Sunday, 30 December 2012

Motorway spray

Motorway spray

Having driven three long journeys in a matter of days, often in very heavy rain, it became apparent that motorway spray was not all it seems.

There are few worse hazards with visibility being significantly reduced. It is particularly bad as large vehicles are overtaken. There is a critical amount of rainfall for spray to be a serious problem. Drizzle and light rain are a nuisance but tolerable.  Steady heavy rain over a couple of hours builds up large flat puddles. Aquaplaning becomes more likely. Experiencing torrential downpours earlier in the year was unpleasant too. At least the ominous black clouds ahead gave advance warning. Even so the impression of driving into a waterfall was disconcerting with rapid braking by most, but not all, on the road.

 The nature of the road surface makes a huge difference too. On the M25 (thankfully not very busy) there were patches where spray was everywhere and then a hundred yards further on there was little, despite the rainfall being constant. A more mottled surface seemed to absorb moisture and had less surface-water. One of the worst stretches was on a new motorway - the M74 extension in Glasgow. This is barely 18 months old and the surface is slick and even - and extremely wet. Speeds were relatively low yet the amount of spray was significantly more than a few miles back. It is clearly possible to design roads - and motorways in particular - to deal with copious amounts of water. So what is going wrong? Is there some sort of compromise with traction and wear? Is it good old cost-cutting?

Finally there are a minority who share the Indian faith in karma. They do not adjust their speed to the conditions. And/or they do not turn their lights on. Hard to believe but true. 

Would such numpties show up on the proposed ‘black box’ scheme to reward safer driving by cheaper insurance bills?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Water supply Kalimpong, Northern India

Water Supply Kalimpong...

All those fools who say the free market solves all problems should consider the calamity that is the Kalimpong water supply. Kalimpong is a hill town in the foothills of the Himalaya. It has a monsoon climate so it rains extremely hard from late June until September. Being on top of a hill there are problems of water storage. Water tanks have been built but there are too few and they are not sufficient. Those who can afford it (hotels and businesses) import water in large plastic tanks on the back of trucks. 

The residents and many small businesses rely on their own initiatives which produces a water supply system which is quite astonishing. This involves running a personal pipeline from a source further up the hill. All of these pipes then run alongside the road down the hill as can be seen here.

At times the pipes divert to run downhill into several properties.Unfortunately, because the pipes are exposed to the open air - and trucks, people, cars, bikes etc - they tend to leak - a lot. So even though water is scarce and precious the residents lose a lot. The supply is limited to a few minutes a day in the run up to the next monsoon.

Here pipes are lifted to go over a driveway - again putting pressure on joints and links. 

It is seen as normal and wherever a steady leak is running people gather with buckets and containers to collect whatever they can. 

At some point someone will come along and argue for a collective solution involving installing a water main and pipes running off to properties. But that will involve a co-operative approach and that is clearly anathema. So the madness continues. 

This is me signing off for a couple of days - have a good Christmas and should you be unfortunate enough to suffer from the downpours - consider Kalimpong.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mumbai Test Match 23rd - 26th November 2012

Not bad for my first test match in India

Somewhat apprehensive approaching this match. England had been soundly beaten in the first test at Ahmedabad. This followed on from losing all three tests against Pakistan in Dubai earlier in the year. The omens were not good. Dhoni the Indian captain had asked for a test pitch which was a ‘rank turner’ with a view to making it more suitable for his team. 

Tickets had been obtained two days earlier from what seemed to be a reinforced garden shed by the side of the Mumbai Hockey Association stand. This was adjacent to the Wankhede stadium. Communicated by mime and gesture to get tickets which were hopefully high up and in the shade. Obtained two for the Sachin Tendulkar stand. Not really sure whether the tickets were correct. 

Arrived at the ground 45 minutes before the start. A queue of about 50 metres fed into a complex riprap-shaped concoction for security checks. It was almost the 4th anniversary of the attack on Mumbai by Al Qaida terrorists trained in Pakistan. Just to ratchet up the tension even further, the surviving captive had been hung earlier in the week. There were a lot of armed police and armoured cars about. Even so, the entry process was ponderous in the extreme. Among items that were verboten were newspapers and magazines, cigarettes and lighters/matches, cameras, radios, food, drink and anything that could remotely be used as a weapon. English fans were mainly allowed to take small bags in whilst Indian fans were far more rigorously challenged. A small heap of bags and banned materials grew by the entrance. 

As the queue ground snail-like into the stadium there were roars from those inside which only served to add to the sense of frustration at the delay. Eventually after being frisked at least five times the hike to the top of the stadium began. Officious officials met spectators at the head of the top of the stairs. The ground was barely one-sixth full although there were still large queues outside. India were 15-1. Jimmy Anderson had struck with his second ball. This was only revealed much later when the days highlights were played on the tv back at the hotel. Information within the stadium was paltry. No scorecard, no programme and very little information on the scoreboard or on the advertising hoarding which masqueraded as a ‘big screen’. There was no information about the England team - only the batting side were listed. It took some time to identify unfamiliar players in the distance and determine who had been included and who left out. The seats we had been allocated were in the sun, so alternatives higher and shadier were chosen. No-one objected. 

One man quickly made his presence very evident. Monty Panesar had been left out of the first test team. A selection howler. Here he made it clear just how much of a howler by bowling Sehwag early in his spell and then shortly afterwards sending back God (aka Sachin Tendulkar) with a cracking delivery which pitched on leg and middle and flattened his off stump. Cue much distress amongst the Indian faithful. Monty continued to bowl really well and with support from Graham Swann the Indian batsmen struggled to post sizeable partnerships losing wickets steadily. Pujara was an exception to his batting colleagues. Calm, methodical and assured, he gave a batting masterclass in how to cope with a difficult wicket. Watching him through good binoculars was a delight. His technique could have been filmed for a coaching lesson in playing the turning ball. 

Dhoni had his wish for a rank turner. Because Pujara, and latterly Ashwin, batted so well, it was not easy to assess what a good score was going to be. The odd ball turned and bounced and stock deliveries turned. How would England cope? The large dark brown Pariah Kites wheeling around above the ground ominously resembled vultures....

Pujara had strong support from Ashwin so India closed on 266-6. 

Thanks to further security idiocy and appalling crowd management, the gate used yesterday had a queue of almost 7000 people waiting to get in. At least they had the sight of an elephant walking sedately down the main road past the queue. Fortunately there was another gate available round behind the stadium. A five minute walk lead to a queue of barely 50 people. No attempt was made by ‘the authorities’ to address this imbalance. 
The morning belonged to England as they bowled India out for 327. Panesar 5-129 and Swann 4- 70. Pujara out for 135 for the first time in the series, stumped Pryor, bowled Swann. England made a cautious and slow response with Cook and Compton both using their full reach to smother  potentially spinning balls on the half-volley. Runs were gathered at barely 2 per over and this stately progression continued into the sixties. It was very tense with odd balls spitting, turning and bouncing. Compton was unlucky to get an edge to one of these ‘devil’ balls. He was followed swiftly by Trott who failed to read a non-spinning ball and was plumb LBW. More tension, especially as ‘KP’ was on his way to the crease. In the last test - the first since his re-integration - he had played poorly, and admitted that his head had been scrambled with all the commotion. The Indian fans were willing him to show his particular talents - but they also wanted him out. 

From the moment he took guard this was a different Pietersen. Solid, assured and commanding, he struck his first ball for 4 through the covers and then proceeded to score at almost a run a ball. He played shots all around the wicket and it quickly became clear that he was in the mood. With Cook lifting his pace a touch in response - they both benefitted from the left hand/right hand combination - the score rattled along. At the close of day two, England were 178-2.

Ignoring the first very busy entrance and nipping round the back meant there was little trouble queuing. Cook and Pietersen continued to build a terrific partnership of 204. Calm steady accumulation was accompanied by brilliance and audacity in a thrilling and riveting watch. When Cook was finally out for a splendid 122, Pietersen chased after him and caught him up as he was halfway off the ground to give him a very big hug. It spoke volumes.

The game then took an odd turn as KP continued to score steadily at one end and his partners struggled at the other. Bairstow fell to a close catch (off the fielder’s helmet so technically not out, but who needs DRS anyway?) and Patel followed soon after to another lifting turning ball. Once KP was out for a wonderful 186, only Pryor managed to reach double figures as the tail disappointingly (and predictably) collapsed for 413 giving a lead of 86. With England having to bat last on what was expected to be a deteriorating surface, had they thrown away a golden chance? 


The afternoon/evening session continued to provide the English in the crowd with more thrills and excitement. Yet again England’s spinners showed that not only were they better than their Indian counterparts, the Indian batsman were struggling to cope with them. Pujara was given out caught at short leg off his forearm - another dead cert for a DRS review. God failed again and the crowd became more and more subdued as wickets fell at regular intervals. India were 117 for 7 at the close - in effect 31 for 7!

A word about the crowd. It is quite astonishing that so many turn up to watch test cricket although the ground was only ever half full at its maximum. The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) have their eyes and their bank balances resting on the IPL. They do little to enhance the watching experience. The police in the stadium are particularly hostile towards Indian fans, very officious and unpleasant. Whenever Tendulkar approaches a stand; which is quite regular as he is not a fast mover these days, so he is put out to graze in the outfield. There is an immediate and almost hysterical response from the fans. They roar their appreciation, chant his name and swarm down the terraces to the metal netting surrounding the ground. The police then usher them back - sometimes using their Lhati’s (sticks). Despite all this, the young fans in particular chant and sing with occasional bursts of rhythmic drumming. (How do they get drums in when so much is not allowed...?)

It all makes for a terrific atmosphere - particularly when English wickets are falling. It must be very daunting walking out to the middle with that roar building to a crescendo as the bowler runs in. There is one highly annoying feature of the tv coverage which jarred. A cameraman is designated to wander through the stands taking reaction shots of the crowd. Cue one bunch of (mainly) young men going bananas irrespective of how their team are doing. On a par with the Mexican Wave numpties.

The following morning saw England roll the tail over and bowl India out for 142. Monty 6-81, Swann 4-43. The target of 56 was reached in 9 overs as both Cook and Compton went after the bowling from the start and scored at 6 an over. 

Result: a 10 wicket win for England and one of their finest in their roller-coaster history.

Anguished deconstruction on Indian tv channels was delectably relishable as the failings of the Indian team were pored over. Dhoni’s request for ‘rank turner’s’ was seen as an own goal of monumental proportions and simply ‘not cricket’. 

Oh yes it was. It was a stunning about face from the first test. It was also cricket played brilliantly by England, especially man-of-the-match Pietersen and Cook, Panesar and Swann. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012


The right to bear arms is enshrined in the US Constitution. At the time of its creation the nation had been born of revolt from an overseas power. The role of a militia had been crucial in the move to independence. Given a degree of prescience, would a rational, intelligent, founding father, knowing what we know now,  still include the fatal clause - the right to bear arms - in the final draft? How would they react to some accurate crystal-ball gazing?

Would they approve of over-the-counter sales of assault rifles and automatic guns? Would they feel that the situation existing today is unsupportable and actually constitutes a threat to the health and well-being of the society? How would they react to the knowledge that half of the world’s guns are in the US with a population barely 5% of the total in the world? What would they think about the inertia at the heart of government as shooting massacre after sniper massacre after school massacre follow each other. Would they not look at each other in disbelief that a movement created in struggle should end up with a licence for crazy people to do maximum harm?

Would those sane scions of the enlightenment welcome the way that so many sleazy politicians have been bought off by a powerful gun lobby thereby enabling even more massacres to take place? 

Would those supporters of secular governance approve of fundamentalist baptists holding a ‘thank you God’ ceremony at the site of the latest massacre? And would they approve of the way the mainstream church denounces the evil but does not condemn
 rampant gun ownership? 

Knowing what we know now - wouldn’t these intelligent rational and sane citizens go back to the drawing board and rip up sections of the Constitution?

In particular, the madness that is the right to bear arms. 

Barmy beyond belief.

And these irrational, inadequate, sleazy, so-called democrats, dare to lecture the rest of the world about values. 

Time to take a long hard look in the mirror.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Indian Roads and Driving

Indian Roads and Driving!
To sit in the middle of a shape-shifting mass of vehicles is quite something. Our driver said, “There are no rules.” Not completely accurate. Traffic generally drives on the left - apart from the times that they don’t. 

Most vehicles are small - many are tiny, Rickshaws, Bicycle carriers and men with huge bundles of sticks or straw on their heads wobbling along on ancient sit-up-and-beg boneshakers. Lane discipline is unheard of. Taxis particularly intrude their way between and through lanes. A blockage in the road as someone waits to turn right results in a string of cars simply turning in to the lane alongside irrespective of whether any other vehicles are there. All this is achieved with loud blasts on the horn. Our roads are massively underused compared to Indian ones. Where we are content to have a single lane of cars, the Indians will have three or even four lanes, tesselating together as a semi-homogenous mass. Buses and trucks, being so much larger, tend to get their own way. 

One of the more astonishing sights - and there is plenty of competition - is that of a bus stopping in the middle lane of a 3 lane highway to let people on and off. When the traffic is at a standstill this is not a problem. It also happens when the traffic is flowing fast and free. The bus stops suddenly. Following vehicles swerve to avoid it, and the passengers who get off in front of them. While we were in India, there was a report of a bus driver being arrested after two of his passengers were killed in exactly those circumstances. It appeared to make no difference to the practice which is widespread. 

Another doozy was to meet a taxi reversing back towards oncoming traffic off a highway sliproad - on a bend. Our driver avoided the taxi as though this was commonplace. Taxi drivers are something else. They negotiate their way through a three dimensional melee without the use of wing-mirrors (they have been knocked off in earlier scrapes). They seem to have a sixth sense of where traffic around them is going and switch their position frequently to make progress. Countless near-misses and 

Lorries and trucks frequently carry forlorn messages such as ‘Obey the Rules’ or ‘Drive safely’. Many carry the totally unnecessary plea to ‘Blow Horn.’ Many drivers have two horns: one a little blipper which is used semi-continuously to warn vehicles and pedestrians of their presence. The other is the blaster to be used when things get serious. 
Approaching busy junctions resembles a giant free-for-all. And amongst the chaos stroll pedestrians......

Many Indians believe in Karma or fate. If it is their destiny to be knocked over at a busy junction then so be it. For it is written. They insouciantly wander through a veritable minefield with nary a care. They die in their droves. But it is written...

One particularly horrific story came from a poor rural area. People exist by the side of main trunk roads. A 5-year-old boy was knocked over by a truck and killed. Several other trucks then continued to run over the remains of the boy. Locals called in the police who did not want to know. Eventually they staged a blockade of the road and the flattened remains of the unfortunate victim were removed by his family. The truck driver who killed the boy drove off and was not apprehended. Drivers do not stop because they would be attacked and possibly killed by the natives....

Road surface conditions vary enormously. We travelled over roads that were as good as anything in the UK. Unfortunately these were few and far between. The majority of roads resemble old time dancing. Smooth, smooth, crap, crap smooth. And the crap are really bad. Craters, collapsed gullies, grids missing or broken. This has the obvious and dangerous effect that vehicles traveling in opposite directions try and occupy the ‘better’ parts of the road - even though this may be on the wrong side of the road for them.

It all makes journeys never dull, often fascinating and occasional scary. Very scary.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

India - what a shituation!

Just returned from a three -week visit. The main purpose was to watch the test matches in Mumbai and Kolkata. They were an experience of such wonder and intensity that they will live with me while I remain sentient. 
Alongside the truly incredible and the wonderful in India there runs a parallel world which is squalid and filthy. Unfortunately there are times when the degradation and squalor are brutally close. 
Here is one email sent to the Times of India - a quality newspaper costing the princely sum of about 6p. 

It is with amazement and dismay that I write. A country with Space Age aspirations has an Achilles heel. The statistic that the slum-dwellers of Mumbai - home to one of the biggest slums in the world - have to share one toilet between 25,000 inhabitants left me shocked and appalled. To see men (in particular) squatting by the roadside or train track to complete a bowel movement in both urban and semi-rural districts was further evidence of there being something rotten in the heart of India. 

Not just rotten but deeply stupid too. Flies do not discriminate between excrement and food. Nor do they discriminate between rich and poor, educated and ignorant. Flies spread disease. This is not news.

It beggars belief that a country with its eyes on space has done so little for great swathes of its population on the ground. Universal sanitation is a clear example of a common good. It is shaming to report that those with the wherewithal seem so dilatory in providing it. Will it take a mass epidemic affecting rich and poor for reason to prevail?

Bio-toilets are not only relatively cheap and hygienic, they do not need expensive treatment plants and pipelines. They also produce power for cooking and lighting. 

Is it asking too much to ensure that sanitation is available to all in India in the 21st Century?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Maude rides again

Maude rides again

The brass-necked scoundrel/respected elder statesman is at it again. Today’s Telegraph has this little belter among a story of our dear MPs renting homes to one another.

“Dispatches also found that Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has claimed more than £15,000 on his second home — despite a public pledge from David Cameron in 2009 that he would stop. Mr Maude billed the taxpayer for council tax, utility bills, television licence and service charges.
In 2009, at the height of the expenses scandal, Mr Cameron said in a party political broadcast: “Other members of the shadow Cabinet, like Francis Maude and Chris Grayling, will not in future claim anything for their second homes.” (my emphasis)

Cannot be much clearer than that. 

“Mr Maude’s spokesman said that he had only agreed to stop claiming on his second home for 12 months.” Daily Telegraph 19/11/12

For those new to this tale. Maude fell out with the Commons authorities some years ago when they would not pay him as much in expenses as he thought he should get, (from us, the taxpayer). He promptly rented another property 300 yards from the house he owned in central London and made us pay all the expenses for him. 

Maude is a multi-millionaire. He owns several properties.

All in it together? 

Or are our leaders in the trough together?

These aren’t a few of my favourite things...

You can stick your ‘raindrops on roses’ where the sun don’t shine. There are an increasing number of reasons for people of all ages and income to mobilise, get off their backsides, boycott, campaign and generally work to bring some sense of fairness to our world. Here are a few to start with. 

Starbucks: for claiming to be making a loss to the taxman for 14 years yet telling shareholders how well they are doing. Odd that.

IKEA:for knowingly using political prisoners kept in appalling conditions in Stasi jails in East Germany, to make their furniture. And for ruling out compensation. That takes some nerve.

The Liberal Democlots: How long have you got? Suffice to say their latest support for the secret court policy beggars belief. This would mean people who have been badly treated by our secret and not so secret services would be denied access to justice. Rule of Law anyone?

NewLabour: For perpetrating and/or colluding with the madness of the war on terror which threw the Rule of Law in the bin. Miliband, Straw and Blair and cronies - this means you.

Amazon: for being so good yet so greedy. With 15,000 employees in the UK and making squillions across the globe, they are another slippery outfit who use our infrastructure to safely sell their stuff but do not pay their fair share.

Google: ‘Never knowingly do harm’ is their little bit of hogwash. Pure bollocks. Another company earning zillions without coughing up. 

Cameron: for farcically trying to insist the Police Commissioner election fiasco was worthwhile. Wait until he condemns the next strike ballot......or the vote on Scottish Independence.....!

The AA: now owned by a private equity company - and guess what? They do not pay their fair share either.

Osborne: Again - how long have you got? He seems to be working to a different beat to most of his colleagues. “Greenest government ever”  -  “We are all in this together”  - ‘Pasty tax’  -  stop, stop. No more. 

Israel: (and its ‘friends’ who collude with a regime that is aggressive, nasty and duplicitous).

Fanatical fundamentalist Christians and Muslims: who appear to define themselves by their hatred of each other. Not forgetting the Catholic Church who have taken the message ‘suffer little children’ to a much baser level.

‘Honour Killings’: never was ‘honour’ so ill-used. The silence of the Muslim religious leaders and politicians on this issue is deafening. 

Slippery, self-serving venal MPs: the list continues to grow of our ‘honourable’ members who fiddled their expenses and now lecture us about ‘probity’. The numbers involved were many times higher than the handful who went to jail. Kevin Barron, Keith Vaz et al, not to mention the umpteen Cabinet and Shadow-Cabinet members who made a fortune in property - all at our expense. It may have been ‘within their rules’ but it stank then and it still stinks now. 

No clearout = no confidence = no point voting. Definitely not apathy. 

With that, we are off to India to hopefully see England fight back in the test series....Hmmm.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Police Commissioner Elections: the democlots strike again!

The Tories have foisted on an unwilling citizenry the farce of elected Police Commissioners. Early reports suggest a record low turnout. ‘Experts’ are saying that the government did not handle the election at all well. Participants were not allowed to do a mail shot to their electorate. This disenfranchises the number of folks without internet access. It presupposed that citizens would be bothered enough to find out It also reduces the impact as people chat in the street, pub or cafe. 

Setting the fee at £5000 to enter the contest was anti-democratic and sets a barrier to the poor. A better method would have been to have an increased number of nominators to deter frivolous candidates. The Downing Street machine has been remarkably quiet and done little to raise the profile of the election. It has cost £75 million to hold these elections. Money which could have gone on front line policing. 

As for the voters? What a choice. Most candidates have sung from the same or similar hymn sheet so what is a decision based upon? 

Now the votes have been held and the turnouts are in the low teens - 13% for Greater Manchester, 15% for leafy Wiltshire and maybe 19% for the ‘Mouth of the Humber’ Prescott's area. A report has just come in from Wales stating that a ballot box from one area was returned empty! Not a single ballot paper! Not one.

The voting system, which slipped under the radar without any fuss from the same press that excoriated the LibDem attempt to reform voting, is preferential. All first preferences are counted. The top two candidates go through to a final. All the others who did not reach the final have their second preferences counted. Then a result is called. 

Many people will have spoilt their papers. I did. Another expert this morning said that this system of voting typically produces about 2% of spoilt or invalid ballots. This can be putting a cross in both boxes instead of a 1 and 2. It can also be a ‘none of the above’ comment, or other written scathing remarks. How many of those are needed to render the result farcical? The Minister in charge claimed this morning that the results were legitimate! These are the same people who deride union strike ballots when they drop below 50% turnout and claim the outcome is not credible. Well they will be now!

Yet another plank has been added to the raft of omnishambolic policies put forward by this incompetent bunch of clots. 

The posh clots are not turning out to be a great advert for £30,000 a year Eton. They may well know which spoon to use and which way to pass the port but they appear increasingly clueless about the things that matter.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


For the first time in my life there is an election taking place which is leaving me perturbed yet peculiarly uninvolved.

When the Tories announced their plan to introduce an American-style contest for virtually every police force in England, it was greeted with widespread apathy and very little interest. Thanks to the self-aggrandizing buffoon calling himself Lord Prescott - a title to belie his so called ‘socialist’ roots - there has been a tiny bit more interest. 

Some key facts.

The contest is a sort of preferential voting system - you know - similar to what the tories put the boot into with the help of their media arslikhan chums. You put 1st and 2nd preferences down. The top two candidates then have their 2nd preference votes counted and added to the first round count. More than a whiff of hypocrisy here .

Candidates have to put up £5000 to stand. Mere loose change to some of our toff brethren but not straightforward for an honest Joe or Jill with a family. The Tories claimed they wanted Independent candidates. Oh Yeah! 

Political parties have jumped in. They put up a party stooge plus the £5000! 
Any virtue in this ballot is disappearing fast. There is a danger (delight?) in the turnout being very low. At what point does it become illegitimate?

As for me in Derbyshire I will be faced with a party hack from Labour matched by a similar one from the Tories and a candidate somewhere to the right of barking for UKIP. Then there is an independent ex-copper. 

Laura N’Order is a popular girl across the country just now as all these hacks and stooges espouse her virtues.

Options are limited:
Do not bother voting: not happy with this as it is a right I cherish.

Vote just for one candidate - the independent. Perhaps.

Spoil my ballot paper. This has been advocated by several columnists - chiefly John Harris in a Guardian article recently. What would happen if spoilt papers won? This appeals but what is written has to be pithy and to the point. All ‘spoilt’ papers are read out to the candidates at the count. Can be very entertaining.

Any suggestions?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day Portnahaven 2012

Remembrance Day Portnahaven 2012

The War Memorial stands on a prominent hill overlooking both villages and the Atlantic. It is a perfect day. Bright with scattered cloud. A cool north-westerly is cold enough to notice but not enough to matter. In the south the coast of Northern Ireland is softly visible. To the west stands the lighthouse on the isle of Orsay. Breakers are softly crumping over Frenchman’s Rocks in the north-west. On the other side of the village a dog barks at the seals in the bay. Seagulls wheel overhead mainly silent, a sparrow chirrups nearby followed by the alarm chatter of a pipit. A skein of geese honk their way across the sky. 

On the other side of the village subcontractors continue buzzing and humming as they renew water pipes. No two-minute silence for them. Even on a Sunday - and particularly this Sunday - mammon must thrive.

At the foot of the memorial lie two wreaths already in place. One from the council and one from the WI. A shortage of vicars on the island has meant the ceremony began and ended well before 11-00 a.m. This enabled the vicar to get to another ceremony in a neighbouring village. 

On one side of the memorial are a list of 13 names from the First World War and on the other side are an additional 11 names from the Second. These are relatively high numbers from an outlying rural area. Several met their deaths at sea as sailors in the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy. They lie in the depths of the Atlantic. The same ocean that today looks so benign.  

Meanwhile down in Whitehall the ‘official’ ceremony takes place. In an article in today’s Telegraph, Baroness Warsi made the not unreasonable plea for the memory of many colonial troops who died in strange lands for causes a long way from their own not to be forgotten. To cite one example, "from the 3 to 23 November 1914, the two division India Corps suffered an average loss of 90 men per day. In the space of a ten-minute bombardment on 7 November, 9th Bhopals sustained 55 casualties with another 15 men hit a little later." Gordon Corrigan 'Sepoys in the Trenches' as quoted in 'Forgotten Victory' by Gary Sheffield. The photo is from the Menin Gate in Ypres which commemorates over 50,000 soldiers who were killed in the area and who have no known grave. 

Responses online were hostile. As usual with these sites there is a sour undercurrent of racism which is increasing and nasty but is particularly unpalatable on Remembrance Sunday. What did all these men and women die for? Another strand made more sense. Many pointed out the £12,000 in expenses that Warsi had somehow claimed wrongly thereby removed her of any right to comment. Some went further declaring that the presence of self-serving, venal politicians at the Whitehall ceremony was an insult to the dead.

They have a point. The days when the Cabinet was full of men, and some women, who had served in the Second World War are long gone. Prime Ministers Eden and MacMillan experienced at first hand the horrors of the First World War. Chancellor Dennis Healey won the Military Medal in combat at the D Day landings. When the Americans came calling for support for their Vietnam folly it was these and similar people who told them where to go. 

How times have changed. The likes of Blair and Cameron can commit other people’s sons and daughters to danger and put them in harms way without having a clue what warfare is really like. 

As Cameron placed his wreath was he thinking of the dead? Or was he thinking of the arms deal he had just concluded in the Middle-East?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The NHS sell-off gathers speed.

The NHS sell-off gathers speed.

Warning: voting Tory can seriously damage (y)our health

The Tories understand greed better than most. All the time the so-called 'reforms' of the NHS were weaving their slimy way through both Houses of Parliament we were frequently assured that there was to be no sell off of the NHS. What lies. What bullshit. They knew full well what would happen. Give a greedy bastard half an inch and he wants a yard. And so it has come to pass. 

Five family doctors have this week become millionaires from the sale of their NHS-funded firm to one of the country's biggest private healthcare companies in a deal that reveals how physicians can potentially profit from government policy in the new NHS.
On Tuesday, the private health company Care UK announced that it had paid £48m for England's biggest out-of-hours GP service, Harmoni, originally set up as a GP co-operative, creating a new private health concern that could treat 15 million patients. The deal shows how GPs could profit from the coalition's health reforms by using their expertise to bid for contracts, then cashing in when a corporation buys them out.” Guardian 10/11/12

So five greedy bastards masquerading as GPs sell off ‘their’ co-operative to a private healthcare company. How can this be ‘theirs’ to sell? The NHS is ours. Paid for and run by our taxes. Not any more it seems. 

Another winner seems to be NHS reform champion Ian Goodman. The north-west London GP chairs the Hillingdon clinical commissioning group and was also a board director of Harmoni. He could make as much as £2.6m.Ibid
Fancy that! And him a ‘reform champion’ too!

Thank you Lansley- you lying devious slimy bastard.

Thank you Cameron - you deeply devious, duplicitous and venal bastard.

Thank you all the Tory party who knew full well that if they spelt out their plans before the election they would not be elected into government. 

And thank you all you sublimely stupid Liberal Democlots for being so gullible .....or are you on the gravy train too?

And thank you NewLabour for breaking the firewall around the NHS and introducing privatisation, albeit in a small way. You opened the gates and let the barbarians in. 

A special thank you Patricia Hewitt as you went off to work for Boots and other healthcare companies. You stand exposed as another greedy self-serving betrayer of your younger values. 

Enjoy the view in the mirror as the vulnerable who you once championed are left to suffer.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

US Election - take 2.

US Election - take 2.

In 2008 we were told the US voted in ‘huge numbers’ to elect Obama. The numbers were 131 million voted or 57% of those registered to vote. Hardly a torrent then.

And in 2012? The numbers are still very raw. Apparently turnout is determined by each state and can take several days to collate. What we do know is that the overall figure of 117 million is some way down on 2008. New Jersey and New York figures are understandably down. Not by 14 million though!

This is despite $6 billion being spent on campaigning. Over 1 million adverts. Predominantly negative ‘attack’ adverts which denigrate the opponent with a mixture of smear, innuendo and half-truths bordering on downright lies. Costly and counter-productive, off-putting and dispiriting, they are a disgraceful element of US politics. Yet both major parties are locked into a death spiral where neither can stand back and call a halt to the madness.  

The overwhelming feeling from Mr and Mrs Public is one of relief that they do not have to suffer these intrusions for another three years.

The sums involved are obscene and also reflect the way huge corporations and businesses try to buy influence. Again rotten. Michelle Bachman, the Tea Party fruitbat favourite of the right outspent her democrat opponent by 12-1 yet scraped in by 4600 votes. 

Not quite the ‘City on the Hill’ so beloved by proud Americans. The days of ‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’ are long gone.

Monday, 5 November 2012

US Election

US Election

Earlier this year I met a woman who was a producer for a small news-based tv company in the States. She said she was dreading the election. Her reason was the amount and viciousness of the attack ads that are aired in the run up to polling day. Vast amounts of money are spent by both sides to denigrate their rival. Smears, half-truths and downright lies are peddled at the electorate. They interrupt every newscast and tv programme with increasing momentum. It is nasty and barmy. 

Obama has had to deal with more than most incumbents just because he is a black president. The race card has not been played overtly but it has been used by the Tea Party wing plus other right wing organisations to paint him as not being American. They have made great play about his ‘otherness’ without ever demeaning themselves by saying it is because of his skin colour. 

Listening to vox pops from the US run on our media is deeply frustrating. Listening to some half-baked fruitcake declare themselves for Romney because they ‘are catholic and they listen to what their priest says in the pulpit’ is enough to make you weep. Have they not been around on this planet while the catholic church were engaged in kiddy-fiddling? Where were they when that huge cover-up was exposed? 

To add to the angst, Romney is a Mormon, which on the mumbo-jumbo scale is way up there. 

There are many things to be disappointed and even angry about Obama (Drones, Guantanamo, Israel) but (and it is a massive BUT) Romney would be so much worse. One of Romney’s supporters said that he was impressed when he was with him in Israel and the Israelis were embarrassed about the huge wall they are building to keep the Palestinians apart. It is a horrible construction and fundamentally inhuman. The Israelis were right to be ashamed. Romney thought it was good.

Despite all the money, all the airtime and all the vituperation, barely 50% will actually vote. Listening to the attack dogs of both sides it feels like a country tearing itself apart. Bearing in mind many of them are armed to the teeth - that is a worry.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Liberal Democlots

Liberal Democlots

A wonderful expression that fell from the lips of a friend as he tried to express his feelings about our current government. Listening to the Liberal Democlats wriggling and squirming as they try to justify why they are really close to the tories in government but remain different confirms the assessment. Take a look at the shenanigans in just two everyday days in the life of our leaders.

We begin with Cameron getting a kicking from his own backbenchers with the gleeful help of the Labour Party. He then ran into the wet flannel that is his Deputy PM who accused him of wrapping false promises in the union jack. We are told by the Democlots that they get on very well together.....Hmmm.

Meanwhile further along the benches we have Liberal Democlot Ed Davey slapping down his deputy, the tory John Hayes, who said, “We have enough wind farms”. “Oh no we haven’t,” says Ed, “Oh yes we have” says John and so on and on. 

Defence Minister Hammond took it on himself to suddenly announce a boost for Trident - which was news to his democlot colleagues.

To put the tin lid on matters in the age of austerity came the news that Hague at the Foreign Office had spent £10,000 re-stuffing an anaconda. Surely a euphemism if ever there was one.

It is not just that they are mainly toffs from public schools, nor is it that they are nearly all (incredibly) millionaires or that they are hopelessly out of touch with the bod in the street.....

No they are quite simply clueless and incompetent.

While they are farting about squabbling on the periphery, lurching from cock-up to crisis and back again, they have done nothing to address the financial sector or tax evasion.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Green on Blue

Green on Blue

‘Green on Blue’ sounds quite benign
Hints for decorating? Or interior design?

Alien to this currency is in the news -
Of more men dying in, ‘green on blues’
Killed by Afghans  -  without a chance
To save our leaders, as they dance
From Lie to fib and back to Lie
Is no good reason for any to die

What do they think lying in the Afghan sand
Why are we in this benighted land?
Fading into the arid dust
Do they wonder - as they must -
About all of those who’ve gone before
WTF was all that for?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Are you listening Dr Reid?
Who committed 3500 troops to Helmand with the infamous line:
They (the troops) will leave, “Without a single shot being fired.”

Such stupidity guaranteed his entry into the House of Lords.
Not for him grieving fathers, mothers,sisters, brothers.
Not for him grieving wives and children. 

£300 a day expenses and a seat with G4S as a ‘security consultant‘  - Who said satire was dead.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Men with little willies

There are members of our society who positively drool with delight at the prospect of having nuclear weapons. They believe it helps us strut our stuff on the world stage. You will even hear them crowing about us ‘punching above our weight.’ Ring any bells Mr Cameron? Mr Hammond? Mr Blair?

These people are morons. Some of them are corrupt morons who seek to make their fortunes by promoting the deadliest weapons on the planet. They do this by walking out of civil service, political or armed forces jobs and signing on with the weapons makers. They then use their so-called ‘good offices’ and connections to persuade a reluctant public to cough up vast sums of moolah for weapons we can never use. 

Absolute bloody madness. 

Current threats come from terrorists largely created by our empirical endeavours on the world stage. Thank you very much Mr Blair. For making us all so much less safe. Not that you will be too troubled by the anger and disgust of us mere mortals as you are by now quite barking. 

Iran want their own nuclear weapons  and who can blame them. They are surrounded by states with nuclear weapons. Their near neighbours Israel allegedly hold a couple of hundred alone. Around the world unequal and opposite forces are at work. 

There are only 9  states with nuclear weapons (including Israel who have always denied it despite the best and bravest efforts of Mordechai Vanunu) who form a club of the ‘haves’. They are reluctant to encourage others to join their club and may even launch military attacks on Iran to uphold that stance. The overwhelming majority of countries do not own nuclear weapons. They do not want proliferation either but they are not hypocritical about it. South Africa stand alone as the only country to date to get rid of them.

Anyone who is comfortable with the prospect of countries having nuclear weapons should consider Pakistan.......and North Korea. Enough said.

At the change of government and the appointment of a new Prime Minister, a strange little ritual takes place. Inside the safe of each of our nuclear attack submarines is a top-secret document written by the previous PM. It contains detailed instructions to the commander of how he is supposed to respond should the UK come under a nuclear attack. The new PM has to write down what they want the Commander of the sub to do. The previous letter is destroyed. As the sub could be on patrol, hidden deep in a distant ocean, this is not straightforward. One test apparently is to listen to broadcasts from Radio 4. In the horrendous event of a nuclear strike it is believed Radio 4 would go off the air. The Commander would be then under pressure to find out what has happened - if this followed a period of international tension then the culprit(s) could be clear. Even then the message from the PM could be not to retaliate but to sail to somewhere like Australia and take it from there. It could be to launch everything at a perceived attacker - but will the Commander obey? Given widespread nuclear devastation what would be the point? And what would the Americans say? They have ultimate control of the weapons and may say yay or nay. 

But what if it had been the work of a suicide bomber with a knapsack-size nuclear weapon? Or a series of similar attacks? Who is the commander then supposed to obliterate? These and similar issues need airing and clarifying before any decision is made to spend further untold billions on weapons which, if they have to be used, will mean that human beings are in a  parlous state.

All of this is a result of generations of voters electing men with little willies who mask their lack of manhood by association with weapons - the more deadly the better. In strictly humanitarian terms it has been a seriously bad move for the human race. Be assured - whatever can go wrong - will go wrong.

We would have been a lot safer if we had bought these emasculated creeps a bright red shiny sports car each.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Ash to ashes

Once again the competence of our political elite is called into question. This time it is another doozy. The government were warned three years ago that ash dieback disease was spreading across Europe and was rampant in Denmark. They were urged to ban the import of young ash saplings. They did nothing.

In February this year the disease appeared in some imported seedlings in Buckinghamshire. Again they did nothing. The disease then appeared in a further nine sites all from imported seedlings. Again - nothing - apart from a decision to launch a consultation about what to do!

The consultation was due to report this month. Events have overtaken it. Ash dieback has been found in mature trees in Norfolk and Suffolk. Now there may be no way of stopping it. As a fungal disease it spreads on the wind and the spores will be on their destructive way.

Tomorrow the government will formally announce the banning of imported ash seedlings.

Doh! And indeed thrice Doh!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tories and the BBC

Murdoch’s minions aka the Conservative Party have been unable to contain their relish at the discomfiture of the BBC. They are seizing the moment to put the boot into public service broadcasting. The derisory laughter at the Commons Culture Committee meeting yesterday was disturbing and informative. It was unpleasant to witness. Entwistle has had a baptism of fire and may not be up to the job. He does appear to be a decent person, struggling to come to terms with the issues swarming around him. He did not deserve ridicule - particularly from Tories who are not exactly covering themselves in glory either. 

“The Tories have long hated the BBC - it would be a real travesty if the Savile affair gave them the excuse they have been looking for to make significant changes to the organisation.
Savile was undoubtedly an evil bastard, there were undoubtedly others of his ilk within the BBC - deal with them, but don't let Savile's legacy be the dismantling of an invaluable institution.”  EvilMcBad - Guardian Comment

It is also becoming clear that the BBC is a very convenient scapegoat. This allows other equally (or even more) deserving institutions to run for cover. 

“I feel all this eagerness to hammer the BBC is mostly driven out of a desire to bludgeon it to submission and scandalise it to the point where the license fee is no longer tenable whilst minimising the amount of attention to other agencies in this affair. Far bigger questions surround how this man was able to get his own private accommodations in hospitals and how he came to be given the keys to the wards. How and who made these decisions? Why were repeated allegations of his behaviours not investigated? It seems everyone knew about them but no one did anything. Why?
This guy was knighted and had friends in very high places so what kind of protections did these relationships afford him? Did he know too much about others as to make him untouchable? There is a lot to uncover in this sordid tale and it's disheartening to see all the focus given to management/editorial standards at the BBC seemingly to deflect from others.”
Fickleposter ibid.

Before Tory MPs like Philip Davis become too cocky they should beware. Savile was often associated with Thatcher. He was appointed to look into Broadmoor by Edwina Currie. He was knighted in the Queens Birthday Honours list of 1990.

And who were the party of government in 1990? Well bless my cotton socks if it was not the Conservatives. Clearly they were either gullible or colluding too. 

Philip Davis demanded to know who knew what and when yesterday, going back five decades. Perhaps he ought to look a little closer to home and ask who knew what and when in the Tory party in the 1980’s?