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March 29, 2009

Booksellers and my latest ....

I've been doing an online search to see if there are any other outlets selling my books and I have found a number. They are:

Blackwell's Books

Waterstones Online

W H Smith (Order at counter or online) Intriguingly Smith's have a different ISBN for the book to the one under which it is published ..... I have in front of me ISBN 978-1-906459-39-0 their version ends in a 77 which doesn't stack up ....

Amazon.co.uk - Although irritatingly again listed as "out of stock", though inviting you to "sign up to be notified when it becomes available.

Naturally Hallmark Press International continue to supply through their online bookstore, and I intend to keep looking for other outlets so watch this space. Not unnaturally I'd be delighted to hear that Smith's or Waterstones had sold copies over the counter so if anyone does order through them please let me know!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:17 PM

March 28, 2009

Croak ....

Not very well at present. Still, the throat and the lack of voice is an incentive to get things done elsewhere....

My new Blog at The Gray Monk's Scriptorium seems to be coming together well, thoiugh I still have a number of things I need to figure out. HTML Code is NOT my thing!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2009

Moving slowly

The move across to The Gray Monk's Scriptorium is going ahead slowly and steadily. I'm getting to grips with the set up. layouts and various bolt-ons that are available and starting to experiment. Its interesting just to see how its done, but there are also some features which don't quite work as well as they could. One thing I haven't yet cracked is how to get on to Technorati in its various guises and there are still some things that work better in MovableType than they do in the base that Blogger uses. One invaluable feature in Blogger is the spellchecker. It certainly catches most of my typos and, as a rather crude two finger typist, that's important. As some observant readers here may have spotted previously.

Any way, further development needs to be done but will have to wait as I have a biggish contract on at the moment and a few other things down the pipe that will take up a fair amount of time for the forseeable. Bear with me, I'm still very much a novice when it comes to getting things to work in and on a computer.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 23, 2009

A long day

It's been a long day in what promises to be a very long week. As ever, it's not the work I'm being paid for that is making the biggest demands and though I normally give my time happliy, I have an incipient cold which won't go away and I'm tired. Sorry folks, tonight there won't be a post of any great interest.

Mind you, it could be worse, I could have the Press trying to make a storm in a teacup out of nothing as the Conservative Party now has. Its fascinating how much noise the Press are able to make over a simple musing. The Conservatives are not the government and may not be elected, so what the blazes is wrong with the Shadow Business Secretary using the words "an aspiration" in relation to a tax they want to change? It will be an aspiration until they are in a position to change it - but the left dominated press have had a field day trying to make political capital for their paymasters in Labour.

Its tiresome and its a sham. Crocodiles do not weep and the Press itself has nothing whatever to be self-righteous about. Now, I'm knackered, so its off to bed.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2009

A little naughty fun

OK, so this is a bit on the naughty side, poking fun at deeply held beliefs. But, as I'm poking fun at my own faith, why not.

Do check this YouTube clip. Its entitled Mrs Beamish C of E.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2009

Spam attacks

Twice yesterday MuNu seems to have been hit by Spam Attacks. For a while PixyMisa actually shut down comment acceptance on the whole of MuNu, yet the spammers still managed to get a few under the radar. I have to say though, that since PM fitted Fluffy the Spamhound, the spam has been much reduced. Its still a nuisance though.

Spamming should be uprated to major criminal offence - it is, in fact, a form of terrorism since my Doctor's system last night was running very slow due to attempts apparently, to hack into it. Fortunately it is almost hack-proof, and the source is a Far Eastern spammer. Why do they feel the need to do this?

Terrorism does seem to be about the only explanation.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2009

The holiest place in Ireland

The slab of stone that marks the spot where the mortal remains of Patrick, Brigid and Columcille (of Bangor) were buried in the 12th Century. The legend says that "Three Saints in one grave shall lie". This stone is from the 19th Century and replaced an earlier marker. At the dissolution all Reliquaries were seized and the remains within them destroyed. The Reliquary that had held Patrick, Brigid and Columcille was among those stripped and publically burned, the Commissioner, Lord Grey, signing a declaration later that the bones were a mixture, some resembling those of beasts.

Downpatrick grave1.JPG
The huge slab of granite that marks to place of the triple grave. Patrick, Brigid and Columcille.

It is my belief that the Monks had taken precautions and removed the saints themselves long before the Commissioner arrived and secretly reburied them, filling the reliquary itself with any spare bones they could find, possibly even some from the kitchens. One thing is certain, within a very short time people had begun to circulate the rumour that Patrick, Brigid and Columcille had not been destroyed and remained hidden. I can tell you that there is a special feel to this place, a tranquility that is comforting even on a wet and stormy day.

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The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, Downpatrick.

In Patrick's day the drumlinn on which the cathedral stands was an island surrounded by water and marshes. It had to be approached across a causeway and was the stronghold, or Dun, of Daire. Daire ruled the local area and gave Patrick the first building to use as a church, home and base, four miles away at a place now called Saul, an Anglicisation of the Irish word sciobol which means "barn". The site of this barn, probably a small wattle and daub structure in an enclosure is today the site of a tiny church, built in the 1930's on the site of the ruined monastery, itself built on the site of the community where Patrick died in 461. The Dun of Daire became very quickly the Dun of Patrick and that in turn has become Downpatrick.

The grave is situated to the south of the little cathedral which is itself the restored remains of the Quire of the medieval monastery. To me, this is without doubt the holiest place in Ireland.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2009

Magnus Sucatus Patricius - Bishop and Missionary

The man known in his own time by the names Magnus Sucatus Patricius died this day in 461, probably aged around 76. He was born in Britain around 385 of wealthy landed parents and seized as a slave in a raid which descended on his family's villa in around 401 when he was not quite 16. He is perhaps best known by the legends that have grown around him, yet he would very likely be appalled at these same legends for he was a modest man - one who wept at the death of the very master who had abused him as a slave. He was also a remakable and truly great man and it has to be the supreme irony that we know of him possibly only because Church politics in the early Middle Ages caused the Abbots of Armagh to dig deep within their records and to unearth two of the most remarkable documents to survive anywhere in Britain or Ireland from what we now call the late Roman Period or the Dark Ages.

The Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus is in every sense of the word an Excommunication issued by a man moved by horror and grief, a man who knew what slavery meant to the men and women of his flock who had been seized by the Soldiers in his letter. A man who railed against the practice of slavery in an age when it was considered normal to enslave anyone who could not resist your force of arms. The second is more telling because it is his Declaration of Faith and exposition of his ministry. It is from that that we learn of his own seizure and six years as a slave in Ireland, of the misery he suffered during those six years and of his resolve which saw him overcome opposition from the Church itself to become the first Missionary Bishop since St Paul.

Patrick, the man, awed the Irish who had held him as a slave. They gave him the nickname "Naofa buachaill" or "Holy Boy" to mock his faith and his prayers, but he turned that into a weapon, one they could not overcome with violence or blandishment. He saw himself as God's slave and laughed at anyone who threatened to deprive him of his freedom with the answer - "You cannot, for I have none, I am the slave of God." Through this he won the respect and then the hearts of all who encountered him. Patrick, the Bishop wasn't popular with his fellow bishops in Britain or in Rome. He was a maverick, one who refused to play the political games and got on with tending the people God had entrusted to him.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me -
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Patrick was not a Monk, nor did he found monasteries, those came after his death. The monastics claimed him, yet he founded churches in villages (Duns or Raths in the Irish of his time) and gave communities Bishops and Presbyters to lead them and minister too them. After his death these gradually became monastic communities with Abbots taking ascendancy over the Bishops and the tradition that he was a monk grew to support this take over of the church by the ecclesiastics. If you went to look for Patrick in his own time or in a service you would have to have him pointed out as he never wore a mitre (They came much later - around 1100) or carried a crook or crozier and dressed in the ordinary clothes of the people he worked amongst. This is supported by one of the legends that speaks of a would be assassin being unable to tell the Saint apart from his charioteer.

You will not find Patrick in any list of those beatified by any Pope, nor will you find his name among those appointed Bishop by the Popes of his time, most likely because his patron was St Germanus of Auxerre and not Celestine of Rome. Patrick was declared Saint by those who knew and loved him, by those who carried on his work for the gospel with unswerving love and loyalty and one day I hope to be permitted to sit at his feet and thank him for the inspiration he has given me and millions of others. Yes, I am wearing something green. No, I will not be parading waving any national flags, nor will I be drinking any green beer. I may raise a glass of fine Irish Whiskey to the man I would like to meet more than any other in this life or the next. I am celebrating his feast in prayer and worship as he would wish me to.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2009

Doing my head in ....

I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday experimenting with setting up a new blog site for myself. It is on Blogspot - or Google Blogger to give it its proper name. I did a new template, I transfered a whole load of stuf over and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to set up the sidebar.

Guess what I forgot to do? Yup, that's right. I forgot to bookmark it all .....

So this morning I can find the new blog. I can't find the way into doing anything on it. Soooooooo, now I have to hack my way around the Blogger site again. looking for the way into my own blog.

Now you may ask why I am even bothering with this, well the answer is rather compicated. You see, I have been blogging on this site, first on Guruinternational and for several years as part of the MuNu set-up, on the back of my former brother in law's blogs in Australia. Ozguru has now abandoned his blog G'Day Mate and gone on to do something else on a new site. He also has his hands full with a son suffering from a syndrome that requires them to home educate him since the State system can't/won't provide the dedicated attention required. That leaves him no time to do the digging around in the background code of the blog and I don't have access to it.

So, for the foreseeable future I plan to run this blog and the new one - at least on the new one, The Gray Monk's Scriptorium, I can get into the sidebars and various other essential areas to do my own adjusting, posting and maintenance. Not that I am anywhere near proficient enough to do any of it properly, but at least I don't have to bother Oz.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2009

Dementia testing ....

Yes, its a serious condition, but here's a little fun - One happy dog speaks has a simple test, one that everyone should take annually. Don't worry - the men in white coats will be along shortly.

Now where did I put my keyboard? What was I doing before I took the test ........

While on the subject of remembering things, I recently visited Da Goddess and found the most beautiful photograph of an evening sky. Da Goddess is certainly a talented photographer and some of her work is even for sale. Why not pay her a visit and look at some of the stunning stuff she has on her blog?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 14, 2009

Why I hate Civil Servants

In these financially disasterous times everyone is vulnerable, none more so than those who have been made redundant. Such is the fate of one of my fellow MuNuvians - Practical Penumbra aka Suzie. She used to run a multiscreen cinema complex in her home state in the US. A little over a month ago her employer decided to close. Just like that, no warning and no consultation. Suzie has paid her taxes and contributed to social security as long as she worked, so now, she thought, it was time to sign on and get the benefits she is entitled too. Pity her employer fouled up the social security number for her contributions - not something she could or necessarily would spot. But enough for the bureaucrats who are supposed to "serve" her, to withold any payment.

This is why I hate Civil Servants. They are, without exception, parasites on any society, but thrive especially in any society which falls for the line that "management" is a matter of following a set of "rules" determined by - you've guessed - Civil Servants. The experience of Suzie at Practical Penumbra who was made redundant five weeks ago. Her claim for unemployment benefits is now being shuffled from in tray to in tray. "Enquiries are being made is all the answer she gets, yet, nothing is being looked at, the file is still lying on a desk somewhere (One of the parasites actually admitted that!) and it seems unlikely that there will be any movement in under six months if she is lucky. This is typical of the way the Civil Service handles their cock-ups. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, there is always some damned Civil Servant who will slavishly follow the "rules" and deny you what you have paid for through your tax while happily pocketing a huge amount of that same tax for doing absolutely nothing useful at all. As for actually doing what they are paid to do - forget it! As for admitting they may have got something wrong - forget it, Hell will be 10,000 years into an Ice- age before that is even likely.

I recommend that you read her story and weep. This is absolutely typical of every civil service I have ever had to deal with and I have dealt with several over the years.

In my career I have had to attend numerous meetings presided over by civil servants. The minutes never record the discussion, just that there was one, they never record a decision, because there never is one. By keeping it "corporate" they avoid blame of it goes wrong. The "Minister" is always the fall guy and always the excuse. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told it was "the Minister's decision", yet, when you confront the Minister (as I have done twice!) with the facts he turns to the civil servant and demands "why wasn't I told about this?" Of course they have had their revenge, I have been sidelined in my career and eventually retired without recognition, but I know where they are hiding the skeletons and one day I will have my moment, always assuming someone else doesn't get there first.

There is only one thing wrong with every civil service. It exists. There is only one way to cure it - make every civil servant responsible for everything they do wrong and that means all the way to the Permanent Secretaries right at the top. Make them responsible - if the Minister takes a fall they should go too! The list of things the civil service in the UK have destroyed, degraded to the point of uselessness or simply "managed" out of existence is long enough to fill a book. Those who have encountered the "Prince 2" system of Project Management will have rapidly (Unless they are a Civil Servant and therefore completely unable to identify reality when they see it) discovered that it is completely and utterly useless. A paper exercise which is so bureaucratic it does nothing except drive the project costs sky high and all technical staff involved to despair. Prince 2 has never delivered a project of any descriuption on time or on budget, yet it is the Treasury's ONLY permissable "Project Management System".

If the "Rules" do not allow you to do a job efficiently, don't think they can be amended. The "Rules", accroding to the Civil Servant applying them, were invariably "made" by the Minister, Parliament or - worst of all - the Treasury. B******t! They were usually written by the idiot you are talking too, or, if they were by some miracle "made" by any of the usual scape goats, they were merely signed by some twit who didn't understand them when they were shoved in front of them. Take my word for it, I have worked alongside some of these morons, their only problem is that their egos are so huge they can't see anything else and they are completely and utterly incompetent. Sadly it goes all the way downward as well. Human cloning? Just look at the Civil Service in any given country. Toe the party line, suppress all desire to actually do anything that serves the people you are supposed to be serving and you'll do very well indeed. Might even get a Knighthood out of it.

Suzie's experience of the American Civil Service is a case in point. The fact that she is trying to sort out a problem which has serious consequences for her (loss of home, etc.) just doesn't register with them at all. So what if their "investigation" of her case takes all year? It's only another benefit claimant. Another tax payer trying to take money back from the taxes they have paid toward the civil servant's pension scheme (Bomb proof) or the civil servants salary (also bomb proof) and which the civil servants of every society see as their right to spend, waste and withold as they see fit. The very term "Civil Servant" is an oxymoron - I have yet to meet any who are either civil or servants. In fact I know one very senior Civil Servant who is unqualified to do what he does, yet happily takes home an annual salary of £160k, looks forward to a pension almost two thirds of that (with a substantial lump sum commutation!) and whose contribution to the good governance of this country includes the delisting of Blue Tongue as a notifiable disease (You can't cure it so don't report it!), a hugely expensive computer scheme which is now running over budget and undelivered (from his previous post) and who will sit through every meeting with experts and then demand a single paragraph summary of the discussion with "a decision I can take to the Minister".

It is my belief that the Civil Service is a genetic defect. We should sponsor genetic research in order to identify the gene and eradicate it.

Pray for Suzie. Unfortunately prayers targeted at the death of the appropriate civil servant are unlikely to meet with Divine approval. Frankly, the Devil must be laughing his head off - Civil Servants are far more effective at driving people to despair than millennia of demonic activity. Pratchett is right - the Devil and demons don't have the imagination.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ack! Thbbbt

From time to time I visit this blog - the sometimes ascerbic observations of a Radio/Television Producer in the US. This lady is funny, she is observant and you learn a lot that perhaps you didn't think you needed to know, but now you do ..... Several of her recent posts prompted me to finally get myself organised and add her to the blogroll.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2009

Spring has not forgotten us!

Spring has come at last! Mausi was afraid the arctic winter of this season would never end. Endless weeks of temperatures below -15 centigrade!

The first COLOURS of the year are out!

But now the first crocuses are out at last and that's a sure sign that spring has arrived. It is this wonderful time when the grass has dried up enough for a cat to take a roll and shake the loose hair out of her coat. Lovely.

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Nothing like a good roll-over to shed the loose fur

In case you are wondering: this is not an UFO that has suddenly landed mysteriously in my garden, I would never allow that. It is an ice block from one of the rain water battles that has been coaxed out of its prison. It's almost unbelievable - for weeks now temperatures have been above zero now and it still hasn't melted!

p1000232-s.jpg   p1000233-s.jpg
No UFO - just water.

Posted by Mausi at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2009

Dishonoured Honours

Only the Labour Party could possibly think that the award of a knighthood to a man who supported the IRA terrorists murder campaign in Northern (And Southern) Ireland, supported Noraid which funded the IRA and did more to promote their "mythology" than anyone else for his efforts to promote "peace", was a good idea. It simply proves that the entire "Honours" system has now become nothing more than a way of rewarding the undeserving pop-stars and sycophants who fund Labour and their social engineering schemes and of insulting all the truly hardworking and self-sacrificing individuals who really do deserve the recognition.

Ted Kennedy's "knighthood" is intended to insult the Loyalist side of the Irish Divide and promote the Sinn Fein/IRA who are Labour's partners in the process. Labour hate the Loyalists with a passion born out of the rejection by the Unionist Parties of Labour's communist ambitions. The New Year "Honours" were stuffed with the undeserving, mainly Civil Servants who should be sacked for their incompetence and the damage they have done to our society, the public services they are supposed to deliver and our economy. Ted Kennedy is simply the most visible example of just how dishonourable our "Honours" system has become under this government of apparatchiks and closet communists. I am glad to see that I am not alone in thinking this either, several of our more serious journalists concur, though as expected, The Grauniad thinks its good. But then, you'd expect the British version of Pravda to think that.

Coming, as it does on top of the most recent murders of Servicemen and Police Officers by those Mr Kennedy and his family have done so much to arm and encourage, it really is insulting to everyone in Ireland and particularly to those who have genuinely sought peace. At least all sides in Northern Ireland know how to show Braown and the IRA their feelings, the silent vigils yesterday said everything.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2009

Urban myths

A rather rude comment recently posted to this blog (Interestingly to a post it did not relate to at all!) by someone called Jeff provided a link to the Snopes site. It flags up the fact that the "Stella Awards" I posted as a bit of fun a few weeks back are all, in fact, urban legends. Reading the Snopes item though reveals that there have been a number of very similar attempts to abuse the legal process and these have fueled a debate on the whole question of the sort of civil process that fuels the sort of legends these have become. That was really the reason I posted these, both because they are funny - stupidity on this level should be a certifiable mental illness - and because I am one of those who does believe that the litigatious age we live in has gone far to far and needs to be reined in. The fear of being sued for some minor oversight or accident caused by someone refusing to accept responsibility for their own safety, is stifling business and a whole range of activities.

As the Snopes entry makes clear, there is some ground for this, since in the most vexatious cases (Such as the man who sued a city library service after his 80 pound dog was injured when it tried to attack the library's 12 pound cat!) it often means months of stress while the lawyers rake in the money and at least two court appearances. It is cases like that, and the burglar in the UK (In West London) who was awarded compensation under Health and Safety legislation after he fell through a skylight in the course of trying to break and enter a house he was trying to rob) that convince me that the law does need amending and that the role of a jury in such cases is questionable.

The commenter Jeff obviously considers himself above criticism since his comment directly accuses me of lying and spreading lies. I note that he does not himself keep a blog, so I am not able to reciprocate at some point on his site and no doubt he is one of those lovely people who spends all his time looking for people he can demonstrate his inadequacy to by being insulting. He reminded me of a commenter on the BBC News website who goes by the name of "fyafighter" who's comments tend to run along the lines of "never mind the facts, believe the spin as long as its Labour Spin." Should Jeff happen this way again, thanks for the link, obviously you hadn't read all of it yourself. Now do yourself a favour, get a life and a sense of humour. Oh, and your grammar needs work too.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2009

Global care

Our sermon sessions for Lent are focused on mankinds use of the earth, its resources and our care for its creatures and our fellow travellers. So far we have had two extremely interesting sermons, the first focused on HIV/AIDS and its impact. Interestingly a teenager in the discussion group post service, commented that the focus in our schools has shifted away from this scourge and now is lumped in with "STD's". A lot of time and effort is spent on warning of the dangers of Clamydia, which is carried by uncircumcised boys and can cause sterility in girls and may be a trigger for cervical cancer. The discussion group was surprised by this, but acknowledged that as far as the media, and therefore the political agenda is concerned, HIV/AIDS is seen as "old news", in curable and therefore not a vote getter. Woman's health IS seen as a vote getter and the news media love anything that scares people. HIV/AIDS is still seen as a "Gay Problem" so it is pushed aside - after all, if it can't be cured, no one can claim credit for providing a cure. A pity that this exposes our young people to something potentially much more deadly than any of the diseases they do get taught.

The discussion also exposed the culture now pervading the "youff culture" our agnostic multi-cultural and anti-moral society where it has become, for many youngsters, a badge of honour to "get laid" and even more - for some girls - to get pregnant as soon as possible. Nothing in the present sex education curriculum seems to be aimed at addressing this and the risks these young people face.

This Sunday we looked at the whole issue surrounding climate change and how our use of the planet might be affecting it. Before anyone asks "what has this to do with the Bible?" I would have to say that the preacher used texts from Genesis and from Revelations to flag up that, as Christians, we hold the earth in trust as tenants rather than "owners" and that, as tenants, our "lease" requires us to care for the planet and its creatures. The discussion afterward was again enlivened by the views of the young people present. Over and over they made the point that they are tired of the "climate change" mantra in the press and politics since it is one out of many factors and these young people are not stupid, they have spotted that the scientists don't agree, don't really know, and the media is exploiting people's fears. I was impressed as they knew a great deal more about the problems than many of the older folk who tend to believe what they read in the papers or hear on the TV. The discussion was lively and very informative.

The next sermon will focus on health and welfare and the sharing of these with those living in developing nations and in poverty. I suspect that the discussion will be very interesting indeed. I look forward to it with a keen sense of anticipation.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 09, 2009

Irish Lent

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry , walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.
An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

"Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies. "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America , and the other to Australia . We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town were pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening. He orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all"

The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well. It's just that I, meself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."

It's not so much that they are crazy, there is a terrible logic to it all - and more than a little humour at the world's expense.

Thanks to Katie for this one!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2009

Early civilisation?

The report on the excavations in Turkey of a site at Gobleki of standing circles of carved stone megaliths is rocking a few boats in the world of archeology, not least because the site predates any known "civilisation" by around 8,000 years. It dates to a period when mankind was supposedly still knapping flint and driving wooly mammoths over cliffs to kill them. If the dating given of 12,000 BC is correct it is difficult to see how anyone can still argue that human civilisation sprang full blown and technical, into being only 5,000 years ago around 3,000 BC in the Nile Delta.

The megaliths are not as crude as those at Stonhenge (Around 1500BC) and are covered in delicate carvings of hunting scenes, animals and people. It suggests that whoever carved them had both the tools and the knowledge to do it - which again suggests that they were a bit more than simple hunter gatherers.

One way or another it will be interesting to see how this develops.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2009

Green Lord?

I will confess to being very amused by the sight, on TV, of Lord Mandelson, Mr Blair's favourite EU Commissioner, disgraced MP and now Life Peer and chum of Gordo the Brown, getting a faceful of green custard. A pity it was thrown by a misguided "Green" protester, but I cannot fault her aim. Of course, she could now face charges under the Terrorism Act, but I rather think Lord Mandelson hasn't complained to the police - who have egg on their faces for the total failure of any protection squad member, or any of the many police present, to apprehend the llady and prevent the assault.

I suspect she will be "cautioned" for common assault and that will be that.

It couldn't have happened to a more deserving person. I wonder when someone will land one on the rest of this Party of thieves and thugs? Mind you, I have to admit a grudging respect for the man, his calm behaviour in the face of this assault and his subsequent good humour about it deserve acknowledgement.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2009

The answer to the reason some of us keep pets?

-----The following was found posted very low on a refrigerator door.

Dear Dogs and Cats: The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Racing me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom! If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years - canine/feline attendance is not required.

The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.

Finally, in fairness, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:


(1) They live here. You don't. (2) If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture. (3) I like my pets a lot better than I like most people. (4) To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.

Remember, dogs and cats are better than kids because they (1) eat less, (2) don't ask for money all the time, (3) are easier to train, (4) normally come when called, (5) never ask to drive the car, (6) don't hang out with drug-using people; (7) don't smoke or drink, (8) don't want to wear your clothes, (9) don't have to buy the latest fashions, (10) don't need a gazillion dollars for college and (11) if they get pregnant, you can sell their children …..

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 05, 2009

Incompetence in the Civil Service? It seems its official!

A major "Think Tank" report out today identifies a number of issues I have been banging on about for years as major problems with the Civil Service and recommends root and branch reform. Personally I think its far too late for reform - nothing but its total annihilation and replacement will serve to fix it. What can be done with an organisation that buys 8 Chinooks, then tries to save money by demanding "modifications" which mean the software necessary to fly the damned things has to be rewritten and can't be - so the helicopters still can't fly eleven years after we bought them! The Civil SErvants say that its the military changed the specification after purchase, in fact if the military spec had been followed by the Civil Servants to begin with the whole sorry mess wouldn't have arisen!

Then there's the debacle of the Passport Office computers which still don't work properly and the NHS has just written off £125 million spent on a computer system that could not be made to work, the MOD (again!) who ordered Eurofighters (Called Typhoons by the RAF) without the "chain gun" supposed to mounted in the wing (To save money) only to find that the plane won't fly without it - so we now have strike aircraft with chain guns fitted that can't be fired. The Civil Service was the invention of the 19th Century. The remarkable thing about it then was that it worked, mainly because it stuck to setting strategy and left the management to "then man on the Ground". It also had a preponderance of Oxbridge academic types running it who recognised that "big government" was not a "good thing". Then some damned fool gave them "management" responsibility for the day to day running of the government. And its gone down the pan from there.

The Report calls for the Senior Civil Servants to be appointed my Ministers and for their appointment to be restricted to three years. Good idea except for the "appointed by ministers" bit. It goes further however and calls for incompetence to be punishable. At present it is all but impossible to get rid of an incompetent or obstructive Civil Servant, and what is needed is a change in the law which allows them to be held responsible for their botches. Not before time, in fact, well overdue! Attend any meeting chaired by the Civil Service on any matter and you will be struck by the fact that no decisions are ever taken and no discussion is ever minuted. Just a heading and a set of initials and a note which usually says, "further investigation" or "deferred".

And the remaining thing that has to be smashed from the psyche is this - and I feel it merits capitals!


That has to be struck from the Civil Service appointments and promotions Rule Book before there can be any hope of a return to the sensible practice of allowing the professionals to manage their profession and not to have glorified filing clerks and HR specialists dictating how rocket scientists, military professionals, fire fighters, police officers and health care professionals do their work!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 04, 2009

Disaster in Cologne

Work in Cologne has been going on for some time to build or extend the Underground Railway for the city. Today it appears that someone got something horribly wrong. The entire Historic City Archive building collpased into a huge hole in the ground which is directly related to the tunnels being constructed along the street in front of it. Two people are still missing, probably dead by now and the archives priceless collection of documents dating back to the reign of Kark der Grosse (Charlemagne to the French and Charles the Great to everyone else) now lie buried in the rubble.

Some pictures of the disaster can be found here.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2009

Nocturnal visitor

Came home last night to find that I have a new garden resident. THis full grown hedgehog was rooting around in the grass, obviously hunting. It froze when I leaned closer to look, but obviously didn't feel threatened enough to go for the rolled up state.

My new resident hedgehog checks my small compost pile - looking for earthworms, slugs and any other delicacy.

They are curious little animals and their gait when in motion always makes me think of a wind-up toy. Anyway, this little resident is welcome and if it keeps the slugs and snails down for me - bonus!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2009

And I thought I was the only one ....

This post is worthy of a much wider audience. Sleeping Albion, an image of a sleeping giant from the poetry of William Blake, is the feature at the heart of the post on "Little man -what now".

He makes several excellent points and his words on the loss of our "freedoms' and the supine manner in which our majority have accepted the canards and slanders of the "liberal left" ex-hippies now running this once great country are more than just memorable. There can be no greater truth than the statement - "Opinions are dangerous," and the rest of the statement which reminds us that our present set of rulers do not, under any circumstances allow anyone to express any opinion which conflicts with the new "Truth" as they promote it.

Do pay this blog a visit and spread the word. There may yet be time for Sleeping Albion to awake and throw out these thieves of our identity and our freedom.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:46 PM | TrackBack

Little Man; What now?

Witty, sharp and definitely non-PC. Says it all really.


Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2009

A fun day out

Yesterday I had the fun of showing a group of my ex-students around the Gloucestershire sights, including Oddington Old Church with its Doom Painting, Bourton o the Water, Chedworth's Roman Villa, Gloucester Cathedral and the docks and finally my own Abbey. They are Shia Muslims and asked questions on everything. They showed more respect for our churches and traditions than I have seen in many local visitors and their questions on matters of faith showed a much deeper desire to understand my faith or than anything I have heard from supposedly Christian visitors.

Some of the issues they raised made me think carefully and there is a lot I will have to think on further as a result.

It was rather like having a bunch of mischievous and overgrown schoolboys with me and it was refreshing even though I ended the day late and very tired. These guys thoroughly enjoyed every new sight and experience and know how to have fun, but more importantly, how to use every opportunity open to them to learn something new. As I said, it was a fun day out.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack