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December 31, 2007

Looking back on 2007

This has been quite a year, all things considered. Floods across Britain in June and July, particularly the floods in my own area, did an enormous amount of damage and tested the emergency preparedness to the limits. It brought a sharp reminder as well that we are now so dependent on all our technology that the slightest disruption can bring about real problems. The loss of a water treatment plant at Tewkesbury deprived most of us in the Gloucestershire area of clean drinking water for the better part of two weeks. Some of us were without electricity for several days and there was the very real threat that this would be the fate of a half million homes in the county if we had lost just one major distribution station.

On the bright side we finally got rid of Blair and his Spin Doctoring coterie of friends with their lies, damned lies and creative use of "truth". Unfortunately we haven't yet got rid of the Socialist dictatorship that has entrenched itself in Westminster and planted its "people" in all of our media and the Civil Service. But that will come, and what a house cleaning that will be eventually.

We have also seen our "new" Illustrious Leader carry on the lies of the Blair years with his signing away of our Sovereignty in signing the EU Constitutional Treaty - a document acknowledged by every EU Leader except him as being unchanged in all essentials from the one the French and Dutch managed to kill off - and declaring that "It doesn't affect our sovereignty and therefore there is no need for a Referendum" reneging on a promise to hold one. Of course, the reason he will not hold one is that he knows the British people will reject it out of hand.

On a personal level the year has seen highs and lows. My books continue to sell, though very slowly, but on the up side, I now have an agent and things look very encouraging there. A trip to Jamaica proved extremely interesting and quite entertaining even though it was work related and the same can be said of Libya and the work there. An interesting aside has been the large number of Christmas cards I got this year from Muslim friends and acquaintances, something to ponder on methinks - especially for the PC "lets ban Christmas" brigade in Westminster. Other high points include visiting Poland to deliver a joint paper with Mausi and the fabulous reception we always get from our friends there. Nor can I overlook the visit to Ireland and the opportunity to visit places my grandfather knew and lived in while also looking at the life of St Patrick. And then there has been time to renew friendships, to make new ones and to foster old ones.

All in all, it has been quite a year! Who said retirement could be slow?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:57 AM | TrackBack

December 30, 2007

Opera - ah! Opera!

Mausi and the Monk attended the Opera in Darmstadt last night. The opera was Der Wildschütz (The Poacher) and the plot has enough twists in it to break a snake's back - but then, that is opera. The production was very good and the stage scenery was stunning. The set designer certainly didn't go with a minimalist approach.

The voices and characters were well chosen and the music, new to the Monk at least, was very good. Several things struck the Monk as he settled into one of the most comfortable theatre seats he has used in years, one was the audiences gathering around the orchestra pit as the orchestra tuned and warmed up, the other was the number of children and young people attending with obvious enjoyment and pleasure. The story is the usual mangle of human relations, cupidity, class clash and tangled love lives. The poacher is the School Master who has accidentally shot a "bear" on the local Ducal estate and is in danger of losing his job as a result. He is saved by the arrival of the Duke's long lost sister, a love lorn Baron and some devious machinations. And, just for a laugh, right at the end, it turns out he didn't shoot the bear after all. He managed to shoot his own donkey - which survived and is led on right at the end (A live one in this production) adorned by a huge sticking plaster on its rump.

A good romp and loads of fun very much embellished by some very good music and the company of Mausi.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:40 PM | TrackBack

December 29, 2007

Frankfurt in the cold ...

Yesterday was one of those cold grey days here in Germany. Low hanging clouds, dank clinging fog and mist and crowded Autobahn make for tricky travel. But the planned trip to Frankfurt am Main was worth it. The plan was to visit the Archaeological Museum which is located in the former Carmelite Monastic Church in Karmeliter Gasse. The collection ranges from the Neolithic, through the Ancient Greek and Persian to the Roman and late Medieval.

Looking at the beauty of the Grecian decoration on the pottery, in particular the delicacy of the painted figures and the exquisite detail in them, one does wonder at how much we lose each time a society goes into decline. This is certainly reinforced when looking at the furnishings and decoration of Roman colonial homes and the construction of these. The sophistication of their heating systems and their skill in engineering is astonishing. You are forced to ask yourself what would our society look like today if we had not "lost" these skills and abilities for several centuries. You cannot escape the feeling that our societies today might have been much further advanced than we are.

Almost as interesting is the thought that in their latter days the Roman's also thought, as we do, that the Barbarian Hordes could be absorbed and would adopt their ways. That it failed to happen is evidenced by the loss of the technology, the loss of ability to repair or maintain or even to continue to operate a commercial system. Perhaps our current crop of leaders and bureaucrats should take some lessons from the fall of the Roman civilisation. It might prove instructive to them.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 28, 2007

Remembering ....

Every so often I find a comment on an entry which makes me realise just how much this and other blogs connect to a wide range of people all over the world. Today I found just such a comment posted to a post I entitled "Painting for pleasure". That post centered on the painting I had done of the SAS President Kruger, a Type 12 frigate in service with the South African Navy until her tragic loss when she was accidentally rammed by the Command and Supply ship SAS Tafelberg.

The comment is posted by Chief Petty Officer Nick de Villiers, who served on her from 1976 until her sinking. On the night in question he was on duty in her Boiler Room when the Tafelberg struck the ship and began rolling her over. I will let Nick de Villiers say it in his own words.

I was Chief of the Watch in the Boiler-Room when the collision took place .I can still recall climbing up the stairs in the boiler-room after doing a emergency shutdown and the water was already rushing down the hatch, and from the top of the boiler-room I was "walking" on the bulkheads port side to get to the fwd. hatch which took me to the upper-deck just behind the 4.5" guns as the ship was already on a heavy list.The Jupitor was at that stage already half in the water.

My thought's will alway's be with my fellow sailor's that She took down with with "Her".

.........CPO NJ De Villiers

Some New Yorker's reading this may remember the only "official" visit of a South African warship to their city early in the 1970's. Well, that was the PK, as she was known to her crews and she was, as I have already noted in the previous post, a "happy ship".

I am sure that sailor's everywhere will join me in remembering those who were lost with her, and the heroism displayed by those like CPO de Villiers as they escaped the sinking ship in extraordinary circumstrances. I am flattered that he could write,

Looking at your painting I can still recall standing on the "quarter-deck " with speed trials watching the huge wake it used to make aft.and now and again "a puff of smoke " that escaped from the funnel as more burner's where activated on the boilers........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:42 PM | TrackBack

December 27, 2007

The Global Warming scam ...

Bali, it seems, might not have been the harmonious and "unified" front the "Green" organisers would like to present. In fact, perhaps the US had a point, a serious point that the "Green" Gauleiters don't want aired. My thanks to The Gorse Fox for bringing this great quote to my attention. As I have often said, I think the debate is being railroaded by a small group of "Witch Hunters" and my question is - why?

What is to be gained by denying the counter evidence to their theory? Who benefits if they have it as wrong as many of us believe? The answer surely is no one except those who are living on "research grants" handed out by moroninc politicians who would hand over any sum just to be seen to be doing something and maybe win a few votes - and the developers of all the hideous wind farms which are costing us an arm and a leg and destroying habitats and the environment around them. (Notably though, not in any of Brown's ministers' constituencies - except where said Ministers can't see the infernal things!)

Why do the "Global Warming" nazis refuse to take account of the satellite data that shows surface cooling on the continental masses and slowing oceanic currents? Because they will lose "research" funding if their theory doesn't hold up. This is why are they afraid of an open debate.

But why is the press so afraid to expose the scam? Primarily because the fear in the media of upsetting the green terrorists and having their offices torched, or their papers labelled as "Fascist" - and affecting thier sales - terrifies them all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:17 PM | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

Travels again

After the Christmas workload, the Monk is off this morning to visit Mausi in Germany for a well earned break. He is looking forward to ten days of quiet friendship, visits to some of the fabulous museums and even the theatre. Posting may become a little erratic, but no doubt Mausi will make sure he says something regularly.

New Year in Germany is a lot of fun, with fireworks and celebrations, which, from where Mausi lives well up a mountain, provides a panorama of bangs, whizzes and flashes for several hours.

That apart, the Monk always finds he can go home with his batteries fully recharged after a few days spent in the Rhein-Pfalz. Must be the air. Or maybe the wine? No, just the good company.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 25, 2007

A merry Christmas to all

Abbey Winter sun.JPG

May the Christ child bring his blessing into your home and to your family at this Christmastide.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 24, 2007

News of the hilarious kind ...

Someone has put together a range of funny news stories for the year. These include a story about a US Department store whose Deli staff obviously got carried away with the marketing effort and labelled ham " Delicious for Hannukah". I doubt the really strict Orthodox Jewish community saw the funny side, although I am sure their less strict brethren may have. Certainly the red faces at the store must have been a good laugh.

One that shows the clash of cultures as Europe becomes one big happy family comes from Holland where Dutch anglers objected to Polish immigrants fishing their lakes - apparently the Dutch fishermen release the fish back into the lake. The Poles eat them. Definitely a culture clash there! But I reckon top prize has to be the Belgian entrepeneur who put his entire country up for auction on eBay. I suppose the real joke is that people actually bid for it - and eBay had to halt the auction and withdraw it after the Belgian government complained.

Running a close second in the "Ooops!" stakes has to be the Chinese story of officials restocking a river with truckloads of live carp - only to have the local populace assemble just downstream to catch the lot within hours. The joys of bureaucratic central planning and solutions ....

A separate news item drew my attention on the culture clash front. Apparently the Spanish have started a fightback against the invasion of their idea of Christmas by that upstart Santa Claus and his reindeer. It boils down to the fact that the Spanish traditionally give presents to children on Epiphany - not Christmas, but now the commercialisation of Christmas has seen the arrival of Santa and all that goes with that. So now a Spanish advertising agency has produced a probably very PC incorrect and possibly offensive ad showing the Three Kings as rap artists who ask "who the H*** are you?" and machine gun a jolly fat red suited figure in a dark alley. Well, I'm not sure I go along with that level of disapproval, but I think we sometimes lose the message in all the hype.

My favourite of the whacky news is the 100 year old German lady who finally agreed to move into an old age home. Only to move out again six weeks later saying the other residents were too old and boring. She has gone back to her own home and her cat. Now there's the way to go!

PARIS (AFP) - A selection of wild and wonderful news items from 2007:

- The CNN TV network had to apologise to US presidential hopeful Barack Obama after it confused his surname with the first name of the world's best-known terrorism suspect. A sequence on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden carried the caption "Where's Obama?"

- An Australian bank was embarrassed when it emerged that it had issued a credit card to a cat. The owner of Messiah, a ginger tom, had put in the spoof application to test the bank's security system.

- A 100-year-old woman in Germany moved out of her retirement home after six weeks saying she found the other residents not only boring but also "too old". She returned home to her cat.

- Switzerland's army inadvertently invaded the tiny neighbouring state of Liechtenstein. A unit on manoeuvres got lost at dead of night, officials said.

- The Norwegian government abolished a regulation that had allowed strip-clubs to claim exemption from sales tax on the grounds that their performances were an art form.

- A British man claimed the dubious distinction of making the first ever mobile phone call from the summit of Mount Everest. "It's cold" were his first words.

- Fishery officials in China restocked a river with 13 truckloads of live carp, only to realise that thousands of residents from a nearby city had immediately swarmed to the banks a short way downstream and caught most of them.

- Transport officials in Australia try to discourage men from driving too fast with a series of TV ads featuring attractive woman suggesting that speeding males were trying to compensate for inadequate virility.

- A town in South Korea which spent some 140 million dollars to build its own airport was then forced to admit that no airlines actually wanted to fly there.

- The Chinese capital Beijing began a campaign to improve its signposting in English ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games. Among signs in need of correcting were ones for "Pubic Toilets," and "Deformed Men" -- the latter indicating facilities for the handicapped.

- A US man who ordered flowers for his mistress sued the florists after they sent a note to his home thanking him for his order -- thereby informing his wife of his infidelity.

- An African medicine man dived into a river in Tanzania after promising his fellow villagers that he would bring back revelations from ancestral spirits lurking underwater. He drowned.

- A child maths prodigy who started university in Hong Kong at age nine, said he found the courses too easy, and rather boring.

- A Belgian prankster reacted to a prolonged political crisis in his native land by putting the entire country up for sale on the Internet auction site eBay. The company halted the bidding.

- Dutch anglers were up in arms against immigrant workers from Poland, who also enjoy fishing in the many local lakes. The problem being that the Poles actually eat the fish they catch, whereas the Dutch believe in simply putting them back in the water.

- A posh food store in New York was embarrassed after an employee, who was clearly not Jewish, stuck a "Delicious for Hanukkah" sign on hams. Jews, for whom Hanukkah is a religious holiday, do not eat pork.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:56 PM | TrackBack

December 23, 2007

Joseph and Mary

A interesting thought for today rests on St Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. The gospel reading for today gives an insight into this man's feelings and sense of justice when he discovered his bride to be was pregnant. Jewish law stipulated that a girl falling pregnant was to be stoned to death, but Joseph had a different view. He intended to quietly send her away so she could have the child somewhere and escape the stigma. Then he changed his mind and married her after a visit from an angel.

Most paintings depict him as an old man, but one Spanish artist depicts him, more accurately I think, as a young man with a small Jesus clinging to his leg as he works. Whatever you think of Joseph there is one thing that stands out. Here was a man whose hopes of a loving marriage were rudely dashed by the discovery of his betrothed's pregnancy. Jospeh was not the sort of person to "live" with his bride to be, so it must have come as a terrible blow to find she had apparently betrayed his love for her. Yet he doesn't react in the way many would, he reacts with sympathy and love. Even leaving out the angelic messenger, his subsequent behaviour, his protection of the infant and later the growing boy sets us an example that is hard to beat.

In my view Joseph is probably the most under rated person in the entire Bible.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:41 PM | TrackBack

December 22, 2007

Winter Sunshine

During the last week The Monk was forever telling Mausi that it was cold and foggy where he lives in England. Not so up here on Mausi's mountain. It's been cold, yes, but it has also been a week of brilliant sunshine.

Last night's fog frozen on trees and shrubs

The only thing that is still missing is some snow. There's nothing like a white Christmas, Mausi thinks. Well, the snow still has three days to get here. Meanwhile the frozen fog is quite a good substitute. During the first winter Mausi spent up here it was extremely cold and foggy for about a week and loads of ice were accumulating on the trees. That was a breathtakingly beautiful sight although some trees suffered rather badly.

Well, Mausi just hopes this kind of weather continues over Christmas and Global Warming doesn't bring a spell of wet and warm air and turn the whole countryside into a muddy brown mess.

Posted by Mausi at 03:11 PM | TrackBack

December 21, 2007

Strange but true ...

It seems that the arguments about power supplies will soon get even more heated - pardon the pun - but it now transpires that coal ash is more radioactive than the waste from a nuclear pile.

The extended post has the extract from the Journal Scientific American, one of my favourite reads. As an anarchic colleague I have a great deal of respect for once remarked when someone complained about a small radio active source we were using for a demonstration (It was an Alpha source!) - its a radio active universe sonny. You might escape exposure if you get into the habit of wearing four inches of lead all the time and covering you from head to foot - otherwise just grow up and be realistically sensible!

I can't wait to see what Greenpeace and F(r)iends of the Earth make of this .....

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste
The popular conception of nuclear power is straight out of The Simpsons: Springfield abounds with signs of radioactivity, from the strange glow surrounding Mr. Burn's nuclear power plant workers to Homer's low sperm count. Then there's the local superhero, Radioactive Man, who fires beams of "nuclear heat" from his eyes. Nuclear power, many people think, is inseparable from a volatile, invariably lime-green, mutant-making radioactivity.

Coal, meanwhile, is believed responsible for a host of more quotidian problems, such as mining accidents, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions. But it isn't supposed to spawn three-eyed fish like Blinky.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

Ban Lego immediately!

That has to be the only solution. Ban it outright - before the children of the UK and EU rush out to buy the book written by a pair of Danish anarchists who suggest - horror of horrors - a whole range of nasty weapon things that children might enjoy playing with!

Cue a collective howl of anguish from all the angst ridden feministas who have destroyed this generation's ability to cope with opposition, deal with bullying or any sort of aggression (other than their own!). As I said, the only solution is a total ban on Lego and any other toy which might have aggressive or alternative uses. So I guess that puts The Transformers, all military models and toys, The Dangerous Book for Boys and the Dangerous Book for Girls off the Christmas list.

Sorry folks, but those of you who have already bought these items, better rush out and find substitutes - preferably one's which can't possibly show a child how to make a nuke out of Lego ....

Forbidden LEGO Book Is Big Xmas Hit
Updated:11:17, Friday December 14, 2007

A book showing children how to make guns out of LEGO is climbing the list of must-have Christmas presents.

Book is a big hit in the USThe manual, written by two former employees of the Danish plastic-brick firm, is a big hit in the US.

The authors of Forbidden LEGO: Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against promise "you'll learn to create working models that LEGO would never endorse".

Ulrik Pilegaard and Mike Dooley added: "Try your hand at a toy gun that shoots LEGO plates, a candy catapult, a high voltage LEGO vehicle.

"Or a continuous fire ping-pong ball launcher, and other useless but incredibly fun inventions."

The book was published in August by No Starch Press, a small independent publishing house based in San Francisco.

And it has become a surprise hit with Americans, shooting up the Amazon sales charts.

But in Britain, there has been concern about the effect the book may have on children.

The Daily Telegraph has dubbed the tome "the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery".

And a commenter on ThisIsLondon.co.uk said: "This is a very dangerous idea.

"Kids could make atomic bombs out of LEGO, and just think what would happen if some Islamic terrorist get hold of a copy. The possibilities are terrifying."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2007

Sharia Justice?

Advice to any woman who thinks that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Don't get raped. At least don't get into a position where you could be raped in any country (or part of this country) where the Sharia Law is applied.

The King of Saudi Arabia's somewhat magnanimous gesture at "pardoning" a 19 year old raped by seven men - that's right, seven men - after a Sharia Court had sentenced her to a public flogging, is somewhat spoiled by the fact that he had to be pressured into it. Saudi Arabia has some of the most archaic laws going, but, and those who espouse Islam as an alternative religion for this country should note, this particular law applies in every country ruled by Islamic regimes. The fact that she was raped does not appear to have been addressed by the religious zealots running the court, all they were interested in was the fact that she had been taken by the men from the company of a man not a close relative.

In other words she was having a quiet moment with a boyfriend - and that seems to have been the excuse used by the rapists! No doubt screaming "harlot" at her, they grabbed her and raped her - perfectly acceptable in their eyes since any female who steps outside of the rules of "modesty" this religion insists on imposing is fair game. I doubt very much that they will be caught, and even if they are, I doubt they will be punished. After all, they are men. A single woman's testimony is unacceptable as evidence unless supported by another unrelated woman or a man's ...

Yup, I guess that's justice. Sharia style anyway.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:54 PM | TrackBack

December 18, 2007

Big Kites and Cargo Ships

Earlier this year Mausi wrote a about a new idea of saving fuel on cargo ships by simply fitting them with an additional sail. The sail looks rather like a big kite and is flown at heights up to 500 m. Provided the winds comes from behind the ship or from the sides it could help save a considerable amount of fuel.

After a number of preliminary tests with smaller ships in the Baltic Sea the first commercial cargo ship equipped with a huge kite was christened "MS Beluga Sky Sails" in Hamburg by the wife of the German Bundespräsident on December 15. The MS Beluga is 132 m (436 ft) long and its sailing area covers 160 square meters. In January 2008 she will embark on her maiden voyage, which will take her from Bremen in Germany to Venezuela. If all goes well the sail area will be doubled to 320 square meters. The ship owners hope to cut down fuel consumption by 30 to 35 per cent then.

More ambitious plan are already afoot. The Beluga shipping company has two bigger ships under construction at the moment. They will be fitted with sky sails as large as 600 square meters. If they work according to plan they will reduce the costs for shipping cargo by 6,000 US Dollars per ship and day!

All this wouldn't of course have been possible without the previous invention of new and durable materials which are used for the sail and the rope which fastened it to the ship. And the very advanced high tech computer system which is needed to trim the sail 300 to 500 m above the water surface. But what can be learnt is that it is still possible to make inventions in this high tech world. What Mausi finds a bit nerve-wracking about the ongoing global warming and fossil fuel conservation debate is the unwillingness of some to think along new lines. They've always used fossils fuels and they will do so until the end. Perhaps now is the time to be a little more creative.

Mausi, at least, will keep her fingers crossed that all goes well for the MS Beluga Sky Sails in January. It would be great to sails coming back to the oceans.

Posted by Mausi at 11:26 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2007

Carbon emissions

Some may want to argue with me about my view of the Carbon Emissions League tables. On the table contained in Nation Wide dot Com site you will find a range of nations listed according to their CO2 output. Well, once you get down to analysing these, you will see the flaw in it. China, the world's biggest polluter at present is down at #80 as a result of the fact that the emissions are measured in Tonnes per 1,000 population! So Qatar (Population 750,000) is the world's biggest polluter if you simply read this table. Even the UK, which contributes less than 2% of the world total CO2 emmissions is up at #25 with the US much further down.

From the same site I discovered this YouTube clip which is one of the cleverest expositions on the need to see the whole picture - this Swedish Prof makes more sense than any of the emotional garbage I have found on Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace websites. Both of these insist on trying to present as "proof" the sort of data in the table I have linked to. The Professor is making a fantastic case for looking at things in context and arguing strongly that under no circumstances should anyone attempt to work with "average" or "comparative" data when addressing world issues and problems.

Now you can see why I don't believe the FotE or Greenpeace propaganda. As Dr Goebbels once said, a lie is easily detected and refuted, but a lie built on a truth or on half a truth is accepted as "truth". He must be proud of his students in Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and all the socialist dictatorships springing up in the formerly democratic West.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:39 PM | TrackBack

December 16, 2007

Sunday sermon

Today is Asperges Sunday, the day on which we will carry out a ritual sprinklinmg of the congregation and the church with Holy water at the Sung Eucharist. The liturgical colour for Asperges is Rose - a deep shade of pink, trimmed on the vestments with silver. The Deacon will carry a bowl of holy water while the Priest uses a bunch of Rosemary to splash everyone he can possibly spray with the water as the three minsters go round and through the church. It is also the day on which we remember that John the Baptist was sent to foretell the coming of Christ.

Asperges is a part of the preparation for the return of Christ to the world, which is what the season of Advent is supposed to get us into readying ourselves for. It is a ritual cleansing for eveyone and everything accompannied by the penitential psalm. Unfortunately these days it seems to almost get swamped beneath the commercial run up to Christmas. Strictly speaking we should not sing Christmas Carols until Christmas Eve - and there are a whole section of Advent Carols in most hymnals that never get sung these days, yet are theologically far more correct than many of our favourite "Christmas" ones. Well, that's my "Bah humbug!" over with. Sing away, but do spare a thought for the spiritual preparation we should be embracing as well.

Today I am Deacon for the Parish Eucharist and I am also the preacher. My sermon is in the extended post. I hope it gives some food for thought.

Advent 3 2007
Tewkesbury Abbey

+May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

“What did you go out into the desert to see?”
John the Baptist is one of the enigmatic figures of the New Testament. We are told that he was a cousin of Jesus and that he, by his own words, is a messenger, the voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Though we call John a Saint he is, in reality, the last of the Old Testament prophets. So when our Lord asks “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” He already knows – the crowd had gathered because the people believed that they would hear and receive baptism at the hands of one possibly the successor to Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. They probably hoped, but did not expect, to encounter the Messiah. And certainly the Messiah they encountered was not one they recognised.

The people came out into the Wilderness looking for a leader and they found John. John gave them fire and brimstone, and a chance for ritual cleansing at the hands of one recognisable as a prophetic figure. A man of God. His followers felt they could recognise a prophet in him, they could connect to the figures in the Torah through him. He preached with fire in his voice and water as his cleansing tool – and so he stirred anxiety and enmity among the ruling class and eventually Herod.

St John’s Gospel tells us that when the Levites and priests of the temple came to him and demanded to know who he was he tells them bluntly “I am not the Christ.” They try again, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” And again he tells them “No!”

One can only imagine their annoyance when he finally uses the words of Isaiah to say

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”

Many will have found this disappointing, many had, no doubt, begun to hope that this rather rough and probably rather wild looking man was the long awaited Messiah, after all, this was a time when “messiahs” were popping up everywhere. No doubt too, this was why Herod had decided to use John’s denunciation of his marriage to his brother’s wife as an excuse to put him out of circulation.

But, from his prison cell, John hears that Jesus has taken over the ministry and the crowds he had drawn. This Jesus he had himself baptised in the Jordan. And now doubt assails him, for the descriptions he is hearing don’t tally with what he is expecting from the Chosen One, the Messiah.

How often we, as human beings, fall into this trap. We draw for ourselves a picture, an image of how things ought to be, of how WE would like them to turn out. And when they don’t we are thrown into turmoil. The very foundations of our faith are shaken – because we have created in our own minds an image of perfection that is not met. Those followers of John the Baptiser must have felt the same disappointment when Jesus stepped forward and revealed himself as the one that John had foretold. Here was no conquering King in the Davidic tradition, here was a simple Nazarene, admittedly of David’s lineage, but a quiet spoken man who carried no sword and did not advocate its use to clear the land of gentiles and pagans. Who came instead speaking of a heavenly Kingdom, a Kingdom moreover that seemed to welcome every condition of man, not just those who followed the Law and the Prophets, ritually cleansing themselves and studying the Torah all the days of their lives. He was not what they expected, nor was he in any sense what John expected – and John was the prophet sent to prepare the ground for him.

Again, if we turn to St John’s gospel we see that the Baptist must have eventually seen for himself the revelation that the Kingdom he was expecting and heralding was no earthly one. For in last weeks gospel we were told that he said when challenged concerning his baptising with water.

“I baptise you with water. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

So why is John now sending to ask “Are you the Christ?”

Well, it would certainly seem that at this early point in Christ’s ministry, the evidence of the “fire” and the “Holy Spirit” was not yet apparent, certainly not to John’s disciples. They too, it seems, fell into the trap of seeing only what they where looking for.

I am sure that you, like myself, have sometimes looked for something we expect to see plainly only to be unable to see it anywhere. Sometimes we are looking so hard at the thing that we can’t see it. A case of being unable to see for the looking. Often that is how we manage not to see God at work around us. We have our own idea of what it should look like, must look like that we simply don’t see Him at all. Even when he is stood directly in our paths and working directly in and through us.

Shortly after our Lord sent his message to the imprisoned John, Herod had him executed, yet, in the message John does seem to have seen the hidden Christ and it seems that he died certain that his task, the task of foretelling, was complete.

We are called to be Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, and body here and to speak, live and show the Gospel to the world, just as John did. We are called to be ready to greet our Lord when he returns in glory – and that is what Advent is meant to bring us to preparation for. Are we prepared? Have we prepared? Perhaps more importantly, have we got our eyes fixed so firmly on the returning Christ we expect to see that we cannot see Him already among us?

WE must make sure that when He does return we do not have someone write of us:

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him.”


Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:51 PM | TrackBack

December 15, 2007

Living underground

During my recent trip to Libya I learned that some parts of the country are so hot and dry that living on the surface is definitely inadvisable. I suppose it is a demonstration of human ingenuity that for centuries the inhabitants of these areas have built elaborate dwellings below the surface. And, far from being primitive or even uncomfortable, many of these dwellings are far more luxurious than their inhabitants would enjoy in a normal house built above ground.

The courtyard of a subteranean dwelling. The earth above insulates the rooms against the intense heat and even the courtyard is cooled by channeling breezes through tunnels to ensure it doesn't overheat.

The rooms are arranged to open off the central "courtyard", and though they lack windows, the shaft of the courtyard provides plenty of light and air. Airshafts and the means for directing breezes and even cooling the air by means of passing it through tunnels and small chambers in which there is a water cistern, all help to regulate the temperatures and maintain them at an even and very liveable level.

The entrance door to a subterranean house. Beyond lies a large vestibule and short tunnel into the central court.

The other advantage of being below ground is that the stored warmth in the earth above you keeps the temperature at night a constant and pleasant warmth, even when the surface temperature at ground level is below freezing - which it can easily be in the desert!

All the comfort of a normal desert house.

And just for the record - these houses were used in the filming of Star Wars but they are still in use as the homes of quite a large group who have lived here for centuries ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

December 14, 2007

Incovenient facts ....

Further to the item posted by The Gorse Fox a few days ago concerning the theory that the Global Warming issue is a form of Collective Delusion of the same order as the Salem Witch (and other similar) frenzy of the 1600's, comes from Cross Swords, another of the blogs on my Blogroll. In a short but very informative piece he points out that despite the hype contained in the press releases and the political manifesto put out by the UN and its wastrells, the Geophysics satellite data shows that temperatures on the surface of our planet have been falling since 1998. In fact, contrary to what the UN and other pundits like Al Gore and Greenpeace would have us believe that hottest year of the last century was 1934 - NOT 1998.

There is other evidence out there to support this as well. For one thing the North Atlantic drift - the current that flows beneath the Gulf Stream and back towards the Equatorial zone, is slowing down. So is the Gulf Stream which has slowed by 2 knots in the last 10 years. That may not sound like much, but in terms of current flows, it is a lot. Yes, the Southern Ice Shelf in Antarctica is melting faster than anywhere else, but consider this, Antarctica has seen more human activity in the last hundred years than in the last several thousand - and the continent has been locked in an ice age for a very, very long time. It could well be that the pendulum is starting to swing back to release that area and freeze ours again - it is, after all is said and done, something like fifteen thousand years since the last Northern Ice Age. And it is the ocean currents changing their direction or flow which triggers that, something the "climatologists" refuse to model.

I don't think we have heard or seen the last of this. In fact I think the bubble may be on the point of bursting for the Global Warming shroud wavers.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:40 PM | TrackBack

December 13, 2007

The end to British Sovereignty ....

So our Illustrious Leader has signed away our Sovereignty. I wonder if that is treason? I rather think it is. He had no mandate to do this, in fact has reneged on the election promise of a Referendum on this issue - in fact he has no mandate to govern at present, having also failed to test the voter's willingness to have him take on the position of Prime Minister.

In fact, since Blair and his shower of closet communists, single issue politicians and luvvies came to power it seems to have escaped their notice that the PM is "First Minister of the Queen" and not some sort of independent authority exercising power in his own right. They have NO right or authority to give up our national rights and status to an unelected Presidency and Council of Commissioners in a foreign country. In effect, tonight, with his adding his signature to the rest of the collection of socialists who have cobbled together this treaty, the United States of Europe came into being. It is no good his Party whittering on about the Treaty being a watered down "Constitution" - all the other signatories have admitted it is the same Treaty the French rejected the last time round.

Do not get me wrong, I am not anti-Europe or even anti a European "Union". What I object to absolutely is the unelected Commission and the rule by Bureaucratic Decree from Brussels. When, and only when, the Commission and the Brussels Bureaucracy is brought under the scrutiny of election and full accountability will I support any form of USE. The British people have been lied to by the bureaucrats, by the current crop of political pygmies and by the current government.

We must have a referendum on this issue - it is either that or we need to descend on Whitehall and clean house!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

A cruel blow ....

It was announced today that Terry Pratchett, quite my favourite author, has a rare form of Alzheimer's Disease. Apparently this has been brought on by a minor stroke he suffered in the last couple of years and didn't even notice - until the symptoms of Early Onset Alzheimers started to show. TP is 59 and frankly really doesn't deserve this fate. But then, who does?

I shall be praying for TP as, I hope, will everyone else who loves his work. Not for some miracle cure, but for a healing that he will cope with this and that those who will tend him as the Alzheimers takes away his mind, have the strength to cope with that. In the meantime he has announced that he plans to continue lkiving and writing.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2007

PC Brigade told to lay off Christmas ...

I have to thank Skipjack for this lovely item. It seems that the "Multiculturalists" in Labours little coterie of closet communists have finally stirred the pot once to often even for our Race Relations watchdog. Trevor Phillips and a host of ethnic minority religions including Muslims, Budhists, Hindus and Sikhs met recently to celebrate Christmas. Read the Reuters report below.

Hopefully this will see an end to the spate of schools cancelling Nativity Plays, refusing to allow children to make "Christmas" Cards (X-mas is apparently OK) and local councils declaring that Christmas is now "Winterval". Somehow though I doubt it. The Gorse Fox has a fascinating item on his blog about mass delusions and wonders whether the phenomenon of "Global Warming" is a form of collective delusion in much the same form as that which gripped Salem, Massachusets in the 1600's. I suspect that the present frenzy of trying to denigrate anything British or vaguely Christian and turn it into something offensively non-anything for fear of "offending" this or that minority is another form of collective delusion - and as such is not only dangerous but unlikely to pay any regard to any voice of reason.

We believe that anything British or Christian is offensive to XXXX and it must therefore be banned. Hmmm, maybe Mr Phillips and his fellow celebrants have just set themselves up as possible victims of the PC Deluded witch hunters......

LONDON (Reuters) - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain's equality watchdog Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.

"It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.

Suicide bombings by British Islamists in July 2005 which killed 52 people in London have prompted much soul-searching about religion and integration in Britain, a debate that has been echoed across Europe.

The threat of radical Islam, highlighted by the London attacks, prompted reflection about Britain's attitude to ethnic minorities and debate about whether closer integration was more important than promoting multiculturalism.

Phillips, reflecting on media reports of schools scrapping nativity plays and local councils celebrating "Winterval" instead of Christmas, feared there might an underlying agenda -- using "this great holiday to fuel community tension."

So he joined forces with leaders of minority faiths to put out a blunt message to the politically correct -- Leave Christmas alone.

"Hindus celebrate Christmas too. It's a great holiday for everyone living in Britain," said Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:25 PM | TrackBack

December 11, 2007

Late, late, late ....

I have had an interesting day at the former Salt Mine. Things have certainly changed, not least being that they now have to pay me considerably more to come back and do what I used to do. Oh well, that is progress I guess, but with an interesting twist. As I am being paid by the taxpayers, and I am a taxpayer - does this mean I'm self employed?

Sorry, that is a bit lame I guess, even for this late of an evening. My excuse is that it has been a long and very cold day - and I have another like it lined up for tomorrow.

Time for some soup and a nice warm bed I'm thinking .....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:45 PM | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Two cows - as the politicians see them ...

Sometimes the older jokes are still the best. This one has been around for quite a while, but it still hits the mark ...

You have 2 cows, and you give one to your neighbour.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.
You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...
You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.
You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.
You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.
You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.
You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows because you are sobering up and open another bottle of vodka.
You have 5,000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.
You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.
You have two cows. You worship them.
You have two cows. Both are mad.
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. no-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy....
AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers.
WELSH CORPORATION: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

December 09, 2007

Musical mumblings ...

This week I bought for my own collection a CD entitled "A drop in the ocean". It is a locally compiled and produced disc - everything on it is performed and some even composed by local artists and the proceeds are going to the Gloucestershire Flood Relief Fund. It is an eclectic collection of music reflecting the range of tastes, styles and music of the performers and begins with a medieval sounding piece entitled "Bloody meadow". The performers range from soloists such as Carl;eton Etherington on the Milton Organ, rock bands, folk bands, the Tewkesbury Town Band, choral groups and even the local school, a group called Diamante.

The mix is entertaining to say the least, with the medieval opening followed by a rock piece called "Treat me right". That is followed by the Town Brass Band playing "Beyond the sea" (Appropriate for Flood relief!) and the Blues number "It had to be you" is beautifully sung by Cate Cody. Then turn down the hi-fi because Carleton Etherington's rendition of "Marche Triomphale" by Karg-Elert is thunderous and the Milton Organ obviously gets a full workout as he delivers a wonderfully triumphant piece of musical fireworks. In complete contrast is the humorous "Dear Mr Brown", a nicely comical "letter" to our Illustrious Leader who made the obligatory photo opportunities during and after the floods - and loads of promises which seem to have been translated into more Civil Servants eating their heads off and doing nothing constructive. This is followed by "I don't want to talk about it", "Steal away", "happy ending", "Every day" and "Stormy weather" - another appropriate selection - then comes "The Cobbler" by the quaintly named "Pholk Law", "Sea and Sand", Bric a brac (By the Angry Owl and the Porcupine no less), "Rescue" by the Carnellians, "In season", "A drop in the ocean", "Beautiful noise" by Andy Brotherton and finally "The times they are a changing" - the song made famous by Bob Dylon.

In the words of the song "Dear Mr Brown" - "Dear Mr Brown, we're so glad you came to see us. We're six feet under water, but we're glad you came to see us Mr Brown." Perhaps more telling is the passage which says "We're so glad you came to see us Mr Brown, just remember I'm a floating voter Mr Brown"

Rudyard Kipling put it rather well in his famous poem/hymn "Recessional" written at the height of Empire -

The tumult and the shouting dies; The Captains and the Kings depart, Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart. Lord God of hosts be with us yet, Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Westminster has already moved on to the next scandal/photo opportunity, but the people of Gloucestershire have, in this CD, shown their determination to get back to normal - and their acknowledgement that it is pointless waiting for government promises or the civil service to do anything positive. So we roll our own sleeves up and get on with it. The CD can be found in The Abbey Shop, Alison's Books, Tewkesbury, and the Music Shop in Church Street, Tewkesbury and most other record and music shops in Gloucestershire.

We're glad you came to see us Mr Brown.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 08, 2007

Christmas Time Puzzle

Once there was a time when children were only given very small presents for Christmas like a handful of nuts, an apple and maybe a wooden toy carved by the father or grandfather. One day a neighbour brought a bag full of nuts to a family with 3 children. He said:

"Children, I am willing to give you all these nuts if you can tell me how many are in this bag. The eldest of you shall have half of them plus one, the second will get half of the remaining ones plus one and the third again half of the remaining ones plus three."

Can you help the children calculate the correct numbers of nuts in the bag?

P.S. This was an exercise presented to fourth graders at primary school.

Posted by Mausi at 08:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 07, 2007

Feeling swamped ....

I know, I know, I bring it on myself.

With Christmas only three weeks away I have only just finished writing Christmas Cards and those for overseas will probably reach their recipients late. The internal ones may just make it, and those for hand delivery at the Abbey haven't even been started yet - but now I have offers of work pouring in, and I dare not turn it away. Mausi is having the same problem so this could get patchy ....

Don't even mention Christmas shopping.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2007

Hug a Hoodie? The Clarkson option ....

Many of us feel that we now live in a society that no longer has any respect for the law. In fact many of us feel that the criminals now enjoy "rights" which exceed anything enjoyed by the law abiding citizen. The row in the papers today over the anti-terror laws is a case in point. According the Liberty and the Civil Rights bleeding hearts, to increase the time the police are permitted to hold a suspected terrorist without formal charge is excessive at twenty-eight days and to increase it to the proposed forty two days is to threaten the very fabric of democracy. Considering that Labour are themselves a threat to democracy that is a bit rich - especially as Labour are the people who now want to bring this in and not that long ago were opposing every attempt to tighten up on any form of justice.

One does have to wonder though, when the likes of Jeremy Clarkson find themselves the target of a gang of "youffs" in a public centre in Milton Keynes and then find themselves "helping police with their enquiries" after one of the fourteen year olds called the police because he wouldn't kowtow to their threats and bad behaviour. That the police haven't taken action against the "youff" concerned for "wasting police time" says everything we need to know about the state of our justice system, when a victim turns on this scum and is then accused of behaving "provocatively"it is pushing the limits of everyone's respect for the police and the justice system. The full story is in the extended post to this, and I am pleased to see that Clarkson will face no further nuisance over this, but it is not an isolated incident.

Last Sunday afternoon I had to suggest rather forcibly to a similar gang of "youff" making free of the cloister area at the Abbey, that they should remove themselves before I did. I got a mouthful of invective and the usual threatening gestures, but then my Sarn't Major voice came into play and I refused to back off or leave them alone - so they decided to depart - but I dare say that I could have found myself facing an interview with Mister Plod had one of the little devils decided to make a complaint. Pity really, because, interestingly, as Church Warden, I hold powers of arrest within the Churchyard. That could have provided the Magistrates with a lot of fun. I would also have to say that we have a lot of trouble with this particular group who are well known in our town - and earlier in the afternoon they had been in and stolen several candles from the Advent Crown at the back of the Abbey. No doubt to add to their collection of candles stolen regularly from the Chapel Altars in the Ambulatory and from the three stands for Pilgrim candles.

What it really highlights for me is that these children have been lost to our society. They are on a one way spiral downward toward a life on the fringe of society, a life of drugs, crime and despair. It breaks my heart to see such a waste of human potential, yet no one seems able to reach them in any form. Discipline is completely lacking, they have no concept of belonging to anything or anyone. Loyalty is to themselves only, they will turn on a "friend" in a moment if it will save their own skins. They demand "respect" but have none for anyone else and cannot see that respect is something you earn, that it cannot be demanded or taken from someone, down that road lies contempt, loathing and, ultimately, revenge. These are children with family life so dysfunctional that they will never learn any of these concepts from their parents - and know they can reject with impunity all forms of adult restriction.

Want to get an adult male into hot water? Suggest he's tried to "groom" you or had sex with you. Want to get your parents into trouble - phone Childline or the Police. Get caught stealing or causing damage to something? Accuse the owner of assault. And the list goes on - that is the society that has been created by those who, for all the best reasons, have forced through laws restricting how we may deal with our children. As usual, to crack a nut they have gone for a full scale hydraulic press so that every parent is now held in suspicion every time a child picks up a bruise or breaks a bone. And the "lost" children know exactly how to exploit the power they have been given. Why is it that most of the murders involving lethal weapons or firearms are now committed by youths considered to be "not ciminally responsible" in the eyes of our law? They know exactly what they are doing and they know exactly what they can expect if caught - a lenient sentence and an early release - look at the murderers of Jamie Bulger, now enjoying a new life in Australia under assumed names.

Those of us who try to abide by the law are not protected by it, but those who choose to break it most certainly are. If we are to ask why this should be so, there is a very simple explanation and it lies in the fact that there was a general revulsion of the use of the legal system in the late 19th Century which saw boys hung at ages under sixteen for comparatively trivial offences. Children were also sent to prisons sentenced with adults to hard labour and the abuses they suffered probably did ensure they ended up as gallows bait - it was quite possibly a relief to be free of that harsh a life. Since then reformers have argued for a steady increase in the age of responsibility, but are they right to say that a sixteen year old does know the difference between right and wrong and a fifteen year old doesn't? A child of four knows the difference if they have been taught it from an early age - but this is where the reformers have gone too far. Children no longer learn this and any parent who does try to impose discipline is likely to have a visit from a social worker and the police!

Somewhere a balance has to be found. Children do know the difference between right and wrong, and reasonable punishment is justifiable in teaching this. The Dr Spock "reward" system is a failure - he admitted it himself - yet in Britain far to many earnest "professional" mothers hold to it as a tenet of faith - and sometimes the results can be seen among their offspring as soon as mummy dearest is out of sight. Again this is something I have some personal experience of and I know instantly which boys have been brought up on the Spock method and which have been brought up traditionally. No prizes for guessing which children I will deal with and which I won't have anything to do with at any price!

One thing is certain, we do need to find a way to deal with these feral children. If for no other reason than that we need to break the cycle which will carry them inexorably into a prison and justice systems. More importantly we need to begin by rediscovering the concept of justice involving an element of punishment and retribution - and perhaps we need also to rediscover or reinvent the concept of "Outlawry" - if you break the law, you place yourself beyond the protection of the law and cannot therefore shelter from the consequences by manipulating the law.

A thought for the day perhaps?

By Sky News SkyNews - 7 minutes agoTV presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been questioned by police after he wrote in a national newspaper about confronting a youth who was pestering him.


The Top Gear star explained in his Sunday Times column that the incident took place outside the Xscape sports complex in Milton Keynes, where his youngest daughter was celebrating her birthday.

Clarkson had stepped outside for a cigarette when he was confronted by a gang of teenagers, who began to pester him and followed him when he tried to walk away.

"And so, figuring that attack was probably the best form of defence, I grabbed the ringleader by his hoodie, lifted him off the ground and explained, firmly, that it'd be best if he went back to his tenement," he wrote.

"I was standing there holding this boy by the scruff of his neck, and instead of worrying about being stabbed I was actually thinking: 'Jesus, I'm going to get done for assault if I'm not careful.'

"I therefore put him down, and in a flurry of swearing and hand gestures involving various fingers he was gone."

The children began filming the November 23 incident on their mobile phones, although the footage does not appear to have made it onto the internet.

Thames Valley Police said they received a call from a 14-year-old girl informing them a man had been abusive towards her friend.

But when officers arrived at the scene and spoke to witnesses it became clear the girl was part of a group who had earlier been warned by security staff about their behaviour.

A spokesman said: "Mobile phone images were viewed, as well as CCTV footage, and it became apparent that, if any offence had occurred, it was the man who was the victim."

Clarkson was later interviewed at his home in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, but did not wish to make a complaint or provide a statement.

The police spokesman added: "There is no evidence that a crime took place and therefore there will be no further police action."

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:25 PM | TrackBack

December 05, 2007

Happy Birthday, Knut!

A year ago Knut took the headlines in German news media for weeks on end. It is difficult to find anything more cuddly than a new born polar bear who has been rejected by its mother in the Berlin Zoo and has to be hand raised by his keeper. A whole nation breathlessly watched Knut's antics as wriggling in and out of his hammock, trotting after his keeper and chasing his keeper's heels, trying to bite off the nose of the biggest stuffed teddy bear you'd ever seen, learning to swim and so forth. Once Knut was old enough to come out into his open enclosure people were queuing up for hours to get into the zoo.

Knut became immensely popular. Just after his birth there had been a heated debate among animal lovers if he should be raised by his keeper or if nature should be allowed to take its course and Knut be allowed to die. Had he been born in the Arctic instead of a zoo he wouldn't have survived with his mother rejecting him. But who could keep his hands off a small white fluffy something with big dark round eyes peering inquisitvely into the world around him. Before the argument about his right to live had ended his keeper was feeding him with a bottle and Knut was growing fast.

Today Knut had a big party. His keepers gave him a big cake made of vegetables, fruits and ice. Although Knut is not a cuddly little thing anymore, weighing now about 115 kg, he is as fascinating to people as ever. Thousands came to see him today and treat him to a "Happy Birthday Knut"-song.

Trust the politician to try and use the Knut mania for their own devices. Our Minister of the Environment became his "godfather" when Knut was a few days old. Today he gave Knut a special birthday gift, saying that the German Government saved the Artic Ice for the polar bears by deciding to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 40% until 2020. It waits to be seen how that will work out.

In the meantime - Happy Birthday, Knut!

Posted by Mausi at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2007

Praise indeed ....

This morning I opened my copy of Navy News and discovered to my delight that they have reviewed "Out of Time" very favourably. In fact the comments about the people and the Fleet are, from this source, praise indeed. When they say that the - "author's dark blue take on starship fleets of the 23rd Century works well" - I take that to mean that they (professional seamen) found it believable. I think it is very complimentary when they add - "there is more than a hint of the 21st Century Navy present as the crew voyage through a hostile environment in their metal ship, just as 21st Century submariners do in their own HMS Vanguard, to which the starship bears a more than passing resemblance."

To say that I am delighted is to understate the case - especially as the Editor has this morning asked that they be given a review copy of the sequel as soon as it appears. He tells me that several of their people have read it and want to know when the next book will be out .....

Now THAT is praise indeed.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 03, 2007

Entertaining the interesting?

Today I have received two interesting offers. The first is from a firm of Literary Agents in New York who would like to represent me and sell my latest book into a publisher. Having read their contract offer carefully - they want ten percent of anything I earn from any sale they make - I have signed it and sent it on its way. I now await with interest the next move, which I gather is to have a meeting and discuss the book with an agent. Hopefully here - NY is a long way and the calendar is a little full for the next month or so.

The second interesting development is an e-mail from AuthorHouse, the publishers of Out of TIme - forwarding an enquiry from a Japanese publisher who seems to be interested in translating and publishing Out of Time in Japanese! I have responded to that cautiously suggesting that I would certainly be interested in discussing business arrangements with them and will provide a review copy for their study. My curiousity is, however, aroused. I find myself wondering what drew them to my book. They surely haven't scanned everything on Amazon to find it and its even unlikely to have been a scan of AuthorHouse's collection. I know the Japanese have a fascination for the mileu of SF - a fact born out by their research in robotics and other SF machinery. Research incidentally that few, if any, Western companies are even attempting.

Won't it be fun if I find myself published by a Japanese publisher when publishers in the UK can't even be bothered to look at a manuscript? I wonder what it says about the publishing industry here and their selection process?

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

December 02, 2007

Advent Sunday

Last Sunday I worshipped in Mainz Dom, this week I am home again in my familiar setting of the Abbey. The two buildings are not that different in scale, but very different in character. Mainz's red sandstone and small windows tend to make it darker inside than the Abbey is usually, but what really counts is how the two buildings are used.

Today is Advent Sunday, the start of the preparation period for Christmas. It is generally a sombre season liturgically for the focus, preparation, is for the coming of Christ's Kingdom on Earth. As the gospel tells us, we do not know the hour or the day on which that will come and that is probably just as well. In this day and age the lead up to Christmas for most is anything but a spiritual journey - it is a very material one. Christmas Cards to be found and sent, presents to be bought and wrapped, decorations to be put up and masses of food to be acquired, prepared and consumed on the day itself. That is a great shame, for the season deserves more attention and Christmas itself should be celebrated with more foicus on the Babe and less on the fact that it provides an excuse to overindulge on every front.

Advent reminds us of the journey in faith which we must make if we are to fully appreciate the import of that infant whose birth so changed the world. As St John wrote; "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth."

But our modern approach to Christmas is sadly, the very epitome of the statement from the same author - "He was in the world, and though the world was made by Him, the world did not recognise Him." Well, some did, though it took them a while too, and thanks to them we now celebrate that event. Let us hope that it can be recovered for those who do believe and become once more, a season for celebrating the arrival in the world of its saviour.

When God set out to save us from ourselves, He didn't send a committee and He certainly didn't send us a politician. He sent His one and only Son, the Word Incarnate.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:48 PM

December 01, 2007

Back to the grindstone ....

Just back from Poland and it seems quite strange to suddenly hear English being spoken everywhere. Now eight days worth of catching up to do - and some of it to be done before tomorrow morning. Ah well, I didn't really need to sleep tonight ....

One ray of sunshine, I have an e-mail from an agent who would like to explore representing me and my books. Only snag, they're based in New York. Still I guess I could splash across the pond to do business if necessary. I will explore and keep you posted.

Another thought - it's the 1st December and I haven't written a single Christmas card yet. I think some of you may be getting them very late this year ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:52 PM | TrackBack