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February 29, 2004

International law? International confidence trick.

Have you noticed lately how the left have surreptitiously downgraded the Nation State and introduced the concept of "International" Law into every aspect of our national life? This despite the fact that the vast majority of the world's people live in the most obscene dictatorships and autocracies since the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945 - most of whom claim to be Socialist.

The Left certainly believes that "Internationalism" is the future. But have those who suppinely nod when this slimy bunch of closet Marxists forgotten that the anthem of the Left is the "Internationale" - sung, ironically to the same tune as "Deutchland, Deutchland uber alles", also known as the Red Flag and used as a hymn tune called "Ein feste burg". Or that one of the aims of Marxism is to subsume all "national" identities into a global "Workers State".

And the Western Democracies have fallen for it hook line and sinker. Look around you, in Europe we have an ever growing "Socialist" agenda, centralising everything under the name of "harmonisation", in the rest of the world, the Politically Correct Police slaver away at reducing ancient liberties and even more fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion, now things to be derided or to be removed as offensive to "minorities" or other groups.

What is happening as part of this agenda is quite simple. Our freedoms are being eroded, our nation states destroyed from within by the cancer of Internationalism as propounded by the socialist left.

Perhaps its time to recall that Socialist is a word that appears in the titles and manifesto of the worlds worst dictatorships. Hitler called his brand "National", Stalin and Lenin thought of "International", Pol Pot, Kim Il Jong, Mao Tse Tung and the list goes on - all called themselve "Socialist". And they all have the same agenda - world socialist order.

It si very refreshing to see that I am not alone in spotting this. I recommend a visit to Dodgeblogium and this post. Also to NZPundit for an acerbic view on this topic.

International law? The biggest confidence trick in the business.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:46 PM

Mel Gibson's take on Christ's death and Passion.

The Rev Mike has posted a really thoughtful and thought provoking piece under the title of "My only post on the Passion of Christ (If I can help it!)". Those considering seeing this movie (and that is what it is - a Hollywood take on a key pert of the Christian faith!) should read what he and Sgt Stryker have to say on this.

There is nothing I can add to a very good exposition, so I won't, but, like the Rev Mike, I do not intend to rush out to see it either.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:26 AM

Biblical ramblings

It seemed to be appropriate, in view of all the rumblings about religion in the news media at present, to have a look at the five books which are the foundation of the Bible.

The first, Genesis, and particularly Chapters 1 and 2, are not intended to be "scientific" explanations - in fact they are better seen as "poetry". And before anyone gets up and starts throwing things - remember that the translations we have available to us use "convenient" words which do not actually convey very accurately the original sense of the passages.

There is danger too, in trying to apply strictly the Levitical Codes, since that would imply a return to ALL that Leviticus requires, including the animal sacrifices. That said, these are veryu important books from the perspective of what they tell us about the welfare of the human races spiritual health and growth.

If you have a mind to explore this further, follow the link below.

The Five Books or “The Books of Moses”.

A look at the foundations of the Bible – Genesis to Deuteronomy.

The first five books of the Bible form the foundations of all of the rest. It is in these five books that we see God at work, selecting a people who will become His instrument of Salvation in the World. Referred to by Jews as the Torah and by Biblical scholars as the Pentateuch, they are also called “The Books of Moses” and their authorship is attributed to him. This is thought to be unlikely, although the core material is at the very least from a source close to him, certainly the events described which occur after his death will have been added by a later hand. References in the text of Exodus certainly do indicate that Moses himself wrote down a great deal which was stored in the Ark of the Covenant for the priest’s instruction.

If we try to establish a time line for the events in these books we find that the record is incomplete in some sense and overlaps occur in others. For example, the events in Genesis Chapter 12 start in about 1250 BC (I choose this start deliberately as the events prior to this are a lot more difficult to put dates too!) with the departure of Abram and his family from Ur. The book ends in Egypt with the settlement in the Nile Delta of Joseph and his brothers around 1680 BC. There is then a gap in the record until about 1370 BC where the Exodus story begins. Then it gets more complicated; the next three books are all covering the same period, that is; starting in about 1290 BC and ending around 1250 BC – the forty years in the wilderness! Their record ends with the entry into the Promised Land and the settlement of the tribes in their new home. In effect the Book of Joshua finishes the Exodus story, although it is not part of the “Five Books” and belongs to the next group – the “Historical” books.

The purpose of these five books is to trace the history of the creation and the development from there of the chosen people who would eventually become the Israelites. The name itself means “the people of El”, “El” being yet another word for “the God of this place”. Each of these books presents us with a new problem on the one hand and a growing awareness of the guiding hand of God in uniting a very diverse people into a single Nation and Faith on the other. We encounter angels, celestial events, earthquakes, quicksand, volcanic eruptions, heroic human efforts which founder, charlatans and some pretty evil people, but the will of God is always there to guide, to retrieve and to re-order. Essentially it is a story or stories about beginnings.

The first “book” could almost be described as two “books” – the Creation stories and the rise and fall of man, followed by the calling of a man destined to be the father of the chosen people and his direct descendents – the Patriarchs. In all probability this book was the last to be written down and it shows evidence that several sources have been drawn upon to provide its content. As I have remarked in my previous ramble through these books, the outline of the Creation contained in Chapter 1 is not necessarily in conflict with the theory of evolved creation – unless you try to impose simplistic time scales to it. Mind you, even the Big Bang theory has its problems – as Terry Pratchett (a well known science fantasy author) is on record as saying, “In the beginning there was nothing. Which exploded.”

Even the flood stories are supported by folk lore from around the world, but it does seem that these are based on flooding arising from rising sea levels as the vast ice sheets melted around 12,000 years ago, rather than on a single global event. Whatever the underlying facts of the event, it does seem that God has used (as He frequently does!) a major catastrophe to bring home to those who survived it His will and direction. It is God’s purpose that is worked out to save Noah and his family and to ensure that His work of salvation continues.

The patriarchs are a rum bunch by any account. Both Abraham and Isaac at some point pass their wives off as “sisters” in order to win political favour. We aren’t told what their wives thought of this. The nomadic existence of the first three patriarchs ends in Egypt with the settlement under Joseph, thus setting the scene for the opening of the next book which takes up the story some 300 years later. By now the tribe has become both numerous and prosperous – and it would appear – a threat to the ruling hierarchy.

The four books which follow are important for several reasons, firstly they tell us a great deal about the forging of a nation from a diverse and self interested group who are not at all sure the promised reward is worth the effort and the pain. Secondly, in the laying down of principles for worship in a dignified and structured way, we have the foundations of much of our thinking on worship patterns and response to God in our life and times. While Exodus and Numbers focus on the events of the departure from Egypt and the wanderings in the desert, Leviticus and Deuteronomy set out the rules for nationhood and for worship.

The importance to Jewish worshippers and indeed to the Christians of the early church of these books cannot be overstated. Mark, Matthew, Luke, John and Paul all draw heavily on them to show the continuation the work of salvation and to support the arguments for aspects of Godliness and the need to withdraw from sin. The opening verses of John’s gospel are considered to be a meditation on the opening of Genesis – “In the beginning ..” Further examples of the use of images or ideas drawn from these books can be found in the letter to the Colossians (1: 15 – 20) which again reflects on the first word (in Hebrew) of the Book of Genesis “In the beginning ..” You cannot escape the central position of these books to the Jewish writers and prophets either. From Ezra onward references to the Books of Moses, also referred to as “The Law” abound. Far from being a slavish obedience to legalism this is an acknowledgement of the central need to divine God’s will in everything.

One of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars, the philosopher Miamonides, maintained that “The Torah” as the Five Books are known to Jews, is concerned with the welfare of both body and soul. This is borne out by even the most cursory reading of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy as it becomes at once evident that the rules concerning meat and hygiene will, if followed correctly, prevent the spread of disease and minimize the risk of food poisoning. No wonder the Jewish quarters of medieval cities were relatively free of the usual diseases and even relatively unaffected by the plague. Had our forebears followed these simple rules they might have changed the course of history in some unexpected ways.

Within the later Christian tradition the central position of these books has been somewhat neglected. This loss of appreciation of their significance may be attributed to the importance of the New Testament writings as the Church grew away from its roots in Judaism. Another factor may be the version of the Bible used. The original translations into Latin from the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint and known as the Vulgate, included the “Apocryphal” Books, subsequently removed by the Reformation and the use of the later collation of the Talmud also seems to have diminished their significance for Christian readers and scholars.

So, should we be a bit more diligent in studying them? I think the answer is yes, because here we find the beginnings of the Eucharist – see the Fellowship Offering in Leviticus Chapter 3 and the Passover arrangements in Numbers 28: 16 onwards. Here too you will find the arrangements for rest days and “Jubilees”, matters still practiced in various forms among Jews today.

Viewing these books as a story of beginnings is a helpful way to see them as a group. The rest of the Old Testament rests, to a very large extent, upon them and, as we have seen the New Testament writers drew heavily upon them as well. Scholarship in this field is a vast and complicated arena, not least because there is argument over authorship and sources. Most scholars agree that there is no single author for any of the book, instead identifying four distinctive “sources”. This does not detract from the message, it merely complicates the study of it and makes it more difficult to get back to the root. That said, for those, like myself, who have limited time and limited access to “source” material, there are some good study guides available – some of them even easily readable!

For those of you who would like to look more closely at the Pentateuch, I can recommend The Lion Handbook to the Bible, The Pentateuch – A story of beginnings by Paula Gooder, The Bible Guide by Andrew Knowles, The Exodus Enigma by Ian Wilson, The living world of the Old Testament by Anderson and Reading the Old Testament – An introduction by Lawrence Boadt. Now there’s a reading list to keep you occupied through winter!

Peace be with you.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:10 AM

February 28, 2004

Past glories ...

This is a picture to get some of the warship buffs going. It is HMS Barham entering Grand Harbour, Malta in 1936/37. The recognition stripes across "B" turret mark her as having been engaged in the "protection" duties of the Spanish Civil War.

HMS Barham.jpg
Entering Grand Harbour, Valetta, HMS Barham in her prime.

This ship did not have the benefit of the major refits given her sisters, Warspite, Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, she and Malaya having only a partial modernisation carried out in 1925 - 27. One of the modifications done then would sink this fine ship and kill over 800 of her crew when she was torpedoed by U 331 off Mersa Mutruh in 1941.

The modification? To save money, the civil servants of the day decided to place the new 4" magazines inside the anti-torpedo bulges, outboard of her after 15" magazines. One of the torpedoes hit a magazine. The rest, as they say, is history. It was captured on a film clip by a Movietone News cameraman sailing in HMS Queen Elizabeth. 2,000 tons of cordite and TNT do not take kindly to being kicked up the rear end and then heated by a fire. Particularly in a confined space.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

Strange place, nasty minds

The world is a right old mess, and the middle east seems to be the epicentre of most of the mess. Kathy at On the Third Hand is pondering over the fact that someone thinks it is news that the Saudi government refuses visas to anyone who has been to Israel.

Doesn't he know that Christians are barred from Mecca and all the other sacred Muslim sites in this cesspit. In fact, anyone daring to practice their Christian faith there is likely to be hauled before a Religious Police court and sentenced to a flogging if they are lucky, and death if they have "perverted" the pruity of any Muslim. Nice place. Not on my list of places to go anyway.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:33 PM

Hey baby, it's cold outside ....

Yesterday, opened the door to let the Feline Mistress of the House out, to discover that we had had an inch of snow. OK, so it isn't the several feet that some of you have to cope with, but Madam le Pussy Cat took one look, used language she is not supposed to know and flounced off to sulk about my inconsiderate action in putting down this wet stuff for her to walk in.

Domus Gray Monk (Pro Tem) in the snow.

Well, it had all melted by mid-afternoon, but I thought I'd let some of you see that it does snow here occassionally!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:28 AM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2004

TGIF - I think ....

Its Friday, I knock of early and do my laundry etc. - and spend a couple of hours putting together an entry which takes a look round a number of blogs. Will it post? You have to be joking!

I get the dreaded "Connection timed out - Error 504" courtesy AOL. I think it is because I have too many links in it for the AOL system to alloow the upload to happen within the connection time out. Its very frutrating and yet another reason for looking, when I have relocated, at getting onto someone elses system!

Amazing - Magic - Wizardry! I had no sooner posted this growl, than - bingo! The post that would not post appears!

Sodomy non sapiens - Wizard speak for "B*gg*r me! I don't know!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:08 PM

Friday roundup

G'Day Mate is having a humorous go at most non-Australian's view of the geography of that great country over on his blog post entitled "California vs USA". He is right, most people who have not been there and know it only from vague newscasts and dimly remembered geography lessons (assuming that they were actually paying attention!) simply have trouble identifying with the vast open spaces. Those from countries like the US and Canada who have the experience of wide open ranges have perhaps less excuse than those of us from Europe, but it is also true to say, that the vast majority of supposedly educated people, simply have no idea of the layout of any country other than their own. Sad really, it is our ignorance of the way others live, the conditions they must deal with and which influence their cultures, that cause us the most problems when trying to understand each other.

Still, we can all have a chuckle at the image his "Tourist Map" of Australia conjures up.

Still trying to visit all my favourite blogs, I found this wonderful cartoon at Ripples which sums up rather nicely the point I was making about civil servants who "manage" the supplies to the fighting forces while ably dodging any danger themselves. ("What's that medal for Smithers?" "A dangerous paper cut during the Iraq War, Under Secretary!")

Honour is the theme of an interesting item at Bear left on unnamed road. Quite apart from the mention of one of my favourite fictional naval characters, it is worth a read. I'm much inclined to agree with Ron in this. let's have fewer "whistleblowers" and more Men and Women of Honour.

Paul, at All agitprop; all the time has an excellent rant going about idiots who can't see a need to maintain armed forces properly. What the people of Bob's ilk simply do not understand about modern warfare and weaponry is that you cannot simply call up a draft, give everyone a rifle and six weeks square bashing and send them off to war as we did in 1914 - 18 and 1939 - 45. Weaponry, warfare and all that goes with it has become so sophisticated that it take years to bring fighting soldiers up to scratch.

I always find it ironic that these are also the same people who will stand about whinging about their taxes while simultaneously applying for relief and benefits. Should the sh-1-t hit the fan of course, they also expect the armed forces to get out there and do their bit, criticising them all the way for not winning immediately.

On a lighter note (pardon the pun!) Lynn of Reflections in d minor has some interesting links to follow and some thoughts on men with pony tails.

I could hardly leave off this roundup (Sorry folks - I'm running out of time here!) without a quick reference to Tim of An Englishman's Castle and his "business" trip to the US. Judging from the pics Tim, it must have been fun!

Have a good weekend all!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:38 PM | Comments (2)

February 26, 2004

Gobble me no gook please!

Searching through new legislation is a deadly activity. Apart from the fact that it is boring, it can also be a cause for raised blood pressure as one realises that the parasitic poodles of Westminster are yet again whittling away at one's freedoms - in the interests, of course, of guarding them! Usually this entails writing screeds of if this, then that, and but if the other. Liberally laced with "caveats" and opportunities for lawyers to earn mega-bucks arguing about the meaning of words in endless court cases while they decide what, if anything, a particular line or clause meant.

This present government is possibly the worst for this sort of meddling. Bear in mind that they are almost all lawyers, accountants or trade unionists in the cabinet and you see what I mean. They want to control every aspect of every activity they can possibly get away with. On top of this their grasp of reality is tenuous to say the least. And it is all driven by ideology rather than by any need to actually fix anything. That it is all hidden behind the argument that "it is driven by EU harmonisation" is not only disingenuous but a blatant piece of misinformation. Add to all of the foregoing a burning desire to tear down any hint of professional pride and to label success as elitist or even better as institutionalised something-ism and you have a recipe for the destruction of anything that functions efficiently and delivers the goods. Just look at the Health (dis) Service since we got all the "managers" in to replace the Doctors and Senior Nursing Specialists who used to run it reasonably efficiently.

The result of the politicians expressed desire to "modernise" services is that one of the worlds best equipped, trained and led fire and rescue services is being dismantled in the name of "modernisation". The professionalism built so painfully since 1948 is being thrown away and we are being prepared for the imposition of "managers" at all levels above fire fighters. The specialist officers, who, like myself, have worked in a variety of roles on the way to where we have ended as specialists, accumulating a vast array of experience and knowledge, are to be replaced by direct entry graduates. On paper this sounds fine, but a text book is no substitute for the realities of what can and will go wrong in the real world if some small element is disregarded because the person reviewing it has no experience of fire or, fire related emergency, to back up his or her knowledge. But, that is the way we are being driven, and it is to the great discredit of the current Chief Fire Officers and their management teams, that they are colluding in doing it.

I am currently studying the draft Fire and Rescue Services Bill, to be made law later this year, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to become law in early 2005. Both have very large deficiencies within them, but our lords and masters - the smart aleck "yes" men of the Civil Service and the politicians in Whitehall - don't want to know. The writing on the wall is obvious. All they are interested in is cutting the amount of money spent on fire brigades and ensuring that the "diversity" targets are met by the easiest route they can find.

Gone are the Discipline Regulations, gone the joint councils for pay and grading, gone the rank structures, gone the centralised training, gone the clear career path, gone the traditions of the service, gone even the selection criteria - provided you are in one of the "under represented groups" of course! - and even the uniform is being reduced to that equivalent to what dustmen and street sweepers wear. All to destroy what is seen as "elitist" or "militarist" symbols and attitudes. Give it five or so years and watch the fire losses and deaths start to soar as the service loses expertise and efficiency.

The new legislation is supposed to be clear and concise. It's concise, but it's not that clear. To be precise, it leaves a number of very important questions hanging and very obviously is designed to allow for further radical change as this gathers momentum. Ask yourself this question, if over the last 30 years the annual figures for deaths in fire have been declining in those buildings were the Fire Authorities have been responsible for enforcement, is this a sign of failure? This is what we are being told - that we have failed because we are targeting the wrong premises. So we replace a successful but rather restrictive regime with a new one that is going to be very difficult to police effectively and which will inevitably have problems because the service will now simply police what the employer deems is necessary, which (see my remarks above about experience!) will be difficult to achieve as they have no yardstick to measure against.

The new Bill, which one would have thought should be the vehicle for the powers of inspectors and this all important function, mentions fire safety only in terms of public education. No powers are made to enable an authority to use this legislation for fire safety inspection - oh no! Those are in a regulation, which, if you have any knowledge of the difference between Regulations and Acts, will tell you how the politicians wish to see this go. Again, watch this space, it will not be long before we hear that the fire authorities do not have the necessary resources or expertise and it should be done by Environmental Health, Trading Standards or the HSE. After all, fire fighters are for fighting fire - they have neither the qualifications nor the knowledge to deal with these complex issues.

I look forward to the Coroner's Courts and the Tribunals of Inquiry. I think I will make a fortune appearing for the victims and their families. In the meantime, investigate the installation of fire protection sprinklers and other systems in your property - there won't be a fire service capable of dealing with it or responding in time if you have a fire in a few years time.

What a pity the Whitehall Whallahs and Petty Politicians cannot be open and honest - but, I rather think the public might just be a tad upset about it if they were!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:46 PM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2004

Ash Wednesday

As this is the start of the Christian season of Lent (an Old English [Anglo-Saxon] word meaning "beginning" also "Spring" [Also in Dutch and Afrikaans and other "Germanic" languages]), it is worth considering what its all about. It is a season for preparation and Christians should "fast" for the 40 days of the season - and the Sundays are rest days and so don't count! It is something that we should give a bit of thought to before embarking on the usual token fast. Perhaps we ought to consider doing something extra as well.

What are we preparing for? Why, the great celebration of Easter and the Passion, but particularly the resurrection, in which we all have a part and a hope beyond the grave. It is fitting that we should prepare for this and consider exactly what it means to us as individuals. Those of us who are regular churchgoers will have plenty of encouragement in that direction, but it affects even those who do not attend a church, who perhaps have another route to faith. They need to consider their response as well.

For those observing the fast between now and Good Friday, I bid you the Jewish greeting of "Well over the fast." May it bring you new insight and strengthened faith.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:02 PM

Quality management?

Tuesday was spent on a refresher course on Internal Auditing for Qaulity Management Systems. As such courses go, it wasn't bad, and I have been on several, having been Quality Auditing now for almost 15 years.

But I am always amused by the belief that these systems actually ensure that the product of such a system is anything more than consistent. If it was rubbish to start with, it will still be rubbish at the end of a QM Audit - it will just be consistently rubbish. Mind you, that is starting to change, but it was not ever thus.

Few people today realise that the original British Standard (BS 5750) grew out of the fact that the munitions supplied to the Royal Navy and the British Army in 1914 - 1919 was defective. The fuse mechanisms either operated prematurely, or failed to operate at all, or operated eratically. The shells themselves could be tricky, with armour piercing shells breaking up on impact instead of going through, or failing to burst if they did penetrate. That was one of the things that went badly wrong at Jutland - it was not that the British were such lousy gunners. It was that although they were scoring hit after hit (that's why Scheer turned his fleet away - they were being hammered by hits) the shells were either not detonating or breaking up on the German armour.

This was being repeated all over the world and particularly along the Somme and Flanders fronts.

The Civil Servants in charge of supply maintained that there was no problem - that it was the way they were being used that was to blame. It took Jellicoe and Beatty to get some asses kicked and to get things moving on fixing the problem. Typically direct, Beatty threatened to have the entire Department of War Supply wallahship conscripted to the front to use their defective munitions for themselves. But even so they couldn't get it fixed by the end of the war. Enter Quality Control!

The committee convened to solve the problem came up with the bare bones of the system which would eventually evolve into what we today call Quality Management, but it was first introduced and trialed in the munitions industry. As you might expect with anything devised by Civil Servants, it was a heavily bureaucratic process - everything relied on multiples of forms being completed to say that things were being done according to specification, procedure, and approved method. It was then inspected and random samples tested. Not surprisingly there were a high percentage of failures during testing, but nothing was done to improve the quality - they now had a system which told them that the process was producing consistently to a standard, albeit a poor one. No one (except the poor SOB's having to use this stuff!) seemed to think that maybe the object of the exercise was to reduce the failure rate!

The result was that the improvements never arose - but at least they now knew that the standard was low. In part this was addressed by the makers themselves with new development of weapons replacing some of the designs and calibres used in the first Great War. Unfortunately, the Defence cuts, particularly the Naval cuts of 1921/22 and again in 1928/29, meant that the gun foundries which built the navy's big calibre guns were all closed down and broken up. This resulted in the debacle of orders being placed in 1934 - 36 for 15 and 16 inch gunned ships (the KGV's were planned to have 9 x 16 inch guns) which, while under construction, had to be redesigned to make use of 14 inch guns from ships broken up in 1921 - 1927. Why? Because the gun foundries could not be rebuilt in time to supply the necessary guns. But worse, the quality of the navy's munitions was still substandard in 1939 when war broke out.

It took two years and supplies from the US to sort that one out, with, as you would expect, the Civil Service denying that there was a problem - because they had all the correct forms filled in!

It is encouraging to see that the latest version of the ISO 9001: 2000 standard is less about having all the paperwork right and more about actually getting the end product up to standard. The blindingly obvious conclusion is that while some form of record is needed to identify the intention, the process and the outcome, it is there as a blue print and is not a set of tablets carved out of a lump of Mount Sinai, conceived in perfection and never to be amended, changed or improved.

Whether the bureaucrats of this world will ever grasp this concept remains to be seen. Somehow, I take leave to doubt it, and yesterdays training day rather re-inforced my view. Ah well, we can keep trying, perhaps one day the genetic engineers will come up with a genetic modification which will permanently cure the bureaucratic mindset - by breeding it out of the genepool hopefully!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:43 PM | Comments (2)

A light affliction and other signals

Picture the scene, a Squadron of ships patrolling off the Dutch/Belgian coast during 1917, the Flagship is a light cruiser, flying the Flag of Rear-Admiral Tyrwhitt, and is accompanied by two more light cruisers and eight destroyers. The squadron is spread out and zig-zagging to avoid U-boats and to ensure that they see as wide an area of the North Sea as possible.

Towed behind one of the destroyers is a strange looking craft - a barge with an extended and raised flat deck. Sat uncomfortably on top of this is a Sopwith Pup biplane and around it its attendant crew - including the pilot, a young Lieutenant.

A Zeppelin heaves into sight and starts to shadow the squadron, safely beyond the range of their guns at 10,000 feet. The order is flashed by lamp to the destroyer to launch the aircraft!

Destroyer works up to full speed of 36 knots, the pilot mounts his aircraft, starts the engine and the deck crew grab hold of the tailplane and hang on as he guns the engine to full power, and waits until the wildly pitching barge is on an upward swing, signals the release and the "Pup" staggers into the air from its impromptu aircraft carrier!

An hour of desperate climbing in the tiny aircraft ensues and finally, at his maximum ceiling of 8,000 feet he is below the huge hydrogen filled airship. He tail stalls the aircraft to bring his single machine gun, mounted on the top wing, to bear. He reaches up and, aiming desperately as his aircraft begins to stall, empties the magazine in the direction of the Zeppelin. His gun now useless and his aircraft in a death spin, he fights to regain control, succeeds and climbs back up toward the Zeppelin, reloading with a spare magazine as he does so. At the ceiling again, he repeats the first exercise and empties the second magazine as the aircraft stalls.

This time he is rewarded with the sight, as his own craft begins to plunge out of control, with the sight of the huge gas envelope bursting into flame!

Recovering from his stall almost at sea level, and now almost out of fuel, he searches frantically for the squadron, and is relieved to see them heaving into sight almost as he has given up hope. He hurtles toward them on the last of his fuel and performs several victory rolls and other exuberant aerobatics over the Flagship on the last of his fuel before ditching the faithful Pup into the sea as close as he can to his "home" destroyer.

The Admiral watches with some pride, and then hoists a general signal:

"EH 452 v 8" (Translation: English Hymnal No 452 verse 8)

The verse in question reads -

"Oh happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction,
Shall win so great a prize."

This is believed to be the first time a "ship launched" aircraft was engaged in combat and successfully destroyed an enemy. Personally I believe the pilot needed to be kept in a strait jacket most of the time - and he should have got at least a VC for the achievement!

On an equally religious theme is the signal from a submarine returning from a war patrol.

"Psalm 17 v 4"

(Concerning the works of men by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyers.)

Finally, a cruiser is attempting to secure to bouys. At first it goes well, and the Admiral, watching from his Flagship nearby, signals:


Things immediately start to go wrong and she misses the bouys, fouls a number of lines, and things get distinctly difficult. The Adfmiral signals again:

"Add to my previous signal: God."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:30 PM

February 24, 2004

Irregular service

Sorry folks, its been a long day, and a difficult evening so I will not be attempting to post anything beyond this health warning tonight.

Hopefully I will be back on form tomorrow when I can get a bit more done. Going through my e-mails I see many of you have posted comments to some of my ravings, thanks, I will try to respond tomorrow.

And now, as Mr Pepys so often said; "And so to bed."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2004

Now this is a REAL Fire Appliance

The photo is of a Dennis "Sabre" Fire Appliance (that's a Fire Truck to readers from the US and a Fire Engine to everybody not in the Fire Service). It weighs in at 14 tons fully laden and can deliver 900 gallons of water a minute with the largest pump configuration available on the "low pressure" side and 65 gallons per minute through the hose reels at pressures of over 30 bar (450 psi) on the "high pressure" side.


It is a purpose built chassis which is not sold for any other use and the drive train combines a Cummins turbo-charged diesel engine with an Allison "New World" six speed transmission. The top speed is over 80 mph and it has a superb braking system to match - fitted with a skid check system as well.

These vehicles are unique in that the cab is designed around a complete "crew safe" concept and it is side, front and corner impact tested as well as being strengthened against roll over. Even the windscreen is fitted with "bandit proof" glass to ensure that, if struck by any form of missile it will not break. Side windows can be so fitted as well as an "optional extra". A further unique feature is the arrangement of the pedals. Dennis has the brake pedal set alongside, but ahead of, the accelerator, making it almost impossible to slip from the brake pedal onto the accelerator. The pedals are also designed to be operated by someone wearing size 14 boots!

The company have done their homework extremely well and all their dashboard layouts are identical on both sides, so it is simply a matter of specifiying where you want the driving position.

Their range includes the "Rapier", an 11 ton low floor and chassis line "urban" pump ladder unit with a high tech chassis spec, and the "Dagger", also an 11 ton vehicle but on a lower spec chassis. Where the Rapier is capable of hitting the ton up in speed, the Dagger is marginally slower. All Dennis vehicles are built on a low centre of gravity giving them really impressive handling characteristics - particularly in cornering, but the Rapier is the one which really impresses at this trick as, at 7.5m overall, it can turn through 360 degrees in just 13. 5 metres of swept arc. What is more, from a standing start it will accelerate up through its gears in a full lock turn until the back tyres are smoking and the driver loses his nerve - but it will keep all its wheels on the ground all the way.

The Dennis company makes these three fire appliance chassis' as specialty units to order, its main line of business is buses. And these perform every bit as well as the Fire Appliances. As we used to say when I was on the active lists - "If it ain't got DENNIS on the front, it ain't a fire appliance!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:37 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 22, 2004

Make a signal

For a little lighthearted fun, here are some more of my favourite signals from the Royal Navy. They come from a book entitled "Make a signal" by Commander Jack Broome and there is a second, expanded edition, entitled "Make another signal".

From the completion signal after an operation to supply Malta by sea in July 1941.
CinC Force H to CinC Mediteranean

"I have restored good conduct badge to Force H guardian angel, deprived for offences committed on Day 1 and Day 3."

Said offences being the loss of several convoy ships and escorts to the Luftwaffe, and damage to several of the major units of Force H.

Staying with a religious theme:

An Admiral remowned for his imperious nature and haughty mein, suffered the complete loss of dignity of falling from his barge while attempting to board his flagship. A friend and fellow admiral signalled ...

"I am surprised that a man of your experience should attempt to do what only one man has done before - walk ashore."

Signal from an USN destroyer to the RN Flag Officer Escorts based in Western Approaches:

"Have attacked and sunk one enemy submarine. Where am I?"

FO Western Approaches

"Top of the class."

And from the CinC Mediteranean Fleet to a Sunderland Flyingboat which has just shot down a small shadowing Italian aircraft.

"You great big bully!"

One more on the list of facetious responses

Admiral to out of station cruiser:

"What are you doing?"


"Twenty knots."

Or the destroyer making a hash of picking up a mooring ...

SNO Port to destroyer,

"How long do you intend to be?"


"About three hundred and sixty feet as usual."

Or the congratulatory signal from one light cruiser to another after fighting off a bomber squadron in the Mediteranean

Captain HMS Penelope to Captain HMS Aurora

"Congratulations to Aurora on her magnificent borealis."

And finally for today

From HMS Renown after beating off a determined attack from dive bombers: (An earlier signal had identified that they were under attack from 11 aircraft.)

"Seven dive bombers will not bat in second innings."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sunday sermon

Having had two Eucharist services at which to assist this morning, I am thankfully not scheduled to preach today. So I offer this sermon that I wrote and preached last year. It was sparked by the whinging in the Guardian Newspaper of one Polly Toynbee about the fact that the Beeb had, in a fit of common sense, dismissed (after an experimental slot or two) the demands of the atheist lobby, to be allowed to air their point of view on the daily "Thought for the Day" religious slot.

The "Thoughts" are usually delivered by someone from one of the major religions, so we have Muslim, Jew, Christian and other religious representatives each giving their three minute message. Most are well worth hearing and considering, not so the only atheist I caught. His rant was pointless, derogatory and condescending in the extreme. I suspect that if his argument is representative, then there is little hope for the future of humankind at all.

More recently, we have had the education department insisting that atheism be taught as part of the curriculum for Religious Education (RE), which has to be the ultimate oxymoron. Atheism is hardly a religion. But, neither is common sense in these politically correct times.

I hope that my poor sermon offering provides at least som food for thought, and may you have peace, joy and strength to face the week ahead.

Pax vobiscum.

+ May the words in my mouth and on my lips,
be the message of our Lord and saviour,

"Do not be surprised my brothers, if the world hates you."

I am not normally a reader of Guardian. This may not be too much of a surprise to some, if not all of you. However, while searching the Internet news agencies I came across two reports from that paper, which gave me cause to stop and read. The first was a report that someone called the Church Society was planning direct action against our Archbishop designate because they disagree with his appointment. The second was a column written by Polly Toynbee entitled "Religion isn't nice. It kills." As I said, I am not normally a reader of the Guardian, and now I have an even better reason not to be.

It isn't religion that kills, it is the basest of all human errors - self delusion and self justification. Reading Ms Toynbee and other commentators of the same mindset, one could be excused for thinking that the world does hate all those who dare to profess a belief in something higher than the human ego. The trigger for Ms Toynbee's article is the BBC's refusal to allow time on "Thought for the day" to Atheist and Humanist thinkers. Had she listened to the experimental slot that was allocated to an Oxford academic, she might not have been surprised. The gentleman in question spent his ninety seconds pouring derision on everyone who didn't share his view of a creation that happened all by itself and is now guided by human enlightenment. Thank you, but I prefer the supposed darkness and mysticism of my spiritual relationship with God to the alleged light of human understanding.

The problem for so many of this ilk is that they seem unable to separate the plethora of religious “religiosity” from the message of the gospel. They cannot see the wood for the trees. Indeed, it is a problem we all face in varying degrees. The Islamic suicide bomber believes he is going to a very carnal sounding heaven; but you won’t find that in the Koran – it is the invention of those who seek to use religion for their own ambition.

Consider for a moment why we are here and not perhaps at Holy Trinity or even at the Mosque in Cheltenham. It is probably because we choose to worship in a certain way – to celebrate if you like – our relationship with God. It is also quite possibly because we were raised in a certain culture or belief system. The problem comes in when someone or some organisation tries to force us to change what we approve of or prefer to something that they or it consider too be more valid. That is the root of religious conflict. In that sense, Ms Toynbee is right – religion is not nice; it kills - or, is used as an excuse to kill.

Yet that is not as it should be. St John refers to us and all who embrace the Gospel as "Children of God". Writing probably from Ephesus John has the benefit of having been close to Christ, yet, even in his own congregation, there are those who challenge his understanding and try to put their own interpretation forward as superior. If we truly follow Christ and are fully in union with him as we sit in our churches and worship Him, we should not be in conflict. If we are indeed the children of God then we are, as St John asserts, not so by adoption. He uses the Greek word which suggests that we are "begotten" as children and, as such, we cannot continue to sin. And it is a sin to be in conflict with other members of Christ’s body and probably even with members of other Faiths. That is not to say that we should be supine in the face of aggression or of attempts to drive our faith from our hearts. No, instead it is incumbent upon us to seek reconciliation and rapprochement with those who “hate” us.

The problem for those outside of Faith, any faith, is that they cannot accept that neither the Gospel nor any other Holy Book, promises heaven here on earth in material terms. It does promise wealth, acceptance and life in terms of the spirit, something none of us can have experience of until we pass from this life to the next. No human metaphors can describe it, another problem for those outside of faith.

John admits that he does not know what our future shape or state of being will be, except that it will be the same as Christ's because we shall see him as he is. Patently this implies that we could not do so if we were not in the same state. Those who deny faith simply cannot envisage a state of being that does not involve a physical body. Like St John, I feel that this is not important, but, to someone whose very sense of being is tied to position, rank, power or influence may well find that to be a stumbling block.

Have you noticed that whenever a person declares they do not believe in God, they almost immediately qualify it by saying that they do believe in something else? Those who deny God's existence now proclaim the Godhead of Humanity. All that is good in life, according to this argument comes from the innate goodness of humanity. I was glad to see that even Ms Toynbee acknowledges that Joe Stalin and Adolf Hitler were not religiously motivated - but she immediately qualifies that by adding that they acted with religious zealotry!

I do not think that the world hates us; I do think they are indifferent. For that I rather fear we must in part accept the blame. Yes, we have made a mess of something beautiful, but we need to remember that at its best Christianity has given rise to advances in art, literature, science and morality. The world we currently enjoy is not the creation of the Polly Toynbee's of this world, but of the great Christian religious thinkers of the 19th Century and before. It is the Augustines, Cuthberts, Gregorys and, yes, the Wilberforces, Peels, Gladstones and even Disrealis who, motivated by their desire to put into practice the message of the Gospel, have shaped our society. Without the Christian message we would, in all likelihood, still be sacrificing goats before statues, and crucifying our enemies on hilltops and public roadways.

St John charges us with the words of Christ to his disciples; "Love one another." We cannot love each other and still be at odds, and, if we love each other, we demonstrate our love for God. This is where I wish I were a Greek scholar, for reading St John's letter in our translation we lose many of the nuances expressed in the Greek.. The choice of language in the original leaves the reader in no doubt that, to John, the Devil was as real as Christ. It also leaves the reader with a greater sense of his wonder at the grace and greatness of a God who could take all who truly turn to him and try to walk in his grace, as his own begotten children.

As Children begotten of God we need to seek a deeper understanding of our Faith and to work to understand those who for whatever reason cannot come to terms with it. We need to seek to meet God in all that we do and all that we say one to another to avoid crossing from light into darkness. In the light there is ever hope for it dispels the darkness, but if we shut ourselves off from the light, there is no hope and no light to guide us.

Walk in the light and let the Lord be your strength and shield.

+ In the name of the Father
And of the Son
And of the Holy Ghost.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:41 PM

February 21, 2004

And so to bed .....

Samuel Pepys diaries are a fascinating insight into the world of the 17th Century, and this little guy certainly wrote a pretty detailed account. His escapades with the ladies notwithstanding, he is the real father of the Royal Navy - and probably laid more of the groundwork for the build up of the fleet which would secure the empire it built than anyone else.

His days were packed full of business (he was Secretary for the Navy) and mischief. He seems to have spent a lot of time leaping into the beds of ladies the King had just left!

His account of the destruction of the City of London by the Great Fire of 1666 is still the most complete account anywhere. His own home, though threatened, was not destroyed and he was able to return there after the fire and continue his writing. Worth a read if you are interested in the history of this country at a key stage in its development.

So, perhaps his quirky penning of the phrase at the end of each day - "And so to bed" - had more going for it than meets the eye!

Unlike Mr Papys, I shall be retiring to my solitary bed - Good night.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)

Messing about in boats

One of my favourite pastimes has always been messing about in boats. I found this picture in my great tidying exercise and couldn't resist using it here. This was the Monk's pride and joy - a Fireball Class dinghy which taught him more about how to capsize than any other boat he has ever sailed, but, oh boy, what a buzz!

A much younger Monk and his family (one still in the future!) with the aptly named racing dinghy at Bloemspruit dam in 1982.

Sadly, I am not now as nimble as one needs to be to sail something like this. Now I go for armchair sailing! Ah, but the memories, I can still feel the exhiliration as this beauty skipped over the water!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:57 PM

February 20, 2004

Friday Five

As its Friday, I thought I'd give the Friday Five a whirl. Here we go then ....

When was the last time you...

1. ...went to the doctor?
.... last November - Gall Bladder's playing up.

2. ...went to the dentist?
.... end of October, I broke a tooth and have to go back to have it crowned.

3. ...filled your gas tank?
.... if you mean my car's fuel tank, last Thursday. Actually, come to think of it, as I drive a diesel, I don't use gas or gasoline!

4. ...got enough sleep?
... can't remember.

5. ...backed up your computer?
... last weekend. Burned two new CD's to make sure I don't lose anything next time it crashes!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:44 PM | Comments (2)

More quotes

Britain declared war on Japan soon after the US. The Royal Navy signalled all ship's and shore stations with the news. One group receiving the signal was a small group of escorts struggling to herd a convoy of reluctant merchantmen across the Atlantic. The Flotilla leader decoded the signal and relayed it to all the other escorts by lamp and flag hoist. The signal read:
"Commence hostilities with Japan."

One of the escorts immediately flashed a reply:
"Request permission to finish breakfast first."

Another equally facetious response to a signal arose during the 1949 Yangtse crisis, when two Frigates were despatched up the river to retrieve foreign nationals. The first frigate negotiated a tricky bend in the river and slowed to await its consort. After an interval the consort failed to appear, so the signal was made:
"Where are you?"
"Regret have become semi-permanent feature of the Chinese landscape."

Or the WW2 destroyer returning from an Atlantic convoy up the Mersey, having survived a really bad weather crossing, but having lost her top masts and suffered other damage to her upperworks. Signal from a ship leaving for escort duty:
"How come?"
"Scraping under low cloud."

And another of Churchill's famous put downs -

Lady Astor: "Winston, if you were my husband I would flavour your coffee with poison!"Churchill: "Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Close of play

Well, another week over. Tonight I have completed the washing, most of the ironing and managed to clear two boxes of stuff I have been hording for some reasson for a long time. Ever noticed how it gets easier to simply bin stuff as you get into the swing of this? I think my local council may be looking for a serious payment once I am finished.

Is this of any interest to anyone else? Probably not, but it explains why posting is so light at the moment.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:08 PM | Comments (4)

February 19, 2004

The future of humanity?

bs galactica.bmp

A friend sent me the image I have uploaded, knowing that I was a huge fan of the first show when it aired and I am still a fan of all sci-fi of this genre. But it also prompted a thought train ...

Recently I have been reading a number of scientific journals which make it pretty clear that something is happening to our planet and we don't really know what or why. You could take the usual Green Party line and blame it all on the Industrial nations, or you could argue that its all down to the destruction of rain forests, increasing desertification and so on. It doesn't solve the fundamental dilemma. In a few generations we could be facing extinction on this planet as the climate changes drastically. Now I am not normally given to flights of this sort, but there are some serious concerns here and they are far more complex than the media, the Greens and some of the tunnel vision scientis would have us believe.

Our planet is currently a blue/green world which enjoys a temperate atmosphere and a huge reserve of water, but it was not always thus, and will not always be thus.

Currently we are seeing an accelerating rate of climate change around the world. The polar ice caps are in retreat and the oceans are warming. Winters are now milder than ever in recorded history and we don’t really know why it is happening – nor could we stop it if we did know. Remember the comic books of the 60’s? The ones that had imaginative pictures of future cities enclosed in huge glass domes, climate controlled weather? Well, I guess that its unlikely we’ll see anything controlling the weather, and the domed cities are probably not viable either. But, we will need to find a way to live in a planet that is seemingly heading into one of its less friendly climatic changes.

This is not the first time it’s happened either. The evidence is there for those who are open to scientific debate, that the planet has more than once gone through a prolonged “warm” phase in which the deserts covered most of the exposed surface, vegetation was decimated and animal life reduced to a struggle for the survival of the fittest. In between it has been covered in ice and been even drier because, as those who have seen pictures of the barren Antarctic plateau will know, if you want real dry, freeze it!

We are currently bombarded with information, both of the reliable type and of the totally unproven sort, that “global warming” is either a natural phenomenon or the result of industrial activity. It probably isn’t both, and it is doubtful that we have the ability to do more than interfere on a micro-level. Even the famous CFC “Ozone hole” seems to be related to solar activity, although the banning of CFC’s does seem to have had some impact. The fact is that the Ozone hole has occurred before and the fossil records and other indicators show this. In fact, unless some of our ice-age forebears were playing around with CFC’s there is a strong case for saying that something else is also at work.

The one positive thing that has come out of all the scare mongering by researchers seeking funding, “pro-world” bodies attracting members and funding and the lunatic fringe seeking a return to a supposedly peaceful and beautiful “simplicity” state, is that we are learning a great deal about just how fragile our existence is. Let’s face it, this planet is as it is and able to support the life it does, only because it occupies a very critical position in the orbit around the sun. That and the stability it gets from having a moon the size of the one we have. Another couple of million miles further away from the sun and the oceans freeze, the atmosphere dries out and all life comes to an end. A few million the other way and we’re way to warm to support life or keep the oceans liquid. At present we are in a narrow “optimum” range from the sun, but two things seem to be happening to change this. The sun is apparently getting hotter and our orbit is a bit variable.

In short, we could wind up – in a couple of million years or so (or maybe a couple of hundred thousand) – looking like Venus. We don’t really have a handle on the time-scales for this either. All we do know is that it has happened in the distant past, and it appears to have happened quite suddenly.

All of which puts a different spin on the whole thing about the exploration of space. The International Space Station is a start, but we will need to build something a lot bigger and a lot more sophisticated if we are to “save mankind” from itself and from whatever natural exterminator is creeping up on us. Every Dollar, Pound, Euro, Yen or Yuen spent on developing a workable space platform and on workable vehicles for the exploration of deep space will one day prove to be of critical value – and probably pay its providers a dividend way beyond any current set of values.

The only thing I wonder about at this juncture is who will have the nerve to face down the whining, whinging lobbies who feel that its all a huge waste of money which should be better spent on programmes to return us all to eco-friendly mud huts and organic farming. Yes, we need to save the planet, but we also need a lifeboat. With six billion people and rising, it will need to be a pretty big one or a large fleet of them. Either that or accept that only the bold nation which pursues this “dream” will one day be the human gene type that passes from this solar system to a new one.

Back in 1979 when the first airing of Battlestar Galactica was hitting the screens, many scoffed at the concept. I suggest that we better start taking a look at how we make it happen, it could be the lifeboat we need

The NASA Shuttles moved us a step nearer being able to build the Battlestar, but then we lost momentum. I suggest that it is time to move forward again. In the process we will learn a lot, we will have a few more tragedies and we will get a lot wrong, but the ultimate prize will be worth the sacrifice. We are creatures of mortality, and we are creatures who thrive in endeavour.

As the Star Trek fans will know, we need to “Boldly go, where no man has gone before” if we, as a species are to continue in the evolutionary process I believe we have been put here to complete.

I wish I could live to see it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:14 PM

Lost in prayer?

My thanks to MommaBear for a link to a site called Indigo insights for a different take on the Lord's Prayer.

How would you respond to having Him answer when you called?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:50 PM

February 18, 2004

Quotable quotes

"Sir, I have found you an argument. I am not obliged to find you an understanding." Dr Samuel Johnson, Lexicographer

"It is the error of many, to mistake the echo of the London Coffee House, for the voice of the nation." The Very Reverend Dr Jonathon Swift, Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin 1745

"Fabricate diem, Punc" - motto of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch

"Congratulations. Twice a knight and at your age too." Signal from CinC Eastern Fleet, Admiral Sir James Somerville, to CinC Mediteranean Fleet, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham upon the award of a second Order of Knighthood.

"Congratulations on the repayment of a twenty five year old debt." - signal from Vice Admiral commanding Force H to CinC Mediteranean Fleet after the Taranto raid by aircraft from the fleet.
"Thank you, but so far only on one cheek." Reply from Sir Andrew Cunningham, a reference to his having been embarassed twenty five years earlier by Italian CinC Admiral Iachino's kissing him on both cheeks at Cunningham's wedding aboard his own ship.

"Madam, you are ugly. In the morning I will be sober!" Sir Winston Churchill to a society lady who had accused him of being drunk. (He probably was!)

"Mr Speaker, the Honourable Member for XXXXX, is being extremely economical with the truth in this matter!" Sir Winston again during a debate in the House of Commons - accusing another member of lying.

"Nil mortifii, sine lucre". - Motto of the Guild of Assassins, Ankh-Morpork

"Nunc id vides, Nunc ne vides" - motto of the Unseen University, Ankh-Morpork aluminus of the Discworlds Wizarding Fraternity.

and one for the educationally challenged in the Latin department ....

"Sodomy non sapiens!"

and finally, another signal from the Royal Navy's signal logs.

"Who knocked that lighthouse down and why?" signal from the Fleet Gunnery Commander during a shore bombardment. (Lighthouses were regarded as non-targets - they were too useful as aiming marks!)

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We are experiencing technical difficulties ....

My apologies to anyone who has posted a comment recently. I am not ignoring them, but at present I can't post a response because the anti-SPAM and anti-offensive comments system seems to think I am attacking my own site. Oh well, I shall discuss this with the Guru and see what we can work out. I shall have to talk to him anyway, because I have uploaded a picture - probably to the wrong archive!

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:01 PM | Comments (5)

EU "National" Anthem?

An interesting item from Fainting in Coyles by Terrance, flags up the prospect of the Council of Europe imposing a neat little ditty for all us nice "new" Europeans to sing along too.

Oh, what rapture! Now we can all be so cosy and comfortable together.

He has also commented on the debacle of the Radio 4 talk show cut abruptly short the other day, because the guest speaker dared to stray from the PC line that we need to be a police state to prevent us nasty Anglo-Saxon types from going about and beating up everyone in sight who is from an ethnic group or persuasion that we do not approve of.

How true the comment recently from a retired WW2 RAF Fighter Pilot, that had the war gone Hitler's way, the Gestapo would have had no problem finding recruits in the UK. We must be the only country in Europe that slavishly adopts ever comma and fullstop of every Directive, bolts on a complete wishlist of everything else we can think of, and enforces it as strictly as we can.

I will confess that I do not admire a great deal about the French and their attitude to everyone who isn't French, but I begin to think they have a point in the way that they deal with cultures in France, You're either French or you are not. You may be white, black, brown, yellow or skyblue/pink French, or, if you want to be anything else, you're not French. Simple, avoids all sorts of complications and at least everyone knows where they stand. Multicultural? Not in France! Definitely NOT PC.

I guess, that sums up the problem of the Anthem really, they even had to write it in Latin so it would not offend anyone by being any of the current 20+ represented in the EU. How very PC.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:57 PM

Even a bad day can get worse ...

My thanks to a good friend in SA for this timely reminder ......


Suddenly the day seems to have got a whole heap less depressing!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:01 PM

Brain usage? You mean I have one?

Found this test via Practical Penumbra and her Piratical Kitten, but it comes from Mind Media

Your Brain Usage Profile

Auditory : 35%
Visual : 64%
Left : 42%
Right : 57%

You possess an interesting balance of hemispheric and sensory characteristics, with a slight right-brain dominance and a slight preference for visual processing.

Since neither of these is completely centered, you lack the indecision and second-guessing associated with other patterns. You have a distinct preference for creativity and intuition with seemingly sufficient verbal skills to be able to translate in any meaningful way to yourself and others.

You tend to see things in "wholes" without surrendering the ability to attend to details. You can give them sufficient notice to be able to utitlize and incorporate them as part of an overall pattern.

In the same way, while you are active and process information simultaneously, you demonstrate a capacity for sequencing as well as reflection which allows for some "inner dialogue."

All in all, you are likely to be quite content with yourself and your style although at times it will not necessarily be appreciated by others. You have sufficient confidence to not second-guess yourself, but rather to use your critical faculties in a way that enhances, rather than limits, your creativity.

You can learn in either mode although far more efficiently within the visual mode. It is likely that in listening to conversations or lecture materials you simultaneously translate into pictures which enhance and elaborate on the meaning.

It is most likely that you will gravitate towards those endeavors which are predominantly visual but include some logic or structuring. You may either work particularly hard at cultivating your auditory skills or risk "missing out" on being able to efficiently process what you learn. Your own intuitive skills will at times interfere with your capacity to listen to others, which is something else you may need to take into account.

Yep, a pretty fair summary really - I do tend to let my mind wander when listening! Oops!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:51 PM

February 17, 2004

Spy versus Spy

One of my favourite cartoon strips from the "Old" Mad Magazine (Alfred E Newman and his "What? Me worry?") used to be Spy versus Spy. These days I live quite close to the "secret" installation known as GCHQ, with its huge glass "Doughnut" building on view from the M5 and other "local" roads. A lot goes on there, but the more interesting bits are actually somewhere else - like deep underground in a couple of places around this area.

Well, we have lately been treated to the spectacle of the "spooks" celebrating that nice Mr Blair's having allowed their Trade Unions back into the site after that nasty Mrs Thatcher threw them out when they threatened to disrupt the intelligence gathering for the Falklands War. And guess what? one of them has decided that her view of the world order takes precedence over the safety and security of the troops she is supposed to be supporting.

Again from An Englishman's Castle I learn that Katherine Gun is to be tried for her efforts to disrupt the requested surveillance of signal traffic from some members of the UN Security Council. I have no doubt that she will get away with it, the liberal justice system will undoubtedly decide that her "moral stance" is laudable, completely ignoring the fact that she took the money to do as she was told. If she didn't want to do it, she should simply have resigned. Instead, she took a line of action which could have jeopardised the safety of every soldier, sailor or airman who did do as he/she was told and did their duty.

A generation ago, she would have been shot or hung for treason. Perhaps its time to reconsider this tendency? At present, there is nothing of this debacle in the UK Press. I wonder why?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:30 PM | Comments (2)

Strike? What strike?

Today 80,000 (some reports say (85,000) civil servants have gone on a 48 hour strike. Apart from the 5,000 odd learner drivers whose tests will now not happen today, I doubt if many people will even notice. Why are they striking? Well, it seems that most of them - and here its worth explaining that we have a three tier civil service; those at the top in "Grades", those in the middle rejoicing in titles like AA, AO, EO, HEO, SEO and so forth, and those like me who are "employed by the civil service", but can't move to another post or job - are in that middle band, and have at last realised that they are a semi-permanent underclass.

You see the upper echelons - Grades 1 to 7, are the people who inhabit the "management" and talk to the man who talks to the Minister. And they have, over the years made sure that they have had the cream while everyone below them has had to make do with the semi-skimmed or skimmed. Years of pay settlements based on percentage increases have sent the tope salaries rocketing while ensuring that the grunts in the lower echelons fall further and further behind. This applies to the "Honours" system as well. The guys at the top get all the top honours, the little people at the bottom are lucky to get a medal at all - usually its just the watch and the handshake.

The other trick that is played on these folk is the issue of "consolidation" of any increment they are given in the pay round. Say the award is for an increase of 3%, the Treasury then agrees the award, but then restricts the "consolidated" portion to 2%. The effect of this is to limit the overall award to 2% as the consolidation actually only increases the annual salary bands by that figure and not by 3% as agreed. This is done to limit the pensions liability among other neat little wheezes, but is always consolidated in a different manner above the Grade 7 level. In effect the grunts get 2% plus a small "bonus", the fat cats at the top get 3% and lets face it 3% of £70k is a great deal more than 3% of £20k which is the average level of the majority of those now on strike.

So now the "little" players have had enough. Sadly though, their jobs are the least likely to be missed - even though they are the only ones that actually do anything useful - and so, as An Englishmans Castle gleefully reports, they are probably now lining themselves up for the Blair/Brown axe.

If he can save £15 billion by axing 80,000 grunts, think how much could be saved by axing all the incompetents in the Grade 1 - 7 bands! Just for the record, someone on Grade 7 starts at £45k and it climbs from there.

Come on Tone, get real Gordon, let's be really creative - axe the lot! Contract it all the deLoitte Touche or Price Waterhouse - it has to be cheaper.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:09 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2004

Catching up, slowly!

Returned to work today and landed in the middle of one of those "I told you so" situations. Several chickens have landed to roost with a vengence and suddenly there is panic among the cotery who have thus far refused to accept that there are problems brewing. Well, they have arrived. Guess who is now asked to sort it all out.

Ah, but does he feel inclined to do so. Not really, but I might do just enough to keep the wheels turning until it really hurts.

That said, the day has been rather a good one - a long drawn out battle for more resources has been won and now I have only to get thenm delivered and the whole operation relocated - another thing that has been rumbling on for almost a year - and we're home dry. Until the next crisis.

All this has meant that I was not able to do my lunchtime visit to my favourite blogs, so haven't really caught up on everyone else's day either. My evening beinmg taken up with Estate Agent and a friend and his wife insisting I join them for a meal, means that there hasn't been time tonight either. I did manage to visit Ozguru at Gday Mate briefly and caught some of his ramble about the difference in pricing of Notebook computers between Oz and the States. Certainly a dramatic shift in cost. This sort of price differential is always difficult to understand and is the sort of thing we encounter in a lot of things here in the UK. Some things cost considerably more if purchased in the UK as opposed to purchasing them in, say, The Netherlands. Even when it is manufactured in Britain and exported to the EU?

And no, it is not the Euro versus Sterling, it is everything to do with tax differences - thanks Robber Baron Brown.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:56 PM

February 15, 2004

And now for something completely different ...

I came across a copy of a version of the old nursery rhyme "Oranges and lemons" as I was clearing out some of my rubbish in preparation for some serious packing up. It is one of those poems one learns and seldom considers the message conveyed in it.

Firstly it tells a little about each community served by a particular church, secondly it is a geographic record of the churches as some no longer exist. I have managed to visit most of those that do still function, and one or two that fell victim to the bombs and fires and have not been rebuilt. Geographically they start in the West (St Clement Danes in the Strand) and go East in a circuit of the City Churches and then outward ending at St Peter's, Bromley le Bow in the east End. This actually takes you out of the City to both West and East as The Strand is outside the City boundary to the West and Aldgate is the Eastern Boundary. Everything East of that is in Tower Hamlets, but some of the bells named after Aldgate are in the City.

The final couplet is thought to refer to the beheading of Anne Boleyn.

The full poem as I have it is:

Gay go up and gay go down to ring the bells of London Town.
Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement's,
Bull's eyes and targets, say the bells of St Marg'ret's.
Brickbats and tiles, say the bell's of St Giles.
Pancakes and fritters, say the bells of St Peter's.
Two sticks and an apple, say the bells at Whitechapel.
Old Father Baldpate, say the slow bells at Aldgate.
Maids in white aprons, say the bells at St Catherine's.
Pokers and tongs, say the bells of St John's.
Kettles and pans, say the bells at St Anne's.
You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St Martin's.
When will you pay me, say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.
Pray when will that be, say the bells of Stepney?
I'm sure I don't know, says the great bell at Bow.

So there you have it. For the record, St Gile's is in an area known as "Old Jewry" also called "Cripplegate", but can be found now in the Barbican centre. Whitechapel and Aldgate were the sites of two famous bell foundry companies and one is still in operation, although their casting is now done elsewhere. St Peter's was in the Bakers quarter near the Fenchurch Street Station. St Martin's is in the Banking District off Cornhill and Shoreditch was the centre of much of the shipping activity, while St John's and St Anne's were in areas associated with iron and brass foundry work.

The Church at Aldgate is a post 1666 building and is dedicated to St Botolph, which probably accounts for why it isn't named - not a lot to rhyme with! St Margaret's and St Catherines I have not managed to find, nor can I claim to have identified the Stepney Church as there are two that claim the honour.

Oh, and the opening line is a reference to the "ringing" method on the bells. They are mounted on a swinging frame which allows the bell to be inverted and "set". This brings the "change rope" "up". A sharp tug, starts the bell "down" and this first drops the rope, then draws it up again as the bell completes a full cycle and the ringer has to control the bell to bring it to a standstill "set" for the next cycle.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little bit of nonsense, and I wish you all a good week ahead.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:53 PM

Sunday Sermon

Sorry folks, another very late post, and another "recycled" sermon, this one from last year, but at least it is the right Sunday! The readings are from the Book of Common Prayer (1662) as authorised for use in the Church of England.

I wish I could have posted the sermon I heard earlier this evening preached by our Assistant Curate, the retired former Chief Chaplain of the RAF, the Venerable Peter, also known as "Father Prior". It certainly had us sit up and think. I hope that my own offering from last year provides som food for thought at least.

Sung Eucharist

+ God be in my head
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
And in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
And in my speaking.

This mornings Epistle can be described as St Paul having a bad day. Obviously, a very bad day. You could describe it as a really thorough rant at the Corinthians, but it also reminds us that there is no easy passage through our faith. Paul’s account of all the hardships he has suffered for the Gospel is almost enough to put anyone with a lesser determination off completely, and it also reminds us that we too have to make a journey.

Many years ago, as a Sunday School teacher, I was given a book to work from and for one of the Sundays, a story about St Peter fleeing Rome and his impending death was the set lesson. You may be familiar with it; it is often referred to as the “Quo vadis” legend. In essence it describes how Peter, fleeing his imminent seizure and crucifixion at the hands of the authorities, meets Jesus on the Appian way. Peter asks Jesus the question; “quo vadis?”; "where are you going?" Jesus replies; "to Rome; to take your place."

I am told that there is a church built on the spot where this meeting is said to have occurred. The rest of the story is straightforward. Shamed by his Lord’s willingness to take his place, Peter returned to face the authorities and was crucified upside down at his own request – arguing that he was not worthy to be placed on the cross in the same manner as his God and Saviour.

For all Christians the question Peter asked of Christ that night, is a valid one we should all ask ourselves. Where are we going? Life does not stand still, it is constantly moving forward, as the great funeral hymn says “Time like an ever rolling stream bears all it’s sons away”. Life is a journey, and any journey must have a direction, a destination and a purpose. Therefore we need, from time to time, to ask the question, “Where are we going?”

St Paul’s rant to the Corinthians is as much about this question as it is about some of the issues he raises with such vehemence. Yet again, he is faced with a congregation that has backslid, it has been “got at” by a host of new teachers, some of them perhaps even disciples of other Apostles, who are trying to impose a different set of values to those Paul has taught. It is about the direction that this congregation will take in future; It is about the spiritual growth that must occur in order for the faith to take root firmly and for the journey for each individual to continue.

Having sown the seed, Paul is seeking to ensure that as many as possible stay in the fertile ground of the living word. Others, it seems, had a vision of holding things back, perhaps clinging to familiar patterns – one issue was admission to the church and the requirement for circumcision. Paul, Peter and several others held that it was not necessary, baptism was sufficient, but others felt and argued strenuously that it was essential. Echoes of this debate can be found in many of the other letters as well – see Colossians, see Ephesians and see the letters of Peter and Jude, and you get some idea of just how difficult some of these questions were and remain.

Today’s parable from our Gospel reading also makes plain that we cannot stand still. To bear fruit, the seed must germinate, must develop, must itself produce seed, and that in turn must bring the next cycle. Failing to germinate, produces nothing, failing to take root effectively may produce something, but not enough. Only the seed which falls in the fertile ground is fully productive and produces the seed which will carry the Gospel to the next generation.

We are a week and a half away from Lent, the preparation period for the greatest event in the Christian year, Our Lord’s Passion and the resurrection which brings life and hope to us all. We are all of us called to prepare ourselves to welcome Him and to celebrate our journey in Him and with Him at Easter. It behoves us to consider our progress on our journey and it is certainly essential that we ask ourselves “where are we going?” during the weeks of preparation.

Paul’s congregation at Corinth was bedeviled by arguments about how to organize the church, how to worship, what the proper rites of the church should be, the form of worship and the route to faith – the traditional Jewish way or another newer way becoming the practice favoured by the majority of the Apostles. In all of this the purpose of the journey was being submerged; put simply they had become so caught up in their arguments, that they had forgotten the message. Paul’s rebuke is a salutary one to them and the parable of the sower reminds us too that the journey is one we must make in faith, we cannot turn back, we must go forward to whatever Our Lord and Saviour has prepared for us.

In our preparations this Lent, let us therefore ask ourselves the question St Peter asked of Jesus on the Appian Way. Where are we going? Are we going to let the seed of the gospel lie fallow and unproductive within us, or are we going to nurture it and bring forth the fruit of the spirit so that we may take others with us on our journey through this life and into the next?

“Quo vadis?”

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:04 PM

February 13, 2004

Reorganising my life ....

Well, the packing and moving guys arrived bang on time yesterday and packed everything I had managed to find of my wife's things. It filled a half container and I thought I had managed to be pretty thorough, but they had no sooner gone than I discovered at least another box full of stuff I had missed. Never mind, it will eventually join the rest, it will have to wait a little though as I have now to concentrate on reducing my junk piles.

One benefit of this is going to be the fact that I will at last have shed, dumped or otherwise disposed of a vast amount of stuff I have been carrying around for years for no purpose at all! I confess to being something of a packrat - I am always reluctant to throw anything away, so I have boxes of papers, clothes that are so far past their usable best ( and which no longer fit me anyway) that one wonders why I keep them. No more! There will be a severe pruning over the next couple of days, followed by some serious packing up so that, as soon as I have somewhere new, I can pack a van and go!

This is quite a small house, and storage has always been a problem, but now that all my wife's book collection is removed, I discover I can reduce the number of bookcases in the house by five. That still leaves me with eight, but it is a start. Its amazing what I am finding as well, now that I am at it. Things I thought I had disposed of have come back to haunt or to be resurrected.

One thing will definitely change. Junk mail will, from now on, go straight into the garbage! Ah well, at least I can make the effort. And now, back to the grindstone! There is another pile of junk to sort out! The Charity shops will be doing well out of all this!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:11 PM | Comments (2)

February 12, 2004

Arakan campaign

A little over a year ago I was given a book entitled "Trombay to Changi" and it is a wonderful record of the reminisences of a group of retired Royal Navy and Royal Indian Navy officers who served in Coastal Forces in Burma and the Bay of Bengal operational theatre.

One senses their frustration that so little of the subsequent history of the War and especially the war in the Far East barely gives their efforts a mention. Its almost a case of "Oh yes, Burma." I can say that in my extensive collection of books on naval history and the history of the second world war, there is almost no mention of the efforts of coastal forces in this theatre. Of the Arakan campaign and of the landings at Ramree Island in particular, the book "The Forgotten Fleet" makes great mention of the destroyers that took part and of the landing craft (there were very few!) but apart from mentioning one incident in which the ML's intercepted and captured some Japanese swimmers, they do not get much of a look in.

There were several flotillas involved in the whole campaign, three officially designated RIN, one a Burmese group equipped with Thorneycroft ML's initially which had escaped from Rangoon as the Japanese entered, and the 49th Flotilla of the South African Naval Force. This group fought in this theatre from 1942 through to the bitter end and got precious little recognition for their efforts. They were later joined (January 1945) by the 37th and the 38th Flotillas, the latter arriving just in time for the push to Rangoon, yet, this small book apart, I have seen almost nothing of their efforts in any "official" account.

To put the record staight, the Arakan campaign was a hard slog for the 14th Army (Chindits) who had to be supplied by air drop and by chaung when the Navy could get a boat up to them. Sometimes the ML's had to take Army patrols up the chaungs and deposit them behind enemy lines, then retrieve them again a week or more later. The trick (remembering that there were no charts for the chaungs and everyone relied on sharp eyes and the skippers local knowledge or the notes of another skipper in the Flotilla), was to get up the chaungs during the night, then lie under camoflage during the day and work your self further up the next night.

The Japanese were also using the chaungs to supply their troops and so, from time to time some really nasty, and usually short, close range dog fights between boats could develop, usually ending with one side or the other in flames. Then, of course, having stirred the hornets nest, you had to get out again, past a now thoroughly aroused enemy! Air cover was not often available so a sharp lookout had to be kept for enemy aircraft and sometimes allied ones as well, who failed to identify a friend in "foe" territory.

None of these boats had refrigeration on board so everything had to be carried either tinned or dehydrated. If they were lucky a raid could produce a source of fresh food and everyone would dine like a king for as long as this lasted.

The boats all operated from different "home" ports at various times, but the Arakan campaign saw most operating at least part of the time from Teknaf on the Northern border of Burma. Here they were occasionally subjected to air attack but as the army moved further South the attacks gradually became a thing of the past. Heat, humidity, mosquitoes and leeches all took their toll. Clothes rotted in lockers, ventilation below decks was not up to the heat and most chose to sleep on deck when the chance offered.

My father told a very funny story of how, on an occasion that their skipper had to report aboard the flagship it was found that none of his tropical uniforms were serviceable - mildew had struck and they were falling to bits, and a whip round of the crew produced a pair of white shorts from an AB, a shirt from the PO Coxswain, socks from another rating and shoes from my father. Only his epaulettes and cap were his own as he went ashore to his briefing and meet the Admiral aboard the smart, newly arrived, battleship serving as flagship.

It speaks volumes that these men put up with it and still joked about it years later.

I have reason to know what scars the campaign left on my father, so I have the greatest respect for all those who served in this forgotten theatre. Between the Coastal Forces and the 14th Army a large Japanese force was tied down defending the Burmese coast and jungle - a force which could have been deployed against the US forces "island hopping". Perhaps it is time for their contribution to receive wider recognition than it has thus far.

"Trombay to Changi" is pretty rare - it was privately printed and distributed, but it is available if you search Amazon and AbeBooks. Best of luck, it makes an interesting read.

You may also wish to read the post on the subject of our declining armed forces , shrinking under the mismanagement of the bombproof Civil Servants and incompetent politicians at An Englishman's Castle.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:22 PM

February 11, 2004


To anyone who has visited recently and left a comment, I will reply and do a round up of them at some stage in the next few days. At the moment I am a little pressed for time due to having a packing and moving company arriving to collect my wife's goods and chattals. Then I have quite a bit of sorting out of my own stuff and a house to prepare for sale.

All tasks I hate, all things guaranteed to be quite emotionally draining, but all tasks that have to be done.

Please bear with me, I should be mostly sorted out by next week. In the meantime I will continue to post when I have moment - provided the computer at home doesn't throw any more wobblies either! I think it senses a move coming on - and its feeling delicate. Last night it crashed three times while I was trying to back up some very important files to a CD. By the time that was finished there wasn't time to do any blogging.

In the words of a certain Governor and sometime actor - "I'll be baack!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:15 PM

Descent into madness?

There are definitely times when I think the General Synod needs to be scrapped, or at least reduced to a mere forum for discussion, rather than its current role as the governing council of the Church of England. This is one of them.

Not only are we treated to the spectacle of a debate on homo sexual relations and of recognition of unmarried partnerships, single parent families and how these should affect a persons suitability to be a minister, member, bishop or whatever in the church, but now we must also have revision of the Gospel as well. It seems that the story (in St Matthews Gospel - Chapter 2 for the curious!) is regarded by some idiot on the synod as being possibly "sexist" and the General Synod must, in all solemnity now debate whether or not we should continue to refer to the Magi as the "Three wise men".

Apparently whoever has raised this absolutely essential piece of stunning stupidity is suggesting that we should now consider them to have been "three possibly not very wise persons".

I have no doubt at all that some at least of the bleeding heart fraternity on the synod will agree and spend the next twenty or so years (depending on how long it takes them to decide that the Gospel and the Bible no longer have any validity at all) trying to convince the rest of us that this is the only "fair" and "reasonable" course to take - lest we cause offence to some person passing by the empty church on the other side of the road.

I find myself at a loss to understand why these people actually attend any church at all. They come in with a load of baggage which has absolutely nothing whatever to do with the Gospel message, the churches mission and the entire ethos of religion. They join congregations and then spend most of their time arguing minutia in meetings or demanding changes to services, the introduction of different styles of worship, music or preaching and generally alienate large bodies of their fellow churchgoers. I have met them in every denomination and in every walk of life. There is always some issue.

My response is always the same. If you are that unhappy with the church you are a member of, have you considered going and joining one that suits you better? The reply is always the same. "Couldn't possibly do that, I like it here, I love this place but, ..... if only you would ....."

Well, I personally have no axe to grind about gay people in the church in any role. Their sexuality is between them and God, just as are my sins of ommission and commission. I do have an axe to grind about all forms of militant campaigning for exclusive "rights" or "special recognition" for any group.

In Christ there is "no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:11)

The Church faces so many challenges in this modern age from sectarianism to apathy, from ignorance to active anti-Christian propaganda spread by ignorant teachers in secular schools teaching "Religious Education" as if it were a penance and sometimes doing so in a manner that suggests it is nothing but empty superstition.

As an adult I am in a position to sort that sort of misinformation out for myself, but a young person still not having learned the value of exploring everything of that nature for themselves, will, in the absence of any sensible and understandable information to the contrary from the church, is not. The Churches have already lost this war, the anti-religious propagandists have won - as Ignatius Loyola once remarked, "Give me a child until he is seven, and he is Christ's for life!"

It would seem that while the General Synod has fiddled and argued uselessly about complete garbage, the opportunity has been seized by the anti-religious faction. Religious Education is now the finest anti-church propaganda opportunity available to those who, like Lenin and Stalin proclaim religion to be "the opium of the people."

Well, it remains to be seen what emerges from this debate, I doubt if it will be either edifying or enriching. I know it will open many wounds and cause even more divisions than we have already. Those who are interested might find it enlightening to visit Rev Mike's posts on the issue of women in ministry and other divisions in the church to see just how certain elements of the CoE can misread and misrepresent just about anything they see as not serving their particular view. This is the mindset of the majority of those on the General Synod who table the sort of daft motion I discussed at the beginning of this rant.

I also know that none of this will serve the message of the Gospel one jot!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

Time slip

Every year in July, we have a time slip in Tewkesbury when the town is once again peopled by medieval knights, men at arms, archers and their supporters.

Armoured troops.JPG
A group of armoured men in the medieval camp.

There are re-enactments of the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471) when Henry VI's heir, Edward, Prince of Wales and Duke of Lancaster, was killed and Edward IV triumphed. The Abbey always finds itself at the centre of these festivities - as it was at the centre of the closing stages of the battle.

Last year we once more played host to the "King", his "Queen" and their "Court" as our "Prior", Father Peter, assisted by Brother Patrick and Brother Matthew blessed the Royal Standard at the start of the weekend while a large group of the Festival participants - all in medieval garb - looked on.

The Abbey is the last resting place of Edward the last Lancastrian Prince of Wales. It is also the resting place of the Duke of Somerset and all the senior Lancastrians who survived the battle only to be beheaded by Edward at the market cross the following day. The battle spilled into the nave of the Abbey and the Abbot expelled the soldiers with the Monstrance used for Benediction and the threat of everlasting damnation. He even refused the King entry while bearing arms, but was forced to surrender the soldiery that had taken refuge.

Fortunately the King did not demand the towns folks whereabouts - the women and children had been taken into the church and hidden in the roof above the nave and the transepts. Toys, household items and even childrens shoes were found in the voids in the 1960's when the roof was restored.

Today the Prince's tomb is unmarked, but a plaque in the Presbytery floor marks the fact that he is buried in the church. Behind the High Altar is the only subterranean part of the church, and here lie the bones of the Duke of Clarence - poor, purgered Clarence - and his Duchess. Ironically, it floods and the Duke is said to be swimming. Why ironic? He is purported to have been put to death by drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine - a fortified wine much like Port!

Even more ironic is the fact that he fought at Edward IV's side against the Lancastrians who occupy the North Transept and the Prince in the Choir - and they were all ultimately felled by the orders of the same man - Edward IV!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:08 AM

February 09, 2004

Flotation devices advisable

This is the Swilgate Road, Tewkesbury at the moment. More correctly its the Abbey end at the junction of Swilgate Road and Gander Lane. The municipal car park in Gander Lane and the adjacent Cricket Ground, both to the right of this picture, are under water.


The various water fowl who normally live in the Mill Avon and the Severn have taken over all the submerged area and we have swans roosting on the Abbey lawns and Mallards making themselves comfortable among the grave stones. The Abbey cat is not amused, he is being intimidated by the swans and even the Mallards are not taking any nonsense.

In a day or two the water will retreat again and things will be back to normal, so we enjoy the sight and the beauty while it lasts.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:11 PM

My first Thousand visitors!

I feel reet chooffed! As the Northern accent would have said it. I noticed as I rushed to post something on Sunday, that the site meter had logged one thousand visits to this blog since I started back in November. The visitor was recorded by Ozguru (who manages the server I operate through) and he sent me the image of the visitors profile:

If this is you, thanks for coming by, I hope you'll come visiting again!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:55 PM | Comments (2)

Star Wars

Powerful and passionate, you possess an extreme devotion to those you love, which is both a strength and a weakness. You have a strong sense of confidence in yourself which is sometimes perceived as cockiness to those who don't really know you. You like adventure, challenges, and always need something exciting to do. You're regarded with extreme respect.
If I were a Star Wars character, I would be:
Anakin Skywalker.

Oh dear! Mind you, I guess Anakin didn't HAVE to go to the Dark Side! But, I can see how easy it would be to do so .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:23 PM

Revisionist history

I find myself constantly annoyed by the tendency in certain "modern" circles of the "Cool Britannia" ilk, to rewrite bits of history in as insulting and snide a manner as possible. The latest target of this "realistic" approach to history has focussed on the Dunkirk evacuation, as portrayed by the BBC "dramatisation" entitled, imaginatively, "Dunkirk".

The makers of this latest piece of expensive drivel have used the money from the taxpayer (in the form of our Licence fee!) to make a film, purporting to be based on the "realities" of the period, which is nothing less than insulting to those who were there and who endured the traumatic event itself. Now, according to the BBC's script writers and researchers, it is to be shown in its "true" light. The owners, operators and crews of the Little Ships are to be depicted as self seeking glory hunters and profiteers - not the public spirited and brave individuals they really were.

Gone is the "myth" - BBC speak - of the selfless bravery and self sacrifice we have heretofore believed, now we are to be shown the "reality".

As I said, I find it sickening that these clowns, none of whom would have the guts to do what the men at Dunkirk did, can get away with this perversion of history and still claim that they are seeking the truth! They wouldn't recognise the truth if it hit them right between the eyes! How would they have dealt with having to approach a beach that shelved so slowly that the bigger craft were forced to lie a mile or more offshore? Some of those big ship skippers threw all caution to the winds and came in so close their ships were aground, immobilised and sitting targets for the Luftwaffe, while they hauled men aboard on lines and scrambling nets. Then they faced the task of dragging themselves off the sand using anchors laboriously laid out astern.

When it became too dangerous to do this any longer it was the smaller vessels - manned by Boy Scouts, Sea Cadets, Firemen, and weekend yachtsmen, trawlermen and cocklers who went into the beach and brought off boatload after boatload, shuttling back and forth until they were sunk, out of fuel or forced by mounting damage to abandon the boat or take her back to Ramsgate, Margate or Dover any way they could.

Yes, there are some myths about. Yes, the event took on a folklore that has possibly elevated some aspects to the detriment of others. But look at the facts.

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was extricated from the beaches, and not just them, but elements of the French Army came away as well. There were others as well, some Poles, some Belgians and a handful of others. Hitlers triumph in the French Blitzkrieg has to be seen against the fact that this enclave was held with little more than the Lee-Enfiled 0.303 rifles of the troops and a handful of field guns, for long enough to evacuate all but the Rear Guard.

So perhaps there were some who went seeking self glorification, perhaps there were some who took part hoping for personal gain. But is this a reason to trash the very real achievement of the rest? Is this a good enough reason to cast doubt on the entire events veracity?

Or perhaps, this is just another pay-off for our Illustrious Leaders having forced the BBC Governors to grovel like the spineless bunch of toadies they are.

Having had the pleasure of meeting a number of the men who did take part in the Miracle of Dunkirk, I know whose version of events I believe and I am angry that a public corporation has the damned effrontery to call into question their achievement. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the population cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction, and this film will, no doubt, be seen by many who view it as fact.

I do not intend to watch it. My blood pressure is high enough as it is!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:08 PM | Comments (3)

February 08, 2004

Exploitation of the vulnerable

The tragedy in Morecambe Bay has certainly highlighted the vulnerability of those who come to these shores in the hope of a new and better life. It seems that, despite our endless laws on labour use and supposed "protection" of workers, there are those who can circumvent them and abuse a very vulnerable group. It demeans us all that this sort of thing is going on - and we all draw a benefit from their exploitation, albeit very indirectly.

Morecambe Bay is a death trap unless you know it intimately. These folk did not, yet they were sent out to do this work in an area notorious for its quicksands and for the speed with which the tide can sweep in and cut off the unwary. These workers obviously did not know the dangers or were afraid of displeasing the Gang Master by returning to soon. The result is a tragedy we must all take responsibility for.

I know that there is a huge argument about asylum underlying all of this, but there is also cynical exploitation of the desperation of the people who are driven to rsik everything in search of a better life. And it is not just the gangmasters who are to blame, there are all those who seek to "help" the asylum seekers by encouraging them to fight being sent home, by hiding them and by, again, probably unintentionally, steering them into the "Black" economy. Then there are the politicians who muddy the waters, keep changing the rules, meddle with the processes and use the issues as a platform for their own ends. And finally there are the "Gang Masters". Every society has them, and every society finds it convenient to allow them to function - as long as we don't have to see it right under our noses.

They are an indictment of us all. At the moment, the particular Gang Masters who sent the group out to gather cockles in Morecambe Bay on Morecambe Sands will be convenient scape goats for our consciences, but ever punnet of cockles anyone buys probably came from this exploited groups efforts. Yes, we can wring our hands, yes, we can lament their deaths, and we damnded well should. But, what are we actually going to do to prevent it happening again? It isn't the police, or the trading standards or even the HSE Inspector - its us. That is the real meaning of Social Responsibility. We may appoint people to do certain things for us, but we retain the responsibility for seeming that it is done.

I hope that the Morecambe victims did not die in vain. Now let us all seek to find real solutions to these problems.

No I am not going softly left wing or trying to be liberal, I am trying to practice what I preach.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

Sunday Sermon

I'm preaching at Evensong again tonight, so have had a nice challenge to prepare a sermon this week. The lessons set in the Lectionary are:

Hosea Chapter 1, and
Collosians Chapter 3 verses 1 - 22.

Read them and you will see whay I open my sermon with ...

"There are definitely occasions, as a preacher that I open the lectionary, look up the lessons set, and think why me? What can I possibly say about any of this? Tonight’s readings are a prime example. What can I possibly do with readings that start with God instructing his prophet to marry an adulterous woman? And how do you pull this into something comprehensible with Paul on a rant about sexual impropriety? And before the sacred nine o’ clock watershed!

The Psalms from the lectionary don’t help much either and nor does the Collect, so the lessons it has to be."

Tewkesbury Abbey
3rd before Lent (Septuagesima) 2004

+ In the name of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”.

There are definitely occasions, as a preacher that I open the lectionary, look up the lessons set, and think why me? What can I possibly say about any of this? Tonight’s readings are a prime example. What can I possibly do with readings that start with God instructing his prophet to marry an adulterous woman? And how do you pull this into something comprehensible with Paul on a rant about sexual impropriety? And before the sacred nine o’ clock watershed!

The Psalms from the lectionary don’t help much either and nor does the Collect, so the lessons it has to be.

Father Richard reminded me of a Punch cartoon in which a couple leaving the church are in conversation against a background of a notice board declaring the sermon topic to be “living in decency”. The woman says to her stunned looking partner “How did the Vicar know about that?” You may well want to ask the same sort of question later!

Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah, but where Isaiah spoke to Judea, Hosea was a Northerner and spoke to an Israel that had become so lost to the word and faith of God, that it was in a really sorry state morally and spiritually. In a sense the sins of Gomer, Hosea’s wife, are representative of the sins of the nation. Each of the three children are named in a manner that speaks a message to the people. Each is, in effect, a message.

Hosea is trying to draw Israel back from the brink, a nation bent on self delusion and self destruction who neither want to hear the message of the prophet nor give up the corrupt and degrading lifestyle they have sunk too. It is a plea to turn back, to embrace the bounty of God and to use it wisely. History tells us that the message was ignored, and the Assyrian and Babylonian armies swept the nation away.

A sub-text of this story is perhaps as telling for us as the warning which is the main text. It is striking that the people used by God in this sorry tale of betrayal and faithlessness, are equally flawed and – in a pharisaic sense – totally unsuitable for the work of God. Yet God chooses to use them, and uses them caringly and lovingly to bring his purpose to the world.

Hosea’s call to the nation of Israel is in effect a call to a new beginning. This is the theme that our reading from Paul draws down,
“you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”In short, you are made new in Christ, make a Christ-like beginning in yourself. For this is part of the call of the Christian, we are called to live and work in the world, to be part of the world, but to bring to the world that grace that God has given us to show his mercy, his love and compassion and to live without self destructive behaviour.

In a career spanning, now, almost thirty-three years I have had to deal with almost every condition of humanity. Some of it is pretty hard to deal with at any level. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that some of the people I have had to retrieve from whatever disaster have arrived there by their own self indulgence and self deceit. It is a road that goes downhill gently at first, but becomes ever steeper and more difficult to draw back from as you go on. Drug abuse is one area, prostitution, so much on Paul’s mind in this letter, is another. In that context, these to readings speak to me at one particular level, to you, they may suggest something different, it amounts to the same thing. If we degrade ourselves, we lose our ability to see the path God wants us to follow and follow instead the false trail of self indulgence and whim.

The congregation at Colosse was struggling with conflicting messages, on the one hand the call to adhere to Jewish custom, practice and observance and on the other, the new way of the Last Supper and the Cross and Resurrection. Mixed into all of this is the siren call of some of the more pleasure centred pagan rites and practices. Paul is therefore adamant! If you are a Christian, then Jew or Gentile, there is only one way! Christ’s way, the new way as we are all made new in him.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”In Paul’s words this is a call to prepare ourselves in a new way, a way which is more suited to the life to come than the one we currently enjoy. This is the essence of Hosea’s message. Read on and you find that Hosea repeatedly forgives his wife’s indiscretions, even at one point apparently buying her out of slavery and reinstalling her as his wife. It is about being prepared to make sacrifices and about being prepared.

As our Collect from this morning reminded us in the opening words,
Almighty God, who alone can bring order to the unruly wills and passions of sinful humanity.
It is God who gives us the grace to live without sin, Only in Him can we hope to be able to overcome our natural tendency to always want to be self indulgent. Only in Christ do we find the grace to strive to be better and less sinful.

The underlying message from both readings is less about the nature of the sins and more about the need to live as closely as we can in God’s grace and protection. To do this we must be constant in our faith, constantly seeking renewal of our spiritual grace and constantly on our guard against the things that come between us and that grace – whatever they may be.

In traveling to many poorer countries I have been struck by two things. The first is that poverty is something that we, in this country, do not fully appreciate; the second is that when someone exploits another for their own gain, they degrade themselves and the person exploited. In Hosea’s day the wealthy surrounding the court of Jeroboam, were failing to observe the Law of Moses and worse, were actually enslaving and exploiting their own people. The wholesale adoption of pagan worship, erection of temples and abandonment of Judaism led to a rapid downward slide in the spiritual and moral health of the nation. No doubt there were people trumpeting then as in our own age, that this was the “modern” thing to do. By the time they turned to God again it was too late.

For us and for the Colossians, the message of Paul is the same. Down this road of abandoning the Good News of the resurrection, by turning back to the ‘Old’ ways which exclude so many, and by turning away from God we fail to grasp the core of our faith.

“Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

In Colosse there were those who wanted to make all converts undergo the full Jewish initiation. They wanted to turn the Good News into an exclusive Jewish message and Paul and Peter and others were arguing against this. This is the thrust of our reading tonight. Salvation lies not with the Jewish way or the Gentile way, but in Christ’s way.

In being “made new in Christ” we have the grace to avoid falling into these traps – provided we maintain the faith!

Today is Septuagesima Sunday in the “Old” calendar, the Third Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten fast. In yet another subtext both Paul and Hosea are calling to their respective flocks to be prepared and to prepare properly. This call is for us as well. As we approach Lent and begin to prepare ourselves for Easter through that season, let us consider carefully how we can better serve the Lord and those who we meet. Let us ask ourselves the important question of why? Why are we here, why do we believe, and perhaps even what do we believe.

More importantly do we believe and have faith that God our Father, working through the medium of the Holy Spirit is able to use all of us and all the talents we share for the greater good of all we meet and through us, the world?

We should, because if you look carefully at the readings we have heard tonight you can see that for those who have faith in God, who nurture that faith and are prepared to trust God, all things become not only easier, but far more rewarding than anything else we can do.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2004

Saturday ramble

Visiting Cynical Cyn's web page (as I try to catch up my reading!) and having just posted my last item on the floods around this neck of the woods, I found a hilarious post about a dog, entitled Duck Hunting. I could sure use that ability around here at the moment! Equally, her "Cyn" ism at the foot of the post entitled Hello is worth pondering and wider distribution.

Paul at All agitprop; all the time has an amusing take on the explsion which seriously damaged a "superloo" in Stoke on Trent recently. Certainly puts a new take on the expression, lightning struck the outhouse - a favourite expression in South Africa and in Australia when implying that someone could only be inspired by a major event. Pity the spokesperson from the electricity company who had to keep a straight face while trying to explain what had happened.

While trying to find my links to some of the blogs I wanted to catch up on, I just noticed that the Site Meter has just clicked over 1,000 visitors. OK, so it is over three months and nothing like the traffic other blogs get, but it certainly gives me a morale boost!

On an Englishman's Castle, Tim records the fact that motorists are striking back at the dreaded gatso camera. In one area four have been destroyed recently in a concerted campaign against them. The latest was blown up using homemade explosives. Are you listening in Whitehall? A lot of folks are getting very angry at the way we are being systematically stripped of our freedom by all the wonderful wheezes for increasing your incomes at our expense.

At Gday Mate, Ozguru is waxing annoyed at the comments of a person who uses numbers in the middle of words, as in "Pre10tious Twit", and calls the rest of us "latte drinking liberals". Likewise Practical Penumbra has a comment on this and links to Sir John of Aaaargh! who is starting a new webring for all us Pre10tious Twits. Anyway, twit though I may be, I don't drink latte, and many of my acquaintences would be surprised at the description "liberal". Having tracked this one round the various commentators who have also been incensed by the original attack, I agree with the thrust of all their comments.

MommaBear over at On The Third Hand is hosting the Carnival of the Vanities this week and is inviting entries. She is also growling about events in Iran and a couple of other things, but the one that caught my eye was this one on someone suing over the accidental exposure on television of a performers nipple! Apparently all you good American folks suffered a serious injury from this. Whiplash ....... NO! I AIN'T GOING THERE!!!!

And, as the Loony Tunes closer says "That's all folks!" Have to go - a sermon is required for tomorrow!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:32 PM | Comments (2)

Rising damp

Sited on the confluence of the Avon and the Severn, and with a local rivulet adding its quota, Tewkesbury always gets the floods a few days after the rain.

The lake where the Swilgate passes through the Abbey Vineyard Park.

The rains in North Wales and Shropshire to our North and West flow into the Severn and its tributaries and flood areas there before descending to us. When this is coupled with a Spring Tide (as it is at the moment) the effects can be quite interesting. The top end of the Bristol Channel where the Severn discharges into the sea, has a tidal range of 41 feet at the spring tides. Only the Bay of Fundi in Canada has a greater range than this.

When it coinicides with a flood, you can actually see the rise of the water level as the tides reach their maximum.

This lake forms when the Severn floods and backs water up the Avon and the Swilgate. Low lying areas and some streets go under water. The Abbey was last flooded inside in 1746. It is recorded that the then Vicar attended Evening Prayer by boat up the South Aisle>

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:17 PM

February 06, 2004

Open plan working?

A friend sent me this rather tragic tale which actually bears out a little known piece of research into working conditions. It turned up the fact that open plan offices are less productive than individual cubicles where the person has privacy and less distractions.


Probably wouldn't have helped with this lot though!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:19 PM

Feminine wiles? Or simply male disinterest?

A language teacher was explaining to her class that in French, nouns, unlike their English counterparts, are grammatically designated as masculine or feminine.

'House' in French is feminine - 'la maison'

'Pencil' in French is masculine - 'le crayon'

One puzzled student asked, 'What gender is computer?'
The teacher did not know and the word was not in her French dictionary.

So for fun she split the class into two groups appropriately enough by gender, and asked them to decide whether 'computer' should be masculine or feminine.
Both groups were required to give four reasons for their commendation.

The men's group decided that computer should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computer') because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later review; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your pay check on accessories for it.

The women's group however, concluded that computers should be masculine ('le computer') because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realise that if you had waited a little longer, you could have got a better model.

The women won!

Amazing what the French can argue about!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

More Martians

Thanks to both Ozguru and to MommaBear for their links to the images I was burbling about the other night.

The image of the Martian was on G'day mate and came originally from Utterly Boring. I really enjoyed that one - right on my funny bone. Now we know why Beagle 2 isn't working.

Thanks to MommaBear at On the third hand for the link to the JPL webpage where you can look at what the two Rovers are up too. Sadly the little guy from Utterly boring hasn't shown up at their landing sites yet. Or has he?

Thanks guys!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

Two funerals

Attending the funeral of Tom Bell yesterday (the reason for no entry yesterday), I was struck by the complete contrast between his funeral - actually a memorial service - and that of Father David a week ago.

Father David was sent off from his spiritual home, the Abbey Church with a full Requiem Mass, the choir singing the full Gabriel Faure setting (and doing it superbly!), while Tom was buried from the Crematorium with only close family in attendance and then a Memorial Service to which everybody was invited in his own "home" church. Apparently this arrangement arose because the Vicar feels that the church is for the living - the dead are not welcome.

The contrast between the two methods could not be more stark. As a mourner I felt that I had in some way been deprived of the chance to take leave of my friend properly. And I was not alone in this. What gets forgotten in this debate is that the funeral is not for the dead person - they are already in amuch better place - it is for the living. It is about making that last contact, that last opportunity to take one's leave.

I know that it does not make a blind bit of difference to the deceased, but it makes a hell of a difference to those who remain on this side of the divide. After Father David's funeral all those attending left on a spiritual "high". After Tom's I personally felt that I had not done him justice and still have not said good bye.

Tom would not have wanted the full blown funeral with Requiem. He wasn't that kind of Christian, he was a devout Christian in the Evangelical tradition, and he prefered things simpler. I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with not honouring someone in death as I would have liked to do in life.

In a strange way, the epitaph on Christopher Wren's tomb in St Paul's Cathedral is appropriate to both Father David and to Tom. "If you seek his memorial, look around you." Both have left a mark and a part of themselves on and with all who knew them. That is their true memorial, that we will remember them and what they have given to us.

Quiscunque tactus, vestigia legat. Who touches, leaves a mark.

May they both rest in peace and rise in glory.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:17 PM

How many moons circle his planet I wonder?

The controversial Chief Constable of North Wales has launched another controversy. Having criminalised every motorist who drives a couple of miles an hour over the speed limit (Its possible in Mr Brunstrom's "patch" to lose your licence for speeding in a trip from your home to the supermarket and back again thanks to a vast number of speed cameras he has installed), he now feels we should allow the sale of all "recreational" drugs so that anyone who wants to blow his or her mind can do so legally.

I would have to agree that the prohibition has, like all prohibitions, made the criminal gangs that purvey these drugs extremely rich. I cannot agree that heroin is not dangerous. Like all drugs it affects the central nervous system and the effect is not predictable. Like many of my colleagues I have had the pleasure of trying to deal with someone seeing huge spiders or some other monster trying to "get" them while high on this or some derivative. I have also had to cut the remains of families out of cars wrecked by some hop head tripping out while driving.

No, its not dangerous, unless you count the fact that a lot of these morons generally manage to involve someone else in their attempts to purge their genetic contribution from the gene pool.

I wonder if any of these "the law has failed" types ever stop to ask themselves what would happen if the law was so strict, and applied rigorously, that it was not worth the risk of being caught? Nah, probably not - that might breech the criminals rights somehow!

Read the BBC interview below ....

Brunstrom backs open sale of heroin

Mr Brunstrom's opinions on drugs have made headline news before
North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has told the BBC that he is prepared to see drugs such as heroin openly on sale because current drug laws are doing "more harm than good".
Speaking on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye political programme, Mr Brunstrom described drugs as a menace and said that current policy was creating crime around massive illegal profits and leaving vulnerable people in danger.

"Heroin is very addictive but it's not very, very dangerous," he said. "It's perfectly possible to lead a normal life for a full life span and hold down a job while being addicted to the drug. I don't advocate anybody abusing their body with drugs but clearly some want to.

"What would be wrong with making heroin available on the state for people who wanted to abuse their bodies. What is wrong with that?"

Mr Brunstrom believes that legalising drugs would wipe out a multi-million pound criminal trade and says he has been amazed to receive "massive" public support for his views.

I've had overwhelming support for a no-holds barred, all-options considered, total review of the drugs laws

Richard Brunstrom
"The question is actually not 'am I prepared to see the government selling heroin on the street corner or through the pharmacy?' But why would we not want to do that? What is wrong with that?," he said.

"It's a very challenging question. I don't know what society's answer is but my answer is that is what we should be doing because our current policy is causing more harm than good."

In reference to the public backing he says he has received, he went on: "I've had overwhelming support at the very least for a no-holds barred, all-options considered, total review of the drugs laws.

"There is an enormous number of people of all age groups and all sections of our society who are ready to see a root and branch change to our drugs laws."

The chief constable - who has been heavily criticised over his crackdown on speeding motorists - insisted he is not supporting the drug trade - cannabis, he said, was not a safe drug and heroin was "extremely addictive".

But, he said drugs should be legalised adding that there was nothing wrong with the idea that the government could take over responsibility for their sale.

The police chief's unconventional view on drugs, first emerged in 2001 when he told his police authority that it was the only way to win the war against drugs.

He said that, despite billions of pounds and thousands of officer hours, the number of addicts and "recreational users" of illegal drugs in the UK has multiplied at an alarming rate.

Mr Brunstrom compared the current situation with alcohol prohibition in the USA in the 1920s, which was an "unmitigated disaster".

Dragon's Eye is broadcast at 2230 GMT on BBC 2 Wales.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:57 PM

The British Weather ....

Well, last week we had the snow. This week we have the rain - oh, and a warm breeze (Force 8 - 9!) off the Atlantic to help drive it through your coat, your umbrella, down your neck and into your boots!

Wales, Shropshire and Yorkshire have serious flooding problems and in Tewkesbury we have the steadily rising tide of the Severn backing up the Avon. Thankfully, the heavy rain that was predicted for the South yesterday failed to happen where I was driving so it wasn't as bad as it could have been for me. Attending funerals in rain is always a little depressing.

Oh, the joys of having weather instead of a climate!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:33 PM

February 03, 2004

What's my character?

Well, I'll think about this one, I think I'd find it more comforting if my name was Gates! Note to self: Stop following up these quizes on GDay Mate!

Find Your Warped Personality
this quiz was made by mysti

I think I prefer being Ludwig II or Augustine! Alternatively I found this on All agitprop;all the time.

You're a Vulcan!
You're a Vulcan! Cool and collected, you represent
the epitome of self control.

What Star Trek Race Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Still not sure - it's the ears!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:12 AM

February 02, 2004

A little history

Fifty nine years ago my father, then a twenty two year old Able Seaman in the Royal Navy was serving in the Coastal Forces 37th Flotilla attached to the Eastern Fleet and based at Trincomalee in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They joined the Royal Indian Navy's Coastal Forces in supporting the advance of the 14th Army (Chindits) down the Arakan Coast. This involved raiding deep into the jungle up the Chaungs - tidal leads penetrating deep into the mangroves all along that coast.

This ramble was prompted by my finding a photograph of my father as a young AB I thought I had lost.

Dsc0026 847 at Ramree.JPG
HMML 847 depicted off Ramree Island, Arakan, Burma January 1945

The painting is one of my own done from a sketch and a very battered photograph. These little ships were built in furniture factories, as kits and then assembled in boatyards all over the empire. The Fairmile B was a real workhorse and many are still afloat today as ferries and as houseboats. The design is for a wooden hull of teak "double diagonal" planking over frames and powered by twin Rolls Royce Merlin (with a spare pair of Packard or Hall Scott licence built Merlins) engines converted for marine use. This gave them a top speed of 25 knots, although some could manage a slightly higher figure. They were superb sea keepers and my fathers boat and some of her sisters survived running through more than one full cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that sank several bigger merchant vessels.

The 37th Flotilla were late arrivals on the Arakan coast, but saw some tough campaigning. They were also slightly better armed than most others and the Admiral who commissioned them in Simonstown remarked that he could not remember seeing so much armament packed into so small a ship. The trip to Ceylon was eventful as they had to carry extra fuel in 200 litre drums lashed on deck - and 120 octane is not stuff you can play around with anywhere!

The Admiral was not wrong in his assessment of their weapons fit. In a ship just over 114 feet overall, the navy had managed to fit (from forrard to stern) a 3 pdr quick firing gun, 2x6x9 Centimetre Rocket launchers abreast the wheelhouse, cradles for 21 inch torpedoes (Not carried by this flotilla but the cradles were not removed either!), twin 0.303 Browning machine gun mounts on either Bridge wing, a twin 20mm Oerlikon Gun aft of the funnel, a 40mm fixed mortar firing directly astern aft of the Oerlikon, a 40mm Bofors Gun on the aft deck with 4 x 500 lb depth charges on either side of that. Quite a lot of Japanese coastal shipping discovered very quickly that these boats were definitely bad news as they raced past throwing projectiles at them.

My father was the gun captain of the Bofors and had a reputation for being able to hit anything stupid enough to get within range. I should add that the Bofor fire 120 (4 pound weight) explosive shells per minute. Paired with the twin Oerlikon which throws 600 rounds per minute from each barrel, anything approaching from a direction in which these guns could be brought to bear was asking for trouble.

Before joining Coastal Forces Dad had served on a converted trawler (ironically named HMS Sunburst) sweeping magnetic mines, and on HMS Ramillies, a 15 inch gun battleship. He loved the ships and he loved the sea, and his one wish was always that he could have bought a Fairmile B to live aboard and use. He was a consumate seaman and I learned a lot of my seamanship from him.

Sadly, he never achieved his dream.

The 37th Flotilla was disbanded in December 1945 and all the "boats" were sunk to comply with the Lease-Lend Agreement even though most had been running on their Rolls Royce engines. These were removed and the Packard engines were sent to the bottom.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

The Martian Enterprise

From The Edge of England's Sword I find an amusing little piece on the latest Martian probe malfunction. As the author says, "Zut alors!"

On the subject of the Martian adventure, I am able to find remarkably little in either print or the "www" that tells me what is happening or shares any of the many pictures they must have taken. Could this be the work of the funny little character I found peering into the lens of a supposed camera on an equally supposed Martian landscape a little while back? (Sorry, I seem to have lost both the link and the title of the site - but I think I found it through Ozguru!)

Beagle 2 is obviously dead and gone, but the two Rovers are apparently doing well. So where are the pictures, where are the results and the reports? Even CNN isn't saying anything, so what is the state of play? Anyone?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:42 PM | Comments (2)

Super Bowl anyone?

I hardly needed to look at Cynical Cyn's site to know that she would be in celebratory mood this morning. She is, her verbal fireworks are worth enjoying. And she's got a good "Cyn-icism" on the end of it. NOTE: I thought I was studying for the Entrance Exam myself!

I notice that this has been noted at On the third hand as well. Anyone would think this was important to some people. Which made me wonder how many of my regular reads were Patriot's fans. Seems that not many are - but, I did find one who supports another team! On Byzantium's Shores seem to be less than impressed by the Patriot's win.

OK, I'll confess, after all the build up, I switched to Sky Sports last night just before my bedtime and watched a few minutes of the game. I still don't get the point of it, but then I suppose Rugby Union is equally incomprehensible to most US watchers. For the record, my home team is the "Cherry and Whites" Gloucester Rugby Footbal Club - and they're top of their league at present!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:07 PM

European elections

I see from todays newspaper that the government is already worried that fewer than 1 in 5 British voters is likely to vote in the forthcoming European Parliament elections. As noted at An Englishman's Castle, the government just don't seem to get this particular message. They plan to launch a big drive to persuade people to vote for their MEP's and to try to persuade us the Europe is "a good thing" to misquote "1066 and all that".

Frankly most of us see the European Parliament as an expensive and useless talking shop which provides very nice little income streams to a bunch of no-hoper politicians from across the EU. Everything they do costs the taxpayers and arm and a leg and is usually also to the distinct disadvantage of the UK who seem to be the only country daft enough to actually adopt all the over prescriptive regulations which flow from Brussels. And its not as if the "Parliament" actually has anything much to do with the regulations beyond either rubber stamping the (unelected) EU Commissioners recommendations or suggesting new ways the Commissioners can really mess up the economies of any state stupid enough to join.

How seriously should we take an organisation which has its seat in Strasbourg (because the French demanded it!) and its headquarters in Brussels. A huge convoy of pantechnicons moves twice weekly between the two to accommodate this separation while, of course, the MEP's themselves shuttle back and forth at our expense in Business Class by air or in First Class by train.

Its almost worth my while swallowing my pride and offering to stand as a candidate just to claw back some of the money I contribute to this gravy train each year!

For my money, scrap the Parliament, reduce the Commission to one representative for each country and allow for a Council - again elected on a ratio of one per country, and by the populace, NOT the sitting government - to direct operations. While we're at it, scrap the bureaucracy in Brussels and devolve it to the national administrations in the member states. If the French want to continue the Common Agricultural Policy, let them pay for it themselves since they're the principle beneficiaries.

I may only be a simple fire fighter at the end of the day, but surely there has to be something irrational about paying billions into this farce in order to receive roughly half back in subsidies? Somehow I think that keeping the money at home in the first place and spending it on our own economy and enterprises makes a damned sight more sense than funding the almost unregulated southern European states to take jobs away from our own populace?

As I said, I am a rather simple soul! Is Guy Fawkes standing?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:00 PM | Comments (3)

February 01, 2004

A walk with a view ...

Sorry folks, this is a tight deadline for very short post - I have to be at the Abbey to take Evensong in half an hour. Today has been taken up with a fair amount, mainly to do with packing up a lot of stuff in this place so I can put the house on the market next month. And looking for a new place to live.

Tewkesbury Abbey and the Abbot's House seen from the South.

Having viewed two rather depressing flats (both would benefit from being cleaned and decorated!) and with the emotional stress of packing up someone else's things - I needed a walk in the fresh air and so ran out of time. Now it is stormy and wet, so perhaps I chose just the right time for the picture.

Nine hundred years of history through a lens. Quite a thought.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:48 PM | Comments (5)