Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Someone has noticed ...

It seems that the BBC has finally caught on to the story of the manner in which the last government threw money into pointless projects driven by the ideology they tried to force on the English. Tony Blair cherished the ambition of breaking up England into eight 'Regions,' each with its own 'Assembly' to replace the Parliament he and his Scottish and Welsh members have for so long dominated. By creating these Regional Assemblies he hoped to achieve two things.

The first was to divide England so that it would be a given that Labour would control at least four, the LibDems would have one, possibly two, and the Conservatives, if they were lucky, might have two or three. The second was to try and hide the fact that, with Scotland having a Parliament of its own, the Welsh having an Assembly and an Assembly in Northern Ireland, each dealing with the affairs of that nation or province, the English are now actually ruled by their neighbours. The only legislature in Engand is the United Kingdom Parliament in Westminster and, as its title suggests, it is stuffed with MPs from all four nations...

You've guessed it, the Labour Party, without its Scottish and Welsh MPs, would never attain a majority in a purely English Parliament, so Blair's entire "constitutional reform" was a scam to guarantee their continuance in power. In theory this all fell apart when the English - except for London which is atypical of the rest of England anyway - resoundingly rejected the Regional Assembly scheme (Ironically in a Labour heartland most resoundingly of all!), seeing it for what it was, yet another layer to the 'gravy train' Labour had wanted to create so even more worthless jobsworths and charlatans could get their snouts in the trough that is MA, MP and MEP perks and expenses. So the English still have no Parliament for their own affairs and must grin and bear the charade of Scottish and Welsh MPs voting impositions on them in the full knowledge that the regulations, taxes and everything else they impose will not have any impact on their constituents, while destroying the hated English.

Well, as I said at the outset, we may have thought it was dead, but that reckons without a Civil Service which had already created Regional Management Boards, stuffed with Labour appointees and totally unelected. These cheerful chappies had set in motion the process of taking over the management of 'Regional Services' from Whitehall (Which, by the way, had no intention of losing any of its thousands of freeloaders and paper shufflers even though they were supposedly devolving the work to the 'Regions.') and employed dozens, if not hundreds of extra 'public servants' to duplicate those already supposedly doing the work in Whitehall...

Among these expensive plans was the subsumation of the Fire and Rescue Services, already criminally damaged by that buffoon and his minions who disgraced the office of Deputy Prime Minister and now disgraces the House of Lords, into eight services from the efficient system which currently has forty-four Brigades covering the whole of England. Until Prescott destroyed it (With the connivance of the Chief Fire Officers Association) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Fire Services provided technical advice and guidance to the services and ensured that they all followed recognised patterns of training, that equipment remained compatible and that they maintained a system of 'mutual aid' which meant a pump from Lands End could be sent to Berwick on Tweed and still work alongside the service there. All that went when the Civil Service decided that a) Centralised Training was not required and opted for Itsy Pitsy Diddly Squat as the fire fighters named "Integrated Personal Development" and then started handing out the Fire Service College training course materials, notes and course programmes to competitors while loading the College with massively expensive civil servant managers who contribute nothing but cost to the whole. Naturally the competitors now undercut the College and Brigades fail to support it - in fact, have spent vast amounts of money duplicating its facilities ...

One of the key issues on the Regionalisation by stealth agenda was to remove control of the Fire and Rescue Services from the Chief Fire Officers - sorry in New Speak that should be Chief Executive - and place it all in nine "Regional" Control Rooms. The budget was a mere £70 million. Guess what, ten years later, the cost is now £423 million and not one of these unwanted, unnecessary and potentially disasterous Control Rooms has yet opened. Nor will they, the present government is now attempting to pull back from this stupidity, but it may already be to late. As the Parliamentary Committee admited to the BBC recently, it is almost impossible, once a project gathers momentum in Whitehall for Ministers or Civil Servants to stop it - even when it is going disasterously wrong. They are incapable of admitting a mistake, so they throw money at it endlessly until someone notices and demands an answer. Then they throw even more money at it.

So the Fire Service Regional Control joins yet another of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's ill conceived and out of control disasterous projects. The list is impressive, and very few have ever actually worked, been resolved or ever will be. The truly shocking thing about all of them is that neither the MPs and Ministers involved, nor any of the incompetents in the Civil Service who, often against the advice of professionals and experts, presided over these schemes. At £423 million, the Fire Service Regional Control Project is one of the more expensive on a very long list.

Just for the record, here are some of the massively expensive and utterly useless projects money is still pouring into -

Holyrood Parliament - Budget: £40 million; Final cost: £450 million
Welsh Assembly - Again, massively over budget and the massive bureaucracy it has accumulated will make even that seem cheap.
Fire and Rescue Service Regional Control: Budget: £70 million; Final Cost: Not yet closed, but already past £423 million
UK Passport Agency: Budget £20 million; Still unresolved and the computers still don't do what they should (£200 million and rising)
Portcullis House: Budget £80 million; Final cost I am told was double that.
DVLA: Massive electronic programme - still can't get a persons Driving Licence details right and don't bother phoning or even going online.
Central Buying for the Fire Service: Several Brigades are now trying to sell off unused Fire Appliances bought under this scheme which they cannot use.
Preferred Bidder Procurement: This wonderful scam by the Treasury itself allows those on the "Preferred Bidder List" to secure major contracts without going through a Tendering Process (Too lengthy and too expensive according to the Treasury) and instead they can stick in an inflated price and laugh all the way to the bank because none of the incompetents who supposedly 'manage' Whitehall know what they are buying.
Civil Resilience: Massive investment (Just on the Fire Service £20 million worth of vehicles) in equipment which may never be used and which individual Brigades will find themselves replacing at their own cost in a few more years (This stuff has a life of around 15 years) and while a lot of it is "Nice to have," it is hardly bread and butter fire and rescue service kit and therefore needs a huge investment in training and in maintaining it. Will t actually save thousands of lives as the public have been told? Probably not, though a few hundred maybe beneficiaries across its life.

Well, at least someone has finally noticed that Whitehall and Westminster are on a runaway spending spree and have been since Blair took powerin 1997. Is it likely to stop? No. To quote the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee that admitted being unable to stop the spending on pointless projects - "The cost of abandoning a project may be higher than trying to get it to work."

Well, I suppose he had to say that, but frankly there comes a point when pulling the plug is going to be a lot cheaper - unless, of course, you have a contract written by a Whitehall W*nk*r that says if the government decides to pull the plug they must pay all costs including future costs of winding down the project.

Time, perhaps, to weed out Whitehall and place some serious restraints on the power of any Civil Service Committee to determine what gets spent and where. Plus, time to remove all unqualified 'managers' from any post involving anything they are not specifically qualified to do themselves. It won't cure the problem, but it may give us the satisfaction of knowing that someone in Whitehall has been held, finally, to account.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Interesting places...

Yesterday Mausi and the Monk took Mausi's mother out to lunch in a place called Seligenstadt. This is an acient city, built on the River Main, which was a flourishing centre of trade. One of the "Free Cities" of the Carolingian Empire, it held this status until annexed by the Prince Archbishop of Mainz in the 16th Century. The jewel in its crown is the beautifully kept Basillica Church of St Mark and St Peter and the attached monsatic range and gardens.

The Church building is Romanesque, though during the 17th and 18th Centuries it was given the Baroque treatment. That hasn't spoiled its simple architecture which can be seen in the accompanying pictures. The picture of the interior is taken from the wrought iron screen beneath the lantern crossing and looking west to the organ loft and gallery. The statues are from the Baroque as is the flat ceiling which probably hides a vaulted roof. The East end begins at the crossing and is of later date than the rest. This church and monastery were founded in 830 AD by one Einhard, the first Abbot, in thanks at having found his lost daughter in the town.

Einhard's remains are kept in a golden reliquary beneath the crossing altar and can be seen from the screen. The monastery itself underwent a serious rebuilding in the 17th and 18th Centuries but still boasts a working water mill grinding flour (Bread can still be bought from the bakehouse) and the formal gardens, seen in the photograph above are fabulous. A museum allows visitors to see the life of a Benedictine monastery like this one and a tea shop allows you to enjoy the traditional Benedictine hospitality at moderate cost.

The purpose of our visit was to have lunch though, and this we duly did in a fabulous Italian restuarant just outside the monastic enclosure. It has to be the first time in a while I haven't been asked how big I'd like me steak or how I'd like it cooked. The size was a simple matter of "large" and as for the cooking. Well, perfection just about covers it. Mausi's mother had a fish dish and Mausi opted for a pasta - both assure me that it was excellent.

Pity about the rain shower - stair rods about covers it - but it was worth the wetting.

So was the coffee and the home cooked 'kuchen' when we got home to Rotdorn - a leon cheescake style which is not only repeatable, but desireably heavenly.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

New book

I'm going to be hard pressed for time to write the blog for the next couple of months probably. First I have a commission to write a new text book for a professional institution on fire investigation and second my German language course starts next month.

Both are pretty time intensive, but exciting as well. Nothing like a challenge to keep you going...

Friday, 27 August 2010

I want a pet Alot a lot!

I just had to share this brilliant blog post: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

I know English is a living language that has always and will always mutate... but something in me dies a little when people manage to pass through 10+ years of school without understanding the appropriate use of "there" versus "their", or that there is a space between "a" and "lot". Top marks to the author of the above for finding humour in it!

More 'unwetter'

We certainly got some rain last night, mind you, the forecast was for 'schwer regen' and we got the edge of it. The worst apparently fell over North Rhine Westfalen to the nroth and west of us. They got a tornado as well, just for good measure.

As I type this, the wind has risen again and heavy clouds are building up to the west. Looks like the rain isn't quite finished yet. Still, all our water butts are now full to overflowing and should keep the garden watered right through to autumn.

And you can hear the grass growing...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Unbelievable cruelty

I came across this piece of unbelievable cruelty by a woman in the UK which says more than anything else I know that there are just some people out there who should not be allowed to live in any community excpet one surrounded by wire and preferably under supervision by psychiatrists.

This woman was filmed petting a young cat, then grabbing it and throwing it ito a wheelie bin where the terrified kitten spent the next sixteen hours until her owners found her. One has to wonder how many unfortunate cats have ended their lives at this creeps hands when the bin has been grabbed by the garbage truck handlers and tipped into the crushing mechanism. What motivates someone like this? Did it give her some sort of thrill to do this to the kitten who is seen in the video being friendly and playful?

I will never understand this sort of behaviour and I cannot bring myself to excuse it or condone it. I can only hope that she is traced and dealt with severely by the courts - though I'm sure some smart lawyer will find an excuse and the court will swallow it...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Greenpeace's pirate activities foiled for the moment...

So the Greenpeace pirate ship has turned up where the authorities thought it would - at the Cairn Oil Exploration rigs off Greenland. It's good to know that the Danes aren't standing for it and have declared a 500 m exclusion zone, warning the Captain of the Greenpeace ship that any breach of that zone by the ship or its crew will result in his arrest and the arrest of the ship. They've backed it with a frigate and the Greenpeace twits better believe the Danes aren't bluffing and won't be held back by the Westminster and Whitehall W*nk*rs who Kowtow to their rent-a-mob tactics.

The News article online gives these ideologically driven idiots a platform to womble on about how 'the money should have been invested in developing renewable and non-hydrocarbon based power' which tells you just how ignorant and impractical these people are. They will picket powerstations, then rush home and cook on electricity, use products and tools and equipment that without oil wouldn't exist. They enjoy the benefit of all the modern wealth and industry created by the hard work and industry, innovation even, of those who risk their lives and their capital to generate it - and would scream blue murder if you cut off the 'benefits' these parasites live on.

They have no idea where the cash and the capital comes from and live in a cloud cuckooland where 'government' provides money for every crazy idea and whim they come up with. If their schemes were followed, most of the modern medicine we currently enjoy would cease to exist, so would most technology and the lifestyle they and most other people in the UK, US and Europe take for granted would vanish overnight. So would beauty spots like the Severn Estuary, the Cairngorms, Snowdonia and many other "wild places." These would vanish beneath the 'renewable energy' plants such as the Severn Barrier and the ghastly, expensive, and largely unproductive windfarms they love so dearly. What would we hear then?

Oh, that these have to be dismantled because they have disturbed the nesting sites of the Great Spotted Twit, or disrupted the lesser spotted eel breeding season or perhaps even disturbed a colony of three toed newts! Why not just round these morons up, give them a large tract of pristine wilderness somewhere, stick a fence round it and make sure they fend for themselves in the greenest possible manner! They want to return the world to its fantasy 'prisitine' state? Fine, let them show the way and live without all the modern things their 'Vegan' and 'alternative' lifestyles depend on. Including my taxes!

Monday, 23 August 2010

The British art of Queing

Our local paper published a rather funny explanation and set of observations on the noble art of queing as refined and practiced by the British. It is a rather amusing observation of the the British people and goes into the niceties of waiting your turn, keeping the correct distance between yourself and the next in line and so on.

The writer of the article suggests that the British get very touchy when foreigners fail to observe the nicieties or attempt to 'jump the queue.' The article explains how it is vitally important to keep just enough space between you and the next person to avoid being asked 'Is this the end of the queue?' Of course, it also suggests that the British find everyone else's approach to queing incomprehensible. Here I will confess that attending a communion service can be an alarming experience in most churches as, at the invitation, the entire congregation rises and heads for the point of distribution where something of a scrum can develop! To anyone used to the strictly ordered Church of England, 'stand in line and wait your turn at the rail' approach it can seem disorderly.

British queues are something of a joke everwhere and one story is told of a queue forming simply to see why everyone else was queing. Nothing gets the British sense of fair play going faster than to be stood waiting in a queue only to have someone sail past to the head of the line - and get away with it. Blue-rinsed grandmothers have been known to make threats with their brollies at the mere hint of such a flagrant breach of 'fair play!'

It has to be said though, that queing does mean that everyone gets served, everyone gets a fair opportunity and though we all mumble about the delay and having to wait our turn, we all do it.

"It's the only fair way to do things, don'cha know!"

Sunday, 22 August 2010

House church

Today we had a very different kind of Eucharist. The service was held in our Pfarrer's garden and not in the church. It was a Family Eucharist and pretty well attended as we gathered in blazing sunshine under a couple of large gazebo-style tents and our priest in the centre with a small table as his altar under a large umbrella. We had all been asked to bring along a salad or a dessert and Mausi had created a rice salad to a South African recipe (Can't think why she thought that might be fun...) as the Eucharist was to be followed by a barbeque lunch.

The service ran its normal pattern except that, at the sermon, Pfarrer Klaus handed out bottles of 'Bubble Fun' to everyone and then encouraged us to make bubbles with them. Which we did. His sermon then used the imagery of the fragility of the bubble and its beauty as it changes hue to talk about faith and the things that strengthen it or weaken it. A good sermon, one the kids particularly enjoyed. I was surprised at the distribution of the elements to be asked to administer the Chalice and had to do a quick check to make sure I had the words of administration right! These German tenses and gender specific articles of speech are a nightmare for someone learning the language. "The Body of Christ" is easy, it becomes "Der Leib Christi," but "The Blood of Christ" becomes "Das Blut Christi" as 'blood"'is neuter gender while 'body' is masculine ...

I managed to get it right though after a moment's panic as I tried to remember the gender of 'Blut' and it was a wonderful experience to once again be called to minister in this way.

The lunch which followed is one of the nicest experiences I have enjoyed here. We met and talked to a number of new people, the kids had fun in the garden, the adults talked 'shop' or just got to know each other better. This is a nice community, one which has a lot of communal activity during the week as well as the Sunday service. Tomorrow evening I am invited to join the men's 'Sport' group in playing Pool, a game I have never played, but, hey, I'm willing to give it a whirl. I'm told we have nine pin bowling as well to look forward to...

And the German is improving slowly. This might just help speed it along...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Busy days....

Our cellar beckoned today. It has needed some sorting out and we have some new shelving to install so, hot day, cool cellar, the job got tackled. The cellar here is a useful room. It houses our washing machine, freezer and storage for tools, grocery stocks and some of the extra furniture you always need on occasion, but at other times need to keep stored.

The end result is that we now have our new shelves in place, we've identified a lot of stuff we don't need to keep and our cellar is looking good. Now we have to source the wineracks we want so we can store our wine properly. You can't live in one of the world's best wine producing regions and not have some wine in the cellar!

At least the temperatures are now dropping to more comfortable levels. We finished the day with dinner in the gazebo - baked tuna with mashed potato and veg on the side. And a good bottle of Pinotage to wash it down...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Day in Limburg

Mausi and I attended court today, for the morning anyway. We wanted to hear the statement to be made by the son of an accused man in a murder trial Mausi has had a small part in. As we suspected, the son owned up to the fact that he had helped his father destroy the bodies, but not to being involved in the killings. He also admitted that they had then gone to a considerable effort to rearrange the scene of the killings and disposal to change the layout and conceal some blood spatter.

This was very much what Mausi suspected all along, but the police investigation left rather a lot of things unexamined and it is now too late to correct this. Never mind, so much has emerged now that the outcome is undoubted, the accused will make a statement at a date to be decided and I suspect there is now some fairly hectic plea bargaining going on.

The victims were brothers who were apparently involved in some fairly illegal activities with the son of the accused and were also taking a cut of his 'profits' from farming canabis. Apparently they were demanding a bigger share when the father killed them. All this came out when the mother of the deceased more or less admitted being involved in the demands for a bigger share. I find it amazing, still, that there are people who embark on illegal and criminal activity, enjoy the profits (The sums of money being mentioned here would have paid off my mortgage in Tewkesbury, bought me a brand new car and left me with a comfortably large bank balance...) and are offended when they fall out with their 'partners' and pay the price.

What was even more astonshing was that fact that one of the deceased was described as the accused's son's 'best friend.' It doesn't seem to have worried him unduly to burn his fried's body and the friend's brother to unrecognisable ash which he then admits scattering into a stream...

It was relief there after to have a great lunch in a local Thai restuarant and then take the afternoon to explore the ancient "Alt-stadt" of Limburg ad its beautifully restored and very ancient Dom Church. As soon as I can figure out how to download my pictures from my phone (I forgot to take a camera) I will post some.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Madam at home...

Madam Paddy Cat - her name was originally Paddy Paws - has settled into her new home very nicely. This morning she inspected all the hiding places for the field mice, checked the water in the bird baths, visited the gazebo and finally decided to do the 'garden ornament' pose. Considering her age, now a month or so one side or the other of 20 years, she isn't doing too badly.

But all the excitement of checking the mouseholes obviously wore her out, because she next opted to take up residence on the sofa in my study and finds it very comnfortable, thank you.

The 'meow' informs me that I may continue now, my typing isn't disturbing her...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A walk in the woods

The rain of the last few days has abated a little and Mausi and I took a short walk in the woods. The walk was enlivened by the activity of several pairs of Red Kites who gave an aerobatic display that was as beautiful as it was evidently effortless for these superb flyers. They glide and soar with a minimum of wing effort while other, smaller, birds flutter and dart.

Watching these magnificent birds as they hunted in the fields bordering the trees was a great bonus to a lovely walk. Sadly though we couldn't get any photos of them, the distance just too great and their speed just too high for the camerawe had with us. We did manage to capture some of the magnificent cloud formations as they lent interest, and the occasional sprinkling, to our walk.

The fields are lush, the horses muching happily on the grass, the field mice are thriving and the creatures that feed on them are also doing well. Temperatures are down for the moment though predicted to rise at the weekend. All in all we seem to be sliding slowly toward a pleasant autumn and a cool if not a cold winter.

Just as the garden starts to look great!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A wet and rainy garden

We've just had a visit in the garden from a Green Woodpecker. Bold as brass, he came right onto the patio and examined our furniture carefully, thankfully not drilling any holes! Considering that the weather is a bit miserable - very wet and quite windy - he'd presumably decided to look for easier food to get at than he can generally find in the trees currently being blown about in the wind.

Fortunately for the bird, Madam Paddy Cat is a little put off by the wet, though she insists on checking whether we have turned off the rain yet at regular intervals. She still hasn't caught any mice yet, though she is harrassing them in their hiding places at present. She did give us some amusement the other night when she was startled by the resident hedgehog. She retreated inside and now carefully checks to see whether he's lurking before venturing into that section of the flower beds.

The weather does rather suggest that summer is now at an end and autumn gathering its forces. Several of our trees and shrubs have taken on their autumn hues so I expect others will soon follow suit. The grass, however, is growing like fury.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Under what legislation are Greenpeace authorised to attack Drilling Operations?

An item in the Guardian Newspaper states that Greenpeace has commissioned an ex-Russian Fire Fighting ship to 'target' deep-sea drilling operations they consider 'dangerous to the environment.' The Danish government has responded to the threat by despatching a naval vessel to defend Danish drilling operations off the Faroe Islands and Greenpeace admits that these fields are on their list of 'danger' sites. They are also accusing the Danish government of 'over reacting' stating 'we are an entirely peaceful protest ship.'

Yes, and Che Guevarra was just a Freedom Fighter defending the 'rights' of oppressed citizenry whether they wanted it or not.

The recent assault by this 'peaceful' organisation on BP Service Stations across London will, no doubt, go unpunished even though, in strictest terms of existing law it is sabotage, or commercial disruption and could be argued that the loss of livelihoods by the operators of these stations - franchise holders - and the threats to their staff and loss of earnings by their employees should be billed to Greenpeace. I do not recall ever being asked to vote for Greenpeace - a multi million pound 'charity' with most of its assets and principal 'managers' domiciled well off-shore and out of reach of any legal jurisdiction they target - to 'police' anything or anyone. Nor have I ever seen any legislation passed by anyone - the UN is NOT and never will be a legislative body - authorising Greenpeace or any other 'charity' to act as policemenor in any capacity to interfere with the legal operation of the tapping of any resources needed to run the modern world.

The lie they perpetuate in the Guardian article, that this is a 'peaceful' protest is just that, a lie. This operation will include attempts to sabotage equipment, to board the rigs and endanger, by stupid stunts, the lives of the operators and the safety of the rig. That is piracy, yes, P - I - R - A - C - Y, and there is nothing romantic or good about it. Take a look at the International Maritime Treaties. Greenpeace and their surrogate organisations involved in putting 'boarders' onto any ship proceeding on any lawful business upon the oceans in International or National waters, are commiting an act of piracy and it is high time they were arrested and charged with this.

Let us hope the Danes are just the first of many navies to be sent to defend these assets and arrest the Greenpeace pirates.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Great Pension Swindle

Throughout the Western World those of my age and generation, the so-called 'Baby Boomers' are being told that our pensions are unaffordable, that we must work until we drop and that all the money we have paid into pension funds is no longer available. Why is this? Well, in the UK, the answer is simple. It was never invested. Instead it was used to subsidise schools, the all consuming NHS, Parliamentary pay-offs and extravagance, social security for the 'won't works' and the hand-outs to immigrants. (A recent study showed that an immigrant could get benefits totalling over £400 per week while a Pensioner on the full State Pension gets under £200.) Add to that the failed social engineering experiments and all the other money consuming projects so beloved of the Left and Labour (Like Blair's electronic government - £1 billion or more and still not working!). That is the state of the 'State Pension' but why are the 'private pensions' in such a state of collapse?

Again you need look no further than the stupidity of Whitehall and the greed of the Directors. The collapse of the Maxwell Empire (The Mirror newspaper Group) is a clear pointer. The law 'allowed' the members contributions to be 'invested' in their own company. The various Boards interpretted that as a carte blanche to use the suprlus cash in the pension fund to prop up failing businesses, fund expansion or build unaffordable corporate headquarters. Those that were invested the Blair government and that economic disaster of a Chancellor, Gordon Brown, soon took care of. He changed the tax laws and stripped the pension funds of over £8 billion - and the Treasury is still stealing £6 billion a year out of the income that was supposed to pay for the pensions staff have paid for.

Elsewhere, as in South Africa, Employers Pension Schemes were required to be invested funds. You could not do as they do and did in Britain and use contributions to pay the pensions you were currently supporting. Those had to be paid out of your investment income. So the pension funds were, until recently, healthy. Then the present government began asset stripping.

My generation spent their youth being told we were 'too young' and 'too inexperienced' to be the top dogs. Then suddenly we were pushed aside by the PC Brigade and the Socialist graduates as having been 'privileged' and must therefore stand aside to allow the 'disadvantaged' to take charge. Some of us were even told we were to 'support and guide' the peoplebeing parachuted into positions for which they were neither qualified nor trained. We were to 'make our knowledge and experience available so they could catch up and take charge.' I freely admit that I was one of those who refused. If I wasn't good enough to hold the position, then I certainly wasn't good enough to 'guide' the complete ignoramus who was appointed. I also made sure that any direction from them which was likely to have repercussions was recorded and my objection with it.

So now the chickens are coming home to roost. My pension is under threat. I'm told that because the expected population and job expansion (people being employed in endlessly expanding jobs) hasn't happened; because the expansion of the economy isn't happening; because the wars Labour embarked on in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else have cost more than they thought and because the Civil Service (Which contributes nothing at all to the economy) continues to expand exponentially, I will have to continue until I am 67, 68, 69 - or drop dead - before I and all my fellow 'Baby Boomers' qualify for our pensions.

I have a suggestion. Sack half the Civil Service, on the grounds of incompetence, a charge which could be easily proved in every case from the top down. Freeze 'Benefits' and cut Parliamentary salaries and pensions - the salaries by half and the pensions to the same 'pro rata' formula as the rest of us in any employment where the pension benefits are directly related to length of service. That will save several tens of billions and that can be invested to pay the pensions we, the Baby Boomers, have paid for. Selling off all the luxurious and hugely expensive office accomodation built in the last twelve or so years to house extra civil servants and the hordes of self-important twits called MPs would also provide a vast amount of money to balance the books.

Do I expect any politican to even consider this? I won't lay any money on it.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Owls, Kites and Kestrels...

Last night we had a visit from a large owl. As it was dark we couldn't see what sort, but evidently it has discovered the horde of field mice that have invaded our, and our neighbours gardens. Madam Paddy Cat was rather cautious about it all, with good reason I suspect.

Early this morning as I was enjoying my coffee in bed, one of the kestrels did a high speed dive into the garden and soared away clutching something. We have several kestrels hovering, diving and generally harrying the small critters in the fields all around us, but the majestic Red Kites take the prize. They soar magnificently and apparently efortlessly. Occasionally they have mock aerial combat displays and from time to time obviously make kills in the fields.

As I type Madam Paddy is out investigating the several mouse holes she has marked and targets daily. At 20 years of age though, her intent I think outweighs her ability...

Looks like the owls, kestrels and possibly the kites have the hunting field to themselves for now.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Martin's Martens ...

A friend of ours here in Taunusstein has visitors. Martin has Martens in his garden - as, it must be said, do the rest of us.

Being surrounded by forest, we have a lot of these lovely and playful little critters around us, though they are quite shy most of the time. Semi-nocturnal, you don't see them much in daylight, but you certainly hear them playing and hunting at night. Cousins of the weasel family, they are lithe, quick and eager hunters, so this year, the mouse explosion is probably a bonus for the Pine Martens and the House Martens or Marders as they are called here in Germany.

Though they look cuddly, they cause a lot of damage if they invade your loft. They do a lot of damage to cars as well at this time of the year. For some reason, unknown to mankind, but probably a secret Marten aphrodisiac, they take to chewing the rubber hoses in cars. Get a Marten into your engine and your coolant pipes are suddenly collanders, your electrics lack insulation and several other parts made of rubber or certain plastics - they are selective - are nibbled and stripped.

Martin's Martens have done just that to his car. An Opel - which, again for reasons known only to Marders - their favourite make ... But don't think your BMW or your Merc are immune, if there isn't an Opel around, they'll take second best ...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Raising the nuclear spectre...

The bush fires raging in a vast area around Moscow have caused widespread devastation. Two hundred or more deaths, several towns have been completely razed to the ground and hundreds, if not thousands are homeless. But the chief concern now seems to be that the fires have entered an area contaminated by the fallout from the smoke of the fire that destroyed one of Chernobyl's reactors. It seems the Greenpeace activists 'monitoring' the smoke have 'detected radiation.' One wonders, of course, what sort, and what isotopes they are measuring.

I'm very skeptical of anything Greenpeace tells me, especially after their claim that the Brentspar was 'loaded with radioactive material' when it was in fact, background radiation from seabed mud they were 'measuring.' There may be a little 'science' in there, but the 'spin' destroys any credibility it may have.

Recently I came across an article written by one of their activists postulating on the effects of a train carrying 'nuclear material, "exploding" following an accident' in the East London area. The article betrayed the fact that the author had no knowledge of spent nuclear fuel's nature and even less of the protection systems and shielding that is present when it is transported. This is a common myth the anti-nuclear lobby keep perpetuating. In their minds any radioactive material is the same as an A-Bomb. According to their mythology, simply bumping it can cause a nuclear explosion. The truth is somewhat different. In fact you have to use quite a lot of TNT to 'fuse' lumps of fissile material and create a nuclear 'explosion.'

The other myth the media are equally guilty of promoting is that the reactor at Chernobyl was a nuclear explosion. It wasn't, it was a steam burst caused by a fire in the graphite core which holds the fissile rods that cause heat when they are allowed to react without the Boron damping rods which absorb the radioactive particles the fuel rods emit. To cool the core and transport the heat being generated into heat exchangers which in their turn heat the water from the boilers to steam and drive the turbines which generate electricity for you and me. What went wrong at Chernobyl was an attempt to 'restart' a reactor manually. Uneven heating of the core led to a fire in the graphite blocks, that caused a coolant pipe to split and that caused water to flood into an environment where the heat was five or six times the boiling point of water and the pressure was low enough for the water to 'flash' instantly to steam.

One litre of water becomes one thousand litre of steam. The top blew off the reactor under steam pressure, the fire in the graphite got air and the rest is history.

There are serious risks with nuclear power. not least the human factor, but please, let's stop the morons who sread the myth that all nuclear installations are A-Bombs. They're not.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Fire and flood

The flooding in Eastern Germany and Poland is it seems balanced by the heatwave in Moscow and environs - over 40*C in places and it has been sustained now for several weeks. Small wonder than that there are fires raging across the huge expanses that typify this massive country. What is perhaps surprising is the loss of life - 250 according to the news - and the destruction of entire towns. It is almost as if there are no fire services at work at all there. Despite appearances though there are now something like 15,000 fire fighters at work but, at the last count, there are still something over 300 separate fires in progress. The satellite pictures show a smoke plume covering thousands of square kilometres and pictures taken in central Moscow show the city choked with smoke from the fires.

The President and Minister for Emergencies have both criticised the fire fighters, but, as one has pointed out in an intervoew, some of their equipment is unusable because they cannot get spares for it and most of the rest is out of date or inadequate. One hopes that Messrs Putin and Co will take the hint.

Meanwhile the tragedy in Pakistan continues unabated with another couple of months of monsoon still to come. To much rain in one part, not enough in another. Typical weather...

Unintended consequences

The generation that spent their university years boycotting, campaigning against everyone, sitting in classrooms to ban particular lecturers and generally sowed the seeds of civic breakdown are now sitting in Whitehall and Westminster and wondering why no one respects them, their office or their ideas.

Democracy only really works when there is trust between the politicians, the voters and the bureaucrats who serve both. That trust has broken down. There are far to many laws there simply because some ex-Hippy felt a need to show he/she was 'doing something' about anything. Far too many actually conflict with the very rights the law makers calim to respect and far, far to many actually conflict with other existing laws - simply because the idiot who wrote it for the MP behind it simply didn't bother checking. Trust has evaporated, the media have, probably rightly, managed to tar everyone in an elected office as sleavy, overpaid and certainly with his/her snout in the trough. That image is certainly re-inforced by the fact that our Parliamentarians are now almost exclusively 'Professional Politcians' in the sense that they do nothing else for a living.

Most start out in Accountancy or Law, get elected to a Local Council, then to a County Council and finally to Parliament. If they go through the Labour route, its through being an activist for the National Union of Students, then a Union Official, Local Government and finally a safe Labour seat. Never done a days work in their lives is a term applicable to the majority of MPs. As for their Civil Service chums, well there isn't much to choose from. The Civil Service is now recognised as an entirely self serving and self preserving parasitic organisation. Cuts in budgets may bring about a reduction in services this organisation is supposed to provide, it won't actually bring any savings and it certainly doesn't see any reduction in the size of any Department. What it does invariably do is see a huge rise in Unemployment as contracts for the military and other 'service' departments are cut.

Those who launched the "Summer of Love" wanted more say in a range of matters they felt strongly about but lacked the experience and even the knowledge to do. They began a process which now, through the plethora of "charitable" organisations, such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and so on, have undermined the very fabric of our democracy. I doubt they intended this, but it is a fact. As I said at the outset, democracy depends on trust and respect. Both are now long gone from our society.

I doubt that our democracy can survive.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Floods and summer ...

Monsoons have come to India and Pakistan for at least the last twelve thousand years in varying intensities year on year. Some of the records of white colonials and traders record these events over the last several centuries and some of them describe massive downpours that flush out the rivers and carve new channels. What has certainly changed in the last century is the sheer numbers now living in the flood plains and along the river ravines. Perhaps we should not then be surprised when we get an exceptional monsoon season, that so many people die and so much property is destroyed.

The flooding along the River Neiße which forms part of the border between Poland, Czech Republic and Germany isn't down to a monsoon, though the downpours that triggered it would make a monsoon proud. Part of the problem here is the bursting of a dam during the storm. This released a massive wave of water, in some places such as the city of Goerlitz, the water rose 4 metres in 3 hours and overwhelmed efforts to contain it. At least here the people are not as densely packed as in Pakistan, but there have still been six deaths and there has been damage to buildings which have survived previous floods. One of these is a monastery only recently restored after almost sixty years of neglect under the communists. Priceless artwork and magnificent buildings, lovingly restored and only recently rehung, have now to be cleaned and restored again because though there were flood defences, these were overwhelmed.

Of course, heritage buildings and artworks damaged or destroyed is not really comparable with the loss of life and the loss of homes, livelihoods and possessions on the scale we have seen and are seeing in Pakistan. The difference here is the fact that the flooding in Germany can be blamed n a "Hundred year flood" and the failure of the dam. In Pakistan it lies at the door of massive overpopulation, total lack of planning to protect or at least reduce the numbers of people exposed because they live in the flood plain of the Indus or its tributaries.

We can all wring our hands and blame "Global Warming," or "Climate Change" but it comes down to if you have over population, if you strip the vegetation which anchors the soil, if you then pave or roof huge areas and you place thousands of people in a flood plain - you've just created the ideal conditions for catastrophe.

The monsoon is an annual event, the last four or five have been mild ones, now we are entering a cycle of heavy ones again - all dictated by surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean - so we should expect to see something being done to reduce the risk to the Pakistani population by at least reducing the numbers living in flood plains.

But I won't hold my breath.

Clone Danger?

I am watching with interest the usual hysterical response in the UK to the discovery that some of them might have eaten a piece of meat from a cloned bull. Already the doom predictors are shouting about the potential for another "BSE" disaster even though this is nothing like the same thing. The voice of reason is howled down by the usual mob of 'elf and saf'ey hystericals and veggie pushers. All of it without a shred of evidence to support their doom laden predictions.

Common sense and balance seems to have been utterly and irreparably lost as the spin and lies of Political Correctness and the utterly insane belief that everything can be rendered "safe" by some magic potion concocted out of a "risk assessment" and legislation so badly written it's a joke. Life is full of risks and we learn to deal with these through experience and through knowledge of the things we are daeling with, not so the PC or 'elf an' saf'ey mobsters. To them experiece and knowledge are anathema, experience becausethey haven't got it and knowledge because it gets in the way of a good set of prejudices.

Just proves the saying I suppose, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Certainly it is in the hands, mouths and minds of those incapable of balanced thinking or rational response.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Terror links...

I came across an interesting website recently, one which identifies where certain group get their funding. It was sent to me in a chat I was having with a friend in the UK whose interest was sparked by the realisation that he is due to take his children camping in central England - and that a group called Earth First are holding a 'training camp' in the adjoining field. Earth First are advertising this as a 'Direct Action' training camp, their website calls it a 'heirarchy free' event - 'no leaders, come prepared to take an active part.'

I think I would also be worried as the agenda advertised suggests that attendees will be getting instruction in how to destroy crops suspected of being "GM", animals that are "cloned" and to deal with people the organisation regards as being involved in activities they do not approve of. The organisation has links with the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front and several other groups whose activities are well within the definitions of terrorism. So where do these people get the funds?

Like me you'd probably be surprised to know that they are linked to a wide range of Registered Charities and get funding from them. Earth First is supported by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and others. All of these so-called eco-groups have declarations on their websites which actually support 'direct action' in achieving their objectives.

So I have a question, if these groups are involved in activities which fall within the definitions of terrorism,, why are they not outlawed and prosecuted? Could it be that our western governments are afraid to do so?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Busy, busy, busy ...

It's been a busy weekend with lots todo both in the garden and in the house.

There hasn't been much time to post anything - and now it's tme for bed.

More, perhaps, through the week.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Anniversary of the A-Bomb

Yesterday was the anniversary of the dripping of the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. I have watched all the usual programmes detailing the horrific effects and the usual talking heads, none of whom fought for their countries in WW2, proclaiming the mantra that it was evil and unnecessary.

I have no doubt at all in my mind that it was horrific. Nor do I doubt that it caused immense pain and suffering for the citizens of Hiroshima. I agree that we should mark the event and remember those who died that day and in the days following. Nor should we forget that tomorrow marks the fall of the second bomb on Nagasaki and the thousands who died there. Did they die in vain?

I do not believe so. In fact I am firmly in agreement with the analysts who, at the time and with the full knowledge of what the Japanese military intended to do, in response to an Allied invasion, determined that the dropping of these two bombs finally convinced the Japanese High Command that they had no option but to sue for peace or face anihilation of their people.

That decision probably saved the Allies over a half million casualties and the Japanese several million. That it shortened the war by at least six months was something my father, who was there and fighting the Japanese, did not doubt.

We should remember the victims, but we should keep the decision to drop the bomb in perspective. Ultimately it did save lives.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Unwetter ...

We have some weather warnings in place here in Germany, though the Taunus seem to be on the edges of it all. At least we have some cool weather and plenty of rain so our rain barrels are filling nicely. In fact two are brimming, but the third is just over half.

Never mind, more rain is forecast so it will fill.

At least I can look forward to Mausi being home again tomorrow. Her court testimony apparently went exceptionally well up in Strahlsund. The Judge and the Prosecution were very pleased with her explanation of the gas exposion mechanics and the court itself a little surprised at the power of such explosions when shown pictures of them. The Defence apparently had no challenges and no questions, so now she is on her way home in the morning.

I look forward to hearing more about this rather odd case...

Meantime, let it rain.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Mouse hunting - old cat style...

Madam having discovered there are mice in the garden, now spends a great deal of time investigating any movement in the plants and shrubs. So far she hasn't caught anything, but I get the impression that many of the mice have decided its time to move house. They certainly are not as bold as they were until recently.

Madam's technique is interesting, she has a spot near where she located a mouse previously. She advances to this carefully and then parks, watching closely around her for any sign of movement. For an almost twenty year old, her reflexes are still excellent. Something moved while she was watching and had it not been deep inside a rather dense shrub, I suspect she'd have had it.

The birds aren't happy about her sudden interest in hunting though and spend all their time swearing at her from the safety of the upper branches of our trees...