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March 31, 2007

Nothing like a little advertising ...

I have had an interesting conversation with Amazon.com on the subject of getting my literary attempts noticed and I have to say that they have been exceptionally helpful. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make use of this information. Step one is - how do I get a permanent link and advert for my books and short stories built into this template? Once I can do that I think I know how to set up the ads!

Patrick_G._Cox_sm.jpg Click on the picture to find the Short Story on Amazon

The story, Facing the Banshee, explores the responses of two small boys growing up in the tense atmosphere of an Ireland riven by civil war and religious and poiltical divisions. The story revolves around the summer of 1797 and the harvest time - a time when all the children were required to help gather and garner. But, as Autumn draws to a close and the nights begin to draw in this magical and ancient landscape has a few surprises for the children ....

Click on the picture to find the short story

The summer of 1798 in Ireland was an uneasy time - rebellion was yet again stalking the land, but, as the summer draws to a close, the rebellion has been bloodily suppressed, the French Army has surrendered and Wolfe Tone is in prison. All that remains are the few rebels still on the loose - but some may even threaten a famillies security by their very association ....

OK, so this is an experiment - one I will monitor until I can get into the template and post it in the side strap where it belongs!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hunting rituals

Spring has come at last and the mice have obviously thawed and are showing up in the garden. Mausi The Cat has taken to spending the nights outside again, no doubt doing important business with the other cats in the village, like settling on mice quota for each cat. Yesterday saw Mausi on the warpath. Have you ever noticed the hunting ritual between cat and mouse? It always seems to go along the following lines:

Act One: Let's hear if there is a little bugger about ...

Act Two: Yep - heard you!

Act Three: Where are you?

Act Four: Let's have a closer look.

Act Five: Now let's have some fun.As you can see, Mausi is doing her 'I am not really interested in you'-trick.

Act Six: Let's see how plucky you are. Oops, that mouse is fighting back.

Act Seven: Now the mouse is doing her 'I am dead already' - trick.

Act Eight: Shit - that blighter has escaped.

I suppose, Mausi's a bit out of practice. Don't be afraid for her - once she get's tired of tinned mice again she'll concentrate a bit more!

Posted by Mausi at 03:25 PM | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

Playing games with the West

The Iranian behaviour over the illegal detention of our sailors and Royals in the Shatt al Arab by their Republican Guard shows just how little evil regimes like this one think of the "Rules of Engagement" and "International Law" enshrined in things like the Geneva Convention. Perhaps this should be anobject lesson for the Human Rights lobbyists who are so quick to try and prosecute our troops for the slightest "infringement" of these same rules. It is of no comfort whatever to the hostages - for that is exactly what they are - or to their families to have the usual mantras trotted out by this particular abberant group on these occassions concerning "regard for the law" or the "we cannot be seen to be as bad as they are."

The Iranian Regime has, through its "Republican Guard" seized illegally the property of the British Crown and the persons of its serving men and women. That is an illegal act and one which the UN has once again shown itself to be useless to address. The Security Councils statement is nothing short of a slap in the face for Britain and I for one would wholeheartedly support both Britain and the US withdrawing support for all of the UN's activities until the organisation comes up with something a lot stronger in condemnation of the Iranians. The facts are that:
1. The Iranian government has breached the Conventions on the treatment of prisoners and is using them as hostages for its own political purposes. That is why they were seized and why they are being paraded on Television. That is a clear breach of all conventions on the treatment of military prisoners.
2. Iranian Vessels staged an invasion of Iraqi waters to seize these sailors, the ship they were investigating is still anchored where it was stopped for the search - and is well inside Iraqi waters.
3. The Republican Guard answers not to the Iranian Parliament but to their President and their Ayatollahs - it is therefore not a regular military force and should be seen as one raised, like Mugabe's 5th Brigade, as a terrorist organisation, and treated as such.
4. The Iranian Ministers and spokespeople are liars - and what is worse they consider this to be a legitimate ploy - after all they are dealing with people they regard as "Dhimmi" and whom they have clearly stated they intend to overthrow to impose their vision of a perfect society.
5. This is really all about humiliating the West and they know full well that the UK is so overstretched (It would not surprise me at all to discover that, under the Government's ethnicisation and feminisation of all Whitehall Departments that our MoD section dealing with Operations and deployment is staffed by Iranian or at least Muslim placemen passing on all sensitive information to Teheran) and that there is no way we could mount a retaliation or rescue mission.

Our sailors have been placed in this position by the stupidity and cupidity of those in Whitehall and Westminster who have reduced our armed forces to the point that we are so understrength and so overstretched that they are forced to rely on part timers to meet their commitments. And what is worse, when our boys and girls are wounded and injured in battle, they face being treated abominably by the disaster that is the NHS because that arch enemy of the armed services, the Civil Service, has decreed that the military do not need their own hospitals. The sight of Blair defending this in Parliament this morning had my blood boiling - especially coming on top of the recent incident when a lad was returned from the Gulf having lost a leg and, following emergency treatment at the scene, was evacuated back to Britain. Here he was rushed, by military ambulance, to the local NHS hospital and then had to wait his turn in the A&E Department - waiting four hours before a nurse approached.

Did she want to "assess" his injuries? Not a bit of it, she had been sent to tell him to remove his uniform as it might upset some of the other people waiting for treatment! The lad said later that if he hadn't been missing his leg he would have got himself out of there immediately - sadly he had no choice but to wait another two hours before he got proper attention - and nothing whatsoever has been done to the "manager" or the "nurse" responsible. According to Blair, our NHS Staff are providing our troops with the finest and best treatment available. No they are not Mister Blair - and you need to be taken out and shot for the appalling treatment our armed services are getting and the damage you have done to this once great nation - you and the rest of your treasonous party!

No wonder the Iranians are laughing at us. They know that as long as they want to play this game they can. Blair will do nothing because he can't. The UN will do nothing because it doesn't want to. And our soldiers, sailors and airmen and women will continue to be placed in danger and treated like dirt when they are sent home wounded - all so that Blair and his civil service stooges can continue to give themselves all the perks and kudos they want.

If I were now serving in any of the armed services, I would be seriously considering getting out before they sent me on yet another hostage taking trip for the Iranians or any other similar regime. Blair wants to fight this war? Let him and his army of worthless Whitehall W*nkers get out there and find out what the real world is all about, it might rid us of two problems simultaneously!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:39 AM | TrackBack

March 29, 2007

Whither Freedom?

Recently I came across an item about a recent BBC programme entitled "The Trap - What happened to our dream of freedom?" and it got me thinking. How "free" are we? How free have we ever been? And the answer seems to be - we never have been and we probably never will be "free" in the sense that most people (and the OED) would define as "freedom". Yet, it is one of the concepts that we, particularly in the Western Democracies, take as a tenet of faith, it is our great raison detre for all our desire to spread our "Liberal" concepts and democracies, but is this really "freedom".

The programme makers have examined the gap between our understanding of the promises of the last hundred years and the realities of our societies and concluded that we have the definition wrong, we don't understand the concept and we are probably not free at all. It seems that our idea of freedom is far too narrow and, most perniciously, our political masters like it that way. Why? Put quite simply it provides them with the means to circumscribe our freedom, to limit our control and to make sure that they have the ultimate say in what is and what is not permissible.

How has this come about? Apparently it arises from models of human behaviour that were developed by strategists as a means of manipulating public opinion mainly in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Unfortunately, as with all things taken out of Pandora's Box, it wasn't long before politicians realised that it was just as useful at home to direct public opinion and "steer" the gullible public in the direction they wanted us to go. The Mass Media are, of course, a party to this since they are the tool by which the manipulation is managed. This is how the largest part of the poplutaion has been deluded into thinking that Socialism, with centralising control of every aspect of life, ever increasing bureaucracy and the slow strangulation of enterprise and freedom of thought has been carefully managed, is a "Good Thing". Yet the concept is not new. This was the genius of men like Dr Goebels and indeed the Soviet Union's own propagandists. It is the stock in trade of every dictator; convince the public that, in order to "preserve" their freedom, you have to impose restrictions and limits.

It stems from the belief among radical psychiatrists and genetic biologists, anthropologists and other related sciences that humanity is basically selfish, a collection of isolated creatures who live in a state of constant suspicion that one or other of our neighbours might be up to something which will deprive us of something we have or want. The idea has been seized on by market economists and extended by marketing executives who all play on our supposedly inherent desire to be free of the herd. But, has this created the "freedom" we supposedly all crave? Has it actually created a "free and fair" society? Or has it created a society that is now more regulated, more controlled and less free than at any time since the beginnings of civilisation?

Personally, looking at the evidence these documentaries present, I would suspect that - to corrupt Voltaires famous saying, "We are born in chains, and these are added to as we grow". The Civil Service has never been more powerful - or more bureaucratically driven and more interfering in every aspect of our lives. Politicians thrive and mutilply - probably Britain's biggest growth industry at present, yet we enjoy no right of self defence, no freedom to bring up our children as we think is right, no freedom from wage slavery, taxes (They grow like Topsy!) and no freedom of thought or speech. Both those last are now restricted as never before by laws introduced to promote "tolerance". Even our freedom of movement is threatened by the government's determination to drive private motoring off our roads and force us to use the privatised and hugely expensive rail systems (Heaven forbid we should consider using the domestic airlines!). Even our choices in employment have been restricted by the collapse of our industries and their being driven abroad by over regulation of supposed "health and safety" and by "workers rights" which render labour here so expensive (not that the worker gets any more of it - it's the oncosts of employing anyone that are a killer!) that it is cheaper to sell the factory or move the factory and import everything.

Is the person on Benefits "Free"? Simple answer - no. They are tied up by endless "rules" restricting where they can go, how much they may have and how the "benefit" will be eroded should they dare to presume to take any paid work.

The concept of Freedom that we have lived with since the 1950's at least is fatally flawed. We need to have a wider concept, and a deeper understanding of what we mean not only by "freedom" - it has to be more than the right to vote! - and then we need to understand how it affects others, particularly those in other parts ofthe world who see things differently. The Cold War has produced many of the problems we face today, not least state sponsored terrorism, but equally the current trend to over regulate and to try to direct how society functions at a micro-managerial level. We need to restrict the power of politcians, bureaucrats and the media to a very large extent - and to rediscover the real meaning of freedom.

Have we ever been completely "free"? Probably not since we first formed societies and clans, however that is not to say that we cannot enjoy a form of freedom within that group which we would not have outside it. We do need some rules and we certainly need some moral guidelines to make any human society functiuon cohesively - what we do not need is constant interference by some group that considers itself better qualified than anyone else to direct our personal relationships, thoughts and utterances.

In short, we need to reconsider our concept of what it is to be truly "free" and to then explore where the boundaries of that freedom are - and what responsibility it imposes on the "free" to guard it and ensure it is enjoyed by all - and not simply by the ruling elite and their hangers-on in the bureaucracies.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

New Words for the 2007 Vocabulary

Browsing the Blogosphere (instead of doing something work related - the joys of working from home!), something I have not had much time to do recently, I came across some really funny - and unfortunately all to true! - definitions over at Skipjack's blog. His post New Words for 2007 should be a must read.

My favourite is definitely this one:

ADMINISPHERE : The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Law and order or another bit of spin?

Listening to the Home Secretary this morning one could be excused for feeling a touch of de ja vu, after all, his Illustrious Leader has been parroting the mantra of "Tough on Crime; Tough on the Causes of Crime" ever since they came to power. We could, I suppose, also be excused for finding it a little thin at this point since the fact is that violent crime is up, the jails are full to bursting point - and they haven't even made a dent in the problem - apart from further eroding our right of self defence and disarming the law-abiding populace and targetting them with ever more draconian laws against motorists, taxpayers and anyone they think might have some money left over to pay the fine, pay the extra tax or whatever to get their hands on more of our incomes.

The Home Secretary proudly says they have built an extra 20,000 prison places. Yes? And shortened jail sentences to the point where they are a joke for the criminal fraternity. And they have written handbooks for the judges and magistrates that mean a mugger can be let off with a slap on the wrist but a pensioner who refuses to pay an unjustified increase in domestic taxes is jailed. A murderer can walk free, but a white collar criminal must be jailed. The list goes on and on. The extra places are all in "Open Prisons" where the inmates get time out to go shopping, visit home and even have "holidays" out of joail while serving their sentences. Tough on Crime? Not in this bailiwick - and certainly not when the PM's wife is a senior judge and partner in a law firm that specialises in "Human Rights" law. A gold mine for her if ever I saw one!

As for tough on the causes of crime, well, that's a joke too. It seems that our political masters think that one of the causes of crime is that some people have worked hard and earned enough to have a few pennies set aside so they can afford nice homes and some luxuries - while their constituents have grown up on benefits and are therefore in some way "deprived" of their right to help themselves to what everyone else has to earn the hard way. Crime, in study after study, has several roots, one is certainly deprivation, another, and perhaps more important, is a lack of clear distinction in what is now considered "unfashionable" - morality based on a faith of one sort or another. Let's face it, if you believe that this life is all there is ever likely to be, why not break all the rules and murder, rape and pillage your way to a comfortable lifestyle. Go ahead, Mister Blair and Co would seem to think that rewarding those who do, particularly the young yobs who make some city centres no go zones, is a way to make them consider becoming model citizens.

No society in the world has ever succeeded in creating a just and moral society without some belief system to underpin it. That is where our secularisation of society is failing us. The more the political elite try to brush religion aside and a life code, the more effort is put into promoting the flawed concept that "humanity is good - it is society that makes them go bad" is promoted by the humanists, the more of a social breakdown we will see. Blind respect for someone is never good, but we now live with a generation that has no respect for experience (even of the kind that helps us make a different mistake the next time!), no respect for authority and no respect whatsoever for the law - primarily because we are now so over regulated that we all break a half dozen or more laws every day without even being aware of it!

The Home Secretary and his cohorts in the Home Office still believe that they can fix the problem by setting the police and the courts more "targets", unrealistic and meaningless statistical measurements which divert the police from actually doing their job - preventing crime and putting criminals behind bars for realistically tough sentences. Listening to his patter on the Breakfast Show I'm afraid I was somewhat underwhelmed by the spin. I honestly believe that this is now so far out of their limits of understanding that neither the civil servants nor the politicians have got a clue what to do. Of one thing we may be sure, that whatever they do will see tax rise, less real policing and a lot more crime. Oh, and more law-abiding citizens charged with defending themselves.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:05 AM | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Iranian arrogance; Western impotence

Yet again the Iranian Republican Guard have pulled off a spectacular and totally illegal seizure of British seamen and Royal Marines in a blatant act of piracy. The claim that our boats were in Iranian waters is a barefaced lie - it is the Iranians who were on the wrong side of the waterway - that is why our boats are monitored on radar and through GPS links. Their base and base ships know at all times exactly where they are and so do they. Ergo, the Iranian Republican Guard has committed what amounts to an invasion - if not an act of war. The only response if our people are not released, and their equipment returned within the shortest possible time is to sink every Iranian vessel that dares to show itself anywhere on the waterway. Sadly, our peaceniks in the MoD will not allow that to happen - and the Iranians know it.

Blair can bluster and posture all he likes, the Iranians will strip our boats (they never ever returned the last lot they seized equally illegally!), beat up our seamen and their RM colleagues and then, after parading them with sham "confessions" on Arab TV, will send them home ignominiously. And Blair and his coterie of luvvies will do exactly nothing about it at all.

What is more, with our fleet reduced to a squadron, with no strike aircraft and no carriers to call on for air support (shades of the Japanese invasion of Malaya in 1941 and the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse!) there is not even the capacity to stregthen our presence in the Shatt al Arap. This latest raid was well planned and well executed, our boats were shadowed by several Iranian boats who then closed in at high speed when reinforcements arrived and left our people with the option of a fire fight against superior numbers and firepower, or surrender. The MoD should be very proud of their estimated manpower and equipment requirements for this area, you would have though they would have learned from the last episode - but that pre-supposes that either the Civil Service or the Westminster carrion can actually learn. Patently they cannot.

Sadly, the outcome of this debacle will be to leave the extremist Republican Guard looking superior to anything the Western Infidel is able to do, and the Western Democracies looking weaker than ever.

Blair and his anti-military party should be congratulated. All that remains is for us to surrender at the earliest moment to the Iranian government.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2007

The Climate Change sham ....

The climate change debate has recently featured on a number of blogs and in the media, most notable one in the UK was the show on C4. There has also been some fluttering in various scientific journals with some serious scientists demanding that their names be removed from various papers apparently "rewritten" to suit political rather than scientific outcomes.

There is a very good debate on this issue on On The Third Hand, although the main debate is in the comments section. Unfortunately, the link to the Google Video Clip no longer works, but I'm sure it can be tracked down by the determined. Well worth the reading.

The whole debate is particularly pertinent to the Monk at present as there is a group currently engaged in trying to drive the Abbey community into "Greening" the Abbey. So far they have come up with:
- Insulating the walls,
- Insulating the roof,
- Turning off the heating during the week,
- Changing all our lights to low wattage "energy efficient" bulbs,
- Covering the roof with Photo Voltaic cells and filling the voids with the battery packs to run our lighting and organ motors, and
- Encouraging the congregations to "turn down their thermostats".

Well, my response was perhaps a little robust. And just for the record, we now know and can prove, that when the Abbey was built in 1102 - 1141 this area was a whole lot warmer in climate than it is now! In all seriousness there is no way that we could insulate the walls - they are nearly twelve feet thick and solid stone. The same goes for the roof voids - double layer of close boarding (Some of it going back seven hundred years!) covered by lead and sitting over a stone Lierne Vault which is around four feet thick and thicker in some places than that! Changing the light bulbs is not as easy as it sounds. In fact its a non-starter until we change every single light fitting - and the lighting system because you cannot use dimmers with energy efficient bulbs and they don't make energy efficient Halogen lamps. Again, we would have to spend of the order of £20k to replace the lights and the controls to save around £500 a year.

Turning off the heating during the week would have a disasterous effect on the three organs and, as an experiment last years showed, result in a large amount of money having to be spent on repairing them every few months! As for covering the roof in PV cells, well, the life of a PV Panel is between three and five years, so we would spend, assuming we could even get English Heritage to consider the proposal, something of the order of £40k in order to save around £900 a year in cost of our lighting. I estimate that it would take us 45 years to pay it off - assuming we didn't have to replace a single panel until then!

Most of our congregation already do take sensible steps to conserve energy, and really, telling some of the older ones to turn their thermostats down on their heating would be the equivalent of suggesting they commit suicide.

Climate change is a serious issue. It does and will affect us all, but it is, in my view, complete and utter stupidity to think that we can change the course of nature. Think back to the comic books of the 1950's and 60's and the concept in many of them that by the end of the twentieth century we would either be able to control the weather using satellites or live in vast domed and closed city environments. It is time we stopped all rushing about trying to change things we have no control over and stopped letting politicians and the media scare the living daylights out of the tree hugger fraternity and looked at this problem rationally and seriously.

Yes, well, Hell has just formally announced it is experiencing an Ice Age.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:11 AM | TrackBack

March 24, 2007

Travelling by train ...

Mausi has to do quite a bit of travelling at the moment. Tuesday afternoon saw her boarding one of the latest generation of the high-speed ICE trains on her way to a seminar in Essen. Essen is quite a big town in the former coal and steel industry area of Germany. The train was really nice, especially as the journey would take a little over 2 hours Mausi was entitled to travelling first class. It was all leather seats as in an aeroplane with a socket at each seat to plug in your laptop.

The first leg of the journey took Mausi along the old railway tracks along the western bank of the river Rhine. This bit is one of the most beautiful in Germany because from the train you have a first class view of all vineyards and the castles along the river. About three quarters of an hour later the train reached Koblenz situated where the Mosel flows into the Rhine. Suddenly Mausi heard the following announcement: "Dear passengers, we have to inform you that someone has chained his bike to this ICE train. We shall have to wait for the police to remove him and the bike from this train." Well! The whole procedure cost ten minutes. Mausi was relieved she didn't have to catch any connections that day.

Entrance to the pedestrian precincts of Essen

But her troubles were far from over. Once she had reached Essen her next challenge was to find the hotel she had been booked into. It was supposed an eight minutes walk from the central station to this hotel. Mausi had used the map guide programme at her office computer to print out the appropriate section of Essen City. As always the computer had been reluctant to reveal street names and printed useless informational tags about the street names that actually showed up on the map. Still, Mausi felt confident that she could take a shortcut through the pedestrian precinct. Looked like child's play, really. Well, somehow Mausi must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and was utterly lost after walking for half an hour in the fading daylight. In the end she decided to swallow her pride and ask someone for directions. The advice was simple: take the underground back to the central station and start again. So Mausi explored Essen underground and started out from the central station again in search of her hotel. This time she avoided the scenic road and simply kept to the big and busy avenues.

It worked like magic - after less than 10 minutes Mausi stood in front of her hotel, a very ugly concrete cube that looked more like a multi-storey car park than like a hotel. Certainly a leftover from the 70's of the last century. The entrance looked extremely uninviting and a small sign said: Hotel 7th floor. When Mausi arrived at the 7th floor the interior of the hotel which only occupied that one storey looked much better than anticipated. Mausi's room was ok. But she had to take a shower next morning in an extremely narrow bathtub with the curtain trying to cling to her all the time - arrrgggghhhhhhh! Breakfast was surprisingly good, though, and the view from the 7th storey would have been grand if it hadn't rained cats and dogs all morning.

'Haus der Technik', where Mausi's seminar took place

In the evening Mausi arrived at the station again after her seminar in good time to catch her train back home. The train arrived at Essen 5 minutes late - ggrrrr! this time Mausi had to catch a connection at Cologne with only five minutes to change platforms. Changing platforms at Cologne station means you have to rush down a flight of stairs and up another. The first task, however, was to find her seat. As the first class carriages did not stop in the section of the platform they were supposed to stop, Mausi had literally to fight her way through 4 2nd class carriages which were crammed with people and then shoo a young man out of the seat she had a reservation for. Mausi wouldn't have minded him sitting there if there had been any other unoccupied seats but there weren't - so he had to go. Thankfully sinking down into the seat Mausi had almost given up hope of catching the connecting train but surprisingly the train from Essen to Cologne made good speed and gained three minutes back. At Cologne Mausi rushed out of the train and arrived on the other platform at the same time her train did. From that point it was an easy journey back home for her.

Posted by Mausi at 10:57 PM

March 23, 2007

Gordo's give-aways ...

Seems to me that our dear Chancellor has done a very neat sleight of hand in his budget. In fact, if I wasn't one of those hit in the pocket (Nothing new there then!) I could quite admire the masterful piece of sleight of hand he has pulled off. First, the BIG bit of generosity, scrapping the 10% tax band for lowest income earners. Well, big deal, I happen to be one of those hit hard by that, because my pension is under £10k a year. So, for me, the tax rate just went up 10%. Ah, but wait, the Chancellor has been very generous, he has increased the tax allowance for pensioners - but only if you are over 65 - so that rules me out again. My local tax office is as sympathetic as ever, "well, of course it is hard for those who fall outside the net Mister X, but there are inevitably some losers no matter what!" Yes, there are, as long as it's not the Civil Servants and their Political Masters that's quite OK then isn't it.

Oh, and his BIG tax cut. Ah, well, that doesn't take effect until NEXT year. So, actually, he hasn't given the poorer end of the scale a damned thing. But he has raised the threshold for the top rate of tax, so all those nice champagne socialists who vote for him in the City can enjoy a nice little tax break. Funny that, throughout the years I was one of the so-called "middle income earners" he refused to make that change because people like me who were always just inside the higher rate zone, were "rich" and didn't qualify for all the breaks available below the "middle income group" (defined by the ever loving Civil Service as anything between £25k and £40k per year) and we certainly didn't get enough to take advantage of the tax breaks available to the people on the top brackets. Of course if I were to set out an father a whole herd of illigitimate children I could, I suppose, claim this ephemeral "Family Credit" which is supposed to be better than the former "Married Persons" allowance, but then probably not. Its so complicated to get onto it that most people aren't claiming their actual entitlement. What about Child Support. Ah, well, as a male I am NOT entitled to that even if I did have the proverbial set of rug rats to feed. THAT gets paid to the mother, mere males might just spend it all down at the local boozer you see. So single overage males just continue to get what they have always had, a good shafting at every opportunity and a demand that we continue to pay for the hordes of worthless pen pushers and sycophants in Whitehall and Westminster.

Looking at his latest adjustment to corporate tax, one has to ask which boardrooms have managed to engage his services. It will be interesting to see what Directorships he picks up when he is eventually kicked out of Downing Street and hopefully Westminster. At least we will then know who handed him the sweetners for this one. Small businesses have, according to him, been evading tax. So, the answer is raise their tax band and put the squeeze on them, then lower the rates for the really big players and give them further breaks for "research" and "investment". For both of those read "sweetners".

I suppose I could develop a "victim" mentality here, because all too often it is my generation, those born between 1943 and 1949 who seem to get shafted by the politicians at every turn. We always seem to be in that undefined zone where any change to pensions, tax or any other aspect of employment or income, seems to benefit those ahead or behind us - but hits us right in the wallet, bank account or investments. We are always the ones who don't qualify for the "new" deal or have our membership of the original deal curtailed. Just once in a while it would be nice to get included in something that actually benefits us.

I suppose I should be grateful, I don't drive a Chelsea Tractor and I drink very little anyway. With the extra tax coming out of my already shrunken pension, I couldn't afford to keep the tractor and I certainly can't afford to do much more drinking once the extra tax has been docked. I do trust that increasing the tax on beer while not hitting the Scottish Distilling trade isn't an anti-English thing, or we could really get paranoid about this budget.

Well, I suppose we can but live in hope that this malignant fraud will soon be history, but his legacy is unlikely to be disturbed by the likely successors - another bunch of self-interested idiots if ever I saw any.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 22, 2007

The joys of public transport ....

Subject: FW: Tube Announcements

I was going to add my tuppence worth of comment on the Thief of Downing Streets latest piece of sleight of hand, but figured I'd leave it to others less opposed to the political chichancery that is Whitehall and Westminster. So, what to blog. Well, here I am going to cheat quite a bit. My eldest daughter sent me these gems - and given that Mausi had a most interesting journey yesterday on a Deutschebahn ICE train (First Class of course!) - but she can tell that story herself.

Travelling around London on the ube can be an interesting experience. Trains can be delayed, run to their own version of the timetable, skip stations, and, of course, are packed. In summer it is even worse, because aircon was an unknown when the system was built and the trains are the mechanism for driving the ventilation ..... So, train stops, no ventilation. At rush hour that can be a very trying experience! Anyway, the following are all announcements, very unofficial ones, that have been heard on the tube. Guess the drivers and platform staff have a rough time too under the management they have to work with.


A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers.. .

1) "Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction."

2) "Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let you know any further information as soon as I'm given any."

3) "Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our destination."

4) "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall.....'."

5) "We are now travelling through Baker Street... As you can see, Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about things like that".

6) "Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me."

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: "Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman... unfortunately, towels are not provided."

8) "Let the passengers off the train FIRST!" (Pause .) "Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home...."

9) "Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with 'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate instructions."

10) "Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors."

11) "We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.

12) "To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage - what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?"

13) "Please move all baggage away from the doors." (Pause..) "Please move ALL belongings away from the doors." (Pause...) "This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bl**dy golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your a**e sideways!"

14) "May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground.
However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:01 PM | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

Definitely a change of .....

A friend recently sent me the image below. It took me back to my 'teens, when I used to sail a fourteen foot long dinghy out to sea from the Yacht Club of which I (and my family) were members. Located on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa and being the country's only river harbour it used to see a lot of interesting sea creatures. And sailing a dinghy of the Sprog Class meant you generally had a lot of opportunity to meet some of them rather too close for comfort.

Definitely the time to act very calmly, and try to give the impression you really aren't edible!

Sprogs were exciting boats to sail. Fast, lively and very handy, they required a skipper and a forehand. Fourteen feet overall, they were Bermudan sloop rigged (Jib and Mainsail) and the hull was a streamlined version of the GP14 type common in the UK at about the same time. The Sprog had a small cockpit and was narrower on the same length as the GP14. Her sail plan was also slightly larger and, well handled, liked nothing better than to get up on her chines and plane through the water.

Anyway, I sailed one of these from about my fourteenth birthday until I left East London for Port Elizabeth after leaving school. On one occassion my crew and I, sailing well out into the harbour entrance, in light airs, encountered a shark that was bigger than our boat. We learned a lot about sharks in the hour or so it spent following us around the course. Good thing we didn't know that this particular type was known to occassionally attack boats. Apparently some of them had discovered that edible goodies came in boats ....

The picture took me back to the moment we first saw our shark. It was about the same size as this one ........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:21 AM | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

Disgraceful incompetence

The news today that really got me going was the revelation that seven thousand servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured in Blair's little adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are still fighting their way through the bureaucracy for the compensation they are entitled too. The MoD's usual lying mouthpiece says "everything possible is being done to expedite matters". Quite. In short, when enough of them have given up all hope and withdrawn their claims - we'll get around to dealing with the hardliners.

If this involved a member of the useless, incompetent, worthless and overpaid coterie of civil servants who have infested Whitehall and multiply their numbers exponentially without reason putting in a claim it would have been processed ages ago. Why then are these servicemen and women, many of whom are no longer able to serve or to work thanks to the wounds they have received, having to wait? Some of them have been waiting for over EIGHTEEN MONTHS! Without any other income - because their military disablility pensions are being withheld pending the outcome of their compensation claims! And what precisely is the MoD doing about getting it sorted out? Not a lot, after all, their main priority is to ensure that their pensions, their knighthoods and their nicely redecorated offices are purged of all traces of any Armed Services representatives.

Starting from the top of this disgraceful pile of ordure the relevant Minister should:

- Order the Permanent Under Secretary to settle all outstanding claims within seven days and deal with all subsequent claims within fourteen days,
- Resign his Ministerial post having sacked all the senior Civil Servants and all the Middle tier Civil Servants who have sat on this problem and failed miserably to deal with it, and
- request a Parliamentary investigation into the incompetence of the entire Civil Service and of the Treasury in particular.

Is it likely to happen? Of course not - the whole damned pile of sycophantic, symbiotic and parasitic leeches that is the Civil Service and the political establishment of this country is entirely Teflon coated and unlikely to change a thing. The losers will always be the boys and girls who join the services in good faith - only to be shafted again and again by these worthless and utterly immoral scum.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:42 PM | TrackBack

The Chancellor like Stalin? Really?

Well, the commentator on that one, an ex-VERY senior Civil Servant (who got a Peerage out of his years of doing nothing) says our Chancellor is rude, dictatorial and refuses to discuss anything with his colleagues and civil servants. Then, of course, he was 'surprised' when his remarks were published by the Financial Times. Oh dear. Really?

It probably doesn't help that said civil servant used to be the Permanent Under Secretary to the Treasury. That ought to put him in a position to really know where the bodies are lurking .......

And the Chancellor is the man Mister Blair announced today will not have to be elected to the post of Prime Minister - unless there is some serious opposition to him becoming that from within the Labour Party. How typically Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist - in fact how typically Left wing. What do the people know? Not enough to be trusted with doing what we want them to do! Funny that, until recently, the Prime Ministers resignation generally meant the government fell with him or her and the voters got to choose a new one - not the Party hacks. Silly me, perhaps we do live in a Stalinist State and .....

Sorry, the knock at the door could be Tony's Thought Police. I'd better stop there ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2007


The Monk has spent the last couple of days working on a project for a client. This has involved looking at a series of Regulations drafted in the last six years by our Wonders of Whitehall and trying to extract enough information to make sense of them. Now in the ordinary course of events that should be straight forward, but the client wanted some specific information, and that is a lot more complicated!

To begin with the client wanted to verify the contents of a certain section of one particular set of regulations. Guess what, he had the right section. He even had the right regulations, but our Whitehall W*****s have helpfully posted a "Consolidated Text" on their website - which omits the specific regulation! It appears that it was omitted in error when the regulations were re-written six years ago replacing an earlier set, which included this specific requirement, and it has taken them this long to realise it. So, Whitehall solution number one; draft a new Statutory Instrument with that regulation on it. Solution number 2 omit it from your consolidation, finally stick a date in the future on it for it to come into force! The fact that this leaves several enforcing agencies high and dry and liable for all kinds of accusations if it should go wrong in the meantime - which it has - doesn't seem to worry them. After all, its not going to be their problem is it? Not likely, the Minister will make the usual non-answers in the House, the poor b*gger on the sharp end will be hung out to dry and the rest will collect their big fat pensions and their knighthoods and go merrily on their way rejoicing.

Obviously the Monk is far to professional - he always took the can when he got it wrong. Must be why he didn't get the big pension and the gongs.

He did mention that his client is a Barrister about to defend someone over an alleged failure covered by the missing regulation didn't he ........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:00 PM | TrackBack

March 18, 2007

Lenten thoughts

Over the period of Lent we at the Abbey have a tradition of using the Office of Compline on Thursday evenings, preceded by a short address, as a way of preparing for our Easter celebration. Each week a different member of the ministry team leads it and gives the address and last week it was my turn.

The speakers who preceded me in this had spoken of the Coronation Oath and the implication of the crown imposed on Jesus before the crucifixion. This was followed by the Lord Abbot who spoke on the horrow of the crucifixion itself. He described for us the details of how the victim died by this means - and it could take several days. So my theme had to follow on from these. I chose to speak on the Kingship of the Suffering Servant and my short address is in the extended post below.

And now, I use the greeting from the Office of Compline itself.

The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.


My Brothers and sisters in Christ, be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist, steadfast in the faith.
But thou O Lord, have mercy upon us.

Thanks be to God.

The Almighty and merciful Lord,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,
Bless us and preserve us.

Compline Address
Tewkesbury Abbey
15th March 2007

Luke 4: 5 – The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

In the last few weeks we have heard Father John speak on the Coronation of King’s and on the terrible travesty that was Christ’s crown of thorns. We have heard Father Paul speak of the horror of crucifixion – the death prescribed for slaves who rebelled and we spend Lent in contemplation of the events which will lead to both that crowning and the death on the cross, but we do so in the hope of the resurrection, not in the fear of death.

Luke tells us of the temptations in the wilderness during the forty days Christ spent preparing for his ministry. A ministry that would lead to his death. A ministry of service to those who accepted his teaching and a ministry which speaks very strongly of the calling to servitude rather than Kingship.

During his ministry Jesus several times shocked his audience by adopting the tasks of a servant, by performing acts associated with the underclass, the slave and the indentured servant rather than the expected role of the Davidic Messiah. This understanding is picked up by St Paul who several times in his writings describes himself as a “prisoner” of Christ and uses language and associations suggestive of a “bondage” or slave relationship rather than a freedom and free choice.

St Patrick, whose feast is on Saturday spent his youth as a slave in Ireland and then, when he returned, voluntarily adopted the tonsure of a slave to mark himself as the servant of Christ. As he wrote in his Confessio, “For I am very much God’s debtor, who gave me so great grace that many people were reborn in God.” It is clear from his writing that his mission in Ireland he regards as a new slavery – one in which he has willingly given himself to God. His original slavery he recognises as the slavery of sin, his new position is a willingness to serve his saviour.

St Paul called himself a “prisoner of Jesus", an image he uses in Ephesians, in the letter to Philemon and in his letters to Timothy. Nor is he alone, in using this description of his ministry, for other writers use it as well. Yet their understanding of the status they give themselves as slave or servant is a reflection of a different understanding of that term, an understanding of what it means to have given oneself wholly to the service of the greatest servant of all – our saviour Jesus Christ.

Like Paul, like Patrick, like Timothy and Philemon. Like Onesimus, we are all called to the service of our Lord and Lent is a time to remember that the World is His and yet he put it aside to become the suffering servant, to die upon a cross the death of a slave, to wear the crown of thorns in mockery of his own Kingship.

As we continue in our Lenten preparations can we, dare we, give ourselves to him as Paul, Timothy, Philemon, Onesimus and Patrick did, that forsaking our own desires, wishes and comforts we seek only to serve the Lord in all that we do and in all that we are.

He died for us as a slave would die; he washed the feet of his disciples as the lowliest household slave should have done. He showed himself to be the suffering servant rather than the triumphant King, yet, in that act of service, He showed us the true Kingship. That is the Kingship that we are also called to emulate, the Kingship of service to our Lord and in him to one another. As we walk forward towards Easter we can only echo the words of St Patrick in his Confessio:

Hence let me render unto him for all that he has done to me. But what can I say, or what can I promise to my Lord, as I can do nothing that he has not given me?

St Paul wrote, “In Christ there is no slave or free, no Greek or Roman, no male or female, for in Christ we are all free.” But it is a freedom that comes at the price of serving, of being the lowliest servant. Are we prepared to pay the price?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

Magonus Sucatus Patricius

"I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Portitus, a priest of the village Bannavem Taburnia; he had a country seat near by, and there I was taken captive."

Thus begins one of the only two documents that can be traced authentically to the authorship of the man we know as Saint Patrick, apostle to the Irish, who lived between 385 AD and 461 AD. At the age of fourteen he was seized by raiders at his father's estates somewhere near the mouth of the Severn, and taken to be sold as a slave in Ireland. There he remained as a slave for six years before he ran away, escaping on a ship to Gaul and then placing himself in a monastery.

His return to Ireland is a convoluted story and not without some irony as he was not the first, nor even the second choice for the task. Nor was his mission the first to attempt to bring Christianity to the Irish - yet his dogged acceptance and his steadfast faith seems to have been what the Irish found so irresistable. The slave returned to conquer the slavers, with love and faith instead of the sword and destruction. Patrick brought the fire of faith to Ireland, it was the fire of his love for God that sustained him throughout what he regarded as a God imposed exile. He missed his family and yearned for the comforts of their home and presence, but felt driven to fulfil what he considered was the task God had set him in penance for a 'sin' he had committed in his youth. We do not know what that 'sin' was, we may guess, but we cannot know. What we do know is that it haunted him throughout his period as a slave and throughout his ministry.

Typical of the man he chose to have the monks and clergy of the Irish or Celtic Church wear a tonsure which should have been the badge of shame to him - the tonsure forced upon all slaves in Ireland at that time.

Would he recognise the beanos held in his name all over the world with green beer, green clothes and all manner of supposedly ultra-Irishness? I think he'd be appalled, precisely because he loved God before all things and sought to serve God in the only way he knew - as a slave of God.

I shall be marking his feast with meditation and prayer - as he would have marked any festival. And just after Easter I will be visiting his grave in Downpatrick. He was steadfast in faith and steadfast in duty. A true man of God. Below is an English poetic version of a poem ascribed to him in the Gaelic version.

St Patrick's Lorica - translated from the Gaelic by C F Alexander, set to music by C V Stanford

I bind unto myself today The strong Name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:19 AM | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Pandora's Box once opened ....

Recently I was told that Stephen Hawking thinks that the reason we have not been contacted by any superior space faring race is that they have all blown themselves up at about the same point in development as we have reached. Well, that has certainly refueled the "Unilateral Disarmament" debate. Why is it that in the face of all evidence to the contrary, the morons who support the idea that if we, the British people, give up all our weapons, everyone else will do so too? They tried it in the 1920's and 30's and look where that got us all. They have been trying to disarm us since 1945 - and very nearly succeeded - proclaiming that we would be "better red than dead!" Now they think that if we surrender our defensive capability, that the likes of Iran and every other funny bunny regime will give up their ambitions to overthrow our society and impose their idea of Utopia.

It is edifying just how many of Blair's Cronies are jumping ship so that they can vote with the rest of their ex-hippie, pot-smoking "Peaceniks" against the retention of our nuclear deterent. All the usual garbage about how much more we could spend on the NHS, Education and all their usual hiding places and gravy trains - if only we didn't spend it on defence. Considering that we spend less per capita on defence than any other EU nation and certainly less per capita than any one of the states threatening to blow us away if they get the chance, I find this posturing in Westminster absolutely sickening. At least - for this occassion - sense seems to have prevailed and we are, it seems, to build the next generation submarine fleet and missile/warhead system.

Once something has been removed from Pandora's Box, it cannot be put back again. Once nuclear weapons were built and used they can never be "disinvented". They are a fact of life and we now have to live with that - throwing away our capability as these idiots wish to do is sheer lunacy in this unstable and morally bankrupt age.

Tacitus wrote almost two thousand years ago - "Si vis pacem; para bellum". It is as true today as it was then.

He who seeks peace; is prepared for war.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

Ernst August II

Just in case you have wondered - Mausi has not expired, she's just buried under a huge workload at the moment. With the Easter hols approaching rapidly more and more things get heaped onto her desk. Like this business trip to Hannover a few days ago. It wasn't as bad as anticipated, the business part went smoothly in the morning and Mausi had a few minutes to sit outside beautiful Hannover Central Station in the warm spring sunshine enjoying the almost Mediterranean atmosphere of the street cafes all around her and renewing her aquaintance with Ernst August II, Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (since 1837).

This equestrian statue was given to Ernst August by his people

Ernst August II was born in London in 1771 as a son of King George III of Great Britain and Ireland. He lived at a time when the Germany we know today was still an assortment of various little kingdoms. Mind you, with our 16 Federal States and the behaviour of the 16 Ministerpräsidenten (Heads of these states) I sometimes think not much has really changed. In 1837 Ernst August abolished the Constitution of Hanover which at that time was only four years old and became king.

The abolition of the Constitution was strongly opposed by seven professors from Göttingen University known as the "Göttinger Sieben" (The Seven of Göttingen). Ernst August simply dismissed them from their posts. Apparently life was a lot simpler in those days. All the same these professors and their "outrageous" behaviour as well as their apologias contributed decisively to the development of liberalism in Germany.

Ernst August died in 1851 in Hannover. He was probably not such a bad King after all.

Posted by Mausi at 08:59 PM | TrackBack

March 14, 2007

Greening the Monk

After a little over forty years since he last owned a bicycle, the Monk has acquired a new one. It has twelve gears. It has wide tyres. It has two gear levers. It will shortly acquire "spray shields" (they used to be called "mudguards"!) and a carrier with panniers so he can do his grocery shopping by bicycle instead of getting the car out.

Actually, it has been a busy day. But I would have to say that the bicycle has already had its first outing so I could run an errand in a short space of time between other calls. Compared to the last bike I owned this is probably the equivalent of changing up from a Morris Minor to a Ford Mondeo, but I have already discovered that the twelve gears make quite a difference - once you figure out how to change them and which direction to change them in!

And I get to get fit again. Now that is probably an upside - but I will be drawing the line at cycling in the rain and snow! The car will still get used in those conditions - green or not!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

Heightened Security Alerts

Coutesy of my daughter. Apologies to the originator, but I felt I had to share it this way!

The English are feeling the pressure in relation to recent terrorist threats that have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross". Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody Nuisance". The last time "A Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French who are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased its alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to "Elaborate Military Posturing". Two more levels remain: "Ineffective Combat Operations" and "Change Sides".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish Navy can get a really good look at the Old Spanish Navy.

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

March 12, 2007

Keeping a perspective

A big issue currently exercising the minds of the evangelically inclined and liberal members of the Church of England is the two hundredth anniversary of the prohibition of the carriage of slaves in British Ships. It took another thirty years for the owning of slaves to be outlawed in the British Colonies and a further thirty before this happened in the Southern States of the USA. In Spanish, Portugese and Arab controlled countries it continued for some time longer. In fact, in some Arab countries it continues still, although now disguised and even in Europe it has re-emerged in a different and possibly more pernicious form.

Several things make my blood boil whenever this issue is raised in any forum run by the evangelical liberals now organising a "March of Witness on Parliament", mostly the fact that they conveniently ignore a number of important facts in apportioning blame for this evil trade. One in particular got me going yesterday and several people got savaged by this impenitent Monk as a result.

I took exception to the description of the 18th Century Royal Navy as existing only to protect the British interests in the Slave Trade. Their contribution to the freedom exercised by every single Briton today means nothing - they existed only to protect the slave traders according to one speaker. The many thousands who died suppressing it - some of whom lie forgotten and neglected in Port Royal, Jamaica - are now seen as "oppressors" and "slavers". The fact that they suppressed the horrendous piracy in the Caribbean driving such luminaries and "freedom fighters" as Henry Morgan (whose amusement included betting on whether a near term pregnant slave was carrying a boy or a girl and then cutting her open to see which!), Blackbeard Edward Teach and many other equally psycopathic murderers from the seas, is now a worthless effort designed only to protect the slavers. I'm afraid a large group got a history lesson that pinned their ears back - and they are now in no doubt of my opinion of such revisionist history!

Secondly they are celebrating an event which, for all its good intentions, was so badly managed that it has locked certain nations and peoples into poverty for the last two hundred years and very probably for at least that long again for the future. All very well telling people one morning - congratulations, you're now free, please vacate the slave quarters immediately and by the way, you haven't got a job, an income or the means to support yourself, but what were the consequences? Great planning, and even greater idiocy was to think it could all work itself out! OK, so the Bishop of Exeter got a thousand pounds in compensation for the slaves he owned. What did the freed slaves get? Just a lot of grief and hardship by the look of it - and once again it was idiots like the group that annoyed me yesterday who "planned" the whole thing and actually thought they had done a good job! In one country alone three hundred thousand ex-slaves were out on the street without the means to support themselves. Is it any wonder that their nation now has the highest crime rate in the Western Hemisphere?

But another aspect which really annoys me about this is that, in focussing on the African Slave trade, this group have ignored the fact that right into the early part of the 19th Century Barbary corsairs regularly raided Cornwall and North and South Devon and even south west Ireland to carry off slaves to North Africa. The Royal Navy spent an inordinate amount of time pursuing them and trying to suppress this, but, with a world wide conflict in progress against Napoleon (in defence of our "slave trade" of course!) they were pretty stretched! And, Cornwall, Devon and Ireland were far enough away from the London Coffee Houses and the anti-slavery league that they could conveniently ignore the misery of our own people suffering in this way. The southern French coast, Italy, Sicily and Spain all suffered these raids as well - but I hear not one word of condemnation from our present crew of blame the "British Empire" pundits. Again they ignore completely the fact that it was the Royal Navy that suppressed this in Algiers in 1836 and freed literally thgousands of European slaves from there! But that doesn't fit the picture os us as nasty slave owning oppressors does it? Nor, it must be said, have I heard anything at all from this same bunch of whimps and intellectual cowards, about the fact that Christian boys and girls in the Sudan are regularly seized - usually on the pretext that their parents are debtors or rebels - and sold into slavery serving Muslim masters and families. They are not recognised by the UN and the rest of our Western revisionists as slaves for two reasons - they are Christian (and therefore oppressors!) and their Masters are those nice cuddly Muslims - whose religion condones slavery.

One of yesterdays statements which really got me going was "the Royal Navy regularly sent ships up the rivers to collect slaves for the slave traders!" Like hell they did, they were sent up the rivers yes, but to suppress the tribal wars which were feeding slaves to the coast and the various "factories" on the coast. Again the idiot making this statement had no knowledge of the Ashanti Kingdom's part in this or of the Barbary pirates and their raids into Cornwall and the rest! He even tried to say I was making it up. Well, he has now seen the error of that little exercise, since he got presented with my sources!

Why should we grovel and apologise for the actions of our forebears? It was a different age and a different understanding, I do not approve of it, and I certainly will not tolerate it in so far as it lies in my power to prevent it, but I see no reason to tell me to apologise for something my forebears actually gave their lives suppressing! If we want to extend that a bit further, will the Spanish apologise for the many British seamen that died chained to the oars of their galleys? Will the Irish apologise for the slaves they seized in Roman Britain (including Saint Patrick, seized from his family home - quite possibly on the Severn estuary?), will the Welsh? OK, so the "English" - that peculiar mixture of Celt, Pict, Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Dane that currently inhabit "England", finally bit back - and generally did it better than anyone else. It is neither right nor proper for any man to enslave another, whatever his colour or race. But, let us keep a perspective. The English never sent armies to Africa to collect slaves, they bought them from local chieftains, much easier and much more commercially efficient.

Yes, we played a major role in the slave trade, but I have to ask myself why it is that there is this group in Britain who feel it was all our fault. That we were, and are, the only peoples who must "apologise" for it. Could it be because they represent groups who want to try and milk us for compensation? I am very much of the opinion that that is the underlying motive - and it is as immoral as the apologists version of our history! Our forebears certainly did transport a large number of people across the Atlantic, but why can we not keep the perspective and acknowledge the fact that the Spanish, Portugese, Dutch and French all shipped even larger numbers across the ocean and from even further abroad. Why are they not being told to apologise? And why should the present generation apologise at all?

I feel very strongly that this is simply a distraction. Britain played the most prominent part - and its Armed Forces are the instrument of Westminster, not an independent money maker - in putting an end to this trade in the west. It has never been completely supppressed in Africa and has re-emerged in modern times mainly in the Middle and Far East. If we feel so strongly about it, focus on those still practicing this evil trade - and suppress it. Don't sit here wringing your hands and blaming this generation for the sins of the past! And don't start arguing that the British Armed Forces existed to support and promote it. That is a canard of the highest order and an insult to the many thousands of men who were sacrificed by the do-goody stay at home feel-goody factions that still infest Westminster and Whitehall - and expect everyone else to pay the price.

Grow up, get your history straight and stop trying to pin guilt on those who can no more change the past than you can!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2007

Interesting link

I have just discovered that one of my posts has been linked by a Danish blogger - Uriasposten - in a recent post he has put up on the ongoing controversy over the famour "Prophet Cartoons". It never fails to amaze me how wide the readership of blogs is and I regularly check my meter to see where I have had visitors from. I think, as far as I can tell, that this is the first time I have been linked by a non-English language blog. Quite an achievement I think, its just a pity that I have no Danish at all.

Mausi has some and she has managed to translate enough to identify that the Danish author thought that I had put together a thoughful and reasoned piece on the subject. Flattering to say the least. The relevant part of the link is to be found in Comments at number 49 and again in number 51. My own post is titled "And so it begins ..."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 10, 2007

Strange Titles ...

So now you know who we really are .....

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Duke Gray the Villainous of Herring-le-hole
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Duchess Mausi the Fiendish of Bumpstead under Carpet
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

And some of our friends and family are in the extended post ....

And some of our equally illustrious friends are ....

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Imperial Majesty Nicolas the Edible of Fiddlehope in the Marsh
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Exalted Highness Duchess Allison the Flavoursome of Bismorton Shropcake
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Venerable Lady Valerie the Arboreal of Lesser Wobbleton
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Milady the Most Honourable Bridget the Coherent of Kirkby Overblow
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Highness Philipp the Calm of Fritterton on the Marshes
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:44 PM | TrackBack

March 09, 2007

One of those days .....

I am having one of THOSE days - nothing wants to run smoothly. I am trying to sort out an accumulation of paperwork, stuff I really should take more time over, but am always too impatient to deal with properly. So I have ended up on the phone trying to get some sense out of telephone clerks who neither care nor know enough to be able to point you in the right direction. I have also had conversations with two separate computers - the kind that tell you to choose from a menu, then refer you to a new menu, and you go round and round in circles without ever getting any of the information you want or need - or ever coming into contact with a live operator! One infomred me that the call would be monitored for customer quality. I hope it was - and I sincerely hope they listen carefully to my summary of their service when the frustration level got above my safety limits.

Then I tried to log on to my e-mail account. Forget it. It appears that BT Yahoo are having one of those days as well. They have a major server problem and any customer trying to log on to their account in the normal manner is given a polite notice which says

"Sorry, your attempt to log on has failed!"

Extremely helpful. So I found a back door and got into my mail. Ever tried to find a call number for help when this happens. Yeah, I know, Porcine aviators are cleared for take off on Runway 1 at Heathrow! But I did win that round, I did get to speak to a live operator! At least I think he was ....

Anyway, he tells me that they have a major server outage and that I am one of thousands affected. Well, that's comforting. Misery loves company. So I shall now put on a CD of soothing music, and go and do something away from the computers. Amazing how much satisfaction you get shredding old accounts and other useless bits of paper ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:13 PM | TrackBack

March 08, 2007

Trying things on again!

In case you have noticed, the reason I have posted something with a dateline at the end of the month is to get it to stay at the head of the page for a while ....

I know, thats cheating, but hey, why not?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2007

Menagerie afloat?

In the course of a conversation with someone who is reading my book at present, it struck me that, unless you are familiar with some of the names, titles and terms of reference in England's famed "Wooden Walls" Navy, it could easily be thought that many ships had a menagerie on board. The most obvious one is the "Powder Monkey", a boy aged between about ten and fifteen years (At fifteen they were old enough to be "Rated" as a "man") who carried the cartridge cases from the magazines to the guns during battle. Each boy carried two cartridge cases, each containing a canvas "cartridge" and containing in each up to eight pounds of gunpowder, the charge required for the 32 pounder guns mounted on the lowest deck of a three decker. As each gun fired at least twice in every minute and a half, the boys had to run back and forth and, as anyone who has visited HMS Victory will know, the magazines are well below deck and would not have been lit during a battle for fear of fire!

Powder Monkey.jpg
A Powder Monkey with his cartridge cases from the time of Trafalgar. The artist has depicted a youth in his mid teens and given him a uniform, most were dressed in modified caste-offs from the seamen and would have been a lot younger! Behind him can be seen a "Shot Garland" sitting in a Brass Monkey.

Another "monkey" to be found on shipboard in those days was the "Brass Monkey" - a brass plate caste or drilled with holes in it to allow the ready use cannon "shot" to be kept on deck next to the guns. The bulk of the iron shot would have been stowed low down next to the magazines and again the boys had to run back and forth to maintain a supply of shot to the guns. The shot kept on deck sat in the circular opening in the brass plate and could be displaced during heavy weather, so it was generally secured in place with a canvas cover. However, in very cold weather the differential rate of expansion and contraction in brass and iron meant the balls could be squeezed out of their openings. Hence the expression "Cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey".

In a recent short story soon, I hope, to appear on Amazon.com I have made mention of the stench that pervaded these ships when they were in commission. Again, I have been asked to explain, so here it is.

A 74 gun ship of the line needed a crew of almost 800 men and officers to handle sail and guns. Even so, she could only effectively fight one broadside or the other, not both at the same time, althiough, in extremis it could be done, but at a very reduced rate of fire and very inefficiently. A 32 pounder gun needs sixteen men to serve it, most of them required to "run it up" into a firing position, and the smaller 24 and sixteen pounder guns required proportionately similar numbers. The exception was the huge Carronade, a very short barreled weapon which fired a hollow caste iron ball filled with musket balls and which burst into shrapnel on impact. Victory has two 64 pounders and most 74's carried two or four 32 pounders on the f'o'c'sle. These needed a relatively small crew, but were also very short ranged - althougfh absolutely devastating if they hit. The French referred to them as the "Devil's gun".

Now, pack 800 men into a ship a little shorter than a modern frigate. Remove all thoughts of modern plumbing. The officers washed in basins of tepid water (assuming they washed!) and used a "Commode" as a toilet. So did the Captain and the Admiral. The crew lived mostly on the lower gun deck, each man assigned to a "Mess", a table slung over one of the lower battery guns and slept in a hammock slung fore and aft above it. Each man was allowed six feet length and 15 - 18 inches width. Washing facilities - none bar the deck wash pump. Toilet facilities - the "Heads" two small enclosed spaces with a crude open seat on the beakhead on either side of the bowsprit. In rough weather, not the place to be, so other places, quite commonly the bilges or the scuppers, could be used to relieve oneself - provided you weren't caught doing it! Now add to the stench of 800 men - largely unwashed (and none of this modern fancy deoderant stuff either thank you!) the smell of cooking salt beef or pork and the galley fires, the animals kept in pens on the upper gundeck (and doing what they do to relieve themselves ....) the occassional slaughtering that had perforce to be done on the same deck, and you have a smell that would probably poison the modern nose out of existence within minutes.

They bred them tough in those days. The adage that they were iron men in wooden ships probably extended to their stomachs as well. You don't even want to think about what their water or their meat looked like or tasted of!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:06 AM | TrackBack

March 06, 2007

Intelligent design - or survival tactics?

You tell me. My eldest daughter forwarded this to me, and I am cheating I know, but I am also posting it here!

Not very tasteful, but . . .

Barbara Walters of Television's 20/20 did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan, several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked 5 paces behind their husbands.

She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. From Ms. Walter's vantage point, despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to walk even further back behind their husbands and are happy to maintain the old custom.

Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, "Why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?"

The woman looked Ms. Walters straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said, "Land Mines"


Personally I think that in a few more years the Afghan problem will have resolved itself thanks to a serious overload of maschismo coupled with a suicidal belief in the superiority of the male Afghani!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

March 05, 2007

Owning weapons

In an interesting commentary on the state of the minds behind our anti-defense league in Britain I have stumbled across an interesting piece in the Times Online thanks to Tim of An Englishman's Castle. For some time now we have had to listen to an interminable procession of drips whinging on about "violence begets violence" and that the only way to stoip the cycle is to all surrender to anyone who threatens us. This, so they argue, will eventually mean the destruction of all arms and armaments. Yes, and probably the reappearance of fairies in every garden. The simple fact is that the removal of any threat of retribution, and of any possibility that the victim may fight back, has not seen a reduction in crimes of violence, but the opposite. These crimes, particularly gun crimes, have exploded!

The author of the Times piece points out that in Victorian London gun ownership was widespread, yet gun crime was very low. Primary reason for this was that if everyone is armed, someone may shoot back - and he/she may well be a better shot! That is certainly my interpretation! That said, the figures do speak for themselves as do the reasons behind the progressive restriction of general ownership of weapons and the steady erosion of our right to defend ourselves.

The first restrictions were introduced after WW1 when LLoyd George was afraid that the disillusioned and isaffected soldiers returning from the trenches might join forces with the rising militancy of the Trade Unions to over throw the ruling classes. I suspect that that is far more the reasoning behind Blair's outright ban on the ownership of handguns - the excuse is "public safety" but the truth is that he is afraid of a popular uprising against him and his Whitehall W*****s in the Civil Service.

Do read the Times article, it has some very revealing facts and figures about gun crime and the rising attraction of gun possession by the gangs of today. Do I feel safer in a "gun less" Britain? Not at all - especially since I have no right of self defence and could get arrested for carrying the Dirk in yesterdays post in the street!

Welcome to Big Brother Britain. Only the State and the Gangs are allowed weapons.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:15 AM | TrackBack

Yesterday's Blog

Yesterday MuNu seems to have had a problem with its servers. I could not access the Blog at all to put up a post. Apologies to anyone who missed my usual ramblings!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:12 AM | TrackBack

March 03, 2007

Weapons of honour and war

Several of the readers of the book Out of Time have wondered why a Midshipman would carry a knife and not a sword. This is a misunderstanding, a lot of people hear the word "dirk" and think of the Scottish "Sgain dubh"(Black knife), the small sheath knife that fits into the sock when in Highland Dress. The "Dirk" carried by a Midshipman is, in reality, a small sword as can be seen in the photograph. It was sized to fit a young man of twelve to thirteen when he joined the Navy. Naturally as he grew up he would have made use of a larger weapon if he needed to, yet a dirk in the hands of a small boy at close quarters would have been absolutely lethal.

A Midshipman's Dirk from the early 19th Century. The blade is around 14 inches in length and the overall length is a little over 19 inches.

The carrying of a sword was considered the mark of a gentleman until after the Napoleonic wars so this marked out Midshipmen as being "Officers in training". They were not "Commissioned" but held a Warrant in the same manner as the Sailing Master and Master's Mates aboard the old wooden walls and were, more properly, "Warrant Officers". The Dirk symbolically sat between a sword (Officer and Gentleman) and the Lower Deck "Warrant Officer" who would have carried a cutlass when he needed a bladed weapon. As not yet an officer and not yet considered a "Gentleman" a sword was not appropriate. Certainly the Warrant Officers never "wore" a sword as part of their uniform.

To further complicate matters, following the great mutiny of 1797 when the Fleets at the Nore and at Spithead mutinied in response to Parliament's callous refusal to pay the sailors and their families the monies owed them, Naval officers were required to wear their swords slung from the belt and not on the hip. It is said that this indicates that the King no longer considered them to be "gentlemen", however, I suspect that this is much more to do with the fact that certain elements in parliament were simply being vindictive. Funny how history moves in cicles, because almost a hundred and fifty years later, at Invergordon, the Fleet mutinied again - over Parliament's cutting the pay of sailors by an "across the board" one shilling per week. For an Admiral one shilling in the 1930's was small bear, for a seaman it meant the difference between feeding his family and not doing so. Following that debacle, the Dirk dissappeared as a Midshipman's "sword". I wonder if that was supposed to prevent a bunch of mutinous Midshipmen assaulting their MP's?

Either way, the Dirk carried into battle by Midshipmen was worn with pride as the mark of their status, and it was used on occassion with determination to defend their lives, their ship or their men. It is a proud badge and has an even prouder place in our history. Sadly, I have no doubt that many of our so-called "leaders" today will simply see it as yet another piece of our history to shudder at and attempt to denigrate.

Perhaps we ought to remind them that it was boys carrying these that frequently were sent to board and seize the slave ships and who gave their very lives in suppressing the slave trade. It is a weapon of war yes, but it is also a badge of honour and we should honour those who carried it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:56 AM | TrackBack

March 02, 2007

Another Whitehall Fairy Story ....

The newspaper today is full of the major story - the plight of the Junior Doctors sold down the river by their own British Medical Association and the Senior Consultants who are in bed with the Whitehall W******s who have implimented the latest waste of taxpayers money. The Government has launched yet another "modernisation" on the Health Service. And you would be wrong if you thought it was about delivering a better medical service to patients and a reduction in the wasteful use of funds and acutely short space for waiting rooms and treatment rooms by sacking the infestation of bureacrats. No, this scheme is forcing all our junior doctors to apply for the jobs and specialities they have been studying for or already hold. One can only ask why the BMA even considered for one second supporting this scheme - or why some Consultants seem to have done very well out of supporting it according to the Doctors caught up in the farce. The whole is rapidly developing into yet another expensive and totally unnecessary change for changes sake scheme is imposed on professionals by the faceless and utterly incompetent Wonders of Whitehall.

The Junior Doctors caught up in this disaster are forced to complete an online application form - most of the questions having no direct relationship with anything medical - and then wait to hear if the bureaucrat at the other end has managed to read it; process it; and allocate the doctor to his or her own job. Whitehall doesn't seem to have considered that (a) most Junior Doctors have families and working partners, and (b) may have invested a considerable number of hours or years even in training for their present speciality. So, the faceless wonder processing the form decides the Doctor X is not required for their current post or speciality and either (a) informs them they are no longer required and are on notice, or (b) can continue in the health service but at a new hospital in some other part of the country. The lucky few who get to keep their jobs are also sometimes told they will have to change speciality.

It is nothing short of disgraceful that someone who has invested five years at university and another five years working as a House Doctor in one of our now increasingly disgracefully maintained and managed hospitals is now at the mercy from a career perspective of some jumped up filing clerk who has no university degree, no medical qualification and is simply processing a form designed by some equally unqualified and overpaid consultant. Morale among Doctors has collapsed completely. Understandably they feel betrayed by the BMA and equally understandably they feel bitter and betrayed by the Consultant Physicians and Surgeons who have managed to not only remain in post but have aided the incompetent civil servants in setting this up.

In the 19th Century the Civil Service was created to do away with the rotten "patronage" system. It has not succeeded. In fact it has simply replaced one rotten system with a new one - one that is even more rotten in that it pretends to be based on fairness and openess when it is neither. Pity the Junior Doctors, but I have to say they are simply the latest casualties in the New Labour (Old Socialist) programme of replacing every professional in management of every public service with incompetent civil servants who will do as they are told.

As for the BMA and the senior Medics supporting this process - well, meet the modern face of Judas Iscariot.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:36 PM | TrackBack

March 01, 2007

Another short story for Amazon

I have just submitted another short story to the Amazon.com "Shorts" section. In it I have explored the experiences of my two principle characters from the book "Out of TIme" as they join the Royal Navy in 1801.

The story is set in a few short weeks in late November, early December 1801 as they join the ship and begin the process of learning their new trade. There is a great deal to learn and they soon discover that a ship is a very complex organism, almost with a life of its own. Like my first two stories in this genre it is an exercise in developing the characters and personalities of the people I am writing about and I am finding it both a challenge and great fun. The biggest challenge is trying to write accurately about the handling of the great wooden walls when my only experience of a ship anything like this is on Sydney Harbour in the HMS Bounty replica. Som,e things can be extrapolated from there and from my experience of sailing dinghies and larger craft - but not much!

The test will come I think when someone who knows a bit more about these ships stumbles across it and reads it. In the meantime I hope that some of you at least will give it a read. When it goes live I will provide a link. At $0.49c what have you got to lose?

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