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October 31, 2008

Prayer request .....

PLease pray today and for the next several weeks for blogger Da Goddess. Joan (Her real name) is undergoing surgery as I write, to fuse two of her vertebra and alleviate chronic and crippling back pain which has disabled her for some time. The operation is a complicated one which requires the removal of all the organs in the lower abdomen in order to reach the lower spine and the affected vertebra. The spinal column and cord must then be exposed in order to remove the damaged "disc" and replace it with a material which will lock the two vertebra in place and prevent further damage. Everything then has to be put back into place and secured, the wound and the abdominal cavity cleaned and made secure and then she faces traction and a lengthy recovery. Please add to your prayers her family, especially her son Spenser, who is very concerned that it might all go horribly wrong. He wants his Mum back and mobile, but is aware that it can, as easily, result in complete disablement.

Your prayers will be appreciated.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:14 PM | TrackBack

Saints in Light

Is the Christian Church's response to the creeping and rather sinister conversion of All Saints Eve into some sort of beano for witches, warlocks and some pretty pagan goings on. And before anyone leaps out to defend this as "innocent" just ask yourself exactly what the Pumpkin Heads are all about. The slow and steady degradation of this, once one of the greatest Christian Festivals at which the lives of all the saints on earth and in heaven was celebrated, ask yourself what witches and warlocks have to do with it.

It is a fact that most of this stuff was introduced after the Reformation and was an effort to discredit the medieval celebration and custom of praying to and through the saints. Yet, if you look to the origins of it as a feast you discover that it was a day set aside for the contemplation of the lives of the saints and a clebration of their work among us. Special saints all have their own days, this festival was a celebration of the whole Christian community. Yes, it certainly does fall quite close to the pagan festival of the harvest, but not close enough to be confused with it unless you are seeking to deliberately discredit the Christian celebration of saints. I find it really quite disturbing that there does seem to be a deliberate policy to "paganise" everything Christian and to destroy the Christian foundations of this country.

Unfortunately for the likes of Dawkins et al, the absence of organised religion almost invariably results, as Halloween proves, in people seeking to attach their desire to believe in something, to anything.

So, we in Tewkesbury, in line with our Bishops and the rest of our Diocese, are holding a procession of light and "saints" - ourselves - from the Abbey to the daughter church of Holy Trinity where we will join in a service celebrating the Saints. The procession will be led by incense, cross and acolytes so that it cannot be mistaken for anything but a Christian statement.

May all the saints be with you, may they interceded for you and greet you in heaven at the time of your translation.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 30, 2008

What's Gordon Brown got to laugh about?

Well, I don't know who put this on You Tube - but do pay it a visit, it explains just what is making Gordo laugh - and who he's laughing at. And this one is by a reputable economist who has provided proof that Brown was warned that his policies were heading us toward an inevitable bust!

Interesting that the changes Labour (Gordon Brown) made to our financial regulations are the single major contributing factor to this present BUST. Yup, Gordo's got a lot to laugh at.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:07 PM | TrackBack

Music of the Stars?

Astronomers do have fun it seems, a group of them have succeeded in recording "music" generated by a group of stars similar to our own sun. The BBC Science site has an extensive article on this phenomenon and recordings of the sound the stars produce as they pulsate. Apparently the differences in the sounds created by each star is due to the differences in size, age and chemical composition.

Listening to our own sun making its 'music' I was put rather forcibly in mind of a very large organ pipe, sounding very slowly - or possibly even of a very deep sounding calliope.

The more we learn, the more we discover we have to learn to understand.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:38 PM | TrackBack

October 29, 2008

Collapsing £ound

In all seriousness, the value of the pound sterling is falling dramatically - something our closet communists in Whitehall and Westminster must be relishing as they watch their goal of ditching the Pound and surrendering the last vestiges of our sovereignty. With Gordon Brown destroying the last vestiges of capitalism in our economy with his mismanagement of the remaining commercial and industrial activities still in British ownership it is a mere matter of time before we are returned to being the basket case of Europe. This is how Labour did it in the 1960's and they are busy doing it again.

Take a look at the realities of "British" business. Almost all of our merchant shipping is now owned and operated by foreign based companies. All our manufacturing industry is owned and operated by foreign based companies. We import most of our food and even our so-called "capital" is managed and "owned" by foreign owned banks.

I will make some predictions here.

1. The pound will vanish after the next election - which Labour will win by virtue of their gerrymandering and propaganda manipulations, and
2. The government will then start attempting to nationalise and centralise the economy in a communist style return to "Command Economics" . Jobs will vanish as the real owners pull their investments out of the country, something that is already happening as the government attempts to nationalise and take control of the banks - foreign money is running before the Whitehall W*nk*rs can get their hands on it.

And the last prediction, two thousand years of the English Monarchy will vanish as Brown and his greedy incompetents finally wreak their "vengeance" on England and dismember it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stock market operations

Once upon a time in a village named Caveat Emptor, a man appeared and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest, and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching some of the few remaining monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now buy on behalf of him.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers. "Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each."

The villagers rounded up with all their savings and bought all the monkeys. Then they never saw the man, nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!

Now you have a better understanding of how the stock market works.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

For the Star Wars fans

This is hilarious - do follow the link to One happy dog speaks and the dance competition of the centuries!

The dance routines of the various aliens is hilarious - and Darth Vader and his storm troopers doing a Michael Jackson number .....

Well, go see for yourselves!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

Overcrowded trains on the Tube?

Not any more. In a creative solution that leaves one almost breathless for the sheer "chutzpah" (A Yiddish word which is a lot more polite than the Anglo-Saxon 'B***ls') Transport for London have solved their overcrowding problem at the stroke of a pen. It proves that the pen is indeed far more dangerous than the sword, especially in the hands of career politicians and bureaucrats.

Its official, the tubes are no longer overcrowded in London. No, there are no extra trains and no extra carriages, nor are there extra busses or bigger busses. So how have they done it? Selective passenger arrangements? Nope. Restrictions on travel at rush hour perhaps? Nope.

Its so simple its breathtaking.

They changed the definition of "Overcrowding". It used to be 30 people standing in a carriage. Now, to be overcrowded, there have to be 60 standing .....

TfL Notice[1].jpg
Spotted in a London Underground carriage - the next step in beating "overcrowding" perhaps?

As I said, breathtaking in its simplicity!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2008

The power of nature

I could not resist posting these spectacular photos, sadly not my own, but from a friend in South Africa. I will happily post the credits for them when I find out which of the people who sent them to me actually took them. They were taken a few days ago during a violent storm over the City of Durban. The photographer captured some spectacular shots as storm moved in on his position and the clouds tower upwards in super cells that reach the stratosphere. We now know thatsuch lightning bolts are two way, the upper end striking into the Ionosphere creating spectacular displays visible from space.

A super bolt strikes the sea, lighting up the adjacent super cell - which I have to say looks for all the world like a serious fire plume.

Lightning lights up the cell from within.

A change of underwear for the photographer may be required as the lightning finds a target bare yards from the picture taker!

Spectacular? Yes, and a reminder of the power of forces we can still barely explain or understand.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 26, 2008

Sunday Matins

Just preparing for the broadcast Matins this morning and looking out of the window - its pouring down. Its also the weekend when the clocks go back and we're now on GMT as opposed to BST so I wonder how many people will have forgotten to reset their clocks?

Do follow the link in yesterday's post, it will take you to the broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from the Abbey this morning and I can assure you that the choral rendering will be worth every second you spend on it.

Have a great Sunday.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2008

Broadcast service from Tewkesbury

Tomorrow morning at around 0800 GMT Radio 4 of the BBC will broadcast Moring Service from Tewkesbury Abbey. For those who haven't had the opportunity to visit us or to hear our choir and the Magnificent Milton in use, try tuning in to BBC Radio 4 or to the live webcast - which will, incidentally, be available to hear all day.

Give it a try, you never know how the readings, prayers or misic will touch you - even at a distance!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2008

Socialist asset grab?

One of the BBC Chatrooms is currently running a discussion forum which seems to be being led by smeone who is a form believer in communist central planned economics. Having read this idiots ranting, I'm afraid I failed to join the discussion - one which seems to be a revival meeting of the Socialist Workers/British Communist Party. All the usual arguments are being trotted out for tighter regulation, state control of wealth, industry, commerce and the distribution of jobs, benefits, wealth, education and everything else. It seems that there is always someone who believes that the unworkable socialist/communist system of "command economics" can be made to work and will, somehow, ensure a fairer political and economic system.

I can recall discussions when I was a lot younger, which centred on the idea of everyone being paid the same rate no matter what the role. I always seemed to be the one who pricked the bubble - by simply pointing out that there was no way I would accept responsibility for managing a factory if I was paid the same wage as the man who swept the floors. Inevitably I was always branded as "reactionary" and "weddedto an outdated and unfair system." Maybe, or maybe I was just being pragmatic.

Yes, the greedy MBA toting wide boys who have infested the Financial Trading Halls and the Boardrooms of once great and responsible companies have played fast a loose with the assets of their shareholders and investors. Yes, they deserve to be taken to task and, if appropriate, relieved of their lucrative positions, but not to be replaced by even more incompetent Civil Servants and politicians whose MBA's are from the same universities and the only difference between them is that the Civil Servants, in the former Soviet Union labelled the "Nomenclatura", are not sufficiently entrepenuerial to run a company. Take a look at their track record and how they have ruined almost every public service and preside over the wastage of vast amounts of public money annually. What makes anyone think this shower could possibly manage the instruments of wealth creation any better than the wide boys currently ruining it? As for their ability to distribute it more fairly? You have to be joking - they are no different from the idiots who have ruined the banks and will look after their own interests at every turn. The only beneficiaries under any socialist/communist economy is the Party Apparatchiks and the Nomenclatura themselves. And look what they managed to do to every economy they have ever managed.

We need to ensure that our socialist politicians do not make this recession the excuse to seize our assets and appropriate to themselves and those who have done nothing to earn it, what does not belong to them or to their sycophants. Already the Chancellor has nationalised three of the biggest banks, we should be alarmed by this - and those who continue to try to capitalise on the current difficulty should be cautious - lest they play directly into the hands of the asset grabbers.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 23, 2008

Which Planet?

You Are From Venus
You love all forms of beauty. You love dressing up and anything luxurious.
A social butterfly, you're incredibly popular and a great host.
You're known for your fairness and affection. You are a friend to all.
Careful though! You're desire to please may make you too willing to conform.
Be yourself and focus on what matters to you. You'll be all the more popular for it.
What Planet Are You From?

Well, this was a bit of a surprise, especially as the planet is hot, subject to an acid atmosphere and totally unlike any of the "attributes" ascribed to it in the test. Still, an amusing aside.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2008

Selective sciences

I have always had some respect for the World Wildlife Fund or WWF, they did quite a good job on a number of fronts in my view, helping to save a lot of our rarer animals from extinction, the Panda, the Siberian Tiger and one or two other notables among them. But now I'm not sure what they are up too. Firstly, like Greenpeace and Fiends of the Earth, they have strayed into the realms of pseudo-science, and that I will not give money to support.

What has sparked this tirade? Well, I came across a little gem in the Daily Telegraph, a stunning photo that shows that the Arctic ice sheet has almost vanished. Or has it? Digging around I discovered that the Telegraph has fallen for a "new" report published by the WWF that says we are heating up the planet faster than even the most hysterical of the "Global Warming" pundits has previously foamed at the mouth over. Tim at An Englishman's Castle certainly has picked up on this as well, but the most telling information I found comes from Watts Up With That? and a fascinating piece he has on this issue.

Or you can go directly to the best photos of the Ice Caps available - at The Cryosphere Today. These are updated daily and show the extent of the sea ice and its thickness - and interestingly they show more ice than the Telegraph/WWF pictures show.

Now I'm not a suspicious man, but the fact that the WWF pictures show not a vestige of cloud suggests that someone has "cleaned up" the images - I wonder if, in the process, and all accidental like - a bit of ice got cleaned off the pictures as well?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2008

Prayer request

Joanie, Da Goddess, is to undergo major surgery today. She goes under the knife at 0700 in San Diego California in an attempt to fix a major problem in her back. At the risk of going for To Much Information - TMI - I will tell you that the operation requires the removal of all her viscera so that the doctors can reach the affected part of her spine. They will then attempt to repair the damaged vertebra and discs so that she can once more live a normal life without constant debillitating back pain everytime she moves.

Please pray for her - the surgery will last several hours and there is always a risk attached to such drastic surgery. Her recovery will take at least three months and I commend to you her collection of photographs which she is selling at very reasonable prices in order to keep herself going while she recuperates.

I should perhaps explain that Californian Workers Compensation ceases the moment she is operated on - and makes no allowance for recovery time. Effectively she will have no income and no insurance should anything else go wrong. Your prayers and your support are vital.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Trafalgar Day

Today is Trafalgar Day, the 203rd anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar which gave Britain and its Empire mastery of the seas and the World the Pax Britannica which lasted a little over a hundred years. As usual our left-wing, military hating government have ignored it completely.

But then they've handed control of the once proud Royal Navy over to Europe and a French Admiral is now in charge ......

Better not remind him that a smaller British Fleet beat the living daylights out of the much larger Combined Fleet of French and Spanish ships. Where is Admiral Nelson when we need him ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:05 AM | TrackBack

October 20, 2008

A tragedy?

Found on The Gorse Fox - this very amusing item on the difference between a "Tragedy", an "accident" and a "great loss". I won't spoil it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Credit crunch

The forcasts don't look good, in fact the latest suggestion is that, contrary to Whitehall's rose tinted visions from the Treasury, the UK economy is already in recession. This will be the second one I have had to survive in the last twenty years and it is probably all the more annoying because, if anything, the Whitehall w*nkers and their political chums in the Cabinet have ably helped to plunge us into it. Interestingly they now are crying that MORE regulations are required, when I am convinced that at least one of the reasons so much of our manufacturing capacity, not to mention almost all of our mainstay commercial activity, is now based "offshore" is precisely because the "regulation" in the EU has reached stupid proportions.

Yes, the financial sector probably does need a bit more commonsense applied in their dealings, after all most of the "trading" in the finance markets (as on the Stock Market) is little better than what one can find in any betting shop on the High Street. The stakes are higher and the odds longer, but its still no more than gambling on a monumental scale - and best of all, the traders win regardless of whether they lose the lot or not. Never bock the "House Percentage" is the maxim they need reminding of, but now that Mister Darling has Nationalised two of our biggest banks on the excuse that they have "borrowed" Public Money, I do not hold out a great deal of hope for anything more than financial stagnation of the worst kind. I know they haven't put Civil Servants on the Boards (Yet!) but the directors they have installed will be having their strings pulled by politicians. In short, the banks will not be allowed to respond to market demand, and everything will grind to a halt. And watch the Red Tape that will now erupt out of Brussels and the Whitehall back rooms.

I do not believe that "Public Ownership" is a solution to the spread of wealth, if anything the Century of Socialist/Communist Command econmics demonstrated by the former USSR and even our own dear Labour Party machinations in the 1950's and 60's should have proved that. But it seems that Whitehall is still in loive with the idea and the very last people who should have any say in the management of anything at all, especially something as important as the national economy, are the Civil Servants who are now being given control of it. If you want something to die on its feet, put some Civil Servants in charge of it. It may take a while, but they will kill it as surely as poison will kill a fit human being. Take a look at the record of Civil Service management of any nationalised industry anywhere, or any major project managed by civil servants in the last half century. I rest my case!

What is worse, the gullible among the voting public are falling for the line that the present PM is "the best man for the job os steering us through this crisis" - a ridiculous assumption precisely because HE has created the mess we are in. He inherited a recovering and sound economy from the Tories in 1997 and has squandered it. Under his Chancellorship our taxes have risen by the Treasury's own admission by 51% and our National Debt is now the highest it has ever been in all of our history. He has embarked on a policy of raising taxes to spend, spend, spend and when he couldn't get it from the tax pool he borrowed and borrowed. This is as bad as the Pre-Thatcher Labour Government whose solution to needing more money was to simply let the printing presses print as much as they wanted. That got this country into a financial crisis that put us under IMF management!

Yes, the Credit Crunch is the result of stupidty and greed in the Finacial Markets and among our top bankers, but they are not solely to blame, some of it must rest with the politicans who have created the climate in which that could happen. And you can be very sure that they won't be reducing their salaries or pension benefits anytime soon.

Snouts in the trough! We're alright Jack, we're inboard!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 19, 2008

Memories of the Fire Boat Service

Recently tidying up my computer picture files I came across the photograph below of the very last wartime fire boat retained in active service. Sadly, she was withdrawn from service in 1996, after a career spanning some 55 years. This class of wartime emergency fire boat, officially known as the Estuarial Class carried four Sigmund Heavy Pumps powered by Fordson V8 petrol engines and were propelled by a pair of Fordson V8's driving the shafts. The Cissie Brock served the Devon Fire and Rescue Service in the Plymouth area for most of her career.

Cissie Brock noses alongside in Plymouth toward the end of her career.

Built of Baltic pine and modelled on a design for a fast tender for the RN, these boats were good sea keepers and many were sold into service after the war as fishing boats. Others found employment as houseboats and motor yachts, several are still afloat dotted around the country. Cissie Brock herself is now, so I'm told, serving as a floating home for some lucky buyer down in Cornwall. The whole of the forward cabin area was given over to the pumps and their engines in the original configuration with the Wheelhouse over the small propulsion compartment and the crew space right aft provided a small galley and benches around a table.

Taken in the early 1950's this picture shows one of the Estuarials laid up for disposal.

Several of these boats ended up on the Rhine as a Column of the National Fire Service was sent with the British Forces into occupied territory, ostensibly to protect the Army's assets. The reality was that they ended up fighting a wide range of fires, some of them the result of military action. The boats seem to have remained in Germany after the Occupation was terminated, and all trace of them seems to have vanished.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:34 PM | TrackBack

October 18, 2008

A legal step too far?

If anything was proof that the legal profession will do anything if someone is paying is the case brought by a State Senator in the US against God, for "Threatening to bring widespread death, destruction amd terrorism to him and the people of Nebraska." Seems to me that he missed the target, it might have been better to sue the hellfire and damnation fundamentalists there who persist in preaching the anger of God instead of the love He so clearly displays. Perhaps the Judge who dismissed the case deserbes a pat on the back - but when you look at the reason for dismissing it, you wonder.

Why was it dismissed? Because God doesn't have an address to which the summons can be delivered.

In Britain this would be called a "vexatious suit" and the perpetrator sent down with a hefty fine for wasting the court's time. In the US apparently, or in Nebraska anyway, the Senator is considering an appeal.

I am reminded that a group of Rabbis, incarcerated in Auschwitz, tried God in a court they convened in the Camp, charging Him with failure to prevent the wholesale murder of the Jewish people in Germany and the occupied countries. After considering all the angles carefully they decided that the only verdict they could bring was "Not guilty" as "The ways of God are not to be understood by the minds of men, nor is His will to be questioned." A point made in the final Chapter of the Book of Jonah.

State Senator Chambers seems to me to be wasting both the court's time and the people of Nebraskas money in a stupid gesture to make political capital. He would not be my choice on any ballot were I a voter in his constituency. The legal system has better and more important things to do than waste time on self serving and self important stunts perpetrated by bigoted idiots.

Legal case against God dismissed

The plaintiff argued an omniscient God would know of the lawsuit
A US judge has thrown out a case against God, ruling that because the defendant has no address, legal papers cannot be served.

The suit was launched by Nebraska state senator Ernie Chambers, who said he might appeal against the ruling.

He sought a permanent injunction to prevent the "death, destruction and terrorisation" caused by God.

Judge Marlon Polk said in his ruling that a plaintiff must have access to the defendant for a case to proceed.

"Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice," Judge Polk wrote in his ruling.

Mr Chambers cannot refile the suit but may appeal.

'God knows everything'

Mr Chambers sued God last year. He said God had threatened him and the people of Nebraska and had inflicted "widespread death, destruction and terrorisation of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants".

He said he would carefully consider Judge Polk's ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

The court, Mr Chambers said, had acknowledged the existence of God and "a consequence of that acknowledgement is a recognition of God's omniscience".

"Since God knows everything," he reasoned, "God has notice of this lawsuit."

Mr Chambers, a state senator for 38 years, said he filed the suit to make the point that "anyone can sue anyone else, even God".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 17, 2008

Crazy patterns

Glass reacts to sudden cooling in a very odd way. As anyone who has placed a hot Pyrex dish on a wet spot on a sink will tell you - it immediately breaks or shatters. Most people don't know that there are a number of differences between window glass, Pyrex and - for example bottles and drinking glasses. Window glass is created using a silica sand and soda ash mix, bottles and drinking glasses, plates, etc., are another form of soda glass but usually with metal salts added to colour it or give it special properties. Borosilicate glass (Pyrex) is the most heat resistant, but there are limits to what you can do to it even so.

Heat_cold 2.jpg
This artists representation of a crazed surface on a piece of window glass was created for me from a photograph.

As I have said in a previous post, glass cannot transmit heat easily so uneven heating or cooling will result in it cracking. The effect seen in this picture is the result of small drops of water striking the surface of a very hot piece of glass. The water drops cause the surface to shrink, breaking the surface tension which holds it together and causing a "crazing" of small fractures across the surface, many less than a milimetre in depth. Larger drops of water cause the "flaking" seen in this picture and these have edges that rival the sharpest razor blade.

Well, you did know I was an anorak on this subject!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2008

Cover design approved

OK, so here's a preview of the front cover of the next book. It will be available from Amazon and I hope a number of other outlets in early November, and here's a deal for interested bloggers - a free signed copy to anyone willing to put a link and an icon for the book on their blog. Those of you who did this for me for Out of Time have helped enormously with the promotion of that book, I hope you will enjoy this one.

Front Cover Qtr size.jpg
The final cover design for my latest book.

And, of course, I hope that those of you who have visited this Blog and seen this cover will at least do me the honour of looking it up either online or in your local bookseller.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 15, 2008

Saving the world or a cunning take-over?

It is difficult to see what else the government of this and several other countries could have done in the face of a collapsing financial sector, but it must also set alarm bells sounding in every free citizens ears. Two of the UK's (and Europe's) largest Banks have now effectively been nationalised by our Chancellor. Hoorah! Scream all the Socialist Closet Communistas - at last! They now have control of the money supply and therefore the distribution of wealth. Frankly, that in itself, is enough to make all right thinking people want to emigrate immediately! What is their next move? Nationalisation of industry is out - they've destroyed what we had, so probably all commercial activity will now be targeted. After all, the Left wing of the Labour Party is still wedded to the idea that the State should control all industrial and commercial activity - only a very short step away from their having control over who gets employment and who doesn't.

The financial crisis needed to be dealt with, but is giving control of the banks to political placemen (I notice that even our ex-Communist Party associate Chancellor has not placed Civil Servant Incompetents on the Boards of the Nationalised Banks, probably the only sensible thing in this debacle) the right way to do this. I agree entirely that the "rewards" for irresponsibility needed to be curtailed and the reckless gambling with what is, after all, their customers money (And most Tax Payers - Mr Darling's favourite sound bite - are also customers of these institutions) so to give the Treasury any sort of say in commercial activity is far from ideal for either customer or taxpayer. How can I say that?

Easily, these are the same incompetents who have visited upon us the Bureaucratic waste of time "Prince 2" contract management which has never delivered anything on time or on budget. And worse, the entire Civil Service is unable to deliver anything on budget, much less specify anything so that it can be. Why? Because they are none of them practitioners of the things they purport to "manage" on behalf of the tax payer. They are "generalist" managers who specialise in nothing and leap from one "empire" of their own creation to another just ahead of whatever they have ruined in the last post being uncovered.

I am automatically nervous of any politcian or Civil Servant being given control over any instrument of the wealth of the nation. Both are anathema to me, because both are biased and both will misuse the power it gives them for their own narrow and self-serving ends.

And now I will make a prediction: Watch the Financial Centre that has been at the heart of this nations wealth and economic growth for the last thirty years vanish abroad. Where will it go? Why, to the "Free Trade" zones being set up all round the Gulf, unregulated and untaxed, they will move there and escape the strictures and restrictions of Socialist Europe and the politcians vain belief that they can generate wealth and distribute it more fairly than any other system. Mark my words, in the not to distant future our wealth will have vanished and we will be in thrall to the new world economic muscle that is being built up carefully in the Middle East. They know exactly how to attract the money men just as our lot of scheming politicians can't see the danger of telling shareholders (the Owners of the banks) that they won't get a dividend "because we won't allow this use of public money" or the even greater danger of allowing all the ownership of our commercial and industrial assets to be in foreign hands.

Prime example? British Airports Authority. It should be called Spanish, just as P&O Ferries is now owned by a Dubai based company and the QE2 has been sold to someone else in the Gulf ..... Don't even ask who owns the major shares in the banks - and it isn't the UK government!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 14, 2008

Roman Marine Patrols

As I have previously written on this blog, the Maritime Museum in Mainz houses a collection of reconstructed Roman ships, two full-size replicas of two fast patrol craft forming the centre-piece. The picture below is of the weapon mounted in the bow of the larger one, a sort of automatic bolt firing ballista, the sort of thing that would spoil any invader's day. The iron tipped "bolts" were fed in from above, each descending in turn as the operators cranked the mechanism. As the drawstring reached its full draw, a trip mechanism allowed an bolt to fall into the firing groove and the action then tripped a release allowing the bolt to be discharged and the cycle started again.

The Roman version of a machine gun, mounted on a fast patrol boat in the Maritime Museum in Mainz.

These fast patrol boats were stationed at intervals along the Rhine and swept back and forth making sure the "barbarians" to the North didn't cross. All this came to nought in 407 AD when the Rhine froze during a severe winter and an estimated 100,000 barbarians swept into the Empire. Famine and destruction followed and the Empire began to crumble rapidly. By 410 AD Alaric, King of the Visigoths, reached Rome itself and sacked it.

Sometimes technology alone is not enough.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to the Postulant

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of my eldest daughter, known here as "The Postulant". She now rarely has time to post, but frequently comments. I can scarecely believe that she has grown into a beautiful woman, intelligent, strong willed and lively. I wonder who she takes after?

Funny, it seems almost yesterday that I was able to cradle her in my cupped hands and marvel at this tiny fragment of humanity. Now she stands almost as tall as me and is all growed up.

Happy birthday my dear, I look forward to celebrating many more with you.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2008

The cover art for The enemy is within!

The cover art for my book "The enemy is within!" is finally ready. It has been created by the Cape Town based artist, Derek Snell, who does a great deal of commercial artwork for a living. I think you will agree that he has managed to create something intriguing and special in this cover, capturing the characters and elements of the story very graphically.

Book Cover reduced.jpg
The artwork for the cover of "The enemy is within!"

Marketing for the book will begin soon and the final proofs should be with the printers within the week. Then its full steam ahead to publication in early November. Watch this space!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 11, 2008

Pwll Deri

Pwll Deri is a place on the west coast of Wales which Mausi visited in 1980 when touring Great Britain by train and bus with a friend. Mausi can't remember if there was a village at all but there was a Youth hostel. Mausi had phoned the night before and obtained the information that if she and her friend got there before 5 p.m. they'll have a place to sleep. Otherwise the beds would be given to someone else.

Alright! Mausi and her friend took the train to Holyhead and planned to walk from there. Asking for directions proved a bit difficult as neither of them could pronounce Pwll Deri correctly. But at last they were on the right track. Helpful people in a shop had told them it would be a walk of about 3.5 miles. Dead easy, even if you converted miles into kilometers! After walking for quite some distance they came to a signpost which said: Holyhead 3.5 miles, Pwll Deri 3.5 miles! Mausi's friend promptly threw her rucksack to the ground and announced she wasn't going any farther. In the end Mausi got her going again, pointing out that they couldn't very well camp on the road in the middle of nowhere and that they were running out of time. They reached the Youth Hostel five minutes to five!

The Welsh Coast

The Youth Hostel was quite an experience. A very small house, very close to the cliff and battered by the winds all night. Mausi and her friend were each given two woolen blankets. The blankets were so full of big holes that you needed the second one to cover the holes in the first one. And it was a cold August night. The howling noises made by the wind made it feel even colder. The next morning the weather was fine, although still windy.

Bit of a breeze blowing in the morning

Mausi and her friend decided to make the most of the day and go for walk to that lighthouse they could see in the distance.

The lighthouse looked like a good place to walk to

It was a perfect day. The only draw back was the lack of provisions. They were left with only one package of crispbread and a little bit of water. Mausi discovered that one can get extremely hungry being out in the open all day and exposed to the fresh and salty air. The walk nevertheless was very pleasant and they spent a couple of hours near the lighthouse, lying in the sun on warm heather, looking down the cliffs and listening to the roaring sea.

There's nothing like watching the sea running against the rocks...

Luckily they were able to buy a hot meal at the Youth Hostel in the eveing. Not many meals in Mausi's life have tasted as good as that one!

Posted by Mausi at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Agents website

I now have a website advertising my next book - try the WL Writers Agency page.

And lets hope I get a publisher soon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 10, 2008

One of those days...

Mausi's had one of those days. Had to get up at a quarter to five in the morning - which doesn't agree with her bio rythmn in the least - to drive about 200 km south with a colleague and start teaching a group of policemen at eight in the morning! Mausi thought they'd never make it there in time but they did, with 5 minutes to spare. The group was interested and the lectures went rather well. Afterwards the drive back to Wiesbaden with her colleague at the wheel this time - Mausi started to feel slightly sick...

Coming home late in the afternoon her ordeals were not over yet. Mausi plans to compile a photo album as a birthday present for an old friend. So tonight she wanted to scan some old slides taken during a trip to the UK in 1980 and maybe also use some of those for today's post. Only, since she last used that scanner she has bought a new computer and now needs to install the software again. But she somehow managed to mislay those darned CDs... A quick scan through her room has not yielded any positive results. A more thorough search is definitely sheduled for the weekend. Sometimes Mausi wishes she were a bit better organised... Sigh!

The only consolation is that Mausi, The Mighty Cat, obviously spent a very enjoyable afternoon in the warm and golden October sunshine outside in the garden...

Ah.. to be a cat!

Posted by Mausi at 06:38 PM | TrackBack

October 09, 2008

Shoes and ships and sealing wax ....

Going through some old photos I found a whole lot of the tugs I grew up knowing in the small city of East London in South Africa. The harbour is the only "river" port in the country, the only one that managed to survive commercially that is, there are two others but the tides and the river currents, the sea and the weather made them non-viable. As this is an exposed coast, the harbour tugs were large and capable of ocean salvage as well as harbour duty. The last class of these monsters built were all coal fired and built in Scotland, then steamed out to South Africa. The first of this class was built in 1935 and the last in 1952. They had a displacement tonnage of 680 - 720 gross tons and carried 50 tons of coal in their bunkers, buring this a rate of roughly three tons an hour when under full power, all of it shovelled into the four Admiralty pattern boilers by a stoker gang of eight men. Those fed steam to a pair of huge triple expansion engines each developing 35,000 horsepower. There wasn't much they could handle on their own, including the two giant "Queens" on their occassional visits.

Schermbrucker 1.JPG
The F W Schermbrucker had a very interesting career which included being sunk rather spectacularly. Raised and repaired, she steamed on in service for another twenty years.

Sister ship of the Schermbrucker, the R B Waterson was one of the later batch, as evidenced by the 'squared' profile of her funnel.

Happy days and good memories, though, as a young dinghy sailor in these harbours you had to keep an eye open for one of these brutes as you rounded a quay of jetty, since, being steam, they didn't make a lot of noise under way - unless they wanted to get your attention. Their "Whoop, whooooop, whoooop, whoooooop, whooooooooop!" on the steam horn could be heard four miles away - and you couldn't miss it if he was coming at you from a couple of hundred feet away!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2008

Off to Tehran .... again.

Just a quick and probably very brief note to anyone interested. I am on my way to the airport and a flight to Tehran. The reason? I'm due to give a seminar on Fire Investigation and I am told there are over six hundred delegates booked. This could be interesting, it is a one day seminar and an audience that size is going to take some reaching. Fortunately, although I am scheduled to be the principle speaker, there are two other chaps assisting me so it won't be all my own effort.

We are booked to fly in First/Business (Tickets say First - booking form says Business!), we have our visas (another story!) and now its just a case of getting to Heathrow and catching the flight.

I used to enjoy these trips, but over the years the efforts to tighten security have introduced so many ridiculous "rules" most of which are purely to satisfy the politicians desire to be seen to "be doing something" and which serve no purpose other than to make life miserable for anyone attempting to travel anywhere, that any visit to an airport is likely to raise the blood pressure to unacceptable limits and give rise to the risk of me actually telling some dim twerp of a security operative exactly what they can do with their electronic wand.

Still, the prize has to go to the Amercian airline check in clerk in Frankfurt recently. Mausi and I had to travel together to a conference in the US. This lady decided that someone with my passport living in England and flying out of Frankfurt had to be a potential terrorist. It didn't help that I can, after a fashion, speak German, though definietly not to conversation standard. I had answered almost all her simple questions in German without actually thinking about what I was doing. Then she asked "Do you speak German?"

I'd have thought that by that stage my accent and the monosyllabic answers where a clue, but I answered, stupidly - "Nein!"

Her face was a study, as she launched into a torrent of German, demanded additional Photo ID and rushed off to call a supervisor.

I think I still owe Mausi for her laughter!

Ce la vie! The road the Heathrow and the usual chaos beckons. I'd better go.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:51 AM | TrackBack

October 07, 2008

German Pilots

A few days ago The Monk posted a funny one about Quantas maintenance people. Mausi learnt yesterday that German pilots - at least those of Air Berlin - have a very special sense of humour, too. Judge for yourself:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Air-Berlin Happy-Hour: two landings for the price of one." (The pilot had needed a second landing approach...)
"We do not know if we'll be able to land because of the fog but just in front of us a Lufthansa plane is trying to. Let's see what the result will be ...."
Air-Berlin flight from Berlin to London-Stansted, very bad weather in England as usual. Announcement of the stewardess prior to landing: "Dear passengers, welcome to London Stansted where the weather is cold, dreadful and unfriendly, just like my ex."
Safety announcements on Air Berlin flights: "In case of a pressure decrease inside the cabin, oxygen masks will be automatically released from the ceiling. Stop shouting, pull on towards you and put it firmly over mouth and nose. If you travel in the company of a small child, put on your own mask first and then help the child. If you are travelling with two children, now is the time to make up your mind which one you love most."
Radio message of a young pilot on his first solo at night approaching the airport: Pilot: "Delta Mike Romeo for Tower Münster Osnabrück: Guess, who is here." The Tower personnel is not amused and turns off the runway lights without further ado... Tower: "Tower Münster Osnabrück for Delta Mike Romeo: guess where we are... "
Tower: "Say fuelstate." Pilot: "Fuelstate." Tower: "Say again." Pilot: "Again." Tower: "Argh, give me your fuel!" Pilot: "Sorry, need it by myself..."

Posted by Mausi at 07:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 06, 2008

Destructive power

Another of my many photos taken during 'burns' for training, this one looking down the 'throat' of the fire into the burning room. The 'tunnel' in the flames and smoke is caused by the fire drawing in air. As with my pictures of the broken glass, there is a certain beauty in the patterns created by the flames and in the smoke itself - giving a sense of the Biblical concept of the beguiling beauty said to be manifested by the Devil.

Flames frame the door opening as the contents of this small room are engulfed in fire.

Now fully developed, the fire shows its rage.

Fire and water, mutual enemies in our world are in fact the most destructive forces known to man, yet there is a terrible beauty in the flames of a truly awful fire and in the raging waters of a flood. Of the two, I personally think that fire is the greater enemy. But then I would, wouldn't I?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 05, 2008

Prophetic writing?

I have recently reread a book called "Erewhon" by a gentleman named Samuel Butler. And before you all start reaching for your best seller lists, I had better explain that the book was published in 1872 and is a very clever political satire in the same spirit as those written in the 18th Century by Jonathon Swift, The title is in fact an anagram of "No where" and it is a sort of anti-Utopia tract, written, I think, as a riposte to much of the Utopian social writing of the period in which so much of our current socialist thinking is rooted.

Erewhon is set in a remote part of the British Empire, a land hidden behind a virtually impenetrable range of mountains. In contrast to our own society (or the Victorians for that matter!) it is a place where beauty represents health and prosperity, illness is a criminal offence and disability leads to banishment (if you're lucky!) or death (if you're not!). Children choose their parents and "bad" parents are punished - the definition of "bad" parents being decided by the accusations of their offspring. In short, it is a society which turns on its head all the norms by which any normal society would operate. Or does it?

Butler attacks the Ecclesiatical institutions and theology of his day robustly, but as I read through this again, I suddenly found myself wondering what he would make of the society we live in. The emphasis on "Children's Rights" comes very close to what he has written in fiction more than a century ago. So does the NHS farce which allows the wealthy to bypass the blockages and bureaucratic clap-trap the rest of us have to suffer not to mention the selectivity when it comes to the availablility of some treatments and drug regimes.

For all its age and the dating of some of the technology in which it is set, it is very readable and entertaining - but do look deeper. That is the scary bit.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:54 AM | TrackBack

October 04, 2008

Have confidence in your maintenance team ....

OK, so maybe this one has been around for a little while, it is still funny - especially if you regularly fly Qantas!

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "Gripe Sheet" which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the Gripe Sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.*

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny........... (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And the best one for last..................
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

* Recently one of their 747's lost a large chunk of fuselage and had to do an emergency descent and landing in Manila - a tribute to the pilots skill that it wasn't a major crash. They have also had a couple of near misses, unlike their smaller internal partner airline who have managed to drop a couple into the ground. Still an impressive record though!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:24 AM | TrackBack

October 03, 2008

Just a pretty picture

It is hard to believe that I took the picture below a little over four years ago. It is the view from the front of the home oif a very dear friend in South Africa and looks west towards the Cape St Francis and the famous surfer paradise of Jeffreys Bay which is easily a little over thirty miles in a straight line from here. The house sits on the top of a dune covered rocky coast whose rock formations are matched only on the shores of South America, proof of continental drift and the existence at some distant point in the past of the great super contenent of Gondwanaland.

Schoenies sunset.JPG
Sunset from Seaview. At night the flash of the lighthouse on Seal Point at Cape St Francis can be seen clearly.

The tiny point of light on the water is the tip of the sun. In typical tropical fashion, it is no sooner below the horizon than the light is gone. This coast is extremely exposed to gales from the south and west. When these blow the sea is spectacular as there is little between here and Antarctica to break the force of wind or sea.

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

October 02, 2008

Happy Birthday!


Happy birthday, dear Monk, and many happy returns of this day for you!

Posted by Mausi at 05:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 01, 2008

Fun song from the Flood Appeal

Dear Mr Brown

Dear Mister Brown. Welcome to our town
We're sorry it's not smarter but we're six feet under water!
And we all got very wet, but we ain't stopped smiling yet.
We're so glad you came to see us Mister Brown.

Dear Mister Brown, when the rain came down,
It went on for ages, just like one of your speeches.
Just like the words you said, it went right over my head.
But we're glad you came to see us Mister Brown.

Just one final question, when it comes to compensation.
When you calculate my quota, just remember I'm a floating voter.
Take a quick look then, back you go to Number Ten.
And we're glad you came to see us,
Though you wouldn't want to be us,
We're so glad you came to see us Mister Brown.

The tune is a catchy one accompanied by a banjo and other instruments are added as it develops including a trombone, tuba and a spinkling of other brass. The tuba and particularly the trombone take a big part in the last verse, particularlyt the last line with the classic trombone slide through the notes as he takes the melody over and ends it with a good rich sound.

The words are reproduced here with the permission of the author who also composed the tune and arranged the recording of the entire disc. Jon Benns, whose own shop, The Music Trade, was flooded, and his team wrote, performed and pulled together a wide range of musicians to make the CD "A drop in the ocean" - their effort to raise money for the Flood Relief Fund. Jon's own band, the Happy Accidents are worth a listen as well and a visit to their website allows you to hear two of their numbers.

Funny thought - but with all the economic disaster around us at the moment and Mister Brown's spin doctors rushing about trying to tell us he's the only man that can save us from it - I have this sudden feeling of de ja vu. After all he made some sweeping promises about reviewing plans for flood defences and building in flodd plains last year. The message doesn'tr seem to have reached the Environment Agency or the Whitehall planners .....

Time to drop the dead donkey I think.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack