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19 December 2010


Whilst taking the opportunity to wish my half dozen readers a very happy Christmas, I'm also minded to pose the question, what's it all about?

Silly question? Well it seems to be different things to different people. To some it's clearly a celebration of the "virgin birth" of Jesus Christ and it sits at the heart of the meaning of Christianity. To others it's an excuse for eating and drinking more than it's good for them.

For both groups there are, of course, the exchange of gifts.

Yesterday I was reading about Tony Jordan, the award-winning script writer, who was commissioned to write the story of the Nativity, to be shown on BBC television in four half-hour episodes leading up to Christmas. It was of particular interest because Tony Jordan is known for having written 200 scripts for the popular Soap, Eastenders, and other well-known TV series.

It was even more interesting to learn that when he started the task of dramatising the Nativity he was a non-believer in the whole story, but by the time he finished his extensive research, using the Bible, miscellaneous history books, talking to theologians, and even talking to NASA about the "star over Bethlehem", he became a believer.

On a personal note, I was struck by his thoughts about religion, which coincide exactly with mine. In his interview with a Daily Telegraph journalist he said this (and I'm taking this as my quotation of the year!) ..

"I have a distaste for organised religions, because they tamper with stories, add a bit here, take a bit off there, and then start killing each other because the other one doesn't agree. The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful things I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind, it is so smart that it couldn't even have come from a clever philosopher. Who would have been smart enough to say 'He who is without sin cast the first stone'? That's pretty cool. I have a distaste for people who say to me if you come through these church doors, walk down this aisle, sit on that wooden bench, and sing these hymns in this order, I have got God in a little bottle under my pulpit and I'll let you have a look. I don't think that was God's intention".

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

15 December 2010

Given up on Maxpages. Switched to BT

The sudden disappearance of Maxpages continues to be a complete mystery, and nobody has been able to come up with any information. I thank those who have tried to find out what has been happening. I have concluded that the outfit went bust, and that's that.

Meanwhile I created a new website for the local firm I'm working for, using BT as the website hosting company. So, if you want minibus or private taxi hire in the Ryedale area of North Yorkshire you can now confidently call up for the information you need.

20 November 2010

Maxpages now seem to be "Minpages"

I cannot pretend that the three or four people who read this Blog will know what the hell I'm talking about when I mention "Maxpages". is (was?) a web hosting company. They made creating and maintaining a website easy: you just did it online using their own templates and design tools (pretty much like this blog setup I guess).

For my sins I am the "Webmaster" for a local family business running taxi and minibus services, with whom I have a part-time job. Now this business is well run by good people who don't deserve to be lumbered with a Website that suddenly goes off the radar for no apparent reason or explanation. This happened two or three weeks ago, and they now have vehicles running about the place proudly displaying their Web address in large letters, and if a potential client tries to call up that address, then all that comes up is the dreaded "Page not found" message.

An outfit called that indexes and audits websites around the world reports that Maxpages is no longer a working website; it has been flagged as "broken" by the AboutUs community.

Because this was an online web design facility we do not have the HTML files that make up our website, and so I'm faced with the prospect of starting all over again, (fortunately I now possess a Web Designer program) building up a new website from scratch. Then there is the small matter of finding a new hosting company, and the means of getting our Domain Name pointing in the new direction. It's all highly frustrating and not a little complicated for this particular amateur.

Does anyone out their actually know what has happened to Maxpages?

01 November 2010

Obama a Socialist? I don't think so!

The rise and rise of the "Tea Party" movement in America is hard to understand. It appears to be as mad as a cabbage. Is it something written by Lewis Caroll? Is it the Mad Hatter's Tea Party?

Straight away I have to apologise for using pejorative terminology, because this is what seems to be contaminating political debate in the States. As Jon Stewart said at the recent rally in Washington, if you amplify everything you hear nothing.

I have heard members of the "Tea Party" movement interviewed on BBC Television say that President Obama is working towards a Socialist government. What nonsense! Can you imagine the words Socialism and USA in the same sentence?

One is tempted to ask, what is inherently wrong with Socialism anyway? Capitalism has done spectacularly well in the past couple of years, hasn't it?! It's a mistake, by the way, to confuse Social Democracy (which is probably about as "Left" as the USA will ever get) with Communism, and some people in the "Tea Party" movement don't seem able to understand the difference. The important word to understand is Democracy of course. If a majority decide via the ballot box for one system or another, then there can be no complaints.

The outcome of the mid-term elections should, one hopes, be based on reasoned debate rather than name-calling and simplistic exaggerations.

What is the "Tea Party" Movement? On BBC TV news this morning, one American described it as "George Bush on Steroids".

Oops! There I go again. Sorry.

19 October 2010

Asinine Announcements

Travelling on South West Trains recently between London Waterloo and Teddington I was struck by how irritating are the repeated automated on-board announcements.

The more I listened to them the more I thought the number of words could be significantly reduced.

In measured tones (delivered by a prissy sounding female throw-back to 1940s BBC announcers) we get ..

“The next station is Norbiton. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform edge.”

Sixteen words! Let’s start wielding the axe ..

“Next stop Norbiton. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform edge.”

Fourteen words. But wait a minute; this is a public safety announcement, not a polite invitation. We can dispense with polite niceties ..

“Next stop Norbiton. Mind the gap between the train and the platform edge.”

Thirteen words. But wait a minute; where else would the gap be but between the train and the edge of the platform .. between the train and the platform roof? (There may be such a gap, but it doesn’t have to concern us.)

“Next stop Norbiton. Mind the gap between the train and the platform”.

Twelve words. But wait a minute; where else would there be a gap that we have to mind (apart from between the ears of the person who wrote these announcements)?

“Next stop Norbiton. Mind the gap.”

Six words. But wait a minute; we know there is going to be gap, because without it there’d be a nasty scraping noise as the train pulled into the station. People tend to aim for a solid surface rather than a gaping void when alighting from a train.

“Next stop Norbiton.”

Three words. There you go! – an 81% reduction in verbiage and we have all the information we need.

South West Trains take note.

09 October 2010

Stupid Signs

Why do the numpties of the Highways Department think it is necessary to place these signs?!

Obviously it has escaped their notice that if you are driving a car along a road, then the actual road ahead is pretty much in your field of vision.

This being the case, the absence of road markings tends to be self-evident.

If the road is not in your field of vision I venture to suggest you should not be driving.

Similarly, if you read this notice, and then see road markings, then you might be hallucinating, in which case it's time to hang up your driving gloves.

Fortunately for you, however, it is usually the case that you are seeing the road markings because, having painted them on the road, the highways people have gone away forever and forgotten to take the sign with them.

03 October 2010

Return of Common Sense

Internet jokes about the death of common sense have been flying around in recent years, but I am heartened by a couple of recent announcements by the UK's new Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition Government.

The first relates to the over-zealous use of (often imaginary) Health & Safety Regulations by Local Authority officials to ban all sorts of enjoyable and traditional activities in the interests of health and safety, and the fear of compensation claims. Children's games (such as Conkers) have been banned without protective gear, traditional and slightly mad activities like pancake races and cheese rolling have been banned.

The Government is now making a plea for the return of Common Sense, and requires Local Authorities to make out a written case for banning anything under Health & Safety Regulations, and gives local communities the right to challenge any such ban. They also want a reduction in TV adverts for "no-win, no fee" legal services and a reduction in the so-called Compensation Culture.

The second piece of good news is that regulations preventing school teachers from physically restraining a child, or from offering physical comfort to a distressed child have been scrapped. Thank heavens that piece of nonsense has gone.

26 September 2010

More Religious Nuttery

What is it with so-called religious leaders and their sexual deviancies? We've had plenty of evidence from the Catholic Church that thousands of children have been abused by priests.

Now I find myself reading in the New York Times today about Bishop Eddie L. Long (by the way - who made him a Bishop?) who has built a religious and financial empire from scratch, transforming a small, faltering church into a modern cathedral with one of the largest and most influential congregations in the country, down in Georgia.

Apparently four former members of his youth group have alleged that he coerced them into performing homosexual acts with him. Well, of course the word "alleged" at this stage has to be uppermost in our minds, but it was not just this that incensed me; it was the fact that this man thinks that God wants people to prosper, and Long certainly has: he favours Gucci sunglasses, gold necklaces, diamond bracelets and Rolex watches. He lives in a 5,000-square-foot house with five bedrooms, which he bought for $1.1 million in 2005.

I never fail to be astonished by how many so-called religious leaders actually know what God wants, and what God wants is - surprise, surprise - usually pretty much in line with their own fantasies and desires. Long apparently believes that Jesus was not a poor man. He also believes that women should submit to their husbands. (Where have I heard that before?!)

No wonder this man heads up such a rich and powerful Baptist Church with a huge congregation .. his message is get rich, show off your wealth, and subdue your women. It's what God wants.

06 September 2010

Corporate Madness

In the days when Britain's trains were run by the State controlled British Rail one came to expect visits to the strange and wonderful world of the bureaucratic mindset.

I had hoped that with the privatisation of the railways we might see some more sensible decisions by train company boardrooms, driven as they should be by the need for good customer relations.

It is sad to report, then, that Stagecoach (the company that operates South-West Trains) have seen fit to fine Emma Clark and Davyd Winter-Bates £114 for getting off their train two stops early!!!

The couple were travelling to Southampton from London with South West Trains when they decided to get off two stops early at Eastleigh.

When they handed over their tickets at the station, they were told they were each being fined £57 because they had not stayed on the train until their destination.

The fine was twice the standard fare of £28.50.

The company said the couple had been fined because they were using discounted tickets, which do not allow passengers to break their journeys.

In a statement, the train company said: “Leaving a train early is not allowed on heavily discounted tickets. The fine is double the standard single fare.”

Miss Clark said to the Sun Newspaper, “It is utter madness. I could understand being fined if I had stayed on the train two stops beyond my destination.”

Hear! Hear! I can only describe this as a signal failure of common sense leading to a PR image heading straight for the buffers!

31 July 2010

Ground Zero and Zero Tolerance

The proposal in New York that a large Mosque and Community Centre should be built near "Ground Zero" has raised a few hackles, to say the least. There are rational ways of looking at the proposal but, hell, how many people these days like to think rationally?!

It's much easier to give way to our baser instincts of hate, fear and prejudice.

Thinking rationally, the proposed Mosque and associated community centre mirrors other similar centres in New York already enjoyed by Christians and Jews. Thinking rationally, the awful tragedy of the "Twin Towers" involved Muslims being killed and Muslims taking part in the rescue operations. Thinking rationally, moderate Muslims are urged to step up to the plate and preach religious tolerance and denounce radical Islamic terrorism, but when moderate Muslims do just this and come forward with this Mosque as part of the solution they are criticised.

No, it's easier to be swept along by the 'Gingrichian' and 'Palinistic' rhetoric and make statements like "You can build a mosque here when we can build a synagogue in Mecca".

Since the general outrage should easily have been foreseen by the mosque proponents, I do think they can be fairly criticized for naivety and insensitivity.

On balance - and in spite of what I have just written - I oppose the idea on the grounds that organised Religion of all faiths is both the repository and the breeding ground for most of the evil visited upon this planet.

If we could all be allowed to believe (or not believe) in God, and be allowed to have our personal relationship (or no personal relationship) with God, without power-hungry men in funny clothes and fanatical evangalists, imams, pastors and priests having the gall to tell us how to think, the world would be a better place.

16 July 2010

Two Things making me Mad


It is a great relief to know that the Moat Tribute Page has now been taken down, but the fact that it was set up in the first place, and contributed to by thousands of people is deeply disturbing. What does it say about our society when this man is treated as some kind of hero, when he (on release from prison) murdered his ex-girlfriend's new partner, seriously injured his ex-girlfriend, then went on to shoot a policeman sitting in his patrol car (thus blinding him), before going on the run and threatening to kill any policeman in his path, and later threatening to kill members of the general public on a random basis.

After a week-long search in the wilds of Northumbria, using police forces from all over the UK, at huge expense, Moat eventually shot himself having been surrounded by armed police. I am shedding no tears for him. As for those idiots who contributed to his Facebook Tribute Page, they have neither intelligence nor morals.


The Vatican, after sustained pressure over the world-wide scandal of paedophile priests, has now belatedly made it easier for these perverts in long dresses to be called to account. But at the same time it has been stated that paedophilia is on a similar footing to the crime of attempting to ordinate women into the priesthood.

I despair of all organised religion, and the Catholic Church in particular.

07 July 2010

Digital Britain

Apparently the proposal to switch off FM radio by 2015 is still on course. I am incensed about this. Nobody asked us our opinion. Millions of car radios will become obsolete. Millions of domestic portable radios will be worthless. DAB radio has an appalling record for quality and ease of reception.

Digital TV has been a completely different set of circumstances: the switch to digital TV broadcasting has enabled us to receive a far greater choice of channels, and for the most part reception is OK. But with radio we already have a superb collection of available FM channels giving high-quality sound; DAB broadcasting, by comparison, is hopeless.

I can't use a DAB radio anywhere in my house (even though I'm told that with my Post Code I should be able to get it!)

"Digital Britain" = "Backward Britain".

Click on the title to get more information.

22 June 2010

The Coalition's Emergency Budget

The Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his emergency budget speech in the House of Commons today, bounded on one side by the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister and on the other by the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, symbolic of the unfamiliar new Politics of Coalition Government.

The Budget contents were about as unpleasant as was expected, with the widely anticipated increase in VAT to 20% (to name but one item), but with a number of welcome ideas for reducing our dependency on out-of-control Welfare Benefits in some areas.

Harriet Harman, acting Leader of the Labour Party made a spirited response in a manner which made one ask why she herself was not a prospective candidate for the Leadership job to be settled in September. But I took issue with her cheap shots against the Liberal Democrats, because had we been given this Budget today by a 100% Conservative Government it would have been a lot more unpleasant than the one we got, tempered as it was in many instances by the influence of the Liberal Democrats within the Coalition.

10 June 2010

BP - (Barak's Politics)

The devastating oil blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by an inadequate fail-safe device that was not owned by BP.

The rig was not owned by BP.

The whole operation was put into place under the eyes of a lax and inadequate US regulatory system.

The need for deep-water operations like this has been driven by an unassuaged American thirst for "cheap" oil.

BP is a huge international corporation with vast wealth. 40% of its shareholders are Americans. It has been known as "BP" for years, and is still referred to as BP, except from the mouth of the US President, when it becomes "British Petroleum".

BP has committed itself to dealing with this problem, to be working on the Louisiana coast for long after the media have departed, and to compensate everyone affected.

Contrast this with the attitude of the Union Carbide Company that contributed to the deaths of 15,000 people 20 years ago in the Bhopal explosion in India. We were recently reminded of this incident with the conclusion of an Indian court case against company officials. The CEO never had to answer for his company's actions and disregard for human suffering, and remains at home in retirement.

It is therefore inappropriate for Obama to be talking about "kicking ass" in the BP case, or taking legal action to prevent the payment of shareholder dividends, and legal action to enforce payment of salaries of other oil company workers who might be laid off due to an embargo on deep-water drilling operations.

£20 billion of British pension funds are tied up in BP shares, and the share price has been tumbling further with every statement coming out of Obama's mouth.

I suspect his attitude (which is also fuelling anti-British feeling in some parts of America) has something to do with the mid-term elections, and the need to be seen to be a better performer than George W Bush after "Katrina".

So long as BP is accepting its responsibilities, is working to solve the problem, and is prepared to return the affected shoreline and local waters back to normal, the President should keep his nose out of the company's affairs and stop trying to control something that BP (and associated experts) should be controlling.

31 May 2010

Israel - A Rogue State

More mayhem and death from Israel! This time it took place on the high seas, in international waters.

A flotilla of humanitarian aid boats trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was attacked by Israeli forces, causing many deaths and injuries on both sides.

The usual excuses were trotted out .. other ways of getting humanitarian aid were available, the blockade was needed because Israel was constantly under attack from Hamas terrorist groups.

Well, we all know Israel is under constant attack by terrorists, (which most of us condemn) but what do they expect when for decades they have illegally occupied, by force, lands that didn't belong to them - and continue to build on those lands?

What do they expect when they separate entire communities by a concrete wall that the old East Germany would have been proud of?

Israel recently cloned British and Australian passports as part of a state-sponsored assassination scheme, causing severe stress on diplomatic relations with those countries.

Israel is out of control and I can do nothing but regard them with contempt.

For the past couple of years or so I have not (knowingly) purchased anything made or grown in Israel, and will continue this policy for as long as they continue to be an uncivilized State.

14 May 2010

UK GENERAL ELECTION - It's the Dave & Nick Show!

Well, that has been the weirdest General Election I have ever experienced. Usually a national "swing" from one Party to another is easily discernible, and once you've a dozen or constituency results in you can see which way the whole thing is likely to end up.

But not this time. There was no discernible pattern.

Some seats went from Conservative to Labour, others from Labour to Conservative, others from Labour to Liberal Democrat, others from Liberal Democrat to Conservative. In two adjacent London constituencies previously held by Liberal Democrats, one was defeated by a Conservative, and the other increased his Liberal Democrat majority. In the north of England one seat experienced a 20% swing (almost unheard of) from Conservative to Liberal Democrat.

The vagaries of the British electoral system resulted in the Liberal Democrats increasing their national vote and ending up with fewer seats than before. Gordon Brown's Labour Party suffered the biggest losses, though were spared the predicted wipe-out. David Cameron's Conservative not only got the biggest share of the national vote but also gained the most seats, and yet were denied a working majority in the House of Commons.

Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats did a deal with the Tories to form Britain's first Coalition Government since the second World War. I am fairly comfortable with that, considering their combined votes represents 60% of the electorate, and in the serious circumstances in which we find ourselves it is imperative that we have a strong government that can take the necessary decisions and actions.

I've no time for the Liberal Democrat complainers who say they have been betrayed. What do they want? Have they enjoyed their years of impotence?

No Liberal Democrat (or their predecessors) has been able to gain a position of power within the lifetime of most us. Now we have the rare and exciting occurrence of Liberal Democrats being in a position to influence affairs, with five sitting in the Cabinet, and many others in junior ministerial positions. Moreover we now have a Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister. This has been the stuff of dreams for generations.

I hope this will usher in a new era of civilized politics. The new Coalition has made a good start by taking a 5% reduction in salary of all government ministers, frozen for five years; I also applaud the proposed introduction of fixed-term parliaments (thus taking away from the Prime Minister the right to call an election any time he sees fit to suit his own purpose). Both the Tories and the Lib-Dems have had to sacrifice some of their extreme and cherished policies. Good.

07 May 2010


We all got intoxicated with Nick Clegg and now we've woken up Clegless. Well, not exactly Clegless - he's still there but his Liberal Democrats finished up with less seats than before, even though their share of the popular vote went up by 1%.

In fact the Liberal Democrats nationally polled 23% of the vote and finished up with (at the time of writing) only 8% of the seats. In other words, the usual nonsense.

The Conservatives clearly increased both their share of the seats and their share of the vote, and therefore (according to Nick Clegg) have a right to try and form a government, but in this regard they would need to talk to the Liberal Democrats regarding how to get their support.

Gordon Brown's Labour Party could not form an overall majority in the House of Commons even if they took the Liberal Democrats on board.

In other words, another fine mess caused by an electoral system that fails to reflect the wishes of the British people.

28 April 2010


Click photo to enlarge

Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg (left), Conservative David Cameron (centre), Labour's Gordon Brown (right), debating on TV, an event that transformed this election from plain boring into mildly exciting.

The most significant aspect of this first-ever national TV debate between Party Leaders is that it has propelled the Liberal Democrats to the forefront of the national consciousness. Because the vagaries of the British "first-past-the-post" electoral system have tended to give the Liberal Democrats only 60 or so Parliamentary seats on the back of 25-30% of the popular vote, they have hitherto been given less prominence in media coverage.

The new national TV debates have changed all that with Nick Clegg being given equal prominence to the other two Party Leaders, a prominence that has done him no harm at all!

Conservative and Labour votes tend to be concentrated in certain constituencies, whereas Liberal Democrat support is more widely distributed, resulting in their failing to succeed in the same way. Even though they are now riding high in the opinion polls, pretty much on equal footing with Conservatives and Labour, projecting the polls into actual seat gains on May 6th indicate perhaps a hundred or so seats (in a 630-seat Parliament).

Ironically, Nick Clegg's rise and rise has led to the other two Parties making the following statements ..

Voting Liberal Democrat will let Labour in.

Voting Liberal Democrat will let the Conservatives in.

If this doesn't expose the ludicrous nature of our electoral system I don't know what does!

Here's a radical thought: what about having a system whereby voting Liberal Democrat lets in the Liberal Democrats?

I know, too silly for words.

25 April 2010


I asked my Conservative Candidate Anne McIntosh whether she would sign up to Electoral Reform.

She replied (predictably) - “I support the tried and tested first past the post system”.

She has therefore lost any chance of receiving my vote.

One of the reasons people have become disconnected from Politics is the increasing realisation that the governments we elect bear no resemblance to the feelings of the voting public.

The Conservative slogan is Vote for Change and yet David Cameron has set his face against the only change we are crying out for: an end to a so-called democratic system that allows him to say things like “A vote for Clegg is a vote for Brown”, “A Lib Dem vote is a wasted vote”, and then for Anne McIntosh to say this is a “tried and tested system”.

It is a system that has given us governments with huge majorities based on the support of less than 40% of the voters; a system where politicians insult our intelligence with this garbage about wasting votes and voting for one person and getting another. Such unrepresentative governments gave us the Poll Tax, destroyed manufacturing industry, took us into an illegal war, and smothered us with “political correctness”.

Tried and tested?

Tried – Tested – Failed!

11 April 2010


Current opinion polls suggest that about 62% of the British Public do not want a Conservative Government, and yet such is the stupidly undemocratic nature of our voting system, that if people vote as they say they intend to, then the likelihood is that we shall finish up getting a Conservative government anyway, and it will be representing about 38% of the population.

I've been driven to distraction by this tyrannical system for the whole of my life, and I'm fed up to the back teeth with it. As a point of principle, whoever I vote for in this election, I shall be making a point of ensuring it is not for any Party that refuses to accept the need for electoral reform.

I guess that rules out the Conservatives. Labour are promising a referendum on the need for electoral reform, so that puts them in a slightly better light. The Liberal Democrats, Greens, and UKIP are all in favour of a fair voting system.

I'm sure most of the rest of Europe think we are completely barmy to put up with this kind of thing.

06 April 2010


So now we know .. it's May 6th.

For the first time in my life I am a "floating voter".

I am a "don't know".

I am looking forward to the first-ever TV debates between the Leaders of the Labour Party, Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, even though I'm sure it's not going to be a very spontaneous affair. It's a step in the right direction.

Even if (and it's a big IF) the Conservatives come up with some attractive policies, they are still opposed to the reform of the voting system. Our voting system is not democratic. I am, heart and soul, a democrat.

Therefore, as a floating voter, if I finish up floating in the direction of voting Conservative, then we can all look forward to some skating sessions on the frozen lakes of Hell.

05 April 2010


With President Kharzai making more and more frequent statements criticising NATO countries and their role in Afghanistan, coupled with his failure to address the question of fraud and corruption in his government, now would appear to be a good time to get the hell out of that place.

03 April 2010


Life is getting sillier by the day.

Insurance Industry
Earlier this year I booked a Thames Cruise in a holiday boat. Of course I was asked to take out travel insurance. I found a company on a price comparison website, and applied for insurance for the dates of this UK river cruise. Having completed all the questions on destinations, dates, health matters, etc., they took my money and sent my insurance policy.

Two weeks ago the ship company said they were being forced to make alterations to the boat to meet disability access regulations. Reluctantly they had to offer us alternative dates for the cruise. (Good news - at a discounted price!)

So I notified the travel insurance company of the new dates, whereupon they came back and said your insurance policy is invalid: we don't insure cruises in the UK. (Good news - they agreed to refund my money). Forgive me for wondering why they would issue me with a policy in the first place!

Power Industry
The glass front of our electricity meter got damaged a week or two back, by an electrician doing some re-wiring in our house. I notified the power company and they sent me a letter saying someone would call on 31st March to replace the meter, and it would be between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

By 4.30 p.m. he hadn't turned up (though at some stage my wife had noticed a meter company van near the end of our road). We rang the power company and were told that the meter man had been unable to find our address. We asked what address they had given him, and it was incorrect. We were instructed to phone again in the morning to arrange a new date.

Next morning (after negotiating a 7-item phone menu list, and being held in a queue for 15 minutes) I was notified that the power company would have to notify the meter company of our correct address and this would take until the 7th June (!!!) Would I then please phone them again to arrange a new visit date. When Margaret Thatcher privatised the electricity and gas boards we were told that this would lead to much greater efficiency than the old nationalised industries were capable of.

Bathroom Equipment & Courier Industries
We are clearing out the bathroom, reorganising it, and fitting a new bathroom suite. The other week the new toilet unit was delivered. The cistern had two great chunks knocked out of it.

The suppliers sent a replacement. (Good news - very quickly). The cistern arrived in three broken pieces. I suggested to the supplier that they change their courier. The guy said, "We're on our third one now."

The next replacement was OK. Then the vanity unit (mirror and shelves above the wash basin) arrived. When I started to attach the three shelves to the back board, I found the holes drilled and plugged in the back edge of the shelves were set 96 mm apart, and the equivalent holes drilled in the back board were set 100 mm apart, and at three different distances from the left-hand edge of the board. Also one of the three shelves was marginally larger than the other two.

The replacement is awaited.

The UK Government IT Industry
The firm I work for uses a payroll and income tax program provided by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. After downloading a recent update to the program we couldn't get it to work.

We e-mailed the Help Desk, and they came back with this classic ..

Please be advised that we have identified that there is a bug in the
system which causes the CD-Rom not to function on the last day of any
moth which has 31 days. This should however have returned to normal
from the 1 April onwards.

Aside from the unbelievable concept of critical software that doesn't understand the days of the month, we couldn't help noticing that in their response they managed to mention the word bug and moth in the same sentence!

Enough of this nonsense. Onwards and upwards!

26 February 2010

What do we want from our Political Leaders?

All this media furore on the subject of Prime Minister Brown's alleged bullying of his staff (most of which has recently been thrown into doubt anyway), coupled with our apparent obsession with the man's general character, likeability, and so on, leads me to wonder why our democratic process has progressively turned into an "X Factor" competition without the music.

The Conservatives have been putting up huge billboard posters showing an airbrushed pretty-boy photo of their leader David Cameron and a message saying "we can't go on like this".

It's all become too personalised. It's a beauty contest. Where is the information on what the Parties are really proposing to do? Even when the Conservatives feel able to feed us with the odd policy proposal or two, after a couple of weeks have gone by they've changed their tune and the policy's been altered.

Who cares if Gordon Brown is a difficult man to work with? Who cares if he gets angry when he can't get things done that he wants done? It's what you might expect from someone who has anything about him with the demands of the top job on his shoulders.

Successful War Leader, Winston Churchill, was famously grumpy, irascible, prone to excessive drinking and bouts of depression. The people who worked with him accepted that and got on with the job. Now we have a load of wimps in No.10 Downing Street who can't hack it.

Clement Attlee, who led the immediate post-war Labour Government wouldn't have had any success at all in today's popularity stakes; he was quietly spoken and looked like an old-fashioned High Street Bank Manager. And yet Attlee successfully led a government that revolutionised a bankrupt British society after the ravages of war; he nationalised the railways, gas, electricity and water, and set up the National Health Service. And he did all this within 5 years.

I don't want our political leaders to be fussing about how popular they are, how nice they are, how good looking they are, how well they come over on television, how many people they are going to upset with some policy or other. I want them to be people with some kind vision about what kind of society they want, and have the ability to inspire the people around him to come up with the goods.

I don't think it is necessary for our Prime Ministers to be invited on to chat shows to demonstrate they are normal human beings who are able to weep in public about their personal tragedies.

Whatever one might think about Labour Party policies, Gordon Brown stands head and shoulders above the Conservative's David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg, both of whom appear to me to be lightweight wimps blowing around in the wind.

15 February 2010

British National Party

Now that the BNP has changed its constitution to comply with a legal judgement against its original policy of allowing only white indigenous British membership, I wait with bated breath for the headlong rush of non-white UK citizens who have been waiting impatiently to join the Party!

03 February 2010

Electoral Reform & the Conservative Party

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has come round to the view that we should replace our "first-past-the-post" voting system with something fairer. The cynical view is that, having recognised that he looks like losing the General Election this year, he has come up with this wheeze.

Personally, whatever his reason, I welcome his proposal that Parliament should vote on providing us with a Referendum on whether or not we should switch to the "Alternate Vote" system. As the Liberal Democrats have said, it doesn't go far enough towards true democracy (they want full-blown Proportional Representation), but this is a welcome step in the right direction.

Instead of placing an X against one candidate, we would be invited to number the candidates 1,2,3 etc. in order of preference. Candidates losing out on first preference would have their votes redistributed until such time as one candidate commands the support of at least 50% of the voters.

This at least would get rid of the current preposterous system, whereby any candidate who manages to get more votes than his nearest rival is elected - and more often than not finishes up representing well under 50% of the vote. When this is magnified across all the constituencies we finish up with the Party gaining the most seats forming a government which in reality often represents only 30% of the popular vote. And they call that democracy!

Whenever I hear the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, or any of his pompous acolytes supporting the present system on the grounds that it has "served us very well over the years" my blood pressure rockets and I'm tempted to reach for the nearest supply of Valium. What they mean is that it has served them very well over the years .. to pretend that it is democracy is nothing short of criminal stupidity.

It is only democratic in a two-Party system, and we do not have a two-Party system.

Wake up Conservatives! You are not getting my vote until or unless you agree to a fair voting system.

26 January 2010

Cheese and Chocolate

After last week's takeover of the UK chocolate company Cadbury by the US Company Kraft, I was amused by an observation made by Michael Portillo the other day.

He said a British company who made chocolate that was not recognised by the rest of Europe as real chocolate had been taken over by an American company producing something that he could not associate with cheese.

We understand, of course, that Kraft does rather more than produce cheese (real or otherwise), and that Cadbury does produce a darker, more cocoa-rich product for the purists. The fact remains that for a few days Britain felt sad to see such an iconic British independent company with an illustrious past (originating with a Quaker family with the typical social-reformist and caring attitude towards its workforce) at last succumbing to the cruel winds of international capitalism.

As usual, though, the Daily Telegraph's resident cartoonist, Matt, was able to lighten our mood with a picture of a Kraft executive yelling down the phone, "I told you to buy the whole of Cadbury's except the Coffee Creams!"

20 January 2010

Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat

I see Massachusetts has landed Obama in the Brown stuff.

As an unashamed supporter of universal health care I regret the difficulties this loss of Ted Kennedy's senate seat to the Republicans might cause for the Health Bill.

Kennedy's successor supports "waterboarding" as an interrogation technique, and opposes measures to reduce carbon emissions. Nice to know the Republicans are still such a loveable party!

19 January 2010

Haiti Disaster - Finding the Better Side of Humanity

As we sit in our waterproof, weatherproof, heated homes complaining about life, government, the cost of living, and the weather, it is sadly true that it takes something like the Haiti earthquake (or any other major disaster, come to that) to bring it home to us that, for the most part, we have little to complain about.

I have been moved to tears by the images daily shown on our TV news reports of the injuries and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the absence of basic facilities, the difficulties in getting aid to the places where it is needed. You would have to be a hard person not to be affected by the sight of a young child dragged, still alive, from days of captivity beneath mountains of rubble.

And I have been heartened by the coming together of nations, organisations and agencies in the joint effort to bring back some semblance of hope to this devastated country, a further example of which was shown on today's news: a young girl in a rural area with a damaged leg urgently in need of hospital treatment. A French camera crew came across her. The camera crew then encountered a British rescue team and told them of the girl. The rescue team went and collected her and did basic first aid but were unable to give her further medical treatment. But medical treatment is what she got, because of the arrival of an American helicopter that took her to a hospital.

That was one small example of an international effort that paid off. There are doubtless countless others occurring all the time.

If you have not already done so, please donate some money (however small the amount) to an appropriate disaster emergency organisation or national committee existing for that purpose; in the UK it is the Disaster Emergency Committee, and you can donate on-line at

08 January 2010

It's still Winter like it used to be!

The whole of the UK is now in the grip of ice and snow.

In my part of North Yorkshire we had 8 inches of snow yesterday evening (on top of the of the 4 or 5 inches we already had).

Today all the schools were closed - a source of relief since, as a school transport driver, I doubt if I could have even got out of my road, let alone reach the outlying farms and villages on my run.

My neighbours and I have just spent a back-breaking two hours snow shovelling and salt spreading. Our road is now just about passable (until the next snow fall - forecast for today).

We seem to be breeding a society of idiots: I've been watching a news item on TV about young people in Newcastle determined to ignore the sub-zero weather conditions, snow and ice, and attend city night clubs for their usual bouts of binge drinking, drunken fights, street urination and vomiting.

What are the girls wearing as they stagger about the streets? High heels, miniskirts, and sleeveless tops. What are the boys wearing? Jeans and short-sleeved T-shirts. Moreover, there is a charitable organisation that makes a practice of touring the streets with the specific purpose of providing thermal blankets and hot drinks to save these guys from their own stupidity.

Another example of current society's madness was recently provided by the final TV episode of David Tennant's portrayal of Dr Who. His final moments saw him dying and metamorphosing in time-honoured fashion into the regenerated Dr Who (now to be played by Matt Smith). As the new Dr Who checked himself out - arms, legs, face, etc., he found everything in order, and also noted he was "not ginger".

Most people I suspect would find this amusing, but of course about 140 people apparently complained to the BBC about this shocking piece of anti-ginger prejudice! More people, I regret, with tiny brains, who are quite happy to turn their own kids into "victims".


Happy New Year!