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February 28, 2009

Blame games

It's interesting watching Whitehall (That centre of ultimate incompetence) and Westminster's denizens (The Centre of ultimate freeloading) accusing the banks and bankers of greed and incompetence. Firstly, the rogues among the banking community got away with it because the Regulatory body was being run on minimum intervention on the orders of Westminster/Downing Street and Civil Servants staff it. Not a Banking qualification or experience between either body as far as I can see.

Then when you look at the Boardrooms themselves you rapidly discover that these are also filled with parachutists - no Banking Qualifications there either, much less actual experience at Branch level.

Many more years ago than the Monk likes to remember he joined the staff of one of the then largest banks in the world. It didn't last, the Monk was not meant to be in banking and he moved on after a few years, but the interesting thing is this, at that time the Chairman of the Bank (Logo: Black Spread Eagle with coronets on each wing and its chest and the initials DCO under it) had worked in a Branch and actually knew what we, the numerous clerks actually did in the "Waste Department", in "Clearances" , "Remittances", "Bills" or "Securities". The likes of the gent now under scrutiny for his part in the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland and his £650k pension, have probably never heard these terms and wouldn't know how anyone actually did the work it involved anyway. In fact I doubt if any of them have any acquaintance at all with the operational side of any branch of any bank, let alone the ones they supposedly managed.

What Whitehall is eager to hide in all of this, and to an extent Westminster as well, is that the Cult of Management is at the root cause of this collapse. Gone are the days when, in order to be a "Manager" you had first to work your way up the particular branch of the particular profession to become one. Now any over qualified filing clerk waving an MBA can parachute into any profession and "Manage" the professionals. What rapidly happens of course is that the professionals very quickly find that their time is increasingly spent writing "Business Cases" or filling in forms for an ever increasing army of paper shufflers to discuss in meetings from which the professionals are excluded and never actually action. Westminster used to be filled with people who were bankers, industrialists, ex-military, police or fire fighters, doctors etc. Now it is stuffed with professional politicians who have never done a day's work in their lives and haven't got even the vaguest idea how the people they claim to be "serving" with their ill-judged and ill-written legislation are affected. Why? Because they are advised by Civil Servants and Trade Unionists, neither of whom would qualify as knowing anything about the reality of the work either......

So, as I said, its interesting watching Parliament, the Civil Service and their "advisers" and cronies blaming the banks. It distracts attention from the fact that they haven't got a clue on what they are talking about, can't do anything to fix it anyway because they broke it in the first place, and don't give a damn about the rest of us - because, boy, have they got the pension stitched up a treat! They daren't touch the big pensions the Boards are getting lined up for because that exposes their own scam. A full pension after only two terms in Parliament? A gold plated pension, medals and knighthoods after 40 years screwing the public as a Civil Servants? That's where we should be looking for a bit of "claw back" after all, its our money that pays for it and that is where the blame really rests.

Management is NOT an independent "profession" it is a function of professional activity. We would do well to re-establish that principle in all corporate activity, commercial, industrial and perhaps most importantly, in government at all levels.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 27, 2009

A winner for a long week

Sorry this post is so late folks, but its been a long a very stressful week. So it was a great piece of news to get a call from the Law firm I have been acting as "expert" for to tell me that the case has been settled out of court and that my report was one of the reasons for doing so. Everyone is happy - especially my clients as they walk away no worse off and without having to pay a very large contribution to the owners of the building that was lost.

Nice to know you're getting something right. Even nicer when you get the personal thanks of a high powered Barrister for your assistance "in this matter".

And so to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a long day too!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 26, 2009

Selling off the silver ....

So our esteemed ex- EU Commissar, Lord Mandelson, is trying to sell off the Royal Mail and offering all sorts of sweetners and "guarantees" to get it through that House of Perfidy in Westminster. The Royal Mail is in a mess precisely because this same bunch of dangerous buffoons allowed its profitable bits to be "cherry picked" in an earlier botched attempt by the Civil Service to "free up RM to focus on its core business." Well, guess who's behind this latest attempt?

You guessed, the Civil Service again. Show me one project the Civil Service have managed to deliver on budget, on time or indeed according to plan.

Royal Ordinance was "privatised" with guarantees that our armed forces would still have access to UK based production of their weapons and munitions. Well that lasted about five years and then, guess what, the bits were sold off and now all our arms and all our munitions come from outside the UK. The MOD was ordered by this government to close its hospitals and care facilities for wounded service personnel and give it all to the NHS - on the grounds that it would save money and the NHS would provide the specialised services and support. Guess what, the money has vanished into that well known Black Hole and the services for the military have failed to materialise - so now we have desperately ill and wounded men returning to be treated badly by ill equipped and ill prepared medical staff alongside Tom, Dick, Harry and Harriet and be abused by the Civil Servants this same shower of incompetents have put in charge. Ask the lad with his leg blown off and serious injuries who was asked by a "manager" to remove his uniform because it "upset" some of the layabouts in A&E where the "caring" NHS had dumped him.

Let's ask about the £165 million written off in an IT project the Civil Service has decided to abandon because it can';t be made to work and do what they were wanting. Or the £400 million overspend on building the Scottish Parliament.

The Royal Mail may not be the most efficient organisation in the Public Services, but it is a hundred times more efficient than anything else in Whitehall! The only reason this government can have for further selling off of the family silver is that they stand to gain from it. I wonder who is lined up for a Directorship on which Board in the buyers?

And here's a funny thought for the day. Napoleon fought and lost a war to take us over and conquer Europe. Lord Mandelson and his cronies seem to have done very well handing the country, its industry and its services over to Napoleon's successors. The bits they haven't given to the Brussels Bureaucracy they have sold to French Companies, Spanish Banks or anyone else with the right price and the right incentives. Perhaps that's why they are terrified to hold a referendum on our continued subsumation into the USE to be.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2009

Exciting sailing

Another little "blast from the past" to contemplate. The boat in the picture below is a "Sharpie" sail ID letter "C" and they were big, solid boats - 24 feet long, around 6 feet in the beam and carried a lot of sail for their size. The three man crew worked hard to race them and the one in the picture, named "Panga" was one of the crack boats I learned to sail in - though almost always as a pre-teen and early 'teen - in milder weather than that in the photograph. Starting off as Centre Hand your job was to manage the "sheets" that controlled the spinaker and the centreboard tackle which raised and lowered it. The Forehand was the trapeze artist who's quick movemnt of his weight while attached to the masthead by a long wire and bos'un's chair style harness kept you upright as the boat beat to windward or - as here - planed on a broad reach.

Pnaga on a reach.jpg
Panga and her crew lift to the plane on a broad reach in the entrance to East London Harbour with a strong South Easterly blowing straight up the harbour!

The Sharpie Class were built of 5/8ths Oak planking on oak frames forming a "hard chine" hull. The deck covered the fore and after ends completely with a long narrow cockpit along the centre line. A heavy steel centre board could be raised and lowered using a double set of pulleys to give the necessary mechanical advantage and, unlike modern hulls, the "board" had to be raised to about one quarter its full draft when on a reach. A sister of Pang, the national champion boat for five years running, named Excalibur (Sail Number C 52) once overtook a motor cruiser towing a skier. And she wasn't reaching at the time, she was lying close to the wind on a "beat" to windward!

Note to the 'elf 'n safey mobsters - no one wore life jackets and there were features on these boats that could take your head off, slice through a finger or trap you in a capsize and yet, no one ever lost a finger, a hand, drowned or was injured in them.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2009

Hmmm, what flower?

OK, so I found this on Da Goddess, but it comes from This garden is illegal. Both full of fun.

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2009

Following in the footsteps ....

"How do you know there's been an elephant in the fridge?" the old joke goes. It sometimes feels a bit like that when you run into signs like the one in the photograph below. Having grown up in Southern Africa where the name I bear is somewhat rare mainly because we were never officially "settlers" - we just went there to build military outposts and roads and railways and harbours and the infrastructure type things - I now find myself tripping over ancestral gravestones (There are five of them in the Abbey!) and finding places where they have left some kind of mark on the landscape.

17022009 zoom.jpg
I couldn't help wondering if this is the same family surname or a nautical abbreviation of "Coxswain" - whichever, it is amusing to speculate.

The family is still trying to figure out which ancestor founded and named Cox's Bazaar. Go ahead; try a Google Earth - its a small outpost on the border between Burma/Mayanmar and Bangladesh!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 22, 2009

Sunday rambles

I confess, I enjoy the quiet simplicity of a said Mass. It is uncluttered and one can focus on the heart of the worship without distraction. That's not to say I don't enjoy the music and the dignity of the full blown High Mass or even the boisterous joy of the Family Eucharist with kids squeaking and squawking as the younger members play on the play rug at the West End. But today I've had several treats in the worship, first, in the said Mass at 0800, my favourite bit of St Paul, the passage from 2 Corinthians which begins "Though I speak with the tongues of angels, and have not Charity ..." and ends "and now abide these three, Faith, Hope and Cahrity; but the greatest of these is Charity."

There is such a wealth of wisdom in that passage it is impossible not to be moved by it.

Then, in the Parish Eucharist, the opening hymn was my favourite, probably originally formulated by St Patrick or based on something he wrote - Be thou my vision" is a lovely hymn and it expresses a vision of God that we do well to remind ourselves of from time to time. The final bit of pure pleasure came with the Sung Mass and a visiting choir who performed a Palestrina Mass setting flawlessly. Worship in three different styles and all equally uplifting. What more can you ask?

Well, perhaps a little more, like the Organ Recital yesterday by Carleton Etherington. I was flattered to be asked to turn the pages for him as he put the Mighty Milton through its paces, followed by some fireworks on the Glorious Grove and finally brought us back to earth gently with the little Elliot and its softer flutes and mixtures. But perhaps that's for another day.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 21, 2009


This last week saw me visiting Plymouth - a city with which my family have many connections down the centuries, possibly even among the Pilgrim Fathers since there were a number of Gloucestershire Coxes among the Quakers who decamped to the New World from this famous harbour. In reality there are two harbours, the ancient commercial harbour to the East of the Hoe and the Royal Naval Dockyard to the West. Mind you, as ever here, the age of the Naval Dockyard is hardly "modern", though the docks and facilities there are certainly among the latest anywhere. It is now much reduced from the days when the Navy was a world force, though it is still home to several of the Fleet's major ships and the port where many of the nuclear submarine Fleet have their maintenance and their home.

Drake's Island sits like a cork in the neck of a bottle and guards the entrance to the River Tamar and the approach to the Naval Dockyard.

Plymouth suffered badly in the second world war and seems to have suffered badly in the post war reconstruction. That said, it still retains a character which is surely unique and the redevelopment of some of the old docks, such as the King William Victualling Yards are slowly rebuilding it. It still has its naval presence and the Royal Marines still occuppy Stonehouse Barracks, things my father would recall, but it is a very much reduced presence, something the present government seems hell bent on reducing to nothing.

The deep water channel up the Tamar past Drake's Island. The RN Dockyard is further upstream and this is the entrance to the approach. The other side of this river is Cornwall or Kernow as some now insist on calling it.

One does wonder what Sir Francis and the many famous and sometimes infamous Admirals who have called this their home port would think of it now. One hopes they would regard it with at least affection.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 20, 2009

Socialist Economics explained....

Labour Economic Policy Explained

Shortly after class, an economics student approaches his economics professor and says, "I don't understand the Chancellor's latest plan to stimulate the economy. Can you explain it to me?"

The professor replied, "I don't have any time to explain it at my office, but if you come over to my house on Saturday and help me with my weekend project, I'll be glad to explain it to you." The student agreed.

At the agreed-upon time, the student showed up at the professor's house. The professor stated that the weekend project involved his backyard pool.

They both went out back to the pool, and the professor handed the student a bucket. Demonstrating with his own bucket, the professor said,

"First, go over to the deep end, and fill your bucket with as much water as you can." The student did as he was instructed.

The professor then continued, "Follow me over to the shallow end, and then dump all the water from your bucket into it." The student was naturally confused, but did as he was told.

The professor then explained they were going to do this many more times, and began walking back to the deep end of the pool.

The confused student asked, "Excuse me, but why are we doing this?"

The professor matter-of-factly stated that he was trying to make the shallow end much deeper.

The student didn't think the economics professor was serious, but figured that he would find out the real story soon enough.

However, after the 6th trip between the shallow end and the deep end, the student began to become worried that his economics professor had gone mad.

The student finally replied, "All we're doing is wasting valuable time and effort on unproductive pursuits. Even worse, when this process is all over, everything will be at the same level it was before, so all you'll really have accomplished is the destruction of what could have been truly productive action!"

The professor put down his bucket and replied with a smile, "Congratulations. You now understand the Chancellor's economic plan."

With apologies to the friends who have sent me several versions of this - most from the US explaining the Stimulus Bill. Trouble is it fits what is happening here to a "T".

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 19, 2009

Future perfect?

A friend has sent me this and its so close to the truth I have to share it with a wider audience!

A Prayer For The Future:


Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2009

Things that go bump .....

The collision between HMS Vanguard and FS Triomphe in mid-Atlantic is a testament to the effectiveness of stealth technology as fitted to these ships. It also highlights the dangers of using it. As usual the "safety" police are screaming blue murder about the dangers of allowing nuclear powered boats to charge about in the dark - but they miss the point entirely. No one is supposed to know where they are, except those that sent them out.

It speaks volumes that neither ship was able to detect the other and that, as a result, they ran into each other. The French ship seems to have suffered worse than the Vanguard, though both will need dockyard attention. Conventionally the UK and our other NATO partners tell each other where our ships are patrolling - not in detail, but certainly in general. How much detail is imparted is an open question since the whole point of these ships is to assure annihilation of any attacker. And telling the French with their record of passing on information to the enemy ....

A tricky question this, and one which will run and run, especially as this Labour shower of peaceniks and traitors are already trying to find excuses to close down the navy anyway. The enquiry will be an interesting one!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2009

Stella Awards

The Stella's are amazing, and the legal decisions they go to are worrying to say the least! The world has gone mad…..

Each year I can hardly wait for these "STELLA AWARDS" Knock yourself out.

It's time again for the annual 'Stella Awards'! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?

That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for the past year:


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.


Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut.

Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT, days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.

Keep scratching. There are more...


Jerry Williams, of Little Rock , Arkansas , garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Grrrrr. Scratch, scratch.


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Hang in there; there are only two more Stellas to go ...


Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.

1ST PLACE : (May I have a fanfare played on 50 kazoos, please?)

This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma , who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down, $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home. (My Question: If the Manual says it, is there any gaurantee their customers can actually read?)

Are we, as a society, getting more stupid...? Ya Think??!!

More than a few of our judge's elevators don't go to the top floor either!

I can't think of any more powerful reason for the total abolition of the Jury System than these cases and the thousands like them we never get to read about.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 16, 2009

Peer Review!

I'm always surprised and delighted when a friend reviews my writing, and doubly so when they have enjoyed it. The enemy is within has been given a very good review by VWBug on One happy dog speaks and I am flattered by her comments. Do visit her review.

I hope other blogging friends will try it and enjoy it as much!

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

February 15, 2009

Freedom of speech? Not under Labour and the PC Police

The Daily Telegraph letters page made interesting reading yesterday, with many focused on the banning of Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP banned from entering Britain. The one that really stood out for me was that written by a Muslim Scholar which takes the same line as many of us in saying that banning Mr Wilders is a serious blow to the right of freedom of expression. The author makes the very telling point that criticism cannot be silenced by bans, it can only be silenced by intelligent and rational engagement. And therein lies the rub - Labour do not do "intelligent" or "rational" and certainly these are both alien concepts to anyone in the Polictically Correct lobby. Both operate purely on prejudice and try to pass their prejudice off as "morality".

The last ten years of Politically Correct dictat from Labour and their cronies in the Civil Service have seen our rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought eroded on an unprecedented scale - in fact the last time anyone assaulted these freedoms to such a degree was under the heel of Cromwell and his Roundheads.

I confess that I would be much more inclined to give conseideration to the protests and strictures of the PC brigade if the loudest protesters were in fact operating on any sort of intelligent debate. As it is they twist information, make up new interpretations of ordinary speech and invent grievances. Many of the worst offenders I have encountered in this regard are not members of the ethnic minority they claim to be "defending", are not themselves disabled or connected to anyone who is, and cannot even check their facts before launching into misguided and ill-informed campaigns against things they have no understanding of at all.

I suggest that Political Correctness should be recognised by the medical profession as an incurable mental illness and anyone suffering from any form of it should be immediately "Sectioned" under the Mental Health Act, to be placed in a secure Institution for the most serious sufferers who pose a threat to society as a whole. Dr Al Qutob is right - this latest piece of Whitehall stupidity is a serious threat to everyone's right to express their opinion. It is not, and never will be, Whitehall's function to determine an individual's thoughts. The continued drive in this direction will guarantee that the BNP eventually enjoys the support of sufficient numbers to become a serious element in our political scene.

And they couldn't have a better recruiter than our present Home Secretary and her counterpart in the Foreign Office!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 14, 2009

Thought for the day ....

My Name is Rose

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.

I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, 'Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?'

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, 'Of course you may!' and she gave me a giant squeeze.

'Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?' I asked.

She jokingly replied, 'I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids...'

'No seriously,' I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

'I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!' she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.

We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this 'time machine' as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, 'I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.'

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, ' We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.

There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.'

She concluded her speech by courageously singing 'The Rose.'

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finishe d the college degree she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they'll really enjoy it!

These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.

REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL. We make a Living by what we get. We make a Life by what we give.

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

'Good friends are like stars.... ....You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.'

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2009

So much for freedom of speech then ....

First it was the General Synod, the ruling body of the Church of England, voting to have an outright ban on any member, but particularly clergy, belonging to the BNP, and now its the Home Office refusing entry to a Dutch MP for his anti-Islamic views. As a spokesman for an Islamic Society that is trying to promote integration said on the Beeb this morning - now the Home Office have created a martyr for those who agree with him - and they have also made it more contentious by drawing attention to his views.

So is the problem with so much of the - probably well intentioned - political correctness that causes people to object and make a fuss about off the cuff remarks, views they don't like or jokes. Prince Harry is being sent on a "Race awareness training course" and has his record permanently marked as a "racist" because of a schoolboy jape, the Dutch MP is now a martyr to the PC view that seeks to suppress all contrary views to their own instead of engaging them and opening a debate and Carol Thatcher is now barred from the BBC because she remarked that someone looked like the Golliwog on the Robertsons Jam label.

I would be interested to know if the Dutch MP would have been refused entry to the UK if his film had been anti-Christian or "exposed" the Bible as warmongering. Probably not, its alright to denigrate and belittle everything Christian and Western, or, better still, Jewish, but heaven help you if you "offend" anyone of colour, of non-standard gender, or from an Islamic background.

I will be very interested to see if the Dutchman - and I can't recall his name - takes his case to the EU Commission and the Court of Human Rights. I think, under the "Its not a Constitution" Lisbon Treaty, he has a case. After all, it lowers all the EU Nations border controls in respect of any citizen of any of the nations within the EU. I firmly believe the Home Office was wrong to bar this man's entry. I think they have actually helped to publicise his views and given those who support them a martyr. But then, Labour have never been even remotely tolerant of anyone who does not agree slavishly with everything they chant. Engage in a debate? Try to persuade? Never, not their style - ban it, label it "Fascist" and use every tool in the box to make sure that any opposing view is strangled. I hope the Dutch gentleman does take us to court. I have a feeling that Whitehall will lose.

As for the Synod, well, its at times like this that I find myself thinking we should disband it and send all the funny-bunnies who use it as their own little "power base" back to their narrow little boxes - preferably under six feet of good English earth. I do not support the BNP, in fact I support no political party at all, but I regard it as everyone's RIGHT to express their views, to engage in political activity and engage in debate on those views and activities when challenged by an opposing view. But, like the present government, that is not the Synod's style either - "Ban it" they scream in four part harmony and go home feeling they have advanced the cause of the Gospel in so doing. No they haven't, they have simply given even more power to the view that the church has become an irrelevance in our secular society, alienating many who currently feel threatened and driving even more into the arms of the BNP.

As I said, Synod has once more shown itself to be an intolerant petty gathering of airheads. In short, an irrelevance to the Gospel. Like this government, in making such a stupid resolution they have shown themselves at one with the government - don't debate, don't engage, don't persuade - Ban It!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2009

Revelations of the other half?

The public vilification of the banks, banking system and bankers by our political lords and masters in Westminster and Whitehall has been revealing. Not least because the politicians and their worthless henchmen the Civil Servants, are obviously trying to cover their own tracks and push all the blame onto the bankers. Mind you, the bankers aren't doing themselves any favours whinging about not getting bonuses that are measured in multiples of salaries that most of us could not dream of earning in a lifetime of hard and dedicated work - often with responsibilities that are measured in the potential to lose lives. I'm afraid that the revelation that one of these "poor, hard done by" individuals earns £60k per MONTH was enough to have me spitting with rage. I never managed to achieve that figure per year, and sometimes was charged with protecting the assets this and other buffoons like him have squandered, risked or thrown away and given away to foreign investors.

Coupled with that was the revelation that not one of the bankers interviewed has a single Institute of Banking or any other body's qualifications in banking! All are MBA "generalist" managers who skip from one disasterous senior management position to another without any knowledge of what the company they "manage" does or how the staff who do it, actually achieve whatever it is. In other words, they can read a Balance Sheet and little more.

Just shows, I should have made a play for a different career - I too can read a Balance Sheet and the "Bottom Line". I suppose the only satisfaction is that the man who set up one of our biggest banks for a fall and was rewarded by Gordon Brown with the Chairmanship of the Financial Services Authority - fancy Civil Service speak for "bugger us - we don't know either" - has been forced to resign now that his role in the collapse has been exposed. Mind you, he'll probably be laughing all the way to the bank - his salary was large enough to make our eyes water and now he'll have some gold plated pension benefits due as well.

Ce la vie, as the French say.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2009

A very long day ....

Especially when it is spent standing in the cold, watching others work. At times I was convinced I was trying to ride herd on a bunch of cats each trying to go in his own direction, so I am considering getting an NVQ in Cat Herding. I reckon I'd qualify easily.

Anyhoo, I have anotherr long day ahead and Black Ice on the roads just about when I'm trying to get the the College so this could be interesting. At present I am trying to run a course for a group from the Middle East and we have had to contend with heavy snow, ice and today the combination of a third - sunshine. It took me a while to work out what that big bright light in the sky might be and now I have the sun burn to prove it.

Ce la vie - the bed beckons!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2009

So who needs sleep?

The last few days have certainly kept me busy, with a course to run with most of the students having a limited grasp of English plus the weather - well, life has been interesting. We haven't been able to do any of the outside exercises and as a result I have had to add extra lectures. OK, so the lectures take longer than normal to deliver because of translation and explanation problems, but its tiring. I'll be glad to reach the end of the week.

Now on that subject I've been looking forward to wlcoming some visitors to the Abbey from our link parish in Sweden, but have just found an e-mail informing me that I am about to receive a bundle (another one!) of "expert" reports from the legal firm I am advising in a multi-million pound lawsuit - and they want me to read them and prepare "headline" comments by the end of next week. There is only one problem - I have a job in Devon next week which will take up all of Tuesday and Wenesday and means going down there on Monday afternoon. It sounds as if I'll be sitting up with some rivetting reading ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2009

Australia burning ....

My sympathies go out to the men and women currently fighting the out of control wildfires in South Australia, Victoria and Southern New South Wales. With the toll now at well over 100 dead and rising - with may more remote towns still not fully accessed or searched, this will be far worse than the Ash Wednesday fires in the 1980's which, until now, have been the benchmark for this sort of disaster. The Victoria Country Fire Authority is well equipped and well motivated, but even with all its resources committed, the combination of heat, aridity and fire has overwhelmed them. It is soul destroying to spend day after day chasing fires that are no sooner brought under control than they break out and make a new run for it. It is even more so when your home, your community or your livelihood is destroyed or in the path of destruction.

I have no doubt at all that we will now see the well rehearsed arguments breaking out again over whether it is better to have small controlled burns regularly to clear the underbrush and maintain fire breaks - or - as the "green" lobby always argue - to stop all clearing and allow "natural growth". The truth is that Australia's bush has been subjected to bruning for more than 10,000 years of human activity. It was the manner in which the Aboriginal population cleared the bush and hunted down certain game animals and the vegetation has adapted to this. Many of the Euchalypts which make up the bulk of the natural vegetation now need fire to germinate their seeds!

No doubt we will be told endlessly by the same "green" lobby, that the fires are not the fault of a lack of contol of the vegetation, but of "global warming" and "man-made emmissions". Yeah, and the moon is made of green cheese don't you know.

Prayers for the fire fighters and for those who have lost everything, relatives, friends and children need to be offered by us all. I hope that the fires can be brought under control soon and that the debate on how to prevent it happening again can now occur without the usual "green" emotive chicancery.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2009

Something different

I just felt like something different on the blog today. I could have put up some more snow pictures, I could even have commented on some of the political folly around, but instead I picked this from my father's photo album.

HMS Vanguard departing Cape Town 1947.jpg
HMS Vanguard entering Cape Town Harbour in 1947. The Royal Standard can be seen on her main mast.

The last British Battleship to be built and completed, she also proved to be the finest sea keeper ever, able to fight her main and secondary armament in a hurricane. Civil Service deceit, political chicancery and the growth of the "peacenik", "better Red than dead" campaign so ably funded and supported by the former Soviet Bloc saw to it that our armed forces have been degraded and reduced to the point that we can no longer supply aircover to our troops on the ground and our fleet has been reduced to a Coast Defence unit.

The Vanguard may have been vulnerable to air attack, but only if she had no air defence and no air cover, her fifteen inch guns could send a 1 ton projectile almost 30 miles and her armour would have meant anyone attempting to hit her with any ordinary missile would have done little damage if it hit her side or deck armour. Now we have to listen to Civil Servants and politicians mouthing the garbage that one modern frigate packs more punch than a fleet of ships like Vanguard. You only believe that garbage if you also think that one ship can do everything a fleet can.

Now our government can't even see the need to build the two aircraft carriers they have finally ordered - but promptly postponed - when we really need four to maintain our defences. Oh, and the other four "Darings" they cancelled so they could give themselves a pay rise.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2009

Difficulties in the snow

Yesterday's snow was something else in the North Cotswolds - around a foot of the stuff fell on us in a few hours. Getting my car out of the car park took the efforts of several Dutch Fire Officers, a colleague and myself. Once on the roadit got mariginally easier and I had to take the long way home via Bourton on the Water and Cheltenham. Snow drifts and icy patches made driving tricky, but once off the Cotswold escarpment - the snow all but vanished!

Car Park in snow.JPG
Snow lying "deep and crisp and even?" in the carpark. The rear of my chariot can be seen in the bottom right.

Today is cold, slightly damp and the snow is vanishing fast.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 06, 2009

Let it snow?

The scene yesterday morning when I looked out was sort of Christmas Cardy - except its a bit late and classically,"the wrong kind of snow" for the UK. And today was worse - but I only discovered that when I reached the A44 around Chipping Camden. Driving in these conditions is ridiculkous - but once committeed, there's now turning back ....

The view from my bedroom window at 0545 yesterday.

And it kept falling right up to around 1100 this morning. It certainly gave everyone quite a challenge though the Bin Men managed to get here even though their truck did a couple of fancy manoeuvres on the way down the slope.

The view of my tiny garden at 0615 as I was putting out the bins.

Madam did NOT approve of the snow.

What have you done to the garden?

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

February 05, 2009

Weather 1 - England 0

So far it seems to be a case of "Weather 1 - England 0" or certainly that was the overriding impression this morning as I tried (unsuccessfully) to reach Moreton in Marsh to earn a days pay. I got as far as Teddington Hands and gave up on being told that all the hill roads between me and the top of the Cotswold escarpment were all but impassable to anything without 4x4 capability. As I don't have a 4x4, giving up was the best option.

Listening all day to the traffic news it seems I made a wise decision, the early part of the day seemed to be filled with lorries skidding, sliding or jack-knifing everywhere and then the gritting trucks got busy again and the roads started to clear, but remained treacherous in all the key places I would need to pass through. So I have had the day at home, trying to catch up and field a range of things. It's been useful, even at the cost of a days pay, now all I have to pray for is that tomorrow isn't as bad, there is rain and some more snow predicted and the Highways Agency and the County Council - responsible for gritting - are running out of salt and grit. Apparently the accountants decided that holding stock sufficient for more than a few days was "uneconomical". What they forgot is that it takes several weeks to get more .....

Ce la vie. The paper shufflers will get away with it again and we pick up the price tab. At least the local kids have had a great day tobogganing in the Vineyards and on just about every slope they could find. There are several huge snowmen around as well and I can't remember when I last saw so many happy faces and so much fun being had by the kids in my area. Madam Paddy Cat ventured as far as the front door, spent several minutes staring at the white powder lying everywhere, ventured a paw into the drift at the door and declared her disgust, turned swiftly and found a warm spot next to the radiator.

Her message? "Wake me when its summer/dinner time!" I confess though, I've actually enjoyed the walk I took in it earlier. Tomorrow will be another day - sufficient unto itself.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:32 PM | TrackBack

February 04, 2009

Historic Ships

Mausi loved to stroll around the docks and piers in her spare time in San Francisco. One great attraction was the assembly of historic ships at Hyde Street Pier.

Eppleton Hall: Length Overall - 100 feet, Beam Over Guards - 33 feet, Draft - 7 feet, 4 inches, Gross Tonnage - 166

Tugs like the Eppleton Hall were used in the coal ports of Northern England to tow barges and shipping. Similar paddle tugs were in use in San Francisco during the 1850s and 1850s. The Eppleton Hall was built in 1914 by William Hepple and Company. She is powered by two single cylinder "grashopper" type steam engines. Independent engine control gives the boat enhanced maneuverability. In 1968 the Eppleton Hall was retired from work on the River Wear in England and extensively restored. She steamed to San Francisco under her own power in 1970. Fascinating! Mausi would have dearly loved to see her cross the Atlantic.

Grace Quan: width of nets at mouth - 30-40 ft, depth of waters fished - 5-15 ft, typical day's catch - 1,150 lbs, number of junks fishing 1900 - about 30

Another boat from that period is the Grace Quan, a typical San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk. As you can see from her build she is well suited for working big nets in shallow water. Using a barrel windlass the fishermen were able to pull large nets with hundreds of pounds of shrimp on board. The San Francisco Bay Junks were modeled after the junks used in the southern Guangdong Province in China and most of them carried a single, fivebatten lugsail. If the wind was calm they could also be rowed by oars from the bow and by a long sculling oar from the stern.

Thayer: Length on deck - 156 feet, Beam - 36 feet, Draft - 11 feet, Gross Tonnage - 453

Mausi quite lost her heart to this beautiful ship called Thayer. She was one of 123 three-masted schooners built on the West Coast for the lumber trade. In 1925 she became a codfisherman, fishing in the Bering Sea. She made her last trip in 1950, which was also the last commercial voyage by a West Coast sailing vessel. What a sight she must have been under full sail!

Posted by Mausi at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2009

Planetary displacement?

On my way to a job yesterday I listened to BBC Radio 4 and the discussion over the series of "wildcat" strikes which seem to have rippled out of the Total Refinery in Lincolnshire over the awarding of a contract by Total (A French based and owned company) to do some work on upgrading certain parts of the refinery to an Italian Contractor who employs only Italian workers. Given that this is more and more commonly happening, in fact is getting worse across the board as almost all our energy companies and certainly almost all our fuel suppliers are now owned by EU based companies, it is hardly surprising to find that men, laid off from these same company sites because the contracts their employers were working under have been cancelled, should feel aggrieved.

Total claims that the company they had contracted had failed to do what was required, the company concerned counter claims that they were not given a fair crack at the work because the requirement kept changing. This is a well-known and fairly common tactic when trying to break a contract to your advantage. The UK now has most of its industry foreign owned and offshore "managed" and UK workers are usually the first to be axed by these companies as they are not "domestic" as far as the new owners HQ and Board are concerned and therefore easier to dismiss. Total also claims to be paying the Italian workers the same rate as they would pay a UK contractor - but the truth is that labour "on costs" for workers domiciled elsewhere in the EU are lower than the cost of employing someone domiciled here - thanks to Gordon Brown's stealth taxes.

The UK now has almost 3 million workers out of work but our government claims that these men are "free" to do what the French, Italians and others are doing - bid for contracts in those countries and go there to work. What they will not say is how many UK based companies have succeeded in securing any such contracts. Its not that they don't try, many do and I have had some peripheral involvement in one or two myself - but the French will never ever give a contract to a British company if there is a French one that can do the job. Nor will the Italians. It isn't "protectionism" as Gordon Brown accuses us of trying to practice, it is simply looking after your people and making sure that if the skills exist in the area where the work is to be done, that that skills pool is used. You don't allow a company to "import" a complete workforce to do jobs where there are local people available to do it - you may award the contract to some EU company, but the proviso has to be that they use local labour. That is what the stikers are arguing for and though I do not generally support strike action and have never myself gone on strike (Often to my own disadvantage!) this is one time when I do think there is a legitimate complaint.

The EU "free" labour market is being ruthlessly exploited to the advantage of everyone except the native British. This is not the first time this has happened and as long as Westminster continues to ignore the inequalities - presumably because they have their pockets being generously lined by their EU chums and have vested interests in shafting every British worker as far as they can - our "competitors" will continue to exploit this loophole in the UK's interpretation of the EU Directive.

Listening to that prat "Lord" Mandelson and the Europhile Kenneth Clark refusing to recognise that there is a problem and defending an argument which is as far removed from what the strikers are complaining about as it is possible to be without actually speaking different languages - I got the impression that Westminster and Whitehall have been transferred to another planet. It certainly hasn't the same number of moons that circle the one I and the strikers currently inhabit.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 02, 2009

Why is a Ship called 'She'?

I bet that is something you always wanted to know. Mausi's found the answer in a shop window in San Francisco:

A ship is called a 'she' because
there is always a great deal of bustle around her;
there is usually a gang of men about, she has a waist and stays;
it takes a lot of paint to keep her good looking;
it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep;
she can be all decked out;
it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly;
and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable: she shows her topsides, hides her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys...

Posted by Mausi at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2009

Climate change and the Obama roadshow ...

An item on The Gorse Fox alerted me to this most interesting item in "The Register", an American publication. IT reproduces a letter written by the man who headed the NASA team that has given us the hysterical "manmade global warming" and points out that the scientists behind that scam have manipulated the models and the data until it shows what they want it to show.

Frankly, it ain't science and it ain't as transparent as the eco-terrorists of Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth and their cohorts like to claim. What's more it calls into question the real science which shows that we don't understand the mechanisms at work here and panders to the hysterical anti-science that is the mainstream media functioning on fear, gloom and bad news to sell their badly researched and badl written drivel.

Thansk GF for the heads up. I heartily recommend the read.

If Mr Obama and his "advisers" plan to use any of this garbage in formulating their policies I suggest they talk to the man who wrote this piece first. Otherwise they will simply enrich the fraudulent and give power to the eco-terror mob.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack