Friday, 30 April 2010


A quick glance at the sky this morning shows clearly that volcanic ash no longer hinders air flights! Last week this sky was a deep, clear blue, with an occasional cloud scudding by. Today planes landing at Stansted or passing high overhead on their way from Europe and beyond across the Atlantic to Canada and the States leave vapour trails for all to see. No global warming some say, and if there is it is natural, well I beg to differ! There is indeed evidence of melting ice caps, I first read about this in 1968, and if aircraft and man's industry has no responsibility then I will go listen to a woman talking about her baby!  Interesting patterns mind!


So for a few days I have been getting out on the bike in an effort both to get fit and to lose weight. However I also managed also to pick up one of those bugs that never leave me so on Wednesday I ate very little indeed. Yesterday I ate a little more normally but still much less than the usual. This morning I joyfully stood on the scales, hoping the 15 and a half stone had been reduced by at least ten pounds! To my horror I was almost back at 16 stone again!!!!!!! How come? I have decided to fast for three weeks living only only water and cheap wine. If this doesn't work I will just become a fat pig!

Thursday, 29 April 2010


The main result of the dubious 'Prime Minister's Debate' has been to watch the Right wing press launch an attack on the otherwise forgotten Lib Dems! Normally Clegg and his party would be tolerated as the ones who finish third, obtain a few seats, and are largely ignored. Since the first debate when Clegg's image was given a great boost 'Dave' Cameron and his press have been running scared. Cameron thought he would soon be prime minister, now he realises he might lose! What to do? Well one thing is to promise everything to everyone, which is normal, but 'Dave'' is getting a bit anxious about this, and another is to get the press to work on the enemy. Up till the first debate Brown was the one insulted daily by Mr Cameron's backers, now all has changed.

'The Daily Mail' has at least two items daily on the online page attacking Nick Clegg. He is just as much a 'Toff' as 'Dave' they cry, he has fiddled his expenses (like Dave maybe?) and if there is a whiff of sin then it will be trumpeted aloud! 'Dave' himself is of course represented as doing the right thing at all times although even the 'Mail' points out his faults occasionally, less so now he is in trouble of course.  Many of those who comment on the articles point out his failures and their desire to vote UKIP (the racists in suits) or BNP (the racists in cheap suits). 'The Times,' part of Rupert Murdoch's empire, follows slavishly the 'Dirty Digger's' desire to support 'Dave' partly because the 'Times'  thought 'Dave' would win at a canter, but mostly because these good NUJ members put their jobs before their principles (as if a journalist had principles!). The 'Mail' also has Clegg attacking Brown, even if he doesn't realise he is doing this, but it all helps to ensure that the reader knows Cameron and his lackey's are the ones to vote for. Whether newspapers, and I use that word loosely, whether newspapers actually have an effect on voting patterns I am not sure. TV images clearly do, and like John F. Kennedy in the early 60's it is clear the nation (and to the surprise of many this does include Scotland and Wales, although the English media have along with one Scottish (Tory voting) judge have failed to notice this) has taken to the 'Lib Dems' and may even pull off a shock result. Indeed they might, and it remains as 'might' have an influence on the make up of the next cabinet! If a 'hung parliament' (and hands up all those who wish to hang parliamentarians? I thought so!) occurs then who knows who will be the next PM? Whoever it is there is no doubt the nation, and I mean all of it, is in a mess indeed. Morally corrupted by wealth and secular liberalism and heavily in debt, the next few years will be difficult for any Prime Minister, worse for whichever one of this lot takes over.

A teacher has been cleared of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. The recipient of his wrath was a 14 year old brat who, along with his classmates, had deliberately taunted the poor man on several occasions, knowing that he had been suffering from stress. One even filmed the taunting on her mobile phone! Having had enough when the boy told him to "Fuck off," the teacher dragged him outside and laid into him with a 3k weight. GOOD ON HIM I SAY! Naturally the police had to treat the kid 'sensitively, in spite of his many brushes with authority previously. The teacher they locked up!

However today the jury returned a "Not Guilty" verdict WITHIN TWO HOURS! The judge will sum up in a couple of weeks time. Had we a sensible judge he would wish the kids to be prosecuted, the police , the head teacher and the Education Authority sacked, and ensure the return of the Lochgelly Tawse into schools. That is the only way to control adolescents! There is no other way!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Calvin and Hobbes

Last night I opened the 'Calvin and Hobbes' book that was gathering dust and laughed out loud very loudly! Today I found this 'Comic' website which features the wee chaps as well as many other cartoon strips! There is something about Calvin that only adults can appreciate. He is not aimed at kids, as they do not understand him, yet adult males and their wives comprehend him easily. The one has been there and the other cleans up the mess, usually complaining her other half is still back there as a six year old.  The character is so real, especially when fantasising as 'Biff' the space hero chased by monsters,usually his teacher or his parents! Children's fears about the monster hiding under the bed are well covered, and we all had such fears, I still do! I am convinced there is something creeping around down there, but I am too scared to look.  Many readers will identify with the behaviour of Calvin's Mum & Dad. I love the scenes where she is angry, and that is often, naturally the blame lies with the father! His explanations to his son regarding life are a lesson to all dad's everywhere.

Calvin, named after John Calvin, and his highly intuitive stuffed tiger Hobbes, named after the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, ran for eleven years and was a comic strip published in hundreds of papers world wide. Millions of the books have been sold, and I only have one 'The Essential Calvin and Hobbes,' and yes that was a hint. One of the attractions was the way the strip uses the mind of a six year old to occasionally explore major political, environmental or philosophical questions. This simplifies things and often gives a clearer understanding than many heavy tomes. 

The creator of the strip,  Bill Watterson, refused to become involved in commercialisation of the strip, declaring that this took away from the art form. He also refused to allow the strip to be animated, being 'scared' to hear Calvin's voice. I must say I agree, 'Dennis the Menace' did not speak with an English accent as he was created in Dundee, yet he does on the animation! The Peanuts characters voices grate, and not just because they are American (Imagine if this had been based in the Ozarks!) but because the voice in your head is better than the animators voice always.  

I love this cartoon, it is witty, satirical, engages the life around us in a simple yet profound manner. 'Calvin and Hobbes' appear to be a cartoon strip to make us laugh, but they manage to make us think also. Such a shame   
Bill Watterson moved on to other things!

Calvin and Hobbes Story

Calvin and Hobbes on Go Comics

Monday, 26 April 2010

Typical Spring

Waking early yesterday morning I was quickly aware that Spring was in full flow, the streets were damp and above hung a bright gray cloud the type of cloud well known to those who live north of Hadrian's Wall. Such weather has of course some advantages. The place was deserted bar an occasional dog walker, who like all Englishmen he wore his summertime shorts in spite of the actual chilly Spring air, also the dampness has released a strong pungent fragrance (I use the word 'fragrance' loosely) which was somewhat titillating. Cycling up the railway trail I was thus able to notice the bird life without interference from dog walkers and kids falling off their bikes. Last year there was an abundance of robins shouting about their presence, now however they appear to have suffered from the bad weather, alone this chap happily posed for me as I irked him by passing through his territory. A bit dark but that was the only area he would stop. His eye is bright, not because of his cheeky personality but because of the flash. Finches cheerfully sang from the sun drenched branches up above, well out of camera range, and one particular bird announced his presence with a fabulous song unlike any I have so far heard. He managed to keep hidden in the branches however so I have no idea what he might be. Still, such things please my little mind.

Talking of big birds in the sky, I came upon a wonderful website that allows us to follow the track of airliners as they pass along the air routes, gathering volcanic ash and ensuring your luggage is delivered to Lisbon when you are arriving at Stansted!  Flight Radar 24 This is a fantastic way to follow aircraft and all intelligent males, and one or two wimmen, will find this fantastic fun! Especially useful if you live near an airfield or have long wispy vapour trails high above you. Nosey folks like this also!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

If it's Springtime That Must Mean Cricket in England!

Whenever Spring shows through the rain clouds Englishmen will run for the 'white's,' grab a bat and head for the village green! Naturally this is not always easy in large conurbations but somehow there is always an area put aside for men of indeterminate age to waste a few hours throwing a ball at a bat playing cricket. As you are aware the English believe, wrongly, that they invented everything that exists, however when it comes to cricket most peoples will happily allow them to take the blame!  Since it sprang into being in the late seventeen hundreds it has become associated with the spread of the British Empire.(Stand to attention at the back! Salute the flag!) Now nations like India and the West Indian Islands play the game, and naturally they play it so much better than its inventors! Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are places where the game has an almost religious status. For the poor of course a success at cricket can lead to an escape from a life of toil and sweat and some have become rich beyond their wildest dreams.The latest version of the game '20/20' now has a league in India which offers football player type profits. That appears popular with the players! Those nations with connections to the 'Old Country' also played the game successfully, Australia in particular, while New Zealand played it in between thumping everybody at rugby union. The Canadians tried it but found the ball often got lost in the twenty foot snowdrifts and instead took up Ice Hockey, a derivation of another English game. Being Canadian of course they decided on a version which was deemed pleasantly violent. There again few Canadians ever saw a girls school play hockey! St Trinians anyone?

To normal people, and Americans of course, the laws of cricket are confusing. Having myself idled watched the game via the box in the corner for many years I can assure you that it has a pleasant and enjoyable side. Ask me however where a 'Silly Mid Off' should stand or what the umpire, (that's he in the white coat with several pullovers around his head in the 70% heat) ask what he is doing waving his hand in that peculiar manner and I confess, like an English batsman, I'm stumped! By the way English cricket has improved greatly in recent years notably from the descendants of immigrants from the Indian sub Continent and elsewhere reaching test standard! Quite how the British National Party will cope with that I do not care to answer. 

Watching these chubby, sweating men roll up and throw (sorry, 'bowl') the ball at a gray haired man who's belly desired to break through the restricting belt, I was struck by how sociable the game was. Many of these lads have played enthusiastically for many years, often following in their father's footsteps, especially around here in a small town with lots of villages round about. Some cricket pitches possibly go back over two hundred years or more. Only 'Townies' moving form city to a quite life in the country would ever complain about a ball from such a pitch breaking their window! And would you believe some do! If the game is rained off the players can always socialise in the bar and if not the exercise of standing around in the sun for a few hours, occasionally chasing a ball, incidentally a very hard ball, and batting tsaid ball occasionally then running 22 yards between the wicket to the sound of a lacklustre applaud from a drowsy watcher must be good for them, physically and emotionally. Sociable, healthy exercise with little strain, and a game many play well into their fifties and beyond. Let's face it, we might play football into our thirties, but when we realise, at around eighteen, that we will never make the grade the joy of being kicked around is somewhat lessened. By forty few play football any more. Crickets leisurely pace enables enthusiasts to pull hamstrings and damage the Achilles right up to their pension.  Anyway some say, but whisper this quietly, that in spite of the confusing rules and endless arguments about 'moving feet,' and 'spinners,' and absurd scoring system, some say that this serious cricket business is actually fun!   

Friday, 23 April 2010

St George and His Day

Here we are once again 'celebrating' St Georges Day! I say 'celebrating' but possibly I mean 'ignoring' for the most part. Wandering around the streets paved with gold I saw only a couple of vehicles flying his flag. Possibly the stories revealing just how such flags increase your petrol consumption made folks wary in these financially troubled times, possibly, like most folks, they just didn't know what the day was all about! Low down the 'Daily Mail' today there was an item about the Ugandan born Archbishop of York flying his St Georges Flag and enjoying the 'Englishness' of it all. This has brought out many who agree with him, and others who reckon this reflects on why Englishmen are afraid to fly their own flag! Read the following comments! 

St George himself possibly existed, and may well have been a Roman soldier executed during a time of persecution, but there again I am not sure how the story began, read here and consider the options. What ever the case may be he did become patron saint for several nations and cities. It is possible that the idea of a 'patron saint' grew during the years when Christians were free to tour the Roman Empire visiting places where the famous were reputed to be buried. It is very easy for some, badly taught, to imagine that they could pray to such dead people.this of course is not biblical. However in the areas where the bible was not adhered to some did expect dead 'Saints' to answer prayer. Since the reformation few have actually believed in this in the north of Europe. This means that only Roman Catholic nations tend to adhere to such 'Saints' and the UK lost all interest in them many years ago. Today's nationalism has restored them, although not for religious reasons.

The rise of Scottish nationalism in the sixties, and the success found since then has resulted in English jealousy. The poorly taught history has left England with little understanding of what the 'United Kingdom' actually is, and hence allowed them to treat Scotland and Wales with indifference and contempt. Sadly when the Scots and Welsh objected and nationalists began to appear at Westminster there grew an English demand for 'Their own parliament!" Incredible! The parliament at Westminster has been the English parliament for many years, and remained  the 'English parliament' even after 1707! Yet these people do not realise this? Incredible! The history taught in schools, the use of the 'Union Flag' as 'England's flag,' the parliament always referring to 'England' when they meant to say 'Britain,' and the  media  coverage considering the same has evaded such people. Since they discovered in 1996 that England's flag was in fact the cross of St George a movement to encourage its use has arisen, for the wrong reasons. 

There is of course no reason whatsoever for Englishmen in England not to fly their own flag. Mistaking the Union flag for their own has meant a great many have failed to fly their St Georges flags, however there have always been church buildings, public houses, councils and individuals who have correctly flown England's flag. It is to be regretted that some city councils have indeed objected on occasion to the Union or English flag being flown as this has been regarded as 'racist!' How this can be is beyond me, yet such has, occasionally, been the case. In such circumstances, with the BNP, UKIP and the Tory media exaggerating the 'immigrant threat,' it is no wonder some have come to regard the indigenous 'white' populace as hard done by. In spite of the thousand year of English oppression against the Scots it is clear England has forgotten, or in truth, never actually known what it is to be 'English!'

It is to be much regretted that in 1707 England did not appreciate the power of the union. Instead of attempting to rename Scotland 'North Britain,' she could have emphasised the benefits brought by peaceful co-existence. However she quickly forgot and by 1914 it was common to refer to Great Britain as 'England' almost constantly. Churchill, a man famous for his mythological approach to British history, never appears to talk about 'England,' but refers to 'Great Britain' constantly, although I have not checked this out. And it is in the act of standing together and 'standing alone' against the Nazi threat in 1940 under a perceived threat of invasion that many Scots came to accept gladly the notion of being 'British!'  Had a regard for Wales and Scotland been found in England after this Scots nationalism would never have taken off and the Englishman's concern to discover what he and his nation actually comprises would not arise. There are a lot of things the English ought to be proud of, and much they need to regret. Flying their flag is not one of them!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Horses & Foals

Early this morning, before the sun had broken through the clouds, before the milkman had managed to finish his round and before some of my readers had managed to get into their beds I ambled up the old railway for my daily exercise. Quite why my daily canny do her own exercise is beyond me! Passing the early bird catching the worm, (her man must be going fishing,) inhaling the fragrance of early blossom, and giving audience to the chirping and chattering of finches and blackbirds I raced slowly up the gradient. Quite how those steam trains managed that climb in the old days I canny imagine! Leaving before dawn meant I had managed to avoid those commuters who walked their dogs (cheerily I'm sure) before rushing of to catch the train for London and the huge salaries on offer there. This left the trail empty bar the wildlife. Down either side of the embankment it was possible to see, thanks to the hard work of the volunteers clearing the vegetation, the abandoned motor bikes, occasional wheelbarrow, road barriers and masses of empty beer cans left by the adolescents as they endured their 'growing pains!'

Near the top of the gradient, a little bit on from the rabbit holes, there is a farmer who keeps some horses in his field. As my delightful (a word her parents never use) great niece loves horses, and has her own (hired) pony, I thought I would attempt to photograph these beasts. I noticed them yesterday, three mares with their foals happily chomping the grass, and as I passed the farmer was releasing a stallion and another mare plus foal from a lorry. The big black stallion looked a beautiful beast as he scampered around the field, rejoicing in his freedom from the horse box. Naturally as I stood there this morning camera in hand, the lot of them moved, head down, to the far side of the field! They do it for spite you know. Eventually this one pictured wandered over, awaiting some attention (she is female) and while we chatted I took the pic. Her little one was less keen and constantly showed her rear end to the camera while chewing grass and trying to avoid falling flat on her face while breakfasting. She did turn round in the end, but the big black proud  stallion remained at the far side, snootily avoiding me.  

These foals are very young and this one was still suckling away at mum. Not that mum was too keen at the time! Watching the stallion I was reminded of those times I left the night shift at seven and wandered through Hyde Park as the sun rose. While the ice began to melt on the Serpentine and the ducks began to swim around the freezing water I would head along 'Rotten Row' and watch the early horse riders pass by. There is  a stables in a local mews and several ponies were always found trotting along, their riders bouncing up and down in a manner never seen in any cowboy movie. However with the Household Cavalry being based on the far side of the park it was possible to find an officer, the men would have been too busy working, gallop along on his charger. This was a sight worth seeing as he raced along the empty 'Row,' a magnificent sight!

I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 about 'Fu Manchu' the fictional Chinese arch criminal from the early 20th century. The narrator was trying to establish Manchu's links with Edinburgh University, and throughout the programme I had to keep reminding myself that what they were talking about was a fictional character! Why is it that story books, and this is all a novel actually is, why is it that story book characters are treated as if they actually live! We know that Sherlock Holmes for instance, still gets letters from various places asking for his help in finding lost uncles and solving criminal mysteries, and here the narrator was regarding Fu's criminal career as if he existed! Why? What is it about characters from books that make people act as if they were alive? 

On that point, why are 'novels,' considered so important? Suggest to an author that his novel is merely a story book and they will treat you as an attack of lice! Yet a novel is a world that exists solely inside the head of the writer, and will serve the authors purpose, whether he claims otherwise or not. Such 'artists' always like to believe their books will change the world. Yet so many of them end up in remainder bookshops, so what do they really say? What is their purpose? If you want to change the world will novel writing really do this? Disraeli used 'Sybil' to do just this, but few others succeed. Would it not be true to say that an author, especially one loved by the 'chattering classes' will be writing that which will enhance his reputation, annoy 'his crowds' detractors, and walk around loved by his 'world.' Pride, wealth and fame mean more to some than actually changing the world.If you wish to write because you like the idea, or have thought of stories to publish go ahead and enjoy it. This way you might indeed alter one part of the world around you! Just be aware that the book is a story, an art, but you are the one to change the world, not a tale. Maybe writing a blog has more effect on the world around? What's that you said?

Sunday, 18 April 2010


By squeezing perilously out of the kitchen window I was able to picture the sky towards the east just after six tonight. Today has been the hottest day of the year, spoiled only by the wind howling from the north east, as I found out when I 'burned rubber' on the bike earlier on. Funny how the wind is always against you whatever direction you find yourself heading? Anyway it was interesting to note the absence of aircraft trails high in the sky, giving a clean blue appearance without them. There was indeed a plane flew over later, not sure what sort, and daily a 'Cessna' type aircraft has flown from the local grass strip airfield. He however only reaches 200 or so feet and has no more danger from Volcanic ash than the traffic on the road. This however must be considerable! Looking around the house I note a thin gray volcanic ash covering over everything and in every room! This stuff must be coming in through the windows surreptitiously.

Thousands are trapped in far flung places, China, USA, various parts of Europe and with limited options for returning. Business in many places has been crippled by goods which have failed to arrive. Mail must be hindered as transport difficulties increase, and those who thought their job was safe in many cases are no in real peril. Sport has been affected also. Many competitors in the London marathon next week will fail to appear, the European football semi finals will take place with difficulty, and several other competitions have struggled. All because of a volcano far away!

In wealthy Europe we are not used to such disasters. Of course they happen, but usually in the Caribbean or South America or China or some place far away. We respond by tut tutting and possibly giving a few loose coins to a collection, offering some sympathy and maybe blaming Johnny Foreigner and his wicked ways. Now however it has happened to us! Since World War Two we have overcome all our problems, minor disasters and hassles dealt with on the way, and Europe has become very wealthy indeed. As such we have had the notion that we can deal with everything and nothing need trouble us much, then a natural disaster like this volcano arises and the world takes on a differing hue, and not just in the sky! Suddenly we are helpless. Suddenly we feel our smallness in this world. Governments struggle to find an answer, eventually, and the small individual is left suffering who knows where, with little hope of an answer. They say such things make us think, but usually not for long.

Early this morning I took this pic from the window with my little camera. The ability to fiddle with the shot and enlarge it on here is brilliant! In the original this local bird taking the morning sunshine was just a dot in the midst of the branches. OK he is not much clearer in this pic but I am proud of the little camera's ability to get such a reasonable shot. He was luckier than one I saw round the corner this afternoon. Something moved in the road as I approached and a lass in her Corsa had stopped the other side and at first I wondered if she had hit the creature. It was in fact something like a Kestral which had caught something for lunch. He was in the road as he was attempting to escape the two Crows who were chasing him from their area. 'Nature red in tooth and claw,' and eating the wee birds near you!

I listened to the game on the wireless myself and was impressed that there were three Rangers fans ding the commentary on BBC Radio Rangers. Admittedly one of the , Derek Ferguson, had indeed played for Heart of Midlothian, and was himself quite unbiased in his comments. In fact even David Begg found himself being complementary in they way hearts approached the game in the first half. It was such a shame that there was less honesty about Naismith once again falling down for a penalty! How unusual is it for ref Ian Brines to book FIVE Hearts players, and send one off, yet book NO Rangers players, and that includes Mr Thompson of ill repute! Unusual indeed I say! Never mind, we are on the up, and JJ knows the players he requires next season and it is clear he is determined to get himself a proper centre forward this time. Goodbye Mr Nade!

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Fantastic news today! A volcano in Iceland has crashed through a glacier and sent vast amounts of ash high into the atmosphere. This is good news! OK it's not good news for those who find their air flights have been cancelled because of the danger to aircraft but it has one outstanding effect, it took the election off the front page!
Instead of half truths and desperate promises we had passengers wandering around airports shrugging shoulders and murmuring, "Can't be helped," and wondering what to do. Airports of course are not places where clear information is ever offered. Good stuff I say!

As I write three men are offering a very stage managed and unreal 'Leaders debate' on telly. 'Domestic Issues' in England at least, the Scots don't matter to the English except where their cash is concerned it seems. I had decided not to watch this as we are all aware of what's on offer and this will make nothing clearer. So far it has been as expected, although all three do appear as stuffed dummies on this absurd presentation. Only daft folks will consider this to make any difference. If we are lucky a large dollop of ash might crash through the ceiling and cover them all and at least make watching this worth while.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


The one thing about Spring evenings, in spite of the chill that has been ruining the sunshine, is the evening sky! There are few things better than observing the sun heading down over the horizon. This can be somewhat ruined of course if you watch the sunset over water. As the great orangey red ball comes in line with the sea there is always someone nearby who will quietly mutter, "Pshhhhhhhh!" On occasion as the sun sets behind the hills I have heard the observation, "There must be hundreds of them behind that hill, one goes down there every night!" Either dumping such folk in the sea, or hitting them with a loose rock is often helpful.The evening sky is something I always observed when living in Edinburgh. The skies there, especially in the Autumn being often deep blue streaked with black but never really night, if you see what I mean. Down here in the English wilderness the skies are less glamorous, but maybe this is just bias. All those years ago when I came out here we drove along to Dovercourt next to Harwich on the East coast. It was easy to see where John Constable got his fascination with clouds from.  In London, where I was living at the time, the only way to see sky was to look out of your window, with the neck craned upwards! You could try this standing on the pavement but either you were knocked down or a crowd would gather staring into space with you. This could be frightening as they may have mistaken you for some sort of guru or other. The sky has now turned a dark blue tinged with thickening cloud. This can only mean tomorrow will begin cloudy and dreich, cold winds will gather and the whole atmosphere will resemble Dunfermline in Summertime. I will look forward to that!    

Monday, 12 April 2010


Why are they run by such stupid people? When I have no money, that means daily of course, the bank will charge me money I do not possess for going over the official overdraft limit. Yet the Halifax,now merged with the Bank of Scotland and referred to as either HBOS or CROOKS, shows the level of dumbness that leaves them begging for government handouts. Yes the handouts from the government that they will not pass on to you and me! The other day I received  a statement for a 'Current Account' that I have not used for ten years! Fooled by their appalling adverts I put my wages into their 'High Interest' account to discover that 'high Interest' was about 3p at the time. Alongside this was the chequebook. I had an account with the 'Leeds' when it was taken over by the 'Halifax' some years ago, and the branch was in Edgeware Road, London. They sent me letters indicating my chequebook was awaiting collection from Edgeware Road, although I had already informed the aged crone that I was here! I spoke to a nice, bright young thing and pointed out the error, and for two or three years this continued! The 'nice bright young thing' was just as competent as the aged crone! I decided to return to Lloyd's and put my wages (yes I used to earn them) into the other account. I however am still receiving the annual statement from Halifax! There is now £1:25 in the account, from an original £1: 20 I left all those years ago. While I notice the interest is no longer being paid thy continue to send info that must cost considerably more than £1:25. This includes the statement and numerous pamphlets informing me of legal statements, account changes, and insurance offers. All binned! I would cancel the account but they will probably charge me £25 for the privilege, so I just leave it there. Why do they not just drop it themselves, send me a cheque and cut their loss? Maybe the man in charge is too busy checking his pension options?  

This man thought he would let the Halifax in Liverpool know what he thought of Sir Fred Goodwin and you must understand his emotions at the time!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Green Countryside

My luck never changes. Not only did the hob on the cooker die during the week but tonight I placed the plastic kettle on the ring at the back while I burnt the dinner. Naturally I turned on the switch, checked everything with a careless glance, and retired to check the spam mail. As I clicked my way through the unwelcome e-mails there was a loud bang and all the electric went off. I had turned on the wrong ring and melted the kettle! The dinner was still sitting there, expectantly!Another trip to Tesco for a new one, forgetting my pin number there and making the well build lass serving me think she had a con man fiddling the card. Eventually it worked and she restrained her abuse until I left. 

I was not in need of this as I had jumped on the bike and sauntered (only three gears are working) off along the old railway. Turning off I toured the narrow lanes through the small hamlets around there. The sun was shining brightly, the weather was warm, I looked up into the bright blue sky above and marvelled at the thin vapour trails ten thousand feet above lingering behind the aircraft headed for Stansted airport, I rode into the hedge, failing to notice the sharp right hand bend in the road. Headed back along the railway, bits of hedge in my hair, I greeted warmly the half dressed women jogging along, walking their dogs, and generally frightening them as I breathed heavily as I passed by. They were under the impression that they were responsible for this state of affairs, in fact it was just me attempting to pull the bike up the gentle slopes!

This view intrigued me however. It is a line of trees along two small streams forming a 'D' shape. I could not help but wonder what was the point of this? I suspect this area of land is used as an overflow of the small stream that runs alongside, and the trees have just been planted for no good reason. But what do I know? Well nothing actually! The sun shining on the fields made me stop and stare for a while. I suppose being brought up in one city and spending so much time in another makes me appreciate the green space more than those who live here and take it for granted! If the knees and muscles hold out I will be off again tomorrow, ambulance staff willing.

My lack of energy lost me a job also this week. Three hours were spent clearing up a warehouse and I did the job so well, carefully ensuring I did not run my feeble body into the ground that they through me out into the rain with a flea in my ear. My luck never changes does it? I made no attempt to find work the next day, I just sat there being depressed. Well they say worse things happen at sea, and I have just noticed a job on a cargo ship. I wonder if I should apply.........? 

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Politics and Independence

Election fever has arisen, not in the nation but in the media! From dawn till night the news channels have forgotten the rest of the world while they blether away to politicians, other journalists and, on occasion the public. Sadly most of the public appeared indifferent. Isn't it a fact that while in Iraq, and some other places, people will queue up for hours and in circumstances of great danger just to vote! Meanwhile in the west we only vote in numbers if there is a major crisis at hand. The problem with the UK is that there are no major political clashes to be found, both Labour and Conservative have somewhat similar outlooks regarding the problems of the day. While their handling of those problems differs it is clear that the UK needs to manage the economy first and foremost and whoever is in charge things will be difficult. The word 'poverty' today rarely has the meaning it had in the 1930's, and folks like me are struggling it has to be said, yet the vast majority of the population are more worried about their weight or who will kill who on 'Eastenders!' Many are struggling of course, but few are starving. Therefore the majority look upon the election with a dull sadness, believing that whoever wins it will not help nor affect them much. This is sad.

When I became 18 and was able to vote I could not wait to race along and put my cross beside the name of the losing Scottish Nationalist candidate! Alas in our area he was always destined to lose! Today it has been suggested lowering the voting age to 16 in an effort to increase the numbers voting. Dearie me, how desperate is that?  The recent scandals in which MPs have been found misusing the expenses system to fill their pockets, sometimes to the tune of thousands of pound, (or in one case to clean out his moat! Jings, Crivvens, help ma boab!) has not helped the cause of democracy. Only the other day four Labour and one Tory MP were found by a newspaper ruse willing to 'lobby' for a fictional Lobby group, one of three ex Blairite cabinet members, requesting a fee of between £3-5000 a DAY! After the crooked MPs were revealed over a hundred decided to 'stand down' at this election. The fact that this means they get a good pay off aids their hurt feelings. Poor things.

So what will we find? Lots of talk, lots of pointing fingers, lots of accusations of "His fault," and rebuttals of "Toff." and such like. Brown the experienced economic master, he says, desperate to win an election, against the desperate to be PM 'Dave,' the Eton educated 'toff' with his Eton educated shadow chancellor who appears to have as much understanding of money as I do, and I'm well broke! There is a real chance the English, but not many others, will run of to vote for the 'British National Party,' (BNP) a racist organisation, or the 'United Kingdom Independence Party,' (UKIP) a racist party in suits who want to bring back the empire and remove us from the EU. Both these groups will gain a lot of votes if not seats. The Liberal Democrats will of course continue as always, in third place. What do they stand for? I don't know either, whatever they say means little anyhow.

So with 'Dave' chanting 'Change' at every opportunity in his Obama like attempt to win, and Gordon growling through a false smile attempting to convince us to choose his his politically correct party, (note how Harriet Harman is always kept off the screen out of the way when elections are on) and while Nick Clegg is wasting time and needs to find himself a life,the rest of us must endure this democratic election through gritted teeth. Some are full of zeal from this 'exciting' election, I am filled with dullness. I want to vote effectively, although the Conservative will win easily in this constituency, and I am unable to vote Scottish Nationalist, and in the end it will affect us all, but for the foreseeable future not much will change, no matter who wins. That in itself is sad.   

On this day, in 1320 the Declaration of \Arbroath was signed by the Scottish nobles. This declaration was sent to Pope John XXII to inform him of their determination to maintain Scotlands independence from the imperialist neighhbour down south. For many years the tyrant bully Edward I had attempted, and failed, to make Scotland his. This was a declaration to make it clear to one and all that Scotland would bow the knee to nobody!  One of the most important expressions of freedom is found in this document, written in Latin in the old Abbey at Arbroath, the real threat of England had just been halted by the noble King Robert I and the Scots spirit shines through these words herein.

"But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

It is to be regretted that their hopes were dashed by English economic strangulation in 1707 and the nation of 'Great Britain' created. It is much more to be regretted that the English never joined it! Had they done so a powerful happy nation was possible. However they blew the opportunity and thought they could treat the Scots as inconsequential. A bad mistake. So the line that still sits in the hearts of many was not fulfilled, however it is always worth repeating, "for as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule," and don't you forget it! You will note also that 'Robert is King of Scots' not King of Scotland! The Scots nobles made it clear that if the king was to fail he would be democratically removed! The people were his, not their lands!

This declaration has inspired many others to maintain their freedom and Americans often claim it was the basis of their own Declaration of Independence' also from English rule. How many other nations have rejected English rule I wonder.....? 

Read the full declaration here Declaration of Arbroath  (would you believe this is an American site!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Felsted War Memorial

I decided that a trip up the old railway on the bike was in order, just to loosen the muscles from the previous effort on the bike. The short ride, against the wind as always,was enjoyable and I pottered on eventually reaching Felsted, a small village some six miles on. Here I stopped to take a few pics of the war memorial. I am intrigued by such memorials. They stand in almost every town and villages throughout the UK and for the most part are ignored. So much so that some are in a poor state of repair. Erected after the Great War, with names from the second war added later, the stories behind the names stand in opposition to the places these monoliths are often found. A trench oozing with mud, bodies, often incomplete, of the dead and the wounded lying on the bottom, shells exploding all around, bullets splattering the parapet, screams and groans of the injured or those engaged in killing, such images are far removed from memorials stationed in parks and churchyards or overlooking a green and pleasant place. Many have elaborate statues attached, angels with huge wings, soldiers with heads bowed over upturned rifles, big breasted women with arms reaching to the skies, (never fat old mothers you notice) but most a simple stone or cross with names of local lads who 'did their duty' and never returned. At Felsted I noticed some time back that they had built a 'Memorial Hall,' with this simple cross outside bearing the names of the fallen and I thought this a good practical idea. Whether this was an excuse to build a much needed hall or a true memorial I know not at this time, but the idea works for me!    

This village and surrounding hamlets were not large and almost half the population were employed on the many farms. Therefore to lose 45 men, often more than one from the same family, was a great loss. The shock of such events effected the home front as much as the fighting did the men in France. With 300,000 men still unaccounted for under the battlefields it is no surprise that the need for a place to mourn, individually and together, was great. This memorial reveals the differing attitudes to the war in 1939. The generals were not going to get bogged down again and only 12 names are recorded here. There is also one from the Kosovo campaign of more recent time. It is indeed right that men who fell in later wars are remembered also surely.

This made the aching muscles worthwhile. It is strange to be out on the bike again, not to strange to be pedalling along thinking I was doing well and be overtaken by a regular user of the trail racing past at high speed. "One day,"  I lied to the Lycra clad red helmet, already a shrinking dot half a mile ahead, "I will be back to that fitness level!" As I turned for home I made an effort to ignore such vows. Instead I concentrated on avoiding the children being taken out by mum and dad along the trail, the ageing, usually unsmiling, joggers, and more cyclists who would consider my 12 mile trip a daily routine. I would tell them that in the past it was mine also, but not only would I not be believed I was concentrating on just keeping alive. With the wind at my back and the majority of the trip downhill it was at least much more fun going home than coming out! Ah nature, I suppose it was the years I spent in Edinburgh, and then in London that make me enjoy it so much. The common folk here are so used to this they do not appreciate what is around them. I do, gladly. Now,  where is matron with my muscle rub......?    

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Pipex Customer Service

In the middle of searching yesterday the web went dead!
I thought I had gone over the MB allowance or some such, so I left it till today to check. Almost all day with no web! Had I not been watching the Arsenal game last night I may have started seeing spiders!

This morning it was still dead so I called the Pipex hotline, followed the instructions of the voice, chose the appropriate number, chose the next appropriate number and waited.
The cheery voice apologised and explained "... All our operators are busy and will be with you in a minute. Your call is important to us, please hold on" She forgot to add that at 5p a minute I knew how important 'holding on' actually was to Pipex. Music played, she came back, "We apologise for keeping you waiting, an operator will be with you shortly." She then added in a sickeningly cheery voice, "You are progressing in the queue. There are more than 9 people in front of you," as if this was encouraging!
Music (stolen from some bad 'new age' album) and she returned with her message, again and again - and again, "There are more than 9 people in front of you." I wonder if she heard me point out that I know! And I also know that if I am progressing HOW COME THERE ARE STILL MORE THAN 9 PEOPLE IN FRONT OF ME?" I hope she did not hear my comments when she returned for the fortieth time.....

I called at just after 8 am. I was answered, after she had informed me, eventually, that I was "7th in the queue" then "4th," then "2nd," as if I was meant to prepare myself to shout at the man awaiting me.
I did! He answered at 8:50!
Poor man must have started his day with caller after caller asking "WHY?" The reason "Why?" he claimedwas a flood in exchange which had halted all the servers. Then, somewhat sheepishly, and with his head under the desk, he added "They say it may take three or four days to fix."
I could die in that time without the web!

However the yelling down the phone from so many folk has worked and it has come on a short while ago. I am relieved. Have you any idea what it means to live without internet access? It is an impossibility today!

However it was indeed a problem with flooding. Most ISPs were affected by the flood and BT engineers worked very hard to restore the exchange as quickly as they did. A huge area must have been effected, and one mate has been without a phone for over a day and a half because of this. I was quite lucky. I was also lucky the nice doctor gave me pills to stop my heart fluttering and smelling salts for when the shock of losing the web returns.