Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Monday, 21 July 2014

Holiday in Cormwall

We've just returned from a couple of weeks in Cornwall. A couple of close friends of ours "emigrated" to Cornwall from Hertfordshire earlier this year in order to be closer to their family and they invited us to join then for a holiday.
The holiday season was starting, and whilst the towns were crowded, the countryside remains quite peaceful once you can get used to the concept of driving down lanes which are little wider than the car! Life runs at a totally different pace; at the local village shop you have to get used to the idea that, however long the queue, a chat at the counter is mandatory. No one seems to mind, it's just part of the way of life. Time seems to be unimportant, nothing happens at, say, three o'clock, it is always "three-ish" which seems to mean sometime between three and four! My friend wants some work done on his patio, and the local builder suggests he will be able to get round to it "October-ish"!

The village has most of the essentials that might be required on a day-to-day basis. Firstly, the shop cum Post Office, which seems to stock a huge number of items in quite a small space. If you are out when the postman tries to deliver a parcel, it is held at the shop for collection, not ten miles away in a sorting office at the post-town. There is a school for the children under eleven, although this was irrelevant to my friends whose youngest granddaughter has just had her 21st birthday. There is also a doctors' surgery, a "branch" of the main one in Truro and a friendly pub which sells decent beers and huge meals (the smaller meals for the "young at heart" were too much for me!). The village has a bus service, but as there are only three or four buses a day, so you have to plan carefully if you are going to use it.
The village church has six bells, and I was welcomed at their weekly practice, but unfortunately was unable to ring for the Sunday Service as we'd been invited to lunch by our friends' daughter-in-law. There are lots of activities in and around the area, indeed there are probably more than we have here as everyone seem to be involved in something or the other.
All this took me back to my childhood days when we lived in a small village in Northamptonshire where my parents had rented a cottage to get away from the bombing in London. I'm sure our friends did the right thing moving to Cornwall, it is nice to be close to one's family. If it wasn't that our own daughters/son-in-laws live and work in the home counties, I think we'd be off like a shot.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Home Office paedophile cover up?

Some 30 years ago, back in 1983, a Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens passed a bundle of papers to the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan containing allegations of paedophiles within Westminster. Lord Brittan has now confirmed he received a 'substantial bundle of papers’ from Mr Dickens when he was Home Secretary in 1983 and passed them to his officials for investigation.
So far, so good, everybody seems to be in agreement that far, but it is what happened after that seems to be a mystery, although the Home Office has now admitted that the Dickens dossier was subsequently destroyed.
These events have all the makings of a good conspiracy story and it has been announced that the Home Office is to appoint a senior legal figure to carry out a fresh review into how it handled a dossier. Other MPs are now demanding an " an overarching inquiry" into how abusers were allowed to operate within the public services in this country.

We seem to love enquiries in this country, all the way from Bloody Sunday to Hillsborough, Phone Hacking, the Iraq War, Jimmy Savile and now this. I'm sure they are all justified, the cost seems to be many billions and at times one wonders if there is not a better way of dealing with these matters.

The Daily Mail has an interesting piece. To me the more interesting part is not the story of  Sir Peter Hayman, but the attitudes of a large number of prominent people and how they "closed ranks" against this "working-class oik from  the North of England". Many are still around today and it is interesting to read what they said 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, I have a question of my own. If I were handing over a bundle of documents to anyone, I'm certain that I would keep photocopies. Surely an MP who had carried out all these investigations would have kept copies of the papers. So where are they now, or were they, too, destroyed by someone when he died?

Monday, 30 June 2014

Rape in Slough

As I live only a few miles to the north of Slough in leafy Buckinghamshire, I have some interest in what happens in Slough. My nearest Hospital with A and E facilities is at Wexham Park since High Wycombe Hospital closed its A and E department in order "To improve the service to the public". I occasionally go to Slough to support the local bell-ringers but it really a lost cause in what is no longer a predominately Christian area.

Yesterday the news reported that a teenager had been gang raped in some woodland on the outskirts of the town, and today we are told by the Mail that "Four men have been arrested by detectives investigating the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in a secluded woodland".

The Sky report described those being sought were of "Asian Origin",  but the Mail, for once, seems to shy away from the subject. Those living locally, of course, immediately jump to the obvious conclusion, as they are fully aware of the origin of the current majority population in Slough. However, any genuinely independent observer would surely think about the Chinese, after all, they are probably the largest ethnic group in Asia.

I have considerable sympathy for all the other Asians who are lumped together with the relatively small numbers of Asians of Pakistani/Bangladeshi descent, of whom the Police, the Media and, of course, politicians collude to avoid actually mentioning by name. I'm sure if, say, a crime was committed by a Chinese Triad, the police wouldn't say they were looking for members of an "Asian Triad"!

Over the years, I have had a number of colleagues of Asian descent and I'm sure they must be upset about this constant reference to "Asian suspects". Why should those who I have known and have come from Hong Kong, Burma, Sri Lanka and India, be lumped in with this relatively small group of Asians from the north of the Indian sub-continent? Why should the couple who run the local newsagent, whom I know are Christians of Indian origin, be lumped in the minds of many with some rapists living down the road in Slough?

One thing that surprises me somewhat is that, as far as I am aware, none of the ambassadors of the countries such as I have mentioned have made a complaint to the Foreign Office about this constant slurring of their citizens. I just wish one would!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

"Disconnected" UKIP Voters

Labour's Chuka Umunna (a potential future Labour leader) claims that
‘a lot’ of people who voted for UKIP in its European elections victory were not computer literate and did not have basic online skills.
Judging by friends in my age group, this statement demonstrates the total disconnect of Umunna from the older population!

All my friends have computers or iPads and certainly know how to send e-mails and search the internet. It seems likely they are probably more clued up on the news that many younger people simply because they have time to read, not only the news on-line, but also various blogs of their choice. It is probably because of this, and the fact that they are so well informed, that they voted UKIP, not because they were disconnected!
My wife is interested in Family History Research and now does much of it on line, both for herself and friends. She also uses Facebook to keep an eye on what more distant members of the family and friends are up to. Most of our friends also seem to be capable of using Skype to keep in touch with their families in far flung places, we are an exception simply because both our daughters live locally. Another friend, who recently had a fall and is unable to drive for the time being, summoned her grandson to come and teach her about on-line shopping and has become totally converted to it, particularly when it comes to her weekly supermarket shop which is delivered to her kitchen door.
The one thing that most of us oldies are wary about is on-line banking; there is so much in the media about hacking that we'd rather be safe than sorry.

An aside,
We've just been looking at my teenage great-niece's Facebook page. It would appear that having a Great Aunt is considered to be far more prestigious than a Grandmother, of which she has both. I must remind my sister next time I see her!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ISIS in Britain

The Telegraph reports that

The Prime Minister warned that the current crisis in Iraq must not be dismissed as a foreign problem because the same terrorists are planning to “attack us here at home in the United Kingdom”. 

Unfortunately,  other than drawing the public's attention to the problem, he gives no indication as to what the government is proposing to do about the problem.
His reported responses, at Question Time in Parliament, cast no light on what steps, if any, the government is proposing to take, other than telling us that:
British born extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria now represent the most serious threat to our security.

This, and his other answers, when examined closely, amount to little more than meaningless waffle. Clearly he believes that having drawn attention to the problem he has done his duty and the problem will go away. He tells us that:
The right answer is to be long term, hard-headed, patient and intelligent with the interventions that we make, and the most important intervention of all is to make sure that these governments are fully representative of the people who live in their countries, that they close down the ungoverned space, and they remove the support for the extremists.

What on earth has that got to do with the threat that within this country caused by returning extremists?

The United States has laws by which they can ban people from visiting proscribed countries without specific permission. Of course this does not stop anyone going to these countries, but if, on returning, there is evidence that they have been to such countries, they can be charged with a criminal offence and imprisoned if found guilty.

Surely, as a minimum, we could do the same. Were the government to declare ISIS as an enemy of this country, one would have thought that any British Citizens consorting with them would be guilty of treason, and here my only regret is that the Blair government removed the death penalty for treason.
Additionally, it would appear that many of those going to the Middle East from this country are not British Citizens, but "refugees" or "asylum seekers" with "leave to remain". This "leave" can be withdrawn and the Home Office should make it clear that this will be done in the case of anyone who visits the Middle East. If they willingly return to the countries from which they came, they are hardly refugees!

Cameron has admitted that extremists present a grave danger to this country, now he has to show that he is taking real action rather than talking about the problem.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Islamic Extremism

Tony Blair has published a defence of his actions in Iraq and is now arguing for more intervention due to the ISIS extremists taking over the north of the country. In rebuttal, General Sir Michael Rose accuses him of self delusion whilst Boris Johnson writes in the Telegraph 
" I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad".
He continues
"He wrote an essay on his website on Sunday that struck me as unhinged in its refusal to face facts. In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help."
I do hope both Boris' and the Telegraph's lawyers passed what what was written!

To me, it seems quite clear that the war in Iraq served to cause those Islamic organisations and countries which never had any animosity towards Britain to become "anti-Western", and for many to adopt extremist attitudes. Not only do we have ISIS operating in Iraq and Syria but also Boko Harem in Nigeria as well as al-Shabaab in Kenya, all of which are Islamic extremists prepared to kill and maim anyone who doesn't agree with their creed.

The worrying part, to me, is what is happening in this country. There are some 3 million Muslims living here and in the past year about another 300,000 people have been given British citizenship, the majority, one must assume coming from our erstwhile colonies in the Indian sub-continent, as EU citizens coming here have no reason to take out British citizenship.

Now if just a tenth of 1% of those Muslims in this country are extremists, that would represent a considerable force of some 3,000 or so who, if ISIS is anything to go by, could cause considerable havoc.

In order to visualise what damage such a small force could do, you only have to look at the damage that the IRA caused here. More to the point, one has to remember that the IRA had very little support here, whereas Muslim extremists could readily hid amongst amongst their own sort, who, whilst they would not necessarily approve of the extremists' action, are unlikely to do anything to prevent them if only because their religion effectively prohibits them from "telling tales".

Remember also that the IRA did their best to avoid getting killed or captured and this would to some extent limited their possible targets. In contrast, Islamic extremists, have no concern about being killed fighting for their cause, believing that they will end up in Paradise.

As the Israelis have discovered, it is extremely difficult to deal with suicide bombers as any attempt to arrest or search them merely leads to them detonating their bomb.

I just hope our authorities have given some real though to what could happen here and have some viable plans for dealing with such a situation when potentially some 5% of the population could be giving tacit support to the such extremists.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Talking in Class

Both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have reports today about an 11 year old girl who had her mouth taped shut with a piece of Sellotape for 15 minutes because she kept chattering in class. Her father has complained to the school and demanded that the teacher should be suspended.

This shows what happens when you remove virtually all the sanctions that teachers can apply against disruptive children. In my day, parents for were invariably supportive of their children's teachers, but these days the opposite is frequently true. Suppose this girl had been given, say, a hundred lines, no doubt the father would have been complaining that it was a totally pointless punishment. If she had been suspended for perhaps a week, the father would have complained that it was excessive and disrupting his daughter's education. What the father doesn't seem to understand is that his daughter's chattering was not only disrupting her education, but also that of some thirty other children. Regrettably, it's a no win situation for many teachers many of whom enter the profession full of enthusiasm, but after a few years simply end up going along with the flow leading to many of our failing schools.

This sort of behaviour is one of the reasons that many parents who can afford to send their children to a private school do so, and why many thousands of others would do the same if only they could afford it. When you are spending good money on you child's education you expect value for money and expect your child to behave in class and try to absorb what is being taught. Thus you would be very supportive of a teacher who punished your child's misbehaviour in an appropriate manner. Additionally, other parents would not want their own children's education to be harmed by a disruptive child and would soon be complaining to the school if the disruption continued. Thus everyone favours order and discipline, and the school can get on with its main job of educating children.

The exact reverse seems to apply in state schools where everybody seems to condone bad behaviour except the teacher concerned.

Incidentally, this incident took place last December, and the father has complained not only to the head teacher, but also to the local education authority and Ofsted. He is now demanding that the teacher should be suspended, which is why it is back in the news. The father said that he was reluctant to send his child back to the school, but did so after she said she was missing her friends. So if she hadn't missed her friends, he wouldn't have sent her back to school! Personally, I think that his child should be suspended for disruptive behaviour and the school governors should give the teacher their full support. But as it is, the child now knows she can get away with almost anything and will no doubt continue to disrupt no only her own education, but also that of the others in her class.