Social Comment – 2010/11

Social Comment Years 2010 and 2011

2010. 

Click the month to go directly there:Apr,May,Jun.

As mentioned in the last addendum this effort has mutated into a purely ‘‘Social Comment’ entry, maybe of more interest to those who read it in a few years time than to current readers; although it might also be useful to place, “what was I doing then”, a situation I find myself in more frequently as the years roll by.

I think of it as tomorrow’s history; an aide memoir to some of the news and events the reader may have only partially recorded.

Last year ended with widespread floods in the north west of  England and a very wet south. Cumbria. Workington in particular, suffered worst. Bridges built years ago were washed away and this was followed before Christmas with some of the heaviest snow seen for many years. The results of this five inch deposit was a complete collapse of the transport infrastructure country wide. Even the High Tec Channel Tunnel trains failed; due to French snow it was reported. Many passengers spent the night with no food or drinks, and under the Channel!

Schools were closed and many people did not bother to go to work. A new entry for the dictionary next year will likely be “Snow Day”, this to be added to the “Sicky” already well established.

The reports were rife reference school closures due to the authorities not wanting to pay compensation when someone fell on the ice whilst attempting to get there. “Risk Assessment” is already well established in law. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t, about covers it.

Cars were abandoned everywhere and even at this date ten days into the New Year some of the cars in our street have not been moved since late December.

Snow still lies on the road and pavements with the temperature barely rising above freezing during the day and falling into double minus figures at night. Manchester recorded -21 C degrees last week. More snow is forecast for this coming week with a biting easterly wind producing a chill factor of goodness knows what.

Gritting or salting on the local roads has been sparse to non existent resulting in a sheet of glass for a road surface on some of them. Cost and lack of supplies has been sited. Kingwood suffers quite badly from the selective non-application of grit on what is considered unimportant roads.

The dustmen; and who can blame them, have not been able to keep up with the collection rota, resulting in plastic bottles and cans blowing about in people’s gardens.

With the wettest November ever recorded we are already into Silver medal position for coldest temperatures ever this year, the heating bills have gone; together with a lot of the heat, through the roof. One young woman was heard telling her friend; on the other end of a mobile phone conversation that her Gas bill had been adjusted to £100 per month. It is going to be very difficult for a lot of people to pay this sort of figure.

A strike by BA cabin crew designed to ruin some of our residents Christmas trips was postponed by various legal shenanigans but the snow did a much better job. Many airports were closed over the holiday period and passengers have continued to suffer delays and cancellations since.

During a break in the ice sheet it was noticed that the newly surfaced roads on the estate were cracking up well. It certainly was not due to the salt or grit!

Locally we have seen a number of residency changes as mentioned last year, a number of older people have succumbed to the years and brand new eager young couples moved in; after bashing seven bells out of the properties. Nice to see, we felt the same 45 years ago; but with a lot less money to fund our ambitions.

Been away!!!

April 2010

Now into the middle of April it has been confirmed that we have had the coldest winter for 30 years, with record lows. Even now we are getting heavy frosts some mornings. This state of affairs seems to contradict the Global Warming lobbies theories that we are going to get warmer winters and lack of rain in the summer. This last 12 months must have been what they call an anomaly? The gas and electricity bills suggest otherwise!

The debate in the newsletter at the moment is concerned with the estate service roads. It appears they are little used to reach back gates and garages; most of the cars are parked on paved front gardens or halfway onto the footpaths, and are in very poor surface condition. They are frequently used by some residents and strangers to fly tip and by many of the local dogs to foul. They also provide a useful approach for anyone looking for an easy unauthorized entry. Past their sell by date?  It would appear this may be the case as they are not the responsibility of the council and clearing the rubbish and resurfacing is down to the residents. One suggestion is that they are gated. But who pays? Awaiting developments.

After 70 odd years the shop known to many of the older residents as “Kents” and the site of our Post Office is to be converted to a Pharmacy. The two shops at the other end of the block will become a One Stop Shop Supermarket complete with a Post Office. This last move raises a number of questions for the KRA. Not least is the all day and into the evening liquor outlet. Again we await results of discussions taking place with the Planning department.

In March the KRA newsletter had survived the AGM, but may only be produced every other month as the present long term editor has no longer the time to work on it. As I know she has had; as indeed did I, and every other editor, great difficulty in getting the residents to provide copy. This may not be such a bad move. It is to be hoped that it does survive as some of the older residents find it useful.

The Newsletter will be backed up with a revamped KRA website. This will reduce the time lag before important information reaches the residents; with the proviso that they log on to the site in the first place, or indeed have the facility to do so. Not everyone has a PC or indeed an internet connection. Less and less can be done these days without such a facility.

The end of the first week in May sees a claim that we had the warmest April in 30 years and now have daytime temperatures well below ten degrees.

The silica dust from an Icelandic volcano called Eyjafjallajokull that shut down all the airports in the UK. and Northern Europe for five days last month has been blown across the UK again and again causing havoc. Many people were unable to get back to the UK for the end of the Easter Holidays. Teachers were missing, “shame”, and pupils stranded “hooray”. Many did get back in time for the May Day Holiday where they enjoyed awful weather!

Ken Emmons; our Chairman for the last 12 years up until March, has been recognized for his “contributions for the benefit of the community” by his nomination and presentation of “The Audentior Award” by the Borough of  Watford. The presentation of his plaque and medal by the Mayor Dorothy was an emotional experience and he regretted that his prepared vote of thanks to all those who had assisted him was lost in the moment.

We have had a General Election. Clare Short has lost her Parliamentary seat in Watford to the Conservatives and Keith Crout and Dorothy Thornhill retained theirs as Councillor and elected Mayor respectively.

We have our first Coalition Government for many years formed with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. David Cameron is the new Prime Minister and Nick Clegg his deputy. Will it work; it has too. Several EU countries are near bankruptcy and we together with the others are bailing out Greece whilst they riot in the streets regarding financial restrictions. Portugal and Spain are nearly in the same position, and Ireland, an economy that was apparently doing so well is also over spent. Who gets the next bail out?

May 2010.

Two weeks into May and we still have frosty nights. Will this month create yet another record?

I write this on the 24th May in a mini heat wave and the first day of a new round of BA  cabin crew strikes. With a Bank holiday due next Monday the heat wave will be over, it will be chucking it down and all the airplanes will be in the wrong place. More disappointments for our Estate travellers, or not!

June 2010.

Now a week into June we are told that May was indeed record breaking. It was the driest for 30 years. Roll on the hose pipe bans.

January 2011.

For reasons various; none of which are interesting enough to elaborate on, there has been no web site since May 2010. As it seemed for some time that the situation may well arise where the site was to become total history, the diary was suspended!

It is now the second week of January 2011. Another Christmas has come and gone and yet another attempt is being made to get a web site up and running that will hopefully last a little longer than the previous four efforts since the time when the KRA first decided a site was the way to go; 5 years back. The only consolation; if indeed it can be described as such, is that they all failed for different reasons.

A summary of some of the more interesting intervening events follows.

The KRA newsletter; whose ongoing publication in its current form and publication was in some doubt, has been taken over by a new Editor who is retaining the monthly production. Good luck to him.

The association is looking for a new Chairman following the resignation of the previous holder.

Last summer has now been officially declared as the driest for many years but without actually producing any prolonged sunny warm periods. It was followed by the coldest December since records were started in 1890. Snow fell in November disrupting airports and the roads. Schools were shut and many people did not attempt to get to work. It cleared towards the end of the month to be followed by an even worst fall in December. Heathrow was closed for four days and Fern Way should have been; as it was a sheet of ice that made it difficult to walk across, let alone drive on. The old romantic White Christmas is not quite as appealing as one gets a little older. Clear by the New Year but very cold and a lot of rain. Still raining as I type.

England cricketers have pasted the Australians to retain the Ashes and win the series 3 -1. Another event not achieved in a while. Some of the fielding was truly magic. Local sports supporters were I’m sure pleased to have a little to lighten the New Year.

Whilst on sport; Watford FC are sixth in the Championship table and have won their last six games. It was all downhill from this point last year. See later!

Greece was the first Euro country to be bailed out financially followed byIreland. Portugal and Spain look possibly to be the next. A strong lobby for the UK to leave the EU is making a lot of noise. It seems we can get ourselves into financial bother without any help from the others but still have to bail them out. Along those lines the banks, several of whom were saved  bought out by the UK Government, (us) are now intent on paying billions of pounds in performance bonuses to the managers that made the near fatal and very costly decisions on managing our money that caused the problem in the first place! Some things defy justification!

VAT has risen to 20%, and this together with the extra fuel tax; which also attracts VAT, has produced the £5.59 per gallon price for unleaded petrol at the pumps. With another increase in fuel tax in April the sky seems to be the limit.

Meanwhile the Bank Rate remains at 0.5% with little chance of a pending rise, except the rate of inflation, which is around the 4% mark and rising.

Despite all these moans and woes the shops still recorded record sales in many areas.

The price of gas and electricity has also risen and the winter fuel bonus has been paid, plus the cold weather supplement. Swine Flu has made a return and quite a number of people have died. The ongoing provision of vaccines is again in question. So what is new?

April 2011.

It’s April, and we are back from holiday after a seven week news black out.

It would seem we had conveniently missed another cold and snowy period.

We were told by a local resident abroad that England had suffered a bad earthquake but discovered later that on February 22nd it was in fact Christchurch in New Zealand,  that had recorded a magnitude 6.3 quake which killed 65 people. This followed a less violent incident last year.

We then heard of the magnitude 9.4 earthquake very close to Japan on March 11th, and the consequent  Tsunami. Between them; we have since learned that around 25,000 people have died, as so far verified, with many still missing. We read of three trains and all their passengers that were wiped from the face of the earth, and to add to the problems several of the Japanese nuclear power stations have been damaged. The Fukushima Daiichi plant has gone into partial melt-down with Green Peace asking, that the 12 mile exclusion zone be extended to 25 miles following the discovery of radiation particles close by. The sea 300 yards from the plant has also been reported as having 3,335 times higher radiation levels than is usual. Traces of airborne nuclear fallout have been detected in the UK. This sort of disaster affects everyone in the world!

Steps are being taken to upgrade the safety of the rest of Japans 55 nuclear plants. “Shutting” and “stable door” seems to come to mind.

The uprising problems in the Middle East and North Africa continue, with their inevitable effect on human life and oil prices. Earlier in the year first Tunisia, then Egypt and The Yemen; followed by several other states; most of them oil producers or exporters, have seen “popular” revolts against their current rulers.

Libya has seen an uprising against Gaddifi which is being supported by a UN backed air forces of France, the US and the UK. The air attacks have been made on Gaddafi’s storage and defense areas and have forced a “No fly” zone over the country. No ground troops have been involved. Gaddifi has been firing on his own people who have apparently been brave but poorly armed and organized. This is a particularly sensitive operation and it must be hoped that it is soon resolved. Another area where the West; if not the world could be drawn in.

Much has been spoken about the sale of arms by the west to some of the suspect regimes, and with defections by local government members to the West the Lockerbie bombing inquest has been resurrected.

An uncomfortable side effect for residents is yet another rise in petrol prices to £5.87p per gallon; and this at ASDA which is always much cheaper; together with the other two “Dome” stations than many places. £6 plus will be paid in many other areas.

The Hornets have had their usual post Christmas slump and look unlikely to make the play offs. This is not earth shattering to more than a very small minority of the residents of Kingswood, but to them, very sad.

Today we learn that Portugal is asking for billions to support their collapsing economy. The UK will of course be contributing; don’t we always! The last government agreed to this arrangement we are told.

All of the countries so far failing have had massive injections of EU cash over the years and infrastructure investment far beyond their own capabilities but are still unable to manage their affairs.

Is Spain next?

As of 7th April the weather is sunny with daytime temperatures in the low twenties. Being the fifth day, is this our summer?

Last Saturday’s result (9th April), confirms ‘The Horns’ will not be in the Premier League next year.

On the 29th April we have watched the wedding in Westminster Abbey, of our second in line for accession to the throne. Prince William, the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Diana; wed Kate Middleton; a commoner, to public acclaim and much jubilation. Following the marriage they became The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Millions across the world saw an impressively decorated Westminster Abbey and horse drawn carriages that belong in fairy tales. We may have lost our place in the world of power and commerce but no one does pageantry like the Brits.

The other news of the day is on terrible cyclones in the southern states of America. 350 dead and thousands homeless after the fiercest storms for fifty years.

At home we are approaching drought conditions with reservoirs at their lowest for a long time as little if any rain has fallen this year; or if it did it was the wrong type of rain or in the wrong place. Watch this space!

Libya is still suffering under an unrepentant Gaddafi, and Syria also has government troops firing on protestors. As a consequence of the problems the price of fuel continues to rise at the pumps.

The first national referendum for ages will take place early next month. Not on the Middle East or our leaving the Common Market but on an alternative voting system that will give more of a chance for candidates that have no chance of reaching a majority under the present system. The alternative system is only used in three other countries and at least one of those is trying to change it. In essence it means that the candidate with the most votes will not necessarily be elected. No comment!

May 2011.

The date is 2nd May  and the news which will almost certainly have effects that will reach all of us in one way or another, is that the Americans have killed Osama Bin Laden the leader of Al Qaida and sponsor of many terrorist atrocities across the world; including the New York Twin Towers and Pentagon attack by high-jacked domestic airliners. One can only guess the reaction to this piece of news by his former supporters within the Islamic community.

Not so important, but the Metrological Office has announced we have just seen the warmest April since records began. Yet another first!

The 14th of May and the elections and referendum are over. A resounding no was the result of the proposed “Proportional Representation” changes to the national election format. Sponsored and pushed by the Liberal Democrats the campaign was not without its nastier sides with allegations of bias and underhanded efforts on both sides to put out their point of view.

We have a new Conservative MP in Richard Harrington, he replaces Labour’s Claire Ward

Although our local Derek Scudder was re elected the Lib Dems as a whole suffered badly in local government across the country.

Scotland found even more favour in their Nationalists and are even more bent on separating from the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives, without an overall majority over the other two parties will attempt to form a coalition with the Lib Dems. Will this produce extra strengths or dilute both wills. The policies peddled before the election did not appear to me to mesh too well!

Greece has asked for yet another dip into EU cash and with the Euro at risk no doubt their request will be met. More of our money to bolster a currency to which we do not belong! In the meantime national strikes and civil disobedience still occur in Greece over the cuts imposed. Get real, perhaps should be the response.

The earthquakes are getting nearer to home. Lorca in southern Spain was hit last Wednesday. Although on a much smaller scale than other recent events it still killed a number of people and left many more with no homes. There had been a prediction that on the day before that,Rome was to be hit by a devastating quake. Were they wrong altogether or just out on their timing? We shall see.

Manchester City has won the FA Cup and Manchester United the Premiership Trophy. The Chelsea Blues on the estate saw their team lose out on both. West Ham join the Horns next season in the Championship.

It is only the 20th May but the people that know have already labeled the last two months as the warmest on record.

Petrol is now over £1.33 per litre which is £6 a gallon, even at the “Dome”. With 60% of this total being tax it should soon clear up the national dept? It is noticeable that there seems a little less traffic lately on the roads and an enormous drop in the sale of fuel has been reported. It is also claimed that the trains are busier. Although there is not much long term advantage to be made by using this method of travel as rail prices are due for another big hike.

22nd of May brought yet another Icelandic volcano discharging millions of tons of ash into the atmosphere. Two days later flights are suffering disruption and cancellation in Scotland and Northern Europe. These threats have taken over from the BA Cabin Crews withdrawal of strike threats over the weekend. We could be seeing the end of this saga. For now!

25th May sees news that the volcano; now named as Grimsvotn, is the biggest for years and spewing tons of ash high into the atmosphere, but by the 26th it has subsided considerably. Meanwhile much argument and nearly as much dirt has been flung in all directions as to whether flights are; or were safe, or not. The USA President Obama has curtailed his visit to Ireland in order not to be marooned there by the ash.

The Presidents Irish visit was highlighted in my view by his enormously long and heavy armour plated limousine that was left rocking, marooned, across the peak of a sleeping policeman. Everybody had to get out and walk! Who planned the route?

With the historic but very cloak and dagger visit of our Queen to the Irish Republic last week and Obama’s this week, the Irish are ‘cock a hoop’.

The “man” assures us that the US and the UK  still have a ‘special understanding’ and serious talks are taking place here. His Bin Laden coup would seem to almost guarantees his re-election but a little hand shaking across the pond does not come amiss.

All these latter comments seem far fromKingswoodman, but could be very significant later.

Manchester United did not add to their already impressive silverware collection in the Champions League final. They lost to a very superior Barcelona team.

Now it is the cricket season and England made an impressive win from a certain draw, by bowling out Sri Lanka for 82 runs in the last day afternoon session . Great game!

June 2011.

June 2nd and the news that someone was threatening to blow up our bus stop where both the 8 and 10 buses serving Kingswood from the town centre pick up. Well actually it was the Co-op bank at the top of  Market Street that was actually under threat. But as most of the centre of  Watford was closed off during the several hours the Bomb Squad and other specialist Police units took to talk the man with a device strapped to his foot out of the bank, I reckon our association with the site make it valid Kingswood news.

Eventually the man gave himself up and the device was determined “not viable”. We will no doubt discover later what persuaded the man to take such drastic action.

It was later confirmed (Sunday 5th June), that three men fromLuton; one an employee of the bank, had been charged. Robbery was the motive apparently.

There has been a serious outbreak of E-coli inGermany. Forty Germans have died and even more made very ill, even visitors have succumbed. The source was very soon identified as imported Cucumbers fromSpain, or Tomatoes, or something; but definitely from Spain! Imports were banned immediately!

It was subsequently determined that the infection was possibly home grown Bean Shoots; and organic ones at that, and nothing to do with any imported produce.

The Spaniards were not too happy with the unjustified ban that had cost them millions of pounds and a general loss of confidence in their products.

Although we are neither Germans or Spaniards, we will have to contribute to a reimbursement, £16m is their first guess. Bean there, done that?

Last week saw the declaration of a drought situation for a lot of Southern England. Hertfordshire was not included on this occasion. It is a little incongruous that today (Sunday 12th June) it has not stopped raining all day.

Hornets fans on the estate have suffered a double blow this week. They have lost our top scorer Danny Graham and manager Malky Mackie to Cardiff. That should help next season no end.

On Sunday 19th June it is still raining and has been on and off since last weekend. The lawns are lovely!

The years longest day has come and gone without as yet any sign of a proper summer. In fact there has been more rainy days than at any time so far this year. With the start of  Wimbledon  on Monday, (20th June) I suppose it is to be expected.

Colonel Gadaffi continues to hold out against his rebels and the  Allies persistent bombing of military installations.

In Syria; without our intervention, the government led by President al-Assad continues to put down riots with military force. Many residents are crossing the border into Turkey as their border villages are shelled.

Greece continues to see fierce rioting by those who do not think their economy is in any trouble! They have gone through the first 100billion euro bail out in a year, and are required to show the EU Finance ministers what workable austerity measures they are putting into place to reduce their massive 300billion euro deficit; before receiving the second installment of 10million euros. If this goes wrong everyone in the EU is at risk. Share prices have dropped in value by £billions in the last week.

This saga will go on and have effects reaching all of us. Where next in the EU?  Will the Euro survive? Can we in the UK afford it not to?

The teachers and civil servants have lodged notice of strike action for the end of the month as their pensions are threatened. All part of the UK austerity efforts. Fair or not, it will not help recovery.

With the BA cabin crew strike over and no immediate volcanic action to upset flight schedules over the summer holidays,  it has been left to Virgin air crew to come up with alternative strike action. Not to inconvenience the traveling public of course!

July 2011.

With July now up on the calendar we may well have had our summer. Last weekend saw temperatures in the 90’s. Melted roads and buckled train lines accompanied the “wrong kind of heat” but fortunately the torrential rain and electrical storms that followed shrunk and reset everything together with flooding the same lines that had been bent. Gatwick airport control tower was one of the places struck by lightning.

The Greece parliament has accepted the stringent financial restraints required to receive the second enormous bail out. Unfortunately a fair few of the populace have not accepted that anything needs to change and continue to riot. What is the answer. It is not only me that does not have one!

Our one day strike went off with no major civil disruptions but with a mixed reception. The kids who lost another day at school were no doubt in full agreement with the striker’s aims.

The Office for National Statistics published a report on UK populations last week. In the year to mid 2010. 574,000 immigrants enteredBritain. Net migration rose from 176,000 to 230,000 in the previous year, the sharpest rise for nearly 50 years. At the time of count the estimate of total UKpopulation was 62,262,000, a rise of 70,000 over the same period in the previous year. On the face of things it seems unlikely that this year will show much of a change. If we consider enough people to populate a large city are added to our total population every year, then something has to change! Soon.

To add to our problems Andy Murray was dumped out of  Wimbledon in the semi finals. Rafael Nadal was the culprit this time. But he did not win the final.

July 6th and the papers and TV news are all full of phone hacking on a large scale; with The News of the World apparently the leader.

Some of the persons hacked; often the victims of crime, are horrified that their private conversations and incoming calls were accessed in order to further newspaper sales. Many large companies have withdrawn advertising from the paper. Ford Motors being one such.

The paper has also been implicated in the illegal alleged payments to the police for information

July 7th. Rupert Murdock has decided to close  The News of the World. The largest Sunday distribution in the world at 2.5m  with a history going back 168 years. it seems peculiar that the paper and not the miscreants will suffer. The decision seems to be influenced by the declared intention by the Murdock Corporation of acquiring BSkyB. “Creating monopolies” is the in word.

Next Sunday is the last day of publication.

Over the weekend several members of the New International staff have been interviewed and some arrests made.

This next story from last week differs in IT context where a prospective mother-in-law managed to email the world voluntarily; via a good friend or two, with a list of bad habits and anti social activities she attributed to her son’s intended. It would appear that “face to face” gossiping has had its day! Tell the World!! Tweet Tweet!

8th July. and a report that the UK economic recovery is weak with inflation running at 4.5%. The bank rate remains at 0.05%, but for how much longer?

An historic launch of the last NASA space shuttle from Cape Canaveralon the same 8th July; after 135 missions over a period of thirty years plus, was successfully carried out. After twelve days it will return and be retired to a space museum. This leaves the US with no means of manned orbit and the Russian will have to service the International Space Station.

It must be remembered that of the total launches two ended in disaster with the loss of 14 astronaut’s lives . The end of a space era.

The last Issue of the News of the World has taken place on the 10th July, with double the normal print order. (5 million).

Rupert Murdock has flown into the UK to support his aim of taking over BSkyB. There seems to be a growing support for delaying or denying this ambition amongst various politicians.

The premiere of the last Harry Potter film, much of which was shot at Leavesden Film Studios has been held in London. The now aging (for school kids) cast were all there. There is a rumour that a studio tour with sets from Hogwarts and other Potter locations is to be set up at Leavesden. Magic!!

July 13th brings the news that raising the generation of electricity to EU demands of 30% from renewable sources by 2020, (currently 7%) will cost the average  UK household at least £160 per year more. This is good news? And after British Gas announced a rise of 16% on gas and 18% on electricity. Other utility suppliers are also available!   All of whom no doubt will produce a similar hike. One forecast is of a 50% increase in the next ten years.

Providing you have something in your bank account it is nice to know that Cheques; that have been around in various forms since the 17th. century are not to be ditched. There will be no excuses for not paying your energy bills now.

Treasury figures issued today show the UK debt at a massive £2 trillion. A comment from a Treasury source stated. “We have finally got a true picture of the liabilities that have been built up for future generations”. That must make everyone feel much better! And no; I don’t know on the fingers of both hands; and my toes, how many zero’s a trillion has, but it’s quite a lot.

After all the recent bad news entries I read on July 14th that British sports stars may be forced to wear the EU flag on their kit in addition to their national emblems. For England, three lions and a blue flag with yellow stars; several of these not twinkling very brightly, could be the order of the day. The same will apply to sports venues. I doubt the Oval, let alone Cricket has even been heard of by 90% of our European cousins. Surely these unelected Eurocrats have better things to do with our money than make stupid laws that will do nothing for the feeling of unity and oneness they all seem to crave. You can’t be serious? Oh yes they are!!

A retired couple from Scotland have won a  Euromillions  jackpot of £161m.  It puts gas price rises and the EU into perspective. They won’t even be concerned anymore about Care Homes or pensions, or let’s face it, anything at all! Could you cope with this windfall the papers ask? Please let me have a try. Pleeese!!!

In a report by The British Crime Survey burglaries have increased by 14% over last year, other crime figures remain similar. The news media blame the recession and the police dispute the figures. Either way, take care, don’t be a careless victim.

July 16th. The  News of the World saga continues.   Rupert Murdoch’s attempted acquisition of BSkyB has been dropped and he has agreed to a grilling by MPs composing the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee.

His chief  Executive, together with several others, have resigned as more information has been made available as to the extent of the hacking and payments to the police. These latter concerns are to result in Lord Justice Leveson; a Senior Judge, making a sweeping inquiry into police corruption, phone hacking, blagging and illegal payments for information. He will also look into overhauling the way in which the Press is regulated.

This story is possibly the most important one of the year and sends cold shivers down your correspondent’s spine. As the operation is likely to take a year I will leave further comment until something develops.

It was a lovely day yesterday 17th. July but today it has poured with heavy rain for most of the time. The Open Golf  at Sandwich in Kent has been a very wet affair. Darren Clarke was a popular winner on Sunday.

It is noted on the 18th July. that Mr. Murdoch’s chief executive in the UK  has been arrested and bailed. This will make sub judice most of the topics that were to have been discussed at this weeks meeting. I don’t get it; but someone obviously does!!

Add to this event the fact that the Metropolitan Commissioner, Britain’s most senior police officer has resigned together with one of his assistants, leaves the mind to boggle over who did what. The implication seems to be that too many people were involved with  News International and the yet to be proven phone hacking and illegal payments.

Today, 21st July, the NASA space shuttle returned to earth from its mission to provision the International Space Station. This is its last trip and its contribution to space exploration has been immense.

It placed the Hubble telescope in orbit and a later trip took other astronaut’s to replace faulty parts whilst actually working outside the craft.

Much of the space station was transported and installed and many changes of personnel ferried out; and back.

Many satellites have been placed in earth orbit including some of the devices that guide our cars to obscure places and up dead end country roads and lorries under low bridges! How did we manage to find our way home before Satnav’s?

Looking back 65 years or so I recall my outer space experience to be limited to Buck Rogers at the Odeon on a Saturday morning and Dan Dare and the Mekons in the Eagle comic every week. Since then men have gone to the moon and soft landings have been made on several of our Planets, complete with cameras to prove it. Another craft has left our solar system altogether to finally end up heaven’s know where!

We take for granted events that were barely imaginable 60 years ago. What will happen in the next 60?

A news flash of yesterday, 23rd. July must surely over shadow and over ride the events in space.

A man set off a car bomb in the  Central Government area of  Oslokilling a reported seven people and causing extensive damage to buildings.

And then; dressed as a policeman, he traveled to an island twenty miles North West of the city and after gathering together some of the 600 fourteen to eighteen year olds attending a rally, shot 92 of them with automatic weapons.

On his arrest he claims to be a “right wing fundamentalist Christian”, and his action was “gruesome but necessary”.

I include this item with no comment! What possibly is there to be said?

July 30th and no summer up till now. Plenty of wet days but not enough for an entry into the  Guinness Book of records.

I have been looking through the news for something happy or funny to report on. In all honesty there is not of a lot of  it about!

The 27th saw the start of the final year count down to the opening of the  Olympic Games  in London. On schedule we are told, but costing three times the budget estimate. Why am I not surprised?

It would appear that “an obscene” amount of money is wasted annually by the Government on computer technology and much of it does not work!

Between seven and ten times the price is paid for equipment and services than is the standard commercial rate. £3,500 for a desktop computer does seem a bit over the top! The figures for 2009 were £16 billion spent on IT.  Figures are not available for 2010 due to a computer outage. (Purely a surmise on my part). That is not far enough fetched to be even funny!

Today see the 45th anniversary of  England’s only success ever in the World Cup.  This made lot’s of people happy and still brings a smile to my face. “They think it is all over, it is now!”

TheUSA is on the brink of a financial melt-down.  Without an agreement this weekend there is doubt in some US quarters that the government will be able to pay its employees and bills.  At least we won’t be asked to bail them out; but a collapse of the dollar would shrink our last financial crisis out of sight.

It would seem that like Greece, and several other countries, there are a large number of people who either don’t believe the state of affairs or who are not prepared to accept a cut in their standards to overcome them.

It would appear I was not at all successful in raising anybody’s spirits. Perhaps August will bring happier times and a bit of sunshine. The nights are drawing in!

August 2011.

The 3rd of August and I can report the last three days have been beautiful.  England won the second test against India on the fourth day,  right at the beginning of the fine spell.   God is in his heaven……

On Monday the US Senate approved the emergency bill to allow the good old USA to continue to pay its bills. It must be queried as to how it was achieved, but it means the rest of the world; or most of it, can breathe a little easier for a while. The expedient was to raise their debt limit by $2.1 trillion from its current $14.3 trillion.

This begs the question; who in the world is all this money owed to? And will it ever be paid off? Haven’t we been there before; quite recently!

It would seem to be similar to consolidating your plastic, or calling “Ocean”. It does not make things go away it just seems like it for a while, before it circles round and bites you on the bum!

It has also been stated by the Commons Public Accounts Committee that the monies already spent on the £7 million NHS Computerized Patient Record System should not be followed by a further £4.3 million as the system has proven to be unworkable!

Where do we get these people from? God save us from the “experts”.

Oh  Dear! It is August 9th and all sorts of unpleasant events have occurred in the last seven days or so.

With the USA  loosing its top credit rating and The EU seeing Italy and possibly Spain in Euro debt crisis; requiring the purchase of some of the formers debts, the world markets have responded by going into virtual free fall.  Billions upon billions of Pounds, Dollars, Yen, and virtually every other world currency have been lost from Stock Market values.

Whilst not pretending to understand these market trends or indeed finance at these levels it seems to me that total mismanagement or ineptitude, or perhaps greed and speculation has caused a total lack of confidence. Could some power or company be manipulating events? After all, the actual holdings and value of all the devalued companies have not physically reduced and someone is fixing the new values.

It is to be hoped that there is somewhere a common aim to bring some sanity into a very serious and world wide problem; but from where?

Following the shooting in London by the Police of a youth who had allegedly shot at another officer, the internet and mobile phones were used to organize riots. These have been going on for several days and have spread from the original area of incident to many north London Boroughs, and last night to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

From reports in newspapers, and graphically demonstrated on the TV,  the rioters have set fire to cars, buses and commercial properties after in many cases looting shops. Electrical outlets seem to have received most attention and looters could be seen carrying out masses of equipment.

One large carpet warehouse was torched with no account taken of the occupied living accommodation above it on its several floors. Yesterday it was being pulled down to remove a hazard.

Pictures of youths; some as young as nine and ten, stoning and throwing Molotov cocktails at fire engines and ambulances attempting to quell the fires and rescue the injured, are horrendous.

Syria continues to use the army to quell the demonstrators against the Government and many reports of mass deaths are read in newspapers, with no overt military outside interference.

Meanwhile in Libya the bombardment of military target continues, although it seems that the UK are the only nation taking it seriously.

I mentioned earlier that intervention seems to be a case of “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.

The whole world is going mad!!!

Wednesday the 10th of August.

London was relatively quiet last night. Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol were not!!

A lot of tough talk is coming from the politicians but past experience suggests that very little will happen. Soft sentences for those that are found guilty as prison is an unlikely option; they are full up to overflowing now, so it will be the dreaded? ASBO. Or a suspended sentence with the promise that all electrical goods will carry the full 12 months warrantee, even without proof of purchase.

Some of the media and particularly the  BBC insist on calling the looters: protestors.   Trade Descriptions would have a field day under most other circumstances!

Tonight’s football international at Wembley is off and the same media as above is making noises about the safety of spectators and competitors at the Olympics next year.

Oh to be inEngland……….

It is August 18th and I have been confined to bed for a few days so have missed a lot of the happenings first hand.

It’s still raining; heavily and persistently today, as opposed to on and off for the rest of the week I do recall one of the few and far between happy happenings of the previous weekend.

England’s cricketers beat India by an innings and 242 runs on the fourth day. This not only gives them the series but puts them into Number 1 position in the ITC ratings. They really were a delight to watch.

Most of the rest of the week has been given up to the aftermath of the riots. Much rubbish has been spoken by people one would have hoped knew better, whilst some of the three thousand arrested were charged tried and sentenced.

An unnamed 16 year old was charged with the murder of a pensioner who was trying to put out a fire outside his premises, plus burglary of a Bookmakers, Supermarket, Video store and a Restaurant. He is remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey.  His mother was denied bail on a charge of obstructing the Police in their inquiries.

Two men in their twenties living in North West England were sentenced to four years imprisonment for inciting violence via social networking sites.   Suddenly civil liberties and rights persons are coming out of the woodwork!   It appears the pair did not get the response they had hoped for so should be punished accordingly.   If you attempt to ruin peoples lives and steal their property or murder them then are you any the less guilty,    if you fail through no fault of your own? I ask the question, how can organizing and orchestrating the loss of the civil liberties, property, and life of other citizens not be a punishable criminal action?

Four men have been charged; at least one of them black, concerning the running down of three young Asian men in Birmingham.   Attempting to protect their properties, they were hit and thrown into the air when the car traveling at 50 miles an hour mounted the pavement to get to them. This looks like a case of them “not looking a gift horse in the mouth” with racial tensions running high in the area.

The Muslim father of the youngest victim showed a deal more humanity and dignity than the perpetrators by appealing for calm.

The pictures have traveled round the world of the  Malayan student first attacked then robbed by a rioter pretending to come to his aid.  Charges have been made!  It is a double edged sword that filming and pasting on line events that have occurred gives notoriety and evidence on which to convict at the same time. Shots taken by the looters themselves; holding their loot and waving to camera as though they had won a Teddy bear at the Fair appear on world ‘net sites, pass understanding, mine anyway!   A print will be nice to hang on the cell wall, one hopes!

Another picture, a still this time, shows a young woman leaping from a first floor window against the background of leaping flames when the carpet shop below her flat was subjected to arson.

She was safely caught by several policemen standing with outstretched arms. A scene from the great blitz of London in the early forties? No, a riot torn Croydon in August 2011.

By the way, The Hornets took a 4-0 thrashing at home from West Ham to maintain the total of 1 point from three games. Things are looking ominous!

An interesting article from last weekend’s paper tells me that British shoppers end up by throwing away £5 billion pounds worth of food a year. It seems we can’t resist the   BOGOF offers; when we did not even really want the first one. The research carried out by LG Electronics also found that 12.5% of people had nothing older than a week in their fridges and others (10%) kept things for a year. 2% had two year stock in theirs. A similar survey on food related illness and deaths has not been made.

I still think back to the perforated zinc meat safes of the 30s and 40s, and scrapping the mould of the cheese! This was all before the microbes had really got their ducks in a row and also the fact that we did not want to starve to death! Oh, and “Best by” labels had not been thought of then either, so we did not know any better.

During writing this I see out of the window in the pouring rain, people in high visibility jackets placing non lethal bollards to simulate less user friendly pavement obstructions such as pavement parked cars and dustbins, whilst in the process of training a blind man and a dog to work together. The dog seemed a little confused and frustrated at times but then us humans are bit that way inclined anyway.

It gave me a warm glow for several reasons, not least the dedication of the person who had invested months into training the dog, only to give it away to someone else. “OK. Pass the next dog, this way please”.

Meanwhile the world stock market values continue to melt away in value like ice cubes in the sun. Pension funds wither. Son of recession gets nearer. This is indeed an unhappy World.

Good news !England cricketers beat India again thus achieving a white wash. An innings and 8 runs on this occasion.

The internal conflict in Libya seems to be coming to an end with Gadaffi threatened in Tripoli by the protestors. What comes next must be worrying if they do succeed, as the country will not become a haven of democracy overnight, if ever. There will be too many personal axes to grind and not a little jockeying for power.

More important to the General public seems to be the happenings in Celebrity Big Brother. Apparently a group of very B. class celebrities vie for public and fellow inmate popularity and approbation in order not to be thrown out of what appears to be a very popular TV programme. This involves all sorts of anti-social behavior, bitcheness and particularly foul language; and the last evenings travesties are reported in the morning newspapers as if it mattered a damn!  Better than reporting looting I suppose. Fills a page with personal insight and character analysis. That should not take very long then.

Having just returned from recovering our car from the garage after its service and MOT, I have added this bill to the annual Tax and Insurance to find that it costs £1.59 a day before I take it out of the garage.  I’m shocked! I  had thought all the costs were down to very high petrol prices, but fortunately the cost per mile will reduce the more miles I drive. I will have to sit down and work out where to go to save money? Even if I don’t want to visit the area chosen!

This money saving idea of mine seems to have a similar fuzzy logic to the theory that loads of “free” phone calls and text’s that only cost £40 a month must be a good mobile phone deal?

This last weekend 28th August has seen some amazing Premiership results. Man U. beat Arsenal 8-2 and Man City beat Spurs 1-5.

The two Manchester teams are at the top with Arsenal forth from the bottom. Spurs are last. Arsenal have lost several of their established players and have an injury list whilst Man City have bought up everyone in sight.

The end of August and still no summer. It has been positively cold on several evenings and we have had a lot of rain.

We have fared better than the East Coast of America however where Hurricane Irene has battered several states and caused an evacuation in New York. Many people are without power and some are still flooded out. At  present it is reckoned that 33 people have lost their lives with many thousands homeless.

Gaddafi has still not been found although reports confirm the rebels control most of the country. His family (wife and three other family members) are reported seeking asylum in Algeria.

September 2011.

It’s virtually the end of summer and the First of September today. The people that know about these things tell us that we have just enjoyed the coldest summer for twenty years. It’s an Indian or nothing now.

After lighting the world for the last 125 years plus, today sees a ban on the production of 60w incandescent light bulbs. This is a move to push the public towards the none too popular energy efficient version.  We are not easy to convince it would seem.  I remember how numerous objections were made with the introduction of fluorescent tubes and some people still want vinyl discs for their music.  With the apparent strong resistance to change it’s strange that the latest mobile phone has been such a must have, some claiming they could not live without their mobi. And it must be the very latest model too!

A report by the secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke today (6th September) reveals that 75% of the recent rioters arrested over the age of 18 had previous offences to their names.  This fact poses so many questions and various suggested conflicting courses of action to stop criminals from re-offending. If past experience is anything to go by then few of the moves will have much merit and have even less success!

September 9th. 100 years ago the first airmail letter was sent from Hendon to King George V at Windsor. The plane; made out of wood, canvas and various other bits someone had found under the bench in the shed, had to wait for the wind to stop blowing before it took off and could not actually find Windsor Great Park; but the letter was delivered eventually.

We now have a very expensive and high tech postal service. Modern jet aircraft, Red Royal mail lorries and vans that speed our letters from point to point, and with automated sorting; plus delivery to our door via a state of the art two wheeled trolley aluminum pulled by a usually bare kneed and busy young man.

I doubt the reliability has improved a great deal though. A week  late Radio Times is a very sad and fairly useless object but it is nice to see the red elastic bands breeding on the pavements!

If you don’t buy your stamps in folders you will see the commemorative issue with photo’s from the actual historic postal event.

The Hornets beat Reading 0-2. The first win of the season and it doubled their point’s total. The only way is up?

Today, September 11th, is one of those days when you always remember what you were doing when a momentous occasion was reported. The event; 10 years ago today, was the Twin Tower destruction in New York when many people died following the terrorist attack by two hijacked air liners, and the day has been known thereafter as 9.11.  Nearly three thousand souls died at the site that day in horrible circumstances.  Others died when a third plane was crashed onto the Pentagon building and a forth crashed, killing everyone when the passengers raided the flight deck.

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then but it is an event that is stuck in my mind as evil. What earthly or heavenly good did it achieve?

With the end of September approaching the world is still in a dire financial state.  Greece is not recovering their debt and it would seem likely to be given more time and cash to recognize that they as a nation are in considerable trouble. They are not the only ones.  Italy is on the brink and the US are being told to “get things right”. What this means in financial terms is a matter for deep debate; and it would seem very shallow action. Whatever way things pan out the UK takes another bashing with share values dropping by £64 billion on Thursday after a minor recovery over the last few weeks. I can’t help thinking a very clever brain is using the situation to their own advantage!

Can the EU survive? Only time and a lot of hardships will tell.

A bizarre and perhaps marker for this 21st century are the allegations that Azerbaijan has offered the Amateur International Boxing Association 9 million dollars in exchange for two gold medals at next years Olympics. AIBA’s president Dr Wu Ching-kuo denies these allegations.

A 6 ton US space vehicle re-entered the atmosphere late Friday / early Saturday morning. The bits that survived burn-up fell over Africa, Canada and Oceans, various. NASA thinks!

If you find a pane of glass broken in the greenhouse do not immediately blame the kids next door or the cat three houses down!

Despite the state we are in the number of asylum seekers rose by 12% last year with another 6,070 arriving in the first three months of this year. With current human rights legislation it is virtually impossible to refuse anyone entry and eventual residency. The only conclusion I can draw is that things must be really bad wherever they came from; or perhaps we are the easiest country to enter in the world! Nowhere else is quite as lax, or quite as full up.

Today, 26th. September, the weather is very nice with the rest of the week apparently even better. Summer at last? I’ll believe it when I see it.

The papers over the last few days have promised a lot of snow in October and another very cold winter. As they had also suggested a hot summer I will not lag the fish pond just yet.

Another promise today was of a terrible and deadly Flu epidemic this autumn. Don’t miss your jab if you qualify, if not, lots of paper handkerchiefs may be in order.

My brother (we both watched the “Blues” in those days for I believe 6 old pence),showed me some Watford F.C. programmes from 1945/6. The single A5 sheet cost 1 penny with the teams on the front and it had the following note on it reverse side.

Lodgings wanted.

Manager Findlay appeals to any supporters who are able to offer accommodation to players returning from the Services, to come along to the ground any morning after 10pm. Or write to him-

Manager, Watford F.C., Vicarage Road.

My how things have changed. It would be difficult to imagine Wayne Rooney in digs down Cardiff Road. In those days even the top players had their wages capped and most received nothing during the summer months. Until 1961 the maximum any player in any league could earn was £20 a week, and in 1945 it would have been nearer £3.  We had Watford players living on our estate who were carrying a hod for several months, and in the winter played in heavy leather boots with a ball that soaked up several times its dry weight from the very muddy pitches. Health & Safety was not an issue in those days but their football life must have been a distant dream whilst they were fighting for their country and their lives.

I doubt that many of those returning heroes would have believed that had they been born 60 odd years later they would not only have missed the war but would have been in with a chance of getting (earning?) £250,000 per week for kicking a waterproof ball wearing designer carpet slippers on a near bowling green pitch surface and living in a £4 million mansion.   Nah!!!

October 2011.

My hopes for an Indian Summer have been answered. Saturday 1st October was at 30 degrees the hottest October day ever recorded. Now on the 3rd October it is still around 27 degrees but we are under threat from a front from the north that has kept Scotland and Ireland wet and cold for a week or so. The sky is still blue, but for how long?

A spate of shootings between warring youth gang members in west London has seen in one instance a teenage mother in her garden hit whilst holding her 11 month baby. Two of her friends were also hit by the shotgun pellets.

Other shootings have been reported and the phrase “respect attack” is being used. How do you define respect in these circumstances? Another enigma that beats me.

None of the girls injured had apparently any direct involvement with the actual dispute. So does that mean it is all right then?

Other recent news is that employees can no longer be dismissed because they have reached the “default retirement age”. Many people cannot afford to retire at their planned 60 or 65 years anyway at the moment and this number could well rise with the cost of such commodities as gas and electricity on the way up again. The progressive raising of the “Normal retirement age” and pension qualification will force the issue to some extent for those born after 1938.

The motorway speed limit is to be raised to 80 mph. All sorts of arguments; pro and anti, have been made. The government say’s it will speed up the economy? Let us hope it is not a case of more speed less haste.

Greece has confessed they are unlikely to be able to pay back on the two bail-outs they have received so will not get another loan. The stock markets immediately fell by 6% in the east and no doubt this will spread across the world. The Greek people in Athens are still rioting against proposed cuts in pensions and the like. They must get real before the whole system breaks down completely.

Is there two much politics and not enough common sense being applied?

As of 4th October heavy fighting around Sirte in Tripoli; the last remaining stronghold of the defunct Gadaffi regime; and possibly the haven of the man himself, continues.

Many non-combatants must have died and been injured as a result of bombing and shelling in the attempts to break the deadlock.

World markets continue to plummet following a delay in a decision to loan even more cash to Greece. Having agreed they cannot honour their present commitments another loan would surely only delay and exacerbate the need for the inevitable painful solution. It would seem that as yet no one can decide what that solution should be.

There are quite a number of ego’s and reputations at risk and humble pie does not seem to appear on the EU menu very frequently.

The 5th October sees us with rain again and quite high winds. The temperature has dropped from a high 30 to a cool 17 degrees centigrade.

The financial news continues to get worse.

Today (6th October), the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee met and determined the Bank Rate would remain 0.5%. In addition they put an extra £75 billion into the very sick economy by means of a quantitative easing programme. This basically means they will order the money to be printed to add to the £200 already printed earlier in the crisis. It does not make the UK any richer, but with no additional assets to back the extra pounds, it seems to me to effectively be a devaluation.

(In actual fact the money will not appear as banknotes but be credited to bank’s and other financial institution’s reserves). This explanation confuses my non financial mind even further, but I am sure they know what they are doing! Or am I?

The bank’s governor said that we are into the most serous financial crisis since the 1930’s and with inflation running at circa 5%, economic growth at a standstill and unemployment close to 1 million, plus not knowing what is going to happen in the next few years, countries can not go on spending what they cannot afford.

Is this not the problem that lit the fuse in property markets in America leading to the original recession? Lending money to people that were never going to be able, or had any intention of repaying it.

It begs the question of how UK Ltd. pays back its own £2 trillion debt? There’s that word with all the zero’s again!

By the 12th October the EU have still not made up their mind how they will approach the massive problem, not only in Greece but all over the Union. The Euro MP’s have however voted on a fairly substantial increase in their personal remunerations!

The papers have been full of the promise that we may be on the edge of an ice age with bitter winters, (one paper claimed for decades) due to a phenomena called La Nina. (The girl).

This weather changing pattern is due to a cooling of sea temperatures in the Eastern Pacific that effect the whole world’s temperatures and rain fall etc.

If it is any consolation, the complementary phenomena named El Nino (The boy), has equally unsettling results. Any changes in the Pacific, due to its enormous expanse, affect the world, indirectly. This is nothing to do with the EU for a change! Even human rights legislation will not change the weather.

Bruce Forsyth was knighted yesterday (12th October), and like him or not, he must be admired for holding down the same job for 70 years. I wish I was as agile as he is at 83. I certainly could not “give you a twirl” without falling over or hurting something!

Slovakia has voted against further bailing out of the Greek economy. The second poorest country in the Euro zone is expected to change their minds in a few days but in the meantime this latest dither puts the frighteners on the markets again.

A little item on real history. (14th October). A standing stone monument has stood near Newport in South Wales for 4 thousand years after its erection in the Bronze age. Known as Bedd Morris, the 6ft stone is being removed to prevent it from being stolen.

It is thought that a careless motorist knocked it over whilst doing a three point turn. It can’t have been a disgruntled Welsh Rugby fan venting his wrath on a dodgy refereeing decision; because they don’t lose to New Zealand in the World Cup until tomorrow morning!

England lost to France last weekend without losing their captain very early in the game. It was a poor display and Stonehenge could well have reaped the benefits of disappointed fans.

A disaster has occurred if you were a Blackberry addict. The system went down due to a fault in the Slough data centre and thousands of entirely dependants went potty.

It seems surprising to me that nearly everyone has a mobile phone clamped to their ear or is nervously checking that they have not missed a vital call. “I am on the train, is Brett back from school?”; as if it could not wait until they got home; but will do their utmost to avoid acknowledging another human being on the street with a simple ‘morning, or nod of the head.

On the same subject but from a different direction I read that yesterday hundreds of thousands of Apple iPhone fanatics queued for in some cases days, to purchase the new iPhon4S. Costing between £500 and £700, depending on the amount of bells and whistles demanded, it sold 1million on its first day; expected to rise to 3 million in the next few days.

Some people must have managed to avoid the recession altogether, or to have prioritised their essentials?

Friday 20th October and the rebel fighters have captured and then apparently assassinated Colonel Gaddafi; caught fleeing from his remaining stronghold in Sirte. His attempt to hide in a sewage pipe was unsuccessful and his body was taken to Mistrata, a town where his troops had unleashed atrocities on captured rebels.

The British government, whilst wishing that he had been brought to face his accusers in court are not set to mourn his death. The Libyan Prime Minister claimed the dictator had died as a result of shots fired during his supporters attempts to free him and his death was unintentional. We will never know!

It now has to be seen if the new leaders in the National Transitional Council can agree on where Libya goes from here. Already there are splits and with the law of the gun having been the only law over the last year or so it will take a lot of diplomacy and compromise to unite the country.

It has been seen that other Middle Eastern countries involved in uprisings this year have not seen universal peace, and the “Arab Spring” revolts have raised other conflicts, particularly in Egypt, where Muslims, backed by the Generals and Coptic Christians have clashed with burning churches and fatalities resulting.

It is to be hoped that the area will not jump out of the frying pan!

What appears to be a world wide protest has arisen against mismanagement by the banks and financiers and over their claimed corruption, and world’s government’s fiscal policies in general. The protest, although claimed to be peaceful has already involved clashes with the police, particularly in Greece. At the moment there is a tented village outside St Paul’s Cathedral that threatens to prevent access by the public to the building. The protesters have claimed they will stay until Christmas.

There is certainly in my view cause for concern and mistrust in general although it seems unlikely a few tents are going to change things a great deal. Some of the protestors are professionals and in my opinion do the cause no good at all.

Meanwhile the EU, in particular France and Germany, continue to prevaricate over actions to be taken to overcome the problems that they should have anticipated and managed years ago.

Perhaps the tents would be more appropriate in Brussels although I am sure there is an EU statute that forbids such action.

This Saturday (22nd October) has seen The Hornets go down 3-2 at Hull City after an injury time goal. 10 points from 13 games; it has not been a great start to the season. They have begun their post Christmas slump really early this year.

Man U. were beaten at home 6-1 by Man City! This must rate as one of the most shocking results of the season, particularly if you are a United supporter.

Sunday (23rd October) .Back to the EU. David Cameron has told the EU leaders they have only days to come up with a solution to the Euro debt problem. A summit is expected to approve yet more bail outs. France and Germany can not agree and the decision will be put back to Wednesday. We are back to the Nero syndrome again; on second thoughts, did we ever lose it?

French President Sarkozy has said that he sees no reason why non Euro countries should be involved in meetings or agreements on its use. It is only at the insistence of P M. Cameron that all 27 EU states will be involved. Sarkozy was reported as saying, “You don’t like the Euro, why do you want to be at our meetings”? The net 11 billion pounds we have paid to the EU coffers this year; which includes the contribution to bail outs, would appear to my non-European mind to be a really excellent reason.

Meanwhile a vote has been made in Parliament on whether the UK electors should be given a referendum chance to vote on leaving the Union. All three party whips instructed their MP’s to vote “no”.

In the main they did, with some making a protest “yes” vote.

It seems to me that the result was the right one.

Although many directives and decisions from Brussels are both unfair; and in some cases plain ridiculous, can we afford to cut our losses and trading opportunities. I believe the answer is no, but we do need to claim back a lot of our autonomy that has been cheerfully and cheaply given away, and not be bound to back countries with a debt only slightly more serious than our own massive deficit.

In my opinion the coalition has shown in this area; as expected in some quarters, that two opposing views do not always produce a sensible consensus. Quite the opposite in fact.

The European Human Rights Act is high on the list of basic opposing policies.

Earlier mentioned protests against world capitalism taking place outside St Paul’s Cathedral have indeed led to its closure to the public for the first time in 70 years. In addition to the blocking of access it has been mentioned in some quarters that all the designer tents and masses of bottled gas pose a safety hazard. Health and Safety rules, OK.

On my return from holiday I expect everything to be sorted, but then I had hoped that the Hornets would be somewhat nearer the top of the table by Christmas so perhaps hope is not enough on its own!!

November 2011.

Back home on 12th November with no really good news to comment on.

Plunging annuity rates are threatening those people about to convert their pension lump sums into an income. The 4.15% drop since June is blamed on the Bank of England’s “quantitative easing”, or devaluation, as some call it!

Thermal imaging cameras have shown that the protestor’s encampment occupying the forecourt at St Paul’s has been mainly abandoned during the night when more comfortable beds have been available at home.

Angela Merkel the German Chancellor has warned that failure to deal with the Euro crisis raises the spectre of European military conflict. Us older ones have heard similar statements from the same part of the continent. She said, “if the Euro fails. Europe fails”. Yet no action of any consequence has resulted from numerous meetings. Nero would have been proud of them all!

The G20 meeting ran true to course with a much wider group of heads of state, including the USA, failing to bring any sense of purpose to the situation and certainly no answers. It is reported that President Obama left disgruntled. Another “glass house” situation?

During the last fortnight the Greek Prime Minister has called for a referendum on leaving the Euro, been forced to change his mind, won a vote of confidence in parliament, and resigned. A new government, called a “crisis coalition” will be formed. They have at least got the name about right.

Meanwhile Italy; the third richest country in the EU, is itself very close to joining Greece in deep financial trouble. Prime Minister Berliusconi has promised to resign this weekend. A vote has been taken to accept a new austerity package that will help, possibly, to reduce the Euro 1.9 trillion debt.

As a billionaire, Senior Berliusconi will have more time to devote to his more publicized pastimes and leave the fiddling to another Nero.

This weekend England beat the World Champions Spain one-nil at Wembley. Not particularly spectacularly, but a professional performance against a very talented team.

The event was somewhat marred by FIFA demanding the players should not wear a Poppy on their strip for Remembrance Day. Yet another instance that alienates moderates way beyond its actual importance.

With the EU insisting that the EU flag be flown at all major sporting events in the UK, even the Olympics, no wonder backs are put up. We all have to display the emblem on our cars, is this not enough?

This years Remembrance Day fell on Friday the Eleventh of the Eleventh, Two Thousand and Eleven. With virtually all the participants in WW1, and many of those that experienced the horrors and privations of the WW11 no longer with us, it seems a little disrespectful and not a little dangerous to let youngsters forget that millions died to give them their liberties and luxuries of today. As Basil said, “Don’t mention the war”.

Another report in the Guardian on food wastage on 15th November tells that we have reduced in three years the value of foodstuffs thrown away to £7.2m. It is calculated that we discard 20% of our purchases that cost us £12b a year and average out at £680 per annum per household.

Another little snippet that may help to show the way we live today refers to debt. A survey shows many families have debts valued at almost half of their annual income; this latter being estimated at £23,600 per annum!

50% of those questioned owed around £10,000 with 43% owing £5,000 on their credit cards. The others had overdrafts or personal loans.

One wonders how these last two items interact?

The Hornets now have a tidy 16 points from 16 games. The post Christmas slump must now become a big worry particularly as their brightest players will be targeted in the New Year and they have no money to say no to a good offer.

In Syria, a five month struggle to rid the country of its hated dictatorship continues, with stories of many deaths of dissenters by armed government troops. It would seem the balance is much more even in Syria than in other Arab countries and although the will to get change is strong the government is equally firm. Sanctions are being placed by their neighbours of the Arab League but no western involvement is seen likely at present.

Friday 18th November brings news that the EU has; after a three year investigation, ruled that water cannot be sold as “healthy”. Furthermore it cannot be advertised as a protection against dehydration. With the euro burning it may well be an application of unhealthy non-hydrating fluid that is required before some twit determines that it does not put out fires either.

The protestors blocking the forecourt to St Paul’s, according to its registrar, continue to scratch and paint graffiti on the Great West door together with sacrilegious slogans on pillars. Both the forecourt and the inside of the cathedral have been used as a toilet. He reports that foul language has been directed at the staff and the noise has interrupted services.

It is a great shame that a historic and sacred building has been affected more by civil disobedience in 2010 than by the German Luftwaffe during the siege on London. What an understanding race we are! Or fools?

It has been ruled in court by Mr. Justice Bean would you believe, that Policemen should ignore the use of foul and abusive language directed at them. Another example of our tolerance? Or weakness?

Although the weather continues to be very mild for the time of year we have had seasonal fog, shutting many airports.

Tour company Thomas Cook has had a close shave with it’s shares dropping by 75%. An extension to its current £100million loan has given it some time to get things right. Valued at £120million with a debt of £1billion this is will be quite a task. The company started in 1841 with a chartered train from Leicester to Loughborough for a temperance meeting and it now has its own airline for its own and other company’s charter flights and provides holidays all over the world.

NASA has launched a space probe to make a soft landing on Mars in eight and a half months time after traveling 354 million miles to get there.

A six wheeled nuclear powered rover vehicle weighing a tonne and named “ Curiosity”, will travel on the surface of the planet collecting and analyzing rock samples and will provide pictures of the terrain. (NASA hopes). The project cost 2.5 billion dollars and was two years late and well over budget. So we are not the only ones then!

I wonder what your ordinary Watfordian would do if a one tonne, six wheeled monster landed in a cloud of rocket smoke and with a loud thump outside Poundland  and navigated up and down the High Street digging holes, puffing out radio activity and pointing its camera at people. I bet several of them would write to the Watford Observer!

On a similar tack and to emphasis that space travel is not yet like hopping on a bus. Just before a manned Russian Soyuz rocket of vintage 1960’s successfully transported replacement crew to the Internatonal Space Station another Russian mission to collect soil samples from the Mar’s moon Phobos failed to get beyond Earth orbit. It still circles the Earth and is likely to crash back in the New Year. Contact has been made but the vehicle does not listen to commands. It is as well that the missions were not reversed!

Our estate continues to suffer house break-ins. With no news from anyone we have to take as many precautions as practical and wait to see who is next. From the rumour; and that is all there is to go on, the house breakers have been very selective in their choice of victim.

A letter has been written to the KRA reference instances of vehicles parked well onto; and sometimes completely on the pavement, making it difficult and dangerous for pedestrians, particularly those who are disabled.

It will be interesting to see what replies; if any, say! I hazard a guess there will be very few.

On the 28th November we have had the first frost of the winter that has persisted beyond breakfast time. The records again a show that we have had the mildest Autumn for many years. Spring flowers are out and a recent nature program on TV showed a Duck with tiny ducklings, just hatched. Will we pay for this? Watch this space.

Meanwhile on the Euro crisis front the Nero’s are all very quiet. Germany and France are in charge, although France would not admit it, and several of the other members countries still continue to live on a knives edge. It is almost as if, if they ignore the problem long enough it will go away. I don’t think so!

November 30th and Iranian rebels have ransacked the UK Embassy in Tehran. Staff will be withdrawn and condemnation is rife. It is all to do with their nuclear program that they say is peacefully directed and whilst most other countries fear that bombs will be the result.

Today sees the 24 hour strike by Public Sector employees over Pensions and retirement age increases. I don’t know if they have examined the Private sector arrangements that in many cases are much less beneficial, even before the Government tightening up due to the recession. As salaries are generally higher for similar jobs in the Public sector and it is the Private sector that pays for them through taxes it will be interesting to see where the sympathies lie if the dispute and action is protracted.

Heathrow has announced that some flights have been diverted to reduce what is going to be some very long delays at Immigration control.

December 2011.

Further on the climate subject. It was confirmed on Thursday December 1st that we have just had the second driest year on record and it could take until 2013; if it decides to rain, for the water levels to recover. Together with the information that Britons are the biggest wasters of water in Europe. We leave taps running and take very long showers and the supply authorities lose billions of gallons via leaks.

Looks as though we may have to resort to the bottled stuff!

The British Embassy staff in Tehran has been recalled and the UK Foreign Secretary has given the staff at the Iranian London Embassy 48 hours to leave. Several European countries have recalled their Ambassadors for discussion. Another knifes edge to sit upon!

Following a warning by the European Monetary Affairs Commissioner that the EU only have ten days to save the Euro it has been admitted by the UK  Treasury that contingency plans are being made for Greece, and possibly Italy and Portugal to leave the Eurozone. Terms such as “chaotic collapse” and “wreaking havoc” have been used to describe the impending situation unless an answer is found. In the meantime, France is now using Germany’s line of “violent European conduct” being a possible result of failure to reach an agreement. (This can also be read as everyone else following the France and Germany line). Another correspondent writes of “summit after summit with no credible solution resulting, just a papering over of the cracks”.

I hope I can later record a satisfactory and fair settlement to a very big problem indeed! Whichever way it goes it is going to cost us a lot of money.

Civil war rages in Syria with thousands of protesting civilians killed by government forces. The Arab League has placed more sanctions in an effort to force an agreement. The Arab Spring has turned out to be somewhat of a nasty winter in some middle east countries. What happens when the deposers are worse than the original oppressors? Start all over again I suppose. A sad world!

Just when I thought I had heard all the ways the country is trying to save money I read on 2nd December that £2m pound a year is the cost of a Government survey by The Office for National Statistics to determine if we are happy or not! It has found that 78% of the people polled said their life “was worth living”. What about the rest of us then? It makes me wonder about my own satisfaction with life when I read of such ridiculous wastes of public money. Helps with the unemployment I suppose.

3rd December and our winter is on its way. Scotland and the North have had some snow and a cold front is promised to us all.

The nights have recently got a lot darker. Our street lights are extinguished at midnight to save money.

The latest news on the Euro and the Union on December 5th comes in a statement from the leaders of Germany and France that the treaty would be renegotiated. All sorts of budgetary restrictions; which if ignored, would incur automatic penalties by member nations, in an effort to prevent them from overspending and mismanaging their finances again, and again!

It seems to boil down to a handing over of nearly all fiscal control to Brussels which does not leave very much for the member states to do. A good deal of concern in the UK is that claims to bypass London as a financial centre would put us in a very poor position as far as world markets are concerned.

Merkel and Sarkozy met to prepare a statement for the meeting of the rest of the Euro countries on Friday. They must all be very apprehensive on the powers these two will pre determine they will lose.

Sarkosy has asked for an end to the “Germanophobia” (his word, not mine) propagated by those who claim he is Merkel’s poodle in the European domination stakes. A French politician has accused Merkel of “Bismark” style policies. Could this pairing qualify as an unholy alliance? Nah! Have we been here before?

It remains to be seen whether the UK will demand renegotiation as a non Euro country or the cabinet split will lose us even more control of our destiny.

More words about our mismanagement of Benefits. It is conceded that £1.6b is claimed per year and paid to those whose claims are fraudulent. We read reports and trials of those claiming for complete disability seen dancing at weddings, refereeing football matches and leading a Rock Group on stage, and even keeping the news quiet that their Granny had died 6 months ago.

Although it goes against the British grain to “grass”, the government is pointing out that these are not victimless crimes. We all; or at least most of us, have to pay for these fraudulent claims through our taxes, and the Agency has joined forces with Crimestoppers to take reports from the public of suspected incidences.

A spate of mindless incidents involving preformed bucket shaped blocks of concrete dropped from Motorway bridges onto passing cars has occurred in and around Essex. One woman was in intensive care, the others all had exceptionally lucky escapes. The charge, should the idiots be found, is attempted murder. Bored and not enough to do I suspect will be the defence if indeed they are caught!

December 6th. One of the UK big Banks is looking at a £40m bill for miss-selling investment to elderly and vulnerable customers. They took the form of long term packages to fund their care. As the average age of the 2,485 purchasers was 83 how more inappropriate could a long term investment be? Although the HSBC was fined £10.5m by the Financial Services Authority I can’t help feeling that as a whole we are not best served by many financial institutions that we trust to advise and give us best options. They would appear to put the deal and its resulting commission above all else.

Our current financial situation must be based to a major percentage on just this fact.

Another fact of the economy is the frightening number of people who take out “Pay Day” loans to get them through the week/month. It would seem that if paid back within a few days the rate is not unreasonable, but with an increasing number of so called “Zombie Debtors”; who only pay back the interest, the accruing interest on the capitol; sometime up four thousand percent, can lead to ruin. The habit of taking out such a loan to pay off Credit Card debts is also on the increase. With a disastrous outcome likely.

This week sees the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet anchored in Pearl Harbour. Without warning, the carrier based airborne attack killed 2,400 sailors, sunk or badly damaged 8 Battleships, 3 Cruisers, 3 Destroyers and several other support vessels together with 188 US airplanes. Their aim was to prevent the fleet from countering the Japanese conquest of the East Indies and Malaysia although at that time the US was not at war with them; or indeed anyone else the Allies were in conflict with.

The next day the US declared war on Japan and also Germany, and this fact no doubt altered the course of WWII in eventual favour of the Allies. Although at this time it is difficult to actually see some of the benefits of being on the winning side!

Another area where it is difficult to see the logic is in UK justice. In a recent ruling four Somalian women were convicted of the unprovoked and vicious assault on a local woman; kicking her in the head and making racist taunts. They were given suspended sentences because they had been drinking “and were not used to being drunk” because of their religion forbade it! One cannot help but wonder what would have been the end result if the same cards had been shuffled and re-dealt?

News today 8th December, is that David Cameron has rejected the proposals put forward by Merkel and Sarkosy for a modified EU treaty saying, “it was not in the UK’s interest”; the loss of control of the London money markets was one of the outcomes. This must have won him a good number of friends and not a few enemies. Sarkosy was reported as saying Cameron had made unacceptable demands.

We can only wait to see what develops, it is never over until…………

Scotland and the North of England have had a night of major storms with much damage to rail and road transport and electricity supplies. With more snow forecast the winds of over 160mph have fortunately died down a little.

Two wind generators were destroyed. One blown down and another caught fire and fell off its tower. Worse is threatened in a few days time.

The Franco German proposal for greater financial control within the EU that was vetoed by David Cameron has certain set the cat amongst the pigeons in UK politics. The Lib Dem part of the coalition has gone from apparently tacit support to direct opposition, with Nick Clegg; the Deputy Prime Minister, being quite vocal in his condemnation. It now begs the issue of whether a UK referendum on leaving the EU will be before or after a General Election. Or are they much the same thing?

It should be remembered that the new format may well help Germany and France to make the decisions for the future but does nothing to overcome the immediate problem of several of the current members being in debt right up to their borders! The likely inclusion of other countries into the union; several of them currently not having too much of their own currency to rub together, seems a little premature. Never mind the quality, feel the width!

Today’s papers on 12th December point out another reason why UK Ltd. is broke. The MOD has spent £1.1billion on armoured vehicles without actually managing to deliver any of them! Noted as an “extraordinary failure” by the “All Party Public Accounts Committee”, it has caused the MOD to seek another £2.8billion from the Treasury to nip out and get some from another source as our troops in Afghanistan are running out. The Taliban does not appear to be suffering from this logistics problem!

Earlier this year the same department had accrued an over budget on other armament and similar projects of £6billion and in some cases would be around 27 years late in delivering. Give or take a year or two that is!

In their defence the minister responsible claims the department has delivered “some” vehicles. Who to believe?

Will this affect their bonuses? Perhaps they should be postdated by a quarter of a century and then put into the MOD budget!

Syria is still a good place not to be in on 14th December. Five thousand of its citizens have died as a result of government armed action to stop the protesters on the streets. Both the UN and Arab League are talking sanctions which seems to not cut a lot of ice with President Bashur al-Assard; and the killings go on.

I saw Father Christmas on his sleigh tonight! Red coat and fur trimmed hat, and a luxuriant white beard. Ok, so he was being towed along Fern Way by a 4 x 4 and his little helpers with their shaken money boxes, Elf and Safety High Visibility jackets and rosy noses, looked frozen to death. But the Round Table; who do it every year, deserve a round of applause. I got a warm glow!

The 16th of December brings news that the UK will after all be allowed to at least observe the talks leading to the new regulations regarding the fiscal operations of the other member countries of the EU.

As £30m is the rumoured demand for the UK’s contribution to another loan to the International Monetary Fund in order to bail out the several defaulting countries it seems only fair that we should at least have a look in.

I fear that all these enormous amounts of money are loans only in name. When will they be paid back, and by whom, and with what interest?

Following this latest little tiff I wonder if there is any point in the UK entering the European Song Contest next year? More “Nil Points” than you could shake a stick at I should think.

The first snow of the year has fallen on Watford this morning. Not enough to be bothered about but it is very cold.

We are hearing of rather too many break-ins on and around the estate. The police are operating all sorts of initiatives to catch the rats but we have heard of no successes to date.

It would appear that many current and previous users of mobile phones cannot cross Cassiobury Park without communicating their whereabouts to muggers by having devices clamped to, and in their ears. This it seems is the ideal way to advertise and donate their G4’s or iPods; or whatever they used to own, to a more deserving cause. It also prevents them from hearing the robbers coming! The police have a presence in the park that may well be better utilized around areas where people do not make their possession quite so available.

The Newsletter tells us that several people have agreed that on-pavement parking on the estate is a problem. The rest have taken no notice whatsoever!

Today18th December marks the last withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

The conflict which began nine and a half years ago in 2003 was as the result of some at best, flawed, information regarding a stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction thought to be held somewhere in the country. All kinds of obstructions were placed before UN Observers visiting likely storage sites and Saddam Hussein, together with the Baath Party; seeking one Arab state, ruled with fear as his baton. This of course is the Western version of affairs and that same baton may well have been the only thing that stopped the two main Muslim factions from annihilating one another.

The US invasion sanctioned by the UN; which was carried out with other nations including the UK, deposed Hussein; and led to his death, and found no WoMD.

The conflict did however lead to the death of 4,500 US troops and injured 40,000.

It is calculated that 104,000 Iraqi’s died in the conflict. 179 UK troops also perished.

Like other Middle East countries it remains to be seen if they can live with themselves in some sort of peace. Unfortunately history is not very positive on this possibility.

I must say that Christmas Day sailed through without too many problems and quite a lot of food eaten; and not a little to drink! There are many parts of this modern world of ours that will not have been able to say the same, or even close to it.

After Christmas (26th. December) and more sectarian bombings to report. 70 killed and 200 injured by bombs placed in Baghdad before Christmas, thought to be by Al Qaeda. Schools, workers and anti corruption agency’s were amongst the targets.

In Nigeria on Christmas Day 27 members of the congregation were killed during a Catholic Christmas service. Boko Haram; a militant Islamic organisation claim the credit?

Today ASLEF are on a 24 hour London Underground stoppage over payments for Boxing Day working. General Secretary Whelan say’s that triple pay and time off in lieu does not meet their demands. Why does this so remind me of the print union’s demands when Watford had the biggest gravure installations in the world?

It is time to end this particular Addendum and set out on another year. Over the last 2 years we have seen lots of momentous occurrences, some of which are going to have an effect on everyone for in some cases the rest of our lives. Others pundits suggest that we may have witnessed a real turning point in the way this ever contracting world of ours will operate in the future. Guesses would not be appropriate, or indeed I fancy very accurate.

It is true however to say that the German and French Heads of State have still not come up with a scheme to save the Euro; it is muted in several quarters that no such arrangement can exist. Others forecast the EU, and particularly the Euro zone will change with possibly less members than at present. Without a doubt, whatever happens, it will affect the UK.

Syria is the current Middle Eastern hotspot with a lot of people dying whilst protesting against their leadership.

Iran is threatening to blockade The Persian Gulf in response to the sanctions placed on it due to its development of Nuclear Weapons; which they deny! This would cut the supply of oil from The Gulf and do no one any favours.

North Korea has a new president; a chip of the old block it seems, and equally as friendly. There are nuclear connotations here too; they already have them and have tested rocket delivery systems. They also have a very large military force that wears large hats and stand in perfectly straight lines on a parade arena!

On a lighter side, The Hornets are just clear of the relegation places in the Championship with 30 points, and the two Manchester teams share the same number of points at the top of the Premiership. The local supporters of other London soccer clubs won’t be quite so happy, although they are not out of the running yet, but if the funny shaped ball is your preference, then the Sarries are riding high in second place…..

A happy to New Year to you all.

These are my interpretations of the facts as I see them and I am not the spokesman for the KRA or anyone else. Please do not publish this effort in part or as a whole without permission.

All correspondence should be sent via the “Contact Us” form.

Alan Orchard,  Saturday, December 31, 2011

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