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October 31, 2005

Take care motorists, splashing a workman could land you in court!

Our hard pressed police are hard at work driving down crime and pursuing real criminals - motorists! In what must be one of the stupidist and most pointless prosecutions of recent months - I can't go further back than that without finding something equally petty - a police force (and our equally worthless Crown Prosecution Service which probably couldn't successfully prosecute a real criminal if they found one) have just spent £5,000 prosecuting a motorist who drove through a puddle in the road and splashed two council workmen with the water.

Unfortunately for him, our ever vigilant police saw the incident and followed him for a further two miles, no doubt checking to see if he went through any more puddles, before pulling him over for "driving in an inconsiderate manner". Enter the CPS, who decided to prosecute this man who freely admitted that he had driven through the puddle, qualifying it by saying that he could not drive around it because of on-coming traffic. The Magistrates evidently decided that his driving deserved censure, because they have fined him £150 and awarded three penalty points on his license, stating that he should have stopped and waited until it was safe to drive around the obstruction. No one seems to have taken account of the fact that the oncoming traffaic stream was almost continuous and that this would have caused problems for other motorists behind the first one - who was almost certainly not the only one to go through the puddle!

Yet again it seems that our "justice" system is more interested in persecuting motorists for daring to drive their cars, than it is about dealing with the criminals who make life misery for law abiding citizens. When do we hear of the police pursuing someone who has smashed a woman drivers window and snatched her handbag, briefcase or other valuables from the seat beside her? Or of them pursuing someone who has just car jacked - often violently and with a weapon - some motorists car? What would the Magistrates do if they did? Probably let them out on bail, or, if they did decide to hear the case, give them a "community service" sentence so they can carry on car-jacking.

If ever there was an example to be found of the police being too busy hounding motorists to go after real criminals, this is it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:15 PM | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Sunday sermon

Preaching today for the 0915 Parish Eucharist, always rather a relaxed service and congregation, but a fun challenge as it is also All Saints Sunday.

So who are the Saints, and, perhaps, what makes one? Researching for this I came across a number of different ideas on both scores, but essentially, we are all "Saints", the ones we publically recognise with the title happen to be outstanding examples who have made a larger than usual mark, but essentially almost all of us, have, at some time or another, made a positive difference to someone's life - the mark of a saint.

My sermon notes are in the extended post if you wish to see it.

Parish Eucharist
All Saints 2005

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

“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude, that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”

What is it that distinguishes a Saint? What, in the minds that attach the epithet “Saint” to one person and not another, is it that attracts the accolade and the acknowledgement? Easy, you may say, it is the fact that one person has led a life fulfilling all the attributes we have heard in today’s Gospel reading. Or you may prefer the manner in which the Roman Church identifies a saint – one who has performed at least three miracles post mortem. Others among you may choose to cite martyrdom as a mark of sainthood, and still others may choose to identify it with those who have suffered great disability or hardship and have still shown great faith.

But are these the measurements God applies when looking for saints? Somehow I doubt it very much, although He may choose to show some specific gift through someone in a particular way that causes us to label someone a saint.

I suggest to you, that, in the eyes of God, there are many more things that make a saint than we would normally count. Perhaps we should consider some of them.

Let us start with the Beatitudes, those qualities listed in St Matthews Gospel and which, in our translation, all begin “Blessed are the …” If you take them as a list of saintly virtues you would think that a saint is one who is poor in spirit, in perpetual mourning, meek, searching for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, persecuted and probably constantly insulted as well. However, I suggest that that is to take the meaning of these attributes at far too basic a value. In fact, the Beatitudes are intended as attributes of the perfect disciple, a model of perfection few, if any of us, can ever reach.

So, if these are the attributes of a disciple, what hope have we of achieving sainthood? Again this depends on how you measure saintliness.

Outside the Sacristy door there is a ledger slab which extols the virtues of a lady who died sometime in the 1690’s in this Parish. The late Father David Harding once quoted it in a sermon and I will attempt to do so now. It says:
“She was the mirror of her sex for virtue and true piety, a pattern for meekness and sobriety”.
And, as Father David remarked, she must have been impossible to live with. But is that the true mark of a saint? That they should be difficult to live with? That they should always make you feel inferior or inadequate? I do not believe that that is the case, in fact, I rather suspect that it may well be the mark of the Pharisee instead. I think that real saints are fairly ordinary, people who help others without expectation of reward, people who show kindness when none is expected, people who go out of their way to make others feel good or to feel comfortable. People who help others find a way through difficulty sometimes at some cost to themselves.

Consider for a moment how you deal with someone who is injured. You use your hands to stem the bleeding, to tie a bandage or to apply pressure to the wound. Then you use your voice to give comfort while you do what you can to alleviate any other injury and finally you may use your hands to help the person back onto their feet and into an ambulance or onto a chair. Take a look at your hands; they may well be the hands of a saint. Think about how you use them and what you have used them for – I can tell you that mine have helped deliver new babies, held the dying, helped the injured, and recovered the dead. My hands have also inflicted injury and they have dispensed what healing and comfort it has been in my power to give. Are these the hands of a saint?

If we look at what we know of most of the people we have labelled Saint you could say the same of their lives as told through the use of their hands, what makes them different from you and me? Their hands have made music, written letters, books and cooked meals, done the housework, washed clothes, changed nappies. Look again at your hands – are these the hands of the saints? Perhaps it is in how we help those around us to find God, to experience God through our lives and actions that makes the difference.

We celebrate saints and look up to these special people who have, through their faith and their use of their lives, changed the world for the better. Just as we are called to do today and in our lives. All believers who put their faith in God are part of the fellowship of the saints – and part of the multitude St John wrote of in Revelations. In every age we face new challenges and old ones, in every age it is faith which guides and shapes the saints we are all called to be. The distinguishing mark of the saint is that they make a difference to the lives of those they encounter – you all know them, many do not belong to any church or congregation, yet they are, if anything, more Christian than many who do. The saint is the one who always has time to listen, who always makes the person they are speaking to feel richer for having spent time in their company. Mother Theresa once remarked that she really could not understand all the fuss about her work, it was, after all, only what God had called her to do. That, I would suggest, is what marked her as a saint in the eye’s of God.

So I suggest to you, that a saint is one who has a depth of spiritual grace which leads them to give freely of their themselves to everyone they encounter. Someone who loves the Lord so deeply that they can draw upon that love and share it with those less fortunate and less wealthy in spirituality, and they do it without realising that they do. I put it to you, that St Patrick, St Cuthbert, St David, would be slightly embarrassed to be addressed as Saint if they could be here among us now. Like us, they would consider that their work, their spirituality, was no greater than yours or mine and that it was just that the Lord had given them a greater task to perform and the means with which to carry it through. So, I suspect, would Mother Theresa, Cardinal Newman and several other more recent saints.

We are all saints in the grace of our Lord, and we are all part of that great multitude described by Saint John, and, as we declare our faith in the creed and prepare to celebrate the Eucharist, we join with all the Saints, in heaven and on earth in the full and glorious communion of the saints in the Body and Blood of our Lord.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:55 PM | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

Why I can never be a liberal socialist

Recently I have had the opportunity to be challenged by a number of my more "liberal" acquaintances on a number of issues central to my belief in what society should look like and how it should respond to a number of issues currently troubling it. What I have found particularly strange is that twenty or so years ago I was considered to be a raving left wing liberal in my then environment, and now, without changing a single item in my stance, I find myself considered, in my present environment, to be somewhere on the extreme right of Ghengiz Khan.

In part, the problem is in my core belief that for society to work there has to be respect for the people at the top of the tree, there must be openess and there must be a discipline within every person within society. Excusing a persons criminal activities because they are drug addicts - and therefore somehow not responsible - or because they are beneath a certain arbitrarily chosen age - and therefore not responsible, is, to me, lunacy. It ignores that fact that individuals make choices, sometimes acceptable in the wider sense of the society in which we are placed, and sometimes not. Those choices remain ours, and the consequences must be ours as well.

Then there is the facet which I find least attractive among my supposedly "liberal" friends, one they seem to be unable to acknowledge, but it is also markedly noticeable in all individuals of this ilk. That is the urge to deride any country or nation that does not share their socialist ideals or liberal values as somehow flawed or even uncivilised. Thus, all the good work and all the technological achievements of the US can be ignored or belittled while heeping scorn and derision on the US government - and by proxy its citizenry - for its refusal to kowtow to such things as the Kyoto garbage sheet, nuclear disarmament, ludicrous demands for the reduction of energy use and so on. Hurricane Rita and the devastation wrought on New Orleans is a good example of how all the instant experts could tell immediately that it was all Mr Bush;s fault - perhaps including the path of the hurricane, while their favoured political party in opposition would, according to them, have done much better, perhaps even diverting the hurricane completely.

It is this refusal to acknowledge the blindingly obvious which nauseates me. Lock up criminals and treat them as criminals for meanginful sentences and crime rates fall, but in the eyes of the liberal socialists of this country, this is merely evidence of society's failure (meaning yours and mine) to "engage in resolving the causes of crime" - and, yes, you guessed it, inevitably they point to "poverty" and "lack of educational opportunity", or "discrimination" of one form, or another. The newly introduced private members Bill, which is aimed at giving every householder in England and Wales the Right of Self Defence will, we already know, fail, because the government is afraid of upsetting it's own adherents to the myth of the criminals "victimhood".

There is never a proper debate on any of these issues simply because, if anyone dares to challenge these myths there is an immediate barrage or abuse thrown at the challenger to the effect that to fail to subscribe to this claptrap is somehow to display one's own descent into barbarianism. Thus, the likes of Ken Livingstone can argue that promoting the violently anti-jewish ranting of a Muslim extremist is "redressing the balance". Or George Galloway can defend his friendship with Saddam as "defending civil liberty and civilised debate", while anyone expressing a contrary view is immediately branded a "fascist".

In this lunatic view, respect is never earned, it is always questioned, it is always challenged - except, of course, by those least deserving of it who simply demand it - or you could get knifed, shot or simply beaten to a pulp. Thus, our "child protection" squads defend the out of control juveniles and even those above the age of criminal responsibility (at sixteen far to high!) by arguing that until the magic age of twenty no one is able to tell right from wrong - and will even perjure themselves to argue that "right" is really "wrong" because it infringes the "rights" of the criminal. The problem is that the court system has now been so corrupted that it usually upholds this!

Our education system, our health service and even the Quangos set up to dole out the huge amounts the National Lottery sets aside for "charitable works" are now entirely run by the liberal socialist clones. Thus, no matter what government directive, nothing will change, simply because it does not meet the criteria set by the people in charge - all supposedly "liberal socialists". So, a Lifeboat station that applies for a small grant to buy a new towing vehicle for their inshore rescue boat is turned down because it cannot provide detailed statistics of the ethnic and socio-econmoic backgrounds of the people the rescue service they provide has helped and will help in future. The education system is now set up to pump children's heads full of the socialist nonsense that if only there were no national boundaries and everyone accepted that all religions are the same, all cultures are the same and we can all exist as one big happy family if only we will trust the nanny state to distribute everything fairly, there will be universal peace. Or even that children who grow up with no consideration whatsoever for anyone else's property, personal privacy, achievements or a sense that work is required in order to obtain rewards, will be model citizens in the future.

Even worse, in my view, is the constant drip feed of insidious denigration of the achievements of great figures in our national history. No matter the achievement, it may even occassionally be grudgingly acknowledged, it must always be somehow degraded by qualification such as the issue of slavery, or by the character assasination of the leader concerned. Nothing anyone does is ever good enough, particularly if the person happens to be of a different political view to theirs. Put men and women on the moon? Hear the whinging that the money could have saved X thousand from poverty in some hell hole, or provided a cure for AIDS, or some other favourite problem to throw money at. Completely ignoring the fact that the exploration of space benefits those of us who remain earthbound by the creation of some technologies which would in all likelihood never have seen the light of day if the denigrators had been funding research projects. Just look at the advances in photovoltaic cell technology in the last thirty years - all for powering up space craft. Computers, electronics even terrestrial transport - and most definitely air travel - have been improved as a result of technology developed for the space projects.

Take a look a country run by supposedly "liberal socialists" - the UK - and what do you find? A country which has no funding for research in aerospace, nothing whatsoever for new technology in energy generation and, despite the hype and spin, no investment in anything other than those areas which will gaurantee the continuance of the socialist myths - "full employment under state control", "fairness and dignity for all under social security" and "free at point of delivery health care" which is anything but. It certainly isn't efficient and it is most emphatically not fair - it practices a definite bias against elderly and infirm patients and the management of worthless civil servants make decisions which deny effective treatment of many ailments purely on the grounds of cost, without any reference to medical opinion and advice - unless it agrees with what they want.

No, I can never subscribe to the liberal socialist ideal of universal mediocrity. Human nature is not tolerant, it certainly is programmed to take advantage and that is all this culture is encouraging. The universal benefits system - again it is anything but universal - simply encourages the feckless and idle to remain so. The lack of an element of punitive action for criminals simply reinforces the belief that the criminally inclined can do as they please and take whatever they want and society is powerless to deal with them.

About the only comfort I can draw from this is that sooner, rather than later, something, some threat, will arise that will wipe these ideologues from power and replace them with precisely the sort of regime they so decry - only it will not be tolerant of their criticism. Perhaps then they will come to their senses and realise that cuddling up to dictators and appeasing lunatics, pandering to criminals and defending the indefensible, is not the best way to ensure a fair, reasonable and decent society.

But, by then it will be too late!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

Chagall in Mainz

Apart from the impressive cathedral there are quite a number of smaller churches in Mainz. The largest of them is St. Stephan situated on the Stephansberg, a little hill close to the old town of Mainz.


St. Stephan on top of the Stephansberg which was used as a vineyard until the beginning of the 19th century.

St. Stephan was founded about 990 by the Emperor Otto III on the instigation of the Archbishop of Mainz, named Willigis. At the beginning of the 13th century it was badly dilapidated and rebuilt in a Gothic style. The building activities finished around 1340. After having been severely damaged in 1857 due to the explosion of a powder magazine nearby it was almost completely destroyed during WW II. Only the exterior walls and the piers survived. It was finally rebuilt in 1959.
The church is entered through a portal from the North. The copper coated door shows the coat of arms of Bishop Stohr who oversaw the reconstruction in 1959 on the left and of Archbishop Willigis on the right.


North portal of St. Stephan

Nowadays St. Stephan is famous for its beautiful windows which were designed and painted by Marc Chagall between 1976 and 1981. Chagall was 94 years old when he finished the windows.


Interior of St. Stephan: the funds available in 1959 were not sufficient to rebuild the original Gothic vault in the nave. A flat ceiling had to do instead.

The dominating colour of the Chagall windows is a very friendly and warm shade of blue which gives the interior of the church a characteristic atmosphere as can hopefully be seen from the picture above.

The artist himself said about his windows:
"To the glory of God - and the appreciation, joy and hope of man.
Sign of the bond between Jews and Christians, the friendship between France and Germany, the understanding between all peoples."

Praise the Lord, all ye works of the Lord.
Praise the Lord, light and darkness (Daniel 3).

Posted by Mausi at 10:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

A quiet day ....

A quiet day today, just a little emptier due to the absence from this life of Church Mouse. I will have something more positive tomorrow - I promise.

In the meantime, thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to leave a comment or to post a link. }{eather, as she liked to sign herself, will appreciate it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:18 PM | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

Requiem for Church Mouse

It is with great sadness that I have to report that my beloved Church Mouse has died. She finally succumbed to the cancer which attacked her around this time last year at 12.30 EST (17.30 BST) today. She will be missed. Earlier this year her husband of some forty years simply gave up his fight against ongoing problems with his heart and lungs, taking his own life when the quality of it had deteriorated beyond endurance.


Church Mouse's avatar - of which she was very proud.

Church Mouse has battled bravely against her cancer, but surgery and aggressive chemo therapy and radiation therapy did not help. The cancer spread and has now overcome her. She has passed from pain into new life, her faith unshaken even though she freely admitted not going to her local church regularly. Not many people will know that she was, in fact, an organist in her younger days, playing for the Episcopalian Church in her home city of Boston. She drove school busses, served on her local council and had a very good degree in engineering sciences. Among her many interests were blogging - she blogged on several blogs under different pseudonyms - motorcycling (she owned a Honda Goldwing), and almost everything from politics to history. No doubt she will find an outlet for her many talents in the life she has now ascended too.

Heather G Bare.jpg
Church Mouse as her friends will remember her.

I ask your prayers for her soul, for her husband's soul and for her sons and their families as they deal with her passing. As Christians we do not fear death, it is, in the promise of the Gospels, simply the transition to a new and fuller life in Christ. That does not mean, however, that those of us left behind do not feel the pain of separation and the loss of friendship, even though it is a temporary separation.

So I pray, may she rest in peace, and rise in glory with the Saints when we are all called to Christ.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

An admission of failure? Surely not Mr Blair!

The announcement by our esteemed Secretary of State for Education, that her illustrious Party of champagne socialists and closet Marxist/Leninistas has yet again stolen something from the Conservative Party's repertoire, must surely be an admission that their sixty years of espousal of non-selective education is the disaster everyone else has been saying it is for years. What a pity that politicians seem to be genetically deficient in one vital area which is so important. They seem to be congenitally unable to say "sorry, we had that wrong!"

Perhaps this should be registered as a form of serious disability. It seems to be a universal feature of political animals everywhere I go, so I can only assume that it is something in the genes that causes otherwise nice and seemingly intelligent individuals to become politicians and immediately suffer a loss of common sense, decency and this all important ability to admit a fault. The ex-Labour MP, George Galloway seems to be a classic example of this - he is right and the rest of the world is wrong, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

The announcement in the Commons today that the government is planning to re-establish, sorry, re-invent, Grant Maintained Schools, releasing them from the constraints of the idiots who infest Local Authority Education departments everywhere, is a breathtaking piece of effrontery. After all, it was this shower of ideologically deficient morons who destroyed the Grant Maintained system in 1998 and who have, for sixty years now, screamed "discrimination" at the very mention of any suggestion that children learn better when in groups of the same ability. So we have suffered, and some children have had their educational opportunities destroyed, by the nonsense of "mixed ability" classes with the pace of progress dictated by the lowest IQ in the class, who was usually also the most disruptive!

Not unsurprisingly, the teachers unions have all come screaming out of the woodwork to condemn any suggestion of selective "streaming" or, indeed, of any form of parental choice or of the school actually having control of its admission policy, its curriculum or the nurturing of the brighter children. Heaven forbid that anyone should be seen to be brighter, or to be given a slight leg up in a world which runs, as it always has, on nepotism and the old boy network. Let's be honets here, the contacts one makes at school do have a major impact on the rest of your career - you will certainly have far better connections if you attend a private school such as Winchester, rather than Mr Blair's "bog standard" Comprehensive in Lewisham or Islington! Teachers should be in favour of ability selectivity, it makes their lives a heck of a lot easier if they have only to deal with a group who are all at more or less the same level of ability - dealing with a class which has both ends of the ability range is nightmare territory - it's damned difficult to soar with the intellectual eagles if you are lumped in with the intellectual turkeys! Only those who favour mediocrity in all levels of society could possibly see selective grouping for education as a threat.

This is the problem at the very heart of Socialist ideology. It assumes that the Biblical truth that they have so effectively divorced from its real meaning, that, "in the eyes of God, all men are equal", and spun it instead into a twisted version that "all men are of equal ability" and it is only "disadvantage and privilege" that prevent all from reaching their full potential. Any but the ideologically blinded can see at a glance that this is a patent nonsense - we are not all of equal ability. I am certainly no musician, no matter how hard I try, but I am able to do things my musician friends cannot. It does not diminish any one of us, rather our gifts compliment each others. I enjoy their skill in music while they enjoy the protection my work affords them and their wider audience.

Much as I despise this government and their chicancery, I am relieved to hear them at least tacitly admitting that the education system they have created must change, and must change to address the need to recognise that we all have different ability levels in different areas of life. Only when we rid ourselves of the last vestiges of this idiotic assertion that children of widely mixed ability can all learn at the same pace in the same way in the same environment, will we be able to create an education system worthy of the name.

The most worrying aspect is that Blair has declared he will step down soon, and his erstwhile successor is an avowed defender of the current disasterous system - despite himself being the beneficiary of the Public School (that means a Private and very expensive school for those outside the UK) system himself. I rather suspect that he will be unable to resist reversing this policy as soon as he seizes the reins of office from Blair.

Even if Brown doesn't wreck this policy, I rather suspect the Civil Service will ensure that it is watered down and restricted to ensure that they retain control despite what the public want. We shall have to wait and see whether there is any substance to this, or whether it is merely another bit of "spin" for the punters by this government of intellectually bankrupt charlatans.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:19 PM | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Places I love

Going through some of my photos I came across this picture, taken on my last trip to Australia (was it really 2002?) and some of those who know me and know this particular place will recognise it. It is taken from a ferry - the "Narrabeen" if memory serves me - on the run from Circular Quay to Manley. Yes, you've guessed it - the Heads, the famous entrance to Sydney Harbour.

One of my favourite places on earth, the entrance to the huge expanse of water that is Sydney Harbour.

Sydney is one of the most amazing places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. One way or another, I am determined to visit it again!

And the other end of the run - Circular Quay ferry terminal.

As I said in the title - a place I love.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

The multi-cultural myth

If one believes the promoters of "multi-culturalism", it is supposed to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. It is supposed to defuse and remove forever, the problem of racial bias and hatred. That is why the government have squandered millions on promoting the rights and cultural superiority of so many ethinic minority groups over the "native" culture of the UK. So, if this is what it is supposed to do, why have we had two nights of rioting in Birmingham between Afro-Caribbean community members on one hand and Asian community members on the other? Don't they live in harmony? They share a section of the inner city and are both "oppressed" and "under represented" minorities as our political leaders so frequently tell us. Why are they embarking on such a course of enmity?

Partly, I would suspect, because the promotion of multi-cultural ideals has meant that communities are now retreating into small, isolated cultural ghettoes, making it much easier for psychological barriers to be erected between groups and to promote perceptions of "injustice". Taking just one aspect, the Asian community appears, on the whole, to be in better paid jobs than their Afro-Caribbean counterparts. This makes it easy, when there is a suggestion of discrimination, to promote the idea that Asians get a better deal. Look around at the evidence of this - as the communities do not mix either culturally or socially at any but the most basic levels such as work or trade, there is a complete lack of understanding between the groups. To an Afro-Caribbean from the poorer end of the social scale (or to a caucasian from a UK lineage!) Asian businessmen often seem arrogant, aloof and influential. This creates resentment, and resentment breeds distrust. Thus, it becomes extremely easy to introduce a mythical rape of a teenager from the supposedly disadvantaged group - and spark a riot when the MP for the area (an Asian as it happens in Birmingham) arrives and tries to deal with the problem by making political platform speeches about multi-culturalism which do not address the problem.

It really is time to take note of the dangers this "separate development" of "cultural integrities" poses. Even the Commission for Racial Equality is now wondering about the wisdom of this ideology. What is plainly evident is that it fuels distrust of "other groups", it promotes disengagement between groups and it creates a feeling of alienation for all those affected by policies of "positive discrimination".

The flare-up of violence in Lovells Road over the weekend, should be a wake-up call to politicians of all shades on opinion. It is time to stop promoting "difference" and to adopt a more pragmatic and sensible approach which will see integration and closer understanding between groups. Discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable, isolationism leads only to distrust and abuse and should be resisted by all sensible people.

If we do not, the events over the past weekend, could well become the future prospect for racial conflict. I sincerely hope it will not be, but we must get the politicians to acknowledge that this ideological nonsense has failed - and to find common sense ways of moving forward to proper fairness, dignity and opportunity in an integrated and racially diverse nation.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

Universal experts and the global warming debate ....

The Reverend Mike has posted an excellent diatribe on the subject of those who step outside their particular fields of expertise and sound off on matters they have little competence to assess. He is right, and I agree with his sentiments on this one. Still, I don't think I can say this any better than he, so go visit his post "Going to seminary is not like staying at the Holiday Inn Express."

I have to say, that I think he has it absolutely on the button when he says that far too many of those in the "green" camp are simply anti-technology - any technology!

Mikle being a nuclear engineer, he is all to well aware, as indeed am I as a "fire engineer", that computer models are all too limited in their ability to project anything more than an analysis of the data fed into them, and within the parameters the programme has defined. Garbage in; garbage out! This is why we should be very careful of falling for the doomsday scenarios predicted by "computer models" of our climate, our atmosphere or the oceans (which, being a part of the atmosphere, also have "climates". As yet, there is no computer model which can assess or analyse all of the interactions and all of the variations. So we wind up with little fragments which require some huge leaps of "logic" to stitch them all together.

We all agree that something is happening, and we need to do something, but we also need to put aside the doomsday predictions and the fear of technology and come up with some really creative and sustainable answers. And at present, nuclear power offers the best solution for heat emmissions, emmissions of "greenhouse" gases and economy of fuel use.

Mike is right, climatologists, engineers and all the disparate technological disciplines need to actually work together to find a solution - one not driven by the prejudices of small and vociferous groups who hate technology!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005


Peskie is a friend based in a place I can never spell without checking, near the Australian Federal Capital.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:30 AM | TrackBack

Saturday ramblings ....

Today I am waiting for my three "kids", all of them now grown up and adults I am proud of, to come up for a lunch together. We are celebrating a collective birthday - all of us have birthdays in September and October - and plan to have a good bash at a local eatery. But it is also, for me anyway, a time to reflect on how we interact with the world and the people around us.

Recently I have had to face the fact that I seem to be losing a number of friends to a variety of ailments and other causes, cancer being the number one at present. I find myself wondering, as I attempt to offer comfort and hope, how I would cope with the pain and the inevitable assaults of doubt, anger and fear of the unknown that I see and hear from them. I have to say, probably not as well as they have!

Then I look around at what all my friends have done and how my own life is enriched by their friendship. And I am humbled, I can only hope and pray that I bring as much to them as they have given to me, and this goes for my kids as well. I find that my life has been, and is being, incredibly enriched by their presence in mine. So, as I go to lunch with them today, I hope I can at least convey a big thank you and a load of love for them, but it occurs to me that I will also have to look at all my friends and friendships and ensure that I give back at least as much as I get from everyone.

It isn't, and should never be, a "bookkeeping" exercise, it is really just about making sure one is there for one's friends no matter what, and that one makes sure they know that you value them as highly as they value you.

Sermon over! The housework demands attention .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:01 AM | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

Confusion to Bonaparte ......

Exactly 200 years ago today the British fleet took on the combined fleets of France and Spain in an epic battle off Cape Trafalgar, South of Cadiz. As almost every school child in Britain now knows, the result was the near annihilation of the Combined Fleet and the death of Britains arguably most famous Admiral. Even so, many do not know the names of the ships involved, the other Captains and Admirals or that it brought the deaths of over 8,000 French and Spanish seamen and almost 500 British - althought there were many more injured.

Even fewer could probably tell you that the battle ended with 18 of the Combined fleet's ships under British Prize crews - or that most of these were lost in the "hurricane" that struck the fleets that night. In fact it was the storm that killed most of the casualties as the crippled and seriously damaged ships were driven ashore or simply sank, unable to keep the pumps going at a rate sufficient to keep the ship afloat. That was the fate of the ship from which a sharpshooter shot Nelson, the French "Redoubtable" under the command of probably the only man on the French side who had thought through how he could best use his ship against the superior British gunnery.

It is said, by some sources, that the French Commander in Chief, Admiral Villeneuve, lost the battle in HMS Victory's first shot from her massive 68 pdr Carronades mounted on her forecastle. It is reported that a shot from one of these, a hollow caste iron ball filled with steel balls or "grape" shot, struck the French flagship, the Bucentaure's mizzen mast directly above Villeneuve's staff, killing most of them and leaving the Admiral unable to communicate in the first vital minutes of the battle. It is ironic that Nelson had ordered his Flag Captain to pass ahead of the Bucentaure, between that ship and the huge Santissima Trinidade - at 130 guns the largest warship then afloat - but Victory had been unable to make sufficient speed to do this and so passed between Bucentaure and the next ship astern to collide with Redoubtable which had been deliberately positioned by her Captain to bring this about. Had she passed ahead of Bucentaure, Nelson may well have survived and Villeneuve may well have succeeded in bringing about a slightly different outcome.

Once the two fleets had become fully engaged in what was more of a melee than a battle - the wind fell away to a mere breeze and most ship's crawled into position, some not reaching the engagement until almost nightfall - each ship basically fought whoever was nearest and in range of their guns. Victory was grappled by Redoubtable and their yards were lashed together by Captain Lucas' crew, who also slammed shut their gun ports and concentrated on musketry against Victory's upper deck guncrews and officers. Victory's gunners however, continued to fire their massive cannon into Redoubtable, the muzzles of the massive 32 pdrs on her lower gun deck actually resting against the Redoubtable as they fired! A further British ship found herself enmeshed in the Redoubtable's disengaged side and then had to row a boat around to ask Victory to depress her guns as they were damaging the newcomer. This in turn meant that these heavy guns were now blasting their shot through the bilges of the Redoubtable whose pumps had also been shot away and so she was basically being held afloat by the two British ships.

Captain Lucas actually sent word aboard both ships demanding assistance to keep his ship afloat as, if she sank, there was the potential for her to take both Victory and the second ship (possibly, if memory serves me, the Temeraire, a former French ship captured and taken into British service) with her to the bottom. As it was, shortly thereafter, Redoubtable was forced to surrender but the ship was beyond saving, and sank in the subsequent storm.

Much has been written about the battle and it's aftermath, and many have doubted the willingness to fight of the Spanish and French ships which failed to engage during the action. What tends to get overlooked is that Nelson had taken a very bold step, one which Admiral Scheer refused at Jutland (Skagerak to the German side), of sailing his ships into the "crossed T" where they would be subjected to a punishing fire from the massed ships ahead while being unable to reply effectively themselves. In so doing he split the opposing fleet and the ships ahead and astern of the engagement found themselves with the almost impossible task of trying to beat to windward in the dying breeze to join the engagement.

The second matter which tends to get overlooked is that the British seamen could fire three to four times for each shot fired by their opponents. It was this massive rate of fire which carried the day for them, once they got into a firing position, their sheer volume of fire meant that their opponents soon found themselves suffering enormous damage. Secondly, as each ship sailed through a gap in the line of French and Spanish ships, she was able to pour all her fire power into the vulnerable bow or stern of the ships either side of her. Given an estimated time of four minutes to sail through the gap, this meant that each of Victory's 52 guns on each side would have fired at least seven shots as they passed between the Bucentaure and the ship astern of her! What this did to the Bucentaure can best be judged by "the butcher's bill" as it resulted in over 400 of her crew becoming casualties very early in the battle, with her wheel shot away and her stern in ruins. This left them unable to service the remaining guns (raking fire of this kind usually dismounted guns and left the gundeck a shambles of overturned guns and carriages, dead, dying and injured) and even fewer "Topmen" to work the ship and keep her under command. It frequently also severed the tiller lines and destroyed the head of the rudder, thereby destroying the ship's ability to steer as well.

Small wonder then, that this battle has left the indelible mark that it has, for, until Jutland, nothing like it would be seen at sea again. It ended the French intention of invasion of England, turning the Grand Armee' East to Austria, Prussia and its abortive assault on Moscow. So, in one sense, it was the beginning of the road which led ultimately to Waterloo and the destruction of the Napoleonic tradition of victory for French arms.

Ironically, the Royal Navy of today can muster fewer ships in total than formed the fleet Nelson commanded. While it may be argued that today's ships are far more powerful and far more deadly, they do not provide the same degree of cover that the RN provided in 1805 - or, to quote the fatuous argument of the Civil Service of today - that of the Grand Fleet of 1916. One ship may have more firepower than any of these fleets, but it is still a single ship and cannot be in twenty seven places as the individual ships of Nelson's fleet could. In 1805 the RN had a Channel Fleet, a Mediteranean Fleet (Nelson's fleet would assume this title later) a "Squadron" in the North Sea which could also be strengthened to Fleet proportions very quickly, another fleet in the West Indies, a squadron at the Cape and another "fleet" scattered between India, Australia and the South China sea. A total of over a thousand ships.

Our strength has always lain in our ability to command the seas around these islands. Governments that neglect that fact have learned to their cost that, without our sea defences, we are hostages to fortune. As the American Admiral Mahan wrote, a navy is the one instrument which can carry a nations defences beyond it's own shores and influence it's foreign relations significantly. We, it seems, have still not learned that lesson, or the one of the second Dutch War, when, after winning what politicians thought was the final battle at sea, they started negotiations and decommissioned the entire fleet, laying it up in the Medway. Then they found themselves trying to salvage their "victory" after the Dutch Admiral van Tromp destroyed the entire fleet and towed away the flagship as a trophy!

All that Nelson achieved has now been thrown away by ignorant politicians and civil servants interested only in their "rules" and self aggrandisement. I wonder how many of those thinking of Nelson's victory today will realise that, had he not won the battle, he could have been courtmartialled for disobeying the "Fighting Instructions" a rigid set of "rules" for commanders that required them to engage an enemy fleet in single line ahead, broadside to broadside. Nelson flouted them blatantly and flagrantly to achieve a smashing victory that changed history. That is the stuff of which leaders are made.

My title for this post? It comes from the toast drunk by Naval Officers during the Napoleonic wars "Confusion to Bonaparte, and death to the French!" Perhaps time to lay the sentiments expressed in it to rest, but not, perhaps, the time to forget this great victory in what was then seen as a fight against the tyranny of revolution a French victory was thought to bring, and a reminder that freedom comes at a very high price - one that gets higher whenever preparedness and vigilance fails!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

Witnesses from Medieval Times

The most beautiful part of the river Rhine is found between Wiesbaden and Koblenz. This is the area where most of the castles along the Rhine are situated. One of the gems among them is the Marksburg at the town of Braubach. The Marksburg is the only castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed. Today it houses the headquarters of the Deutsche Burgenverein (German Castle Association) who ensures that it is beautifully preserved and maintained.

Perched on top of a steep rock high above the town it offers a splendid view onto the river as most of the Rhine castles do. If you want to extort money from ships passing by you'd better see them coming!


View of the river Rhine from the Marksburg.

The castle was first mentioned in 1231. The keep is, of course, the oldest part of the castle and was probably built by some local noble Freemen. Then the Lords of Eppstein added the Romanesque part of the castle. They came from one of the most powerful families of that time who had no less than five archbishops and electors among the family members. In 1283 the castle was bought by the wealthy Count of Katzenelnbogen. The Counts of Katzenelnbogen built the Gothic part of the castle.

Knight's stairway into the inner courtyards of the castle. The horses of those times must have been good climbers.

With the death of the last Count of Katzenelnbogen the castle passed on to the Landgraves of Hessen who turned it into a hill fortress with artillery batteries and ramparts. The fortifications are impressive and some of the cannons are still on display in the castle yards.

Lots of artefacts inside the castle give a good impression of what life must have been like in the Middle Ages. Nowadays the rooms seem very small but it could not have been easy in those days to carry up all the firewood to the top of hill which was needed to keep the castle at least moderately warm and dry. People living in the castle must have led very lonely lives especially during winter times.

In the 19th century the castle was mainly used as a state prison and almost started falling apart towards the end of the century. In 1900 it was bought by the Deutsche Burgenverein for a symbolic price of 1,000 Goldmarks. It has been lovingly restored ever since and is well worth a visit.

Posted by Mausi at 05:13 PM | TrackBack

Have you ever wondered ....

As most of my friends know, I have spent a lot of my career trying to prevent people from doing stupid things with fire, putting them out when they occur, or investigating them after someone else has dealt with it, and now teaching others to carry on the good work.

Backdraft full force.BMP
This is a backdraft as it happens. The "deflagration" is often sufficiently powerful to extinguish the original fire by expelling all the fuel vapour.

Much was made of the explosive force of the backdraft phenomenon in the film of that name and there were a number of scenes which showed particularly violent explosions. Well, backdrafts are basically a deflagrating explosion of the unburned combustion or pyrolysis products in the smoke plume. They are seldom as violently powerful as Hollywood's version, but they are incredibly dangerous and pretty deadly if you happen to be the idiot in the wrong place when it happens. Anyone stood in the path of the flame emitted is going to be seriously burned, anyone caught in the pressure wave it will generate will probably be very aware of the explosive power.

An explosion of this type is generally at it's most powerful when it is in the most efficient air/fuel range of mixture - just like the carburation principle in a petrol engine. Too rich and it loses force, to lean and it may not even ignite. The range of materials stored in our homes that can produce the vapours to do this sort of "explosion" are fairly large. Plastics, expanded foam cusions, "Melamine" finishes, gas, some household cleaners, are among the things that can all produce the fuel which makes a stoichiometric mix and - BANG!

These sorts of explosion usually produce more of a "Woof!" than a "Bang!", but they are no less dangerous for that!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:27 PM | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

Having fun with one's people

Here I am, Mausi the black and white moggie, living with quite a nice couple of humans at the foot of the Taunus mountains. I am a good hunter and like to put the food I bring home on display rather than just dump it onto the doormat as you can see on the photo.

View image
This is me sitting behind Herbert the gargoyle's tub which makes splendid cover for pouncing on stupid birds or our neighbour's toy poodle.

Some days, though, I try to have bit of fun ...

I came home one morning after a night's hunt and She opened the door for me. (They won't let me have a cat flap, can't imagine why.) I had a living shrew in my mouth with the tail dangling down from between my teeth which She didn't notice, sleepy as she was. I put down the shrew on the living room floor and shepherded her gently behind the bookshelves before She could do anything about it. Then I sat down to watch the fun. I was not to be disappointed. Further reinforcements were speedily called to Her assistance. When He entered the living room they started moving the first two smaller bookshelves away from the wall which only prompted the shrew to hide behind the third one, a really big one with hundreds of books in it. There was no way to move that one, they had to take out every single book first. Lovely sight to watch! Piles of books were soon cluttering the floor. When I saw them lying flat on the floor in their pyjamas trying to shoo the shrew into a little cardboard box I couldn't keep a straight face any longer and had to go to the kitchen for a spot of breakfast. From the kitchen door I watched them releasing the shrew into the garden. I couldn't have cared less - can't stomach those silly little buggers anyway!

Posted by Mausi at 09:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

Bird of war ....

As a child born immediately after the second world war, I grew up with people talking about Spitfires, Hurricanes and many other legendary fighter and bomber aircraft from both sides of the conflict. I don't think I ever really expected to see them up close - but it is surprising how many are still around. A period spent in the East Lothian region of Scotland found me on the doorstep of a museum specialising in aviation history - there is a Vulcan bomber parked outside as a bit of a clue!

Spitfire - E Fortune.JPG
The legendary Spitfire - this one, according to the plaque, a Mk V - in the dark paint scheme used for night fighting.

Of all the aircraft of the WW2 era, the Spitfire seems to have become the symbol of them all, despite the fact that there were never that many of them in service at any one time. Having now heard them in flight, I have to say, that I can understand some of the legend. They have a snarl to the engine and prop which is unique, rather like Concorde's howl. When you get up close to one, as in the museum in East Lothian, it has a magnetic feel to it, even though this one will probably never fly again. In sharp contrast is the Messerschmidt Rocket plane parked alongside the Spitfire - possibly the first really supersonic aircraft - but a real "suicide special".

me rocket plane.jpg
Short, compact, with limited duration - and deadly to both opponents and its pilots, the Messerschmidt Rocketpowered Interscepter.

This museum is not large, but it is packed with a fascinating collection of aircraft, almost all of them legendary. My only regret is that I have yet to find somewhere with a De Haviland Mosquito (built of Marine Plywood and with twin RR Gryphon engines!) and an even more deadly aircraft designed for Naval strikes - the Bristol Beaufighter, which was nicknamed by the Japanese unfortunate enough to come under attack from them, the "Whispering Death". The reason for this is that the engines were silenced and the prop noise was reduced by using a special blade design which was considerably quieter than any other.

The only problem is that I not only want to see these aircraft - I want to experience flying in them! One small problem with that - I'm not a pilot!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:26 PM | TrackBack

October 17, 2005

Heading for a big freeze? Maybe!

Several friends have e-mailed me to say that going by the Winter pelts being generated by a range of pets across Europe, the most reliable being a certain Black and White moggie in the Taunus Region of Germany, we are in for a very cold season. I have consulted Madam Paddy as well and her fur is thickening up amazingly despite the central heating, loft insulation and double glazing she enjoys!

Other pets are also growing amazingly thick undercoats and generally putting in an effort for insulation, so perhaps there is a bit of an indication that we could see some real cold this year. Perhaps I had better investigate some emergency heating equipment and some backup for the electric lighting as well!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:21 PM | TrackBack

Useful implants?

OK, I'll admit it, this is one report that almost made me fall off my seat. I'm afraid that as far as logical thought goes for the rest of the day, I'm going to be absolutely useless. It's all Squipper's fault. Honest! If she hadn't put up this post about breast implants I would not have found it.

Musical breast implants? I'm afraid my bind is still moggling! I suppose it really is only a matter of time before someone goes for it as a way of getting attention. I just hope they know what they're doing!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:22 AM | TrackBack

October 16, 2005

Newcomers to the Monk's blog

It is always fun to welcome someone new onto one's page and I have two! In the near future you will see entries appearing under the names of The Postulant and Mausi, one based in London and the other in Wiesbaden in Germany.

The Postulant some of you may have encountered before - she used to have her own blog, but Mausi is new to this game and lives in the foothills of the Taunus mountains. It will be fun to see what we all have to say - especially as we are all from different backgrounds and although we all share a love of Pratchett and a fistful of beliefs, we all have different takes on a number of things and widely different careers.

Oh, and we all like the Murray Ball cartoons of the "Dog" set in a wonderfully zany world called Footrot Flats! Watch out world, this could get very humourous!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:58 PM | TrackBack

Sunday thought

Today's Gospel reading contains the well known injunction to "render to Caesar, that which is Caesars; and to God, that which is God's". It is worth pondering afresh on this as we sometimes are so busy serving Caesar, that we forget to give God his due as well.

While the original question and the answer were about the payment of Roman Taxes, we have similar questions today about the payment of any "tax". I know I certainly do - in fact I resent having to pay a large portion of my wages to a "Treasury" for what sometimes seems like a group of wastrals to abuse. I know how hard earned that money was, I know how much better I could spend it if I was, instead of paying taxes, allowed to apportion it to the causes and uses I regard as essential and necessary. It certainly would not be approtioned to paying extravagant salaries to MP's, Civil Servants and the armies of Consultants that now infest every government department.

But we do need some central services! We certainly need roads to be built and maintained, and flawed as it is, we also need to keep something like the NHS going. But this is Caesar's realm, not God's. So what should I be rendering to God?

Several things. My intellect and my work to show His Word and love in the world. Where I cannot physically go, I should be supporting others who can or are already in place. I should be doing more for those most in need and I should be spending more of my time in worship and in praise. I should be encouraging others in the faith, and I must strive to grow in my own faith. These are just some of the things that we all should be rendering to God, as the things of God.

In our secularised society, we have lost sight of what is due to God. We need to recapture it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 15, 2005

Is there a connection perhaps?

The government is wrestling with an interesting conundrum at present. Crime rates are apparently dropping, but the population of our prisons has gone up sharply. And all our lovely civil servants and their Political Masters are agonising over the question; why, if crime is down, are there so many people in prison?

Could it be that we are locking up pensioners by the score for daring to refuse to pay unjustifiably large increases in property tax that is inflating the prison population? Or could it possibly be, that with all the criminals in jail, there are actually fewer crimes being committed? Perhaps the crime rate is down because the victims are all in jail and the criminals aren't reporting their activities? Or perhaps its all the pensioners who are criminals and their activities are now curtailed because they are in jail?

Or is there a simpler answer that Mr Blair and his Cronies refuse to admit - that crime is down because the criminals are where they belong; in jail! We will soon know for sure, because our cuddly bully-boy Home Secretary is going to let most of them out with the discredited electronic tags they can remove and go out to commit more crimes.

Part of the problem seems to be the debate between those who feel the criminal element in society are "victims" who need sympathy and "rehabilitation" versus those who feel that criminal activity needs to be punished. At present prison does neither, and the many attempts to "rehabilitate" young offenders shows that, while it might be a good idea, it doesn't seem to work. A look at re-offending rates confirms that very swiftly. Certainly the governments "soft" option of letting crimnals out early with tags that do not control or monitor their activities may well prove very effectively that they have this one wrong.

Any bets on the crime rate soaring again in a couple of months as a result of the new "serve your sentence at home" policy? Bet they make the OAP's with unpaid Council Tax serve their full sentence though - after all, we don't want them at home while Blair's burglars are round there robbing the place - they might interfere and resist the burglar!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:10 PM | TrackBack

Thought for the day ....

"Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought.

Chaos will always defeat order because it is so much better organised."

Ly Tin Wheedle, Philosopher from the Agatean Empire

All I need add to that is that my desk is permanent scientific proof of the above ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:40 AM | TrackBack

October 14, 2005

Concorde is dead, long live Concorde?

The news a few days ago that our wonderful French "partners" in the Concorde project, are now engaged in designing and developing a replacement should be greeted with delight. Except that it was their refusal to modify their Concordes that led to the disaster outside Orly which spelt the deathknell for the magnificent bird. So, perhaps it was what they wanted all along - kill of the "Speedbird" so they can build another - this time in partnership with the Japanese and not perfidious Albion.

All power to the Japanese who have come up with the successful design - a one third size model flew for the first time from Woomera in Australia this month - which is quieter and less polluting than the old Concorde, but their partners in this venture, Aerospatiale, are the same crew who did not see a need to modify their original Concordes when the UK's were modified some ten or more years ago after the problem had been identified. Sometimes the politics of these events and the consequences of the political games played by various parties in so-called "partnerships" are lethal.

I wish the new "Speedbird" every success. It will probably not become operational until long after I am able to fly in it - even assuming I could afford too - but I do wish that the original could have been kept airborne as well. A pity it would seem to have been sacrificed to Whitehall's intransigence amd incompetence and French ambition and vanity.

At least the new aircraft is going to do what Concorde II should have done. It will carry 300 people across the globe. Higher, faster and more efficiently than ever - and built by the Japanese and the French.

Somehow the Japanese bit worries me less than the French part, given their record with Concorde.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:02 PM | TrackBack

Ongoing tragedy

The relief effort in Pakistan seems to be having some effect, but the Winter weather is also starting to threaten lives. The big aftershock this morning - one of many since the original quake - will have unsettled people and done even more damage, perhaps undoing some of the vital repair work to roads giving access to the mountain communities still cut off.

The death toll keeps rising, and with many villages still unsearched, and even more cars, trucks and busses still buried in landslides and rubble, it is likely to be some time before anyone knows the full extent of the loss. All we can hope for is that the people now homeless and threatened by the cold and lack of food or water reserves can be reached in time. This is something we all need to pray about and to try to help the agencies now hard at work providing relief.

It really is encouraging to see that the Indian government has sent a large consignment of blankets, food, water and other essentials and offered more. Even better is the fact that Pakistan has not only accepted their help but welcomed it. Perhaps there may yet be some good arising from this tragedy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:57 AM | TrackBack

October 13, 2005

There is no discrimination ....

Isn't it amazing how we have loads of legislation forbidding employers from practicing "discrimination" while at the same time actually encouraging, by means of "targets" for "diversification" the very thing the law forbids. Our employment legislation requires that candidates be chosen on merit, but the "diversity" policies of this government actually require that "all candidates are equal, but women and ethnic groups are more equal than white anglo-saxon males", particularly in the recruiting to any post in government or in the fire and emergency services. The following report speaks for itself!

Hewitt admits sex bias

Patricia Hewitt has admitted breaking the Sex Discrimination Act when, as trade and industry secretary, she overruled advisers and appointed a woman to an influential job instead of a better-qualified male candidate.

The health secretary and her former department were taken to the High Court by Malcolm Hanney, a merchant banker, after he was turned down for a £9,000-a-year position on the South West Regional Development Agency. Hanney had used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain notes taken at his interview in which he was described as the strongest candidate.

A spokesman for the DTI said it had "misunderstood certain provisions" in the code of conduct for appointments. "Processes have changed to ensure this does not happen again," he added.

Interestingly, she faces no criminal charge for this, which is precisely what her Department would insist upon, if it had been any commercial employer! Are the government and Ministers above the law? Not in the eyes of the Constitution of any truly democratic state, but evidently not, in the eyes of Blair and his Aparatchiks in Whitehall!

Taking a look at the latest government statistics on recruiting and at the targets for "diversification" for one of the metropolitan fire and rescue services, it soon becomes apparent that in order to meet the target, only three in every forty recruits for the next ten years can be white males. This means they have a serious problem, because the same statistics show that ther ratio of applicants does not in any way support that level of recruiting - unless every woman and ethnic minority applicant is automatically accepted and every white male is required to meet a range of criteria, chosen to ensure their deselection, that will not be applied to any other group.

There is no bias or discrimination in "Positive Discrimination"; is there?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:20 AM | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Heading for the Freezer?

The weather office is predicting that we could be heading for the coldest winter in a decade in the UK. Quite how they have arrived at this decision in the midst of a very mild Autumn (the Monk, used to far warmer climes, has only just had to consider firing up his heating system for a couple of hours each night!) and in the face of all the wild eyed "Friends of the Earth" propaganda about the seas getting hotter, the climate changing to tropical in these Northern climes and the desertification of Europe, I am not quite sure. But, I guess it makes good headlines - especially when the CBI and others are put on alert that they may have to accept business shutdown if we run out of fuel.

Are we likely to run short of fuel or power?

Well, the short answer is yes. Thanks to short-termism and complete lack of forward planning by either the government or the Whitehall Whallahs, we are slowly running out of North Sea gas and haven't yet started to build up alternative supplies or even tap into the reservoirs that do exist off the South Coast and in the Irish Sea. Then there is the whole debate about how we will power our cities in the future - and predictably the "all nuclear power stations are H-Bombs" brigade have come out screaming because the government has dared to suggest that wind and other "renewable" sources will not be sufficient to our needs and we must look at nuclear power to fill in the growing gaps.

Well, if they want to freeze their nuts off in a power blackout that's their concern. Properly managed, nuclear power stations are a lot safer than the coal fired and gas fired versions - primarily because they do not kill quite so many in the fuel supply as the coal and gas ones do - and they do, when properly managed (NOT by a bunch of arrogant and stupid civil servants!) produce clean and safe electricity. As long as no one tries to play silly buggers with the safety systems as they did at Chernobyl, and as long as we are talking PWR or GCR systems, we are in fact talking about a whole different ball game.

Anyway, a cold winter in this neck of the woods will probably be a very good thing for a change as it will clear out a lot of the invading insects and some other "invaders" that have been growing in numbers for some years now.

It will also give the hysterical "Global Warming" anoraks something else to yammer about for a change!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:06 PM | TrackBack

Points to ponder?

From my brother in Cape Town comes this list of interesting philosophical items to ponder .....

Top Ten Thoughts to Ponder:

Number 10 -
Life is sexually transmitted.

Number 9 ­
Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

Number 8 ­
Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny.
If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich!

Number 7 ­
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

Number 6 ­
Some people are like a Slinky.....
not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.

Number 5 ­
Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

Number 4 ­
All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

Number 3 ­
Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred Pounds and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty pence?

Number 2 ­
In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

We know exactly where one cow with mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in Britain but we haven't got a clue as to where thousands of illegal immigrants and terrorists are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs in charge of immigration.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:08 PM | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

Wallace and Gromit's big disaster

The popular Wallace and Gromit films have suffered a major loss - the warehouse in which Aardman Productions housed all it's archives, has been destroyed in a fire. According to the spokesman for Aardman, it is nothing compared to Pakistan and will not affect their future productions or the one's already in circulation, but it has destroyed all the awards they had acumulated and many of the original models and drawings.

As a Wallace and Gromit fan - there can be no doubt at all that the real genius is Gromit - I look forward to their future productions, and hope that they will continue to provide the zany view of the eccentric "English" inventor at his most amusing. The loss of the warehouse though, does serve as a sharp reminder that the fire protection of assets and of our heritage depends on more than simply having a few "risk assessments" and "fire prevention" strategies. Fires can and do happen frequently, particularly in vulnerable structures like warehouses. If these are not provided with sprinklers, it is extremely unlikely that the fire and rescue services will be able to save it.

In the meantime, I suppose we can live in hope that Wallace and Gromit's memorabilia has miraculously survived - or that the intrepid inventor can come up with a solution to the problems of fighting fires in unprotected buildings!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:12 PM | TrackBack

October 10, 2005

Natural Disasters

The horrific aftermath of the earthquake in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and the landslides and mudslides which have followed Hurricane Stan in Guatemala have once again brought home the consequences of living in areas prone to natural events. The death toll in the earthquake seems to grow by the hour, and I will not be surprised if it eventually approaches the sort of proportions reached by the tsunami last Boxing Day. The sheer scale of the quake and the extent of the damage is almost beyond comprehension, yet it is a perfectly natural force and event.

Our prayers need to be offered to support those trapped and injured, those that have flung themselves into the breach to carry out the difficult and often dangerously thankless task of search and rescue, and with those who must now try to come to terms with the loss of family, friends and their homes and livelihoods. As some writers have said, nature is indeed red in tooth and claw, and the natural forces which shape and mould our planets surface, or it's atmosphere, are not forces we can control. I listened with mounting shock this morning to a news broadcaster saying that one vilage in Guatemala, now buried under forty feet of mud and rubble, may be declared a "mass grave" and all rescue efforts have been stopped. However, when you consider it carefully, this is not as callous as it sounds. Mud is notoriously unstable and difficult to work in, rescue or survival for those buried in it, almost impossible - and unsurvivable. Better then, to mark it and take steps to ensure it does not happen again.

Sadly, I suspect that very soon, the survivors will be rebuilding in a similar location simply because they have no other choice.

When you consider the death toll from the earthquake a similar picture emerges. Too many people, too little land that can be used to support them and a geological landscape that is a major subduction zone between the Indian Continental tectonic plate and the Asian plate. There is a reason the Himalayas are so high - its all about the fact that Asia is riding up and over the Indian plate! It follows that if you put a lot of people into buildings built on a faultline of this magnitude (or the San Andreas fault in Cailfornia), if you get a big quake, its going to kill lots of people. Quakes of this magnitude are not new in this area, they happen fairly frequently, but until some 50 years ago, there were not the same numbers of people affected by them and the traditional building structures did not concentrate people the way modern accommodation blocks, office blocks and shopping centres do.

Make no mistake, what has happened/is happening in Pakistan is a human tragedy, what is heartening is the swiftness of the response from every corner of the world. If we can all learn something from this, it is that we are all, under the skin, human beings, God's creatures, and when one of us is hurt or injured, we are all hurt. As John Donne famously put it, "if a promontory is washed into the sea, Europe is the less". If a town in the America's is buried in mud, or an entire region of the Indian sub-contnent is devastated by an earthquake, we are all, in some way affected and therefore involved.

Our prayers are needed for the living, the injured and the dying, but we must be practical as well. Now is a good time to reach into our pockets and do what we can to send the aid that is vital to save the lives of the thousands who are homeless and without livelihood. Now is the time to show the true meaning of "Christian Charity" or charity by any other name, now is a time for action which can do much to promote the true "brotherhood of man".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:02 PM | TrackBack

October 09, 2005

Abbey repairs

Work has started on the repairs to the Abbey Tower, at this stage mainly concentrated on making the roof and drainage from the tower watertight again! Our Campaign to raise the money for the repairs to the stonework is also gathering pace as we have now identified the major projects which need the most urgent attention and will require the most capital investment.

This picture shows some of the erosion of stonework on the West and North faces of the tower. All of this will need to be cut back and then inserts of new stone placed to "reface" it.

One of the many "problems" that need to be addressed in repairing buildings like this is that you cannot use modern "Portland" type cement, as this attacks the old stone and destroys the lime mortar that is already in place. It is also far too "rigid" and can cause further damage to the structure by restricting the buildings ability to "move" and adjust to the seasons. The original builders made their own "lime" mortar on site, something our modern builders cannot do for a variety of reasons, so it has to be brought in as pre-prepared "constituents" which can then be matched and mixed to blend with the original. Naturally that takes time, and time costs.

The eroded stonework has to be cut back, or even cut out - care being taken to ensure that the surrounding stone is not damaged - and then is either "refaced" with new stone inserted over the old, or a new block, cut to fit exactly the old shape, is inserted. Naturally, one does not buy these in the local D-I-Y store, so skilled craftsmen are needed to do this work. It is painstakingly slow and more a work of art than of a builder.

In case you ever wondered how the medieval builders got their materials up the tower - this is a "winch" pulley they left behind!

The more I study this building, the more amazed I am at just how skilled the original Norman and Medieval artisans were. I seriously doubt if any of the buildings we are throwing up in our age will still be here 900 years hence!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:52 AM | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

Golden history

The Cathedral (Dom Church) in Poznan has been rebuilt several times in its history, the latest rebuild having been carried out in 1952 to rebuild the building all but destroyed by the Russian assault in 1944/45. Several parts of the original survived, perhaps the most spectacular part being the "Golden" Chapel, built in the 18th Century to house the tombs of the first Kings of Poland. The chapel is, for obvious reasons kept locked and is entered only on special occassions for commemorative Masses by the Cathedral clergy.

The altar and altarpiece of the Golden Chapel - the altarpiece is not a painting, it is in fact a mosaic composed of various rare and precious and semi-precious materials.

The walls and the spectacular domed roof are lined with gold - hence the name - and this is worked as both a foil and as inlaid and wrought elements. It is estimated that there is upwards of 18 kilograms (almost 40 pounds) of gold here. Alcoves to the North and South of the circular chapel house the tombs of Mischea I and Mischea II the first two Kings of Poland, four more are entombed beneath the floor.

The dome of the Golden Chapel. The picture does not do it any credit at all!

While this chapel is perhaps the most stunning feature, the cathedral holds a number of fascinating features for those interested in history and in ancient buildings. The undercrofts beneath the present structure have been opened up and can be seen as part of an archeological tour, which allows visitors to see the original foundations for the first cathedral and to examine the subsequent changes and enlargements. This tour also reveals the probably site of the baptism font (one of three possible sites) where King Michea I was baptised - and subsequently all of Poland became Christian by decree.

There must be some irony in the fact that the city of Poznan saw the first King's, the first Cathedral and became the first capital - and also witnessed the dismissal of the last Polish King, overthrown by a Swedish invader in the 18th Century, at which point Poland ceased to exist as a nation, except in it's language and in the hearts and minds of it's people.

So here you have the celebration of both the beginning and the end of the original Poland - and the pride of the new.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

October 07, 2005

Changing status

Currently this weblog has two addresses in the TTLB Ecosystem, one (currently displayed in the right hand strap) is for the old site on Guru International. The one below is for the MuNu site I have moved too! My ineptitude in dealing with the templates means I have to resort to some strange manoeuvres to get the Status Displayed!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

Mechanical fun and history

Poznan (sometimes also known as Posen) is interesting for a number of reasons and a very historical place. It is the place where the first Polish Kings were crowned and which they made their capital. In the Dom (Cathedral) Church is the Golden Chapel which is also the resting place of the first two King's and several of their successors. The towns Market Square is dominated by the medieval Town Hall, now a museum, all the buildings in this "heart" having been carefully restored after being almost destroyed during World War II.

The automata Billy Goats, symbols of Poznan, and "supporters" on the city's Arms, engage in head butting as the clock strikes noon.

The only discordant note here is the Communist Era "mall" abutting the Town Hall which the city council wish to see demolished and replaced with something more in keeping with the rest of the square. The decorated frontages of all the surrounding buildings are, of course, recreations of the originals, as most of the buildings were very badly damaged in the fighting here in 1944 - 45. The really remarkable thing, is the fact that it has been restored and that so much is so lovingly preserved, not as a museum, but as a living a vibrant community.

Seen from the Town Hall tower, the street cafes can be seen along one side of the square.

The automata is a major attraction for visitors and the square is crowded as the time for it to happen approaches. Even more interesting is the fact that parties of school children are brought here for history lessons, which includes a bit of fun as well as the serious business of learning about their past.

Perhaps only those who have had their history suppressed by oppressive invaders and governments can really appreciate the value of preserving it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:18 AM | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

The Bells, the bells!

The Abbey is blessed with having a "heavy" "ring" of bells in it's tower, thirteen are hung for ringing as a peel, another four, caste in the 1680's used for the clock and a smaller bell, caste in 1690, used as the "Sanctus" Bell. The Bell Ringers ring every Sunday, practice every Thursday and ring for other state and festival occassions as well.

Six of the bigger bells "set" for ringing in their Bell Frame in Tewkesbury's famous tower.

The present thirteen bells used in the peel, are all relatively new, twelve having been recast in 1962 from original bells from the tower which dated from the 18th and 19th Centuries. The thirteenth, a "Flat 6th" was added in 1991 to provide a slightly "lighter" toned Octave. As is the tradition, when a bell is recast the original metal is re-used with some new metal added. Each bell is named and each is mounted in a swinging frame which is in turn mounted in the Ringing Frame seen in the photograph. A "stay" prevents the bell from swinging through the "set" position, and holds it in balance until the ringer tugs the bell rope and releases it to swing through a 360 degree arc to it's reset position.

The keen observer will have noted something interesting in the picture - each bell is mounted to swing in a different direction to it's neighbour. This is to ensure that the momentum of the bells, transmitted through the Bell Frame, is not transferred to the tower in a motion that could cause the tower to sway in harmony with the movement of the bells.

There is something quintessentially English about the sound of the bells peeling - they do not play tunes - and it is probably not surprising that there are very few "rings" of bells hung in this way outside of the UK. From a health and safety perspective, there is another little point to remember about bell ringing - the ringers are never in the same space as the bells. The ringing chamber is always at least one, if not two floors below the bells and the sound is muffled. Inside the Belfry itself, the sound is loud enough to cause permanent damage to the ears and the bells in St Paul's Cathedral in London are said to have killed eight men in their history by the noise alone.

Even so, it is one of the traditions of the English Church which I hope will continue, it is, after all, a part of the culture we all enjoy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:38 PM | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Defending one's country

Recent images of British troops and their Scorpion armoured vehicle engulfed in flames from a "Molotov Cocktail" at first provoked anger in my response. After all, we - that is; our troops on our behalf - are supposedly there to help ensure that the country moves forward into an era of free speech, tolerance and democratic freedom. Or so we are told. At least, that is what most of us choose to believe, and, even severely cynical types like myself, would like to believe that we can, if we can but win over the bulk of the population to more moderate and intelligent views, make a huge difference to the region as a whole.

Of course, there will always be those who do not want this, they will always portray anyone who disagrees with them as the "enemy", and particularly those who are "foreign". How does one counter the insidious propaganda of the street? The TV and other media channels are not trusted by the bulk of the population because they are inured to the fact that, under the previous regime, the state control of the media only told them part of the facts. Now that the media is, so they are told, controlled by the US, they trust it even less. That leaves the "Chinese Whispers" and rumour mills free to operate unchallenged and far more believed in than the regular channels.

What drives a young person in places like the West Bank or in Gaza - or for that matter in Baghdad or Basra - to rush out into the streets in the face of armed soldiery and armoured vehicles to throw stones and petrol bombs? This is a question I have often asked myself, particularly as I have also been on the receiving end of them even though I was there to save property and lives and not as a member of the armed forces. Could it be that these young men and women feel that they are defending themselves and their ideals from a foreign invader who wishes to stamp out the way of life that they are familiar with?

That question was brought into focus again for me recently when I was reminded that someone I know and hold in a great deal of respect, was among a small group of boys (he was "old", at 17, among his peers) who, in 1945, fought against the Russian Army invading Eastern Germany. He and his group fought with what little they could find around them, not with regular weapons, but with stones, petrol bombs and whatever else they could find, driven by the belief that they had no choice but to defend their homes, sisters and mothers from the invaders. They even succeeded in destroying at least one tank - something the Russians have not forgotten and have spent a long time trying to avenge. As we now know, they were right to fear the Russians, just as the Russians could probably argue that the German forces sowed the seeds that led to the "retribution".

I ask myself what my reaction would be to the "invasion" of my country by foreign forces who then set about changing and imposing "foreign" institutions on me. Would I reach for the Molotov Cocktail? Would I engage in a guerilla campaign? The answer is probably "yes".

The problem is that we need to acknowledge that there is a limit to what can be achieved by force of arms. Once that limit is reached, we have to win hearts and minds. This applies not only to national problems but to individuals as well - every one of us fears change, particularly if it threatens our ability to sustain our belief systems, our personal security or our standard of living. This is patently what we have failed utterly to do in the Middle East, we have failed to provide the support and the reassurances that individuals need to begin to understand that the changes will actually benefit them. This is why the "Insurgents" are having things all their own way, why they are able to spread their poison so easily. They play on the fears of the individual - and yes, they play the religious card ruthlessly.

The West needs to get to grips with the fact that Islam and Nation are indivisible in the minds of it's religious leaders and of the bulk of the population of places like Iraq. Once we acknowledge that, and can demonstrate that we do not threaten their beliefs, only the institutions which are corrupt in governing them, we may begin to erode the support for the insurgents. Then peace may have a chance.

Once the successes can be broadcast, once the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Guantanamo Bay situations can be put aside, and the hospitals, schools and other services can be seen by all to be functioning and operating correctly, then we may find a road to putting aside the need for petrol bombs and stones against tanks. Until then, we have a long and arduous road to walk in order to win over the young men and women who feel compelled to defend their way of life and their country.

I suspect it will be a very difficult road, bedevilled by the need to suppress the forces of terror who are hard at work trying to seize power for themselves. Hopefully, however, we will not again see the train of events that led to the Basra incident. Perhaps lessons can be learned and perhaps a little more effort at communication will help.

We can but hope.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:31 AM | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Religious hatred

In the same week that it is reported that attacks on Jews are on the increase in the UK, we have this government of atheists, agnostics and New Age hippies, trying to ram through new legislation that will further damage relations between religions. Why? Because it will hand the fundamentalist Islamists the perfect weapon to attack Christianity, Judaism and anyone else with impunity, while being immune from criticism themselves.

On the face of it the new Bill simply amends existing legislation which deals with "racial" hatred. However, as ever with anything dreamed up in the ivory towers of Whitehall, one needs to read the accompanying "Explanatory Notes" to see what the effects will be - assuming the author of the explanation actually understands the way in which the police and the courts will interpret it - which is unlikely! This is evidenced by the fact that the author states:

Some religious groups, such as Sikhs and Jews, as distinct ethnic groups, already benefit from the protection of the existing Part 3 [Of the Public Order Act 1986] offences while other groups who may be, and have been, targetted for their religious beliefs are ethnically diverse and so are excluded from the scope of these offences.

Which is an interesting view in the light of the fact that, to date, only those who have "offended" Muslims have been prosecuted under this legislation, while no one has thus far been prosecuted under it for the numerous attacks on Jewish children, women and men in the UK over the last ten years. Could it be that to do so would expose the fact that the perpetrators are from the group this legislation is supposed to extend the "protection" too? I would suggest that that is highly likely, especially in view of the increasingly vitriolic tone of Arab language newspapers freely circulating in this country which publish extensively the constant promotion from so-called Muslim Theologians and Academics, of the discredited "Blood Libels" first used by the Tsarist secret police to justify the purge of Jews from Russia. Not one newspaper of this sort has been withdrawn, not one Muslim "cleric" has been charged with promoting this poison - and the likes of Jack Straw (Foreign Secretary) bleat about their "concern" at the increase in attacks but then support the promotion of material designed to incite it.

The new Bill's definition of "Religious Hatred" is so loose that it will provide the likes of Mrs Booth-Blair with billionaire incomes for life! This is what it says:

In this part "religious hatred" means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.

Again, it seems innocuous enough on the face of it, but when you read further you realise that it covers the publication of any pamphlet, book, article or even this blog, if "it can be, or is likely to be seen by any person in whom (it) is likely to stir up religious hatred." Once again, I ask myself, if these powers have been in existence and have afforded protection to specific groups in the past, such as Jews and Sikhs, then why do we have a weekly outpouring of material, statements and tape recordings from radical Muslim "clerics" going entirely unpunished and unchecked? Let one Christian or Jewish theologian publish a critique of Islam and watch the full weight of the law fall upon them!

For me this Bill betrays the complete paucity of integrity or even the vaguest intention of actually addressing anything other than the creation of a situation in which Islam can and most certainly will triumph. These same "liberal thinkers", as they like to think themselves, are without doubt the biggest collection of dictatorial oligarchs we have seen in this country since the demise of Cromwell and his ghastly Presbyters Parliament. Their sole reason for this is to curry favour among Muslim communities, they no longer give a damn about anything but their own continuation in power.

As for any religious belief, I do not hestitate to say that I fully believe that even those among this government who claim to be Christian are not. They are apostates who pay it lip service only. They neither understand the message of the Gospels, nor do they subscribe to any of it's principles. Their continued attendance in any congregation is an affront to those who do believe and it will be the measure of their failure when their "multi faith" dream ends in the strife and acrymony that will result from the stifling of genuine theological debate and exploration of spiritual development which will flow from this ill-conceived and flawed attempt to promote "Islamic" ideals.

Mark my words, you will not see a single Muslim extremist prosecuted under this or any other legislation for the daily incitement to hatred of Christians, Jews and every other religion their Sharia declares to be "dhimmi". Watch Blair and his shower of cronies convert to Islam as soon as they realise that they cannot remain in power in an Islamic State.

Religious hatred? Let's see how parliament defines "hatred". As I understand the term from the OED, it implies a strong emotional element, one definition being "active dislike". Perhaps more importantly, do I "hate" Islam? The answer is no, since I respect another persons right to hold views which differ from mine and I certainly do not "hate" someone because they practice a different religion from mine. I do however, reserve the right to disagree strongly with them, with the active promotion of Islam, and the stifling of any alternative religious promotion, and to debate openly and publically my view of the flaws in its theology.

I expect a visit from the Blair Thought Police at any time now!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 03, 2005

Emergency powers?

Anyone who is familiar with the South Africa of H F Verwoerd, B J Vorster and their successors, will be feeling a large dose of deja vu! The strangest thing about it is that the men now trying to bring in the power to detain people they feel are a threat to the nation without trial, are the same crew who spent years waving placards against it outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square. Peter Hain in particular must be having some strange emotions on this one as he and his parents came in for attention from the security services at that time.

Now the boot is on the other foot and it is these "freedom fighter" supporters who are the targets of a new breed of "freedom fighters" - and now it is they who feel it necessary to give the police power to arrest and detain someone for 90 days without trial. My, how the wheels turn! Now it is the "liberty" generation who find it necessary to impose authoritarian and dictatorial restraints on the citizenry, who, it must be said, they have so successfully alienated! After all, the creation of minority cultures, sub cultures and ghettoes is almost entirely down to the politics of fostering and "celebrating" difference.

Well, I suspect that, the opposition from the Conservatives and the LibDems notwithstanding, Blair will get his "Emergency detention powers" - and our democracy will have taken another step along the road toward the oligarchy and one-party state this government so desperately wants. I wonder how long it will be before they take the next step - and the 90 days becomes 120 days with an option on "house arrest"?

Probably not that long - it was a matter of only a few years in South Africa and Blair and his cronies may not have that long.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 02, 2005

Farewell to a friend

I returned last night from a hectic few days in Poland to several small problems - like a 'fridge that had iced solid and didn't want to close it's door, a hungry cat and a suitcase full of dirty washing. Being tired didn't help, so after dealing with those things most pressing, I got some sleep.

This afternoon I have tried to sort through my e-mail, and found some news which, as its also my birthday, has reminded me that life is something to be enjoyed while you have it, storing up treasure for tomorrow, may well be a waste of time as the term of one's life is always uncertain. Recently, I have been reading a blog called Tessa's Tete-a tete. Some of you will have seen it on my blogroll. Tessa was an amazing lady, with a clear and certain faith, a love of life in all its forms and you can probably get the best sense of this from her blog itself.

Tessa died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism - a blood clot on the lung - having just had surgery for a suspected tumour ofr the breast, something she was quite upbeat about. Her family will miss her, as will her internet friends. The funeral is in Goring at 1400 on the 6th October at her Parish Church. Please remember her and her family in your prayers. Anyone reading this who would like to make a donation or attend should read her sons note to all of us who were in her e-mail address book.

The funeral will be held at the English Martyrs, Goring Way, Goring at 2pm on Thursday 6th October. Following on from that a short graveside service will be given at 3pm at Findon Cemetery, Findon Road, just off the A24. We have arranged for a gathering following on from the service at The Gun Inn, High Street, Findon Village.

The funeral arrangements are being carried out by H.D. Tribe Ltd (www.hdtribe.co.uk). They have a florist on site (Theodora, 01903 231 045) should you wish to arrange flowers for the day. My Mum also gave her support to two specific charities: Oxfam and the RAF Benevolent Fund. Charitable donations, in the form of cheques made payable to "Oxfam" or "RAFBF", can be sent to H. D. Tribes, 130 Broadwater Road Worthing, Sussex, BN14 8HU. They will forward any donations received and let us know.

As John Donne so eloquently put it, "No man is an island, entire of itself." We are all reduced as any of our friends and acquaintance dies, but we are also believers in the Gospel, that, in Christ, we will all be reunited in God.

Rest in peace Tessa, until we all rise with the Saints in Glory.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:35 PM | TrackBack