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September 30, 2008

Change of Seasons

Lots of people seem to want summer to last all year long. Not so Mausi - summer even at this latitude is much too hot for her. Mausi likes all seasons but late summer/early autumn is a favourite with her. Suddenly all the smells are back which were lost in summer. Morning mists bring them up from freshly ploughed soil, the last flowers of the year give off their scent in the still warm sunshine. And the colours around are just beautiful.

Last Sunday was such a perfect day. Mausi took a walk in the morning and came across this striking maple tree.

A symphony in red and gold

On days like this Mausi really pities all the people who have to live near the equator and never see the change of seasons at all.

Posted by Mausi at 06:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 29, 2008

Caught in the act!

At the moment my garden is full of spider webs, the little devils are busy building them across ever gap including the front door and I have to dissuade them every morning as I make my way out to one thing or another. Even cutting the grass or trimming the hedge means displacing a number of webs and getting them to move out of range of the mower or the hedge trimmers.

The common Garden Spider according to my book, industriously building a web between my rose bushes and the hedge - a large undertaking!

As everyone else seems to have pretty pictures of the webs, I thought I'd try contributing one of the builder. Not the most attractive customer I've ever encountered, but certainly determined and efficient little devils - and their webs are certainly strong. Getting them off you is quite something when you walk into one unexpectedly!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:19 AM | TrackBack

September 28, 2008

Post hurricane meanderings ...

Visiting One Happy Dog Speaks the other day, I followed her link to another blog and found these stunning pictures on Boston.com of the pre-storm surge from Hurricane Ike and the post storm damage. As Happy Dog, alias VWBug, asks, what draws us to pictures of devastation? I suspect its an element of "Thank God it wasn't me!"

The scenes of devastation in Texas and a couple from Cuba and Haiti certainly bring home to me the enormous power of nature. And before anyone says it, no, I don't think the storms have become more powerful in the last decade or so. Two things have changed which also changes our perceptions of these events. The first, is that we now have much more immediate pictorial coverage of them, the second is that as the low-lying coastal areas have been developed in so many countries and the human population continues to grow unchecked, more property and more people are in harms way whenever a storm of this magnitude does occur.

The more we pave over, the greater the run-off we generate. More run-off, less "soak away" means that rivers can't handle the volume of water. Here in Britain we have the added stupidity of the Environment Agency and the usual "green" suspects refusing to dredge rivers. As the rivers silt up - the volume of water increasing from run-off becomes a factor the river cannot deal with any longer. Add to that building on flood plains and .....

Fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, these storms strode through sparsely populated areas and did as much damage to the environment as they have ever done. Now of course, we have thousands of homes and even more people living in the area the storm surge must invade - and the result is the tragedy in the pictures. Well, the hurricane season is now at an end for this year, and here in the idyllic Severn valley we await the usual winter rains and probable flooding in rather resigned fashion. A notice not far from my home advertises land for sale for "Recreational and Service use" - its flood plain land and despite numerous attempts the same crew of developers keep coming back and trying to get planning permission to build on it or to pave it over - either of which will lead to tragedy in the future. Some folk simply won't learn.

All of that said, I have nothing but sympathy for those affected by Hurricane Ike. The pictures say it all, but we really do need to think about where we allow communities to be developed and built since this activity is probably the single most likely cause of these disasters. Nature is as nature is, constantly changing and constantly a threat. We need to learn to live with it rather than trying to defy it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:48 AM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2008

Stupidity on the increase?

There are definitely times when stupidity should be a capital offence. The extended post gives an example of one such - a British (I'm ashamed to say!) woman who bought a live artillery shell in France, placed it in her hand luggage and then, when stopped by French Security staff at the airport, claims not to have any idea why it caused such a fuss!

I think the only thing that tops that story is the Russian ship, carrying thirty - you got it, count them yourself - tanks which has been captured by pirates off Somalia......

One can only hope that they are not fully equipped and haven't the ammunition with them, but don't count on it.

ITN - Friday, September 26 01:07 pm An entire French airport had to be evacuated when a British woman tried to board an aircraft with a bomb in her hand luggage.

Security guards spotted the 55-year-old had a World War Two shell, used in army field guns, in her case ahead of her Ryanair flight from Bergerac, in the Dordogne, to East Midlands airport.

The woman, from Nottingham, said she had bought the 37mm military explosive in a second hand shop as a present for her husband.

As more than 1,000 passengers and staff were forced to leave the terminal building, bomb squad officers took the shell to nearby wasteland and carried out a controlled explosion.

A French police spokesman said the woman, who has not been named, was questionned at the scene.

He said: "She told us she had no idea that taking a military shell through airport security would cause such a fuss. She said she bought the device in a second hand shop because her husband collected military memorabilia."

He added: "Checks were made with the tradesman she bought it from and her story proved to be genuine, so charges will not be brought and she was allowed to leave."

The flight finally took off 90 minutes late with the woman on board, airport officials said

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:22 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 26, 2008

Of shoes and ships and .....

My posting of a painting yesterday made me wonder where I'd hidden other pictures of ships and sure enough I find I have them tucked into the computer all over the place. The one shown here is of the tug in the painting and shows off her size and her pedigree lines quite nicely. She and her sister, Wolraad Woltemade, are long and rather lean with very clean 'entry' lines at the bow. They have a very high turn of speed - important when you operate on "Lloyds Open Form" which stipulates a "No cure; No pay" operation. The first tug to the casualty that can get the Captain to sign the form and accept the tug's assistance, gets the contract. There are no prizes for getting there second.

John Ross.JPG
The Salvage Tug "John Ross" entering Grand Harbour, Valetta in Malta some years ago. The picture was sent to me by a friend who happened to catch her entering the port.

Once you have a line on the casualty, you have to get the victim to safety - or you don't get paid. So now you not only need the speed to get there, but now you have to have the gear and the power to drag it out of danger and into safety. Often in the most appalling weather and in heavy seas. So you need a tug that is seaworthy, powerful and fast when she needs to be.

This pair have twin engines, but a single screw. The propeller is a variable pitch mounted inside a "Kort Nozzle" which increases the power by creating a "jet" effect. Twin rudders make her very manoeuvrable, allowing a turning circle that makes the ship heel steeply if used at high speed. The twin engines can be used singly or in tandem with both driving into the single gearbox. In addition there are a range of generators which provide electric power for winches, lights, flood lights and the huge derrick mounted on the mainmast. The "Bollard" Pull - the measure of a tugs power is reckoned as 150 tons pull, which is very high by any standards but enormous when measured against the usual 20 - 30 tons for a large harbour tug.

Her bow thrusters - which allow the Captain to swing the bow from side to side with the ship almost stationary in the water develop 800 shp which is the equivalent of most small tugs in the average ports total main engine output. These salvage tugs are in another league altogether, as are the men that operate them.

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

September 25, 2008

Power and waves

One of my hobbies, when I have the time, is to daub in acrylics. The picture below hangs in my study and is one of my earliest experiments in this medium. I'd like to think I've managed to get a lot better at it as I have developed the brush technique and the paint mixtures. Sadly I haven't had time to paint for quite some time so this is a nostalgia trip for the moment!

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My painting, based on a photograph, of the 3,700 gross ton Salvage Tug "John Ross" at sea in the Great Southern Ocean.

Who knows, one day I might get round to writing a story based on these tugs. But that presupposes that the current flood of very time consuming but not very well paying work will ease up and let me have the time to do it. Ships and seascapes fascinate me so I have a stack of ideas and sketches of things I'd like to paint one day. The operative word being "one day".

One of my sketches awaiting further development. It shows a large "launch" under sail with a second under tow with the Sydney harbour's famous Heads as a background.

The sketch is one I did to illustrate a short story which seemed to need a picture. Hopefully I will one day be able to render it properly onto a canvas and do it properly. Hi ho - Porcine aviators are cleared for take-off too.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2008

Return to Tehran

Well, after a frustrating two and some hours queueing to be let into the Visa section of the Iranian Consulate in London to apply for a Visa to go and deliver a seminar in October, my colleague and I returned at the appointed time and spent another two hours waiting for the said visa to be actually attached to our passports. Mine is OK, I only need a single entry and thirty days - I'll be in and out again in four - but my colleague now faces a double battle. He is there for three months - and the visa they have issued is for - you guessed it - thirty days......

Well, they'll have to sort that out at the other end. As for me, it was a long, frustrating and irritating day in which I got almost nothing done. So today has been catch up day. Equally irritating but far, far more productive.

Now, if I can just get the Abbey sound system to talk to the Ringing Room in the Tower and the Abbot's Parlour in Abbey House, I'll be over the moon!

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

September 23, 2008

Flying aerosols

If you've ever wondered why the airlines refuse to allow you to carry any aerosol tin aboard a flight, these pictures should give an explanation. These are pressurised and use Butane gas as a propellent - they previously used Halons, but these are now banned - and some aerosols also contain a flammable liquid as a base for whatever the cannister contains. Deoderants usually have an alcohol base while others, such as insecticides often have paraffin.

The fireball created by a bursting aerosol cannister.

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A pair of aerosol cannisters, one of which created the fireball in the previous picture.

Because they are pressurised they can explode if the aircraft's cabin depressurises at high altitude or if stored in an unpressurised hold. The bang can be powerful enough to do considerable damage.

In a fire they can be propelled considerable distances and do a lot of damage on the way. I have seen cupboards blown off walls and windows smashed, but perhaps the most spectacular was one that punched a neat hole straight through a plaster board ceiling and set fire to the roof space above.

A bit of fire safety in the home advice. Check where you are storing all your aerosols and put them somewhere low down and well screened from the early heat of a fire - definitely not on top of cupboards or in high level shelves!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 22, 2008

Problem at Mill?

I seem to have a problem, the usual front page of MT doesn't load correctly and I get a very basic looking screen which takes a long time loading. Its possible this is a problem at MuNu's end, and its been a long day, I'm tired, and not in the mood to wrestle with this. So, provided this actually loads, this is it for today folks.

Oh, and tomorrow I have to go to London and waste a day queueing for a visa .....

Good night.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:20 PM | TrackBack

September 21, 2008

The Media damages society?

My eldest daughter, who sometimes posts here as "the Postulant", recently sent me her thoughts on media coverage of events in an e-mail which I reproduce for your edification here. She noticed that the recent hurricanes in the US barely got a mention in our daily papers, more engrossed in the morass of a government running out of ideas and long out of honesty. She asks the important question, "Is the Media good for us or our society?"

I've come to the conclusion, having read a book called Quirkology, that the media actually damages society. It is good to know what's going on, but all of the emotional tugging is quite obviously affecting people deeply - the media is generating fear, anxiety and depression, all in the name of ratings. The whole knife crime situation is a prime example - a top copper was quoted this week as saying that more children were carrying knives now than ever did before, because they see reports that other kids are carrying knives and arm themselves in self-defence.

My colleagues and I listened to a brief demonstration on how to talk to the media at a recent conference and one of the things our PR guys said was "journalists often don't have time to get facts straight, so make sure you speak clearly, don't use too much terminology, ask them to read it back to you and be prepared to repeat yourself". I'm wondering where the "investigative" part comes into journalism if they're basically repeating exactly what some PR guy has told them...

So yes, your Katrina articles of 2005 struck a chord - how hypocritical of the media to fly in with celebrities, when they could have flown helicopters in loaded with food and water :S

I have long pondered some of this myself, particularly having been misquoted by the press on several occassions I am all to aware of the danger of talking to any journalist. Therein lies the conundrum; we expect to be informed of events as they happen, particularly via the visual media, but sometimes, to provide that information undermines any hope of achieving a resolution. As soon as the cameras appear at a demonstration the more extreme elements begin to "play to the camera" and I have personally witnessed such scenes. One, in particular, involved an rather fun demonstration where the atmosphere was almost carnival like - until the TV News turned up. Suddenly the heavy mob appeared, complete with hoods and balaclavas and attacked the police and the stewards. Naturally, the police retaliated - and the cameras, with some interesting editing, managed to show only the "brutal" police response.

It frustrated the British Military planners throughout the Second World War, that highly sensitive information passed to our US counterparts frequently ended up emblazoned across the front pages of US Papers. The German Abwehr didn't even have to get out of bed to gather secret information. Now its endemic in the UK, let the government of the day decide on something some civil servant doesn't like and you can guarantee it will be front page of the Sun or the Daily Mirror the next day. There is a very fine line between public information and propaganda, equally there is a very fine line between providing the public with essential information and causing untold damage to sensitive negotiations, military operations and commercial activities. The past week of financial crisis could probably have been much less damaging had the media circus not pursued it with such grim vigour and a determination to be as negative as possible.

The truth, as my daughter points out, is that the Media do damage our society. They print opinions, frequently misusing or using bias in the presentation of facts, to shape and change opinion. Its an old trick, one that the Communists and the Nazis used to great effect in the twentieth century - and one our socialist liberal dominated media now use with impunity.

In answer to my daughters initial question though I would say that the reason the damage done by Ike and other hurricanes has not been as well covered as Katrina in 2005 is simple. The fact that the US has not been shown as being incompetent in its response to these disasters has meant that our left wing liberal media have not been able to use it to do any "Bush Bashing" or to denigrate the US itself.

And that answers the main question. Is the Media bad for society? Yes. Certainly as long as it is driven by aparatchiks whose politics decide how information is presented or the facts distorted in order to present a biased or misleading picture. Something to watch methinks!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 20, 2008

A bad deal for liberals?

According to research I found through An Englishman's Castle those of a "liberal" persuasion may have evolved a lack of response to threat stimuli. It makes interesting reading, but apparently those who react swiftly to sudden loud noises, or to perceived threats are more likely to hold "conservative" views and those who do not are likely to have a "liberal" vision. His post can be found here.

It seems that the response to threat is one of many stimuli that cause our bodies to release certain hormones that help us prepare for the natural responses of "Flight, Fight or Mate", though I rather think that last one may not depend on getting a fright! Apparently those who respond quickly to any perceived threat have responses designed to help us survive in a hostile envoironment, those who do not, tend not to have the stimuli in time to respond appropriately ...... Maybe the bored Guardsman in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, who postulates that every little boy and girl is born either a conservative or a liberal, was right on top of the truth without knowing it!

Now comes the crunch, those who do respond rapidly tend to hold "conservative" views on life. Those who do not, tend to be "liberal", which, if evolution does its thing, means that liberalism should die out in a few more centuries.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:08 PM

September 19, 2008

Confused signals

I find the current Archbishop of Sydney a contradictory man. First, he rails against the Lambeth Conference, saying it refuses to make decisions, precisely what it was set up NOT to do. It is essentially a "talking shop" one which allows the views of all sections of the Anglican Church to be heard and not just those with an agenda to run. He defends his non-attendance by asserting that it was "To English Centric" and does not reflect the Church in Africa or elsewhere, a charge that falls flat on the fact that the African Bishops and leaders were not only there, but took a lead in the many workshops.

But the most contradictory aspect of his charge that Lambeth is "too England centred" is his own Archdiocese's insistence on adhering to the Canons, long since repealed or modified in England and everywhere else, governing clergy dress and vestments written for an English political setting in the 16th Century. Let's face it, the Diocese of Sydney makes many of the Methodist communities look like Anglo-catholics, and the reason is simple. They stick like glue to the Rubrics and Canons of the 1662 Prayer Book which was a major compromise in itself and led to a number of divisions within the Anglican Church at its inception.

The Anglican Communion has followed the model of the Early Church in which, contrary to Rome's claims, the Diocesan Bishops held all the authority in their own Diocese. We are a synodical church and though I do not agree with a great deal its Synods decide, I am, as a member bound by the enactments of the General Synod and the Diocesan and Deanery Synods. That is the ancient model and it has worked well throughout the history of our church. Lambeth is not the Roman Curia, nor should it be. GAFCON is attempting to replace Lambeth and become a Curia - a strange situation again for Dr Jenkins because, as a member of the Ultra-Evangelical wing of the church he is linking up with Ultra-catholics who can't bring themselves to accept the Papal Authority, in order to create an sort of Anglican Curia ....

As I said, this is a very confused signal. I hope our Lord can make sense of it!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

Beauty in destruction

Broken glass can tell a number of stories to the investigator - if they know what they are looking at. Glass is a strange material, technically it is a super-cooled liquid at normal temperatures. It is also a very poor conductor of heat or cold and when subjected to heat from a fire, the heat is distributed unevenly and eventually breaks the glass. Normally the edges of glass broken in a fire by heat will have smooth shiny edges and artistic wavy curves along the break. Occassionally though, something else happens - then you see some interesting marks and the picture here is one such.

Uneven heating in the window caused this glass to break under the stress created by different parts of the glass trying to do different things at the same time.

OK, so I'm an anorak when it comes to looking at things like this. But you have to admit that it is interestingly beautiful - a fern leaf in the glass created by forces we still do not entirely understand. Fascinating.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 17, 2008

Darwin was not wrong - the Churches agree

One for the record I guess, the Anglican Church has broken over a century of silence and said publically that they owe Charles Darwin an apology. The official statement says that the Church "misunderstood" and "misrepresented" his theory. While this isn't an "official" apology, it does, in fact, reflect the Churches "official" position on the Origin of the Species.

It is interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church has long held the same view as has the Orthodox Church. All agree that there is nothing in the theory that conflicts with the Bible and Christian Doctrine or Dogma - a position not shared by some "Protestant" fundamentalist groups. Still, the bulk of Christianity is "enlightened" enough to accept the facts as science presents them.

spokesman for the Anglican Church says it should admit it wronged Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution is still considered anti-Christian in some circles, even as it's become a cornerstone of science.

"The Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still," Rev. Malcolm Brown writes on a church Web site marking next year's 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

"There is nothing here that contradicts Christian teaching," he says, adding that the church's "reaction now seems misjudged."

While the church didn't take an official stance against Darwin, its officials — in a widely publicized 1860 debate — made nasty arguments against his theory that species evolve through natural selection, the church says on its Web site. Today, some fundamentalist Christians argue that evolution can't co-exist with the biblical story of creation — a concept gaining new traction thanks to Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who believes creationism should be taught along with evolution in schools.

Brown's statement, posted yesterday, reflects the church's position on Darwin but isn’t an official apology, the Church of England told the Associated Press. Pope John Paul II said in 1992 that the Catholic Church should say it was sorry for putting Galileo on trial over his assertion that Earth revolves around the sun.

Darwin's great-great grandson, Andrew Darwin, told Britain's Daily Mail on Saturday that he was "bemused" by the apology, which he described as "pointless."

"Why bother?" he told the newspaper. "When an apology is made after 200 years, it’s not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organization making the apology feel better."

Updated 5:05 p.m. Sept. 16: The Vatican says Darwin's theories are compatible with the Bible, and doesn't plan any apology like the one a Church of England spokesman suggests the Anglican Church should offer, Reuters and DPA are reporting. "Maybe we should abandon the idea of issuing apologies as if history was a court eternally in session," said Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister. Darwin's theories, he said, were "never condemned by the Catholic Church nor was his book ever banned," according to Reuters.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:54 PM | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

A journey in spirit

Today I had my second interview with an assessor for possible selection for ordination. I think it went very well, at least we had a good discussion on a wide range of topics, al, of course, steered toward the aspects of my personality, background and intellectual abilities that he was trying to assess. It was an interesting session for many reasons, not least because I have done a similar thing in interviewing potential candidates for my profession. Certainly the content of the questions and definitely the discussions was different, but the purpose is the same - to get a feel for the person in front of you.

This is a journey I feel I must undertake, somewhat late in life I admit, but one that has been on my mind for many, many years. Ever since I first encountered Christ in fact. And that is more years ago than I care really to admit. A lot of fun, hardship on occassions and two divorces have not made the path easier, but it is something I know I must explore properly and now seems as good a time as any. There are many hurdles to overcome and a lot of baggage, both useful and unnecessary to be sorted and dealt with. A career in which I have been both a leader and a follower doesn't make it easy to give up control, but there comes a point where you have to cast your doubts aside and go where the spirit leads. Having started, I must now see where I am required to go. As the Centurion said in answer to Christ's challenge - "I am a man under authority, I say to this one come, and he comes and to another go and he goes. If you say the word .... " You cannot be "in authority" unless you also respect the authority of those in whose charge you are placed.

Your prayers will be much appreciated over the coming months.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:21 PM

September 15, 2008

Professional volunteers?

Today I have played host, on behalf of my former employer, to a group from Santiago in Chile. It may come as a surprise to most Europeans, but the Chilean cities are served by an entirely volunteer fire service. What is more they get some funding from the municipality they serve, but each member pays to belong to the service. Now that is novel!

But even more interesting is the fact that they draw their membership from university graduates, businessmen and generally middle class and well educated backgrounds. And that leads to the next little piece of interesting thinking. These guys are trying to find ways to put their people through our training regime - at their own expense. Why? Because they recognise the fact that, in order to meet the demands of a modern city they need to be at least as good as the professionals in other countries.

One thing is veryclear, these guys are entusiastic, they are determined to make a difference to their society and to provide a service that will be as good as they can make it. All power to them! It has been a privilege metting them and talking to them today. And I learned something else - my ancestors must have been busy and prolific. My surname is a common one in Chile and seems to have been carried there by an opportunist member of the clan. I wonder which one?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 14, 2008

How do you know autumn is right around the corner?

Autumn is right around the corner

  • when you have to get up before the sun in the mornings to be at work in time
  • when after a misty night you suddenly discover that there has been an army of architects at work in the garden
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    Spider webs that have been invisible during dry sunny days suddenly reveal their beauty and complexity through small dew drops clinging to them
  • and when rather obscure shrubs suddenly burst into riotous colours
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    It's always fascinating to watch this little spindle tree turning from green into flaming red every september
  • and when - best of all - the apples on the small tree Mausi keeps in a big flower pot are ripe at last!
  • 080914_apple.jpg
    Makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

    Posted by Mausi at 11:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 13, 2008

    Political meltdown?

    Hardly, but it does seem that the present government has run into a few problems. As usual the extreme left of the Party is the first to break cover with their demands for "Windfall taxes" on everyone still managing to make a profit, but especially on the energy companies. Now, while I have some sympathy with the argument, I have to say its not as simple as a case of "mega-profit" flowing from high fuel bills. These energy giants now have very diverse activities and the supply of fuel for domestic and industrial users is actually quite a small percentage of where their income comes from. Besides which, all corporations exist only to make a profit for their shareholders and NOT for the benefit of the customer. In fact, in law (Made by the same morons who now scream for "windfall" taxes!) corporations are required to maximise the profits for their investors. The fact that they succeed in doinbg so is hardly a reason to criticise them, in fact, when they fail to do this the first to suffer are the workers most of the Windfall Tax advocates supposedly represent!

    Labour has, as usual, enjoyed the fruits of the fiscal stability built by the last Conservative Government and, as usual, have shown their predilection for "Tax and Spend" - so much so that over 33% of my paltry pension is deducted in tax as is almost everything else I manage to earn now working for myself. I'm not allowed to be independent or to make a profit according to the communistas running Whitehall - that's not fair. I'm supposed to pay for the feckless and the terminally incompetent Whitehall apparatchiks and their parasite followers who have never done a complete days work. But even more interesting is how the Left of the Labour Party is suddenly emboldened by the propsect of being botted out of power. All the Old Labour mantras are being aired again, nationalisation, worker power, collectives and many other discredited ideas of the 70's are being bandied about as "back to our roots" becomes the warcry. And Gordon Brown is vulnerable, because he has never been elected as PM, he has never fought an election as PM and he is a Scottish MP ruling the English as head of HM Government. Nothing he does in Whitehall applies to his constituency in Fife. If nothing else gets him and his band of Closet Communists kicked out of power in England, it will be that.

    The Civil Service is now so riddled with the Labour Apparatchiks that it will take decades to get this country back into the Black and deconstruct some of the bureaucratic crap that Labour has signed up to. Westminster has, under Labour, become increasingly irrelevant since almost everything they now debate is generated in Brussells by the totally unelected Commission and their Socialist Apparatchiks. The flow of tax money out of this country is phenomenal, particularly out of England which not only subsidises Wales and Scotland heavily - and we didn't mind as long as we had the illusion of being a "United" Kingdom - but now we subsidise Brussels and its parasites as well.

    In its usual deceitful way the Labour Party has further complicated the situation by bringing in the Regional Assembly and Regionalisation through the back door. They lost the argument when it was put to voters who resoundingly rejected the concept of breaking England up into 8 independent Assemblies, but they had already put in place the expensive and unelected apparatus to run the Regions. Now they have to try and justify it in the face of opposition at every level. Do they pay any attention to the voters anger? No, but again, enter Old Labour and we hear them arguing that this brings "power to the workers" and enables local control over services. Really? Sounds more like the Soviet system to me - you'll take what we give you and like it!

    Labour has a problem, a big one. They can only rule the UK if they retain all the Scoittish and Welsh MP's in Whitehall, but increasingly people are asking why they should. After all, the Scottish Parliament is now ruled by a Scottish Nationalist who wants total independence and to redraw the boundaries and seize some of the assets we have long held as common property. Nothing Westminster decodes affects Scotland, so why have any Scottish MP's in Westminster? The Welsh Assembly is acting more and more like an independent parliament, even challenging some of the Westminster/Whitehall legislation. If that continues, why have Weslh MP's in Westminster?

    Blair opened Pandora's Box on this, now Brown must face the music - especially after signing away our sovereignty in the Lisbon Constitution which strips the UK Parliament of any pretence of Independence. He knew he couldn't get the voters to accept it so he lied - and now must face the music for that one as well. Personally I hope there is a challenge to his leadership - it may force a General Election and we can be shot of this bunch of 1960's pot smoking, guitar twanging, squatters, university sit-in architects, con-artists and Che Guevarra worshippers.

    The downside of that is that we will only swap one lot of idiots for the other lot - and we won't be shot of the Civil Service which is the real problem in Whitehall.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    September 12, 2008

    Banned ads

    Presumably this was deemed to be insensitive. VW has denied that they are responsible for this ad, but it is something I wish we could achieve. And the Polo is one tough little car anyway.

    Enjoy the U-Tube clip. There are a number of funny ads in the same folder.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    September 11, 2008


    Lest we forget. Today is the anniversary of one of history's greatest attrocities, committed by fundamentalists who want to drag the world back into the 7th Century and create a Global Theocracy, overturning centuries of hard won freedoms in the western world.

    Spare a moment today to pray for those murdered by this terrorist scum - and pray too that the appeasers, humanists and secularists in the west who think that denigrating everything Christian and promoting Islam will create a "free and fair" society will be defeated and shown up to be the fools that they are.

    Pray for those who defend us, despite the efforts of those who constantly undermine them, from the threat within our society and from without. Let us remember all those who have died in the Twin Towers and since in this struggle between cultures.

    9/11 marked the beginning of a war which will continue into the future. A war on the entire western culture and its ideals, which, despite the constant attack from those in power in our own society against Christianity, is founded on the principles of the Christian Gospel. There is a reason the "enlightenment" happened in the west and not in those parts of the world controlled by Islam and it is one of seeking knowledge, something Islam rejected after the sacking of Baghdad in the 1300's. Until then Islamic scholars had certainly held the lead in the propagation of ancient knowledge, while Christian scholars were restricted by various Papal edicts restricting access to learning and scientific research. The widely held belief among those who should know better that Christians beliveed the world to be flat is nonsense. Those with suffient education and intelligence to even ponder the question would have told you that it was a globe. What they did have wrong - and they got it from the ancient Greeks - was that the rest of the heavens revolved around us.

    I still find it interesting that many of our "liberal" fraternity can excuse the attack on the Twin Towers by pointing the finger at Christianity and dredging up the attrocities of the Crusades as a justification for Islamic Terrorists to attack any western nation that refuses to "submit" to their demands for the suppression of Israel and the adoption of Islamic law everywhere. Interesting is perhaps the wrong word, irritating in the extreme is perhaps a better description. The apologists for the attrocity of 9/11 and 7/7 in London and many other attacks and suicide bombings cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the fact that the teachings of Islam may lie at the root cause of the conflict, that the "Religion of Peace" may have a warmongering heart. It is so much safer anyway, to attack Christians for their quaint insistence on believing that Jesus was so much more than a mere prophet. And of course, it is a "majority" religion and must, by definition therefore, be "oppressive".

    Remember all those who have died, victims of terror and of the liberal morons who apologise for the terrorists.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    September 10, 2008

    Collapsing justice?

    The lengthy trial of the eight men accused of plotting to blow up airliners has been much in the news these last days. It seems that the jury could not, despite the evidence of videos declaring their intent, make up their minds that they actually meant what they said. To me this simply means what I have long suspected. Its time to scrap the jury system. It would seem that a section of the jury (and I suppose we have to remember that the trial lasted three months) lost track of the evidence and only allowed themselves to remember the defence teamns repeated question "Was there an intent to ....?"

    The final piece that members of the jury decided supported this (the ONLY piece in fact) was the "proof" that none of the accused had actually bought a ticket to fly. Big deal, so because they were caught before they could do that, they are, according to at least six members of the jury, Not Guilty. As I said, time to scrap the jury system - you simply can't get anyone intelligent enough to serve on them anymore. Certainly not in cases like this one.

    Of course, the Liberal press has gone to town declaring that the Prosecution "failed" because the evidence was "flawed". I'm pretty sure it wasn't, but some morons who serve on juries now insist on levels of "proof" that are almost impossible to achieve. Particularly when it is a case against anyone from a "disadvantaged" or "minority" background. The same idiots would convict and single white male of rape or pedophilia in the blink of an eye on far less evidence if the "victim" was from a minority group, so you see my case.

    Time to scrap the juries and adopt the continental system.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    September 09, 2008

    High tides ....

    We are surrounded by water again. Though not as high a tide as in July last year, it is still unseasonably high. The Vineyards behind the Abbey are submerged, something we usually only see in the winter months, but at present we seem to be getting the remnants of the Caribbean's hurricanes. I know that is not the "fashion" among climatologists who claim that those storms have no connection with our, but they do follow a similar track and these are the ones that "blow themselves out" somewhere around the Carolina coast and then head off across the Atlantic following the Gulf Stream.

    Today was spent in rain and wind out on the fire ground for a course in Fire Investigation (One has to earn the odd crust after all!) and the air temperatures and the humidity certainly put me in mind of the sort of conditions that go with hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. But then, I'm not a climatologist.

    Ah well, I guess its time to find the waders again.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    September 08, 2008

    Privileged views

    Sometimes one gets a chance to take a picture that is unusual. Today I had that chance and managed, unfortunately not with my best camera, to get these shots from one of my "unsafe" positions in the Abbey. It is also one of the most interesting views you can find in the building.

    The Milton Organ seen from the window ledge in the North Transept. The four pillars forming the frame of the organ and view of the choir support the huge Norman tower.

    A vertical view of the Grove Organ This view is obtained from the clerestory on the East of the North Transept..

    As I said, rather privileged views not available to many -except those of us who care for the building and its furnishings. Anyone know where we can lay hands on a £1 million or so? The Grove desperately needs to be rebuilt and restored.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 07, 2008

    A symphony of the faithful?

    A reflection on the variety of personal faith and Christian practice.

    Romans Chapter 12 verse 16: Live in harmony with one another.

    This verse caught my attention as I listened to the second reading during a Eucharist recently. It was repeated in the excellent sermon that followed the Gospel for the day. Take with all that flowed around this in the readings it set my mind in gear and it is my hope that you will share my musings on this subject.

    As I reread the Chapter from which this text is taken I am once more struck by the image that occurred to me first as I listened at the service. For the essence of the message is not that we should or can all be the same, but that we are all, just the same, part of the overall symphony. The letter to the Romans is a very interesting in itself for it teaches us a great deal about the writer’s vision for the faithful and of how the growing church saw itself and the future. Chapter 12 in particular focuses on the Human Relationships, stressing the need to love one another, regardless of hurt. It also stresses the differences between our gifts both spiritual and physical – but it makes clear that these should not be allowed to divide us, but rather an encouragement to work with each other, accommodating difference.

    Years ago I had a very gifted music teacher. I was probably his greatest failure in that I never learned to read music properly and generally played my instrument by ear. I played the B Flat Tenor Trombone after starting out on the E Flat Euphonium. Both very interesting instruments, though hardly the instruments that hold the “lead” in orchestral terms for any length of time. Generally they would be regarded as “accompanying” – carrying a harmony to the principle theme carried by the strings or the woodwind – or someone else. Yet our teacher used to insist that each section of the band or the orchestra played through its entire part while the rest of us listened carefully. Then, when everyone had played their part, he would start again, this time with two parts, then three and finally building up until every part was being played. In this way we learned to appreciate the harmony that is built around the central “tune” or theme.

    So it is with the diaspora of Christianity. We all hold a part of the whole; some may even hold more than one part, but it is heard best when the whole is played in tune and in obedience to the conductor’s lead. As with the orchestra, so with the faithful; our Conductor is Christ and each branch of the Church of God, whether we call ourselves Catholic, Roman, Orthodox or Baptist, Full Gospel or whatever, must play its own part in the overall symphony that is the message of the gospel.

    This is the message to the Romans. It is only when Christians can lay aside their differences and live in harmony that the message of the Gospel can truly be heard in all its beauty and in all its glory. Each of us is a part of God’s orchestra and each of us must play the part of the harmony assigned to us and our gifts in time to the overall score for the symphony to work. The “theme” or “tune” may pass from one section to another from time to time, but the whole is in the harmony that surrounds it.

    Let the music of the Gospel be heard through the entire world. Let the orchestra of the faithful be united in the service of our God.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 06, 2008

    Spectacular seas

    Cape Town lies in Table Bay, which, contrary to popular misconceptions, is north and west facing. Storms from the South and East generally don't affect the shipping or the bay waterfront that badly, however, when a storm comes sweeping in from the west or north it is a different matter as the picture below demonstrates. This is shot on the seafront at Mouille Point, the western arm of Table Bay itself, and the pavement is usually a good twenty feet above the sea level.

    Sea foam is flung into the air and over the roadway on Cape Town's Mouille Point in the storm that swept across the Southern and Eastern Cape coast.

    Cape Town is on the Atlantic side of the Cape Peninsula, a fact you soon discover when you try swimming at any of the western beaches. That water is COLD. The water temperatures on the other side of the Peninsula, in the Indian Ocean are at least 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer.

    The main road along the front to Sea Point awash during the storm. As a small child my parents used to bring me to the park near here (Which was also covered in foam) to play.

    These storms are infrequent this far north, they generally sweep through the Great Southern Ocean along the belt of the Fortieth Parallel (Cape Town is around 33* 55' South) in what is known, with good reason, as the Roaring Forties. Every few years though, the air streams slip north and the result is these spectacular storms. So far there have been no reports of ships in trouble as a result (None I have heard anyway!) and the conditions produced in this weather on the continental shelf produce seas known locally as "Cape Milestones" - essentially a rogue sea that is double normal height and has a huge hole in the ocean behind it. This is a ship killer of a sea and has seen the destruction of a number of tankers, buk carriers and even the passenger liner Waratah in the early twentieth century.

    It lends meaning to the old adage "God help sailors on nights like this!"

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:30 PM | TrackBack

    September 05, 2008

    Look out for the Idiot gene ....

    A friend sent me this collection of items from the ever shallower pool of intelligence. It seems that there must be a genetic effect at work here because it seems to affect any number of nations and people. I have encountered some of these myself in my travels around the UK, sometimes in the least expected places.

    And the problem is that they do breed and they and their offspring have the vote ......


    We had to have the garage door repaired. The repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a 'large' enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one B & D made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, 'Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower.' I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, 'NO, it's not.' Four is larger than two..'

    We haven't used this repairman since.


    My daughter and I went through the McDonald's drive thru window and I gave the teen a $20 note. Our total was $10.50, so I also handed her fifty cents. She said, 'you gave me too much money.' I said, 'Yes I know, but this way you can just give me ten dollars back.' She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the fifty cents, and said 'We’re sorry but we can't do that kind of thing.' The teen then proceeded to give me back $9.50 in change.

    Do not confuse the teenagers at McD's.


    I live in a semi rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local council office to request the removal of the Kangaroo sign on our road. The reason: 'Too many kangaroos are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.'


    I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, 'Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?' To which I replied, 'If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?' He smiled knowingly and nodded,

    'That's why we ask.'


    The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged coworker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, 'What on earth are blind people doing driving?!'


    At a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker. She was leaving the company due to 'downsizing.' Our manager commented cheerfully, 'This is fun. We should do this more often.' Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that animal-in-the-headlights stare.


    When my husband and I arrived at a dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. 'Hey,' I announced to the technician, 'its open!' His reply, 'I know. I already got that side.'


    They walk among us... And the scary part is that they VOTE and they REPRODUCE

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:49 PM | TrackBack

    September 04, 2008

    Back to school ....

    Da Goddess has a fun post up on her blog about her school memories. It sparked me wondering about the things that stay with me from my school days. So what did I enjoy at school? What did I hate?

    What are your back-to-school memories? Tell us about one. Your memory can be your own, or one from watching your child go to school, or a story inspired by a memory, or anything back-to-school-y. Either way, make us smell the must of the chalk or the acridity of teen spirit.

    The Rules:

    * Try to write your entry in 10 minutes. This encourages top-of-mind, primal thinking before the ego and judgmental brain kick in. Just set a timer, make your kid count to 600 slowly, whatever. It’s an honor system. And I trust you.
    * Aim for 250 words or less.
    * Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.
    * Post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

    Well here goes mine. It was my first day in the Senior School and I was unsure of where to go or what to expect. I knew it wouldn't be the same as the Primary I had attended for the previous seven years even though it was the same "family" of schools. The Selborne Schools, Primary and College, are famous in South Africa and, in my day, had a reputation for academic excellence and sporting achievement. In South Africa the senior school, Selborne College, is one of the oldest non-private (Or in English terminology "Public") schools and equated roughly to a Grammar School.

    The memories of that first day are mixed. It was a complete sea-change for all of us, but at least I had the company of many of my friends from the Primary. The smell of the classrooms was a mix of chalk dust and books, of half eaten sandwiches and quietly moldering rubbish stuffed into the ancient desks. It took some getting used to changing classrooms every period and some of the teachers seemed quite threatening. Some turned out to be brilliant and some lost us completely. It was at this point that I lost the plot with Mathematics completely, but we had brilliant English and History Masters who brought the subjects to life, the sciences were good as well but Commercial Aritmetic and Bookkeeping were bottom of my list. Our Latin Master was a Rugby player of note (Provincial Cap) and our Headmaster an austere man who was also a Methodist Lay Preacher. His daily assemblies were memorable. He and the Latin Master spoke Latin to each other, something, I realise now, was a bit of snobbery on their part.

    The "Old" School, still in use, but now extended considerably.

    I look back in some surprise at what I did learn from them and what I did not. I learned to avoid certain things and which teachers I could get by with and which ones not to even try to hoodwink. I suffered sports (I'm not the sporting type) and gave them up as soon as I could. My "sports" have always been sailing and rowing and I happily did these on my own. I collected broken ribs and a damaged shoulder from rugby, a smashed knuckle from cricket and knocked myself out landing badly in the gymnasium. But on that first day - all this was in the future. On that first day we found ourselves being introduced to a range of teachers who were legendary characters, "Dronkie" Muller (Mathematics), "Champ" Champion (Biology) (Suffered badly from Shell Shock and "heard" people talking in class), Tony Grogan (Art), Mister Carlson (History and Geography) (Provincial Rugby Cap), Mrs Stonier (English), "Piggy" Parker (Latin)(His nickname arose from his having a small pig farm as a sideline), "Charlie" Corbett (Bookkeeping and Commercial Arithmetic) and Mister Stonier our Chemistry and Physics Master. To my shame I can't recall the name of the Afrikaans teacher we had, but his nickname was "Oupa" - meaning Grandad. I obviously learned something from him since I can still speak it reasonably well!

    On balance I did well, but, as my reports so often said, I could have done much better. I'm glad I had the good fortune to attend such a good school, I just wish my kids could have been so fortunate.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 03, 2008

    For the stormy winds do blow

    The Cape got hit by a near Cyclone force storm (Hurricane in the Atlantic north of the Equator) but it's also unusual at this season (Early spring!). Parts of the western Cape even got snow, but the Cape Peninsula and the Eastern Cape coast got hit by the full force of the storm. Port Elizabeth faces East and usually rides these out with the wind coming from the West. This one hit from the South West but then swung into the Bay and drives the waves straight into the lower City and over the seawall.

    The 'dolosa' do their job protecting the coastal motorway near Deal Party industrial estate. The invention of the 'dolosa' by the Harbour Engineer of the City of East London, South Africa's only 'River' port. Never patented, Eric Merrifield argued that they were for the benefit of mankind and not for his profit. As a child I remember helping with his experiments in a flat tray and miniatures. Our job was to rock the tray to make waves!

    The storm drove a surge over the seawall and it flooded parts of the city in the low lying areas between Albany Road interchange and Mount Road interchange. I gather that the coastal motorway was closed due to water, rocks and spray thrown across the carriageway.

    Spectacular spray from the seas bursting on the seawall at the container berth.

    Breaking seas throw spray over the electric lines for the main railway line to Port Elizabeth station in the City centre.

    These storms originate in the Great Southern Ocean and though they rarely come this far north, when they do they are awesome in their power. Around twenty years ago another one blew a 45 metre tall Container Crane off the quay and into the harbour. It pinioned a 35 metre pilot boat beneath it on a rising tide and gave the fire service a difficult two hour cutting job the free the boat and its crew.

    There are always those who feel an urge to challenge the power of the sea ...

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:25 PM | TrackBack

    September 02, 2008

    Skipped day

    It has been a long day. Starting out on a run to get my car assessed for repair. I was hit from behind while stationary on the M5 on my way north to Liverpool. At first glance the damage was negligible so I wasn't particularly bothered. A closer inspection on my return home showed that the damage was deceptive. The back end of my car is mostly a very tough and flexible plastic. Ergo, it absorbed the impact, folding around the crumple struts underneath it. Not being aware of this, my inspection on the M5 left me with the impression that I had escaped with nothing more than a sharp bump and a couple of small scratches. Not so. The crumple struts have crumpled. The good news is that they can be fixed and the insurance will see to it. Even better it isn't as bad as I thought when I discovered it.

    Then it was to the bank for a long session sorting out a few banking matters. That took up the rest of the morning to be followed by a quick trip to the Abbey to host an Organ Recital and then to do my duty as Abbey Chaplain for the afternoon.

    That last is always interesting, especially getting to talk to people visiting the Abbey. Some just want to admire the Abbey and are interested in the history, others want to talk about the spiritual side. One never knows what will come up in these conversations. It was a very quiet afternoon from a visitor perspective, but I still had a number of interesting chats.

    The evening was taken up with a meeting on the Fabric - churchy term for the structure and fittings - which meant I got home late.

    Footnote: I thought that I had posted this - I find I must havebeen too tired. I didn't switch the command to "Publish".

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:03 PM

    September 01, 2008

    Ferry across the Murky - sorry Mersey.

    Last week I spent three days at an exhibition in Murkyside, otherwise known as Merseyside, in the City of Liverpool. The conference centre is a super modern building on the Albert Dock, once the bustling hub of shipping, but now, like so many of the UK's former commercial and industrial sites, a complex of shppoing malls, museums and hotels. The city itself is undergoing a massive programme of rebuilding, evidenced by the number of boarded up structures decaying quietly and the forest of tower cranes on those sites that are being redeveloped.

    Some of the Irish Sea ferries berthed on the Birkenhead side of the river. Birkenhead was always considered "posher" than Liverpool apparently. The ferry made famous by the Beatles berths just upstream of the two ships in the picture.

    The former Cammell Laird Shipyard. Cammell's have long gone, but the site is still used for ship repair and maintenance - as demonstrated by the pair of Her Majesty's Grey Funnell liners from the Royal Fleet Auxilliary undergoing maintenance work.

    Liverpool and Birkenhead (LIverpool was once in Lancashire and Birkenhead in Cheshire - but now they are both part of "Merseyside") used to be thriving commercial and industrial centres. Liverpool particularly for its Transatlantic trade. This was the home of Cunard and White Star lines, the home port of the most famous trans Atlantic liners of all time. Now the port is gone, the victim of a failure by successive governments to modernise the facilities ro to tackle the rampant Socialist Unionism that has destroyed all hope of Britain ever recovering its industrial base on any meaningful scale. Liverpool in particular suffered badly under the Labour Party's caball in the early eighties who imposed a mafia style "Soviet" control over the Merseyside region. What was left of their industry simply went to the wall.

    Cammell Laird has been the victim of Whitehall intransigence as well. Cancellation of orders for the navy, encouragement of foreign military sources for equipment and "trade offs" with Europe to reduce our ship building capacity to the benefit of Spain, The Netherlands and France to name but a few of the beneficiaries.

    I will confess that it is twenty years since my last visit to this city and I found that visit depressing in the extreme. I haven't seen much to encourage me on this visit either. Certainly the bits I visited on this occassion had the feel of a place where the lights were on - but there were few people at home.

    Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:35 AM | TrackBack