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April 30, 2005

The final demise of the British motor industry

It is flattering when one's own humble efforts are endorsed by a featured commentator as is my post on the Rover debacle. I have a link from the author of this post on Rover at the Axis of Logic, and am flattered to discover that my analysis is not a lot different to his. The entire debacle goes back to the incompetence of management back in the 1960's and 70's and the contuing absence of any integrity in the boardrooms of today. BAe asset-stripped, BMW asset-stripped, and then the Phoenix Group have stripped whatever was left. Sadly, the Unions have to take at least some of the blame because their behaviour has simply accelerated this process and helped to hide it.

Do visit Michael Feltham's article - it makes really fascinating reading!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:23 AM

April 29, 2005

ANZAC Day and other Empire sacrifices ...

The Australians are rightly proud of their contribution to the defence of the democratic model we have today both in the First and Second World Wars and in all the subsequent conflicts. Ozguru, over at G'day Mate, stressed the sacrifice of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli in that ill-fated campaign in WWI, but I think they must be almost unique in marking the sacrifices made by all the Colonial Citizenry in all the world in both wars and thereafter.

The South Africans lost several Divisions in Flanders (Visit the Menin Gate at Ypres to get some idea of the sacrifice they made!) and the Western Front along the Somme (Delville Wood's defence saw 200 men walk out after a four day stand in which 2000 South African troops went in!) and in East and South West Africa against German Forces led by charismatic and capable Generals, whilst themselves having to suffer under the leadership of British Generals too blinkered to see that a differnt kind of thinking was needed in the highly mobile war on the African fronts.

The Canadians, too, suffered heavily in WWI; the "temporary hospital they built at Orpington is still in use and is very extensive (which tells it's own tale!) and in the Dieppe Raid (among other "sortees"!) in WWII - a try out for the techniques that would follow at D-Day, and both the Australians and the South Africans took the brunt of fighting in the Western Desert, the Po Valley, and the push up through Italy. There were South Africans alongside the Australians in Burma and in the islands, and many more at sea and in the air with both their own airforces and the RAF. The South African First Infantry Division, together with 2 and 3 SAI, the little armour they had and the ancient biplanes their airforce was equipped with, chased the Italians out of Ethiopia and restored the Emperor Haille Selassi to his throne, having given him asylum until it could be achieved - something the anti-apartheid propagandists still don't like to acknowledge!

1 SAI then went on to be sent to relieve the Australians in Tobruk - without being given the ammunition they needed to hold off the Afrika Korps tanks! They still managed to hold out for almost three weeks, resorting to the most desperate of tactics to halt the German armour until eventually, out of ammunition, food, and water, they had no choice but to surrender. Their achievement is all but removed from the history taught today, and that is a pity because their stand, and the Australian's stand before them, helped give the breathing space that gave Montgomery the time to build up his forces for the Battle of El Alamein.

The rewriting of history by the revisionists of the 1960's onwards has done much to try to "airbrush" out the contribution made by these "Colonial" troops without whose voluntary presence the Empire would almost certainly have been overwhelmed. Ironically both the Gallipoli and the Tobruk "incidents" feature in an excellent work of fiction by the naval author Douglas Reeman. Entitled "HMS Saracen", the book is the story of a member of an unusual class of ship - the monitor - conceived as a vessel to support troops ashore or during landings from the sea with massive fire power in shallow waters. The ship in the book is based loosely on the last WWI pair built - HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, both armed with a pair of 15 inch guns and 16 4 inch mountings. The author has even drawn on the real lives of this pair to give meat to his story with the exploits of Erebus off Gallipoli and the sinking of Terror off Tobruk featured in the book.

We should never forget the contribution all the Colonial troops, seamen, and airmen made to the defence of our freedom in both World Wars, and in the subsequent conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and everywhere else. We should remember them with honour - and in the words of Shakespeare, "think shame on all who decry their fame!"

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM

April 28, 2005

Distinctive architecture

The countryside in and around Eastern Kentucky has a great deal to commend it. It is naturally beautiful, has some interesting history, and the architecture is also distinctive. This is, after all, horse country - the claim that it is the "Horse Capital of the World" is probably not at all far fetched. The horses around here are not your general run of the mill jobbing hacks; these are thoroughbreds that buyers come from far and wide to buy.

A typical turreted Horse Barn near Lexington

Driving around you soon notice the distinctive turreted buildings which could be mistaken for rather grand houses at first glance. Then you notice that they have several features that most houses don't. And then you learn that these are the famous "Horse Barns". All I can say is that the horses live in beautiful homes and want for nothing. Even the views are superb. But, I guees that if you are worth several million dollars to your owner/trainer, you would also be kept in this sort of luxury!

This is an area of contrasts, beauty in nature, beauty in the structures, beauty in the seasons. People passing on the Interstate 75 on their way to Florida from the North or driving home again, have really no idea of what they are missing!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:50 AM | Comments (2)

April 27, 2005

In case you ever wondered ...

Ever wondered where the authors of various reports and "learned" articles about such amazing stuff as diversity, various -isms, and the like get those high sounding, but almost meaningless buzz phrases from? Ever wondered why so much of it never seems to make sense when you read it carefully? Wonder no more! The Monk has discovered the source of all these "Buzz Phrases" that sound so good, but mean so little. I reproduce it here for your use to confound the managers who probably themselves don't know that it exists and have simply copied the phrase from somewhere else!


To Use: Think of any THREE digit number
Take the word in Column 1 related to the FIRST digit.
Take the word in Column 2 related to the SECOND digit.
Take the word in Column 3 related to the THIRD digit.

Use the resulting phrase within the body of the text of your report.
Reuse this phrase wherever it is appropriate throughout the report, and
Generate additional phrases which support it at intervals in your text.
Ensure all the Buzz Phrases appear in the Executive Summary

Keep track of the number of times they are used in correspondence
sent out by the management to the rest of the organisation!

Column 1

0 Integrated
1 Total
2 Systemised
3 Parallel
4 Functional
5 Responsive
6 Optional
7 Synchronised
8 Compatible
9 Balanced

Column 2

0 Management
1 Organisational
2 Monitored
3 Reciprocal
4 Digital
5 Logistical
6 Transitional
7 Incremental
8 Third generation
9 Policy

Column 3

0 Potential
1 Flexibility
2 Capability
3 Mobility
4 Programme
5 Concept
6 Time phase
7 Projection
8 Hardware
9 Contingency

This "generator" produces phrases with that high sounding "ring" of knowledge and subject expertise that so impresses the management. They can be written into almost any report and generating one is as easy as thinking of (or asking a colleague to give you) a random three digit number. So, for instance 063 gives you "Integrated Transitional Mobility" or 911 - "Balanced Organisational Flexibility".

The Monk has used it in several reports to management - and it works a treat. There are some very telling phrases now lacing our internal (and quite possibly external!) correspondence. One recently surfaced in the organisation's Business Plan! Such is the power of words - even meaningless ones!

So now you know. And do use it with great joy and amusement !!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:19 AM

April 26, 2005

St George's Day

With quite a lot on my plate at the moment, I sort of lost sight of my intention to flag up St George again! At least I wore a rose and marked the day myself - and in common with the vast majority of people in and around Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, and Gloucester! At least in the West we have not forgotten our Patron Saint.

It is good to see so many people now flying the English Flag - often in defiance of the Council Planning Officers who scurry about demanding the removal of flags and flag poles as they may cause offence. I was gratified to hear one busybody being told in Gloucester to make themselves scarce and shut their "gob" before they found themselves decorating the top of the pole, flag and all! Even better, the idiot was wearing a Labour Party badge. My cup ran over for a while there!

Scotland celebrates St Andrew, the Welsh celebrate St David, and the Irish, St Pat, but anyone in England wanting to celebrate St George is promptly told "it's nothing special" and that Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid, St David, St Andrew, or any other "ethnic" minority group is more important than the celebration of our "oppressive" past. Thus it was gratifying to find that most of the pubs in my area at least have, in defiance of the Licencing Authority" done something to mark the occassion, as have almost all the parish churches.

Whatever Mr Blair and his thoroughly discredited bunch of parasitic cronies say, the English are slowly beginning to get annoyed at having their history, traditions, and culture torn apart and destroyed by his aparatchiks. He should take care; the last time they got this annoyed they decorated a lot of bridges, borders, and buildings with the heads of those who annoyed them!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:38 AM

April 25, 2005

Kentucky's most famous horse

Kentucky is famous for several things, not least its hospitality, Bluegrass music, its horses, and its Bourbon Whiskey! However, in a State renowned for horse breeding and racing, perhaps its most famous horse is the huge Man o' War.

Bronze statue of the famous Man o' War

This superb horse had a striude at full gallop of 28 feet, the longest ever measured. He lost only one race in a long career, and that due to having been cleverly boxed in and held back by the eventual winner, no mean feat when it was acknowlkedged even by the jockey concerned that had Man o' War got into his stride, his own mount could not have held him. Eventually he retired from racing and had sired and grandsired and no doubt now great grandsired offspring who are also big, fast, and superb horses.

The statue of this magnificent horse surmounts the spot where he is buried at the national Horse Centre and Museum in Lexington. It is well worth the visit if you are interested in horses and racing!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:37 AM

April 24, 2005

Genographic survey


Genographic survey? What the heck is that?

OK, I will confess that I have been fascinated by the whole research project of exploring the whole genetic thing. As the world population has exploded, the gene pool has also been mixed as it has never been before. Archeology has now traced our ancestral lineage back to an area in Africa, where, some 3 million years ago, the first homonids appeared. From the first, our genes have changed, adapted and, in so doing, adapted us as we have passed through the evolutionary stages between the early homonids and modern man - modern in the same sense that we are still Homo Sapiens (Cro Magnon Mark 1), as opposed to any of the earlier versions.

Since the discovery of the helical structure of DNA and the gene proteins, we have learned a great deal about ourselves and about our ancestors. As the techniques for studying and mapping DNA have improved, so we have learned more and more about the wonder of our development from the early hominids in the Ethiopian hills. The discovery that certain genes pass from the maternal line consistently has meant that it is possible to trace the maternal lineage of an individual and thus recreate an entire family tree for that person and his or her antecedents. It has also been possible to trace the migration of the human species from the area of its first origins to every part of the world.

Naturally there is the potential to abuse this knowledge as there is always the potential to abuse any knowledge. Unfortunately the fear of this is likely to hold back the really important research that we should support which could well bring an end to many of the genetic defects which cause such heartache and misery to those whose offspring are afflicted by genetically-transmitted allergies or predispositions to cancer or other ailments. Two world wars culled a huge amount of genetic material from the genepools of Europe and the US and of Asia, in the process, not to mention the British Colonies and Dominions such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. In some countries this is compounded by religious practices and strictures which result in the limitation of choice in selecting husbands/brides and lead to cousin marrying cousin.

Understanding how this all fits together is vital if we are to avoid rendering ourselves extinct becasue we managed to breed increasingly defective genes to the point of collapse. It is a difficult area, one fraught with questions of morality and with a dark past in the eugenics research conducted by the Nazis, but we cannot afford to ignore it.

For this reason, I have decided to take part in the National Geographic Society survey which is attempting to map the genetic pool of the human race worldwide. I will be sending in my swabs for analysis and will receive in return, in due course, a full genetic map of my (and naturally my families) antecedents as far back as the records currently permit. I find this a fascinating study, not least because, as a family, we have served the Crown for generations and have travelled far and wide in that service. To have the chance to discover who we really are, what genes we carry and where our relatives may be scattered is exciting and interesting. If, along the way, we are making a contribution to the science that may, one day, give us cures for some diseases, or prevent defective genetic transmission, then it is one of the most worthwhile things I can do.

If you are interested, check the National Geographic website and take part yourself.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:37 AM

April 23, 2005

Bits 'n pieces

It's quite a while since I linked anything to several of my favourite blogs, and I really should make more effort. Apart from anything else, it gives me a chance to see what makes others excited and to share that with my own readers. The Laughing Wolf is one such blog, and I will own to having a fondness for wolves anyway, but this one is articulate and has a wide range of interests. Photography, especially wildlife photography is one of them. The pictures of a wolf in this post are worth a visit!

I enjoy photographing wildlife myself, but I have little opportunity these days to get close to any of the really interesting animals. My recent trip to South Africa provided a chance to photograph some cheetahs, but not much more. I have recently bought a new camera with a bigger zoom and a clearer definition - the trouble is, the poictures are now way too big to post! A solution will have to be found when I can figure out how to play with Photoshop properly!

Trying to catch up on the blogs of several other friends is, these days, a little fraught, as I have a lot happening both at the Abbey, but more annoyingly, at work. Idiots now rule! Got that! Right!

Anyway, I know exactly how Cyn feels when her radio, television and apparently other sound producing equipment reacts to her presence! I've given up trying to sort out my bedside radio entirely; I put it down to my magnetic personality and threw away the radio.

Da Goddess to seems to be having a few trying times at present, and I hope that she soon finds smoother waters. The image she paints of receiving an epidural only partially under local anaesthetic makes shudderful reading - and that's only part of it! Hopefully she's now out of the trees at least, if not the woods themselves!

Suzie, of Practical Penumbra is also having fun(?) chasing bureaucrats. I'm glad to see that the peculiar brand of circular thinking in bureaucracy is not confined to these shores. It is a universal qualification for bureaucrats everywhere. The more important the official, the tighter the circle in which the thinking is done. I wonder if it's evolutionary? If it is, perhaps the bureaucratic gene will eventually achieve the feat of the OohJah Bird and dissappear up it's own back passage!

As if one was not enough, her post labelled "It's a long way to tip a rarie" made me smile - especially as the day job has, for years been about trying to address public safety!

On the Third Hand has a story that could only have come from the Far East, the Philippines in fact! The Filipino President and their Congress has a number of interesting ideas on "fair trade" in a "deregulated environment". Their largely government owned oil company is struggling - market share is 38% - and so, the President sees no problem in "urging" Filipinos to shun all rivals and buy only from Petron. Not to be outdone, the Congressmen are demanding that they stop buying oil from Opec. Mind you, one of the more fascinating aspects of life there is the "Pork Barrel" Budget - a special projects budget from which Congressmen and Senators ddraw funds for "Projects" in their constituencies. Whatever the project, they get to put up a huge sign proclaiming their "generosity" in funding it. Even bus shelters have these signs on them!

Oh well, the Piso continues to sink, my bank still won't buy back from me the handfull of large Piso notes I have left from my last business trip there!

Finally, on Dodgeblogium, a guest poster called Guido Fawkes has an interesting view of the Labour Party. Certainly something to think on and maybe look into a little more sometime when I have a moment.
Well, I had better get back to work and do something to earn my crust. More reading of blogs soon - I promise!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:44 AM | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

The wit and humour of the Irish ....

"..... the great Gaels of Ireland,
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad."

Recently I acquired a book which gives some lovely insights into Irish humour and to some of the mindset that is so peculiarly Irish. This is a fighting nation; one of their "proverbs" says; "The Irish are only at peace when they are fighting." Both their enemies and their allies have found them difficult bedfellows. A story of the "Wild Geese", the famous (or infamous!) 18th Century mercenaries, concerns the complaint by Louis XIV to their commander Count Mahoney that "Your soldiers are more trouble than the whole of the rest of the Army!", to which Mahoney replied, "Yes, Your Majesty, your enemies say so as well!"

Looking back at the history of this often turbulent race, one finds that their first brush with conquerors goes back to the Vikings, mainly Danes, who settled along Strangford Lough, Belfast Lough, and at Dublin (then called Dubh Linn, meaning Dark Pool). Then, around 1070, they rebelled against the High King, the O'Niel, and the rebels, by then driven back to the area around Dublin, appealed to William the Conqueror in England for help. William had a number of "landless knights" for whose loyalty he had thus far been unable to find reward in England - so he sent them to Ireland. At the Battle of Howth these Norman conquerors, ironically themselves descendents of the Viking settlers in Normandy, set in train the occupation by "English" forces of Ireland for the next 900 years.

Thus began the legendary resistance - and the deep divisions in Irish society. This gave rise to the saddest epitaph in any history, that used for Irish soldiers of fortune until 1916 - "We fought every nation's battles and the only ones that we lost were our own."

They have certainly enriched British history and British politics, as well as providing a huge fund of wit and humour. They have given us some fine minds - Jonathon Swift, George Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan to name but a few. They have given us some fine generals, too - the Duke of Wellington being just one. Sometimes, in politics, their MP's have had a talent for unintended humour, and sometimes the same man can be devastatingly to the point. One such example is the Cork MP Sir Boyle Roche, who, tired of the Opposition's attempts to drown out his speech to the House in fits of coughing, produced a handful of lead bullets from his pocket and waved it across the floor, shouting, "These are infallible cures for the cough, and I will be happy to administer them if any of the gentlemen opposite would care to try them!"

Wisdom can be found in their sometimes ironic observations on life. For example: "Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle." Or the slightly more enigmatic, "Great men will never do great mischief but for some great end." Even the straightforward "It is a hard task to comfort the proud."

Their music is ancient and has a lilt and quality that is found in its influences in such diverse things as the Bluegrass sound of Kentucky and the hymnals of a range of church traditions around the world. The traditional Irish Ceilidh is something else again, especially when the traditional instruments, drum, Celtic pipes, harp, and fiddle are played. The sound of the Irish drums beaten in tattoo and accompanied by the Celtic Pipes or the harp raises the hairs on one's neck! But perhaps the real soul of this people is summed up in the last verses of the song "The Minstrel Boy"

"The Minstrel fell - but the foeman's chain
Could not his proud soul bring under:
The harp he loved ne'er spoke again
For he tore its cords asunder.

And said, No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery."
(Thomas Moore)

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:15 AM

April 21, 2005

A new Papal reign.

It was, I suppose, predictable that whoever got elected Pope would be immediately unpopular with which ever faction felt he did not represent "their" view of the Church's direction. Two things stand out with regard to the election of this particular Pope. First he is already 78, second he is recognised as the leading theologian of the Curia.

His election is a disappointment to those who wanted a Pope who was going to ditch the long held doctrines instantly, and hailed by those who want "no change." The simple answer is that these matters take time to resolve - and the Church is not going to change its stance overnight. This man has some very firmly held beliefs and it is unlikely that he will change tack now. What he may do is allow "closed door" discussions to begin in the Curia itself as a precursor to a wider debate in the World Church. His Church now has more adherents outside of Europe and North America than in those traditional areas. The wider congregations are not anywhere near the state of sophistication that we expect in the Developed World, and he must move slowly and carefully or risk setting in train an even more devastating set of attacks from the Islamic or Atheist worlds which are waiting to pounce.

His choice of name is interesting, Benedict XV was one of the greatest reformers of the Roman Church and the original Benedict of the Monastic fame was the greatest reformer of the age in his time. I suspect that this Pope may not produce fireworks but he may produce some surprises. Even if he does not, he will have prepared the ground for the next Pope.

We shall have to wait and see how the Holy Spirit moves him on this.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:48 AM

April 20, 2005

God a micro-manager?

Sometimes you hear people saying things in relation to God and His action or inaction in respect of events or personal crisis, and you wonder at the image that the speaker has of God. Do they really envisage God as someone who, having given them free will, is going to be stood at their shoulder all day and every day, micro-managing their every action? Do they really think that, having made us in His image, He is then going to intervene in every aspect of our lives, in the natural cycle of the planet, in the cycles of life, death, and evolution any further than in the grandest scheme of things?

There can be little doubt that He does care for each and every individual. The gospels tell us that He knows when the least animal in His creation is in danger, or is killed, so He does care on an individual level, but we must also face the fact that He does not give us what we want. He gives us what we need in order that we may fulfil our potential in His creation. The great Saint Augustine of Hippo expressed the view that we, through Christ, have become "like God", a statement which on the face of it, contradicts the Genesis view that we are "created in the image of God". But does it? After all, if, in the Fall of Man, we lost our direct link to God, then in Christ it is restored - but this still does not mean that God is going to micro-manage our lives! We still have choices, and though God may not like some of the choices we make, He is not going to interfere in them!

I like to think that God has a way of getting us to follow a certain course or pathway through life. At times we go off in our own direction and get into difficulties of our own making. Things don't work out as we would like, or they go very sour indeed. Suddenly we blame God - "if only God had prevented this", or "God should have shown me the way He wanted me to go!" Perhaps He did, but we weren't listening or looking in the direction He suggested or pointed.

We are all God's creatures, He gave us freedom of choice, He gave us the intelligence to explore this life to the full, if we wished to. But, is our present shape, form, existence necessarily "the image of God"? Frankly, I find that hard to get to grips with. Firstly because in this form and existence, I am bound by the Laws of Physics, gravity, and perhaps more importantly - time! God is not bound by any of those; He may act within them for the purposes of His creation, but He is the Master of it all and not the servant. My image of God, if image it can be called, is of a being of immense spiritual dimensions, one who is simultaneously in our past, present, and future. One who is, then, now, and for the ages of ages. This is not the sort of being who is going to interfere by micro-managing the minutiae of my daily existence, but He is going to keep an eye on what I'm up to and be available when I inevitably take a wrong turn.

If I am made in the image of this God, then it is a part of me that is not visible to the naked eye. In short, I believe that it is my soul which is "in the image of God" and that it is in this spiritual form that I am able to interact with Him on any and all matters relating to my life, both in this plain of existence and in the next. Praying to Him for a lottery win, or for Him to patch up a relationship I have ruined is just not going to happen; those are things I must work out for myself under His guidance, but there is no waving of a magic wand to "make it all better". That is micro-management.

There are, of course, some dangers in exercising our "free will". One, or at least one of these, is that we can become so wrapped up in the pursuit of our own gratification that we become so unaware of God that we isolate ourselves and find ourselves completely out of touch with Him. It is tempting, then, to point to events like the Asian tsunami and the Indonesian earthquakes and ask "why, if there is a God, doesn't He prevent this?" To do so is to completely misunderstand God. The earth is as much a living organism as we are; it is still "forming" and changing - it is the very fact that it is in this state that makes it habitable to us. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and so on are a part of that process of change and formation. Having set the process in motion, God is, as with having given us free will, unlikely to intervene in the natural course of events. He does not micro-manage us or the earth, He is the policy director, we are the implementors.

Like any good manager, God is always ready to offer advice, to help us "brainstorm" a solution, or to provide a shoulder to cry on. He does answer prayers, He is there to listen, and He does care about us individually, but, having given us freewill and we having elected to use it, He is now bound by His own generosity and nature to allow us to go our own way. Although we are created in the image of God, and in Christ have become like God, we can only really become fully aware of that when we pass from this life to the next. No doubt, once there, we will begin to appreciate just how much God does in our daily lives that we are not even aware of, but perhaps most importantly, we will also come to understand just why we are not micro-managed from birth to death in this life - and almost certainly in the next.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:28 AM

April 19, 2005

Honouring Nelson's dead.

The Royal Navy has a way of looking after its own - even 207 years after they died in battle. In a report in Yahoo News, a contingent from the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines recentlyt took part in a full military funeral service for the remains of a group of sailors, marines, and officers from Nelson's fleet who had been buried on an island in the entrance to Abuokir Bay.

The remains include the body of Commander James Russell, who served with Nelson, and about 30 others assumed to be either British sailors or soldiers, a woman, and some children. It is assumed that the woman's body may be that of an officer's wife, but it is possible that she had managed to hide her gender and signed on as a seaman to be near a husband or lover. The children's remains are most likely those of "powder monkeys", pre-teen boys from poor houses and orphanages whose job aboard ship was to carry the powder charges from the magazines to the guns.

The bodies were identified by the fact that they had been stitched into sail cloth "coffins" for burial, a peculiarly naval tradition.

The bodies were discovered by an archeologist who realised that they were in danger of being washed away. The Royal Navy took over when told of the discovery and has provided an honour guard and pall bearers to move the remains to a Commonwealth War Cemetary about 15 miles away. Here they have been re-interred with full military honours. Present at the ceremony was one of the descendents of the Commander.

One of the young Royal Marine pall bearers said "I would hope that someone would do this for me one day."

As long as there is a Royal Navy, there will be someone to do it. Provided, of course, the Whitehall parasites don't destroy the entire nation in the meantime!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:46 AM

April 18, 2005

Kentucky Bourbon

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is purportedly the invention of a Baptist Minister in Kentucky in the early 1800's! Considering his denomination's aversion to alcohol, I find this slightly amusing! Anyway, Kentucky Bourbon is officially, in law, 51% Corn, and 49% Rye and other grain - oh, and it has to be brewed in Kentucky!

A 2,500 gallon copper "pot still" used to distill the raw whiskey from the fermented "liqour".

This particular distillery has three of these stills lined up, but makes a limited range of connoisseur whiskeys. The distilled liqour is clear in colour as it leaves the still, and it is then placed into new oak barrels, the insides of which have been charred. This brings out the natural sugar in the wood as a sort of caramel and it is this which then colours and flavours the whiskey. The casks are stored in a warehouse for six, eight, ten, or twelve years, the seasonal variations in temperature also aiding the process of aging and flavouring as the whiskey is forced deeper into the wood or drawn out of it by the changes in temperature.

One of the problems in this process is the fact that a certain amount of the whiskey is lost through evaporation as the wood is impreganted with the liquor. The original 52 gallons per barrel soon reduces to around 48 gallons for a mature cask. Generally, the longer it lies in the cask, the richer the colour of the whisky and the smoother the taste.

The atmosphere inside the warehouses and the distillation plant itself is probably on the richer end of the flammability range - not the place to light up a quiet cigarette!

And the product itself? Definitely an interesting flavour, a bit richer and a little fuller than some of our Scottish or Irish whisky (or whiskey!) flavours, but certainly pleasant to drink - but carefully, this stuff is strong!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:44 PM

April 17, 2005

Sunday sermon

Today I am a little better prepared for a preachment at the Parish Eucharist! The topic of the readings is mixed; on the one hand the Jerusalem community and its attempts at communal property ownership and sharing wealth and everything else, and on the other the image of the shepherd and his sheep. In between is St Peter on the subject of suffering for one's faith!

An eclectic set of readings, one which I suspect would require a great deal more time than is usually avaiable at this service, to fully integrate and address. So I am taking the easier option - my sermon today is on the Gospel reading taken from St John 10: 1 - 10.

The sermon notes are in the extended post below. Peace be with you as you explore!

4th Sunday of Easter 2005
Tewkesbury Abbey
17th April 2005

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

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”

As a child, this story had a somewhat difficult image for me. On the one hand, I could certainly identify with the image of the pen – in Africa these are often circular enclosures made of thick thorn bush fences. Only a fool or a desperate man would attempt to go into one through any means other than the gate, unless he could make a hole in the fence itself, but only a thief would do that. On the other hand, the concept of the sheep being inclined to follow closely behind the shepherd without the aid of a dog or two to keep them together, simply did not gel with my observations of the tough and rather independent minded Merino sheep I often saw on farms we visited.

Most African shepherds in the East Cape Border Region that I knew as a child rode sturdy Basuto ponies and used dogs and whips to round them up – certainly at odds with the image given in our Gospel of a shepherd who knows his sheep by name. I very much doubt that any of the sheep I knew then had names at all! If they did they certainly kept them secret. It was not until I was older that I learned that Biblical Shepherds had a different system – and even later that I learned that they were almost pariahs in the Jewish Society of Christ’s day.

I am sure that I do not need to explain to a congregation of people living in almost rural Tewkesbury that sheep are very attention intensive. They need constant supervision and monitoring – not because they are stupid, but because they have a propensity for falling ill, dropping lambs, and generally getting into trouble which is almost unrivalled by any other animal – except us! This is why, I suspect, that our Lord chose the analogy of the Shepherd and the sheep as an image of how he cares for us and watches over us.

I would have to say that it was not until I visited the desert in Kuwait several years ago that the aspect of the Shepherd leading and the sheep following made sense, for it was there that I saw, for the first time, shepherds with their flocks in the desert. Nor will I forget how when two shepherds, having met and their flocks mingled, moved off in different directions, and a few minutes later each flock had sorted itself out and was following their own shepherd. It was a graphic and very personal reminder of this passage, one more piece of the puzzle that makes up faith that dropped into its proper place. One more thing about Our Lord’s teaching finally understood.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.”

The desert shepherds do indeed know their sheep – and their sheep know them. They know that when they pen the sheep for the night, and make their camp at the entrance to that pen, any who come to steal the sheep must enter at some other point; those who come to the gate, must pass the shepherd’s campfire – and desert courtesy demands that they stop and make themselves known. Thus, our Gospel says clearly, he who enters by the gate is known to the shepherd and therefore to the sheep.

Those who first heard this story probably did not realise that Jesus was speaking metaphorically; they certainly recognised the problems with the sheep and possibly the shepherd, but could not relate it to themselves. In fact it is only when we consider the sheepfold and the gateway in terms of the tomb do we really begin to understand it ourselves! Inside the fold is our present life! Outside it is the life hereafter. Christ is therefore both the shepherd tending his penned flock, and the gate to the greater life beyond!

The thief comes to steal the flock. As he cannot pass the shepherd and through the gate, he must resort to climbing over the fence – and therefore can steal only one or two at a time. Yet, being as sheep, we are also tempted to escape the fold – the grass is always greener where you are not – but our good shepherd does not simply write off his losses; being a conscientious guardian of the sheep, he follows and, when the opportunity is there, will endeavour to recover the lost or stolen sheep.

As St Peter told the Jerusalem crowd in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, “God has raised this Jesus to life” and in so doing he has changed us as well. We are now both sheep and shepherd, since in the Holy Spirit we receive also the mantle of the shepherd, and that means we have now the duty of caring for the flock as he did.

It is in that “raising to life” as well that we find the fulfilment of the statement “I am the gate”. For his resurrection is truly the gate through which we pass to eternal life. Through Jesus the Shepherd and the Gate we pass from the tomb to life, from the sheepfold to the wide open spaces of the life beyond.

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”

Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:30 AM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2005

The Nation imploding?

Came across an interesting blog the other day, thanks to The Edge of Englands Sword, in a post labelled "Will ye no come back again?". It is titled "Arthur's Seat", a reference to the extinct volcano that towers over Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. His post covers the resurgence of Scottish confidence, lost after they ruined their economy in the Darien Adventure in the 1690's.

It makes interesting reading to see that the Scots obviously favour windfarms, high taxation, and high public spending. Exactly what ruined them back in the 1690's. Seems that the lessons of history have to be relearned again and again.

Mind you, if they do break away from the UK and "go it alone" - the poll also reports that they aren't particularly keen on being in the EU either - we will see the end of Labour as a governing party in England. They have a majority here only because of the very generous allocation of seats to Scotland, where roughly half the number of voters per seat is the constituency norm to that of England's seats. We will also save quite a bit of the tax money that is raised in England and flows directly North.

So be it, if that is what they want, I think losing Labour may be worth it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:41 AM

April 15, 2005

That sermon .....

Having been approached by a number of people about my sermon on Low Sunday - yeah, the one I had not prepared - I have been trying to piece together what I said. In the extended post is an essay version of what I can remember including and saying. There may well be bits left out, but as far as I can recall, the main bits are all there and more or less the way I said them. This was definitely one of those occassions when I should have asked the Vergers to record it - but then, I could not know that it would make this sort of mark on people.

It is still the scariest thing I have ever done!

Sermon given on Low Sunday

"The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut, where the disciples assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you."

Watching the events of the last days of Pope John Paul's life as the crowds gathered in St Peter's Square and the Pope's life slowly ebbed, I think I can, after his death was announced, identify with how the disciples felt in the days following the crucifixion. Someone they had loved, that they had walked, talked, and eaten with, someone who occupied a very special and important place in their lives had died. They will never see that person, hear him, or enjoy his company again. They are bereft, lost, adrift in a mass of emotions: guilt, despair, anger, and self-pity; all ebb and flow within them. Watching the television pictures of the crowds of pilgrims in St Peter's Square when the death was announced, you could see it all in the faces of the crowd.

We are bereft; one of the greatest Christian souls of this century has passed from our existence to the next. We will see and hear him no more in this life, his leadership; his wisdom, and his spiritual strength are no more there to guide and encourage us.

But, watching that great throng and listening to the commentators, I was struck by just how poorly understood this man's faith was by the wider world, the world outside the church. It is reported that his last coherent words were:

"All my life I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. Thank you!"

To anyone who shares the Christian faith, these words are clearly addressed to God, present with him on his deathbed. A kindly and caring God who is here with us all even as He is there in the Papal chamber and there with the crowds in the Square. These are words that we should all, as Christians, have on our own lips as we pass from this life to the next. The problem is that we often blind ourselves to His presence among us or beside us. We are too focussed on the material things of life, and so we do not see God even though we seek to; we are looking at the wrong things.

Our Gospel reading this morning describes how Jesus came to the disciples as they huddled in the lockled upper room, in hiding for fear of the consequences of the events they have been a part of. He stands before them and He reassures them, yet, if you read on from the portion assigned by the Prayer Book from John 20 verse 19, you discover that Thomas Didamus, Doubting Thomas, was not there when Jesus came, and he refused to believe that they had seen Him. "Not until I can place my finger in the wounds and my hand in His side", declares Thomas, and Jesus later appears to him as well, in the presence of the others, and challenges him to take that step. Thomas then believes, but Christ says to him and the others

"you have seen and believed, how much more blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed?"

This is very much where we are. We have never seen the Christ in the flesh. Our images of Him do not date from the time of the gospel; indeed, they are, at best, not even depictions of Him. Yet we believe. Some of us have deep faith, and some of us are just starting out in faith. Some of us have grown and some of us are afraid to grow in faith; we are comforatble where we are. The late Pope was not such a Christian; if you look at the record of his life you see a man growing every step of the way, and this is a model we should all follow. To stay still, to not grow spiritually is to cut ourselves off, to stifle our spiritual beings, and to miss out on the rich tapestry that makes up the journey through faith.

When I look back on my own journey, which started when I, a 15 year old, first encountered Anglican Choral Evensong, the faith I discovered then and the faith I hold now are very different. Life, experience, prayer, and - yes - great preachers and teachers, have all shaped and moulded the faith I have arrived at now. I began seeking for something I could believe in as a child and was nominally a Methodist. I tried Judaism, Catholicism and even the Dutch Reformed traditions before discovering a spiritual home in Anglicanism, and my journey is far from over. When I consider the things that have helped to shape my own faith, it is sometimes the simple things which stand out - one such being a service which is indelibly etched in my mind. It was not in a grand building such as this, there were no walls and no roof - it was in Africa, in the bush with a thorn tree for a canopy, a camping table for an altar, no vestments and silver vessels - just an enameled tin mug for a chalice and an enameled tin plate for a paten, the birds flitting around us, insects, and no doubt animals, and us, a small group gathered for communion.

The journey we are all embarked upon is a rich tapestry of such experiences. Each of us will have moments which we treasure, moments when we knew God was there in our presence and in our worship. It often means embracing changes which may at first disturb us, challenging our faith, but it is part of the process of growing in faith, of looking for God. And we must keep looking!

"All my life I have looked for you" said the dying John Paul, and so should we. Though we will spend most of our lives blinding ourselves to His presence we must keep looking. We must keep seeking to grow and we must persevere with the journey until we can say with John Paul, "Now you have come to me. Thank you!"

"Jesus said to them again, Peace be unto you, as my father has sent me, even so send I you"

Those words, addressed to the frightened and dispirited disciples, are addressed to us as well. We too are commissioned to live our lives in His service, in His faith, and to take that faith out to the world around us. Our lives are to be a journey in that faith; sometimes it will be hard travelling and sometimes it will be easier, but He is always with us, even when we blind ourselves to His presence. As Christians travelling on this great journey we should all hope to be able, at this life's end, to say with John Paul;

"All my life I looked for you. Now you have come to me. Thank you."

"He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son, hath not life."


Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:41 AM

April 14, 2005

Smoke helmet, anyone?

We tend to think of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA to the cogniscenti!) as being a 20th Century invention - but this "Smoke Helmet" with its self-contained air tank was invented in the 1870's!

Leather "smoke helmet" with clear Mica Lenses in the eyepieces and a small steel airtank on the back.

Made of thick leather, this helmet was intended to be worn during entry to a building for rescue. The small airtank strapped to the back of the helmet blew a continuous stream of compressed air into the helmet which vented around the "skirt" where it sat on the wearers shoulders. This "positive" air pressure in the helmet kept the smoke out, and the "smoke diver" was able to enter the building to search for victims.

The problem is in the way the airtank was filled. It used an ordinary type of manual compression cylinder pump rather like a motor car tyre pump. There were no filters and a few minutes pumping brought it up to the required storage pressure. The downside is that the oil used to lubricate the pump is atomised and injected into the cylinder at the same time. This is then released again into the helmet during use - and we now know that, if breathed in, it can and probably will, cause cancer of the lungs, oesophagus, or throat.

Great idea, well ahead of it's time, but I do wonder how many of the users died of the cancer it could potentially cause. Come to think of it, I used to have to check an asbestos "Approach suit" at one time. Sometimes the things we think will protect us are just as dangerous as the thing we are trying to protect ourselves from.

Funny old world really!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:18 AM

April 13, 2005

Sheer lunacy!

The Monk did not want to believe this report was true; the trouble is that it is all too believable. The biggest check to believing it is the dateline on the original story - 1 April 2005 at 0300! Even so, as I said, it is still all too believable given that we are currently in the grip of a government which thinks it has a unique corner on morality, moral standards, fairness, and diversity.

According to the Yahoo News Page, the lunatics in Brussels are now definitely in charge of the asylum we call the EU! It states that four of the EU's unelected and overpaid Commissioners have decided that all place names in Scotland which have racist, sexist, or genderist connotations, solely on their own determination, are to be changed forthwith. And even worse, the morons in the Scottish Executive and the various District Councils are falling over themselves to comply!

Believe it or not, Helensburgh, Glen anything, Motherwell, Blackford, and a host of others, including Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano in the centre of Edinburgh, are considered to have names "likely to cause offence to someone visiting Scotland! Why, Oh why, are we even listening to this pile of shite? Why are our eager little civil servant beavers busy coming up with alternative names?

To quote the report: "The German commissioner, Arlo Pilof, the architect of the 2006 Race and Gender Equality Imposition Code (conformity), an amendment to existing rules, said: "We believe many names do not conform, and we started with Scotland because it is the worst of the culprits with offensive names such as Skinflats, near Grangemouth."

Accordingly, Fort William is to be renamed Fort Nevis, and others will follow. To quote again from the report: "Under the new amendment the word "Glen" could be banned as gender-biased. Scotland Office officials have suggested a change to Vale, as in Valecoe and the Great Vale.

An SNP spokesperson said: "This is monstrous buffoonery, an outrageous waste of resources and politically correct madness.

"I understand, for example, that North Lanarkshire Council will consider plans to change Motherwell to Parentwell," the spokesperson said. "What is Dunbartonshire going to do with Helensburgh?"

It continues on to report that the ever efficient Chief Gauleiter of this little clique of PC Warriors has more in his sights, to quote his quote in the report: Mr Pilof revealed that England would be next on the agenda, citing the Isle of Man as particularly worthy of change.

According to the report - A Manx spokesman said yesterday: "I hope this is a long way off. We are two-time losers, what with the island's name and Douglas as the capital. It's ridiculous, isn't it? It's as if these people sat there all day and made up this stuff."

If, and it is a big "if", this report has even a grain of truth to it, then it is definitely time we told this shower of cretins what to do with their lunatic bureaucracy, with their cushy gravy train and their political union! Time to throw them, our own cretinous civil servants, and all their hangers-on into the North Sea and shoot any and all of the b*****ds who try to swim ashore! For us in Britain this sort of thing is quite serious - because our Civil Service would immediately set to work and "Gold Plate" it, adding even more garbage to the already unnecessary idiocy out of Brussels. This is our major problem - every new regulation imposed on the EU is ignored or watered down by most, but gold-plated and rigidly enforced here. This is why the EU is so unpopular in the UK; it's not a "Little England" thing, it's the way our politicians and bureaucrats abuse it to their advantage and everyone else's cost!

Pity throwing the whole pile of garbage and the garbage merchants themselves into the North Sea would probably cause massive pollution! One thing we can be absolutely certain of is that Blair and his shower of worthless parasites would fall over themselves to obey every last word these lunatics uttered! Roll on the election!

As I said at the beginning, the real problem is that so much of what these Commisioners and our own civil servants and politicians come up with is so far-fetched it makes this stuff look positively believable. Seriously, you could not make up some of the stuff Brussels produces, and, if you did include it in a work of fiction, no one would find it in the least believable. I recall hearing a comedian once declare that he no longer paid income tax, he had a deal with the government and paid them Royalties so he could use their material. This is close!

Even though this report is a spoof - and I am convinced it is - it is exactly the sort of moronic policy move that Blair's cretins will espouse sooner rather than later - especially if he gets returned with another large majority!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

April 12, 2005

The Lord uses those he finds........

The Lord is ingenious, if nothing else. When the need arises for Him to help protect the wee creatures of the Earth, He works through those He finds most fitting [and availbable]. Although the U.S. Treasury is not really noted for having a "heart of gold", this time round they seem to have found the proper spirit, providing excellent protection and care via the Secret Service.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:58 AM

April 11, 2005

The last person leaving please turn out the lights ...

The news that Britain's last British-owned motor car manufacturer is to go into receivership is a devastating, but not entirely unexpected, blow to what little remains of our once great manufacturing heritage. But, the question should be asked, why has it come to this? Why has the Rover company, which has manufactured cars for a hundred years, become unable to sustain its economic commitments?

The answer is, I suspect, a complex one, and it goes back to the nationalisation of "key" industries in the late 1940's. This was supposed to enable the then Labour government to provide, via the taxpayers' underwriting of all major industries, "full employement" and "sustainable growth". Yeah, right; so they put civil servants in charge of all the key industries and stiffled all innovation, all development of anything which might require a decision outside of the "rules". Look at the industries they targetted, and then look at where these are now.

The railways, the coal mining industry, the health services, the aviation industry, shipbuilding; all taken into state ownership and all provided with subsidies - in the case of the car industry, something of the order of £6 million a day by the early 1980's, yet so badly handled and mismanaged that it promoted two very dangerous and damaging things. Of course, strictly speaking, the car manufacturing industry was never actually officially nationalised. GM owned the Vauxhall marque, Rover was independent until the late 50's when the giant Austin/Morris group acquired it, absorbing it into the British Motor Corporation. By then, of course, the original driving "captains" Mr Austin and Mr Morris, were no longer in control of that, the power having passed to their Boards - stuffed with accountants and "wunderkindt" management graduates. This is where the slide into oblivion really begins.

First the "Generalist" management culture which, by its incompetence and slavish obedience to sets of "rules" and fiscal measurements, lost contact with the actual production force - and promoted the rise of miltant trades unionism by generating and fostering the "Them and Us" culture. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it cut off all innovation and regeneration. It blocked the modernisation that every industrial plant and nation was busy undertaking so that British Shipbuilding, as an example, was still taking two to four years to build a small freighter in the 1970's by the traditional means of rivetted plating, while the Scandanaivian and Far Eastern shipyards were taking six months and building innovative ships in covered halls and drydocks, twice the size of anything we could do.

None of this was helped by the refusal to rationalise or to even operate in a joined up way. For whatever reason, the civil servants pulling the strings - and their political masters - decreed that the nationalised factories had to stay in operations and often in competition with each other. Look at the British Motor Corporation (later British Leyland) which included the marques of Austin, Rover, Morris, Leyland, and Triumph. Where it would have made sense to rationalise this and all operate under one marketing and planning strategy and umbrella, they were encouraged to compete, while cutting each others' throats, they successfully destroyed themselves - ably aided and abetted by militant unionists who disrupted production so frequently with wildcat stikes that it's a wonder they actually produced anything. It was also hastened by a lack of money for devloping new technology or new engines - the last true example of that was the original "Mini" launched in 1960!

The Unions must take a large part of the responsibility, as well, with constant demands for ever more say over employment levels, conditions, and working practices; the inept management soon found that they were no longer in charge.
High labour costs, disrupted working through continuous labour militancy, and the industrial base soon began to degrade dramatically. This problem was exacerbated by the political interference in the running of businesses and in the civil service insistence on dictating how and in what way the now rising levels of subsidy were to be spent. The result, by the late 70's, was plain to see, factories producing goods at huge cost that no-one wanted and which were shoddy and unreliable at best. Tax levels spiralling out of control and rampant inflation, and suddenly things weren't working.

Since the demise of British Leyland and the steady breakup of the Rover group, which included Land Rover, Range Rover, and the Mini marques, there has been a story of some success but massive failure. The Rover company was first rescued by some astute finaciers and engineers who salvaged the best bits of BL and managed, through shrewd deals with people like Honda, to trade design for technology, and they revived the Rover marque. Then they moved on, and now we have once again, management by "bottom line". The first indication of this was under the BMW partnership, when suddenly the bean counters decided to shed almost two thirds of their dealerships around the country. Surprise, surprise, their sales plummetted!

As a Rover owner, I suddenly found I was being "invited" to take my car to a garage I had never dealt with, in a town I did not live in, for service and spares. Naturally, I did what I suspect a lot of Rover owners did - I stayed with the people I had bought through and whose services I trusted. That went for my purchase of my next car as well. So, cutting the outlets to maximise "cost effectiveness" and profit, backfired - sales dropped by 25%. Oh what a surprise! Then, with losses mounting, BMW, who had bought the company only to get hold of the Mini marque, sold off Land Rover and Range Rover and dumped the rest.

Again, the Rover marque was saved by a management buy-out, this time financed by a holding company, but the management now was all financial and so the decline has continued, ably aided by the "management" company directors paying themselves huge salaries while the company lurched deeper and deeper into debt! Production has improved, designs have improved, the reliability has improved, but they have further reduced the number of outlets - and surprise, surprise, sales have continued to fall! Ironically, the company has been building good, reliable cars for the last 15 years at least, it has a good reputation among most of those of us who have stayed loyal, and yet their illjudged marketing strategies coupled with their inability to compete against the French, German, Japanese, and American giants will now see this last British-owned car manufacturer dissappear from the scene. Alongside the Rover name, no doubt will go the other great name in sports cars - MG. Ironically this last name was recently revived by Rover to provide a sporty alternative to their "family" saloon range, and it has enjoyed some success; MG sales are still growing!

A sad reflection on the state of the nation which gave the world the industrial revolution, yet has had that legacy stolen from it by incompetent politicians and bureaucrats who thought that they could "manage" industry better without any regard to the market pressures, economic balances, and labour costs that have such a huge impact on it. Had we been able to modernise, rationalise, and adjust our industries in the early 60's with management and unions working in partnership to secure the best deal for industry, commerce, and the nation, without fostering an adverserial confrontation on every aspect, we would still have a British-owned and innovative manufacturing base. Sadly, this was never on the agendas of the various left-wing politicians and trades unionists whose only focus was "class war" and equally the managers whose only focus was on creaming off everything they could for themselves.

Between the two cultures we have become the all-time losers. Our last British owned car maufacturer is about to follow the same path as Cammell Laird, Swan Hunter, Harland and Wolff, Blackburn Aviation, De Havilland, Short, Gloster, Bristol and all those other pioneering companies now dead and buried by their boards of directors and their militant trades unionists, ably supported by the burgeoning civil service bureaucracy. I wonder when they will come to the realisation that, with everyone employed by the only employer left standing - the civil service - there is little point in paying any of them as it will be only them paying taxes, to pay themselves.

As I said at the outset, the demise of Rover is a complex story, but it starts with nationalisation and the concept that bigger is better and "internal competition" could be a tool for growth! It proved in the end that neither is particularly healthy, and it also proved that the folly of allowing differnt parts of the same company to undercut each other is lunacy! The saga has probably ended in the sort of bureaucratic impasse civil servants specialise in. You have only to read the accounts of the DTI delegation's approach to the SAIK delegation - who wanted the money and guarantees up front; and the DTI, we'll let you have it when you have signed and taken over! As usual, the rule book ruled in all situations, and there was no intention to even try to find a way to get around this problem. Never send a person to negotiate unless they have the full authority to make their own rules!

Well, this should bite the Labour government, but I suspect it won't. Teflon Tony will have an excuse, and his mindless horde of tribal voters will see he gets back into power to sell off some more of the silver. We shall have to wait and see.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:54 AM | Comments (4)

April 10, 2005

Political sleight of hand - Whitehall targets!

Our Illustrious Leader is always telling us that the NHS is the "envy of the world" and "getting better all the time under Labour". His other great claim is that his government have increased medical staff, increased funding. Yeah, right.

The truth is somewhat different, as ever when you have politicians and civil servants involved. Neither would know reality if it hit them in the face.

Yes, there are more Doctors and nurses in the NHS; the overall total of these "front line" staff has increased by 29% - mainly by employing doctors and nurses from developing nations to work in our hospitals. But, at the same time, extra "managers" have been employed to manage the targets set by Downing Street and to respond to the daily demands for performance reports and "achievement" reviews by the Department of Health and Downing Street's target-setting supremo! Gues what? The managers employed to do this are, at 41% increase in staff, well outstripping the increase in medical staff! The sheer cost of compiling the endless reports and devoting staff to monitoring these arbitrary and often draconian targets is actually putting patients' lives and treatment at risk.

There is a difference of opinion between the medical staff and the administrative staff on this, as well; the medical staff are appalled at the ploys they are forced to accept to meet targets, while the non-medical administrators claim that this is good management and that no one is at risk! Well, in several hospitals there are grave concerns among the medical staff at the use of surgical clinics to accomodate people from Accident and Emergency Departments - by moving them out of A&E you can claim to have met the target for patient "treatment" even if they haven't been treated - especially when they are used to accomodate people with infectious diseases! No wonder the numbers of people catching life-threatening illnesses after surgery is rising - but next this is also hidden by another management ploy - you simply do not record the infection as being linked to the stay in the ward or clinic! It becomes a "pre-existing" or, better, a "post treatment" condition.

One of Blair's key promises was that no one would be on a waiting list for referral to see a specialist for longer than nine months. That's right NINE MONTHS! Anyone out there still envy us the NHS? I thought not. Well, there is a simple way to meet this target; as you get to the eight-month point, you get a letter stating that your case has been re-assessed, and is deemed no longer urgent. You are then advised that you have been removed from the waiting list and that you should now see you GP for re-assessment. Surprise, surprise! You are no longer on the waiting list, the target has been met, and you are re-entered on the new list as a "new" referral. A "cunning plan" worthy of Blackadder's Baldrick himself!

We are constantly assured that this does not include anyone with "life-threatening" conditions - such as heart problems or cancer, but there are even more cunning ploys to ensure that they don't foul up the targets as well. You put them into a round of "assessment" and "re-evaluation" processes until nature has taken its course. Job done! Target met!

Since this shower of complete cretins took control of this country in 1997, the emphasis has been on target setting in all public services. The cost of this in real terms, that is in terms of time and money absorbed in an endless paper chase to show that you are meeting your "performance indictaors", is enormous - but it is concealed by Whitehall's dishonest manipulation of information. It is a hidden cost which is taking a huge amount of money away from the actual delivery of services of all kinds.

The obssession with targets means that management is focussing on disabled recruitment, ethnic recruitment, child care provision in the workplace, gay and lesbian rights, and fairness and diversity. Entire units are set up simply to monitor the target-meeting progress, and staff and managers find that more and more they are filing endless reports on the racial, gender, or disabled mix in their workplaces and not on actually managing or delivering whatever the service is. If Whitehall would allow access to the figures, I know that you will find that many of the "new" jobs being created in the NHS are filled by people from the "under-represented groups", very often at the expense of hiring people who are better qualified or more experienced, but who fall within an "over represented group".

I am a great believer in fairness and diversity, I could hardly be otherwise, but I most emphatically believe that everyone - and I mean everyone, irrespective of race, creed, gender persuasion, or whatever - deserves to be treated equally, but this also means that there can be no "target", and selection must be based on fitness for, and best skill set for, the job. This is no longer the case, and even though there are cases where the best person is the person appointed, under this slewed and biased regime of selecting to meet targets, those appointed are always going to be regarded with suspicion that they may not have been selected for their ability.

The truth of the matter is that Whitehall's targets, Downing Street's intervention in professional delivery, and the entire process of politically driven interference in all our professional services will, sooner rather than later, result in a serious collapse of confidence. No one believes a word the civil service says anymore; especially no one believes anything issued by Downing Street. Whitehall has become a Propaganda Ministry all on its own, and in particular, it has become the Minstry of Labour Misinformation. Well, we have a chance to correct at least some of this, hopefully the electorate will kick Blair and his cronies out of office, and even more hopefully, whoever gets into power will kick out all Blair's placemen in the various Whitehall Ministries and replace them with people who actually understand the jobs they are doing and the services they are supposed to deliver.

Faint chance, but we live in hope!

In the meantime, we need to get to work on calling the bluff of all these worthless "Health Service Managers" and expose their failures. Hopefully then we can rebuild the health service into something that actually delivers health care! Nine months wait for a referral to a consultant? That's pretty good, just getting to see your GP can be a three to four week wait! Let's see Blair sort that one out!

An Ice Age in Hell you say? Now that might just about do it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:38 AM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2005

Farewell to a great Christian

As the late Pope John Paul II was laid to rest, we, the watching world, saw an all too brief glimpse of the harmony that can be achieved when differences are laid aside. Not only was the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion present and prominent, so, too, were religious leaders from all denominations and faiths, and the secular rulers of a wide range of nations, some of them from widely different political philosophies.

Since his death there has emerged a picture of a man of deep spirituality and principle, an old fashioned man in many ways, and certainly a child of his background and times. The Times obituary brought tears to my eyes as I considered all he has done and achieved - often in the face of massive opposition from within and without the church he has led for the last 28 years. Yes, we can criticise him for many things, not least perhaps for his refusal to endorse birth control or "safe" sex, yet, how could he endorse these without being accused by those who now criticise him, of "abandoning Christian moral teaching"? Perhaps his successor will moderate the churches stance on these; that remains to be seen.

Another memory which will remain with me is the sight of the leader of "Outrage", the militant "Gay" group, leading what can only be considered a deeply offensive "protest" celebration outside Westminster Cathedral during the requiem mass for the Pope. He seemed to be actually inciting the crowd to attack him - a silly and provocative action, from a rather nasty little man at a time when most would have prefered to simply reflect on the many positive aspects of this papacy, and there is much more that is positive than there is on the negative scales unless you are so blinkered that you refuse to see anything other than your own tiny agenda.

Equally encouraging was the participation and welcome accorded Archbishop Rowan of Canterbury, with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormack Murphy-O'Connor and he sharing the celebration of a Requiem in Rome. We must not forget that it was John Paul who, more than any previous Pope, has encouraged and welcomed dialogue between the Churches, and we should, in his memory, continue to open that door as we continue.

Now he has been laid to rest, joining the remains of a long line of Bishops of Rome and St Peter himself beneath the great Basilica which dominates the Vatican. His shadow and his legacy will, I think, continue to influence the Vatican for some considerable time to come. It is to be hoped that we will all be the long-term beneficiaries of this great Christian leader.

May he rest in Peace.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:34 AM

April 08, 2005

Who am I in 1400?

OK, I know, I shouldn't take these tests - but I can't resist them! I found this one over at All agigtprop; all the time. Thanks Paul!

The Knight
You scored 39% Cardinal, 35% Monk, 38% Lady, and 54% Knight!
You are the hero. Brave and bold. You are strong and utterly selfless. You are also a pawn to your superiors and will be lucky if you live very long. If you survive the Holy wars you are thrust into you will be praised for your valor and opportunities both romantic and financial will become available to you.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 99% on Cardinal

You scored higher than 99% on Monk

You scored higher than 99% on Lady

You scored higher than 99% on Knight
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:59 AM

April 07, 2005

And so it begins ....

My title is taken from the TV Sci-fi drama "Babylon 5" and is a statement from one of the alien races in the show. It encapsulates for me just how often small and apparently "fair" or "reasonable" changes can become tyranny.

In recent years in Britain there has been a growing tendency to impose restrictions on freedom of speech, of thought, and of action, usually because it was seen as "exclusive", "elitist", or "sexist", "racist" or any other "-ist" you can dream up. It began as a "fairness" and "equality" campaign, but it is now becoming much more sinister. It is now openly stated that we live under a "new" regime in which we are "bound" by "moral standards" demanded by "public determination to stamp out inequality and racism".

The following lines are inscribed on a plaque outside one of the concentration camps in Germany. They were written by one Martin Niemuller:

“In Germany, they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;
then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Niemuller was a German pastor as well as a victim of such a Nazi concentration camp. He, together with Pastor Bonhoeffer, was eventually arrested and died in the camps which they had dared to denounce. Now, it seems, those of us who dare to challenge the accepted "morality" of Mr Blair's "Cool Britannia" are likely to find ourselves ostracised, unemployed, and pilloried for not supporting the party line.

It began a few years into Blair's reign as Lord Protector and dictator to the Commons - First it was members of the Police, Judiciary, Fire Services, and any other Public Service who were Freemasons. They were forced to declare their membership; promotions and careers were blighted, and many found themselves with a stark choice - leave the Masons or lose their jobs. Now it is members of the BNP - not that I have any sympathy with the BNP - but where does it end?

Membership of any Hunt? Membership of any club that dares to elect its members? Membership of any political party Mr Blair does not approve of? Conservatives? Liberal Democrats? Anyone who dares to challenge the all-powerful Civil Service?

Already you can be excluded from access to a Doctor if you have been too argumentative or too demanding of the practice. Don't dare to challenge your GP; he can have you struck from his practice and effectively bar you from any other. Don't argue with the prat behind the counter in the job centre, you go down on the list as "workshy" and are denied all further aid. Being a man in the job market is becoming a hazardous occupation! Being a white man is even more likely to get you nowhere, especially in the public services, as "targets" for women, ethnic minority groups, and so on are set and filled at all costs.

Fairness and "best for the job" have gone out of the window in this new and twisted version of apartheid principles. No longer do the majority have a say - only the minority voices are permitted to be heard in this new society of thought police and politically correct lunacy. The vociferous minorities in London, with the ears of so many Labour cronies at their beck and call, are now doing exactly what Herr Hitler and his henchmen did in Nazi Germany, setting about isolating, alienating, and de-humanising everyone who does not conform to their twisted vision of fairness, diversity, and equality. The Nazi tactics of whipping up public fear and loathing is no different to the campaign now being run to spread fear and loathing of any person or group which can be conveniently labelled as "not following the agenda". Thus Freemasons are branded as "subversive" (I wonder which of the Labour hierarchy they refused membership to?), Gentlemen's Clubs are "sexist" (but all women's institutions are not!), anyone even slightly to the right of the Labour Party is a "Concentration Camp Guard" (but the Gauleiters of Mill Bank are not!), Muslim is good; Christianity is a "distortion", selection on merit or job-related criteria are "exclusivist", but "affirmative" selection is not. As in the book "Animal Farm", slogans have taken over from reasoned and rational behaviour, it has become all too easy to stick offensive labels on someone who does not agree with the assault upon tradition and institutions and to destroy them in the name of "the greater good".

Thus, the Police are "institutionally racist", the Fire Services are "elitist" or "institutionally sexist", and the armed forces "permeated by a macho culture!" It goes on and on, but the priniciple being used is straight out of the Nazi handbook. Isolate, denigrate, degrade, and then, when you have convinced the public that this group or that is a "problem", you can move against them and no one will protest. It's all in the interests of "reasonable fairness, equality, and diversity for the greater good!" Who could possibly dissent?

Niemuller's poignant words will come home to bite the people of this country rather sooner than they think if this is not stopped and stamped out soon.

“In Britain, they first came for the Freemasons,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Freemason;
then they came for the BNP,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a BNP member.
Then they came for the Objectors to the new Morality,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Objector.
Then they came for the Non Conformers to the New Morality,
and I didn't speak up because I was not a willing Conformer.

Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:11 AM | Comments (1)

April 06, 2005

Management training

At long last I now know what I have been doing wrong all these years in my management role. I have been attending the wrong courses! My latest copy of JEMS - the Journal of the Emergency Medical Services - has flagged up the course I should have been attending, the one all the current crop of managers seem to have been on, and which I, in my naivety, have obviously missed. Here is a summary of the course content:

Gossiping made easy: This session focuses on how you dish the dirt on employees - how to identify the office gossip and feed them the lowdown on someones marital problems or career problems, and ensure these items spread like wildfire through the Department.

The Blame Game: When there's trouble and someone needs to take the blame - you need to know where to point!

Micromanagement: The art of control: How to delegate critical tasks and then stand over the employee and watch their every move, plus harass them with constant phone calls and e-mails, memoranda, and office visits.

Giving compliments is a weakness: Why compliment someone for doing the job you're paying them to do? It might undermine your stern image to do so - and they might get to think you actually care about them and what they do!

The Great Dictator: Empowerment? So 90's! A fast paced session on making decisions in a total vacuum. The motto must be "My way or the highway!"

Busting morale in the 21st Century: It's a never-ending challenge to break the morale of staff effectively, but keeping them unhappy is easier than you think. This session teaches you how to belittle them, play favourites, undermine the chain of command, be reactive instead of proactive, and make up the rules as you go along.

Only wet babies like change! Change must be prevented at all costs - how to stamp out suggestions for change, ridicule any bright ideas, and maintain the status quo. If you must introduce changes - how to do it without consultation, impose from the top down, and stamp out all sensible suggestions for actually making it work practically.

Surround yourself with mediocrity for Job Security: Good people around you are a threat to your security and promotion! How to select other management personnel who make you look good by being even more mediocre, how to push them through assessment centres, and promote those who have difficulty telling the difference between a paper clip and a pair of scissors!"

How to discipline in public: Disciplining in private means that no one else knows that you do it - go for the public display and kill two birds with one stone. Discipline the employee publicly and let everyone else know how tough you are. This session teaches you how to pick the spot most likely to be frequented by the maximum number of staff during the disciplining session and includes a group activity in yelling, shouting at employees, and general bullying tactics.

"No" SHOULD be in your vocabulary! This is designed to show you how to say NO to every suggestion or request, no matter how important, and includes advice on how to make sure it is spoken only by you and is always the last word.

Well, there you have it. Now I know what I have been doing wrong all these years. I wonder if it's too late to retrain and go for the promotions I have been missing out on of late?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:02 AM

April 05, 2005

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

The Monk has a confession to make: he didn't read his preaching roster properly! He knew he had a full slate of services to take a role in on Sunday, but he missed the fact that he was down to preach for the Sung Mass at 1100!

Having performed his part as the Liturgical Deacon at 0915 (which service finishes at around 1020!), he changed from black cassock to the servers' episcopal mauve, and started to prepare to be the Crucifer for the Sung Mass.

"Hello," says a fellow Server, "Are you going to serve and preach?"

"Preach?" says the Monk, surprised.

"Says so on the Bulletin," declares his helpful colleague.

Rapid check of Rota - yes, that's right! Thirty minutes to the service and nothing prepared! Help! Sacristy, Bible, Paper, Pen, Verger's Office - shut door and scribble furiously praying frantically for inspiration! Another change of robes and the Monk emerges serenely clutching a Bible and some folded bits of paper to follow the Choir into the Quire and take his seat in the Preacher's Chair. Only the whiteness of his knuckles and the castenets of his knees show his nervousness, but hey! That's why we wear cassocks isn't it?

A prayer for inspiration and an offering of my mouth, ears, and mind to God's will and word as I mount the Pulpit steps, clutching my Bible like a liferaft after the Gospel, bow to the President, face the congregation, say the words of the Preacher's prayer - and ......

Twelve minutes later I remember saying Amen. I know I used the Pope's last words, I know I quoted from the Gospel and the Epistle for the day - I had both open in my hand. I know I spoke on the fact that each and every Christian spends their lives looking for God and frequently not seeing him because we blind ourselves with so many material concerns. I know I spoke of my own journey in faith and how I had experienced some truly amazing moments in God's company in some very simple places. But I cannot tell you what I actually said. It was the Holy Spirit pouring words through me all the way.

Drained, I left the pulpit to be met by the Verger, who bowed ready to lead me back to my seat and whispered - "That was a cracker!"

Well, I can take no credit for it. It didn't follow the notes I had frantically scribbled. It didn't even take the form I had roughed out as I stood for the first part of the Eucharist. I have never before attempted to preach extemporaneously, and I probably never will again; the Word of God is far too important to do that to it. But I have also learned something very important in the process - to let God speak a little more freely through me in future, to not be afraid of departing from my prepared script.

My penance will no doubt be a long one and involve trying to live up to this sermon. All I can say is that I can only take credit for having stood up - the rest was straight from the Holy Spirit - and I thank Him for being there to use me in this way. It has been a chastening experience, a draining one, emotionally, as well - but it was also a truly magical one, which has given me a real boost in my faith.

Thanks be to God.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

April 04, 2005

Farewell to a great Christian

“I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”

I heard the news readers yesterday interpreting this great Pope's last words as being addressed to his followers, and felt terribly saddened. To me that shows just how lacking in spiritual understanding so much of the media and so many of those who speak about religion are. From Ozguru's G'day Mate I learn that this is world-wide and not just a UK-based interpretation.

It is my belief that these last spoken words were addressed to his and our Saviour and God, finally, at his last hours, both visible and apparent to him as his spirit prepared to depart on its journey to eternity. These are the words of a man whose life was devoted to God, His works, and the pursuit of understanding of God's will and intention. His life has been spent in the service of God, and in his final hours he was assured that God was indeed there beside him, holding him, comforting him, and waiting for him.

This is a spiritual declaration we all, as Christians, should be able to make in our own final hours.

“I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”

Amen !!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2005

Standing on principle

An interesting report in the Telegraph which will stir a few brick throwers from the liberal left. The Archbishop of Canterbury has nailed his colours to the flag pole over Lambeth Palace in some style in his latest foray into what many of the trendy lefties of Blair's crony laden touchy-feely brigade will see as a religious intervention in politics. But, the Archbishop is right.

They'll hate him for it, though!

For those who have never been to London, the Archbishop's Palace is located on the South Bank of the Thames opposite that other Palace currently occupied by charlatans posing as a government. A fitting counterpoint to have the Spiritual on full view to the Secular as they gorge on the cheap liquor and food they ensure remains high on their perks list.

Archbishop Rowan is a man who thinks very carefully, chooses his words well, and puts his personal beliefs and principles on the line. This is not a politician; this is a man of faith who believes what he is saying. Naturally, this will not sit well with everyone, I do not agree with a lot of his political views, and may take issue with some of his interpretations of theological points or scripture - but I can respect him as a man of God in an unenviable role who is not afraid to take on the politicians and their armies of rabid anti-Christian fanatics.

Wait for the abuse that will be hurled at him from all sides in the political arena. The truth is that this shower are Godless - unless you consider "Power" to be a "God". They ape all the Christian values, all the Christian - and it must be said, most other religions - virtues, then deny emphatically that there is any virtue in religion or in spirituality!

It certainly makes a refreshing change to have a "Hairy Lefty", as he describes himself, take on the established and entrenched "Humanist" vision of the established left. Blair may have picked him thinking he was getting a tame poodle of the left, but I rather get the feeling that +Rowan will turn out to be Blair's Beckett! I hope no one attempts the "who will rid me of this troublesome cleric!" stunt on Blair's behalf, although these days, it is much more likely to be the poisoned pens of the Polly Toynbee' ilk of the leftwing press that will be used rather than the swords wielded by Henry II's knights.

I think I shall enjoy this Archbishop.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:31 AM

April 02, 2005

The Pope is dead, long live the Pope.

The passing of John Paul II marks the end of both an era and a remarkable life. This is the man, whose Papacy began with more than half of Europe under the slavery of Communism, and whose determined and fearless opposition to the oppresive governments of his homeland and his fellow Christians everywhere helped in no small way to bring about its demise. He was a man of iron determination, survived an assasination attempt, and did not allow illness and encroaching age to stand in the way of his ministry.

In St Paul's Cathedral in London, Sir Christopher Wren's modest tomb is inscribed with the latin inscription which translates to read, "If you seek his monument, look about you." It is an inscription which will fit this Pope very well indeed.

He has steered the Roman Catholic Church through some very difficult and dark times. It is emerging as a stronger and better Church, and it is not just his own flock who have benefited and changed, because his influence has had an impact on every Christian community and church, whether they like to admit it or not. I suggest that his monument will be the mark he has made on every Christian, Roman Catholic or not, for he has left his mark! There are few of us who have not heard his words, read his thoughts, or prayed his prayers at some time. That influence reaches deep, far deeper than any denominational or sectarian divide can ever go.

I grieve for a great man of God, a fearless "Soldier of Christ". Sure, he has upset a lot of people, certainly he was reactionary in his views on a number of issues, but at least he could never be accused of "selling out" or of "abandoning his principles". He will stand in the history books as one of the "Great" Popes, of that I am sure.

It is sad that he had so much to endure in his last years, Parkinson's Disease is a particularly degrading way to die, as it robs you of your dignity, your speech, and leaves your intellect trapped in a body that no longer functions, unable to communicate or to interact effectively with others. For that reason, I rejoice that he has been released from that suffering and now rests, as I am sure he does, among the Saints in heaven.

His successor will have a difficult and trying set of challenges to face in his turn. We can only hope that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals in their selection and give us another man equal to the challenge.

Requisecat in Pacem, Papa Johannes Paulus Secundi.
Give thanks to God for the life and witness of this great Christian soul. May he rest in peace and rise with the Saints in glory.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:05 PM | Comments (2)

Bureaucrats paradise?

A visit to An Englishman's Castle is always worth it. Tim has a wonderfully anarchic view of many things - particularly the lunatics who infest our parliament. One item recently caught my eye, the story of an old pilot, who, at 92, has once again flown a Spitfire he last flew in WWII! It struck me, not for the first time, that this iconic plane is one of those symbols which almost every person recognises instantly, and the men who flew them - and the far more numerous Hurricanes, Typhoons and other fighters - were themselves a remarkable breed. I wonder what they would make of our nation today?

One old gent I had the privilege of knowing briefly (DFC and Bar, Aircrew Europe Star, France, and Germany Star among other decorations) once said candidly that he thought Hitler would have had no difficulty recruiting for the SS and the Gestapo in Britain. Every Town Hall and Whitehall jobsworth would have been queuing to join! Mind you, he had been engaged in a long running bnattle over benefits for his disabled wife (herself a decorated ex-servicewoman!) with the bureaucrats whose "Rules" disqualified her because she was in receipt of a war pension - £5 a week!

Another post on Tim's blog made me ponder briefly on this bureaucratic paradise we now inhabit, with his comment on having to fill in and file forms for three different subsidies! I used to face a similar battle with the bureaucrats every year who insisted that my Mother, then in her 70's might have married, had children, and be in receipt of income she had suddenly acquired without telling them. It was a monstrous form of some 40 pages, the bulk of it completely inapplicable to an old age pensioner - but don't try to tell the Whitehall cretins that - it's supposed to be simple and to stop benefit fraud, they bleat! Well I wonder how many old folk are deprived of their pensions each year because they haven't someone to deal with this idiotic form for them? Probably quite a few.

I think the old boys who flew those Spitfires in defence of this once-fair Realm, some with barely six hours flight experience in this superb machine, might have had some serious second thoughts about it if they could have seen the future their offspring have created! Far from tbeing the "Land of the Free" and a paradise for the brave, it has become a place governed by Thought Police, Bureaucrats looking after their own little empires, so the brave, the bold, and the free are derided, ridiculed or prosecuted if they dare to defend their rights in the face of Blair's favourites: the criminals, the feckless, and the cronies.

Welcome to 21st Century Britain.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:58 AM

April 01, 2005

The Great Wind Farm Debate

The New Scotsman recently had an article (actually two) about the pros and cons of windfarms. Unfortunately, with all my moving around, I have lost the URLs which would have linked to these, but I shall try to summarise here. The first item is the anti- view posted by David Bellamy, a very well respected ecologist. The pro- version is by the CEO of Friends of the Earth, one David MacLaren.

Surprisingly, for me at least, David Bellamy was very much against the wind turbines. He cited, among many things, their noise, the fact that they chop up birds, particularly birds of prey which are becoming very rare, and the fact that you need to pour in huge amounts of concrete to anchor the damned things to the ground. Their output is far from reliable, and it is certainly not cheap or economical to produce. David MacLaren, perhaps predictably, stated that the turbines were "Eco-friendly", more reliable than nuclear power (I'm not sure how he gets to that one!) and much less damaging than those plants running on fossil fuel. Again, predictably, he has a rose-tinted view of their ugliness along a skyline, the access tracks cut into hillsides and landscapes, and their failure to generate enough electricity at a sufficiently constant rate to permit the complete decommissioning of even one fossil fuel station.

There are many arguments for and against the windfarms, but I remain convinced that this is an expensive blind alley - one we will have to back out of pretty soon, or run out of power in the next few years. Even that arch idiot, Blair, has admitted in parliament in a paper they slipped out on a "good day for burying bad news", that it would be necessary to build some more nuclear power stations in order to meet the demand for power and the targets the moron signed up to in Kyoto! I can't wait to hear the howls of anguish from Friends of the Earth and their fellow loonies over that one!

In the meantime, the French, who get over 80% of their power from Nuclear stations are laughing all the way to the bank as more and more of the power for the South East in particular, is drawn not from the expensive and useless windfarm follies Blair and his cretins have spent vast amounts of public money on, but from French Nuclear power! Mind you, for the Scottish Nationalist Chair of the Friends of the Earth, that's OK, because it puts England at the mercy of the "Auld Ally" and the nuclear power station isn't in Scotland.

Ah well, let's hope that the election - whenever Blair has the courage to call it - will bring a government more open to sense and science than loonies and tree hugging. Mind you, anyone checked the temperature in Hell lately? A freeze there might mean a breath of common sense in the halls of Westminster!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:02 AM | Comments (3)