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, 31 October 2011

The Builders have arrived

We are having an all glass conservatory built on the back of the house, in direct contradiction to those who claim we should be downsizing at our age. The existing wooden structure, which was there when we bought the house twenty or more years ago, had reached the end of its useful life and was not worth repairing. The new one will be about twice the size, extending along the rear of both the lounge and dining room, and hopefully will look quite nice.
The builder has arrived and demolition is in progress; he says that it will all be gone by this evening and that the foundation diggers will arrive tomorrow or Wednesday. This particular builder constructed a conservatory for a friend, I liked what he did and it seems that, weather permitting, he keeps his promises on time-scales. He also quoted a price for the overall job and detailed what would NOT be included - the flooring and light fittings, which we will get and he will install. All the other quotes were for a very basic conservatory, and whatever you mentioned seemed to be some undefined extra amount. Our friend had no problems with the deal, so I hopeful that this project won't double in cost line in the manner of all too many building contracts.

The building will cost a large part of our savings, and we have thought long and hard about it. However, with our savings decreasing in value by more than 5% p.a. and the likelihood that we will no longer be able to get travel/medical insurance to go on expensive worldwide holiday trips, it seems a good investment. House prices may not be rising, but in this area they are steady. The old structure would have perhaps discouraged a buyer at some future date whilst the new one will add its value to our home. Meanwhile, we will get the pleasure of being able to use it throughout more of the year than at present, knowing that its value, if not appreciating, is certainly not declining at over 5% p.a. like the money in the bank. Short of some major medical emergency requiring private treatment or my erstwhile employer's pension fund going broke, we should be all right and I'll still be able to buy the odd electronic gadget from time to time.

Time will tell whether we are right.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Gold Reserves

Earlier this year, the Daily Telegraph listed the ten countries with the largest gold reserves. Needless to say Britain wasn't on the list as Gordon Brown sold over half our reserves at rock bottom prices, leaving us at No 17 in the list.
OK, Gordon was right in saying that you can't actually do anything with gold, but as long as others value it, gold is a very good investment, particularly in troubled financial times like the present.
As might be expected, USA is the biggest holder of gold with over 8000 tonnes. But rather surprisingly, Germany came second with 3400 tonnes, somewhat more than the IMF with some 2800 tons. So in terms of actual recognisable wealth, as distinct from fiat money such as the Euro, Germany has more wealth than the IMF.
Again, somewhat surprisingly, Italy came next with around 2450 tonnes, closely followed by France with some 2435 tonnes.
The point that I am making is that the IMF is asking for more money in order support the southern European Countries, and it is likely that we are will be expected to contribute far more than those countries with these large gold reserves. For some reason, last time the IMF wanted more funds, we apparently contributed more than these other countries in order to "maintain our standing" within the IMF, and it seems likely that this will happen again.

So exactly what is our "Standing" within the IMF ? Precisely zero, as far as I can ascertain. The Head is a Frenchwoman with a proven track record of being an enthusiastic supporter of the Euro. Why we supported her, rather than the Australian candidate is beyond my comprehension; someone from a country which has managed to avoid the worst of the recession would have seemed an ideal choice. Not only does this show how pro-Europe this government is, but it also demonstrated that we support IMF funds being used to prop up the Euro.

The stated objective of the IMF is to support individual countries, not currencies, and support is only given to countries who are prepared to take appropriate steps to rectify their economic shortcomings. Support for the Euro, and Greece in particular, should thus be refused on both counts.
As has been said by others, the IMF would not support, say, California which is virtually broke, as it is the responsibility of those issuing the fiat currency, in this case the US Treasury. Why then does it support Greece, which is part of another fiat currency which in itself has no problems as it is still retaining its value against both the Pound and the Dollar.
So much for our "Standing" in the IMF; it appears to be breaking its own rules and we can do nothing about it - indeed we seem to be aiding and abetting in the matter.

Oh, and our Gold reserves?  A mere 310 tons last February!

Thursday, 27 October 2011


I am in a bloody minded mood today, so am following my motto (see heading).

I was almost run down by a cyclist whilst walking along the pavement in our local shopping centre, which was followed with verbal abuse "for being in his way". I am not happy!
Two nights ago, whilst driving home from bell ringing practice along a well used, wooded, but unlit lane, I was nearly in collision with another cyclist who appeared to be wearing camouflage clothing whilst riding his bicycle without lights. I only noticed the minuscule reflectors on the pedals at the last moment. Perhaps he has a suicide wish!
As I can't work off my temper on them, I've decided to make a Freedom of Information request to the Thames Valley Police, as follows

"I would like to make a request under the Freedom of Information legislation as to the number of pedal cyclists who have been prosecuted by the Thames Valley Police (or the Crown Prosecution Service on their behalf) during the most recent twelve month period for which statistics are available.
If possible, in addition to the total numbers, I would like to know the numbers of those who have been prosecuted for offences relating to
a. Riding their bicycle on the pavement,
b. Riding their bicycle during the hours of darkness without the necessary lights.
In order not to place a undue burden on your office and incur unnecessary costs, figures within, say, plus or minus 5% would be acceptable for my research.
An e-mailed reply will be perfectly acceptable."

I think that the figures in all categories will be zero, but time will tell.
If any one reading this would like to make a similar request in their own area, I would appreciate being informed of the results.

"New self defence powers"

According to the Telegraph,
"Householders are to be given tough new self defence powers to confront burglars without the risk of being prosecuted".

I'm sure this is a good thing, particularly for the reasonably young and fit. But what can someone who is not so young  and fit?  Will it become legal to deliberately have a suitable weapon in, say, your bedroom in case you get a burglar whilst you are in bed? At present, if I keep a kitchen knife in the bedroom for such an emergency, it would be counted against me if I used it to kill or injure a burglar on the basis that my action was pre-meditated. If I kept a baseball or cricket bat in the bedroom, this too would seem out of order as I play neither game. What about pepper sprays and the like? If it's legal for the police to use them in self-defence, why not the householder? The best I can think of at the moment are some of the kitchen cleaning aerosols; I suspect that directed at someone's eyes, they would do more harm than pepper.

Apparently Kenneth Clarke said :“We will ensure that if you do react instinctively to repel an intruder you will not be punished for it – as long as you used reasonable force.” In the case of pensioners we must be allowed something to use in our instinctive reaction, otherwise as far as we are concerned there is no change in the real situation.I see no reason why it should not be made legal to own and use a pepper spray, mace or some similar repellent within the confines of ones own property.

Monday, 24 October 2011

EU Referendum

We now know how many of our MPs actually believe in Democracy.
Exactly one hundred and eleven.
The rest obviously believe they know better than the electorate and believe in a Party Dictatorship where the electorate is merely able to choose a party.

A referendum is the ultimate expression of democracy, and the only possible reasons for not having one are if
a. There is no clear demand from the public for one, which is clearly not so in this case
b. The cost. But the government was prepared to find the money for one on AV, in which few had any interest, so they can hardly claim that would be a problem.

It is no excuse to argue that it is the wrong time or that it would be a distraction from more important issues, in politicians eyes it will always be the wrong time, and they will always believe that there are more important issues. That will never change.

It is quite simple,

MoD - Will Hammond be any better?

Both the Telegraph and the BBC have reported that Hammond has said he would like to see an investigation into the death of Gaddafi, who was captured alive during the fall of his home town Sirte on Thursday.  What on earth would this achieve?
The rebel movement in Libya is a series of largely tribal militias who own no allegiance to anyone but their own tribe. They certainly are unlikely to have heard of the Geneva Convention or of Human Rights, having for so long been deprived of any rights themselves.
Nevertheless, Hammond feels that "The fledgling Libyan government will understand that its reputation in the international community is a little bit stained by what happened," Perhaps he is right about the "International Community" if he means all those politicians and officials who make a living out of attending international meetings. But if he'd said "Real People", you'd be hard pressed to find enough concerned people in Britain to fill a double decker bus!

In any event, such issues are foreign policy, and Hammond is the Minister of Defence who should have more than enough work to do in his own territory. I'm sure that William Hague, having seen the resignation of one wannabe Foreign Secretary at MoD will hardly welcome another contender.

If Hammond wants an enquiry, why not have one within his specific area of responsibility, where he has the authority to order a enquiry? Such an enquiry should encompass not only the activities of Fox and Werritty, but also the actions (or actually the inaction) of our security services with regards to Werritty. Such an enquiry should not be carried out internally, but by the police.

And if our new wannabe Foreign Secretary wants an enquiry by the "International Community", what about pressing for one into the deaths of the 23 Coptic Christians in Egypt, who were killed, not be a disorganised rabble, but by the well disciplined Egyptian Army?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Libya - Islamic Law

Late night thought:

The Telegraph reports that:

"Libya's interim leader outlined more radical plans to introduce Islamic law than expected as he declared the official liberation of the country."

"More radical than expected" - than expected by whom?
Certainly not unexpected by me,, nor by most bloggers that I read!

MoD - More Werritty

Both the Telegraph and the Mail report that MI6 was very concerned about the activities of Werritty as far back as February this year because of the possibility that his actions could prejudice the Foreign Office's position on Iran. William Hague apparently discussed the issue with Fox but it seems that, in spite of this, Werritty continued to attend sensitive meetings, including one with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and others with Matthew Gould, our Israeli Ambassador. At the same time, he was also having meetings with Iranian dissidents both here and in the States, seemingly encouraging them to believe that they would get Britain's support if push came to shove. It almost seems as if Fox was trying to run a separate foreign policy, by proxy.

At the time of his resignation, Fox insisted that national security had not been undermined by the meetings, which in the narrow context might even possibly be true, but nothing was said about our foreign policy, where is would appear that it certainly was being undermined, much to the concern of William Hague.

The piece in the Mail also stated that "City of London Police last night confirmed that its officers were considering investigating  Mr Werritty for fraud.
Personally, I think that he (and possibly Fox) should be investigated under the Official Secrets Act.

Finally, I continue to be intrigued by the continued description of Werritty in the media as "Fox's best man", a description which can clearly be interpreted in more ways than one. I wonder if it was his second best man who was at Fox's flat when it was burgled?

MoD - The Worms start to come out of the Woodwork!

Firstly, the Telegraph, reveals, under the heading
"Inside the corporate intelligence company which bankrolled Liam Fox" that "A South African intelligence expert made payments of as much as £60,000 through his security company for an unregistered charity linked to Dr Liam Fox." It continues to say "that [the company's] main source of income is providing intelligence for big business.".
It is worth reading the full article if only to appreciate the number of "big names" who are or have been involved with the company, from the Duke of Westminster downward.

Secondly, under the heading
"Second Defence Minister faces questions over links with Liam Fox’s best man", they claim that Lord Astor of Hever, the Under Secretary of State for Defence, has had closer links with Adam Werritty than previously realised. The Telegraph says that Lord Astor was actually a trustee of the "charity", Atlantic Bridge, which employed Mr Werritty and paid for him to travel the world alongside Dr Fox. "Mr Werritty had been Atlantic Bridge’s only employee and it paid him more than £90,000 in wages and expenses.".

A Labour MP is demanding an enquiry into the whole matter, claiming that “There is a basic lack of transparency here and the official investigation needs to be broadened to get to the bottom of what was really going on.”. For once I must say I must agree with Labour. Yes, the worms are truly starting to come out of the woodwork!

** "Atlantic Bridge" called itself a charity, but was not registered with the Charity Commission, and is now being wound up.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Alex Salmond: Scotland is in the driving seat

The Telegraph headlines a news item as above, with Alex Salmond telling the Prime Minister that
"The days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do or what to think are over. The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future."
Good, I have no objection to that concept, but whilst Scotland is in the EU, Brussels will be telling the Scots what to do far more frequently than Westminster ever did. Perhaps Salmond should be making it clear to the Scottish people whether he intends to leave the EU as well as the United Kingdom.

David Camerons reply should surely be:
"The days of Scottish MPs coming to Westminster and voting on purely English matters and determining the political composition of the British Government are also over. The English, in future will determine their own destiny."

He has nothing to loose from such a stance, there are no Tory MPs elected in Scotland so it would not affect the Conservative Party's position in a future government.

Friday, 21 October 2011

UN Demands an Enguiry into Gaddafi's Death

Just what do they expect this to achieve (other than wasting money on, presumably, jollies to Libya)?

It would be more to the point if they demanded an enquiry into, say, the deaths of 26 Coptic Christians in Egypt and the destruction of their churches.

Referendum on the EU

As Danniel Hannan points out in The Telegraph today, at the last general election the LibDems were calling for a referendum on the EU both in leaflets and on their web site.
The page on the web site has recently been removed, but the Telegraph provides a copy of the leaflet.

As this is hard to read, the Telegraph kindly provides this link to the Google Archive

Once again we are given a good reason for not believing a word that politicians say, and particularly for not believing anything that a LibDem says.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gaddafi Killed - Does it matter how?

Gaddafi has been shot dead, allegedly after he was captured. The human rights fanatics are working themselves up into a frenzy.. "It looks as if it was extra-judicial murder" claim the BBC.

So what? He had many thousands killed without trial, cosigning bodies to mass graves. Why should anyone be concerned that he was killed in the same manner?

Whilst he remained alive, there was always some hope for his supporters. They could mount attacks or terrorist operations in an attempt to secure his release; now they are without a cause.
The only loss will be to lawyers, media and the like; A trial in Libya or at The Hague would keep lots of lawyers busy (no doubt at our expense) and the media would have a field day, but to what end?
I suspect a lot of people in high places (such as Blair) will privately be glad he was killed; a trial might reveal things that they would rather not be said.

Personally, I hope, and believe, he will burn in Hell

A Debate on a Referendum

So at long last, Parliament is going to have a debate about having a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU!

But the general consensus of the media seems to be that the debate will be lost because the Tories will be whipped to vote against it, or possibly some government stooge will table a "Spoiler" motion or amendment as has happened in the past with other issues.

I take the view that any MP, whether pro or anti the EU should vote for a referendum if he/she believes in democracy. A referendum is the ultimate expression of the wishes of the electorate, and any MP who votes against one is effectively saying to the electorate that he knows better, or, more succinctly, "drop dead"! Even the LibDems should support a referendum, if they are right in their beliefs that the public want be in the EU, the referendum will confirm this and put the argument to rest for a good few years. Surely they are not so dishonourable as to be taking the position "We believe in the EU, and whether you believe or not, you are not going to have a say in the matter". This was the view of the Medieval Church - perhaps the LibDems see the EU as the new religion!

But what will happen if we are allowed a referendum?
I suspect that Brussels officials will do their best to ensure that there is a "No" vote to leaving the EU. I anticipate that they will spend billions of our money on campaigning and producing scare stories about how withdrawal will wreck our economy, the environment and anything else that they can think of.

The problem doesn't stop with getting a referendum, the bigger problem will be how to get a fair referendum and hopefully this will be properly addressed in due course.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Foxy Affair

No, not Foxy Knoxy, but Foxy Liam.

Today the Telegraph reports that Whitehall Officials have no idea whatsoever as to where Werritty gets his money or what he does for a living.
Officials have no information about a man who has been allowed into high level meetings at the MoD which would normally require full security clearance!
I remember visiting the MoD many years ago at a time when I had security clearance to "Secret" level, but in spite of this, I couldn't get past the lobby without a escort, even though I knew exactly where I was going. Yet this man appears to come and go at will without any security checks and more to the point, they have no information as to his sources of income.  For all they know, he could be a Russian spy, or perhaps worse, an American spy! They simply have no idea!

I don't intend to comment on the possible relationship between Fox and Werritty, but if I discovered that a "friend" of mine was making arrangements for people to meet me and apparently charging £10,000 a time, (as reported elsewhere) he would very quickly cease to be my friend! But then I was brought up in a different era, and the standards that I would set myself no longer seem to apply.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tesco - Sales down, Profits up

The Telegraph reports today on Tesdo
"Like-for-like sales at British stores - those open for more that a year - fell 0.7pc year-on-year in the second quarter"
"Pre-tax profits increased 12pc to £1.88bn in the six months to August 27"
OK, they claim that the profits came from Europe and Asia not the UK, but I am certainly not surprised that UK sales fell; couples like Mrs EP and myself are getting fed up with their "offers".

Today Mrs EP wanted a savoy cabbage; 78p or two for a Pound. What would we do with two cabbages? Even one is probably too much for the two of us. So we would have to pay 28p more that what is still a profitable price for the privilege of only having one.
I like doughnuts; over the past year they've gone up from 12 or so pence to 25 pence when bought individually. But a bag of five doughnuts costs 55 pence or two for a pound, so they could in fact still sell them at ten pence each and presumably make a profit. As we normally buy just two doughnuts, an experiment is now in place to ascertain the "freezability" of doughnuts. Will a warm microwaved doughnut with my elevensies be as good as one straight from the shop?
Yes, in most businesses you can negotiate a discount for quantity, but you would have to buy far lager numbers and you might get a 5-10% discount, and what Tesco is doing, as far as I am concerned is totally unacceptable - a 36% discount for buying two cabbages or a 48% discount for buying 5 doughnuts (if my maths is correct!)
For perishable goods, in many cases it is cheaper for us to buy one for the price of one at Waitrose, and as we can walk there, we also save the cost of petrol.

An afterthought: I did get two four packs of "Speckled Hen" for £8, so they're not all bad!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Conservative Conference - The NHS

Up to now all that has been said by speakers at the Conservative Party Conference has been said before. Osborne, in particular had nothing worth saying, other than "no-change".

But Andrew Lansley talking about the NHS said that "The NHS will introduce mandatory language tests for doctors moving to Britain after training elsewhere in the European Union.".
An interesting statement, but will the EU allow it?  Up to now the line has been "We're terribly sorry, but the EU insists on qualified doctors being allowed to work anywhere within the EU". Obviously we will need to wait and see. It is perhaps also worth noting that nothing was said about nurses, with whom the average patient probably has more contact.
He also said  “And all that is why, since the election, we now have 1,500 more doctors and 5,000 fewer managers in the NHS.
This may be true in terms of numbers, but as has been pointed out to me by a female consultant that I know, the medical schools are now turning out more female doctors than ever before, but many of these, once fully qualified, only work part time, and in her view the "full-time equivalent" of doctors in the NHS has actually fallen . This has been confirmed as far as I am concerned by what has happened following the retirement of my full-time (male) GP.  I have been allocated to a new female doctor, but informed that she will only be working three days a week.  "You are of course free to see any of the other doctors on days when she is not available should you wish". Assuming, of course that I am able to get an appointment from the reduced "doctor-hours" now available at the surgery.
If this is typical, I suspect that the 1500 extra doctors are needed merely because more doctors are working part time.

PS  Does anyone know how many hospitals there are in the UK? The loss of 5000 administrators doesn't seem to be many when averaged over all our hospitals, one or two per hospital maybe; not much of an achievement!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cameron at the LABOUR Party Conference

Is it Cameron or the Telegraph who doesn't know where he is?

But then I've never believed Cameron was a Conservative!

How much do foreign Languages cost this country?

The de facto official language of this country is English and there are six recognised regional languages, the main one being Welsh of which there are said to be some 600,000 who speak the language. Most of those who speak the recognised regional languages also speak English, albeit rather reluctantly in parts of Wales.
But what I want to address is the multitude of other languages that are spoken in this country by immigrants, and what they cost the country each year, particularly in view of Friday's ruling by the High Court that  the rights of a banned extremist were infringed because immigration officials could not speak his language and explain to him why he had been banned from entry. (here).

This ruling is totally ludicrous, and is typical of the extremely liberal interpretation of the Human Rights Laws by our judges. But the implications are horrendous; are we to have immigration officers available at all our international airports and sea ports who are capable of speaking every language of the world in order that they might inform potential unwanted immigrants of their rights in their own language?  According to Wikipedia, there are ten languages which are spoken by more than 100 million people and a further 75 which are spoken by more than 10 million people. Are we expected to keep interpreters available who are capable of speaking all these languages?

But I wasn't just thinking of this requirement, but of the on-going use of interpreters and translators in the daily life of our Government, Local Councils and businesses.

Every time I receive a document from our local council, such as my rates demand or their quarterly "newsletter", somewhere there is an indication that if I am unable to understand the document, I can apply for a copy in any of a wide range of languages listed. Of course, if I couldn't read English, the information that I can have the document in another language would completely escape my attention!
I'm staggered by the wide range of languages that the Council feels that it is necessary to have available which presumably reflects the diversity of those living in this area; Incidentally, Welsh is not amongst the languages listed. 
But its not only our local councils, it is everywhere; any government department, the NHS or other quango which produces any piece of paper for public consumption seems to have it available in a multitude of languages.

But apart from the cost of translation, there is the cost of interpreters.
Again the local councils seem to be in the forefront; benefits offices apparently need to be able to explain to claimants in their own languages how to be able to complete their forms and live off the taxpayers. Someone's human rights might be infringed if the benefits officer didn't explain to a claimant that he could not claim for three wives in this country.
Then there is the Courts. Every defendant apparently has the right to have an interpreter if English is not his primary language. All court papers have to be provided in his own language, even if he has an acceptable command of our language.
The police also have to be able to call on interpreters at any time of day or night; anyone arrested must be informed of his rights and cautioned; I wonder how many allegedly non-English speaking criminals escape because the police are unable to caution them and inform them of their rights?
And let's not forget the NHS; I gather that our local hospital employs permanent interpreters speaking three Asian languages, and many of the notices are in unknown (to me) languages. I wonder what my rights are, were I to be admitted to to hospital and faced with a non-English speaking nurse or doctor.

I'm sure that I've only just skimmed the surface of the subject and that others could produce many more examples of the cost of our pandering to non-English speaking immigrants in this country.

I'm tempted to write to my District and County Councils, under the Freedom of Information Act, asking how much they spend on translation and interpretation services each year, but my problem at the moment is how I should phrase the question in order that the Councils don't manage to dodge the question.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Human Rights

The Telegraph reports that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is calling for the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.
But more is needed than the simple scrapping of the act, our judges seem to have got into a rut of accepting the general idea of individuals rights over those of the community.
Not only does the act need to be abolished, but replacement legislation is needed that requires our Judges to consider the rights, needs and safety of the population at large when making any decision. At present, we can hold a paedophile in secure accommodation if he is considered a danger, but we cannot deport a murderer on grounds of his rights.
A new bill should list all the things that the government and authorities are not obliged to do.
The first is clearly that there should be no obligation on them to speak other than this country's language, English, and perhaps in Wales, Welsh.   When you get news like this "A banned extremist  is now likely to pocket £5,000 in compensation because immigration officials could not speak his language.", the country has clearly gone mad!
Following on from this, there should be no requirement for the provision of legal aid or interpreters at our expense. We should never, under any circumstances, supply any more than a British Citizen would receive from the authorities in the country of origin of an individual demanding such a service here.
Councils should be banned from printing leaflets and the like in other than our national languages, and made to charge for the services if an interpreter is required.
The "Right to family Life" invoked by many criminals who have managed to get into an association with a British woman, should be replaced by the requirement that they take their wife and family with them when deported.
I'm sure that changes like this would be applauded by the majority of the electorate and seen as a boost for their human rights which have been totally ignored.