Social Comment – 2013

Social Comment for Year 2013.

The New Year saw the wheels come off the Hornets surge up the table with a 3-4 defeat at Vicarage Road. They currently stand at 6th in the table with 40 points; a position much above most peoples expectations. They have drawn Manchester City away in the cup next Saturday. That should be interesting!

The 2nd of January sees another eleventh hour compromise arrangement in the US to avoid large tax increases and spending cuts. Although doing nothing to really address the problem it had the effect of helping to boast the UK Stock Market levels. The FTSE has risen above 6,000 for the first time in nearly a year and a half. This fact illustrates how vulnerable we are to other countries financial states and decisions. A failure to reach some sort of agreement in the US would certainly have seen a reversal of the rise in the UK.

Train fares have risen 90% in ten years. The current average increase is 4.2%

The Norovirus continues to rage across the country. Over 1.1million cases are reported and many more unreported. With no treatment available the advice is to stay away from other people and certainly the Doctors Surgery; it will normally run its course in a few days. Observe strict hygiene is another piece of advice.

More ageing show business stars are being arrested. 3rd January. The latest, a well known comedian, follows allegations by two women 25 years ago.

Argentina’s President Christina de Kircher has re-ignited what she sees as a legitimate claim by her country for England to return Las Malvinas. This despite the fact that the residents wish to remain British. A referendum is on line for the residents to make a decision later this year but in the meantime she has placed two adverts in UK papers to push her claim. Not to be outdone The Sun has placed an advert in an Argentinean paper refuting the claim. That should settle that then.

The Hornets can now concentrate on the league as on Saturday 5th January. they were knocked comprehensively out of the FA Cup 3-0 by Manchester City.

The Norovirus continues to spread and cause NHS disruption to add to the seasonal Influenza outbreak.

Today sees the end to the Christmas addition of the Radio Times. Thank goodness! It contained more repeats than our Brussels Sprouts, and sometimes repeats of repeats.

It is mid term for our Coalition Government 7th. January, and promises of not only mutual support and growing respect are countered by cries of unfair, incompetent, plan less and no idea, are made by the opposition. Déjà vu all over again, again?

From today higher wage earners will lose their child benefit. It will affect those households where one person takes home more than £60,000pa, they will lose all their benefits. Where one earner brings home more than £50,000pa they could incur a 65% rate on part of their earnings. It is aimed to save £1.5bn this year.

The Opposition would reduce pension tax relief for top earners to pay for a compulsory job scheme for the long term unemployed. Two pitfalls occur to me. 1. What jobs? Or are they to be given pretend occupations. 2. If they do not take up a job their benefit will be removed. In your dreams! Human Rights and all that. There must be some innovative thinkers in this country somewhere with a formula based on; if you can work and are offered work, you do work, or you do not get paid. Another bright spark will need to plan the way to create proper jobs. Or is it all too late? If you have never worked and not really gone without very much as a result then the task is difficult to say the least.

Both schemes will possibly require so many more government employees on good pensions to run, that some other form of taxation will be needed to fund them. Or am I being really silly?

Afghanistan is in the news again today. 8th January. Another British soldier has been shot and killed by a local militia man with whom he was working. I ask again; is a return to the order of law even possible in this country. Have a lot of brave men died for nothing? Can any such operation succeed, anywhere?

There have been five nights of rioting in Belfast in a month long series; since the restriction on flying the Union Flag on City Hall was passed by the council. Claiming the Unionist politicians who represent them are not in fact representing their Loyalist views, surprise surprise, they continue to throw bottles, fireworks and rocks at the police and overturn or set fire to the occasional police car. The police respond with rubber bullets and water cannons. With some of the rioters reportedly as young as seven years old it can only be a matter of time before a more tragic injury results than the dozens of injured police.

The government won the vote on Benefit payments revision last night 8th January. The increases will be limited to 1% thus addressing the claim that those receiving them were being better treated than the rest of the mainly tax paying public. The scheme will save £4 billion over three years and affect the payments to 10 million people. The expected voting division resulted and followed a lengthy and bad tempered debate in the Commons. The Labour sponsored bill designed to offer guaranteed jobs or no benefits at all was defeated. See 7th January comment.

Another sample of the frauds being committed daily by people claiming benefit that they are not entitled saw a man receive £80,000 over eight years after a back injury left him only able to walk with a stick. He did not mention the fact his back got better and was working in a council leisure centre as a fitness instructor.

There is indication that the world throws away almost as much food as we eat is highlighted today 10th January. 2 billion tons is wasted due to overly strict sell by dates, BOGOF deals and supermarket and consumers fussiness that the items do not look as though they are made out of plastic and are not bent! This is not just a matter of home economics as with millions starving now with a world population of 7 billion, what will be the situation around 2070 when it is estimated the number of mouths to feed reaches 9.4 billion. The UN is concerned. So they should be!!

Another away win 1-2 for the Hornets at high flying Middlesbrough on Saturday 12th January. Keep it up!

The news from Belfast today 13th January is still very bad. Last night saw 39 policemen injured on the 40th day of rioting. These guys are attempting to keep the two factions apart and suffering badly for it. The scenes of violence; often involving young people, are very sad. Someone will die eventually.

The snow came today 14th January. Although it came down for several hours and built up to around two inches it has started to go again on the 15th January. More is promised over the next couple of weeks.

HMV, the High Street sellers of music on disc and tape has gone into receivership. It has been unable to compete with online downloads and similar ways to hear what you want without actually buying the disc. The Trade Mark of the little dog Nipper listening to an old fashioned gramophone horn has been in my memory for 75 years. Will it disappear with the shops? This closure of several large stores is on top of the shutdown of Jessop’s a few day’s back. The move towards buying online continues to destroy retail outlets where you can actually see and try what you think you need.

Today the government release the detail of a new flat rate state pension of £145 per week. The details will no doubt show that it is a rob Peter to Pay Paul arrangement because there certainly are no new pots of money in the coffers.

The debate is to whether the planned referendum on our staying in the EU is actually “what it say’s on the tin”. With a promised further influx of (nobody knows how many) Black Sea migrants next year it is a problem that requires a bit of thought, now! The Prime Minister makes a statement on Friday in Holland on how he sees Britain’s future with the EU. He among many others does not think we should leave altogether, but claw back some of the seemingly ever increasing control by Brussels. It would appear that other Nations involved do not see it his way.

Horse meat has been found in beef burgers on sale (16th January) in some of our Supermarkets. One product contained 28% horse. This has upset a lot of people who see horses as hacks, eating sugar lumps, pulling ploughs and winning races at Ascot; but not between two halves of a burger bun. There is apparently no health risk but the shops concerned have offered money back on any products so far purchased. The shelves have been cleared. Perhaps the French may be interested in a BOGOF deal.

Another High Street retailer has gone into liquidation. Blockbusters the entertainment rental chain with 528 stores will continue trading until their fate is settled.

A helicopter crashed into a building crane in fog yesterday near to Vauxhall railway station killing the pilot and one person on the ground. This type of accident had never happened before despite the considerable aircraft movement in London.

Yet another area of conflict is coming into the news. Militant Islamist’s in Mali are being taken on by the French who say they will continue until political stability and a fair election process has been established, meanwhile they are preventing the attackers from reaching Bamako the Capitol. Yet another Déjà Vu situation. The insurgents are similar too. Can these sorts of forced changes ever be successful? We have seen very few, if any, so far. The UK has provided the French with a pair of transport planes but has declared British troops will not be involved.

In a second Islamic militant operation a British worker has been killed and others injured or taken hostage at a gas terminal in Algeria. The reported 41 mixed nationality hostages are held against the threat to blow up the installation. The area is surrounded by security forces and the situation is described by our foreign secretary as “extremely dangerous”.

The promised snow came today (18th January) with the usual chaos on the rails and at Heathrow. About five inches fell between 10 am and late afternoon. Wales has suffered worst and many people have no power. More snow is promised.

On Saturday 19th January the news from Algeria is still sparse. The Algerian forces went in without forewarning anyone and lives were lost although some hostages were released. At the moment it is thought there are still captives and some of them may be British. They appear to have been taken from the original site. The Prime Minister cancelled his visit and statement in Holland due to the grave situation in North Africa.

The situation in Belfast and Syria is much the same. Little or no progress towards peace in either situation!

A minimum of news reference the Algerian hostage taking on Sunday 20th January informs of a probable 6 deaths of UK personnel. Others are still missing. The other totals are not available and even the figure above is not definite. Our foreign Secretary has said this is not just a North African problem but World Wide and it requires World Wide action.

The snow is back this morning with heavier falls promised for later in the day.

News of casualties is still slowly coming out of Algeria on 22nd January. The latest figures suggest 37 died in total with three Brits and three Americans included. The Algerians were still clearing the site of booby traps yesterday. It is estimated there were more than 30 terrorists involved, most of whom were killed with only a few in custody. In The House of Commons the Prime Minister described the event as a despicable attack. The true reason for the operation is not known. Possibly for ransom or a follow up from the neighbouring Mali problems; although it is thought that it was planned for some time. Or maybe it was just plain terrorism.

Our association Chairwoman has recently resigned.

The snow is currently holding off in our part of country but the North east is very much effected with heavy falls. The temperature dropped to -5 during the night reinforcing the sheet ice in our road which receives no treatment whatsoever. Most schools are closed due to safety considerations allowing the pupils to play in the snow and throw themselves down steep slopes on makeshift toboggans. A lot of parents are involved too.

It has snowed again and is very cold on Thursday 24th January.

The Prime Minister has announced that if his party is re elected in 2015 he will hold a straight yes/no referendum for the UK to stay in the EU in 2018. In the meantime he will attempt to negotiate different terms for our continued membership.

The UK border Control agency has discovered tens of thousands more of illegal immigrants who should not be in this country or be undergoing assessment. My old favourite Déjà Vu again! This should warrant some useful bonuses?

There is a possibility that HMV is not lost. Attempts are being made save the company in some form or other. With the trend to online trading in music it is going to need some pretty inventive thinking to provide a medium/long term rescue.

North Africa is making the headlines again today, 25th January. Syrian refugees continue to pour out into Jordan with hundreds of thousands living in tented camps, whilst the Foreign Office has told UK citizens to get out of Libya as it is unsafe to stay. I thought we were on their side. In Egypt where the Arab Spring started two years ago, it’s second anniversary it being celebrated with rioting involving young people and the police in Cairo.

The expected mayhem took place in Egypt last night (26th January) with 7 protestors and two policemen killed and hundreds injured. The protests are said to be against the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise of power although it has control of parliament so is in fact the government. The faction disputes are very difficult to understand.

Part of the M6 was closed last night with vehicles abandoned due to very heavy but forecast snow whilst in Watford the day broke to 2c degrees and bright sun shine. Floods are forecast for the west side of the country as the snows melts and heavy rain falls. Not a lot new there then!

The UK seems to have reached a situation where we are half way to a triple dip with no growth in the last quarter of 2013 providing a .3 dip in the GDP.

 March 2013

I have just returned from holiday after two months of no TV, no English papers and no access to the Internet. The date is 25th March and I will comment on the social scene I have experienced over the last eight weeks before picking up the UK news.

The first obvious comparison is the temperature here. When we left to return home the thermometer read 38 degrees C; and it had been up to 43 degrees. Zero degrees was the best seen on the way back from Heathrow.

There have been a lot of comparison opportunities, not least the friendliness of the local people; both those we know and love as our “brown cousins” and in fact all the locals who would greet us with a friendly “Good Morning” and a smile as we passed. It may well have been accompanied by the offer of a Taxi or “Come and see my shop”, but our refusal seemed to make no difference. The exception to this friendly greeting came from the North Eastern European holiday makers who would walk three abreast and push you onto the road and avert their eyes to avoid making contact. With the exception of one couple we had no contact, other than a shouldered push off the pavement for the complete eight weeks. I will not name an individual country as I suspect they came from several previous Soviet states. The suggestion is a language difficulty. We claim you hardly need a degree in linguistics to recognise and respond to a smile or friendly nod and not force others off the pavement! Talking of which, the small amount of prepared pavement is now used as a taxi and scooter park so it is quite often necessary for the pedestrian to play with the traffic anyway.

We also met a lot of old friends; always a joy, and make a few new ones too. Two couples surprised us by appearing on the scene after a number of years. One of them we had seen only 2 weeks before and they had said nothing. It was the nearest I have been to speechless in a very long time.

Another new innovation worth a mention is the degree of Eastern posing that now takes place on the beach in the early morning sun. Whilst the cameras, phones and iPads record the events the young girls adopt the Grecian Urn posture, or the Kate Winslett Titanic pose, or from behind; the swimmer on the blocks stance. Sometimes the artistic lines are enhanced with a strip of silk blowing in the wind. The Yoga devotees also demonstrate some of the more advanced positions that should never really be performed on a public beach, particularly whilst wearing a thong.

These same people will visit the shack and chain smoke their very thin cigarettes between mouthfuls of food, much to the delight of other diners. Unfortunately they are not the only ones, despite the No Smoking signs.

In comparison with the transport we experienced we have little to complain about here. There were basically four modes available: Taxi, bus, Tuk-Tuk or hired scooter The Taxi’s have put up their prices and many would rather stand around earning nothing than take on a sensible fare. Which takes us to the buses. These are old coaches and consequently have a very high first step, sometimes as much as two feet high. The last person boarding has to be a bit nimble as at the same time as his foot hits the step a whistle blows and the clutch comes out. The same thing happens when alighting. If you are not quick you will be hit by the back of the door frame as it accelerates away from you. Another interesting and uncomfortable practice is for the driver to go slowly over the “Speed breakers”, or “Sleeping policemen” with his front wheels and then put his foot down to ensure the passengers at the back are lifted of their seats as the rear wheels pass over the not inconsiderable bumps. Good for kidneys, bad for the backs. If the number of standing passengers is above the 25 mark it is even more uncomfortable. Why travel by bus then? Because a typical trip for two is twenty times dearer by Taxi. The buses all have names; so Laxmi and Ganish are Hindu buses, and Mother Teresa and Jesus are Catholic vehicles. Some defy classification altogether.

The third alternative is the three wheeled Tuk-Tuk. These two seater’s are not very comfortable at all and now not a lot cheaper than their big brothers. They are noted for having three modes of turning: left, right and over!

The hired and locally owned scooters are very numerous. It is not unusual to see three adults on the back; the rear one riding side saddle, and a young child standing between the driver’s legs. They also carry amazing amounts of goods on the platform and chairs and even ladders wiz down the road. The tourist drivers vary from the very careful to the complete maniac, some of whom appear never to have driven anything before. They only have to provide some form of identification and not prove their competence to drive. A lady in the local press claimed that tourists should take more care and obey the rules of the road. What laws? We did not notice any. Pot, kettle and black come to mind. A good horn is essential together with a lot of luck. Petrol is dispensed from plastic water bottles standing outside many shops as filling stations are few and far between.

The local press is full of items that mean little to the stranger. Illegal mining of Iron Ore and miners on strike for something or other and lots of claims of corruption at all levels and the reporting of the activities of the local “Cops”. One report is of a burglar who was caught and given a “Good thrashing” by the locals. No ASBO or Community service or suspended sentence. Another scooter driver who knocked down a mother and her child was given “A trashing”. This must be similar, or a typo, but he did not get penalty points, a fine or lose the licence he probably never had. What about their civil liberties then?

The authorities have been engaged in cutting up with a chain saw some of the sunbeds where they deemed there are too many. They also chase the beach sellers and confiscate their wares and a levy is required to get them back; but they seem powerless to get rid of the dozens of dogs on the beach that attack and sometime bite both locals and tourists. With Rabies endemic there follows a series of injections which are not pleasant.

Whilst not being “Twitchers” we love to watch the birds. On the way to the beach we would stand and watch the Bee Eaters hunting, with their beautiful green colour when on their hunting post, and a lovely brown under wing as they darted down. The crested Hoopoe ignored us as he speared his beak into the scrub and Golden Orioles flashed between the bushes. The pretty song of the crested Bul Bul’s was everywhere and a flash of brilliant blue told us we had seen a Kingfisher. At the apartment we watched a Woodpecker with red on its head and beneath its tail. He seemed to be equally at home under a branch as on top. The Eagles with their mewing cry; and the more numerous Kites floated above the beach in lazy circles. They seemed to be revelling in the fact that they could fly; with so little apparent effort.

I have purposely not mentioned the actual location, but those that have been will recognise the events. The location has been described as being like Marmite. You love it or hate it. We love it, despite the rise from £30 to £92 for a visa and another hike in the pipe line. We are also not keen on the levels of security at the airports. It makes the half hour wait at Heathrow seem almost acceptable.

The world news of the day. 25th March surrounds the last minute agreement reached in Brussels to provide the Cyprus banks with a 10 billion Euro bailout thus ensuring they stay in the Euro Zone, for now! The Popular Bank of Cyprus and one other will be wound down and losses of 4.2 billion Euros will be incurred by those with investments of more than the insured 100,000 Euros deposit, these are mainly wealthy Russians. It is calculated these investors could lose 40% of their money. The banks will remain closed for three days in order to prevent a run on cash withdrawals.

The Hornets are currently sitting in 3rd place in the Championship having been in 2nd place earlier in the month. With 4 home and 4 away matches they are two points behind 2nd placed Hull City. With the best Goal Difference in the league they have a play off opportunity in their own hands. Or at their own feet!

The problems in Syria continue with Israel firing on a machine gun post from the Golan Heights after coming under attack from across the border. The rebels fired dozens of mortar shells into central Damascus and the military replied with artillery fire.

During the last few weeks the world has a new Pope. He is Argentinean and his name is Francis. The old Pope retired. Something that had not occurred for several hundred years, his health seemed to have been the main reason.

David Cameron has claimed that Immigrants will lose benefits unless they have a genuine chance of finding work. It is also planned to keep them off the social housing list for two years following their arrival. In the past the UK seems to be unable to follow up on these types of restriction and always bows to the human rights lobby. We will have to wait and see but don’t hold your breath. Further to these problems the Border Agency is under attack for dismal performance and will be scrapped. It will be interesting to see if the two new agencies will have any more teeth, or guts!

The banks have opened in Cyprus today 28th March. for the first time in two weeks but with limitations on the withdrawal levels of 300 Euros per day and no cheques can be cashed. The controls are the most stringent imposed on any of the bailed out countries so far and it is suggested that this is the way future bail outs will be handled.

The Falklands referendum earlier in March amongst the islanders; that decided by a 1513 to 3 majority to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom has been branded illegal and deplorable by Argentina’s Foreign Minister. He has asked the new Argentine Pope Francis to intervene. The British government say there can be no further discussion unless the islanders so wish. So there.

Another blow to justice has been struck by the Appeal Court Judges who have determined that despite them regarding extremist Qatada as “an exceptionally high risk terrorist” he can not be deported to Jordan to face terror charges as it would infringe his human rights. Since entering the country on a false passport in 1993 he has received £600,000 in benefits and countless millions in legal aid and protection. He was even awarded costs for this last effort to achieve justice. He will soon return to his state funded £1,400 per month house. I always thought that it was terrorists who did the infringing of human rights. I must be wrong?

A postscript to this item recalls that in January an attempt to deport an Algerian terrorist suspect “G” was blocked by a top Judge as he was depressed. I suspect this meant the suspect and not the Judge. Again human rights laws and again an admission that the man posed a risk to national security. Surprising it was the same judge that blocked the deportation of Qatada last year.

A Romanian 10 man gang who stole over £1m in a series of shop raids, travelled backwards and forward on EU passports but were eventually caught red handed by the Flying Squad. One of the robbers, who as a group were nor averse to violence on occasions told an officer that “I don’t care. I go to prison to go on holiday”. Praise indeed for our prison service and its hospitality. They are to be sentenced today….A total of 82 years and 10 months holiday has been given by the Judge. He said the gang had entered the UK as EU citizens with the intention of robbing jewellery shops of large amounts of high-quality gold. Most of the proceeds of their robberies have not been recovered.

A benefits Advisor who claimed he was blind was jailed for two and a half years for a benefits fraud of £100,000 after investigators followed him as he drove to work! He had claimed sick pay for six years whilst working as a builder and running a market store. With four houses in Luton he will face a confiscation of assets hearing.

North Korea, with leader Kim Jong Un on 29th March. is objecting to South Korea and America holding joint military exercises to the extent that they now say their rockets are aimed at American targets and they are on a war footing with both countries. Scenes reminiscent of the Nazi mass rallies in Nuremberg in the 30’s have been shown on TV with thousands of organised and orchestrated North Koreans in large hats and neat rows; chanting and gesticulating as one. Mass parades with vehicle mounted missiles remind me of the Russian demonstrations of military power in Red Square during the cold war. The country is very poor despite their possession and apparently successful testing of nuclear devices and the missiles capable of delivering them. They are subject to many sanctions for these reasons. It is a worrying development as they are backed into a corner with apparently no intention of talking.

The teachers unions are holding their Annual conferences and again come promises of strike action and boycotts of government policies. The decisions to strike have not in the recent past been backed to any extent by the rank and file with only just over a quarter actually bothering to vote at all and of those one in five voting against.

It is the coldest Easter since 1984. That is official; not that we need any official confirmation. It is ironic that British Summer Time starts today 31st March. “In like a Lion out like a Polar Bear!”

The Oxford and Cambridge boat race is to be run this afternoon with the Royal Marines providing security against another attention seeking nut cases interruption. There were no interruptions and Oxford won.

Further to the Korean comments above, the Sabre rattling is ongoing with computer generated TV images showing the White House lined up in the cross hairs of a missile before exploding in flames and suggestions that the use of nuclear weaponry against the South or US is a real option. “Firestorms will rain on the Headquarters of  War”. There is even a suggestion that the North may be seeking US aid. Funny way of going about it? The North and South are technically still at war, only a truce resulted in 1953. Whatever that means? Not very much I fancy.

It has been the coldest March for 66 years at an average 2.2degrees Centigrade April 2013

  April 2013

Today, All fools Day, 1st April the government introduce sweeping changes to benefit regulations. Many thousands have opted out of their previous claims and almost as many have said they will be worse off.

The NHS Direct service is to be replaced in one pilot area today. Its successor is Hotline 111. Already it has been damned by warnings of grave concern over its safety.

The “Financial Services Authority” structure changes today when it will split into two new regulatory bodies: the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The FSA has been severely criticized recently for many claimed shortfalls associated with bad practises. Will splitting help? Or will it double the opportunities for errors in judgement?

The Cash Cow speed camera is to be phased out due to the cost of major upgrade work say West Midlands police on 2nd April. Their long term future will be discussed next month.

A policewoman who tripped up a kerb whilst attending a 999 call at a petrol station is suing the garage owner who it is alleged “failed to alert her to the hazard”. It would appear her Chief Constable was not aware of the impending claim and reading between the lines was not too happy. This surely opens up an entirely new can of worms. How will the other emergency services cope? The mind boggles. Do we all need a risk assessment to take place before we attempt the kerb at the other side of the road?

South Korea, not to be outdone by their Northern neighbours, has promised a swift, strong response to any aggressive action.

David Cameron has been snubbed by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande who have rejected an invitation to a meeting to redefine the powers of Brussels with respect to the UK. Cries of arrogance have been made and claims that Germany and France think they rule the EU. Well they do, don’t they?

Foreign aid is again in the news. It appears that we are giving enormous sums of money to Pakistan in aid whilst only 1% of their population actually pay any tax at all. Politician Inram Kahn say that whilst overseas aid pours in there is little incentive to reform. This incentive argument is being used nearer home at the moment.

After the horse meat scandal we are now being told today on 3rd April. That we are being sold cheaper Pollock or Asian Cat Fish under the name of Cod in some supermarkets and restaurants. A campaign group said “the fishing industry was murky and complex”. I have always been suspicious about fish fingers!

North Korea says it will re-commission without delay all facilities at its main nuclear complex; including the reactor. It said the move would bolster North Korea’s nuclear forces “in quality and quantity”. South Korea say’s this will be highly regrettable. The Plutonium producing plant was closed on 2007 as part of a disarmament for aid arrangement. This follows its third nuclear test in February. China urges restraint by both North and South.

The US has located anti missile batteries on Guam so they must be taking seriously the North Korean threats. Here we go again!

A fleet of new buses on the number 10 route together with a shorter wait between them will help to alleviate some of the discomfort of waiting in the cold at the very exposed bus stop in Haines Way.

Red Eagle will provide a four times a week service to the Town Centre from the A405. Unfortunately it does not overcome the lost access to the Lower High Street or Mount Vernon Hospital.

On the subject of bus stops. I note the Watford Junction bus terminal is still reminiscent of a bomb site. How long can a simple project like this take? It must be six months at least to date. Is there a time penalty?

The North Korea government has stepped up its threats today 6th April by warning foreign embassies that they can no longer guarantee their safety and they should evacuate them forthwith. They have moved missiles nearer to the North South border and they threaten to prevent access from the South to the joint industrial area.

Further from North Korea on 9th April, they have given another warning that they will wage a “merciless sacred retaliatory war” if provoked by their enemies. But the our Foreign Office said there was no plan to change its travel advice, which currently does not warn Britons against visiting either South or North Korea. The British embassies in both countries also remain open.

Margaret Thatcher has died of a stroke aged 87. The press has been full of tributes but others have been a lot less generous. The Prime minister fought and won three elections after coming to power in 1979 following the winter of discontent, where in the previous Labour government’s attempt to control inflation they were forced to renege against their social contract and limit public sector wage increases to 5%. The electorate were fed up with uncollected rubbish and even some grave diggers refusal to work, which produced a back log of burials. NHS ancillary workers blockaded hospitals that were forced to admit emergency cases only. Legislation, such as the “In place of strife” which was proposed and abandoned by the previous administration was required and the Thatcher government provided it. This was not popular in many areas but was essential to reduce the 10% and rising inflation levels.

In 1982 the Argentinean government invaded the Falkland Islands and most countries thought that the UK had neither the will nor resources to do anything about it. “The Iron Lady” thought otherwise, and sent a task force 8,000 miles to the South Atlantic. The Islands were recaptured with the loss of many British and Argentinean lives but the pride in the UK victory was enough to ensure that her government was re-elected.

In 1984 an attempt on her life by the IRA with a bomb placed in the hotel housing the Conservative Party Conference killed five and  injured 34. She had made it clear she would never give in to Irish terrorism and her stance against the hunger strikes in the early 1980’s had made her their most hated politician.

Later in 1984 saw another confrontation with the unions. The National Union of Mineworkers this time. A year long strike which led to the nation being reduced to a three day working week was the catalyst for a radical change in industrial relations. Eight employment acts were passed which ended mass picketing and secondary action and removed the “closed shop” and secret ballots were enforced. This action again made her many enemies but helped her government and herself to win a third election. It also closed most of the coal mines!

She resigned as Prime Minister in 1990 after being at the top for eleven and a half years and the first female Prime Minister. The reason for her resignation was her cabinet’s refusal to back her in a leadership contest.

Love or hate her, she has left her mark on the British political scene. Her conviction and iron will are summed up by her statement at a party conference. “The Lady is not for turning!”

Greenwood Drive has had part of its paving stones replaced with tarmac. Enormous tipper lorries deposited the materials and what seemed like dozens of boys from the black stuff armed with rakes and compactors descended on the excavated sections. I have not had the opportunity to walk on it yet but it must be better than the assault course named Fern Way.

Return of ex Chairman. I have no detail as yet but understand the resigned chairman before last has returned to the KRA chair. Mr Swain I believe.

North Korea continues to dominate the international news on the 13th April. The G8 ministers meeting in London last week have asked them to calm down and the US have met with China and Japan, and for a change the Chinese have agreed that something should be done and that the Korean peninsula should become denuclearised. This does not entirely fit in with the North Korean aims and aspirations; so the South, China and Japan, together with the US bases in the Pacific have all put anti missile missile batteries on alert to destroy almost anything that is launched from the North. Whilst the North in turn threatens a test launch and a possible further nuclear test. Further sanctions are threatened on top of the already stringent restrictions. For a nation in severe poverty it is interesting to ponder where they have obtained the knowledge and funds to become a nuclear power and arm themselves up to the teeth?

90% of the Heroin in the UK comes from Afghanistan, is the report,  and this same country provides 83% of the world’s Opium. With the loss of around 2,500 British and American lives over the last 11 years it must surely give room for considerable disquiet as to what will happen when the remainder are withdrawn and they police themselves. The argument is that with the profit from producing poppies far outweighing the profit from producing wheat, the only way to turn the tide is for the demand to be reduced. With current legislation and attitudes in this country I don’t think this is very likely, do you?

Two bombs were set off during the Boston Marathon on 16th April and it has since been determined that three persons; including an eight year old boy died, and 176 were injured; some 17 critically. Many of the injuries were to the lower body and legs and some resulted in the loss of limbs. The latest news on the 17th April is that the devices were constructed in metal pressure cookers which were packed with shards of metal, nails and ball bearings. No organisation has claimed responsibility and the FBI say, ”The range of suspects and motives remains wide open. It could be a person or persons”. The safety implications for the London Marathon to be run this Sunday have insured that extra security is provided over the 26 miles of its route. A 30 second silence will precede the start and competitors are being urged to wear black armbands as a mark of respect for those that died and were injured in Boston. No doubt more information will become available over the next few days.

The Burtenshaws of Borough Council fame are to retire from public service and move nearer to their family. They have been councillors for a very long time and have seen many changes. Some no doubt influenced by themselves. Alan was one of the few people who bothered to write to the Newsletter editor whilst I was serving, for which I was grateful. Good luck Burtenshaws. Ellie and Alan.

The Hornets have virtually blown their chances of automatic promotion to the Premiership. Several poor results have left them in third place but with every chance of being in the play offs. Unless they can get back to their winning form then we may have to wait until the season after next to see the big clubs at Vicarage Road.

The funeral service of Margaret Thatcher in St Paul’s has taken place and been accompanied by several protests. Some were against the cost of the actual operation and others just unhappy that she should be honoured in this way, or indeed in any way at all. Love her or hate her, she was a remarkable woman. She was her own person and would not bend. This may be a pattern that some of our current leaders should adopt, particularly reference Brussels!

The latest from Boston on 19April. is that two brothers of Chechen origin had been identified by means as yet not explained and following the shooting dead of a police officer at MIT they high jacked a car and drove off with the driver; later released. In the police chase which followed another policeman was seriously injured and bombs were thrown. A gun battle early on Friday morning in Watertown ensued in which it is thought one of the suspects died and the other one escaped. Some of the public transport has been suspended and the Massachusetts governor has said, “Stay indoors with the doors locked.” The saga continues!

Over 800 cases of measles have been recorded in and around Swansea. This outbreak or similar, had been forecast as the result of parents refusing MMR vaccinations in 1998 due to a fear they contributed to Autism. Last weekend 2,500 vaccinations took place and it is expected this weekend many more will be taken up. It is believed that a man has died due to the disease.

The second Boston bomber was captured on 19th April. The 19 year old student was arrested after being found hiding in a boat on a drive way. The arrest was not achieved without a lot a of gun fire. He is wounded and in hospital. Boston rejoices!

The Hornets came out of their shell to beat their opponents 4-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday 20th April and place themselves as mathematical possibilities for automatic promotion. It will rely on two wins for the Horns and Hull City going into melt down.

China has been hit with an earthquake in YA’AN, Sichuan Province, killing 157 people and injuring nearly 2,600. This magnitude 6.6 quake was close to where the previous much worse incident 3 years ago killed almost 70,000 people.

The London Marathon started from Blackheath at 09.00 on the 21st April, with the 36,000 runners holding a 30 second silence as a tribute to those who were killed and injured in the Boston event of last Monday. A Twitter campaign is suggesting the runners hold a hand to their heart as they cross the finish line.

The Syrian conflict continues 22nd April, with the US stepping up their “non lethal aid” by £80m to the Nationalists; or rebels or revolutionaries, depending from which side of the conflict you view it. The UN estimate that 70,000 on both sides have died during the conflict and current reports suggest this sum is increasing by the hour. There seems to be no diplomacy that will either persuade the government to capitulate or the anti government forces to stop trying to make them. In addition to the atrocious loss of life, many thousands of refugees have fled the country.

The measles epidemic is set to spread the public health experts warn on 25th April. With total cases the highest for 18 years it is calculated that at the least 1 million youngsters need to be immunised in order to reduce the risk of a country wide epidemic at an initial cost of £20 million. It would appear that this; amongst other childhood diseases, is more dangerous than we as youngsters were told. The main difference is perhaps that in those days there were no vaccines available! You either got better, or you didn’t.

Two days of sunshine and temperatures in the twenties have been both welcome and unusual but the wheels are forecast to come off at the weekend.

A new deal with Jordan is the latest ploy to expel the extremist Muslim cleric Abu Qatada. The Court of Appeal had blocked the Home Secretary’s attempts to challenge the European ruling of extradition to Jordan; where he is charged with terrorism. It seems they fear that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him. Failing this latest effort then he will stay in the UK and go back on benefits in his state provided housing with his family. I suppose it would be pointless asking how he; with a false passport, and others with criminal convictions are allowed in to the country in the first place. It appears these people have a lot more so called rights than most of the rest of us.

Liverpool footballer Louis Suarez has received a 10 match ban for biting another player during a recent game. The event was not punished by the referee at the time but was seen by everyone else. Suarez feels he is being victimised despite the fact it is his second recent misdemeanour. He served an 8 match ban for racially abusing a Manchester United player last season for which he was additionally fined £40,000. Added to the latest ban he has been fined £240,000 by his club which is all of two weeks wages. You have to feel sorry for the man, don’t you? The human rights lobby must have an “in” here surely! The moral of this story? If you are going to try to eat someone on a football pitch, don’t do it on Sky!

The surviving Boston Bomber has told his interrogators that the bomb detonated during the police chase was destined for Times Square in New York. 26th April. Their high jacked car ran out of petrol and the driver made his escape at the petrol station and alerted the police. The boy’s mother say’s she regretted moving her them to America. “Why did I ever go there? I thought America is going to protect us and our kids, it is going to be safe”.

The UK has avoided a triple dip in our economy with a 0.3 per cent expansion. This according to the Chancellor is “an encouraging sign the economy is healing”. It is generally agreed that there is long way to go yet.

Evidence of the use of chemical warfare in Syria has allegedly been found by both Britain and the USA. Our government say’s the report is “limited but persuasive” and it does not accuse either the government or rebels specifically. Nerve agent Sarin is the substance identified. The US has determined that the use of chemical warfare was the Red line over which they would have to consider military intervention. It is to be hoped that the weapons intelligence is a little bit better than the last time it was acted on!

The Hornets have earned another chance to get into the Premiership without the lottery of a playoff. Last Friday 26th April. they won away and Hull lost. This places them one point behind Hull with one game each to play. A draw for the Horns will be enough if Hull loose, or a win if Hull draw will achieve the same result. It couldn’t be much closer.

The Boeing Dreamliner 787 has flown again more than three months after the entire fleet was grounded in the wake of the meltdown of the batteries aboard two aircraft in January. A modification has been applied to 10 aircraft and the remainder will follow, which will, “reduce the risk of a battery fire”. That must be good news! Ethiopian Airlines has resumed their Dreamliner service carrying a plane full of passengers which included Boeing vice president Randy Tinseth, from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. Putting his body where his mouth is?

A vaccination against Shingles is to be offered to older people in the autumn. For those that have already suffered the disease it is cold comfort but a great thing for those that are still at risk. It is nasty and sometimes a cause of permanent nerve pain.

       May 2013

The local elections took place on Thursday 2nd May to the usual flurry of flyers through the door. No change locally but there was a shift in emphasis across the country. UKIP claim they had 25% of the votes wherever they posted a candidate and won a few seats. The Lib Dems were the main sufferers with the Conservatives not far behind.

Israel has bombarded Damascus targeting “Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hizbollah” and stored in a military research centre in Jamraya. Meanwhile continued reports of civilian massacres appear on the TV and in the newspapers.

The Hornets finally blew their opportunity to get automatic promotion with a 1-2 loss to Leeds on Saturday 4th May. The game was a tragedy of events from the start. Almunia the first choice goalkeeper was withdrawn during the warm up and stand-in Bond was taken off injured midway through the first half following a collision with team mate Anya which resulted in a broken nose and came from a push from a Leeds attacker. The third choice 19 year old keeper was out of his depth and contributed to both the Leeds goals. Hull drew with Cardiff so the Horns could have gone up with a win but it was not to be.  The play-off’s start on Thursday. Good luck.

Just prior to the match we had an electrical storm with lashings of rain and hailstones which left a half inch coating on the patio. Was this an omen?

More and more ageing entertainment stars, some of whom are well loved household names are being charged with various immoral acts. The charges result from alleged acts carried out thirty and forty years ago. Without in anyway condoning the acts if proved factual, it seems wrong to me that their names are published before a trial and those of their accusers are not mentioned. Surely anonymity should work in both directions until a trial determines guilt or otherwise. Who next, Basil Brush? Or perhaps Sooty, not Sweep surely!

Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United today. May 8th. After 27 years of managing what is possibly the most well known football club in the world. He has won numerous league titles and cups, even the European Cup more than once. It is thought his impending hip operation had a large effect on his decision as until recently there was no indication he would stand down. He will sit on the MUFC board and no doubt still have considerable influence. Current Everton manager David Moyes is the bookies favourite to become the new manager.

The Queens speech included a new immigration bill that would aim to “ensure that this country attracts people who will contribute, and deter those who will not”. Should it be successfully passed it will prevent illegal immigrants getting driving licences and force private landlords to check on their tenant’s immigration status, short-term migrants will have to pay for NHS treatment.

Amongst other bills proposed the High speed rail links will be given legal support for land purchase and a cap will be put on social care, a single tier pension of £144 will be provided. She did not add the proviso that the EU or Court of Civil Rights will almost certainly be a big factor in the final result. The Prince of Wales together with the Duchess of Cornwall attended the ceremony for the first time since 1996.

Add to this the Queens decision to not attend herself; but for the first time since 1971 (bar one occasion), send Prince Charles to represent her at the Commonwealth Conference in Sri Lanka and the rumours abound of another retirement.

The Hornets came good on Sunday 12th April. Having lost their away leg in the Premiership play-offs last Thursday they entertained Leicester at Vicarage Road one goal down. They were soon on level terms and even sooner one goal down again. Pulling level in the second half they were heading for extra time when in the 96th minute a penalty was awarded against them. Here is where the minor miracle occurred! The Watford goalkeeper Almunia made a double save and the ball was moved up the field by Anya and Cassetti, Forestieri crossed and Hogg headed back across the goal for Deeney to volley into the net. From near disaster in 96 minutes to a famous win in the 97th. The final is at Wembley in a fortnight.

Syria are being blamed by Turkey for several bombs that have exploded on their side of the border. There appears to be no sight of an end of the multitude of deaths and the refugee problem.

The long time coming bus terminal at the junction seems to be in operation at last. A journey to North Watford from the town now involves two U turns within the area. There is not a lot of room for error or a rogue parked car!

Archer’s old shop is to become a Doctor’s surgery. No detail on its final occupants is to hand but it seems likely they won’t be dispensing birthday cards and cat litter.

Today’s papers have picked up on a story that our St Georges Red Cross flag will not be flown in a small Somerset town as it may offend the 0.28% Muslim population. In fairness it would appear that they (the Muslims) don’t seem to care either way and don’t see it as a covert plot to restart the Crusades all over again in the West Country. The banning was proposed by a councillor who is a university lecturer and it will last for 20 years; it has been agreed a new flag will not be purchased. The Union flag; which is composed of all the home nations’ crosses will be flown instead on Armistice Day. Sneaky eh?

Another “can’t believe it” happening is reported from Tower Hamlets where councillors have been, “allegedly”, abused verbally by their fellow councillors. But as they do it in Bengali, only they recognise it as “intimidating, violent and threatening”. Not a lot to say really except, “I don’t really understand it either!”

70 years ago today 19 Lancaster Bombers took off on the evening of the 16th May from RAF Skampton. They were designated 617 Squadron later to be known as the Dam busters. The sortie was named Operation Chastise and was designed to take out three massive dams in Germany’s industrial Ruhr valley. The destruction was to be achieved by bouncing spinning bombs from low flying aircraft across the net defences placed by the Germans. If the height and speed was correct the devices would sink below the surface and detonate against the dam wall. With the need to fly as low as 100 feet, the aircraft were not difficult targets for the heavy defences provided. It is of local interest that development work on the bomb was carried out at The Building Research Station in Bucknalls Lane where a scale model was built of one of the damns and tests with explosives proved the feasibility of Barnes Wallis’s idea.

A ceremony celebrating the operation was held at RAF Skampton today with the only remaining UK based Lancaster making a flypast and the only three survivors from the entire crews that manned the planes on that night 70 years ago today, one of whom was the bomb aimer who laid in the nose of the plane and guided his pilot to the target

70 years ago today 11 Lancaster Bombers returned to RAF Scampton on 17th May. 8 Planes and 53 brave airmen were lost in total on the raid with 5 planes and 34 men never actually reaching the target. The five aircraft that managed to reach the targets destroyed two of the dams and damaged the third; which caused untold disruption in the Germans industrial war capacity. In addition to the bravery of our airman the celebration included the actual bomber. 7,377 Lancaster’s were constructed and they took part in many of the massive offensives against the Germans including the assault on the V1 and V2 facilities in Peenemunde in 1943. That there are only three flying examples left in the entire world is to be regretted.

David Beckham has played his last game of football for his French club on 18th May. He is possibly the most recognised man on the planet and has had high and lows in his career that the world has shared. He will be missed for his sometimes majestic skills and remembered for his eccentric dress sense and hair styling. He also played a large part in getting the 2012 Olympic Games to London.

It is confirmed that John Swain has returned as KRA Chairman and has brought with him a new Vice Chairwoman by the name of Mel Parker. We also have a new Fundraising Secretary named Sam Wood. 3 new street reps have come forward to fill the 2 year shortfall.

The weather is again a point of interest. On 22nd May it was determined we have had the coldest spring for 30 years. Many indigenous animals, birds and insects are suffering big losses in their numbers and some like the Hedgehog are now actually threatened with extinction. The reasons given are on one hand this extremely unseasonable weather and on the other, global warming. (You pay’s yer money!) Another possibility, and it gets my vote, is loss of environment.

A perhaps connected subject is the current lack of Bees. The fruit trees have blossomed and not a flying insect in sight. The fruit crop, and more immediately the hatching nestlings are in for a hard time.

Gay marriage seems to be to main cause for governmental concern and time at present. Without offering a for or against opinion I do feel there are more important things to get worked up about at the moment.

The National Health Service is approaching melt down we are told from some quarters. This is seen particularly in the apparent crisis in Hospital Emergency Departments due to so many people making a visit where there is no real medical emergency. Allegedly due to several factors: The previous loss of out of hours call-out provision from GP’s, the new 111 help line, the NHS cutbacks and the fact that we are all living longer.

The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal goes to Turkey to be scrapped this week. Originally costing £220m it was the most expensive British warship ever. If it has to be designated scrap why not let it be British scrap? There are surely a few dock areas around the country where it could have been dismantled using the labour otherwise unemployed. If Turkey can make a profit from the exercise then it should not be beyond the skill of our own workforce to do the same.

The Prime Minister was on the Continent discussing the means of forcing some of the enormous US companies to pay tax for business gains in the UK at UK rates and not allow them to be registered in other EU countries with lower rates. Amazon, Starbucks and Google were the three main targets and they say it is tax avoidance, not evasion. Others introduce the words “moral responsibility”! 23rd May.

The PM’s visit was interrupted by the news that an off duty soldier had been attacked by two Islamic terrorists wielding machetes and a gun, who had attempted to behead him,. The attack occurred near to the army barracks at Woolwich in South East London. One of the attackers told witnesses “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.” And “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Apparently neither of the men made efforts to escape until the armed police arrived, but both were shot and injured when they threatened the arresting armed officers during their subsequent arrest. Both of the perpetrators were known by M15, one, a British citizen of Nigerian descent became obsessed with Islamic extremism as a boy and was moved by his parents in order to protect him.

Bystanders were praised by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London for their attempts to assist the soldier who had reportedly firstly been run down by car. The Prime Minister has chaired two meetings of COBRA the government emergency response committee. Many searches, both local and further a field were made by the police and arrests made. Evening disturbances occurred in the South East of England with protestors throwing bottles at the police and there were reports of attacks on several mosques.

The “Help the Heroes” web site crashed yesterday due to the surge of donations. Lee Rigby is reported as wearing their T-Shirt when he was attacked.

The seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the North Atlantic is remembered today. 24th May. The efforts to feed and supply war materials to the UK from across the Atlantic were both heroic and costly with 72,000 merchant seamen and sailors losing their lives in the loss of 3,500 allied merchant ships and 175 warships, with their main adversaries being German U-Boats (submarines), 783 of which were sunk with the loss of 30,000 German lives. With Britain requiring more than a million tons of imported materials per week in order to survive and wage war in Europe, North Africa and the Far East. it was possibly the single most important engagement of the conflict. Winston Churchill was to record “The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war. Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome”.

Further to the horrendous attack of yesterday information regarding the victim tells of him being an Afghan veteran with a two year old son. Radical cleric Anjem Choudary has stated that one of the murderers was “making his voice heard in blood”, he further said he was “shocked” by the murder of the soldier in Woolwich, but he refused to condemn the attack and said one of the assassins had explained why he had carried out the attack to helpers at the site. “Not many Muslims can disagree with what was said” he answered on Newsnight. The news media has been condemned in several reports for giving airtime to militant Islamic propaganda.

From the horrendous to the ridiculous is a media report on the warning an 86 year old lady was given by 3 police officers to not provide a Double Gloucester cheese to roll down Coopers Hill in the 200 year plus annual event. They told her she would be wholly responsible for anyone that received any injury in trying to catch the cheese. The event continues despite it being unofficial since 2009 when Health & Safety decided the contestants were not able to judge for themselves if the risk was worth the fun. Diana Smart branded the warning as “heavy handed and Crackers”.

A British Airways jet made an emergency landing at Heathrow this morning. It returned after a fire in an engine but everyone was evacuated safely. Just a reminder that accidents can happen even with the best regulated arrangements. Perhaps a risk assessment had not been carried out, which would have surely determined that leaving the ground to travel at 500 mph in an aluminium tube with a blow lamp under each wing at around 6 miles high was definitely a “no go”, even wearing a high visibility jacket!

The Hornet’s came unstuck at Wembley today 27th May where they were outplayed for most of the Premiership play off final. A penalty towards the end of the game settled it although extra time did not suggest they would score if they played all night. The game was called the most valuable game ever with the rewards to the winner amounting to over £100m. For the Hornets its back to square one, don’t pass go, don’t collect £100m!

Several arrests have been made associated with the massacre of last week. 26th May. All have been bailed to hopefully reappear in court. There have been many instances of attacks on Mosques and Muslims with several arrests being made. There are also claims that one of the attackers was the subject of a recruitment effort by UK. Security’s MI5 and that he had been deported from Kenya for terrorist activities associated with Somalia in 2010. Social networks again carry vitriol from both sides and the coalition is divided over whether these facilities should be monitored. This division does not help the situation in general and is indicative of the apparent aim to be fair to the point of complete ineffectiveness. A situation that I am sure has not gone unnoticed!

Prison warders have been taken hostage by three Muslim extremists 28th May. at Full Sutton high security prison. Both were released, with the warder receiving a broken cheek bone and the female warder suffering wounds to her arms. The possible reason given is that an Imam had asked the Muslim inmates to pray for the murdered soldier. Counter Terrorists police are investigating the incident.

Two memorials have been defaced with red paint spray. “The Bomber Command” monument in Green Park had ISLAM spelled out on its base and the “Animals at War” memorial in Park Lane sprayed across the engraved message. It is not known if the damage was done by Fundamentalists, right wingers attempting to heighten the anti Islam feelings or simply mindless vandals. Another fine choice to make!

The war in Syria moved up a stage yesterday 28th May when the EU decided to lift the embargo on weapons shipments to the rebels. Which rebels was not spelled out and as some of them would appear to be Al Qaeda sympathisers it could well be a way of eventually getting our own back! Only the UK and France were really in favour of lifting the ban. The move followed an alleged massacre by government troops of over 200 civilians although it is very difficult to sort out the atrocities from the propaganda.

Meanwhile Russia is to send anti aircraft missiles to Assad’s government troops. Almost sounds like war by proxy. The Libyan’s are also getting in on the act on the rebels/freedom fighters side. Israel continues to threaten and the Lebanon also shows anger after Beirut received a rocket assault on Hezbollah Shia militants. It is getting harder and harder to determine who is on whose side and if the past; but recent experiences are anything to go by, we will choose the wrong one.

The BA plane that was forced to make an emergency landing at Heath row with smoke coming from its engines had been in for a service and someone had not latched the engine covers. They flew off as the take off was in progress, some hitting the fuselage and one rupturing an internal fuel line. Provision for checks both by the ground staff and by the flight crew were very obviously not adhered to! 31st January.

Both of the men involved in massacring the off duty soldier on the 24th. of this month have been released from hospital and arrested. Several more persons have been arrested and released on bail for associated crimes. This picture of radicals arrests appears to be repeated around the world.

The Russians have delivered the anti aircraft defence missiles they promised to the Syrian government forces.

 June 2013

The 2nd of June marks the 60th. Anniversary of our Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. Virtually the whole country, or at least those that had a television service in those days watched in darkened front rooms as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled in the state coach to Westminster Abbey, witnessed the crowning ceremony first hand and followed her and her consort back along the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

Hundreds of thousands lined the route and greeted her as she appeared on the palace balcony. I am told that even in black and white the spectacle was magnificent. I was travelling up to Birmingham to get demobbed from the RAF so only later saw edited recordings. On the plus side I did not have to stand guard on a pavement along the route for many hours waiting for the few seconds view from ground level.

Summer seems to have arrived at last, for at least for a few days. This comes just after the official confirmation that this spring has been the coldest one for 50 years. It tempted us to take a walk; first along Fern Way where unfortunately the council seem to have run out of white crosses to mark the trip hazards. We narrowly missed being run down by a silent cyclist in the alley whilst avoiding the heaps of “ex dog”, before turning into the cemetery where a motorist came close to backing into us whilst we stood on the grass. We passed the sign on the inside of the gates welcoming us to North Watford Cemetery and filtering around the vehicles pulled over by the police for speeding, we crossed the A41 with little trouble. It is amazing just how hazardous and interesting life is these days!

Tougher fines for driving offences were announced today. 5th.June. The Police will the have the authority to levy instant fines for tail gating, refusing to move from the centre lane and using a mobile phone whilst driving. These three items are apparently the three most detested offences by other road users. The move gets my vote.

Barbara Bunce is 100 years old today 6th June and is celebrating the event at home in Briar Road on the 10th with friends and family.

A lot of things have happened in her life time. Two World Wars for example, although she would not claim to remember much about the first one. WWII came when she was 26 years old and like others of her age she suffered terrors and privations and severe shortages. Since then she has seen her country involved in many conflicts, with among others the Middle East, Vietnam, Korea, Ireland, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands and not forgetting the long running Cold War involving the USSR. Iraq was the last large scale operation and Afghanistan is the current area of conflict.

WE have also revised our methods of waging war during the past 100 years. During Barbara’s first four years the First World War saw the use of chemical weapons in the form of poisonous gas on the battle fields and millions dying as armies went face to face in trench warfare in France, bombarded by all manner of artillery. Millions died as a result and many who returned were damaged beyond recovery. With the development of military aircraft and rocketry many variations were invented for delivering explosive, incendiary, chemical and eventually nuclear devices. Nowhere in the world was safe to the extent that “MAD” was used as a strategy. Mutually Assured Destruction brought a whole new dimension to aggression and fear. Do it and you die! Currently, an unmanned drone aircraft can be controlled from the UK to attack targets in Afghanistan or a Cruise missile will home in on a particular building having been launched from below the sea from a submarine many miles away.

Barbara has lived through four reigns, seen three royal accessions to the UK throne, two Coronations and an abdication. She was 13 years old when our present Queen Elizabeth was born.

In 1913 the British Commonwealth was a somewhat larger collection of UK controlled countries with giants such as South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand governed through the British parliament. Now consisting of 54 independent member countries it has much looser bonds.  Much of the world atlas had a pink overlay in those days and we had a Navy to defend it. Not much remains of the Commonwealth now, except as a kind of club, and the Navy has also virtually disappeared.

One of the biggest changes in the last 100 years has occurred in transport. The first commercial flight took place around the time of Barbara’s birth and steam driven road vehicles; particularly of the commercial variety were common, the petrol models were in their infancy. Electric trams had been introduced into London only 10 years earlier and competed with dangerous looking buses and horse drawn vehicles various. The “sit up and beg” bikes were numerous but most people used “shanks pony”. Things have speeded up a little since those early days. Intercontinental airplanes fly at circa 600 mph and can travel half way round the world in one leap with up to 525 passengers in air-conditioned pressurised semi comfort. Every man and his dog now owns a car, each adding to the general pollution and alleged global warming. Trams once removed from service as obsolete are now making a return in some cities.

Barbara’s early best expectations of a 65 mile trip to the seaside by charabanc or train have now been over taken by man travelling on rocket propelled journeys to the moon, or spending several months orbiting in a space station, making one pass at 260 miles above the Earth every 90 minutes.

Man has also sent a vehicle to land on Mars and Explorer probes to leave the Universe.

When Barbara was born her parents would almost certainly not have had a phone or car. Television was yet to be invented; the BBC did not start broadcasting wireless until 1922. (2LO). Even then reception was confined to the use of a crystal set and cat’s whisker receiver with earphones. Radio has advanced through her life time via AM, FM, FM stereo to Digital DAB. Early in her life the radio sets got bigger and bigger and it is only in the last forty years or so they have got smaller and smaller until now they share a home with a camera and mobile phone in your pocket.

Public television broadcasts started in 1936. After a break for the War TV broadcasting restarted in 1946. 1953 saw the tremendous growth of viewers. A nine inch screen shaped like a goldfish bowl was standard for the Coronation of our present Queen Elizabeth and also the kick start TV was looking for; every one and his dog was crammed in front of a relatively few receivers.

ITV opened in 1955 with UHF transmissions which required everyone without a new set to purchase the now ubiquitous “set top Box” and a new aerial. In 1962 stereo sound became an option, 1967 saw satellite programs come on line. Both the BBC and ITV introduced colour transmission in 1969.

Since this date we have been bombarded with Satellite programme providers, cable providers, High Definition and stereo pictures. Set top boxes abound, with recorders and devices to play programs that have been missed and cut to out adverts you don’t want to see. All this has happened in Barbara’s life time. What next?

One error above! A set top box is no longer an option as the latest mark of TV’s are only an inch or so deep compared with their extremely large predecessors. This said they are now the screen is 40 inches plus diagonally. And flat! The various add on devices now stand under the set and glow with little red eyes waiting for a command from a handset controller.

Under the heading of domestic aids and facilities comes a multitude of innovation in this last one hundred years. The home of 1913 may well have had no electricity. It would most likely had town gas for lighting and a coal fired range for cooking and heating water. Candles and candle sticks were carried upstairs to light you to bed. Bathrooms were not universally provided and a tin bath in front of the range was often the only means; short of a wash down from the cold tap at the kitchen sink, of keeping oneself reasonably clean.

In the kitchen there were few if any housewife aids. Electric irons were rare and only for those who had the “electric”. They were plugged into an adaptor in the ceiling light, often pulling the fitting down together with a portion of ceiling. Few if any refrigerators were in use domestically due to cost and size, washing machines were even rarer and tumble dryers were not even thought of. The wash was done in a built-in coal heated “copper” with lots of washing soda, brick sized lumps of Lifebuoy soap and Dolly Blue bags. The clothes were scrubbed on a wash board or pounded with a device like a wooden stool with a handle. They were then taken to a “mangle” with big wooden rollers and a large cast iron handle wheel where most of the washing water was removed; together with most of the buttons. If it was raining then the still very damp clothes were taken back into the kitchen and dried in front of the range. This produced a general dampness in the house that made the wallpaper peel off and mould to form everywhere. Compare this state of affairs with the modern kitchen, where many new brides would not say “I do” without a dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer under the polished granite work surface and a micro-wave oven on its top with a fridge freezer the size of Iceland in the corner, and it gives some indication of the real progress and a degree of female emancipation on the domestic scene.

In the year and month of Barbara’s birth; in the fight for emancipation for women, Emily Davidson threw herself in front of King George V horse at Epson and died a few days later. An act, cruelly nicknamed the “Cat & Mouse Act” was passed in parliament which allowed women suffragette hunger strikers to be released from jail on their point of death and re-interned when they were partially recovered.

It was not until four years later in 1917/18 that a bill was passed that gave women over 30 years old the vote but only if they occupied premises over a certain value.

A bill was rushed through parliament that gave women the right to stand as candidates for parliament, and American born Nancy, Lady Astor, was the first woman MP in 1919. In 1920 the first woman jurors were sworn in. Three years later there were six lady Members of parliament and the grounds for divorce became equal. All women got the vote in 1928 and 1929 saw the minimum age for marriage raised from 12 to 16 for woman and after another 14 years the TUC pledged itself to achieving equal pay but it was not until 1970 the Sexual Discrimination Act and the equal Pay Act were passed.

1975 saw our first female Prime Minister and a revolution in woman’s rights was completed.

Barbara lived through this revolution in woman’s suffrage but this is not exclusively the story of her life, but to remind us of some of the many changes that have taken place during the 100 years she has been on this earth. Similar events have and will take place in all our lives but Barbara has lived through some of the most momentous world changing times ever; both technical and sociological. Will another century provide such vast developments? Only time will tell, and not to me!

Have a grand day Barbara, read your royal telegram and have a drink and share memories with those friends and relations on the 10th.

Have a HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY Barbara.

Both France and England believe they have evidence of the use of Sarin in Syria. There seems to be some doubt as to which side has used it at this moment. 7th June.

The facility for prosecutions by harmed individuals when the Crown Prosecutor can find insufficient reason to proceed is being suggested. It has some merit, but surely a better law would insure that offenders found guilty have less incentive to offend again, and sometimes again and again! The legal profession would I suspect welcome the extra work opportunities and we would pay for it!

The US National Security Agency have been listening to our emails and tweets and passing on the data to GCHQ here in the UK? A leak by an ex CIA employee has claimed a surveillance operation known as Prism takes data from the big ISP’s and social net works, (including the now essential Facebook) on a world wide basis. President Obama has claimed we cannot have 100% security and 100% privacy plus 0% inconvenience and we are going to have to make some choices! Nothing new there then! Our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both assured us that the UK works strictly within the law regarding privacy.

The sun has been shining for a couple of days 7th & 8th. June so a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet of our garden. No. A conference under the name of Bildenberg involving lots of important international influential people has been held at The Grove. Activists various have been at work claiming the whole thing is illegal at best, criminal at worst and this has entailed armed guards and a very noisy police surveillance helicopter that continuously circled the venue making a mockery of the P & Q. I could not help wondering how much in police time and air hours this was costing me?

Violence again in Istanbul on 11th June where protestors throwing fire bombs fought police who used rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas and stun grenades to clear the main square which thousands of activists had occupied for almost two weeks. The action started as a protest against a planned shopping centre in a green space but has apparently been hijacked by those that claim the government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and imposing Islamic values on what is a secular state. Perhaps inflammatory comments have been made by both sides and many of the protestors have withdrawn to the park where the development is planned.

We have our own violent protests in London where 60 odd arrests have taken place following a squat being stormed. The protesters are unhappy with the G8 summit hosted by the UK which takes place next week in Northern Ireland. Several West End streets were closed and black clad protestors climbed onto Eros and hung a banner proclaiming “Abolish the State”. It is promised there will be a week of protests leading up to the conference.

The man who murdered in cold blood two police officers last August by shooting and the use of grenades, after making a false 999 call to set up an ambush, was sentenced  to a whole life sentence. This should mean he will die in prison following the previous murders of a father and son from a rival family. Branded by a police federation spokesman as “an abomination upon our society”, the prisoner showed no remorse. The EU courts may well decide that the murderer’s civil liberties or some similar legislation is infringed by this brutal state funded punishment’ as has occurred on many occasions. There seems to have been quite a number of infringed liberties surrounding this case!

News from Iran that Hassan Rouhani’s party have an overall majority in their General Election. 15th June. He claims his election is a “victory of moderation over extremism”. Western nations promise to work with him. Not last on the agenda is the Iranian nuclear policy which has led to a number of confrontations.

It would seem the Istanbul protests are over for now. The police used tear gas and water cannons and ripped down tents from the park; the subject of the disputed development. It appears that the other disputes are still simmering. Prime Minister Erdogan’s policies do not suit everyone in the secular state but he puts forward the fact that he has won three elections and has facilitated rapid economic growth to justify those policies.

A number of promised developments in the cure or treatment of several major diseases has been made. They are mostly associated with genetic manipulations and as usual are promised after the completion of further testing, in five to ten years. Amongst those problems currently under investigation are Pigmentosa Retinitis which causes many people to have severe vision difficulties leading in some cases to blindness: Diabetes; in its several forms that can have many side effects and has become more prevalent due to an ageing population, and not least Cancer, in which detection and treatment figures largely in the news items. It is hoped that these researches reach satisfactory conclusions. We need all the help we can get.

The Syrian saga continues with news of more deaths and refugees leaving the country. The US has again said they will provide materials for the rebels and they have again been warned that there is no way of determining in whose hands they would finish up. The Russians seem keen to support the Government faction and again it appears a prolonged “proxy war” could result with the mass of the people suffering untold miseries. I firmly believe that forced regime change cannot work, we have so many recent; and ongoing examples, for this argument.

The government is pressing for more transparency among multi national companies as to their tax responsibilities. Many of the off shore banks are being pressed to disclose more detail of actual owners of accounts. Examples of multi billion profits and low millions paid corporation tax are frequently published. These companies claim they are not breaking the law, only using it!

The G8 conference has opened on 17th June with Syria and “aggressive tax avoidance” on the agenda. The conflict of views; with Russia on one side and the US and UK on the other, as to which side of the Syrian factions to provide assistance and armaments is possibly top of the agenda.

The Afghanistan forces have been handed back control over their own security today, 18th June. This follows a twelve year attempt to defeat the Taliban and restore democracy in the country which has cost many UK & US lives. The complete withdrawal of foreign troops is to be complete in 2015. It is not going to be a walk in the park for President Karzai, witness his three men killed in an attack on the same day, with the Vice President the target.

The costs of policing the Bildenberg conference at The Grove are estimated at £1m. The attendees have said they will pay £500,000 of this and you and I can pay the rest. At best time there were 240 officers on and around the site; it was not mentioned if the helicopter came within the package. Would this manpower and or cost be better utilised providing property protection against break-ins and burglaries? It would certainly pay for a few more Bobbies.

The G8 meeting in Northern Ireland is over with lots of smiling heads of state taking advantage of the Photo opportunities. The Russian representative’s demeanour seemed to be saying “what’s so amusing?”, but the rest seemed pleased with themselves. The problem of aggressive tax avoidance was debated but no real indication that there was an easy answer resulted. Syria; as expected, was also high on the agenda with the US and Russia very far from being on the same wavelength. It seems the latest idea may be to help the government troops to unseat the President. This sounds like a great plot for a great spy thriller but a very dodgy real ploy.

Brazil is the latest world riot centre. 21nd June. Virtually the whole country has seen rioting and disorder over the past two weeks with a degree of looting and building defacing thrown in for good measure. It is all aimed against the government’s performance, particularly reference clearing corruption, poor transport and the World Cup costs. Much of the apparent planning of riots has been carried out on social media and it is reported that these same media vehicles now contain input condemning the violence. What would we do without Facebook and Twitter? What happened to old fashion discussion?

The ex US intelligence man who leaked the fact that the US had monitored UK electronic mail and passed it on to UK GCHQ, has fled to Hong Kong, where he has further alleged the US has collected vast amounts of Chinese data whilst they, the US, had said they were under a massive cyber attack from China. Cat and pigeons comes to mind; he certainly chose the right stage in Chinese controlled Hong Kong to make his revelations public. Extradition proceedings will almost certainly be started by the US. This could be another long job!

Edward Snowden, the leaking NSA man, is believed to have flown to Moscow over the weekend but has not actually been seen there. He was allegedly due to fly out to Cuba on 24th June but the plane left with a passenger list heavy on journalists and light on leakers. As the US have made his passport void his stay or transit through Russia and possibly on through Cuba and Venezuela to Ecuador must be sponsored by diplomatic arrangement, and this is annoying the US quite a bit. He has the support of Julian Assange; the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who himself has been holed up in the London Ecuadorian Embassy for a year receiving asylum and expensive police surveillance. Sweden wants him extradited on charges of rape. He has said recently that he is not going anywhere, even if the rape charges are dropped, as the US would only try to arrest him again. This is another great plot for a spy book. What a pity it is for real, and dangerous too!

The Turkish riots have reignited in Taksim Square in Istanbul. Water cannon and rubber bullets don’t seem to be the answer!

Brazil still riots. It does not appear to be entirely government but unfortunately it is the police that bare the brunt of the malice whilst attempting to protect against looters and others wrecking buildings and vehicles. This is a difficult situation for a stranger to appreciate.

The Chancellor’s spending revue on 26th June had a mixed reception today. With the economy still in deep trouble it was unlikely that there was going to be any good news and we were not disappointed. He announced a £50bn capital investment for projects including schools, roads, railways, broadband and science in an attempt to drive the economy. Public service workers will lose their entitlement to an automatic annual pay rise and a cap will be placed on total welfare payments in 2015. The council tax freeze will be extended, which has led to much speculation on service cuts and the loss of bus passes for the OAP’s. With an election in 2015 the effect of all these items are very relevant. In particular there are an awful lot of pensioners! Which in itself contributes to the cost of many services.

The riots in Brazil may be threatening their ability to stage the football World Cup, as one of the grievances is regarding its cost this is obviously why the unrest continues. The looting and destruction of property however does not do a lot for their possibly justified grievances.

Energy is in the news again. On the debit side we are apparently heading for a situation where the loss of output from one power station could take us below minimum electricity generation levels at high usage times. This could result in cuts for some areas. It has been suggested that some heavy consumers will be offered financial incentive to reduce their loading during these critical situations.

The generating scene is not a good one, with nuclear plants reaching the end of their life and other source levels reduced in an attempt to reach EU CO2 emissions constraints. The much loved/hated wind turbines are the only obvious new means of generation and despite their numbers they make a relatively small contribution. Many homes are fitted with PV roof panels but mainly to keep down the ever increasing costs. A very large percentage of our gas is not under our control. Should the Middle East or Russian states decide to not deliver then we are really in for a cold dark winter.

The supply from the North Sea oil and gas fields is nearing its end and the respite they had given the UK has not been realistically taken advantage of, so it must be with some relief that another possible get out of goal card has been dealt to us. It of course depends on how we play it! The US has found vast deposits of gas locked up in deep layers of Shale rock. They have developed a process euphemistically named “Fracking”, to hydraulically fracture the shale and release enormous amounts of gas to the extent that their retail prices have been falling dramatically. It has been determined by geological survey that there is potentially enough gas to supply the UK for 25 years waiting to be harvested in some areas. On the minus side is the fear that the fluid pumped two kilometres down to fracture the rock will permeate into the water courses that provide our drinking water and that minor earthquakes could result. Other “Green” issues are raised by the day. With the overall green benefits some serious thinking and actions need to be made. Time is running out!

Designer babies on the 30th June? Not quite, but Britain is set to become the first country to carry out “Germ-line gene therapy” where a third persons genetic material is involved with the final cell that develops into a baby. The process involves the affected mother’s mitochondria being replaced by cells from a healthy donor. It is claimed that the offspring of the child and their subsequent issue will not inherit the defect. Some of the defects currently inherited are forms of heart and liver disease and loss of muscle co-ordination, together with other serious conditions such as muscular dystrophy. The government have to give the go ahead and prepare legislation to facilitate the move and it will take a little while. If you wish to learn more then visit an appropriate site or medical adviser.

Egypt is hit by rioters protesting against the recently fairly and democratically elected President Morsi. The protestors in Cairo claim his promises of security, food, electricity and fuel have not been met. “He has not provided anything” claims one un-named protestor. “We have to bring him and the Muslim Brotherhood down”. The protestors claim, unsubstantiated, that they have 22 million signatures calling for his resignation. That is 7 million more than the number of votes that elected him. This dispute is not going to go away some time soon. It is to be hoped that it does not develop in the way the Syrian civil war has.

Brazil has won the Confederation Cup before a frenzied crowd at the Maracana stadium in Rio. They beat the world champions Spain comprehensively and it is to be hoped that the result will take some of the heat out of the country wide riots.

The army chiefs in Egypt have given the President 48 hours to get things sorted. He has rejected their demands. And so it goes on!

       July 2013

A massive salary rise for MP’s can not be blocked by David Cameron it is claimed today. 1st July. The Independent Parliamentary Authority is thought to be about to recommend an increase of £7,500 or 15%, which would take salaries to £75,000 pa. Nick Clegg has said the public would find the proposed disproportionate increase “impossible to understand”. I would think that this would not be the first comment that came from many peoples mouths, but it would certainly be unbelievably insensitive to propose; or worse still accept, what can only seen as a slap in the face for most of the rest of us. It certainly brings Winter fuel payments and the bus passes argument into prospective. That the MP’s should be able to set their own salaries is in itself unbelievable.

A new name will appear on our banknotes from today as Canadian Mark Carney takes up his position as Governor of the Bank of England. He has quite a task.

Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in 15 countries 2nd.July it is reported by the BBC. Ireland is one of them but the UK is not! Well there’s a blessing then! One less to protect. Perhaps wherever he goes Mr Assange will be allowed to join him and we can have our policemen back.

The government announced that upfront charges will be made for foreigners receiving NHS treatment here. Around £200m is currently owed by non UK residents. We are supposed to be able to claim back cash from the patient’s home country but less than a quarter is actually recovered. The GPs spokesman has already said his doctors will not act as surrogate border controllers. Limbo again?

Organ donation in Wales is likely to become “by default”, with an opt out facility instead of the current donor card option. The bill has met with a mixed response.

The army have removed President Morsi from power in Egypt and suspended the constitution pending a new election is the news on 4th July. Both factions are still on the streets. Much of the information comes from Facebook and Twitter. A senior Judge is the acting president and new elections are promised. Both sides promise to be out on the streets again at the weekend!

The actual location of Edward Snowden seems to be in some doubt. Several countries have been put forward as his choice for asylum but he is now considered a very hot potato with US arrest warrants issued.

Some interesting facts on our use of water have been published by The Energy Saving Trust. We use 9bn litres of drinkable water in our homes each day; nearly 50% of which is either showered in or flushed down the toilet. That amounts to 142 litres per day per person. We spend an average of £228 on heating our water pa. and the majority of people over fill their kettles to the cost of £68m per year. When much of the world has no reliable or safe water this does make us seem a little self indulgent and extravagant particularly when cash is tight anyway. What was not mentioned in the report is what happens to all this water when it leaves our homes. The corresponding Sewage and waste water management cost must also be inflated.

Whilst shopping yesterday I spoke to a pair of ladies who said it was nice to hear English spoken as they had not heard it since entering the shop; from either staff or customers. We had been saying the same thing. A walk along the High Street demonstrates the same situation; hearing on numerous occasions one half of a mobile phone conversation held in goodness knows what language. How different is the country we live in to just a few years ago. We can only hope that the present mix of nationalities will indeed mix socially. I suggested to the ladies that they stand by the lift where periodically they could hear, “Lift going up” announced in our mother tongue. It was ironic that they told me they came from Stanmore.

Egypt at the weekend witnessed the street conflict expected, 51 are reported dead in Cairo and the Muslim Brotherhood claim they were fired on by the army whilst taking part in a sit in. The army say they were responding to provocation. 7th July. The interim government have promised new elections for next February.

The tennis at Wimbledon gave us a men’s single champion for the first time in 77 years. Andy Murray beat Djokovic in three straight sets in temperatures nearing 50 degrees on the hottest day so far. Fred Perry was the last Brit to win and in those days he wore long white trousers. I doubt his prize equalled the £1.6m that Murray received. With his sponsorship deals it is suggested his earnings may exceed £10m.

Abu Qatada has been deported to Jordan after an 8 year struggle by the Uk government; mainly with the European Court of Human Rights. He is charged with conspiring to set up terrorist attacks on an American school in Amman. Known as Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe he leaves behind him a wife and several children who live in social housing. It is reported they may soon leave Stanmore to join Qatada.

The Independent Parliamentary Authority has on 11th July. put for consultation a proposal to give MPs an 11%, £6,000 rise to £74,000 pa. MP’s could decide their own payment until recently but this function was handed to the IPSA an independent body following the 2009 expenses scandal. This is a lower figure than first expected but enough to make many peoples blood boil. Cuts include some loss of benefits such as meals allowances and taxi fares and slightly less generous pension scheme. The bonus for being voted out of office is also to be reduced. Nevertheless it will still seem too many people that the parliamentary world is a different and more affluent one to theirs!

Today’s reports tell us that 47.5% of children are currently born out of wedlock. 12 July. In one Northern area the level of children living in a one parent household; usually the mother, is 65%: the highest recorded figure is 75%. The current totals are variously reported as from 1 million to 3 million and this number is increasing by 200,000 per year. Various reasons are put forward for these phenomenally high and ever increasing levels and they all seem to indicate a breakdown of the family way of life most of us older people thought to be the norm. Not any more it isn’t!

More Riots. Over the weekend 13th July Northern Belfast has seen some fierce and bloody action in the Loyalist Orangemen’s protest at the refusal to allow them to return to their traditional marching route. The 12th July is the day when they celebrate Protestant Dutchman, King William II (William of Orange) defeat of James II at the battle of the Boyne in 1690, which led to the protestant ascendancy in Ireland for many years.

400 additional mainland based policeman have been sent to add to the already 600 to attempt to keep the peace. The traditional riot weapons were used, petrol bombs, fireworks, bricks, stones, bottles and a little more unusual, ceremonial swords. The police responded with 20 plastic baton rounds and water cannon were deployed. 35 police were injured and the attempts at mediation by the local MP led to his hospitalisation. The Chief Constable describes the actions by the rioters as “shameful and disgraceful”.

We are getting some hot sunshine for the first time this year and it has led to a level three weather warning as temperatures rise. 30.2c was recorded yesterday. 12th July. The rise in temperature has enabled us to open wide windows long kept shut to keep the cold out. Unfortunately the good weather has also brought with it the rise in noise levels as lawn mowers, strimmers, hedge trimmers; and other hand tools various, are brought out of retirement. House and car alarms are better appreciated and quite frequent. Why is it always the same ones?  Some residents feel it is their job to entertain the rest of us with loud music streaming through wide open windows. It seems mainly to be of the “screaming women” type, with bass jungle drums a close second. The thump, thump, thump, of a football on concrete and annoying tinkling  of wind chimes with every gust of breeze lessens the overall feel good factor. But given the choice…..? Yeah, I’ll go for the sunshine.

Alan Whicker died today aged 87.12th July. Presenting “Whickers World” on TV for 29 years he was the person that introduced us to parts of the world that made us feel we must see them first hand; this in the days when that possibility was most unlikely. Well, we saw many of them and for this we must say “Thank you” Alan Whicker. We possibly did not travel in quite his style or with quite his budget but we still experienced the hairs raise on the back of our necks on many occasions.

A cap on maximum benefits of £500 per week comes into force today. 16th July. There is much argument as to the level. Some people say too high, others too low, but some of the payouts seem unbelievably generous and legislation such as this can never be “one size fits all”. Are those lucky enough to be in work prepared to pay for those with no other income, even those who apparently don’t see any financial gain in trying to get a job. And can the cash strapped exchequer continue to subsidise the short fall. There are many questions and I will not attempt to answer them!

The weather continues hot. 17th July. Each succeeding day threatens a new record temperature. 30.9c is the highest so far in Kingswood. News of train delays due to buckled rails, the surface melting on Motorways and old people dropping like flies greet us from the newspapers, which suggests the sooner we get back to cold wet Global warming weather the better. With several more days of heat virtually guaranteed I can’t help thinking we are in for some record breaking thunderstorms before long, and a whole new selection of travel delay excuses. Where did I put my snorkel?

Over the weekend we have had another winner of the Tour de France cycle race. After Bradley Wiggens won in 2012 Chris Froome has taken the title on this, the 100th race.

England beat the Aussies in the second test at Lords in three days on Saturday 21st July. They had already won the first one so only require another victory to retain the ashes.

Hottest day of the year so far on 22nd July. Fern Way saw 33.3c in the afternoon and rain and a bit of thunder the following night.

We have a new Prince, as yet nameless, but 3rd in line to the throne. Born to Prince William and his wife Kate; The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to their son at 4.24 pm today and he weighed 8lb 6ozs. The betting on the sex of the child has been superseded by guessing his chosen name. George and James are the bookmaker’s current favourites. I was pleased to see he was born Imperial; very apt, and not metric.

Our new Prince has a name. Or in fact several names. 24th July. George Alexander Louis, or His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge to us. Bookmakers One, the rest of us Nil.

Rail fares are again in the news. It seems you can get a return flight to New York for less than a walk-on return train journey to Manchester. There is a moral in there somewhere!

Other rail news concerns a horrific train derailment in Northern Spain. More than 70 passengers died when a train failed to negotiate a bend and rolled over and over. The driver has been arrested for alleged ignoring the speed limit.

The British economy has grown by 0.6% over the last three months. Reasons to be cheerful say some of the press. I can’t say that it has helped us very much to date. Have you seen the interest rates lately? Even a 5 year Fixed Term ISA will only just hold its own against inflation.

Egypt is again in the news. It is variably reported that 100 people have died and 1,500 been injured today 27th July, following a protest in Cairo by supporters of the ousted President Morsi. The anti Morsi camp had also been urged to demonstrate in order to give a mandate to the take over by the army. A recipe for mayhem?

There is also further unrest in Libya following the assassination of a prominent politician. Demonstrators blame the Muslim Brotherhood. The government is still trying to control various armed groups following the toppling of Col.Gaddafi two years ago.

The Fracking protestors were being arrested in East Sussex on 28th July. The protestors criticised the police response as disproportionate as they blocked roads and tried to stop workers and drivers from entering the exploratory drilling site. There will no doubt be a lot more to report on this subject in the coming weeks.

The worlds second oldest person died in Southall last week aged 115 years. She is survived by 12 grandchildren and 28 Great-grandchildren. She credited her Sikh faith for providing the optimism and strength to live so long.

It rained heavily during yesterday afternoon and night. The first rain of any consequence this month. It was accompanied by some hefty thunder claps and will no doubt help the gardens with a dose of nitrogen. Today, 28th July. It is still very warm but the garden smells nice.

Still on the weather 30th July. Rain all day broken up with terrific downpours and half an inch of hail and some more hefty thunder claps. Apparently this has been the longest heat wave since 1976 with 19 consecutive days with a temperature of 82f or higher. The latter part of this week is supposed to be even hotter with spare Spanish heat coming up on a “plume”. Another warning that the older “at risk” people should sit in the shade with a Gin and tonic and be waited on hand and foot!

Israeli and Palestinian representatives are holding intensive talks in Washington 30th July. in an attempt to kick start the stalled Middle East Peace process. It has been said that this is really the last chance to reach an agreement. But with Palestinian president Mahmould Abbas insisting there will be no Israeli troops or civilians in his territory and Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanayhu insisting on their military presence in the Jordan Valley to keep an eye on neighbouring Jordan, there is some way to go. At least there is talk at the moment.

The refugee problem in Syria has caused 25% of its people to be driven from their homes. Car bombs and fighting for territory continues across the country. There seems to be no end or answer to this state’s awful problems.

       August 2013

          Two banks have announced they are back in profit today, 1st. August. Both TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland were bailed out by the government during the banking fiasco in 2008 which must have made many people wonder what the devil was going on. But despite other unsavoury events in the interim; sometimes resulting in massive compensation payments for miss-selling products, these two banks have shown a result above the red line at last. The next operation will presumably be their sale to pay the government; and us reak the law and ruin lives with impunity!

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The Hornets started their 9 month campaign today 3rd August.with an away win at Birmingham. It takes nearly the whole season for me to recognise from the wireless commentary which of the players are ours. There is a league of nations again at Vicarage Road.

 

Spain is upset about an artificial reef put down a in a bay in Gibraltar’s territorial waters. It will interfere with their fishermen they say. The reef is for the purpose of conserving fish stocks by limiting access to an onshore area. The Spaniards were so upset that the Garda Civil has fired on an unarmed British Jet Skier in British waters. They have stepped up border checks that have caused massive hold ups and now threaten to make a charge of 50 Euros for crossing and to remove the authority for UK planes to use Spanish airspace on approach and take off. What a throw back to the 60s and 70s when we were forced to take a boat across the bay as the road was permanently closed. There must be something in the EU rules that forbids the obstruction and charging of visitors who wish to pass across the border between two member states. I suspect it just doesn’t work for those leaving the UK, only for those illegally entering. It will be very interesting to see how Brussels sorts this one out.

The England cricketers have retained the Ashes today, 5th August, because it poured down at Old Trafford and saved them from getting the considerable thrashing that they well deserved. After performing poorly for the first two tests the Australians suddenly came to life in Manchester.

David Cameron has spoken to his Spanish counterpart reference the anti social behaviour of the Spanish border authorities and the EU is making its usual sage comments! 7th August

The US asylum seeker Edward Snowden has been granted permission by Russia to leave the airport; where he has been for some time, and enter the country under asylum. This has upset the US no end and President Obama has cancelled a visit to see President Putin. The charges they have laid would, if he is found guilty, put him inside for a considerable time.

Our new Canadian Bank of England boss has said the bank rate would remain at 0.5% until unemployment falls to below 7%. This he calculates; if the wind

continues to blow in the right direction, will not happen for another three years.

 So called “Social Networking” is in the news again today. A 14 year old girl was found hanged after she received on-line threats, apparently known as trolls. The anonymous morons; who target vulnerable people with comments reference their alleged size; ugliness and perversions, had told her to drink bleac

h and to get a very nasty disease. The web site that is run by Latvians has apparently 60million users and this was the fifth time a suicide by a teenager has been connected this year. The site claims that that its moderator’s read all reports made of bullying. Too little, too late! What useful purpose is served by allowing perverts to post pictures and any comment they feel fit; without proof or apparent provocation, and make threats of physical violence anonymously on other people’s pages, defeats me entirely. What a wonderland of technology and evil opportunities the internet can provide in the hands and minds of those who b

The US State Department has evacuated US personnel from its Consulate in Lahore in Pakistan following specific threats. It is not likely to re-open before the end of Eid on Sunday and no date has been given after that. The claim is that the threat is not connected with the closures in the Middle East and North Africa.

17 Car bombs have been exploded in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq this weekend 10th /11th August. killing a reported 91 people and wounding 300. Reports suggest that the celebration of Eid following the end of Ramadan has been the catalyst for the next round of the ongoing Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict. This is the worst mayhem for five years and follows the armed freeing of hundreds of fighters from a Baghdad prison a few weeks back.

We have our own home grown violence in Northern Ireland. A Republicans demonstration and parade to celebrate the IRA victims of the earlier conflict has upset the Loyalists. The result; as is usual, was a bashing for the police, of whom 56 were injured in an attack involving bricks, bottles, fireworks and scaffold poles. Several cars were set on fire in the streets. The rioters claim the police were heavy handed in their response and 2 members of the public were reported injured!

England has won the ashes series with an exciting 4 day win on Monday at Durham. The bowling from both sides was in parts outstanding which made for a very exciting game.

The cost of train travel is to rise again in the New Year by 4.1%. says a news report of 14th August. This is the 11th year in a row when the annual rise has been above the rate of inflation. This works out at circa 40% since 2008 and with people priced out of the cities by high house prices they now find it very expensive to get back in to work. One example of the cost of an annual season ticket from Canterbury to London is more than £5,000.

News of further bloodshed in Egypt suggests hundreds of pro Morsi protesters have died as their camps were cleared by armed government troops. Claims and counter claims reference the use of arms by both sides abound. Certainly heavy gunfire has been reported.

Gibraltar is still in the news with our Foreign Office lodging a formal complaint regarding the unacceptable delays imposed by the Spanish border force. Three hours was not unusual for a wait on entering The Rock. Downing Street say’s that the action is “politically motivated and disproportionate” and at odds with EU law on the freedom of movement. But what do they know about it?

It is perhaps ironic that some of what is left of the British navy left Portsmouth yesterday for a long planned exercise off Gibraltar.

House prices are due to rise by 10% over the next 2 years it is claimed. I seem to remember this situation not to long ago with some people only now recovering from negative equity when prices fell even faster than their meteoric climb. Buyers beware!

Official Egyptian figures show 278 protestors killed during the clearance operation of the protestor’s camps from several sites in and around Cairo yesterday. The protestors against the deposing of President Morsi claim it was nearer to 2,000 and they will rally and protest again today.

The riots continue in Egypt 15th August. and many more are claimed dead and injured. The action is condemned by many western countries following further violence and the use of firearms by both sides.

Direct peace talks have been held between Israel and Palestine for the first time in three years. The meetings are in strict secrecy and have been described by an Israeli as “long and serious”. The good news is that they have agreed to meet weekly alternating between Jerusalem and Jericho on the West Bank.

Energy costs are in the news again. It was reported that despite some substantial profits by the big suppliers a rise to catch the colder weather rise in usage in the autumn will be of the order of 5 to 10%. The calculated average family pay £1,400 pa at present and it is expected that this will rise to circa £1,500.

This week is forecast to give us a return to the baking weather. Then after a wet period it is suggested we may have warm weather throughout September. How much of this can we stand. It’s not natural.

Back to energy again. The Office of National Statistics shows that the average gas and electricity use fell by 25% between 2005 and 2011. The reasons are determined as the annual rise in both fuels every year over the period and the improved energy efficiency and a greater environmental awareness. I know which option my money would be on! Despite sitting in the cold with the lights out it is feared that some people will find their bills unaffordable.

Fracking is in the news again with organised civil disobedience around a site in West Sussex. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and her son were among about 30 other protesters blocking access were arrested near Balcombe, where energy firm Cuadrilla is drilling for oil. She said that we don’t need and we don’t want fracking”. Meanwhile it seems likely that without this potentially enormous resource we may well be soon importing gas from the US where they have enough fracking gas to see most of us out. What will that do to energy costs?

It appears the EU has determined we will loose our weekly bin collection. This is to meet their new recycling rules. We will however not loose out entirely as we will have at least five bins in which to deposit our bits and pieces. It also means that the collections rotation will be further complicated with some people only now putting out the right offerings. The other problem concerns where we will actually walk. We will have to have wider pavements or stagger our working week. The bins will be designated metal, paper, glass and plastic with another bin for no name rubbish. Do we loose our green bin?

Egypt continues to lead the rioting news 20th August with hundreds killed, both Islamist protestors and troops and police are dying. Several of the Muslim Brotherhood chiefs have been arrested to add to deposed President Morsi’s imprisonment. The most senior being Mohammed Badie who is accused of alleged incitement to violence and murder. 26 policemen were killed on the Gaza border in the Sinai Peninsular by claimed Islamic terrorists. This is a really terrible situation but so similar in many ways to Algeria, Syria and several of the countries who have recently “liberated” themselves during the “Arab Spring”. In the mean time, anyone unfortunate enough to be on holiday in Egypt were warned to stay in their hotels.

Dorothy gets her way. It was announced last week that the new station on the Metropolitan link to Watford Junction will be called “Vicarage Road”. TFL wanted to name it West Watford” but a number of residents back by our Mayor claimed that people had heard of Vicarage Road from its football connections and serving both the hospital and the Hornets ground, this was the way to go.

The age limit for jurors has been extended to 75 years. People are living longer it was reported and their life experience is invaluable when making life changing decisions. I’ll drink to that.

It is claimed that as many as 1,000 Syrian people died from a chemical weapon attack earlier in the week and three times more injured. 22rd August. Pictures alleging to be of victims of a government action near Damascus are all over the internet but both sides deny responsibility. United Nations investigators are in the country at three other sites investigating claims of previous attacks but the countries government will so far not allow them access to the current site. Many Heads of State are making threatening noises, Obama said that whilst still seeking confirmation that that a chemical weapon had been used, but if proved true, the situation would “require America’s attention”. On the other hand Russia claims there is growing evidence that the rebels were behind the attack. We are on international quicksands again!

A British conman was jailed for 7 years yesterday. He had made millions by constructing thousands of completely useless hand held bomb detection units. These bomb detection devices he claimed in their spare time could also be used to locate explosives, drugs, tobacco, ivory and cash from vast distances. He called the device a GT200 and assembled them at home; at a cost of £5, in a plastic box with other pieces of plastic inside and sporting an aerial and a useful carrying handle.

This entirely passive device was purchased for up to £15,000 to eager clients all over the world, all of whom could not detect, with or without a GT 200,that they were being taken for the ride of their lifetime.  Heaven preserve us from the expert purchasers who themselves are surely culpable for putting security personnel at severe risk. I doubt we will hear much more about this.

Another purchasing enigma is the HS2 high speed train link from London to Birmingham and then on to the North. It is currently estimated at £46.2bn but some are saying that following the usual national project pathway it is more likely to cost £80bn in the end. The Labour chancellor who approved the first stage has had a change of mind which has put the cat among the pigeons as there are an awful lot of NIMBY’s already making a lot of noise. Not effected and not in the know I can only comment on the blasé acceptance that the project, if carried out, will cost double its initial estimate. Should we sack the estimator or the contractor? My retirement would have occurred a lot earlier if I had recommended a price and gone over the top by 5% let alone 100%. There must be a few latent Knighthoods in this one if it goes ahead!

It has rained continuously for more than 24 hours, 24th August. and some local areas had 2” over quite a short period. One league football match was stopped due to a flooded pitch. Other than that the weather has been very acceptable!

The Syrian government has agreed on 25th August. to the UN inspection team visiting the site of the alleged nerve gas atrocity. Experts say that the delay will have made the site difficult to read.

The last Ashes Test Match at the oval was stopped due to bad light with England requiring only 21 runs from 24 balls with 5 wickets in hand following a sporting declaration by the Australians leaving England with a target of 227. A question unanswered in my mind is why matches can be played under floodlight in otherwise night time conditions but switch them on when the ambient level is marginal and there is “bad light”. Surely there is something wrong with the thinking or logic here?

We have a surfeit of Foxes on the estate. They have no fear of humans and apparently have a non aggression pact with the numerous cats that spend much of their time befouling our front lawn. Ain’t nature wonderful?

The UN inspectors have been allowed to visit the atrocity site near Damascus today. 26th August and were hit by snipers on their way. No news as to their findings is yet made public but both the UK and USA have upped their game and it seems likely that military action is on the cards. A decision will be made tomorrow as to whether parliament should be recalled. PM Cameron will chair a meeting of The National Security Council on Wednesday attended by all the military and intelligence chiefs together with senior ministers. It is to be hoped that there will be a very considered outcome!

Meanwhile across the Atlantic President Obama has all but stated that the US will take military action following what he sees as an attack with chemical weapons on civilians. The likely strike would be by Cruise Missiles, but the question must be asked as to what the target will be?

The Russians, who we are told provide armaments to Syria, are making a lot of political noise and claiming action not sanctioned by the UN will be “criminal”.

The Syrian refugee problem continues to escalate with a total of 1.7 million people registered and many thousands more who are not registered since the uprising against President Assad in the spring of 2011. They have fled to many countries with the vast majority in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This latest attack can only exacerbate the situation.

The planned Badger cull has started in the South West of the country to the accompaniment of protestors with police protection provided. The continuing increase in the incidence of Bovine Tuberculosis; 38,000 cattle were put down last year, is the reason which is not accepted by the anti cull supporters. They claim that a cull will not improve the situation, the Badgers are not the carriers of TB in the first place, and the whole action is inhumane. There are likely to be quite a number of bruised heads and claims of police over reaction before this one is settled.

HS2 is in the news again today 27th August. Attacks are coming from all directions with latest survey of members of The Institute of Directors showing them to be unconvinced by the economy case, and their Director General describing the project as “one grand folly”. He should really come off the fence!

Parliament is to be recalled on Thursday in response to what is fast becoming a very serious and dangerous situation in Syria.

Momentous happenings in the Commons last night. 29th August. The government called for military action in Syria in response to someone carrying out a release of a Sarin type nerve agent as reported earlier which killed hundreds and injured many many more. The PM’s proposal to make “a strong humanitarian” response to the carnage was defeated by 285 votes to 272 after a total of 39 coalition MPs voted against their leaders recommendation, and a further 45 abstained. The result was seen as partly Labour taking advantage of a gift wrapped opportunity but more practical doubts seemed to influence many MP’s. This is a brief summary of these doubts as I see them.

It has not been confirmed, without any shadow of doubt, that the Assad Government actually used the weapon, it could have been a diabolical plot by the rebels in cahoots with their terrorist colleagues, but apparently this is a very unlikely scenario. As Assad’s government troops had used chemical weapons many times since 2012 “there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility” says the JIC chairman John Day.

The sort of military response using Cruise Missiles would almost certainly cause collateral damage and what would the targets be, and would this type of action alter the mind set of the alleged perpetrators?

The experience of Iraq is still uppermost in many peoples minds where intelligence led actions were determined to be based on assumptions or beliefs, and not facts. In this case there is apparently no doubt that a chemical weapon has been used but not absolute certainty on which side used it.

Some were saying that any action needs UN sanction but this takes a long time and Russia will almost certainly veto military interference, whatever form it takes.

The PM has said “he got it” and that neither parliament nor the British people wanted to participate in such action as was proposed and the Government would act accordingly.

It remains to be seen how the US will act. President Obama said he would make a decision on direct military involvement and would be guided by America’s best interests and they would continue to consult with the UK.

More news from Syria claims an attack on a school from the air with a weapon which caused 7 deaths and 50 injuries and has produced Napalm like burns. This; like many of the reports, is not confirmed. The attack was carried out near Aleppo and the pictures on line are horrendous.

Another throw back to the 80’s with yet another national entertainment treasure being charged with child sex assaults. He is the forth man to be charged by Operation Yewtree which was set up after the alleged sex crimes of the late Jimmy Saville came to light.

President Obama has taken note of the results of our governments defeat on taking action. On 31st August he has said the US will wait until Congress returns on the 8th September before taking military action against Assad’s Syrian government. He was, he said, ready to make a limited attack at any time but now seems to admit to the sectarian divides that no amount of “limited action” will overcome.

The UN weapons inspectors, who have been gathering evidence at various sites including the latest one, have returned to the west to examine their evidence and make their report. Yesterday it was going to take two weeks, today it will take three!

Syria have claimed they are ready to make retaliatory strikes if they are attacked and Russian President Putin has said “I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States.”

We read in fiction of diabolical plots at international level to change the world. The current events could be the scenario for a Bond film! Somebody is going to get their fingers burnt, without a doubt.

       September 2013.

The old BT Dial Up broadband access that many of us cut our internet teeth on has been discontinued as from today. We sat for ages awaiting to first log on and then the transfer of data. Auto upgrades could take hours. The noises of data transfer were weird and reminded me of the Darleks. We can get into trouble much quicker these day and almost instantaneously on Infinity fibre optics.

David Frost has died at age 74. on 1st September. His broadcasting career covered hard journalism, writing comedy and television reporting. The Frost Report ran for a long time together with “That was the week, that was” but perhaps his most memorable broadcast was of his interview of Richard Nixon where he persuaded him to admit to his dishonesty. His signature phrase of “Hallo, Good evening and welcome” was well known and recognised both here and across the Atlantic.

David Jacobs has died aged 87. Announced today 3rd September we have lost another broadcasting giant. He started in broadcasting on the BBC Forces program in 1944 with such programmes as Housewives Choice and hosted many famous, (to us older people) programmes both on radio and TV over seven decades. He was involved in What’s my line, Any Questions, Juke box jury, Any questions and most famously, Top of the pops. He was forced to give up only last month and will be missed.

Syrian refugees fleeing from their war ravaged country now number two million and in addition twice that number have been displaced within their own borders according to the UN Refugee Agency. The refugees crossing the border with little more than the clothes they wear, the UN High Commissioner claims,”Syria has become the greatest tragedy of this century”. What will a military strike do to alleviate their suffering the world should ask itself?

There will not be enough Primary School places in 2 years time due to the increased birth rate it is reported today 4th September. I suppose this increase will follow through the rest of the education chain and beyond and pop up in the unemployment and housing figures over the next 15 to 20 years. How many more people can the UK support should be the question addressed and how do we educate, feed, heat, house and employ them?

Just to add to the problem the net increase in population has risen by 165,600 due to (a). Less people leaving the country against those entering. (b). The above mentioned birth rate increase, and (c).245,400 more births than deaths. Oh yes, and we are all living longer too.

Useless and only figures but significant ones nevertheless, is the facts that the UK population rose from 62.74 million in 2011 to 63.7.  million in 2012 and the increase was the equivalent of 1,150 heads a day or 48 per hour.

The G20 conference is taking place in Russia. 5th September. With Obama still pushing for a military strike on Syria when the US Congress returns, whilst the Russians, and Putin, are very anti. Although the Russian chief has said if conclusive proof is presented that the Assad regime actually used Sarin he will think again. This proof may well not be forthcoming or be of sufficient credibility. It will need to be cast iron! PM Cameron is only a spectator in this discussion, although it is thought that private talks by Obama and Putin are not planned either. All very dangerous stuff!

A multi vehicle crash closed the A249 on the Isle of Sheppey bridge for most of the day. In foggy conditions the crash of further collisions from the rear could be heard for at least 10 minutes. A minimum of 100 cars and several transporters and lorries were locked together and required the services to cut them open to recover the occupants. Some people claimed poor lighting was the problem whilst the AA President said “Stupid driving” was to blame. He further claimed he had to warn a driver two feet behind him in fog on the M25 to keep back. He further said, “It’s really bad to travel too close to the car in front in good conditions and if you do it in foggy conditions it’s an absolute recipe for disaster. Despite the carnage and lost “No Claims” there were no fatalities, but lots of injuries, some serious.

The G20 conference is over with no sign of agreement about action/inaction over Syria. As expected the Russians say no and the Americans say yes and most other countries seem to be waiting to see what happens.

Russia proposals to put Syrian’s chemical weapons under international control proposed yesterday, 9th September, has been called “potentially positive” by President Obama but to be “viewed sceptically”. The proposal has forced the Senate leader to put back the Senate vote on the use of force whilst evaluation takes place. Time is of the essence as the vote is still possible for this week.

This new proposal puts a yes vote for action even less likely and Obama has said, “I wouldn’t say I’m confident of winning approval”. (For a military strike).

Plastic £10 notes, whatever next. The Treasury have announced today 11th September that the £10 & £5 notes are to be made of a plastic material and reduced in size to match other countries currency. There have been outcry’s from all directions but none of them seem to hold a lot of water. As indeed neither will the new notes! One of their pro points is that they can be left in your trouser pocket whilst you do a wash and fast spin.

Kingswood Baptist Church has a new minister. Her induction took place on the 7th September in Kingsway Junior School. The Reverend Jane Robson has been training for the last three years here in Kingswood. Before training for the ministry she worked as an engineer with Jaguar Cars for 20 years and more recently in our local Marks & Spencer store.

NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe has officially entered interstellar space after cruising round our solar system for the last 36 years. It is reported as being somewhere around 13 billion miles from the Sun, give or take a billion, and traveling through the Deep Space Network at 100,000mph. It is still sending back data to NASA although it already takes 17 hours for the radio signals to reach them. It is not likely Explorer will come across another solar system to explore for 40,000 years, so even if it does continue transmitting information it will be a whole new lot of earthly inhabitants who will reap the benefits. The program has been a spectacular success.

The US, Russia, China, France and the UK are still holding talks regarding the US proposal for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. Military action is definitely on hold but would soon be back on the front burner should another attack occur. Perhaps naively I wonder why the weapons should not be destroyed. Or is that far too simple? Meanwhile refugees continue to stream out of the country and other Syrian’s die every day in attacks by one faction or the other to gain control of an area one day and the sites recapture the next.

The Post Office is to be sold off the government announced on 12th September. The privatisations will start soon, and by the sound of it and so will the postal unions strikes. They claim loss of jobs and pension rights. Getting shares will not compensate they say.

There is a rumour that we are to get a bus shelter on Haines way. About time to.

A Brazilian lady UN fact finder has said the opposition named “Bedroom Tax” may be a breach of human rights. In a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon it has been claimed that an apology is required and it is further suggested that with 50 million people living in shanty towns in Brazil with no services at all she should be putting her own house in order first. Her reply was “but we are not comparing Brazil to the UK. We are comparing the UK to the UK”.

We are to be charged 5p for plastic bags say’s a party conference speaker. The immediate comment from an alleged “man in the street” was, “another stealth tax”! The money raised will go to a charity not specified and perhaps we will have less bags blowing in the trees and finding their way in their billions into land fill sites.

The Watford Town Centre has lost some of its large plastic barriers and exposed a nice newly tiled pedestrian walkway. The end nearer the pond is still a no go area.

The US and Russians have reached an agreement on Syrian chemical weapons. 14th September. The Syrian government will be required to provide a list of its stockpile within a week but destruction will not take place until next year. Does this imply that it is now believed that only President Assad has access to such weapons? This is a change to recent claims.

The economy shows slight signs of improvement today. 16th September. But there is no room for relaxation of austerity regime as yet say’s the chancellor. There has also been a marginal drop in inflation to 2.7% which means our savings are going down the drain at a marginally slower rate in net terms. The rise in house prices is sounding warning bells to some politicians and commentators. It would be very easy; they say, to fall back into the boom and bust of the eighties.

The Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia which was lying two thirds submerged on its side following its capsize 20 months ago with the loss of 32 lives, was raised to an upright position resting on a prepared support 17th September. The £500 million, 114,500 tonne, 950 ft long vessel hit rocks after it sailed too close to the shore; allegedly in order that the Captain could wave to the onshore watchers. He is currently to be tried for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship.

The wreck will be searched for two missing bodies and 1,500 safes will be empted. It will be re-floated with the use of flotation bags next spring to be towed for scrap.

The abortive NHS computer IT project which was cancelled 2 years ago in the face of fast rising costs and the apparent failure of the consortium to make it work has been rising in cost ever since and currently stands at £9.5 bn and counting. The Public Accounts Committee says it has become the “worst and most expensive contracting fiasco” in the history of public spending with the final cost still not certain. The scheme was originally to cost £6.4 bn. So it seems the lady with the trolley with squeaky wheels is not going to be out of a job soon. 18th September. Imagine how much more comprehensive could your records be mislaid if the system had gone paperless. Come to think of it, there is not that much difference really, only in the cost!

I wonder if the PAC have had a close look at the rising cost of the new Aircraft carrier project. It might give the NHS a run for its money.

Senior police chiefs, including the Hertfordshire man, have agreed that an investigation of a private firm to take the onus of the police in attending to those arrested for being drunk and disorderly. After a night in the “drunk tank” or Welfare Centre to be a bit more PC it is mooted they should be given a fixed penalty fine and charged for their overnight stay.

With 50% of violent crime having alcohol connotations and the cost to the police and specially the Emergency Departments of hospitals, it is not surprising these possibilities have been raised. I suspect Civil Rights and Civil Liberties may well have an oar or two to put in.

Russia has claimed the UN Inspectors who have made their report on the existence and use of chemical weapons in Syria did not take notice of evidence provided by the Syrian government. It is therefore “biased” says the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

Banning smoking in HM Prisons was announced as a possibility today 20th September. It would seem that non smoking prisoners are likely to sue for passive smoking or something similar but as they are in a minority of an estimated 20% the decision has to be weighed against the possible mayhem created by the other 80%. Perhaps the prisoners should have a democratic vote on their civil liberties. It has been suggested that something is done to lessen the loss. The mind boggles as to what that might be!

A Nairobi shopping complex has been taken over by a group of al-Shabab Islamic terrorists from Somalia. 21st September. Their numbers are variously reported as being from 6 to 16 with some of them possibly women. They have shot and used grenades against the shoppers and currently the deaths total 69 with 175 injured.

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On the 23rd September the siege continues with hostages still in captivity and firing continuing. It is feared that explosives may be rigged in some areas or on some shoppers

Twitter has been used by the terrorists to make claim to the numbers killed.

On a lighter note it is estimated there are more than 10 million domestic cats in the UK. Their toll on birds and small mammals is enormous and it has been suggested that a dusk to dawn curfew should be enforced. It does not work with humans so I doubt cats are better subjects. Education is what they need. Avian rights and Health and Safety in the Work Place notices could be pinned to cat flaps if we are really being serious. I might add that I love birds but “head” and “brick wall” seems to come to mind with possible legislation. Australia has a curfew, with miscreants rounded up to a pound and a payment levied for their release. I suspect that would really put the proverbial amongst the pigeons if it were tried here. That’s an election loser if ever I saw one!

In the meantime I wonder what percentage of the 10 Million use my front lawn as a toilet?

Syria seems to have come back from the brink with Assad starting to send some detail of his chemical weapons stocks to the UN as agreed. In another area a cease fire has been agreed between two factions of the rebels that threatened to add to the countries problems. There is a long way to go and the destination is by no means identified.

The terrorist attack on the Nairobi shopping mall is over with government troops still sorting through the debris. The official and final (they say at the moment) death toll is 67 with 6 of these casualties being British with 5 terrorists dead and 10 held by the authorities. The Kenya Red Cross say there are still 71 people unaccounted for so the figures may indeed not be quite so final. Recriminations are rife regarding the time taken to respond and the action taken when it eventually arrived. Lack of security has also been site which allowed the terrorists to rent a shop in the complex in which they stored their armoury of weapons and explosives.

 Not surprisingly everybody appears in shock at the event of the following 4-5 days and little information has been released reference the actual perpetrators. However Interpol have been put on alert to arrest Samantha Lewthwaite the radicalised wife of Germaine Lindsey who blew himself and many travellers on a Kings Cross tube station in 2005. The anniversary of the atrocity was September 23rd.

The US and Iranian presidents have spoken over the phone following President Hassan Rouhani implied suggestion that Iran was prepared to put a hold on its Nuclear weapon development plans. This would presumably facilitate the removal of some of the sanctions placed on it by the UN. Israel and some of the Gulf States have viewed the move with a great deal of suspicion. They think that President Obama is looking for political gain and only giving Iran more time to carry out their development.

Meanwhile at home Rouhani’s returned was greeted with little enthusiasm. So not all Iranians want to sell out the US.

The British Embassy in Yemen has been closed and staff evacuated until further notice following reports of threatened attacks by al-Qaeda. The US has closed many of its embassy’s in the Middle East and parts of North Africa for the same reason. With Ramadan ending at the end of the week it is unlikely the embassies will open before then.

The Hornets started their 9 month campaign today 3rd August.with an away win at Birmingham. It takes nearly the whole season for me to recognise from the wireless commentary which of the players are ours. There is a league of nations again at Vicarage Road.

Spain is upset about an artificial reef put down a in a bay in Gibraltar’s territorial waters. It will interfere with their fishermen they say. The reef is for the purpose of conserving fish stocks by limiting access to an onshore area. The Spaniards were so upset that the Garda Civil has fired on an unarmed British Jet Skier in British waters. They have stepped up border checks that have caused massive hold ups and now threaten to make a charge of 50 Euros for crossing and to remove the authority for UK planes to use Spanish airspace on approach and take off. What a throw back to the 60s and 70s when we were forced to take a boat across the bay as the road was permanently closed. There must be something in the EU rules that forbids the obstruction and charging of visitors who wish to pass across the border between two member states. I suspect it just doesn’t work for those leaving the UK, only for those illegally entering. It will be very interesting to see how Brussels sorts this one out.

The England cricketers have retained the Ashes today, 5th August, because it poured down at Old Trafford and saved them from getting the considerable thrashing that they well deserved. After performing poorly for the first two tests the Australians suddenly came to life in Manchester.

David Cameron has spoken to his Spanish counterpart reference the anti social behaviour of the Spanish border authorities and the EU is making its usual sage comments! 7th August.

The US asylum seeker Edward Snowden has been granted permission by Russia to leave the airport; where he has been for some time, and enter the country under asylum. This has upset the US no end and President Obama has cancelled a visit to see President Putin. The charges they have laid would, if he is found guilty, put him inside for a considerable time.

Our new Canadian Bank of England boss has said the bank rate would remain at 0.5% until unemployment falls to below 7%. This he calculates; if the wind continues to blow in the right direction, will not happen for another three years.

 So called “Social Networking” is in the news again today. A 14 year old girl was found hanged after she received on-line threats, apparently known as trolls. The anonymous morons; who target vulnerable people with comments reference their alleged size; ugliness and perversions, had told her to drink bleach and to get a very nasty disease. The web site that is run by Latvians has apparently 60million users and this was the fifth time a suicide by a teenager has been connected this year. The site claims that that its moderator’s read all reports made of bullying. Too little, too late! What useful purpose is served by allowing perverts to post pictures and any comment they feel fit; without proof or apparent provocation, and make threats of physical violence anonymously on other people’s pages, defeats me entirely. What a wonderland of technology and evil opportunities the internet can provide in the hands and minds of those who bully and threaten from the safety of their PC or Laptop.

       October 2013

The US Government is at a standstill 2nd October, due to Congress and Senate being unable to agree on budget bill reforms. The US financial year ended on the 30th of September and the numpties on Capitol Hill have failed to agree a new budget. Thousands of Civil Servants have been sent home on no pay and no idea when they will go back to work. They are labelled “non essential staff” and there is not a legal arrangement to pay them. So we have not got them all then.

Much posturing continues from the various parties at their annual conferences. Short memories and a degree of hypocrisy seem to prevail. It is difficult to determine who has the right approach to the nasty situation that still prevails.

HS2 is one of the subjects taking up a lot of space and time. It would seem that there are some that still want it, some who wanted it but not any more and those that never wanted it. And then there are the others and politicians making gain of one opinion or the other.

Easier Mortgages is the aim of a government proposal to guarantee mortgages to first time buyers. Does this mean more defaulting and debt and negative equity? What about when the Bank rate eventually rises? Have we not been there before? Loans made with absolutely no possibility of them being paid off. Or does that not matter anymore?

The Nero’s continue to fiddle on Capitol Hill. 4th October. No agreement on the budget and lots of people not working. This will soon start to reflect on the world markets, if it hasn’t already. Politics gone mad? Or did they not have a long way to go anyway?

The Hornets are 5th in the Championship. 5th October. At the same time last year they were 15th, so surely their chances of promotion must be much better.

Has the estate had a visit from outer space? 7th October. We noticed shiny white lines have appeared all over the road, just like crop circles. There is even a give way triangle and double broken lines at the Greenwood Drive end of Briar Road. All we need now is for people to take some notice of them.

There have been some changes in bird and animal population during the year. First the badger invasion in and around Briar Road, then the bold as brass Fox’s that stroll down the middle of Fern Way without a care in the world. The Sparrows have made a comeback. There are dozens in the bushes in our garden where last year there were virtually none. A Blackbird has had five broods, all in the same nest and a sleek and clever Sparrow Hawk flings itself into the bushes after the Sparrows. They in their turn make a lot of noise but stay put. Again on the plus side there have been few Slugs. What the reason is I don’t know but I hope they don’t come back.

The nights are drawing in and despite an occasional bit of Sun during the day it gets quite cold at night. Winter draws on.

A lot of noise has been heard on various parts of the estate from Leavesden film studio with cries of Action and Cut, often preceded by what sounds like the mother of all fans. We can see the rigging of a sailing ship over the wall, sometimes upright and at others listing over presumably in a storm. There is no sign of Tom Cruise the reported star of the production. Perhaps he can’t see over the wall! We think the film is to be called “All you need is kill”.

UK young adults have some of the worst literacy ratings in the developed world says a report by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 9th October. We are also the only country where the 55 to 65 years olds could perform better than the 16 to 24 years old group in reading and arithmetic skills. The younger group were also reported to perform worse than average in problem solving. If this is the result when previous governments have promised Education, Education and Education as the most important priorities, it’s a good job the aim was at the top of the list!! It seems the dumbing down or ”Lowest Common Denominator” policy is proven to give good exam results and a poor final outcome.   “Question 1. LCD, expand and explain in 250 words?”

The Royal Mail has been privatised and share prices have immediately risen by 40% which prompts claims that the sell off was too cheap. 10% of the shares were given to 150,000 of the companies employees which should add up to £2,200 each. This has not circumvented the vote on a strike with ballot papers due to be returned on the 17th of this month. The service won’t be affected say the Government. That is a bit of a shame really as we have lost several items in transit this year, both parcels and letterbox post.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants have died in three shipping disasters on the crossing from North Africa to Lampedusa heading for Sicily and thus into Europe. 13th October. Many others were pulled to safety. The problem will not go away and there appears little hope that the attempts will not continue. The immigrants came from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria.

First time house buyers have created a 6 years high in taking out £3.8 million in loans following the Governments Help to Buy mortgage guarantees. 27,100 loans have been raised with an average ratio of 3.36 /1 times their August salary. Whilst it is great that people can get on the property ladder and we see the housing market stimulated I can’t help feeling wary. I really hope the loanees have carefully considered the implications involved in repayments in a volatile financial situation. Have we not been here before, and not that long ago?

England took a strong step towards qualification for a trip to Rio next year by beating Montenegro 4-1 at Wembley on Friday and another win on Tuesday against Poland; who have no chance of qualifying, will see us through. With a brighter display than of recent matches there is much optimism. Not chicken counting we hope!

The US government is still without an agreement (within their own legislature) that will allow them to increase their borrowing and not default on their dept. Wall Street is seeing a downturn in share values and heaven forbid an agreement is nor reached. We will certainly not escape unscathed here in the UK, and just when trade figures seem to be improving slightly. Every time one door closes………….

The standard of car parking at ASDA is abominable. Even in the bays marked for parent and child many of the cars are parked or abandoned diagonally across the space, which makes it awkward for others, especially if they have a child and need the extra door space, although most of them seem to be travelling alone. I wonder if the reason is the same gene that forces shoppers to put their returned trolleys across the back of the line effectively blocking anybody else from recovering their £1 coin? The choice seems to lay within genetic, stupid, bloody-minded or just plain idleness.

The re-opened Madeleine McCann investigation broadcast on Crimewatch TV on Monday evening 14thOctoberr. has resulted in excess of 1,000 calls, texts and emails. The Scotland Yard detectives who are conducting the operation are also making appeals in Ireland, Germany and Holland. They claim many important pieces of information have been received. The renewed interest shown in the case is indicated by the viewing figures of 7.3 million.

20% of Civil Wedding ceremonies are actually proven bogus or at least very suspicious say’s the chairman of the Local Registration Services Association and the actual figures are possibly even higher. Sham marriages between people trying to abuse the immigration system are common. The system forces the Registrars to complete the suspect ceremonies “through gritted teeth” in some instances. Law and Ass comes to mind.

England have won their way to Rio with a 2-0 win at Wembley 25th October. against a spirited Polish team that will have to wait another 4 years for another go. Controversy raged with the provision of nearly 25% of the tickets to the Polish supporters. Waving dangerous looking lighted flares they certainly made their presence known. Rooney scored the first just before half time with a great headed goal from a free kick and Gerrard scored the second just before the end with a brave solo effort. The true England supporters will now need to save many thousands of pounds to see the Rio games and if heaven forbid we get to the final, will need a second mortgage to get into the Maracana Stadium.

There are substantiated claims that some NHS hospitals are spending less on a patient’s meals for a day than they collect for an hours parking. The Barnet Chase Hospitals Foundation Trust spend £4.15p per day which works out at £1.38 a meal. Even Jamie Oliver would struggle to beat that.

From the sublime to the ridiculous the US government have still not reached 16th October. an agreement that allows them to continue trading despite a warning they may lose their 3 Star financial rating. With virtually all Western currencies being tied or connected to the Dollar in some shape or form we have reason to deplore the tardiness of the party politicians in the US administration. Or perhaps non-administration would be a better description.

The price of houses continues to rocket. In the London area they have risen by 8.7% in the year to August. Which is before the government’s financial guarantee of their “Help to Buy” for first time buyers; which caused a major rise on its own. Do you remember the last “bubble” and the result of it bursting? It can’t happen again so soon, can it?

The US has reached a compromise arrangement 17th October. that will allow public employees to return to work and remove the immediate possibility that the treasury will default on the national loan. Disagreement over Obama’s “Affordable Care Act” prompted the Republicans in the House of Representatives to block agreement on the budget. The President and the Democrats held firm and as the Republicans did not want to be seen as the party that shut down Public Services and a set up possible world financial meltdown they have agreed, or are likely to agree, a short term arrangement but the problem is still there and the stupidity will start all over again. But at least the dustbins will be emptied.

The episode has been described as political and financial Russian Roulette and has provided a risk to world finances that seems to have passed over most peoples heads.

The newly privatised Royal Mail will hold their first strike on 6th November. What this will do for it’s customer base, many of whom are disillusioned to start with, is anybody’s guess.

A ride around the Sainsbury’s car park in the local bus on 18th October. demonstrated; on superficial observation, a superior level of parking skills, with the exception of a large BMW which managed to impinge diagonally on three parking bays. I wonder where he practiced; across the road perhaps? In order to be completely PC and fair, and even more petty minded, I should have said he or she in the last sentence. Enough!!!

The US government has at the last moment finally agreed a budget that will allow them to continue until it all goes down the drain again in the spring. Their National Debt is around 17.5 Trillion; which is an awful lot of noughts, and set to rise. Who does the lending? The theory of some commentators is that the US government is at a turning point. American democracy is shown to be dysfunctional they say. This has to be good news to us all.

Food waste is in the news again today 21st October. Tesco have published their own figures which are frightening. Looking at the country as a whole we throw away from the home 7.2 tonnes per year, 50% of this was edible at the time and presumably the other half had been edible at time of purchase if we had not bought too much or looked after it better. Nobody buys food not fit too eat surely, or do they?

The wastage costs an average household £50 per week and the particular groups of food that are top of the league are fruit and vegetables = 21%, and bakery products = 68%. Between the stores and the consumer 68% of bagged lazy salad is dumped and even alcohol figures in the totals.

With everyone on a tighter budget it seems slightly incongruous that we throw half of the total food products wasted in the UK annually which amounts to the total of 7.2 million tonnes.

The figures used are mainly from WRAP which is government supported.

The government has announced the go ahead for a new nuclear generating installation to be built near to the existing Somerset plant which is nearly at the end of its life. The new plant, to be completed by 2023 will cost £16 billion, with the French company EDF leading the consortium with a small Chinese involvement. An agreement to buy the electricity generated for approximately double the existing rate has been challenged as too high, but with most of the energy companies either raising; or in the process of raising energy costs by 8-9%, it won’t be long before it is not such a big step. The main argument is that we do not have the money to build the plant ourselves and we need the power. This is one of eight confirmed new sites for reactors that in truth should be at least in part, up and running now!

The environmentalist’s are saying we should go with renewable sources of electrical power as they are cheaper, but we are talking very large amounts of power and although the cost argument has some validity it is a question of scale. We would need an awful lot more wind generators; (30,000 has been suggested) and PV installations to equal the output of one new nuclear plant. These figures are gathered from several agencies and are for illustration only.

          Feathers have been flying over the alleged hacking of private phone calls by the US Security organisations. Chancellor Angela Merkel of the DDR is one of those that believe her communications were tapped and does not like it. At all!! And that is putting it mildly! There is a suggestion that David Cameron was also listened into. There is a thin line between an individual’s privacy and security needs. It a very dangerous world we live in

The news of today is the storm. We have been warned all week that a nasty disturbance has been travelling across the Atlantic in our direction to arrive Sunday night, early Monday morning the 28th October. Well the Met. office got it right this time as we were awoken to tremendous gusts rocking the large trees at the bottom of our garden and fences rocking. We had put some props up against our exposed perimeters and they survived but others were not so lucky.  Ridge tiles were dislodged and street trees broken off or blown over with some of them falling on cars. We are back now (PM) to pouring rain and patches of blue skies, Never a dull moment.

The news also tells us of 4 deaths; one of them in Watford, where a tree fell on a car killing its male driver. Tens of thousands of consumers, mostly in the rural Eastern parts of England, lost their electrical power as overheads cables were brought down. It will be several days before some of them see the light. Heathrow had a lot of flight cancellations and the railway’s, even 24 hours later, are still clearing tracks of fallen trees in some areas. Driving was hazardous to the point that many did not bother to try to get to work. Another fatal incident involved a gas explosion where a tree fell and ruptured a gas pipe. Today 29th October, it is counting the cost and insurance claim time today.

The facility to add to and edit this entry has failed yet again so it is just as well that I am going on holiday tomorrow.   7th. November.

On returning to the keyboard on 24th November I find the edit facility still inoperative. So what follows are comment on the events since the last entry; as they were available in the Canaries.

The big news was the typhoon in the Philippines that has been accessed as the largest storm ever and has wreaked havoc over a wide area with an estimated five and a half thousand dead and millions homeless. Many countries; following the UK lead, have now arranged aid from the basics like fresh water to food and shelter. This event has ruined millions of lives and it is hard to see from the news pictures how some of them will ever recover.

Another massive storm in the Mediterranean has caused a lot of damage in Sardinia. The weather in the world is no longer in anyway predictable. What next for our ever expanding population?

The weather in Lanzarote was quite good for the time of the year. It was nice to walk along the Marina and see all the expensive boats. One lady visitor was telling her friend how lovely it was down by the waterfront; not because of the view but she could get five bars up on her phone and they had Wi Fi available for her tablet in the Cafe! We have never seen so many posh phones, tablets and lap tops in our life. The breakfast tables looked more like counters in PC World as people did whatever they do on social networks and the like. “I have just got my cornflakes and the milk was lovely and cold, how was your milk?”   We came home to a 20 degree C. drop in temperature which took some getting used to.

The Banks and Bankers are again in the news. US Bank JP Morgan Chase has agreed to a $13bn (£8bn) settlement for misleading investors during the housing crisis. The Royal Bank of Scotland has hired a law firm to investigate allegations that it deliberately caused small businesses to collapse for its own gain and the Co-op bank has had a former chairman arrested on an alleged charge of supplying drugs and various suggestions that the Methodist Minister was also involved in concerns over his expenses. The political parties have used him as a convenient shuttlecock when perhaps there are more important things to discuss. In a “nothing to do with us” reaction he has been suspended from both the Labour Party and the Methodist Church where he was a Minister in Bradford. With organisations and people such as these in charge of our fortunes, what have we got to worry about?

Three woman have been rescued from a house in South London 22nd November, after being forced to work as slaves for more than thirty years. One of them may actually have been born in captivity and never have had contact with the outside world. This is apparently not an isolated case here and around the world. The full story will no doubt eventually come to the surface.

          The England cricket team have disgraced themselves in the first bad tempered Test against Australia losing by 381 runs. “Sledging” reached a face to face situation on the pitch; threats to break arms were heard over the stump microphone during the game, following an earlier smear campaign against Stuart Broad that was just a little over the top. Newspapers printed team and action pictures with Broads face obliterated and this followed his taking of five wickets in the first day. This was the only success that the team could claim throughout the short match. Batsman Trott is to come home with a long standing stress problem claiming he can’t currently operate at the level he has done in the past. Australian opener David Warner has described Trott as “poor and weak” and as having “scared eyes”. “There but for the grace of God” David!

The Hornets are going through a bad patch and have not won in five games. Whilst serving up some of the best football seen at Vicarage Road for a long time they have not been able to collect the three points often deserved. It does not look as though they will be amongst the challengers this year at this rate.

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy was celebrated with much pomp in the USA. The pictures were shown again of the actual event and marked the beginning of putting us all in the picture without waiting for days. We could see presidents shot, buildings being struck by planes and atrocities taking place “as they happened”. We can even see it whilst on a walk in the sun!

An agreement has been reached between the Western Powers and Iran in Geneva regarding the sanctions placed due to Iran’s refusal to give up its Uranium enriching program and nuclear weapon production. It appears to me that this six month interim arrangement may be a matter of Hobson’s choice and with the Gulf States not agreeing with the details and Israel rubbishing the whole affair it leaves a long way to go.

Comet Ison will give a spectacular early morning display in early December if it survives its pass; at 720,000 miles of our Sun, on 28th November. It has been travelling on its orbit since the Big Bang and it would be a shame if it fell to pieces without having its few days of glory.

         December 2013

Comet Ison will not be the spectacle it had hoped to be. It took a big hit; when like Icarus, it flew too near to the sun. What came out the other side will not light up the sky for our wonder and awe.

With the economy showing small signs of improvement the increase in our Growth Domestic Product has a number of effects in addition to demonstrating our improving financial health. They include triggering an increase in our payments to the EU and also an increase in our contributions to foreign aid amounting to around £1 bn; as it is calculated as 7% of the UK income, to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in undeveloped countries. This has raised a hornets’ nest over corruption and the claimed fact that one African country has lost up to £5 bn from its pot to corrupt politicians and officials, some of whom helped prepare the interim report. The final report on these anomalies is also criticised as it does not contain many of the alleged proven incidents seen in the interim version. A fox and hen house situation if ever there was one! It’s only our money so why should we bother, although the real losers are those unfortunates who don’t receive treatment or medication because someone is driving around in it or living lavishly on it.

Our school children are falling far behind many European and Far Eastern countries when comparing core subjects for 15 year olds. Despite the multi billion pound rise in education spending they rank out of 65 countries: 26th in maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science. The UK has never failed to make the top twenty in any subject before.

We are heading for a big freeze which will last through to March say the Met Office. It starts on Thursday 5th December. Get the Long Johns out!

The published statement on the Scottish devolution referendum has caused a degree of interest and a lot of derision from many sides. Some claim the Scots’ are looking for a “half way house”, keeping the Queen and the Pound, and having the other home countries underwrite their Euro zone debts, whilst chucking out the trident nuclear deterrent and taking the profits from what is left of North Sea gas. It all seems to be pretty uninteresting to most people.

New fathers will be able to share the nearly a year parental leave with the child’s mother it was announced last week. The Institute of Directors claim the changes will create “nightmares” for already struggling companies.

A police helicopter has crashed onto a pub in Glasgow killing 9 inside and the two police and civilian pilot. No reason for the crash has so far been issued, or even suggested.

The government have decided to stop subsidising the mortgage market. In addition to causing savers to receive derisory interest rates it has been blamed for creating a dangerous house price bubble.

Onshore wind farms are to lose some of their subsidy in favour of offshore installations in another government turn round. The cost of generated power from these farms will still be way above that for more conventional methods. Another nuclear plant is to be built on Anglesey. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Japanese firm Hitachi. Whatever that means!

The Royal Bank of Scotland has again endeared itself to its customers on 2nd December; the day which is reckoned to be the biggest online spending day of the year. Nat West customers had their cards rejected with a full trolley of goods at the Supermarkets and no access to their cash from ATM’s. Some found their balance at zero and even had their last salary credit wiped out. Needless to say, despite the bank offering to make good any losses, some customers were feeling Red in the face. Just to add to Bank of Scotland’s overflowing cup they have been fined heavily by the EU for manipulating inter-bank interest rates in 2008 which contributed to the crash, from which we are still suffering. They were not the only ones so if you change your bank, where to you change too? Out of the frying pan……….

The Hornets got a point last night! 3rd December. They have not won a match in seven and are in mid table with 24 points. Come on you ‘Orns!!!

Massive storms and rain in Scotland and the North East have caused flooding and brought down power cables. Tens of thousands of consumers have lost their power supply again. The associated tidal surge coming south down the North Sea has flooded many areas in Yorkshire, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk. The threat is not over yet and evacuations have taken place with efforts to bolster the sea defenses. It must be terrible for those affected.

Nelson Mandela has died aged 95. 6th December. He spent his whole life fighting apartheid, which included 27 years in jail on Robbin Island off Cape Town. He was released in 1994 when apartheid was ended and in the same year elected President of South Africa. Following his retirement in 1999 he has on and off  suffered ill health finally succumbing last night. Most of the World senior statesmen have praised his life and achievements. He was loved by his people in South Africa

The storms and flooding on the East coast resulted from a tidal surge due to the storm which was the highest for 60 years. The flood defenses stood up well in most places but some flooding occurred. Some houses were washed into the sea and others made dangerous. The Thames barrier protected London from what would have been disastrous flooding.

The draw for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup was made on the 6th December. To say England had an easy run into the quarter finals would not be true. They are joined in Group D by Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy. Their first game is to be played in the middle of the Amazonian jungle in Manaus against Italy, where temperatures will likely be in the 30’s, centigrade.

This complete article has been re-entered 10th Decemberin order to overcome the lack of Edit facility. It is sincerely hoped that it will continue to work until the end of the year.

Our MP’s salaries are to rise by 11% to £74,000 pa. as determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Committee. Some savings are to be made by modifying their final pension scheme but it nevertheless seems likely caused a fair degree of disgust amongst those of us who see no increase at all or at best a very small one.

England have again been humiliated in the second Australian Test Match. There goes the Ashes!

The Hornets drew 3-3 at Leeds 7th December which has to be seen as a good result, but they still need points to come in three’s if they are to rescue their season.

Don’t have your operation on a Friday claims a medical statistics firm. You are 24% more likely to die from a routine procedure than if you have it done during the week. You are also 3.9% more likely to return as an emergency case. It would seem to be the lower level of care at the weekends and not the standard of the initial treatment. Apparently the NHS are addressing this phenomena as a priority. That comforting to know!

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