Saturday, 14 May 2005

Friday, 13 May 2005

Friday 13th.

In view of the date, I'm posting nothing today. I risked changing the template as I was fed up with the narrow column of typescript.

The Four Noble Truths.

During today, I had cause to reflect on the 4 Noble Truths which lie at the heart of Buddhist belief. Never mind why I went back to them. However, they gave me some benefit. I reproduce them below - with some explnation - on the off-chance that they strike a chord or response in anyone who reads this. You may need to go through the explanations more than once. Parrot fashion understanding is not required. The ideal would to remember the 4 Noble Truths themselves and then reflect on what they say to you.

The Four Noble Truths

1. Life means suffering.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

1. Life means suffering.

To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursue of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely "wandering on the wheel of becoming", because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Thursday ..what? I've lost track

Our local paper has a feature where they reprint items of news from 25, 50 and 100 years ago. This is from the section dealing with 1905:

“In a report on the health of Berwickshire, Mr. McCrae, sanitary inspector, forwarded his observations on the change in dietary which has in recent years been largely adopted by the working classes, wherein tea and white bread form so large a portion of the daily ration, to the exclusion of other articles of diet so much more nourishing and better suited to build up the muscle and sinew of the physically healthy race we ought to have in a country such as this. At our annual hiring fairs it is only in reduced numbers that we see the type of man for which the Merse was so famous. Bad teeth, nervous eyes, pale faces are everywhere in evidence. We have given up beer and taken to whisky; we have given up milk and taken to tea.”

So, ladies, if you want your S/O to be hunky and chunky – take note of the perils of white bread and tea. Also interesting that even so far back as 100 years ago people were lecturing others regarding their diet. Mind you, Nigella does it so much better!

I have been testing the provisions of the Data Protection act where one is able to ask an organisation for copies of your records that they may have on file. It is free. I asked the Army for my history files. They turned up this morning and it is amazing what detail they contain. The Army had a bad habit of circulating little billet-douz and did not always reveal these to the subject. I find that people I didn’t trust were not so bad after all. I had quite forgotten glandular fever in 1954. Sadly, there seems to be nothing there on which to base some compensation claim. It will add to the files I keep here and maybe one day some yet to be born great-great-grandson will write a book about me. Most of it is done actually as I wrote my own and it is there in the archives.

Great consternation on the local beach this morning. The air ambulance helicopter lands on a small hill just amongst the dunes. It is also right alongside the Nth hole of a golf club. Two ladies of a certain age were doing whatever one does at a hole as the chopper approached. The rotor downdraught blew woolly bonnet off head of one aged dame. Whether they were scared about proximity of this large and noisy item or were trying to garner up the hat I don’t know but they started dashing about in circles with kilts blowing and arms waving. The chopper had to withdraw and let them settle down. I suppose they may have thought it was a bird and were trying to throw bread to it?

Feeling a bit bullish today. I think I might try a small joke.

Young girl gets job in factory where they make childrens toys and dolls. Main product is a doll called Tommy Tickle. Tommy is his name and Tickle is because when tickled he laughs and waves his arms. She starts in the area where they check the Tommy Tickle dolls before packing them in boxes for despatch. After a few hours, the foreman goes to the Personnel officer and asks for his help. The new employee is delaying the whole production line.

They go to the test area. The girl has a needle and thread and some material. She makes a small bag from the cloth and inserts two rice seeds before sewing the material to the doll. "What are you doing?" says the HR guy. "What you told me" she says

The manager thinks for a moment and then, laughing, says, "I told you to give Tommy two test tickles!"

Wednesday waffle

I hope some of you struggled across to that blog from Zimbabwe. We seem to miss out on news of what is happening in that country if it is not the hackneyed old ‘white man thrown off farm’. The Big Bwana keeps a firm grip on what is reported and it must take quite a bit of courage for any resident to talk to outside journalists. What came across to me as I read this story was the almost mirror-image of what we were told about Saddam. What price regime change here then – very little is heard Mr B Liar? His conscience is warm and cuddly on having got us involved in Iraq “because it was the right thing to do”. I appreciate that we can no longer gunboat around the world setting things to rights but the very existence of that country is down to our interference in the first place. We insisted on NIBMAR which was acronym for No Independence Before Majority African Rule. I seem to remember that Jack Straw and Peter Hain were active in insisting on NIBMAR back when they ran RentaMob campaigns. As Alf Garnett would say, ‘It’s your bleeding Harold bloody Wilson ain’t it’

I came across a valley yesterday that was filled with the yellow blooms of gorse. Both sides and the head were covered with it. I don’t know if it was a trick of the light but it seemed to glow fluorescently. Looked like the fields where they dry saffron which has the same sort of luminosity. I bet the landowner would prefer the saffron as a cash crop.

The biter has been bit. I’ve just had a call from Northern Ireland to set up an interview with police officers who are raking through all the cold cases way back to the very beginning. Another initiative so that we can spend large sums pacifying nationalists and a few loyalists over events that happened over 35 years ago. Doubtless, if he survives our rampant leader will do his I/We/The government bit so he can apologise. At the moment I do not know if they will include anything regarding the deaths of soldiers in that same period. The thoroughness (lack of) with which they dealt with the six military policemen murdered in Iraq does not inspire me to think those guys will get anything better. I’m not concerned at the new development – there is nothing at which I should be. Looking on the bright side, we’ll eat steaks, drink beer and have some good old copper-type nattering.

That bit above about rampant leader set me off down that track again. My ghast was so flabbered at their revelation of congress chez Blair that I had overlooked something which makes the whole thing even more sordid. Their ‘Hello’ magazine moment followed closely upon Mrs. Bush getting a bit raunchy in public. Anything you can do etc. from Thunder Thighs and the guitarist. Sick Sick Sick. I do not want to know that. What price now John Major and his take-away Curry?

Just a quickie

Have a look at
If you happen to be B Liar and are reading this - do NOT go there. You are already well down the street anyway.
Us fat cats living here may not know of much that is on this blog.

21 was a good age to be.

Ismailia, Egypt. 1954. Breaks my sorta-rule re gratitous use of photographs yes no yes but the print was in a poor old state after all these years so I thought I would safely tuck the scan away here. Sorry about that

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Tuesday tittle-tattle

Now it seems that ID cards are a dead duck due to Five-a-night’s reduced mandate, I have been doing some digging around on the general idea of digital confidentiality. The apparent ease at which records can be improperly accessed gave me a bit of a scare. And that is before staff mistakes send them to all and sundry anyway. As an old soldier, I have few concerns about my privacy; try living in a room with 24 others and sharing their presence 24 hours a day every day. What does worry me is what some bstard might do with my details once he has got hold of them.

These googlings led me to this site: Yes, I know the clever people manage to do this and just have ‘becker’ highlighted but as I have said, I live to blog and not to do html stuff. Anyways, this guy has a take that I find interesting.

Some of the regular readers – huh, don’t kid yourself, there is only one – will have noticed that there is an illustration to the last post. I’m not driven to have pictures on the blog but was encouraged by gemmak to have a go. ( Thanks lady, much less painful than I had imagined. Doing it with Picase2 and Hallo meant that I could get the desired result without lots of < > and things. I don’t think that the page will get like Spielberg’s blotter but there are some times – like today – when a picture is truly worth a thousand words. I might add a photo of myself in the profile just to scare small children away.

Another benefit of being here has just shown up. We had a problem with ponding of rainwater at the threshold of the front door. Water was then soaking into the main wall and chunks of plaster were coming away. I finally decided we needed a workman to get it fixed. Checked cards in local newsagents. Found a man. Phoned him last Friday, he came that night and checked what was needed. Yesterday and today he has filled in the dip at the door and dealt with the blown plaster. He did one or two other bits. Cost – about an hour of a motor mechanic’s time dahn sarf. Just try to even find a bloke there would have taken a week and he would not have shown up for Lord knows how much time.

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Can we call this progress?

Better than a hound kill?

I cannot believe that a lingering death such as this fox experienced is better than a quick chomp across the rib cage from a well motivated hound. Those who can attribute human senses and feelings to a wild animal and say that a hound kill inflicts terror and pain might care to explain why this vermin did suffer from the shock of a bullet and the lingering pain whilst life ebbed slowly away.

Monday, 9 May 2005

My Monday

The travelling circus today hit Berwick beach. When we got there the tide was about quarter full which gave plenty of sand space for running around. Stormy seas have brought ashore vast quantities of tree branches, twigs and seaweed roots. Normally we have to scratch about to find things to throw for retrieve but today the place looked like God’s version of IKEA. Sable found a new trick – Lord knows from where or why she dreamt this one up. Floppy things like seaweed routinely get taken into the edge of the sea and chewed to small pieces. Today was a variant. Any long or odd shape stick was taken to the sand dunes and torn into bits. Why some things to one place and others to another I don’t know. Oh well – it all counts as exercise and it is fun for both of us.

I chanced upon some documents released by the US Govt related to the Guantanmo Bay saga. They had been redacted for security reasons but still told a weird (to me) story. The first page was something like a convening order appointing someone as head of a review panel, On this page was section requiring decision as to whether subject was a terrorist/Al Queda. The only other attachment in most cases was a written report from someone whose details had been blanked out. It seemed as if this was a pro-forma sort of document as they all followed exactly the same style. There would be a small précis as to how the prisoner came to be in custody. ‘Arrested in Pakistan by Pakistan Forces’ is an example of how severely short the précis was. In all those I saw the third paragraph was ‘Member of Al Queda’.

That was it. Done and dusted. The president of the board might invite the accused to ask questions or make statements. These consisted of denials. In one instance, the guy produced a letter from his brother which he said went towards proving he was a good man. Letter was along lines of ‘wife sends her love, daughter sends her love, we believe that Allah the Merciful will find you a good man who would not do any harm’ We Westerners can all see it was worth jack shit but the presentation indicates to me that the prisoner had no idea how justice works and had not had the benefit of any legal advice. These documents will find their way into the greater Arab world and be perfect ammunition for anti-Western groups. They will grow just like little Jack’s beanstalk seeds. I cannot decide whether it is ignorance or arrogance on the part of the USA. And it is not as if they are dealing with a few people from Alan Clarke’s Bongo Bongo Land. The Muslim world was famous for its legal systems prior to perversion by such as Saddam and other dictators.

Scotland leads the World – Pt II. Turns out that quite a considerable number of Scots girls under 13 are being prescribed birth control pills. Given that the age of consent here is 13 (don’t all rush lads) this action is illegal. I can understand why there may be reluctance on the part of the doctors to blow the whistle on their requesters but whatever happened to ‘No’? Whilst any penetrative sex under 13 is reprehensible, it could be that the girls are victims of sexual abuse within their wider family circle. I cannot even relate this to anything I might have experienced when a young teenager. It would have seemed as remote as ‘One giant step for Mankind’ on the TV. Whilst there may have been curiosity, I think that few children of 12 or 13 knew what happened after one got one’s hand on her knee. As they say in chat rooms – Your Mileage May Vary.

Sunday Sentiments

“What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly; so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think on re-reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; sine I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.”

Virginia Woolf 1919

Well that seems to sum it up quite well for me. I was reading VW but aware that I should start to get on with my bit of ‘something loose knit’ when I came across the writing above. Ah! Inspiration, or, as we say today, A Mission Statement. Nothing can be said to have been properly undertaken unless the MS has been defined, refined, tuned, parsed and then stated in letters of fire in the work cells of all involved. What rubbish – but the funny thing is I can still write about MS even after all these years of retirement. Perhaps we could all work until we are 70 after all.

The ‘what happens next’ theme of the past couple of days has been replaced by the ‘what happened then’ of the day when the 1939-1945 war in Europe ended. I have very clear and copious recollection of then that I doubt would be with me in 2065 about the last Election should I live until then. I don’t like that last sentence – something grammatically wrong somewhere. Still, in furtherance of the MS, I fling it in without looking it through. In May 1945, I was at the thick end of eleven years old; my twelfth birthday not coming until August. The actual day of the German surrender was sketched in with the radio reports; there were no TV transmissions. We had quite a few military camps around us and apparently Romford was quite hectic.

My first bit of ‘post-war’ was the VE Day street party when all the kids had a slap up meal in a big marquee at the top of Tudor Drive. I have a photo taken then. I’m at the forefront of the long table. Much Brylcreem in evidence, a smart jacket – Dunns maybe? And collar and tie – properly buttoned up. My father had long had a 56 pound tin of corned beef as a reserve in the event of invasion by Germans. This was donated to the party. We had large quantities of chocolate and fizzy drinks. A piano had been manoeuvred into the street and games and dancing ensued.

Another thing that is in my mind concerned the black-out. It had long been mandatory, punished by fine and often imprisonment, to have any exterior lighting or interior lights shining through thick curtains or board screens. On the night of the party this was all ignored. Every house had every light on, no drawn curtains, front and back doors open. After all the years of total darkness, this was something that has proved very memorable.

That is enough of 60 years ago. Not my recollection – that is very full but enough for this time and place.

Coming back today after the lunchtime walk for Sable, we passed a field where they were sowing potatoes. Well, no, not actually past. I was so amazed at all the machinery in the field that I parked up and had a quick peep over the hedge. When I was a farm worker – part time only thank goodness – back in the late 40s and early 50s, potato sowing was a simple thing. Two horses, a cart and a seed box really. What I saw today was machinery that dug the trench, dropped the spuds and banked up the furrow afterwards. There were low loaders with more seed ‘taters and some specialised machinery that was not in use whilst I watched. All this of course is basically down to the introduction of very large fields – almost prairie – which allows efficient mechanisation. My days of doing it we had five or ten acre fields and it took a while to deal with them. Losing the horses was a blow. They could be controlled by word of mouth almost as much as through the tack. I never did any tractor driving on the farm but I could handle horses well. Some of the old horse men did not bother with the change to tractors but went into other work on the land. The work I saw in progress today was obviously carried out by contractors as only a massive farm could afford the specialised equipment that would only be lightly used. That again must cause scheduling problems as no farmer likes putting heavy machinery on really wet land.

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Saturdays serenade

I spoke yesterday about the Galloway clown. What follows is extracted from a blog run by an Iraqi. I think it is important as it gives a Muslim view on the way Galloway perverted the selection of a member of parliament.

A victory for Saddam

There is one disgraceful aspect of the British election which really stands out - it's the victory of the despicable George Galloway in the London seat of Bethnal Green & Bow. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party for his very vocal opposition to removing Saddam from power, subsequently started a new political party Respect, moved from his native Scotland, and ran against Oona King, half-African-American, half-Jewish Labour member and a strong supporter of the liberation of Iraq.
Galloway chose his seat well - it has 40 per cent (some reports put it at 50 per cent) Muslim population - Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi, majority of them fiercely opposed to war. Neither Galloway nor his supporters, however, seem to see anything wrong, hypocritical or self-contradictory in using the democratic process to punish those who made democracy possible in Iraq. And in the end the poll in Bethnal Green & Bow did bear a passing resemblance to the Iraqi election:

Yesterday the constituency saw its largest police presence ever on polling day, with hundreds of officers on the street and some forced to drive rental cars. Every polling station had at least one officer outside it as compared to three stations on previous elections, and dozens of police patrolled Brick Lane at the heart of the constituency's Bangladeshi community. Respect's lead there, at the centre of the city's curryland, was said to be seven to one.

Galloway declared his victory as a victory for Iraq. Actually, the victory for Iraq already occurred on January 30, when millions of Iraqis, braving the guns and the bombs of thugs who fight for the man Galloway would still have ruling over Iraq, went out and overwhelmingly voted against terror and for a new and democratic Iraq. Ironically, Iraqi people risking death from suicide bombers and mortars have managed a larger turnout than voters of Bethnal Green, only 51.7% of whom voted yesterday.

This is something from a magistrate and shows the pressure they are under – due to legislation passed as a knee jerk reaction.

As a magistrate I have no political opinions. As a citizen I do.
I am committed to playing my small part in improving the criminal justice system, so here is my non-party-political wishlist for the next few years:-
Above all: give us a break from legislation. There has been an avalanche of reforms in the organisation of the courts and in the law. Such a vast edifice as the legal system needs to be reformed gradually, allowing time for changes to be tested and considered before moving on to the next new idea. Senior legal professionals whom I meet on a regular basis are more or less unanimous that much recent law was passed too quickly after inadequate debate, and that time is needed for reflection and amendment where necessary.
The administration of the courts has been in continuous change for most of the last decade. A breathing space is now needed to allow the new arrangements to settle down. Now that all court staff are civil servants the judiciary needs to defend its independence from the tick-the-box mentality of the administrators. Give us time to do that.
The Crown Prosecution Service is led by good people but they are let down every day by stupid administrative errors. Only last week I was asked to issue a witness summons in a domestic violence case. The witness first indicated that she was reluctant to come to court last January, but the CPS only asked for the summons in the first week of May for a trial due to start in the second week of May. There is now almost no chance that the trial will go ahead, which will cause great expense and inconvenience, and there is no justice in that. Get the basic admin. right, and soon.
Save money if you must, but make sure that probation and drug treatment services are properly funded. In the long run that will save a fortune, and reduce the tide of misery that washes through our courts every day.
Finally, trust the courts. The tabloids will never be satisfied but there are at least four years before the next election. Don't legislate every time that the Daily Mail gets into a panic; judges magistrates and staff in the system are citizens who have real lives too, and they will be better employed fine tuning the law than in struggling to understand some half-cocked reform.

These bits from someone else’s opinions are lazy. I really should be posting my own opinion but they put the point across much better than I could so I think this is justified – just occasionally. I/we (me and the dog) have been busy little bees today. I went up to the big garden centre and spent ages just browsing about in the bedding plants area. One of the reasons we liked this flat is that it has no garden – I had had enough of the pressure to keep up with everyone when we lived in Kent. Mowing, weeding, tying-in, watering, mowing, planting dada dada. I like to see plants and there were quite a few varieties today that were new to me. Then I got lost in the pet shop amongst the tropical fish. They have marine fish as well and there were some strange and wonderful things there. Grow your own prawns anyone? I missed the hamsters, rats and other four-legged things and then started dreaming about having a bird. That had to stop – I can just imagine old pointy-nose if she saw a bird in the room. Garden furniture fit for parties at Buck House. BBQ large enough for a whole posse of cowboys. I was going to annoy the butterflies but the dog was gasping for a run so we had to move on. We ran across to the coast where swimming and hunting took the puff out of her sails. Coming back via the picnic area meant more swimming and running so peace might come tonight as she snores away on the sofa. The garden centre has a new deli section and I stocked up there so dinner should be veeery niceee.