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November 30, 2004

The stench of hypocrisy

So, after much debate, hand wringing, and media soul searching, the cricket tour of Zimbabwe is on. Never mind the 40,000 Matabele men who vanished shortly after Mugabe, darling of the Labour Party, Freedom Fighter (probably couldn't fire a weapon if he tried), Marxist (when it suits him and applies to everyone else), and general "Idealised Victim" came to power. Since then he has presided over several more massacres, innumerable miscarriages of justice, and blatant theft of the Treasury, land, and property. His "veterans", most of whom were not even born when the Bush War he "won" with the disgraceful help of the British government (Tory as it happens!) was ended.

Enter Mr Blair and Mr Hain, both of whom spent most of their University careers picketing South African companies, embassies, and sports matches, as the new "statesmen" whose avowed policy is to have no dealings with anything or anyone who may be unethical. OK, OK, we'll leave Iraq out of this, shall we? It is not that long since these two hypocrites (and the rest of those pious pontificators on the Labour Benches) would have been out on the streets fighting tooth and nail to prevent any British team sullying their ideals by daring to play cricket or even tiddlywinks with those nasty South Africans. Now, faced by a man who has had farmers murdered and their land seized, whose troops murdered 40,000 Matabele men (Mugabe and his coterie of thugs are all Shona), whose contempt for democracy is a matter of record, they do a Pontius Pilate act - and wash their hands of it all and pass the buck to the England Cricket Board and the International Cricket Board - saying piously that it is not a "political" matter.

Why does the air stink of hypocrisy at this?

Simple: these are the same arrogant and utterly contemptible weazels who, ten, twenty, and thirty years ago proclaimed that sport and sports tours to "pariah" states was a matter of politics! What has changed?

Ah, well, you see, they endorsed Mugabe. They even called him a "saint". He was their protege, their idol, the African Che Guevara. And now it is difficult to admit that they may have been wrong, that their idol may just have been nothing more than a well spoken and smiling thug all along.

Pass the water basin, let's scrub our hands again and hope it will all go away.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:04 AM

November 29, 2004

Police efficiency?

An item in the papers this last week, which I did not have time to comment upon, was the case of a respectable middle aged woman falsely accused of theft of credit cards and goods purchased with them. I was reminded this morning of this item when I read a post on Samizdata (with a link to an article in the Spectator which I could not access) about the attitude of the modern day police towards the public. I suspect that the Spectator will have covered similar ground to the item I read earlier this week.

The woman in my paper had been accused, following her being "identified" by a receptionist at a health club, as the woman seen on CCTV several days before stealing a purse from another woman's bag in the changing rooms at the club. Two things immdiately worried me about this. The first is CCTV in the Ladies Changing Room? I recognise that there may be a need to monitor access to these rooms, but I am not at all sure of the ethics of filming either the Ladies or the Mens Changing rooms. That said, the second thing I find worrying about this is that the Receptionist felt that she could be 100% certain that the woman on the CCTV still was the woman whose Club Membership card image she had in her hand. It is notoriously difficult to be certain from ID photographs of almost anything! My Passport photo and my driving licence photo are both cases in point!

Enter the police. On no more than the receptionist's accusation, the lady member is arrested and charged with the theft. Even when confronted by the evidence that:
(a) the member was not at the club (they have an electronic log in system which showed she wasn't there) on the day of the theft,
(b) the women in the CCTV still and the woman accused did not even begin to resemble each other (one is blonde and the other brunette with greying strands),
(c) the stolen cards were used by the thief within minutes - and the woman described by the shop assistants was totally different to the woman accused, and
(d) incontrovertible proof that the accused woman was with someone else and a considerable distance away from the scene of crime,
the investigating police woman still arranged an identifty parade, brushed aside the evidence to the contrary and pursued her flawed case. Never once did she allow it to sway her that she might have the wrong person - all that mattered was that she had the person the receptionist had identified and was going to make the charge stick at all costs. This is the price we pay for the governments flawed system of "targets" for every public service. The police simply won't take on any case that they regard as unsolvable - and they will go to any length to solve the ones they have someone lined up for!

Happily, the real thief repeated the crime somewhere else and was apprehended. Equally happily the Crown Prosecution Service, faced with the real possibility of a case collapsing badly for themselves, also withdrew the charge. Unhappily, and this is the really frightening aspect, the woman at the centre of all of this now has her DNA, her finger prints, and a long list of other information stored on a Police Data Base. It will not be removed because, having been accused of a crime, the Police are obliged to keep this record. Had she been taken to court and proved innocent it would all be erased, the fact that it has not gone to court means that it must remain on file.

Nor can she claim damages for the wrongful arrest or for the stress and distress caused to her and her family - because it never went to court.

Our Police have a very difficult job to do in these politically correct times. It will not get any easier, and it is certainly not going to see an improvement in the relationships between Police and Public. As long as the Police feel that they can or must accuse the victim of a crime of being a criminal for defending himself or herself, as long as they continue to pursue someone who is falsely accused, they will have an ever-worsening relationship with the public - who, at the end of the day, are their employers!

Our politicians have meddled and fiddled - at the behest of lawyers like Mrs Blair and other "Civil Rights" pressurists - to create a system of legal nonsense where no one has the right to self defence - unless it is the criminal defending his right to rob, steal, bludgeon, and murder - and every member of the law-abiding public is treated as a criminal by those supposedly "protecting" us. My first experience of this was a number of years ago, visiting London, and in an unfamiliar part of that cesspit. I was in a very crowded street and not at all sure of my directions (foolishly without an A to Z!) and spied a Policeman on the beat. I tried to get his attention, but, being several paces behind him, had to push through the crowd and, when I finally caught up with him, had to tap him on the arm to get his attention.

I got a look that can most politely be described as one of complete revulsion and contempt. In an icy voice I was informed that I had just committed an assault upon an officer of the law and "was I aware of how serious this was?" Taken aback, I apologised for having inconvenienced him and tried to explain that I needed directions. I was cut short, admonished, and he stalked away, leaving me flabbergasted and thoroughly embarrassed. A newspaper seller sympathised, having seen the whole thing, expressing his complete contempt for the Metropolitan Police as a whole. He then proceeded to give me very clear and concise directions to the place I was looking for - just a hundred yards further and down a lane. Since that encounter I have had several more occassions for dealing with the Metropolitan Police - none of them improving my first impression one jot.

There is much to be said for a Police service that is drawn from the community it serves, that is accountable to the people it serves and not to some remote political cretin whose idea of community is made up of percentages and numbers from gender groups, races, and so on. In the same paper that reported the case that started my rant on this subject, there was the usual sneering reference to the "politicised" American system of elected Sheriffs and Judges. Well, I fail to see the flaw in this. It has to be better than a Commisioner or Chief Constable appointed by a bunch of ideologues whose choice is more influenced by the candidates ability to spout their brand of ideology than his or her likely impact upon the criminal fraternity. Likewise the Noble Judges who are selected for their adherence with the "principles of the law" as interpreted by the government of the moment and not for how they represent the communities they will serve when they hear a case and decide a sentence. It would seem to me that to have the American system for choosing Judges and Chief of Police candidates would bring a breath of fresh air to the legal system. It may even change the way our policemen and women deal with the paying public! On the other hand pigs might fly!

Oh! They do.

UPDATE: Perhaps the next story in the extended section can illustrate all of this even better......

I was finally able, via a friend who is registered with The Spectator, to read the horrendous story David Carr had linked in this post. With all due credit to The Spectator, in which it first appeared, read this and weep for England.

Cover Story

New Labour’s police state

On Wednesday 3 November I was driving along the Embankment towards the City when a police constable stepped out into the road and flagged me down. It was 11.30 in the morning, and I was in reasonable time for a meeting with some corporate lawyers which was due to start at midday.

The constable was accompanied by another policeman and a group of three men in what looked a little like traffic wardens’ uniforms, with pale blue bands round their caps. These, I later discovered, were Mr Blunkett’s new militia, the police community support officers. Their task, according to Sir John Stevens, is to ‘perform the vital role of security patrols in central London, deterring criminals and providing intelligence to police officers’.

‘We are conducting random stop and search under current anti-terrorist legislation,’ began the constable, addressing me through my open side window. ‘Would you mind if we searched your vehicle? We’re training these new community support officers.’

Although a little worried about being late for my meeting, I was impressed by their air of professionalism and vigilance. I was pleased that the government was doing something to keep us all safe and thought it would be selfish to refuse. ‘I don’t mind at all,’ I replied, ‘as long as it doesn’t take a huge amount of time.’

I unlocked the doors and they went through my car and its contents: my overnight bag, my wash bag and glove box. Next, they gestured towards my briefcase and asked if I could open it. Of course, I said, and as I lifted the lid I pointed out to them a Victorinox Swiss multi-tool, contained in a small webbing case, and a small collapsible baton, contained in another piece of webbing.

It is perfectly legal to buy both of these items. The penknife I carry because I find it useful for many small everyday tasks —cutting through packaging, opening bottles. The baton I bought over the Internet to keep at home for security reasons. I live in a rural part of Suffolk that, although thankfully relatively crime-free, is policed very sparsely. I often hear people outside the house at night — that same Wednesday evening, for instance, my wife discovered a harmless but mentally ill tramp yelling loudly in a nearby barn — and I feel more comfortable with the baton inside the front door. A week or so before my police search, I had discovered my nine- and twelve-year-old girls playing with it and had locked it in my briefcase for safekeeping.

The community support officers reacted immediately. They behaved as if they had never seen a penknife before, pulling out the bottle-opener, the corkscrew, the thing that gets stones out of horses’ hooves. ‘This device has a locking blade,’ said the constable, after which a short, whispered debate ensued. My goodwill towards the police began to give way to alarm. I reached for my mobile to call the lawyers and explain that I was going to be late for my meeting, but the constable stopped me. ‘Turn that phone off,’ he said. ‘You’re about to be arrested for possessing offensive weapons and carrying a bladed instrument in public. You’ll be allowed one call when we get you to Charing Cross police station.’

I felt confused and indignant. As we stood by the side of the road, waiting for a police van to arrive, I asked the constable whether this whole business was, in his opinion, a valuable use of police time and resources. This was when the policemen and the PCSOs started to become hostile. ‘You’ve committed an offence, mate, and you’d better get used to the fact that you’re going down for six months,’ said one policeman.

‘Do you realise, sir,’ said another, ‘that behind us is the Ministry of Defence, a key target for potential terrorists?’

‘But why did you stop me in the first place: do I seriously look like a potential terrorist?’ I asked.

‘We stop one in every 25 cars on a random basis, and, let me tell you, sir, criminals and terrorists come in many different guises,’ replied the policeman.

‘Shouldn’t you be concentrating on men of Arab extraction?’ This seemed to me to be a sensible question, relevant to the current state of the world. The policeman said, ‘That is a racist comment, sir.’ Then the van appeared. I was locked in the back and ferried to Charing Cross. As we drove there, the policemen made small talk. They told me that they would be out for a pint tonight, whereas I was going to prison. They wondered what it would feel like for me not to be sleeping in my own bed.

Upon arrival at Charing Cross, I was subjected to the as-seen-on-TV rigmarole of being booked in by the desk sergeant. Most of the questions focused on my racial origin and HIV status. They asked if I had a craving for non-prescription drugs, and if I required any religious paraphernalia. My belt and personal effects were removed, and after a statutory telephone call to my lawyer I was ‘banged up’.

By this time it was about 12.20 and I spent the next three hours dozing on a wooden bench. At about 4.30 p.m., my solicitor had arrived and it was time for an ‘interview under caution’. First, I had to be fingerprinted. The police constable who had originally flagged me down reappeared, and began the arduous business of ‘processing’ me. The man’s lack of competence was comical. He had problems applying my fingers to what appeared to be a sophisticated and expensive fingerprint-scanning machine, and with each failed attempt he became angrier and angrier. Tired and fed up, I gave in to the temptation to needle him. ‘Having problems with your new toy?’ I asked. He replied, ‘Shut the fuck up, you arsehole.’

He was no better at operating the tape recorder used for my interview. Much fumbling of cassettes was followed by screeching noises from the equipment. During the interview itself, I found him inarticulate, incompetent and only tenuously in control of his temper.

After the interview, I was re-introduced to my cell. I understood from my solicitor that the same police constable would speak to the Crown Prosecution Service, and a decision would be made about whether to charge me formally. I was also told that if the policeman had wanted to, he could have let me off with a caution after my car had been searched and the penknife and baton discovered.

Sitting in my cell, I thought a bit about the way I had been treated. For the police to be behaving like this at a time when we are all concerned about terrorism and street crime, and when resources are stretched and manpower is limited, seemed extraordinary. It was also, I decided, in direct contrast to the qualities of professionalism, endurance and discipline that are the hallmark of Britain’s armed forces. I have (now long outdated) personal experience of two training establishments, the old Guards’ Depot at Pirbright and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, both of which are successful in creating tough but professional men who are in control of their actions and able to make sensible decisions under pressure. Whether on the streets of Belfast, in the mountains of Bosnia or in the deserts of Iraq, lieutenants and second lieutenants as young as 19 and 20 provide the linchpin between senior officers and rank-and-file men on the ground.

And this, I suspect, is the problem with the police — they have no proper training and no officer corps. The old adage goes ‘there is no such thing as bad soldiers, only bad officers’. The scruffy, overweight, badly turned-out, ill-mannered policemen I encountered at Charing Cross police station were desperately in need of decent leadership.

So I was not surprised when I was brought back before the desk sergeant and told that the CPS had made the decision to go ahead and charge me with possessing an offensive weapon and carrying a bladed instrument in public. I was bailed to appear at Bow Street magistrates’ court and informed that I was free to leave.

As I was about to pass through the door to freedom, I am ashamed to say that I snapped. The knowledge that we could, so easily, have avoided the whole drawn-out, expensive and upsetting procedure was too much for me. I turned to the police constable and said, ‘You really are a prize wanker.’ At this point, and in full view of my solicitor, he lost it. He grabbed my lapels, and pushed me up against the wall. My solicitor yelled, ‘You have just assaulted my client!’

Four other police officers rushed into the corridor, accompanied by the desk sergeant. ‘Right, rearrest him: public order, breach of the peace,’ shouted the sergeant at me. ‘You’ll be spending the night here.’ My solicitor said that she wanted the assault entered in the daybook, and that we would be bringing an action. So they let me go.

In the aftermath of my experience, I started some purely anecdotal research on the type of behaviour and attitude displayed by the police towards me. In speaking to friends, acquaintances, tradesmen, cab drivers and people in the pub I rapidly came to realise that a quite staggering number of ordinary, law-abiding people had endured similar experiences.

It is worth remembering how new these powers are. It is only since the Terrorism Act of 2000 that the new community support officers, in the company of a constable, have been allowed to stop and search a car; and that is by no means all they can do. After a mere three weeks’ training, a CSO can give you a £30 fixed penalty ticket for such minor derelictions as riding your bike on a pavement, or dropping a crisps packet. He or she may take away your booze if you are drinking in public, or confiscate the fags of an underage smoker. These CSOs may detain you by force for 30 minutes, pending the arrival of a police officer, if they think you may be guilty of an arrestable offence. And who can doubt that they will soon be able to demand the production of an ID card, and detain you if you fail to produce it?

And on it goes. Last week Parliament passed the new Civil Contingencies Act, which gives the government astonishing powers to declare and prolong a state of emergency sine die. This week Her Majesty announced in the Gracious Address that there is to be a new Counter-Terrorism Bill, and among its provisions are rumoured to be judge-only Diplock courts for terrorist suspects.

Such measures are surely only justified in a society at war, and they might be acceptable if we were truly a nation under siege. But that is not how it feels to most of us. We have a terrorist threat to London and elsewhere, a chronic and worrying problem; but that does not amount to a war, any more than the IRA bombing campaigns of the 1970s did, and yet we are enacting measures more repressive than those applied in the Blitz.

By the way, once I had been sprung from the police station, I walked back to the Embankment, where my car had been left since the arrest. It was, by this time, 6.45 in the evening and, sure enough, there on my windscreen was a Metropolitan Police parking ticket. One further thing — I have just found out from my solicitor that the copy of the interview tape sent to us by the police is entirely blank.

Nicky Samengo-Turner, formerly an investment banker, now works in the Formula 1 motor-racing industry. The Metropolitan Police said, ‘This matter is currently sub judice and as such it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any of the information in the article.’

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:07 PM

November 28, 2004

Holy place or arsenal?

I am grateful for the photolog I came across posted by Donovan [hat tip to Winds of Change]. It shows, from Fallujah, the stockpiles of weapons and munitions being recovered from Mosques in that benighted place. It also shows the contemptuous manner in which these so-called "Soldiers of Islam" treat their own holy places! They have turned them into arsenals and places of bloodshed, denying them to both God and men and women of peace. The Sanctuaries have been turned into charnel houses by this evil and vicious gang of murderous fanatics, whose version of Islam is so twisted by hatred, I am prepared to venture that their God and mine - for Christian, Jew, and Muslim all worship the same God - has long since turned His back on them and their equally evil mullahs.

When a Mosque is built, it, like a Christian Church or a Synagogue, is "given to God" in a ceremonial that shares the same sentiment for all three. That place is set aside as a place where the faithful can go to find peace, to pray, to meditate, or simply escape from the hurly-burly of their lives. Christians share with Jews and Muslims the belief that God is all around us, in creation and in our lives, but we still feel the need to set aside a "holy place" where we can encounter God without distraction. That is what the Church, the Mosque, or the Synagogue is there to provide. Therefore, to use such a place for the purpose of waging war or to commit murder is not just a heinous abuse, but it is also a desecration. Unfortunately, in Islam, it has long been the view of the fundamentalists and the extremists that - to quote Machiavelli - the end justifies the means. Thus they have no qualms about using their holy places in this way - and simply remove or silence any who do. The wimp brigade in Britain and Europe should have taken notice when Palestinian fanatics seized and desecrated the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but they whinged instead about the part the Christian Churches have played in "oppressing" Islam - thus justifying the desecration and excusing it.

I wonder how many of them even stopped to consider what grief, what pain, and what hurt both the desecration and their response caused to every Christian right across the globe?

Now those who whinge about "respecting" Mosques and the "feelings" of Muslims had better wake up to the fact that they have contributed to the scenes in Fallujah in no small way. It is their constant apologising and excusing the extremists that have encouraged the growth of this abberation, no, this abomination. No one wants to desecrate a mosque, no one wants to shed blood in a place set aside for God, but no one has any choice when the people supposedly "defending" their faith use them as weapons stores and fortify them to attack the troops defending the populace from these murderers. If you want to show respect for a place set apart for God, then don't turn it into an arsenal! Keep the weapons and the fighters out of it!

And before anyone accuses me of not pointing out that similar things have been done by Christians, let me point out that I am well aware of Cromwell's "Christian" Army desecrating churches all over England, Scotland, and Ireland. I am equally well aware of the war that was waged against the Cathars and their "Holy" places. Both examples fall within the same category as the fanatics now being driven out of Fallujah and other areas in Iraq. They were and are fanatics for whom no attrocity is abhorrent in pursuit of their ideal. They do not represent the mainstream of Christian, Muslim, or Jewish thought any more than those who see all religion as an extremist exercise represent the mainstream of public thought.

By contrast, the Abbot of Tewkesbury, faced with a major battle on his doorstep, denied access to the Church and buildings to both sides - except as penitents - and definitely no weapons permitted inside. He also secreted all the womenfolk and children from the town in the Abbey roof, a fact borne out by the discovery, in the 1960's during major reroofing, of children's toys, clothes, and household goods dating from the 15th Century in the vault. After the battle, when the Lancastrians sought shelter as they were pursued into the Abbey by the Yorkist troops - the Abbot expelled them, threatening them with eternal damnation. He even denied the King entry - a very dangerous move - until the King was prepared to enter with his knights unarmed. The Abbey was definitely not going to be used as a place of war under his leadership - and neither should any other place of worship be so used. Ironic, is it not, that this present year in the Christian calendar is also the equivalent of the 15th Century of Islam.

We should all weep for the destruction and the desecration of the Fallujah Mosques. We should all work to drive out fanaticism and the causes of it. We should all help to restore these holy places as soon as possible; what we have given to God came from Him, and we have given Him of His own. It is not ours to use any longer except in His service, and it behooves us to restore it to Him as quickly as we can. But, in doing this, we must also make plain to our Muslim brothers and sisters that they cannot be allowed to continue to hold the rest of the world, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddist, Hindu, Zen, or whatever, to ransom in this way. It is time for them to grow up and cast off the shackles of the 7th and 8th Century and move into the modern world.

The Mosques of Fallujah are the victims of Islam's own extremists. It is time Islam dealt with these men of evil and showed that it is, as it claims to be, a religion of peace. It certainly doesn't look like one at the moment!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:10 AM

November 27, 2004

A tranquil court in the Castle of Good Hope

This tranquil court with its large pool and the Dolphin Fountain is situated in the North West Corner of the Inner Ward of the Castle. It was originally surrounded by the Clerks' offices and quarters at the rear of the Governor's Residence. During the British period of the governance the ballustrades were thrown into the pool and the pool itself filled in so that stabling and quarters for the junior officers could be provided in the enclosing buildings.


Since the scalling down of the military use of the Castle was begun in the late 1970's much restoration has been done, and the pool and its fountain were excavated and restored. The remaining balustrades and the dolphin itself were all recovered from the debris in the orignial pool.

It would seem that the British Military of the time had little regard for the history or the need to preserve anything, since they were responsible for the destruction of several other features during their stay here.

Sadly, another very interesting and possibly unique structure - originally located to the West of the Castle guarding the landing beaches and later the small harbour - a large battery equipped with heavy cannon and the means for heating shot, was destroyed, finally, by the civil government in the early 20th Century as it stood in the path of "progress". It seems we never really learn from our mistakes.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM

November 26, 2004

Scenes of past service

On my recent trip to SA we visited Bloemfontein - the city in which my son was born - and the photo below is of the Station in which my office was located. Our house was next door.

The Ehrlich Park Fire Station in the City of Bloemfontein.

The station now houses, in the former Ambulance garages and accomodation, the museum collection of appliances and equipment. It is still very much an operational station protecting the main industrial areas of the city. Its "protected" area has been reduced since the 1980's by the provision of two new stations in the residential areas beyond the industrial estate.

For both my son and me this was something of a spiritual journey - for him to see where his early childhood was spent and for me to see how my former Brigade - one I am proud to say I had a major hand in modernising and reorganising - had faired. I was very pleasantly surprised both by the welcome I received and by the fact that so much of what I had planned and put in place had stood the test of time and of the lean years of funding that seem now to be (thankfully) coming to an end.

The house next to the station - the shrubs were much smaller when we planted them 23 years ago!

Much has changed in the last 23 years - most of it for the better!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:26 AM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2004

The old saloon at Kimberley

Looking almost like something more familiarly associated with the Wild West in the US of A, this is, in fact, the last surviving "Saloon" Bar from the great days of the Diamond Rush in Kimberley. The recreated "Old Kimberley" is now home to original and beautifully restored buildings from the town's historic days as a mining boom town.

The interior of the "Barney Barnato" Saloon Bar preserved at the Mining Museum in Kimberley.

The only thing missing in this 'town' is the throngs of miners, their families, and the hoards of businessmen who descended on it to get rich, if not by mining, by exploiting the needs of the mining community. It is reputed that in this saloon and many like it, diamonds changed hands at a fraction of their value as miners traded their hard-found stones for essential supplies - and hard liquor.

The building is carefully arranged exactly as it was from old photographs which show the original furnishings and, of course, the customers. It seems strangely quiet, despite the atmospheric "period" music being played inside it now, and one almost has the feeling that some, at least, of its old customers, are still there.

And all because the ladies love diamonds.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:18 AM

November 24, 2004

A lovely reminder

The Monk has received a lovely gift from a friend in Romania, one that will grace the wall of his study for years to come. It is an Orthodox Church Icon. These are very special indeed, and much more than just a decoration. By tradition you cannot buy one for yourself; it must be bought as a gift to someone else, usually someone who has made a mark on your life, or a very good friend. My Romanian friend has done me a great honour by giving me this.

Byzantine Icon.JPG
The Virgin and Christ as shown in this reproduction of a beautiful Byzantine Icon. The Christ is depicted as a miniature adult, not as a child.

The Icon depicts the Virgin and Child and is a copy of a Byzantine Icon, notable for the disproportion of the figures and the heads. This is the hallmark of the Byzantine style. A further remarkable feature is that the Christ is not depicted as an infant, but as an adult in miniature. This reflects the belief that, even as an infant, Christ was fully God and fully man. The Christ figure is also always shown teaching, as here, with a scroll in his hand, and Mary is always shown "pointing" the way to her son, the Son of God and the Word (Logos) made flesh.

The background is gold leaf; unfortunately this does not come up in the scanned image shown here, and it is a thing of real beauty. But it is also much more than simply a beautiful item to hang on a wall; it should also be used as a meditation focus and as a focus for the eyes during prayer or thought about faith or the Almighty. It must never be mistaken for an idol, since it is not. It is a pictorial expression of a much deeper theological understanding of God and His relationship with humanity and the world we inhabit.

The gold apart, the colours shown in this scanned image are fairly close. It is a beautiful thing - but, much more importantly, it is the gift itself which says so much about the friendship it represents. I shall look upon this in future as I prepare my sermons, outline my intercessions, and contemplate my Creator, and give thanks for all my friends and for the artists who create these. Such a gift can never be equalled and can never be fully repaid.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

November 23, 2004

Diamonds from the Big Hole.

The Big Hole in Kimberley is unusual in that it was (and is!) the throat or magma vent of a long extinct volcano. The distinctive "blue" rock from this is called "Kimberlite" and it is now recognised as the prime diamond bearing rock everywhere. Until this "throat" was discovered and recognised as the source of the alluvial diamonds that littered the area and the river beds around here, almost all diamonds were found by chance as alluvial deposits. As far as I am aware the last volcanic activity in this area was some 200 million years ago and since then, of course, things have been weathering down quietly, mountains becoming hills, and even the hills becoming little more than weathered outcrops of rock.

The first large diamond found in this area actually came from Hopetown around a hundred or so miles to the South and East of Kimberley. It was a large stone and was eventually bought and cut into a number of smaller "brilliants". That started the rush of prospectors into the area and it was not long after that the diamonds were traced to a source where there is now the "Big Hole".

As Kimberley lies on a confluence of rivers (in the triangle formed between the Vaal and Orange Rivers) it eventually occured to someone that many diamonds must have been washed down these water courses. Bonanza! de Beers soon figured out what was likely to have happened and got control of the mineral and prospecting rights all the way to the coast. And they hit paydirt in the big league. The river bed has almost no diamonds now, but the coast at the mouth of the river and the seabed off that coast has around 150 million years worth!

The "Forbidden Territory" around Oranjemund, is now mined using huge excavators which shift the accumulated sand and expose the cracked and fissured bedrock. Then vast vacuum cleaners are used to suck up the sand and grit from these fissures and the gravel is sorted yielding quantities of diamonds. Most are commercial grades, but a few, a very few - but enough to make it pay - are gem quality. At sea off the coast are the diamond dredges. These huge barges dredge the sand and gravel from the seafloor - and again the diamonds are sorted and retained while the rest is dumped.

Speaking to an engineer who kept the dredges running, I learned that they watched the gravel for signs of a greenish rock which is the oldest form of rock - one formed in the earliest days of the crust forming as this planet changed from molten lump of steel and magma into a planet of rock. When this gravel showed, there would be diamonds among it.

It took the Kimberley "pipe" almost 200 million years to give up the diamonds that it probably took 400 million years to form. This part of South Africa was a seabed around 300 million years ago, and under an ice sheet around 450 million years ago. Further South the mountains still show the traces of glacial activity and all around Kimberley the age of the rock, the slow destruction of the ancient landscape by the forces of nature, are in evidence.

Next time you see a diamond, consider the length of time it took to form, the forces involved - and the effort it has taken to retrieve it. Perhaps it puts our own achievements into something of a better perspective. It certainly makes us aware of just how short a time we have been around - or had the capacity to retrieve these precious and special stones and polish them into decorative gems for our delight. The mere blink of an eye in terms of the diamond itself.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:03 PM

November 22, 2004

An explanation, please?

The Monk is deeply puzzled. There must be a good, sound, logical reason behind the Home Office's decision to fence off all the urinals in the male toilets at Queen Anne's Gate - and to not have any installed in the men's conveniences in their new building in Marsham Street. But what is it?

Are the Home Office aware of some major change in men's anatomy that the rest of us are not yet privy to? Or is it simply the latest lunatic feminist agenda from that den of public wastefullness? Probably the latter; after all, the Home Office has long been seen as the most incompetent of all the departments supposedly delivering public services, so why spoil their record now with having a logical reason.

No doubt one of the Political Correctness mouthpieces will at some stage "explain" that this change is about "inclusiveness" and "diversity" and the need to respect the fact that some people may find it embarassing to use a urinal. So what about those of us who are still male and still don't find it unusual to have to use one?

Never mind, it's the public's money they're flushing down the pan quite literally.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:23 PM | Comments (2)

A difficult entrance .....

The entrance to Port Alfred, a river harbour built in the 1880's, which operated until around 1910 when it became impractical and dangerous. As a harbour, it ate tugs, three being lost negotiating the entrance.

Breaking seas show the dangerous cross current over the sandbar at the entrance to Port Alfred.

A strong outgoing current over a tide and a combined surge over the bar backed by a strong south-westerly wind make the entrance to Port Alfred almost impassable for any but the most savvy seaman and the most powerful vessels - and even they battle. The remains of the last tug to serve this port now lie decaying on the mud above the road bridge that now spans the river. Photographs taken in its heyday as a harbour (it was built to serve the Albany District around Grahamstown) show large numbers of sailing vessels moored at the town quays. The problem for the Captains negotiating the entrance was that they could only do so at the top of the tide and then only with the help of either a tug or stevedores - and only in an almost flat calm.

The builders thought they could overcome the silting by making the entrance narrow enough to create a scouring effect as the tides ran out - it worked - but, it also made entering and leaving a very tricky operation! The harbour eventually became just too dangerous for larger vessels and settled back to being first a fishing harbour and now to being an upmarket marina. But the problems of entering and leaving remain!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:47 AM

November 21, 2004

A Lesson ........

Church Mouse received an eMail from The Monk, who has been incredibly busy these last few weeks. It contained a lesson which he will be giving the lads from the Choir from the Abbey School who sing at the Solemn Eucharist so beautifully. As requested, CM agrees with the Monk that it makes a good reminder for all of what is meant when we recite The Creed during the services.

Tewkesbury Abbey Choristers

The Christian Creed

The Anglican Communion uses three forms of the Creed. These are:
· The “Apostles” Creed,
· The “Nicean” Creed, and
· The “Athanasian” Creed.

The first of these is the one we recite at Morning and Evening Prayer and is a straightforward statement of Christian beliefs. The second is similar, but it has a bit more detail and explanation of what we believe. We use it mainly at the Communion services. The third one we very rarely use - we are supposed to recite it at Morning and Evening Prayer on Trinity Sunday. It is an explanation of the nature of the Trinity or the manifestation of God in our lives and our Faith.

So what do we believe?

The Apostle’s Creed

It is in three sections. The first part states that: -

we believe in God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord,

In this we are stating that we believe the nature of God as explained in the Bible and in particular as the relationship between Father and Son is explained in John Chapter 1 and verse 1.

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under PontiusPilate, was crucified, dead and buried.He descended into Hell; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Now, in this section we have just said that we know and believe the gospel story. In it we have the whole Gospel - from Jesus’ birth through his death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven. Finishing with the statement that we believe that, at the end of the world - and we don’t know when that will be (or whether it means the end of our lives or some other time in the future) - Christ will be there to decide whether we have been good or evil. Many Christians believe that He will be merciful, but in the Middle Ages, it was believed that this meant almost everybody would end up in Hell!

What do you think? Do you think Jesus, the one who died for our sakes on a Cross in Jerusalem will turn anyone who is prepared to make the effort to try and follow him, away?

The final section is a summary of everything we have stated in the first part, but it also reminds us that we have a third person in God - the Holy Spirit, who came upon the Christian’s for the first time at the day of Pentecost - and came to you in Baptism and in Confirmation. In fact He is always with us.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the Communion of the Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

So now we have said that we believe in God, who makes himself known to us in three ways - as the Father in Creation, as His Son in Jesus Christ and as the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. In this role he guides us, helps us when we need it and comforts us as well. Another name for the Holy Ghost is “The Comforter”. We have also said we believe in one holy “catholic” Church - which means that we believe that the Church was given to us by God to help us to work together to understand His wishes for us and to learn to know and love him.

Then we say that in the Communion we are sharing his love with everyone who believes in him. We also state that we believe that he will forgive us if we are really sorry when we do something wrong, just as our parents do.

The last two lines are interesting, because they show a difference of opinion between some sections of the Church. We are saying we believe in the resurrection of the Body of Christ - us in Our Lord, and in the life everlasting - in other words in a life beyond this one. That, in fact, is the whole point of it all!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:08 AM

November 20, 2004

Going Postal

Is the newly published title of Terry Pratchett's latest. I am convinced he's been sat in the same briefings that I have had to endure ever since the place became infested with professional "managers". He has recorded their New Management Speak exactly.

Does he pay Royalties to the Government instead of Tax, I wonder?

One passage is almost verbatim from the reports prepared by the Whitehall Wankers on "modernising" the Fire Service - complete with all the completely meaningless or wildly ambiguous phrases. In another he has summed up almost exactly why the service will fail to deliver in about ten years time. This is the problem with a management that does not understand how or why something works, they "manage" only the numbers so everything that cannot be reduced to a number is, in their view, unimportant or irrelevant. Then, when it does bite, they blame it on the technician.

This is, in a nutshell, what is wrong with almost every business and public service in this country. It is being managed by people who know absolutely nothing about the function it provides and who measure everything by the numbers. When the numbers don't add up, they re-arrange them until they get the answer they want. Routine maintenance has been replaced by a culture of fix it when it breaks. Staffing levels have been cut so that leave, sickness, and other legitimate absentee activity can no longer be adequately covered - so functions go unperformed while the incumbent is away. Damage accumulates while the workforce is told how much their efforts are appreciated - but "we are "restructuring" to improve productivity and you are no longer required" - unless you are another seat polisher and pen pusher - there's always room for more of those.

Go read "Going Postal" for yourselves. Have the laugh, and then have a careful think about what it is actually telling you about the way things are run in our society. God help us all, but Pratchett has revealed the very ugly heart of the matter all too plainly!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2004

Saved from the Apocalypse?

One of the more unusual activities the Monk and his son undertook in SA was a flight in an ex-USMC Huey - UH1 which had seen service in Vietnam. The pilot had, as well - and gave his passengers the sort of ride that has to be experienced to appreciate it! I haven't had one like it for almost 20 years. Roller coasters? You can keep them - give me another ride in this beast anyday!

An ex-US Marine Corp Huey UH-1 stands ready to take fourteen passengers and her two pilots aloft. This one was recovered from an abandoned airfield in Ethiopia along with three more - and has been completely rebuilt to original specs!

My son - a helicopter pilot himself - had a ball. We saw the Salt River and Rietvlei coastline and Blaauberg Strand and Blaauberg itself from a completely different perspective! Were I 30 years younger and had better eyesight - well, I'd be fighting to become a helicopter pilot myself. I would just want to fly a beast like this is all!

The Blaauberg takes on a different appearance when you take a run at it doing 130 mph and only 50 feet off the surface!

The owners of this remarkable machine have another seven being rebuilt from scratch. We visited the hangar where this is all happening and spent a happy hour looking at the various stages of this process. The Hueys are flown as a "Club" activity, and they don't fly passengers - they fly members. Given half a chance I'll be doing this again!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

November 18, 2004

An exotic visitor

A Madagascan Swallow sits on a nesting shelf installed by a restaurateur at a popular outdoor eatery in East London.

This brightly coloured swallow seldom visits the Northern Hemisphere; their home range is the Central African area, mainly East Africa and Madagascar. These are the swallows of my youth, and it always puzzled me as a boy why they weren't in the "Bird Books" my grandparents kept. It was only much later that I realised that these books were from the European and North American scene - and thus the Madagascan Swallow wasn't in them!

One swallow doesn't make a summer, and it is still Spring in SA, but the swallows are already building nests and some are feeding chicks. This fellow was visiting a nest a little further along the roof eaves and seemed to have a family to feed, already.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:26 AM

November 17, 2004

Multi-cultural dead end?

I think we all need to be concerned about the backlash now in progress in the Netherlands. Two murders of prominent members of the "enlightened" end of the popular spectrum - a gay politician and a controversial film maker - have highlighted the deep well of intolerance in certain sections of that community, particularly the immigrant muslim population. As two newly encountered blogs show, there is some thought needed in addressing this and other issues related to the way we address our "society" in future. Both blogs, The Dipolomad and Strange Women Lying in Ponds give a couple of interesting perspectives on the background of policy development [do take the time to discover the origin of the second blog's title which is found in the left navbar]. Perhaps the multi-cultural dream has met its nemesis in the Netherlands, but somehow I suspect that the promoters of this lunacy will find someone or something else to blame.

Multi-culturalism is a high-sounding but completely impractical ideal. It presumes that all cultures are equal, that there are no aspects in any of them that cause offence in any other, or that by "regulating" against the offensive bits in one or another, the ideal state of equality can be attained. It fails for the obvious reason that there must, in any society, be a dominant culture. Creating a void is rather like creating a vacuum - something rushes in to fill it. As the Dutch have discovered - and we in Britain have the same problem, but not quite so publically visible due to selective reporting - is that the void created by this multi-cultural, all cultures are equal charade invites intolerance, and it invites extremists.

The killing of the film-maker for causing "offence" to Muslims is merely the tip of a very large iceberg. The backlash from the extreme right - who have been waiting for an excuse for ages - was equally forseeable to any but the ideologically blinded. There is an urgent need to bring the promoters of this nonsense to their senses and restore a balance. For once I am in agreement with the French - if you wish to live in France, then there are only two ways to do it. Be forever a fringe minority - or adopt French culture and be French. Your choice. Don't complain if you choose the first option - if you don't want to live like a French man or woman in France - don't live there!

Perhaps the events in the Netherlands will give us a wake-up call. Perhaps they won't. There is none so blind to reality as he who espouses ideology in place of reality. Politics is the science of living and compromising, something liberals and left wingers seem to have forgotten. Time to remind them, perhaps, before our society is engulfed in the flames of intolerance and hatred.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:08 PM | Comments (1)

On a clear day .....

The small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet, established by a Dutch expedition in 1795 as an Administrative Centre to govern the settler families and farmers moving into the Little and Great Karoo escarpments, nestles in the oxbow of the river below the towering mountain that marks the transition between the Little Karoo and the Great Karoo plateau to the North of it.


Standing atop the mountain above Graaff-Reinet and looking East, the clear, dry air gives the illusion of a horizon stretching into tomorrow. A great tower of eroded rock just out of frame to the right of this picture is called "Spioonkop" - Spy Hill - but it is not the one made famous by the massacre of British Troops which is located in Natal. This one has a much more benign history - it served as a lookout point which allowed the military garrison of Graaff-Reinet to have ample warning of any hostile force moving to attack the town in those far-off "frontier" days.

From up here it is almost as if, on a clear day, you could see forever! This is much more apparent in the photograph below.

Not quite the roof of the world - but the view is a good 100 kilometres from here! This view is to the South from the mountain above Graaff-Reinet - and, as you will have guessed, it's close to sunset!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:45 AM

November 16, 2004

An unusual Able Seaman

Just outside the Simonstown Naval Base is a most unusual memorial. This is the memorial to an even more unusual service "man" in the Royal Navy at this station. It is, in fact, a memorial to a dog. But, what a dog!

The statue to Able Seaman Nuisance, Just; Bone Crusher by profession and Scrounger by religion. Friend of RN matelots and their guardian, he died of wounds received in a confrontation with a car and was mourned by all his shipmates at the Base.

Just Nuisance was a Great Dane and belonged officially to the Base Chaplain. However, he was an inveterate wanderer and was always to be found wherever matelots were. He developed the habit of catching trains to Cape Town with them for "a run ashore" and would always round up any who were adrift or drunk and make sure they caught the last train back to Simonstown. On more than one occassion he saved a "shipmate" from attack or mugging, and several times was credited with rescuing injured shipmates who would have died if they had not been found after being attacked.

The RN, in its own inimitable way, recognised that they had a volunteer who would not take no for an answer. So they issued him with his own Pay Book, Serial Number, and Rate as an Able Seaman - although he never went to sea and always knew when a ship was about to leave, getting ashore before anyone could "shanghai" him. He even had his own bunk at HMS Afrikander 1 and his own train pass.

He died, sadly, after being hit by a car and was buried with full military honours in the Naval Cemetary at Simonstown. A most unusual career, and a most unusual dog - but one that was very fondly remembered by all who met and served with him. Much more than a mere mascot, Just Nuisance was a personality around the Cape and there are still men alive who knew him, and who remember his determined efforts to ensure his "shipmates" got back before the "Jaunty" would be out looking for them or simply looked after them when they were in trouble.

His memorial is always decorated with flowers and a wreath appears on it around Remebrance Day each year.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2004

Weeping for a monster.

What is about some of the monsters who have defaced the human history of the last 100 years that they are no sooner dead than they are lionised? What has that ghastly parody of a leader, Arafat, done to deserve this weeping, wailing, and mass hysteria? The man was a venal, corrupt, and thoroughly untrustworthy self-publicist, yet the dupes of the so-called Palestinian people behave as if he were some sort of saint.

Even the Western Press is being sychophantic about the man. He was a pathological liar, a man whose word could be trusted no further than a man with a bone dry mouth can spit. He consistently refused very reasonable settlements which could have brought peace to the region a long time ago - yet he didn't accept them. He publically denounced the Intifada - yet privately and secretly was encouraging it and probably funding it through rewards - sorry, compensation - to the families of suicide bombers. His legacy is the hatred and the bitterness with which both sides view each other, and the Fence, and the "illegal" settlements. Every rocket attack, every round fired by the Israeli soldiers is all part of the legacy of distrust and hatred he nurtured so carefully.

Even his desire to be buried at the Al Aqsa Mosque is designed to keep that hatred alive. He knows the Israelis will see Hell itself freeze over before they even consider allowing it - and even then they would probably say no!

He claimed to have been born in Jerusalem but in reality was born in Cairo. His family were wealthy - funny how that is so often the case with terrorist leaders - a life of privilege, university, and suddenly the big conversion into a mass murderer. Make no mistake, for all his posturing and for all his protestations of innocence, it was this man who sent in the terrorists and ordered them to kill women and children - think back to the attack on a school in the early 1970's which resulted in Primary School children being shot and killed and dozens more injured by three terrorists under his direct orders. He may not have actually pulled the trigger - his side arm was very showy, but probably not even loaded - yet it was his orders that these psychopaths followed.

King Hussein had him and his people ejected from Jordan following the blowing up and murder of passengers in hijacked airliners in the desert in Libya, and there were other reasons as well - like the plot to overthrow the Hashemite Dynasty and re-unite Jordan and Palestine under one "leader". I wonder who that would have been?

In one sense he has been a useful tool for the Arab world; they have used him to keep their own radicals in check - by sending them to "support" the "struggle" for the seizure of Palestine. That was Arafat's grand plan. Force the Israeli's to give up little pockets of territory inside Israel which could then be used as staging posts for further unrest and more land claims until he had "stolen" it back. Unfortunately for him, the Israelis knew this - and wouldn't give way on it, any more than they will give way on the question of giving up their control of Jerusalem.

At least with this nasty little murderer gone to answer for his crimes before whatever God he believed in (I'm not at all sure he actually believed the religion he claimed to follow!) and maybe, just maybe, he'll find that he has to answer for it all for a very long time! Who knows, perhaps he will find, as in a Pratchett novel, that there are a lot of rather upset souls waiting for him in the desert of the dead. They have quite a long time to explain exactly what they think of their hero now.

Don't be surprised if the current outbreak of mass hysteria sees a rise in violence and suicide attacks. Then, once that outburst is over, watch them all try to blame Israel for his death - while his cronies all tear each other apart in an effort to get the top job. Once the unity is shattered, I expect that there will be a chance for peace. After all, the main stumbling block is now gone - but his legacy will be a poisonous one, and nothing will be easy in this at all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM

November 14, 2004

Spiritual evolution?

Whenever someone leaves a comment on my blog I try to follow up the link(s) and read theirs - it's only courtesy, after all. I have to say that many I have visited in this way have given me something to think on or to consider. Many I would not agree with at all, but hey, they give me the courtesy of reading my thoughts and ramblings and probably don't agree with me either.

Today, Vijay of Selective Amnesia left a comment on my "Birthday" post - thanks, Vijay - and I followed the link. Now I think that this post by Chandrachoodan on that blog is worth a wider read and consideration. His postulation of spiritual evolution possibly being a reversal is interesting, but perhaps more importantly, his thoughts on the "scriptural record" of various religions is worth deeper consideration.

It is certainly a view that fundamentalists need to consider in the light of spiritual growth. That must evolve as well - but within the individual. It cannot be locked into the thinking of whatever century the scriptures were written in. As our understanding of God grows we need new markers, new benchmarks, and new understanding. Just as what we understood of the world as a child - thunder being made by the clouds banging their heads together being but one example - changes as we learn, so our understanding of God and of scripture must change as we grow spiritually.

Do give it a little thought!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:34 AM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2004

The right to self defence

At long last there is a stirring among the oppressed householders of this country. The Daily Telegraph is leading a campaign to have the law changed to remove the right of burglars to sue householders if they are injured "on the job" - or, indeed, to prosecute householders for defending themselves.

This lead in the Torygraph makes sensible reading; I suggest you try it and see what I mean. It is not before time for this to be addressed, for far too long the likes of the Left Liberals and the Labour Party have denied us the right of self defence by the use of such weasel words as "reasonable force". Define reasonable? Usually means let them beat you to a pulp, clear your house and your bank, and then turn up in court to be abused by the likes of Mrs Blair Booth defending.

For far too long we have been fed the line that it is your fault if you are robbed or burgled - the victim invited it by having more than the burglar. Well, now even the reformed burglars are saying this isn't right!

Any of you politicians out there listening?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 AM | Comments (1)

November 12, 2004

Why do the US election results evoke such passion on the Left?

I am always a bit cautious when it comes to commenting on other people's elections, party politics, and systems, largely because I am not there, I do not have sufficient insight into the way the system works, or the policies and issues under debate. So it often amazes me when I see the sort of headlines the likes of the Mirror, The Garudian, The Sun, The Independent and other Left-wing promoters run. That said, I have, thanks to Ozguru at G'day Mate, found a paper on this issue which makes a very important and valid point on the whole thing.

I agree with both these sources, it would seem that the tirade of abuse against both leaders involved was certainly a factor in the way people ultimately voted. Speaking for my own views on this, the likes of Michael Moore and other "celebrities" rushing around name calling and doom mongering is sufficient to get my back right up - and drive me to take an opposite view. Whoever writes Cher's scripts should remember that! Her prediction that every Gay and Lesbian would find themselves in jail, or being persecuted or disenfranchised and all the other nonsense she uttered in that outburst, seems to have even driven the people she was supposedly espousing to vote for the "enemy".

What all this torrent of anti-Bush propaganda has done outside of the US (sorry Oz, but the doings of your PM just didn't even get attention in Southern Africa.) has actually had an even more serious effect. It has increased the distrust with which ALL Americans are viewed. It has heightened in particular the suspicion with which every action by every American institution is now viewed. In fact, even if the US pulled out of Iraq tomorrow and let the French, Russian, and the Mullahs get on with their little exercise in power grabbing, you Americans would still be blamed for allowing it to happen. Somehow and somewhere the truth has been lost - and I expect that both sides of the debate have, to quote Churchill, been "economical with the truth". This constant sniping from a small and rather childish group on the Left is now endangering the entire democratic process. By calling the intelligence of voters into question, by infering that the "other side" has hidden motives and agendas, by blaming everyone for your own failure to understand the issues which really get people out to vote, you are in danger of destroying the very mechanism you claim to believe in.

Do take the trouble to read Pixie Misa's piece at Ambient Irony on the outcomes of the elections in Australia and in the US. He makes the point far more lucidly (probably because he understands both system far more intimately than I could!) than I could hope to.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:41 PM | Comments (2)

November 11, 2004

Armistice day and remembrance

Today is Armistice Day, the day set aside in 1920 for the remembrance of those millions who fell on the battlefields of France, Belgium, Gallipoli, Africa, and the Far East during the "Great" War of 1914 - 18. But, as we know, this war "to end all wars" has not been the last. Even in the so-called "Inter War" years there were local "wars" in the Middle East, in the Far East and in Africa - without even mentioning the Spanish Civil War and the war in Russia against Bolshevism - which the "Great Powers" lost!

Today is no different; since the Second "Great War" we have had ongoing conflict in China, Korea, Vietnam, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Sub-continent, the South East Asian Island chains, and the Falkland Islands. Even as I write, men, women and children are dying in the conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan has a new civil war, and Iran is seething with discontent. British forces have been sacrificed in the name of "peace" in West Africa, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. However, the Iraqi conflict must surely open new chapters in the long chain of human brutality and tragedy.

Not since the 18th Century have we been confronted by an enemy as brutal or as fanatical in their dealing with "enemies". As I write this, the "Defenders of Islam", as the insurgent psychopaths in Fallujah style themselves, are fighting to the last drop of their blood - for the political power their Mullahs seek. Elsewhere in Iraq and in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict we have suicide bombers taken from school to blow themselves up in the name of God. The evil men who organise this pay their families huge amounts (in their terms) for their "martyrdom". The question is, who is the martyr and who the victim, here?

Then there is that special group - the ones who kidnap those trying to help the Iraqi people and murder them in the most brutal and sickening way, again in the name of their God - who seem to enjoy the willing protection of the wider public in Iraq. Now I may be doing the Iraqi people a large injustice when I say this, but it is apparent that they know who these people are, and where they are. They also know who is supporting them and how - so why do they continue to allow this barbarity to continue in their name? It is easy to accuse the US and the UK of "invasion" and of all sorts of devious and unscrupulous motives for this war, but to do so is to ignore the fact that there is a growing realisation that we are dealing with a society and a mindset which is totally alien and so far beyond what is considered to be civilised behaviour that there is almost a case for total suppression. But that would not achieve anything either - indeed, it would lower us to the same level.

The pursuit of peace is the object of every civilised man and woman. Sometimes the price of peace is very high indeed, and sometimes it is necessary to go to war to remove evil from power and attempt to restore balance. The truth is that the 20th Century was, perhaps more than any other in our long and bloody history, a century of unending war. The current conflicts are part of that legacy. We could simply ignore them and let evil triumph - or we can continue to resist it and bring to a conclusion the unfinished business that we set off in 1914.

As we remember the fallen today, let us also pray for the restoration of peace and the defeat of all those who wage war in secret, from behind masks and through the murder of women, children, and those whose only motive is to help bring peace and plenty. Let us pray, too, for the successful completion of the operation to clear out the murderous scum who bring such evil and destruction upon the world and the people of Iraq.

But above all, let us remember those who have given or lost their lives in all conflicts, and those who mourn their loss. Let us pray for the men and women engaged in this conflict, that they may be restored to their families and friends when peace is finally restored.

Let us not make light of the sacrifices made over the last 100 or so years for our peace, for our freedom, and for the plenty we enjoy today. Let us instead do our utmost to extend that to everyone.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2004

Beating Retreat

The Battalion Colours are lowered in salute as the Battalion marches past the saluting dias in Revue Order.

The Cadet Battalion ends the Founders Day ceremonial with a ceremony of "Beating Retreat", a ceremonial parade that began in the 17th Century and heralded the shutting of city gates and the posting of sentries by the garrison. It is now famously performed by the Royal Marines among other British Regiments and is uniquely performed by the Selborne Cadet Battalion on this day each year.

The Colours are of silk embroidery and are dedicated and kept under lock and key when not in use. They were presented to the Battalion in 1936 and have been paraded at every Founders Day and other "parade" occassions since.

The boys once again made us "oldies" proud as they performed this difficult ceremonial with elan. Both the Drums and Buglers and the Brass Bandsmen performed their part like professionals, and their Tattoo before the Salutiiong Officer was a sight to behold. I will post a photograph of the formation in due course - pity I cannot also post the sound of the drums!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:15 AM

Retreat and Tattoo

The combined bands beat the Tattoo, a drum Tattoo specially written for the school, with the solo side drummer leading. The beat was African in much of its rhythm, and the blend of the traditional riffles and sounds blended with the bugle and trumpet calls.

The two bands beat "Tattoo" a drum and bugle/trumpet salute before the saluting base.

Again, a moving and well performed salute.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:08 AM

November 09, 2004

A year of blogging

Today represents the start of a new year of blogging. Certainly a lot of ground has been covered in the last twelve months, and a lot will no doubt be covered in the next. What a year it's been: lots of personal triumphs, disasters, and fun, equally loads of things happening at work, nationally, and internationally.

In the twelve months past I have been to the US, to Poland, to Romania, and to South Africa. I have taught almost 300 students on a variety of courses, met some fascinating people, and made some excellent friends. I have moved house, upgraded some of my technology, and am now busy preparing for some major projects at work. Who knows what the next twelve months will bring?

I have to say thanks to my brother-in-law for his hosting this blog (and he even reads it!) and for introducing me to blogging. Thanks, too, to all those of you who drop by and read my ramblings and leave comments. Keep coming by - who knows, perhaps one day we will, collectively, make a difference and be able to say we changed the world. Hopefully for the better!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:31 AM | Comments (3)

November 08, 2004

A gravy train derailment?

It seems the electorate in the UK may not be as supine and stupid as Mr Blair and his "wunderkindt" coterie think. We saw in the news that voters in the North East (the Tyne and Wear region incorporating Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Cleveland, Northumberland and County Durham) have rejected Labour's flagship proposal to establish Regional Assemblies. The voters of the Tyne and Wear region have obviously rumbled the fact that this would be a massive "jobs for our pals" exercise.

They rejected the proposal to establish a Regional Assembly for the North East Region by a margin of 80% against! Mr Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister and chief protagonist for this scam, is upset, but the public have shown that they are wise to the way in which an ever increasing army of parasitic politicians are being accommodated at our expense in totally unnecessary and very expensive "palaces of the people".

If the cost of establishing the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly is anything to go by - we can't afford another nine of them! Especially as they would all require a duplication of Civil Service Departments and an exponential growth in wasteful jobsworths in every region. Should be worth another million Civil Servants in every single Assembly's area if the current Civil Service growth is anything to go by.

The thought of another few million of these wankers doesn't bear thinking about! Nor does the thought of a country broken up into small "Assemblies" in which Labour (because of "tribal" voting) would have a guaranteed majority in at least five, and thus control over any future "Federal" Parliament, bear even the slightest consideration.

I have the greatest regard for the hard headed and hard working men and women of the North East, and they have just gone up another notch in my estimation! Anyone derailing the gravy trains carrying the hordes of worthless politicians and civil servants who infest these supposedly democratic institutions deserves our praise!

Well done the Geordies and the Danelaw!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:10 AM

November 07, 2004

The Lord�s Prayer rendered Politically Correct.

Devised by the Rev Kenneth Scott of Ontario, a friend has sent me this, and I offer it to you as an example of just how stupid 99% of Politically Correct utterances are. It came on a day when the Islington Education chiefs announced that they wanted to change the name of a Church of England School in their area from The St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School to something else of "less offence to members of other religions". To compound this, some cretin at Church House (the HQ of the Cof E) thought it might be a "reasonable" suggestion.

My apologies to God for the terminal stupidty of the leadership of our Church.

Our universal chairperson in outer space,
Your identity enjoys the highest rating on a prioritized selectivity scale.
May your sphere of influence take on reality parameters;
May your mindset be implemented on this planet as in outer space.

Allot to us, at this point in time, and on a per diem basis,
A sufficient and balanced dietary food intake,
And rationalize a disclaimer against our negative feedback
As we rationalize a disclaimer against the negative feedback of others.

And deprogramme our negative personalities,
But desensitize the impact of the counter-productive force.

For yours is the dominant sphere of influence,
The ultimate capability,
And the highest qualitative analysis rating,
At this point in time,
And extending far beyond a limited time-frame.

End of message.

Today's lessons speak of "forgiving", and, as I am preaching to the Sung Eucharist congregation, today, I thought I might share the text of my sermon with those who are interested in this difficult subject here on this blog.

Trinity 22 (3rd Before Advent)
Tewkesbury Abbey
Sung Eucharist

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

“Peter sayeth unto Jesus, “Lord how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”

This week a colleague sent me a new Politically Correct version of the Lord’s prayer, and, as I contemplated the Gospel for today, it occurred to me that I should share with you at least one piece from it. The familiar section which follows on from “ and give us today our daily bread,” has been rendered thus:

“and rationalize a disclaimer against our negative feedback as we rationalize a disclaimer against the negative feedback of others.”

You’re right, the rest of it makes about as much sense! Perhaps it also encapsulates part of the problem we, in our modern age, have with the concepts of sin, forgiveness, guilt, and freedom. Yet, in a rather twisted way, it also encapsulates our society’s understanding of sin. We are slaves to sin, and therefore guilt; we call ourselves “free”, yet we are in bondage to the baggage we carry around in our hearts; we are ashamed of the things we do to others and our inability to forgive what they have done to us. We blame everyone else, but not ourselves!

To err, says the proverb, is human; to forgive, divine. In his reply to Peter our Lord is not setting out some mathematical formula. He is simply stating that it is an ongoing and never-ending process. No matter how hard we try, we all cause someone else pain, daily. Sometimes we are, without knowing it, the instrument of someone else’s hurt, and sometimes, as in the case of the killing of hostages in Iraq, we are all affected but not the direct victim. It becomes much more complex when there is a permanent or longer lasting injury arising from the “sin”, and this is where we really do run into a problem with this simple imperative.

For Christ is not saying we ought to forgive, he is saying we must! There is a world of difference between these two positions. The book, The Foolishness of God by John Baker, sets this out very well. The problem is that we misunderstand the whole concept of forgiveness. Indeed, that whole has become twisted into something else in our society where it has become the norm for those who commit crimes to be “forgiven” by a rather nebulous group who claim to represent “society” without reference to the needs of the victim. Thus we see, as we have done in this last week, families distraught at the reduction in sentences of those who have killed their loved ones and who show no remorse for their actions.

The Bible makes plain that we are to forgive, but the emphasis is not upon a “society”, but upon the individuals - in other words, upon the victim to forgive and for the wrong doer to show remorse.

Consider the story of Jonah. Having very reluctantly - and only after some considerable coercion from God - gone to the inhabitants of Nineveh and urged them to turn to God and repent of their sinful ways, he is angry with God for sparing them when they do. It is not for us to demand of God that He punish anyone, or indeed, that He spare them - and as He showed while hanging on the cross at Calvary, He is prepared to welcome even the most sinful - provided they turn to Him and let go of their sin. To put it in our own terms - in all human sin, it is God who is the ultimate victim.

But there is a further and much more difficult side to this question, and it is this; the victim who cannot find it in themselves to forgive, is consigning themselves to a form of slavery to the entirely negative effects of constantly being angry at the person responsible. Very often this is compounded by the fact that the perpetrator may be completely unaware of the fact that their action has injured someone - or if they are, consider that it was a necessary evil committed “for the greater good”. Where they are aware of the injury, they may find themselves tied to the other great negative in human life - guilt. This is where forgiveness from victim and acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the perpetrator can benefit both sides. The hardest words to say when hurt or feeling guilty are “I forgive you” and “ I am sorry”. Anger and guilt often go hand in hand, and both are destroyers of hope, of promise, and of reconciliation with God.

Here, too, lies another very important part of the process, one often completely misunderstood in our society. Only the victim can forgive the wrongdoer. This is, interestingly, something the Islamic Sharia Law acknowledges. Only the victim, or the victim’s family may commute or confirm a sentence of death or maiming upon a convicted murderer or thief. The act of forgiveness does not require the injured party to act as if nothing has happened; on the contrary, to forgive there must be acknowledgement of the problem - and that, in itself, means that the wrongdoer must experience remorse and a degree of humiliation in accepting forgiveness and acknowledging fault.

It is not something that can be demanded of you, either. It is your duty to forgive, Our Lord has said so, but He has also made you free to exercise that or not. The problem is that, if you choose not to forgive, then you must accept that you will now carry that burden of hurt and anger until you are prepared to do so. Guilt and Anger remain the two parts of the wrongdoing - the guilt of the wrongdoer, and the anger of the injured.

According to the proverb we are to “forgive and forget” in order to meet this Gospel imperative, yet it is sometimes not possible to forget - especially when the victim is no longer able to work because of injury or has some daily reminder of the “sin” to live with. Nor is it always possible for the victim to forgive - especially when the perpetrator shows no remorse or boasts of their wrongdoing or the hurt they have caused - and let us not delude ourselves; there are those who do.

Sin affects us all, and so does forgiveness. Because we are all connected by our friendships, through our family ties, our church, work, or the neighbourhoods we live in, something done to one of us ultimately affects us all. Thus, we are able to forgive the perpetrator for that which affects us. But, it remains the role of the person most directly affected by the “sin” to forgive the primary hurt, and not ours or anyone else’s.

Sin limits our freedom, and we are all guilty of it in one form or another. Sometimes the refusal to forgive is as hurtful and as damaging as the original injury. As Baker wrote,

“We become free by accepting that we are responsible. Only the man who is prepared to stand up and say of his life, ‘This is my own doing,’ however great the pressures that have conditioned and circumscribed him, has broken out of bondage and is on his way to freedom.”

If we consider that carefully we realise that we who find it difficult to forgive are binding ourselves to the same guilt that the wrongdoer must carry - because our anger and hurt is binding us to a life of slavery to our hurt. There is only one way to overcome it - we must learn to forgive. Then we can ourselves hope to be forgiven.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:31 AM

November 06, 2004

Relief in Kimberley?

Could not resist this - especially as someone obviously has a sense of humour at the Kimberley Mine Museum. In case you can't see the pun - Kimberley was famously beseiged by Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer War 1899 - 1902, the seige lasting almost eighteen months. During that time a heavy field gun, "Long Cecil", was built in the Mine Workshops and successfully used against the Boer emplacements. The town was finally "relieved" by a British Force which drove the Boers away and secured the area in late 1900/ early 1901.

The aptly labelled "conveniences" at the Kimberley Mine Museum.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:25 PM

A very big hole!

The Kimberley Mine Museum is worth a visit for several reasons, not least the recreated "Old Kimberley" and the Big Hole itself. This hole was created by hand - miners shifting the dirt and rock with picks and shovels. All the more remarkable because it is the site of what was once a sizable hill!

The crater created by miners digging out the diamonds for which Kimberley is famous. The grey-blue rock is the famous "Kimberlite" - volcanic rock from the throat of an extinct volcano!

The hole was eventually 244 metres deep, that's 805 feet to the non-metricated, and it was all shifted by hand. Some 22.5 million tons of rock which produced 2,722 kg of diamonds (14,504,566 carats). The workings continued in shafts underground after it became impractical to continue the open cast operation, but all working ceased here in 1914, although other mines in the area continue in production. The shaft workings reached a depth of 1,047 metres (3,455 feet) which, as Kimberley is just over 3,200 feet above sea level, means that these mines go around 200 feet below that!

Only around 2% of all the diamonds produced are of the finest gem quality. The rest are either in one of the lower gem grades or sold as "industrial" diamonds for use on abrasive cutter blades, oil drill bits, or similar uses.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:11 PM

November 05, 2004

In memoriam

Today spare a thought for the late Guy (Guido) Fawkes. A Yorkshire-born Catholic, educated at the grammar school in the City of York which to this day does not mark "Bonfire Night" and even has a statue of him outside. A man who fervently believed in the cause of the restoration of Catholicism in England, he was the original terrorist and suicide bomber, as he volunteered to set off the charge laid under the Palace of Westminster.

We may not approve of his method, but he should surely be remembered for all time as the last man to enter any parliament with absolutely honest intentions!

Thanks to the corruption of those inside the House then, a large quantity of gunpowder was easily got into the cellars beneath Parliament in preparation for the visit of King James 1 (and 6th of Scotland!). Had it worked, King and Members would have "gone in a flash!" Some might say that it was the equally corrupt intentions of those supposedly supporting him that made inevitable the betrayal of the plot by one of the plotters - for reward. We can see that not a lot has changed! I suppose it is entirely appropriate that our Members Parasitic have just voted themselves another fat increase in their "expenses" (Read Slush Funds!), a fitting way to rub our noses in the fact that Guy Fawkes failed to make an impact.

Even better is the story that, having had 6,000 special Visitor Passes made for issue to suitably screened and disarmed Visitors to the Houses of Parliament - 3,000 have already gone missing - and some are being offered on e-Bay!

Come back Mr Fawkes, all is forgiven.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:18 AM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2004

The shouting and the tumult dies ...

So the US Presidential election is over. Phew! But, to see the headlines in the Left/Liberal UK Press this morning, anyone would be excused for thinking that either the end of the world has come, or our Third Estate representatives have set out to cause the maximum offence to our American cousins - or they are running afraid that a right wing backlash could happen here and destroy their cosy little vision of a Marxist Utopia.

So why, particularly in the British Press, is there this level of fear as a result of the re-election of one GWB as President of the USA? Why, indeed, have the big names of Hollywood risen in an almost hysterical chorus of breastbeating, sackclothe and ashes wearing? Why have we been subjected to a torrent of misinformation about how Bush is being driven by a supposedly unholy alliance of deep South Bible Belt fundamentalists who are about to ban sex, porn, gays, and everything the liberal-left thinks is the new morality? Is it that they are afraid he might? Or is it that they are actually terrified that their view is not the vision of the majority of voters - the vast majority of whom may well consider themselves nominally Christian - but never darken a church door with their presence except for "hatches, matches, and despatches" as my good friend and ex-services Chief Chaplain, the Venomous Peter, delights in describing occassional attenders?

The truth is that there is a great deal of fear among the Liberal-Left who know very well that deep down the voters of all nations know that they have been conned, that they have been mislead and abused by the Liberal-Left in their pursuit of power. The only reason most of us have tolerated this and not reached for bombs, guns, and other weapons to destroy their cosy little world, is that, for the most part, we are able to get along without too much hassle despite their efforts. That is now rapidly changing as they impose more restrictions, more and more of their "politically correct" claptrap, and erode our freedom and our democracy.

I was appalled to see newspaper articles on my recent South African trip referring to Bush having "stolen" the election in 2000. How the blazes does this appalling piece of garbage have such credence with the supporters of the Liberal-Left? How, indeed, does one "steal" an election? And, I note that there was no mention of the many thousands of postal ballots the Democrat controlled electoral machinery in several States "lost". Nor of the fact that the US Supreme Court itself finally ruled that the Democrat controlled Florida Supreme Court was actually in breach of the State's own Constitution. No, I don't buy that "stolen" election - at least this time round they can't try that one on! A fascinating insight into the minds of the Liberal-Left during this week was the blockading of certain blogs by supporters of the Democrats. An interesting abuse of freedom of speech in the land of the supposedly free! Certainly an interesting example of the determination among the supporters of the Liberal-Left to ensure that the other party's side of the story is not heard. This is classic Marxist/Leninist activity. Perhaps it also reveals a great deal about the real agenda of the Liberal-Left!

Something else the Liberal-Left needs to consider very carefully - especially here in Britian - is that Hitler and Mussolini rose to power on the tidal wave of fear generated by the antics of the "Liberals" running the Weimar Republic (and several other European states) and the complete collapse of morality, the rising tide of militant Marxist/Communist activity in Trades Unions, political activism, and the general disillusionment with the political elite then in power. Today in the UK we see the continued rise of such aberrations as the British National Party - a neo-Fascist organisation - and its growing support among particularly younger voters. This is the natural reaction of anyone who feels that his or her place in the sun is threatened by the rise of some other party, individual, or group that excludes them. It is also the natural reaction to the imposition of change with which the non-subscriber is uncomfortable.

This is what the Liberal-Left Press is afraid of. This is what the Liberal-Left elite in Parliament, in the Civil Service, and in the privileged homes of Islington, Wandsworth, Hammersmith, and Westminster are terrified of. George W Bush is portrayed as a dangerous cowboy, a fundamentalist worse than the lunatics in Iraq who cut off peoples heads with blunt knives - and the American electorate is portrayed - ably assisted by the Democrats who engage in spreading the "stolen election" canard - as ignorant, Bible bashing, red-necked, gun-toting, and reactionary. Telling, is it not, that our much esteemed Prime Minister's wife actually dared to deliver a pro-Kerry, anti-Bush speech at Harvard on the eve of the election? And today her puppet of a husband is mouthing his support and admiration for President Bush. Doesn't it make you want to throw up? It should! It is time to call these idiots to account - before they precipitate a violent reaction to themselves!

Fear drives many things; there are few things more ugly than a so-called Liberal defending their Utopian vision of an electorate dependent upon them for health care, education, income, and housing. A vision in which they have complete control over what you may say, think, or do. A vision in which men are portrayed as serial rapists, child abusers, and violent aggressors. A vision in which personal freedom must be restricted for the "greater good".

The torrent of abuse against GWB and the American electorate stinks of fear. Fear that the public have rumbled them and they may be next!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:36 AM | Comments (5)

November 03, 2004

A dark pool

High in the Outeniqua Mountains above the town of George, I found this little pool in a mountain stream behind the chalet in which I spent a night with my brother en route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. The water is a dark brown in colour, the result of passing through rich peat and some other mineral beds. It made me think immediately of the Gaelic words which have given the city of Dublin its name, quite possibly for the same reason. This, then, is my Dubh Linn. The Dark Pool.

An oasis of tranquility, this deep pool in the mountain stream provides shelter from the wind and the blazing heat of the day.

These ancient mountains are relatively young by Southern African standards and form a barrier between the verdant and wet coastal escarpment and the much drier valley beyond them, which becomes, after the second range of mountains have been crossed, the Little Karoo, a vast semi-desert plateau. On the seaward side of the mountains lies the famous Garden Route where the ancient Yellow Wood trees grow - one is over 2,000 years of age - and the Tzitzikama Forest is also home to the elusive Knysna elephants, the smallest of the African elephant species.

Between George and Knysna lies the Lake District, a picturesque series of lakes and villages. A railway line runs from George to Knysna along the coast, crossing some spectacular gorges. It is pulled by a steam locomotive which makes it a huge draw for any steam buffs, and it is also a big draw for those who take scenic photography seriously. The lakes are the same dark brown as the pool in my photo - except for one which mysteriously is green!

An area with something for everyone to see - even the geologists love it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:49 AM

November 02, 2004

Celebrating all the saints

Yesterday was All Saints Day and today is All Souls. In churches of the Catholick and Orthodox persuasion Masses today will be said for the Souls of all the faithful departed and those whose faith is known to God alone. It is meant to be a season in which we think about those whose faith has influenced the Church and Christians through the ages, and about those who have influenced our lives, faith, and belief. A pity then, that, like Christmas and Easter, it is slowly being buried in a sea of commercially driven and fed superstition with the increasing spread of a substitute called "Halloween".

Most of those who don't have any grounding in faith don't even recognise that this is a corruption of "All Hallow's Eve" and comes from the preparation, in the Catholick and Orthodox wings of the church, of making special preparation on the day before All Saints for the celebratory feast that accompanies it. It is also sparked by the fact that the Churches "day" began at sunset the day before! Therefore, sunset on the 31st October is the "Eve of All Saints, and the evening of the 1st November is the "Eve of all Souls" The old English word for someone or something "holy" being "hallow" or "hallowed" and all "Saints" becomes All "Hallows". The tradition of the dead wandering abroad and the devil having a free hand at this time comes from Eastern European and Spanish traditions and can best be seen in the celebration held in Mexico and other South American states these days.

The "tradition" of "Halloween" as we now have it is a very modern one - and has little, if anything, to do with its original meaning. As I said, it is a pity, even though it may be fun for the kiddies, that it actually now masks the real meaning and importance of the festival that it now overshadows.

I shall continue to celebrate the real All Saints and remember the souls of those who have been special and important to me and my development in faith at All Souls. May they rest in the peace of Christ, and rise in glory when all shall be gathered into God.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:05 AM

Undermining parents .... again!

Today Parliament is set to vote on a matter of vital National importance. No, it's not the war on terror, no one is threatening to blow up parliament, no one is even threatening to launch an invasion against us. It's those nasty, abusive, vicious fathers and mothers who are destroying our National Treasures, the over-indulged, under disciplined, and out of control children.

The usual bunch of anti-family, anti-fathers, anti-choice Labour backbenchers are today demanding a law which will make it a criminal offence to smack a disobedient and naughty child. They want people to engage with their children, to reason with them, and to reward them for behaviour - not punish them for misbehaviour. This is the same group who want health workers to ask every expectant mother "has your husband/partner abused you?"

Anyone who has had to endure the antics of a bunch of out of control children rushing around a supermarket, pulling down displays, and crashing into other shoppers while shrieking and generally misbehaving will understand my concern. Inevitably when you encounter this horde of brats, you also find a mother and father team (sometimes just one or the other, though) appealing to deaf ears and ultimately rewarding the little "treasures" for their totally unacceptable behaviour. I have now twice left my local supermarket when I have encountered uncontrolled children - I simply refuse to have my shopping (which I dislike anyway!) being made even more of an endurance trial by someone else's obnoxious little pests destroying goods and making the transit of aisles hazardous to their continued health and mine!

Listening to the pathetic wimp bleating about this on this mornings radio, and suggesting that anyone who doesn't support this is in the same league as Hitler or Stalin, was enough to send my blood pressure soaring to above the 180mm/hg mark at rest! Someone really ought to put people like this down - inhumanely if possible! These morons are destroying our society, even though their favourite quotation from Dr Spock has long been discredited - by the author himself - they still cling to the belief that if they just keep on whining to their out of control brats, these monsters will somehow develop into responsible and decent citizens! Look out of the window sometime, you cretins! The louts who go binge drinking, who think it's fun to deface and smash other peoples property, who launch uncontrolled attacks on people who dare to "dis" them, these are the product of your overindulgent nursing! These louts are the children of people who have abrogated their responsibility for teaching them proper values, self discipline, and decency. These are the generation who will destroy your ivory towers from within!

Let us hope that common sense prevails in this debate today. Let us hope - but given the quality of the people and the minds now in occupation of that House, perhaps that is a vain hope. After all, this is the same group who think it is OK to introduce a new set of rules that will allow a widening of casinos and lift the restrictions on gaming machines. Who think it won't increase the levels of debt and further undermine the efforts to lift people out of debt and poverty (such as it is in this country!). This is the same bunch of cretins who haven't yet figured out that the relationship between the number of betting shops and the volume of trade in any betting shop is also related to the socio-economic population of any given area in a city! But then, perhaps the information Blair and his ministers are hiding is that the chief beneficiary from this will be them - more tax from gambling and greater dependency from their core electorate on the handouts and benefits paid for by those of us with more sense!

Perhaps it is time to rename the House of Commons - I suggest that it should in future be called the House of Clowns and Dangerous Cretins. It may actually alert us to the growing tyranny that is eminating from it, a tyranny that is reducing freedom of action, speech, and the individual to nothing. This is no longer democracy, this is tyranny.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:01 AM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2004

Three cheers for the Noble Lords!

Definitely a huge cheer should go up for their noble Lordships' commonsense decision to reject the decision of the Appeal Court (brought by no less a person than Mrs Cherie Booth (Blair) QC) to gag the press and prevent the reporting of a case before the High Court of Justice of a murder hearing in which a mother is accused of murdering her child. The reason for the gagging order was the usual tripe about "protecting the children".

The problem, of course, is that in their efforts to protect so-called "children" - and there needs to be a major rethink on the age of criminal responsibility soon - all too often the public's right to hear the evidence, weigh up the facts for themselves, and form their own opinions are sacrficed. Equally, there is the even more dangerous reversal of the principle of law that states that the accused is innocent until the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt their guilt. Any case involving children is now seriously compromised by the refusal of courts to allow the child to be properly cross-examined, or to reveal even the full extent of the evidence the child has made available to the prosecution on the grounds that this would traumatise, compromise, or otherwise reexpose the child to the public's scrutiny.

Criminal hearings involving children are always sensitive, they are always going to be immensely complex - but this should never permit a court to deny an accused person his or her right to the presumption of innocence. All too often the conduct of social workers, women's lobbists, and other "protection" groups presume the person is guilty and proceed from there! Justice is not served in this way. It is far too important to be left in the hands of politicians and lawyers, and it is far, far too important to be influenced by well-meaning but frequently misguided special interest and pressure groups.

One of the major problems we now face in our society is the refusal, encouraged by our current crop of nannying politicians and campaigners, of many to accept responsibility for their own actions. The case of the 17 year old who murdered a little girl because she teased him is a good case in point. He has had at least three incidents of violent behaviour towards girls in the past, yet his defence is that he suffers from a "syndrome" which makes him respond inappropriately to any aggravation. His parents have actually worsened this by refusing to believe the accusations - even cutting off communication with members of their own family who have reported his previous attacks to them. Now that he has been convicted on overwhelming evidence you would think that they would accept the verdict.

You would be wrong. They are now launching a campaign to "prove his innocence". Watch this space, it won't be long before the likes of Mrs Blair are onto it and launching appeals on his behalf - completely ignoring the fact that a little girl is dead, she can never bring joy to her grieving parents, she can never enjoy the career she dreamed of, she will never experience the joy and sadness of her own family - yet this boy, the creation of our society which tells its youth that they are victims, that they are not responsible for the wrongdoing, will be free to enjoy his life to the full in a few short years - sooner, if his parents can persude the ever gullible "rights" lobbyists of his innocence.

This is what makes the freedom of the press to report these matters so vital. If Mrs Booth (BLair) had had her way, the press would in future have been routinely gagged in any case involving children. That would not be healthy for either justice, nor for the future freedom of us all.

Three cheers for their Lordships; let us hope they continue to show such good sense in future!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:03 AM