If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday 31 December 2010

A Message From Our Sponsors

To all who have visited this blog in 2010, may I wish you a Happy New Year, and may you get everything you wish for, within reason. To all those who have left comments, thank you for taking the trouble to contribute. You are all much appreciated.

You may gather from the timing of this post that I am not attending a wild party this evening. The positive is that I won't be ending up like the rest of you ...

Thursday 30 December 2010

Of Sagas and Hard Seats

I was reminded recently of a character who I now believe, with some regret, to be fictional - a minor character in an Icelandic saga, and the leader of many long and arduous sea-journeys to the New World, one Harald Hardarss. I have searched the web for his name, but the only reference I came up with was to a mention in this very blog back in August of 2009. My own words coming back to me. Hmff. I'm sure I didn't imagine it, and the search for the man continues. However he came to mind again the other day ...

The seat of the XT had sustained several splits last year, due to being left out in the sun and the general depredations of daily use. Every time it rained, the water got through the splits and into the seat foam, and every time I rode it after rain, I got wet balls. A new seat cover is about 40 quid, and not affordable at the moment, so a few strips of gaffer tape later, and all was well.

Until last week.

I needed something from town just before Christmas and, with the gridlocked traffic and a reasonably dry day, I decided to bike it. I hadn't ridden the XT for a while, and when I got it fired up and swung a leg over, I was surprised by how tall the bike felt, and how hard the seat was. However, the seat softened during the ride, and became comfy (in the limited sense of 'trail bike comfy'). But my lower regions had never been so cold. Usually, it's my extremities (hands, knees, neck) that get cold first, and my body stays relatively warm, but this time it was the opposite, with a deep, penetrating cold in my lower torso, and everything else toasty.

Then I remembered the rain-soaked seat foam, and the fact of very cold nights, and a temperature that hadn't risen above zero for several weeks. I had been riding, literally, on a block of ice wrapped in thin plastic.

Not recommended. I'm sure a simple vasectomy would have been easier.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Labour and "crazy ideas"

What is a 'crazy idea' to Labour? Why, one that comes from an ordinary member of the public, of course.

The BBC report that
A plan to allow popular online petitions to be debated in Parliament within a year has been given the go ahead by the government.
Petitions will be hosted on the direct.gov website, and those gaining the most support will be debated in Parliament. Notice that this does not mean that 'Jeremy Clarkson for PM' will become law; merely that if the idea finds enough support, and passes certain criteria for eligibility, it will be debated by MPs. It may not succeed, but it will get a hearing. Predictably, Labour are up in arms:
But Labour said the plans would mean "crazy ideas" being discussed by MPs.
By 'crazy ideas', they mean ideas which have not come through the establishment policy mill: well- (or ill-) intentioned, tempered by party considerations, muted by political correctness, brushed and groomed and polished by the men in suits to make sure that, whatever is debated, nothing will be allowed to change. Ideas which ordinary people have, for making their lives better. The ordinary people that Labour (in their left-wing days) used to say could be trusted, before the people went disobediently off-message over things like immigration and Europe. Paul Flynn leads the charge:

This seems to be an attractive idea to those who haven't seen how useless this has been in other parts of the world when it's tried.

"If you ask people the question 'do you want to pay less tax?', they vote yes.

Well, of course they do, you muppet. Perhaps this just means that people don't like having their money taken off them to pay for the ruling party's pet projects. It's not wicked or unreasonable - it's a legitimate subject for mature debate. I assume here he is referring to Proposition 13 in California in 1978, which limited property taxes and was wildly popular and passed by two-thirds of voters. Of course, it is ridiculous to ask people who pay taxes to decide on the nature and amount of those taxes - after all, who exactly is in charge here?

If we get the e-petitions in there will be some asking for Jeremy Clarkson to be prime minister, for Jedi and Darth Vader to be the religions of the country.

And what would be wrong with that? No-one is suggesting things like this would automatically become law. But they would add something to the rich tapestry of British political life, and let us get things off our chests that have no official outlet. One of the most popular petitions (before Downing Street got windy and removed the facility) was for Gordon Brown to resign. Was that a significant expression of public opinion, or just a 'crazy idea' that should have never have seen the light of day? See the election result for a clue.

"The blogosphere is not an area that is open to sensible debate; it is dominated by the obsessed and the fanatical and we will get crazy ideas coming forward."

Bollocks. I have read some crazy stuff on blogs, and some has been obsessive and fanatical. I have also read things that are as considered and intelligent as anything you read in the mainstream press. See the bloglist on the right of this page for examples of both. Interesting that he should mention bloggers; there is no reference to blogging that I could see in the proposals. That's Flynn revealing his fears and prejudices, that is.

The BBC, meanwhile, is obediently rubbishing the proposals before they have been presented:

BBC News political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that allowing petitions to be
drafted as parliamentary bills would be more difficult and would take longer to put in place.
Since when was that ever a problem for the raft of intrusive and controlling legislation that Labour foisted on us all?

At the heart of all this is the word 'populist'. It means things that many people actually approve of and support: the death penalty, immigration control, withdrawal from Europe. 'Populism' just means doing stuff that people want - y'know, the basis of democracy. Of the people, for the people, kind of thing. The fact that the Left uses the word as a term of abuse tells you all you need to know.

(Just for clarity, I don't support the death penalty. But every survey that has been made has shown a majority in favour of it, and I believe that the people should get their way on this, despite my disapproval.)

Sunday 26 December 2010

Met Office Uncovered

There's an interesting article on the BBC website about the Met Office, and an FOI request made by the BBC over material related to the Met Office's famous prediction of a 'barbecue summer' in 2009 and their apparent inability to predict the current unusually cold spell.

It seems as if the MO has two conflicting operating arms: the scientists (who, we may assume, have normal levels of astuteness and scientific caution) and the PR and Communications arm, who appear to be the MO's propaganda wing. This quotation is revealing:
"The strapline 'odds on for a barbeque summer' was created by the operations and communications teams to reflect the probability of a good summer. Concern over the use of the strapline and its relationship to the scientific information available was expressed by the scientific community, who were not consulted prior to the media release."
And the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) have an observation:
The GWPF is drawing attention to a map published on the Met Office website in October which indicated that the UK was likely to experience above-normal temperatures in the ensuing three-month period.

For the GPWF, which is sceptical of the Met Office and other mainstream analysis of global warming, this is evidence of a Met Office tendency to under-predict cold weather and over-predict mild winters.
A picture emerges: scientists working in the background, trying to provide a reliable outlook for the weather, based on probabilities which no-one else understands, and a PR wing, who are determined to turn the scientific advice into catchy, black-and-white memorable phrases which follow the required political agenda.

I liked this comment:
Of course, when it's hotter than average, it's 'climate' - when it's colder than average, it's 'weather.'

Saturday 25 December 2010

Newgale, Christmas Day

Off to Newgale beach with the dogs for the traditional Christmas Day stroll, and a fabulous day it was - bright sunshine, bitterly cold, empty. I was the first person there.

There was a time, when RAF Search and Rescue was based at Brawdy, when the yellow SAR helicopter would fly along the beach every Christmas morning, with Santa sitting in the winchman's position waving at the walkers. Not any more, as Santa has been relocated to Chivenor in Devon.

Icicles within ten metres of the sea.

At the far end, I realised I wasn't alone. A middle-aged couple were standing quietly, facing a niche in the rocks. They were so still I thought they were taking a photograph. Then they moved on, and where they were standing was this:

Peace to them, and to you.

Coldest December For A Century

According to the BBC.

Last night was the coldest I can remember. It was -11°C at 9 am today, and it had dipped to -12°C in the night. That's following three consecutive nights at -9°C. This is Pembrokeshire, for God's sake - Gulf Stream, stuck out in the Atlantic, maritime climate and all that. It's unheard-of. The bedroom was 8°C.

The BBC Weather page predicted a -3°C minimum at 10 pm last night. Good to see they can get it almost right six hours in advance. That will make their predictions for 2100 pretty reliable, then.

Right - off to Newgale with the dogs. Have a good day.

Friday 24 December 2010

Sheridan - The Daily Mash nails it

Sheridan facing three-in-a-bed sex sessions whether he likes it or not

TOMMY Sheridan was last night facing the prospect of endless three-in-a-bed sex sessions with a variety of eager new friends.


Bill McKay, chief bitch on the perjurers' wing, said: "I don't want to disappoint him so I shall be practising like mad over the next few weeks.

"I imagine this is how an amateur golfer must feel when they're offered the chance to play 18 holes with Ian Woosnam."
Priceless. Read it.

When Icicles Hang By The Wall

On a roadside, near Nowhere Towers

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit; tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson's saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit; tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

From Love's Labour's Lost, and not A Winter's Tale, as you might imagine. Brrr.

Update: after a slightly alcohol-fuelled discussion with Joe Public, I can confirm that the photo is indeed the right way up. The water seeps from the rock face, forms a curtain of icicles as it freezes, and then blends into the snow on the ground, thus forming both stalactites and stalagmites simultaneously. From a certain viewpoint, probably over 80mg per 100ml, they do appear to be growing upwards. Ish.

Tell you what ...

Let's all join, and then elect Ed Balls as Party Leader, like we all wanted.

I'll call the campaign "Spend a Penny on Labour".

Thursday 23 December 2010

Do as you are told and all will be well, Part the Second

Via the Dali Mail, another lump of proposterous steaming cowshit:

Fanatics from a banned Islamic hate group have launched a nationwide poster campaign denouncing Christmas as evil.

Organisers plan to put up thousands of placards around the UK claiming the season of goodwill is responsible for rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, promiscuity, crime and paedophilia.

They hope the campaign will help 'destroy Christmas' in this country and lead to Britons converting to Islam instead.

And a new, must-see website, Xmas Is Evil. Heh.

Thing is, they have a point. Western society is in a crisis. We do have too much selfish and self-indulgent behaviour, people in thrall to mindless and vacuous 'entertainment', unsustainable debt, nasty and preventable social diseases, and a lack of respect for the integrity of others, as evidenced in the prevalence of rape and child abuse. We may disagree on the causes of these things, and on how and even whether they can be controlled, but they are the things that cause me great unease. In this respect, count me among those who are concerned, and who would like to see things done differently.

And then we get this, in the list of things that are wrong with Western society:
  • Claiming that God has a son
  • Blasphemy
Ah, right. My sky fairy is better than your sky fairy. My invented and evidence-free version of the nature of reality is RIGHT, and your invented and evidence-free version of the nature of reality is WRONG, and because of this you deserve to die. At this juncture, we part company.

Regular readers will know that I have little patience with any organised religion, and regard them as equally silly. But I do know one thing: the message of Christianity is love (however imperfectly translated into action), and that applies to believers, the 'us', as well as to everyone else, the 'them'. From what I have seen in my society over the last ten years, the religion being promoted by these posters is one of repression, intolerance, hatred of the 'other', and lethal violence. Christians might disagree on homosexuality, and opinions range from complete acceptance to an explicit and quite nasty disapproval, but no-one (as far as I am aware) is advocating stoning them to death. And it's a long time since Christians advocated a man's right to throw acid in his daughter's face for having the wrong kind of boyfriend. Count me as a non-Christian, but don't assume I am neutral on the matter.

This poster is a sign of growing confidence amongst the militant Islamic community, and I expect to see more things like this as time goes by. And some people will say it's all OK. The posters don't offend me (and it wouldn't matter if they did), but they worry me.

But that line about 'claiming that God has a son' - straight out of Monty Python.

Cardinal Fang - The Comfy Chair!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Do as you are told and all will be well

This pile of nauseating wombat poo, courtesy of Big Brother Watch:

I found it incomprehensible to start with, but then they mention Jesus and it all becomes clear.

Do what anyone in authority tells you to do, because Jesus put them in authority over you.

In other words, comply completely with everything. A recipe for peace, and madness.

Stepford Kids.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Snowbiker

Tonight is the last shift before Christmas, and I needed to get into town to pick up something for our 'Secret Santa' thing. Going in the car would have been impossible, as for the rest of this week it will be basically gridlocked. The temperature was around zero and the roads were dry, so I opted for the Yamaha. As I left the house it started snowing. I was only out about 15 minutes (I can shop very positively when I need to), but in that time a lot of snow fell and continued to fall as I was making my way home.

Anna, who is a little nervous about these things, was watching for my return, and when she saw me she grabbed her camera. The dog seemed quite pleased to see me too.

Abominable or just abdominal? You decide.


Bitterly cold night, all the site locked down and secure, taking five minutes between duties, I listened to some music on my phone with a pair of headphones borrowed from Lost Property. It was a piece of music I had almost forgotten I had: After The Goldrush by Neil Young.

And the song 'Birds'.

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It's over.
Young's lyrics are never clear, and don't slap you in the face with a 'meaning'. They are more associative and suggestive, and any meaning you find is something that was probably in your head anyway. Listening to this song in my own quiet moment, I found it both melancholy and very moving. Young's thin and plaintive voice matches the words perfectly.

Only love can break your heart.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Pleasant times

I start back on nights from tonight, and Anna really wanted to get her Christmas shopping finished, so off we went into town. In Pembrokeshire, the roads are all clear, although rumours are flying round about gridlock East of Carmarthen and plagues of locusts by Swansea. If last night was (theoretically) Black Friday, then the last Saturday before Christmas must surely be Shit Saturday for a shopophobe like me. But no.

We hit town at lunchtime and the shops were all half empty. We managed to park right outside the main shops, and we were finished within the hour. I even helped an elderly gentleman with the 'pound-in-the-slot' trolleys outside Marks and Spencer. He had never encountered these before and was baffled. He is now unbaffled, much like the Triumph's exhaust pipes*.

I don't know how much online time I will be able to manage over the next week, so posting in the next few days may be sporadic. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers, UK and worldwide (yes, there are some), a very Happy Christmas.

Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

* Obligatory bike reference.

Friday 17 December 2010

Snow: a thing of the past?

Take a read of this, from the Independent of March 2000:
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.
Yes, I know weather isn't climate, but we've had a lot of weather these last two winters. Good to see the CRU beating the drum. Meanwhile, most of Britain is under two feet of 'decline'.

The Problem With Lefties

I know it's appalling blogiquette to quote slabs of someone else's words without making any effort at adding something of your own, but this comment (on Andrew Gilligan's blog in the Telegraph) is so succinct, and so bang on the money, that I thought more people ought to see it. It encapsulates my thoughts very well. Gilligan asked (subsequently edited):
What else are we to make of the demand by Women Against Rape, no less, that the rape allegations against Mr Assange must not be investigated and the great hero immediately freed?
One response:
This happens because the Left has prejudices rather than principles.

Lefties favour groups or not according to where they stand in its internal heirarchy. So its most favoured clients are blacks, Muslims, gays, whales, criminals, polar bears, gypsies, Marxist terrorists, and so on; and its most hated groups are Americans, white middle class males, Christians, married parents, members of the British armed forces, white farmers, and so on.

This works up to a point. A lefty never has a problem deciding whom to side with in a dispute between a black criminal and the police, or gays and Christians, or Marxist terrorists and white farmers (whether in 1930s Russia or noughties Zimbabwe). Their prejudices instruct them unerringly.

Where it gets a bit dodgy is when there's a showdown between client groups that are both at the top of the favour list. So the left goes into a HAL9000-esque paranoid fugue when Muslim clerics advocate beating up women, or when black reggae singers urge that homosexuals be shot in the head. The left has literally no idea what to do because in theory both sides should be equally immune from criticism. It does not compute.

Here we have the latest instance of this determined non-thinking. Assange correctly hates Americans but may be a rapist, so leftist agitprop outfits like Women Against Rape have to decide which cause is more important: opposing rape versus hating America. It looks like hating America has won. This tells you that WAR is not about rape at all but about using whatever stick is handy to beat people they hate. Accusing all men of being rapists was a great way of dehumanising them so they could be stripped of their rights and property, which is the real cause. Women being raped? Who cares.

The Left looks stupid on these occasions not because it's stupid but because it is vicious, nasty, envious, hypocritical, morally incompetent and thoroughly spiteful.
Spot on, justice4rinka.

Christmas Drink?

We were given this recipe for a Christmas drink a few years ago, and it has been a staple of the GFGN household every Christmas morning since then. As 'tis the season to be jolly, I thought I would share.

  • Take one champagne flute.
  • Add one measure of Archer's Peach Schnapps.
  • Fill up to half-way with cranberry juice.
  • Top it up with champagne.
  • Serve immediately and frequently.

This isn't a standard cocktail. I have searched the web, and the closest is one that goes by many names (Kinky Pink, Peachface ...) which uses vodka instead of the champagne. So, as far as I know, this is one that is new to science. Vary the proportions of schnapps, cranberry and champagne according to taste; there's no right or wrong, but the ratio above works well. Personally, I don't care for champagne and prefer to use something similar like Cava - to be honest, the cranberry obliterates any subtlety, so the taste and the effects are the same.

It doesn't taste alcoholic, just nice and fruity, so you can neck three or four easily while Granny is opening her presents. It doesn't make you drunk at all, oh no. It just stops your knees from working.

As a by-product, it makes Christmas Day bearable.

If you give it a try, let me know what you think.


Thursday 16 December 2010

Justice? I don't think so.

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted this about the case of Mohammed Ibrahim, who was jailed for a derisory four months for running over a young girl, Amy Houston, in 2003. He knocked her down, saw what he had done, and ran away, leaving her dying underneath his car. Ibrahim did not hold a driving licence at the time of the accident and had previous criminal convictions.

At the time of my original post, he had appealed against the deportation order following his sentence, citing his 'right' to a family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The UK Border Agency appealed against this decision (good for them), but today we learn that two senior immigration judges have ruled that he can remain.

Ibrahim has been crafty. On his release from prison, he met an English woman and they now have two children. This is the ultimate 'get out of jail free' card for the clever asylum-seeker, of course. The 'right' to a family life trumps everything else in the crazy world of rights and entitlements.

If he wants to keep his family together, what is stopping them following him to Iraq when he is deported? If she loves him enough to bear him two children, surely that is a small price to pay for staying with the love of your life? If he is the love of your life, that is. Perhaps she is unwilling to go: "Hey I didn't agree to that!"

It is ironic, and deeply disgusting, that Ibrahim's so-called 'right' to a family life has trumped the more ancient right of Amy's parents to have their daughter alive and well, and not dying in the gutter because some cowardly criminal chooses to run away rather than face the consequences of his actions. (Just remember: she was alive when he left the scene, and might have survived had he called the emergency services before running away. Her father had the heart-breaking task of turning off her life support several hours later.) I'm sure the two senior judges would have wished it otherwise, and that their 'hands were tied' by the legislation (European law over-rides every other law, no matter how ancient), but when will someone within the system stand up and say that this is WRONG?

Another reminder:

I despair of my country.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

You Go, Girl ...

From The Filthy Engineer, via Mummylonglegs:

Overheard at a Tube station -

There were protesters on the concourse handing out pamphlets on the evils of Britain .
I politely declined to take one. An elderly woman behind me was getting off the escalator and a young (20-ish) female protester offered her a pamphlet, which she politely declined.

The young protester put her hand on the woman's shoulder as a gesture of friendship and in a very soft voice said, 'Madam, don't you care about the children of Iraq ?'

The elderly woman looked up at her and said, 'My dear, my father died in France during World War II, I lost my husband in Korea and my grandson in Afghanistan . All three died so you could have the right to stand here and bad mouth our country. If you touch me again, I'll stick this umbrella up your arse and open it.'

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Getting Wood, Again

Latest development on the wood store front:

We had a load delivered at the end of last week, and as today is my first day off since then I have spent the morning stacking it. There's about 2.5 cubic metres there in the middle (today's effort) which, according to my sources, weighs a little over a ton. The wood on the right is the previous load, which is now about 2/3 used. In the left, hidden behind the tarpaulin and wheelbarrow, is the miserable amount that I have managed to cut, split and stack all by myself. It's not even worth photographing. The goal of energy self-sufficiency is still a long way off.

The green Safeway boxes, by the way, are brilliant for carrying wood from the store to the utility room, where they sit for 24 hrs next to the boiler before being brought into the living room for use. Each box will carry almost exactly one evening's worth.

Goodbye Iain Dale

Iain Dale has decided to stop blogging. His reasons: he has no time for it, and he has stopped enjoying it.

I am a little sad about this, but only a little. Iain's blog was the first political blog I ever read, and I valued it for its interesting viewpoints and non-confrontational tone. Iain sounded like a thoroughly decent guy, and I enjoying reading what he had to say. I have no connection whatever with Westminster, so his scoops and gossip were more in the line of general human interest than political ammunition for me, but I enjoyed them all the same.

And yet, of late, the blog and its tone had changed out of all recognition. In one way, it had become merely a vehicle for his radio presence and publishing venture, and many posts were just advertising puffs (no pun meant) for the show or the business. And there had also been a distinct change of tone: Dale had started to get rather querulous about certain issues concerning MPs' behaviour and seemed to have moved miles away from his original position on honesty and rectitude. His defence of Phil Woolas was indefensible in my opinion. An angry article on the Panorama/World Cup fiasco, and his thoughtless and hostile dismissal of all contrary comments, was the last straw for me, and that made me decide to delete him from my blogroll.

So goodbye, Iain. Thanks for all the entertainment and thought-provoking content over the years, but I think you made the right decision.

Monday 13 December 2010

A Sign Of Things To Come?

I would be far more likely to accept the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion if I had heard loud and angry condemnation of terrorist atrocities from the many 'peaceful' Muslims that we are told constitute the majority. The fact that we don't hear anything of the sort leads me to believe, not that all Muslims are terrorists, but that most Muslims don't think that terrorism in the name of Islam is all that bad. Perhaps the bombers are mistaken, but the error is one of degree. Their crime is being too violent, rather then being violent at all. It's OK to hate the West, but these people are going about it the wrong way. I suspect that many Muslims will publicly disavow any Islamic terrorist attack, if pressed, but may secretly approve, at least slightly and in the privacy of their own minds. (If any Muslim reading this can show me evidence of widespread condemnation of terrorism from within the Muslim community, and thereby show me to be mistaken, I would genuinely like to hear it.)

What many peaceable Muslims don't realise, or choose to ignore, is that every time there is an atrocity in the name of the 'religion of peace', and a deafening silence from the Muslim community follows, it is building up a head of steam in the majority population which may one day- and very regrettably - bring the whole house of cards down on the heads of all Muslims, peaceable or not, and the results will not be pleasant. I want to hear Muslim condemnation of terrorism, loud and clear, because I don't want this to happen.

I was therefore encouraged to read this in the Telegraph, followed by this from the BBC:
"I talked to him and went through his arguments and countered all of them theologically and he accepted it. I thought that was the end of it but he carried on.

"So one day, before the end of Ramadan, when the mosque was full I directly challenged all his misinterpretations of Islam.

"He just stood up and stormed out. We never saw him again - but I heard he'd gone to the Islamic Society at the university and continued to preach his extremist views."
Mr Baksh said it was very rare for the Luton centre, which incorporates a mosque on its premises, to expel any members.

He said when people expressed ideas which were extreme "it's a matter of dealing with them, challenging their theological basis, and making them realise this is not the Islamic point of view, and is not the way we look at life and the situation of Muslims around the world."

In all cases, they had succeeded in persuading them not to further their ideas - "except in this particular one," he said, referring to Abdaly.
It's a start, and I am mildly encouraged. Well done, that man.

Grrrr .........

Today, I am working with a new colleague. He whistles.

The same six-note phrase, over and over.

Then he stops whistling, and starts doing this Pearl and Dean-style singing:


Then he starts whistling again.

I am going mad.

Saturday 11 December 2010

For Those Of A Patriotic Disposition

Thanks to Iain Dale, I came across this fabulous arrangement of the National Anthem, which was performed at the end of this year's Proms. The National Anthem as it is usually played is dirge-like and funereal, the very antithesis of fun. And yet the tune has its roots as a galliard - a light and lively dance - in the early 17C. Sing it to yourself at about double the usual speed, with heavy stresses on the first note of each bar (ta-ta-ti-taaa-ta-ta) and it becomes light and rather jolly. Rarely, however, is it treated like this, with an arrangement which brings out the majesty and rich harmonic possibilities of the tune. Benjamin Britten, of course. I don't mind admitting this brought tears to my eyes.

A little light Googling brought me to this page, where there is the text of a poem engraved on a piece of slate outside the Honister slate quarry in Cumbria. British patriots, enjoy:

Unfurl our flag - red, white and blue -
and greet it with your smile.
The blue is for the sea we view
around our sceptred isle;
the sea o'er which we've paid our due
in storm and wartime trial.

Raise up our flag - blue, red and white -
salute it with respect.
The white is for the purest light
that freedom can effect
and for the lasting love of right
our citizens expect.

Fly high our flag - white, blue and red -
for everyone to see.
The red is for the blood we shed
to keep our country free
and for our brave forebears who bled
in every century.

Our flag is known the whole world through;
our Union Jack so dear.
We don't want stars of gold on blue
on any flagpoles here!

James Hinton

Why are we so embarrassed by our nation's history? Why do want to denigrate it and cast it aside?

Friday 10 December 2010

Those poor Lib Dems

For decades, the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Party before them, have had the luxury of going into every election knowing that they would not be in power after it. Never mind David Steel's "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government" - no-one ever really believed that. So they have been able to promise anything they wanted, and be all things to all men. Increased spending on your favourite public service? Of course, Sir. Tax cuts? Not a problem, sir. Greater benefits? Your wish is my command, Sir. A vote against that nasty nuclear power or those nasty nuclear weapons, but without the risk that you would have to live with the consequences? Walk this way, Sir.

Well, now they have been found out. A lot of Lib Dems are learning that, when you are in government, you have to make decisions, and often there is no right or easy answer. Never mind the student union idealism, they are learning the truth of Bismarck's saying that "politics is the art of the possible". Not what you would like in an ideal world; not what you would have with unlimited resources; not what makes you look caring and kind - but what can be achieved in the real world with what you have got.

I've seen many young workers develop and be promoted to management positions. It's amazing how they suddenly stop moaning about "them up in the boardroom" and their "stupid" ideas when they have to actually make business decisions - with real consequences - for themselves. It's quite heart-warming. We all have to grow up eventually. Suddenly, making 'unbreakable' pledges to capture the youth vote doesn't seem such a good idea.

It has led to an interesting position for the Lib Dem MPs. Do you stick to your principles and vote against tuition fees, because that was what you promised? Do you accept reality and vote against, despite the 'broken promise' accusation? Or do you abstain?

I like to think I am a fairly moral person, and I would not break a solemn promise without a very good reason, if at all. I can respect MPs who vote against the rise in fees, if only because I respect the principle that your word should be something that you do not break lightly. And yet, the cost of this, in personal terms, is small. You get into trouble with the Party, and some of those nasty Tories will be cross with you, and you may be told that you are putting the future of the coalition and even your own party at risk. But that's all grown-up stuff. You gain the warm approbation of all those students for being a 'man of principle', and you can go to your grave saying that you kept your word.

I have more time for those MPs who decided to vote with the Government. That was a hard decision to make, I am sure, but realistically it is the only way forward, and the country will be grateful in the long term. They will have heeded Keynes's famous words:
When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?
Going from the freedom of permanent opposition into the gruelling pit of government at a time of huge financial crisis will certainly have presented new facts and new perspectives to the incoming Lib Dem cabinet, and if that has caused them to change their minds à la Keynes, then I can respect them for that. The price is the anger of all those who supported you, and a brick through your window if you are Norman Baker, so changing your mind is not cost-free. That makes it all the more admirable, in my book.

Abstention is an attempt to gain the approval of both sides, and is pathetic. You can say to your supporters "well, I promised not to vote for higher fees, and I haven't". And you can say to your party hierarchy "as a matter of principle I cannot vote in favour, but I will not stand in your way". You are trying to get the best of both worlds. It's spineless and feeble. Go with your principles, one way or the other, for God's sake.

Depending on how things turn out over the next few months, this could be the end of the Liberal Democrat party. Their core vote could turn against them - some of the voxpops I have seen on TV have been bitter - and there's no-one waiting to take the place of their traditonal supporters. It would be a rich irony if the events that finally made the Lib dems grow up and become adult about politics were the events that finished them as a mainstream party.

3 Amigos Toy Run 2010

Tomorrow, 11 December 2010. Meet in the Commons car park in Pembroke around 12:00 midday. Run starts at 13:00 approx. Pembroke - Cleddau Bridge - Neyland - Milford Haven and end up at the Day Unit of Withbush Hospital, where refreshments and mince pies will be available.

Sadly, I won't be there as I will be working. The Triumph Owners will be there, though.

If you can get there, go. It's a good day out, and a good cause.

Rejoice, I say, Rejoice

For lo, mine chariot which hath the wheels of the number four, and four is the number thereof, has passed its MoT. And the passing was not of the passing kind, but displeased Pharoah's minion, for it involved a failure for headlight aim, which the minion thereunto addressed himself with a screwdriver, and which thereby was transfigured into a pass. And there was also an advisory in the land, which was the advisory that the brake discs were not of the shiny type, but were becoming rusty as becomes metal things which have not the joy of regular use, and great was the lamentation of it. But this was advisory only and did not corrupt the passing nature of the testing of Pharoah.

Congregation: For yea, we are pleased that the LORD has been gracious unto us.

And lo, great was the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the land of trees, for this testing and the proof thereof caused the felling of many, for presented unto my eyes were six scrolls, and the scrolls were green and pink and yellow, and the scribings upon them were manifold:

  • Pass certificate in English and Welsh
  • Failure certificate for the headlights in English
  • Failure certificate for the headlights in Welsh
  • Advisory certificate for the rusty brake discs in English and Welsh
  • Emissions certificate in English and Welsh.
And lo, great was the joy of Richard of the tribe of Blog, for the LORD would now allow him to drive his chariot throughout the land, and not against the laws of Pharoah, who demandeth such scrolls or the driver of the chariot be cast into the darkness and fined many goats and cattle and sheep, yea, even unto the fourth generation.

Another happy car, today.

This, I can tell you, is a huge relief.

Memo to self: train as an MoT tester. Fifty big ones for 40 minutes' work. Not bad.

UPDATE: list of certificates corrected. Not quite as bad as I thought, when I actually got round to looking properly.

Cats - the truth ...

Via b3ta, these very realistic instructions on ...

How to give a cat a pill.

That's my house every three months, that is.

The dog bit is right, too.

The New Badgers?


h/t to Legiron.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Imagine No Possessions

It's been 30 years since John Lennon was murdered, and there's a big buzz about the anniversary. I suppose I ought to add my bit ...

Imagine is possibly the worst song ever written. It is shallow, it is empty, it is tedious and it is self-indulgent. It only takes two of those lumpen piano chords (he loved that right-left-right-left
vamping, didn't he?) to send me screaming for a soundproof room.

Worse than that, it is so nauseatingly hypocritical that it turns my stomach. "Imagine no possessions" from a millionaire; "Imagine all the pee-pull living life in peace" from a wife-beater.

Peter Risdon has an anecdote which sums it up for me:
"It’s only a fucking song."

I came across this somewhere recently. Lennon was, apparently, being visited in New York by a friend from Liverpool. Seeing Yoko Ono’s walk-in chiller for storing fur coats, the friend said, “Imagine no possessions, eh, John?”

John replied as above.
This, from a "Working-Class Hero".

Tuesday 7 December 2010

At least one Labourite gets it

Peter Watt, ex-General Secretary of the Labour Party, has an interesting analysis of Labour's electioral woes over on Labour Uncut. Here's an example:
But there is an arrogance at the heart of our politics that is going to make it difficult to really understand why we lost. It is an arrogance that says that we alone own morality and that we alone want the best for people. It says that our instincts and our motives alone are pure. It’s an arrogance that belittles others’ fears and concerns as “isms” whilst raising ours as righteous. We then mistakenly define ourselves as being distinctive from our opponents because we are morally superior rather than because we have different diagnoses and solutions. It is lazy, wrong and politically dangerous.
Well worth a read. And don't forget the comments, some of which take missing the point to an art form.

Jack Warner Hasn't Aged Well



Monday 6 December 2010

Brrrrr ...

I just can't seem to get warm these days.

Ice crystals on the Bonnie ...

... and hoar frost on the Yamaha ...

It's getting to just above freezing in the day, allowing the previous night's frost to thaw slightly, and then freezing hard every night. There's ice crystals everywhere. By early morning, it has been down to -6° regularly, which is almost unheard-of for what is supposed to be a Gulf Stream climate. I have a distinct lack of interest in going outside unless wrapped in many layers of insulation and sealed within a windproof shell. With a hat. And gloves. Transport which blocks out the surrounding environment and replaces it with a warm, wind-free one, especially if there is little possibility of falling off it, is preferred.

Even if I had one of these ...

... I would be taking the bread-and-butter Ford. Really.

I wish all that lovely warmth that Gore and Monbiot keep promising would turn up. I'll be running out of firewood soon.

Sunday 5 December 2010


Old Holborn:
You want a £37 million pound theatre in Barry, Wales? You pay for it, you run it, you make it pay, you negotiate with the employees, you deliver the content, you pay the pensions and running costs by producing what free people will pay hard earned money to see, not by demanding by force that a fork lift truck driver on night shift in Newcastle "supports" your "desire" to bring "arts" to the "unemployed" of rural Wales.
There is no such thing as free milk and honey. Ask a bear.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Discimination we can all 'support'

I see that Morrisons are indulging in some disgraceful discriminatory pricing, although I can understand and sympathise with the thinking behind it. It's a nice, peaceful use for those airport body scanners, I suppose.

Yes, I'm childish.

Dearth of Bike-related Posts

To my biking readers, I apologise for the recent lack of bike-related posts. I have to confess that I haven't done many miles on either bike over the last month. The new job has been one reason. Riding to work on a bike in this weather requires a bit of forward planning - leaving work clothes in work, finding somewhere to hang a set of dripping waterproofs, and so on - and for the first few days, you want to be ready for anything and looking reasonably smart, so I am afraid that I defaulted to using a car for the first week or two. Then I have been doing the Door Supervisor training, which has meant yet another location and a new set of clothing challenges. And then I get back to working, and the worst December weather for decades descends on us.

I like to ride all year, and rain and cold go with the territory. But ice, snow and fog, where skill and judgement take second place to dumb luck, are big disincentives. It was one thing when I was young and had no choice, but these days it would seem perverse to opt for two wheels when a perfectly adequate car (with heater, CD player and - crucially - inherent vertical stability) is available. Unfortunately, my car insurance and MoT have expired, and I haven't yet been able to sort that out, so Anna has been very generous in allowing me to use hers.

I started both bikes yesterday and let them get thoroughly warmed up. The Triumph started first time and idled regularly, as if it were a summer's day. The Yam was a bit more reluctant. It started with a bit of patience, but needed nursing along until it got a bit of warmth into the cylinder. I have said before that I think the Bonnie is good enough to be a year-round bike, and I was anticipating retiring the Yam for a bit of TLC, but in these conditions the idea of a rugged, go-anywhere bike that will stand a drop is starting to appeal again. I think I might oil up the Triumph and put it in the garage for a while.

Tonight, the temperature dropped drastically mid-evening and the rain that had been falling all afternoon (I am at work as I write this) instantly turned to black ice. There are reports of cars in ditches and lurid slides on roundabouts from everyone who comes past, so I think resuming the two-wheeled commuting can wait for a day or two. Sometimes, self-preservation wins.

As a winter treat, allow me to present you with this superb image of Aaron Yates at Virginia International Raceway ...

It's like a lesson in physics.

Friday 3 December 2010

A Different Angle

Having spent the last couple of posts banging on negatively about football, I was delighted to read a post today on the excellent Heresiarch blog which has made me think a little differently about the role of sport in general and football in particular. Here's the drift:

By hosting the World Cup, at vast cost, the Qataris are giving not just football
but global secular culture the greatest possible plug. They are encouraging not
just their own people, but all the inhabitants of that tumultuous region -
Iraqis, Iranians, Saudis, Syrians - to plough their restless energy into a
harmless game. And away from terrorism, fundamentalism and dreams of global

Well worth a read.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Football's Not Coming Home

England will not be hosting the World Cup in 2018, says the BBC.

I can see lots of positives here. The 2018 world Cup will be a pleasant spectacle on the TV that we will be able to watch or not, as we wish. It won't be the all-devouring wall-to-wall 24-hour wankfest that it might have been. We won't be mortgaging our children's futures (well, no more than they are at present with the Olympics) for bragging rights to a game of kickabout.

And everyone's going to blame the BBC.


Iain Dale and the World Cup

I posted something the other day about the BBC Panorama investigation into corruption in FIFA ahead of today's decision on the hosting of the 2018 World Cup. Iain Dale, it seems, would disagree.
What a pity it is that the BBC should have disgraced our bid with that Panorama programme on Monday.
I commented:
An investigation into bribery and corruption is "disgraceful"? That's a new one.
Dale replied:
The timing was disgraceful. They should have screened it after the bid.
He seems to be arguing that the BBC should have withheld any broadcast of their corruption investigation until after the successful bid had been announced. The obvious implication is that the BBC have annoyed FIFA (if the allegations are false, why would that be a problem?) and made them less likely to choose England. Would Mr Dale also agree that newspapers should avoid allegations of corruption against a politician until after an election, in case it affected the result?

The comments are interesting.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Elected Police Chiefs

Some good news at last, and thanks to good old Theresa May. Britain, apparently, is to have elected Police Commissioners. I am quite excited about this. Imagine what changes we could make if we could elect someone of our own way of thinking to direct police policy in our area.

Burglaries? Important.
Criminal assaults? Important.
Vandalism and loutish behaviour? Important.
People offended by a chance remark from a total stranger? Get to the back of the queue.

The usual idiots have been on the airwaves to pull the idea to pieces. One of the most humorous was Ed Balls, who said:
This goes against a 150-year tradition of keeping politics out of policing. It raises the very real prospect of a politician telling a chief constable how to do their job.
Ed, let me tell you a secret. Policing has always been political. Politics is all about how we choose to organise our society, and policing has always been part of that. In the Victorian era, the police were pretty much the servants of the ruling class, employed to keep the workers and poor on their best behaviour. Under New Labour, however, the Police became more aligned with the governing party than ever before. Remember how they lobbied for government policy over the detention without trial issue? Remember how ACPO statements used to uncannily reflect Labour thinking? Ed, to suggest that Labour have disinterestedly kept politics out of policing shows some fucking nerve.

And why shouldn't an elected politician tell the police how to do their job? No-one is suggesting (apart from the Left, for which it is a useful straw man) that Police Commissioners should involve themselves in day-to-day operational decisions. But to have someone who represents the wishes of the people directing overall policing priorities - well, give me one reason why that isn't a good idea? Perhaps the Left believes people aren't clever enough to understand the issues, and that those who know better should decide things for them?

And don't tell me that the Police Authorities (composed of local councillors and various appointees) already reflect the will of the local people. That is the remote and 'we-know-best' system that has got us to where we are today. Can you name the head of your local Police Authority? When and where they meet? Can you say how you communicate your priorities and needs to them, and what they do with that information? No, neither can I.

The BBC's coverage of this story has been - I was going to say 'a revelation', but that's not true. It's been entirely typical. I heard the story on the radio news this afternoon, several times, and each time the introductory line was something like "Labour say Tory plans for elected Police Chiefs are dangerous". You know, spinning the story before the story is fully reported. Even the headline to the accompanying BBC News article is a spin:
New police commissioners 'could cost more than £136m'
The cost of introducing police and crime commissioners could reach more than £136m over 10 years, government documents show.
Yep, standard procedure - get the negatives out fast, before people have even read the story.
Why the Government don't bring the state-funded propaganda arm of the Labour Party to heel I do not know.

But elected Police Commissioners? Yes, please. Soon as.

Gratuitous picture of Home Secretary included because I think she is a bit of a babe.

How Can They Do This?

Leg-Iron nails it:
If they said 'We'll fund students from all over the EU, except Poland', there would be hell to pay.
Story here.
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