Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Death of a friend

Yesterday I had news I had been expecting. A week ago I learned with sadness that a long standing friend who shared many of my interests and with whom I have enjoyed many great times, had suffered a stroke after undergoing a fairly simple by-pass operation. It was a fairly major stroke which left him unable to help himself and, as his Medical Aid Insurance had reached its limit, he was sent to a "Care Home". Here he suffered another set of medical problems and last Wednesday was rushed back into Intensive Care. By Thursday he was in renal failure and sometime on Sunday or early Monday, slipped quietly away.

Dennis was a big hearted man who gave freely and willingly of his time, his services and his friendship. He wasn't the best looking man in the world and yet, once you got to know him, that was not what you saw when you were in his company. He leaves behind a brother whose family will miss their big hearted uncle. He also leaves behind a lot of friends who wil feel the poorer for his passing, myself included. I hope you will join me in a prayer for him on Saturday when he will be laid to rest with his mother, stepfather and family.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Astronomical Clock

Mausi was browsing through some photographs tonight which she had taken during this year. One of her favourites is the Astronomical Clock of the Marienkirche in Lübeck. Astronomical clocks were quite en vogue from the 15th to the 18th century.

The one is Lübeck was built between 1561 and 1566 and is of impressive size. Like so many other treasures it was destroyed during WW II in 1942 but rebuilt by the clockmaker in the Paul Behrendt in the 1960's. Mausi knows this clock ever since she was a small child and still thinks it was one of the most intriguing mechanical gimmicks she has ever seen.

These clocks were not only built to give the time and such useful things as phases of moon and sun but also to make people feel small and reflect about their life. While being rebuilt the Lübeck clock was slightly modified. The upper half now shows the 12 astrological, the lower half the 13 astronomical signs of the zodiac. The old clock had only shown the astrological signs.

The four Apostles in the lower half and the inscription in the middle show the close relation to the ecclesiastical year. The inscription reads:

Whenver you hear the bell toll, do not forget to praise and to thank your God who reigns over all stars.
(So oft du die klingende Glocke hörst, vergiss nicht, deinen Gott der über alle Gestirne herrscht zu loben und ihm zu danken.)

Monday, 28 September 2009

A long day....

Mausi's had a long day today and feels like falling asleep any moment. So this will be a short post today.

The Monk has obviously settled down in Tehran. People are as nice as ever and are full of plans which sights to show him. Work is going well, too. And tomorrow evening the Monk and and his colleague are invited to a special dinner to celebrate the National Fire Fighter Day. Have fun, Monk. Mausi is sure it will be quite an experience.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Election Time

Germany has elected a new Parliament (Bundestag) today. The German election system is rather complicated: everyone gets two votes. With the first you vote for a candidate with a direct mandate with the second for a party with a list of candidates. Half of the 600 seats in the Bundestag are filled with candidates who won the direct mandates, the other half from the party lists proportional to the number of votes the parties managed to win. Mausi thinks this is rather a good system as it enables also smaller parties to be part of the Bundestag, if they manage to jump the 5 percent hurdle.

For the last four years we had a coalition between the two biggest parties: Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. Under the circumstances they haven't done too badly, but both have lost in this elections. The Christian Democrats, the party of chancellor Angela Merkel, less than 2 percent but the Social Democrats more than 10. So Angela Merkel will remain being chancellor but will have a new coalition partner - the Liberals. If that turns out to be a good idea remains to be seen.

Sadly, the number of non-voters is constantly growing. The poll was down to 71 percent (77 percent four years ago). Is that another sign that politicians have lost contact with the people or are people just too lazy to be bothered?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Indian Summer

This is Mausi's favourite time of the year: Indian summer or "Altweibersommer" as we say in Germany. The sun has lost its summer glare but it is still warm enough outside to feel comfortable. Mausi has spent a lovely day out in the open today clearing out one of the flower beds which will be replanted next spring.

All flowers seem to be determined to show their best colour for the last time this year before going into hibernation.

Mausi's sweet peas.

A Gertrude Jekyll Rose which gives off a lovely lemon like scent.

And Mausi's faithful garden friend wandering how summer could have passed so quickly this year.

Friday, 25 September 2009


You will all be relieved to hear that The Monk has arrived in Tehran safe and sound. He told Mausi today that he and a colleague were given a lovely flat in the north of the town. He has a room to himself which he has rearranged to his liking. The best thing, however, is that they have access to the internet and will be able to stay in contact with the rest of the world.

Mausi is having a busy time herself at the moment. There is still quite a long list of things to be done in the garden before it will ready for winter. Workwise Mausi is preparing for a conference in Germany at the beginning of October to be followed by a week of teaching Fire Investigation in Turkey. Mausi has been invited to teach this course by a colleague from the Forensic Science Instiute in Ankara and feels quite honoured. It will certainly be an interesting experience as Mausi hasn't been to Turkey before. But quite a bit of the teaching material and presentations still has to be put together... Ah well, why panic - it is still some weeks to go...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

On my way.

Heading out for the airport - Heathrow Terminal 1, my least favourite airport I admit - and will be sat on the flight to Tehran for seven hours. Arrival at 03.15. How to make it difficult for British troublemakers to feel welcome.

Posting over the next twelve weeks will be erratic, mainly because we have to get used to "dial-up" again, so I will be abusing Mausi's good nature as she tries to keep the blog running and everyone up dated on what I'm up to. A team of us are going out tomorrow to train fire fighters for the Tehran Municipality and the Ministry of the Interior. All Halaal and above board.

Methinks it will be a long twelve weeks even though I am looking forward to meeting up with Nasir, Reza, Mohammad, Kazim and the rest of the guys again.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Heading out East

OK, so I'm packed and ready, almost, for the trip to Tehran. There's only one problem. My portable drive is playing up and it has everything, and I do mean everything, I need for the teaching slots on it. I rushed out and bought a backup unit today, and the new one won't talk to the Mac.

So, Trekstor, you better play ball for the next six weeks.

Meantime, I'm carrying way to much stress over this, so its good night all.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Musical treats....

Managed to get to the lunchtime recital today, Carleton on the Grove playing Mendelssohn. What a treat. A real privilege to be able to stand behind him and watch him play this fascinating Victorian Exhibition Organ - having no "Organ Case" every pipe stands in the open and "speaks" to the audience without any muffling - and it doesn't have any of the "automatic" features either. So it takes a Master to play it, and in Carleton it has one.

The programme was a varied one, all Mendelssohn, finishing with his Overture to the Oratario "St Paul". The finale of this has the Bombard (16 foot reed stop on the pedal) quite literally "strutting its stuff" and has the building reverberating to the sonorous snarl.

It is fascinating to watch Carleton play at any time, but to watch his fingers and his feet fly and dance around the manuals and the stop pulls as the music thunders and sighs from this grand instrument is a treat in itself. A great memory to take away with me to Tehran.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Busy days ahead

As I prepare to leave for Tehran there is a lot to do. First I have to get the car through its annual MOT check as that expires a week after I leave, so that is task One for today. Then I have to get all my clothes together and make sure I have everything I need to survive in a change of seasons (Tehran gets very cold November onwards) and that I can do it within my baggage allowance.

Typical Bl**dy Civil Service contract, send tutors round the world in Cattle Class with the lowest baggage allowance and still expect them to carry all the equipment they need and their clothing on the lower baggage allocation. Oh, and then refuse to pay for the excess baggage charges.

If I didn't need the income this badly I wouldn't do it at all. Not for three months anyway.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday mumbling....

Walking down to the Abbey today in the bright sunshine was a pleasant change to the grey skies and breeze we have been having lately. What struck me as I walked was the amount of berries on every shrub and bush that produces them. There are thick clusters everywhere. Countrymen would usually say this presages a very cold winter, but we are currently enjoying an Indian Summer - though it is distinctly cooler in the evenings!

Mind you, Madam Paddy Cat is trying to grow the thickest undercoat I have seen on her in quite a while, and insists on getting very close in the evenings, usually where I can't move and she gets to keep warm. Mind you, at 18 (Something like 78 in cat years I'm told) she's probably feeling the cool even more than I am. But, of course, the planet is heating up, not cooling down.

I do wonder though, as I look about me at the natural response to the changing weather (We don't have a climate in the UK, just weather.) if the seasons aren't a little out of kilter with the calendar. Whitehall, in its wisdom insists that Spring starts at the March Equinox, but 500 years ago it was still regarded as starting in February, around the 20th when the lambs start to arrive (Formerly known in Roman and Celtic times as Imbolc), was regarded as the start of Spring. Similarly, Summer officially starts on the 21st of June - which in every book I have read is regarded as "Midsummers Day" - at least Shakespeare thought so. So perhaps the problem is that the scientists, Greenstrife, Fiends of the Earth and Whitehall should look at synchronising their calendars and then take another look at their "The Sky is Falling" data.

OK, time for another cup of coffee I think ...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Banking frustrations .....

The credit crunch has made the banks Uber Cautious it seems. I recently applied to be able to access my business account "online" so I could manage it while I am away from the UK. Guess what, it takes almost a month to set this up because they seem to have been smitten by the "Bureaucrat Bug" and now have so many hoops to make a customer jump through that the simplest solution is to close my account and funnel everything through my personal accounts. That makes a problem for my accountant. But, hey, someone has to subsidise his holidays - and I'd rather do that than subsidise the big bonus the Business Manager no doubt will get for making me run around and still not be able to access my account from abroad.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Running counter to the "Model Predictions"

I have grave doubts over the Met Office declaration that this year was warmer than last. I seem to have had to wear something to keep me warm a great deal more than I did last year and its been wetter too. My temperature measuring at home (South West Midlands) has given me a reasonably steady average of around 20*C, with very few days above that and most nights well down toward 10*C or lower. There was even one in August when I contemplated turning on the heating, the cat was complaining of the cold. Currently we have a North Easterly blowing which is keeping temperatures down to around 17*C here which is, in my view, quite pleasant. Not cold enough to need a jumper, not hot enough to be uncomfortable.

But it doesn't fit the Climate Model Predictions for the year. According to those I should have been basking in blazing heat, suffering mosquito plagues and getting my feet wet as the sea level rose with the Arctic Icepack vanishing faster than you can say Jack Robinson. So what is happening?

Well, over at "Watts up with that" they have posted the JAXA Ice monitoring figures and it seems that the Arctic Ice is growing at present, not shrinking. Reading further on that site you discover that if all the temperature data is examined and not just the selective data that proves the current media/political hysteria theory, the lastvten years have shown a flat line on the warming predicted. You actually have to manipulate the data quite a bit adding bits removing dips and so on until it shows any increase at all.

Any bets though that this data will be completely ignored by the Copenhagen Bun Fight?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Famous sailing ship

Now permanently moored at Travemunde, is the Passat, last of the famous "Flying P" liners built for the trade with Venezuela and used, after World War 2 as training ships for the future merchant seamen and officers of the German Merchant Marine. The Passat and her sister ship Pamir remained in German ownership after the War, one of the others is still sailing but is now the Russian Training ship Kreuzenstern.

Passat's sister ship, Pamir was tragically lost when caught in a hurricane in the Atlantic in 1957. She capsized in a powerful squall and only six of her large crew survived. A memorial can be found in the Church of St Jakobi in Lubeck, her home port where the smashed remains of a lifeboat in which twenty one survivors managed to find shelter form the centrepiece. Only one man survived from this boat.
The pictures show in order; The ship at her morrings, The Chartroom at the Midship's "Bridge", The Double Wheel and helm position on the Quarterdeck (This was the original steering position but in later service the steering was done from a position forward of the Midship's Bridge.) and the view forward from the Quarterdeck.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Lubeck again

The Holstentor, once the middle gate of the city's triple ring of defensive walls, the gate was saved by public outcry in the 19th Century when the city father's had begun to tear down the outer walls and the other bastions. The outer ring has been completely destroyed but traces remain in the form of the triple canal which encircles the medieval part of the town. The twin flanking towers are built on piles and lean toward each other for the very strange reason that the linking section which houses the gate, has no foundations and pulls the towers inwards.

The Holstentor is now a fascinating museum and worth every minute of a visit, especially if you include coffee and cakes at the Neideregger Cafe opposite the Rathaus afterward. The window display is enough to make you drool in excess, so take lots of paper towel along if you are a Marzipan fan and be prepared to have to take yourself severely in hand when you enter the shop and have to start making choices ....

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A remarkable man

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of probably the greatest engineer of the Victorian period, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His concepts and ideas were so far in advance of his time that he often had to "invent" and build the tools so that his principal idea could actually be realised. He built the Great Western Railway, the track for which is still in use, the Clifton Suspension bridge - again having to invent the suspension system and the method of construction - and of course, the ss Great Britain, now preserved in Bristol Harbour in the very dock in which she was built.

He was a remarkable man, an achiever of great things, and like many such men, had little regard for his own persoanl safety and by extension, the safety of those around him. He had a job to do and he did it, his ideas are straightforward genius and many of the designs he pioneered have never been bettered, though today they can be achieved more safely and with better and stronger materials.

He died very young, but his legacy is astonishing.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Clash of interests

Yesterday the results of an opinion poll were released in the media and the huge majority of those polled said that they wanted to see cuts in public spending and a reduction in bureaucracy accompanied by a shrinking of the Civil Service. Guess what, the Trades Union Council (TUC) today starts its annual bunfight and has kicked off with a declaration that they will "resist" any cuts to public spending. The Union that represents the majority of Civil Servants is already threatening strikes and disruption of public services if the government makes any cuts.

I'd call that clear proof that the Civil Service has become an expensive self-serving institution which no longer serves the people who pay for it. Assuming of course, that it ever did.

This attitude toward those of us who pay for these expensive "services" by the Trades Unions (Who themselves supposedly represent most of us in employment!) is informative. They regard our contributions to their coffers and to the profligacy of the Treasury and the various self-serving government departments as their right, not our choice. As soon as any reduction is suggested to the wasteful squandering of our money in mismanaged and usually incompetently specified projects in Whitehall the Unions rush to start threatening death, poverty and general mayhem if anyone dares to cut "services". Most of these cuts will actually improve services by cutting down on the number of worthless paper shufflers that have infested every public service. Once, the Fire and Rescue Services employed very few "clerical" staff, but in the last twelve years that balance has shifted as more and more "managers" have been parachuted into the command structures. Whereas in the past every member had some fire or rescue background and could, at a pinch, be sent out on some fire ground duty, that is no longer possible. Health services, police, the military - all the professional services have suffered this infestation of non-professional "managers" who increase costs - they are non-productive - by imposing complex bureaucratic procedures to hide behind and conceal their incompetence and ignorance.

Any government which strips out the bureaucracy caused by Labour's "nannying" legislation and meddling with "targets" and "accountability" which they believe can only be achieved by demanding an explanation for the use of every paperclip, can make huge savings by ejecting these embedded incompetents and returning "management" to the professionals who know what they are managing in their respective organisations. The myth that there is such a thing as a "Professional Manager" who can hop from organisation to organisation and "manage" it irrespective of their knowledge of what the organisation does or how it is done, needs to be exposed as the sham it is. Management is a function, not a profession, and only a professional who is thoroughly versed in his or her profession is qualified to "manage" others within it. That is the great weakness of the Public Services, they are "managed" by people who have no idea of how the work or function they "manage" is actually done. Huge savings could be achieved by simply cutting out the layers of "management" who do nothing but invent complex procedures which make doing any job difficult and near on impossible.

Sadly, the Unions, supposedly representing workers, seem to be less interested in ensuring more cash remains in their members pockets and more is stolen and fed to their biggest constituency - the so-called public services which should perhaps be relabelled the Public Waste and Squandering Service. A clear clash of interests in my book!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Preparing for Tehran

The next few days will be busy. Twelve weeks away is a long time and I have to make sure that Madam Paddy Paws isn't left entirely to open her own food sachets, cans and biscuits. Also she tends to get uppity about her soil box not being cleaned regularly. And then there are things like Quarterly bills to be paid - and which, incredibly, you can't pay in advance.

This time of year is interesting in Tehran as well since I will be arriving in the Autumn when the weather is still quite warm, and coming home when there is a strong possibility of thick snow on the ground. Yes, Tehran gets snow, a couple of feet of it at a time so I am told. So the suitcase will have to include clothing for both the heat and the cold, not an easy set of choices to make, especially as we are travelling Cattle Class and the baggage allowance is restricted.

Blogging from there could be interesting. I will do my best, but I make no promises. At least I am now registered with the UK Foreign Office so the Embassy is aware I am there and I am assured will be checking on us from time to time.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Just who are the Fascists now?

Funny how anyone who disagrees with this shower of closet Communists currently disgracing our Parliament and calling themselves a government is automatically lablled a "Fascist". Yet the "bully-boy" tactics of the Left are "a popular expression of anti-fascism". A government Minister speaking to the Guardian (Or Gruaniad), that ultimate Socialist Propaganda rag, has branded the "English Defence League" as "Fascists" and likened their protests to those led by Moseley and his Black-shirts in 1936.

The protest held outside a mosque in Harrow to mark the anniversary of 9/11 yesterday was disrupted by the "Anti-Fascist" movement and this, the Minister seems to think, is a perfectly acceptable tactic by his supporters on the Left. It doesn't seem to occur to any of them that these are exactly the tactics used by the Soviets to seize control of East Berlin, to disrupt any attempt at a multi-party election in Eastern Europe and to impose one party communism everywhere they could.

I have no sympathy with "demonstrations". Generally they are a waste of time and cause unnecessary disruption for law abiding citizens, but there does come a point at which one has to ask why this government, composed entirely of professional "protesters" (All of them involved in protests since their student days, and all of them admirers of that psychopath Che Guevarra) is so determined to brand anything to the right of their increasingly Leninist/Stalinist vision of "freedom" as "Fascist".

If anyone is Fascist today it is the Labour Party and their cohorts in the "Anti-Fascist" movement with their determination to stifle any debate and any dissent on their ideological mantras.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A step too far?

There can be no doubt that Labour are a Party that wants to control, to nanny, to remove choice and restrict liberty. The problem I have with that is that they always try to make it appear as if there is some pressing "moral" reason to make these sweeping and often draconian changes. The latest set of nannying legislation is a case in point - from now on, if the legislation is approved, every person who voluntarily takes a neighbour's kids - or his/her children's little friends - anywhere for any event, will require a Criminal Record Bureau check.

The Minister for Children (I kid you not, there are Ministers for Women, the Disabled and for Minorities - but NOT for Men!) is desperately trying to tell us that this will not have any impact on anyone who is "not in regular contact with children", by which she means not more than once a month, or in "special contact" which apparently means two or three times a week. This will impact badly on the parents who collect kids from playgroups for their friends, or take kids to sports practice, fetch kids from clubs etc, etc ... And will it protect children? My guess is probably not at all. It is, after all is said and done, just a bureaucratic exercise to check whether you have ever been accused or convicted of "inappropriate behaviour toward children." It also impacts on people who help out with "vulnerable adults" in other words those who suffer under the "Care in the Community" abuse licensed by Whitehall as a means of neglecting them until the commit an offence or become violent. Mark my words this legislation will be interpreted by every Town Hall Jobsworth and every Civil Service parasite as a license to expand their empires exponentially and to interfere in every parent's life to a degree expressly forbidden in Magna Carta and in our laws which protected our right to privacy until this present socialist soviet came to power.

The whole balance between State and the Individual has been changed. Westminster/Whitehall has take upon itself the right to dictate how we live, how we behave, what we think and what we may say in public or private. Yes, children and vulnerable adults need protection, but is it necessary to criminalise the entire adult population in order to protect them? No it is not, nor will it actually achieve anything other than to provide thousands more jobs for the jobsworths Whitehall attracts to itself in much the same manner that flies are drawn to a stinking carcass.

It is probably way too late to get this stupid and draconian legislation stopped, but it is encouraging to hear, on BBC Radio 4, a mother of small children telling the Minister that she thinks it is both stupid and unnecessary. Sadly, the Minister refused to listen to a word of it, sticking to her "I know best" and extremely vacuous arguments. It will not be long before anyone attending any function at which children are present will be required to undergo a "CRB" check before being permitted to sit in the same room as children they are not related too. One way I suppose to bring about Labour's other ambition - to destroy Christianity and Church going, since it is impossible to avoid having children and adults in the same space there!

Unfortunately I doubt the Conservatives have the guts to repeal this latest piece of stupidity either.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Hanseatic Traders

Lubeck is one of the ancient "Hanseatic League" cities, whose wealth was built on trade with almost all of Europe. This was especially true of the Baltic trade as its position near Denmark, Sweden and Norway and to the Eastern Baltic gave it a strategic position. The River Trave gives direct access to the city, though the modern port is at Travemunde just inside the mouth of the river and a few miles from the ancient city. The first picture shows a fairly modern square rigged barquentine (Square rigged on the fore and main masts and fore and aft rigged on the mizzen!) in the Trave.

Just astern of her is a replica of one of the "cogs" that carried the trade in this part of the world from several centuries. These ships had high Forecastles and Sterncastles and a simple sail plan. The crew shared the space below decks with the cargo, cooking facilities were fairly basic and as for toilets ....

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Global irritants....

While listening to the Met Office and the latest "proofs" of a "hotter than usual summer" and "unseasonably warm weather" doom and gloom I found myself observing a row of trees who have obviously decided to ignore the Met Office, Greenstrife and Fiends of the Earth and get on with shedding their leaves. The Autumnal colouring of their leaves is well advanced. It was then that I noticed that the House Martins and the Swifts have begun their migration to warmer climes and, on arriving home, noticed that the swallows who have successfully raised a pair of chicks under the eaves of my flat have departed.

Talking to some American and Canadian friends via the internet I have learned that the migrations they normally expect to see from now onwards began several weeks ago, and there is also evidence that, far from warming, the sea temperatures off the New England shores are cooler than usual. Even the much trumpetted "El Nino" threatening the Pacific West Coast is apparently diminishing. So whay are the "Climate Camp" still banging the drum for their favoured "the Earth will become like Venus of we don't cut out all CO2 production?" Well, I suspect its partly because they are now so far down this road and up each other's rear ends on the data that they dare not admit they may have it a teensy-weensy bit wrong. Worse, they have the politicians rabbiting on about it now without any understanding of the manner in which the data is "smoothed", cropped and adjusted to fit the picture that the "researchers" have created in order to get their hands on the lucrative "research" grants now beginning to flow their way.

The climate is changing, has been since the last Ice Age began to thaw, and the most pressing thing facing us is overpopulation. So, yet again, we have a "climate conference" scheduled to happen in Copenhagen at which more meaningless numbers (Like the statement that British Industry and Commerce must reduce their "greenhouse" emmissions by 90% by 2050) will be concocted without any scientific foundation. Anyone who dares to offer an alternative solution or hypothesis will be howlwedd out of the venue or gagged and the world's worst polluters, the Third World countries whose massive overpopulation is already depleting water sources, rain forests and arable soil reservoirs at an unprecedented rate, are to be allowed to continue to pollute while the west is dragged back to some mythical "eco-friendly" past. The insistence on using "Carbon Emmission per Capita" as a means of determining how much we pollute. This means that "Developing Nations" which have very large populations, can pump out huge amounts of CO2 and yet show up as less polluting than, say, the UK or the US.

The climate is changing, but in which direction and by what cause - I remain totally sceptical of the current hysterical media/politician and Greenstrife/Fiends of the Earth assertion that we will soon all be drowned by 20 metre rises in sea levels unless we stop bathing, stop manufacturing, stop travelling and start living in mud huts again. Do take a read of the latest post on "Predicting Global Temperatures" at "Watts up with That."

I shall watch the Copenhagen propaganda campaign with deep distrust.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Budget savings....

I hear on the Radio that Mister Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, thinks that cutting the number of MP's and streamlining the cost of Parliament will help save some money toward the huge Budget Deficit the Labour Party have, in classic Labour mismanagement style, built up. While I applaud the suggestion of a reduction in the numbers of parasites trying to justify their existence with ever more nuisamce and pointless legislation, I am also concerned at the suggestion that the present set up demonstrates that we live in a "robust" and "effective" democracy.

I do not believe that our "democracy" is either democratic or robust. The current ballot system of allowing the electorate to vote if they feel like it and the "winner takes all" system of vote counting is not democratic and is certainly not representative. We need, if people are to start believing in the system again, to have every vote cast count and go toward electing a representative. Every vote must count and voting should not be a matter of personal choice, it should be a Civic Duty.

A smaller more efficient Parliament would certainly save some money for the Treasury, but more importantly, we also need to trim the vast horde of Civil Servants back as well. The Civil Service is the single largest political force in the land and it is entirely unelected. It is single-handedly responsible for all of the waste and for the frustration of real democracy in this country. Never miond what Parliament or the Minister has decreed, what happens is what the Civil Service will allow.

If Mr Cameron is serious about reforming Parliament and making significant savings in the cost of government here are my suggestions for him.
1. Reduce the Civil Service and make the Mandarins that run it personally responsible for the delivery, on time and on budget of any project under their control and for the delivery of exactly the wishes of Parliament.
2. Reduce the number of MP's - possibly by deleting the Scottish MPs who no longer represent they people they purport to govern as the Scottish Parliament now rules in Scotland and the Welsh Assembly in Wales - why should they vote on matters affecting only the English?
3. Freeze all non-specialist positions and recruiting in the Civil Service and forbid the appointment of anyone to any "management" position who is not a specialist in the field to be managed.
4. Close the Civil Service College.
5. Re-organise all the Departments of State and make it law that there is to be full co-operation between departments with no department permitted to duplicate any regulation or other legislation which already exists and could be extended to cover their activity.
6. Create a permanent legislation scrutiny Commission with power to reject any legislation if it already exists, may conflict with existing legislation or may impinge upon any of our constitutional "Rights".
7. Appoint a Commission to consolidate all existing legislation in the UK, streamline it and make recommendations for the repeal of all duplicating legislation or conflicting laws.

Finally, it is ludicrous that the Treasury's annual round of "savings" demanded across the board in government departments invariably result in increased spending. Departments must be compelled to take full account and responsibility for the consequences of their actions, particularly when a cut in budget is being proposed. All too often a cut in, for example, defence purchases results in job losses and an increase in the Social Security budget which is disproportionate to the supposed "saving" made in the original "cut".

Parliamentary credibility? No way, not as long as it is run by politicians, for politicians and by politicians. And the same goes for Whitehall and the Civil Service. Trustworthy they are not.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Delicious scenery

Lubeck is, as I remarked in an earlier post, the home of the world's best Marzipan. Here are some examples!

This picture is a model of the Berlin Stadtschloss, demolished by the Communists and now under reconstruction.

The Holstentor is the ancient "Water Gate" of the City of Lubeck and was once the middle gate of a series of three each separated by a canal. The Holstentor was saved by a public outcry in the nineteenth century after the other two gates had been demolished.

Even Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Mermaid" gets the treatment in the Niederegger Window! Almost too good to eat.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday bumbling ....

The last few weeks have been quite busy, though broken up by the interlude in Lubeck. Plus having a cold hasn't helped so this week hasn't been very productive at home, but at least I've managed to get the Organist's CCTV system installed. It was quite a battle, first to get it, then to get the various bits to actually work. Running the cables for it in the Abbey have been real fun - not - and I am now a qualified contortionist as I have had to work inside the Milton Organ to get the cables to where they needed to be.

Working inside an organ case is fascinating, but terrifying, since you are in very close proximity to a large number of fragile 'levers' that make up the action, an enormous number of pipes which can be "detuned" by simply bumping them and every movement requires careful thought before you attempt it. I'm happy to say that I managed to carry out the installation without mishap, though I can now claim to have an intimate acquaintance with the Great Trumpet, the Clarina, several other ranks of pipes and the "action" racks at the back of the console. One does tend to get to know these bits very well when you have to ease yourself between them, under them or around them in order to work.

At least the Organists seem to be pleased with the result, though there is still some work required to "screen" out interference on three cameras from the sound system. It must also be said that I could not have done it without the help of a friend, Duncan, whose patience in "programming" the DVRs involved far exceeded mine.

Today has been fairly busy as well, with having served as Deacon of the Mass for the Said service at 0800 and the Parish Eucharist at 0915 before Serving at the Sung Eucharist at 1100. Having a part in the Liturgical Ministry of the Abbey is a huge privilege, no matter how small and I have to admit that my time here has been a period of tremendous spiritual growth. The role of ministry though is a demanding one and I know I am not alone in finding the act of leading worship very tiring. Small wonder I was disinclined to undertake any major work around the house this afternoon!

Still, it's now time to open a nice bottle of ale, make a sandwich and start getting my head round spending next week at my former employers premises teaching.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Medieval decorations ....

Lubeck is proud of its great medieval Gothic Brick Churches. Seriously damaged during the war they have been lovingly restored, even the medieval decoration inside has been recreated using the samw paint formulae and exactly recreating the original deocration or simply restoring it where it has survived. At the highest point in the town stands the Marienkirche - the Church of St Mary the Virgin - with it's soaring twin towers. This is the Civic Church standing next to the Rathaus or City Hall. Like the church the Rathaus is a medieval structure. Reduced to a shell in 1943 - 45 it too has been painstakingly restored to its original appearance and use.

The first picture gives an idea of the soaring height of this church, 38 metres or a hundred and twenty feet internally in the nave with a total length of 103metres (335 feet). The brick and plaster vaulting is decorated simply and very beautifully, the present decoration being a recreation of the original destroyed in a bombing raid in 1942. Interestingly the fire caused later plaster to spall from the walls revealing the medieval decoration beneath. These were carefully recorded and in 1948 work began on restoring them. Recently eyewitnesses have appeared on History Channel talking of the 1942 raid and one lady recalled the sounds of the bells falling from the towers. She described it as sounding as if the churches themselves were crying out in agony.

The twin towers are 406 feet in height, a phenomenal feat by the medieval builders using brick. At the time of its construction (1250 - 1350) no one in the world had ever attempted to build a brick and mortar wall of this height before.

At the end of the South Aisle is a small enclosure in which lie the remains of two of the eight bells that fell during the 1942 fire. They remain as a memorial to the many who died as the medieval city burned. A fitting one for a revived city.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Birthdays ....

Today is the youngest daughter's birthday and she is currently out for a special evening with her partner. Tomorrow is the son's birthday and Sunday they plan to have a joint feast.

I hope you will join me in wishing them both every happiness in the coming year and that all their dreams may be fulfilled.

Baltic Interlude

The ancient Hanseatic League cities of Lubeck and Wismar are gems. Lubeck is the home of Neideregger Marzipan, so if you are a Marzipan lover, this is Mecca! Wismar suffered badly during the war, being bombed by the RAF extensively and then ravaged by the Soviets and their Communist puppets afterward. Since reunification however, the city has been undergoing a loving restoration, the work painstaking and as precise as only the Germans could be.

In the second picture the Market Square of Wismar shows a fully restored 18th Century gabled front of a Merchant's House and this is just one of the many. Here and there one can still find some of these buildings in the run down and dilapidated state the Communists allowed them to fall too. But probably one of the greatest acts of vandalism the Communists carried out was the deliberate dynamiting of the 13th Century Brick Gothic nave and presbytery of the Marienkirche. The buildings built over it by the Communists have now been cleared and the site excavated archeologically. Now the walls are being slowly recreated using bricks made in the same manner as the originals.

Anyone who still thinks Socialism in any of its guises - and Communism is the ultimate expression of Socialism - should be required to study the damage this philosophy has done to the heritage of every nation it has touched, however lightly.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Dentists, banks and business ....

This morning I finally get the cap fitted to a premolar I broke three or four months ago. It has had a temporary cap for most of that time and, to be honest it won't take long to rip the temporary cap ff, clean off the glue remnants and fit the new one. But I am one of those people who would rather face some dangerous and challenging situation than recline in the dentists chair and let someone poke around in my mouth with a range of tools that look and sound like something out of the Dungeons-R-Us catalogue! Perhaps too many childhood experiences of "This won't hurt a bit!" and "You won't feel a thing!" have left me deeply suspicious of the profession. Fortunately my current dentist is a bit of an artist and good at his work. Still, it isn't a fun prospect. But at least there's nothing else needing attention ....

Unlike my bank, which has lost the really important Standing Order I handed in to them three weeks ago in preparation for my trip to Iran. They've asked for a duplicate but I know that scenario, been there before. Suddenly two deductions coming out when you've only got funds for one. And from Tehran I've got diddly chance of detecting that or sorting it out! So that will need to be addressed PDQ as well.

And then there is HMRC who want this years tax - and a half again "on account" for next year. Makes me wonder why I bother trying to make a living.....

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

September 1st

September the 1st 1939 marked the start of the second "Great War", probably more correctly referred to as "unfinished business" from 1918. The assault on Gdansk (or Danzig in German) marked the start of five more years of war that would bring ruin to Europe and the shameful betrayal of the Polish and other Central European nations by the West.

The UK went to war over Polish sovereignty and ended it by handing the Poles and their nation over to the Soviets. That was probably the most shameful thing the Labour Party has ever done in a long list of shameful things. But then, Attlee and his fellow Labourites thought Stalin was a hero and a man they could trust. After all, he was anti-Fascist and head of a "Workers Paradise". Some Labour MP's even suggested that the Soviet model should be adopted in the UK and they fell over themselves agreeing with the establishment of totalitarian regimes across Eastern/Central Europe dominated by the Communists. They aided and abetted him in setting up the Iron Curtain and even supplied him with the secrets of the jet engine so his MiG's could outfly and outfight the West's aircraft in the Korean War.

Today the Polish people marked the anniversary of the attack that led ultimately to their subjugation and subjection to Soviet rule for almost fifty years. Attlee even sent the exiled Polish Government back to Stalin assuring them they could "trust" him despite their certainty that all Stalin wanted was to imprison and try them on trumped up charges. Attlee's response? Total collusion with Stalin. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, today apologised for the part her people played in that and even the Russian Prime Minister made an effort. What I have yet to hear is any sort of acknowledgement from any of the present UK government's closet communists, of the part their party played in allowing Communism to be imposed after 1945.

I won't hold my breath though, there's more chance of Hell suffering an Ice Age.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Back to work

Just back from Germany and a fabulous break with Mausi. Unfortunately I have also managed to catch a really bad cold which is now starting to bite. So its off to bed with a bit of Night Nurse and the cat.

Tomorrow I have quite a day to get through and a lot to get organised. But, I will also download the pictures from the trip and post a few.