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August 31, 2006

Hard Astarboard

Found a new blog (to me anyway) whose author seems to share some of my interests and my pet hates .....


Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why do I never have this sort of luck?

The Gorse Fox seems to move in entertaining circles, his latest visit to Worcester being a case in point. Now what I need to know is - which Hotel and is this part of their regular room service?

Why does it never happen for me?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

August 30, 2006

Oh dear the end of the day and nothing for the blog ....

It has definitely qualified as "one of THOSE days"! It started with a sleepless night last night and continued through having to finish a paper for a conference when half of what I wrote wasn't making any sense, a series of meetings - the last of which finished a few minutes ago - and finally I have arrived home just in time for bed.

Earlier, when I had a moment and tried to get onto the blog - the site wasn't accessible. Now that was probably because the compuiter had just automatically updated itself and in the process "lost" all its USB ports and wouldn't talk to half the network. It took the IT man several minutes to sort that one out (my paper suspended somewhere between a USB port and the portable disc drive it was supposed to be storing itself on!) but eventually he did. Now it won't talk to a number of the bookmarked sites I have on my browser. Conclusion, the latest update has damaged more than it has fixed. Note to IT - don't fix what ain't broke.

On that note. Good night dear reader! Hopefully tomorrow will be a little calmer and a lot more rational!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

Catching up - slowly!

The last few months have been really hectic, in fact I think that I have done as much work in the last few months as I had managed to get done in the last year or so. It seems my boss and everyone else thinks that the last few weeks before my retirememnt are filled with nothing else but their "must get this done before you finish tasks!" Well, yesterday I managed to get through a lot for my own account for a change and even managed to catch up with my brother in South Africa on the phone and Ozguru in Australia! And I finished my presentation for Belgrade in September - the only problem there is it is in excess of 200MB and so won't go by e-mail - so it goes by courier this morning.

One thing catching up with friends and family did do, was give me the opportunity to find out what is happening in parts of the blogosphere and Ozguru has some lovely Latin quotes up on his blog at G'day Mate. Well worth visiting for a quick tickle of the funny bone and laughter tank refill. I was sad to discover that another of my favourite reads has dropped out of the blogospher altogether for the moment after an argument with her service provider. Cynical Cyn's pithy comments on a wide range of things will be missed. In fact, I notice that she is not the only one who has vanished, several of the links on my list of MuNuvians don't work anymore and searches don't turn up any alternatives - which suggest that they have moved on to something else entirely.

Looking around, I notice too that there is an increasing number of blogs which seem to be run by or for journalists and I can only think that they have moved into the arena because they have either not got the editorial freedom in their normal forum to say certain things, or they are trying to counter the blogosphere's reporting of their selectivity and bias by attacking it from within. I will need to think about that one carefully and read quite a few more of those specific blogs carefully before I decide which.

The other thing which is very apparent is that the blogosphere is being increasingly policed by a number of self appointed 'policemen' for the PC Brigade. The events around the Inigo Wilson saga show just how vicious that lobby are in their pursuit of policing our thoughts and ramblings. Personally I find it disturbing to say the very least, that we are increasingly being policed, bullied and compelled to accept a minority lobbies vision of morality which is entirely based on their own prejudices and not on morality at all. Taken with the fact that Iran is now a maverick state in the hands of a maverick and masochistic government and apparently arming itself, or attempting to acquire the means to do so, with nuclear weapons, our home grown Unilateral Disarmament Lobby are, as usual, weeping in their tea cups over the fact that we are such horrible people that we want to replace our nuclear arsenal. Maybe we shouldn't - then Iran or any other tinpot dictator with nuclear weapons can simply take over the world, and oiur society will be as dead as it would be if the CND lot's worst projections were to come true.

Well, for those that are interested, perhaps a brief read of this post on the Laughing Wolf will give a much needed and informed view of the realities of this weapon. He has included a number of very useful links to informative sources as well - another worthwhile read!

Anyway, before I get too depressed about all of this, I will include this link to Dusting my brain (I think I know how that feels at the moment!) and a picture to go with Mausi's picture of the green woodpecker.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 28, 2006

Little Friends

One of the nice things about having a garden is being able to share it with others. I draw the line at slugs, of course, and I don't like too many ant hills in my garden either. One or two are fine but when several plants start to look sorry for themselves and the lawn mower bounces over the grass in erratic movements - that's it. The only problem is, how do you 'persuade' the little buggers to leave? On account of Mausi and friends I do not like to use chemicals in the garden if I can help it. In the past I've dug up a few ant colonies and resettled them elsewhere. A tiresome business and there's always the danger of getting bitten as a Thank You!

But perhaps help is near. A few days ago we were visited by a young Green Woodpecker inspecting the grounds.

A young Green Woodpecker having a closer look

060828_gruenspecht-aus.JPGGreen Woodpeckers thrive on ants and some other insects if ants are not available. They will dig holes up to 10 cm into the ground to get at their favourite food. I wouldn't mind the holes in my grass if he took the ants away. And I hope next time he comes he'll bring along friends and family as well. There's enough in this garden to keep all of them busy, happy and well fed!

Posted by Mausi at 01:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 27, 2006

Sundays rumblings from the pulpitium ...

An interesting choice of readings for this Sunday, the 11th after Trinity in the calendar and lectionary. The Epistle is St Paul on the armour of God - tempting, but perhaps for a younger audience that I can get to dress up in fire gear as we explore the options and alternatives to Roman Armour. The gospel is from John 6, and overlaps with last weeks exposition on the institution of the communion and the Shabat. More weighty considerations though in verses 60 onwards - many began to leave his following as the teaching got more and more to the heart of His real ministry and purpose which, some discovered with anger, did not include slaughtering all Romans, Gentiles and other 'impure' peoples living in the Holy Land.

An interesting opportunity to explore the real faith that kept those who stayed at His side and in His wake. As Peter asked, "Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life." My small contribution to the theological debate on this subject is in the extended post below.

John 6 v 66: From this time forth many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

May I speak and may you hear in the name of the one true and only God, Father Son and Holy Spirit,

Tucked around the corner from here and up in the angle of the South Transept and the triforium is a trefoil window with rather romantic representations of the three graces outlined in St Paul’s famous line from his epistle to the Corinthians, “Now abideth these three, Faith, Hope and Charity, but the greatest of these is Charity.” And it seems to me that many of those who flocked the Jesus, the prophet, teacher, healer must, initially, have had at least two of the three. They must have had hope in their hearts as they ventured out to hear his words, and they would certainly have exercised some faith at least as they witnessed the miracles and heard his words. But did they have Charity – or to give it the modern meaning – did they love Him?

Some of you may remember that, during the darkest days of World War II the island of Malta was defended from the air by three small outdated biplanes – Gloster Gladiators I believe – named whimsically by their aircrew as Faith, Hope and Charity. And in an ironic parallel with St Paul’s words, it was Charity that survived the battle to defend the island until more aircraft could be flown in. But Charity is tough, sometimes very tough, for Charity is never about returns or rewards. Charity is about giving love, not money or material things, but giving in a whole and undemanding manner. Our modern understanding of this word is sadly debased and abused!

Our Gospel this morning tells us that many of Jesus followers, when once confronted by the reality of His ministry, rather than the fantasy of their dream of restoration of the Kingdom of David, began to lose the “Charity” they had for Him. As they drifted away we can almost hear the muttering “who does he think he is? He demands so much and he isn’t giving us the restoration!” They failed to understand the meaning of His teaching, and many took umbrage when he said:

“The spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

These words are key to understanding the relationship between belief and faith, between hope and belief, between charity and faith, hope and faith. For faith comes of the spirit, not out of understanding or out of anything that is tangible or measurable. Charity, that love that gives of itself expecting no reward, is also a manifestation of the spirit, the same spirit that gives life. Like faith it is seldom tied to anything tangible or material and springs from someone’s spiritual health and wealth – yes, the greater a persons wealth in material terms, the more they can give to the aid of others, but sometimes the material is not what is needed or demanded by charity, rather it is the renewal of the spirit, the growth of another’s spirit through the ministrations of another.

Speaking, as He was, to Jews used to the Hellenistic concepts and philosophical arguments about death and life beyond death, they would have had difficulty with the concept of a Kingdom based on a life beyond the grave. Indeed, those of the Sadducees persuasion would not have given this much credence at all. This is the life, this is the all – do good for God, reap the reward and enjoy it while you may! The Pharisees had a much deeper view, believing that there was an afterlife – but one restricted to those who obeyed the letter of every law – and even then you could not be sure you’d get in! So Jesus teaching that God welcomed all who simply accepted Him was an anathema to one group, an insult to another and the Gentiles probably hedged their bets!

Many came, some found healing, some found faith, some even found the true meaning of the Gospel, the love that transcends everything else and underpins the rest. As St Paul says, if you speak with the tongues of people and of angels but you have not Charity – you are the same as gong or a cymbal. Just a great, and sometimes unpleasant, noise.

Those who truly loved Jesus stayed with Him and followed to the foot of the Cross – yes, even those who ran away to hide at the very last, came creeping back out of love. That is the difference between true faith and faith built on anything other than the spiritual grace which comes from God and brings us the true Charity of which St Paul speaks.

Jesus challenged his disciples when the going started to get tough. Saying:

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”

And in Charity and Faith, no doubt laced strongly with Hope, St Peter answered:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”

Our window is very beautiful, and the artist has given us a lovely image of the three Graces from St Paul’s letter, but how much thought do we give to this important trinity of Grace? Do we have the Faith that can move mountains? Do we have the Hope that stands firm in the face of danger and adversity? Above all do we have the Charity that goes on giving even when we have nothing left to give? Do we have the Love that transforms the believer into the Disciple, the sceptic into the Believer? Do we have the Love that looks into the face of Jesus and, even when we do not like or understand what we hear, asks

“Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God!”

“And now abide these three, faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity!”

Jesus gave his life and His all upon the Cross in the ultimate demonstration of the Love that gives all. In Him we have the promise of the life through the Bread of Life, His Body and His Blood as he dedicated the bread and wine we will shortly share. If we do not have the love that accepts the challenges and carries us through the lapses in faith and hope, we are lost. Those who walked away from Him in Judea walked away from Love. We must not make that same mistake.

“Lord to whom should we go?”

There is no hope, no faith and certainly no charity, except in Christ!


Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:21 PM | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

The End of the German Language?

Not subscribing to a daily newspaper I must admit I hadn't noticed the apparent debate about Denglish (see The Monk's post from yesterday) going on in the media. I think of language as a living thing which will of course change over years especially when you are surrounded by quite a number of foreign states with whom you trade and have relationships in many fields like science, technology etc. At the moment we just incorporate a number of English expressions into our language and subject them to German grammar, like

Ich downloade, ich downloadete, ich habe downgeloadet
I download, I download, I have downloaded

So what? At the moment they are these phrases are only used in spoken German but may eventually find their way into the Duden, the authoritative reference on written German. We must not forget that it has worked the other way round as well. The English language has adopted the German 'Kindergarten' and turned it into 'kindergarden'. And I bet the plural is 'kindergardens' and not 'Kindergärten' as it is in German.

We have even incorporated words from the French language into our own, there was quite an exchange of soldiers and warriors in the past centuries on our western border, as for example Portemonnaie (a purse). The word even looks French and I've always found it interesting to try and find out where words came from originally. But about 10 years ago the bureaucrats decided to change the orthography of German to make it easier for the students to learn proper writing. Therefore the good old Portemonnaie has changed into 'Portmonee' which is closer to its actual pronunciation.

I don't mind if the writing changes over the years by itself. That's a natural process. But to think up new rules and then impose them onto the people is the height of stupidity. The bureaucrats were quite astonished when their wonderful new rules met with a lot of opposition. People just wouldn't comply - after all we live in a democracy not a tyranny. Even big newspapers refused point blank to comply with the new spelling rules. Over the years the 'reform' has been reformed several times and only this summer at last an agreement was reached. Many of the proposal from the original version were taken back again.

The process had its funny but also very annoying moments. The ones who really suffered where the kids who started school during the last ten years. They must be totally confused by now. They are probably the generation that writes as it likes and will have to rely heavily on spell-checker programmes.

After all this I think we'll easily survive the Denglish phase. So many words from different languages (Arabic, Latin, Greek, French) have found their way into German that a few more English ones will not matter in the least. In the seventies I went to England for the first time on a pupils' exchange programme. My English friend told me that there were many foreign words in German but that English was just English and nothing else. And I thought, oh dear, and that one of the things I had always liked about the English language was that whenever I could not think of the correct English word I just had to take the Latin one and pronounce it English and could usually made myself understood.

Posted by Mausi at 11:57 AM | TrackBack

August 25, 2006

Achtung! Vorsicht, bissiger Denglisch!

It seems the the media "silly season" knows no national boundaries. The big story in the German press at present is the one raised by the German cultural purists - the German equivalent of the French "Academie Francaise" - are seriously worried by the ongoing rise of the use of Denglisch by German speakers in everyday speech. Denglisch is a hybrid of English and German words and includes things like "brainstorm", "surfen", "chatten" and "shoppen"! It seems that German is absorbing English words and simply "Germanising" them at quite a rate.

Amusingly, according to Mausi, the purists are proclaiming that "this Anglisisation of German, threatens the language of Goethe." For those of us bored out of our heads by having to read Goethe's Faust (a poem in German) as prose in English, this is amusing - largely because, Goethe never wrote in "Hochdeutsch" or Modern German - he used the dialect of his home State and city - Frankfurt-am-Main! And there are arguments raging over the actual meaning of some of the phrases he used because they could mean different things in Hochdeutsch, the classic example being his last utterance in this life, which, if transfered into modern German can have two entirely different meanings.

In his own time, Goethe's work would probably have been only partly comprehensible to anyone from a different region, much as Shakespeare's language would have made difficult hearing to the commoner in the North East or some of the other parts of Britain with a strong regional dialect. We tend to forget that our language has evolved dramatically in the last two hundred years or so primarily as a result of greater mobility among the workforce and the opening up of the world to interchange of language and ideas from "foreign" countries. Television and radio have certainly played a huge part in this, as has the cinema. I am still amazed by the command of English held by people I meet in Eastern Europe and more recently in Scandinavia and other "non-English" countries, yet their languages are rarely heard outside of their own nations.

I must say that reading this took me back to a wonderful spoof column in a monthly magazine my mother used to buy, entitled "Mein Grossvader's Fabletellen". This used a sort of pidgin German to poke fun at everyday occurences and attitudes of the period, thus a motorist was labelled "ein Honkentootenscreechenraumer" and a pedestrian became "ein Honkentootenscreechenraumferleapendodger"! And there were many more such examples. My favourite spoof pidgin notice begins: -

Achtung! Alles looken peepers! Das maschein ist nicht für gefingerpoken und mitten grabben! Ist easy schnappen das springenwerken mit spitzensparken und poppenkorken!

I must say that I find the whole rather amusing - although if I were a German I would probably be a little concerned - because, as my German friends have frequently reminded me, English is only really rather badly pronounced and grammatically incorrect German (with a few French, Latin and Dutch words sprinkled in!). But now it seems that German is slowly becoming badly pronounced English - with German grammar! there has to be a joke in there somewhere - it will just be a question as to whether it is a Cornish Jethro and a Bayernische Didi who gets to it first!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:57 AM | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

Three cheers for Australia

You can always rely on the Aussies to call a spade a spade. It is one of their most attractive characteristics, especially for someone like me who absolutely detests the fact that we seem to be living in a society where everyone has an agenda and you spend half your time in any given meeting for any given organisation trying to figure out what these are, rather than being open and honest and getting on with the task which is supposed to be the subject at hand! In the extended post below I have cut and pasted the thoughts from an e-mail going the rounds. It is particularly pertinent in the UK at the moment where our latest Blair Babe Minister has announced that she "has no objection to adopting 'elements' of the Sharia Law if this will help relations with the Muslim community!" Personally I think this woman should be removed from office immediately. She patently has no understanding of what she has said, or of the consequences for the entire nation of her inane suggestion.

Which "elements" did she have in mind? And does she not realised that the Sharia Law is entirely incompatible with English Law and the English Legal System. Anyone who wants to live under that legal system should remove themselves immediately to Saudi Arabia and be done with it.

No, I think the Aussies have the right approach. But even more interesting is the accompanying "header" from the man who initiated the e-mail.

OK, another 'round-robin' e-mail but this one actually extols the virtue of common sense. Well worth the read. I am not anti-muslim. I mean, I live in Saudi Arabia and that is hardly the place where someone who is anti-muslim would choose to live. I chose to come to Saudi Arabia and I chose to stay, accepting that I cannot live my life as I would in the UK. I can't pop down the Ferret and Stovepipe of a Friday lunchtime for a pint and a ploughman's lunch. I can't go to church. I can't even go to the cinema as they don't have any. I'm not even allowed to give a lift to a female friend if she is not my wife. However, I chose this lifestyle and have to live with it. The majority of Muslims that I have met are genuinely decent people. They accept me into their country to do a job and they are eager and willing to talk about the true meaning of the Islamic faith. As with most things in life, the minority are ruining our perception of the majority. Anyway, I'm off my soap-box now. Read the message below and, just as the Subject Line says, Three Cheers for the Team in Canary Yellow!

Read the rest of the extended post and if you agree with the sentiments - spread it around! Personally I can hear the Guardianistas screaming for blood already........

Three Cheers For Australia

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crack down.

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state and its laws were made by parliament.

"If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you," he said on national television.

"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option," Costello said.

Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off".

"Basically, people who don't want to be Australians, and they don't want to live by Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off,"he said.

Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agency's monitoring the nation's mosques.

AMERICA, Britain and Canada...ARE YOU LISTENING?



Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture.
Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.

However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.

I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia.

However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand.

This idea of Australia being a multi cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.

This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom. We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, Learn the language!

Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push but a fact because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, Because God is part of
our culture.

We will accept your beliefs and will not question why, all we ask is that you accept ours and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.

If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like " A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.

We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means keep your culture but do not force it on others.

This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this.

But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, "THE RIGHT TO LEAVE".

If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.

Pretty easy really, when you think about it. I figure if we all keep passing this to our friends (and enemies) it will also, sooner or later get back to the complainers, lets all try, please.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

Spam comments

On Sunday I suffered a concerted spam attack on my comments entries, defeated thanks to the fact that MuNu has a holding tank for unregistered comments. The annoying thing was that it took me over half an hour to clear out a hundred and forty seven "comments" from a variety of spoof addresses, ironically most of them in German! With Mausi being away for a few days, I had to resort to the dictionary a couple of times, but sadly, everything from the address "Furniture" was just spam - and not even interesting spam.

It seems to come and go in waves, and I am now used to clearing out at least three a day from "online pharmacy" or some other equally unoriginal title, although lately those have tailed off as well. The one which used to really irritate me was one which regularly popped up and said something like ... "I haven't been interested in much lately, just sitting around at ..." and was signed by someone called Kaka. It became enough to just see the name and the delete went into operation.

Spam is a nuisance, but more than that it is, as I have said before, a form of terrorism as its purpose is to disrupt the internet. A huge amount of it originates from University networks and seems to be the result of students trying to "prove" their abilities or as a "joke", while other bits of it are obviously commercially driven. Perhaps it is time government's took a much more serious view of those originating it - even as a joke!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:47 AM | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

Something nice ....

Every now and then something happens that makes you take another look at your own self-image and how others see you. Yesterday was one of those days.

Now perhaps I had better explain a little about this first. I have been with my present employer for around fifteen years, and during that time I have fought many battles, losing some and winning others. Time will tell whether or not I won the important ones or not. In all of the history of the place of my employment we have had an officer's mess, since 1992 and the start of the take over by non-uniformed and non-service staff, it has been known as the "mess club", but the traditions of the original concept have stayed the same. Until recently. When I had the privilege of taking over as President some ten years ago the finances were in trouble mainly because our lord's and masters had cut off our income streams (membership fees were stopped and the concession we had operated was taken away from us, awarding it to a contractor without consultation or compensation). It fell to me and my small team of helpers to rebuild it - which we did successfully, turning a projected 6k loss into a 7k surplus by the end of my Presidency. It wasn't easy but it was achieved. All went well until the latest tranche of parachutists arrived - and promptly laid claim to the silver, the income (again) and ordered the cessation of "formality".

Now it was the clubs tradition to present to each member on departure or retirement, a lead crystal engraved decanter and two tumblers, total value about £45 a set. The club funded this itself, it did not come out of any purse held by the organisation. Naturally, if you cut off the income, then the ability to buy these gifts vanishes as well. So I faced the prospect, along with several others of equal length of service, of leaving shortly and not having even this mark of our service to look back on since the club is now struggling to survive at all. Ironic really, since it was me that changed the Constitution of the mess to embrace all members of staff and extend this little gift to them as well. So, civilian members of staff who left in the last three years have all walked away with the full gift, but those of us leaving now, whose service to this place goes back a long way and is the reason it actually exists, will get nothing.

But last evening I was left speechless when a colleague, who will be retiring at about the same time as myself, walked into my office and presented me with a familiar looking presentation box. In it was the decanter and one tumbler, the other is damaged. Apologising, he explained that he had been presented with a decanter when he had left after his first spell of service here and knew that he would not get another. However, when he had found this set in a cupboard he was clearing in his office he felt that I ought to have it as he knew too that I would not get one officially and "can't think of anyone who deserves the acknowledgement more than you do."

I still don't know what to say. Even if someone does come up with an "official" one, this one will mean more to me than anything else. Who gives a damn about the idiocy of the management when you have the privilege of working with people like this? And that is a fact - I have had the privilege of working with guys (and some girls) in whose company I would be prepared to take on the Hell itself. Just give us the tools (and a good water supply!) and we'll finish the job, in spite of the management.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

Swimming in treacle ....

The closer I get to the actual date of falling off this particular perch, the more work seems to find its way onto my desk "for your urgent attention before you go!" The net result seems to be that if I can't leave before I have finished all the tasks currently in the pile - I'll still be here when I hit my 100th never mind my 60th! The really tricky part is that I am not able to take time out to sort out a couple of things I need to do before my departure so that I can actually start to work for myself. And then there is a little issue surrounding intellectual property ......

Funny thing that one. Especially when you consider that the reason I do what I do, and was employed to do it in the first place, is that I came with a background of experience in a particular set of fields and the knowledge to support it. My employer has benefited from that and paid me to share that knowledge and experience, but, now they have decided they no longer need me, are trying to say that they own both the knowledge and the experience and a copyright on it! This is not the first time it has been attempted and I have no doubt it will not be the last, my problem is that, having been one of their technical authors for more than ten years there is very little that I have not, at some stage, prepared some material on for them. Ergo, my style of writing, expression and references are stamped all over it - and anything I write in future will look a lot like it! A look at the copyright law as it is written and interpretted at the moment tells me that I have two choices, risk being sued or take a job as a shelf packer in the local supermarket and make no attempt to use my knowledge and skills for my own profit. There is a third option - one I regard as downright immoral - pay my former employer a "License" fee to use my own knowledge and experience!

Now I do know that I am very far from being alone in this predicament and I am equally aware that it is something which is not in the interests of the politicians, civil servants or corporate boardrooms to allow it to be sorted out. They all have their reasons for blocking, delaying or simply philibustering to make sure the law as it stands doesn't change - after all "intellectual property" is the one thing which could bring them all down since they have none of their own, they must needs rely on the law to steal it from those who have. Fortunately I have discovered that there are ways to beat the beasts - and I shall explore these as soon as I am out of the treacle mine!

And I have found a way to get the jobs off my desk. It's called an Industrial Skip.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 20, 2006

Stirring the pot ....

It seems that the writer of a post on the ConservativeHome blog that I linked too earlier, has stirred up something of a hew and cry. Judging by the comments I have received, ranging from simply informative to downright "serves the fascist scum right", over the suspension from his job of the writer of that post by his employers, I feel that he got a lot of what he was saying absolutely right. Curiously though, some of the comments logged in my e-mail have not come through to the "comments pending" in my MoveableType comments box - so I will have to try and do those commenters the justice of cutting and pasting their effort into either this post or the comments section under the post they left them for.

The left wing media have had a field day with this, quoting bits of his post out of context - as is their usual wont - in an effort to make them say something they do not when seen in context. One of the people "proudly" responsible for the present predicament of Mr Inigo Wilson is posting regular comments on the ConservativeHome defending the fact that he is responsible for bringing about Mr Wilson's suspension by organising a campaign to have him fired on a Web Forum devoted to the promotion of Islamic propaganda. This "gentleman" who refuses to give a name and signs his triumphalist comments as "Anonmouse", proclaims himself to be a "New" Conservative of the stamp that the new leader Mr David Cameron is trying to attract and labels Mr Wilson and his supporters as the type of person the Conservative Party no longer wants. Well, if he is truly a representative of the Conservatives - then I for one will never again vote Conservative! That leaves me asking whether or not Guy Fawkes is standing in the next election because I cannot, in conscience, vote for either of the other Parties.

Inigo Wilson's predicament is clear proof of the very point he was making. Read the comments and you will see what I mean. We no longer live in a free and fair society. It is no longer a democracy run by the majority for the benefit of all - it is now an oligarchy run by a small minority who abuse language and spin definitions to twsit and warp meaning to create offence. They dictate "morality" yet are themselves not prepared to debate the principles they propound as being the "only" point of view. Challenge them and you find yourself in Mr Wilson's position. Dare to express an opinion that runs counter to this twisted morality and you soon find yourself being accused of everything from public indecency to promoting racial hatred. Yet, by the twisted ideals of these anonymous moralists, it is OK to denigrate any Christian believers faith, it is OK to pour scorn on the concerns of any white male who wants to see his country back in the hands of sensible people, not those who hide behind weasel words, who refuse to acknowledge any point of view but their own - and who adopt the tactics of the Stasi when it suits their purpose. Anonmouse is the name of the boastful poster on ConservativeHome and he is exactly this sort of person - and the reason that I will never again vote Conservative. If they plan to provide a home for those who, in other times and lands would have rushed to join the Stasi they have no place in our society!

Anonmouse, if you should read this, I have a message for you. You and your friends on the Chat room you have the time to frequent and to organise campaigns in are no better than the thugs who populated the Gestapo, the KGB, the Stasi and all the other organisations set up by dictators to spy on the ordinary citizens. It is you and your ilk who have a real problem and who are the real promotoers of racial tension in our society, your "piety" to the cause makes you twist very expression of concern to something that you alone see in it!

For me the most disturbing thing in all of this brouhaha is the fact that so many patently bigoted and prejudiced people are the very ones who are leading the attack on Mr Wilson. It is their prejudice which more than anything else frightens me - since they claim that their prejudice is the new morality! God preserve us from the Prejudiced do-gooder, there is surely no more dangerous animal on earth!

Oh, and as far as I am concerned, the future isn't bright and it is certainly not, as far as mobile phones go - any colour between yellow and red on the spectrum!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

August 19, 2006

A Beautiful Morning

During the last two weeks the summer seemed to have left us for good but it was back this morning: 20 degrees Celsius at 9 a.m., blue sky and lovely air. I like this early time of the day.

After the rain and cold and even fog we have had lately - made you think of November and contemplating if the central heating should be turned on again - this morning was a most welcome surprise. It sometimes takes very little to lift one's spirits.

If the berries of the Mountain Ash look as juicy as that in summer the winter is going to be a cold one - or so they say..

Mausi, the Cat, was in a buoyant mood, too. One of her favourite pastimes is worrying a branch of the tamarisk.

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The tamarisk didn't seem to mind too much and good-naturedly joined in this morning's fun.

Posted by Mausi at 03:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

Venturing out into new waters ....

The Monk has ventured into a new field (for him anyway) and is now locked in discussions with a publisher. While he has previously published a number of technical scribblings in the form of a book, several study guides and numerous articles for technical magazines and papers for conferences, he has never before seriously attempted anything in the line of fiction. That has just changed and his first work of fiction is now in the hands of a publisher, the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of soul searching and a serious testing of the patience of numerous friends who have helped edit, proof read and all the miriad things that go into getting a written novel into a printable and readable form.

The book will be published around the end of November and is titled "Out of Time" and is an old fashioned adventure story set in a Sci-fi universe two hundred years from now.

Several things have given rise to the inspiration for the story and its gestation has been years in the moulding. Among the fun things was how to name the various characters in the story and some have come from grave stones, others pure invention or the combination of names of several different people the Monk has encountered. Some are family and friends and one or two are people the Monk has taken a dislike too at one time or another. It has been enormous fun making it grow and getting to know the characters who feature in it. One of the most important things was to actually flesh them out, turning them from words on a page to real people in a real universe. Then there is always the question of "what happens to them after this" - important as this is where the fairy stories always leave one wondering - is "happily ever after" all its cracked up to be? Or is there something more to this?

While Tolkien is not everybody's cup of tea, his greatest achievement in writing his great tome about the struggle of "Middle Earth" was that its characters are more than just idealistic cardboard images - you could expect to meet some at least of the human ones in the street (I suspect some of the less savoury ones are actually running Whitehall!) and even the mythical ones such as the Hobbits are all to human in many of their attitudes to life. That is what the Monk has tried to do with the characters in his story. The other aspect of any Sci-fi setting is that the alien worlds have to be believable or at least scientifically possible - to many flights of fantasy and you lose even the marginal credibility the genre has. And, like Tolkien, there has to be an overall theme. Why are they doing this? What is the motive? Is there a deeper message such as the struggle between good and evil, between the corrupt and the guys who try to get it right?

It has been fun, there is much still to be done, but it is now in the final stages - and while the Monk does not anticipate getting fabulously wealthy from it, he hopes at least that some people will try it and even buy it. When published it will be on the AuthorHouse Bookshop site and on Amazon. Something different as a Christmas gift perhaps?

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

August 17, 2006

Airline chaos

As someone who does a fair amount of travel by air these days for business, I can only say that I am glad I have not had to do so in the last week or so. The chaos at our airports has achieved almost as much as blowing up ten or so airliners would have and has brought almost as much publicity. Score one for the terrorists. As if the chaos weren't enough, the forced removal of cabin baggage to the baggage holds and the insistence that passengers baggage may not be locked has increased theft from baggage exponentially and over twenty thousand pieces of baggage have gone "missing" from one airline alone!

While I appreciate that many electronic items can be rigged to act as triggers for bombs, there has to be a better way of screening this than to simply ban their carriage in the passenger compartment. Placing my laptop and my digital camera in the baggage hold in unlocked luggage is an invitation to some thief to help himself (or herself!) and the airlines are categoric that there will be no compensation for this loss - or for damage to either. The alternative isn't much better. Instead of taking my laptop I could take my Memory Sticks and m Portable Drive with me - but they aren't allowed in the passenger hand baggage either - so what happens if I lose them in transit? Well, then I'm stumped both ways, not only will I not have the use of a laptop at my destination - but I won't have my data files either! My camera is an essential tool of my trade - and being digital - I need my laptop to download it (even though I have a huge memory card in the camera) as I need to review the pictures I have taken to make sure they tell the story or illustrate the points I am trying to make. If this is stolen, as it appears many people are having happen, I am again up the Swanee in a leaking canoe without a paddle!

Best of all is the argument now between the Airports Authority, the Airlines and the Government as to who should pay compensation to the Airlines. Bugger the passengers whose holidays have been ruined or the businessmen inconvienced or suffering serious finiancial and business loss as a result.

What this has exposed is that we are simply not geared up to cope with this sort of threat at all. My last trip to the US was an eye-opener because at my destination, having collected my luggage I was forced to hand it in again and then stood in a queue for nearly three quarters of an hour to be screened for weapons, bombs and heaven knows what else before they would let me out of the airport! Surely, if I had a bomb in my baggage, I would have used it before we got there? Or am I simply being far too logical about this?

As a single man travelling sometimes to some dodgy destinations in the Far East I find myself regularly targeted by the security forces who search my baggage, question my motives for travelling and make suggestions of possible impropriety as being the reason for my trip. The fact that I am carrying HMG Id, loads of material which is all work related, travelling on tickets booked by my employer and to a destination I would probably not visit if I had freedom of choice, cuts no ice - single white males travelling to certain destinations fit a "profile" that our society is obsessed by - sex tourism. I resent very much being singled out in this way - particularly as the same lobby that insist that all single white males are child abusers screams blue murder if anyone even dares to suggest that young men of middle eastern origin are much more likely to fit the profile for a bomber than a sixty year old grandmother or a single white male in his middle age!

The real problem is international terrorism. It is not unique to the Muslim fundamentalist, although they are currently the number 1 users of this despicable form of warfare. It is a hangover from the Cold War, a war fought between the US and the USSR and their allies by proxy, in Africa, in Indo-China and the Middle East. It continues today, but now the terrorists are the men in suits ruling the countries they "liberated" (Mugabe is a good example!) and carrying on their "war" against "oppression" (defined as anything Western) in ever other country they can reach. The UK was fortunate in one sense during the IRA campaigns, in that we got a lot of experience of dealing with this
form of war, but all that has been lost in Blair's drive to "demilitarise" our society, downgrading the Fire Service and placing it in the hands of idiot civil servants and parachutists from Tesco and other "commercial" organisations. The police have had their powers curtailed and the courts are far to lenient because we have the lobby that screams "mistrial" if there is a single form not filled in to their liking.

And terrorism pays. Look around Africa, there is almost no government South of the Sahara run by someone who has not been a terrorist! Look at the Middle East, almost every government there sponsors terrorism somewhere else! Its how they retain power - keep the lunatics and psychopaths operating next door and keep them out of the "home" politics. OK, so the foot soldiers get to be "martyrs" but the leadership become rich and powerful and that is what it is all about. Power and money.

Messing people about at airports is a triumph for the terrorists. Chaos and headlines raise their game and encourage further attempts. The only way to beat it is to adopt the policy used by the Royal Navy against piracy in the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th Century. We catch you; we hang you! As long as terrorism brings recognition and reward for the likes of Hizbollah it will not be beaten. Those who take up the sword to murder civilians and attempt to seize power that is not theirs to take must be treated in the same way. Instant execution, cremation of the remains and the ashes dispersed where they can never become a place for pilgrimage or hero worship. Countries that sponsor groups like Hizbollah must also be punished, their assets frozen and their governments indicted with crimes against humanity.

Is it likely to happen soon/ Not likely, far to many of the current rich and powerful in every country including our own have a vested interest in maintaining the present status quo. That will only change when they are personally made to face the consequences of their inane and ineffectual approach to dealing with it.

In the meantime, the rest of us will have to suffer the consequences.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:40 AM | TrackBack

August 16, 2006

More nanny attempts from the UN?

As many of my readers will know the UN is not high on my list of useful organisations. Recently it has sunk even further down the list. The publication of their findings on "research" into "children at risk of violence or abuse" lies at the heart of my latest reason for contempt of this over expensive and frankly useless body. UNICEF has just published this latest load of manure - no doubt having destroyed the equivalent of the Brazilian rainforest to do it - as a supposedly "scientific" study of children suffering from violence in their own homes.

Now I am not one to deny that there is violence out there affecting children. I know there is, I even know that there is a strong chance that several children a day will be injured by someone close to them and some may even be killed. That is not my issue here, what is at issue is how the UN nannies have defined "violence". They have included any and every attempt at disciplining a child in their definition of violence. Dr Spock's discredited ideas on "reward withheld" is punishment, is once more driving these morons into making the assumption that every child will respond meekly to this ideal. Some patently do not. But that is not a reason to beat the living daylights out of them, but it does argue strongly that parents should have the final say over the appropriate punishment and not some bunch of overpaid bureaucrats in the ivory tower that is the UN's HQ in New York or wherever. As usual with this lobby group, there is confusion between legitimate chastisement for bad behaviour or misdemeanour and genuine abuse where the child is beaten simply because someone else cannot control their own feelings, temper or lives.

The report states, inter alia, that children who suffer violence at home suffer low self esteem in later life. Well, OK, I can identify with that since my own childhood, immediately post war with a father suffering all sorts of traumatic stress related problems that led to alcoholism and a mother struggling to cope with that and two small boys wasn't exactly an idyllic childhood. What I cannot identify with is the fact that a "womans" group has immediately adopted this report to support their appeal for more money to "provide support for women and children suffering violence in the home" and pointing the accusing finger at the males in the household as the abusers and perpetrators of violence. Again I can accept that there are many men who are the problem here - and many of them have something in their background which may well contribute to this - such as abuse as a child or a lack of parental guidance as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour. But where is the voice for the men who suffer misery at the hands of women. Where is the voice for the men and children who suffer violence and abuse at the hands of women in their lives? Believe me there are plenty out there, again, my day job has, at various times given me ample opportunity to witness this first hand.

In my own childhood, it was not my father's temper we were afraid of, it was my mother's. Now we know what caused that, but back in the fifties it was not something that could be treated. We lived with it, and we survived. My grandparents provided a refuge when things really got tough and perhaps that is what is lacking in todays "me centric" society. Have I got low self esteem? Well, yes, I would have to admit that I have. Has it held me back? I would say it has not, particularly once I found me true calling and a career that has helped me to help others. I have two degrees, a string of diplomas and the esteem of a wide range of my contempories and colleagues. The motivation for me was to rise above the baggage and get on with life! Feeling sorry for myself wasn't going to change anything, taking the positive stuff - and there was plenty to take alongside the negative - I have made the most of it and I recommend the same course to anyone else who has that background. When I look back, the positives I got from my parents and grandparents more than make up for the negatives. My father gave me a love of the sea and the skills to manage boats, ships and water craft in all conditions, my mother gave me an ability to paint and draw, my grandparents gave me a love of knowledge and the curiosity to explore all manner of things. And they all gave me discipline - the disciopline to know when to act, when to speak and when to remain silent.

At the end of the day it is not so much the baggage of childhood that holds us back, it can also be the spur to drive you forward, but it is the wallowing in self pity that so many of our nanny brigade want to encourage. Low self esteem is one thing, self pity and the inability to rise above the problems in one's life are. I do not know how the UNICEF crew have arrived at a figure stating that there are one million children in the UK suffering violence in their homes. Frankly, I do not believe it based on their definition of violence, nor do I believe that all of those children, assuming the figure is anywhere near accurate, will be forever trapped in poverty and violence. I am not unique and I am certainly not living in a cesspit of regrets and hatred for my parents. The older I have got the better I understand their problems and the greater the pity I feel that I did not understand better when they were still alive.

Children do not, in general, need more protection, they need to be shown that life is not fair, it is scarcely just and it is a school that sometimes gives very hard knocks. Those were the lessons I have carried forward and I have no regrets and certainly no intention of collapsing in a heap. I have achieved quite a bit and there is a lot more I want to achieve. The best advice I can give to anyone on the UNICEF "at risk" list is this - stick it out, then get a grip on your own life, take life head on and yes, you will get some bruises, but don't let the past hold you back. Know the past, recognise the injustices and determine never to repeat them - then stand on your past and climb to a better future. The world owes us nothing, we are who and what we are and no amount of nannying can change it.

Marx wrote that the worker must needs take his skills to the market for them - it was probably the only sensible thing he wrote - and life is exactly like that. We have certain skills, we develop those and we then have to sell them on the market of life. That is what many more people than I have done - I know because I have met a lot along the way who are shining examples for others - if only the nannies will get out of the way and let the youngsters see them!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Baby boomers and the shape of things to come ....

This morning's breakfast TV raised an interesting discussion, namely the fact that my generation, born in 1945/6/7 are now in the run up to turning 60. And for many, the question arises "what is our legacy" for our children? The BBC had invited a former Editor of the Daily Mirror to put his case for how our generation of "revolutionised" the media and changed the society in which we live. Listening to him I was struck by the fact that he sees the present media circus and its ability to destroy peoples lives, reputations and achievements, it's witch hunting and its ability to sway public opinion by selective and biased reporting as a "good thing". He also seemed to think that the increasing influence of Left wing socialist ideology and bureaucratic interference in everything from health care to wealth creation was a good plan.

So what has my generation produced as a legacy? Well, I think, to an extent, it depends on where you have lived your life. If in Britian I would suggest that it is the generation that has produced the highest rate of inflation every recorded. It has produced a media that is so left of centre it is almost a political force in its own right, it has focussed on "rights" rather than responsibilities and it has promoted the concept of "entitlement" and self indulgence to the limits. It is the generation that has seen the rise of bureaucracy to ridiculous levels, the destruction of the "British Way of Life" for the nebulous ideal of "Multi-culturalism" and "inclusivity". It is the generation which has turned its back on the order of society (except of course where it suits it to preserve their own portion of it!) and promoted rebellion and anti-authoritarianism (except for increasing bureaucracy), decries organised religion, but promotes Eastern Mysticism, any non-European religion and New age-ism. It is the generation which has promoted the "recreational" use of hard drugs and created a culture of "youth". In short, we are a self indulgent generation who take stances, act and decide to act on a range of issues because they make us "feel good" and that we "care" or have "done something".

Outside of Britian we may not have had the "Sixties" Hippy outburst, indeed, some of us even had to work for our livings instead of going on pot-smoking breaks "sitting in" at universities" paid for by the tax payers. But we haven't done much better. Some of us had to take up arms and fight a war against terrorism sponsored by one or other of the "super powers" in their "Cold War" - which translated into a "hot war" for the rest of the world. Some of us have been disposed of our heritage and the nations our forbears built as well because the way we lived, or the way at least the political elite of the time thought we should live, didn't accord with the vision of the ideologues in the so-called "Western Democracies". So what have we got to be proud of? That we do not have the ability to pass to our children anything of our heritage? That we do not have the ability to help them get a foot on the ladder to a better job or a lifestyle similar to that which we once enjoyed?

Should we be proud of the fact that our media are irresponsible, jeopardising court cases by reporting information that has not been tested in court? Should we be proud of the fact that we sent our armed forces into a war in a country we had only the most tenuous connection with (we were after all the occupying power who set up the mess that is Iraq in the 1920's and 1930's!) with defective equipment, the wrong kind of boots and insufficient ammunition? That we now want to put them on trial for fighting the very battles we sent them to fight? Should we be proud of having elected Ministers of State who smoked pot, took mainline drugs and thought (and for all we know, still think) that mass murderers like Stalin, Lenin and Guevara were "Class Warriors fighting for the cause of justice for the workers"?

The legacy of my generation is not a proud one. We are leaving our children struggling to find meaningful jobs, with education that is being eroded and dumbed down, with housing spriralling out of control cost-wise and a looming disaster called "multi-culturalism" which is, quite simply, another name for apartheid. I do not share the view that we have made a better, safer or fairer society, we have laid the foundations for a society which will tear itself to pieces, a society which will increase the divide between those who are born with the right address and the right amount of wealth and those who are not. We have made it more difficult for someone born in "poverty" (a much abused term) to actually improve their position and their career chances and those who have the right parentla support and networks to give them a flying start. Does our "fearless" media give us anything we should feel good about? Well, let me ask this question; when was the last time you saw them write about some authority figure in terms which can be described as "positive"/ And I'm not talking about their usual sycophantic reporting of any Labour Luminary.

No, I think that in the final analysis, the Baby Boom generation will go down in history as self indulgent wastrals who have, in a single generation reduced a once proud nation and society to one of insecurity and dependence on handouts. They have sidelined us as a people and drowned us in immigrants, stripped us of our right to free speech (lest it offend someone) and promoted the rights of the very worst elements of society. Am I proud to be a Baby Boomer?

You got that one right!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:18 AM | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

The End is Nigh!

This morning, as I woke up, the guns, bombs and rockets should have been falling silent in the Hizbollah/Israeli conflict. If they did not it will be for one reason only, the unwillingness of the Lebanese government to disarm and disband the Hizbollah army operating out of its territory. Should that be the case, I have no doubt that Israel will continue to defend itself - especially as the Hizbollah leadership is trumpetting their version of the ceasefire as a "triumph" demonstrating that they have defeated Israel and that the nation of Israel can be destroyed and driven from the face of the planet.

Coupled with the Iranian President's belief that the "Hidden Imam" is about to return, perhaps, as the blogger Planck's Constant suggests, we should be even more on our guard. For those who do not know their Islamic legend, the Hidden Imam is the twelth after Mohammed himself and he vanished in myserious circumstances eleven hundred years ago. His return rates with Muslims on the same scale as the Apolcalypse in Revelations does with fundamentalist Christians - an end of the world scenario. More worrying, the Iranian Presidnet has given this event a date, 22nd August. It is almost certain that the latest terrorist attempt at mass destruction of passenger aircraft was linked in some way to this - as is the conflict in Lebanon.

One at least of the signs of the Imam's return is supposed to be a "great light" appearing over Jerusalem, bringing great destruction upon the people who deny Mohammed. Given that Iran is in the hands of a fundamentalist idiot backed by the same sort of militia that Chairman Mao created in his "Cultural Revolution", we ought to consider this lunatics predictions in another light - the possibility that he is about to attempt a strike against Israel using some sort of nuclear device. That would certainly create "a great light" and destruction - but I doubt very much it would bring about the rapture - unless mutually assured destruction can be regarded as creating the window of opportunity for the creation of a "new heaven and a new earth." Let us all hope and pray that someone, somewhere, has the sense to be prepared to take immediate action against anyone attempting anything of the sort. I would rather live with a radio-active wasteland in the Middle East and Iran - and the fuel shortages that will go with that - than allow these morons to triumph.

War was declared on behalf of Iran and Syria and the fundamentalist Islamic crew the day the Hizbollah guerillas crossed into Israel and abducted the two soldiers. Neither Hizbollah nor anyone else on their side of the divide gave a damn for the civilian casualties - primarily because they are good good "martyr" fodder for the propaganda war against Israel. It is naive in the extreme to think that anyone on the Islamic Fundamentalist side even considers the cost in human suffering since their religion dictates only one thing - you are either Muslim or you are dead - and if dead and non-Muslim, then you are going one way, while all "true" Muslims go the other. The UN and all the collected Aid Agencies are doing nothing to stop this war since their attempts are seen as weakness and the aid they render simply supports more terror. As Kruschev once remarked "The West will sell us the rope we will use to hang them." Now we are giving the Islamic fundamentalists the goods to fight us with. As I have previously said on this blog, we have either to fight, and fight to win totally, or we might as well surrender now and all become Muslims. You cannot reason with terrorists, you can only shoot them.

The biggest problem anyone facing a terrorist assault has is to discern the enemy. By their very nature, these people hide in the civilian population, they do not wear a uniform and they have no care for the people they use as a shiield - everyone is sacrificed to the "greater good" as they see it. We face a long and uphill struggle with this one, and its one we dare not lose, no matter what it takes.

The end of the conflict in Israel may well be nigh - but on its outcome hangs the fate of the West.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:12 AM | TrackBack

Where did the summer go ....

The last week has been an interesting one in this neck of the woods, with high winds most days, some scattered rain and a very distinct coolness to the air. There still hasn't been enough rain to wet the garden properly and I have lost most of the plants I so hopefully transplanted in the spring. Even the hedge has not done its usual thing of trying to become a forest. The ground is iron hard (I'm on clay!) and the little rain there is soon disappears into it leaving no discernable change on the surface.

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Earlier this year Madam Paddycat agreed to pose decoratively against the backdrop of Daffodils.

One of the problems of living on our side of the Severn valley is that we are in the "rain shadow" of the Welsh hills. This means that we tend to get less rain than those round Bishop's Cleeve or Winchcombe and I have often noticed driving across the county to work, just how clearly defined the rain boundaries can be. It can be pouring in one sport, but a mile or so along and there isn't a drop falling. Not that Paddy minds, she prefers the dry and definitely the breeze is cooling through her fur at this season, but it must be getting cooler again, she now wants to keep close during the night - and sometimes that can mean my not being able to lie where I want too!

This has been a strange summer, and now Autumn seems to have arrived early. The summer peaked in early July and it has been getting steadily cooler since then. Our night time temperatures are down below ten degrees Celsius and the wind remains obstinately from the North varying, according to the Abbey windvane, between North-North-West and North East. But still we need rain.

Still, if the Global Warming doom sayers are right, I suppose we can expect a lot more of this!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:50 AM | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Lefty Lexicon

Occassionally the Monk slips his moorings and wanders into the field of unusual blogdom, like the ConservativeHome.blogs.com, the blog for Conservative Party members with something to say. And this one certainly hit the button. The gentleman is named Inigo Wilson, an unusual name to say the least and a very good writer. His piece on the language of the left is worth a read, in fact it should be an essential read for anyone who, like me, feels that the left have highjacked our language and our heritage and tried to advance their agenda by denigrating every effort to raise the English people out of the image of drunken yob football supporter.

I guess you could say that I am an old fashioned patriot, proud of being British, but at the same time proud of my English heritage. I am not a member of any political party and do not intend to be, I believe in exercising my vote to elect the person who seems to offer the best hope of actually representing what I believe to be good for the majority - not for some disaffected minority who don't want to live here or wish to recreate the slum they escaped to come here. I am sick to death of being told that "poisitive discrimination" is good because it "redresses" "Historic" or "Institutional" imbalances in anything from race to sexual orientation and blue eyes versus brown. In my book discrimination is discrimination and totally unacceptable for any reason at all!

It frequently seems that the Scots, the Welsh, Muslims and any other "victim" minority can say what they like and behave very badly towards the English, but heaven help any white male "Englishman" who attempts to assert his right to freedom of speech. No, I think I can be glad of people like Inigo Wilson and his attempt to get a wider awareness of the Left's abuse of our labnguage and the heritage that underpins our entire society.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

Customer Service

Early in 2005 I purchased a very expensive Hewlett Packard iPAQ as part of a package which included a GPS Navigation system and all the software to enable me to drive anywhere in Europe. The iPAQ provided me with a diary to keep me on the straight and narrow (paperbased diaries don't work for me - I forget to turn the pages regularly!) and to help me find places when I drive alone. I don't believe in clipping the map book to the steering wheel and reading it while I'm driving. Into the iPAQ I placed all my address book, all of my contacts and, of course, the full system for the GPS. I even bought a 1Gb memory card to facilitate that.

Then the little plug in the base of the thing stopped making proper contact and so first the GPS would lose its signal and "freeze" - irritating to say the least. Then it would not "talk" to my desktop so the diary information could not be updated. Finally, having tried all the local repair facilities, I managed to contact Hewlett-Packard.

Now I have a number of their products in use and generally I have found these products to be pretty reliable and useful. The iPAQ has become an essential tool in fact. So I expected to get a reasonable level of service from them. I should have known better. Read the fine print comes to mind. First, their "Customer Service Centre" has just relocated. I don't know where to, but they were obviously still relocating when I phoned, because for one whole day only their answering service worked - I left more than one message on it. Next day I got through, case number issued, credit card walloped, collection address arranged. Initially I was told it would be the same day! But, no, I should have known better, optimism triumphed over experience. It wasn't collected, not that day, not the next. On the third day I rang again. After some difficulty I got through, only to be told - "sorry we couldn't process your credit card." Right, so we fix that one. When will they collect? Today or tomorrow! When did they collect? Ah, well you see you didn't give us the Post Code. So we fix that one. Do they collect? No, so we arrange another collection - and bingo, this time the man from UPS turns up and collects it.

Two days later I get a phone call from the people who I'd arranged to leave it with originally, to say it's been returned to them. Apart from the fact it's now in the wrong place, I think, great, I wasn't expecting it back for several more days, they must have fixed it. Things are looking up.

Now I have my iPAQ back except - everything in it has been erased. Everything. Diary, address book, notes for things I am working on, navigator system, maps, everything. Gone.

The repair sheet tells me they have "Reflashed the image ROM". Why? It was the bl**dy PC connector jack which was faulty. Do they offer any apology? Of course not - it's in the fine print of the warranty that it is the customer's responsibility to ensure their information on the thing is "backed up". Now mine would have been, except for one small and possibly significant point which they seem to have missed - the thing went in for repair because it wasn't possible to connect it to the Desktop to do just that! The simple conclusion is that customer care is not a major concern to them. Oh, and the warranty is worthless.

OK, so the Navigator can be reloaded, but it's a long and tiresome job and takes several hours to load all the maps and the operating system. Then I will have the irritation of sitting in my car while it tells me to "go online and get a validation code" from the software supplier, which will mean going indoors, logging in, finding their site and applying for a new code. Then back out to the car to insert code and try to get the damned thing to function again.

Am I a happy camper? No way. Do I think I have had reasonably good service from this supplier? Not from where I'm sitting! Will I recommend their services or their equipment to anyone else? Very, very unlikely!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

August 11, 2006

The essential A-Z of working with the Civil Service.

Having to work with Civil Servants should, in my view, qualify the victim for immediate and total remission from Purgatory. And there should be an automatic exemption from Hell and Damnation for eternity as well. In fact, any work done by any person who has had the misfortune to have to work to or under any civil service anywhere should be guaranteed a place in Heaven as of right - even if they have arrived there after being driven, finally, to blow the whole damned mess off the face of the earth. Oh, and there needs to be an automatic passage straight to Hell for the entire Civil Service, particularly those in the Grades above HEO - but especially the entire Treasury and the Revenue staff ...... (NOTE: See Terry Pratchett's special corner of Hell for the King of Demons in "Eric" the perfect way to ensure all Civil Servants have the perfect Hell!)

For anyone who has never had to deal with the Civil Service, the extended post below gives an essential guide to the language Codes you need to know - and how to interpret them!


Advice Please
Means I don't have a clue. See also Get a Steer on That and Run it Past.

A Few Thoughts
This piece of work is utter rubbish for the following reasons...

Area-based initiatives
Ways of pumping HMG money into key marginals.

As Appropriate
See "Under Constant Review"

Ball-Park Figure
This is a complete stab in the dark which I want you to think might be broadly accurate but will undoubtedly change once I've worked out how much the new policy costs.

A posh sounding meeting which involves 2 people at a time chatting - bilaterals imply something so impressive that the purpose of a bilateral is never asked nor is the information often given. Usually meetings with Ministers/Perm Secs/Senior Officials in their swanky office that you have no hope of ever attending, nor do you need to know that these meetings ever take place (other than to provide briefing at 10 minutes notice), reminds you that you are not and never likely to be the boss or have equivalent influence. Bringing ego is essential, otherwise entry is refused.

Blind Copy
None of the official recipients know that you have a copy of this sensitive note, therefore you cannot possibly contribute. But see "For Information" - you'll be damned again when it all goes wrong.

Blue Skies / Blue Skies Review
I'm too important to discuss details but am quite happy to throw in some ethereal, unrealistic and totally impractical ideas which will never amount to anything. (Usually "blue skies" people are paid a massive salary but are rarely seen in the office - out enjoying the blue skies, no doubt, whilst everyone else is enjoying strip lighting).

Bottoming Out (as in "Let's bottom this out" or "wait until it bottoms out")
A very unfortunate turn of phrase. It can be used a way of attempting to actually solve something and get it sorted or (much more likely) a way of describing the fact that we will need to wait (and do nothing at all) and see just how bad it gets before we deal with the consequences.

Breaking Down Silos
Creating new silos or renaming existing silos, to no discernible effect. See "Root and Branch Reform".

An oxymoron - briefs are anything but. The same way that a line to take is always a paragraph.

Bring Forward (BF)
See "In Due Course"

Buy Into
Can I join in too?

Like a Czar, but for less controversial (but worthy) issues. Usually a minister, senior official or high-level secondee, with a nebulous brief to "champion" something, but doesn't have to deliver anything other than to say "This is a good thing, and I strongly support it" every couple of months. When asked what HMG is doing, we can simply point and
say "Look! A Champion!"

Change Management
Finding ever new ways of saying "like it or lump it".

CCing (as in "can you cc me into that")
Ensures that you do not receive full credit for an idea of yours if a senior person is on cc list, as it will then look like their idea. Or a way of ensuring you are blamed for a very stupid idea. If senior person is on cc list it can look like you did not consult them fully. "To cc": To prevent free thought and original ideas from junior officials.

Close Of Play (COP)
The deadline is vaguely at the end of the day - resulting in several more e-mails to establish exactly what the actual deadline is.

Completion Date
The civil service never likes to be pinned down on anything so mundane as a date. Instead, the following scale is used:

01 Jan-31 Mar : In the New Year

01 Mar-30 Jun : Spring

01 May-30 Sept : Summer (if things get really desperate, Summer can last until Parliament is back in session in mid-October)

01 Sept-Christmas: Autumn

01 Dec to 28 Feb : At the end of the year

Comprehensive Review
Just the same as a "Review", only likely to take up to 18 months to be completed. And not change anything.

Comprehensive Spending Review
See "Spending Review". The same idea, but carried out across Whitehall, upsetting even more people. Only HMT are left smiling at the end of it, as they're never under-resourced. Funny, that.

Outside HMG, it means "concerned". Inside HMG, it means that a senior official is about to explode. "Deeply concerned" means the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding down Whitehall - and they're looking for you. See also "Surprised" and "Disappointed".

Consultation Document
The Department has already decided what it's going to do. The document will contain one policy dressed up to look like several options, to give the impression that the Department is open to suggestions. It will also have a few ridiculous ideas, so officials can claim to be "Thinking Out Of The Box".

Core Script
Whatever the issue, lever in the latest Departmental buzz words.

Cross-cutting issues
Things on which officials across Whitehall have an opinion, but for which no-one wants to be responsible.

Cross-Government Working
The HMG equivalent of the Cockatrice, the Basilisk and the Griffon. A fabulous beast which exists only in myth.

Co-Ordination Unit
There's hundreds of units scattered across Whitehall all doing the same job in perfect isolation. A new unit is needed to duplicate the work of the existing units and to tell them what they already know.

A figurehead, usually related to a very high-profile (and insoluble) issue, whose purpose is to think the unthinkable, say the unsayable, and thus draw all the flak which would otherwise be directed at Ministers (particularly the PM). See "Champion".

The last word in procrastination. Current big buzz word, means doing everything in your power not to deliver. Especially if you work in the Cabinet Office, most especially if you work in the Delivery Unit.

Diary Commitments
The Minister is far too important to go to your insignificant little event.

DirectorMore impressive title than "Head".

Director General
A long-standing Director who needed encouragement to stay in the job a bit longer.

Used by members of the SCS to express the view than a particular junior official is quite possibly the most incompetent person it has ever been their misfortune to come across. Similar to "concerned", but deployed in
order to destroy any last remnants of self esteem the official might have. See also "Surprised".

Draft Please
Graft for hours producing a coherent and impressive letter so that I can fulfil my teacher-fantasy by needlessly amending it.

Elephant Traps
Cock-ups in waiting - a term retained from the days when we still had an empire. To the FCO, we still do.

I'm not delegating this boring task because I can't be bothered to do it. I am empowering you.

Entrepreneurial Culture
Civil Servants are always being told that they should be more entrepreneurial in attitude. This means working 12 hours a day to make something happen, and being paid very little for doing so.

Factoring In (as in "Can you factor that in")
Can you tell me about all the hard work you have done on this issue so I can present it to the Minister/Official concerned (end result is blame if it goes wrong, if it goes well boss gets credit).

Fast Stream
The HMG equivalent of "Top Gun". But with overtones of sending small children up chimneys or down coal mines.

Final Draft
An Oxymoron. The so-called "final" draft is the only version on which anybody provides comments, as they can't be bothered to look at the five previous drafts. Use of the word "draft" is always dangerous, as people assume it means that you are open to rewriting the whole thing at any stage.

For Information
Don't even think about commenting on this, I really don't want your help or smart ideas, but if anything goes wrong, I'll remind everyone that you knew exactly what was going on and therefore it's your fault.

Freedom of Information (FoI)
A long standing civil service joke. All politicians believe in FoI, until they gain office and realise how much hassle it all is.

Get A Steer On That (from you)
I don't know how to decide on this one either - can you make a decision for me and I'll nick any good ideas you have.

Happy To Discuss
There's a whole lot more here than meets the eye and that I haven't told you. Should ring alarm bells. If you do actually want to discuss, I'm never available.

Holding reply
Forgot to do a Minister's case/Treat Official? Quick, draft a letter explaining how complex the issue is and that you're consulting with colleagues. Gives you another couple of weeks not to do it in. See also "Interim Report".

Hope This Is Helpful
I'm well aware that it is not helpful at all. Please don't contact me again.

Identifying Key Messages
See "Core Script". Can also be used to justify why we sent a Cabinet Minister to the middle of nowhere, to speak to an irksome local TV/radio hack, and a local journal that sells 103 copies a day.

In A Timely Manner
See "Urgent"

In Due Course
In a very long time if I remember.

Inclined to look favourably upon...

Information Management
Posh term for filing.

Interested in your views
This is a load of old c**p, but I don't want to be the first to say it.

Interim Report
A short document explaining why the full report will be late, how complex the issues are, and how hard you're working on it. With luck, people will forget about the whole thing until you've moved to another post. Similar to a "Holding Reply".

A way of lending importance to an idea.

Its Not Rocket Science
Well, it's not!

Joined-Up Thinking
Now a deeply unfashionable term, meaning "talking to other departments, or other parts of your own department, more than once per annum".

Kick Into The Long Grass
Don't want to focus on this one at the moment or for the foreseeable future. Basically it's "Parked" in a long stay NCP car park.

Let's Drill Down Into This Issue
I've got no idea what I'm talking about, but want to show that I think there's a whole lot more to it than a part time expert like me would even dream about. It may even be a candidate for a PIU project. But can also be used as delaying tactic (see "Parked", "Kick into the Long Grass" and "Toothpaste out of the tube").

The purpose of "Seedcorn Funding". By spending a derisory amount of money, this will somehow magically persuade an industry to put in 10 times as much. This never happens.

Loop (as in "in the loop" or "not fully in the loop")
A very important phrase especially for those who are not fully in the loop as it can cause resentment and lead to temper tantrums. It is a measure of how important (or indeed impotent) you are as to whether you are in or out
of the loop at any one time.

Management Initiatives
Every few years, Ministers and senior officials decide that a Dept. is dysfunctional, and "something must be done". "Something" usually entails recycling the management initiative before last (or the one before that), repackaging it, and pretending that it's new and exciting. Generally, an initiative has an active life of 18 months, then hibernates for 5-7 years until "something must be done" because the last initiative (or two) didn't work. See "New Ways of Working".

A fruit, somewhat like an orange - colourful, full of juice, and tasty. Nothing at all like a top-level civil servant.

Manifesto Commitments
Funny, I could have sworn I had some lying about, but I seem to have temporarily mislaid them. Note: Manifesto commitments exist in a grey area - if they're easily achievable, they're a Government commitment. If unachievable, they're party political and therefore raise propriety issues.

Media Handling Strategy
How the hell do we interest anyone in this. Or conversely, how the hell can we bury this. Not to be confused with "Spin" - which doesn't exist.

Menu of Options
A list of several stupid and/or pointless options, to make people (particularly Ministers) believe that they have a choice. Similar to options contained within a Consultation Document.

A common misspelling of "Millstone".

Minded To Think About
Classic civil service. Doesn't mean anything, but sounds like it might.

Ministerial Submission
I know a lot more about this subject than you do, Minister, but convention demands that in the interests of public accountability I must write a clever note in which I pretend to seek your views.

New Ways of Working
Old ways of working, presented in a glossy pamphlet. See "Management Initiatives". Note: "New" does not necessarily mean "better".

On Board (Or Not On Board)
A favourite delaying tactic linked to sharing (or copying) ideas. Getting as many other people on board as possible is important as it results in further meetings/cc-ing others into e-mails and often bilaterals too.

On The Back Burner
Increasingly overtaken by more modern expressions such as "parked" or "kicked into the long grass" but basically means that you just had a cr*p idea or ridiculously complex problem but no one has the courage to let you know that so lets just shelve it and maybe use or solve it later. Also used if a project has resource implications.

Park It
See "Parked"

Increasingly popular and a favourite of No 10. It is even making an appearance in the lobby note. It means "lets just not talk about or deal with that 'issue' and hopefully it will either go away or be dealt with by someone else."

Pilot Project/Scheme
"We don't really want to do this, but the Minister likes it". The hope is that there will have been a reshuffle before having to actually implement anything on a larger scale. Some pilot schemes have run for decades. See also "Subject to review".

Plain English
Words of one syllable, with subtitles for the hard of thinking. No civil servant worth their salt would even countenance using Plain English - that's for civilians and half-wits.

Please Deal
Do all the work on this yourself - and if you want to Get a Steer, tough. See "empowerment"

Please do not hesitate to contact mePlease do not contact me ever again. If you really insist, try in the next two weeks as I'm on leave.

Private Sector Discipline
A favourite mantra of the current administration. By emulating industry, HMG will apparently become a lean, fit, high-output organisation. Note absence of "Private Sector Remuneration".

Propriety issues
I don't want to do this, but can't think of any real reason why I shouldn't. Will this do? See "Purdah".

Pump Priming
A significant amount of funding, used to bribe an industry into doing something that no-one apart from the Government wants. Sometimes it is so low key that it's forgotten about, and the funding continues for 20

A state of grace in the run up to an election. Any amount of delay, cock-up, or plain laziness can be excused by saying "It's all rather tricky during Purdah". Very similar excuse to "Propriety Issues". A term retained from the days of Empire.

Like Bi-Lateral, but with 4 people.

Quick Win
Something has become a lot more complex and difficult than originally thought, but we are publicly committed to achieving something. A "Quick Win" is anything achievable, no matter how pointless and insignificant, which can be quickly completed and presented as progress towards the objective. It is always worth keeping a couple of Quick Wins in reserve for emergencies.

Raft Of Measures
None of these ideas are any good but if we throw them together as part of a "package", at least it will look as if we are trying. See also "Menu of Options".

(I have) Reservations
"If you do this, you're an even bigger fool than I thought you were."

Resource Implications
This will cost money/need some more manpower. So either the Dept. won't do it, or you end up doing it within existing
resources or else. See "Spending Review".

This policy is going wrong but we cannot admit it. Instead, in order to defuse the controversy, we will get someone who knows nothing about the issues to examine them for 3 months, following which they will provide a helpful synopsis of everything we already knew.

Root and Branch Reform
Tinkering with the organisation, and renaming parts of it, to no discernible effect. See "Breaking Down Silos".

A meeting - but that sounds far too dull. Try this one now and again for a bit of variety.

Run It Past (you)
I don't really know the answer but obviously can't admit to it - so can you help me and then I'll incorporate your excellent ideas and take all the credit.

Seed It
Embed a very vague idea in peoples minds and hopefully if it all goes wrong they won't remember it was your idea.

Seedcorn FundingA derisory amount of grant aid. The Department can announce "we're putting resources into X", claim the credit if it works, and distance itself when X fails miserably. Deployed in the vain hope of achieving "Leverage".

Seeking your agreement
Preparation is at a really advanced stage, or it's already happening. If you have any complaints, no-one wants to hear them.

The goal of all civil servants is to be considered "Sound". That you are loyal, trustworthy, and would jump in front of a bus if called upon to do so by senior officials. See "Vision".

Special Advisors
A similar concept to "Special Schools". Would be responsible for "Spin", if it ever took place, which of course it doesn't.

Spending Review
Finding new ways to get blood out of stones, quarts from pint pots etc. For "Review" read "cut". Whenever such a review is launched, it sparks off frenzied scurrying around by senior officials, fear and loathing, backstabbing etc. Never a pretty sight, or a happy ending.

Spin ("Spin Doctoring")
We don't do this. No. Never. Totally against all the principles the Civil Service holds dear. Perish the thought.

Strategic Co-Ordination Unit
There's too many co-ordination units. No-one knows what the hell is going on or who is supposed to be doing what. A new unit to co-ordinate the co-ordinators is therefore required.

Strategic Overview
Similar to a "Watching Brief", but implies that you're actually a) deeply interested, and b) actively considering the wider implications of whatever this is about. In reality you haven't a clue what any of this is about, and couldn't care less.

Strategic Review
The same as a "Review" but marginally more superficial and likely to recommend the creation of a "Co-ordination Unit". Closely related to a "Blue Skies Review".

Subject to review
The next stage after "Pilot Project/Scheme". Used when for some unknown reason the Pilot has not been a complete disaster. Means that the Minister still thinks it's a good idea, but if people scream loudly enough we can pull the plug with a sigh of relief.

Another classic SCS understatement, signifying utter horror, disgust and fury. See also "Concerned" and "Disappointed".

Take Forward
Give the appearance of making progress whilst in fact never reaching a point where the issue has successfully been taken forward.

Target Audience
Establish who if anyone in this world gives a toss (or "believes" depending on cynicism) about what our esteemed public states people say and why they say it. Fully expect this task to be designated a "cc" one.

Take soundings
A senior official has developed proposals which will annoy several other parts of the Dept. Taking soundings means sending it around unofficially to see how loudly people kick up a fuss. Also, of course, for the senior official to appropriate any better suggestions.

Thank You For Bringing This To My Attention
Polite way of saying "Damn, I was hoping no-one was going to mention that/find out about that".

The Minister was grateful for your submission, which (s)he read without comment
"It definitely went in the red box. It definitely came out again. Did they look at it? Search me, squire." Often means that the submission was a) very dull, b) on an insignificant subject way below the Ministerial radar, or c) both.

Thinking Out Of The Box
A favourite used by bosses who want to patronise staff into action. It means "don't be so boring and come up with something other than a briefing note and photocall!". However, thinking too far out of the box is never a good idea.

Timing: Routine
Shuffle this to the bottom of the pile so we can forget about it for a few months. If not forever.

Timing: Urgent
It isn't really, but we'd actually like this back some time.

Timing: Immediate
Desperately overdue, and should have been answered at least a week ago.

Silly phrase, popular in relation to delivery. As in: "we need to develop a toolkit to solve this issue". Hints at a mystical set of solutions that will somehow launch us towards public sector nirvana.

Toothpaste Is Already Out Of The Tube
An issue can no longer be "parked" as it is now in the public domain, and someone will have to do something about it.

Touch Base
A ridiculous term which has no meaning other than "speaking to someone".

TrafficA way of detaching oneself from a problem by reducing it to a term used to describe congestion. Means we could get a lot of interest in this (usually resulting in working groups being set up so that other people can deal with the impending work load).

Treat Official
Letters from Joe Public, to be kept at the bottom of the in-tray until the official concerned is really bored one afternoon. See "Holding reply".

Like Bi-Lateral, but with 3 people.

Under constant review
Leave it alone, don't even think about it, until the s**t is about to hit the fan, someone tables a PQ, or the Press get hold of it. See also "Watching Brief, Maintain a".

Up To Speed (as in "are you up to speed?)
Have you got a brain? Very vague term which is often used as a way to catch you out. If you admit to being up to speed you can be asked devilishly complicated questions however if you admit to not being up to speed you're made to look a fool as if you are not even able to grasp a short introduction paragraph to a simple issue.

A decision has already been taken.

Vision (or "The Vision Thing")
Evangelical, almost Moonie-like belief in pronouncements from senior management and ministers. No questions, no doubts. Those who lack "vision" are considered dangerously subversive. See "Sound".

Watching Brief, Maintain a
Similar in definition to "Under constant review", but used when you are not the lead on a subject, but senior officials expect you to know something about it.

We Spoke.
Always followed by a full stop. Lets other people know that we have spoken and have a plan, but not what that plan is. Sometimes means "you know what I want, but if it all goes pear-shaped I can claim that you misunderstood me".

Welcome Views
Does anyone have any ideas - I don't (though want to appear very consultative). See also "Get a Steer", "advice please", "Run it Past" and "take soundings".

White Paper
Soft, strong, absorbent - and perforated at both ends.

Work-Life Balance
I'm off early as I am the boss even though there is a big "issue" developing. You will stay here and work late as you are not senior enough to enjoy a work-life balance. You do the work, I have the life.

Work It Through
Often used as a delaying tactic - i.e. we need to really "work it through" so lets have another meeting with other people in as well so we don't have to make a decision now. Or at all.

Working Group
5 or more people sitting in a room failing to achieve anything.

You May Recall
You will if you're any good. Alternatively, "this issue was mentioned very briefly and vaguely in a large, wide-ranging paper that went to your predecessor about two years ago".

You May Wish To Consider
Do this or else.

You Will Recall That
No you won't.

You Will Wish To Be Aware
No you won't, and it's bad news I'm afraid.

You Should Be Aware
Even worse news - not my fault, honest

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

Real pollution

You can tell the politicians are away, the press is running all the scare stories about health, the environment and anything else they can twist and spin into "bad news". Why "Bad" news? Well, as everyone knows, "Good" news doesn't sell papers, people only buy the paper to see the bad news.

The latest efforts to reduce Western Developed Nations pollution would make me angry if they weren't so damned stupid. Why are we supposed, at least according to Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (Foes of Humanity) - to be worse polluters than all the developing nations with their uncontrolled exhaust emissions, stripping of forests, open cooking fires, destruction of habitats and so on? As anyone who has ever visited Metro-Manilla will know the Pasig River and Laguna de Baye are both open sewers, the stench from the once magnificent Manilla Bay is overpowering if you have the misfortune to encounter an onshore breeze and the air pollution is completely off the scale. The same can be said of Bangkok, Jakarta and a number of other Far Eastern cities I have visited. The air pollution from uncontrolled diesel busses, trucks and other vehicles - there is almost no "public transport" in terms of trains and the busses are a matter of having a death wish - is appalling, the air is brown with the haze over these cities, but no, according to Greenpeace, F(r)iends of the Earth and the Western Press it is you and I who are the enemies of the earth, the great polluters who will destroy the climate. Evidently it is us who are the polluters in the Far East and the destroyers of the rain forests in South America. The people who live there are "victims" of Western greed and exploitation - or so says the great socialist mantra.

What a pity we can't ship these morons out to the countries that really are destroying the world. Who knows, perhaps they might then make an impact - or become martyrs to their cause. At any rate, it would get them out of our faces and out of the press for a few weeks.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:29 PM | TrackBack

August 09, 2006

World Cats Day

Yesterday was World Cats Day! You haven't noticed? Well, neither did my people. I thought there'd be a party for me and my friends from the village, but no - nothing! But at least they somehow managed to get the weather right again. After weeks of scorching heat we are back to 20 to 25 Celsius which is a blessing. I mean, people can take their clothes off, I cannot do the same with my fur. I got pretty desperate trying to find a cool place in the house to spend the day.

Shady place inside the bookcase

At last I found a place inside the bookcase where I could lie down with my head pressed to the outer wall of the house. But as you can see - having to roll up on those boxes was not the most comfortable position to sleep in.

Sometimes during those weeks I ventured outside in the garden as there is a slim chance of a light breeze blowing through the gazebo. I do love this gazebo with my green striped cushion waiting for me to sleep on. But it got so hot on that cushion hat I - a comfort loving cat - had to sleep on the bare planks!

Trying to find relief outside

If you think that's uncomfortable then you should have a look at those places where some even spend the night. Voluntarily! I found this bumblebee slowing waking up in the early morning sun.


Bumblebee hugging a bit of knapweed

I don't think I'd want to go sleep on something as prickly as that. But the bumblebee didn't seem to mind. Hardy little buggers, aren't they?

Posted by Mausi at 08:55 PM | TrackBack

August 08, 2006

All right for some ....

Our legislators having knocked off for the summer, the news media are obviously desperate for stories, so now that the thought police are no longer at home to stop them, all the really awkward reports and recommendations are making it into the papers. Like the fact that MP's want to make us pay by the mile to use our cars, or that they want to increase airport and air travel taxes to levels that may well double airfares. Oh, and then there are proposals to reduce speed limits on all our roads to really stupid levels guaranteed to slow everything down and extend journey times, increase pollution and driver frustration.......

Taking the first item, the proposal is for "Road Pricing" a system of digital cameras that would monitor every road and charge you for taking your car anywhere. One analyst suggests that this could cost the "average" motorist £16k a year to use their car for transport to and from work. Naturally the Whitehall Wankers and Politicians behind this will be exempt, it will be the rest of us that will pay for their free and easy use of the roads. Clearly the object of the exercise is to drive people off the roads and render it uneconomic to use your car. The excuse is that they can then do away with fuel taxes and road tax as it is, replacing it with a "user tax". It sounds reasonable until you realise that it will hit the rural communities extremely hard. My current abode and my place of employement are some thirty miles apart - getting from one to the other is possible, but impractical. Ergo, I will be forced to change abode or employment if this were to come in. As ever the morons in Westminster think only in terms of the impact on the city traffic with its good transport infrastructure - assuming you like travelling in crowded dirty trains and busses full of obnoxious teenagers and standing cheek by jowl with someone who desperately needs to have a bath - or at least be introduced to deodorant.

Of course, the benefit for the Whitehall and Westminster gang of thieves is that they alone will be able to afford to travel by private car, the rest of us will be forced off the roads so they won't have to suffer from the congestion - nor will they have to endure the discomfort of expensive and uncomfortable trains. I hate travelling by train for the simple reason that, at over six feet and being fairly wide in the shoulders (I also suffer with a bad back!) the seats are designed for pygmies - or at the most generous, for the pre-war British person who was an average of 5 foot 5 inches and narrow shouldered. Try sitting three men in a row on any modern British train - you all wind up with aches because the damnded seats are too small - but that's alright because the Civil Servants who draw up the standards and codes for these and their political cronies won't have to travel on them. If they go by train we, the tax paying public are paying for their First Class Fare.

In case anyone thinks the Road Pricing equipment is still years away, think again, it is currently under test and will be available by the end of the year. The equipment is already being installed, so this is not a matter for discussion or consultation - its a matter of when the Civil Service decide to turn it on.

Next the move to lower speed limits. According to the pundits for this moroninc proposal, it will make travelling safer and less polluting. I don't buy the last since all modern cars are only less polluting when operating at their optimum engine speed - which at the speeds proposed they will not be. Ergo, pollution will go up. Second, the claim it will be safer. Garbage, it will be safer when all the self appointed traffic regulating merchants who hog the centre lanes and jump into gaps in the inner lane whenever they fancy slowing that down, are taken off the road and forbidden driving licences. There are few things worse than having to travel across country and being obstructed by someone determined to drive as slowly as possible while his or her children run riot in the back seat. Or worse, the OAP's who can barely see over the dashboard and have never exceeded 30mph anywhere, but who insist on hugging the white lines on roads where the speed limit is 60 or more.

The "safety" lobby - read anti-private car and individual freedom - are campaigning to have a blanket 40 mph on all rural roads. Again this is punted as "less polluting" and "safer". The fact of the matter is that almost all accidents on these roads are caused by inconsiderate driving by one of two groups - young and foolish going very much too fast and the "safety" fanatic driving everywhere at least 20 mph under the speed limit. A pity they are allowed to obstruct others to the extent that eventually someone will be driven to overtake in an unsafe position. It is a sad fact that these are the two most common causes of accidents around my area - the "average" motorist doesn't have a problem travelling at the perfectly reasonable existing speed limits.

It is obvious that the onslaught on the motorist is coming from the usual suspects - all of them with a vested interest in depriving the rest of us with the freedom of movement our cars give us and further restricting our freedom of choice in a whole range of things including our ability to travel anywhere outside of the UK. Consider the effect of increased air travel taxes. As airfares are pushed upwards by this latest blatant grab for more of the money in our pockets the excuse is yet again, "saving the environment", but the impact will be less environmental and more economic. Tourism will be reduced in the UK, and incase you think this doesn't matter, it does, as recent downturns on those areas dependent on tourist revenue have shown. Of course, if we can't travel because the Whitehall Wankers have rendered it too costly, it means that the resorts and destinations we would have spent money in are also going to feel the pinch - except of course, that our Whitehall and Westminster cronies will now have them to themselves without the rest of us to clutter up the beaches. And the long term affect? More of our freedoms of choice removed by Whitehall Nanny, more frustration and no overall reduction in the "environmental damage either, because the traffic will simply go elsewhere.

It is the first lie of the budding dictatorship that in order to preserve the "greater good" the "individual must give up his freedom". Time to throw the entire Whitehall and Westminster crew out of office, off the payroll and restore freedom and democracy.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:37 PM | TrackBack

August 07, 2006

Cars ...

There are days when you simply cannot win. Mausi had one of those last week.She had to go on a business trip to a town about 230 km from where she works. Her employer keeps a pool of cars of different brands and sizes for such purposes.

So Mausi went to the garage where the cars are kept at 6.30 in the morning and was entrusted with an Audi A6. Great, Mausi thought. That's one of the nice things about this car pool - you get to drive cars you couldn't afford to buy yourself. The only drawback about these cars is - Mausi is convinced they can't wait to play a practical joke on her and whenever she passes through the garage imagines faint sniggering noises of the cars telling each other would a good time they had had with her. But Mausi is not easily defeated and always optimistic that everything will go alright this time.

She got into the car and tried to locate the navigator imp. She had already used it in BMWs, VWs and FORDs but there was nothing to be seen in the Audi. As Mausi had not been to her destination before she'd be lost without an imp. There was nothing for it but to go back and ask if the Audi had an imp after all. Yes of course, was the reply, look again. Well, the light is not the best inside the garage so Mausi dragged the car outside into the pale morning sunshine. A few minutes later she actually managed to locate the controls, cleverly hidden between the front seats, and even the display: the size of a big stamp between the dashboard displays right behind the wheel.

Mausi squandered the next 10 minutes trying to tell the imp where she wanted to go. The imp proved to be of the extremely uncooperative kind and refused to accept the street name. Right - as Mausi was by now beginning to run out of time she swallowed her pride and went back again to ask for a five minutes crash course into handling the imp. Sure, no problem, they said, keeping a straight face and send one of the drivers outside. He quickly explained that bit of the system to Mausi which she had already found out herself and then failed to get the street name into the imp as well. Must be a new street, was his explanation, our navigation CDs are not quite up to date. Oh great, that's all Mausi needed on this morning. But the imp graciously offered to take Mausi to the correct autobahn exit. Splendid, Mausi would have found that one without any help from the imp.

Mausi thanked the driver, rushed back to her office, got her computer to do a route listing, ripped the paper out of the printer and dashed out to the car again. By now she was half an hour behind her shedule but as she always plans ahead for surprises she might still just make it. A glance at the controls told her that the tank was only half full, what the heck, it should still get her to her destination.

Apart from the fog and a large number of road works the drive was uneventful and Mausi made it to her destination in time. Conducting her business took her about an hour and then she went back to the car and tried to tell the imp to take her back home. Which he refused to do! He didn't even know the street where he lived. He knew surprisingly few streets in his home town, come to think of it. Mausi didn't really need the imp to take her home, just liked someone to talk to her now and then. Right, so she set the imp to the nearest street to her destination he knew and started her journey back.

Mausi had already noticed that the needle on the petrol control display pointed to reserve and was looking out for the next petrol station anyway. In no way was she prepared for the shrill beep that suddenly filled the car and the yellow petrol pump symbol popping up on the dasboard controls. The symbol alone would have been warning enough without almost giving her a heart attack! At the next station she pulled out and was confronted with the next problem: how do you open the lid on the tank in this car? Mausi is used to her Renault where she just pulls it open which didn't work here. In other cars you often have to pull a small lever inside the car which makes the lid pop open. The only thing Mausi could find to pull opened the hood. Aaargh!

Good thing Mausi had a mobile with her and could phone the people at the garage at home. The answer to her enquiries was discouraging: Haven't the faintest idea, better ask someone at the petrol station, they should know. By now, Mausi was past caring anyway, went into the little station shop straight to the man at the cash register and asked about the mysteries of an Audi. By the look he gave her he obviously suspected Mausi to be a member of a gang, trying to divert his attention so that the rest could rob the petrol station. In the end he agreed to come out and give Mausi a hand as soon as his colleague returned from the store rooms. And indeed he kept his word. After some more looking for hidden levers and devices it eventually turned out that the lid had to be pushed instead of pulled to come open....

Back on the road Mausi enjoyed the brief moments when she was not hampered by Dutch tourists determinedly blocking the middle lane or road works and could go at 180 km/h. The funny thing was that the dawdlers suddenly transmogrified into Flying Dutchmen in the road works sections where speed is restricted to 80 km/h and overtook Mausi effortlessly. Mausi hoped that quite a few would get caught by speed cameras!

Eventually Mausi made it back to base and complained about the imp's performance. Not what one would expect in a high quality car like an Audi A6, is it? The explanation was that owing to the car's age the navigation maps are on two CDs instead of one. If you've loaded the wrong CD (it doesn't show on the display which CD you have loaded and the CD player is hidden somewhere in the boot) the imp only knows the major roads. Obviously the CD for East Germany had been loaded, not the one for West Germany Mausi would have needed. Well, if they had just given Mausi a hint before she went it would have saved Mausi a lot of energy but probably deprived the boys at the garage of a lot of entertainment.

When Mausi finally left the garage she could hear the cars sniggering again....

Posted by Mausi at 03:51 PM | TrackBack

August 06, 2006

Flying visitors

Last weekend I tried to shoot butterflies in the garden - only with my camera, of course! This year we have quite a few visiting us and they are always a pleasure to watch. I noted that the number of Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum) has noticeably increased this year.

060806_taubenschwaenzchen.jpg  060806_taubenschwaenzchen02.jpg
Hummingbird Hawk-moths feeding on my Teucrium

They migrate up north each year from the area around the Mediterranean Sea. They are not thought to be able to survive the winter north of the Alps. I always find them most fascinating to watch trying to maneuver their long proboscis into the blossoms. Interesting to see how they keep their balance.

And I managed to take a photograph of another butterfly who was quite unafraid of my camera lens and let me get really close.

Unknown butterfly

The only thing is I cannot find out who he is. I've gone through my butterfly books and I've asked some biologists and all we can say is that he looks very similar to some butterflies in the books but shows some marked differences on closer inspection. He might be a mutation. He's most certainly not the odd one out as he brought two other members of his family with him when visiting us. If any of you have an idea please let me know.

And here's another little cuddly fellow for you. A bug climbing along the edge of a leave. He can jump and he can fly and you must not provoke him too much because his defense is to give off an evil smell ...

A green bug lurking in the shadows

Posted by Mausi at 09:18 AM | TrackBack

August 05, 2006

Iraq and the Blair "Spin" .....

Interesting view expressed by Her Majesty's "Man in Baghdad" in his final telegram to HM's First Minister, The Right Dishonourable Anthony Blair, would be President of the USE. Parliament would, had it been in session and not on four months of summer hols, have had a field day with this.

Far from the lovely image that our Illustrious Leader (now off to Italy on his hols and leaving that buffoon Prescott in charge!) has been presenting of a gradually "improving" situation in Iraq where we are supposedly "winning the war on insurgency", the retiring Ambassador, who is probably far more capable of assessing the situation than either Blair or the moron civil servants who prepare his "media briefings", that the country will descend into a major civil war and break up. It is not really surprising when you give this some careful thought. The country is, after all, the creation of the post First World War western imperial powers who carved up the former Ottoman Turkish Empire to create the patchwork of states we have today. While these were loosely based on the former "provinces" of the Ottoman Empire, this did not mean that they were any more "unified" states than any of the creations we have left behind in Africa. Put simply they ignored ethnic and cultural groups and boundaries, indulged in ethnic cleansing in some areas (continuing the Turkish practice agains troublesome minoroties) and mass population transplanst in others. As the world has been destabilised by the left overs of the Cold War and the absence of any really original thinking in the field of political change, we now have a country that is about implode with enormous consequences for the entire region and probably the rest of the world as well!

The spin doctors still desperately try to lead us to believe that what they are saying is "good news", but it is becoming ever more difficult for them to hide the fact that it is all unravelling and we will, I believe, see the formation in the not too distant future of a new Kurdish State in Northern Iraq (Turkey is determined to prevent that so watch that space for the next aggressive war!) and the Southern part looks set to split between native Arab and native Assyrian - and believe me there is a difference! The religious positions also complicate it enormously, since you have not just the Sunni/Shi'ite disagreement, but there are several more smaller sects of Islam present, there are numerous Jewsih communities and around 40% of the population are Christian of one brand or another and then you have the Islamic fundamentalists .....

Symptomatic of the present problem in Lebanon is tha fact that this government is trying desperately to show their sympathies lie with the Palestinians in the increasing desperate hope that they can keep Muslim opinion on board while not actually alienating Israel. This will backfire spectacularly as the UK Jewish population are increasingly targeted by pro-Palestinian (or just anti-Jewish) elements in our own society. The fact that Lebanon has brought this on itself seems to be being brushed out by our media, after all it is the Lebanese Government who allowed Hizbollah to arm and train an army on their soil. It is the Lebanese Government who allowed their territory to be used as a base from which to attack their neighbour. Pointless bleating that their civilian population is now being targetted - get the terrorists out of the population centres, disarm them and deal with them. End of war!

The middle East dilemma will continue as long as the Muslim States permit their citizens to harbour terrorists. No good in calling them freedom fighters - they are part of the global threat to every civilised society and we need to recognise this. What is the difference between an al-Qaeda backed "insurgent" bombing "pro-Western sympathisers" in Baghdad and the Hizbollah fanatic firing rockets into Israel or kidnapping Israeli citizens?

No, the Ambassador and the US General are correct, Iraq will collapse, it will break out into a civil war, and it will spread into the neighbours. Everyone in that region has a choice - disarm the terrorists, disarm them and cutail their recruiting and training. Then get around the table and sort out the peace. But, the discussion cannot start until the terrorists are disarmed and put out of business. Don't whinge about the fact that civilians are suffering - these governments know exactly who the terrorists are and where they are - so deal with them.

It is a sad reflection on the fact that our media are distinctly biased and one sided in their reporting - very little has been shown of the suffering caused by the Hizbollah attacks on Israel. Silly me, that is because our left-wing dominated media hate Israel, hate Jews and want the State of Israel destroyed. They love "victims" and the Israelis are patently the aggressors here - aren't they?

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

August 04, 2006

Domesday online .....

Today the Domesday Book should be available online at the National Archives website. I haven't yet managed to find where they have hidden it, but I have found a whole lot of fun information about the book which could be used to bore your dinner guests and companions next time you are stuck for something to say. The original is a list of all the property owned within the boundaries of the Kingdom of England. It was compiled in 1085 - 1086 by the Chancellor of the Kingdom at the orders of William I - also known as Duke William of Normandy and "The Conqueror". He gave the order, interestingly enough, in Gloucester, where he and his court were wintering as he had a desire to "know the Kingdom and his subjects" - more succinctly, who should be paying tax and how much!

Gloucester has another, possibly less well known link with the Conqueror. His eldest son Robert, Duke of Normandy, is buried (perhaps not the right description since he is actually contained in a wooden casket in the ambulatory) in Gloucester Cathedral. Robert should have been King after William I's death, but William II (Rufus) beat him to the crown and had him banged up in Cardiff Castle "for the rest of his natural" as I have heard one guide put it. Robert now resides in the South Ambulatory in a wonderfully colourful cataflaque. In an amusing twist, he spent the second world war resting on the crate that contained the Coronation Chair from Westminster Abbey when the treasures from there were stored in the Crypt of Gloucester Cathedral and Robert was removed and placed there for safety as well. He never sat on the chair in life, but "sat" on it for six years in death - almost 900 years after he missed his chance.

The Domesday Book was originally known as the "Winchester Roll" or the "Book of the Treasury", but by the 13th Century had become known by its present name - presumably because, as with the Day of Judgement, there was no appeal against any judgement made on its content! It does make interesting reading - and one becomes very aware of just how small the population of these islands was at that time. Villages listed in it, many of them still in existence, show populations of under a hundred (remembering that the book lists only the adult males!) so a village listed as having eighteen "Villagers", seven "Riders" and two "Ploughs" probably means that the overall piopulation would have been around fifty, since the "Villagers" would have been males of arms bearing age, the "riders" the same and their wives, and children would at least treble the number. Interestingly a "Villager" was someone who "owned" a small piece of land sufficient to keep a family and a surplus of produce to sell on. A "Rider" on the other hand was a hired man who escorted the Villagers and their produce to market. The village this information is taken from is today home to several thousand and the days of the individual supporting themselves on the land assigned to them are long gone - in fact there is no arable land for them to farm in sufficient intesnity to do so.

As it stands, the Domesday Book provides us with a fascinating look at life in the 11th Century - but perhaps it also tells us that we need to manage our resources and, dare I say it, our population levels, a whole lot better than we currently do!

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

August 03, 2006

Musica Deo Sacra

Music Sacred to God, an evocative term, and a very descriptive one. For one week in every year we play host to a choir of professional singers and musicians who come together at Tewkesbury Abbey to perform music written across the centuries for the glory of God and the embellishment of worship. People come from all over the world, many of them making it a pilgrimage, to take part or simply to be able to worship in services raised to a level far beyond the ordinary by the use of Mass Settings or Anthems written specifically for worship but usually these days heard only as concert pieces. During Musica Deo Sacra they are heard again in their context and setting.

Throughout the week there is a resident Chaplain, this year that role is being fulfilled by Brother Patrick Moore, a Benedictine Monk in his own right, and presently Scholar in Residence at Sarum College. It is a feast of music, of liturgy and of learning for the evenings are filled with lectures or opportunities to meet and talk to some of the country's most eminent theologians and musicians.

We started on Monday with a glorious Solemn Evensong, begun with Bairstow's "Save us Lord". The Preces and Lesser Litany and Responses set to music by Michael Walsh and the Canticles to a setting by Kenneth Leighton from the Magdalen Service and tailed by an anthem set by Edward Elgar - "Great is the Lord". On Tuesday we had a Solemn Eucharist in honour of the Holy Sacrament using the 1943 Missa Brevis setting by Zoltan Kodaly. The Introit was William Byrd's "Laetentur coeli" and the anthems used for the Gradual, Offertory and Communion were by Berkeley, di Lasso and Bairstow. Our preacher and Episcopal representative - whom I Chaplained - was the Rt Rev Colin Buchanan, a noted speaker and author - and a noted Evangelical. His sermon has certainly given many food for deep thought - it was excellent as, indeed, was that preached by the Lord Abbot on Monday night.

Sadly I could not get out of work to attend Wednesday's Mass, but I attended the Organ Recital and Compline! The recital by Carleton Etherington was, as ever, a virtuoso performance. Yet again, he produced a stop on the Mighty Milton that few of us had heard before and managed to play two pieces that had the organists in the audience on their feet applauding his rendition. One, we think, must have required the use of his toes as well as his fingers, and another required such a spread of keyboard he could only have used his entire forearm! And his finale - Reger's Variations on the theme of Nun danket all uns Gott - left everyone breathless. What a musician, what a performer!

To follow that, Compline. What can one say of the acapella performance of one of the most beautifully simple services in the liturgical book. Our resident Benedictine Chaplain declared when it was over, "I can do no other than to go to bed and hope the Lord will bless me with more music of this calibre tomorrow!" The service opens with the words:

"The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end - Amen"

And surely there can be few ways to end a day than with the beauty of the plainsong chants and the canticles and antiphons by Byrd, Tallis, Blytheman and Parsons? Tallis' setting of the 10th Century hymn "O nata lux lumine" opens the service, and Byrd's setting of the 8th Century "Christe, qui lux es et dies" was the Office Hymn. This was followed by the plainsong Nunc dimitis and Blytheman's setting of the Compline responsory "In Pace". After the blessing has been given, the chior make their way round the back of the High Altar and standing at the statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace, sing the Parsons setting of the "Ave Maria". Brother Patrick was right, you could do no other than go to bed before anything could spoil the euphoria in one's spirit!

I will post more on this as I have the opportunity.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 02, 2006

Topping out a tower ....

Being a Church Warden certainly has its moments, most of them pretty trying, but a few quite good fun. Probably one of the most satisfying is celebrating the completion of a major project and we did that today. Our 904 year old tower has a new roof. To be fair it is the sixth new roof since the tower was originally completed in its present form around 1415 and the new one should last a minimum of a hundred years. The work has seen the replacement of some rotten timber, the reconstruction of the drains and water spouts to take the water clear of the walls and the installation of the new steel gratings to allow people to walk above the drainage gully. And a completely new lead covering to the whole - referred to as "the Pyramid". To celebrate the event we held a short service of blessing on the roof - 145 feet above the town, complete with the Town Mayor, the Town Crier, the Town Band, the Lord Abbot himself, the Church Wardens, the contractor and various members of the committee which has raised the money - roughly £300k.

The service took the form of a short service of Blessing and ended with the sprinkling of the roof and congregation with holy water and the tying of the rosemary sprig used for this purpose to the flag staff. Then the great Cross of St George was hoisted and the band blew a fanfare (heard in the streets below despite the wind!) and the Town Crier did a "Cry" from the parapet. This too was heard in the streets below - quite a feat for an unamplified voice!

The text of the "Cry" is as follows ....


On the occassion of the "Topping Out" service
to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the
Restoration Campaign at Tewkesbury Abbey

We, the Vicar, Clergy, Church Wardens,
Town Mayor and members of the
restoration appeal campaign,
do send most joyous greetings
to the Queen's most Excellent Majesty.

Assuring Her Majesty of our continuing
Love, Loyalty and Prayers.

Given to my hand in the forennon
of this First day of August
In the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Six


My only regret is that I could not take photographs!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:29 PM | TrackBack

August 01, 2006

The Art of Boiling an Egg

Who would have thought it of the Brits? As I learnt today they have actually doing research on how to boil the perfect breakfast egg. You know the perfect egg is the one where the white is solid and the yolk a thick, creamy fluid. Funded by the organisation 'Egg Lion Quality' British researchers developed a temperature-sensitive ink that is used to stamp a logo on each egg. Invisible at room temperature it suddenly appears when the egg is boiled and has reached perfection.

Watch out for those eggs. They are supposed to be on sale in supermarkets after the summer holidays! Consumers will have a choice between hard, medium and soft boiled variations. Bon appetite!

Reading about this reminded me of a famous animated cartoon by the German humourist Loriot. An elderly couple is having an argument about the art of boiling an egg during breakfast. He prefers a soft boiled egg.

I've tried to do a translation into English for your amusement:

He:  Berta!
She: Yes ...
He:  This is a hard boiled egg!
She:  (keeps silent)
He:  This is a hard boiled egg!!!
She: I've heard you ...
He:  How long has the egg been boiled?
She: Too many eggs are bad for your health!
He:  I mean, how long has this egg been boiled ...?
She: You always want it boiled for four and a half minutes ...
He:  I know that ...
She: Why do you ask then?
He:  Because this egg cannot have been boiled for four and a half minutes!
She: But I boil your eggs for four and a half minutes every morning.
He:  How come it sometimes is too hard and sometimes too soft?
She: I don't know ... I am no chicken!
He:  Ach! ... And how do you know, when the egg is done?
She: I take it out of the water after four and a half minutes for Christ's sake!
He:  Do you use a stop-watch or something?
She: Instincts ... a housewife uses her instincts ...
He:  Instincts? What do you mean ... instincts?
She: My instincts tell me when the egg is done ...
He:  But it is hard boiled ... perhaps something is wrong with your instincts ...
She: Something is wrong with my instincts? I am working in the kitchen all day long, do the washing, keep your things in order, make the flat comfortable, look after the kids and you say, something is wrong with my instincts?
He:  Alright ... alright ... but if you use your instincts to boil an egg then it boils for four and a half minutes only by chance.
She: I don't know why you care if the egg boils for four and half minutes by chance or not - as long as it does boil for four and half minutes!
He:  It is just that I'd love to have a soft egg and not an egg that is soft by chance. I don't care how long it takes to boil!
She: Aha! You don't care ... you don't care, if I slave away for four and a half minutes in the kitchen!
He:  No - no ...
She: But you should care ... the egg has to boil for four and a half minutes ...
He:  That's exactly what I said ...
She: But you said a moment ago that you didn't care!
He:  All I want is a soft boiled egg ...
She: Heavens, aren't men crude!
He  (muttering) I shall kill her ... tomorrow I shall kill her!

Well, with the newfangled eggs described above catastrophes like that will be easily avoided in the future!

Posted by Mausi at 06:52 PM | TrackBack