Social Comment – 2016

Social Comment for Year 2016.

January 2016

Welcome to another year. Today, the 1st. January, is much colder with a frost on the lawn. This follows what has been the warmest December ever, with a complete lack of frost and average temperatures of 8 degrees centigrade it was nearer to those mean’s that should be experienced in April or May. The other anomaly was the series of storms coming across the Atlantic bringing unheard of amounts of rain to Northern England and Scotland. The floods are currently subsiding leaving a trail of wrecked homes damaged roads and bridges and broken rail links.

Saudi Arabia has announced the execution of 47 men. 2nd January. Included in this number; all found convicted guilty on terrorism charges, is the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimal. They had been determined guilty of plotting or participating in attacks against residential compounds and government buildings.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatolla Ali Khamenei, 3rd January, said Saudi Arabia faced “divine revenge” as a result of the clerics execution. He had “neither invited people to take up arms nor hatched covert plots. The only thing he did was public criticism”. The Saudi’s summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest over their reaction to the executions.

The Iranians have set fire to the Saudi embassy; 4th January, in Tehran; and other consular offices. This has had the effect of lessening the headline value of the executions in favour of a pending diplomatic crises.

The Saudi’s have given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country following the Tehran arson attacks, and their Foreign Minister has announced the severing of diplomatic ties with Iran…………..

The rains continue to fall on Northern England & Scotland and add to the already dire flooding situation. Some weather experts are claiming a month’s fall of rain and snow could hit the northern UK.

The Government will commission the building of 13,000 homes on five specific “public land” sites in Southern England. A percentage of these will be “affordable”. What “affordable” means seems to be open to a number of interpretations both in price and eligibility. What defines “Public land” is also a worry!

Diesel fuel at the pumps has dropped below £1 a litre for the first time since May 2009 and looks likely to drop even lower. Pollution gets cheaper by the day!

Watford General Hospital accident and emergency unit was closed to emergency ambulance admissions from 7.20 – 9.30 5th January. this morning due to lack of beds. Some cases were diverted as far away as Lister Hospital in Stevenage, the only other full time A & E department in the county. The Watford Observer have determined that admissions to the hospital have doubled since 2007.

With the closure of the facility in Hemel Hempstead and a day time only service at the QE11 in Welwyn, the number of patients admitted at Watford General from St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford went up from 4,931 in 2007 to 8,046 last year.

In a statement from the hospital chief Executive Samantha Jones, she blamed the decision to divert on the number of people who required a warm bed, many of them elderly or having complex conditions. “The decision to divert ambulances was not taken lightly” .Ms Jones added, “There are a significant number of patients on our wards who are clinically fit to be discharged but need additional support to leave, whether it’s finding them a suitable place in a care home or for them to receive additional care in their own home. “On Tuesday, there were 45 patients in our hospitals who no longer required acute hospital care, but needed support out in the community, at home or in residential care homes.”

This is a situation that can only get worse without some new thinking and some “well managed” money perhaps?

North Korea has claimed it has successfully detonated a Hydrogen bomb. 6th January. This marks a considerable advancement in technology for the reclusive state and asks big questions of the other world leaders. Other than China’s that is, who support leader Kim Jong Un.

The head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that if the test is confirmed it is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and is “deeply regrettable”.

Six patients are currently taking place in trials at the John Radcliffe Hospital to fit a chip onto their retina to provide signals to the brain via an intact optic nerve and thus enable them to see again. This would be of particular benefit to those who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa and whose light receptors have been destroyed by the disease.

The latest mark of the chip has only 1,500 pixels so has only 1% of a mega pixel total, which is way less than the least sensitive of mobile phone cameras and relies on the subjects 100 million brain neurons to process the signal for interpretation. The cell is only 3x3mm and is inserted in the back of the eye in a lengthy operation.

A mother of two who has been blind since she was five has been able to tell the time and see objects she has never seen before. Her brain will require time to learn how to interpret the new signal more fully. She describes the joy of locating a knife or fork on the table, something most of us would not even give a second thought to.

During the week the Chinese have had a stock market glitch with prices falling fast enough for an auto cut off of trading to cut in twice. A certain amount of panic ensued; which dropped values by 7%. Some order has been regained together with some of the value but this of course has not prevented the rest of the world from overreacting causing lowered values, which to date have not yet recovered.

A report on some of the less welcome activities of bankers and banking has been apparently suppressed. This has brought out cries of “cover up” and some less complementary suggestions as to why, when most of them are at least partially true.

Following a number of sexual attacks on New Year’s Eve in Cologne it has been reported that some of the attackers were immigrants. This has upset the locals no end and even Chancellor Merkel has admitted the refugee crisis is “out of Control”. Demonstration against the influx of refugees and a suggestion that those apprehended on assault charges had been favourably dealt with. It again raised question of the inability; due to EU rules, to deport foreign offenders. An alleged leaked police report; published in German newspapers, claims that one offender when apprehended told the policeman “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs Merkel invited me”.

Angela Merkel has said the euro was directly linked to freedom of movement in Europe and the single market would suffer if countries did not allow easy passing of borders. It is difficult to see how lawlessness unpunished; for anyone, would help. A lot of German people don’t believe it either.

After 14 consecutive Roll-Overs, the National Lottery had two winners tonight 9th January. Each lucky winner to collect circa £33m. We had a £25 Premium Bond win!

The Hornets beat Newcastle 1-0 to go through to the fourth round of the ‘Cup. By all accounts the game matched the weather. Which was abysmal.

The BBC reports that only one of the two Lotto winners have claimed their £33m 11th January. I seem to remember a lost ticket in the Lucky House Draw some years back that caused a bit of bother!

The musical world has provided numerous tributes to the career of David Bowie who died today aged 69, after battling cancer for 18 months. His ground breaking performances and persona have been wondered at; and in most cases enjoyed, by several generations.

Junior Doctors have gone on strike today 12th January. over new contracts imposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. 40,000 doctors have walked out cancelling 40,000 routine operations, leaving only emergency care in place. The dispute is based on; but not exclusively, to the remuneration for providing 7 day service in hospitals.

The union bosses representing the London Underground workers have given three dates for 24 hour Tube strikes, they are still disputing pay and providing a Night Tube service.

Denmark is trying to discourage migrants from seeking asylum on its territory. They are the latest EU country to appear less than enamoured to see large numbers flowing into their countries. The Danes are debating a number of changes in their immigration laws, the one causing most interest and opposition is the proposal to allow the authorities to confiscate all valuables belonging to the refugees over value (circa) £1,000, and use them to pay for the refugee’s keep. The proposal has brought such inflammatory comment as “It is very odiously reminiscent of the German past…leave the valuables and go to the showers”. Whilst the Immigration Minister has said the proposal is in keeping with the Danish norm, if you can pay for yourself, you must do so.

Meanwhile, the Swiss are about to vote on a proposed new law to allow for the deportation of up to 18,000 foreign criminals a year. Not content with losing murderers and rapists, they have included shoplifters, trespassers or those failing to pay social security. The Swiss do not subscribe to our EU provided Human Rights legislation!

The doctors strike has ended but two more dates have been provided for further action. 13th January.

One of the £33M lottery winners has been paid out. He; a Scottish borderer, has said, “we won’t let the money change us”. In his dreams! If it doesn’t change him then the wrong person won! The second winning ticket has yet to be redeemed. Put it back in the Draw!!

The Metropolitan Police force will get 600 more armed officers in London bringing the total to 2,800. 14th January. “Expensive but vital” say’s the police commissioner. The increase follows a reassessment of response ability after the Paris terror attack. Concern is voiced that too much focus was being placed on London when the terror threat is UK wide. The level of threat across the country remains at “severe” which means an attack is “highly likely.

Following the World Health’s Organization declaration that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was over, a further death has been confirmed in Sierra Leone. 15th January. The WHO has warned that more flare-ups are likely. 11,300 have died during this last outbreak.

Islamic State claim responsibility for a terror attack in Jakarta Indonesia. There were six explosions, some near to the United Nations HQ, a suicide bomber was killed in an attack at a Starbucks. The police regained control after five hours, some suffering gunshot and shrapnel wounds. Seven died in total, five terrorists and two civilians.

This attacks on a civilian target follows similar recent events in Turkey, Iraq and Cameroon.

Wholesale gas and electricity prices have fallen to a five year low and pressure is on for the six UK big suppliers to reflect this event in their tariffs. Hysteresis is the operative word in this non event.

It was noticed yesterday that road and pavement repairs; or at least disturbances, are at a premium in Watford at the moment. Parts of Sheepcote Lane were closed, a section of Wiggenhall Road has been blocked for some time and numerous yellow barriers obstruct pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Leavesden Road was at a standstill and it appears the traffic lights, particularly at the bottom of this road take no account whatsoever of the current traffic demands; as witnessed by the queues to the north and a great lack of vehicles towards Station Road. Only the meagre traffic flow from the shopping estate require this holdup. Where are the traffic engineers?

This is the last “Social Comment” on this site for a little while. 15th January. I leave you with UK astronaut Tim Peake actually on the outside of the International Space Station carrying out maintenance in his space suit. He is 254 miles directly above San Francisco, California and travelling at 17,160 miles per hour and will soon overfly South America before looping down the Pacific and swooping south of the Cape of Good Hope. He will circumnavigate the Earth every 90 minutes whilst he is busy with his screwdriver and pliers. Now that is a much more uplifting “comment” to leave on. I feel better now!

The sanctions placed on Iran to persuade them to modify their nuclear programme have been partially lifted by the US, EU, and UN, in response to the IAEA report that said Iran had complied with a deal designed to prevent it developing nuclear weapons.

The EU. is lifting trade restrictions.

The US. is only suspending its nuclear related sanctions; but Iran can now reconnect to the Global banking system.

The UN. is lifting the ban on defence and nuclear technology sales and releasing an asset freeze on some individuals and companies.

The US. retain their economic sanctions and still ban US. citizens and companies trading with Iran. The US. and EU. keep the sanctions on Iranians accused of sponsoring terrorism.

With £70bn of Iranian assets being unlocked and their suspected intention to increase their crude oil exports of a daily 1.1m barrels by 500,000 barrels soon; and more to come, the non nuclear fallout on international financial markets is bound to be worrying. In a world with far too high an oil production level, prices must drop even lower than the record at present.

Tata steel have announced a loss of over a thousand jobs, with many in the Port Talbot plant, South Wales. This is in addition to the numbers announced last year, and labour reduction is blamed on plunging steel prices. The market place is flooded with steel and other countries can produce it for a considerably lower cost. China in particular has been cited. It is also claimed that others do not have the restriction on pollution controls and of which we just don’t pay lip service to.

         Return from Holiday.

It is now the 5th April and I am back in the UK following 10 weeks of very little news filtering across to the sub continent. I did hear that good old Terry Wogan had died together with Ronnie Corbett who passed away unaware he was to be Knighted by the Queen in her 90th birthday honours. Paul Daniels also did his last trick. All these old entertainers passing away that have apparently been around forever remind us that life is finite.

We have a new Editor for the Newsletter. As is usual the search went down to the wire but “Cometh the hour, cometh the man.” Or in this case cometh the woman! Jo Corcoran is the name. Welcome Jo.

The steel crisis continues with more job losses threatened. China is to impose a levy of 47% on imports of some specialist; high-tech steels from the EU, South Korea, and Japan and Tata Steel is going to sell its UK plants, that are running at a loss. The result of this action would be the loss of even more jobs. This levy is deemed “unwelcome”, particularly as the cheap steel from China has been suggested as the cause of the slump in demand.

The Hornets have won their way into the semi finals of the FA Cup with a famous win against Arsenal at The Emirates. They have unfortunately not covered themselves in glory in the league. Their ability to score seems to have dried up. They are still not safe from the possibility of a drop back to the Championship next season.

I have left the worst bit of news that filtered in to the last. On the 22nd March suicide bombers detonated their devices in Brussels airport and in a Metro station, killing 32 people and injuring over three hundred others. Evidence is to hand that suggest the attacks were carried out by the same Islamic State network that produced the carnage in Paris last November. Two suspects are still on the run.

Brussels airport reopened; under very tight security, 12 days after the event, for three flights only, it was closed for a total of twelve days.

The usual recriminations reference security; or lack of it, have been spread in the press. The truth is it could happen anywhere! The bombers had entered the airport check-in area with suitcases filled with explosives and nails and the resulting explosions caused massive damage and many deaths.

A brief comment on what we found in India on the social scene.

The journey out from Heathrow was by Airbus 380. What a plane! It was configured to carry 544 passengers but was capable of seating up to 853 if in a one class setup. It flew at near 600 mph at 42,000 ft. (7 miles) high over most of the trouble spots we hear of in the news. Never a shudder and comfortable roomy seats. The fuel economy figures are also very impressive. How things have changed over the last few years.

Once there, besides the usual unreliable power supply: the lack of usable pavements, with taxis and scooters parked on most of the ones that did exist, and the mainly poor driving; mostly exhibited by tourists on scooters, the most outstanding memory is of a device that could have been invented by Narcissus. (Narcissism is described as the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes.) Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Selfie Stick! These were everywhere; producing such master pieces as: Me, and an out of focus wave: Me, and an out of focus beach, and so on. To see the faces pulled and lips pursed poses was an education. The results will no doubt enthral the audience at home or thrill the Facebook viewer. The prime example was of an Indian gentleman driving a scooter on a busy road with his young son standing in front of him and his wife ridding side saddle in a sari; breast feeding a tiny baby, whilst he held out a phone on a Selfie Stick in front of the bike. Not a helmet in sight and not a great deal of common sense either!

The other habit that sticks in my mind is of four people at a restaurant table; all with their heads down to mobile phones; fingers flitting over the keyboard. I suppose it removed the problem of actually having to speak to your fellow diners at all. “Pass the salt” perhaps. “No, I’ll send a text”.

Back to the suspect driving, I was hit twice by scooter mirrors and once by a taxi mirror, all whilst I was on the disputed pavement, and received a glancing blow from a pedalled Ice Cream cart. The food was great the weather tremendous and the company a joy. What’s a little bruise here and there.

The dogs were still on the beach, about a dozen of them in our section. They were looking for the food that misguided visitors brought down to them and guarding their patch, (no pun intended) against all comers. Fleas were scratched out and Rabies was a possibility if bitten. And some were!

David Cameron announced June 23rd as referendum day when we decide if we leave or stay in the in EU.  The Pound/Rupee rate dropped 4% immediately!

On arriving home 1st April. we found lots of men in high vis jackets and white safety helmets had dug large holes in the new pavement.  Affinity Water are replacing small sections of Lead piping at the stop cock site. As the majority of Kingswood premised are fed with a much longer lead pipe into the house this seems rather strange. Perhaps better not to ask.

Better news for the steel workers at Port Talbot. 4th April. Metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta claims he can revive the plants business without losing any of the 4,000 jobs. It will be a long job but his company is interested in acquiring the assets of the failing Tata Steel. The present workforce of Tata is 15,000.

Junior Doctors have gone on the fourth two day strike today. 6th April. Protesting against the new contract conditions due to be imposed by the government in August. 5,000 souls have had their procedures cancelled on this occasion. A later all out strike is promised for the 26th and 27th April when junior doctors will refuse to staff A&E as well as emergency surgery and intensive care. Not a good time to be ill.

All dogs will require an inserted chip by the age of 8 months or their owners will be liable to a fine of £500. A step in the right direction; but be careful where you put your foot!

Significant changes to UK. income tax personal allowances and the way interest is paid become law today.

This coincides nicely with a leak of a huge amount of secret documents by a Panamanian law firm revealing how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their commitments. Among the 11m documents is reported to be details of how one law firm in Panama has instructed clients on how to launder money, avoid sanctions and tax. The company reply; they have operated beyond reproach for 40 years and have never had a criminal charge against them.

Several top world politicians have been mentioned in the leaks including the Icelandic Prime Minister, (who has since resigned). Close associates of President Putin are suspected of being implicated in a billion dollar money laundering ring. Several of the Middle East’s top men have also been named.

David Cameron has not escaped criticism and has published his personal financial details. A transaction by his father seems to be the main target for this personal attack.

He has said recently that the government will legislate this year to hold companies who fail to stop their employees facilitating tax evasion criminally liable.

This is a dirty business and no doubt even more revelations will result.

A visit to the Town Centre 11th April. shows that Charter Place is well on its way to being flattened. It was nice to see that the old Bank building facade facing the top of Market Street; and built in 1890, is to remain. It survived the earlier Charter Place development and has looked down on many changes since its original construction: from the High Street open market; when it was also a two way road for a lot of the traffic bound to and from London, to the present semi pedestrianised thoroughfare formed as part of Exchange Road development. If it looks over its shoulder it will soon see the biggest change of all in the shape of the new Intu shopping and entertainment area.

Other innovations just started are the preparatory works for the link from the Metropolitan line; through the Town Centre to the Junction Station. It will also provide a link to Vicarage Road with The Hornets ground and the developing Health Campus. Regeneration of the Ascot Road site that housed The Sun Printers is also about to go to the planning stage. It will be served by another new tube Station on the new link at Cassiobridge.

 It has been announced today that Foreign aid expenditure will be greater than the amount given to councils to subsidise such services as rubbish collection, street lighting and support local services next year. 14th April. The cost of supporting international development in the year 2017/18 will be £9.3bn, against local government support of £8.2bn. MPs are asking; at a time when local government are under massive pressure due to government cuts, should we be spending such an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money on foreign aid?

Today sees the start of the EU Referendum campaign. 15th April. With ten weeks to the ballot the facts and myths, pro’s and con’s of the UK leaving the union are already in the news. US. President Barak Obama says stay, as does Labour Leader Jeremy Corbin; who says workers will lose a lot of their rights if we leave. The Government have published a booklet laying out their reasons for remaining in, and Nigel Farage say’s their arguments are “jammed full of Lies”. Boris Johnston the Mayor of London, says we should leave. So it’s make up your mind time for the rest of us. The votes will be cast on 23rd June next!

Before the above decision we have to elect our local councilors on the5th May. The parties machines are already telling us what they have done so far and what they will do if elected or re-elected, and what the other parties have failed to do. With the Hertfordshire Police Chief and Crime Commissioner post also up for grabs on the same date we are in for a democracy overload. Place your X here!

There is a possibility that thousands of steel workers jobs could be saved at the Port Talbot plant. 20th.April. The existing Managing Director of the Strip Products division has supposedly expressed an interest in a potential management buyout of the operation. He will canvass the workers who, it is suggested, would have to find in the region of £10,000 each. Other investors and the government would be needed to reach the £100million target.

The debate on “Brexit or not” continues in full flow. The latest input has been from the Jean-Claude Juncker the European Commission President. 20th.April. In a speech in Strasberg he is reported as saying “We are no longer respected in our countries when we emphasise the need to give priority to the EU”. This was immediately latched onto by the “Vote leave campaign” as an admittance that the EU does not work. The stay in augment is made by a Treasury analysis that concludes the economy would reduce by 6% by 2030; if we leave. This would cost each household £4,300.

Several alternative arrangements have been put forward for a non EU UK. They all seem perfectly reasonable and equally un-provable.

The Public Accounts Committee has warned that hundreds of million pounds of foreign aid intended for humanitarian causes is possibly wasted as the Government has no idea what it is being spent on. It is suggested that more than half of the £1.3billion of humanitarian aid is given to UN agencies who are locked in a “turf war” thus insuring that value for money cannot be assessed.

 

Our Queen is 90yrs. old today, and still going strong. 21st April. She is already our longest reigning Monarch.

                                    Long Live the Queen.

 

Additional funding for GP practices has been made available in order to improve services and make more appointment available, including weekends. It was also claimed that the government has failed to attract half of the 5,000 extra GP’s it had planned by 2,020. Still work to be done in this area.

The North Watford Police Station site is to be sold to the local housing trust.

They have prepared a number of designs for its redevelopment to contain fourteen 3-bedroom family homes and a block of fourteen 2-bedroom family apartments, the plans were approved last December 10th.

The Police Station was built in 1959 and your correspondent provided the Electrical installation. It stood on a single carriageway-Kingsway; that provided one of the entries to our estate and the option to purchase a property for around £2,000. I doubt the new properties on the Police Station site; despite the current need for “affordable housing”, will be much less than £350,000. My, how things change.

Three No. 10 buses to the town were missing this morning and when one did arrive it was followed immediately by another; and they played leapfrog all the way to the High Street. 25th April. On what is usually a good service the experience on a very cold day is one that hopefully will not be repeated, particularly for those traveling to a hospital appointment!

Junior Doctors continue their fight against a new contract with a two day strike that will include emergency services. 26th April. Many thousands of appointment and routine operations have been cancelled.

We are warned that due to a very wet last summer and the mildest winter ever recorded; the garden slug population will be particularly numerous this year. Gardeners should do whatever to protect their Lettuces!

After a poor display at Wembley in the FA Cup semi final; where they lost to Crystal Palace with hardly a whimper, the Hornets clinched their stay in the Premiership next year with a win. 30th April. Their performances since the turn of the year have taken them from a top four promise to a mathematical chance of dropping to the Championship; until this last result. Leicester City have won the Premiership after nearly being relegated last term. The odds on them winning had been 5,000 to one. Some brave characters have reaped the benefit of the Fox’s convictions.

 With the world swimming in surplus oil the price of petrol continues to rise at the pumps. 4th May. No believable explanation as usual.

Visited the replacement open air market in the High Street and found it nearly empty of shoppers, draughty and very noisy from the traffic with many of the stalls locked up, several appearing to have no business registered. Together with the mayhem around the top of Market Street and the treacherous footpath slabs, it did not make for a pleasant experience.

Waited a long time for the “every 10 minutes” number 10 bus at Market Street. Then not one, not two, but three arrived! The service appears to becoming a tad unreliable.

Rumour is rife that the Hornets manager Quique Sánchez Flores will leave at the end of the season. It would seem he has not satisfied the clubs owners.

The local council elections have proved successful for the Lib Dems, with all the previous incumbents re-elected for Stanborough. 5th. May.

The new London Mayor is Sadiq Khan. The first Muslim holder of the post.

Quique Sanchez Flores is to leave the Hornets after saying the owners and he do not have the same points of view. His season was definitely in two halves. All success in the first half and clinging on for dear life in the second.

The Eurovision Song contest was won by Ukraine in Stockholm. 14th May. They beat favourites Russia into third place with a song about the year (1944) when Stalin deported almost all of the quarter of a million ethnic Tatars from their native Crimea in collective retribution for their collaboration with the Nazi occupation force. The area later became part of the Ukraine.

Favourites Russia came third behind those well know Europeans Australia. England achieved a very creditable third from last.

Whatever happened to Puppet on a String, or even Boom Bang-a-Bang? And Terry Wogan, come to that.

Emotional scenes at vicarage Road, 15th May. as following a good game, (a draw), Quique Sanchez Flores said his goodbyes. The crowd were very appreciative of his efforts of keeping the club in the Premiership when most pundits had them down for an immediate return to the lower division.

A suspect package at Old Trafford forced the evacuation of the ground and a controlled explosion to be carried out on the device. The fact that it turned out to be a false device placed in a toilet during an earlier simulation exercise does not detract from the possibility that it could have been for real, and could happen anywhere!

The Queen in her speech at the Opening of Parliament 18th May. has included the commitment of the UK to “cutting edge” and “sci- fi” technologies; as they have been described subsequently by the Institute of Directors.

Her mention of driverless cars prompted the thought that they may already be on the road, witness the odd movements of vehicles around the end of Greenwood Drive and the local shops this morning.

It was suggested that before we invested in Space Ports and the like we should decide where or when the new South East England runway will be built  and sort out the buses, trains and congested roads.

Also announced were the new powers to be given to prison Governors to set their own rules and control their own budgets in order to address some real problems in the service. Earlier reports of unauthorised items available, “over the wall”, including drugs and mobile phones had been published.

The basis of a deal has been formulated concerning the new government contract for junior doctors that has produced several strikes over the last months. It would appear that both sides are fairly confident that it contains the facility to provide 7 day cover at a price the NHS can afford.

Donald Trump the US Republican presidential hopeful continues to make the news. 19th May. David Cameron, having called him “stupid” for his proposed policy of banning all Muslims from entering the US has refused to apologise. As they are due to meet when Trump visits the UK in July and he has said Mr Cameron and he were “not going to have a very good relationship”, it should be an interesting meet!

The “In/out” arguments of the EU continues at a pace. In many cases the for or against “facts”; are so patently biased as to make them farcical. Each side accuses the other of scaremongering, and it has to be said that they are both right. In truth the man in the street has no chance of making a judgement based on fact. The decision must nevertheless be made next month. For better or for worse.

Manchester United won the FA Cup, 21st May. and their manager Van Gaal received his marching orders just after he was given his medal. “Abide with me” was sung before the match for the 89th, and possibly worst time. The Welsh Guards band and the featured singers started off dead level but by half time the singers were well up. Things got a bit better towards the end and they finish pretty much at the same time. It rather spoiled the atmosphere. Not to be outdone, the pretty girl who was supposed to sing “God save the Queen” missed her prompt and started halfway through. Neither of these things would have occurred if the Hornets had beaten Crystal Palace and thus been in the final?

The Imperial Tobacco factory is to close following 137 years of producing cigarettes and loose tobacco’s such as Golden Virginia in the UK. 24th May. Its production will move to other EU factories with the loss of 540 jobs. The cost-cutting decision means the end of one of the last bastions of British manufacturing. Cigarette production was a substantial employer in many cities across Britain, from tobacco’s earliest introduction to the UK in the late 16th century, but has been in decline from a peak in 1947, as smokers cut down for health or financial reasons, or latterly turned to smoke free devices.

I am reminded of the enormous wooden hoardings standing on the A41 at the end of Kingsway back in the 1940/50’s. They advertised Players Navy Cut and Craven A cigarettes. The price of these; in twenty packets, was around two shillings; old money. (£0.10) The equivalent price today would be £9.40 including £6.91 tax.

The Hornets have a new manager by the name of Walter Mazzarri. (Who?)

The former Napoli and Internazionale manager has signed a three year deal with the owner Gino Pozzo and has spent part of the last two years in England learning to speak English. He favours the 3-5-2 system and has managed several Italian clubs with some success.

It rained on Watford on the 30th May. With 3 inches falling in an hour; accompanied by thunder, lightning and large hail stones. Many roads and underpasses were flooded causing severe delays. The gardens also suffered with shredded leaves and seed beds washed out. Oh, to be in England….

Today was the 100 anniversary of the naval battle of Jutland. 31st May. It took place in the North Sea off Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. Without going into detail; it resulted from the Imperial German Navy’s attempt to lure out and destroy a portion of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet from Scapa Flow in order to break their blockade of German ships access to the Atlantic.

It is noted as the largest ever naval battle and the only one that set two fleets comprising of the “Unsinkable behemoth iron battleships” of the day in direct conflict

From a total of 250 ships, the Germans lost 11 and the British 14. During the 24 hour battle approximately 8,500 men died; of which 6,000 were British and commonwealth sailors.

Both sides claimed a victory but the UK. Press and public did not see it as a British win due to the massive loss of life, and the expectation that if the Royal Navy put to sea then they would inevitably be victorious; as had mostly been the case in previous encounters over the years. “Britannia rules the Waves!”

Yet another incident during WWI. when life was cheap!

The dialogue continues over Brexit. To leave or not to leave is the only decision to be made and I suspect that most people will vote with no real evidence for or against. Much will be decided by political preference, it seems unlikely that most of the posturing; and in some cases downright manipulation of figures by politicians in both camps, will have a decisive effect on the end result.

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord. 6th June. A massive air and sea invasion by the forces of the UK and its Commonwealth and USA allies, of the Normandy area of France, was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s; up till then very successful, overrunning of North Western Europe. Some of our older residents will recall the over flying of masses of Dakota’s and other heavy aircraft, some towing gliders filled with troops and weapons, as they strung out across the Kingswood skyline. The distinctive banded marking on the squadrons were only later recognised by the public for what they were. Ground troops also made massed landings on five beaches and fought their way inland against terrible odds.

Within the region of 12,000 casualties and the loss of 2,000 aircraft in the two months leading up to the invasion, it is estimated that a further 4,400 men were lost on the day.

It is perhaps ironic that we are soon to make a decision on cutting our ties with these same countries we paid so dearly to liberate.

It is reported by the Electoral Commission today that 7.5m possible voters have yet to register their right to vote in the referendum. 7th June. The deadline is midnight tonight. Apparently the need to provide a National Insurance number is a considerable deterrent to some.

The thunder and lightning came back yesterday evening after a very hot day, but this time our friends and neighbours in Luton copped the worst. 8th June. The associated deluge flooded roads and washed out some transport structures. Some roads were closed all night and further shutdowns will be required to bolster up some of the compromised bridges and repair other road surfaces. London did not escape and cars were submerged in the South of the city. 5,700 lightning strikes were recorded around the storms.

An official alarm was raised reference toxic clouds of pollution being dragged from a plume of bad air over the continent. Those with breathing problems were warned to be careful of the resulting smog.

A combination of pollution and pollen can kill those with existing conditions say’s Asthma UK. Those with a tendency to Hay Fever should also beware.

Oh, to be in England…. Again.

The rush to use the Registration web site at the very last minute in order to be eligible to vote in the referendum crashed it. In order to cater for those that had not bothered over the last few weeks, the dead line has been extended by 48 hours. A bit like an E Bay auction?

The kick off of the Euro 2016 games came tonight 9th June. when arrests were made in Marseille ahead of the official start; (with a ball and referee,) tomorrow in Paris. A Chief Superintendant; a British policeman in charge of England fans security, said the confrontation was between local youths and some England fans, one each of whom were arrested. It seems the use of tear gas came as a bit of surprise to the fans, but it was explained that it is a regular tactic on the continent. Footage of the incident shows men hurling chairs and a fist fight outside McDonald’s, surrounded by police officers with dogs.

France is experiencing a lot of civil unrest at the moment, and a lot of tear gas is being used. With the level of security extending to “A State of Emergency,” following the Paris attacks and others in Belgium, the security forces are not messing about. Industrial action has hit transport, with associated delays, both on land and in the air.

Today is the Duke of Edinburgh’s actual 95th birthday. 10th June. The Queen celebrates her official 90th. birthday tomorrow.  Both are still active in their duties and the Queen will attend the weekend’s celebrations, including a “Trooping of the Colour” on Saturday. Despite the heightened state of emergency that attends all large public gatherings there will be many visitors; both British and foreign, to see the Pomp, Circumstance and Ceremony that we do so well.

The funeral took place today of Muhammad Ali in Louisville USA. A controversial figure in boxing, but arguably the best ever World Heavyweight Champion.

He was self proclaimed “The Greatest”. He talked a good fight and boxed an even better one. Nicknamed “The Louisville Lip”, he claimed to “float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee”. The “Ali shuffle” was part of his showboating style that the world loved. He had many notable bouts, most of which he won. A great showman; he suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, but never lost his “lip”.

A Three Lions fan has been thrown into the Marseilles harbour in the pre-match formalities between English, French and Russian fans. England play Russia later today. 11th June. The “wrong result” could be interesting and severely deplete the tear gas stocks! Come on England!!!!

The England/Russia game last evening resulted in a 1-1 draw with Russia equalising in the last minute of “time added on” following a spirited effort from the Lions.

After the game ended a group of Russian supporters, some wearing Balaclavas, overran a thin line of stewards to attack their English counterparts, and several very serious injuries resulted. They grabbed flags as they forced the English fans to flee over fencing and walls to escape. A witness reports one supporter in a wheel chair was seen being beaten up with a chair.

The head of the Russian football fans union said on Russian news last night “there was no clash”, and claimed there had been no trouble at the end of the game! The Russian Football Federation is likely to be sanctioned yet again for the attack, and for the flares and fireworks; one of which was fired across the pitch whilst the game was in progress. Considering both sets of fans were body searched before entering the stadium this latter put some doubts on the effectiveness of the security.

The Queen is due to attend a Patron’s picnic today; along with 10,000 picnickers; including senior royals and corporate sponsors. It will to be held in the Mall on the celebration route and marks the third and final day of her official 90th. birthday celebrations. 12th June. The first quests; paying £150 for the privilege, were greeted with a heavy rain storm. The event recognises the Queens patronage of more than 600 organisations in the UK and Commonwealth.

The festival will include a carnival parade and the organisers have provided a contingency of 500 litres of sun tan cream and 12,000 rain ponchos. Look out for the sale of a job lot of sun tan cream on E-Bay!!

House prices are up by 8.5% (14.5%in London) 13th June. Average property value price quoted  is £209,054. They have obviously not taken Kingswood into account, or there are an awful lot of very cheap properties somewhere else.

Following the ugly scenes in Marseilles at the weekend the UEFA have said they are unhappy with the security in Lille; the next venue for an England game. This earlier incident has seen six England fans jailed and Russia fined £119,000, with a suspended disqualification from the competition.

Russia were beaten last evening 16th June, and when the fans arrived in Lille after the game the English were waiting for them and there followed more violence with a strong police intervention. 36 English combatants were arrested and 16 are in hospital. With the threat of disqualification always present it does not look good.

Among the reasons for the violence as quoted in the press were: Booze, and the claimed presence of organised gangs of Russians, all made worse by the considered over reaction of the French police. Water cannon, tear gas and baton charges seemed to inflame rather than subdue or calm the combatants. The pictures on TV are not nice to watch.

England play a successful Wales tonight; if they are still in the competition. TV broadcasts of pleas from the England manager and Wayne Rooney for support and calm. They did not seem to make a lot of difference.

Following a peaceful day in Lille, with English and Welsh fans enjoying the experience together, they played one another and England won 2-1. No trouble on the terraces.

It has been confirmed by an IAAF meeting that the ban on Russian athletes will continue and thus they will not be allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics. This ban is based on the claimed proven state-run doping programme.17th June. Some individuals will be allowed to compete as private non affiliated contestants, if they can prove they are “clean”.

Double Olympic  Gold Medal pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva claims her human rights have been violated by the IAAF imposed ban. She will file a discrimination suit.

Another silver medallist has said athletes should be allowed to take banned substances as “normal” people do! Having recently failed a drug test she claimed that sports people would not be able to “achieve high results” without performance enhancing substances.

Another subject that defies logical comment. Perhaps the drug companies should enter teams, to be taken with a pinch of salt, on an empty conscience.

Croatian fans kept up the disgraceful behaviour from which the Euro 2016 has been suffering. 17th June. 2-1 up in the later stages of their match against the Czech Republic fighting broke out on the terraces between factions of the Croatian supporters, flares and a massive fire cracker were thrown on to the pitch causing English referee Mark Clattenburg to suspend the game for several minutes. A steward clearing some of the dozen or so flares was thrown off his feet by the loud report from the exploding cracker. The Croatian goalkeeper was also narrowly missed. Whilst this was going on the Croatian crowd divided and set about one another with some gusto.

Croatia have been charged over the incident which their coach say’s resulted from the attendance of “sports terrorists”. It was later stated that Europe’s football governing body has opened disciplinary proceedings against the national federation.

The Czech Republic went on to score an equaliser after the game was resumed!

Major Tim Peake has landed back on Earth 18th June, following his six month stay during which he made 3,000 orbits round the Earth in his 125 million kilometre ride on the International Space Station. He; together with two other astronauts had a bumpy landing in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan today. He was the first UK astronaut to go into space since Helen Sharman in 1991 and the first to make a space walk.

June has been a pretty awful month for numerous reasons; up to and including the Summer Solstice. 21st June.

A Labour MP was killed; shot and stabbed outside her constituency headquarters in West Yorkshire. A man has been arrested and when asked to confirmed his name; after he appeared in Westminster Court on multiple charges over the killing, Thomas Mair gave it as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”

A gunman; with alleged ISIS connections, shot and killed 49 people in a gay club in Orlando Florida. Again a man has been detained.

Violence has marred the Euro 2016 competition in a France already reeling from the earlier terror attacks. The Russian and Croatian federations have been warned of a possible exclusion from the competition. England supporters have also been involved to a lesser extent. They claim self defence and provocation.

The weather has been awful! Temperatures have been mainly in the teens with a low of 11 degrees. On only one day was a level of 24 degrees reached. We have suffered flash floods from torrential downpours of rain. Together with Thunder, lightning, and big hailstones, Watford received 3 inches of rain in one hour, with severe flooding on several local roads. Already determined as being the wettest June recorded it looks likely it will be very near to the coldest too.

The BREXIT referendum deluge is still in full flow. With so many distinguished people allegedly “in the know”, telling us of certain salvation, or certain damnation; for opting in or opting out, I believe the general public cannot possibly make other than a “preference” decision. With a comment from a prominent politician that some of the statements have been “dark and divisive”,  I hope we get it right, whatever our preferences’.

For those of the residents who can’t imagine why 22 grown men should kick a ball round a field for hours on end, the Euro 2016 competition must be a complete anathema. At time of writing; with England still in, then this household is lapping it up!

Hooray! No electioneering today as the Polling stations are open for the EU referendum. At last the speculation on the result is near to being resolved. 23rd June. I doubt there has ever been such a serious national decision taken on such conflicting and confusing advice. Some very emotive statements have been made on both sides of the argument and personalities have been pushed as a good reason for a decision. Tomorrow will provide the answer to Stay in or Get out, but not to the longer termed effect on UK Ltd. One can bet that the Stock Market will be one of the first to react, usually not to the saver or pensioners benefit.

Last evening and night saw another downpour in South East London and Essex with 1.5 inches of rain, which caused rivers to flood and several rail services; both over and underground were severely affected. 24 flood alerts are in place with a warning that a second potential wave of storms is possible later. Lightening struck some rail services; again causing delays. Over 1,000 strikes were recorded across the UK. The Met office tell us the reason for the storms was a surplus of French warm and humid air coming across the channel. How would a Brexit vote effect this situation?

We awoke this morning, 24th June. to the news that the UK had declared by referendum that we would leave the EU. It came as a surprise to many, particularly to those in London and the South.

The first outcome noted was the drastic fall in the value of the Pound and Stock Market shares.

Prime Minister Cameron has said he will resign in October and someone else will manage the transition. The EU President Juncker has said the UK will be treated as “deserters”. He is reported to have told La Monde, “I am sure the deserters will not be welcomed with open arms”.

President Obama, whilst acknowledging the “special relationship” that exists between the US and UK stands by his earlier comment that the UK will go to the back of the queue.

In Scotland; where the SNP would have voted to stay in, the first claims for a second independence referendum were voiced by Nicola Sturgeon.

Northern Ireland’s Martin McGuiness has re-raised the possibility of a poll on a united Ireland. There is strong support for the EU in this area.

Although Wales receives more EU aid than other UK countries, the majority of vote were for Brexit.

The future of The UK appears very fragile this early on in events. It could be England and not the UK that have left the EU.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are allegedly looking to lead a “Dream Team”(sic) Independent UK government. With the former considered in some quarters as the favourite to replace David Cameron as Prime Minister.

Perhaps things will settle down in a week or so and a more realistic appraisal of what we have got ourselves into will be more apparent.

This entry in “Social Comment 2016” has possibly the most far reaching implications of any other comment to date. It will go down in history, for better, or for worse? Only time and a lot of heart ache will determine!

Be careful what you wish for…. An old adage that hopefully is not appropriate in these circumstance.

The Labour Party is in turmoil. 27th June. Leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced a new cabinet following the resignation of 13 of the previous members plus calls for his resignation. Mr. Corbyn regrets the walkouts but pledges to continue to stand in any new leadership challenges.

June just got a whole lot worse. 27th June. The England football team; having managed to get to the knock out stage of the UEFA competition in France, lost to 2-1 to Iceland; a situation as Gary Lineker tweeted,  “The worst defeat in our history. England beaten by a country with more volcanoes than professional footballers. Well played Iceland”. The total population of around .3million  is similar to that of Leicester, and they have no professional league.

The performance was generally considered abject and humiliating by the pundits. An unusual position for them as they can usually find justification for even the worst performance. Individually; from the goal keeper to the forwards they were poor. Roy Hodgson the England Manager resigned after the match.

A perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the only time England have ever won a worthwhile football competition with the 1966 World Cup.

The month continues to throw up horrors. 28th June. A terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport has left 42 people dead and 300 others injured, many in intensive care. Arriving by taxi; the attackers fired on the terminal from outside, two gained entrance and with those left outside they then detonated their suicide packs. The Turkish Prime Minister say’s that early signs indicated “so-called Islamic State” were the perpetrators.

UK politics is in meltdown. 29th June.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with most of his front bench MPs resigning, and a vote of no confidence against him, has still refused to accept the situation and stand down.

The Conservative election of a new leader to replace the resigning David Cameron had thrown out, or up, two likely candidates in the shape of Theresa May; the current Home Secretary, and Boris Johnson; the former Mayor of London.

100 years ago today, at 07.30. started what is described as the “Worst day in British Military history”.1st July

At Zero hour, on 1st July 1916, following a five day heavy bombardment of enemy trenches by the allies, officers blew whistles and the British and Commonwealth troops scrambled up out of their trenches on an 18 mile front and walked; (no running was the order), across “no man’s land”, through barbed wire and deep mud towards the enemies fortified trenches. At the end of that first day; of what has become known as “The battle of the Somme”, 19,240 British and allied soldiers had died out of a total of 57,470 casualties. The battle raged on for 141 days with an average of nearly 900 men dying on each of them. By the end of the battle there were a total of over 1 million allied and enemy casualties and a British front line advance of but 5 miles!

Many stories of heroism are written in the folk law of the battle: the officer who kicked a football ahead of his troops as they went “over the top”, only to be killed instantly under the hail of enemy fire, and young boys; barely into their teens, who volunteered and died, shot in the mud and on the barbed wire of “No man’s land”.

The posters of Lord Kitchener, finger pointed in your face, with the logo; “Your country needs YOU”, were rife, and the even more emotive picture of two wives and a child at a window, as soldiers marched off to war.  “Women of Britain say- GO!” was the logo. Perhaps the most poignant of the posters said, “It is far better to face the bullets than to be killed at home by a bomb”.

Patriotic fervour accompanied Lord Kitcheners enlistment campaign and it was realised that more men would enlist if they could serve with their workmates, relatives and friends. The term “battalion of pals” was coined and these proved very popular; particularly; but not exclusively, in the Northern towns. Many of these “Pals” battalions were not to see action until their introduction to the Somme and were consequently unseasoned and under trained. Many firms, communities, and indeed whole villages suffered great losses from their numbers in the carnage of the battle.

Today marks the annual tribute to the death in the service of the Realm in World War One by so many British and Commonwealth soldiers. The Royal British Legion will plant a field of Poppies on the ground where they grew 100 years ago and where so many brave men died.

A Canadian soldier is believed later to have noticed how the flowers still bloomed on the burial site of the soldiers and of his friend and wrote a poem, the first lines of which have become some of the most memorable writings of the horrendous WW1.

In Flanders field the Poppies blow.

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The Larks, still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

                                                   In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.

 

Memorial services started last night all over the UK and also in France. Westminster Abbey saw first a service attended by the Queen and Prince Philip and other royal family members, followed by an overnight vigils around the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior by members of all the Commonwealth military forces. The tomb contains the mortal remains of an unidentified soldier who fell in World War 1. – The Great War.  These vigils were repeated throughout the country and also in France.

A one hundred second salvo of rounds was fired by The Kings Troop, Royal Artillery, in Parliament Square to mark the bombardment of enemy lines prior to the start of the battle. A two minute silence was observed, before, at 07.30 UK time, whistles were blown. One hundred years after a similar signal heralded the clamber out of the Allied trenches by British, Commonwealth and French forces; and the start of the ensuing carnage.

At the Abbey; as the vigil ended, a Piper played the Scottish lament, “Flowers of the Forest”, as he circled the Tomb and slow marched from the Abbey.

Many thousands of commemorators, including the Royal families and heads of state have attended a ceremony at the Commonwealth War grave  Commission monument at Thiepval in Picardy, Northern France.

The Theipval monument stands in a rural area surrounded by the fields of wild flowers that include the waving Poppies so associated with the terrible battle, and commemorates the 73,000 men who died in 1916 with no known grave or recognition.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were at the Thiepval Memorial for the event.

Lest we forget the lost generation.

 

Michael Gove seems to have had second thoughts regarding Boris Johnson as our new Prime Minister. He has said he is not the right man for the job and put himself forward instead.1st July. Don’t turn your back….

Twenty people; mostly foreigners, have been killed when troops stormed a bakery in Dhaka Bangladesh where hostages were being held and allegedly tortured. Six of the attackers were also killed. The siege had lasted 12 hours before attempted rescue.

Wales beat Belgium in France today to join the last 4 in the UEFA competition that England so meekly left earlier in the week. Belgium were the favourites in most people’s minds.

Jeremy Corbyn is still refusing to step down from leadership of the Labour Party 2nd July. despite most of his cabinet resigning. The people elected him and he will not stand down. “I’m ready to reach out to Labour MPs, but they need to respect our party’s democracy…

Germany beat Italy in a penalty shootout, to join the last four. (Don’t they always?) After a well fought and entertaining 90+30 minutes.

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded “immediate guarantees” on the residency status of 173,000 European Union nationals living in Scotland. She has written to David Cameron; and the now five candidates hoping to replace him, claiming it is “imperative” the UK government respect the rights of these people. Although the UK voted to leave the EU as a whole, Scotland voted 62% to remain. Is pressure for another separation referendum on the horizon? If at first you don’t succeed…….

Germany beat Iceland 5-2 3rd July. in a game that showed that the underdogs had one or two tricks that the big boys have not entirely sorted out yet. There was never the slightest doubt that Germany had sorted a lot more than the English had!

The bookmakers now favour Teresa May as the next Conservative PM. 4th July. The odds on Mr Gove have widened; following what is considered by some his back stabbing exercise on Boris Johnson. Whilst apparently most people would not want Boris as the PM they are somewhat protective of him. Some way to go on this saga yet.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn still refuses to stand down from the leadership of the Labour party; in the face of what seems massive persuasion from all directions.

Having been in hospital for most of the week until Saturday 8th July, much I have to comment on has little background.

On the political scene, Jeremy Corbyn still refuses to stand down as Labour Party Leader; and leader of her Majesty’s opposition, despite most of his MPs. hanging him out to dry.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP party has said he has done what was on the bottle. He has got us out of Europe. He will now go back to his family.

A new candidate has put herself forward against Teresa May as our new Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. In one of her speeches she is said to have suggested she is more qualified then Ms. May to lead the country as she has had children.

On the sports scene Andy Murray won the Men’s singles for the second time and also the mixed doubles at Wimbledon on Sunday.

Portugal won the EURO 2016 when they beat the hosts and holders France in Paris; also on Sunday. Despite losing their biggest gun Ronaldo to a fair but hard tackle after only 10 minutes.

Outside the stadium the police again used tear gas, as during the game they attacked groups of men with faces obscured with scarves and waving French flags and throwing bottles. The reason seems obscure. It is what you do these days? This fracas occurred whilst the game was still at 0-0 when fans tried to get to the area under the Eiffel Tower designated as a Fans Zone. So it all ended as it began!

Oh, and it looks like I missed our summer whilst in hospital!

And then there was one. July 11th. Andrea Leadson has pulled out of the Conservative party battle for leadership and that leaves only Teresa May to be confirmed as our new Prime Minister.

Whilst out for a therapeutic walk this morning, 13th July. I was surprised how different my observations of Fern Way were with a careful and tentative; between the crutches’ view. With the recently surfaced pavement seemingly pretty benign I still had to beware a few raised service plates. The things that caused most potential hazards were the many particles of shingle in some areas and the nails and screws partially embedded in some of the granular asphalt filler. Trying to interpret the various coloured lines marking services helped to pass the somewhat painful passage between the bends. It’s a whole new world out there!

David Cameron stood for his last Prime Ministers question time this afternoon. He received a rather less hostile reception than usual. He will offer his resignation to the Queen at Buckingham Palace at around 5pm and Theresa May will be offered the chance to form a government. She will require an iron will to resist certain factions that claim they did not vote for Brexit so want special terms. I seem to recall this demand fairly strongly rejected quite recently! In fact it was the trigger point for the referendum!  As I mentioned before, “Be careful what you wish for”.

Jeremy Corbin has got his way to be automatically included in his party’s leadership ballot. He will face two opponents’ for the position.

Another dark day for mankind. July 14th. A local man hired a 19 tonne truck and drove it along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, through a crowd of 30,000 people celebrating Bastille Day. Firing as he went; he ran down and killed 84 people and wounded; many seriously, 200 plus others. The act, described as “cowardly and barbaric”; has only two days later, been tenuously linked with Islamic fundamentalists. In the UK, the Three Counties flew their flags at half mast; as did government buildings. Our new Prime Minister presided over a meeting of Cobra; the high level security organisation, and offered the UK’s sympathies to the people of France. During the First Night of the Proms, 15th July. the peoples losses were marked before the concert started by playing the Marseilles to a background of Blue, White and Red, followed by a subdued but lengthy round of sympathetic applause. This household; like many others I am sure, thinks, “There but for the grace of God…”, and prays for a solution to this plague of mindless violence.

This is the seventh incident in recent times to hit France.

“Liberte, egalite, fraternite”.

“Vive la France!”

 

To add to the darkness, an attempted military coup has been thwarted by government troops in Turkey. 15th July. Over two hundred and fifty plotters have been killed and 3,000 arrested during the action in which government buildings were fired upon and bombs allegedly dropped in Ankara, Istanbul and other places. This action cannot do a lot to lubricate the deal with the EU for visa-free travel and eventual membership.

2,700 judges have been sacked. It would seem that although many factions are far from happy with the way President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushes through his considered illiberal policies they nevertheless want to retain what they see as a hard won democracy.

The US. has urged Turkey to exercise restraint to avoid further destabilizing an already volatile area. The US efforts to combat Islamic State were made difficult when Turkey temporally closed its airspace and cut power to an air base used to launch attacks on militant groups. Obama confirmed the US support for the “democratically elected, civilian” government of Turkey and noted they needed the continued cooperation of Turkey in the fight against terrorism.

This is a volatile area, and a base and buffer in the fight against several factions in and around Syria; many of whose refugees have taken residence. The variations and possibilities are infinite and will require great diplomacy, possible not available?

The arguments around the replacement of the UK nuclear deterrent in the shape of the Scottish based four submarine Trident fleet restarted in the Commons yesterday. 18th July. With the exception of the Corbyn part of Labour and the entrenched SNP, most MP’s agreed we could not opt out of our own defence and still be considered a top power; which the yes vote reflected. The “turn the other cheek” option was answered for the Government by the PM; who when asked if she would approve an attack that could kill 100,000 people replied “Yes”. The cost of the replacement has been variously reported as being from £84bn to £200bn plus. It is this area, that compares different criteria and adds in political bias that leaves the man in the street completely unable to make a decision that is anything other than a personal preference.

The ongoing US electioneering continues to both amuse and amaze. Trump’s wife Melania made a speech at the Republican National Convention supporting her husband that had several phrases that were almost word for word the same as a Michele Obama speech in a 2008 convention. With the help of a speech writing team it possibly should not have happened?

Today is the summers second hot day, and even hotter than yesterday. 19th July. It was 35.6c degrees (96.08f) halfway down the garden in Fern Way at 3pm. It really has been a miserable summer so far, the wettest and coolest on record. The Great British public has responded in their inimitable fashion by moaning. And the back door has stuck!

Russia has accepted a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics in the shape of a full suspension and not requested a hearing. With the Rio Olympics around three weeks away they await a ban that would prevent them sending a team, following a proven four year systematic sponsorship and cover up of the use of banned substances. A decision to allow the disgraced Russian federation to compete would be a complete anathema, particularly to all those that came second to them in the Sochi summer games of 2014.

A film portraying Russian athletes as victims of a political smear campaign has been shown on state television to coincide with the damning report.

OWL warn of the dangers of playing a newly launched on line phone game “Pokemon Go”. 21st July. They advise that your data may be shared with goodness knows who and may be copied, depending where you are when you are entering it. Online safety experts claim the developer can collect and share your data with third parties of their choice. This includes your User Name, location, email address, IP address, and previous web pages used. It also tracks you in real time, where and when you go, your route and how long you stay.

The other dangers are described as “real world” and concerns crossing the road and being run over with head down over the phone, colliding with other people, lamp posts and other subjects, (on line or not). Or missing your intended bus stop!

Last but not least, the NSPCC has warned of predators luring unsuspecting children to “beacon” locations.

Unfortunately your correspondent does not understand many of the references made but has been hit on several occasions; by head down communicators apparently oblivious to all else other than their little screens.

Sam Allardyce has been given a two year contract as England football manager. 61 year  old “Big Sam” leaves his post at Sunderland immediately. He stated “I am extremely honoured to be appointed England Manager, especially as it is no secret that this is the role I have always wanted”.

The latest in a long line of Silver chalice sippers. Good Luck Sam.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has rejected Russia’s appeals from their Olympic Committee and the 68 athletes who had challenged the ban, to keep the country out of the Rio Olympics.

It has been determined that the man who massacred 84 people in Nice on Bastille day had conspired with a number of others for several months. Five people have been interrogated on suspicion of supporting the perpetrator. France’s Number 1 anti terrorist prosecutor has laid out a programme that show’s he and his accomplices had embraced Islamic extremism as early as January.

Donald Trump, now the Republican candidate for the US. Presidency, becomes apparently more outrageous by the day. With ‘runner Cruz he has determined they must deport 11million immigrants. It makes the UK attempt to limit immigration look pretty insignificant! His side plate is to ban the entry of all Muslims until the ISIS threat is resolved. Another policy that will improve employment possibilities is to build a wall along the length (1,989 miles) of the Mexican border and detain illegal immigrants until they are deported. These are only a few of his declared aims, and they are not all impossible or unlikely. The ongoing fight with Hillary Clinton (seems likely) will be interesting and we have seen some funny results from across the pond before.

A man opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd outside McDonald’s in Munich Germany yesterday. 22nd July. Witnesses claim he was shouting Allahu Akbar as he fired, reloaded, and fired again. Nine people died and 16 were wounded, including children. It is thought that he was an 18 year old German-Iranian and was later found dead at his own hands. German police believe he was obsessed with mass murder and had links with the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. They are investigating if he lured victims through Facebook. He possibly used a fake account in a girl’s name to get people to visit the restaurant.

Two more recent attacks in Germany now add up to four in the last week. 25th July.

A teenager attacked and wounded five people with axe and knife near Wurzburg. He was an Afghan asylum seeker who had a hand painted Isis flag in his room and shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack.

An 18 year old Iranian-German killed 9 people, as reported above.

A 21 year old Syrian asylum seeker killed a woman with a machete and injured others in an attack in Reutlingen. This instance may have been a domestic.

The last occasion yesterday 24th July. occurred outside a music festival in Ansbach. This Syrian man had been both denied asylum and entry into the festival, detonated his device outside the venue killing himself and injuring 12 others.

When will these atrocities end?

The Russian athletes have escaped the blanket ban on proven state sponsored doping in Russia. 25th July. The IOC will face a lot of firm fact based flack from anti doping groups, and athletes who lost to doped opponents in the last Olympics. It ruled that 28 individual sports federations are free to decide if their athletes are free to compete. A classic case of the Fox looking after the chickens!

The former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound, who authored the damning report into the State Sponsored doping in Russia last year say’s the IOC decision showed there was zero tolerance for doping, unless it was Russian!

Theresa May visits Northern Ireland to discuss the implications of a Northern Ireland out, and a Southern Ireland in, the EU. Now there is a can of worms!

France has suffered another atrocity, with two men invading a catholic church in Normandy and slitting the elderly priest’s throat whilst he was conducting mass. 26th July. Another parishioner is fighting for his life. Both of the attackers were shot dead by the police and one was apparently known for his earlier attempts to join Isis in Syria. Despite being electronically tagged he was allowed to go where he liked in the mornings!

President Francois Hollande visited the scene said and his country is now at war with Isis; after they claimed responsibility. The President is receiving a rough ride for the governments claimed ineffectual efforts to stop the atrocities.

Hillary Clinton has obtained the Democratic nomination for the US presidency. Some of the rumours and claims surrounding the election of both candidates leaves the mind in a whirl! UK politics seems almost grown-up in comparison.

Amazon; the on line retailer, has announce its intention to increase its drone tests in the UK since the CAA has granted them special permission to carry out flights with its aerial vehicles, with reduced restrictions. The aim is for unmanned parcel delivery directly to shoppers and the time taken of half an hour from order has been stated as the dream.

Are we about to see these devices dropping off books and DVD’s; (not washing machines surely), to small location devices placed on the buyers lawn? Will we see battered and tattered pigeons and PTS suffering sparrows walking around in a semi plucked daze? What if the cat catches one and damages the steering mechanism?  Will pea and bean netting be banned? If you catch one, will you be able to keep it? If you are not in will the device drop your parcel in the wheelie bin? So many questions, so few answers!

Nice to write something on a serious note for a change?

Hillary Clinton has been selected as the Democratic nominee for the US presidency. 27th July. She becomes the first lady to stand in her own right. It has been a peculiar and sometimes acrimonious selection and election process. Things can only get better?

Today, 30th July, 50 years ago,  England beat Germany 4-2 to win the Jules Rimet World Cup at Wembley Stadium. The nation celebrated long and hard. The fact that English soccer has failed to reach these, or any other significant heights since, is very sad.

The crowd ready to invade the pitch, with the score at 3-2 in the last minute of extra time, Bobby Moore clipped the ball to Geoff Hurst who ran on and struck a beauty into the top left corner of the German net. The BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s now famous commentary of these final seconds is legendary “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over…….it is now”

A report this morning 4th Aug. say’s that each UK resident spends more than a day a week on line (25 hours), and more people are texting one another across a room rather than actually speaking. The incidence of street collision injuries is on the up. I have no further comment. I will e-mail or tweet you!

The Bank lending rate has been reduced to 0.25%. This is the first cut since March 2009 when it was reduced to 0.5%. A “stimulus package” and £45bn in quantitative easing is also introduced to offset the effect on productivity that Brexit” has had on the economy.

RBS chief executive has reported a loss of £2.04bn in the first 6 months of this year. This is the 73% public owned bank since 2007 when it was given a £47.5bn bailout.

The 31st modern Olympics started today in Brazil. 5th Aug. Like most things these days there has been a lot of controversy regarding cost, drugs and politicians have used the event for whatever purpose they see fit. I have been much more interested in the sheer determination and skill of the athletes we have seen to date. The women in the Seven-a-Side Rugby have been a joy to watch, as have the beach volleyball events. The knocks these girls sustain; and dish out, would put many professed “fit” persons in A&E. Some of the other events seen to date have shown the vast differences in skill levels across the world. But everyone try’s! Can’t work up any enthusiasm for Archery I am afraid.

We still have a couple of weeks to go and all sorts of triumphs and scandals to come. We loved Rio and its beautiful people, and hope most of the contestants come away with pleasant memories.

ASDA have rearranged their display areas, yet again. 9th Aug. Why they; and other outlets, find it necessary to change a simple shopping visit into a “guess where” exercise can only be surmised. We both find it extremely annoying!

Where have all the local road works and diversions suddenly come from. The Haines Way bus did not turn up, due to; we found later, (a lady motorist stopped and told us) to a closed off Leavesden High Road. Perivale Gardens is a “no go area” from one end and a set of traffic lights at the end of Appletree Walk into Sheepcote Lane further delays traffic. No one appears to be doing much around the numerous barriers spread all over the roads.

The mayhem continues around the A41 entrances to ASDA and Sainsbury’s with traffic backed up to Hunton Bridge on occasions. It will be interesting to see if any improvement to traffic movement actually occurs as a result of this apparently major road surgery. It certainly never has with previous expensive exercises.

The Rio Olympics continue to thrill. 13th Aug. Team GB are having their share of medals and World records. Cycling and Rowing in particular have been very productive. We have enjoyed the woman’s and men’s Seven-a- Side Rugby; both without a medal for us, but full of honest endeavour. With the field events now coming into their own we can expect even more success.

The Hornets begin their second year in the Premiership with a new Manager, several new players, and a visit to Southampton.  Result…A one-one draw.

The Olympics still continue to thrill. 17th Aug. With the estimated hoped for total of 48 medals, Team GB have already won 50 with several days and most of the field expectations still to come. Some of the performances have been spectacular. We are currently second in the table to the USA with China close behind.

The Department of Transport has suggested that councils and utility companies may be fined for leaving road restrictions in place at weekend when work is not being carried out. £5,000 per day has been muted. The Local Government Association has said roadwork’s are often left unattended for a good reason. These actual reasons are not listed! The NJUG; representing utilities and contractors say any solution must “balance all the conflicting priorities”. Does this include road users priorities? It is noted that some road works on major highways extend for more than 18 miles with attendant speed restrictions. Many more are over 10 miles. A lot of platitudes from a lot of agencies all attempt to explain the reason that the motorist should slow down and not make a fuss.

A hole in the carriage way that closed Vicarage Road, and cut some access to Watford General Hospital, only took a couple of weeks to repair. It was completed just before Chelsea visited the Hornets at the “Vic”; where they won 2-1.

The Rio 2016 Olympics have finished spectacularly in the pouring rain in Rio. 23rd. Aug. Team GB finished a very creditable second in the medal table. (67 total with 27 Gold’s). Behind the USA and in front of China, Russia and Germany. There have been some thrilling displays from GB athletes including; but not by any means exclusively, the performances of Mo Farrah on the track where he won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres for the second year running and the ladies Hockey team who fought a rearguard action for virtually the whole game before scoring the last of the attempted penalties. The joy on their faces and their rendition of “The Queen” at their presentation was a joy to watch. Cycling, boxing and gymnastics also deserve a mention, as do the personal bests and world records They all did marvelously and took on the meaning of the word sown across a Union Jack…BELIEVE!

The last Olympics in London in 2014 had the Buzz word of “Inspire”, this year it was “Believe”, What will be the Tokyo motto in 2020? Perhaps; “Greater”.

What a boast to moral the games; and in particular Team GB’s performances have been. The almost blanket coverage did not please some people, but then I don’t complain about the thracking and grunting coming out of Wimbledon for a fortnight every year. Horses for courses I suppose. By the way, didn’t our Equestrian entrants do well?

The Labour party leadership selection goes on. Down to just 2 candidates we have seen some unusual turn of events with legal proceedings being part of them.

Jeremy Corbyn, who has already suffered a vote of no confidence from his own party MP,s has been seen sitting on the floor with his flask and sandwiches in a train corridor because; he claims, there were no seats. Not an assessment indorsed by most of the reports. He has already confounded almost everybody by winning his own election previously, so we will have to wait and see.

Owen Smith has claimed he can unite the Labour Party. Tackling inequality is his prime aim. Welshman Owen has suggested a possible second referendum on our EU membership, but this would depend on what kind of deal that could be negotiated. “I don’t think we should accept we’re on a definite path out. I think we need to make sure people are satisfied. We trusted people, rightly, to take the decision. We can trust them again in 18 months’ time to check it’s absolutely what they wanted.” What about “Best of Three?”

BHS is closing its last shops today including the one in the High Street. 28th Aug. The closure, after 88 years is yet another change to the way we shop and has been accompanied by alleged claims of all sort of financial manipulations. Pensions seem to be at considerable risk yet again.

Summer officially ends today. 30th Aug. The last week or so has seen some really nice weather but it has not been a great year all told. The garden has done its best to keep us in vegetables and salads and the Squashes may well be record breaking, but with a late summer and a lot of rain we have seen better.

News that the Bandstand that was in Cassiobury Park for so many years; before its transfer to a position by the Hempstead Road Public Library, is to be returned to near its old haunt. The artists impression shows it standing in the open, but in its earlier glory it was surrounded by a fence and low hedge that provided a circular enclosed viewing area with deck chairs; and a small payment for entry. The rest of the hoi polloi would sit on the grass outside and enjoy the music from over the hedge; provided by mainly brass bands, (and sometimes the Watford Silver Prize Band), whilst fighting off the mosquitoes that defied the clouds of cigarette smoke and the swatting of trilby hats and flat caps; as we sat on the grass and finished our ice cream cone, or wafer, bought from the Walls “Stop me and buy one” man from his three wheeled peddle cart outside the ‘gates. I recall the third choice would have been a triangular; cardboard wrapped ice lolly, that you “peeled as you sucked”

The ‘Park was a very different place in those war and early post war times. From Ricky Road it was entered through the “Park Gates”. These, long since demolished (1970); to make room for a wider road, were in the style of a small castle entrance; complete with a tower on each side. The taller one on the left was covered in Ivy and was the home of the Park Keeper. The larger carriage gate was to its right, with a pedestrian gate nearest the smaller tower. It was built in 1800 as one of the entrances to Cassiobury House, home for the Earl of Essex which stood near to present day Richmond Drive and Parkside Drive. Not in the park at all, the house was pulled down in 1927.

In those days you did not ride your bike in the park; with the ‘Keeper’s eagle eyes noting those that attempted it. The excuse you were only “scooting” carried no weight whatsoever. On the left; as you walked towards the Bandstand, were the Tennis Courts; and by the Pavilion a water fountain, with the Croquet Lawns; surrounded by a low iron fence on the corner. Beyond the entrance to Cassiobury Park Avenue were the Bowling Greens with turf like green baize. It would appear the reinstated ‘stand is to be situated in this area. There were several spectacular and very old Cedars of Lebanon trees either side of the original site which unfortunately have partly succumbed to the ravages of time. The masses of Bluebells; that are still to be found across the river and canal in Whippendell Woods in season, have survived despite the arms full of blooms pulled from their bulbs by everyone who visited the area in those days. Horse and Sweet Chestnuts still abound in the acres of mature woodland, as does the Avenue of Limes across the Golf course.

This area was my childhood playground, and whenever possible; from dawn to dusk; with a bottle of severely diluted orange juice and a packet of Smiths salt ‘n vinegar crisps; complete with its blue paper salt twist, we would range far and wide, playing cricket, fishing with a net from the river Gade, (Sticklebacks), and from the canal with rod and line, (Gudgeon and the occasional Roach), collecting frogs and spawn from the extensive Watercress beds, and  throwing sticks at conkers and sweet chestnuts, before coming home in time for evening dinner; (usually just a bit late!) “Where have you been?” was the question. “Down the Park” was invariably the answer.

I recall I learned to swim in the original paddling pool which was even greener than the Rio diving pool, and a lot more viscous. This last feature; together with the maximum depth of around one 15 inches, made it virtually impossible to drown, “unless someone stood on your head whilst you stroked your way across”. But that is another story and not to be the answer given to “Where have you been?”

These are the memories I’ll never forget. It is to be hoped that present day youngsters will have at least similar memories to take into their senior years. Heaven forbid the appearance of Dwelling units and Business Parks on the site, which seems to be the fate of many of the earlier green spaces in our area.

England played their first World Cup qualifying match in Czechoslovakia. 4th Sept. and displayed most of the skills and enthusiasm displayed of late in recent games! For the for the first 45 minutes they seemed unable to pass and move and consequently were caught on several occasions in potentially dangerous situations. After an hour their opponents Captain; Skrtel; and most influential player, was sent off for the last of several unpleasant incidents and even then it took 65 minutes to get a shot on target. The winner came; after a long awaited onslaught on the Czech goal, in the last of 5 minutes of added time. This justified the performance? I doubt it. The new manager Sam Allardyce declared himself satisfied! He must be easily pleased.

Junior Doctors have published through the BMA their programme for a series of 08.00 to 17.00 five day strikes, (called walk outs) between now and December. The dispute with the government is still over the new contract that is being imposed. This action follows negotiations for a new contract that followed earlier action and was declared satisfactory by the BMA. Weekend remuneration seems to be the sticking point. The Department of Health say’s a week of action would see 30,000 operations cancelled and 250,000 appointments postponed. The figures up to Christmas would be enormous.

The Junior Doctors have now decided that they need to give more warning for their strikes in order to not inconvenience or endanger the public’s health, so have cancelled their action for this month. 5th Sept. The “walk outs” threatened for October and November are still on.

The Hornets have their first 2016/17 win. 10th Sept. After going two early goals down to West Ham due to sloppy defending, they were level by half time and 2-4 at full time. The game was played at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Olympic Park, the venue for the 2012 Olympic games and the Hammers home ground, as of this season.

Later reports tell of home fan crowd problems being investigated by the FA. West Ham have banned 13 supporters for life after their fans fought among themselves and clashed with stewards and Watford supporters.

Russia and the USA have brokered a cease fire in Syria 10th Sept. to come into force on the evening of the 12th September. The humanitarian situation in Syria is indescribably awful, with fighting, bombing and shelling between the various factions. On one side the President and government against the rebel forces and both against various other factions including ISIS. Both the Russians and US. are bombing what they hope are ISIS strongholds, but in truth the targets seem to be rather random, with pictures showing residential areas destroyed or burning. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also attacking targets of the Islamic State of Iraq and ISIL inside Syria, Whilst newspaper reports say the UK “is only dipping it’s toe into the fight against ISIS” it all boils down to a heinous state of affairs for the Syrian civilians. Meanwhile the refugee situation gets worse by the day.

The NHS Providers” have told the BBC that a seven-day NHS is impossible to achieve with current staffing levels and funding. Chris Hopson has said that “something has to give” and we should be talking about which services to sacrifice “rather than pretend the gap doesn’t exist”. Latest figures show waiting times and delayed hospital discharges are at record levels.

This is despite the government saying it is providing the £10bn Service asked for.

The “Last Night of the Proms” at the Royal Albert Hall must have given a lift to the spirits of many watchers. The music was stirring; certainly patriotic in parts, but a celebration of a joy of being British rather than a looking down our noses at others that aren’t. Much of the classical music performed over the eight weeks of the “Henry Wood Promenade Concerts Presented by the BBC” is international, as was the audience; bobbing and swaying to old favourites. They sang too, with gusto!

We were treated to a spirited rendition of “Rule Britannia” by Peruvian operatic tenor Juan Diego Florez; dressed as an Inca chieftain, complete with a dangerous looking staff, he sang…

Rule Britannia, Britannia, rules the waves!

Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!

And sounded as though he meant it. With the notes of the enormous organ at the finale dying away it was difficult not to feel proud of quite a lot of things.

Back to the real world. North Korea has carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test. Whilst the International community is considering its response, South Korea sources claim it has a plan to “annihilate” the Northern capital of Pyongyang with “ballistic missiles and high explosive shells” if it shows any signs of mounting an attack.

The US is considering its own sanctions; which would be in addition to any imposed by the UN or Japan.

The North Koreans have responded by saying threats would be “meaningless sanctions…highly laughable”. Does this suggest a suspect sense of humour?

Another isolated fact to ponder in 50 years time? The world has lost nearly a tenth of its wilderness areas over the last twenty years say the Wildlife Conservation Society. They describe the situation as “catastrophic” with more than 1.2 million square miles of wilderness lost. South America leads the chart with 30% of its wilderness gone, with Africa at 14%. These areas are essential to the worlds well being; they have been called the “Worlds Lungs”. Perhaps this news is a little more important to us all than has been shown by the media.

The hottest September day since 1911 today. 94degrees Fahrenheit. 13th Sept. Around the Manchester area several football games; including the City game in the Champions League, were cancelled due to torrential rain and electrical storms.

The first polymer £5 bank note goes into some ATM’s today. £10 and £20 notes will follow. At least the notes will last longer, even if their value drops

The Syrian truce has been extended by 48 hours. Mostly observed, the food and aid convoys have nonetheless not been allowed in; due to circumstances not detailed but certainly expected.

After being postponed by the new Conservative leader Teresa May, it has now been agreed to allow the Chinese and French to build us a Nuclear power station in Somerset at a cost of £18bn, this followed agreement on a deal on its final ownership. The deal is seen by some to support the UK confidence following Brexit and certainly the provision of a lot of jobs. Others think the need for power should have been met with renewable sources such as wind power; which would require most of our green spaces to be occupied by wind farms to match the output of the proposed new station. This same view has suggested that Teresa May has signed off on the most expensive white elephant in British history! Some of us will know the answer, eventually.

Last night saw the expected end of the very hot weather. 15th Sept. Thunderstorms and torrential rain overnight left a lot of local flooding and caused a landslip at the Hunton Bridge end of the main line to the North railway tunnel, which derailed one train, which in turn was hit with a glancing blow by another. Fortunately only two rather minor injuries resulted but 200 or so people were unable to leave the site for quite a long time and a lot of travel disruption followed. The temperature went down overnight from 30 to 15 degrees centigrade, and with more than 40mm of rain in some places there was some loss of power locally and flooding too.

The truce in Syria is still officially on. 17th Sept; although the Russians claim there have been many breaches. It would appear the relief supplies have still not got through to Aleppo where the situation is dire due to both side not trusting the other to not take advantage of the situation.

The new traffic control installation at the ASDA / Sainsbury’s turn off from the A41 is in operation today. In truth it seems little different to its predecessor, but as it has taken weeks to complete, and many hours of frustration for motorists, shoppers, and indeed the stores themselves, there must be some hidden benefit. Somewhere!

The local paper tells us the Bandstand is back in Cassiobury Park. It seems to be a lot lower than I recall it; and without railings or hedge. It could of course be due to the fact that I was much shorter in those days. All thing are relative!

Also reported in the local press was a robbery by three masked men on the “One Stop Shop” in North Approach earlier this week. They gained access to the safe and took £600 in coins and notes. Local police are appealing for information from anyone who saw the incident.

The Hornets had a famous victory against a very disappointing Manchester United. With all the big names and big transfers; and an estimated player value of £2,233m, they lost 3-1; to what is possibly Watford’s most expensive team ever, but not in the same league value wise. The most annoying thing about the encounter was the after match media chatter. 90% concerned why MU. played as they did, why Rooney was not “up front”, and how several players were carrying injuries. Plus the fact some were tired. They also then mentioned Vicarage Road and Deeney. Then on to a reminder that MU. were on a run of three consecutive losses and Watford had not beaten them since most of their team were in their mother arms.

They have been spoilt!

A US led coalition strike killed around 60 Syrian soldiers and further stretched the credibility of the Russia/US brokered cease fire. An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was held. The US claim they stopped the attacks against what they thought were Islamic State strongholds when the Russians told them it was Syrian troops and transport being hit! The US has apologised through the Russian government for the unintentional loss of life.

The Syrian truce is described as “shaky”. 19th Sept. With each faction violating it in various ways and degrees. A rebel spokesman has said the truce is over and there is no hope that the 20 truck convoy waiting at the Turkish border, (the first of two) would cross to bring some relief to the 275,000 people trapped in Eastern Allepo without food, water, shelter or medical supplies, or care..  Zakaria Malahifji, head of the political office of the Aleppo-based rebel faction said: “There is no hope. It has been a number of days of procrastination. Every day there is a pretext.”

Meanwhile the United Nations meet to discuss migration and refugees. Is it too much to hope that some positive action will result. With an estimated total of 6.5 million displaced persons within Syria whilst 3million have run to Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordon (608,000) and Turkey (1.7million). These figures refer to August 2014 and must be much larger now.

Another atrocity in Syria. 20th Sept. Hours after the army declared the US/Russian brokered truce was over, an aid convoy near Allepo was hit by an air strike. 18 of the 31 lorries in the convoy were damaged or destroyed when five missiles were fired as the vehicles were parked at a centre belonging to the Syrian Red Crescent near to a rebel held town, also killing 20 civilians.

No blame has been allocated so far but the US has expressed “outrage” over the bombing and will “reassess the future prospects for co-operation” with Russia, who are allied to Syria’s government and President Assad.

In his farewell address to the UN general assembly Ban Ki-moon denounced the incident as a “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack”. “Just when you think it cannot get worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower”, he said.

Team GB has returned from the Rio Paralympics with a total of 64 Gold Medals, the best tally since 1988. They finished second in the world table behind China with a total of 147 medals.

The Queen has called the teams performances “magnificent” as they returned to Heathrow in the plane with a gold nose that had carried the very successful Team GB home last month. Parades in Manchester and London will be held in October to celebrate the their successes.

With Syrian government backed Russian aerial attacks 24th Sept. on the rebels in Allepo reported to be very heavy, the chances that those in the city in dire straits will be getting any relief in the near future is slim to nil. It is claimed that other areas are seeing the arrival of limited aid.

Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as Leader of the Labour party 25th Sept. with a total of 61.8% of the votes against 38.2 for his opponent Owen Smith. The electorate included the 300,000 new members who joined the party this year.

Meanwhile the New Ukip leader Dianne James claims Mr Corbyn’s re-election gave her party an opportunity to become the opposition in waiting. Labour is out of touch with their so-called natural supporters, she claimed. All very interesting…..

Junior doctors have suspended their series of five day strikes following concerns over patient safety! Their committee of the BMA say they remain in dispute with the government over the issue of their new contract, who in return say their case is without merit.

The BBC report on alleged addiction to the use of the Smartphone (reference a Mobile Consumer survey by Deloitte of 4,000 UK owners).

The addiction has never been stronger, with one in three adults admitting to checking their Smartphone’s if they woke up at night, sometimes causing domestic disagreements.

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out”, leaves many users with no option but to check “very often”, even whilst eating out in restaurants, or when they are with friends or watching TV.

10% of owners reach for their phone as soon as they wake up and 30% are prepared to wait, but only for five minutes.

Other reports and research show that driving a car is not seen as a good reason for missing a Tweet, or whatever, despite the current fine of £100 and three penalty points; soon to rise to £200 and six points, many drivers continue to break the law so as not to succumb to the FOMO.

Meanwhile the allied bombing blitz on ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq continue, with the claim that a total of 25,000 Daesh fighters have been killed leaving the force in its weakest position for several years.

Sam Allardyce resigned as England’s football manager 28th Sept. with a seven figure pay off; after blaming “entrapment” by a national newspaper “sting” for his action. He was secretly recorded as he offered advice on avoiding FA. rules on player transfers. Other managers and officials are also under the spotlight.

After only 67 days as Chief Coach he leaves with an 100% success rate on the field. Played one-won one. Although even he would have to admit it was not a night of great note! Gareth Southgate; the under 21 manager, has been given the next four internationals in what would appear to be an audition for the “big one”. Several ex-players have alleged corruption is rife. Alan Shearer has said “England are the laughing stock of world football”. Rio Ferdinand and Gary Lineker echoed these thoughts.

Another scare on the medication scene. 29th Sept. Medical research has identified that one of the most commonly used non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs has the potential to raise the possibility of a cardiovascular episode by as much as 20% in those with an underlying heart problem. Ibuprofen is frequently bought over the counter for treating back pain, joint problems and arthritis. They are most commonly prescribed for the relief of pain, and to reduce fever and inflammation. It is implied the Red pills are taken “like Smarty’s” by some people.

Hurricane Matthew continues to wreak havoc as it traverses the Caribbean. 5th Oct. Haiti has been reduced to a tangled heap by winds of up to 140 mph and rainfall of 400mm produced by this category 4 storm. Currently 400 people are reported dead (as of October 7th). Moving at 8miles an hour it has reached Cuba and is likely to progress, via The Bahamas, to mainland US, hitting Florida’s coast and South Carolina. A million people are laying in stores and battening down their property to meet the effects of this worst hurricane for ten years.

The newly elected leader of UKIP Diane James has resigned after only 18 days. She says she has not got the backing of her MEP colleagues and gives the impression that she did not really want to stand in the first place. UK politics has gone completely round the bend. It was not always like this, was it?

Nigel Farage has taken over; but only on a temporary basis, saying, “I am not coming back, I’m retired”.

The UK stock market is booming having reached near record levels. Nearly £23billion was added to the value of shares yesterday. The Pound has plunged to its lowest level for 31 years against the Dollar. This seems to be a by-product of Teresa May’s Conservative Party conference speech in which she pledged to “kickstart” the Brexit process by March of next year.

On the subject of the EU, Hungary has held a referendum on the acceptance of the EU imposed migrant quotas. They have been resoundingly rejected.

The Health Secretary announced a 25% increase in medical school places. From 6,000 to 7,500 per year in order to make the UK “self sufficient” in doctors. He also said that those trainees; subsidised over five years to the extent of £220,000 by the tax payer, would be required to work in the NHS for a period of four years on their qualification.

The atrocities continue in Syria; with the UN envoys claiming that rebel held parts of the city of Aleppo face “total destruction” in two months, with thousands more killed as bombing raids on the city are ongoing.

Government has said “fracking” for shale gas can go ahead at Little Plumpton in Lancashire. 6th Oct. This means that for the first time in the UK horizontal fracking; which should yield more gas, will take place.

Local campaign groups and environmentalists have reacted angrily, as these groups do. It would probably be the same if Kingswood were the subject of the licence.

One of the favourites to become the next UKIP leader, Steven Woolfe, is in hospital, 7th Oct. for 48 hours following an “altercation” with another UKIP MEP; who “categorically did not” throw a punch at Mr Woolfe during an acknowledged “scuffle” in the European Parliament. The inquiry into the incident will be led by Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim.

It would seem that the altercation was indicative of the deep internal disagreements within the party. “Round the bend” seems to be contagious?

Jeremy Corbyn has made another “front bench” shuffle to unify the party. This is not the result, say some party members. “Vengeful and cack-handed” says one member. He is “seeking submission not unity”.  Join the club!

After destroying much of Haiti, killing more than 900 people, hurricane Mathew is currently just off the coast of Florida and providing severe conditions along its length. It is feared it will come inland. With the wide spread effects across the southern parts of the US it is quite possible that a weather system will cross the Atlantic in the next week or so.

A second TV debate involving the two US presidential candidates has resulted in a display from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that should make the world wonder at the result of either one being in charge of the world’s most powerful country. 10th Oct. It seemed more like a pair of petulant and point scoring school boys than a pitch for the post of President of the United States. The electorate must surely feel “between the devil and the deep blue sea”, and the rest of us feel very nervous!

England have played two more qualifying matches in the European Cup and not shown any intention of really wanting to win either of them. 11th Oct. The first they won against Malta, and were unable to score versus Slovenia and but for a brilliant display by our goalkeeper Joe Hart, they would have lost by a considerable score. Misplaced passes; many more passes back than passes forwards and no apparent ambition were the general opinion in a game where they had three; easy to save, shots at goal. Things can only get better!

Boris Johnson; our Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs, has said the people should demonstrate outside the Russian Embassy regarding the continued bombing by Russian and Syrian army planes, of the now almost destroyed city of Allepo. President Putin has described the idea as “shameful” and accused Johnson of “Russophobic hysteria”.  Meanwhile claims on Jeremy Corbin’s behalf suggest the US has equal responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria as Russia does.

All this rhetoric and not a single action to alleviate the suffering and continuing deaths of those in Aleppo.

A challenge in the High Court’s as to whether the government can go ahead with Article 50 initiation to leave the EU without a Commons vote, is in process. 13th Oct. Calls for a second referendum are rife and meanwhile the pound fares very poorly against other currencies, with all time lows being recorded, only for a minor recovery, but always on a downward trend.

A by-product of the weak Pound is a lack of Marmite in Tesco’s! Unilever, their supplier of many branded products, has been trying to force a 10%  increase in their prices to offset the low exchange rate, a refusal by Tesco to pay resulted in the lack of delivery to the stores warehouse of many of everyday items. Among other “must have” items are Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Pot Noodles and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

It would seem that many of the retailers expect to pay more and will pass on the extra cost to the shopper. With a drop of 16% in value of the Pound against the Euro it would appear inevitable the size of Supermarkets bills will rise. With Petrol; even at the cheaper outlets, still rising above £1.11p inflation levels would appear to be set to rise.

Marmite is saved! 14th Oct. Tesco & Unilever have come to an understanding on price increases due to the drop in value of the Pound. What effect this agreement will have in the “on shelf” prices remains to be seen. I bet it is not down!

Several cars have been clamped on the estate with devices marked DVLA. This is the result of action by the said authority, presumably due to some licensing shortfall on behalf of the owner.

Despite a short break in the Russian and Syrian King’s air attacks on Aleppo the carnage continues to kill and make homeless the civilian population.18th Oct. We have not heard of any demonstrations outside the Russian Embassy.

Our Government has agreed to allow 300 lone children with existing links to enter the UK prior to the breakup of the Calais refugee camp by the French. Much has been made of the apparent ages of the entrants so far. 19th Oct. It must be admitted that some look like late adolescents rather than children. This was a claim that was always going to be made and has been defended by those that have been tasked with vetting and selecting them.

The Hornets have had one win and one draw from their last away games. Neither performance has been particularly impressive and only lightened by a spectacularly struck goal by Greek midfielder Jose Holibas from 30yards out. Jose is of other note for the tattoos he has all over his upper body and arms, and possibly other places? 22nd Oct.

The eviction of the Calais 6,000 refugees from the camp known as the “Jungle”; all bent on getting to the UK, has begun.  The French police have been reported as removing their shoes and mobile phones in order to keep them in camp until they are relocated to other camps in France. Much pressure has been put on the French government by their lorry drivers who have been blockading roads and port facilities. Many claim this break up will only move the problem to where ever the new sites are located.

The farce of the US Presidential election campaign involving Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continues apace. What a choice the electorate have!

Backed by the US, and UK, Iraqi government forces have intensified their attempts to drive out Islamic state from the city of Mosul. This is the last stronghold of IS; which they seized two years ago and declared a caliphate.

The operation is fraught with political and sectarian traps, indigenous Sunni’s being liberated by Shi’ite troops and the possibility of over one million inhabitants to flee the city to produce yet more refugees and displaced persons in the area and Europe as a whole. Kurdish Peshmerga forces are also involved in the liberation.

The UK has been involved in this and earlier liberation battles in the country. Currently eight RAF Tornado and 6 Typhoon jets are flying reconnaissance and airstrike missions in support of the Kurdish and Iraqi ground troops. Spy planes have mapped the IS positions and gathered intelligence, whilst SAS troops are advising the Peshmerga liberators and coordinating air strikes.

The Scots, in the person of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are making more noises about another devolution referendum. She is even less pleased with the last “no” result now that Briton wants out of the EU. In both cases, beware of what you wish for!

The government has announced that the new London runway will be at Heathrow. 25th Oct. This has put the cat among the pidgins’ in a big way. As indeed would have happened if the choice had been for Gatwick. Local action groups; who have been warming up recently by such action as chaining themselves across crucial parts of the airport and making noisy demonstrations, will go into top gear, and legal actions are imminent. The lawyers certainly won’t be complaining. They all have quite a bit of time because not much is going to happen this year and all sorts of people, including Boris Johnson are preparing objections that will have to be defeated or at least heard.. The claimed need, that will benefit an independent UK to the extent of billions of Pounds and create tens of thousands jobs, will not be completed any way for several years. If, as some say, ever.

An artist’s impression of the proposals for a new Paddling Pool  in Cassiobury Park suggest a miniature urbanisation with multi storey buildings and circular gravel walkways, water slides and a lot of fencing. This is a far cry from the original well loved site in lovely rural surroundings. I hope the plan includes USB phone charging points and reliable Wi-Fi or it will all fail as an attraction.

Tanks, fighter planes and 1,000 British troops are to be deployed to the Baltic State of Estonia to provide “reasonable assurance” against Russian aggression. 27th Oct. The Defence secretary said “That the battalion will be defensive in nature, but it will be fully combat capable”. He further said the move was for reassurance and deterrence. France, Denmark and Italy are expected to join the four battle groups led by the US, Germany. Britain and Canada. NATO fears that following the 2014 annexation of the Crimea by Russia a similar tactic could be employed in one of the Baltic States.

There has been several examples of “sabre rattling” recently with a Soviet naval group sailing through the Channel and Russian planes causing the deployment of RAF fighter jets as they came close to UK airspace. Have we been here before?

Kingswood, and Stanborough in general gave a sigh of relief 30 years ago today 29th Oct. in 1986. The last segment of the M25 was finally opened and all the traffic that had flowed in both directions along the A405 (Kingsway) disappeared as if by magic. The ring was complete around London and no longer included the section of ordinary roads between Micklefield Green and Bricket Wood. It had been extremely difficult to get in or out of the Estate during the previous two years, and pollution and noise had blighted the lives of the North Approach residents.

The immigrants “Jungle” camp at Calais has been cleared and pulled down. Where the inhabitants have been split up and moved to is not clear. It is to be doubted that they will have lost their ambition to reach the “paved with gold” streets of the UK.

Watford FC. are likely to escape a points deduction over the scandal of a forged bank letter. The Chairman Raffaele Riva will probably resign and plans to sue his former associate; who allegedly supplied the Football League with a false financial document two years ago, showing proof of a bank guarantee of £7m when Gino Pozzo took over ownership of the club through the parent Hornets Investment Ltd. It has not been determined if a fine will be levied on the club.

The BBC has been broadcasting a high definition TV service for 80 years today. 2nd Nov. Transmitting live from a 220 ft steel mast on top of Alexandra Palace in North London the first one hour show; the first regular service in the world was seen by “viewers” on around one hundred very expensive, flickering, tiny screened TV sets; but only in London. High definition in those early days was with 405 lines and this became the original standard. All a far cry from the multi channel, multi line, full colour and HDR, High fidelity stereo sound transmissions of today. Everything was live in those early days and the range from the transmitter very short. The use of local cable networks came in the late forties and fifties and soon after we were to see first transatlantic pictures; then worldwide satellite TV was achieved in 1962 following the launch into orbit of Telstar and other geo stationary Satellites. There is no need to describe the facilities available today. Never mind the quality, feel the width!

We are again warned of the losses to world wildlife. It is claimed that many species populations have decreased by 60% since the 1970’s. Most of the wildlife forms; from Elephants to Eels have declined due to poaching, natural habitat being destroyed to provide agricultural land and building, disease, over consumption and pollution. Some species are nearing the levels where extinction is eventually very likely. We as a race are certainly leaving our mark on this planet and ignore these trends at our peril.

The High Court has ruled that the government cannot instigate Rule 50 (to leave the EU), Parliament alone can trigger Brexit by informing Brussels. 3rd Nov. No 10 has insisted that the plans to operate the Rule by March will not be derailed by this decision. An appeal will be launched in The Supreme Court.

The action; seen by some to be yet another ploy to reverse the National referendum result, was part led by lead claimant Gina Miller, who is co-founder of an investment firm. This lady is both loved and hated within the financial environment.

The Hornets were well and truly swatted today 5th Nov. by a very good Liverpool team. Now top of the Premiership they beat; and outplayed, Watford, by 6 goals to one. The excuse; say’s the manager, is injuries. They now have another one to add to the list in the shape of  our goalkeeper Gomez, who has saved them on many occasions in the recent past. The immediate future looks a little uncertain!

We awoke this morning to the news that Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States of America. 9th Nov. Many of those of the electorate that were interview seemed amazed, and in some cases horrified, by the result. I recall the same phenomena when Bush was elected and when Brexit won the day. Nobody seemed to admit to actually voting for the actual winner. World Stock Markets have reacted by going into early panic mode. The FTSE 100 initially slumped but has made a recovery. The Eastern markets seem most affected with world financial and trade instability feared. It would seem that any significant political change is great news for the world financiers. This is how they make their profits, with our money as the stakes.

Nuisance phone calls continue to plague this household. 11th Nov. Offers of oven cleaning. (Press button one!). Tell me your age, and another irate caller who phoned back to tell me that “no one hangs up on me!” before hanging up on me, have been part of this week’s efforts.

I fear for some of our more senior residents “who do not like to be rude” when asked for personal information. So much is heard of financial scams occurring due to just this lapse.

Demonstrations and rioting have been occurring in several US Cities in protest at the result of the Presidential election in which they have just cast their vote. As the winner had stated that he would not accept the result if he did not come out on top then he must have some sympathy for the members of the electorate who are setting fire to things in the streets. That is Democracy for you?

The Annual Armistice commemorations took place in a very rainy Saturday in London and all over the country, 12th Nov. where the deaths of British and allied service men were remembered. This conflict resulted in the deaths of 17m persons, both servicemen and civilians. The official time and date of the Armistice was yesterday. The 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.

England played Scotland at Wembley in a World Cup qualifying football match yesterday and wore on a black arm band; the “Red Poppy of Flanders Field” on it, a symbol of remembrance for the lost legions. This was in contravention of a FIFA ruling that political insignia would not be worn. They have since said they had not forbidden the poppy! The crowd of partisan fans observed a one minute silence immaculately, in front of a large screen that read, “Lest we forget”.

The riots continue in many US cities following the election of Donald Trump as the new President. Shootings, tear gas and arson provoking many arrests. The action carried out, (Say’s Trump,) by professional rioters and activists. Gets worse and worse!

The Armistice Day memorial parade at the Cenotaph on Saturday 12th Nov. followed by the Service of Remembrance in the Albert Hall provided those that witnessed them with a degree of nostalgia for events that shaped this country’s history and caused the deaths of millions.

Our moon will be closer to earth than it has been in the last 69 years tonight. 14th Nov. At 226,000 miles it will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter than usual. It is unfortunate that the cloud cover will prevent us from actually seeing it. With the moon at its fullest and appearing low on the horizon, this should have been a spectacle to remember. Never mind, put a note in your diary for 2034 and prey for a clear sky then!

On my return home to Kingswood 1st Dec, I find the temperature around the zero mark and am informed that it is a lot warmer than earlier in the week. Winter draws on!

US President-elect Donald Trump has announced his new defence secretary 2nd Dec. will be a former US Marine who glories under the title; General James, “Mad Dog” Mattis. It is claimed he is the closest thing to General George Patton (WW 2) that they have available.

With the web site being unavailable for several weeks this update is of considerable length.

Whilst I have been away the Hornets have beaten last year’s Premiership Champions Leicester City, and lost to lower placed; and in poor form, Stoke City. The later game report suggested no enthusiasm and not much skill! A Watford own goal settled their fate.

The Italians; in an attempt at constitutional reform, have stirred up considerable unrest by heavily defeating a Brexit type vote raised by their Prime Minister. Dec 5th. Financial experts feared, or hoped for, a money meltdown similar to the Greek crisis, with Austria having their own problems. It is not only the UK that is stirring things up.

In the third day of Supreme Court action to determine the need for Parliament to decide on Article 50 several compromises have been introduced that would seem to tip off the EU as to the UK strategy. With March 31st. 2017 still the government aim for pulling the trigger there appears to be a number of dissenters aiming to push the train off the rails.

A note from the Cabinet Secretary marked “Official-Sensitive”, warns that ministers or civil servants who leak government secrets will be dismissed. This information was contained in a leaked memo!

It is claimed that the cost of keeping someone in a care home has risen in the last year by nearly 25% to an average £26,000 a year. With an ageing population this burden on the tax payer will be impossible to maintain and makes “saving for your old age” a bit of a (not amusing funny) joke.

The steel plant in South Wales will continue to produce steel 6th Dec. following a £1bn. scheme agreed with Tata steel. Job changes will result and things will not be the same as they were, but compared with the closure; that was very close, many of the workers will sigh with relief.

The US presidential circus continues. 10th Dec. The CIA have evidence that a Russian spy agency hacked and then sent copies of the Clinton emails to Wikileaks that apparently persuaded the electorate to vote for Trump. The Trump camp has laughingly compared the revelation to the CIA’s assessment that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2003. This whole affair would seem to put in doubt the ability of the US intelligence operation to be of much use to anyone! If the CIA do not provide all the information and Trump does not rate, or ignores what he receives, then heaven help them, and us. Ian Fleming would be hard pressed to come up with a scenario such as this.

With the FBI investigating other claimed Clinton email irregularities it is difficult to know what to be believe. It makes some of the indiscretions of “should know better” UK politicians seem small fry.

The Hornets won again yesterday beating Everton 3-2 at home. Although by no means dominant, they scored two good goals, and as of today, 11th Dec. they are seventh in the table.

The terrible fate of the Syrian civilians continues. With reported government troop gains and losses which basically add up to the remaining populace bearing the brunt of the attacks and counter efforts.

Two bombs have been detonated outside Istanbul’s Besiktus football ground in Turkey killing 29 and injuring 166. No claims as to who was responsible but plenty of suspects. Most of the casualties appear to have been either police or security personnel.

Reports of yet more terrorist attacks today. 12th Dec. 25 women and children were killed in an attack on Saint Peter and St Paul Coptic Christian church in Cairo. No one has claimed responsibly for this outrage, but it is one of several that have been made on the minority sect in the past. A lorry bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia, claimed the lives of 29 locals. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for this one, whilst 50 or so soldiers were killed in the Yemen whilst queuing for their pay. Nearly a hundred troops were injured in yet another bomb attack in Aden city earlier in the weekend. Islamic State carried out the attack. With a church collapsing on a packed congregation in Nigeria killing 200, and in Kenya an oil tanker exploding killing another 40 souls it has not been one of mankind’s “great weekends”.

More legal challenges to the government’s plans to delay the instigation of Brexit are in the process of presentation to the High Court. It seems some will not accept the referendum result as other than a challenge. One group seems to think that all government plans and proposals for the exit negotiations should be made available to everyone. With a furore over the seemingly expensive dress sense of the Prime Minister entering the arena we seem to be fast approaching the recent US approach to politics. Heaven help us!

A primary teacher’s guide book advises them not to call the kids “girls” or “boys”, in case they have not at that time determined which they actually are. It is not; in my opinion, possible to comment on such advise without inducing a feeling of unease. The booklet is entitled “Can I tell you about Gender Diversity”. Could, “Can you learn to read and do simple sums, and spell diversity?” be a more apposite question?

Government sources claim that the last vestige of rebel occupation of parts of Eastern Aleppo in Syria is near to being eliminated after four and a half years of conflict. 13th Dec. Reports that the pro government relief forces are clearing houses without any determination as to their being rebels or not have prompted a UN humanitarian spokesman to state that there is a “complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo”. A Russian source claims it is the rebels that are carrying out the atrocities. Whichever faction is responsible, it is the civilians that are dying!

Southern England is at a standstill for two days. The two main rail unions argue that the driver should not be responsible for opening and closing the doors to allow the 300,000 passengers a day to get to and from work. Southern Rail, who’s performance has been diabolical for some time, blame the unions for staff shortages due to high levels of sickness; this, they say has caused much of the mayhem. Apparently safety issues have been answered, and other reasons; unspecified, have been suggested for action by the union members. Another 2 days action is scheduled for Friday and Saturday!

Post Office workers will strike for five days up to Christmas Eve in a dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures.

Inflation has risen to 1.2%. The highest figure for two years. The Bank Rate remains at 0.5%. I leave the reader to do the calculations for the saver.

After the failure of the ceasefire two days ago to evacuate residents from the parts of Aleppo under siege, it seems some success has been achieved today. 15th Dec. The extent of evacuation, and whatever other provisions and restraints have been put on the operation is not clear.

President Obama has told Russian President Putin that the US could use offensive cyber methods to retaliate for the interference; corroborated by the FBI, the Russians carried out during the presidential election. 17th Dec. He suggests strongly that Putin was well aware of the cyber attacks.

The evacuation of the remaining rebel held area of Aleppo is on again. It has been interrupted several times, including a period of shelling of the buses provided. It is difficult to know who is actually being rescued, civilian inhabitants or rebels.

The Southern Rail strike continues, and just for good measure Christmas day and Boxing Day have been selected for a strike by BA cabin crew. Baggage handlers have also said they will strike, causing further chaos during peak holiday times. We have been here before and suffered for it. Why leave the EU claiming we can go it alone, then try to outdo the French in their favourite pastime.

The Aleppo evacuation is on yet again, 19th Dec. following further attacks by some faction on the transport laid on for the purpose.

FIFA; the football governing body, has fined the English FA £45,000 and Scottish FA £16,000, for allowing the international teams to wear a Poppy on their arm bands during their World Cup qualifying game at Wembley on Armistice Day. The action was seen as contravening the rule regarding the wearing of political and religious statements. We all know the significance of the Poppy and it is neither political nor religious. It is in remembrance of the millions that died in wars that they had no option but to fight in. Many that took part would never have the opportunity to see a football match again.

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has been assassinated by an off duty police officer at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara. The shooter was heard to call out “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he pulled the trigger. It is alleged he claimed “We are the one who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad. He also called out “Allahu Akbar” as he fired at least eight shots. Putin claims it was provocation in order to sabotage Russian / Turkish relations. And so it goes on.

From atrocity to atrocity. A 25 ton lorry was driven at 40mph into the shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin killing 12 people. 20th Dec. Islamic State have claimed responsibility and have broadcast a message that claims “the executor of the operation in Berlin is a soldier of the Islamic State and he executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries” Following an arrest, that was later determined to be the wrong man, a hunt is on for the real driver. Residents are advised to stay indoors as the real perpetrator is still armed and at large. They been there is a serious threat of another significant attack. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been further criticised for her open door immigration policy.

In Britain, an even higher level of alert has been set, with plans to protect the public around shopping outlets, markets, carol services and fireworks displays over the festive season involving an increase of armed patrols and increased police presence. VIP safety is also reviewed and strengthened following the Turkish assassination. “Be aware” is the order of the day.

The baggage handlers at London airports have called off their threatened strike but BA cabin crew are still on course to ruin many travel arrangement on Christmas and Boxing Day.

Southern Rail services are still hit by intermittent strike action over the holiday period

The winter solstice begins today 21st Dec. with the shortest hours of daylight. The days will get longer from now on. Hooray!

A man matching the description of the suspect identified by the German authorities has been shot and killed in a shoot out with Italian police outside a Milan train station. 23rd Dec. He had been asked for his documents and replied by shooting one of the policemen. Fire was returned. he died!

We await the arrival of storm Barbara from the Atlantic. Gales of 90 mph are promised for Scotland and the West, with possibly torrential rain. We wish those in its path “Good Luck” and a dry Christmas with no power outages.

BA cabin crew have also seen sense and put off their holiday period strike. Whether it is only delayed or settled is not clear.

The evacuation of Aleppo is claimed complete. Who was evacuated, and to where, is not entirely clear. The rebels have been relocated, presumably to sort themselves out and start all over again. For rebels, read Freedom fighters? What a mess.

Storm Barbara is causing severe disruption in Scotland and the North and Storm Conor is on its way. 24th Dec. An Amber alert has been issued for Boxing Day.

Christmas Day in Kingswood was unusually warm 25th Dec. with temperatures around 14 degrees, whilst the North and Scotland were still being hit by the gales and with some temporary loss of power in exposed areas. Snow also affected parts of the Scottish highlands.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse 28th Dec. following a very mild Christmas Day. With temperatures down to an early morning -5 degrees C and quite thick fog, planes were delayed into Heathrow and several nasty crashes on the roads further delayed travellers, with some stretches of Motorway closed. St Pancras station remains closed until 30th Dec. due to planned maintenance work, but surprise, surprise, other works have overrun their estimated time span.

The Public Health England authorities say 80% of people aged 40-60 years either weigh too much, drink too much or do not do any kind of exercise. 77% of men and 63% of women of this age are either overweight or obese, a rise of 16% in the last twenty years. As a result; the diabetes level has doubled and it is claimed that this trend will engulf the NHS and it is already reaching crisis levels.

The Italian banking system is on very thin ice with loans made that will never be repaid. I seem to remember a similar situation here not so long ago. Should it fail, the Euro is also at risk, and a bailout situation will see other EU countries forced to pay enormous amounts of money into the pot. It is calculated that the UK will need to find something like £1.1trillion should they still be in the Union. I still don’t know how many noughts are involved in a trillion, but it is quite a lot! The Bundersbank is also rumoured to be less than healthy.

A nationwide cease fire in Syria, brokered by the Russians and Turks is apparently holding reasonably well following its start at midnight. 30th Dec. Despite a few bursts of automatic fire in some areas it is to be hoped it sticks. The ISIS and other Islamic fighters have not been included, so there may lie the problem.

Just as one door closes….President Obama has expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying, and imposed sanctions on some Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged interference in the recent Presidential elections by their hacking of  US political groups sites.

Of course Russia, and President Putin deny the allegations and have responded tit for tat by expelling the appropriate number of US diplomats. This playground scenario marks a new low in the US-Russian relationship leading up to super diplomat Donald Trump’s inauguration as US President. He has publicly admired President Putin and may take some form of reversing action when in power, say some US sources.

The Hornets have finished the year in 12th place in the Premiership with a draw last weekend to stem the run of 3 defeats. With a current 8 squad injuries, and a banning, the possibility that new names will appear on the staff in the January transfer market seems fairly likely. With a home game against high flying Spurs on New Year’s Day it would be nice to report three more points.

At the end of 2016 the UK and world is still far from all singing all dancing. Conflicts various, terrorist attacks numerous and politics (and particularly politicians) hilarious, dominate the news. With the referendum decision for the UK to leave the EU being the most contentious at home, and Donald Trump to be the new US President away, it would appear that in both cases the electorate did not understand how “that result” could possibly have happened.

With the New Year coming, the time when we must put our money where our mouth is as far as an independence in Europe is concerned; we possibly have more incentive to live with a fitter life style. We can’t provide the rest of world commerce with a sick note if we don’t feel like it today after a good night out. It should be very interesting!!!

Who makes New Year resolutions anyway?

The reports from Syria suggest the majority of killings are over in and around what is left of Aleppo. 31st Dec. It is difficult for the outside observer to judge the current ongoing situation and nobody would claim it cannot change overnight. Isis still holds a very important hand with no other country able to play trumps.

A late report from Istanbul reports the massacre of 29 revellers, and the injuries to 69 others; in a nightclub on the banks of the Bosphorus just before mid night (GMT). An apparently lone gunman opened fire on the scene. A media blackout has been imposed and speculation is rife.

The New Years Honours list has been published. The usual claims of patronage and cronyism have been levied, but most I believe would agree that Ken Dodd, Andy Murray and Mo Farah are deserving of a Knighthood, as indeed is Jessica Ennis-Hill of becoming a Dame.

Ken Dodd summed up his award by telling reporters in Knotty Ash that “I am highly delighted, tickled and full of plumptiousness at this great honour”. He has been a comic icon for nearly 60 years and is 89 years old and still performing.

President Putin has decided not to expel US diplomats in response to the US expelling 35 Russians, claiming they interfered with the Presidential elections. This has pleased Donald Trump no end!

It is perhaps ironic that the FTSE 100 Share Index has risen to an all time high at 7,142.83 points. After a sterling fall following Brexit the market has recovered to this record level. Someone can explain the phenomena I am sure. But I can’t!

With this bit of good news I end this year’s comments. Most of them have been bad, so it is to be hoped that 2017 brings better happenings to record. I think I have said that before!

 

A Happy New Year.

Alan Orchard 31st December 2016