Sunday, 5 June 2016

Cruel mistress...

Cruel Mistress

How I hate you, hate you so much at times since you first enchanted, captured and enslaved me sixty years ago. How many times have I tried to escape from your clutches, sometimes succeeding for several years before being relentlessly drawn back into your tantalising embrace.  Those occasions on which I have managed to ignore you have largely been by going cold turkey, denying your very existence which sometimes caused almost as much pain and anguish as being under your spell, but still you came yet again for me. 

Your very existence has to be acknowledged because it is so deep within me that it is difficult to be without you.  You have given me much pleasure,many thrills and excitement as well as great friendship.  Other times the pain that you have inflicted has been so immense to the point that I wish to never see or hear you again.  You have made me smile and laugh much to my great pleasure and enjoyment then you callously destroy the good times with your capricious, unpredictable ways.

Yesterday was one of those good days of enjoying the company of friends together that you suddenly, wantonly turned into one of great sadness and tragedy within a few moments. Not being content with your initial cruelty you struck without warning again several hours later.  You hurt not only me but many other people undeserving of your  callous being.

Dear reader, you may wonder what on earth happened, of what dark secrets have I been partaking for all of these years.  It is something which is not illegal nor even immoral but does involve consenting adults at its very heart.  It is something which can cost very dear in both financial and personal terms because of its very nature.  It is also something that can be physically and emotionally demanding upon occasions.

Your suspense and curiousity will now be allayed because I am talking not about some dark, nefarious secret but motorcycle racing, particularly sidecar racing to which I was first introduced by my late father in 1956.  The impact which it was to make upon my life was little realised as a then callous youth but from that day I was ensnared by the sound, sight, smell, glamour and danger of motorcycle racing.  It is like a drug that gets deep under the skin into the psyche and very being that has to be satisfied when, however and as frequently as possible.  Those that have never experienced the adrenalin, the speed, the sensations of racing may well not understand how this can be so but it is an addiction just like alcohol, tobacco or narcotics.

Over the years I have lost a number of very dear friends to racing, each and everyone still  missed to this day yet I would not do anything differently should I have my life again.  No, that it is not quite right because I would do it with even greater intensity should that be possible.

Yesterday during the Isle of Man TT Sidecar race a young driver tragically lost his life.  Dwight Beare was not personally known to me but still regarded as a friend because he, like myself, was one of the great family of sidecar racing people which, unless experienced, is beyond the understanding of outsiders.  Almost as soon the accident happened I knew that it was bad, very bad because of where it happened on a very fast part of the course.  My worst fears were confirmed a few hours later which caused  me great sadness and a few discreet tears.

Later that evening a solo practice session was stopped due to an incident at Sulby, another very fast place, again I was very apprehensive as to the outcome.  It was only this morning that I learned that Paul Shoesmith had died, my upset was even greater.  Again, Paul was not a man that I knew personally but was a racing mate of a very dear friend of many years standing. 

This morning I did not want to see another racing motorcycle nor sidecar ever again.  This should have been the ultimate end of my Cruel Mistress’s hold over me but no.  During the day I have been chatting online with many friends from the racing world and reading their posts and comments which have helped me and others through this terrible, tragic time.  It was with a certain sadness but hope that my entrapment and fascination will continue probably for the rest of my life because it is not easy to walk away from something which has been so great a part of my life.

RIP Dwight Beare and Paul Shoesmith.  My thoughts and heart go out to your families and friends, you may be gone but will never be forgotten;  Than you both so much.

Friday, 3 June 2016

French Rural life

As a rule we love life in deepest rural France but there are occasionally exceptions. This week for example ...

We have been waiting for a phone call from our tame visiting car mechanic to do some jobs on our car, promised that he would phone early this week. No call to date :-( According to locals some phone lines have been down since Sunday due to lightning strikes. When it will be rectified nobody knows ...

As many may be aware French unions are causing considerable disruption in all manner of ways, transport, flights, fuel, electricity etc. For the past week our power supply has been variable to say the least due to action at power stations. Last night our lights were constantly varying in intensity, from normal to literally like a candle. At one point the romantic candle effect lasted for nearly an hour, so poor that it was not even possible to read. This likely to continue for the immediate future as many power workers are on indefinite strike.

Fuel is another concern as supplies diminish due to refineries being picketed.  Many filling stations are either closed or imposing some form of rationing.  Thankfully that does not seem to have affected our immediate local area yet but might well do soon.  Like many others locally we rely on a vehicle for every day needs as the nearest shops are 7kms away.

Oh well, keep smiling whilst remembering that things could be worse - we might get Sarkozy back again!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

A Vision

Originally by Jack Monroe.

First they came for the socialists
But you did not speak out
Because you were definitely not a socialist
Those mad bastards campaigning for decent wages and universal healthcare
Waving their hand painted placards through the streets of Westminster
You were definitely not a socialist

Then they came for the Trade Unionists
And you did not speak out
Because Unions are awful
The Daily Mail said so
Those people representing ordinary workers
And fighting for decent pay
And human working conditions
And maternity and paternity leave
And adequate rest between shifts
And making sure people have a voice
They’re definitely terrible self-aggrandising egotists
And they get paid to represent people
And you had to get a bus to work once because of a strike you didn't bother to research beyond a screaming scheming headline
So you are not a Trade Unionist

Then they came for the Muslims
and the refugees
And you did not speak out
Because they are not your people
Coming over here
Why can’t they integrate?
Religion causes all the problems right
All the wars
Leave them to it
Close the borders
We’re full up
Can’t take any more
Of this PC multicultural bullshit
Who do they think they are?
You spoke over
And you spat and you raged
in hatred and fear
But you did not speak out
Because you were not a Muslim
nor a refugee

And then they came for the poor
and the unemployed
the single parents on benefits
the workless
And you did not speak out
Because you thought they were lazy
Loads of jobs out there innit
Easy to eat cheaply on the dole, you claim
Having never had to make £71 last a week
with a broken refrigerator
or holes in the bottom of a pair of school shoes
Bet they’ve all got Sky TV and iPhones
and how did she pay for her tattoos?
And you saw someone smoking outside a food bank once
So you did not speak out

Then they came for the disabled
Shame, you thought, but you did not speak out
Most of them could probably work, you thought
You saw that chronically depressed woman smile once
And the guy in the disabled parking space
looks young and healthy to you
We all get down sometimes, you shout
What's wrong with you anyway?
Bunch of fucking scroungers, you thought
So you did not speak out

Then they came for the teachers

And the doctors

And the nurses

And the firefighters

And the domestic abuse workers

And the rubbish collections

And the rape crisis centres

And the social workers

And the children's centres

And the education funding

And by the time they come for you

By the time they fucking come for you

There will be nobody left to speak out for you

Nobody left at all.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, (Well just a brief quote)

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Coleridge Taylor


You may well ask why I am waxing all literary this morning.

It's quite simple really, I just wanted to extol the wonders of French plumbing - again!

Went into our bathroom at the crack of sparrow fart this morning, it slowly dawned on me that my feet were suddenly cold - and wet:-(

Continental plumbing in the widest sense with all of its countless vagaries is not remotely akin to its British counterpart except that is designed generally to supply water where needed but often where it is definitely not needed. The toilet cistern is fed by small bore piping at mains pressure, around10 bar. Because of such force any leak is soon apparent, in this case from the obligatory tiny stopcock adjacent to said cisterN

For some reason the gland on the pipe/stopcock was leaking so I found a pair of water pump pliers to gently tighten the coupling. Oh, innocent me. The gentle drip now turned into a fine spray, not the desired outcome.

After searching for a few minutes I found a five litre water container to catch the errant water but the spray pattern was too wide to go into the container. More searching revealed a funnel which was placed into neck of the receptacle but even that was not sufficently large to catch all of water.

After much muttering and head scratching another bright idea dawned, why not wrap a flannel around the leaking pipe thus absorbing the spray and creating just a single flow into the funnel. Eureka! It worked! Having mopped the floor I gratefully returned to bed.

Breakfast completed it was time to find a plumber. Hmm, plumber on a Saturday, in France. In retrospect it would have been easier to have sought a visit from David Cameron, not that his probable plumbing skills would be of any use.

Eventually one local artisan said that he would come on Monday for which I was quite grateful. However I had forgotten momentarily that this la Belle France. Undoubtedly he would arrive Monday but the crafty frog did not sate which Monday.

I am not holding my breath ..

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Vive La Difference?

There may be just 21 miles (or 34kms) of water between England and France but that is small compared to some of the cultural differences found in la belle France. Some of these do seem very odd to an expat Englishman taking some degree of time to adjust to them. In many ways there is preference for the cultural vagaries as most stem from a more sedate pace of life and holding on to old fashioned values.

One of the most noticeable differences is when shopping, more correctly when trying to shop. Very few shops are open for business on Sundays, the vast majority neither open on Mondays. Traditional opening hours are 0900 to 1900 with the exception of a virtually unassailable lunch break from 1200 to 1500. The mid-day recess is taken very seriously, most shops will put up the 'Closed' sign about ten or even fifteen minutes prior, woe betide any hapless shopper who is still on the premises at the stroke of a nearby church bell. This sacrosanct tradition applies to businesses other than shops as well, all of which makes a good degree of planning necessary for shoppers. There is happily a chink in the armour for the disorganised of this foreign world; most hypermarkets do not close during the day.

Eating out is a different game too. Diners used to UK habits are able to eat at all hours of the day whereas lunch here is served from mid-day until two o'clock with last orders taken about thirty minutes previously.  Eateries reopen at seven o'clock, usually closing some three hours later. Etiquette is important too in such places, breaches often result in very firm stares or shaking of heads. Pouring wine, what could be simpler? The rule is that ladies at the table never pour wine in public, it is always done by their male companions, breaches will be firmly noted! Lettuce, which is eaten in abundance, should never be cut with a knife rather torn or pulled apart. As for mobile phones they are either switched off or if a rare call is received then the recipient will excuse themselves from the table and take the call outside. There is a further confusion, the cheese course is always taken before dessert!

When I was child the rule firmly applied was that elbows shall not be placed upon a dining table. That rule has had to be forgotten because it is perfectly acceptable, even the rule, for hands and elbows to rest upon a table. The apparent reason is that hands concealed below tabletop level may be up to mischief!  Further retraining has been necessary in the use of cutlery as it is not unusual for only a fork to be used when eating, first having cut into bite sized pieces any large items on the plate. Then there is the actual resting of cutlery whilst eating; knife and fork placed together at the English finished position on a plate of half past six signifies that the diner has not finished but would like some more as does the twenty to four placing. When finished the cutlery should be placed together at the twenty past four position. A further trap for the unwary is that after each course the knife and fork should be retained for the next. Finally napkins, if a person leaves the table intending to return then it should be left neatly on the table, should a napkin be placed on a chair then the diner has left the table.

Tales of French toilets are legendary, thankfully today much has been done to improve matters. The obvious difference is that toilets are invariably unisex, one size fits all so to speak. One thing that puzzled me for quite a while was that in any public establishment the sign for them always read 'Toilettes', that is plural so obviously there should be more than one. Oh no, in many places there was just a single, solitary item of sanitary ware, then it dawned on me that the plural device meant men and women. Happily the old style hole in the floor items have largely been replaced by conventional European items albeit that many do not sport any sort of separate seat but at least there is progress!

Venturing into shops as opposed to super/hypermarkets also has its own customs. Upon entering a cheerful 'Bonjour' is customary with a similar reply given by customers and staff. When leaving it customary to say 'Au revoir et bonne journée' (goodbye, have a good day). This only is applicable in some parts of France notably the southern part, try it in northern France and frosty looks will be given to the carrot crunching interloper. Visiting England on one occasion I went into a small paper shop, customers were waiting to be served, unthinkingly I blurted out a cheery 'Good morning'. Strange looks all round with the obvious thoughts that an inmate had escaped! In a similar vein is the conundrum of not only whether to kiss, how many and beginning with which cheek, the greeting varies widely throughout the country.

As a rule the French do not send Christmas cards but are prolific with New Year and Easter cards, took a little while to assimilate that idea. Neither are they heavy on get well cards.

The British tend to be very reserved and insular as a race whereas their Gallic counterparts are much more open. In our local villages total strangers will smile and wish 'bonjour' as they pass in the street, that certainly took a while to feel comfortable. Sometimes when shopping in a supermarket I will sit in the mall behind the checkouts just watching .the world go by, it is surprising how many young children with their mums will smile at me. It is wonderfully refreshing to be able to return that smile without any fear of the paedo police appearing post haste.

In Britain to invite a friend to drop in for a cup of tea is a natural thing to, the invitation is open at all reasonable times. Not so in France as the invitee will never drop in as it is seen as an intrusion, they will only turn up when a firm date is made with time etc. This applies not only to new acquaintances bt also those of long standing.

One major difference that can cause, irritation, frustration and accidents is the traffic rule of give way to traffic from the right. Thankfully this usually applies only within built up areas but not at all junctions so road signs and markings have to watched carefully. It was only after several years living here as well as a number of near misses that the origins of this confusing rule were discovered. In the days of horse drawn vehicles some with up to six animals turning from a side road onto another was fraught with danger especially as many properties were built directly facing on to the roadside rendering it impossible for the driver of such a wagon or cart to see if any traffic was approaching. This rule undoubtedly made things safer at the time but for this to persist today is, to me, utter nonsense and dangerous/

There are so many small but significant cultural differences between the two nations which may take a while to become accustomed, the key is to try and understand and adapt to those ways to make life easier. It is not that I agree with all such traditions but when in Rome do as the Romans do ...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

They do it for me

Heroes and Role Models.

In an idle few moments recently I began wondering just who my  heroes and role models might be.  Almost certainly they will not concur with those of you the reader but I hope that this Blogroll may inspire some to consider those who have influenced their lives.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel  1806-1859

Brunel is arguably one of the greatest mechanical and civil engineers that the world has ever known driven by a belief that nothing was impossible.  The Great Western Railway was a singular step forward in transport,  he not only created the actual railway system itself, including the Box Tunnel which was a major engineering success, but designed the necessary  locomotives and rolling stock as well being the architect for stations and other infrastructure.

The SS Great Britain was the first iron steamship of its kind designed for trans-Atlantic crossings and is now preserved in Bristol Docks. Brunel built several other large iron ships including the Great Eastern whaich was used laid the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable.

He was also a bridge builder, the Royal Albert railway bridge over the River Tamar linking Devon to
Cornwall which is still in use today. It was thought that a bridge with very long, flat arches was an engineering impossibility due to a perceived inherent lack of strength. The doubters were  proved wrong after the  completion of such a structure at Maidenhead over the River Thames, this still carries the main line from Paddingto to Wales and the West Country.

The Thames Tunnel was built at Rotherhithe under the River Thames using an innovative tunneling shield technique for horse carriage and pedestrian traffic, at 393m in length it was the first of its kind in the world.  It is still in use today as part of the London Underground network.

Brunel is a hero to me because of his vision for the future, his engineering genius as well as his his determination and indomitable spirit.  Much of his work can still be seen in regular use today havibg stood the test of time and hopefully will be there for many years to come.

Keir Hardie MP  1856-1915

Keir Hardie was the son of a shipyard carpenter and a domestic servant living in North Lanarkshire, Scotland.  He had his first job at the age of seven as a message boy for the Anchor  Line Steamship Company at a wage of 4s.0d per week to boost the family income. resultantly he was unable to continue formal education but was taught by his parents.  His employment when a teenager was working in shipyards.  Following a six month shipyard lockout of unionised members he began working in a coal mine attending night school after ten hour shifts at the mine.

During this time Hardie became an enthusiastic member of the United Reformed and joined a Temperance Union.  He began preaching to crowds in open spaces developing his public speaking skills.  Mine owners blacklisted him because of beliefs and activities seeing him as an agitator.
In 1879 Hardie was appointed as a Miners Agent beginning a new career as a trade union organiser from which the Ayrshire Miners Union was formed.

During this period he supported the Liberal Party but became disillusioned because of their contempt for working people so in 1886 he unsuccessfully stood as an Independent Labour candidate. Shortly afterwards he became the Secretary of the newly formed Scottish National Party.  In 1892 he was
elected as MP for West Ham South advocating a graduated income tax, free schooling, pensions, the abolition of the House of Lords and women's right to vote.  The followng year he and others formed the Independent Labour Party, in 1906 the name Labour Party was adopted of which he became leader..

Hardie was a life long pacifist and supported conscientious objectors for which he was widely derided at the outbreak of the Great War. He died in 1915.

Hardie is a role model to me because he proved that by determination and application a man of poor humble beginnings is able to achieve great things whilst improving the lot of very ordinary people.  A truly great man who was always true to his principles which should be an example for many.

Dorothy Florence Bird  1919-1952

Dorothy (née Webb) was born in Streatham, South London in 1919. She grew up in Edmonton next to where Arthur Bird lived and they became childhood sweethearts eventually marrying in 1940. Eearly 1944 Dorothy went to Hitchin Hospital to give birth as London was dangerous due to bombing raids.  WIthin a year or so she was diagnosed with tuberculosis which at that time was invariably fatal.  Despite this terrible news she decided to combat the disease in the only way that she knew by fighting it with every fibre of her being.

Unhappily four years later she became bedridden because of the debilitating nature of the illness, after numerous operations including the loss of one lung she eventually succumbed in 1952 leaving her husband Arthur and myself as her survivors.

Mother to me was a heroine because of the determined way in which she chose to fight her illness, never giving up hope that she might defeat it. She was such a strong willed lady never giving in, a salutary lesson to me.

Ronald Fittall, Trade Unionist  1932-2006

I first met Ron when I became a London Transport bus driver at Enfield garage in early 1969.  On my first day he was one of the first to introduce to himself to me as the chairman of the garage branch of the Transport and General Workers Union.  Over a number of years we became close friends despite
my gaining rapid promotion whilst Ron eventually became a full time union official responsible for London busmen.

Needlesss to say Ron was a tierless representative and voice for his members, at all times his desire and efforts to improve pay and working conditions was paramount achieving much for his members.

Ron was a role model to me because of his tireless devotion to a cause, devoting many hours of his own time to the cause in which he firmy believed.

Fritz Scheidegger, Sidecar racer  1937-1967

Fritz was a German speaking Swiss who became interested in motorcycles at a fairly early age, this interest became a life long passion as he was fortunate enough to become a professional sidecar driver. 

My interest in sidecar racing began in 1956, Fritz soon coming to my
notice as an outstanding driver winning races against some of the best in the world.  He was not only a talented driver but also quite an innovative engineer in sidecar design along with his great friend Rudi Kurth. 

As a driver he was very fast, along  with speed there was a certain smoothness of movement and control.  He achieved the pinnacle of his career becoming World Champion in 1966 with passenger John Robinson, probably the ultimate sidecar passenger.

Sadly Fritz died as a result of an accident at Mallory Park in 1967.

 He was a role model for me in the  world of sidecar racing and throughout my own racing career. I always tried to model myself upon him purely because he was the best.


Present Day Heroes

Dennis Skinner MP  1932 -

Upon leaving school he began work in the local coal mines for more than twenty years becoming a leader in the National Union of Mineworkers.  Latterly a member of Derbyshire County Council he was elected Labour member for Bolsover Derbyshire in 1970, a seat which he has held continuously since then.

Coming from a working class family in his political career she trongly supported many social aspects of legislation with his concern for ordinary people. In 2003 he was one of a large number of MPs who voted against war with Iraq.

Despite being an MP for may years he has never missed a single sitting in the Commons and refuses to be appointed to any committees as such would compromise his ideals.  He has never been a member of an All-Party Parliamentary Group; does not eat alongside parliamentary colleagues in the Commons dining room; does not take trips or holidays paid for by others; never drinks in the Commons Bar; and stays in the House of Commons during the Queen's Speech at the State
Opening of Parliament, as he advocates outright abolition of the House of Lords.

Dennis Skinner is a man of very strong principles and beliefs which has often brought him into conflict with part managers as well as being suspended from the House on several occasions for breaches of protocol.  It has been said that he  is a man who ploughs his own furrow rather than meekly fall in with the masses around him.

He is a role model for me because of his unwaveringly principled stance as well as an unshakable and indefatigable belief in his ideals to improve the lives of ordinaty people.

Graham English 1974 -

Graham is a person that I have known for many years, even as a lad he invariably showed a very individual streak of determination with fascination for all things mechanical.  One of his early mechanical creations which was his ingenuity in constructing s a radio controlled motorcycle crash helmet which careered around his home.  By the age of fourteen or so he was was building racing sidecar engines for drivers, some of whom were extremely competitive and successful.

His father, Ray, was a sidecar racer, thus having grown up with racing it was inevitable that he too would take up racing.  His first race was in 1997, he was determined to obtain his national racing licence which he did in that year, no mean feat.  Following his interets he developed into an accompplshed, skilful engineer, always eager to learn and devise new ideas latterly forming his own engineering company.

For a number of seasons Graham successfully raced on many of the British circuits against some of the best riders in the country before espousing racing on ordinary roads in  Ireland, an ambition achieved by doggedness and sheer grit  culminating in competing in the Isle of MMan TT.  Unhappily he had suffered a serious accident there in 2015 which initially caused great concern for his future.

There followed many months in hospital, staging a remarkably  quick recovery because of his desire to recover fully as soon as possible and that need to race once more.  Happily today he is more or less fully fit again and planning a return to the roads in 2016.

Graham is one of my role models because he is determined to achieve his goals no matter what and his constant drive for success.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Years Eve, Hogmanay - Whatever You Will .;;

Thank heavens the years have passed and spared us the horror of Andy Shandy and his Bandy with that screeching Stewart woman on the Hogmanay Show.

Replacing that ghastly period there is now Jools Holland and his Hootenanny Show with him stumbling his way through a list of largely unknown (to me) assorted 'musicians and singers'.

Then there is the inevitable rending of some unintelligible twaddle by a Scots 'poet' with many unwilling participants not knowing the words, confused as to the accompanying hand jive and wishing that they were anywhere but there!

The Scottish nation bears much responsibility for some of my darker psychoses especially at this time of the year ...

'Twas New Year's Eve in the workhouse,
Jules Holland as principle prat.
We don't want your Auld Lang Syne,
Don't want no more of that.'

Friday, 26 December 2014

Vicarious ghoulishness and collective voyeurism

Just what is happening in this country?  Every single tragedy whether almost minute or of seemingly great importance, no matter how remote from the individual elicits a huge vicarious response expressed in an outpouring communal grief and breast beating exacerbated by endless media attention amounting to corporate voyeurism en masse.  Nothing is left unprobed, raked over in ever increasing minute detail not forgetting the inevitable vox pop interviews of the world, his wife and dog all of whom were nowhere near the event nor remotely connected to those involved..

The first occasion that I recall national mass hysteria was the death of Diana where the people spoke and wailed widely as well as often vacuously about someone whom the overwhelming majority had never met nor were ever likely to do so not even moving remotely in their same circles.  The media had an absolute feast with every news bulletin and publication carrying hardly varying reports and images, constantly reiterating what had already been made known, however little that may have been.  Endless speculation as to causes, outcomes for the family and nation as well as the conspiracy theorists having an absolute field day.

Did this undoubtedly tragic event affect me in any way?  Only to the extent of the horror of what had happened and sympathy for close family and friends.  I will not be adding to florists profits nor that of soft toy retailers.

The contents of my Bogroll is invariably my thoughts and mine alone but I attach below an interesting post from whom I thank for his thoughts:

Ghosts of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year. As I ran the gauntlet of waddling men in trackie bottoms dutifully trailing their strident current partners, revealing sweaty arse cracks as they lurched along, half-supported by their bulging shopping trolleys, even as their own trolleys lost the fight with gravity, little did I know that all over social media a gathering storm was, er… gathering. As embittered fathers tried to control errant kids their rabid mothers foraged for a vegetable that most people only ever regard as a penance and for no known reason. And thus engaged in the hunt, all were ignorant of the events about to unfold many miles away.
It’s the time of the year when everybody is reminded of our mortality as ancient celebrities pop their clogs to be lionised by the media despite never having done a single original thing in their lives. Mediocre, yet long-lived actors, famous for a brief flowering in the seventies, singers with a single hit record, itself a cover of a greater talent’s work. But eulogise or despise them they had their time in the light and are thus fair game for criticism, so even when the Joe Cocker jokes were flying few were genuinely offended.
But, in the bustle for baskets piled high with biscuits which are only ever munched on Boxing Day, when the good ones have all run out; as chaotic couples telephoned each other from adjacent supermarket aisles, desperate to secure one of the last several thousand tubs of goose fat; as frantic families fought as if for their lives to procure the festive feast they truly believe they deserved; as all this was going on, in Glasgow some people they had never heard of were about to lose everything to fate.
People die every day, in their millions. Some of them suffer unspeakable and lonely misery, some of them perish in floods and earthquakes; a few even choose to put themselves in the firing line for a cause. And some, a small number in comparison, succumb to sheer accident. But unless it is somebody with personal significance to me, I refuse to be cowed by the bleating grief-seeking masses who want to turn every parochial calamity into a national tragedy. And when did it become an actual crime to not adopt this self-imposed, self-righteous rending of garments? What was in it for those who turned on the idiot who tweeted a joke too soon? I blame Diana.
For what it’s worth, my thoughts are never going to ‘go out to’ or ‘be with’ those in whose personal tragedies I simply have no involvement. It doesn’t make me heartless, it merely shows I have a more refined sense of empathy, focused on who is important to me and not turned on by whipped-up, mawkish sentiment; I refuse to be defined by my readiness to cry to order for people I will never know. Peace on earth and goodwill to men has to include – just as with freedom of speech – those with whom we disagree.
 But you know the truly most offensive thing about the Glasgow incident? For the first few hours, everywhere you looked, the BRITISH online media were describing the bin lorry as a ‘garbage truck'. Now there, surely, is something we can all rally around and join in the unanimous condemnation of. Now, get back to your own Christmases and stop worrying about everybody else’s.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Parody for Modern Britain.

This poem by George R Sims might well have been written by a visionary of what
modern day Britain has sadly become.


It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
Ad the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for — with the rates.
Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their "Thank'ee kindly, mum's!'"
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
"Great God!" he cries, "but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!"

The guardians gazed in horror,
The master's face went white;
"Did a pauper refuse the pudding?"
"Could their ears believe aright?"
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.

But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose 'mid silence grim,
For the others had ceased to chatter
And trembled in every limb.
He looked at the guardians' ladies,
Then, eyeing their lords, he said,
"I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:

"Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dark, unhallowed graves."
"He's drunk!" said the workhouse master,
"Or else he's mad and raves."
"Not drunk or mad," cried the pauper,
"But only a haunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture's feast.

"I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won't be dragged away;
Just let me have the fit out,
It's only on Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey on my burning brain;
I'll tell you the rest in a whisper —
I swear I won't shout again.

"Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how paupers
The season of Christmas spend;.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watched the captured beast.
Here's why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.

"Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You're doing a noble action
With the parish's meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors —
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above me,
My Nance was killed by you!

'Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish —
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.

"I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for the woman who'd loved me
Through fifty years of life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief,
That 'the House' was open to us,
But they wouldn't give 'out relief'.

"I slunk to the filthy alley —
'Twas a cold, raw Christmas Eve —
And the bakers' shops were open,
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together,
Holding my head awry,
So I came to her empty-handed
And mournfully told her why.

"Then I told her the house was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
and up in her rags she sat,
Crying, 'Bide the Christmas here, John,
We've never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger —
The other would break my heart.'

"All through that eve I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord and weeping,
Till my lips were salt as brine;
I asked her once if she hungered,
And as she answered 'No' ,
T'he moon shone in at the window,
Set in a wreath of snow.

"Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling's eyes
The faraway look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went.
For she raved of our home in Devon,
Where our happiest years were spent.

"And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more.
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo'd by the Devon shore;
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, 'Give me a crust — I'm famished —
For the love of God!' she groaned.

"I rushed from the room like a madman
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying, 'Food for a dying woman!'
And the answer came, 'Too late.'
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street
And tore from the mongrel's clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.
"Back through the filthy byways!
Back through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush;
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill.
For there, in the silv'ry moonlight,
My Nance lay, cold and still.

"Up to the blackened ceiling,
The sunken eyes were cast —
I knew on those lips, all bloodless,
My name had been the last;
She called for her absent husband —
O God! had I but known! —
Had called in vain, and, in anguish,
Had died in that den — alone.

"Yes, there, in a land of plenty,
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
for a loaf of the parish bread;
At yonder gate, last Christmas,
I craved for a human life,
You, who would feed us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!"

'There, get ye gone to your dinners,
Don't mind me in the least,
Think of the happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day."

George R Sims

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halloween thoughts ...

Are there ever unexplained  events in your life for which no rational argument may be found?  Things which possibly go bump in the night, household objects not where you left them?  As it is the period of Halloween it seemed appropriate to mention a few apparently odd happenings ...

There have been a number of odd events in my life for which I have no explanation, the only thing that cannot be said is that they leave me as a sceptic of the paranormal.

My first encounter was on Halloween Eve 1961at about eight o'clock in the evening.  I was cycling West along Bell Lane, Enfield near to Albany School, it was a chilly night with a light mist falling.  From the mist something seemed to be coming towards me on my side of the road.  As the distance between it and myself closed it appeared to be four horses drawing what I can only describe as an old fashioned stage or mail coach with the driver seated high on his box.  One odd thing was that it was not actually on the road but  floating about a foot above it, another was an eerie silence.  Just as I thought that I might be run down I was passing between the leading pair of horses, the driver seemed not to notice me as he urged his team on.  I went through the front of the coach with fleeting glimpses of Georgian or Victorian style dress worn by the passengers.

 Suddenly the coach was gone.  Stopping my bicycle I turned to look behind in the direction which the coach was travelling.  There was nothing to see whatsoever, no evidence that something untoward and very odd had apparently happened.  Was it all in my mind or had I witnessed something spectral, spiritual from another world?

Subsequent research showed that historically there was a regular coach route that passed along this way to Colchester and Harwich pausing at the Bell Public House in the Enfield Highway for refreshment before fording the River Lea eastwards.  A friend put me in touch with the editor of the Enfield Gazette local newspaper, where a search showed that a small number of local people had also witnessed the same incident at various times past, not in that exact location but along the route of Hoe Lane and Bell Lane.

Well, that I thought eventually was the end of the matter.  But no, other odd events were to happen ...

Some  years later I worked a a bus inspector for London Transport, my regular roadside point at one time was near the top of Barnet Hill opposite the police station.  It was approaching midnight, I was in my little hut writing up the days events in the log book.  It was a Monday evening,always very quiet then, no buses were on the stand and there was nobody about.  During this spell of admin I felt a tap on my shoulder, turning to see who was there I was surprised to see nobody. 

Some twenty minutes later I felt yet another tap on my shoulder, turning again I saw that I was alone.  It was a very odd feeling that despite being the only person there I was apparently not by myself, almost as if there was another person near me.  It was just a feeling, that's all, I was not frightened but slightly puzzled but with  a feeling of calm and reassurance.

That was the first time that anything such as this had happened but not the last.  On other occasions it was not only when I was alone at work, at home or in busy public places.  By now my curiousity had got the better of me so I spoke in confidence to a close friend whom I knew to be interested in the spirit world.  She suggested that I meet with a friend who was a medium which i did a few weeks  later at her home.   Having introduced herself she asked why I had come to see her, having explained past events she then sat quietly for several minutes.  Eventually breaking her silence she explained that it was my late mother's way of contacting me to reassure me that everything would be fine, at this time I was going through a very difficult period in my personal life and that she was watching over me.

She then went on to describe physically spirits that were standing behind me.  When she began I was naturally somewhat sceptical,she then described what my late father was wearing, it was his typical day off around the house attire, even to his red leather paint spattered slippers.  I was somewhat astonished, even more so when she described my late mother very accurately and her dress as well as a unique purse that she had owned along with its very personal contents.  Furthermore she saw my grandfather telling me of his unique record in the First World War before mentioning several other significant family members who had been part of my life including our Alsatian dog named Rover that we had many years before.

It must be stressed that I had never before met this lady and that she knew nothing of my past nor family.  Sincerely I believe that she was a genuine medium with a singular gift, there is no way which she could possibly have know the personal things that she related.  Finally she said that I had a brother.  This could not be possible because  I am an only child, shortly after my birth Mum contracted tuberculosis making further children impossible for her.  Linda, however, was adamant that she could see a young baby in my mother's arms despite my protestations.

So the evening ended leaving me me astonished as well as a little confused.  Despite my best efforts over some considerable period of time I was unable to trace either birth nor death certificates for my unknown sibling.

Fast forward some ten years, my wife and I were staying with my sole remaining uncle, my father's brother.  An opportunity arose when we were alone to ask about a possible brother.  My uncle sat quietly for a few seconds before telling me that indeed I had a brother born about a year before me who sadly died shortly afterwards.  Shocked?  Astonished?  Incredulous?  I was all of these things and more besides,  it took more than several minutes for me to assimilate what I had been told before asking some further questions.

Several years after this a very few effects from my late father were eventually passed on to me, nothing of material value but of immense personal and sentimental interest.  As mentioned previously Linda had described my mother's unique purse and contents.  The only thing that was missing was an eternity ring but everything else was there, pieces of jewellery that I had bought for Christmas and birthday  presents, a silver threepenny piece and other small items.  I had last seen that purse more than fifty years previously but remembered it very distinctly. 

Given my spectral and psychic experiences there is little choice but to agree that such things exist, that there is a spirit world which some can see in greater or lesser degrees.  Often I feel that here are invisible people around, spirits if you wish, at home, out and about, wherever I may happen to be - not all of the time but often.  There is one particular place that I never feel alone although I am rarely able to be there these days as it is back in England, a particular motorcycle racing venue.

 Motorcycles have been a large part of my life particularly racing, at this particular track I have enjoyed the company of so many wonderful friends over the years some of whom have sadly passed on whether by accident or natural circumstances.  It is never a lonely place even if here is nobody else there, it is a happy joyous place to me with friends all around.

In recent years we moved abroad and now live in a four hundred year old house.  Despite its age I have never experienced any of the other world there apart from a smell of burning Golden Virginia tobacco on an almost daily basis.  Neither my wife nor I have smoked for many a long year but it was always my father's favourite brand.  The smell is confined to just one very small corner of a room on the first floor, move more than a metre or so  away and it cannot be detected.  I am assured that it is Dad's way of letting me know that he is here.  As for my mother she also has her own ways of being here.

Sceptic?  Doubter? Nay sayer?  There is no choice but to believe ...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

England, That sceptred Isle.

Despair - utter despair!

I have just placed an order for a part for my other lathe, a very small one, so that I can at least make some small wood shavings as I wish.  The company is in South Norwood so I thought that the process would be simple.

Phone rings, please press whatever function number that you want.  OK, press button to listen to Richard Clayderman and what I presume might be a piano.  Difficult to tell really as the tape is so stretched and distorted as to render any identification of the music impossible.  A further audio addition was a sort of hissing and spitting which sounded like many rashers of bacon frying in the background.  (Note for older readers:  Annette Mills' Muffin the Mule or Sparky and His Magic Piano would have even been preferable.)

'Hello' said a voice more than reminiscent of Jim Davidson's mate Chalky. 

Having said that I wish to place an order I was told to wait because the computer was slow.  I complied and waited several minutes after which the same voice asked if it could help me.

Affirming that was so and that I wished to place an order the request to hold was again made as the the computer had apparently yet to to reach Warp Speed 3.  Patiently I waited again to be subjected to more aural distress from Mr Clayderman ...

'Hello, you want to make an  order?'

'Yes', the penny was dropping, 'Do you deliver to France?'

'Umm, dunno, have to find out.'  Re-enter Richard Bloody Clayderman ...

'Err, yeah.  What's the number that you want?' 

Thankfully I had the foresight to ascertain the part number of the desired item which I relayed slowly, confirming every pair of digits - slowly.

The voice eventually announced the correct description of the item before asking me to wait further due to reluctant computer.  Guess what?  Another two minutes or so of that wretched French ivory tinkler assaulted my ears.

The next step was an eventual triumph for the English phonetic alphabet as I laboriously spelled out my full postal address.  This mammoth intellectual task needed double checking after every single word which when completed was read back to me in what sounded like a mixture of pidgin English and a hitherto unknown tongue.

Now for the difficult bit the recitation of the sixteen digits embossed onto my bank card.  After each pair I was asked to repeat them again, then listened while they were reiterated in what I now thought might be South London patois with a sprinkling of Ethiopean slung in for good measure.  This was repeated again back to me without request and it sounded more or less correct from what I had managed to glean.

Now another hurdle to surmount - expiry date of my card which I stated to be October 2016.  That caused another hiatus as apparently the computer screen would not accept that date as it was too long.  Try again, this time using the magic numbers of 10 and 16.  To my utter amazement the next words were 'Oh, October, twenty sixteen', the very response that I had given initially.

The ultimate challenge was yet to come in the form of stating the name on the card, my own, my very own.  Having spoken it slowly a repeat performance was requested which was delivered letter by painful letter then a further repetition of it by the disembodied voice at the other end of the phone.

Are you sure that is your name?'

'What do you mean am I sure that it is my name' I asked in disbelief, after all I've only had it since 1944 so there may be room for doubt.

'It sounds like an English name'.  Well, that's a surprise...

'It is an English name' I replied, 'Why, is there a problem?'

'Well, you have a French address'.

'Yes, that's correct which is why I asked if your company delivered to France.'

'You do not have a French name?'

'No, I do not have a French name because I am English.  I am an Englishman who lives in France.'


'How much will carriage be please?'  I was dreading the response to this question as my ears were still recovering from their earlier assault of the  keyboard cacophony.

'Wait, I will find out'.

Dear God, no, please no.  He was not listening and yet again that damned Gallic ivory basher resumed his assault on my ears.

'Umm, about five or  six pounds.'

I could not be bothered to challenge his sort of ball park figure for fear of further damage to my musical sensibilities as I thought that about right from previous items purchased of about that weight from the UK.

'Thank you' I responded wiltingly.

'Is that all?'

'Yes thank you.'

'OK, ciao'.'


And that, dear reader, was my latest encounter with probably a product of the educational system.  Unhappily I fear that it may not be my last.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Dateline Paris - 15 September 2014

A 'Summit' of forty or so Foreign Ministers ended yesterday evening with a magnificent banquet hosted by the French President. The assembled throng were ostensibly meeting during the day to formulate measures to counter the Isis terrorists. It was agreed that nations should co-operate in this but no firm decision was taken as to what this should be or when it may happen.

Yet another expensive, inconclusive gab-fest. If meetings were actions this band of murderous thugs iin the name of Islam would have been totally destroyed a good while ago. In the meantime the terrorists sword hangs over the neck of Alan Henning and probably a number of other humanitarian workers.

Cameron said yesterday that this poor wretch cannot be rescued as his precise whereabouts is unknown, it would seem that no effort is being made to locate and rescue him. Cameron and his henchman must bear the responsibility if this unfortunate is killed because due to their collective lack of balls, backbone, willingness determination to do anything except wring their hands, look pious and talk they are just as guilty for this Hennen's fate as surely as if they were to wield the terrorist sword.

What of Cameron yesterday during the talk-but-no-action meeting in Paris? Ah yes, he was in Scotland trying to save his political neck in the forthcoming referendum for Scottish independence, addressing meetings, pressing flesh, making crocodile tear speeches. He expended much effort yesterday in a last minute desperate, grovelling attempt to persuade the Scots to save his bacon, it's a shame that his energy was totally wasted in Scotland rather than the Middle east.

Shame on you Cameron and your henchman, shame on Clegg & Company as well as Milliband and his pseudo Tory Labour party for remaining dumb about Syria, Iraq and Isis when they should be pressurising the unelected Prime Minister for immediate action.

Another phone call

Here we go again.

Phone has just rung -

Me: 'Hello'

Caller: 'Good morning, dis is da Vindows Help centre, vee vish to help you'

Me: 'Can you please speak English?'

Caller: 'Good morning, dis is da Vindows Help centre, vee vish to help you'

Me:  'Ah, I understand - vy are you speaking English vith me?'

C: ' I am speaking English vith you, I vont you to listen carefully'

Me: 'Don't tell me that you are going to say this only vunce'

C:  'Vot id dis vunce?'

Me: 'Sorry, continue vith vot you vere saying'

C:' I'm having difficulty with vot you are saying'

Me: 'So am i trying to speak your language while you try to speak mine'

C: 'Your Vindows are having problems, vee are to hilp you with dat'

Me: 'Vot is Vindows?  I do not have Vindows'

C: 'Our records say dat you do have Vindows'

Me: 'No, I do not have Vindows, why are you not listening,'

C: 'Your Vindows is in trouble, I vill put dat right for you, please to follow my instructions'

Me: 'Vy do I need to follow your instructions ven I do not have Vindows?

C: 'I know dat you have Vindows, now please do as I ask'

Me: 'You know nothing, vy should I do vot you say?'

C: 'Because I am helping you, now please press Control Alt F.  Vot do you see?'

Me: Same as alvays on the screen ven I'm in Facebook'

C:  'Facebook?  Vy Facebook?  You have pressed da wrong keys'

Me: 'No I have not pressed da wrong keys'

C:  You  are not helping me, make it very difficult as you do not speak English'

Me: 'No I vill not speak English until you do'

C: Vy are you being this vay, I must help you'

Me: 'You really vant to help me?'

C: 'Yes I vant to'

Me: 'Vell that's good, you can help me'

C: Vunderful.  Please press da keys as I asked'

M: 'Oh, I get vot you are saying, you know that I have Vindows'

C: 'No, not Vindows, Vindows'

Me: 'Vot if tell you that I have a vunderful Mac?'

C: 'A Mac? Vee do not know dat.  Vy do you need a Mac?'

Me: 'Because ven I go out in da rain I do not vont to get vet'

C: 'Vy are we talking about macs, you have Vindows'

Me: 'I also have little patience vith unvelcome callers, now please press the following keys - F - U - C- K -'

For some strange reason my caller then hung up ...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Message to all Scots Voters

It should be made clear that I am totally dispassionate as to whether Scotland remains within the United Kingdom following your referendum iin a few days time.

Would all voters please vote 'No' on that fateful yet momentous day may seem a strange thing to ask from someone no longer domiciled in the UK.  Despite having been an expat for ten years there is still a great fondness for that country and under a quirk of enfranchisement I am still entitled to vote in elections for the next five years when that right ceases.

What has been done by the current administration iin the past four years or absolutely appalls me, I can only wonder in heavens why Cameron and his cronies are so vindictive in their treatment of the poor, sick, needy people of that country yet hope and pray that there may be a change of government in the ensuing months that can only be for the better.

There must not be another Tory government after May 2015 but if the referendum result is for independence then that will surely happen due to the loss of forty or so Scottish Labour MPs handing Cameron and his acolytes a further five years to create even bigger divisions amongst the population.

England does not need nor deserve yet more Tory greed and divisiveness.  Please, please do not vote 'Yes' but let's have an overwhelming NO!


Following upon the barbaric execution of David Haines yesterday you called for yet another COBRA meeting where you reportedly paid 'tribute' to the deceased. Those words are totally hollow and reek of insincerity as you never knew the man, a true humanitarian in the real sense of the word. Undoubtedly this meeting, as its predecessors, was long on rhetoric yet lacking positive action to halt the spread of terrorism in the Middle East.

It is understood that you intend to 'strengthen immigration laws and controls' following this tragic event. Please explain how that will assist in the capture and prosecution of his murderer as his voluntary return to Britain in the foreseeable future seems highly unlikely.

You and your Cabinet are lacking the desire and will to act positively, only seemingly content to meet, talk and pass further legislation, which it may have escaped your notice, applies only to the United Kingdom and nowhere else in the world. Just how will such measures help to remove the threat and murderous terror of IS?

That IS is guilty of murder is beyond question. By your continued lack of positive action to eradicate IS you and your administration are equally as guilty of the murder of David Haines as those that perpetrated that atrocity.

The time has gone for diplomacy, talks, endless meetings and prevarication, it is time for positive action on the ground to end this reign of terror for all time. Either be a man of conscience or resign forthwith taking your impotent shambles of an administration with you.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Phone call

This was a phone conversation at home just a few minutes ago.

Phone rings, put laptop down to answer phone.  Indian voice à la Peter Sellers: 'Good morning, this is the technical department of Windows ...'

Me - 'I do not want any double glazing ...'

PS -' No, no, no, this is Windows technical department ...'

Me - 'I know how to open and close Windows and how to clean them, I do not need any technical advice.'

PS - 'I at technical department of Windows know that you are having problems ...'

Me - 'No problems  with my windows, they open, close and I can see out of them ...'

PS - 'I at Windows must help you with your Windows ...'

Me - 'Good, are you coming round to clean them for me then?'

PS - 'I will clean Windows so that you have no more problems ...'

Me - 'Waste of time, I did them yesterday ...'

PS -' No, you are not understanding, I here to help you ...'

Me -' Really?'

PS - I help, please open your computer ...'

Me - 'That's difficult.'

PS - 'Not difficult, just open your computer please ...'

Me - 'It is difficult as I cannot reach my computer from the phone.'

PS - 'Why difficult, just open your computer...'

Me - ' I can't as the phone lead is not long enough ...'

PS - 'Can you move your computer to the phone ...'

Me - 'Why?'

PS - 'So that I can help your problems ...'

Me - 'I can move my computer ...'

PS - 'Can you move your computer now please ...'

Me - 'I said that I can ...'

PS - 'Have you moved it?'

Me - 'No'

PS - 'Please move your computer now ...'

Me - 'Do you not understand English?'

PS - 'I am speaking English'

Me - 'I'll teach you some new English words ...'

PS - 'I know English, I do not need new English words ...'

Me - 'Listen carefully, are you listening?'

PS - 'I must help you with Windows ...'

Me - 'Just two new English words please ...'

PS -' Two? Then I help you?'

Me - 'Yes, just two.  F%%K OFF'

End of conversation.


Yes, here in France we also get these nuisance calls about Windows problems that we are not having!  What amazes me, to a degree, is that presumably my number was picked at random from a phone directory yet the first words spoken by the caller are in English, admittedly with a Peter Sellers type accent.  Given the law of probabilities what is the chance of alighting upon an English speaker?  Pretty remote I guess!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

An Interesting Morning ...

Our Tigger brought a fieldmouse indoors early this morning letting it loose and alive in the kitchen. Chaos and bedlam ensued whilst Jane was trying to catch it, much clattering, banging and general pandemonium ensued for about half an hour, Tigger in the meantime had lost interest and gone outside.
I was in the sitting room doing what the name implies that one does there when Tigger rushed in with another trophy of a harvest mouse. Having deposited it in the kitchen he turned tail and returned to the great outdoors. Now there was poor Jane trying to capture two small live rodents, I courageously offered to help but was spurned, my wife saying that there is not room for both of us in the kitchen, well, it is only three metres square after all.
The second mouse had scurried away under the stairs which we use as a storage space so little chance of finding the thing, in the meanwhile the first had scuttled away under the cooker. A plan was obviously needed, mousetraps were the solution! Originally we had around five or so but Sod's Law decreed that only one could be found and that turned out to be broken.

Off to the shops ten minutes away to restock with rodent catchers. Very impressive they were, shiny black plastic with stout rubber bands as springs. A label splashed on the front of the box proclaiming them to be one hundred per cent effective! Traps were duly baited, set and distributed around the kitchen, concealed safely out of reach of any inquisitive cat's paws.

In the meantime Tigger returned with yet another small rodent which he let loose in the sitting room. This one we were unable to identify because it vanished under the sideboard as quick as flash. The sole remaining trap was baited, set and place at the back of the sideboard. Meanwhile the unwanted visitor popped out at the front, had a look round and returned to relative safety. Hopefully there would be sharp snap and bye-bye mouse.

Back to the kitchen, one suddenly appeared from under the fridge. Jane was drying up breakfast things with a frying pan in hand with which she battered the intruder - one down, two to go:-) When the trap in the sitting room was checked a few minutes later the bait had been taken without the trap releasing, yeah right, one hundred per cent efficient - not:-( Re-baited and returned to the same place the trap awaited, suddenly a mouse appeared from under the sideboard, sat up on its hind legs and stared at me, cheeky beggar. Equally quickly it went back from whence it came.

Now the lone intruder in the kitchen reappeared while Jane was sharpening a knife on a large carborundum stone which she hurled at the creature - strike one! Unhappily the impact on the stone broke a four inch piece from the end. Two down , one to go ...

Back to the last visitor which was popping back and forth from the security of the sideboard. Yet again the trap had been denuded of bait, Plan B needed to be put into action. A tasty morsel of cheese was placed on the floor several inches from the front of the sideboard too hopefully tempt the rodent into the open, thus enhancing the possibility of hitting it with something hard ridding us an unwanted guest. Sure enough it soon discovered the cheese becoming emboldened with each successive foray.

Amongst the washing up from earlier was a large stainless steel barbecue wire brush and scraper which Jane was returning to the barbecue out on the deck at the front of our house When she was jut a pace away from the sideboard the mouse crept up to the cheese to begin nibbling it. That was a fatal mistake as my wife swooped like hen harrier, brush in hand, with one swat the mouse was thankfully no more - a deceased mouse!

Some may wonder at my part in all this. To be perfectly honest I am petrified of mice, usually I am unable to remain in the same room with one. Yes, I know that it is silly and wimpish but that is just me with mice.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Ultimatum to David Cameron

 It is seldom that I will blatantly copy or reproduce the writings of another, however, in this case there is an exception because the time is well overdue that changes, sweeping, far reaching changes must be made.

This article is reproduced courtesy of

In a way this post is particularly relevant today, 8th May, VE Day, Victory in Europe in 1945 when the surrender of Germany was accepted ending almost six years of slavery and brutality of a war against civilian populations.  Now is the time to end almost six years of state enforced slavery, bullying and brutality against many of its own civilian population.


Dear David Cameron,

If you continue to withdraw our wages and our welfare state, then we will withdraw our labour and our taxes.  This is the very simple, and fair, message that needs to be communicated to the Cameron and his crony coalition.

For the sake of fairness, the message should be copied to the entire political class.  Because what we are witnessing here is the end game of a neoliberal consensus that has gripped our political, academic and media institutions – and has even crept into our courts.  This has been the work of every government since at least Margaret Thatcher from 1979, to the present day.

In the dying embers of World War II, a new social contract was drawn up in Britain.  Freedom from poverty was made a right – a condition of citizenship.  A person paid their national insurance and their taxes, and was safe in the knowledge that that they would not be made destitute by the vicissitudes of this so-called ‘market’.  Furthermore, a person who was physically or mentally unable to participate in the jobs market, would not be abandoned to the mercy of philanthropy, but the responsibility of all.

It was never a pay as you go system on a transaction by transaction basis – I pay this, I get this.  Instead, taxes and national insurance for all who could pay, was the price of living in a country where the gap between rich and poor was narrowed, where all children received a free and decent education, where every person had a safe and decent home, where any person was entitled to the best healthcare available when they were sick, regardless of their ability to pay, where you could expect a swift and just response from the police if you were the victim of crime, and a fair trial whether plaintiff or defendant, where roads, buses, trains and other forms of public transport were cost effective, safe and reliable.  In short, the price of living in a civil society.

It was also understood that the natural ambitions of corporations to reduce costs and increase profits, versus the worker’s requirement to be fairly compensated for their work – meant an arbiter was needed to balance these conflicting needs.  It was agreed that a working person living in poverty and destitution, was unacceptable in our society.

This was our social contract.  But while the overwhelming majority of people are still honouring their side of the bargain – the political and corporate class (increasingly, actually the same people), are not.
Just days ago, 48 year old Terry McGarvey was rushed to hospital and died, after dragging himself to an Atos ‘work capability assessment’, through fear he would lose his benefits if he failed to attend.  He joins 32 sick and disabled people who are dying each week, under these conditions.

The Justice Minister Chris Grayling, has slashed the Legal Aid budget which guaranteed an equal access justice system. That promise is over. On top of this, Grayling is planning on charging those convicted of a crime £600 for the court costs.  The costs payable by a person convicted of a crime should be set by the judge and the legal system, not a politician.  With the criminalisation of homelessness, the increase in poverty related crime and the rise of the workfare prison (where prisoners work a 40 hour week for as little as £11) – the coalition is creating conditions of poverty, and then creating ways to profit from it.

The NHS is being carved up into McDonald’s style franchises between the likes of Circle, Serco, Virgin Health and other private providers.  Plans are in place for citizens to have the number of GP visits they make each year capped, and to pay £10 per visit.  Crippled by the rising price of private loans, profiteering and privatisation – the NHS is buckling under the pressure.  And wherever the cracks show, it is the service (the nurses and doctors attempting to keep people well and save lives amidst all this corruption) and not the vultures scoffing at its carcass that gets the blame.
Michael Gove is busy ripping apart the fabric of the national education system, promising greater localism and autonomy while moving powers from Local Education Authorities across the country, to his own office in Westminster.

Young people who leaving school are now faced with an average student debt of £63,000 to attend University, or a jobs market containing zero hours contracts, the fastest falling wages in the western world, a million young people out of work, and workfare.

There is a housing crisis, the result of the abandonment of the social housing policy of the post war period, which sees private landlords charging such exorbitant rents that only 1 in 8 Housing benefit claimants are unemployed.  Nowhere is this more painful than the capital, with London rents now consuming more than 50% of people’s income.

I could go on. But I shouldn’t really need to.  You know this is happening. It’s happening so quickly, that you can actually watch the pillars of your civil society being knocked down, one after the other.  But we cannot simply stand here, mouths agape in horror.  We cannot allow ourselves to be torn apart by age group, race, gender or whether we were born here or arrived here. We cannot keep our heads down and hope for ‘better one day’.  This is not some sort of storm you can ride out.  It is a war that you either join and fight, or acquiesce to, accepting the ever worsening conditions placed upon you by the victors.  No.  If the political class is no longer honouring the social contract, neither should we.  It is time to withdraw the lifelines to this bloated, corrupt and cruel class – a class including men like Iain Duncan Smith; a man who refuses to spend £53 of public money on a person’s Job Seeker’s Allowance, while blowing £39 of public money on his own breakfast.

The system rests on our labour, our taxes and our consent.  It is time to withdraw all three.  It is time to force the political crisis that already exists into the sunlight.  It is time.

Don’t get angry, get involved

Occupy London – get involved with direct action campaigns.
People’s Assembly – join the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and get involved in activism, discussion, education and political action.
None of the Above – join the campaign to vote None of the Above in 2015.
Wave of Action – join the Wave of Action
Do anything, but do something.

Monday, 17 March 2014

A Little Local Difficulty ...

It is said that miracles happen, sometimes a degree of patience may be involved before such a thing happens.  Thankfully we would seem to be the happy recipients of such an event as the medium term weather forecast for the next fourteen days

Looks as though there is a major domestic problem. Our house is not connected, nor remotely near, any form of mains drainage. Waste grey water from the shower and washing machine is dispersed via grease traps and soakaways as is that from the kitchen sink and dishwasher albeit on a different soakaway. The problem is that the kitchen sink will not empty because abnormally high rainfall over the past six weeks has caused the local water table to rise above the height of said soakaway.

There is little chance of the water table dropping in the immediate future because the fields surrounding us are at saturation point, our house is on a gentle slope below some of these fields, the run-off from which can be seen trickling across our little chemin (lane) below us.

The immediate solution is an ordinary garden hose (well, three fifty metre lengths coupled together) siphoning water away to a lower level away from the house. Progress is slow, very slow. Thankfully no rain is forecast for the next ten days at least so hopefully things may slowly return to normal ...

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Anyone watching Hostages on Ch4 on Saturday evenings? Great drama, find it quite compelling!

One moan though (of course!) - it is scheduled from 2100-2200, to me that is one hour - agreed? Last night the transmission began at 2204 - four minutes late. Then at 2211 came the first adverts which lasted another four minutes. After the drama resumed there were a further three ad breaks, all of our minutes in length. The final straw was that it ended at 2154 which I make six minutes short of an hour.

I feel cheated in that a programme scheduled for one hour should actually last for thirty eight (38) minutes. Anyone else feel the same?

Friday, 6 December 2013

My thoughts alone ...

For crying out loud will the news programmes, newspapers, assorted journals papers, the internet and other media stop telling me what I am thinking. Collectively you have absolutely no idea.  I have a brain which is still functioning as far as I am aware, it has been successfully educated to Degree level and is capable of making decisions and choices.

It seems now habitual for media and commentators to hijack my brain processes, or so they would have me believe.  I am heartily sick of hearing today that everyone or even the whole world mourns the passing of just one person without consideration for others who have died.  How dare they presume such on my behalf without so much as a passing nod, by your leave or even a thank you.

My opinion is mine and mine alone, it is not answerable to the often incorrect assumptions of mass media, lobbyists, politicians, propaganda merchants and some seeking to manipulate popular opinion, particularly mine.

Undoubtedly there will be some reading this who will immediately jump to false conclusions.  Most likely, given the current media hysteria, it will be concluded that I am unsympathetic to recent events in South Africa, should that be your conclusion then so be it.  My preference is that my thoughts are exactly that and nothing else.

Now go away to your sleazy news dens, tawdry little rags, television studios and radio lairs, think about your erroneous assumption then perhaps, just perhaps real news rather than speculation and non facts may be reported - hopefully ...