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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Last Post?

Happy New Year to my readers.

May 2012 bring everything we all hope for.

Friday, 30 December 2011

A different approach to company ownership ...

A report in today's newspaper got me thinking. The report itself concerned the change of Chairmanship of a large German company which produces a wide range of frozen foods, packaged food, baking materials and considerably more in related goods. The firm started out as an Apothecary business in the 1890's and was founded by one Dr. August Oetker. The remarkable thing is this, that it survived two world wars - after the second having to be almost rebuilt from scratch - and is now one of Germany's largest manufacturers and suppliers of food, but it is not a "public company" and doesn't trade on the stock exchanges. It is family owned and run ...

This seems to me to be one of the major differences between the UK and US approach to business. Where the German's start one they start out small and grow it. They keep control of it and develop it for their own and their workers benefit. Germany requires worker representation at Board level so the workers also have a stake in the business and the decisions. Where a company does sell shares, it is never more than 40% of the capital and that is monitored carefully. A "Trust" usually manages a small 'share' holding for the employees where one is set up and the 'family' own and run the majority of holdings. Another good example is BMW, but others include Ziegler Fire Equipment, Steiff (the Teddy Bear makers) and the Aldi chains.

As various founders have discovered, the UK and US models are very different and a company is very unlikely to remain under the control of the founder and his or her family. Examples include Body Shop and Eddie Stobart, both taken over in Boardroom coups after going public and finding themselves the target of asset strippers and the money men. Eddie Stobart in particular was a nasty affair, the founder having built a large haulage company, run on tight lines with hands on from the man himself. His drivers were hand picked, always neatly dressed and treated extremely well. Post being persuaded to sell a stake in his company, Mr. Stobart found himself being told how to manage and what he could do by a bunch of smart 'suits' with no knowledge of the trucking business. Eventually he was pushed out and off the Board - and died of heart problems shortly after. The company name survives, but it isn't the same efficient and caring organisation it was - and its had several changes of ownership and board members since. Eddie must be rolling in his grave since the "new" owners are an "offshore" holding company and Eddie was nothing if not patriotic.

While the US and UK seem to think that selling off everything including their staff and families is perfectly acceptable, the German view is very different. Here there is a deep pride in the part these companies play in the economic health of the nation. Suggesting to Dr Oetker's family that they should sell their controlling stake in the company would be likely to get you shown the door assisted by a pair of burly security men. They'd rather sell the family silver!

Does this system work? I'd have to say that in my view it certainly does. These family owned and run businesses don't have the staff turnover or industrial relations problems their "multi-national" competitors experience. That alone has to be saying something. There are industrial problems of course, it would be totally misleading to suggest there were not, but they tend to get resolved much more speedily and much more amicably than those I encountered in the UK. For one thing there is far less of the "them" and "us" at work here in trade union activity and again, it tends to be strongest in those industries where the "shareholders" are remote and have only a financial interest in the business.

I can't escape the feeling that if the UK and the US want to survive as major economic powers they need to rethink both management and ownership of their assets. Speculative buying and selling of commodities is one thing, but when it comes to speculating with hard assets such as jobs, manufacturing premises and the like, it becomes a very different ball game. It is this sort of speculation - encouraged by Whitehall and Westminster to a very large degree - that has seen almost all of Britain's major industries exported to "developing nations" and of course, the jobs went with the hardware - but not the workers.

Dare one, in the face of the hysterical reporting of the Daily Mail and others of the purported "recreation of Charlemagne's Empire" or "the Fourth Reich," suggest that a little less hysteria, a lot more calm thought and a good hard look at the manner in which the nations assets are traded, stripped and exported might be in order? Certainly the German model may not be perfect, but it certainly has a great deal to commend it!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Movies

Last night Mausi and the Monk treated themselves to a visit to the cinema in Mainz. Probably contrary to expectations, we chose to see the new Dreamworks film "Puss in Boots" in 3-D. I think I shall confine myself to saying it was spectacularly well done and very funny. There are a few fairy stories and nursery rhyme characters who will simply never again have quite the same image in my mind at least.

While the old fashioned 3-D was pretty good, the new digitised version is spectacular. You simply can't help yourself as things come straight at you out of the screen. You know its the movie, you know it's not 'real' but your reflexes move you anyway.

With 'Puss' based on the Shrek character you know he simply isn't going to be the version you know and love from Pantomimes. He certainly doesn't disappoint. He's sassy, he's bold as brass and does that thing with the big eyes and drooping ears every cat 'carer' knows and can't resist when he needs to. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but has a nice moral to it as a good fairy story/nursery rhyme should.

If you haven't seen it, you should.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Freight traffic ...

Found some interesting figures today which I will have to explore a bit further. It appears that the rivers and canals in Germany carry far more freight than any other form of transport here. Everything from raw materials to finished goods is carried on the rivers with dangerous cargoes forming quite the largest part. I found myself wondering what all those so-called "Greens" will say if their "bunker fuel tax" for all these nasty polluting ships does come into force? I suspect they will not be happy with the resultant rise in the prices of everything, or with the move to put more of this freight on the roads.

As I said I need to look at this a bit more, but the figures I ran across in the newspaper suggest that over 100 million tons of goods is transported around and across Germany on the rivers and canals. One hundred million tons of freight would mean 25 MILLION more trucks on the roads ... OK, stop there for a moment. Now consider, most of those would be carrying oil, processed fuels, chemicals and other nasties currently carried in safety on the rivers.

Thinking a little laterally, this may be why the UK has such congested Motorways. The freight that used to travel by canal and river is now on the roads ... All of it in 40 ton juggernauts probably blocking two lanes of any given Motorway as I type.

Perhaps one day someone can tell me how they plan to keep our economies going when they keep shutting down or penalising the most efficient transport systems and replacing them with inefficiency and waste? Perhaps they can then also explain how our economies can continue to produce the money they keep demanding from us to pay for their beanos and jamborees and all the useless windfarms?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas Day 3

Christmas being a feast of 12 days this is technically the third day ... Many "major" feasts in the Christian calendar have an "Octave" - in other words they last for eight days - and Christmas is no exception. So how did it get twelve days?

That's an easy one. There are four "saints" days between Christmas and Epiphany, the day the "Wise Men" arrived in Bethlehem. The four additional feasts are a bit dependent on which calendar one is following, but St Stephen, The Holy Innocents, The Circumcision of Christ are three everyone agrees to. Anglicans also celebrate Thomas Beckett and other calendars include either him or another martyr.

Traditionlly St Stephen's Day, called Boxing Day in English speaking countries, is the day on which servants had a day off ad received "Boxes" from their employers. Sadly, these days, Messrs Sainsbury, Tesco, et al tend to follow the Scrooge line of thought when it comes to employees.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas fun ...

One of the more fun bits of silliness at Christmas is the annual "NORAD Tracks Santa ..." fun and games usually reported on TV and Radio and sometimes even in the printed media. The Postulant sent me a link to the Wikipedia page that gives the background to this and that set me thinking...

The whole "NORAD Tracks Santa" event has its origins in a misprint in an advert inserted in a Colorado newspaper by the Sears department store. The intention was to let children talk directly to Santa (Their version of course, who could then encourage the kids to visit the stores Grotto ...). The accidental misprint gave the number instead for the Continental Air Defence System HQ - which found itself swamped with calls from children hoping top speak to Santa. The operators referred to their Commanding Officer, a Colonel in the USAF, who instructed the operators to "give the kids updates on where Santa is in the world distributing gifts ..." and so began the annual tradition of NORAD issuing minute by minute bulletins on Santa's whereabouts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

I would like to think that the Colonel's response to the mistake was typical of the military attitude when dealing with children in particular. A Bureaucrat probably would have told the operators to respond with "Sorry, you have a wrong number." By contrast the Colonel figured out what had happened, realised there were a lot of bitterly disappointed children calling - and took a decision which resolved the potential for tears.

Interestingly the whole operation is now run by volunteers on the NORAD staff. Sophisticated software is used to analyse the volume and type of calls each year and to determine how many and when the volunteers will be needed. Long may it continue.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Freedom of Speech?

I recently found an interesting article on "Freedom of Speech" on the Ludwig von Mises Institute blog. The article raises a number of very interesting pints with which I find myself in heart agreement. All to often in our present age, the term "Freedom of Speech" has come to mean exactly the opposite. "You may speak as long as what you say is politically correct and everyone else agrees with you" has become the apparently accepted norm. It has also been taken to mean being able to deny anyone you disagree with the right to say what they think or present their views, but this is emphatically NOT what real "Freedom of Speech" is.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters were allowed to remain in New York's Zuccotti Park for two months, against the will of its private owners. They were clearly trespassers, indeed, much worse than garden variety trespassers, who almost always quickly leave. They were there prepared to stay indefinitely. In effect, they were literally attempting to steal the park from its lawful owners.
Nevertheless, they were allowed to remain, in the belief that to eject them would somehow constitute a violation of their freedom of speech. They had seized the park in order to denounce capitalism. Ejecting them, would have ended their use of the park for that purpose and thus, according to virtually everyone with a public voice, from New York's Mayor to the lowliest media reporter, would have violated their freedom of speech.
This concept of "the right to prevent or obstruct someone else in the exercise of their rights" is a recent one. It began in the 1960s with the student "sit-ins" and sometimes forcible ejections of lecurers they didn't like from classes and even from their posts. It is now a very useful tool of the Left in obstructing the promulgation of anything they don't want made public or given any space anywhere. The classic example has to be the vilification of Enoch Powell and the manner he was branded and hounded throughout the remainder of his life.
A major lesson to be learned from the occupation is that hardly anyone nowadays understands the meaning of freedom of speech. Contrary to the prevailing view, freedom of speech is not the ability to say anything, anywhere, at any time. Actual freedom of speech is consistent withrespect for property rights. It presupposes that the speaker has the consent of the owners of any property he uses in speaking, such as the land, sound system, or lecture hall or radio or television studio that he uses.
 The various "Occupy ...." movements have adopted the tactic of denying the rightful owners of various things their right to the use of their property and argue that preventing them from carrying out what amounts to a breach of the law of property use as well as denying the other side the right to speak is a "breach of their 'Freedom of Speech.'"
Nevertheless, by the logic of the prevailing view of freedom of speech, protesters in the future will be able to storm into lecture halls and/or seize radio and television stations in order to deliver their message and then claim that their freedom of speech is violated when the police come to eject them, even though the police in such cases would in fact be acting precisely in order to uphold the freedom of speech. Indeed, since the days of the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, back in the 1960s, disruptions of speeches delivered by invited guests have occurred repeatedly on college campuses, in the name of the alleged freedom of speech of the disrupters. No attention has been paid to the actual violation of the freedom of speech of the invited speakers.
There is a fundamental problem with this view. Protesters have a right to express their views, but this does NOT include preventing anyone else from expressing theirs.
The prevailing view of freedom of speech is a major threat to freedom of speech. Not only does it provide justification for actual violations of freedom of speech of the kinds just mentioned, but it also makes freedom of speech appear to be a fundamental enemy of rational communication. Speakers cannot address audiences, professors cannot lecture to students if disrupters are permitted to drown them out and then hide behind the claim that they do so in the name of freedom of speech. If the prevailing view of freedom of speech were correct, the ability of speakers to speak and professors to lecture would require accepting the principle of the need to violate freedom of speech.
I find myself in complete agreement with the final paragraph of the von Mises article.
Upholding freedom of speech and rational communication requires a policy of no tolerance for the occupation of property against the will of its owners. Any such occupation is in violation of the owners' freedom, including their freedom of speech. Protester-occupiers are enemies of freedom, including, above all, freedom of speech.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Cards ...

This year the Monk is feeling a little guilty. He hasn't bought and sent his usual selection of cards. This is, in part due to the expense of posting "non-standard" items from Germany and in part to his having missed the order deadline for his usual supplier. He has, however, made a donation to that charity and hopes his many friends will accept his apologies and his wishes for a very blessed Christmas and a year ahead that brings everything they hope for.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Argentinian hopes?

So now the Argentinains have some allies in their attempt to seize the Falkland Islands. It is, I suppose, to be expected as Britain is now seen as defenceless and unable to enforce any sort of control in the waters around the islands. The stupidity of the swinging cuts in ships, manpower and the scrapping of our pitifully small aircraft carriers - with the premature scrapping of all their aircraft must now be apparent even among the completely self interested and self serving denizens of Westminster and Whitehall.

The decision of the three major powers in South America, one of them an ally in the 1982 war, is a serious warning of things to come in this area. Royal Naval ships are already routinely refused bunkering or landing permission in any of the ports in that region and it is merely a matter of time before some overzealous patriot decides to seize either a ship wearing the British flag or attacks one. After all, the last invasion was sparked by the hoisting of an Argentinian flag by a bunch of soldiers disguised as "scrap merchants." It will not take a genius to figure out how to pull some similar and equally inflammatory stunt.

One of the things which frequently surprises me among the denizens of the Left is the eagerness with which they are prepared to hand over territories like these to anyone who wants to claim them on "historic" grounds, completely ignoring the wishes of the people living there as often as not, to remain within the arrangements they have at present. The Falkland Islanders are the descendents of those who first settled there over 200 years ago and wish to remain British. They have never been Spanish or Argentinian and don't wish to be. Argentina's claim is at best tenuous and at worst simply opportunist. Until indications of oil were found there, they weren't particularly bothered ...

Spain's claim to Gibraltar has a great deal more validity, but those living in Gibraltar don't want to be governed by Spain. Thank you very much, they like being British and have no wish to be anything else, Liebor Party/Guardianista ambitions or not. There does seem to be an element of blindness or perhaps bias in this. An example os the attitude to Israel. There is no acknowledgement of its right to exist or to have some secure borders. It is acknowledged that the 1967 borders were a bureaucratic joke. Totally indefensible and an invitation to invade - yet the left insists that these are the only "legitimate" boundaries and labels Israel a "rogue" state because it refuses to surrender its sovereignty to a bunch of murderous terrorists.

This attitude shows in the petulant manner in which the Falklanders are dismissed as "obstructionist" in some quarters, primarily because they refused to accept Blair's ill-conceived and thankfully short-lived plan to "share" administration of the islands with Argentina. To the left, the Falklanders are an embarrassing reminder of the "evil Empire" that made Britain a leading power and gave it the wealth it is so busy squandering.

As a descendent of yet another group of "colonials" sold down the river by the UK's self serving and self interested political classe, I find myself in sympathy with the Falklanders as they face the growing threat. Even the most hopeful of them must, by now, know that Westminster and Whitehall will sell them out at the first opportunity - largely because in their eagerness to "save" money to squander on their own perks and inflated ambitions, they have removed any hope of defending them when the Argentinians once more stake their claim with force.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The End of the World is Nigh!

Does anyone else wonder about the seemingly endless stream of films and books, rumours, stories, news reports (sometimes) that keep proclaiming the ultimate doomsday scenario?

I can remember reading my first one's in this vein back in the 1960s. Then it was The Bomb that was going to blow us all away and render the planet uninhabitable. There were also the "natural" disaster tales, usually involving an event triggered by some scientific experiment going wrong. We had genetically engineered plants turning vicious in "The Day of the Triffids" and "On the Beach," "The Wind from Nowhere" and "The Kraken Wakes." We've seen all the endless CND campaigns, most of them based on fear and a passionate embracing of press release summaries of scientific reports which cherry picked the doomsday results rather then presenting a balanced picture of what was reported.

I confess I have often been surprised by just how badly spun some reports, even in supposedly "scientific" magazines and journals can be. Perhaps I shouldn't be. After all a report which says that scientists have evidence which suggests that, if you aren't killed in the initial blast of a nuclear attack and survive the initial radiation sickness plus any infection caught because your system was fighting radiation poisoning, you would probably live to ripe old age. Yes, it is in fact born out by many Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, some of whom were evacuated to Nagasaki and hit a second time! There does seem to be a large element of the population that enjoys being scared witless over things that are on the very extreme edges of liklihood. Once the fear of "The Bomb" abated in the late 1970s we began to see the advent of more and more "natural" disaster stories. These included in more recent years "Deep Impact,""The Day after Tomorrow" and several more including the one based on the super volcano under Yellowstone National Park blowing its top, the spectacle of using nukes to blow an asteroid off course and others. Another favourite scenario - one seized on by Al Gore and NASA's Hansen, is that rising CO2 levels will turn the planet into another Venus, choked by a toxic, superhot atmosphere so acidic it eats metal ...

The real trouble is that many of those watching these movies seem to think they are based on fact. "The Day after Tomorrow" went down the road of combining a new Ice Age caused by the sudden formation of massive "hurricanes" in the upper atmosphere which dragged super cold air downward, with a massive rise in sea levels, flooding New York's 5th Avenue with enough depth to float a super tanker along it. Sorry, but that is about as likely as Arnie Schwartzneger giving birth ... Oh, I forgot, he did in another Hollywood improbable. Unfortunately far to many think the science they see in them is real science and not Hollywood abuse of science and fact. It is these folk who respond to the Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth, Oxfam and the plethora of other "advocacy NGOs" propaganda with the knee jerk "Oh my God! Here, take all my money - but get out there and save the ..."

It is also this kind of insidious doomsday messaging which feeds into the sort of "activist" psyche that many otherwise intelligent people in the West seem to develop once they begin to fixate on the drip feed of doomsday news that the UK media in particular seems to revel in. It is fed by the constant mantra that we can all live in some sort of non-industrial Utopia with the abolition of poverty and a wonderful agrarian and tolerant society enjoying an eternally unchanging climate, if only we ban all private transport, and flying is reserved only for those who need to attend a Jamboree to save us all from some new doomsday scenario somewhere (preferably somewhere exotic) and everyone else is restricted to within walking distance of their normal domicile.

And let us not forget that we, in the "developed" nations, must give all our money to fund these same "Green Elite" so that they can "redistribute" it to those we have supposedly "disadvantaged" in accumulating it.

Failure to do so will, of course, result in our cities being submerged beneath the threatened rise in the sea level as all the planets ice is melted down... Greenpeace in particular seems to like that image. I've seen a map which showed what bits of the UK would be above water "when all the Arctic  and Antarctic ice vanishes by the end of the century. Considering that we are talking about literally millions of cubic kilometers of ice - much of it already in the water in the Northern Hemisphere and therefore not likely to affect sealevels at all - there is a possibility it would submerge us to the depth they predict. Except for one small point.

The timescale is off by several thousand years. One scientist actually calculated that, at present rate of melt, and assuming no new ice forms, it would require 15,000 years just to melt all the ice in Greenland.

Monday, 19 December 2011

International Suicide?

One of the many great tragedies in South Africa occured during the 1850s and was known as the "National Suicide of the AmaXhosa." At that time, the British ruled the territory occupied by the AmaXhosa, the area between the Great Fish River and Pondoland, the latter now a part of KwaZulu Natal. There had been numerous clashes between the British and Dutch settlers and the AmaXhosa (In reality three major groups with a shared language.) who were being driven south westward along the fertile coastal area by the expansion of the AmaZulu peoples to their north east. All these tribes were, at that time, primarily herdsmen who moved frequently, had little in the way of "settled" territory or "towns" as a European would recognise them and depended on gathered fruit and small crop planting for food.

The "National Suicide" arose because, following yet another clash with British Army units over cattle raids into the "White" territory, a young woman had a "vision" that the ancestors were angry, but would help the tribe if they all destroyed all their cattle and planted no crops. The Sangomas, perhaps to cover their bets, backed up her story. It was believed that the slaughtered cattle would be restored and multiplied, that the warriors would be made invincible and immune to the bullets of the whiteman and so the scene was set for a tragedy. The missionaries desperately attempted to intervene. The Cape Governor was petitioned and sent troops laden with supplies - but it was all to late. No one really knows, even now, how many died in this folly, after all, much of it happened in areas the white man had not reached, not even as a missionary.

So why does this story come up in my memory at this time? I guess it's the combination of having watched and read to much on the subject of the latest "Climate Change" Jamboree in Durban and the constant witterings of the likes of Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth, Oxfam et al about how the "developed nations" must slash their power usage or change economical and sensible generation - which, thanks to innovation and improvements, has been getting cleaner and greener for the last 40 years - to inefficient, expensive and noisy windmills, solar panels that use only 13% of the energy they absorb and pay a massive "tax" into a redistribution "fund" to "help" "developing nations" take over the nasty business of manufacturing all these nice "green" technologies. The final straw for me was listening to a Greenpeace "expert" wittering on about how "shipping is the most polluting form of transport available" and should pay a tax to "mitigate" the "damage" moving the world's goods from manufacturer to buyer or from raw material supplier to manufacturer.

Her reasoning sounded to me exactly like the fairy tale vision of the young Xhosa woman. Destroy the devloped economies, move their industries and their jobs to "devloping" countries and you'll be "rewarded" with clean countrysides, clear skies and the Anthropomorphic Climate Utopia that exists only in the minds of those who believe all the propaganda and spin put out by Greenpeace et al on the subject of the climate and the natural cycles.

The trouble is, if we are not careful, we will go the way of the tribesmen who fell for the "vision" and did as they were told. Western economies are in trouble already. We cannot afford to throw moeny into a nebulous "vision" dreamed up by a bunch of well intentioned idiots raised on the diet of "we're all gonna die unless we unilaterally disarm." Now that threat has receded, they've found another. Equally nebulous, equally preposterous and equally self destructive.

Let's hope the politicians currently pandering to this can be brought to see sense before it's too late.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Nine Lessons and Carols ...

Last night attended a Nine Lessons and Carols Service in the Augustinian Convent Church in Mainz. It was terrific, great choir and terrific setting, but very different from what I am used to. The lessons and most of the carols were in English (the previous evening they'd done it in Hocheim in German) and the printed Order of Service gave both languages. The music mixed ancient and modern and included some of the really great Advent Carols.

It was good fun all round and there were a surprising number of English speaking people present. One elderly lady behind us held forth at some length about how "churches were desperate for members these days" and then complained that the church was packed. In fact they were frantically adding chairs in the aisles in the seconds before the organ began the introduction to "Once in royal David's city." OK, so my twisted sense of humour did have me chortling away at the obvious refutation of her earlier statement.

After the service it was a journey back through the Weinachtsmarkt - with a small detour through a toy store where we browsed the model ships, LEGO Technik, board games, etc. - and back home to a late supper, wine and some warmth. These Baroque churches look fabulous - but they didn't go much on heating!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Holiday Directive from Whitehall

Pinched the following from a friend ...
New Holiday directives. 
All employees planning to dash through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are advised that a Risk Assessment will be required addressing the safety of an open sleigh for members of the public. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance. 
Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all users of this facility are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that, prior to shining his/her glory all around, s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory. 
Following last years well-publicised case, everyone is advised that Equal Opportunities legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr R Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. 
While it is acknowledged that gift bearing is a common practice in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded, while caution is advised regarding other common gifts such as aromatic resins that may evoke allergic reactions. 
Finally, in the recent instance of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.
 Just about sums up everything you need to know about how the killjoys are taking over the world ...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Draft Book Trailer for ON the RUN

I'll confess that I love it ...



But then I would, wouldn't I?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Prayers Please ...

An online friend has asked for our prayers for his wife. She is being treated for cancer and is having some severe setbacks. He has commended to us all this prayer, usually used at Vespers ...

O GOD, who are the strength of all them that put their trust in you,
without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, we commend to your
goodness your daughter Julia Prosser who is in sickness and is
suffering that as far as may be expedient for her, 
she may be restored to bodily health and happiness, 
through your Divine Love and Light,AMEN 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Whatchamucallit season ...

The last few years I've been finding myself more and more annoyed by the attempts to banalise everything in Britain, but particularly to secularise anything that might suggest Christianity. Christmas has been an early casualty, the banal "Winterval" title being imposed by at least one City Council alongside bans on Nativity Plays in schools, Christmas decorations in offices, because they might offend people of "other faiths" and even attempts to remove any religious significance from Christmas Cards. I'm afraid cards that read "Happy Holidays" arriving in my mail don't get acknowledged or displayed.

Ironically, my many Muslim and Jewish friends have expressed real distress and horror at this assault on Christianity, perhaps aware that their faiths will be next if this succeeds.

When members of these faiths actually stood up and declared that they found nothing whatever offensive in the celebration of Christmas, the usual 'elf an' Safe'y reasons were trotted out - they're a fire hazard it was declared in one Civil Service office. The truth is somewhat less altruistic. This is really about trying to impose official atheism on everyone. In recent years there have been numerous attempts to re-pagainse Christmas. I have read tracts by supposedly educated people declaring that the "Christians merely took over the Saturnalia" or "imposed their fairy stories on the Druid's winter solstice" and the usual run of blather about how these festivals were 'celebrated' by this or that non-Christian group in the past.

In fact, Christianity did "Christianise" a number of festivals. After all, if people were used to celebrating something at a particular time in the calendar, why not continue it? I was reminded of this by an article by Neil Gaiman in The Independent. Growing up in South Africa (Somehow Christmas associated with snow still hasn't quite sunk into my psyche!) we had friends of different faiths as well, and some of them Jewish and at least one Hindu, all celebrated Christmas enthusiastically. In fact it was usual for Jewish organisations and at least one Muslim one, to arrange for their members to undertake essential services in hospitals, fire and rescue services and so on so that their "Christian" employees could take time off to celebrate with their families. All of that seems to have been submerged now in the UK at least by the tide of anti-religious garbage spewed out in the name of "equality and fairness."

The odd thing is that when you start to investigate the origins of the claims that these festivals - mainly Christmas and Easter - are "Pagan" in their origins you soon discover that the authority for this lies in the inventiveness of some of the more strange "secret societies" that grew up in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Like a lot of other things, these sources are deeply suspect, rely on pure invention and a lot of forgery and really don't stand a lot of scrutiny. Sadly though, like most propaganda, once it has entered the ears of those to idle to look at things for themselves, it becomes the accepted truth - especially when it is woven into the fantasies of Dan Brown's work and others.

Christmas is Christmas, even in Muslim countries. The problem in the West is that we've taken the reason for marking it out of the equation and turned it into a purely commercial event designed only to relieve as many as possible from their savings and to make everyone who can't afford to do so feel guilty about it. But it's not the con-artists in marketing and advertising who are to blame according to our secularisers - its the Churches who want to keep God in it who are responsible for the "guilt."

We won't have a Christmas tree this year, we haven't a place for it, but we will celebrate the feast with church, a great meal with family and possibly a glass or two with our neighbours. There is a star displayed in our window and there will be other decorations once Advent draws to a close.

I live in hope that one day Britain will wake up and realise that those who wish to denigrate everything on the grounds that it "may" be offensive to someone need to be treated with the contempt they deserve and ejected from office and from any public forum. They are nothing but parasites who debilitate our society and will, if allowed to, destroy everything of any value in our culture. It is time to call a halt to their activities.

It is the season of Christmas, and the joy is in the sharing of that celebration, with or without the assault on a credit card.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What is the agenda?

I am amazed at the backslapping and self-congratulation that concluded the Durban "Climate Summit." For one thing, these events seem to be little more than a fresh attempt to sell the whole "the sky is falling we're all gonna die unless the evil west stops using hydro-carbons, reverts to agrarian and hunter-gatherer lifestyles and trashes its entire economic wealth." For another, I really do think that there is a complete absence of common sense among the devotees attending them. The Media have been full of the news that there were 11,000 people attending this jamboree. Did they all walk there? If not, why are they able to tell the rest of us we should ride bicycles, walk or "live locally" and not travel?

A charming and very earnest young woman was on television last night, against the backdrop of the super container ships in Hamburg harbour, explaining why Greenpeace and Oxfam among others, think it is a good idea to impose a 10% tax on all bunker fuel for ships. Parroting the usual Greenpeace line that "shipping accounts for a 'huge' amount of "carbon" emissions she failed to address the fact that such a tax will impact on a very competitive market which is already around five times less polluting than transport by road, rail or air. Fuel efficiency has been improving in ships for years, but the loons in Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth, WWF, Oxfam and the rest look only at consumption and emissions - not at the quantities each ship carries. Nor do they seem to grasp the fact that increasing the cost of operating the ship increases the cost of the goods carried which impacts on the trader and the user. End result, inflation of costs, which feeds into wages ...

They continue to argue for the replacement of nuclear and coal fired generating stations with more windmills - yet the latest statistics show that even at their best these damned eyesores generate less than 30% of the energy required. Even the great "solar" drive is a fraud, the panels convert only about 13% of the total energy they absorb into heating or electricty - the rest, you've guessed - is radiated back into the atmosphere, no doubt contributing to the "Anthropomorphic Global Warming" they are supposedly combating!

Then there are the demands for the west to hand over huge amounts of money to "developing nations" to build factories to replace ones in the western nations paying to ship their jobs and wealth to someone else. They seem to be unable to make the connection that the public who donate to their "causes" are the very same people they are now trying to put out of work and demanding that they give even more of their hard earned wealth to their replacements.

Oxfam, Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF are all causes and organisations I used to donate to. No longer. I will no longer give one bent brass washer to any of them. Why, put simply they are no longer serving the purpose they were originally set up to do. Now they are massively wealthy "advocacy" organisations who spend vast amounts on publicity and generous salaries for their employees. Greenpeace makes a big thing about not accepting donations from "corporations damaging the earth" but has vast amounts of money invested in companies producing windmills (subsidised by governments) and in the manufacture of solar panels.

As pointed out in this post on Watts up with That, these organisations have been taken over by ideologues who are now using them to achieve their ideological aims which, from where I sit, seem to include the destruction of all Western Economies. No, I'm not signing up to that and I will not be making any further contribution to any of these organisations under any circumstances.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Two Europes?

It seems that the veto on Friday has sparked quite a reaction among the other members of the EU. It has to be said that the UK does need to decide which way it wants to go, certainly, in some sections of the press and media, the only way is 'out.' One is left with the distinct impression that Whitehall/Westminster is playing their usual game when they want to make something fail - brief against it in private while publicly declaring you're 100% behind it.

The real problem here seems to me to be the fact that none of the political parties actually want to admit that they have now tied so much of the UK's economy to Europe they can't simply walk away. For one thing, the cuts in Defence have been made, I'm now very convinced, on the back of a deal pre-Lisbon, to 'share' defence across the EU, thus each country only needs to maintain a proportion of the overall defence need. Take a look at who has what equipment and forces deployed in what areas and you will see what I mean. Britain has now cut Defence to the point of no return. Even if they did rebuild the Fleet and the RAF to an 'independent' force level it would take between 10 and 20 years to do so since we've also closed down and sold off all our ship building facilities bar a small handful. As for building our own aircraft - forget it, all we can now build in the UK are bits for assembly in France or Italy.

I rather think that the lies to the British Public by successive governments are starting to come home to roost. They either have to come clean or put their money on the table now. It was interesting listening to the German Finance Minister, who was genuinely saddened as he acknowledged that it looked as if Britain might leave the EU. He stated the UK had always been reliable, had fought its corner well and fairly, but now seemed to have embarked on a self interested and self serving course to the detriment of everyone including themselves. Equally interesting was the debate later in which political analysts from the full spectrum were essentially saying the same thing, that the banks had abused peoples trust and hard earned money. The profits of their shareholders had become the only focus and the losers were the small depositors and customers who had no other options.

Will there be "two Europes" as Mr Sarkozy says? I doubt it as I think the UK may not entirely withdraw, but assume the same status as Norway. Will that 'repatriate the money' as so many seem to think it will? Again, I doubt it, since the whole thing is extremely complex and may be even further bedeviled if Scotland makes a bid for full independence - and opts to remain in the EU as well ...

I can't escape the feeling that the cost of withdrawal from the EU will far outweigh any supposed benefit even in the long term. As Herr Schauble put it last night, Europe will not shut the door on Britain. One thing the UK does need to do is to put behind it the propaganda of the two World Wars. It is time we found a way forward instead of looking back on a glorious past now well and truly spent.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

€uroskeptic, or €urodestructive?

The current round of rejoicing evidenced in some anti-EU sections of the media, politics and blogosphere should concern the various governments involved. As ever, the problem arises because the public are not told the whole truth by the politicians and now that some of their 'omissions' are becoming all to public, they don't really know how to handle the problem.

A part of the problem is that there is a huge amount of anti-French (I know - I'm prejudiced on that one!), anti-German, anti-Italian and general anti-anyone not 'British' swilling around in the UK mindset. It has to be said that there are similar mindsets in other parts of the EU as well. I regularly read comments to reports on various EU matters by, one hopes, intelligent people, saying things like "you can't trust the Germans, they're still trying to rule the world" or the even better one "the Germans are doing secret deals with the Vatican to ..." That last is priceless as the Vatican has a problem with Germany where their congregations are dwindling fast and the remainder are at odds with the bishops and clergy and want more liberalisation, woman priests, married clergy and so on. Yes, I can see the Vatican cuddlying up to the Germans - not.

Again, in various sections of the press and blogosphere one now regularly reads the statement that "the Franco-German ambition is to recreate Charlemagne's Empire..." The authority for this is, apparently, the fact that Napoleon, Louis XIV, Hitler and presumably others have all held this "ambition." I'll concede that certainly Napoleon and the last named dictator may have entertained this ambition, but is this really what has driven the creation of the EU? Somehow I doubt it. I may have missed some tricks somewhere in the debate (Its been going long enough!), but I seem to recall that the whole thing has its origins in Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg, the former "Benelux" countries who had a nice little economic thing going and which others thought they'd like a piece of. Again, from memory, France managed to join and then the European Economic Community grew out of the experiment. Again, it seemed such a good idea, others wanted in and for a while Germany wasn't allowed to join at all if memory serves.

The EEC is what Britain, rather tentatively joined in 1974-75, at a time when Labour overspending, Union militancy and a few other little problems - like massive unemployment, benefit fraud and the like  - had brought the Pound to its knees. The price for joining was high, the UK promptly ditched preferred trade agreements with its Commonwealth which certainly didn't win them any friends there and drove those they had even further beyond the proverbial pale. Right from the start the UK has been the "awkward" squad at the table, often to the despair of others who have had to make all the compromises only to have the UK throw further spanners in the works.

What I now find interesting about all this is that with the €uro in deep trouble, the British, who are not part of it and probably never will be, want a say in its management. In fact, they want it to fail. The reason? It is claimed that surrendering the national budgets of the member currencies to a central "treasury" is "undemocratic." And this is where the propaganda really is running wild. The whole scheme is now proclaimed to be a German "plot" to seize control of Europe by the back door. I read on one report the statement that "until the €uro, the Deutschmark was sinking fast, the German economy was in ruins, moribund and stagnating ..." I presume that would be the DM that was valued at DM3 to the Pound Sterling, then strengthened dramatically thanks to speculators against the Pound and the US Dollar, forcing the UK out of the ERM. That would also be the Deutschmark and the economy it served that provided the bulk of the underpinning capital that launched the €uro.

I have to confess that I am not a fan of the EU in its present form. I do not like the unelected Commission or the vast, expensive and probably utterly incompetent bureaucracy that has grown up around it and seems to be Belgium's only industry. I do not like having an unelected EU President and I particularly don't like the fact that it seems to be neither fish nor fowl when it comes to being any sort of state or power.

I don't want to see the €uro fail. Why? Simply because it will cause enormous hardship for everyone, and not just for the nations using it. It will cost enormous numbers of jobs right across Europe and even in Britain. It will hit the poorest, not those currently screaming for it to be killed off by any means possible, and it will damage trade for and in Europe very badly indeed. It will have a terrible impact on a wide range of things, from European stability, defence, aid to developing nations and on social security for the elderly, the sick and the disabled. An entire raft of subsidies currently rebuilding various depressed areas and countries recovering from the years of communist "socialist" misrule will vanish. Those in the UK who think the money currently paid to Europe will come home to be "redistributed" delude themselves, it will simply vanish into even less productive uses, such as an increase in our own bureaucracy.

Once away from the very parochial and partisan UK media, one quickly realises that there are many other players in this game, one of the largest being the UN and all its "agencies." The "Treaties" signed in the UN should get the same sort of scrutiny the UK currently gives to Europe. They would quickly discover that while Brussels is bad, the UN is a far greater threat to self determination and government. The UN is not at all democratic and is, more and more, run to agendas set by NGOs such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and others.

I never thought I would admit that Napoleon had actually done something good, but I have to confess that his reform and harmonisation of Europe's myriad legal and justice systems was, in the words of 1066 and all that, a "Good Thing." Its a great pity that the UK's wasn't reformed then and its an even greater pity that it is now in the hands of bureaucrats who have little legal training who make use of the ignorance of the politicians to gold plate, duplicate and over burden Britain with laws and regulations they claim "Brussels has imposed."

I suspect that the EU is stood on the edge of a precipice. It isn't a nice place to be for a group of peoples who, for the most part, get along fine, when they are not being mislead, misdirected and threatened. It is not a safe place to be when some of the members are so busy playing to the "home audience" they fail to see the danger for themselves of falling off the edge.

I'm pretty sure that the EU will survive, possibly shedding some of its members and reducing in size. I'm also sure that once it actually decides whether it is a "State" or  wants to remain a loose collection of trading blocs it will have a clearer idea of direction. Frankly, in this day and age, a United States of Europe has a certain appeal, but to achieve that there has to be consensus on the role of the "nation states"and how they manage their internal affairs. I was recently reminded that the USA didn't have that easy a start up either. The Dollar went through some spectacular ups and downs and there were, and I think still are, arguments about the authority and power of individual state legislatures and the Federal Government.

The €uro is ten years old, I think it may well be around for at least another ten and probably longer. I certainly hope so, I have no desire to see Europe and the western world plunged, as it will be, into the sort of economic abyss they faced in the 1920s and 30s.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Buzz Phrases that irk ...

A thought for today! Those who claim to be "Blue skies thinkers" should consider this definition….

"The most important feature of a clear blue sky is that it is clear; in fact it is totally lacking in any interest or feature which distinguishes it. A cloudy sky or a sky which has scattered clouds, now that has features, ever changing, ever moving, growing and developing clouds change the skyscape and move the eye and the mind from one pattern to another. Likening thought patterns to clear skies or blue skies is just another way of saying that the mind is empty, devoid of discernible thought and totally lacking in originality."


Now that is a definition I can live with. In my experience those who claim to be "Blue Sky Thinkers" are generally people without a clue about anything they are supposedly dealing with, call endless meetings they call "Brain storming sessions" and then steal, repackage and promote the ideas of those they have gulled into offering them.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Earth shaking ...

Yesterday there was a tremendous double bang over a large area of the Rhinelands. Given the drama in Koblenz on Sunday, most people here were understandably very edgy. The ground shook, windows rattled and the horses in the paddock behind the Monk and Mausi's home were startled enough to get very nervous and fidgety from some time afterward. Police, Fire and news switchboards were jammed by people calling to know what had happened.

To give some idea of how big the bangs were, it was heard in Köln and in Mainz and everywhere in between - a distance of nearly 200 kilometers. Here in the Taunus it felt like a small earthquake. So what was it?

It was caused by a pair of Belgian F-16s breaking the sound barrier over Rüdesheim, about 15 km from where we live. They were flying at 11,000 metres, roughly 34,000 feet in pursuit of an Oman Air airliner that had broken radio contact in Belgian airspace. Under NATO rules this means the immediate launch of fighters to find the aircraft, make contact, and find out what it is up to. As the incident began in Belgium, it was their aircraft launched to intercept.

It is reported today that the flight was intercepted somewhere over Frankfurt/Darmstadt, the fighter pilots making 'visual contact' with the airliners Captain and then re-establishing radio contact. We are not told what the passengers thought when they looked out of the windows and saw two fully armed F-16's on the wingtips ... I suspect the cleaning crews at their destination may have had to work overtime.

Since the end of the Cold War, the sound of 'sonic booms' has become very rare over Europe, so this event was a sharp reminder of what could happen all to easily. It is reassuring to know that the NATO alert system works and that nothing like this goes unnoticed. There are, apparently, around 30 cases a year where airliners lose radio contact with air traffic control. It is usually due to a 'pilot error' such as setting the wrong frequency or to weather which affects the transmission and reception of VHF and UHF radio signals.

The double bang yesterday was a sharp reminder of the vigilance needed in these uncertain times ...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Socialism versus conservative values ...

WISE WORDS FROM FATHER TO DAUGHTER

A young woman was about to finish her first year of university. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be Labour Party minded, and she was very much in favour of higher taxes to support her education and for more government programs – in other words, the redistribution of wealth. (Much like a Carbon Tax?) 

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch blue-ribbon Conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had attended and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harboured a selfish 
desire to keep what he thought should be his. 

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. 

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors must be the truth, and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing at university. 

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 90% average, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many university friends because she spent all her time studying. 

Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?” 

She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 50% average. She is 
so popular on campus; university for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up 
for classes because she's too hungover.” 

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 20% off your average and give it to your friend who only has 50%. That way you will both have a 70% average, it would be fair and you would both be equal.” 

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, “That's a crazy idea; how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!” 

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the Conservative side of the fence.” 


If anyone has a better explanation of the difference between Conservative and Labour/Greens, I'm all ears. 

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test! 

If a Conservative supporter doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one. 

If a Labour/Green doesn't like guns, 
he’llwant all guns outlawed.
If a Conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat. 

If a Labour/Green is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.
If a Conservative is gay, he quietly leads his life. 

If a Labour/Green is gay, he demands legislated respect. 
If a Conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. 

A Labour/Green wonders who is going to take care of him.
If a Conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels. 

Labour/Greens demand that those they don't like should be banned.
If a Conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church. 

A Labour/Green non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)
If a Conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh. 

A Labour/Green will delete it because he's "offended."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Argentine Interventions

In recent days the Argentinian Navy has stopped, seized and searched a number of Spanish fishing trawlers operating in the waters around the Falkland Islands on the grounds that the licences issued by the Falkland Government are "not valid." They further claim that the islands and the waters around them are "sovereign Argentinian Territory."

As the Royal Navy now has only 31 ships, none of them aircraft carriers and most of the new Type 45 destroyers either incomplete or still working up, our ability to defend the UK sovereign rights of possession and the will of the Falkland Islanders themselves to remain British is likely to be "nil." There is almost no "Fleet Train" to support a Task Force any longer, the Army has been cut to the bone and is committed elsewhere, the RAF is reduced to a rump, mainly engaged in Transport and our Allies in the US have a Secretary of State who never refers to the Falkland Islands by their English title, only by the Argentinian one.

Methinks Mr Cameron and his implementation of the John Nott cuts to the Fleet may come to regret his precipitous "savings." Scrapping our mini carriers, the aircraft they could operate and putting on hold buying any aircraft for the new ones was stupid, short sighted and little short of suicidal. If I were a Falklander, I'd start considering relocation or learning to like being an Argentinian. The only thing the Argentinians will ever understand is a permanent Naval Force based on Stanley with orders to sink any invading warship that attempts to stop any vessel in the sovereign territory or the waters around them.

The Argentinians have seen their opportunity and I have no doubt at all will seize it with both hands before to much longer. Protests to the UN will be worthless, an utter waste of time, but probably an exercise in face saving to be engaged in by the charlatans in Westminster and Whitehall.

All the UK Parties are guilty here. Blair attempted to "negotiate" a "shared administration" and only gave up when he realised the Argentinians will settle for nothing less than total control. Just as he discovered that he couldn't give away the national sovereignty of Gibraltar, so he discovered the Falklanders - who have the disadvantage of being far enough away the UK Media don't notice them much - weren't prepared to change their government and nationality either. So he made it easy for the Argentinians - and reduced our defences, committed what was left elsewhere. Cameron and Clegg have simply carried on the process giving the Argentinians even better opportunities.

But, who cares. It will be just another sell out of a bunch of colonists who dare to want to remain British.  I'm willing to bet that Hague the Vague hasn't even called in the Ambassador and told him off ... Nah, probably gave him a nice cup of tea and a chat, with the assurance our Forces will be ordered to surrender and withdraw quietly.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Snow and dentists ...

Don't normally go together, but when Mausi and the Monk left for their annual dental check-up this morning, winter decided to make a start. At first it couldn't decide if it was just going to produce sleet, maybe rain, but then it settled for snow and sleet...

So now we have a layer of icy snow on the ground, the snow ploughs are scattering grit and the first accidents are reported on the Autobahns. This could be the start of some exercise of the Monk, the path and driveway need to be kept clear again, our neighbours are very elderly and a slip could be fatal.

Ah well, wrap up warm and get down to it ...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

No Bang ....

It was announced as we motored home along the Autobahn this evening that the aerial mine at Koblenz has successfully been made safe. In an operation lasting over two and ahalf hours in appalling weather the bomb team managed to access and remove the trigger mechanisms and pistols which would have fired the main charge. It has been described as being remarkably well preserved and the mechanisms as 'operable.'

In the last two hours the 45,000 people they evacuated have begun returning home. As for the bomb itself, the main cahrge is now being stripped out so the it can be taken to a safe place for destruction.

The collective sigh of relief along the Rhine can probably be heard in the UK ...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Their Lordships Request reviewed ...

Got a great book review on the website The Fyddeye Guide, by an American Maritime historian. His comments are very flattering, especially given his interest and knowledge of the subject.

It does give an author a great boost to see something like this, not least because it justifies the attention to detail, the research and the effort you put into creating the story. I hope that the review will be read by many and that will translate into people actually reading the book. It was fun to write, fascinating to research and it will be even nicer to see it reaching a wide audience.

After all, that is what every author hopes to achieve.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Problems in the Rhine ...

Attention in Germany, certainly along the Rhine at the moment, is not on the crisis over the €uro, it is focussed on Koblenz. We have had a very dry Autumn here and the Rhine is at it's lowest recorded level since the 1920s. This has, in turn, meant that a lot of things are now exposed to view, which brings me back to Koblenz.

The low water level has exposed a lot of unexploded ordnance from 1939 - 45, most of it unexploded bombs. These have had to be made safe, detonated or recovered and removed to a safe location, and the German Ordnance teams have been busy. Just as everyone thought they'd found everything they were going to, they've found a real lulu of a bomb. An aerial "mine" weighing in at around 1.8 metric tonnes (4,000lbs of explosive charge in 'Imperial' weights, around 5,000lbs all told) and it is very close to the heart of Koblenz. Worse, it is still very much alive despite 60 years in the mud and water of the Rhine.

It is now planned to attempt to defuse it and make it safe on Sunday. So, what's the big deal?

If things go wrong during this operation, just about everything in a 300 yard radius will be flattened, windows up to 2,000 yards away will be smashed, roofs will be damaged or torn off and as for the people ... The trouble is that there are some 45,000 people living within the area that could be affected, so they all have to be evacuated for the duration. This includes the residents of seven Old Age Homes, two Hospitals an enormous number of blocks of flats, umpteen hotels and so on. Even the Intercity Train services (IC and ICE super trains) are stopping at Köln and Mainz and the Koblenz Bahnhof is closed to all traffic. All shipping will be held at points above and below the city as well.

Just to complicate things, the rains have begun. It may be a day or two before the river begins to rise again, but a dam has had to be constructed around the bomb so it can be accessed in safety - if standing next to it can be considered 'safe' - and not submerged while they work on the thing. It is definitely going to be a very tricky operation.

These bombs were dropped on a parachute and designed to detonate about 30 metres (100 feet) above the ground. This smashed down everything in a radius of 300 metres, tore roofs off up to 2,000 metres and opened the way for the incendiary bombs the Allies followed one up with. Even sat in the mud and shingle of the Rhine, this bomb has the potential to wreck the heart of Koblenz, a city that has withstood the French invasions of the 17th - 18th Centuries and various other upheavals including the bombardment of WW2. It has been rebuilt and recovered from each of these events painfully. Let's hope this latest threat can be averted.

All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not one of those in the Emergency Services having to plan and execute an evacuation of this size - and even more glad we're not among those being evacuated. My thoughts and prayers will be with everyone involved in the coming days.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

ON the RUN available on Amazon

I'm not used to such speedy availability, but I suppose I should be. Abbott Press has wasted no time in getting ON the RUN into the catalogues at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I expect it will soon also appear on Waterstones, W H Smith and others. I'm pleased as punch, especially since previous experience suggested it might not get onto the lists before Christmas.