Sunday, 31 August 2008

MyLifeMyID

This is a government-funded organisation to make young people accept the tyranny of the compulsory ID brand. Today an email arrived:

Hi All,
We've got a quick fun-poll for you today. Just click on the appropriate answer:
In your wallet/purse how many items have information about you (e.g. credit card, driving licence, loyalty card etc)?
None
1
2-4
5-9
10 or more
Have a great weekend!
Matt G

So, instead of Identity Cards being A Good Idea because they prevent terrorism, the ID sponsors are now reduced to the very weak argument that as you carry ID already another piece of plastic won't do any harm. Wrong! I carry some or all of those items because I want to not because I face a £1000 fine for not showing it to anyone with a tin badge. It is a similar argument to that advanced by the CCTV fetishists who claim that "you have nothing to fear if you are doing nothing wrong". Excuse me, but if I am doing nothing wrong you have no need to look. Besides, how many people are identified from grainy, unfocussed CCTV images alone? Wouldn't it be better to recruit more Police Constables from former armed forces junior NCOs and arm them with courage, common sense and discretion. Targets and quotas will be retained for the policy wonks and government ministers sewing mailbags serving re-education sentences for criminal maladministration.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

So Tories Hate Fatties But What about Anorexics?

Andrew Lansley recently railed against porky people saying it was their fault and they jolly well had to sort themselves out.
Strangely, there was no similar comment on the diametrically opposite condition of anorexia whereby people undereat in order to "regain control over their lives". Is it because fatties like chavs, white middle aged males and americans (except St Obama), are the only people that the PC ruling elite allow negative criticism of? Every other category has been accorded victim status - and think how much money is spent on whining smokers to make them stop. Are gays lectured by Alan Duncan to stop putting their bits where bits aren't meant to go? No, condoms and lubricants are dangled from trees on Hampstead Heath despite al fresco sex being illegal (for heterosexuals that is). What rankles is all the special interest groups, ie coalitions of vocal voters, demanding equality then expecting privileges on top which are provided by PC authorities, often to the embarrassment of the interest groups. I refer to councils banning eating at work by non-muslim staff during ramadan or censoring museum displays illustrating evolution following a complaint from a creationist. Yet where are the public health announcements panning all-over tribal costumes which result in vitamin D deficiencies in women an girls? They can't only have been published in non-English languages - and on that point English should be the official language of the UK with the addition of the various celtic dialects (Ulster Scotch is just a sap to parity of esteem) for the Scotch, Welch and Northern Irish regions.
Sign language translators should be provided at public expense but translators for other languages should be charged to users in order to encourage them to learn English and appreciate the cost of being British.
So, well done Andrew Lansley. You have managed to annoy me. I suggest you devote your energies in future to pissing off (as our hopeless bean-counter has said today) your Nulab and Libdim opponents. And think of ways to save public expenditure.

Ought Titians Be Saved "For The Nation"?

Two old oil paintings that Tracey Emin likes are threatened with being sold abroad (eek! to foreigners who will probably eat their dinner off them or put them in the downstairs' loo) by the Duke of Sutherland. This is the BBC report. The National Gallery of Scotland and the National Gallery of The United Kingdom (England doesn't have her own gallery) have to find £100 million by the end of this year in order to keep the paintings in this country.
Great! Tax on £100 million at 40% is £40 million. That would pay for meticulous research with X-ray, CT scanning, infra red and holographic and high definition photography of the works to enable digitised copies to be placed online for everyone with interweb access to see. In addition, two copies of the paintings using original materials could be produced to hide the unfaded rectangles of wallpaper on the gallery walls that their sale would reveal. What would this country lose by having two pictures painted for the evil Philip II of Spain (Bloody Mary's husband) as renaissance chubby porn? It seems that the main reason for valuing the paintings is their over-inflated price and the fact that there are already plenty of other Titians in public galleries in this country. Strange how trainspotters and stamp-collectors can be mocked for their completeness fetishes yet Fine Art (it expects capitals like Opera and Ballet) loftily presumes that paintings are above the economic realities that govern the rest of the nation. The true significance of the works of art to the nation are that they were bought with money ultimately earned by underpaid farmhands and factory workers. So in a way, they are already the property of the nation by equitable right.
But the most annoying part of this story is that two years were wasted debating whether the NHS can afford drugs to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. How many people are now blind that can never see the two Titians? Hasn't the art world and the world in general got its values extremely wrong when freshly painted Lucian Freuds can fetch millions of quid yet people die in English hospitals of filth-related diseases? Ladies and Gentlemen, get your chequebooks and pens ready for Tracy Emin's Hospital Bed or a copy of Damian Hirst's Medicine Cabinet (with the very limited edition detergent and soap option).

Friday, 29 August 2008

Possible EU Economic Sanctions Against Russia

Surely the best, the most costly, the most painful option would be to offer Russia EU membership.
Just think of the extra bells and whistles the Galileo satnav project could be equipped with if all that Gazprom oil and gas windfall profit could be hijacked by the Eurocrats.
Go for it Sarko! Tell the Russians the advantages of membership (the UK pays most of the bills).

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Mr Gadd And The Sex Offenders' Register

What's the need for an ex-famous glam rock star needing to sign a register in the Police Station (during opening hours) when he looks like he does? Easy to recognise and with little chance that his "style" will be copied. He won't disappear very easily but if he does it will infringe his human rights if the public is told.
I expect the repellent Glitter will be more at risk than a risk to others. The vigilante community will doubtless exhibit their moral superiority by attempting to assault him and cause criminal damage to his property. I hope he receives the same degree of police protection as any other citizen. In addition, there will doubtless be attempts to lure him into compromising situations with photographers ready in order to obtain out of court settlements and newspaper exclusives.
I despise the man and hope he lives a long life with ample opportunity to reflect on his turpitude and the effect it had on others so that he despises himself equally. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1973 prevents me from writing any more specifically on this subject so I will only write that the vast majority of teachers I knew at King Henry VIII School were wonderful. One was not. I guess it's like that at most schools.
I reckon the biggest problem faced by Mrs Jacqui Smith (The Best Dinner Lady We Never Had) is keeping hold of The Register for longer than a couple of weeks without it going missing. Is it chained to the desk like wood and leather bound tomes in monastery libraries or is it just a small Red 'n' black address book that can be kept in the office safe (combination 1.5.19.97) in the Home Secretary's(3 bed semi-detached) office?

Update via Theo Spark from Saudi Arabia. It's a funny old world.

Gordon Brown Is Desperate For Any Good News

So low are Gordon Brown and the Labour Party's standing in the opinion of the British public that any scrap of good news is grabbed and polished. The surprising but very welcome success of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team at the Peking Olympics is being gently spun to reflect some of the glory back on Leaden Broon. Good news at this time of rocketing energy and food prices combined with crap weather and Russian adventurism is welcome but I note that not even the most bovine pro-Government commentators have ascribed medal-winning to Government policies. There was a brief burst of jealousy against the perceived independent-school privileges of the rowers and yachties but that soon subsided. What really shows that we have a near-dead Labour regime and not a Tory government is the complete lack of any idiot rentanequalopps saying that the list of medal winners is "hideously white" and demanding affirmative action quotas to ensure that Britain's diversity is fairly represented across all its teams. The fact is, is that the Olympics are the least diverse and most unfair competitions because only the best have a chance of winning and only the very best on the day win.
Every medallist did well, everyone who competed did well, everyone who trialled but did not make the team did well and everyone who organised games from the grass roots up or took part in sports just for fun all contributed to greater or lesser degrees to the elites winning their medals.
I only hope that Olympic success will be celebrated with a decline of the pernicious footballing industry which sucks talent and resources into a televised tribal fest which rewards mediocrity with vast salaries.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

100 Novels I Would Read Again

Lucky Jim

Kingsley

Amis

Behind The Scenes At The Museum

Kate

Atkinson

Augustus Carp Esq., By Himself

Sir H.H.

Bashford

The Jacaranda Tree

H. E.

Bates

Planet Of The Apes

Pierre

Boulle

Bridge Over The River Kwai

Pierre

Boulle

Brazzaville Beach

William

Boyd

Jane Eyre

Charlotte

Bronte

Wuthering Heights

Emily

Bronte

The 39 Steps

John

Buchan

Greenmantle

John

Buchan

Mr Standfast

John

Buchan

A Clockwork Orange

Anthony

Burgess

Possession

A.S.

Byatt

Wild Swans

Jung

Chang

Riddle Of The Sands

Erskine

Childers

The Woman In White

Wilkie

Collins

Heart of Darkness

Joseph

Conrad

Lord Jim

Joseph

Conrad

Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Louis

de Bernieres

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel

Defoe

Bomber

Len

Deighton

The IPCRESS File

Len

Deighton

To Serve Them All My Days

R.F.

Delderfield

A Horseman Riding By

R.F.

Delderfield

Last Bus To Woodstock

Colin

Dexter

The Idiot

Fyodor

Dostoyevskiy

Crime & Punishment

Fyodor

Dostoyevskiy

Birdsong

Sebastian

Faulks

Bridget Jones' Diary

Helen

Fielding

Madame Bovary

Gustave

Flaubert

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel

Garcia Marquez

Love In The Time Of Cholera

Gabriel

Garcia Marquez

Cold Comfort Farm

Stella

Gibbons

Dead Souls

Nikolai

Gogol

Lord Of The Flies

William

Golding

To The Ends Of The Earth Trilogy

William

Golding

Memoirs Of A Geisha

Arthur

Goulden

Wind In The Willows

Kenneth

Grahame

Goodbye To All That

Robert

Graves

The Third Man & Fallen Idol

Graham

Greene

Diary Of A Nobody

George & Weedon

Grossmith

Love On A Branch Line

John

Hadfield

Tess of The d'Urbervilles

Thomas

Hardy

Fatherland

Robert

Harris

The Good Soldier Schweik

Jaroslav

Hasek

Catch 22

Joseph

Heller

Brave New World

Aldous

Huxley

An Artist of The Floating World

Kazuo

Ishiguro

Three Men In A Boat

Jerome K.

Jerome

The Phantom Tollbooth

Norton

Juster

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

John

Le Carre

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - trilogy

John

Le Carre

A Murder of Quality

John

Le Carre

To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper

Lee

If This Is A Man

Primo

Levi

Call Of The Wild

Jack

London

Ring of Bright Water

Gavin

Maxwell

Moby Dick

Herman

Melville

Puckoon

Spike

Milligan

Rumpole Of The Bailey - the whole set

John

Mortimer

A House For Mr Biswas

V.S.

Naipaul

1984

George

Orwell

Animal Farm

George

Orwell

Dr Zhivago

Boris

Pasternak

Swallows And Amazons

Arthur

Ransome

Rendezvous South Atlantic

Douglas

Reeman

All Quiet On The Western Front

Erich Maria

Remarque

She

Sir Henry

Rider Haggard

Hyman Kaplan

Leo

Rosten

Catcher In The Rye

J.D.

Salinger

Porterhouse Blue

Tom

Sharpe

Blott On The Landscape

Tom

Sharpe

Riotous Assembly

Tom

Sharpe

Wilt

Tom

Sharpe

Frankenstein

Mary

Shelley

Larry's Party

Carol

Shields

The Stone Diaries

Carol

Shields

A Town Like Alice

Neville

Shute

On The Beach

Neville

Shute

Pastoral

Neville

Shute

633 Squadron

Frederick E.

Smith

River God

Wilbur

Smith

A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

Aleksandr

Solzhenitsyn

Grapes of Wrath

John

Steinbeck

Treasure Island

Roert Louis

Stevenson

Gulliver's Travels

Jonathan

Swift

War and Peace

Leo

Tolstoy

Anna Karenina

Leo

Tolstoy

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Robert

Tressell

First Love

Ivan

Turgenev

Aunt Julia & The Scriptwriter

Mario

Vargas Llosa

Journey To The Centre of The Earth

Jules

Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

Jules

Verne

Decline And Fall

Evelyn

Waugh

The Sword Of Honour Trilogy

Evelyn

Waugh

War Of The Worlds

H.G.

Wells

The Time Machine

H.G.

Wells

The First Men In The Moon

H.G.

Wells

The Day Of The Triffids

John

Wyndham

I've ordered them alphabetically by author's surname because I don't wish to say whether one book is better than another. A work of literature is just as good fun as light reading and vice versa. It depends how one feels at the time. I like oysters but I also like bacon sandwiches. And yes, I have cheated by including trilogies. The best thing is that I have the whole of P G Wodehouse to read. I thought about adding Kafka, Kipling, M R James, Conan Doyle, du Maupassant, Saki, Hemingway but will keep them back for a top short story list sometime.Enjoy!

New Car Launched At Longbridge

It' s called the MGTF LE500 . Orange isn't my first choice of colour (except with a Union flag on the bonnet for the NI market) but it was probably chosen to match the sunbed suntans of most prospective owners.
MGTF : Must Get That Fixed. Still, they only have to sell 500 (how many hairdressers are there in the country?). I wish them luck and hope the next batch are British Racing Green and fitted with Precer Stirling engines.

Bloody Wasps

I hate wasps.
I was stung by one yesterday evening. I wasn't threatening it, it simply landed on my arm and stung me. After a fifteen minute search I found the Waspeze and applied it liberally to the affected area. Strangely, I've experienced flu-like achey joint symptoms in my arm ever since*. I put an ice block on the sting this morning which soothed it. But the immediate area still feels hot , tight and itchy.
So I hate wasps with good reason. I watched the third episode of Richard Dawkins' excellent C4 series about Charles Darwin and Evolution on 4OD this afternoon and wished all the starey-eyed fundamentalists bleating creation would get stung by wasps. Would they thank The Lord for His Benificence? How do they explain a wise, kind creator inventing an all-round sod of an insect that doesn't do useful things to compensate like make honey? Before they die of cold, wasps spend a fair proportion of the year killing other insects which seems a rather wasteful process to be designed - why not produce fewer other insects instead to save all that killing and eating? Wasps are the feral hoodies of the hymenoptera and help prove evolution by natural selection because their genes have been passed on to the next generation for at least 50 million years. You can bet that a friendly wasp wouldn't last long enough to get friendly with another jasper.
So if any wasps are reading this post, may I invite you and your friends to a slap up meal of strawberry jam in a jam jar in our garden. Bring your cozzies because there'll be swimming afterwards.

* Not a reported symptom of wasp stings according to Dr Google.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

H is Pronounced Aitch

One thing that makes me grind my teeth and reach for my metaphorical revolver (don't make me unlock the armoury to get my allegorical rocket-propelled grenade launcher) is the mispronunciatian of H as haitch. Aaaaaaaaaaaargh! Or, for the benefit of those people who say haitch, and sadly there are increasing numbers on the once dependable BBC, Haaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
The letter H or h is pronounced aitch. F isn't feff, L isn't lell, M isn't mem, N isn't nen, S isn't sess so why pronounce H as haitch?

Monday, 18 August 2008

Credible Evidence For Climate Change

I've been rather a sceptic about global warming, Al Gore and man-made climate change but this article from today's Daily Mail makes me think there could be something about it. This could be the wettest August since ..... 1912! And as we all know 1976 was the driest since records began (in 1913 presumably, because the archive was lost in the floods of August 1912). Our climate is changing but since climate is a thirty-year average of weather it is bound to be changing all the time given a variable weather system.
I will stick to my belief that sunspot and cosmic ray activity has more impact on world climate and take the view that it is better for the world to use cost-benefit analysed long-term solutions instead of bankrupting itself with achieving dogmatic Kyoto type targets. I tend to find out what John Selwyn Gummer believes and take a different view. Oh, and surely the massive increase in population in the last century has had something to do with it.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Early Day Motion: Peter Bottomley

With thanks to Thunder Dragon for bringing this matter to my notice.

In the special sense of that satisfying thing before a shave and a shower. Peter Bottomley, an allegedly "conservative " MP, has signed an Early Day Motion proposed by Norman Baker viz:

"Early Day Motion
EDM 1780

PARLIAMENTARY OATH
12.06.2008

That this House recognises that the principal duty of hon. Members is to represent their constituents in Parliament; also recognises that some hon. Members would prefer to swear an oath of allegiance to their constituents and the nation rather than the Monarch; and therefore calls on the Leader of the House to bring forward legislative proposals to introduce an optional alternative Parliamentary oath allowing hon. Members to swear allegiance to their constituents and the nation and to pledge to uphold the law rather than one pledging personal allegiance to the serving Monarch."

I expect no better from nulabs or libdims but surely Conservatives (with the exception of Ann Widdecombe who has nazi views on foxhunting) have a proper sense of what makes this country special. If Dave saw fit to sack Patrick Mercer for speaking common sense then he should immediately withdraw the whip from this semi-detatached patriot. By the way, the only time I saw Peter Bottomley in person was on the day of the Clapham Train Disaster when we were all giving blood to help the injured. Such a pity that he has apparently lost the sense and decency he displayed then.

We live in a constitutional monarchy and any subject of Her Majesty the Queen should feel proud and honoured to swear an oath of loyalty to her. The alternative would be unspeakable: becoming a foreigner, ughh!

Russia's Nuclear Threat To Poland

The price of Poland's decision to allow the US to base ABMs as a counter to possible missile strikes on Europe from rogue states is a threat by Russia to target Poland with nuclear warheads.
Given Russia's record of criminal behaviour against Poland - the Katyn Massacre was the worst of a series of unpunished outrages in recent history - the stupid bully Putin has helped to reinvigorate NATO. No country that has ever had Russian tanks parked on its front lawn wants them back.
Russia must be taught by patient, firm diplomacy that the Russia exemplified by her world class composers, writers and scientists is in her own best interests and that the brutishness of Ivan the Terrible no longer has a place in the world. Russia is strongest when she looks out and listens to the rest of the world and the world is safest when Russia feels strong.

SATS Marking Balls Up

And so with a last slimey squeeze Ed The Slug was free. Naughty ETS have lost the contract and £24.1million but who will mark next year's papers?
I have a proposal. Although most teachers have B Eds or PGCEs and so have been dunked in Socialist-Marxist cant for one or three years (the only way to get otherwise intelligent people to buy the Indy or Grauniad), they are still professionals *(despite the best efforts of the NUT to convince the world otherwise). As professionals they are best suited to assess the day-in-day-out qualities and weaknesses of the children they teach. And so it is class teachers who should mark papers set to a national standard and they should also add comments on each pupil. Marking to a set standard is easily done. Parents would have a more rounded idea of their child's progress, other schools would have the ability streaming information they need and Parliament would have information on how effectively taxpayers' money was being spent. Perhaps the new system could be called "The New End of Year Report".

*I realise that the Nulab regime has spent its time in power undermining the learned professions much like the Khmer Rouge bashed in the heads of people wearing glasses. But they do know what they are talking about - until they become MPs.

Book List

This Big Read book list idea was on Cherie's Place and is worth spending a idle few minutes on. For the record, I don't think many of the books on the list really deserve to be in the top 100 but filling that list is an intensely subjective task and there would always be exceptions and additions. My list would be the definitive one, however. Anyway, I have anotated the list as instructed:

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute

38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl

57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

As you can see, I am not very keen on the hobbitty harryish narnia discworld genre having been introduced to The Hobbit by an unsympathetic teacher when I was eight. But there's plenty of books I want to read on the list and even more off it and better still, books I've not yet heard of. What joy!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Birmingham WM or Ala? The Whole World Looks The Same

There's been a great deal of fuss generated over a picture mistake in a Birmingham City Council leaflet. Apparently, the graphics designer responsible opened an online folder of Birmingham West Midlands images and picked one that looked nice but had been misfiled as it was of Birmingham Alabama in the USA. Yet no one up the food chain, with increasing levels of responsibility and pay was able to notice the difference.
So what? I say. Our towns and cities are already becoming clone towns with the same dozen national or international chains of shops, the same anodyne female-friendly malls (why do women go into branches of the same store in different towns to see what they have in stock?: the same stuff!) and the same street furniture (bins, benches, signs and lamp standards) and paving. Towns are all so alike nowadays which is why there are so many "You Are Here" signs. In Birmingham city centre, for example, there are only two fishing tackle and shooting shops and no decent bookshops as Waterstones dominates. No proper delicatessen and a really good stampdealers in Needless Alley closed ten years ago now. So I say you only need one photo for everywhere because everywhere is all the same.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

What is it about train Ticket Inspectors?

I read this latest story of outrageous conduct by a train ticket inspector (or is that an Onboard Revenue Enforcement Partner) is in today's Daily Mail. It concerns Rifleman Zachary Hoyland (what a very Sharpish name) of 1 Bn, The Rifles travelling home on leave from Iraq. He bought his ticket from the railway station without a travelcard (common sense and decency working fine there) because his barracks in Chepstow where his railcard (should have carried it with him in Iraq of course) was kept was closed. On the train however, the ****ing idiot of a ticket clipper demanded an extra £50.50 from the soldier because the discount ticket was not valid without a railcard. A helpful fellow passenger chipped in for the excess but the Rifleman was ordered off the train at the next station because he swore (very reasonably in the circumstances, ie after three days travelling from Iraq) at the stupid twerp of a clippy who said "I don't know what you are complaining about, it's not as if you took a bullet".
Predictably, the train company said " Cross Country Trains takes allegations of verbal assault on its staff very seriously. There will be no discounts available without an Armed Forces railcard. We will investigate this if the gentleman concerned wishes to contact us directly."
I am not surprised by the ****-off attitude of the train company to its honoured passenger. Non -First Class train tickets are merely pieces of card indicating that money (only refundable at the train company's advantage) has been taken off you. You are not guaranteed punctuality, cleanliness or a seat.
When I commuted daily to Birmingham, I often took the Silverlink train in the evening. This consisted of three or four (sub)standard carriages jam-packed with tired commuters and a virtually empty First Class carriage. It was awful when preceding trains were late or cancelled. The entire job description of one twat of a clippy appeared to be ensuring that First Class ticket holders did not have their purdah disturbed by standard ticket holders no matter how crowded the cattle-trucks were. I cannot stand for long and would sit in the empty First Class carriage until Captain Shithead arrived to turf me out. Now, you might think that Slimeyslug would adopt an enlighted attitude to disabled customers or indeed anyone on a crowded train. Unfortunately, when I phoned the "help"line, I was told in an almost inpenetrable Indian accent that I had no right to a seat on a train and that I should buy a First Class ticket if I wanted one. Subsequently, a sign went up on the First Class carriage doors stating that if there were no seats available in standard, disabled passengers should phone to arrange a discretionary seat in First Class before the train departed ie before one knew whether a seat was available or not. I was glad when the bastards lost the franchise.
One point about First Class tickets: who buys them with their own money? Most are business perks or charged to clients. Any train company that removes First Class is to be saluted as it indicates a smigeon of humanity.

Update: Read this excellent post at Cherie's Place entitled System Failure. On reflection I think we are all only here to fill up the machine. It's not just an excellent blog but as I was a member of PCS from when it was the NUCPS I still support PCS's work to protect civil servants. (btw Did you know that DWP has the highest percentage of staff receiving Working Tax Credits of any UK government department?- so much for being overpaid).

Georgia War Update

How awful that barely days after Russia's conscience, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was buried the Ivan the Terrible half of the Russian psyche has reasserted itself.

With no word for cease fire the Russians appear to be retracing General Sherman's Civil War March to the Sea through Georgia* using absolute war tactics practised in Chechnya and developed by their grandfathers from the River Oder to Berlin. It seems there is no phrase in Russian for collateral damage as anything in front of a Russian gun barrel or rocket launcher that isn't Russian is considered a legitimate target.

It will be easier, when the fighting stops, to make a list of those sections of the relevant Geneva Conventions that the Russian armed forces have not broken.

The lack of Rentamob Stop-the-War demos**is surely proof of the long-term and widespread infiltration of the "peace" movement by the KGB and its FSB successor. Why are there no leftie trustafarians getting themselves arrested in Red Square by holding up Pro Georgia posters? Why hasn't there been a charity appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee? Why has only Save the Children launched an appeal in the UK?

Surely it is time to:

a) drive a tank across the pitch at Stamford Bridge to help defend Portsmouth from the disproportionate aggression of Chelsea;

b) stop buying Russian goods;

c) buy more Georgian goods.

d) send a message of support to the Georgian Embassy in London at 4 Russell Gardens, West KensingtonLondon, W14 8EZ. Russian hackers are playing merry hell with the official http://www.president.ge/ website so best leave off that for a while.

* I've heard nothing from Jimmah Carter about the invasion.

** but there has been a demo by Georgian expats outside the Russian Embassy in London.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Chess Playing Cliche

Are we all looking east to what's happening in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Good, because the next Russian probe might well be against the independent Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia all of which have large numbers of Russian passport holders as a result of Soviet occupation from 1940 until the fall of the USSR. Estonia suffered a Russian cyberattack last year. And then there are the plans for the US to base its missile defence screen in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia doesn't want it as it has always feared "encirclement".
What do these possibilities have in common? Well, one cliche about Russians is that they enjoy chess and one tactic in chess is to distract your opponent's attention away from your real target by creating a dummy attack. And as people believe most easily what they wish to believe, the apparent plan to threaten energy supplies is credible. Now, the Russian strategy in Georgia may not be a dummy or it will continue to be unopposed and successful: in either case the Russians have won. So what will the Russians do in Georgia? Will they take advantage of their military momentum and "protect" the oil pipeline running through Georgia? Or will withdrawal from Georgia be offered as a bargaining token for America cancelling its missile defence plans, much the same as missiles were withdrawn from Turkey by the US to help solve the 1963 Cuban Missiles Crisis?
I'm not arguing that the situation in the Caucasus is anywhere near as dangerous as 1963 because the world and politico-military strategy is very different to then. What I am arguing is that all politicians and military people pause, stand up,walk around the room, look out of the window and have a cup of tea before sitting down again to play the next move.
It is an awful lot easier to start a war than stop it. One should never believe those naive game theory "experts" who counsel that a measured escalation of responses is possible.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

England and Georgia: Some Parallels

The present state of war in Georgia, initiated by the Russians and using spurious justifications similar to those concocted by Blair for his serial military interventions, may well be "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing." However, there are some pertinent facts for the patriotic Englishman to take account of:

The Patron Saint of England and Georgia is St George.

The flag of England




The flag of Georgia




The patron Saint of Scotland and Russia is St Andrew.


The flag of Scotland




The Naval Ensign of Russia



So when our colonial masters allow Georgia to be blasted by the Russians is it because they want to set a modern precedent to enable Berwick-on-Tweed to be ceded to Scotland?

Or more likely it is the fear that Uncle Vlad will turn off gas supplies to Western Europe this Winter if anyone objects to Russian aggression, knowing that the EU will do nothing to retaliate because Germany will put the interests of Germany first to ensure it safeguards its energy requirements and let the rest of Europe (especially those countries downstream) freeze. Aren't the UN (with its Russian and Chinese vetoes on action) and EU just a bloody waste of time?

For the sake of Humanity please stop fighting and start talking.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Olympic Opening Ceremony



This Unknown Hero deserves to be remembered on this day of hypocrisy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A Dog's Life

We're dogsitting my brother's six year-old black lab, Natasha, at the moment. She is the perfect house guest, no mess, eats everything within range and goes to bed at 9pm sharp - if we can get her out of her bed before then for anything other than a walk. She barked at the postman today (wearing shorts) and then barked at me out of absent-mindedness because I (wearing long trousers) walked down the drive five minutes after the postman. I suppose it's a complicated life for a dog remembering at whom to bark (more of a muffled woof).
Here's a photo of her ladyship three hours before dinner getting a power nap.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

And This Is A Holiday?!!!

Sally in Norfolk is a lovely blog as I can vicariously enjoy a walking and cycling holiday in the Switzerland without the depressing need to travel, to do something everyday and the most depressing need to return home (until one returns home). I don't like going away for holidays for those reasons and instead enjoy watching documentaries. I may not experience things at first hand but then neither do I have to put up with uncomfortable heat, humidity and insect life. But read this post and you might begin to agree with me.
Many thanks Sally. Enjoy your holiday and come back to England safe and sound. Don't forget the Toblerone!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Young Jackdaw Pictures

I have a fondness for birds hence the photo of a Shag on my blogpage. I also own two mallard and a crow plastic decoys. Among the birds that feed in our garden are the inevitable magpies but also crows and the very occasional blue jay. But we've never had jackdaws which is why I was delighted by the post on Aileni's blog known as loose ends. And of course Donegal is where my Grandfather was born so all photos of the area are special to me.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

New English Religion?

I have read dozens of press reports of tribunals and court cases in which people professing relogious belief or "faith" have argued successfully that their beliefs either prevent them from doing things expected of the rest of us or grant them privileges.
As an Englishman, I have an instinctive dislike of unfairness and treating certain people differently is unfair. I have likes and dislikes and rational preferences but I am unable to exercise them when they clash with the law because I do not have an Invisible Magic Friend or Ambiguous Instruction Manual. The Law refuses to accept my right to exercise common sense in my interaction with the rest of the world.
I am therefore setting up a new religion to help me secure my rights and hopefully obtain charitable status and tax benefits. I reckon Esnes Nommoc is a good name for it. I'll keep the basic beliefs simple to avoid schism:

The Golden Rule - as first propounded by Greek philosophers "do unto others as you wish others to do unto you".
The Google Rule "do good".
The John Bull Rule " I don't mind if you don't agree with these ideas so long as you mind your own business".
And to keep the ladies happy, "put the loo seat down after you've finished using it".

That pretty much covers everything. There is no need to continually affirm your acceptance of the rules and no problem if you change your mind. Burning at the stake, stoning etc and wearing fancy dress proclaiming membership* of Esnes Nommoc are banned.

* Membership is free, open to anyone and not exclusive - you can be a different religionist and still be in Esnes Nommoc although best check first with your franchise operator that they are happy.

Is this the sickest 419 scam email ever?

This is the text of an unsolicited email I received:

"Hello, My name is Mrs. Barbara Rogerson, from Australia . Am 58 years old, suffering from long time cancer of the breast which also affect one of my eye. From all indications my condition is really deteriorating and it's quite obvious that I won't live more than 2 months according to my doctors. This is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad stage. My late husband died early last year from heart attack, and during the period of our marriage we couldn't produce any child. My late husband was very wealthy and after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth. The doctor has advised me that I will not live for more than 2 months, so I have now decided to spread all my wealth, to contribute mainly to the development of charity in Africa, America , Asia and Europe . Before my late husband died he was a major oil tycoon, in Sydney and he deposited a big sums of money in a storage company in Europe some years ago, that’s all I have left now, I need you to collect this funds and distribute it yourself to charity. So that when I die my soul can rest in peace. The funds will be entirely in hands and management. I pray God gives you the wisdom to touch very many lives that is my main concern. 30% of this money will be for your time and effort, while 70% goes to charity. You will have to immediately send to me your Full Names, Resident Address and Telephone number to enable me prepare a change of ownership Letter making you my new and Legal Beneficiary Please reply me to this email address: rogersonmrs@gmail.com Best Regards,Mrs. Barbara Rogerson"

May I advise the dim West African spark who concocted this foul lie that he turns his obviously limited abilities to legal business activities to earn a living for himself and dispel the widely-held belief that Africa is a basket case largely of its own making.

British Muslims Fighting With Taliban In Afghanistan

I don't recall similar examples of jihad during the guerrilla war against the Soviets in the Eighties. Perhaps they realised that capture would be followed by interrogation and a bullet in the back of the neck. As this craven regime that is now bitchfighting amongst itself short-sightedly repealed the crime of treason and the death sentence for it, it is right and proper that any scum caught fighting against our troops should be subject to Section 5.56 of the Rules of Engagement.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Aargh My Vanity Counters Are Gone

Due to a glitch with IE7 (Thanks Theo for providing the solution) not liking Sitemeter today (why today?) I couldn't open my blog. So I've had to delete Sitemeter and return to the assumption that I've got a dozen or so readers and the remaining hits are me checking to see how many people have viewed the blog.
Message to computer software engineers: if you have to stop every few miles, have a look under the bonnet and twiddle, replace and reinstall parts would you be happy with your car manufacturer? So why not develop software that works without patches or work arounds?

Update: I've refitted with Statcounter. How depressing to have 1 visitor!

Ahead To The Past: A1 Peppercorn Tornado 60163

The firing up of the first steam locomotive built in England for fifty years is an event worthy of celebration. It's a pity St Fred Dibnah (pbuh) can only see it from overhead. It's good to know that ,despite the best efforts of generations of accountants and europhiles, England still has the skills necessary to build big things.

But an opportunity has been lost for, as William Gruff pointed out in an earlier post, there have been considerable advances made in steam engine technology in the intervening half century. If only a Porta locomotive had been built instead to demonstrate the feasibility of the design. I'm much more of an aeroplane anorak but ah well, another build project once I've tidied my shed.