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January 31, 2009

A Morning at Sea

Mausi has returned from a splendid conference held in the beautiful city of San Francisco. The best part about San Francisco is of course that it is right next to the sea. Mausi had the Sunday before the conferencde at her own disposal. What better way to start such a beautiful day - 15 deg C in bright sunshine, almost springlike for a European! - than walk down to Pier 39 and say 'Hello' to the colony of sea lions there.

Meet the Sea Lions of San Francisco

They really have a beautiful resting place there and a restaurant right next to them. What more could they ask?

A cosy little restaurant right next to the sea lions' place. Mausi bets they make good use of its vicinity.

After leaving the sea lions Mausi decided that this morning was perfect for a cruise around the bay and went on board. At 10 o'clock in the morning there were only few passengers and Mausi did not have to fight for a place to take good pictures.

The boat went towards Golden Gate Bridge which was stunningly beautiful in the morning sun. Before the days of the bridge the Golden Gate in the bay was guarded by a little fort right next to is entrance. When the first plans for the bridge were drawn it was decided that the fort would have to go and make room for the bridge. Luckily the architect had second thoughts about this and instead of tearing the fort down he changed the plans and gave that fort a little arc of its own to nestle underneath. A perfect solution!

The original layout of the bridge was changed to accomodate the little fort.

The boat went right underneath the bridge and Mausi was able to take some stunning photographs.

Out through the Gate we go!

Then the boat turned and headed back towards the harbour.

A last glance at the Bridge.

A real pity the whole ride only lasted one hour. It was an hour well spent!

Posted by Mausi at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2009

Hey Baby it's cold outside ....

As the temperatures are set to plummet again this weekend according to the weather forecasters, I thought I'd recommend a visit to the fabulous picture I found at Brookeville Daily Photo. The posts by Abraham Lincoln (I kid you not) are fun and informative - and the pictures stunning.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dangerous move

Today I am attending a Business Lunch with my MP, "The Right Honourable" Lawrence Robertson. OK, so I am a small "Sole Trader" in my field, but that does also mean that I am affected by the credit crunch among other thinbgs and some of my clients certainly know how to defer paying.....

I thought I'd go to this in case I get asked for a view on how the government and the economy is affecting me. I'll probably have to tone down my opinion somewhat, but I'm going anyway. I suppose, putting myself in the company of a politician is bound to be a risky affair, I have a penchant for saying what I see which isn't always the way they want to hear it. In fact usually it's not what they wanted to hear. Especially when it comes to taking everything they can out of my pocket to give to someone who isn't prepared to work all the hours I need to in order to pay my way in the first place.

So its probably a dangerous move going to this lunch. And it isn't "free" - it's being funded by the local Housing Association who get their money from .....?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2009

Government take notice!

Caught this on One happy dog speaks and I agree with her.

This should be a banner in the House of Commons and a compulsory notice on every MPs desk.

The government cannot give anyone anything without first taking it from someone else.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

Inspiring lives

Yesterday driving to Tenby I listened fascinated to an interview with a Mr Jimmy Li, a Hong Kong based businessman talking about his life and the secret of his success. It was fascinating, because Mr Li was born in Canton in China about the same year that I was born in Cape Town - and into a very different society. His family was well off, but then came Chairman Mao and the Communists and Jimmy and his sisters ended up looking after themselves when he was aged about 9 because the Communists had decided that his father, a businessman, was an enemy of the state and gave him an option - leave or go to a Labour Camp. Then they decided that the childrens' mother needed "re-education" and sent her to a Labour Camp leaving the children at home to fend for themselves. Jimmy did this by finding a job at the railway station carrying bags, sweeping platforms and running errands. Some days they ate, some days they didn't.

I was moved almost to tears as I listened to him explaining that as "children of anamies of the people" they were pariahs and therefore not entitled to state aid, but that their impoverished neighbours shared everything when they had anything to share, and so Jimmy and his two sisters survived until their mother returned. At the age of 11 he decided that he was going to go to Hong Kong to seek his father or his fortune, but his mother refused to allow this until he was twelve, so at that tender age he left home and found his way, smuggled in the bottom of a small fishing smack with several dozen others, into Hong Kong. His first job was sweeping up the scraps in a factory, a job he did so diligently that the factory manager soon promoted him. But I cannot describe the feeling I got when I heard him describe his first morning at work. Arriving at six AM the manager looked at him and asked, "Have you eaten breakfast?" When he said no, he was handed HK$10 and told to go and eat. It was more money than he had ever seen at one time and he was almost unable to decide what he should buy with it because he had never seen so much food so readily available!

He worked hard and by the time he was twenty-one had paid off the "loan" from a relative that had paid for his being smuggled into Hong Kong and started polaying the stock market with HK$7,000 he had earned as a bonus and a further HK$3,000 from a friend. A year later they were both on their way to making their first HK$1 million and five years later owned their own factory. When they split up, Jimmy went on to open a chain of factories and moved his mother and sister into HK. He even opened factories in China itself - but then came Tianamin Square and Jimmy Li began a one man campaign through the media he now owned to attack the Chinese government. They retaliated and he was given an option - sell all his China based factories and retail business to their appointee or loose the lot. Three days later he had sold for a song - but now he really went for them. His media business is now based in Taiwan and elsewhere in the Far East. He has holdings in Europe and he has a fondness for the British and the colonial days in Hong kong.

Near the end of the interview he was asked why and his words went write through me.

"Because under the Western Colonial Rule we were given freedom. You cannot know what that means unless you have never had it. IN China there was no freedom and still is no freedom, but under the British we had freedom."

He also made a statement that really made me sit up and think. It was almost a throw away remark, but it is still amazing. He said, that in Hong Kong, there was no envy of someone else's wealth or good fortune, everyone knew that if you wanted it, all you had to do was work harder. Coming from a man who has taught himself to play the stock market, taught himself journalism, taught himself business management and taught himself to master English to the extent that he has an eloquence that is astonishing in someone who left school aged 9, I was dumbfounded. In just a few words he summed up what is most deeply wrong with our present society - it is founded on envy and greed - no wonder we are in deep trouble! When a man like Jimmy Li can walk in a street in the crowded old city of Hong Kong and see the wealthy drive past in a Rolls Royce or a Bentley and simply tell himself "One day I will own a car like that!" then you know you have met something or someone remarkable.

Jimmy Li, if you should be any chance stumble across this blog - I'd like to take my hat off to you, sir and shake your hand. You deserve everything you have!

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

January 27, 2009

Why the fuss?

The BBC and now Sky News are in the political firing line from every bleeding heart and it seems most of Labour's anti-Israel squad over their refusal to broadcast an appeal for donations for Aid to Gaza. Frankly, I think the Beeb got it right this time and the more I listen to the "angry young things" and the "representatives of the .... charity" the more convinced I am that they should stand by their decision.

Why am I so convinced of this? I suppose I should say thatI know how "Aid" can be abused once it becomes a political tool and in Gaza that is precisely what Hamas are doing. THe "Aid" and its distribution is controlled by their bully boys with the willing co-operation of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and all the other Aid Agencies - and they are dishonest if they deny it. "Aid" in Gaza is Hamas' way of controlling the population and ensuring that they, and they alone, get the credit for this "generosity." I have seen this happen in Southern Africa where "Resistance" movements to White Rule became the recipients of well meaning "Aid" programmes and drained it away from those it was intended to help in order to exchange it for guns, bombs and loyalty. There is a mountain of evidence that this is what Hamas is doing with it in Gaza, the bulk goes to them and their supporters directly, most is then "sold" on in exchange for weapons and what little remains is distributed to their foot soldiers in a form of "loyalty" bonus. I, for one, do not intend to make any donation to any "Aid" organisation that is working with Hamas.

As for the "Cease Fire" - well, perhaps the "humanitarian disasster" mongers in the Aid Organisations should listen closely to their Hamas chums public statements. First, to declare that they have "won a great victory" would be laughable if it weren't for the devastation their actions have brought upon their own people. Hamas, and Hamas alone must accept responsibility for the destruction - Israel would not have attacked Gaza and destroyed so much if they had not been attacked and provooked beyond reasonable endurance. Secondly all I hear from the Hamas spokesman is that they intend to attack Israel again with rockets as soon as they know Israeli soldiers are no longer where they can strike back.

Yes, there is a humanitarian tragedy in Gaza, yes, there is a need for Aid - but it should not flow into that area at all until Hamas has been disbanded, laid down its weapons and been charged with the humaitarian crimes they have perpetrated against their own people in their pointless and stupid "war" against their neighbours. Those screaming at the BBC should think carefully about their support for Hamas, it is, after all, a Terrorist organisatioin and receives its funding from some very dubious sources, sources the west is trying to defeat. To rush in with "Aid" and allow them to claim, however ludicrous the claim, that they have "won" and that the "Aid" is a result of their "victory" as they are doing is folly of the highest order - but then, the Left Liberal arm of the political spectrum is hardly renowned for being able to seperate fact from fiction in anything once their ideology has been determined.

I say again, the BBC and Sky News are right in their decision, though probably not for the reasons I would have used.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Just discovered that I had accidentally reposted the item "Envy" instead of yesterdays post.

Ooooops. Sorry folks!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2009

Meetings, bl**dy meetings - and public transport!

OK, so I suggested yesterday that there might be some pictures from Mausi today, but I'm sorry to say I haven't had the time to put them up. In fact, I'm currently on a Great Western Train trying to get to a meeting in London by 10.00 and at current rate of progress I might be lucky to get there by 11.00

If I'm that late for the first meeting in Hammersmith, I've no chance of getting to the second meeting in the City iteself by 12.00! There's at least a half hour tube ride between the two - assuming of course, that the connections all run on time. And now, before my Dongle runs out of signal on this section. Adieu!

Tomorrow I have to be in Tenby in Wales early as well, but that will be dependent on the state of the M50 ......

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

January 25, 2009


Mausi has landed in San Fransisco, and has sent me some pictures which make me green with envy. Of course it doesn't help that I couldn't have gone there anyway as I have other commitments which keep me in the UK. It seems that I'm fated never to get to see the West Coast, everytime I've had something lined up to get "out west" something else has come up to prevent it.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to wait to go through Mausi's pictures and hear her views on San Fransisco, I have a report to finalise which means meetings in London tomorrow - and that means catching a train at 0710 tomorrow morning. Ugh.

More tomorrow perhaps, and possibly even some pictures from Mausi.

OK, OK, so I really am green with envy!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2009

Democratic process?

I note with interest Ms Harman's latest tirade against the possibility of the BNP actually winning a seat in the European Parliament in June. According to her they need to win only 8% of the vote, very helpful of her, I would have thought, to put this into numbers. Now they actually have a target and know it can be achieved. Reading on the report of her address to a typical Left-wing Think Tank she does her usual tirade against the Right-wing "racism" she sees in everyone who doesn't subscribe to Labour's vision of a Britain divided into small "cultural groups" all living, so they claim, in harmony. What she refuses to recognise is that it is this very policy - which calls for the destruction of anything which might suggest that there is a "British" cultural heritage to celebrate and preserve - which is fuelling the rise of the extreme views espoused by the BNP.

The democratic system is "the worst form of government - except for all the others", according to Sir Winston Churchill, and one of its vagaries is that it will sometimes allow the election of people or parties who's ideology the majority would reject out of hand. If a party or ideology in government pursue a policy or ideology that is seen as a threat to their own security, happiness or ideology by a significant group of people, the reaction is to espouse or support any group which takes an opposite view, no matter how extreme. Labour used this process through the media in the dying days of the last Conservative Government to portray the Conservative Party as next cousins to the Nazi's and now they are trying to use the same tactic on the BNP. The tragedy is that with a recent survey of 14 - 19 year olds (of all racial groups) telling us that they do not feel that their group is a part of our society, the espousal of ever more extreme ideologies is almost inevitable.

Certainly the BNP is drawing its support from white British groups who feel that they are having their rights eroded or subsumed by a minority group deemed by the denizens of the Whitehall "Village" of Ideologues whose contact with the reality of the communities they claim to represent is, at best, minimal, to be "more deserving".

History, which Blair, Brown and the "Babe" Squad they have parachuted into high office claim to reject as "old news" teaches that democracy has a nasty habit of throwing up abberations when a government loses the trust of sufficient numbers of the electorate. Hitler, after all, only got a third of the electoral votes in 1933, yet managed to strong arm his way into the Chancellorship and within months had all but eliminated all the opposition parties. Labour did this in 1997, but now the glitz, as it did with Hitler, is wearing off and people can see the threat to their ambitions and position that the "multi-culture" vision brings. Hence the continuing rise of the BNP.

Something all our political leaders need to consider carefully is the fact that the further the "Centre" of the political spectrum moves to the Left, the more likely becomes a rise and swing to the right. That is politics, that is what brought Hitler to power. It brought Mussolini to power and it has brought many other dictators to power as well. Ms Harman can bleat all she likes about how unacceptable it is - but her party and her champagne socialism (She is, after all, the daughter of wealthy upper Middle class parents and has perpetuated her moneyed educational advantages by stealing places for her children at Grammar Schools her own Borough and Constituency had closed in favour of the Comprehensive Failure System).

The BNP will continue to gain strength, right alongside the Islamist Groups and other extremist minority movements, as long as our present political elite continue to pursue policies which see our industries, commercial enterprises and political structures sold off or handed over to minorities who seek to recreate the cultures they left behind, here in Britain. This is why so many young people feel "disconnected" from society, it is also why so many older people (though no one ever asks us) feel isolated and neglected, our contribution to society pushed aside and rejected and our pensions stolen to pay for Labour's folly and to support those they consider more worthy.

No Ms Harman, I'm not surprised to learn the BNP could win a seat in Strasbourg, what surprises me is that you are surprised. It's called democracy - but then Labour are strangers to that concept after all. Just ask Mr Brown about the promised Referendum on the EU Constitution.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 23, 2009

Busy days ahead ....

Mausi is off tomorrow to a conference in San Fransisco, lucky her, the Monk never gets across the Missisippi on the infrequent occassions that he does get to the US and has long wanted to see at least a fragment of the West Coast. As for the Monk, well, everyone seems to want his services but most take their time paying for them so its a bit of a juggle at present to say the least.

Next week promises to be pretty demanding with a trip to London and two meetings on Monday, a trip to Tenby in Wales for Tuesday and then a meeting in the Cotswolds on Wednesday and probably another day or so between that and Friday at the same venue in preparation for two solid weeks there in February. In these uncertain times every minute of paid work is to be grabbed with both hands - I just hope that the payers will do the honourable and pay promptly!

Funny how everything seems to pile in at once, like Road Tax, MOT, Service for the motor and insurance renewals household insurance and so on all seem to arrive at the same time - fortunately I spolit and spread most of these through the year, but the car's service can't be, so that is a big lump to find reasonably quickly.

Anyhow, I've just got back from Leicestershire - another job with a long delay to paying - and now have to catch up with all the emails and the new questions arising from this visit ....

Ce la vie!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 22, 2009

Frozen walks

Walking in Bad Schwalbach was fun, its very picturesque and in the cold there are lots of photo opportunities - if you can stop the lens misting over!

Ducks on ice1.JPG
Two swans join a group of ducks and geese on the frozen lake - the swans are very vulnerable in these conditions since they need a long run on water to get airborn.

This group of Mallards had obviously had enough - even the ripples were frozen so what's a duck to do?

It was a fun walk - but the warm soup at the end of it was even better!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2009

Ignorance and incompetence lead to reward....

It's widely held that ignorance increases with the distance from the actual work front up to the executive level, with a concurrent rise in pay; but, until now, we've had only anecdotal evidence of such. Well, finally, a formal proof is to be had.

1) Axiom - Knowledge is Power

2) Axiom - Time is Money

3) Power = Work / Time (Classical Physics)

4) Knowledge = Work / Money (substitution)

Therefore, Money = Work / Knowledge.

Thus, for any given amount of Work, Money approaches Infinity as Knowledge approaches Zero!

This is obviously true of the Civil Service in particular where the higher the position held, the greater the lack of knowledge of the function or service actually provided by the person managing the department. This can be proved by reference to any set of meeting minutes produced by any gathering of Civil Servants and which are all remarkable only by their lack of any detail of the actual discussion of any subject and by reference to the paucity of any workable solutions to any of the nation's problems they are tasked with solving or administering. For Civil Servants, knowledge of the function is unimportant, the really important thing to know is who can advance your career and who will scupper it, who your rivals for any post are and what hidden mess your predecessor might have left to explode in your face. That is real knowledge and real power in this day and age. Who needs to know what they are actually doing? Only the grunts that work for you.

In short, the obvious key to success today lies not in what you know but in who. Not in what education you may have, but in where you got it and who you met in getting it. Total Ignorance is obviously a far better rewarded state than any other.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

Battle of the Sound System

I am presently freezing quietly in Tewkesbury Abbey. There is a service going on in the South Transept so we have temporarily suspended work on the sound system which I put in hand in order to sort out some of the problems which arise basically from having tried to build a system in a piecemeal fashion. The original intention was fine, but it meant that we ended up with a system that had elements built in that were designed to compete with each other. Now we have in hand the process of identifying these and sorting them out.

And the first problem we have found already is that there is another part of the system which is not functioning and now we have to find out why. The remote sub-woofers are dead and they are an essential part of the "fill" sound. Located in the clerestory they aren't exactly the easiest to access, and should be least suceptible to damage, interference or failure - but, like the Ringing Chamber Relay - they've been and gone and died on us.

OK, so we have a lot of work ahead of us this week - but one way or another - this system will be sorted and it will be the best we can get when it is finished.

As Captain Picard so famously says on occassion. "Engage!"

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

January 19, 2009

Technik Museum

The Space Hall at the Technik Museum Speyer has some pretty amazing stuff inside it and the display is still under development. This is just a taster as I'm a bit pushed for time today.

dscf0039-s.jpg The giant Russian Space Shuttle which never went into space but which flew in test flights (Hence the jet engine nascelles) and would have carried a larger payload than the US version.

The Russians had the advantage, when they started this project, of knowing what had worked and what not on the NASA Shuttles. They also knew what the problems had been and still were and built in solutions to many of the problems. I have no doubt that this vehicle would have been a huge success if it had ever launched atop the huge primary liquid fueled rocket intended to carry it aloft. It has a phenomenal payload and onboard fuel to allow it to do some powered flying if necessary. The heat shield tiles are the same as the NASA versions and without the solid boosters and the external fuel tank was probably going to be a safer launch vehicle

The Project was killed off in the early 1990's due to cost and is unlikely to be restarted.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2009

A tribute to those who serve

Sometimes someone sends you something which you simply have to share, usually I forward these to my friends. Recently however, I got the poem in the extended post from a friend in Australia and, though it is mainly about Australian troops serving in Afghanistan, the sentiments in it sum up exactly what every Western Society owes to those Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen and Women who serve on our behalf in all the world's trouble spots.

Do read on. I wish I knew who the author was .....

The Soldier stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

'Step forward now, you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Gospel have you been true?'

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, my Lord, I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a dollar,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the Saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

'Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'

~Author Unknown~

It's the Soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It's the Soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It's the Soldier, not the politicians, that ensures our right to Life, Freedom and the Pursuit of Happiness.
It's the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for our Armed Services Men & Women, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson?

The crash landing of the Airbus 320 in the Hudson River is a remarkable tribute to the Pilot and his crew. It is a remarkable tribute to the designers and builders of the Airbus as well. This is the first time anyone has succeeded in landing an airliner of any sort on water in one piece. To do it on the fast flowing Hudson, dodging buildings and bridges is little short of incredible. THat the aircraft remained afloat for the better part of a half hour is in itself a tribute to the buildiers, after all these things are meant to fly, not float and after being bounced onto the unforgiving surface of the rivver at something like 200mph it is surprising that it didn't shed panels, hatches and all the rest of its trailing underbody in the process.

As for the Pilot, there is only one thing to say. He was ex-military, a fighter pilot with combat experience. He knew how to deal with an emergency that can only come from combat training and experience. It speaks volumes that he maintained not just his cool, but also his sense of command. What a display of leadership, to calmly ensure that his passengers and then his crew were all out of the aircraft, to make a final check of the now sinking aircraft and then see to his own escape. Hero? The man is more than that, he's a role model that should be held up for every boy and girl to follow!

This is leadership and this is where those who call themselves "Managers" and promote the idea that they provide "leadership" will never be able to hold a candle to a real leader. THey simply don't know the true meaning of the word - or the price it sometimes demands.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2009

So want to raise the perfect child?


To those of us who have children in our lives,whether they are our own, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students...
Its Friday, its been a long week with loads of doom and gloom in the news everywhere, so I thought I'd post something every parent will appreciate. And no, its not the address of a child exterminator.....

Here is something to make you chuckle.

Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God's omnipotence did not extend to His own children.

After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve.

And the first thing he said was ' DON'T !'

'Don't what ? Adam replied.

'Don't eat the forbidden fruit.' God said.

'Forbidden fruit ? We have forbidden fruit ? Hey Eve..we have forbidden fruit ! '

'No Way ! '

'Yes way ! '

'Do NOT eat the fruit ! ' said God.

‘Why ? '

'Because I am your Father and I said so ! ' God replied, wondering why He hadn't stopped creation after making the elephants

A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He was ticked !

'Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit ? ' God asked.

'Uh huh,' Adam replied.

'Then why did you ? ' said the Father.

'I don't know,' said Eve.

'She started it! ' Adam said.

'Did not ! '

'Did too ! '

'DID NOT ! '

Having had it with the two of them, God's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.

If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven't taken it, don't be hard on yourself.

If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you ?


1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.

2. Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your own children.

3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.

4. Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.

5. The main purpose of holding children's parties is to remind yourself that there are children more awful than your own

6. We childproofed our homes, but they are still getting in.


Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home one day!



Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The creep towards the Communist State

The recent nationalisation of various banks should concern us for several reasons not least because the creep of socialism into every aspect of our daily lives has become almost unstoppable and because the inceasing burden of bureaucracy and the utter incompetence of those who are drawn to the parasitic jobs it creates will destroy all enterprise and strangle all wealth creating and wealth distribution as surely as the Soviet system did in the 90 odd years it was in force in the USSR.

The second is the passage below -

"Owners of capital will stimulate the working class to buy more
and more of expensive goods, houses and technology, pushing
them to take more and more expensive credits, until their debt
becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt will lead to bankruptcy of
banks, which will have to be nationalised, and the State will
have to take the road which will eventually lead to communism"

Karl Marx, Das Kapital, 1867

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 15, 2009

A walk in the frost

A walk in the forest again, this time near Bad Schwalbach, gave us some interesting photo opportunities.

A brisk walk up the valley from the town of Bad Schwalbach brings you to this lake. The entire surface was frozen to several inches depth and the disgruntled water fowl, including two swans, were unimpressed by the ice.

The water still flows over the stone weir, but the surface of the lake is a sheet of ice and ice lines the waterfall itself.

Iced waterfall.JPG
Ice lines the waterfall on this small weir.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2009

New EU Directive

EU Directive No. 456179

In order to meet the conditions for joining the Single European currency, all citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must be made aware that the phrase 'Spending a Penny' is not to be used after 31st December 2009.

From this date, the correct terminology will be: 'Euronating'.

Thank you for your attention.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2009

Stalking and the Royals .....

The latest brouhaha involving Prince Harry exposes an ugly element in the British Press. The act of acquiring and then publishing something like a private video, letters or even a note is a betrayal when done to anyone, when it is done, as the News of the World regularly do, to cause deliberate damage to an individual who, like the rest of us, is human and entitled to the occasional lapse of sense, it becomes questionable. The paper claims to be taking a "moral" stance, but lets be honest here, how "morally" was this video obtained. You can bet that it wasn't handed over to the reporter without a sizeable chunk of "Coin of the Realm" being handed out.

You can also bet that if it had been a Minister or a member of the government it wouldn't have even been of any interest to the reporter. So where is the "moral" element in this? Frankly, this newspaper employs tactics to "get the dirt" on the Royals that, if an individual embarked on, would be declared to fall within the scope of the Act that forbids "stalking" with intent to cause distress or harm. If it attempted the same tactics against any member of the government the entire Security Service would be onto them like a ton of bricks - so why is it "moral" to attack a young man who is serving his country in ways and theatres that the reporter, the editor and frankly the owners of the News of the World haven't the balls to do themselves?

As for the politicians rushing to denounce him for his frankly silly choice of words, well, they're politicians and desperately trying to seize some sort of "moral high ground" out of it all to show their "anti-racist" credentials. All it does is prove that, when you live in a swamp, climbing on the back of a crocodile is hardly moral high ground. Many of these same self-serving and over ambitious twits have caused me and many others far greater offence with their insulting and often derogatory assumptions about my supposedly "institutional racism/sexism/masochism" than merely calling me names can ever do. Yet, although this happens now on an almost daily basis as some politician or another proposes some new "offence" in the use of language, behaviour or attitude toward anthing not conforming to the Nu Labour Vision of a society of incomptents running everything from the lofty headquarters stolen from the taxpayer in Millbank House, I am expected to simply put up with it. Their propagandists, however, have free reign to pry and sneak and use inuendo to degrade anything which dares to stand above the herd.

Frankly, the tactics the News of the World uses in getting these stories and the "moral outrage" the politcians exhibit is a case of the pot calling the saucepan names. They have no morals at all and all they hope to achieve is to divert attention from their own utter lack of moral code. The British Press and the Political Classes have obviously all decided that the Royals make great scapegoats for their own shortcomings. Convenient and morally immoral.

The biggest problem we all face today is that our entire society is being driven down a path in which morality has been redefined as the prejudices of the current chattering classes. Whatever they find "unacceptable" is now "immoral". Prejudice is not moral and never will be, yet it is prejudice against everyone better than themselves, more able, more fortunate or simply of higher social standing than themselves is now defined as a "moral crusade" to ensure that "moral behaviour conforms to the current prejudices."

As I said, I look at the press reactions and the politicians and all I can see is a bunch of moral deficients calling someone with far more talent and courage, names. Its sickening.

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

January 12, 2009

A walk in the Wald - the pictures!

The Taunus foothills above Bliebenstadt and Hahn are a wonderful area to walk, even in temperatures well below freezing. Ice sheets fill the ruts in the paths and roads and the sun glints off frost in some areas and misses it altogether in others. The pictures give a small snapshot of the walk.

Young growth at the forest edge - in summer this is a thick carpet of green beneath the shade of the mix of trees.

A woodpecker hammering away at a tree sounded almost like a small jack hammer at work with his "Tok-tok-tok-tok ..."

An access road into the trees used by walkers and the forestry staff. The forest has a mix of beech, pine and several other species. It is also home to wild boar and deer.

Forest Lodge.JPG
A small lodge built of heavy logs and looking rather cosy - a nice supply of cut firewood at one side suggesting it is in regular use.

A vista through a section of the forest damaged last year by a tremendous storm. Every valley seems to have its hamlet.

Then it was only around three miles back to Mausi's house and coffee and a repast of biscuits, cake and cheescake. Just the thing after a long walk in the cold!

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January 11, 2009


Hilariously tongue in cheek blog. A friend of The Gorse Fox.


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Baptism of Christ

Today we have celebrated the "Baptism of Christ" as described in the Gospel of St Mark. It is important to all Christians since, it it in this event that we are all joined in "One Baptism" into one fellowship in Christ. In short, it is in baptism that we share in Christ's baptism and therefore in each others. We are all a part of Team Christian no matter which branch we worship in or subscribe to. And there are 2.1 billion members of this "team" worldwide. Even in supposedly "Secular" Britain, those who claim belief in God still account for more than two thirds of the population and those who regularly attend church are still able to command a larger proportion of the populace than those who proclaim themselves "atheist".

We were reminded today in our readings and in the sermons that we are all members of a greater team, one that serves the Lord and, as with all teams, we are all called to play a part. Only then can we hope to further understanding of our faith and spread the message of the Gospel to all who seek to find God.

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January 10, 2009


Watching the news you could be excused for thinking that the Israelis are to blame for the lack of a ceasefire in Gaza, but, what did anyone expect when the UN passes a resolution demanding a ceasefire and the one side, Hamas, refuses to even recognise the rights of the other, much less the authority (Unless it suits them) of the UN? One sided ceasfires never work, cannot be imposed and do not bring peace.

The Demonstration today in London certainly demonstrated to me the naiviety of a large section of the British public and their patently anti-Israel sentiments. When you see placards being waved reading "Free Palestine" and the sub-title screams from Israeli Oppression, you do have to wonder what they believe would happen if the Israelis did withdraw immediately from Gaza and everywhere else, tore down their defences and disarmed. Do they seriously believe that this is all onesided and can be resolved by an Israeli surrender to terrorists? Certainly a hardcore of the protesters who smashed the Starbucks Coffee Shop window and used the furniture and cups, saucers, condments and other fittings as missiles against the police seem to think that their violence is justified.

It never fails to amuse me when I see these protests carrying the same anti-US banners that appear whenever there is an left-wing inspired protest about anything at all. GWB may not go donw in history as the brightest crayon in the mixed bag that the US has had for Presidents, but, unlike Nixon, his enemies have never managed to impeach him - and they've certainly tried everything including a Hollywood movie sold as a "documentary" on 9/11 but so distorted a presentation of the facts that only the completely ignorant, gullible or terminally left/liberal could possibly believe any of it.

If the majority of Palestinians genuinely want peace, if they genuinely want to negotiate, if the Arab world genuienly wants to put a stop to this violence and hostility the solution is in their hands, not the UN's, not the Rent-a-Mob that turns up everytime there's a protest against anything they regard as "oppression" or "elitist". All the Palestinians have to do is disarm and reject the men of violence who are Hamas. Disarm them, reject terrorism and deal with the terrorists. That will make the walls redundant, the blockades unecessary and the incursions in pursuit of terrorists redundant. If, as is so frequently said by the usual talking heads that is what the majority in Gaza really want - its in their hands.

Only when the terrorists are stopped by their own people will any ceasefire ever have any chance of coming into force.

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January 09, 2009

Quick the Aliens are attacking ....

An interesting event has sparked a UFO interest surge, almost enough to push the usual political propaganda out of the news. First came the sighting of a lot of unexplained lights over the midlands and then it was unexplained damage to a wind turbine in one of the wind farms that eco-nuts think can replace all other forms of power generation. It has made quite a stir and is certainly a strange one. The BBC has a good report on it titled UFO claim over wind farm damage.

The lopped off blades certainly look as if something hit them, or at least hit one of them and possibly it then hit the second. I guess we will have to wait to hear what really happened if we are ever told of course. No, I don't think it is little green men opr any other colour, shape or size alien, but I would like to know what has happened here.

In the meantime I suggest its probably down to an eco-warrior protesting about the damage to sea bird life using a Plasma Cannon .......

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January 08, 2009

Godless society .....

So now we have the Atheist message, which, I note, is not definite. So perhaps they aren't sure either .....

I do agree with one aspect of their objection to the Christian adverts which warned that failure to "sign up to God" meant eternity in hell. For one thing that sort of Calvinist Protestant fundamentalism presumes, as Jonah did, that God is not loving or forgiving to those who, like Thomas Didimus, have their little doubts and reservations and maybe aren't quite so "black and white" in faith. Personally, I believe in a God who welcomes all comers, even those who may realise at the last moment that He is there and has been all along - attendance at Church Services is not some sort of guarantee of heaven, though it may help you to find the road!

On an amusing aside though, I note that the quote from Albert Einstein is supposed to imply that he didn't believe in God at all. His words were "I don't believe in a PERSONAL God..." But he also never specifically denied that there is one and lived and died as a practicing Jew. The truth is that it probably takes greater faith to be an Atheist than to bumbling along believing there may be a God. All that is truly demanded of believers is that they live their lives in accoprdance with the tenets of their faith - and that can be boiled down to two simple things -

- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind and all your soul, and
- You shall love your fellow men and women as you love yourself.

Not too hard, even for an Atheist, surely?

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January 07, 2009

Big freeze ....

Yesterday was pretty cold here in Tewkesbury, but last night was the coldest I've seen for some time - at minus 9*C it was time to get the thermals out! Driving was tricky as several water pipes have burst and my own road is a sheet of ice at present. And now its trying hard to snow again .....

Still, tomorrow will be marginally warmer so the weather men say, a balmy 2*C with a drop to minus 4*C for the night. Trouble is that I have to drive to a place through a route notoriously tricky in snow or extreme weather. Should be interesting at any rate, but perhaps an early start is indicated. At least today has been spent indoors, though wading through trying to get a big report written instead of what I would like to have been doing which is some creative writing or even some painting - something I haven't indulged for a while now!

Sigh, back to the paying work for now ......

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Interesting blog

Found this interesting blog which gives the other side to the Israel/Hamas conflict.

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January 06, 2009

Biased media

I have, over the last several years, come to the conclusion that the British political establishment and the left/liberal controlled media are anti-Israel. That is certainly the immediate impression you get from every news report which always seems to emphasise the Israeli response to attacks on its citizens as "excessive" or "disproportionate" while dismissing the Hamas bombardment of Israeli homes, towns, farms and border posts as "minor incursions, justified by Israel's draconian actions." The latest Sky report on the bombardment gives this impression clearly, stressing the "suffering" of the Palastinians and dismissing the Hamas attacks - which actually number several dozen every day - as 'nuisance' value. Tell that to the Israeli dead and injured daily.

I recently had a conversation with a longterm friend, an erudite and very well educated man who quite shocked me in his vehement anti-Jewish views. So much of what he had to say is based on the spread of anti-semitic propaganda including the now freely circulating "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that I found myself appalled, especially as my friend is a man whose career is based entirely on the assessment of evidence and facts and not on the acceptance of assertions, rumours and hearsay. Yet, here, obviously, he has a blindspot and a very real dislike of a particular group and faith. I find it all the more shocking as he is a practicing Roman Catholic and perhaps that is the clue to his vision since it is only recently that the Curia have announced that the doctrine that the Jews "murdered" Christ was no longer to be taught. It was very much this doctrine that allowed the abuses practiced against Jews in the 1930's and 40's to be acceptable to otherwise intelligent and decent peoples in France and elsewhere. Very disturbingly, and the demonstrations last Saturday in London lend support to this, is the fact that these views are widely held among the upper classes in London in particular and across the board among working folk. I spent a lengthy drive in a taxi having the taxi-driver expounding on how the Jews have "infiltrated" the West and "control" the banks, the legal profession and so on. I silenced him eventually by pointing out that his quotes from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were the work of pure fantasy and concocted by the Tsarist Secret Police to justify the Pogroms of the 1890's - and finally by suggesting to him that the spread of such views was, in fact, now a criminal offence under the Racial Hatred legislation.

Particularly distressing is the fact that our news media focus entirely on the Israeli response and there is almost no mention of the fact that the Hamas organisation has been smuggling arms into Gaza from Egypt for use in their daily strikes against Israeli civilians. Of course it is a tragedy when children of any race or faith are killed in these strikes, but you seldom see any reports of the Israeli children daily injured or maimed by the Hamas missiles and mortars - unless, of course, to the accompanyment of some "Save the Children" or other "Aid" agency worker justifying it as the "just" reward for Israel's "oppression" of the Palastinians.

Perhaps I have a particular bias myself, after all, I have been the target of terrorist activity, and for far too long I have had to listen to the apologisers who seem to be able to justify just about any attrocity as long as it the activity of their "freedom" fighters and not those of the "oppressor" - and the US should remember that they are seen as "oppressors" by everyone of the Liberal Left who sees the conflict in the Middle East in simplistic terms. Frankly I rejoice everytime a terrorist blows himself or herself to pieces, I just wish they would take their evil paymasters and encouragers with them instead of the innocent victims they usually target.

What sparked this tirade? Several things, but not least was a conversation with a friend whose job takes him to investigate terrorist activities in many different places. He confided that a recent scene blamed on the Israeli's was actually the result of an incompetent attempt to manufacture a Peroxide Based explosive. It demolished a block of flats, but the local police and Hamas operatives managed to "find" evidence of and "Israeli missile", pieces of a missile to be sure, but actually from several different missiles of different age and not of Israeli manufacture - yet the Western Media faithfully broadcast the "evidence" in the face of Israeli denial. Therein lies the real problem, the media simply do not want to know the "truth" of anything and simply don't believe any "oppressors" statements whether the evidence suggest its true or not.

Put simply, I am now of the opinion that this government is anti-Israel, that this is confirmed by the ease with which anti-Jewish propaganda is circulated and spread among the chattering classes who rule us and by the open bias of the media and the so-called "Aid" agencies that operate from here. The government have a vested interest in being anti-Israel, after all, it was a Labour Government that attempted to hand over Palastine to an Arab regime that had publically declared that it would drive every Jew into the sea. They have never forgiven the Jews for defying them and eventually winning a war the British Government of the time was confident they would lose. Every Labour Government since then has quietly encouraged the Palastinian cause and tried to undermine the Jewish one and the latest view is a prime example of this.

I find it incredible that the establishment as represented by our legal profession, our politicians and the financial sector can accuse the "Jews of Wall Street" for the collapse of the world's financial system. Can one of them please show me which wealthy Jew got Northern Rock into trouble? Or which wealthy Jew invented "Junk Bonds" or "Sub Prime Lending"? The vast majority of Jews I have had the privilege of knowing would not have gone anywhere near such shaky practices or investments since anything bad for business is bad for everyone.

OK, so I've set out my stall. Now I await the Thought Police and the Fatwas.

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January 05, 2009

Home again ....

Just got home again after an interesting afternoon and evening sat in Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa are normally very efficient - but they apparently managed to 'lose' the flight crew for the Birmingham flight this evening with the result it was two hours late taking off.....

More tomorrow.

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January 04, 2009

The 'English' Church in Wiesbaden

After attending a Lutheran service last Sunday, Mausi decided I should try the "English" Church this time round. Except it is not the Church of England in Germany (Though we do have a Diocese of Europe) but this one is now a Parish in the Episcopalian Church Diocese of Paris. The church itself was built in 1853 as a gift of the local Duke to the many "English" people then residing for various reasons in Wiesbaden and was probably, at that time, a part of the C of E. That seems to have changed after the second World War when this was part of the American Zone - though why the Episcopalian Church decided to duplicate the then existing Diocese of Gibralter I'll have to explore later.

The church building is quite small but rather nicely proportioned and consists of a small nave with a North Aisle attached and a small Sanctuary. The heating system was just right for it as well and the internal temperature was just right. A Gallery at the West End houses a small and rather pleasant organ and the choir. A wooden vaulted ceiling gives a rather "dry" acoustic and the sound system seemed to have a mind of its own at times. The choir, a small one, was augmented today by visitors from the Antipodies and from Texas and sang some rather good music, which the acoustics of the building was just right for.

The service has a form that is familiar to those who use to the Common Worship liturgy, but the words are different enough to trip you up if you stray from the page of the US Prayer Book. We were greeted by having a pair of books offered to us with a service sheet and found ourselves a pew in good Anglican style near the back. The sermon was good, the theme on receiving Christ and revealing Him to the world, well covered, but longer than I am used to in a Eucharist, lasting a little over twenty minutes. No one spoke to us until the Peace, and then only the briefest exchange asking where we were from and in response to my saying "Tewkesbury Abbey" the statement - "Sounds very grand, bet its not as welcoming as we are," followed by a swift retreat! There isn't much you can say after that, so we shared the Peace and stayed where we were while everyone else wandered about and started conversations. Evenetually the Presiding Priest managed to call everyone back to place and began to call for notices, again something I find strange in a Eucharist as we normally give these briefly before the service or make sure longer items are printed and distributed. As it was the "notices" included several people taking time to discuss activities, explain parish finances or thank members for their efforts and took up a further half hour in the middle of the service.

The Offertory seemed to take a longer time than the size of the congregation would have suggested, but then it also gave the choir the opportunity to sing several anthems and the service continued with the Eucharistic Prayers and the Communion. There was a brief confusion when I obviously broke their usual system and indicated that I expected to drink from the chalice and not 'dip the biscuit' and I found myself holding the chalice rather awkwardly and communicating myself! The final prayers and the hymns concluded our worship and once again we found ourselves in a strange limbo as we replaced coats and returned our books, no one acknowledging our being visitors as they all busied themselves chatting with friends - even the priest being busily engaged by a member of the congregation as we were about to say our good byes. So, we let ourselves out into the street quietly and crunched off across the road in search of coffee and "kuchen".

Perhaps the Polish Mass at the Catholic Dom will be our next encounter with a church here - or simply back to the Lutheran. After all, I can struggle along quite happily in German and recognise the bits I need to and can say in English without upsetting anyone.

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January 03, 2009


Yesterdays trip to Würzburg was interesting. It is not the first time I have visited this ancient city, but the last visit was confined to the Marienberg Castle. This time we went straight into the old city and undertook a guided tour of the Residence, the former home of the Furst Bischofs (Prince Bishops) of Würzburg. The Marienberg was established by the missionary Bishop Kilian in the 8th Century and, after his murder, his successors were permitted to fortify their mission. Under Charles the Great (or Karl der Grosse - Carolus Princeps in Latin) the stability his rule brought allowed the establishment of the city and the flourishing of trade across this area. Franconia became a prosperous Duchy and the church spread its influence. The Emperor Barbarossa chose to be married in Würzburg and the Bishop evidently made a good impression - so was appointed as the Duke or Herzog, combining the secular power with his spiritual charge.

His successors consolidated this power successfully and the Marienburg became a truly "Feste Burg", translated as "Mighty Fortress". By 1740 however, the Furst Bischof had decided that a more splendid palace would be appropriate for his diplomatic and governmental role and so The Residence was commissioned in the heart of the city. It is a building of superlatives, the building is a splendid expression of the Baroque, a great U shaped structure with an entrance hall large enough for a visitor to be driven inside in his coach and to dismount out of the weather. The painted fresco ceilings are stunning, the colours as bright and fresh as the day they were painted, having survived the bombing of March 1945, itself a tribute to the architect and the builders. These are largely the work of an Italian artist and include elements that are 3D - itself an amazing achievement.

In other rooms - though the term "room" is hardly applicable to a chamber of these dimensions - one is treated to the most amazing stucco work, again the creation of a single artist from Italy who created each and every piece by hand and so there are no two pieces identical. All in all it took several years simply to decorate the building, and the actual construction lasted almost twenty-five. One of the ingenius tricks of the architect was to incorporate an existing chapel into the West wing in such a manner that there is no major alteration to either the chapel or the twinning of the exterior of this range with its identical range on the other wing. As soon as I can I will publish some pictures I managed to take which will, hopefully, show the overall beauty effectively. Wandering through the rooms one finds the Mirror Room stunning - all the more so because it has been faithfully recreated from photographs and fragments that survived the bombing. Elsewhere the custodians had managed to dismantle the treasured interiors and remove them to safety, but the attempt to dismantle and remove the mirror room's contents failed and the room was a casualty in the fire that followed the intensive bombing. In 1979 the decision was taken to recreate the "lost" room and the result is not only faithful to the original it is an exact creation using the same techniques and processes that had created the original. This is where I part company completely with the insistence of English Heritage and their advisors who insist on preserving semi-destroyed stonework and paintings which could be better retrieved and preserved by faithfully restoring them to original condition.

Continuing our wander in the cold we found the Dom, the building is a pair of churches, one currently closed for repair and restoration and the other, as far as I could work out, older, now fully restored with even the Baroque Stucco decoration again faithfully recreated from sketches and photographs. The care and attention given to every detail is evident everywhere, even in those churches where the work has obviously stopped due to lack of funds. One magnificent example os the beutifully restored Marien Kapelle in the Markt. The building is a magnificent example of the Perpendicular architecture, rising tall and narrow above the market place with it's stone vault beautifully restored and decorated at the East End. New statues occupy niches and plinths on the pillars on the nave and the partially burned figure of Joseph retrieved from the wreckage occupies a small chapel beneath the tower as a reminder of the destruction caused in that one fateful night in March 1945.

Perhaps the German's are better able to appreciate what was destroyed in their recreations and restorations, I can't help feeling that we could do better for some of our treasured heritage by restoring it properly instead of trying to lock in into some kind of "time capsule" which generally makes it impossible to maintain properly or use it effectively and efficiently in todays world. Personally I feel the Germans have the right approach and English Heritage should be stripped of its power to block sensible and appropriate restoration of ancient buildings.

And now its time to batten down the hatches for a cold night - the weather forecast is for -8*C and snow tonight dropping to -20*C on Tuesday - by which time I shall be home again, no doubt to Madam Paddy's delight.

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January 02, 2009

Touring in the cold

"Das Schnee ist kalt" read the first lesson in how (not) to teach yourself German. I can tell you it doesn't have to be snowing here to be cold. About -4*C and a breeze does it nicely.

Mausi and I haave spent the day in Würzburg, exploring the Baroque riot that is the Furst Bischofs Residence and several of the restored Baroque churches with which this town is endowed. It is now late, I am still thawing and I'm having to correct a typo in every word - so this will have to do until I can download the pictures and type sensibly again.

Good night.....

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January 01, 2009

New Year traditions

I have to confess that I enjoy the new year traditions here in Mausi's home. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year concert is always great fun and this years was certainly exception. There is a special supper on New Years Eve, followed by watching the Chancellor's New Year Message while sipping sparkling wine and then the "Silvester" festivities around Germany on the telly until it is finally time to go up into the loft and watch the ring of fireworks from our mountain eyrie as we can see the fireworks fired in Bleibenstadt, Hahn and all the surrounding villages from the loft - not to mention, of couse, those fired by the neighbours as well. Mind you, with the temeratures here hovering around -3*C something warming to follow is a welcome prelude to bed!

New Years day itself is a quieter affair, with one of the best things being the Venna Philharmonic's "Silvester Conzert" broadcast live from the Concert Hall in Vienna on ZDF. Daiel Barenbaum's conducting style is, I think, best described as unique. It makes for fascinating watching as the orchestra strut their stuff with a wide range of Strauss pieces and other works mixed in. There is ballet too, staged in some stunning palace settings and danced to perfection by some really skilled dancers. This year's offering included a short Concerto by Josef Hayden which sees the orchestra grow smaller and smaller during the final movement as players up and walk off. The piece was composed as a protest at the Prince Esterhazy's demands on his musicians - and he apparently took the hint and gave them a little more time off! The concert always finishes with the Radetzky March and audience participation - which Barenbaum played to a "T".

And now for some ski-jumping - on the TV. Eddie the Eagle I ain't!

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