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November 30, 2007

Fuel My Blog

Fuel my blog is an interesting group where you can vote for Blogs you like. Vote for me!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

So Islam is "tolerant" .....

Nothing makes me angrier than any form of religious fanaticism. In fact, about the only thing that comes close is the cant of the Westminster and Whitehall W*****s who insist that Islam is equal or superior to Christianity. All that demonstrates is that they know nothing at all about the beliefs of either. And about now my temper starts to boil over. The news from Sudan that a teacher has been jailed (she could have been flogged and then jailed!) for allowing some of her children students to name a Teddy Bear "Mohammed" is enough to make me angry, but when the Sudanese authorities then proceed to whip up a frenzy that has thousands of protesters out on the streets demanding her death - that is where I draw the line.

Listen up Mister Brown and your Muslim paymasters. England is a Christian country with a Christian tradition that stretches back to the first century AD. You and your PC zealots and your atheist and humanist cohorts (I could add Presbyterian in reference to the fact that much of our present state of secularism and materialism has its origins in the 17th Century heresies and intolerance of that branch of Christianity) have undermined our nation and our culture for long enough. Islam is not capable of rational or reasoned debate at present, any more than the Spanish Inquisition of the 1500's (themselves a response to Islamic activities in Spain in the 1400's) were capable of reasoned or rational debate. The only time England has been that religiously intolerant was under Cromwell's Presbyterians and the Spanish led re-imposition of Roman Catholicism under Mary Tudor. It is time to silence your anti-Christian "hug a Muslim and revile Christianity" apparatchiks and get tough with those of the Islamic faith who yiou and your party have welcomed with open arms into Britain and then encouraged to attack all things tolerant in our nation.

It is time you and the rest of your atheistic followers and propagandists recognised the fact that if you continue to promote the religion of intolerance that is represented by Islam in its present form, the Britain we know will soon cease to exist and be divided into those who convert to the religion of slavery and oppression and those who do not and are thenceforth excluded from all positions of authority. Islam will not and cannot tolerate equality of any other faith, it is an underpinning tenet of their faith that all other faiths are inferior and therefore not to be tolerated irrespective of their own Prophet's injunction that they respect "the people of the Book" ´ that is Christian's and Jews who follow the Bible. That has been the case since the 11th Century when a late Caliph (Descended they claimed from Mohammed) decreed that "the People of the Book" were "Dhimmi".

The Civil Servants of the Foreign Office should be kicked painfully and repeatedly until the teacher concerned is released and returned and Sudan's diplomats expelled along with any Muslim who supports the actions of that ghastly regime. They should be on the next aircraft to the Sudan with cancellation of all rights to return. They want to bring the Sharia Law into Britain, the rest of us will not tolerate that under you Mister Brown or any other government. You insist that we tolerate their attacking our faith and their assaults on our freedoms and particularly the freedom to speak our minds - while at the same time you tolerate their intolerance of every aspect of our society. It is time to call a halt to this farce - if they want the freedom we enjoy they have to accept that we have the right to those freedoms as well - and that includes in the countries they hold sway in. Why is it that only Christians are prosecuted under your "incitement to religious hatred" laws? Every week articles defaming Christ and attacking Christianity appear in Islamic papers and periodicals yet your religious police do nothing about it.

This latest example of the "tolerance" of Islam should be the final warning to all those who promote this multi-cultural mishmash - it won't and can't work. It cannot work as long as Islam sees itself as having the right to overthrow and impose itself on all other religions and nations. The Sudanese have done us a favour - they have exposed their "tolerance" and we would be foolish if we did not take heed.

Islam the religion of peace and tolerance? Not from where I stand - unless, of course, Hell has just started into an Ice Age.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 28, 2007

Wanderings in Poznan....

Well, we have just returned to the hotel with enough time to change for dinner - a "formal" affair we are told, so that means "black tie" at least, although in Poland it could just mean a suit ...

The day has been spent visiting the Provincial Fire HQ, having a traditional Polish lunch which included some really excellent vodka (served cold) and then a visit to a brewery which concluded with a sampling of their wares ... Let's just say that Polish hospitality is great, but there is every chance you will end up overindulging on something and vodka chased by strongish lager probably isn't the best way to prepare for a formal dinner.

That said, the dinner must now be prepared for and I had better go and make up my mind whether to wear the dinner jacket or the suit. Decisions, decisions, and on top of the vodka and lager mix ...

Tomorrow there will be the conference proceedings to get through, hopefully having slept off the effects of the dinner, and then another "formal" dinner to survive. And I give my paper an hour ahead of Mausi's on Friday morning .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:30 PM | TrackBack

November 27, 2007

Wandering in Mainz

Wandering around Mainz we visited the Museum, part of the local Schloss and found a fascinating collection of artifacts from civilizations spanning several millenia. One thing I really do admire in German museums of this sort is that they frequently recreate full sized replicas of things they have excavated and which, for obvious reasons, are no longer intact. Thus, this display includes replicas of the small wagons the Celts frequently buried with their dead leaders. I have previously commented on this when I visited the Museum which houses the recovered remains of a number of Roman ships - and the full sized replicas of two warships from that period.

The River Gate of the city of Mainz - from its design and construction in the lower floors it appears to be built on the original Roman gate.

Walking around the old city is fascinating. Much of this was severely damaged in the period 1939 to 1945, but most of it has been carefully and faithfully restored. The Gutenberg Museum near the Dom is also well worth a visit for this houses books from the dawn of printing including one of the few surviving Gutenberg Bibles. The press he used was actually a converted wine press and his great innovation made possible the printing of multiple pages, but, was still limited to printing a maximum of 72 copies a day. The decoration still had to be done by hand and you can see a replica of his press in use as they demonstrate the making of his type and the setting and printing of a page.

Spotted near the ancient gate, this gargoyle inhabits the wall of a late medieval 'hospital' - now a restuarant.

The restored buildings around the Dom include some really innovative ideas. One, currently under construction has involved the preservation of a row of decorated frontages from the medieval period as a frontage for a new department store and offices. The gargoyles in the picture here provide an idea of the type of unexpected denizen one can meet in wandering some of these old streets. All in all, a place with lots to stir the interest, and I would have to say, people who are welcoming.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:34 PM | TrackBack

November 26, 2007

Let it snow?

Just as well Mausi and I have been busy preparing and fine tuning our presentations for the conference we must attend from Wednesday onwards. This moring we woke up to a world that had turned white overnight - the Taunus mountains where Mausi lives are roughly 465 metres above sea level, almost two hundred higher than the River Rhine, and we have had snow all day. So has quite a bit more of Germany further east and where we will be going tomorrow - Poznan in Poland. I have taken some pictures, but haven't had a chance to downsize them yet so I'm sorry to say, they will have to appear when I get a chance.

From tomorrow posting may well be impossible as we are not sure of online or wifi connections once we go to Poznan. But, we'll do our best to keep you posted - assuming Frankfurt airport and Poznan are still passable for air traffic.

The ground outside at the moment has about three inches of snow covering it and the countryside is really beautiful. The forests around us are dark and brooding though and the birds are all taking shelter from the cold where they can get under eaves and into evergreen shrubs and trees. Mausi the Cat has take roost in the book shelves and refuses to budge, so I guess its cold out there!

On a lighter note, Uberwald has come to the Taunus we think - and we now have to make an expedition to the supermarket for supper. Koom Valley here we come.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:59 PM | TrackBack

November 25, 2007

Sunday in Mainz

Mausi and the Monk took some time out of preparing for the conference to attend church this morning, at the Mainz Dom. This magnificent Romanesque building is unusual because it has a "Sanctuary" at the East end and another opposing it at the West. The transepts cross at the location of the Western Altar and above it soars the lantern of the striking central tower, crowned by a small bell chamber at its very peak. The pews all face West where the Presbytery is situated behind the altar and this was the site of the Mass.

Mainz Dom seen from the Rhine-side esplanade.

We managed to attend the High Mass of the morning, sung by a large all girl choir and set to a rather modern setting. The girls carried it off rather well, but - to someone from my tradition at least - having the congregation applaud them as they processed out at the end of the service came as something of a surprise.

The Monk did wonder - perhaps naughtily - what the reaction of his own Abbey's Verger team would be to being told to wear the rather splendid gold lace trimmed Bicorn hats, dark tail coats with sash and gold eppaulettes, knee breeches and buckle shoes while carrying a staff of office and a mace in procession. Their deportment was splendid as they marched side by side down the central aisle, reminding us that this is the home of a Cardinal Archbishop, no less. The service itself was an interesting experience since the Monk does not have sufficient German to follow the spoken word, although he managed to sing the printed hymns quite well and made te appropriate responses when he could find them in the service missal.

One innovation that he somehow can't see working in the Abbey is the electronic hymn boards - which flash up the hymn number - and the verse to be sung next! Ah, the wonders of technology - Vorsprung durch Technik?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 24, 2007

Conference Time

Posting for the next few days is likely to be erratic as The Monk arrived in Frankfurt am Main this morning to prepare a paper he and Mausi will be sharing in Poznan, Poland, next week. He arrived in brilliant leaving behind a cold and wet Gloucestershire but faces the prospect of snow in Germany and Poland and is very glad he's packed his warm underwear. The Taunus mountains are beautiful as ever, the welcome at Mausi's home was warm and having just come inside from a spot of comet viewing they are warming up again.

We'll keep everybody updated as opportunity serves and internet connections are available.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 23, 2007

Extreme sports ...

One of the manifestations of youth seeking dangerous activities in defiance of attempts to wrap them in cotton wool must be the occassional outbreaks of "train surfing". This has recently been highlighted again in South Africa following a couple of tragic accidents - and it is a few years now since this was last done in the UK, but I'm betting it will happen again soon. After all, it's dangerous, it cocks a snook at authority and - if you get away with it - you're an instant hero.

One of my favourite cartoons comes from South Africa and Madam and Eve have had a week of cartoons on - you guessed it - Township Train Surfing. The championships, complete with TV coverage and commentators .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 22, 2007

Who will be held responsible for this?

So the incompetents of the Civil Service have succeeded in "losing" 25 million peoples personal information including their bank details - on CD's they sent unrecorded through the privatised "internal" post. If ever there were a case for firing every single "manager" in this incompetent and totally dishonest organisation this has to be it! But, watch this space - not one will lose his or her job beside the man who has already resigned. Frankly this is a part of the fundamental dishonesty that lies at the very heart of government. The Civil Service is totally unfit for purpose. It is a collection of willing individuals who cling to their rules and refuse to apply common sense. They have no professional ability so "the rules" become the liferaft in every situation. No doubt "the rules" were followed in this instance when these vital Computer Discs were committed to the hands of - not the Royal Mail as you would expect, but a "private" mail provider without any safeguards.

It is a disgrace - but worse, it is a disgrace which will just keep getting worse. Whitehall has to be reformed. Not just reformed, but stripped of every incompetent masquerading as a "Manager" and then rebuilt around professionals that can be trusted to use initiative, common sense and good practice. Above all by people who are actually competent to do the functions they manage. There is no such thing as a "manager" who can take charge of any function and "manage" it unless they are themselves fully competent to do whatever it is they manage. It is time to burst the little bubble that the Institute of Management has been allowed to build - the civil service is unfit for purpose for two major reasons - one; it is managed by people who are expert politicians but utterly ignorant of the functions they manage and two; it is subject to sets of Rules set by equally incompetent idiots who then blame ministers. There is another reason it can never be fit for purpose and that is simply that it is no longer delivering any service at all - its sole function has become, under this present government, to serve as an employer for incompetents selected, not for their ability, but for their sexuality, race or gender.

It is time to kill it - preferably with, as the Americans say, "Maximum Prejudice!"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 21, 2007

Warning on The Golden Compass

The makers of the film The Golden Compass, and its author, Phillip Pullman, seem to me to epitomise what is wrong with British Society and our current "ruling class". Pullman is a prominent Atheist and Humanist and self declared enemy of Christianity. He is on record as stating "I want to go after Christianity. ..... I want to undermine Christianity."

This epitomises the current trend among our intelligentsia and literati. It flows through the civil service and the current governing party. They want God dead. They want Christianity killed off. Any means are fair, any means will do. There is only one aim, to replace Christianity with their "live for today, listen to us, we have all the answers" mantra in the hope that it will enshrine them in power. It won't, simply because when they have succeeded in destroying Christianity they will have created the vacuum that Islam will rush to fill - and they and their agnostic followers will have one choice only. Become Muslims or be swept from any position of power, authority or criticism. Islam will not tolerate agnostics, atheists or critics. And men like Mister Pullman will have to run for their nicely prepared bolt-holes in the US and other countries they have spent a lifetime undermining with their self serving poison.

I don't often get mad at people like this, my normal reaction is pity, but this man's arrogant stupidty makes me very angry. Worse, his and his supporters deliberately targeting children with this film which shows children killing God as its finale, is nothing short of irresponsible. Do they really believe that a Godless society is going to be a better society? Didn't the excesses of the Soviet system or the Chinese Communist system, Pol Pot, Hitler or the wars of the Socialist century teach them nothing? Christianity and Islam have certainly been behind a number of conflicts, but the worst in terms of human life lost, destroyed or disrupted have all been initiated by Atheist regimes. All have been fought on socialist or humanist philosophies.

I can only hope that parents tumble to this blatant piece of destructive propaganda for the failing Humanist cause and shun the production. Sadly there will be those who will rush out to buy it purely because Christians don't approve, little realising the damage they will do to their kids. We can but hope that the kids are more sensible - or that God will find a way to defeat these idiots.

We can but hope.

This is the text of an e-mail I have received from a friend in South Africa.

Subject: WARNING!!! New Movie For Children

Hi Moms and Dads and people deemed likely to take young children to the movies,

This is important since the marketing for this movie has already started. It looks a lot like "Narnia" but is so far from it. BEWARE!

There will be a new children's movie out in December called THE GOLDEN COMPASS. It is written by Phillip Pullman, a proud athiest who belongs to secular humanist societies. The movie has been dumbed down to fool kids and their parents in the hope that they will buy his trilogy where, in the end the children kill God and everyone can do as they please. Nicole Kidman stars in the movie so it will probably be advertised a lot. This is just a friendly warning that you sure won't hear on TV.

Pullman , a prominent British atheist, has acknowledged that this is in fact his goal. He has claimed that "it is my goal to go after Christianity, I want God to be dead in my works. I want to undermine Christianity"

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:04 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

Science and God

Every now and again someone sends me something that makes me pause and ponder on the whole issue of faith. In the Extended Post is one such item and it is well worth reading. I don't know where it originated but it is certainly well argued - far better argued than any other such riposte I can recall. There are one or two issues I must take with parts of it, such as "the Bible says I am evil" and the implied suggestion that evolution is a "scientific myth", but on the whole it is very well thought out and presented. It certainly expresses some deep theology in very understandable terms.

Just as "dark" is not the opposite of "light" but the absence of it, so "evil" is not an entity on its own or the opposite of "good" or God, but the absence of them. Just so "man" - or to use the Biblical terminlogy "Adama et Eva" - are not of themselves evil, but become capable of great evil in the denial of God and the repudiation of faith. It has been stated by far more eminent minds than mine, that the human mind is "wired to belief in a spiritual existence" and when you do look at the wonder of our brains it is easy to see that this must be so. We do not understand how the electricity that our brains run on is generated, dissipated or even transmitted. Our neural networks can be disrupted by magnetic fields, and by electric stimulation - and we may have some idea of which areas of the brain perform what tasks, but we don't have a clue how. We have to take on "faith" that it works and in working gives us the levels of self awareness that we enjoy.

I will recommend that you read the Extended Post for yourselves. I will add only that the statue of Michael the Archangel and the Devil on the wall of Coventry Cathedral expresses some of the Christian understanding of Good versus Evil and of our faith that, in the end, even the wrong doer will be shown mercy. Look closely at the statue - Michael is triumphant, at his feet the devil lies chained and defeated, but Michael's spear is grounded, not at the devil's throat or breast, but in the position of guard. Michael has the devil in his power - but spares him.

Our faith tells us that we are all in God's power and our real freedom lies in acknowledging him as Lord and Master of our lives in everything, in joy, in suffering and even in death.

Subject: Science vs. God

"Let me explain the problem science has with Jesus Christ." The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.
"You're a Christian, aren't you, son?"
"Yes sir," the student says.
"So you believe in God?"
"Is God good?"
"Sure! God's good."
"Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?"
"Are you good or evil?"
"The Bible says I'm evil."

The professor grins knowingly. "Aha! The Bible!" He considers for a moment.
"Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?"
"Yes sir, I would."
"So you're good...!"
"I wouldn't say that."
"But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't." The student does not answer, so the professor continues. "He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?"

The student remains silent.

"No, you can't, can you?" the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.
"Let's start again, young fella Is God good?"
"Er...yes," the student says.
"Is Satan good?"
The student doesn't hesitate on this one. "No."
"Then where does Satan come from?"
The student : "From...God..."
"That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?"
"Yes, sir."
"Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?" "Yes."
"So who created evil?" The professor continued, "If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil."
Without allowing the student to answer, the professor continues: "Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?"
The student: "Yes."
"So who created them?"
The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. "Who created them? There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.

"Tell me," he continues onto another student. "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?"
The student's voice is confident: "Yes, professor, I do."
The old man stops pacing. "Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?"
"No sir. I've never seen Him"
"Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?"
"No, sir, I have not."
"Have you ever actually felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?"
"No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't."
"Yet you still believe in him?"
"According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?"
"Nothing," the student replies. "I only have my faith."
"Yes, faith," the professor repeats. "And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith."

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own. "Professor, is there such thing as heat?"
"Yes," the professor replies. "There's heat."
"And is there such a thing as cold?"
"Yes, son, there's cold too."
"No sir, there isn't."

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

"You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it."

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

"What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?"
"Yes," the professor replies without hesitation. "What is night if it isn't darkness?"
"You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?"

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. "So what point are you making, young man?"

"Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed."

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. "Flawed? Can you explain how?"

"You are working on the premise of duality," the student explains. "You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it."
"Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?"
"If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do"
"Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?"

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

"Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?"
The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

"To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean."
The student looks around the room. "Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?" The class breaks out into laughter.

"Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelled the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?"

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. "I guess you'll have to take them on faith."
"Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life," the student continues. "Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?"
Now uncertain, the professor responds, "Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."
To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

Exploring Tripoli

The Souk, or market, in any Arabic country is always fascinating. Essentially if it is saleable, they will have it, can get it and will sell it. The Old Souk in Tripoli is now mainly aimed at the tourist market, being next to the harbour and located in the bits of Tripoli on everyone's "must see" list, this makes sense. Yet you can still find the craftsmen and the sort of stock lists that make your eyes water.

Souk courtyard.JPG
One of several courtyards in the Souk. Jewellery, momentoes, rugs, prayer mats and Roman pottery jostle one another on sale.

Down one of the many alleys can be found the metal workers. The din is indescribable and probably exceeds the EU Health and Safety noise levels by several degrees, but it is fascinating to see metals being worked in the traditional manner. Copper sheets are hammered into bowls, sheets of brass become ewers and small cups even as you watch. The tools may be basic, but the skills are highly developed.

Coppersmith at work.JPG
A coppersmith at work - the din is audlible some distance away.

Brass ewer in the making.JPG
Decorated brass being turned into a ewer in a workshop which houses a forge, a smelting furnace and the workbenches to create this sort of item no bigger than ten feet deep and about eight wide. Don't ask about fume extraction ...

Definitely a place to revisit with more time and a better organised itinary.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

November 18, 2007

Growing older?

I have often had to smile at the header on The Gorse Fox's blog page - The ramblings of an aging body housing a mind that still thinks it's 25! - and I know exactly what he means. I feel the same - and then my aging body decides to give me a sharp reminder that I'm not twenty-five.

Today I was Sub Deacon at the Sung Mass, and, as I rose from the Sidellia at the end of the sermon, my left knee locked, then a stabbing pain and I just about managed to reach the vertical and face East for the Creed. A bit of gentle exercise concealed by the robes and it got freed up enough for me to carry on and finish the service, although with some decidedly hairy moments when I needed to genuflect!

Aging is definitely one of those activities that sort of sneaks up on you. Gradually you begin to notrice that bits of you no longer function quite as they are supposed to, or, are very reluctant to function at all. I used to enjoy a bit of walking and sailing, now some of the joints I need to do either are so stiff that sailing particularly is almost an "extreme" sport in some boats. Likewise the walking, I have always enjoyed plenty of exercise, but suddenly my knees are giving me a problem and so it goes on.

At least I can still type - even if it is with two fingers! Growing older sucks, why can't I have the body of a twenty five year old and the knowledge and experience of my real age? That would be a much better combination!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 17, 2007

Civil Service incompetence ....

If proof were ever needed, surely the saga of the Asylum Centre that was never built must rank high in the list of evidence. Twenty eight million of taxpayers money went into the black hole of an asylum centre proposed for Bicester in Oxfordshire that ran into immediate problems with planners and the preservation of historic sites and greenbelt. All of which, if the Civil Service weren't so incestuously arrogant and incompetent could have been forseen. But no, they blkundered ahead with the project and ended up costing us all £28 million for nothing.

Which Department you cry in disbelief? Why, that magnificent edifice described by the last Home Secretary as being totally unfit for purpose. Has it been remodelled or even sorted out? Of course not, that is not how the civil service or the whole of Whitehall works. If you want to stay in post in the upper echelons of the Civil Service, you identify a problem and make it your speciality. Not so you can sort it out, but so that you are secure in post for life. As long as you are the only expert on that problem, you're bomb proof.

So, what can we expect with the latest revelation to embarrass our "Wunderkind" government? Oh, just that our security services have been infiltrated by up to 10,000 illegal immigrants. Nothing much to worry about and it should keep another thousand or so Civil Servants in post to retirement while they become experts on the problem.

Good game really, incompetence of that order is little short of genius I think.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Roman Libya

My only real regret about my trip to Libya is that there simply wasn't the opportunity to visit a number of really magnificent Roman cities. Mersa Brega was simply too far from anything to get to them. The one plus was that I had several hours to kill in Tripoli on the way home - so Sixty Dinar to a taxi driver for a short tour of the Old City turned up some really interesting sights - enough to make me want to go back there if I can ever manage it.

There is very little of the original Roman city left, little more than the beautifully decorated Arch of Marcus Aurellius in the heart of the "Old City". Later conquerers have all left their mark, the Knights of Malta, the Selucids and finally the Ottoman Turks. Then, in the twentieth century the Itallians tried to recreate the Punic Empire and now there seems to be a re-awakening of the realisation that tourist dollars are as important as oil. That said, there is a lot to be done before this city really has all its treasures ready for show.

Roman arch.JPG
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius, the carving looking almost as if it is barely a few hundred years old yet it is closer to two thousand years since this was first erected.

The Roman city died sometime in the sixth century AD, to be replaced by a local growth and then by the Arab invaders that swept through here in the 8th and 9th Centuries. The Knights of Malta (Or to give them their full title - The Knights Hospitallers of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem) established an outpost here from which to harry shipping under Islamic control in the 15th and 16th Centuries. This lasted until they were dislodged by the armny of Suliman the Magnificent and confined to the island of Malta. The massive city bastions and citadel give testimony to this turbulent history.

Citadel Tripoli.JPG
The Citadel built by the Knights of Malta, and now sheltering the Souk or market.

Interesting as it is, Tripoli is not what I would really like to see in this fascinating country. To the west, about a hundred and twenty kilometres along the coast lies Leptis Magna - a perfectly preserved Roman City. Inland lies yet another, a magnificent testimony to Roman engineering. In the East, lie Sirte and east of Benghazi, the Roman town of Cyrene, mentioned as the home of Simon of the Cross.

I can see I will have to find a way to go back and visit these places ........

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

November 15, 2007

Abbey roof thefts .....

Well, our thieving visitors didn't return last night, but I have still had to spend the day at the Abbey with TV crews, police and insurers. It hasn't left much time for anything else in fact. But the following photographs give an idea of what has been stolen and from where.

Lead theft gulley East and North.jpg
The East End gulley. This is a main part of the roof darinage system and can run up to twelve inches deep in water since all the upper roof drains into this. It measures some 3 metres in width by roughly 15 metres in length.

Lead theft gulley north.jpg
The North side of the gulley, showing a further 3 metres by around 6 metres stripped of lead.

Lead theft roof South.jpg
The small roof over an internal wall walk which has also been stripped.

Abbey Roof Access.JPG
The probable route the thieves took to reach the gulley - a sheer climb of around fifteen metres up this "chimney" between chapels.

The value of the lead is not the problem for us now as we try to repair the damage. The thieves will have got no more than £1500 for their efforts, but it will cost at least £15000 and probably more like £20000 to replace it. The problem here is that they have damaged some of the timber understructure and we now have to relay an underfelt and then lay the sheets of lead over this, and it has to be brought up here in large and very heavy rolls, then unrolled and beaten into shape, fastened down and then made water tight - a dangerous procedure which has resulted in more than one fire in such a building as this.

I suppose we should be grateful that they attacked a school eight miles away last night and didn't return for the remainder ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 14, 2007

An interesting thought for our political classes ...

The comments recently that Britain could be saved by the adoption of Islamic principles on marriage, sex, family life and children to name but a few aspects suggested by the head of the British Muslim Council must have come as a shock to Gordon Brown's anti-religious and anti-Christian Party. After all, the Muslim Council is one of their biggest donors and propagandist organisations. That is also has a single agenda, to convert Britain into an Islamic society is something our present political class would rather not acknowledge.

Personally, I found the comments rather insulting. Primarily because Christianity has tried to promote these same values which are now "Islamic values" for centuries and it is the very political establishment which is now denigrating Christianity and everything it has contributed to our society that has eroded those values, replacing them with the free for all, do as you please and don't whatever you do, admit to anyone else having any right to a different view, that must now answer his challenge. Will they do so? Probably not, because that would really let the cat out of the bag - they simply do not have an answer. The mishmash of ideas that is "Logical Humanism" has no answers, none at all on any level. This is why the whole of the Presbyterian movement of the 17th and early 18th Century collapsed - and paved the way for the sorry state we have of religious belief today. It focused on the material action and not on the worship that should lead to change and understanding.

There are a number of things in Islam that are admirable, not least the devotion with which prayer is offered five times a day. You try and get even practicing Christians to do that! Even casual Muslims - and by that I mean those who are not so overt in their faith that they feel a need to wear dress more suited to the desert or the Lebanese refugee camps and sport silly beards to "proclaim their faith" - are devout in their observance of the ritual prayer and fasting. They prepare themselves properly for prayer as well, not our usual find a space and gabble some prayer when we feel a need, but five times a day ritually wash and place themselves in a position in which to do it properly. What I cannot admire is their refusal to accord any members of any other faith the same privileges they enjoy in worship. We need to remember that the date in the current Islamic calendar is 1400 - and to compare it with Christianity at the same period in the Christian calendar. Once you do that you will see the danger that is posed by simply accepting any statement from a leader of Islam at face value.

So now our political classes face an interesting conundrum. How do they respond to the Muslim Council? How do they explain that these same values shared by Christianity and Judaism to name but two faiths that place values on behaviour toward our fellow citizens; that place values on marriage; on treating children and women fairly and every other "moral" issue they have highjacked and devalued or declared "outmoded", how will they explain this to their Muslim benefactors? They will have to, or the money will dry up.

I wonder too when they will acknowledge that several of our major cities are now Muslim enclaves? Will we still be a materialistic "British" society of socialist humanists in ten, twenty or even thiry years time? Probably not - at current rate of immigration and take over, we will be an Islamic Republic methinks and Gordon Brown's coterie of friends will have discovered the importance of naming their children Mohammed, Ibrahim or Abdullah ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

Lead raiders attack the Abbey

The last two days have been difficult. On Sunday night/Monday morning, one of our gates was forced and a small truck or van driven into the Abbey grounds. Then apparently two men scaled the walls of one of the ambulatory chapels and stripped about thirty square metres of lead from one of the large "gulleys" which is both roof and drain for the main roof.

So Monday was spent with the police and the scenes of crime people, the insurers and others. To cap it all a man was then seen to force open a collection box and remove the money. He knew he had been seen to do it, but, bold as brass, went to another and forced that as well. More police.

Unbelievably the lead raiders returned on Monday night/Tuesday morning and removed another huge section of lead. The annoying thing is that we had said to the police that we believed they would come back now that they had "recce'd" the roofs and established how they would do it and what they needed for the rest.....

And in the midst of dealing with a fresh police visitation, the collection robber from Monday walks into the Abbey - and makes another attempt!

As I said, it has been a trying week - and its only Tuesday.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 12, 2007

IT woes ....

The Monk's faithful computational appliance, commonly known as his Desk Top blew it's monitor last week. Disaster, the computer worked, but, of course, without said monitor you cannot operate the system! OK, so what to do? Well, first off, is there a way to make that system talk to another and show itself on - for example - that laptop's monitor? Well, there probably is, but the Monk is not sufficiently up to speed on the how and the operating systems to get it to work! Aaargh! Several failures, including the laptop apparently deciding to revert to its most basic formatting and programming! - he finally succeeded in getting the laptop to talk to the homehub and therefore could get onto the internet to at least read his e-mail.

Now, of course, it would be useful, desirable even, to be able to downsize some of the pictures he took of the desert and the Libyan capital Tripoli, but no, that programme is in the Desk Top not the Laptop so that is a non-starter. What to do, what to do?

Ah well, at least some of what he needs to work on is on either the Laptop (Back-up mode!) or a memory stick, so not total disaster, and it gives him plenty to do while he awaits delivery of the new monitor from Dell. He almost can't believe his luck. For the first time in his life, the warranty had not expired on the old one! Bingo, the new one will be sent immediately. Probably the first time ever the Monk has heard the magic words which he has come not to expect from the so-called service centres for "online" help - except if you can't get online how are you supposed to get help? Well, suffice to say, Dell went up several points in his estimation. Now all they need to do to confirm it is to deliver ......

Oh, the e-mail did say delivery between 09.00 and 17.00 ........ Sigh!

It turned up eventually and was easily installed. Too easily. A whole lot seemed to have been thrown into disarray by the failure of the monitor - so several more hours of frusttration to get all the other things talking again ...

Well, for now, I have a new monitor and a system that seems to be functioning. Except that it refuses to operate the scanner ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 11, 2007

Remembrance Sunday

Today is Remembrance Sunday - and coinciding with Remembrance Day, the 11th day of the 11th month, the day in 1918 when the guns of the Western Front stuttered into silence at the 11th hour of the day. At this distance in time one can only imagine what it must have been like for those survivors who, after four and half years of constant bombardment, sniping and trench digging, interspersed with suicidal assaults across the killing fields of no man's land when, at the appointed hour, the last shell burst, the last machine gun stuttered into silence and the last casualty fell wounded or dying.

I remember one old soldier describing a sensation of overwhelming relief - followed by an overwhelming sense of loss. He was eighteen on the day the guns stopped - but he had been on the front and in the trenches since the summer of 1916.

Today we always remember the dead, but I have long been of the opinion that we should also remember the survivors, for each and every one of them walked away from their own battlefields, ships or aircraft in that and every war, carrying scars that could not be seen. As a child I used to watch and wonder as I saw many grown men weep at these parades and services, now I begin to understand why. I can recall my grandfather, a boy of fifteen when he joined the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers in 1915, waking shouting and confused from nightmares when I was already in my teens. And my own father who, as an eighteen year old was among those detailed to remove the bodies from the flooded battery compartments of HMS Hecla after she had been torpedoed off the Cape of Good Hope. They had been in the flooded compartments for two weeks when the boy seamen, and others were put in to retrieve them. This was repeated a later when his own ship, HMS Ramillies, was torpedoed and saved by the deliberate flooding of her after magazines - an act of bravery by the officer concerned because it drowned him and around ninety others, but quenched the cordite fire. My father had nightmares of that and other scenes he had witnessed or been part of until his death - at 57 in 1982.

I looked around me this morning at the ex-servicemen in their blazers and medals, at the Sea Cadets, Army Cadets, Air Training Corps, Boy Scouts and other youth organisations - many of the boys and girls on parade of an age with my grandfather and his generation when they went off to war against the Kaiser. And I felt enormous pride at the manner in which these youngsters took the process of remembering the sacrifices made for us all over the years as a matter of duty and pride. As the Vicar pointed out, the youngest ever Victoria Cross went to a young man of fifteen who, as a medical orderly, contiunued administering medical aid to the wounded despite his own serious wounds, while under heavy fire. Another, awarded at the Battle of Jutland, went to a Boy Seaman named Jack Cornwall - aged just sixteen. Jack Cornwall did not survive, he lost a leg and then his life and was eventually buried in a grave which bears a marker only because his messmates paid for the head stone. The oldest recipient of the VC was a Lieutenant aged sixty one - who, to prevent munitions falling into the hands of the enemy, blew up the depot and himself as this was the only way to ensure the munitions were totally destroyed.

Today, at 11.00 we remembered them, the dead, the survivors, and those who serve still.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

A reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus.

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44 vv. 1 – 15 RSV

1 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.

2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.

3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and were men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies;

4 leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes, and set forth verses in writing;

6 rich men furnished with resources, living peaceably in their habitations-

7 all these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times.

8 There are some of them who have left a name, so that men declare their praise.

9 And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not lived; they have become as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them.

10 But these were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;

11 their prosperity will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance to their children's children.

12 Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake.

13 Their posterity will continue forever, and their glory will not be blotted out.

14 Their bodies were buried in peace, and their name lives to all generations.

15 Peoples will declare their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:05 PM | TrackBack

November 10, 2007

A little help for one's friends ...

The Gorse Fox has an appeal on his blog for a little assistance for his daughter - who is conducting a survey and needs some respondents across the spectrum. Please pay him (and her) a visit and spend a couple of minutes filling in her questionnaire.

Every form helps as I know all too well from doing my own Masters Degree.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

High tide receding ...

The high storm surge tide yesterday certainly made its presence felt along the East Coast. Some of the news footage - of ships floating high above the sea walls and quays lining the seafront of one town, were amazing to say the least. I expect that another few inches and it would have been a case of what street? What town?

At least the danger has passed for the moment, but now it really should be a wake-up call to the government and to the enviromental types. Its all very well saying on the one hand that this is all down to Global Warming and we must all revert to living in wattle and daub, walking, and cooking on open fires in order to save the planet - but what do we do about flood defences if you lot won't let us build new ones or repair the few we still have?

Hopefully the storm surge will have started the alarms ringing in Whitehall - but someohow I doubt we will see any action. After all, no politician lost anything and none of their own died in it ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:45 PM | TrackBack

November 09, 2007

High tide on the East Coast

Images on the news of the great flood barriers at Rotterdam being closed for the first time should alert us to the reality of the threat of flooding from the storm surge tide currently threatening all the North Sea coasts and towns. Here in Britain it is, of course, made slightly worse by the failure of successive governments to invest in the sea walls and defences which, from Roman times, have defeneded the low lying East Coast. The excuse has been that it was "interfering with nature" and "damaging ecologically sensitive habitats". Not half as much as uncontrolled flooding will, or the damage which will be done in other areas when Gordon Brown rams through his new legislation to force local authorities to approve and accept the building of some three million houses in ecologically disasterous areas so he can flood the country with more of his immigrant mates and voters.

Mausi informs me that the Chief of Police on the East Friesian island of Borkum told a radio interview that he had been almost blown into the sea by the wind and the ferries cannot load as the cars would have to drive through two feet of water to board. That's quite a tide surge! In Hamburg the Fish Market is already ankle deep in water - something the denizens of that ancient Hanseatic city seem to think is amusing and "normal". That said, the storm has, apparently, been less severe than predicted, so perhaps they will get away with it this time round anyway.

Here in the west of England we are experiencing high winds and some rain, but then, we had our deluge earlier in the year and suffered the effects of a natural occurence and the lack of planning that this and other government's have driven through giving the OK to building houses and tarmacking areas without proper consideration to how this affects drainage and run-off. Likewise all along our East Coast, erosion is increasing year on year, ironically a knock-on of the work being done along the Dutch and Friesian coasts to stabilise their coastline, yet our government and their "Environment Agency" which seems to be entirely populated by Ecowarriors, refuse to allow the maintenance or rebuilding of any of the existing sea defences. The result is that in the last fifteen years we have lost enormous amounts of arrable land and a large number of buildings to the sea. Of course, they rabbit on about "global warming" and "climate change" being responsible, but considering that our Roman and medieval ancestors successfully reclaimed this land with fairly low tech systems and our immediate forebears held it for almost two thousand years, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the loss is directly attributable to ill-conceived and ill-implemented government policy.

It remains only to be seen how much we lose this time.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:56 AM | TrackBack

November 08, 2007

Ancient laws

Yesterday's State Opening of Parliament (The layabouts are back in Westminster so we can expect another avalanche of useless laws and more tax) was, as usual, a grand affair. The ritual that surrounds it is always interesting and actually quite moving, with the assembly of all the Peers in the Ermine and red velvet, the various "Officers" of the Palace of Westminster assembling in their robes and all the preparations for the Queen's own arrival in State. One small item which is probably not well known is that the Imperial State Crown, which Her Majesty wears while reading her speech to the assembled Peers and Commons, is conveyed in a State Coach under the escort of four officers of the Household, from Buckingham Palace to the State Apartments at Westminster exactly two hours before the Queen herself follows in her own State Coach. I wonder how many people seeing that confection of white gold and diamonds - there are three thousand of them - realise that it weighs a whopping three pounds and her majesty must walk and sit throughout the ritual with that load on her head. As she is now over eighty years of age, a remarkable feat in itself.

But the Opening has, this year, flagged up some of our older laws and I suppose it is inevitable that, in a legal system now well over a thousand years old, that there will be some that are, frankly ridiculous and others that are funny. And I am not talking about the garbage the present shower of incompetents in Westminster and Whitehall have perpetrated in the last fifteen years either.

One of the funniest has to be the law against dying in Parliament. That's right, you can't die in the Houses of Parliament, to do so is to break the law and you could be arrested and hung for it. It is also illegal to enter the Palace of Westminster wearing armour and if you look at the floor of the Commons you will see a red stripe on the floor in front of the front benches on each side. Any speaker who "crosses the line" during a debate is immediately ejected from the house! The reason? The red lines mark the point which places the debaters outside the reach of each other's swords! Another is that placing a postage stamp bearing the Effigy of the Sovereign upside down on an envelope is an act of treason - a beheading offence for peers and hanging for commoners. A Scotsman carrying a bow and arrows in the City of York may lawfully be killed by any upright citizen and a woman working in a tropical fish store in Liverpool may legally go topless. A dead whale washed up on our shores is divided between the King and the Queen - the head to the King and the tail to the Queen. The law does not specify what happens to the bits between!

Thanks to that bundle of Christian joy, Oliver Cromwell, it is illegal to eat Mince Pies on Christmas Day.

The taxman has some ancient teeth as well, among them are that it is illegal not to tell him something that YOU do not want him to know - but perfectly legal not to tell him something you don't mind him knowing. Work that one out.

Probably the strangest and funniest has to be the law that allows a pregnant woman to urinate anywhere she likes - including into a policeman's helmet. I don't think I want to know the origins of that last bit, frankly the Bind Moggles.

It is one of the difficulties we face in Britain is that our legal system is so ancient that it is actually run on the principle of defending the citizen from the interference of the State. In contrast, many of the continental systems have become "codified" and the civil law is written and managed differently to ours. It is true to say that, in Britain our law is written liberally and interpretted strictly, while on the Continent it is written strictly and interpretted liberally. The interpretation is made by a court of law in our case and not by the individual or the authors. This is known as the "Common Law" system and stretches back to pre-Conquest (1066 and all that!). Just to further complicate matters, most of the EU Law conains elements which are in conflict with the principles of English Law and this is why there is so much opposition to the EU from the common folk of this island nation.

Oh yes, and just to make life even more entertaining, Scottish Law is based upon a Roman Law system and that of the Northern Ireland Assembly has elements of the Brehon Law, Roman Law and English Law all mingled.

No wonder lawyers thrive in the UK!

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

November 07, 2007

New Book

I am delighted to announce that I have had two short stories published in an anthology brought together by the E-zine Residential Aliens. It has been published on Lulu and is available at a very good price - and, besides my own contribution there are some excellent stories by some very talented story tellers in it as well. The new book can be bought direct from Lulu or from Residential Aliens directly.


Lyn Perry, the editor of Residential Aliens has done a great job putting this anthology together and I am hoping I will be invited to contribute to further anthologies when he gets this going. In the meantime Issue 5 of the E-zine is out. Do visit Residential Aliens, the E-zine!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 06, 2007

Remember, remember the Fifth of November ....

Gunpowder, treason and plot ....

Where is Guido Fawkes when you really need him? With our government not content to give away our sovereignty and deny any pledge to hold a referendum, with their "Parliamentary Expenses" running at the GNP of most African Nations and now another vicious attack on a man who dares to step out of line and say what most of his prospective constituents - in fact most 'native' Britons - think, it really is time to look at the complete removal of Westminster and Whitehall and its replacement with a body which does actually represent us, the tax paying public and our concerns.

Let us recall Guy Fawkes with a little more sympathy than is usually afforded with bonfires, fireworks and Guy's to be burned ...

Maybe he had the best idea of how to deal with politicians and bureaucrats yet ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:12 AM | TrackBack

November 05, 2007

Ongoing tragedy ...

One of the prime reasons given for tearing our fire and rescue service apart and parachuting in all sorts of people with no fire background and at all levels of senior management was to "create a leaner, more effcient and safer" fire service. It was stated that these parachutists would bring "skills lacking in management, training and community relations". In reality it was a baldfaced attempt to ethnicise the service and make it more cuddly and feminine. The results have begun to show.

The training system which had served us very well for over fifty years was deemed to be "elitist" and "exclusive" and thrown out. Knowledge based learning which supported skils with underpinning knowledge and built on experience gained by working your way up through the ranks with selection - everywhere apparently except London - based on merit and ability. Yes, there were a few "rotten eggs" and bullies, but the service soon found them out and they seldom prospered. Then the politicians and civil servants got their dirty hands into the service. Out went the structured training. Out went selection on ability, in came Itsy Pitsy Diddly Squat as the longer serving men and women named the "new" "competence" based system which declared that knowledge was unnecessary and so were qualifications. All you had to be able to do was squirt water and operate the equipment. Alongside that, in came a range of "Selection Criteria" which focus on matters having nothing to do with what the service actually does - the element which is based on knowledge and understanding of fire fighting, rescue and extrication is 10% of the selection process - and is optional. This to allow people from the Job Centre to parachute in as "Managers" - the service is no longer led by "Officers" - Mister Prescott would not allow the use of that word or "commander" the alternative and forbade it.

Now we have services led by Chief Executives who have never actually ridden a red lorry - probably only encounter one when they need a publicity shot for the local paper and certainly have no understanding of what it is like to have to search the remains of a building for your dead colleagues. And those who have quite probably last actually attended a fire more than ten years before they rose, by political manoeuvering, to their current level. Oh, they make all the right noises and shed a few tears in sympathy - but they don't feel the anger, the sense of betrayal that their decisions to allow buildings such as the one in Warwickshire to kill your colleagues by relaxing requirements to fit sprinklers or to cut the manning on appliances and reduce turnouts using that other great "management" tool invented by the Whitehall Wankers - "Integrated Risk Management Planning" - a system which allows the Service Managers to reduce the fire cover in industrial and high fire risk areas because there is "no significant life risk", engenders in every professional fire fighter. Except of course to the fire fighters entering the building to try and save the livelihoods of a couple of hundred people and reduce the damage to the economy wrought by fire every year.

Intergrated Risk Management Planning worls ONLY if it is supported by a regime of strict application and enforcement of the provision of sprinklers and other "active" fire suppression systems in ALL high fire risk premises. That is to say, EVERY industrial, commercial, mercantile and storage facility, EVERY theatre, cinema, Shopping Mall, hospital and high rise.

You can manipulate the numbers as much as you like CFOA, DCLG and all the rest - you signed up to this, and you, and you alone, are responsible for these latest deaths, just as you are all guilty of the increase in fire fighter injuries and deaths since you "modernised" a service which, while it had its faults, was described only two years before your vandalism, as "The best managed Public Service in the country, delivering an efficient and cost effective service at all levels." IPDS, IRMP and all your other "Integrated" initiatives have brought us a less trained, less professional, less efficient and much more dangerous service - and if you are reading this and live in London I would add this. DON'T under ANY circumstances have a fire. The once proud LFB is now so afraid to enter a building on fire that it will burn out before they even begin to lay a hose - and if you are in need of rescue.? Forget it - fire fighter discipline has gone, replaced by "personal Risk Assessment". In short, if I don't like the order I'm given I can refuse. After all, its just a job.....

Try saying that to the dedicated Firefighters who died in Warwickshire - they have given their lives needlessly as it happens, doing something they believed would make a difference.

Congratulations Whitehall and Westminster. You and your parachutists have killed another four honest, hard working a dedicated men whose only mistake was to believe your hype and to think they could make a difference. Their blood is firmly and irrevocably on your hands.

My prayers for the dead and for the bereaved will include a plea to the Almighty that those who have brought the service to this state receive here or in the hereafter the punishment and misery that they have brought to these families.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:56 AM | TrackBack

November 04, 2007

Inflight entertainment?

The Postulant has sent me a link to a hilarious recording made on an American airline as the plane taxis out to the runway. Frankly I think the flight attendant has missed his true calling and should be snapped up immediately for the entertainment industry.

Pre-flight safety briefing with a difference! Do turn the sound up on your computer before following the link.

I didn't get anything like this on the flight yesterday from Tripoli - but then British Airways tends to be a bit staid in these sort of things ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 03, 2007

Neologism Contest Winners

Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions > to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): it's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

10 Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Posted by Mausi at 08:27 PM | TrackBack

November 02, 2007

Wanderer in Space

During the night from October 23 to 24 a something spectacular took place in the constellation of Perseus: a comet became "suddenly" visible because within twenty-four hours it jumped from magnitude 17, which is not even visible with the better telescopes on earth, to magnitude 2.5, which is visible with the naked eye during a clear night.

Comet Holmes, a bright spot on the sky

The name of the comet is "Holmes". The next picture shows where exactly to look for the comet in the constellation of Perseus which can be seen in the North East after nightfall.

How to locate Holmes

Perseus is quite a colourful constellation. Its brightest star is Mirfak (alpha Persei), a Reddish Supergiant, delta Persei a Blue Giant and Misam (kappa Persei) a Yellow Giant. Algol is a so-called Variable Star, meaning it has a companion circling it and obscuring it from time to time. Next time this can be observed from Earth will be on November 13, 21:20 UTC.

Holmes, the comet, was already discovered in 1892 by Edwin Holmes. It then displayed a similarly spectacular outburst in brightness as it did last week. High resolution pictures revealed that Holmes suffered some kind of internal explosion last week. Fragments can be seen on those pictures. At the moment the astronomic community is not sure if Holmes has been ripped apart or will again survive as it did more than 100 years ago.

Safe journey, Holmes, wherever you go ....

Posted by Mausi at 07:11 PM | TrackBack

November 01, 2007

All Saints

Just a very quick thought for the day - this being the feast of all the Saints, living, departed and yet to be. Every Christian is called to be a saint, some of us achieve that in a public way, some are not recognised in their own time and some are recognised only in their interactions with those they help, assist and meet in their daily lives.

Join me in celebrating the lives of all the saints.

May we all fulfill our calling.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:56 AM | TrackBack