospheric satellites. The "smoothing" formula is biased toward the surface temperature sets and so shows a rise of temperature significantly higher than it is in reality if the bias is removed.

Any bets this will not get a mention at the Climate Change Conferences currently railroading ever more draconian restrictions on the west at the expense of jobs, life choices and our future?

Friday, 14 August 2009

Frustrating Blogroll ....

For some inexplicable reason my Blog Roll refuses to accept a new Blog. That new Blog is the home of a really thoughtful and rather funny cartoonist called Justin who is the creator of Mythtickle, a strange little world in which a mix of gods, goddesses and others intermingle and reflect on issues. The cast includes Boody, the dragon and ultimate innocent, currently being dragged off in chains by a laid back St George.....

Boody's Blog is the artists Blog. His cartoon is funny, thought provoking and beautifully drawn. Do give it and the Mythtickle world a visit.

Rewiring the Brain

An article recently in The New Scientist identifies ten things we don't know about the human physiology. One of them is why humans go through a "teenager" phase when no other primates do. In fact, the article points out, no other mammilian species suffer the equivalent phase of development in the transition from "child" to "adult". So why do humans have to find their way through this? Why do we not transit at puberty from child to adult without the trauma of pimples, rampant hormones and sometimes decidedly unpleasant personality changes. Why do we behave to irrationally and often dangerously while making that transition when other animals don't?

Science, it seems, doesn't know. What they do know is that our brains undergo some very big changes during that phase of our growth. It seems that there is a sea change in the brain during those teenage years and this is the primary cause of the change in sleep patterns, the courting of danger or the withdrawal and surliness. It may also be what underlies the increase in risk taking and the rebellious behaviour patterns.

I found some of the research on this quite fascinating, and some of it downright tragic. It appears that during our teens our brains more or less rewire themselves and sometimes the wires get crossed, sometimes they make wrong connections and sometimes this leads to serious personality changes. It also appears that drug use during this phase of development can have truly damaging effects and prevent the individual from developing properly. Again, this really isn't properly understood and so is almost brushed under the proverbial carpet in any debate of the use or abuse of drugs. The lack of knowledge in this area is a case of perception rather than fact since there is a lot of scattered research about, but at present no interest in the political sphere (which controls access to research funding) in setting up a proper study. After all, it might produce findings which blow all the liberal drug arguments out of the water.

According to the article, which draws on some serious studies, it is this process of rewiring during our teens that makes us humans and allows us to develop the intellectual capacity we have. Without it we might be much more like our cousins the chimpanzees - limited to the mental capability of a child for life.

So I guess we should really make more of our teenage years - the person you are is rooted in your teens!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Misinterpretted guidelines?

According to one of our Child Protection charities has published a report criticising the courts for "misinterpreting" sentencing guidelines issued by the government and intended to "protect" underage offenders. Anyone who has ever tried to use any "guideline" issued or written by the Whitehall W*nk*rs will know that it is almost impossible to make any sense out of them because they are so full of caveats. But, perhaps more importantly, the very existence of these "guidelines" is proof that even our courts are now politicised. The whole principle on which English Law is founded is that the courts are independent of the Executive, yet the issuing of "guidelines" by the Executive on any matter pertaining to the application of the law (Which the issuers of the guidelines have generally written so badly anyway!) is an interference in the autonomy of the Judges, magistrates and Justices.

The Charity is concerned that the children dealt with by these courts are among the most vulnerable in our society. Many have been abused, many are just entering their 'teens and most re offend within months of release. They point out that custodial sentences actually don't work for the majority and is an expensive operation. What they fail to identify is what the alternatives are.

This is a problem with almost every lobby group campaigning for something. They seldom put forward a credible alternative, or, where they do, it is usually a far more expensive option which they genuinely expect the taxpayer or the victim to fund. Recently I received a copy of an irate e-mail to a Police Force in the South West which outlined a large part of the problem. The police are almost powerless to deal with "Youff" crime, so they don't respond to any complaint by a member of the tax paying public until something or someone is damaged or injured. Then, of course, the courts have to deal with it. The breakdown of any form of discipline and its replacement by the "reward" philosophy of the Dr Spock Adherents is largely to blame for this, but I have to admit that it is much more complex even than just that. The massive expansion of the "Social Security" state has given rise to a complete generation of people who genuinely believe that there is no need to provide anything for oneself or ones offspring because "society owes us". I live on an estate where there is a high percentage of such families and the offspring are completely undisciplined, surly, probably abused and becoming, as they grow, more abusive and threatening themselves.

How does one address this? So far the politicians have tried "Boot Camps", "Young Offenders" institutions, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and a plethora of "Community Service" initiatives. Nothing seems to work. Probably because the real problem is in the homes these kids come from, with parents who shouldn't be, drug takers and alcoholics raised on the concept of "self" being more important than anyone else. This is the generation that will trash a home to feed a drug habit and then find a defending attorney who will persuade a sympathetic jury that they cannot be held accountable - because they are addicted .... And children are quick to learn.

At the very heart of this problem is the social "science" philosophy that society can be "re-engineered" to be more egalitarian and "fair". That poverty is something society imposes and not a consequence of lifestyle choices. OK, there are exceptions to that and I can think of one good friend who is "in poverty" through circumstances beyond their own control. I have no problem with state assistance for those cases, but I do have a problem with politicians who think they can strip the product of my hard work to reward feckless layabouts and maintain them in a style to which I can still, after 45 years employment, only aspire. Here is the dichotomy - our social welfare programmes, set up originally to help those who could not work even though they wanted too, and those who had reached an age where they should be able to retire comfortably, has been high jacked by the socialists who think it is about "wealth redistribution" and coupled that with their desire to restrict, control and dictate lifestyle to everyone. He who controls the income, controls the recipient. Or so they think.

So now we have entire families who have never worked and live in large taxpayer provided houses entirely on "benefit" and causing mayhem for their neighbours. We have permanent "protest" rentamobs who are funded by their weekly "benefit" cheques and we have pensioners living on pensions that are below the breadline because the politicians and civil servants refuse to address the monstrous imbalances in the system they have created to keep their feral electorate happy.

The courts are the last line of defence against those who have no social responsibility and no understanding of the very things which make any society work. Sadly they too are no longer independent and are now a part of the political machinery which is slowly destroying the very society it is supposed to be defending. Today's report is simply one among many indicators that show that the philosophy driving our political classes is deeply flawed because it does not address the core issue - that discipline begins in the family, within individuals within families and once that breaks down or is restricted or removed - society itself is threatened.

If locking up these feral children and young offenders isn't working then we seriously need to look at the alternatives and quickly. One step at a time perhaps, but, as I see it, we have to break the culture which suggests that individuals are not responsible for their own actions; that parents may not impose discipline (And I DON'T mean by beating the tripe out of a child!); that military service is "bad"; that society "owes" the feckless a living simply because they have irresponsibly brought a child into the world; that government can "redistribute" wealth through the tax system to anyone other than their own bank accounts and those of their hanger's on; that children are "victims" and their victims are potential abusers.

Locking up a child should be a last resort, but I suspect it may, in some cases, be the only way that child might even begin to get treatment for the underlying problems it has. I have encountered kids who are so seriously damaged by the age of 10 that I am not sure anything can be done with them, but we have to try. Yet how can you do anything unless you can identify what you are actually dealing with - and here the child protection laws actually work against the child concerned because they prevent any action which may impinge on the child's "rights".

This is not an easy problem, nor will it be resolved by simply addressing one part of it. Like any jigsaw, it can only be solved by reference to the whole picture. So don't hold your breath, Whitehall and Westminster have no idea at all of what the picture even looks like and in the meantime will keep fiddling and interfering without actually understanding any of it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

My Myers-Briggs results...

ESFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perception)

You are outgoing, friendly, and accepting. You are an exuberant lover of life, people, and material comforts. You enjoy working with others to make things happen. You bring common sense and a realistic approach to you work, and make work fun. You are flexible and spontaneous, and adapt readily to new people and environments. You learn best by trying a new skill with other people. Famous people with your same ESFP personality include: Saint Mark the Apostle, Dale Evans, Bob Hope, Goldie Hawn, Arsenio Hall, Mary Lou Retton and Kathy Lee Gifford.

Took this test on Facebook and I think its a truncated version of the real thing. Every other test of this type I have taken rates me as an ISFP meaning I am inclined to Introversion, but hey, the last time I took the real one it was a borderline decision between E and I ....

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Amazing aerobatics

When it comes to flying few things can beat the swallow. The Daily Mail Online had a series of amazng pictures taken by a bird watcher and photographer - presumably with a high-speed camera. They are absolutely stunning.

The birds that form the subject of his photos are caught on camera negotiating a two inch wide opening in flight - the flight speed is around 35 mph - and this is all the more amazing as the birds have a fourteen inch wingspan. The pictures have to be seen to be believed.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Controlling children

I live in an estate that has a high proportion of famillies living on benefits or who have serious social problems. Most of the time it is a rather pleasant place, but as night falls a large gang of teens usually gather in the roads outside my building. They then kick a football into fences, my hedge, each other and adjoining gardens. It is pointless calling the police. by the time they respond to any invasion of a garden or damage to the local phone booth, the perpetrators are either long gone or ready with their excuses. Life can certainly be adversely affected by all of our neighbourhood by this behaviour and many of my neighbours are older than I and afraid to go out once this gang assembles.

The police are, thanks to child protection laws and policies in courts, unable to do anything about it. Children know their "rights" and any attempt to remonstrate with them is likely to lead to your being assaulted or - possibly worse - being accused of trying to molest them. Once that accusation is made you face months of investigation and suspicion and, despite assurances to the contrary, a record being kept on file that the accusation was made. Every time you thereafter have to apply for any position, voluntary or otherwise, that might bring you into contact with children that brecord will show up and you are likely to face renewed accusation or at least suspicion. The priniciple of "No smoke without fire" is trotted out as justification irrespective of the fact that the police have not been able to substantiate the accusation or in many cases the accusation has been proved to be a lie - a 'child' making it simply to 'get even' with an adult who has quite justifiably remonstrated with him/her for appalling behaviour.

Our society has opted - driven by well intentioned but, frankly, misguided efforts to protect children from abuse - to label every adult as a potential child abuser. The media of course whips this to a frenzy, usually focussing on sexual abusers, but I would suggest that there are more insidious abuses, the refusal of parents to instil any form of discipline in their offspring being one. Such children grow up unable to recognise that their behaviour is unacceptable to others. An example locally is one pre-teen girl round here who shrieks - an ear splitting noise - whenever she is thwarted in her demands. Other children run away from her as soon as it starts, or worse, some have discovered that they can make life miserable for the neighbourhood by provoking her! Her parents never deal with it, in fact, I have witnessed both her parents actually rewarding her by giving in to this totally unacceptable performance. Nor is she alone, I have ample opportunity to observe the better off and their offspring and see the same pattern here. Little Tarquin and little Berengaria are very quick to learn that they can get their way by "acting up" and their parents will surrender and reward their behaviour rather than confront it and teach the little brat that in a society everyone else has "rights" as well.

Last evening I endured over an hour of foul-mouthed behaviour and this morning I am cleaning up the debris in my garden and trying to repair my hedge. Damage caused by "children" who, from their language, knew exactly what they were doing and how obnoxious it was. And they also knew that no one could or would risk trying to stop them. This is a very complex issue, one made even more difficult by the fact that many of them are from homes where drug or alcohol abuse is a factor. But it is not improved by the well-intentioned removal of all sanctions for bad behaviour and the restrictions on the police for dealing with it. It is rapidly reaching the point at which the "Child Protection" lobbies and agencies may have to face accusations of complicity in the criminal damage now being caused by the out of control "children" whose "rights" they protect against the legitimate expectations of the law abiding tax-payers who have to live with the consequences.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Book sales

I have never expected to see my sales propel my books into the Best Seller lists, for one thing I am the "marketing" department and I may be good at writing them, but I am not a salesman - one reason I joined the Fire and Rescue Services. Even so my sales seem to be chugging along, the latest being through a small retail book shop in the Cotswolds who have bought in a small stock for their shelves. Should you visit Moreton in Marsh, call in on Cotswold Books!

Interestingly they had an order for a copy of The enemy is within and contacted the Publisher. Now comes the strange bit - the Publisher would only sell it to them at the full retail price! Now that doesn't seem right to me, but it is in line with their policy of not paying a "Royalty" on any discounted sales. Ergo, I have sold a sizeable number of books through Amazon - understandable since Amazon are the world's biggest book seller - but as Amazon take a 60% discount, I am almost paying the Publisher for the privilege. According to the sales reports the book has sold at a loss throughout. Not encouraging for my Bank manager as this was a "Joint Venture" and I have my savings tied up in this venture. Equally disappointing is the lack of decent marketing, something I thought I had paid into, but which I am now informed (Mind you there has been a change of ownership!) that they will "support" my marketing efforts!

Both books are selling steadily though it will take a while to recover the money and the effort put into them. So, for now, I am still writing, using the lessons learned in the writing and selling the first pair. But I am also putting an effort into working with a Publicist to develop a package that will hopefully get me onto the books of a proper Agency and then hopefully get all my books into the mainstream publishers. In the meantime I am working on getting copies of the books into High Street booksellers, no easy task as shelf space is at a premium and most of them will stock only on sale or return. I am told that arranging a "Book signing" for myself is a good way to get stocked in a store, but so far enquiries have not been encouraging.

I guess its a work in progress - one my fire service training hasn't prepared me for. I'm far to used to "instant" action.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Nuclear future?

In this last week a government adviser has come out of the woodwork to tell us that unless we build more nuclear power stations very soon we cannot hope to keep up with demand. Of course that got Greenstrife and Fiends of the Earth up in arms immediately. Yet the truth which these morons refuse to acknowledge is that we already buy some 20% of our energy from France who generate roughly 80% of theirs using nuclear. Even if the government declared tomorrow that they were going to adopt this sensible approach you may be sure that we would then be subjected to endless appearances on TV and Radio and articles in the press from Greenstrife and the Fiends foaming at the mouth and declaring that we were destroying the earth by even thinking of going nuclear. And, if any UK government had the balls to ignore these idiots and go ahead anyway, the planning process is so long winded and so convoluted it is unlikely we could build any within the next 50 years anyway.

Put simply, the future may well be nuclear, but probably not in the UK - at least not if Labour's CND element, Greenstrife and Fiends of the Earth have anything to do with it. Sometime in the next twenty or so years we can expect the lights to go out and probably expect "brown outs" in the next ten. Such are the joys of our undemocratic society which places the wishes of a tiny minority of idiots above the needs of the majority who pay for it.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Procurement woes

The government is apparently trying to suppress a report that damns the Minsirty of Defence for incompetent and wasteful procurement procedures. I suppose one should not be surprised really, after all, this important function is now in the hands of a bunch of overpaid filing clerks, none of whom know one end of a weapon from the other and certainly none of whom have ever had to live on a warship, travel in an armoured vehicle or fly in an aircraft purchased under their utterly chaotic system. Add to that the Treasury's disingenuous cost cutting and cheese paring of any budget they can - and defence is an easy target under this bunch of closet communists - and the imposition of the most inefficient and utterly pointless "Project Management" system in the world (Prince 2) and you have a recipe for disaster.

How do you arrive at this position? Easy, you create a climate in which, in order to get anything into a budget, you under price it. Then, when the project is already well advanced, you either up-spec it, or you put it on a "temporary" hold so that you can strip money from one project in order to pay for the overspend on another. THis is how our two new aircraft carriers have suddenly increased in cost by £500 million. No, they haven't been "up-speced" - yet - but the Civil Service decided to "delay" delivery by two years to "save money". Yes, they saved in the short term - as in they didn't spend the budget two years ago, but now we will be paying the extra in two years time. Reasonable? In the rarified atmosphere of Whitehall it seems that this is classed as "saving" simply because it shoves the overspend into the future. No wonder taxes and cost of government rise exponentially.

Then you also have the debacle of spending a vast amount of money developing something - and then cancelling the order. That list is extensive, Blue Streak, the rocket system which could have seen the UK as the world's first nation to put men in space, the successor to Concorde which would have seen mass transport at or near supersonic speeds, the new Rolls-Royce engines for the Joint Strike Fighter which will see not only our investment of £550 million down the tubes but several thousand jobs as well (As has every other cancelled project the Civil Service has screwed up). As I said, the list is extensive and growing all the time. Obviously the latest report is so embarrassing the government have decided that it has to be doctored before anyone can see it - perhaps to hide their involvement and complicity.

Time to clean house - starting with the entire Civil Service. There is simply no other option.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Deft definition

From time to time you find something which sums up exactly what you think of some movement, ideology or doctrine. I have to thank Ozguru for posting this on Facebook where I found it ....

Political Correctness (def.) - a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

What more can one say?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Citizenship Qualifications ....

NuLabour's latest trick, having realised that they have lost public trust in their "Multi Cultural" social engineering programme, is to announce that immigrants will have to "prove" their adoption of "British Values" and their loyalty to "Britain." Apparently the "test" is ludicrously hard, in fact it's doubtful whether many born and bred Britons (Particularly those uneducated by the Comprehensive Failure System) would pass it. It is written, of course, by the worst possible people - Civil Servants and NuLabour "Special Advisers". That's right the very same idiots who have labelled us "Institutionally Racist", a "Nation of Bigots", who happily declare that religion "impedes morality" and argue that we must be a "Multicultural Society". Not content with having completely lost their way in the quagmire of ideology rooted in the 1930's concept of "socialist workers paradise" in a new "Internationalism" - actually a neat piece of Stalinist propaganda - they now feel that, just maybe, a teensy-weensy bit of patriotism might be in order.

So they have devised this mish-mash idea aimed at "integrating" anyone migrating to the UK, and having served the requisite number of years "on licence" is properly inducted into the concepts which supposedly underpin our great nation's liberties and freedoms. Perhaps the honour paid to the flag draped coffins returning home from Afghanistan by the citizens of Wotton Basset and those who travel there each time one of our people is brought home that way is finally beginning to penetrate the ideology. Or perhaps it is the placard waving Islamacists in Luton howling their hatred of Britain and its troops as they march through the city. Or is it the fact that the BNP is taking votes from all the main parties and now has MEPs in STrasbourg that has finally alerted Brown and his loney-lefties to the fact that we want our country back. Who knows?

There is a basic split in the loyalties of the UK anyway. Traditionally it is between the Crown and Parliament. You are in favour of one or the other, sometimes of both. But increasingly Parliament has isolated itself, acts in contradiction of the will of the people and rewards failure. In the Civil Service the bigger the disaster you have created the better the reward. Parliament has proved itself to be out of touch and unworthy of our loyalty. Personally I am a Loyalist, my loyalty lies with the Sovereign, not with the House of Corruption and self interest. It is a choice that has split my family and relatives since the Civil War. Parliament represent tribal interests, not the Nation as a whole.

It is ironic that NuLabour (And Old Labour come to that!) having campaigned for the last twelve years to create a "Multi Cultural, multi-faith" society are now - too late - realising the danger of the beast they have fostered and created. It is equally ironic that they have apparently selected a range of things they have denigrated so much over the last forty years as the very criteria to be applied for new immigrants.

Curry anyone?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Military madness

Pliny the Elder left the maxim "Si vis pacem, para bellum" to posterity. It is also credited to Tacitus and to several other writers. I first heard it from a Latin master at school and it is also the motto of the Royal Naval Gunnery School on Whale Island. It is an excellent maxim and one that several great nations have ignored to their detriment over the centuries since he uttered it. The last forty years in Britain it has been not just ignored, but actively campaigned against by such luminaries as the "Greenham Common Peace Camp" denizens, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Parliament and the Civil Service. From 1989 onwards the so-called "Peace Dividend" has seen the annual cut back of Defence spending in the UK so that we are now almost unable to send a Task Group to more than one theatre, the Fleet Air Arm has no fixed wing aircraft and the RAF is flying out dated aircraft and very few of them at that. As for the Army, well their Tanks and Armoured vehicles have been cut back to a bare minimum, the artillery is barely adequately equipped and don't ask about the stocks of ammunition.....

But, no problem, the MPs can spend twice the annual budget for salaries of fighting men and women on their plush new offices and the Civil Servants in the MOD can spend the price of a Type 45 Destroyer on refurbishing and refurnishing their very swish offices in Whitehall - but not on ensuring that a bunch of Chinook helicopters they bought 8 years ago are able to fly on operations. Nor can they find the money to properly arm and armour the Merlin Helicopters the Forces desperately need in Afghanistan. But they can reward themselves and witter on about "striking delicate balances with limited resources" while spending vast amounts on themselves and their needs and scrapping ships and entire regiments of troops to pay for it.

And Labour and Gordon Brown wonder why the public is so disillusioned with them and their grand Socialist Dream. Mind you, I doubt very much that the Conservatives would be much better and as for the LibDems ..... Let's just say CND and be done.

I suspect that the underlying problem, which, for all the hand wringing and wittering about the "tragic losses" of our troops, is that Labour and Socialists in general HATE anything disciplined or even resembling the military. Why? Simply because it represents everything they are not. It has a purpose, a structure and a strong identity. Socialism doesn't work, hasn't worked and has eroded our sense of identity and our concepts of liberty to the point that we will eventually, like the Roman citizens of 410 and 476 AD, have so lost all sense of our achievements and our identity that we will simply open the gates and welcome the invaders.

This country now spends less than any other European nation on its defence forces. Our once magnificent navy has been pared away to the point almost of being simply a coast defence unit. I doubt very much our new super carriers will ever be commissioned. Why? Again because Civil Service incompetence and Treasury duplicity has caused the costs to rise enormously and I am certain that very shortly the Navy will be told that if it wants the carriers it must give up even more ships and possibly the nuclear deterrent. That will leave this country dependent on the French Fleet for its defence. Yes, the rattling noise IS the remains of Nelson, Jervis, Pellew, Rodney and Hood rotating at pretty near light speed in their graves.

Today another soldier paid with his life for Mister Blair's Afghan adventure. Our Armed Forces are underfunded, over "managed" by incompetent Civil Servants, led by politicians who include a Defence Secretary who was a Communist Party member and quite possibly a KGB informer. His Cabinet colleagues include a man who under the laws passed by this government would be a terrorist, Greenham Common children, Che Guevarra admirers, Trotskyites, Stalin apologists and CND members. Not one has any military service and they are all on record as being against the military and desirous of unilateral disarmament.

In the mindset of these Socialist morons, the military is always "the enemy" and is almost always "Institutionally ...." Recently I listened with rising blood pressure as some young twit from the Student Union described the military as an expression of latent "fascism" - the sort of inane remark these stupid products of a biased and propagandised education system now routinely trot out ignoring the fact that their Workers Paradises almost always have vast military machines to keep their populations in line.

Our Defence Budget has hit the bottom of the pot. It is time to demand a rethink and a re-assignment of the funding that the Civil Service squanders so readily on every kind of stupid and wasteful project going as long as it employed ever more cloned morons. It is time we spent as much as the French or the Germans, Belgians and the Dutch on our Armed Forces. Each of these spends an average of 8% of GDP on their military to our paltry 6%.

Our young men and women in the Forces deserve a lot better, they deserve our support, our respect and the best equipment, ships, aircraft and weapons our money can buy. The Civil Service needs to have its wings clipped heavily and its power curtailed - and our MPs need to be kicked painfully until they do the decent thing by this country.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Back to normal services ....

Last night saw the end of another successful run of Musica Deo Sacra. It has been a fabulous year with organ recital, superb music, magnificent voices and a feast of liturgical colour. Our preachers have been excellent and everything ran like clockwork - except for one small thing last night - the batteries that power the belt packs for the radio microphones worn by the officiant and the "front of house" minister both decided to fail. One, mine, could be replaced - the officants couldn't be so those of us "In Quire" could hear his prayers and the Benediction - the nave couldn't. Still the music made up for it, but isn't it typical that some small and generally inexpensive item is the one thing that will let you down at the most inconvenient moment.

Another of the weeks "highlights" was the Medieval Feast in the Nave on Thursday evening.

It was great fun, presided over by "King" Michael the First, more normally known as the Town Crier, and the diners were regaled at the table by funny stories, medieval music on ancient instruments, and a fine selection of really glorious songs sung by the MDS Choir. The picture on the right shows the tables laid out in a great horseshoe and lit by candles. THe "Mummers" and singers, performed in the open space between. Some of the other fun can be seen in the pictures following which show the minstrels strolling, the choristers performing and some of the people enjoying the experience.

And before anyone has a wobbly about our use of the Nave in this manner, this is exactly how it was used in Medieval times, where it was used as a Market, a meeting hall for Parish and Town business and as a place where the "great unwashed" (In other words the common folk who weren't "In Orders") were allowed to gather to "hear" the Mass, but not usually to partake in it.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Day Thou Gavest...

These are the first words of one of Mausi's favourite hymns. Mausi heard it for the first time when she attended her first Evensong at Tewkesbury Abbey. This hymn was sung during the service and just fitted Evensong perfectly - Mausi distinctly felt a sense of peace and tranquillity settling upon her.

She was strongly reminded of the hymn while watching this evening sky picture roll out before her eyes a few days ago. Typical for this year's summer the afternoon had been filled with heavy showers and gusty winds but suddenly the sky had cleared into an unbelievable shade of blue, the last wisps of black rain clouds were driven away and the dry white clouds seemed to try and settle down on the hillsides around for a brief rest before moving on. Wherever the sun could get through it put a golden shine on the clouds. Very beautiful, especially as it was darkening on the ground already.

The day, thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at thy behest;
to thee our morning hymns ascended,
thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.

As o'er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
our brethren 'neath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord, thy throne shall never,
like earth's proud empires, pass away;
thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway.
John Ellerton (1826-1893)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Organ Recital

For all those of you who have wondered what it was I was talking about in various posts about the Grove or the Glorious Grove, take a click on the link and you will hear and see a little of what we had last Wednesday evening when Carleton Etherington gave his recital on the Milton and the Grove. Both organs are magnificent in their range and in the "voicing" of the various pipes that make up the "Stops". The Grove is unique in one respect, having no Case everything speaks in the oipne - hence the power of a relatively small instrument.

The piece on this recording on YouTube is the "Toccata de la Liberation" by Leonce de Saint-Martin (1886 - 1954). The recording is superb, the Grove growls, roars and makes "merrie noise" throughout. Oh, and the BIG growl on the bass is the Bombard stop. All 16 foot of it.