Social Comment – 2017

Social Comment for Year 2017.

January 1st. 2017

Welcome to yet another year in Kingswood.

The writer is hopeful that he can comment on a more settled and peaceful world than that of last year. With yesterday’s events in Turkey it seems a little unlikely, but one can only hope.

          The Hornets, in pouring rain and freezing temperatures, took a beating 1-4, from a very good Spurs team today. 1st.Jan. They appeared to have little appetite for a win and showed the Watford portion of the crowd of near 21,000 that braved the weather little respect. Another squad player did not make it through the “warm up”, which together with the other injuries and suspensions and two men going to the African Cup of Nations, leaves the squad severely depleted. With four more players close to suspension, it would appear that money will have to be spent this month. It is to be hoped that someone can be found who will give the impression that winning and keeping the ball is the way to go! Our “speak no English” manager must also be looking over his shoulder. If we lose on Tuesday at Stoke and go out of the FA Cup at the weekend, then look out for an upheaval. Come on you ‘orns!!!

          Stoke 2-Watford 0. 3rd Jan. Another poor result but with a little more desire than at the weekend. The inability to get shots on goal and the giving away sloppy chances to the opposition was their downfall. Now five games without a win; all losses bar one draw now sees them in 14th. place and with yet another injury.

          Britain’s EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers has resigned, and in his farewell message to his staff has identified “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” by politicians as one of the reasons. He had previously warned the government that a trade deal could take decades to finalise. He also claimed that “serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall”, and that civil servants still did not know the Government’s Brexit priorities. These statements do not particularly inspire a great deal of confidence?

          A new permanent ambassador to the EU has been appointed. 5th Jan. Sir Tim Barrow; a claimed “seasoned and tough negotiator” who will bring “energy” to the EU discussion expected to start soon, say’s Downing Street.

A major speech is likely by Theresa May on Brexit within the next few weeks.

          The weather has gone from mild to very cold. Last night in Kingswood the temperature dropped to -5 degrees centigrade. Today was sunny and just above freezing.

          The Hornets managed to see off lower league Burton Albion in the FA Cup. 7th Jan. The only bright spot was the performance of a pair of Academy players. They had more desire and energy than the established team members.

          A Red Kite has just sailed past the window. From a fast becoming nonexistent, (locally that is) species we have loads of them casting across the sky, often at low levels. This is as a result of a reintroduction scheme some few years back.

          A few unconnected facts that may illustrate a bit about the life we lead at present.

Currently the average family’s unsecured debt is around £13,000. With very low repayment interest rates we will suffer some nasty shocks if the rate rises. This ‘shock’ effectively exacerbated by the rise in mortgage repayments.

The rising temperatures in the arctic; with all its implications, continues to give rise to disquiet. Most scientists seem to agree that global warming is the cause, and that “we” are the cause of global warming.

At the other end of the world the Antarctic ice shelf is also in the news with the break off of one of the largest icebergs ever. 5,000 sq kilometers: a quarter of the area of Wales is about to float into the Southern Seas. With 90% of the mass of a fresh water ‘berg below the sea level it will present a few problems.

Meanwhile the numbers of new cars registered has risen to a new all time high. With the need to have a new “66” registration plate very strong, it is likely to rise even further this year.

An MTA on the A405 by the Greenwood Road junction 9th Jan. provided one vehicle on the grass of the central reservation and lots of blue flashing lights. Local politicians have been recently campaigning to have a speed reduction and more monitoring on this stretch of the 50mph trunk road. More attention to the use of; and possibly extension to, acceleration lanes would also help.

The FTSE 100 share price has risen today to 7,283 points. This equals the high of a few days ago and is the top of a long climb back. Meanwhile the Pound has fallen yet again against the Dollar and Euro following Theresa Mays speech on the UK leaving the EU.

Finally; and surely not unexpectedly, a social media fact. Under 50 year old’s are said to spend up to 1 hour 42 minutes per day updating their profiles and using Facebook, twitter and other social media. The survey claims that this accounts for 3 years of their lives! What else would you spend the time on?

          Here are some more statistics. 12th Jan. Russia is unhappy with the 3,000 US military personnel sent to Poland. “A threat to their security” they say. The troops are President Obama’s response to reassure NATO which is concerned about perceived Russian aggression in Northern Europe. It is amazing how potential conflict can rise and escalate, almost on its own! This action follows the installation of nuclear capable missiles in Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania. There must be more beneficial uses for all this money?

          Tidal lagoons as a means of generating electricity are again being pushed as a reliable source of indigenous, affordable, and clean energy. Swansea Bay is a prime target and already the environmental lobby is busy defending the birds and their habitats. Wind generation does not seem to be very prolific or reliable, nuclear power is too expensive and dangerous, and Fracking for gas upsets the Nimby’s. With plans such as the Kempton Park closure for racing and provision of 3,000 new homes cropping up regularly, then power has to come from somewhere. Or do we have to admit that the UK; like the hospital beds, is full up!

          Graham Taylor has died today aged 72. 12 Jan. Older residents will recall the golden days at Vicarage Road between 1977 and 1987 when the Elton John’s “Taylor made Army” duo took the Hornets from a lowly place in the Fourth Division to runners up in the First Division in four years. Brought into the club by Chairman Elton John; Graham also gave us a trip to Wembley as cup finalists. Unsuccessful as we were, they were heady times. RIP Graham.

          Heavy snow over night in many northern parts of the UK. 13th Jan. Little in Kingswood, but bitterly cold with the strong winds. The East coast has severe flood warning associated with wind direction and a strong North/South tidal surge. Evacuations are in progress in Lincolnshire where 10 feet of flood water is feared. Later in the morning snow fell again. Pretty rather than thick!

          Much press reference to the inability of the NHS to cope with particularly Accident and Emergency patients this winter. NHS in crisis, more money needed, is the cry. The main causes of the problem seem to be: an ever growing population, an ageing population; who’s lifestyle in some cases does not help themselves, the trend to call an ambulance or go to A&E when other courses of action; including going to the local doctor or Pharmacy are indicated, and the lack of beds due to the inability of hospital staff to locate a place for patients who no longer require medical attention; but still need care.

The cry from some areas is for more beds. Unfortunately; like the roads, if you make more facilities available they seem to be filled almost at once by more cars/patients and even more roads/beds are required.

This is a hot potato and requires some new thinking. Too few beds/too many patients? It would appear that a new computer-aided online scheme for receiving help and advice, without necessarily occupying a bed, is to be launched soon.

          The tidal surge on the East coast passed without significant breeches to the flood defenses. 14th Jan. A sigh of relief from the locals, until the next time.

          There were few dry eyes at Vicarage Road this afternoon when prolonged applause was given before the match; and at the 72nd minute, in tribute to Graham Taylor. A brave wife must have felt very proud of the tribute paid to her husband for the success he achieved that laid the foundations for the clubs current position in the Premiership. Several of the players of his day attended and reminded us of the “Golden Boys” era.

           PM Theresa May has made her promised speech at Lancaster House on front of European ambassadors, reference the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. 17th Jan. She stated that the UK will break its Brussels connections whatever happens during the departure negotiations. She told them that MP’s and peers will get a final vote on the terms reached; but will not be allowed to block the final break. She further told the ambassadors  that attempts to impose punitive departure terms would be “a calamitous act of self harm”. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”.

The points she emphasised were briefly as follows.

  1. EU law will revert back to UK law.
  2. WE will control our own legislation through laws made in the Westminster Parliament. The European Court of Justice will lose its influence.
  3. In an attempt to strengthen the Union the ties between the four nations will be strengthened and the recovered powers from Brussels will be returned to Westminster and some will be given over to the devolved administrations.
  4. Efforts will be made to keep a free travel open border between Northern and Southern Ireland whilst still protecting the UK’s immigration system.
  5. In controlling immigration the government must regain control over the number of immigrants who travel here from Europe.
  6. It is an aim to insure that EU citizens living in the UK, and British nationals living in the EU will be able to remain after the separation.
  7. Workers rights will be protected . Legal rights and protection will be maintained to keep abreast of the changing labour markets.
  8. An attempt to get a new “bold and ambitious” free trade agreement with the EU but will leave the European Single Market. We will no longer pay the “huge sums” to the EU budget.
  9. New trade arrangements will be struck with countries around the world whilst still attempting to maintain tariff free trade with the EU. We will remove ourselves from the Customs Union and make a new agreement with the EU.
  10. Whilst claiming Britain is the best place for science, technology and innovation, backed by top flight universities, we will attempt to agree on collaboration with EU partners.
  11. Crime and terrorism cooperation will continue after the break.
  12. The PM said she wanted an orderly Brexit. She did not want last minute or “cliff edge” arrangements and overnight transitions.

These points are garnered from press reports and I thank the various correspondents for the basis whilst I attempt to present an apolitical appraisal.

It would appear that the financial markets were quite pleased; for a change, with the Pound rising against the Dollar. Most Brexit announcements up till now have resulted in a move in the other direction.

Theresa May spoke of her hopes for a deal to benefit the UK and those we trade with. She also made it clear she would walk away if EU bosses attempted to impose punitive departure conditions on the UK.

This subject; and its final result, must be the most likely to have an effect for many years on the lives of all the Kingswood residents, and indeed the World.

          Kingswood Baptist church on North Approach is to be sold, together with the Manse. 19th Jan. It was opened in 1950 and closed in 2015. Rumours as to its new use are rife locally. Flats, a Mosque and a Remand Home are some of them, although an afterhours learning centre for poorly performing children in mainstream education seems to be the current intention of the purchasers. Some of these uses are in the same licensing class and can be mixed and matched following their initial certification. Local politicians and the KRA are to discuss with the new owners the concerns many appear to have as to the effect; whatever the determined use, will be on the locale.

         Many UK holiday makers are being flown home 20th Jan. from the Gambia as the old President refuses to leave following the election of a new man. United Nations troops who have crossed the border from Senegal have halted their advance as attempts to organise talks are carried out. Yet another example of election results not being adhered to. Not the electorate this time!

         Donald Trump was inaugurated as US President yesterday before thousands of supporters whilst his detractors rioted in other parts of Washington, breaking windows and damaging cars. 21st Jan. Today, it is reported, protest meetings at his election will be held in 60 countries, including the UK, mainly demonstrating about his attitude and treatment of women.

Does democracy work? it would seem not for the apparent millions who do not accept the will of the masses at elections and referendums. It has been said that these decisions are made by the people least qualified to come up with the right answer, and leads to all sorts of questions, the answer to some of them has, and does, cause wars.

Trump has signed his first Executive Order. It would appear to the outsider that he considers too expensive the health care reforms law known as Obamacare. His aim is to reduce the economic burden provided by the service. Following on from his proclaimed aim to put “America first” and to end the “American carnage” of abandoned factories and rampant crime, it seems there may be some conflict between the definition of America and Americans?

          The ex Gambian president has; under some duress, stepped down. Yahya Jammeh has relinquished power and will go into exile.

         The weather in Kingswood continues to be very cold, with night frosts and day temperatures not generally exceeding 4 degrees. Some of the East-West roads that do not receive any sun remain icy all day. RTA’s continue in the Greenwood Drive general area due to other than the weather. Someone is going to be seriously injured one day. All the signs in the world will not help if drivers take no notice of them, and many don’t!

         It is announced today 22nd Jan. that PM Theresa May will meet with Donald Trump in Washington on Friday next. This should be interesting!

         The High Court Justices of the Supreme Court have delivered their ruling on the need for a parliamentary bill before Article 50 is triggered for the UK to leave the EU. 24th Jan. This has given renewed hope to those who do not agree with the referendum result and must surely make the process even more tortuous. Some politicians claim that the High Court is telling parliament what to do, which raises constitutional issues. “Muddying the water” seems to be an appropriate summary of the situation. The ruling; which backs up the earlier High Court decision, says that the devolved governments: Scotland, Wales and Northern Island do not have the right to veto Brexit. The challenge action cost’s of millions of Pounds will be borne by the taxpayer, and raises questions in some published correspondents reports as to the motives of certain of its challengers.

         The weather is still overnight frosty, and in addition, fog has caused delays and cancellation to flights into and out of Heathrow and Gatwick.

         President Trump has been Executive Ordering again. 26th Jan. A 19,000 mile wall; costing several million dollars per mile, will be built along the Mexican border. It will be paid for by the Mexican government, he says.. He also seemed to order the deportation of many illegal Mexican immigrants, with more freedom for action given to those who determine who have criminal records and who are considered to be a threat to public safety. He is sanctioning more actions to cut back on legal immigration which includes barring Syrian nationals from entering the ‘States.

Trump has repeated his belief that “torture works” in an interview with ABC. His cabinet will determine if the US should resume the policy. He claimed we have to fight fire with fire. Following talks with his intelligence staff, when he was asked, “Does it work? Does torture work? The answer was “Yes absolutely”.

Theresa May has a job on her hands with her meeting with Trump tomorrow. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, just about fits the bill.

         Ken Emmons and I attended a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators meeting at Watford Police Station. Phil Waine; Watch Liaison Officer; and coffee aficionado, and a very clued up lady; together with a number of police officers including Inspector Lillitou and several others whose names have escaped me, plus a number of PCSO’s, all re-presented “The Watch”, and in particular OWL; which provides e-mail and other communications to all its signed up members on subjects relevant to the area. They stressed that “The Watch” played an important part in policing the neighbourhood and implied that without it the service they provide would necessarily be poorer.

The latest OWL communication informed that the new higher penalties for using a mobile phone in a vehicle also applied to “whilst sitting with the engine running”, which I think may come as a surprise to some.

Ken and I were horrified at the amount of traffic and hold ups on the bus journey to the Police Station. More roads? Less cars?  Same old story.

         The meeting in Washington seemed to go off very well considering. 26th Jan. In the following news conference our PM appeared the more positive and Trump was quiet and reasoned. He said “Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country”, and they held hands. He expressed his commitment to NATO and will be “advised” on the reintroduction of torture for terrorist prisoners.  What happened in private can only be guessed at.

The Russian Embassy mocked Theresa May’s warning that Trump should “beware Vladimir Putin”. Trump will talk to Putin tomorrow; where amongst other areas not published, he will attempt to persuade him to help to “knock hell out of ISIS together”. He also seems inclined to remove sanctions on Russia, whilst May has said we should wait to see if the Minsk agreement on Ukrainian sovereignty is kept.

Theresa May issued a statement late last night saying she “does not agree” with Trumps prevention of residents of 7 Muslim countries from entering the US. 29th Jan. This follows intense pressure from many sides that she should condemn the order. Dangerous, a no win, situation again?

         The Hornets are out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 defeat at Millwall, who seemed to want the win much more than we did. Some say it is a cunning ploy to concentrate on the Premiership; this will be a little clearer with the result of a visit to play Arsenal next Tuesday!

         With an online petition (one of the “must do” things to do these days!), one and a half million UK residents demand that Theresa May cancels the invitation given to Donald Trump for a State visit later in the year. 30th Jan. Secretary of State & Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson stated in the Commons that it will go on. Many demonstrations have taken place, both here in Downing Street and in the States, regarding Trumps Executive order.

News that Trump has sacked his acting Attorney General. It appears this follows her instruction to stop Justice Department lawyers from defending his controversial immigration laws. She has said she is “not convinced that the Executive order is legal”.

         Parliament will today start a two day debate on the Parliamentary Bill to begin the formal process of Brexit. A vote is expected this week and the aim of the government is to trigger Brexit by the 31st March. Room for several on-line petitions between now and then?

         The funeral of Graham Taylor took place today 1st Feb. at StMary’s church in the town centre, followed by a private family committal with a later reception at Vicarage Road for those invited to attend the service.

Several streets were closed; with transport diversion to accommodate the thousands that wanted to pay their respects to the town’s legend. Many “big names” from the football world attended the service, which was watched by those outside on large screens and where the coffin was respectfully clapped, both in and out of the church. The whole service was widely reported on National television with several emotional interviews of both local mourners and celebrities.

There’s only one Graham Taylor!

          There was a majority of 384 votes in the House of Commons tonight to allow Theresa May to get the Brexit negotiations under way. The bill has still to be further scrutinised by both the Commons and the House of Lords. The Commons debate continues next week. It is still the aim of the PM. to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to get official talks with EU ministers by 31st March.

          Watford town centre continues to be a nightmare. Feb 2nd. With the new works on the INTU site, pavement widths are reduced, which together with the bus shelters makes normal progress nearly impossible, even for the fitter shoppers and visitors. With a mobility problem you are taking your life in your hands. Shopping trolleys are pulled along behind hurrying owners; ready to catch your leg, other pedestrians; peering down on mobile phones, seem to care little for their own or others safety, and four wheel drive; all terrain baby buggies are driven, often with a “Right of Way”, glared at other pedestrians. Despite designated cycle lanes, a rider in a hurry went through the people waiting for a bus in Market Street at a rate of knots.

The old British ways of giving some thought to people with disabilities seem to have virtually disappeared, as indeed is ordered queuing for buses! Add to these problems the insecurity and unevenness of many of the walking surfaces and you have the basis of a very unrewarding visit to our town centre!

          A US Federal judge has ruled that the Trump order to impose a travel ban/entry to the US, on seven; mainly Muslim countries, is unlawful and un-American. .3rd Feb. Homeland Security has resumed standard inspection of travellers as was the case before the order. Trump has denounced the judge and is expected to file an emergency motion to challenge the ruling.

          The emergency motion by Trump has also been rejected. 5th Feb. The president has said that he will “blame judge and courts if America is attacked”. The legal battle continues and quite a lot of previously banned entries have been accomplished.

          Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 65 years today. 6th Feb. She is the longest reigning British monarch ever and celebrates her Sapphire anniversary; having acceded at the age of 24 on the 6th February 1952; following the death of her father King George VI.

          The debate in parliament on leaving the EU continues, 7th Feb. to a repeated barrage of seemingly petty and self centred objections by those that are still trying to block the result of the national referendum to leave the Union. Several votes on amendments have been defeated and the threatened rebellion by backbench Conservative MP’s; allying themselves to some Labour, Lib Dems and SNP MP’s came to little. The aim of the latter seems to be  directed at another Scottish independence referendum. The heat has been taken out of the argument by a promise that the MP’s will have a vote on the final deal before the EU parliament has a say. A Third Reading vote tomorrow will be followed by the legislation going before the House of Lords.

          In the same chamber at Westminster, the Speaker John Bercow is facing calls for his resignation for “damaging the National interest” for not allowing the new US President Trump to address the house. Again self interest is listed; along with all sorts of snide comments, as the reason for the veto, after he had invited the Chinese President to speak, together with Emir of Kuwait, both of whom had upset some MP’s reference their home humanities policies.

          Meanwhile back in the ‘States, Trump has said he will take his appeal to reinstate his entry bans to the US Supreme Court if necessary. “Some things are common sense, some things are law…this is common sense”. And so it goes on, and on.

          The UK housing situation has again been identified as critical and the government has determined we will build 25,000 homes by 2020 and 225,000 in the longer term. Greenfield land is not sacrosanct and councils will be kicked to ensure prompt action. How long will it be before our population density, together with its essential attendant infra structure and access roads, be so high that living in the towns, new or old, will be even more unpleasant. Many areas resemble car parking lots now, so it would require a similar number of off-road parking spots to the number of homes provided to not make the quality of life for residents even worse. England’s green and pleasant lands are not infinite.

It has been suggested that more older people should relinquish their cherished and hard won homes and live in purpose built semi high rise apartment blocks with others of their age. They could have bars and community rooms, together with a hair dressing salon and perhaps a snooker table. I suspect the response would not be altogether unanimous. Is this homes problem another Cars/roads, patients/beds situation?

          The Brexit bill was passed 494 votes to 122 yesterday in the House of Commons and has been passed to the ‘Lords. 9th Feb. Brexit secretary Davis has told them to “do their patriotic duty”. An unpleasant side to their deliberations suggest a government source stating the Lords will face a public call for their house to be abolished if it opposes the bill. This could make a considered and fair debate a little on the touchy side?

          The US Courts have again rejected Trump’s demands 10th Feb. to re-instate his Executive Order immigration ban. His reply was a tweet, “See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake”. And on and on……..

          The NHS is again pilloried for what is claimed to be the worst waiting overtime last December since the 4 hour target was introduced 13 years ago. In a leaked report it is claimed that more than 60,000 seriously ill patients spent more than 4 hours waiting on trolleys out of a total of 1.4 million A&E visits in the period. 550 patients spent more than 12 hours under similar conditions.

The Department of Health claim these leaked reports are not verified and do a disservice to those who worked tirelessly to provide care. It was added that the vast majority of patients received treatment quickly and plans are in place to meet the busy periods, supported by £400million of extra funding.

Although not the experience of the writer, West Herts. Hospitals were declared “inadequate” by inspectors, and put into special measures recently.

          It is still bitterly cold and snowing at the moment 11th Feb. The forecast does not suggest it will warm up in the immediate future.

          It seems the EU is not entirely healthy; with or without the UK. 11th Feb. Several member countries appear unhappy with the way the benefits and costs are shared, and some other Brussels policies, in particular open borders and immigration. The Euro; for some members, is far from “plat du jour”. Nationalism and not globalisation seems to be a re-occurring theme. Populism is also raising its head; mainly to the right.

          Italy has a populist movement under the title “The Five Star Movement” (known in Italy as i Movimento 5 Stelle or M5S)  with a popular comedian named Beppe Grillo as its leading light. His right wing movement. (Note: ‘Movement’ not party), claims it is a contender in the next Italian elections. They are apparently very pro Russian and in particular Putin; and his actions in Syria. They also are critical of the EU and have vowed, if successful, to hold a referendum on leaving the Euro. He is also unhappy with the EU policy on open borders. Several other “way out” policies are seen as important to M5S, and an on/off alliance with Nigel Farage’s Ukip in the European Parliament amuses some, and frightens others.

          In France Marine Le Pen is the far right contender in the presidential elections in the spring. She is given an initially fair chance, but will finally lose out in the end; say the pollsters. But what do they know? She wants out of the euro zone which in turn would be the end of the single currency. It isn’t “a currency, it’s a political weapon”, she says. She also backs the French exit from the EU. (Frexit) “Either the EU gives French people back their territorial sovereignty, borders, control over their economy, control over their currency and the superiority of their laws, or I will say to the French people that we should leave the EU.” Where have we heard those sentiments before? Almost word for word

          Holland’s right wing politicians fear immigration and have spawned another envelope. Nexit. It “is about preventing the Islamization of my country” claims Geert Wilders. He will use Brexit as a platform for a Netherlands referendum. He suffered a comprehensive defeat in parliament last week but will carry on the fight.

          Hungary has managed to ignore many of the Brussels imposed restrictions over several years but may have taken a step too far over its claim to be defending Europe’s Christian civilisation against an Islamic invasion. PM. Viktor Orban has raised a razor wire fence at Hungary’s border with Serbia and is alleged to have formed detention camps. Intransigence is the word that comes to mind.

          Greece is looking for yet another deal with its EU creditors whilst the German finance minister say’s that they can only cut their debts by leaving the single currency. With debts of 330 billion Euros, which the IMF describes as “unsustainable and explosive”, they refuse to get involved. Germany and the Netherlands fear the financial implications of further EU bail outs. The general consensus at home seems to be to stay in the Union, however, the Union does not seem as convinced.

          Germany seems to be fairly pleased with the ‘Union. Their economy has bounced back from the 2008 crisis with healthy exports and full employment, whilst most other member countries are still suffering and in many cases cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. It would appear Chancellor Merkel will be successful in her re-election campaign later this year.

For various reasons the Union is very much an “Animal Farm” scenario. Equality, earned or not, seems a bit thin on the ground. The policy of expansion, regardless of the ability of the new member to participate industrially or financially has led to the Populists rise?

This entry is an attempt to look; without political bias and in no great depth, at the situation in some member countries. No conclusions are drawn, only time will tell. But whatever the outcome, it will effect Kingswood man, and woman, and child!

          The shortfall in Social Care provided by local councils that has been highlighted as one reason for the ‘less than acceptable’ NHS performance over the winter, is to result in a Council tax hike of up to 3% this year and the same in 2018. 20th Feb.  The moneys raised must only be used for Social Care, and not for repairing the potholes! (See later) A further £240 million government grant will be provided to help councils that have a particular problem with their care of older residents. It is not clear if services will be cut in addition to the increases locally. Bus passes and library cuts have been mentioned as a possible means of saving some revenue. Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

          The local roads surfaces continue to deteriorate, despite some resurfacing works carried out. Several potholes have been noted that are annoying to cars and possibly very dangerous for cyclists.

          Fake News seems to be flavour of the day. Some claim that everyone; from individuals in council houses, to heads of government in their executive suites are at it. The recent US Presidential elections were, say the democrats, influenced by “leaked” emails with a suspicion of snow on them. Whilst working on the false premise that “there is no smoke without fire”, a posted slander by a nameless individual can ruin people’s lives and has led to suicides. It is to be supposed that someone who publishes their day-to-day moves on social media can expect to trigger negative responses from those poor readers who didn’t have those same amazing social experiences, but to falsely accuse someone of doing something illegal, or even obscene, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. To threaten harm or wish serious illness on someone is beyond all understanding.

Communications have steadily progressed over the years to a level where the communicator is perhaps not quite up to speed on the niceties. So much information, true or false, is thrust on the individual, be it via advertising on TV, at the cinema, via junk mail, via spam emails and in particular cold phone calls. Much of this; if not all actually fake, is intended only as a lever for the recipient to spend money, and a number are out and out scams directed at the more vulnerable members of the public, some of whom have been defrauded of many thousands of pounds.  Worse are the articles written as news items in the papers, some of which appear to be taken as gospel truth by the reader but are  contradicted entirely by another branch of the forth estate in “that other rag”. These are the true Fake News items. Reader beware!

          The House of Lords debate on the Brexit bill has entered its second day. 22nd Feb. following its un-amended progress through the Commons. The government does not have an overall majority in this chamber and a number of Peers have it on their agendas to modify the content; whilst some others hold out the hope that Brexit will not be allowed to occur at all. With a few ex-ministers coming out clearly in favour of remaining, the bill is not yet passed. It has been suggested that the upper chamber would lose credibility; and possibly more, if they failed to pass the bill against a national referendum and House of Commons positive result.

          The Brexit Bill is now into its second reading in the House of Lords with one more reading to go before it returns to the ‘Commons to discuss proposed amendments. 23rd Feb. and where the exact wording must be agreed. It is at this stage; with the need for each chamber to agree the others amendments, the ball can be passed back and forth across the net numerous times, thus providing a legal way of delaying the completion and its final passing to the Queen for her (formal) Royal Assent and thus becomes a UK law and Act of Parliament.

It is yet to be determined if those members against the bill will use this ploy and what the end result will be.

           Storm Doris has brought very high winds to Kingswood and heavy snow falls to Scotland. Despite fences, aerials and a few tiles we have possibly had the best of the deal although rail travel out of London main line stations was curtailed for some time due to fallen trees and damaged power lines etcetera.

The storm has been described as a “weather bomb” and resulted from a depression fast deepening over a short time span. Thus creating; as we all know, an “Explosive Cyclogenisis”. i.e. The rapid re-filling of this depression from elsewhere causing the violent wind “bombs”; according to those that know in the Met office. Many of these “bombs” were heading West/East along Fern Way during the worse of the storm and made walking extremely difficult, and not a little dangerous.

          The storm has gone, 27th Feb. to be replaced by rain of Noah’s proportions, although we have blue sky to the West at 5pm. What next?

          Car insurance premiums are about to increase by it is claimed £100 following a change in compensation rules. 28th Feb. Young drivers could see an increase of up to £1,000. It is claimed the changes to the way in which the Courts award payments will be far reaching and possibly land the NHS with an additional £1billion in compensation claims.

Another reason for a premium hike? Two men have been convicted of killing an 88 year old lady driver. Her death occurred when her car was deliberately rammed to facilitate a fraudulent insurance claim.

          The Brexit Bill provided its first amendment defeat in the House of Lords. 2nd March where a requirement to publish the residency rights to live in the UK of 3 million current EU citizens was the subject. The Bill will now go back to the Commons. And thus the “tennis” begins.

          Our local councillor Tim Williams has published a pro forma petition sheet for those residents that feel strongly about the loss of the only bus service (R8) to the estate on April 1st. The loss will remove the life line for some of the older or infirm residents who have no other financially viable means of reaching our supermarkets, or indeed the town centre. With the emphasis on “Care” for those that attempt to live in their own homes despite their disabilities and advancing age, it seems financially sensible to arrange that a service; possibly reduced, is maintained.

The estate was recognised as “rural” when it was first built, with some special dispensations to compensate, perhaps now is the time to recognise a return of this same situation.  For those without a car, or someone to transport them to the essential outlets, this could be the end of their independence.

          The ongoing use of the Baptist Church site in North approach was the subject of a meeting at Watford Town Hall involving KRA representation and our three local councillors. These brief details are taken from the report Councillor Keith Crout provided for the KRA Newsletter. Issue 352

Spokesman Hasim Nawrozzadeh told the meeting that the site would be mainly used as a base for the charity and will provide after-school clubs aimed at giving extra tuition for mainstream school strugglers. The aim would be to forge links with local schools and the services would be open to any child, although a fee may be charged. Car parking was to be further investigated. There are no plans to alter the site. “We are not about building Minarets” stressed Mr Nawrozzadeh. “We believe that education promotes integration and that is the main aim of our charity”.

Chairman John Swain said “it was a very interesting meeting and we look forward to hearing more from the charity in due course”.

          The Brexit Bill has received another government amendment  defeat in the ‘Lords. 6th March, with a demand for a provision of a vote in both houses on the terms of a deal for the UK leaving. 30-Love.

          In addition to the 3% County tax levied for Social Care by the County Council, after seven years of freeze a further 2% will be added locally towards the shortfall between government funding and actual needs. Mayor Dorothy tells us this will cost an average rate payer an extra 10p a week. Reference..”About Watford”.

         The first Budget of Chancellor Phillip Hammond was presented today 8th March.

He said the economy had risen during 2016 where employment had reached a record high of 31.8 million.

It is now forecast that the UK economy will grow by 2% during this year.

We have a collective debt of £1.7 trillion which averages around £62,000 for every household. The national borrowing forecast is to be reduced by nearly 75% BY 2016/17

The following amounts will be made available.

£3 billion for adult social care over the next three years.

£425 billion for investment in the NHS over the next three years.

Investment in technical education for 16-19 year olds will rise to £500 million.

£300 million will be invested in new academic research placements.

Maintenance support loans up to £25,000 will be provided for those doing part time degrees in higher level studies.

£536 million will be provided for new free schools and to maintain existing schools.

Free transport for children from poorer families at selected schools.

Tax-Free Childcare will soon be available to working parents.

Customer protection will increase against such eventualities as being charged unexpectedly when a subscription is renewed or at the end of a free trial.

A NS&I Investment Bond paying 2.2% over three years will begin in April and a Life time ISA will allow young adults to save £1,000 per year and receive a bonus of £1,000. Proceeds will be tax free if used for first home purchase or on reaching 60.

The item that produced most interest and not a little venom was the rise in National Insurance contributions for self employed persons. As a political point; this rise is in contravention of the Conservative Party’s manifesto. In real terms it is calculated to add approximately 60p per week to the average self employed persons tax bill and will be a move to bring this section into line with the employed persons bill, and will only effect those earning over £16,250.

Many other; mainly small or obscure changes, left critics with little to complain about, and supporters with little to cheer.

          On the subject of income it is noted that the average interest paid on an ISA is 0.82%.p.a. Ironically the amount that can be invested has risen to £15,240 p.a. which would achieve a fortune in interest of nearly £129 by this time next year. With Consumer Price Inflation currently quoted at 1.8% p.a. a lumpy mattress would appear; if somewhat uncomfortable, a viable alternative!

Same subject, different approach. Today is “National No Smoking Day“, and giving up will do as much for your pocket as it does for your lungs. With cigarettes costing close to £9 a packet and 8 million Brits still smoking; 80,000 of whom die every year as a direct or indirect result; it is claimed, could; if they had previously smoked a pack a day, have saved in the region of £3,500 in the past year by giving up. Further extrapolation suggests that by quitting in your twenties, the amount accrued; if invested, should be around £260,000 by the time you reach the current retirement age of 67 years. Added to this; you would be much more likely to actually reach that age. Several other financial benefits are available if you can answer “No” to the question. Do you smoke? Easier said than done perhaps, but it is a thought.

Enormous clouds of smoke are seen to be emitted by people “Vaping”. These devices are claimed to be less injurious. What a comparison costing with tobacco would be I don’t know. They are certainly quite spectacular.

          Nicola Sturgeon Scotland first Minister has announced she is calling for a second independence referendum, 13th March. to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. She raised this subject during the the ‘Commons Brexit debate on the Lords proposed amendments.

          The Article 50 Bill giving the government the OK to start the formal Brexit negotiations was passed tonight by both the Commons and Lords. A threatened Conservative revolt in the Commons did not materialise and the amendments tabled by the Lords last week were “thrown out”. These amendments were aimed at giving EU nationals rights within in the UK, and giving MP’s a vote on the final result of the negotiations.

          Teresa May did not rule out the possibility of a new Scottish referendum on independence but derided the claim; and the timing of its presentation by Nicola Sturgeon, as follows. “The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty.”…..”Instead of playing politics with the future of our country the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game.”

Although in law the UK parliament would have to vote to grant a new referendum it will provide some considerable food for thought as to whether a refusal would be the way to go.

          The Chancellor has cancelled the budgeted rise in National Insurance for self employed persons. 14th March. Under pressure from the opposition and threatened rebellion from his own back benchers over perceived reneging on the party election manifesto pledge to not raise NI. costs. It has been explained by the government that the change of mind is the result of a “thinking government”, and by the opposition as “chaotic” and other similar expressions. The end result is “egg on face”.

          After 21 years I was in the country and thus able to attend the KRA AGM. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience as I recall that some of the earlier meetings, (22 years back) were a little on the dour and haphazard side. We seemed to be constantly seeking Street Reps, Editors, and I believe a chairman. Current Chairman John Swain first dissolved the existing committee and received a mandate to re-elect them en-bloc.

He then told the meeting that Tim Williams, one of our councillors had been co-opted to sit on the committee. As I understand he already attended many meetings so this seemed a sensible move.

A busy year we were told. With several planning conflicts. He reported that some resurfacing of Briar Road had been completed, with cash from the “Locality budget” controlled by our local councillors. It was very expensive, and we know it was only a drop in the ocean, with many dangerous surfaces still left.

An increase in local burglary’s, and property and vehicle damage, together with items stolen from over nighting vans has occurred. It was stressed; and later amplified by one of our local PCSO’s, that we should take more care with our security.

All night street lighting was still a subject on-going with the HCC. I believe the latest LED posts; which are the intended new light source, are possibly very energy efficient but their cover is limited to an area immediately around the post.

The new owners of the Baptist church were discussed. Hasim Nawrozzadeh, who had attended the session at the Town Hall was scheduled to attend this meeting, but had not arrived at this time. The Islamic registered charity “Iman Hussein Foundation” in truth sounded good. “Possibly too good to be true”, said some. They were to open up the front of the site to provide plenty of parking space. This would be available for the use of the local school traffic; which it was later stated caused chaos in North Approach. They were involved with all things beneficial, including health and education and sugar and spice!

John said that Mayor Dorothy considered the KRA as a “Model” organisation. I must admit to thinking, “wait until the full scale thing is built”, but did not say anything.

The Clean Up of the estate is due to take place next weekend with whatever volunteer workforce can be gathered. The council will supply bags and bits and collect the proceeds in due course. It occurred to me that most of the rubbish is there because residents have put it there. The service roads are the major dumps and during my transits along them there does not appear to be any indication that it is imported rubbish.

There seems to be a movement to change the Newsletter heading. In my early days of the publication, graphics were limited to line drawings. The printer could not handle half tones and certainly not colour unless he was provided with colour separation positives, so there is a lot of room now for innovation.

The Chairman suggested we should raise the Annual fee for membership to £4. It was immediately proposed that the rise should be to £5. It remains to be seen if this effects the membership totals. These numbers have increased due to the recovery of Lamb Close. (Back in the fold?)

A new provider has been found for the Web site as the previous one had raised the fees to an unacceptable high.

A proposal for another bench on the corner by Chemilab was made. Most seemed agreeable. I remember what happened to the last one!

The purchase and provision of a public defibrillator was raised as a possible KRA project. An expensive device, and the positioning and protecting from vandals was immediately raised. The legal position of the user was also queried. I was beaten by the bell into making a proposal that the new charitable owners of the church may find the funding was within their remit.

John suggested that with the Children’s party and Old peoples dinner drawing considerable funds from the Association a similar opportunity should be provided for those others of us who did not benefit from these celebrations. “Not this year” he said. “Don’t leave it too long!” was chorused from a row in the middle of the hall.

Parking and the general behaviour of drivers on the estate was discussed long and often passionately. A suggestion that 20 mph. limit and humps should be employed to overcome the problem was made. “If the drivers do not observe the 30 mph. limit now, are they any more likely respect a 20 mph. substitution”. “No” I believe to be the answer. Speed humps only add to the general discomfort and pollution and complement the many natural holes and poor surfaces we have already and all provided for free of charge. The performance of some of the mothers delivering and collecting their offspring’s from schools and nurseries was also criticised. The local nursery have tried to persuade mothers to walk their offspring’s to school where possible. The parking and driving around these area’s left much to be desired; an opinion I can entirely agree with. Parking has become a nonsense on the estate in general, with private and commercial vehicles parked; or seemingly abandoned, part on road part on pavement, often on blind corners and across dropped kerb areas. It was suggested that the Newsletter publish a campaign of education and responsibility for vehicle owners. Like fouling dogs, local fly tipping, speeding and poor driving, these are all actions inflicted on the general public by themselves.

Towards the end of the meeting the promised attendance of “Hasim” occurred. This man is a bit of a whirlwind and he quickly reiterated many promises along the lines previously recorded. He also announced a Mother’s Day celebration on the 26th with everyone invited. John welcomed him with a reference to Defibrillators. The result of this discussion is still not known.

Two local PCSO’s sat patiently through the meeting and towards the end Keith Sayers reminded the meeting with the increase in break-ins and damage to vehicle we should take extra care in locking things up securely. He also emphasised the roll Neighbourhood Watch and OWL. took in the overall security of the area.

As I left the school Hassim made room for me at the gates with his van and shouted out “Come on the 26th”. And that was the end of the meeting and evening.

These are comments that came to my mind and they are not, or  intended to be, minutes of the AGM.

          Royal assent has been given to Theresa May to start the actual process of the UK leaving the EU. 16th March. The full title of the documents are…Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2017. &  European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Act 2017.

          Hell hath no fury……. Nicola Sturgeon has been seen as apoplectic on hearing that Theresa May had told her that the timing of another independence for Scotland referendum was not appropriate before the completion of Article 50 negotiations. A furious Sturgeon claims the decision is “outrageous” and that the PM will “rue the day” she crossed the SNP. It is “democratic outrage”, and Alex Salmon said that “Laying down the law is not going to work. Teresa May will rue the day she edged towards telling the Scottish people what they can and cannot do to express their nationhood”.

Why do most public voting exercises seem to end up as “best of three”, if the first one does not go the way of the noisy participants?

          The first of the Right wing populist parties in the EU mainland countries has failed to win from the centre right in Holland’s parliamentary election. 16th March. This is seen as a setback for the threatening rise in the far right and will possibly influence the results in the other elections.

          It is very noticeable that the money and time spent on “improving” the traffic flow arrangements at the Dome roundabout were a waste of both. 21st March. The queues up the A41 in the direction of the M25 continue to be extensive and often reach the underpass and beyond. A set of traffic lights that are masked to the motorist until they are virtually on top of them; controlling the traffic from St Albans Road North into St Albans Road South, are an invention of the devil. Most of the blasting horns seem to come from this area.

          Derek Scudder has decided not to stand for re-election onto the County Council next term after having held this position for 16 years. He will continue in his role as Borough Councillor. 22nd March. Tim Williams will be the Lib Dem candidate for the soon to be vacant seat.

          The H.C.C’s  Highways Panel has accepted a petition from the local residents and promised to investigate solutions to the lack of safety for traffic on the A405. This junction carries little traffic for most of the day, and merging stationary vehicles from Greenwood Drive into traffic moving at a legal 50 mph, and more, is a manoeuvre sometimes not carried out with a great deal of skill. The current design of a turn towards St Albans requires patience and eyes in the back of your head. Turning into the estate from the A41 end seems have a different approach for each driver. Some wait, some don’t. It is to be hoped that if a new junction is determined the way to go the engineers learn from the Dome debacle.

          The impending loss of the R8 bus continues to cause some considerable concern. It will remove the ability of some people to remain in their own homes with no means of shopping without adding pounds to their bill for taxis.

          On the eve of our holiday another terrorist atrocity occurred; this time on Westminster Bridge. 22nd March. A single man drove a hired 4×4 along the pavement on the bridge. He went on to crash into the Houses of Parliament railings where a police officer was stabbed and subsequently died. Five died at the scene, including the driver who was shot by the police and 40 others were seriously injured. One tourist woman was thrown into and subsequently rescued from the river, only to die two weeks later from her injuries.

An immediate lockdown was imposed on Central London with many more armed police in evidence. The incident was decreed a terrorist act and heightened security imposed in both London and other centre and transport hubs.

          11 passengers died and many were seriously injured when a bomb exploded on a St Petersburg metro train. 3rd April. Many more were injured, some seriously. Another larger bomb was found and defused at another station.

          A Sarin gas attack on a rebel-held town in Syria has killed 80 people. 4th April. Was Russia complicit? The US say’s yes.

          A truck has been driven into a shopping Mall in Stockholm, killing 3 and injuring 15. 7th April. A man has been arrested following reports that he “wove” around to hit pedestrians.

The US has launched an attack using 59 Tomahawk missiles 7th April. fired from Mediterranean based warships against the airfield where it is alleged the Sarin attacks of 3 days ago were initiated. Russia is unhappy with this action and possibly slightly disappointed in Donald Trump’s reaction!

          A visit by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to Moscow has been cancelled against a background of very confused comments, both for and against. 8th April. The official; or nearly official, reason given is the claimed Russian complicity in the Sarin gas attack in Syria.

          The US have sent military assets to the area following the mass testing of nuclear capable ballistic missiles by North Korea. Both advanced RADAR and a system designed to intercept and destroy incoming missiles in flight, together with a nuclear powered Aircraft Carrier have arrived in the South Korean zone. Meanwhile North Korean President Kim Jong-un continues to make numerous threats and claims for his country’s nuclear capabilities.

          A device has been destroyed  by detonation by police in central Oslo. 8th April. It was left on a busy commercial street in the centre of the city. A man has been arrested and held.

          In two suicide attacks by IS. 72 Coptic Christians have been massacred whilst attending Palm Sunday services in Egyptian cities. Many more are wounded. 9th April.

          Will the new week bring better news for Kingswood man?

          The local weather is splendid, with plenty of warm sunshine. 10th April. The Snowdrops have finished; to be replaced by Daffodils and Tulips, and the Bluebells are carpeting the areas under the trees in the upper end of the cemetery. We have leaves and blossom back on the trees and the lawn needs cutting! In the greenhouse Tomato and Pepper plants are forging ahead, together with the Runner beans and Butternut Squashes, waiting for more settled night time temperatures. We have two Robin’s nests, one with hungry beaks reacting to local movement, the other the subject of much activity by parents, but hidden from view. In a thorny shrub a pair of Long Tail Tits are constantly visiting their tiny pouch of a nest. One parent sits on the back door handle waiting, as I believe there is not room for both of them in their nursery. A Great Tit dances up and down the patio window as though looking for somewhere to nest, or feed. It has no concern for us, standing just inside. The Gold fish in the pond are showing interest in one another so they must see a future for their offspring. Perhaps I am getting carried away!

All is well in spring with the natural world in Kingswood. Today!

          Three explosions hit the Dortmund football team bus as it passed on its way to deliver the team to play at home to Monaco in the Champions League. One player had his wrist broken and the game was postponed until the following night.11th April. A man with Islamic connections has been arrested.

          The situation in and around North Korea is apparently deteriorating by the moment. A mass military parade; marking the 69th. anniversary of the birth of founder President Kim Il Sung; and very reminiscent of the Soviet Union and China in the past, has taken place. 14th April. With thousand of goose stepping men in large hats, and rockets and armour of seemingly infinite variety and threat. Both North Korea and the US are talking in nuclear terms, which does not do much for a satisfactory final arrangement.

          Surely Spring is not over already?

          In the face of condemnation by the US of North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, they launched a missile; which blew up soon after leaving the ground today.  Counter verbal threats were made by the South.

  1.     Theresa May declared a General Election for the 8th June. 18th April. Having previously said there would not be an election until 2020 her announcement has taken everyone by surprise. It would seem that she is asking for the public that voted for a severing of the Brussels treaty to back her in her negotiations to achieve the best outcome. She is reported as saying.. “The British people gave the government a job to do in terms of coming out of the European Union and I am going to be asking the British people to put their trust in me in ensuring we deliver a success of that”. She is unhappy with the other parties, factions, and even countries that appear to be more interested in changing the rules to suit their particular aims, than the stability of a really united UK in tough negotiations to meet the mandate before them.

The PM has ruled out taking part the usual live TV debate between party leaders during the campaign. Something that many will see as a great benefit.

The state of the polls suggest a satisfactory result in favour of the PM, but latterly they have been so inaccurate that they have not in any way reflected the final outcome.

Another 50 days of tortuous posing and electioneering are to be looked forward too. Not!

          Attacks on the public continue to make the news. 21st April. An alleged Daesh gunman shot and killed a policeman and seriously injured his two colleagues on the Champs Elysees yesterday. He in turn was shot dead. This occurred with France in an official state of emergency ahead of the very significant Presidential elections.

          It is our Queens 91st birthday today.

God bless the Queen.

          The news regarding North Korea continues to be dire 22nd April. with comments such as “super mighty pre-emptive strikes” being made. China appears to be involving themselves with their ally, to what ends is not clear. Donald Trump seems to be putting some hope behind their efforts. Russia is sending troops to their eleven mile border with North Korea in an effort to thwart a US attack?

All the constituents of a ridiculous move by someone to cause a holocaust. Heaven help us.

          It would appear the bomb attack on the Borussia Dortmund bus was not a terrorist action at all. It was part of a financial scam to profit from the resulting slump in the club’s share price. Well that’s all right then. A rose by any other name…….

          The Hornets have won their last three home games; not with a great deal of style, but it earned enough points (40) to stay in the Premiership if Swansea don’t win all their final games. This state of affairs has arisen due to them losing their last four away games; without scoring a goal. Their trip to nearly bottom club Hull today 22nd April. was typical of their recent displays. Even playing against only ten men for most of the game they barely had a shot at goal and conceded two.

          Watford has a multi belted world Boxing champion. 29th April. Anthony Joshua, who has already won an Olympic heavyweight gold medal and earned a Royal Mail golden letter box in the High Street, has beaten Wladimir Klitschko by a TKO in the 11th round of their fight before 90,000 people in Wembley Stadium to add the IBF title to the WBA; which he already possessed. The referee stopped the fight in the 11th round following Joshua putting his man down in the 5th and being floored himself in the 6th. The whole affair; that is recognised as a great fight, was notable also for the way both fighters handled themselves. Possibly best summed up by RESPECT.

Joshua will be something in the region of £19 million better off for his efforts, and was watched by millions around the world for his 19th fight, and 19th KO win.

          North Korea has launched another missile, which seemed to share the fate of its predecessor; blowing up soon after its launch. Donald Trump is undecided as to military action against the country which seems intent on tweaking the US tail. A very dangerous game for both of them, and the world!

          The general election claims, counter claims, promises and denials continue. 3rd May. Thousands of more policemen on the beat, an enormous NHS, funding increase and slashing the foreign aid budget, whilst Brexit seems to be the last thing on the mind and agenda of most of the prospective candidates. We are as of this day without any MP’s following the formal dissolution of parliament.  So things can only get worse!

On the Brexit front there seems to be quite a difference in what the UK wants and what the EU are prepared to concede. Surprise surprise. A Soft Brexit will entail giving whatever is demanded, such as the rumoured Euro 100 billion fee for leaving, and most of the border and entry controls as they are now. A Hard Brexit; the one Theresa May believes the country wants, will entail a much smaller fee and the UK recovering much of its border control abilities.

These considerations seem to have been fairly extensively ignored by us, when the original referendum vote was carried out. It would appear that many people thought we would just shut our gates, possibly throw out those immigrants already here and that would be it. There is a learning curve on both sides to be negotiated!

          Statins are in the news again. It would appear that many people; those most at risk of heart attacks and strokes, have stopped taking their prescribed dose as social media reports have suggested that they are the cause of side effects such as muscle aches, disturbed sleep and memory loss. It’s on the ‘net, so it must be true! It is thought that some suffer these symptoms after reading the warnings of possible side effects on the packaging, and others; who are likely to be in middle age and above, are likely to be experiencing these sorts of problems anyway. These comments have been made following a major study and point to a result known as “nocebo effect”, where fear of side effects leads a patient to be more likely to actual suffer them. This fear; in itself, can result in actual pain. The Statin drug, which costs very little to produce, is taken by around 6 million people who have been diagnosed with raised cholesterol levels and other relevant conditions. Cardiovascular disease is the reason for around 180,000 deaths a year and Statin’s, properly prescribed and taken, considerably reduce the risk.

          The Dome roundabout, and it’s seemingly built-in (state of the art) tendency to generate traffic chaos is the result of another plea via a Tim Williams petition to the HCC to get their finger out. The extensive, and even more disruptive work carried out last year has had no useful effects whatsoever. Today 4th May. the combination of a heavy traffic load and lights that appear to be carefully set up to cause maximum delay produced a solid mass of polluting vehicles and frayed tempers. Add to this the pedestrian lights, which for no apparent reason go to red, but only when the previous set go to green, thus producing the perfect log jam.

          Diesel fuelled cars are the latest bete noir on the roads. A few years back the way to go was to purchase a diesel vehicle because it was both more fuel efficient and cheaper to run, despite the fact that in those days you could hear them coming from a long way off and they smelled awful. The fuel at that time was also much cheaper than petrol. Things have changed. Although the modern diesel is much quieter and efficient, the fuel is more expensive per litre than petrol and worst of all the exhaust emissions are now determined as lethal with vast amounts of Nitrogen Oxides and particulate matter further polluting our towns and cities. These areas are already close, and sometimes over the agreed pollution levels, with buses, lorries and many cars; often in gridlock, due to congestion and traffic calming methods moving slowly through the streets.

It has been muted that diesel vehicles should be banned from certain Urban areas and even that a “scrappage” price be provided by the government to get the older vehicles off our roads.

What next essential innovation will we embrace, for it suddenly to become “the viper in the nest”?

          The election of HCC councillors is complete with Conservative making a gain of 5 seats, Liberal Democrats a gain of 2, and Labour a loss of 6. This seems to be the trend over much of the country, possibly accentuated in some areas.

Tim Williams was successful for the Lib Dems in Stanborough. He can perhaps now influence at first hand some of Kingswood and adjacent actions. Particularly on traffic and road surfaces.

          The Queen has announced that Prince Philip, approaching his 96th birthday and having supported his wife for 70 of them, will stand down from public duties in the autumn. May 4th. Known for his plain speaking comments, some of which have pushed the rather finicky PC. standards of the day, he has sponsored the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Scheme which has helped many young people.

          Centre Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election despite right wing Marine Le Penn increasing her support to 34%. 7th May. The better educated and wealthier voters did the trick say correspondents. That must have gone down well!

          The lead up to the June 8th. General Election proceeds with a lot more promises by everyone and his dog. An awful lot of money seems to be suddenly available for an awful lot of worthy projects. The Magic Circle may well need to get involved! Did you like that? Not a lot!

          A world wide cyber attack has been launched 12th May. that has encrypted data and demanded money to enable the affected parties to recover their; often irreplaceable data. The hackers have used a US. NSA. program stolen earlier. 74 countries have been attacked including: Russia, Ukraine, India, Taiwan, Latin America and Africa. The most concerning for us Kingswood residents is the widespread infection of the NHS data banks. Watford General is one of the many Local Boards who have suffered losses which, according to reports has resulted in the cancellation of operations, diagnostics and ongoing treatment. The detailed information is not available at present. Presumably there will not be a lot of IT personnel on a weekend break. It is not believed that patient data has not been compromised; although without its availability to hospital staff it is nevertheless a very frightening; possibly life endangering situation.

The Russians blame the Americans and the Americans blame everyone else. It would appear the mal-ware was developed and stored by the US National Security Authority. One must ask how that particular agency defines Security?  The fact that the NHS is still using a system now no longer supported by Microsoft has led to several vehement attacks by politicians which do little to overcome the problem.

Several opinions have been published as to what should happen to the hackers, If they can be found. They range from shooting; to others of an equally permanent but much more painful nature. We can only hope and pray that Facebook does not fall foul of the perpetrators. What if everyone knew that the cat was stuck up the tree? It doesn’t bear thinking about! Worse perhaps would be the loss of mobile phone services. How would we all know that you had just got on the bus?

          The Hornets have managed to survive in the Premiership, mainly through the efforts of others. It is now numerically impossible to be relegated. They celebrated their escape by going to Stamford Bridge to play the very new Premiership winners, Chelsea. 16th May. Although they did not win, they did at least score three goals; the first away goals since the end of January. They also maintained their away losses to a run of six games. There is definitely room for improvement. The last game against Manchester City at home could well be a massacre!

          The Met Office forecast a heat wave this week! 17th May. It is pouring with rain and pleasantly cool. This is the first rain of any consequence for weeks and there were mentions of hosepipe bans. (Reference Facebook I am told). We need several days of steady precipitation to allow the snails and slugs to come back to life and decimate the newly planted Runner Beans and Sweet Peas. It’s an ill wind….

          Walter Mazzarri, The Hornets Head Coach has been terminated after the last game this weekend. He is the ninth man to fill this position in five years. Speculation is rife as to who the new man may be. A Pozzo decision is never what most people could expect. This last man; although passionate on the field, did not play to the players strengths and did not seem to generate much passion in them. He constantly made changes in the team and produced more playing injuries than a fully fit and committed team could normally expect.

The rumours suggest managers from Russia, Italy, Portugal and even England. It is to be hoped that whoever it is can speak some English, or at least learn to do so over a full season.

          The season is at an end for the Hornets 21st May. And following a six match loss sequence, the culmination of a total of twenty losses in a total of thirty eight games they find themselves seventeenth in the table. Just one place above the three teams relegated. At least they did not go out without a wimper but instead suffered a 5-0 loss at home to Manchester City who seemed to be playing a different game. Despite having five central defenders; either injured or suffering suspension, they managed to lose another one during the game to injury.

It can only get better!

          Yet another atrocity has been carried out by as an; as yet  unidentified lone person. 22nd May. A suicide device was detonated in the foyer of Manchester Arena following a pop concert featuring US performer Ariana Grande. It contained nuts, bolts and nails as shrapnel, killing far 22 and injuring a further 59, some of the casualties were children with the youngest only eight years old.

The main parties in the General Election have agreed to pause their campaigning (Tuesday 23rd May) and the usual vitriolic social media comments have been rife, both for and against the act and it’s possible perpetrator/s.

          As a result of yesterday’s massacre in Manchester, the Government security organisation “Cobra” has raised the threat level to the highest possible. It has gone from Severe to Critical, where an attack is deemed imminent. Up to 5,000 armed forces will supplement the civil police at various risk spots and at mass gatherings. Government Leaders from around the world have offered their sympathies and support to Manchester and the country as a whole.

          The Metropolitan police are not talking to the US security Authorities, as previously provided information of a secure; and possibly case breaking nature, has been published in the New York Times. 25th May. In a possible future prosecution this could mean that critical evidence is not admissible in law. Apparently the “leak” can only have come from the US security authorities.

Theresa May meets Donald Trump today and we could reasonably expect her to have some very harsh words for him. You need to identify your friends as well as your enemies.

Several arrests have been made in what appears to be an organised group of Libyans and fellow travellers. The perpetrator has been identified as a UK born and Manchester raised son of Libyan refugees. He had recently travelled to Libya and also Syria.

          Police claim that the many “key players”, part of the “network” linked to the Manchester bombing, have been identified. 27th May. Eight are in custody and raids continue on such establishments as barbershops and takeaways. There is still the fear that the original bomber could have distributed other bombs before his attack whilst ISIL are calling on its followers to rise up in an all out war on the “infidels”.

Despite this news the threat level has been reduced from “critical” to ” severe”; and after assurances, the UK security authorities are again talking their US counterparts.

          The Hornets have a new Chief Coach. He is Marco Silva, the former Hull City man. He is the ninth holder of the position in five years; and unless he changes things at Vicarage Road he should consider his tenure as “temporary”. Will he get Pozzo’d this time next year?

          Bank Holiday Monday, 29th May, and after nearly a week of very hot and record breaking weather the rains came yesterday and last night. The morning is dull, warm and threatening something or other.

          Those residents who intended to travel by air this weekend will have been……

  1. Very disappointed if their tickets were headed B.A.
  2. Still here!

Our national carrier lost their computer due to a power problem; and with it all ability to put passengers in planes and get them off the ground. They did manage to get those that were in transit down however. All UK airports were effected together with many of those abroad. What kind of system allows a simple accident, like the tea lady catching her trolley in the flex and pulling out the plug to cause such global mayhem. Similar to the NHS problems of a few days back; lose the IT infrastructure and we might as well all go home. Doesn’t matter how many doctors, nurses, operating theatres, ambulances or patients we have available, without the appropriate data bases they are irrelevant. Who says that machines have not taken over the world?

          Donald Trump has removed the US. from the Paris Conference climate change agreement. 2nd Jun. He claims that the deal places an unfair financial burden on his country whilst having no meaningful enforceable obligations on the worst polluters. China and India were his identified culprits despite the Chinese president stating that fighting climate change was a  “global consensus” and an “international responsibility”. He has come to this conclusion despite the EU. leaders, the Pope and some members of his administration and family opposing his decision. The “Accord” was negotiated and agreed by 200 countries in 2015, including the Obama led US.

          The General Election circus rolls on. Claims of much money to all sorts of worthy causes, from a pot in the sky? The reason for the exercise; that is the manner in which the Brexit negotiations are handled, and by whom, seems to have virtually gone by the board. Thank goodness the end is nigh!

          Investigations and arrests continue in the follow up to the Manchester Arena atrocity.

          Another atrocity on Saturday evening. 3rd Jun. A white van was driven onto the pavement on London Bridge into pedestrians, the occupants then got out and proceeded to attack people with knives, both on the bridge and in nearby Borough Market. Seven people were killed and dozens suffered; in many cases, life threatening injuries. Armed police were soon on the scene and shot dead the three men from the van, who had been wearing what turned out to be unloaded suicide vests. Many searches of properties were made and at one time twelve persons, male and female were held in custody. Most of these have subsequently been released. The three men have been named and at least one has been previously identified as having terrorist sympathies. It is the problem of who should be detained and on what grounds. The inherent British way of not arresting anyone unless they have actually carried out an unlawful action seems to fall short in current circumstances. Incitement appears to be a very “grey” area. Freedom of speech is a very precious commodity.

          The General Election circus continues apace. Another shift of emphasis has taken the arguments to policing, and the numbers of officers available to deal and cope with the current scourge of terrorist acts in public places. Like most of the other claims and proposals the costing of the changes seem to be last consideration. That is until someone suggests a tax rise in one area or another.

          The summer has arrived with pouring rain and strong winds. It has reduced the usual sounds of a nice day, such as lawn mowing, chopping down trees, chain saws and tree shredders, hedge trimmers and the numerous building projects on and adjacent to the estate. The forecast is that this afternoon may well bring us sunny spells and so a resumption of the noises we love to hate.

          The General Election is over! 9th Jun. and the result is not as forecast. With Tory PM Theresa May expecting to take advantage of a huge opinion poll majority to increase her power base in Parliament, and therefore be in a position to control the way the imminent Brexit negotiations progressed. But the electorate apparently ignored this aspect and latched onto the other issues of the day; carefully presented by her opponents. They also saved the career of Jeremy Corbin; the Labour leader, who was up until the very last moment seen as an ex leader!

It would appear that the referendum vote verdict had been given a second visit, as many voters had cold feet after the possibly ill considered previous result. It all sounds a bit more serious now than just shutting the door at Dover and getting rid of the current immigrants! The attitude of the EU was not quite as friendly as they may have supposed. WHY?

The result is a Hung Parliament! Theresa May will try to form a government, but without an overall majority that will probably require the  inclusion of the Irish DUP as a coalition partner. This similar arrangement has not worked well before so with several basic conflicts in ideology; even before the negotiations are started, seems not to be the best of ideas. The result must have pleased the hard liners in the EU. “Shoot” and “foot” possibly come to mind.

The Scottish SNP have taken a hit, so another referendum to leave the UK is less likely. UKIP have been virtually annihilated and Watford stayed Tory but only with a 2,000 advantage over Labour.

The saga continues.

Jeremy Corbin in particular is looking pleased with himself. He could yet finish up in Number 10. So things could, and may well get worse?

          The weeks new’s has been dominated by a disaster that whilst not directly affecting most Kingswood residents, has cast a feeling of horror over the whole country. 18th June. A fire broke out in one of the lower apartments of Grenfell Tower in West London in the early hours of Wednesday morning the 14th June, and rapidly spread upwards to engulf  all the other apartment to the top at the 24th floor. The block contained 120 apartments, housing 600 souls. To date the police say that 58 people are confirmed or presumed dead. Many apartments are yet to be safely accessed and searched.

The building was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.6 million and included an exterior coating of aluminium plastic foam filled panels. The first opinions suggest that the fire was spread up the outside of the structure at such a rate due to these panels and their plastic supports, but much research is needed before the final answers are available.

Several other tower blocks have recently received the same, or similar, cladding.

The to be expected political outcry has been vast with rallies and calls for the PM’s resignation. The introduction of fear and hate fueled politics has not appeared to help the situation one iota. The care and rehabilitation of those directly affected is surely number one priority.

           The Brexit negotiations start today in Brussels 19th Jun. led by the UK Brexit Secretary David Davis, who is, he says, entering the negotiation on the UK exit from the EU in a “positive and constructive” frame of mind. He aims to build a “strong and special partnership” with the EU.

The EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier wants to agree the key priorities and a time table for discussions.

So far, so good then!

          A van has been driven into a crowd of worshipers outside of a mosque in Finsbury Park as they left for their homes after evening prayers at the end of Ramadan. One person is reported killed with 10 injured, some severely. A man has been arrested and was reported as shouting anti Islamic comments. He was driving a hired van.

The PM. has chaired an emergency meeting of the Cobra crisis committee  again and the attack has been branded as terrorism.

           The death toll has risen to 79 in the Grenfell Tower disaster. 19th Jun. A minutes silence was held at 11am where a large crowd joined the Fire fighters in remembering those that had died. There is still much to be done to determine the final death toll and to hopefully determine why the fire spread so quickly.

          Today is the Summer Solstice. 21st Jun. It is the day that the sun reaches its annual highest apparent position in the sky and is also considered the longest day. Following nearly a week of very high, (lower thirties) temperatures and the astrologers seeing it as the true start of summer, the forecast is for thunder storms and heavy rain. The sun is actually farthest from the earth at the present time. It’s all downhill weather wise from now on, Although today is the hottest June day for forty years at 36 degrees.

It is a sign of our troubled times that the police have published a Stay safe film designed to advise the public on the steps they can take to keep themselves safer in the event of a firearms or weapon attack.

This is available on OWL, a facility that everyone who is in Neighbourhood Watch can see. It is sub headed Run-Hide-Tell and based on advice from the National Counter Terrorism policing authority.

I recommend it should be watched.

          Following a hasty examination of many tower blocks around the country 34 installations in 17 separate council areas have been discovered. 25th Jun. A total of around 600 are to be checked. several blocks  have been evacuated with fears for the safety of cladding, gas pipes and fire doors.

The question that must be asked; and answered, is, how did this material gain a regulatory pass and who were the authorising authorities. It is worrying that all of the buildings so far tested have been found wanting.

It would appear that tower block apartment fires are far from rare and for this reason should surely bias the selection of construction materials and methods.

          Negotiations have begun on Brexit and the proposals by the UK that 3 million EU residents in the country should stay and retain benefits in exchange for the same consideration for UK residents in Europe have not found a lot of favour!

          Over 100 tower blocks cladding installations have now been tested with a 100% failure rate for the safety achieved. 29th Jun. With the experience of your correspondent in the construction safety field, the regulations on both materials, and method and standard of installation should have made this horrendous situation impossible.

A retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been appointed by the PM to lead a public enquiry into the disaster.

As the vast criminal investigation into the fire continues, 60 organisations have been identified as having a hand in the tower’s refurbishment, which is suspected to have helped the blaze spread.

We now have senior local government resignations to accompany the righteous indignation of the directly affected persons and their friends and relations. 1st July. The political furore is quite frightening with anarchy being the most obvious and noisiest component. It is to be hoped that the public enquiry is allowed to do its job on the facts gathered and not on the need to bring down the government.

          Several persons have presented apparently unarguable facts on what will and won’t happen in the UK’s attempt to get a reasonable deal for Brexit. With the government’s weakened bargaining position due to its loss of overall majority does not help. An arrangement has been concluded with the DUP to support the government. What a mess!

           Nicola Sturgeon has postponed her second attempt at Scottish independence until late in 2018 due to her loss of a fair number of seats in the Scottish elections and therefore much of her support.

           North Korea has launched another ballistic missile; which apparently, if it had been given a less vertical trajectory, could have reached the West Coast of the USA. Korean leader Kim Jong Un said it was a present to the USA on their Independence Day. 4th July. He claimed it was a two stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It is considered in some areas that North Korea has already developed a nuclear warhead with which to arm their ordinance.

           The USA and South Korea have both protested strongly 5th July. and veiled threats of action against the rogue state have been made. President Trump has talked with China and others regarding the threat and now mentions possible action against them. South Korea in particular finds itself in an unenviable position This latest news maybe puts into more perspective the areas such as Brexit that dominate the news at the moment.

          The G8 conference in Hamburg has been marked with three days of rioting in the streets and meetings between May, Trump and Putin. 8th July.  Climate change, North Korea,  Brexit and trade deals with the USA were no doubt discussed. Most of the important bits are in camera.

          The Brexit saga continues. 13th. July. Boris Johnson has told EU chiefs to “go whistle” over their likely demands for around £85billion as a “leaving fee”. This statement came in the week before the first full round of talks begin next week. It is suggested that pressure is being placed on Brussels by European statesmen get a move on in the negotiations for a free trade deal. The feeling in some areas is that the Commission appears to be attempting to punish the UK for voting “out”

Talks begin today on the restoration of UK law against that imposed by the EU. The Labour and Lib Dems have expressed their total opposition to whatever the government proposes and with no overall majority this will make even more of a “dogs dinner” of the negotiations.

          The traffic, driving and parking on the estate continue to cause concern. With aims for a 20mph speed limits and “sleeping policeman” it seems to be ignored that most of the problems are caused by ourselves. The corner and A415 junction by the Pharmacy seems to be the epicentre for bad decisions and driving practices.

This week I have had to brake hard to avoid two boys on bikes who sped off the pavement by the post box and across Greenwood Road from behind parked vehicles. That they are still alive is not in any way due to their own actions.

Same spot, different day, a car leaving Greenwood drive; between parked vehicles on either side, was narrowly missed by another leaving North Approach without a pause from the right. How a collision was avoided I do not know, but perhaps the prolonged horn blowing had some effect on the result.

Whilst waiting on the central reservation to turn right towards St Albans, another large domestic vehicle pulled up on my left hand side outside its lane, effectively blocking my vision. It then attempted to go round me on my inside. Near thing!

Earlier in the week it was noted that there was a lot of red glass on the central reservation. A similar experience to mine perhaps but with contact.

We heard at the AGM that others are worried about the same problems. The Nursery lady was particularly worried. No amount of traffic calming or speed limits are going to improve the situation unless us, the residents, improve our driving and parking. As the residential density and number of vehicle increase; and they are increasing, then the situation will worsen. Someone will be seriously injured, or worse!

          The government has launched an emergency review of the material and building practises that contributed to the Grenfell Tower tragic fire. All similar building in the country will be included. This amounts to some 4,000 buildings. But some have not been cladded, although  it is considered unwise to assume that the danger is all associated with the cladding itself.

          Prime Minister May has told her cabinet ministers to take their duties “seriously”. 19th July. “Strength and unity” are the buzz words. Other comments banded around the cabinet table include “lukewarm” and “a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously”. It would appear that “back biting and carping” are also rife. Jeremy Corbin must be delighted at the way things are going. It is perhaps pertinent to remind some individuals that they are carrying out the will of the electorate, be that a good or bad decision on the peoples behalf. Personal aims and ambitions do not figure in the equation. The split is made more obvious by back benchers saying the PM should sack ministers if they are plotting against her.

With the second round of Brexit talks under way it would seem that some ministers were more against than for. The Chancellor is allegedly one of those with his own agenda. On behalf of the EU their chief negotiator is threatening to stall the current talks because the UK will not discuss the multi million pound leaving fee.

           It should be no surprise that the rate of inflation has fallen for the first time since late last year. It has gone from 2.9% to 2.6%. The cost of living is still rising faster than average wage increases. It does not take much for the Bank of England to retain the painfully low interest rate of 0.5%, and this news is probably it!

          Some students have boasted on line that they have voted twice in the General Election. A probe into “double voting has been launched. The fact that they have been able to vote in their University seat as well as in their home constituency is amazing, considering the verification required for the home voter to get even one effort.

          There is a rumour that the cabinet will agree to keep our borders open for another five years from intended EU departure date of March 2019. July 22nd. This is seen as a betrayal by some ministers and an attempt to keep the door open that allows continued mass migration, and is thus unacceptable. Others; including returnee Michael Gove reply “Pragmatism is the watchword”. All singing from the same Hymn sheet? I think not.

          Another report from the Office for National Statistics informs us that we have the largest total population ever. It stands currently at 65.6million. This is a result of Nett migration, alongside more births than deaths. The growth has averaged around 250,000 each year since 2004 and with figures extrapolated will result in a rise to a mind boggling 74million by 2039. With people living longer by the year this last figure is seen as conservative. The problems we are currently experiencing with the NHS, the ability to provide care for youngsters and old people, and numerous other services and commodities, suggests that someone has to make some decisions based on facts and not on prejudices, no matter how unpopular they may be.

          The government is to act on the use of Drones. Some form of licensing with restrictions on areas is to be formulated to prevent hi-tech idiots flying their intrusive toys in a manner that may bring down a jet plane. If they cannot see the danger of their stupid actions now it is to be doubted that legislation will improve things a lot.

          Another government initiative, this time on Home electricity generation. 24th July. Incentives are to be offered to home produce electricity by solar means and store it in batteries, or sell it back to the grid. A similar system is current, but storage was not an option. Battery design and production, particularly that associated with motor vehicle propulsion may well make this feasible. It certainly looks likely there will be many more electric vehicles on the roads soon. Will this make nuclear power generation obsolete? It will take a good many rooftop installations and garages full of batteries to fill the hole.

           By coincidence the sun has been noticeable by its absence over the last few days. A couple of days before the school holidays started last week it began to rain frequently and at times teemed. This follows a period of higher than usual temperatures and very dry gardens. The lawns are already a lot greener. As if programmed to coincide with the 10 degree drop in temperature we heard the melodic chimes of “Boys and Girls come out to play” for the first time this year as the ice cream van headed swiftly along Fern Way in the pouring rain.

          The government appears to be busy these days. 25th July. Yet another initiative that will end the sale of the internal combustion engine car by the year 2040. No more petrol and the now deemed black beast diesel. Electric cars will be the only way to go shopping and get the kids to school. The cost of such a vehicle brings tears to the eyes, but does it mean the removal of all the vehicles parked half on the pavement. Unless of course a whole line of charging points line our kerbs? I jest. I think!

           Again on traffic. The local Councillors announce that we are to go 20mph on the estate. I would like to think that this will change the attitude on parking and driving, but very much doubt it. It won’t prevent little cars from coming out of  Hillingdon Road to cross Greenwood Drive. Backwards, straight across from side road to side road, and without so much as a pause. (Wednesday). The only mitigating circumstance is that it is difficult to read “Give Way” signs in a rear view mirror.

I am told that the vehicle that came straight out of North Approach and nearly wrecked another car. (13th July) Was a Taxi. So that is all right then!

          “OWL” informs me my nearest Police station is somewhat north of New Delhi. It was not clear whether I could use my Bus Pass.

          North Korea has launched another ICBM which they claim has the range to reach all of mainland USA. What can one say? Donald Trump will no doubt have the answer!

           It is 100 years today since the 1st World War battle of Passendaele took place on the Belgium/French borders. 31st July. Considered the most significant of three major battles against the invading German troops. Approximately half a million British, allied and German soldiers died, including most of the Hertfordshire Regiment. They met their fate in flooded trenches, deep mud, on barbed wire and constant machine gun fire. Our troops sacrifice was supposed to be part of the “War to end wars”, and as we know, as such, was not a success. It puts the current squabbles on who controls who into the shade. Will Europe ever be entirely in agreement on borders and laws. I think the answer is probably no.

           British Gas is to put up its electricity prices by 12.5%.. It is estimated that a typical household on a “dual fuel” agreement 2nd Aug will pay around £67 more and a total of £1,120 pa. £150 of the increase will go towards “green taxes”. The recommendation by the various help lines is to swap for another company where considerable savings are to be made.

           The new EU security measures at some holiday airports have been causing considerable delays during what is the busiest time for family holidays. It is also claimed that many of the border check posts have become severely undermanned. It is too much to think that this is on purpose. No one would be that petty. Another suggestion is that if security is to be tightened up then it should be towards the South and East, not the West.

           Diabetes is again in the news with the prescriptions to treat the condition rising by 80% in the last 10 years at a current cost to the NHS of £983 million a year. The incidence seems to be rising exponentially, and it is claimed that it is linked to the ever increasing obesity problem. The authors of these claims say that 4 million plus people are now suffering type 2 diabetes and another 12 million are overweight, and with unhealthy life styles are at considerably increased risk of contracting it. These two groups are approximately 25% of the total population!

           The Duke of Edinburgh carries out his last official engagement this week and retires after 65 years as the Queens companion and Consort.

           North Korea “fully rejects” the U.N. sanctions placed on it as “violent violations of our sovereignty” and would take “righteous action” in retaliation. 5th Aug. This action follows the second ballistic missile test launch and the implied threat that they could now reach all of mainland USA with a nuclear warhead.

It is claimed by some fairly reliable sources that Kim Jong Un has an arsenal of 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, an army of more than a million men, with 4,000 plus tanks to add to his other artillery, and now, long range missiles. With South Korea, and particularly Seoul; with its 25 million (most densely populated city in the world) inhabitants in range, it paints a scenario that leaves little to the imagination. Sanctions have not worked in the past and probably won’t work this time. In the meantime Kim Jong-Un has said he will continue with his programme of testing, regardless of whatever the U.N. or anyone else wants. Attempted regime change has failed fairly spectacularly in the past, and it would seem to be no more likely to be achieved by sanctions in this frightening scenario.

          This weekend saw the continuation of the 2017 World Athletics Championships being held at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, the home of the Olympics in 2012. It was particularly notable for two events. The first was the final 10,000 metres to be run for the last time by folk hero Mo Farah. He has won virtually everything at this distance on the track and did not disappoint on this occasion, running the race of his life, despite apparently every other runner doing their best to out-fox him. He has done the UK, his chosen country, proud, despite the fact that there is not very much of him.

The second event was the last competitive 100 metres run by Jamaican Usain Bolt, world record holder and Olympics Champion. He was beaten into third place with the gold going to an American athlete who had served two suspensions for taking performance enhancing drugs. This did not go down well with the spectators, who booed the American roundly. Not a good ending to another legend’s competitive career.

This later event was made more poignant by the retrospective awards of medals to athletes who had lost positions due to their opponent’s later convictions for drug offences. I was sad to see that awards that should have been made with the full ceremonial were reduced to a small side ceremony slotted in between other events.

Some athletes are competing in the World Championships under the country heading of neutral. aka A.N.A. (Authorised Neutral Athlete) Their country’s National Federation is currently suspended due to drug taking irregularities.

A sad state of affairs all round!

          Nearly 200 tower block cladding installation’s have been found to not meet fire regulations. It amazes the writer that it has been possible to flout rules laying down minimum standards of compliance, which would indicate that compliance is by no means as strict as his earlier experience would suggest.

          North Korea is thinking about a missile attack 9th. Aug. on the island of Guam. This follows Donald Trump’s warning that any threat to the USA would be met with “fire and fury”. In addition to many expensive hotels and resorts, this Western Pacific island is home to a large USAF base with plenty of B-52, B1 and B2 bombers. These are currently engaged in an operation named “Constant Bomb Presence”. Ominous or what?

          The Hornets played their first Premiership game today 12th. Aug. for their new Portuguese Manager and with several multi million pound new players. Drawing 3-3 with Liverpool they satisfied most people. For now. The new boss gave an interview; in which he spoke in English. This has got to be a step in the right direction.

          The penultimate day in the World athletics meeting at the Olympic Park saw team GB win some more medals. They had gone all week with just the one Gold achieved by Mo Farrah. First the ladies won the 4x100metres relay, then Mo Farrah came second in the 5,000 metres. This was his last international competitive race and was greeted with a deal of emotion. The men won the 4×100 metre relay Gold in the third fastest time ever. The race was marred by Usain Bolt; in his last race, pulling up with a hamstring injury. With one day to go these results have removed the possibility of a very embarrassing medal table for team GB.

          With two more on the last day, 13th.Aug; including another Gold, GB & NI team achieved 6 medals in total. That placed them 6th in a table of 10, so not disgraced after all. It seems generally agreed the Championships were both well run and enthusiastically accepted by the spectators. With a “change of the old guard” from established athletes to the new boys & girls; in many cases we should expect improving success. Much has been made recently reference “boys and girls” but as far as I am concerned; particularly amongst the athletes, then a very simple test is available, and no amount of “Not sure” or “personal preference” comes into it. What they do in their own private lives is their concern!

          Today marks the 70th. anniversary of the partition of India and the formation of a self governing Pakistan. 14th Aug. It was part of the Indian Independence Act 1947 and saw the dissolution of the British Raj, until that point the British ruling parliament for the sub continent for many years.

The partition caused the migration of 11 million or so people in the two weeks before partition who were relocating on religious grounds. Muslims to the new Pakistan, formed from parts of Bengal and the Punjab, and many Hindu’s and Sikhs living in the these areas to the rest to India. Those involved in the migration were estimated to be between 19 and 20 million souls, and the refugee situation was dire. Large scale violence resulted and millions died. The hostility created then is still to be seen and suspicion still rife.

Another episode in British diplomacy that could not be called an all out success.

          So called Islamic State are claiming responsibility for the deaths of 14 people, both tourists  and residents in and around Barcelona. 17th Aug. A driver rammed his van into pedestrians, some eye witness reports say he weaved from side to side to hit the maximum number of pedestrians possible whilst they were in Las Ramblas, a popular tourist area. Another similar incident in the city of Cambrils to the south of Barcelona on the 18th. of August where an Audi car was driven at police and pedestrians, wounding 6, two of whom were in a serious state. Police later shot dead four suspects of the five seen at the scene, all wearing suicide belts. It was later reported the belts were not viable. Explosions have been reported in other locations adjacent.

          Bruce Forsyth has died age 89. Aug 18th. He has been the mainstay presenter on both BBC and ITV weekend shows since the mid 1950’s. Starting with Sunday Night at the London Palladium, followed by the “Generation Game” and “Play your Cards Right” among others. During this period he frequently had TV audiences of more the 20 million. His final show was “Carry on Dancing” which he finished in 2014. Knighted in 2011 he has had a stage career of 75 years. With his sometimes annoying catch phrases he will be severely missed. “Didn’t he do well”?

          Big Ben is to be silenced for 4 years for essential maintenance on the 158 year old mechanism. Many correspondents have deplored the idea that this British icon will be silent for so long. Noon on Monday 21st of August will be the last chime that will be heard, a state of affairs that two world wars; including the Nazi blitz on London, had not managed to achieve. Photographing the tower and hearing the chimes is a must for many visitors to London and it must figure as a background in million of selfies. I suppose a still picture of the Elizabeth tower with the clock shrouded in miles of scaffold poles and with no hands will have to suffice for now. They will be the few who can say “the 13.7 tonne E natural “Big Ben” was silent when I was there”. The suggestion that it would be environmentally unsafe for workers to be adjacent to the clock whilst it is chiming does not ring many bells with the rest of us! What about ear defenders?

          The attacks in Spain have determined that a quite an extensive group of Islamist’s were involved, and with 150 Butane gas canisters found at the site of an earlier explosion down the coast, a further atrocity was planned involving three rented vans. It did not materialise due to a pre-detonation incident where at least one person died. The claimed driver of the Barcelona massacre was shot dead near to where this incident occurred.

           North Korea launched a missile that flew over Northern Japan and caused sirens to sound warning people to take cover. 29th Aug. After breaking up into three pieces, the device landed in the sea. It had flown for 1,700 miles reaching a height of 350 miles. China warned that this action had placed the situation at “a tipping point” and Japan saw it as a significant escalation of Kim Jong-un’s military posturing. With three missiles last week self destructing or blowing up on the pad then how long is it before a fatal accident occurs? Or before President Trump does something silly?

            Another attempt to overcome the disastrous traffic management at the Dome roundabout is in the pipeline. The local politicians are organising an on-line  petition to have the junction uncontrolled by the present myriad arrangement of traffic lights and revert to the “give way to the right” rule that has been shown to improve the congestion when the current set up has failed. The pedestrian crossings would only come into operation when there was actually a pedestrian there to cross! The money spent and time taken to install what was claimed to be a superior arrangement has not shown any improvement whatsoever.

           The 324 bus has been rerouted to include the A405 stops from Sheepcote Lane to the A41. At first glance the route to the town centre is via the Meriden Estate and Tudor estates and entails crossing the A405 to board. Perhaps the route is less complicated than the Arriva Web site!

           The third round of Brexit talks are under way in Brussels. 29th Aug. Or not under way, if Jean-Claude Junckner’s comments are to be taken at face value. He claims that the British government has failed to make viable offers on “an enormous amount of issues”. The counter opinion is that we have reached “a good position” and J-C’s comments are merely “posturing”. He claims the UK “is hesitant in showing all their cards”, and of those they do show, none are satisfactory. The size of the “Divorce fee” is never far from the agenda. Figures ranging from 80billion to 36billion pounds have been mooted.

It must be considered a disadvantage for the UK parties to have so many differing options; and to seemingly change them like the weather. EU negotiators Barnier and Junckers must not be able to believe their luck.

On the other hand it has been reported they have salaries of over £200,000 pa and it is these amounts the Divorce settlement will allow to perpetuate. There are a lot more in similar and possibly better positions.

          Another disaster, but a natural one this time. Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc in Texas USA. With 49 inches of rain recorded since the storm struck floods are rife with Houston being hit very badly. Thousands have been made homeless and many have died. Although it is still raining, the talks regarding damage repairs are estimated currently at £31billion with some 450,000 people needing emergency assistance. Nearly 4,000 rescues have been made and the usual scum have taken to looting and armed targeting of survivors.

Surely climate change must soon begin to be taken seriously. So many instances of extreme highs and lows in temperatures, with droughts and flooding such as this last instance. The ever increasing demands made by an ever growing population and it needs can not be ignored. They will not go away!

With the headlines “KOREAN CRISIS: WORLD ON THE BRINK” here is another situation that cannot be ignored. China claims the situation is now “at tipping point”, President Trump claims that “all options are on the table”, whilst South Korea claims “our air forces will exterminate the Leadership of North Korea”. The Russians have moved some of their personnel away from the Korean border although they still maintain business and political ties with the Jong-un government. China, who remain the North’s only major ally, have said that the crisis was “approaching a critical juncture” but this may be the turning point to open the way for peace talks!

          Another nuclear detonation has been detected from North Korea. 3rd Sept. Claiming he now has a Hydrogen device designed to fit into his unreliable missiles the world waits for the next pull of the trigger in this game of International Russian Roulette.

          South Korea has launched a series of missiles from land and sea in a counter show of strength following the latest North Korean nuclear test. 4th Sept. Thad missiles (Terminal High Altitude Defence) from the US have arrived in the country. Somehow the Chinese see this defensive device as threat and have retaliated verbally with, “We will firmly take necessary measures to preserve our own security interest, and the US and South Korea must bear the potential consequences”. And so it goes on! and on!

          Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction in its wake in the Caribbean. 8th Sept. The island of Barbuda is said to be “barely habitable”. Antigua, St Martin, Puerto Rico, St Bart’s and Anguilla have also been hit catastrophically hard. There are many deaths. At the moment The British Virgin Islands are under attack; and next in line is Cuba, as the storm moves towards Florida. Although the ferocity is slightly reduced there are two more Hurricanes following on.

          Sometimes it is very difficult to understand the actions and thought processes of some people in authority. When those persons are responsible for educating the current batch of youngsters then it becomes frightening. It has been determined by a head teacher that girls will wear trousers, as it seems they are a. wearing their skirts rolled up and thus promoting the “sexualisation of young women”, and b. ” we have an increasing number of students who are at the crossroads of understanding around their gender”. New words and phrases are coming into our language at an ever speeding rate. Gender fluid, Gender neutral, Gender stereotyping to name but a few. Equally worrying are the now designated non-politically correct words; like Boys and Girls, and winners and losers. Another school recently proposed introducing gender-neutral uniforms in response to increasing numbers of pupils questioning their gender identity. It is not recorded which effect this had on the numbers doing the questioning!

          Hurricane Irma has strengthened and is heading for Florida and 6.5million Americans are reported fleeing from the area. 9th Sept.

          A severe earthquake of 8.1 on the Richter scale  has hit southern Mexico with massive destruction and loss of many lives, whilst the other side of the country has been struggling against the effects of hurricane Katia, which fortunately is reducing in ferocity.

          The first of several debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill have taken place 13th Sept. and have resulted in 157 amendments put forward by what seems to be the lobby to stay in the union. This has forced the next meeting with the EU to be delayed by a week. The first reading of the bill was passed by a majority of 36 votes.

          Meanwhile Jeremy Corbin has been chastised in some areas for calling on Trade Unions for a campaign of mass militancy to “change our country” and help to force out Theresa May. He has said that workplace activism was more effective in achieving radical change than voting. This is so reminiscent of the historical politics that caused such pain and insecurity as to be almost untrue. He has promised a delighted union movement by promising a Labour government would meet all their demands for inflation busting pay rises in the public sector. He has not however revised his action on reducing tutorial fees although aiming his comments particularly at the younger non union workforce. It will not be long before the EU sees the benefit of the UK as a non member at this rate.

           The North Koreans have launched another missile 15th Sept. that flew over Japan, again triggering alarms. This device flew long enough to have reached Guam and reinforces the previous threats that Kim Jong-um has made to target the US base on the island. Russia claims that only diplomacy can overcome the problem, but the North Koreans don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word. They claim they want “parity” with the US as far as a Nuclear Armaments are concerned. It would be difficult for the rest of the world to sleep easy with this situation hanging over their heads.

           A bomb has exploded on a tube train in West London at Parsons Green station. Fortunately, the device; contained in a plastic bucket inside a LidL plastic bag and left unattended on the train, did not reach its intended power but instead created a fire ball that caused mainly scorch injuries to a carriage load of passengers. More injuries were created by the rush and panic to get out of the train. The terror “Threat level” has been raised to “Critical”; its highest level. Which indicates that a threat is imminent. Isil have claimed responsibility. Many more armed police will be seen on the streets. This is the fifth terror incident in the UK this year.

           The space probe Cassini has; having expended the last of its fuel, been burnt up on its final instruction to enter Saturn’s atmosphere. Launched 20 years ago it has spent the last seven years of its life gathering information about Saturn and its rings. Both during this latter stage; and on its journey out, it has been maneuvered by control on Earth to view and slingshot around other planets and their moons. A marvelous technical feat that has provided much previously unknown information, particularly regarding Saturn’s rings.

          Two have been men arrested regarding the tube train bomb placement, and are held under section 41 of the Terrorism Act. 17th Sept. Both from the same Foster parents home: One a refugee from Iraq, and the other from Syria. They are 18 and a 21 years old. The Threat level in the UK has been reduced to Severe. The police claim CCVTV has shown the men, one carrying a LidL bag in the area. Little happens in London without being surveyed by a camera. This incident will perhaps partly answer those that object to being watched and having their privacy violated.

          Another strong earthquake has hit Mexico. 19th Sept. This time the epicenter was a few miles from Mexico City where it wreaked havoc, killing hundred, mainly due to collapsing buildings; one of which was a Primary school.

          The Caribbean has been struck with yet another hurricane, (Maria) which has further wrecked many of the areas that Irma decimated last week. 20th Sept. It continues to ravage in a roughly northern direction at Force 5.

          As if nature was not doing its job, well enough, President Trump has promised at the UN to “totally destroy” North Korea. “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph”. He then detailed some of the shortfalls; of what he describes as a “depraved” North Korean regime.

          A total of 5 arrests have now been made resulting from the attempted train bombing in London last week. The latest are in Wales. The investigation is ongoing.

          In a speech in Florence Theresa May seemingly has proposed we still leave the EU in March 2019 but honour most of our commitment to Brussels until 2021. 22nd Sept. This is seen as downright appeasement by some correspondents, and the only way to go, for others. The actual content and its effect on the negotiations will be seen next week when they formally resume.

          Some of those arrested following the London train bombing have been released, whilst other are still detained whilst several house searches continue.

          The Hornets are in 6th position in the Premiership 23rd Sept. after a third away win. This follows a 0-6 thrashing by Manchester City last weekend. There are several teams already showing that they will be the leaders. Man.City is certainly one of them.

          The US/North Korean rhetoric is raised another notch with Kim Jong-un calling Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard” in response to Trump calling him “a madman” and making the “totally destroy” reference. Later, the North Korean foreign minister said Trumps remarks made the US mainland “an inevitable” target for rocket attacks. ‘”now we are finally only a few steps away from the final gate of completion of the state nuclear force” Ri Yong-ho said at a UN United assembly in New York. meeting.

US bombers with a fighter escort from Guam flew over international waters, but close to the Korean north-east coast. The Pentagon claim this is the farthest north of the demilitarised zone that any US military plane has flown this century. It is claimed this operation was to highlight the North Koreans “reckless behaviour”.

How often have we been here before?

          The 50th anniversary of Radios 1,2 ,3 and 4 on 30th Sept. mark the coming of age for the BBC radio service. The stations had previously been designated The Home, Light and Third programs, the new options were heralded as “the swinging new radio service”. This was the era of “Pirate Stations” such as Radio Caroline; broadcast from a ship off the East coast. Many of the ‘jockeys from the pirates finished up working for the BBC, and some still do.

          The Labour party, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn; who months ago was on the scrapheap, has resurrected himself and his followers to a position where he sees his party in power and himself as Prime Minister. How things change in the political world. Unfortunately they seem to make little difference in the real world.

          Brexit seem to have entered the doldrums. With some politicians wanting to push on, some wanting to hold back, and other either seemingly not to know; or downright anti. It does not inspire me with a great deal of confidence. What effect is it having on the EU negotiators?

          A mass shooting from a 32nd floor hotel window has left 59 people dead in the holiday and entertainment city of Las Vegas USA. 1st. Oct. Labelled “The deadliest mass shooting in USA history”, perhaps gives the clue that it is only one in a long line of atrocities carried out and justified in some quarters by the Constitutional right for a US citizen to “keep and bear arms”, under the Second amendment of the US constitution. This is dated December 15th.1791!

          An airline that we have used frequently in the past and the fifth largest in the country has gone into receivership. 2nd Oct. Luton based Monarch has left 10,000 passengers to be collected by a rescue operation. The government has asked the Civil Aviation Authority to organise this. Apparently many people who had flight arrangements are in some dilemma without ABTA cover. They may be forced to claim on their card providers. The failure is blamed on several years of financial difficulties, terrorism, the fall in the pound and uncertainty about Brexit. After the terror attacks in Turkey and especially in Egypt; the airline has lost a lot of its longer Red Sea routes. The financial situation has insured that with a 14% rise in passengers carried last year Monarch earned £100m less revenue. 2,100 Monarch employees have lost their jobs. The Unions blame the government! The company blame predominantly the loss of the Red Sea business.

Strangely enough one of the most valuable assets to be fought over are the airline landing slots at Gatwick Airport.

          England have won their way through to the FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia next year. 8th Oct. Winning their last two matches, home and away, 1-nil, against countries that they should have annihilated; in a manner that does not suggest the cup will come back to England in the foreseeable future. The only way is up. A long way up!

          90% of the voters, in a 43% turnout illegal independence referendum recently voted for the Catalonian region of Spain to become independent. This weekend marches in Madrid and Barcelona supported the other view. It would seem the allegiances are fairly well split. No doubt we will hear more on the subject.

          Catalonia’s regional president signed a declaration of independence yesterday, 10th Oct. He then suspended it for a fortnight in order to have “reasonable dialogue” with the Spanish government in Madrid. “I want to follow the peoples will for Catalonia to become an independent state”. A Spanish government spokesman said, “its unacceptable to make a tacit declaration of independence and then suspend it in an explicit way”. Meanwhile the Spanish prime minister has vowed to block any move towards Catalonia independence. Following the hundreds of people injured in the police’s attempts to seize what Spain claims were illegal ballot boxes last Sunday, it seems likely that Spain is in for a period of unrest. There is another area around Valencia with a far right wing push for independence in that area too. It would appear that it is not only on the plain that the rain falls!

          Headlines say that the EU is pledging to stall Brexit talks due to lack of progress, thus trade issues will not be discussed. Sounds like par for the course. There is talk of leaving without a trade agreement should the proposed embargo materialise. I think that most people believe politics; on all sides, particularly those exhibited around the Brexit issue, are not easy to understand.

           There is an attempt to insure that a person does not have to commit himself/herself/itself to a specific gender when applying for a Passport. 12th Oct. How have we managed all these years by just being Him, or Her?

           The Hornets have beaten Arsenal 2-1 at Vicarage Road 14th Oct. and propelled themselves to fourth in the Premiership. Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, (The Whinger) has claimed that the equalising penalty wasn’t valid. It must be admitted that there are some peculiar decisions these days, but one should not look a gift horse…….

           It would appear that some European countries are moving towards the hard right. Germany for one, and possibly Austria will require a coalition with the far right wing party to give the new chancellor a majority. 15th Oct. This has not been a great idea for us in the past, but with murmurings of a shift to hard left in the UK as a possibility it is difficult to determine that other than a “between a rock and a hard place” situation will arise.

          There is still more talk regarding a Brexit without a trade deal. It beggars belief that this should occur. Theresa May is meeting the EU chief negotiators this week pria to what could be the Crunch meeting at the end of the week.

          The remains of US Hurricane Ophelia has hit Ireland as predicted. By mid afternoon, 16th Oct. three connected deaths have already been reported and with a Met Office warning of “potential danger to life”, all the schools in both Northern and Southern Ireland are closed. A wind speed of 100 mph is possible; it has forecast. An Yellow warning of “very windy weather is also in force for parts of Western England and Wales, and also for Northern England and Scotland.

In Kingswood, with a forecast of 70 degrees and sun shine we have had instead a period of yellow skies darkening the mid afternoon. Dust from the Sahara and smoke from Iberian forest fires has been dragged by winds through the higher atmosphere we are told.

Some of us will remember the great storm of 1987, almost exactly 30 years ago. Michael Fish of the Met office assured the TV viewers that it would be of no great consequence. In fact it destroyed six of the trees that gave Sevenoaks its name, destroyed many roofs, and brought down a forest of TV aerials, also cutting off power to thousands of homes, but most significantly caused the death of 18 people. It is to be hoped that Ophelia is less vengeful.

The storm passed Southern England by but both Northern and Southern Ireland have massive lose of power in many areas. Their schools remain shut today.  17th Oct.

          The old round £1 coins have become obsolete this week and those that have one of the 430 million still in handbags, pockets and jars on the dressing table are warned that they should take them to the bank pretty quickly, where they will be changed for the latest twelve sided incarnation. It is noted that ASDA have not bothered to replace the old coin operated locks on their trolleys. You can now have one for free, and abandon it anywhere in the car park!

The rate of inflation has risen to 3%. 18th Oct. The highest since 2012. This signals a likely rise in the interest rate, the first in more than ten years. Pensioners will get nearly another £5 a week due to the “triple lock” protection policy. Higher food and transport costs are blamed for the inflation rise and some. The side effects are likely to be an increase in some mortgage rates and a tiny bit more towards pensions.

          Plans are being drawn up by NHS Hertfordshire to deny surgery to those patients who are obese or smoke, unless they can demonstrate over a period of time that they are changing their life style. This option has been labelled “unjustified” and “absolutely disgraceful” in some areas. Others no doubt will agree that some movement is suggested in this area. Not an easy one to decide on, unless, perhaps, you are directly affected.

          The 3rd Summit round of Brexit talks 20th Oct. have ended in Brussels in a bad tempered and intense game of bluff and counter bluff.

The conference ended without much actual agreement but David Davis for the UK stressed that the UK would always meet its international obligations but they must be “real” demands, and “well specified”. He had a duty to UK taxpayers to make sure that every line of an “exit” bill was rigorously challenged.

          The terror threat to the UK has been described as “of unprecedented gravity” by the M15 chief. “In 2017, with all that has happened and much that has not, it is clear that we are contending with an intense UK terrorist threat from Islamist extremists,” Director General Andrew Parker told journalists in London. “Twenty attacks in the UK have been foiled over the past four years,” Parker said. “Many more will have been prevented by the early interventions we and the police make. There have been a record number of terrorism-related arrests: 379 in the year to June.”

The risk is further heightened by the possible return to Britain of citizens who joined the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. he said MI5 is well-equipped to cope with the deepening threat, with its ranks set to grow from 4000 to 5000 over the next few years.

Parker cautioned, however, that it is impossible to stop every attack.

          Another warning of an impending antibiotic apocalypse, as an ever increasing numbers of bacteria types become resistant to the available drugs. Almost eradicated diseases in the affluent Western world; such as Tuberculosis, will again be untreatable, and what are currently considered straightforward operations such as joint replacements will carry a much greater risk of serious post op infection. Reports list: the prescription of an antibiotic on patient demand, sometimes for viral infections where they have no beneficial effect at all, but are seen by the patient as “the way to go”, and their use in agriculture; sometimes as a form of growth enhancer. How often have we heard the comment that a person is off to the Doctors for antibiotics, even before they know what the problem is, let alone whether it is viral based or not. From the early Alexander Fleming days a lot of new forms of the drug have been discovered and refined, they all in turn have apparently been over and unnecessarily prescribed. The end of the line is now in sight; say some pretty clued up people.

          The Spanish Prime Minister has proposed to remove some Catalonian leaders and take over the region. 22nd Oct. He has stopped short of dissolving their parliament at the present. He is proposing a new election. This has not met the Catalan parliaments aspirations! Large crowds have congregated in Barcelona to voice their objections to direct rule from Madrid. This is happening three weeks after the Catalonians held was is claimed as a an illegal independence referendum.

          Much has been quoted recently reference the increases in the UK population. 27th Oct. The Westminster government proposes that house building should be accelerated by 40% above that proposed by local governments; to a frightening 266,000 more houses per year, in order to meet the current needs.

In parallel with this statement comes the news that a UN project suggests the world population will reach 9.8billion souls by 2050 and 11.2billion by 2100. Currently we have 7.6billion people making their claims to fresh air, clean water, power, something to fill their bellies and somewhere to lay their heads, and medical care. With a demand for these basic necessities by a calculated current increased population of 83 million people a year, the future is very difficult to imagine.

The UK population is projected to rise from 65.6million in 2016 to 70million by 2029. This exponential rise: is in parts due to people living longer, better management of disease, and to the extensive immigration from countries, some of which are already overstretched resource wise and damaged by political and sectarian conflict.

In addition to housing shortages, the NHS is deemed to be stretched to an unacceptable level. A&E agreed waiting times are rarely met, the wait for routine operations is sometimes long, often due to elderly patients taking bed space; no longer in need of medical attention, but with nowhere to place them outside the hospital.

Meanwhile, air pollution, that is claimed to contribute to the deaths of thousands every year, worsens. The fact that the Pollution Charge in central London has risen by £10 per visit for vehicles older than 11 years is perhaps indicative of how near the edge we really are.

I list these published figures without attempting to provide an answer but purely as a means of recording a “Datum”. Time will tell how important a worldwide real answer would be!

Professor Steven Hawkins has suggested we should find another inhabitable Planet, soon. I wonder how long it would take us humans to bring it to its celestial knees should such a venture ever occur?

          Without actually being a Catalonian it is hard to truly understand the current situation in the area. 28th Oct. It would appear that the Spanish Main Government in Madrid has stripped all power from the Catalan Government and told them another; this time legal, referendum on independence will be held in December. It is to be seen if the actions of the Madrid parliament will antagonise the Catalans to the point where they will vote “Yes” at that time. There was not a 50% yes vote on the last occasion; due mainly to many abstentions.

It seems to the writer that recent referendums have caused more problems than they have cured, due in part to the “did not vote” section later aligning themselves with the loosing faction.

          Antony Joshua retained his IBF world heavyweight title with a 10th round TKO. 29th Oct. The referee stopped the fight when it seems the fans wanted to see the other man on his back on the canvas. Joshua, from Watford; he still lives fairly locally in a “two up two down” with his “Mom”, said he was only doing his job, it was down to the referee to make stoppage decisions. He must be one of the nicest 18 stone plus solid muscle guys about. That is almost as good as being world champion, but not quite as lucrative.

          Some more good news; for a change, from this weekend. The England under seventeen football team have won their FIFA U17 World Cup final in India, beating Spain 5-2. Having gone 2 down early on in the game, it was a great result.

          Lewis Hamilton has won his fourth world Grand Prix title in Mexico. An incident on the first lap found Lewis nearly at the back of the pack but he fought back to ninth, which gained him enough points to win the title with three races to go.

          And after the Lord Mayor’s show; came the Hornets. With an indifferent display and no points at home to lowly Stoke.

          The clocks went back to GMT early on Sunday morning which provided something to do AM. retarding the dozen or so time pieces, and checking those that were supposed to be smart enough to do it for themselves. “Fall back” is much more of a problem than “Spring forward”.

          On returning from a fortnights break 17th Nov. with virtually no news input; during this time, I must wait and see if the world has put itself to rights and what I can catch up on.         

          I note the Bank Rate rose by 0.25% on the 2nd November as threatened but now becomes “a looming threat”, for future months.

          Saudi Arabia shot down a missile 4th Nov. near to Riyadh’s international airport and claim it has evidence that it was of Iranian origin.

          A devastating earthquake; magnitude 7.3 on Richter scale, hit Iran on its border with Iraq. 12th Nov. 450+ are reported dead. With the international sanctions placed due to Iran’s intransience regarding their developments of their nuclear weapon programme, the aid authorities are finding extra difficulties in sending relief. What a wicked, twisted world we live in?

          The Catalan crisis continues with a helpful E.U. Commission President Jean-Claude Junkers calling on Europe to stand up against separatism. “Nationalisms are a poison that prevents Europe from working together”. He may consider this statement could be printed on the back of his business card! It may save him time in the future.

          Meanwhile Brexit struggles on. 17th Nov. The only agreement reached at the “just finished” last effort, was to hold another one. The main stumbling blocks currently are the Northern / Southern Irish border and what figure can be dragged out of the sky for the UK to pay to meet their existing commitments and satisfy an EU negotiating team holding the whip hand. The UK negotiators claim they have made offers and concessions without reciprocal movements. The EU representatives say that the talks will not continue unless the UK comes up with something serious. (Meaning concessions!)

It would appear to me that various politicians in the UK continue playing a game that seems to have a lot more to do with party politics and power struggles than the actual needs and wishes of the public. If indeed the public really know what their wishes are! I recall “Muddying the waters” was an expression often used by both sides in Company/Union negotiations in the eighties. I now know we did not realise the meaning of the phrase compared to the  modern day political stirrings! No wonder we don’t know what we really want, or which spoon to use!

          It appears likely that the UK Brexit negotiators will up the offered “divorce fee” at the next set of meetings. 20th Nov. This is in line with some politicians demands, and will annoy others. It would be nice to think that the UK was sitting down to the negotiating table with all their ducks in a row.

          Our Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their platinum wedding today. 70 years is a long time and she is now the longest reigning living monarch.

          Angela Merkel is having a problem forming a coalition  government 22nd Nov. following a failure to get a majority in her favour. It’s not just us, it’s every country!

          Robert Mugabe has resigned as President of Zimbabwe after 37 years during which he has done his people and country no good whatsoever. A military coup ended his reign, and it is hoped his successor is better able to run the economy in a way that satisfies the people than did Mugabe.

          The Autumn budget has gone down with barely a whisper of any consequence. Some people; depending on the price bracket, will not have to pay stamp duty on house purchase say the government. This will only push up house prices say the opposition. With the emphasis on house building; to the exclusion of almost everything else, our green and pleasant land must surely have a use by date! A vision for the future could be all the few small areas not built on will be filled with driver-less cars. See definition of Ants nest!

Attempts will be made to boost productivity. I am not quite sure how; nor as indeed was the Chancellor.

          The disagreement over the form the border with North/Southern Ireland will take has again been raised as a reason why the EU should not seriously consider discussing a trade deal with the UK. Australia has also entered the arena suggesting that a trade deal with them is by no means a done deal.

          Another royal wedding next May. 28th November. Prince Harry 33. and US actress Meghan Markle 36. will marry at St Georges Chapel Windsor on a date yet to be determined. Megan is a divorcee and an actress, model and humanitarian. She is reported as planning to become a UK citizen. It is further reported that the royal Corgis have accepted her, which must be a good omen.

          Conflicting reports regarding the final Brexit divorce figure yet again. First reported is that Theresa May will considerably increase the 20 billion Euro first offer. EU bloc rumours suggest the figure may now be in the region of 45-50 billion Euros. This figure is derived from the 90 billion the UK government has allegedly accepted as their dept and of which they will pay half. This fact has been roundly dismissed. Meanwhile intensive talks continue as an agreement is sought. Theresa May is reported to have said that until talks on a trade deal are started, no final figure can be reached. It is very difficult to determine what is indeed going on. It seems to depend which way the wind is blowing.

          North Korea has tested another intercontinental missile that they claim; and it has been generally agreed, could reach most of continental USA. The maximum height reached confirms this statement.

President Trump say’s that the US “will take care of it”, but was no more specific.

It is believed that the North Koreans have, or are very close to having, a nuclear war head capable of being delivered by one of their current missiles.

South Korea have replied by carrying out a live fire exercise by launching one of their own ballistic devices.

We are heading back towards the MAD situation. (Mutually Assured Destruction), but Kim Jong-un may not be the one to play this game with!

          The Hornets have climbed back to eighth in the Premiership with two wins on the trot, but came severely unstuck against Manchester United at Vicarage Road tonight, losing 2-4. Two spectacular goals were scored by an ex Hornet Ashley Young, which rather thwarted their otherwise worthy efforts.

          It would seem that the Brexit talks may resume this week with a little more forward movement. 4th Dec. The Irish border still seems to be a sticking point, but the increase in the divorce settlement payment must presumably have oiled the works a little.

          The DUP; who enabled her to retain a small majority in Westminster following her disastrous General Election result, are still playing hard ball with Theresa May over an acceptable agreement on the North/South Irish border. They will stall her talks with the EU on trade until an acceptable proposal is made. They possibly think it is payback time!

          Two terror suspects are in court today 7th Dec. to answer charges that they attempted to blast their way into Downing Street in an attempt to reach and assassinate the Prime Minister. They have both been remanded in custody for trial at the Old Bailey. One of them is further accused of trying to join Daesh.

The cabinet were briefed last Tuesday by MI5 that nine terrorist plots had been thwarted by security services during the last year.

          Donald Trump has managed to upset billions of people by announcing that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He has claimed that his move will mark “the beginning of a new approach” to the “pursuit of peace” between the Israelis and Palestinians. With Jerusalem being the home to many holy sites of several religions; not least the Massif Al-Aqsa mosque, which is the 3rd most holy site in Islam. Many inhabitants have taken to the streets to protest Trumps move and the Chief Palestine representative in Britain Manuel Hassassuian declares it is “the kiss of death” for the protracted peace process. “He is declaring war in the Middle East, against 1.5billion Muslims and hundreds of thousands of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel. Pope Francis, the EU, China, Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all expressed a degree of concern. Mrs May and Boris Johnson have been firmer and actually criticised the action. It would seem that only the US and Israel are pleased with Trumps latest efforts towards stability and world peace?

  1. Mr Hassassuian has introduced a new word to my vocabulary. I will look out for another apposite application.

          Yet another trip to Watford General hospital highlighted the terrible condition of the pavements in Vicarage Road. Uneven, with built in hazards and even holes into basements that would easily submerge the end of a walking stick or crutch and propel the user to the ground. With the thousands that use this thoroughfare to get to and from the Stadium on a match day it must surely add to the hospital A&E load.

The other difficulty noted was the problem that a nursing assistant had in pronouncing the names of some patients that bore any resemblance to the actual; when calling them for consultation. One old lady said, “I think that may have been me, I’d better go anyway”. A little training would not go amiss.

          It seems possible that Theresa May has put forward Irish border proposals 8th Dec. that go some way towards satisfying the DUP, and consequently the trade talks may now begin.

Although there is still some doubt as to the actual agreed figure, it would appear we will pay in the region of £60billion as a “divorce settlement”, which is much better than the £80billion recently muted but not as good as the £40billion previously offered. This should pay a few EU salaries and pension plans. Although not too many by the rumoured size of some of them!

Some concord has also been achieved on the status of current EU citizens domicile in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. Detail will no doubt be available to those so effected.

So it’s Full Steam Ahead on trade negotiations. Or at least the brake seems to have been slackened slightly!

          The UK is in the grips of another American manufactured storm. Caroline this time. Scotland and the North have had very high winds and some snow. It was just “interesting” until Sunday morning, 11th Dec. when we awoke to four inches of snow and a full day of continued; sometimes heavy, snow fall. The first effects of this precipitation were noted when both terrestrial and satellite TV signals were blocked. The other effects were announced on Monday morning. Most schools in the area were closed, the local roads were a slithery wet mess and other roads and air transport badly affected. Don’t travel unless you have to, was the recommendation. The pavements, as usual, were virtually unusable without the risk of slipping, and walking in the road was a poor second option. It is amazing that as a country we could carry on with some normality during a bombing blitz, but a bit of weather outside the norm brings us to a standstill. Apparently it is seven years since the last snow of any significance in our area so memories must be getting shorter too?

The Fern Way carol service organised by Janet & her neighbour took place successfully. We were unable to negotiate the dodgy footing so ate the mince pies in front of the fire. Next year perhaps.

          The Inflation Rate has risen to 3.1%, the highest since 2012. 12th Dec. This suggests another possible interest rate rise in the New Year.

          The very cold weather continues to cause considerable disruption across the country. The temperature dropped to -13 degrees centigrade in Shropshire, whilst in Kingswood it was recorded at -4 degrees. Transport has suffered most, with getting to the airport of your choice a big problem. Particularly if it was Gatwick! Road conditions in general have caused most of the delays with accidents in the fore. Even the Channel Tunnel has a six hour delay and even worse; the Bricket Wood express has been replaced with a bus service! As usual some of the local estate roads are like glass, particularly those running East West, where they get no sunshine at all this time of year. The maximum temperature today was 4 degrees.

          Slightly warmer and at times torrential rain today. 13th Dec. Much of the snow has gone but roads such as Fern Way still retain patches of glass like ice where vehicles have compressed the snow.

          A traumatic shopping experience at ASDA this morning. Not content with moving everything into newly arranged isles, the number of manned, (or womaned) check-outs has been reduced. In their place are the farcical “do it yourself” devices, where much time is wasted waiting for the lady to swipe her card and press a key because the bxxxxx thing has not recognised an item. If this is the way the retailer wants to satisfy his customers then someone has got it entirely wrong. It may work for the younger generations but it certainly does not work for us. Do we now need a degree in computer science to buy our daily needs? The alternative option is to find the shortest of lengthy queues to be attended to by a human being, where the additional time consumer is the bar code that is not recognised and subsequently requires the manual entry of a lengthy number and the possible attendance of a supervisor with a magic key. To be asked if we are over twenty five when purchasing a bottle of wine is the final indignity. Unfortunately there is not a Specsavers outlet in the store.

I suppose we should have known better than to register for the self scanning function with the promise of a quick check out next time. Situated just inside the main door, it required the entry of personal details, email address and phone number. Fairly simple in principle, but, the key pad is mounted vertically, and at such a height that it is looked down on from the top. Negotiating a querty board by effectively looking at it from the far side is difficult to someone who is not used to typing whilst standing on their heads. Thanks to an attractive and kind young person, (around thirty I would say) the job was accomplished. We now wait, with some trepidation our efforts of next week, to “do it ourselves, as we go”.

Most of these last two paragraphs go some way to emphasise the discrimination between the young and old. That is those that live by the keyboard and swipe, and those that still need to use their memory and eyes to live. There are still some of us that were educated entirely without a smart phone, computer, calculator or even a tablet. Can you believe that?

          It is written that Theresa May is enjoying a slight rise in popularity for her efforts to push along the people’s decision for Brexit. 14th Dec. This does not seem to apply to some of her own party MP’s who voted yesterday against the government and with the Labour Party, causing a government defeat. The Red Flag was apparently sung “with gusto” as the defeat on the rights for Parliament to exercise its sovereignty and for MPs to have the final say over a Brexit deal. Is this party politics above the will of the people? It would seem that some politicians want to turn the referendum into a “best of three” decision.

Do party politics override public referendum results? It would appear they do. 48% of the votes cast were to not leave. Does this make the majority who did vote yes at 52%, wrong? The fact that the government are arguing a cause they were not in favour of must be hard work, and made doubly so by some of that same party not accepting the peoples will, no matter they may consider it foolhardy. After all, 28% did not even vote.

Again we have apparently un-joined-up comments from all parties reference the referendum. In one party, a new referendum is not ruled out, whilst others are saying that any restriction on EU immigration is not acceptable. How would this comment have affected the “leave vote”? Another comment…”you shouldn’t rule anything out”, just about sums the argument up!

          The Round Table Father Christmas came along Fern Way on his Range Rover powered sledge. It was nice to see all the kids running along beside him. (From the comfort of our front room).

          Following a fairly chilly period since the snow of earlier in the month the weather forecasters tell us we have another storm pending. 19th Dec. It is Dylan this time, and he will give us 70mph winds and torrential rain. The likelihood of a white Christmas in the south is considerably reduced, so it is not all bad news.

This morning flight delays and cancellations occurred at Heathrow due to fog and a thick coating of frost covers the roofs and cars, in a completely clear sky.

          It would seem that others have recognised that just building more dwelling units is not the entire answer to our living problems. Much more consideration is required, not only to new occupants, but for those that have lived in a relatively pleasant estate for several years. It would be difficult to argue that parking is not one of the most contentious problems, whether it be bad or inconsiderate parking, or just too many cars. It would seem that the local planners either do not care that their decisions considerably lower the estates standards, or they are over ridden by a government that is legislating on the principle of “never mind the quality, feel the width”. Local politicians are attempting to establish a 20mph speed limit on the estate, it won’t be long before driving at that speed is a target rather than a limit. In fact in several estate roads this situation already exists. The aim should not just be more homes, we should focussing on managed and pleasant places to live in. I have seen in many parts of the world the effects of unsustainable growth. It is generally not a pretty sight, but at least we could get out and find some peace!

It was interesting to read that the HCC is now concerned over the safety of the parking facilities on a quite extensive, near completed development, positioned right on the notorious Dome roundabout. Who agreed the development? Did they not expect that parking; on the basis of one vehicle per adult, was a likely scenario? If not, why not? One wonders if an air pollution study of the 24 hour stop/start, often gridlocked  heavy vehicle traffic was made for the site. It is one thing to find you have nowhere to park, but another to be subjected to ongoing particulates and noxious gases on an ongoing basis. I believe the demand is for “affordable housing”. Affordable by whom, and how many of these units fit that bill?

          It is the shortest day of the year. 21st.Dec. and the daytime temperature has risen to 10 degrees, and although it seems to rain most of the time at least we have not so far seen the effects of Dylan. A white Christmas looks even less likely.

          Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has met his Soviet counterpart in Moscow. 22nd Dec. He told him that Britain is ready to retaliate if Russia continues to instigate cyber attacks on the west. This is the first such meeting for five years. His comments follow a speech by Theresa May last month accusing Vladimir Putin of using cyber espionage to sow discord and cause disruption in the west. She is reported as saying, “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed”.

With the US Presidential election result proving nearly every one wrong; and accusations of foreign interference, could this be the reason for so many UK ballots recently having  produced results far from the expected?

Who for instance would have not given the BBC Sports Personality of the Year to Antony Joshua; our local double world championship heavyweight boxer? He led all the polls, but was beaten to the award by Mo Farah. A worthy winner, but an unexpected one. Then there was also Strictly Come Dancing!

There have been one or two other “bombshell” election and referendum results recently. On the perhaps misguided premise that it can’t be the electorates at fault, then who’s fault was it?

           The United Nations Security Council has unanimously voted for further sanctions against North Korea following its latest tests of a ballistic missile which it claims is capable of reaching mainland USA. A further reduction of certain raw materials and fuel is included, together with a return home of all North Korean nationals within 24 months. This apparently amounts to circa 93 thousand souls. Kim Jong-Um has labelled these actions as a “declaration of war”.

          The Hornets have managed to win the penultimate game of 2017. 26th Dec. 2-1 against Leicester City. This follows a period where they only achieved only 1 point out of a possible 18; and included a run of four defeats. They are 10th in the Premiership table where a few points in either direction could make a big difference. They seem to have been concentrating on helping other clubs to break their series of disastrous results. Although very successful in their ambitions, it should be remembered that charity begins at home, and unfortunately these other teams do not seem to be reciprocating, goodwill wise!

It is fortunate that Heurelho Gomes; the Horns 36 years old Brazilian goalkeeper, has kept a tight control at the back despite some suspect defending, or we would not even have got the 1 point. He certainly determined the result went the right way today.

          The weather has turned nasty again 27th Dec. with enough snow to disrupt road traffic and some flights at local airports. The snow came thick and fast and without too much warning and was followed with night time temperatures well below zero.

          Just when we thought it was safe to go in the water, the bottom team in the Premiership came to Vicarage Road on a run of 11 games without a win. In fact only 4 wins in 21 games. 30th Dec. They had a brand new manager who now has a 100% record! One up in eleven minutes, the Hornets did little else during the whole game until suffering an equaliser in 86 minutes and a looser in 90 minutes. They had the nerve to look shocked when the winner went in. A real Holiday game. Rubbish!

          Well, that is the end of another year. 31st Dec. The most often reported news was from the Brexit negotiations table. Or the attempts to get anyone to sit down round it and negotiate! Things seem to have moved on a little in the last weeks or so, but there is a long and expensive way to go. It is to be seriously wondered if the “yes” voters really knew what we were letting ourselves in for. I believe it had more to do with immigration than anything else. Nothing is that easy or black and white!

The performance of some of our politicians has left a lot to be desired. The opportunity for party and personal gain was very evidently seen as being thrown up by the situation, and taken advantage of! Whatever happens to the final divorce figure, the Irish Border and a Trade deal, we have a long road to travel. And it not a straight one either!

Several new and old areas of possible and actual conflict have come to the fore during the year. Nearly all at the expense of ordinary people who have no say in their own destinies at all. Myanmar, Bangladesh, Syria, various African States and numerous other situations where violence and death have resulted.

North Korea continues to be the possibly most volatile area, where conflict by ill considered reaction to threatening behaviour could soon spread to be a worldwide disaster. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Um could prove to be a very dangerous combination.

We have our share of natural disasters, with notably the severe earthquakes in Mexico, and less than natural events such as the tragic loss of life caused by the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

Much has been heard this year reference false news and international cyber attacks in order to destabilise a country’s political or infrastructure situation. In May, the under pressure UK. NHS was brought to a standstill by just such an attack, as were many other organisations in other parts of the world. It is a pity that many people seem to believe implicitly that anything they see on the internet is “rock solid”. Unfortunately this would appear to be far from the case. Social Media has also been hit by published false accusations and libelous statements. I am told that some of the items appearing on line are really unbelievable in their callous and harmful effect. Many young people seem happy to report on any and all of the events of the day, which in itself is an extremely dangerous thing to do. Grooming by adults masquerading as their peers has caught out many young people answering questions posted on said Social Media. On-line monetary fraud is also rife, and rising all the time. Add to this state of affairs the more “day to day” things you can’t do unless you have access to the internet; and the requisite knowledge and skill to operate it.

Several atrocities in the name of Islamic State have been carried out in this country and abroad. Manchester saw a bomb detonated at a Pop concert and others where vehicles were driven into pedestrians on the pavements of London. In all cases there were a lot of civilian casualties.

So the year has not been an entirely happy one. “A curates eggs situation” I suppose. As indeed have been all the previous years I have commented on. It would be nice to have a year with nothing but good news to report on, but I suspect next year will be equally difficult. We can live in hope.

 

Alan Orchard. 31st, December 2017