Saturday, 18 June 2005

Deep thinking - sorry about this.

Consider, please, this statement “I am continuously surprised as to why the British government is unable to make a statement as follows: “Select immigrants are welcome. We will set the selection criteria. Since no one is forcing them to come in, we will expect that once they are here, they will blend into our culture and not expect Britain to accommodate their cultural needs which they are welcome to address privately at their own cost”. This would be an eminently reasonable position that would considerably diffuse the matter.”

Now, that could well start the dogs of political correctness and racial diversity to chewing at my heels for daring to give it even the slightest further publicity. But, hey guys, it is written by an Indian in a Indian newspaper. It is just the sort of comment one might expect from a racist bigot such as me.

I freely admit, in the absence of thumb-screws and the rack, that my racial attitude is old fashioned. But it is only that – old-fashioned as it is the one I grew up with and where I am most comfortable. Having lived in a number of places where I was one of a racial minority, I know some of the effects of prejudice. I did not start riots just because, for example, Hong Kong Chinese thought it necessary to spit dangerously close to me. I’ve previously explained that I keep myself out of the law courts by adopting a form of reverse apartheid. I stay away from situations where my prejudices might cause me to do or say something I regret. This is not based on creed or colour; I’d no more willingly associate with fake-Burberry clad chavs than seek the company of baggy-trousered Gangsta Rappers.

What I am not so sure about are the reasons for the change in relationships between human beings which are determined by pigmentation or racial characteristics. Back in the early ‘50s I spent a lot of time in Aldgate amongst the Jewish community there. My girlfriend came from a family with a relaxed attitude to goyim. Besides, I came in handy for a number of tasks on their Hold day. I heard how the initial wave of Jewish immigrants were subjected to persecution from the working class residents of places like Manchester and London at the end of the 19th century. Much of what went on was exactly what one may read in the stories of Nazi persecution around 1933. An anomaly here was that when Moseley and his Blackshirts marched through London’s East End to terrorise Jewish families, they were kept away by that same class of people who initially attacked jewish business and individuals. Whilst there is an under-current of bad feeling towards Jews, there is little evident problem. So, why the problem with Africans and Asians?

It is my opinion that much of the current animosity is down to heritage. It is quite clear that we were not the nicest of people in our dealings with colonies. Think of General Dyer and his riot-control methods. This started Gandhi off on his crusade (if I may use that term for a non-Christian). But, even with this background, many Indians served bravely and with great loyalty in WW2. So why did they change their attitude? They had independence a long time ago. We did not adopt any controversial trade policies. Could it be that their current attitude is due to the matters given in my opening paragraph? Someone told the masses that they were downtrodden and they reacted. Until then, the vast mass was possibly unaware that they were being treated in any way that was wrong.

This focus on past events leading to demands for change is particularly noticeable with Africans. The major pressure for change came from America. They had the slave history as a sore spot but their demands for better treatment did not go back to those times. To me, the 1968 demonstration of Black Power at the Olympics did most to awaken that dragon. Maybe even more than the actions of the Freedom Riders – it was the limited success of the NAACP that inspired those two sprinters to demonstrate on a world stage.

So, who else? Those of the Islamic faith? Whilst much of their ire does go back to the Crusades this only covers Middle Eastern Muslims. Note I do not use the word ‘Arab’. Many of the Middle-Eastern people I have known always correct use of this word. There is no such thing as ‘An Arab’ even as an amalgam or melding of Saudi, Egyptians, Iraqi, Iranian etc. What sets one lot off is no problems for others. The Muslims of the Far East have quite different characteristics to those of the Near and Middle East. I think that a lot of our latter-day conflict with Islam is down to Lawrence and the way he was used. Another factor is the belief that land occupied by Islam at any time is permanently dedicated to Allah and must be recovered to honour him.

This very shallow enquiry into why there is racial conflict will not get me any Masters degree. However, it does seem to support my theory that the conflict we have is due to factors other than actual discrimination and unfair treatment. It is mainly propaganda and bad publicity that sets people onto demanding a righting of old old actions and events. It is this we should address.

Catch-up time

Time marches on.
That good looking bstard to the left was me. In Ismailia, Egypt, the day before my 21st Birthday in 1954.
This not quite so good looking bloke is me in Hong Kong early in 1974. Pounds piled on. Gone from sergeant to RSM. MBE, Long Service medal, Campaign medals for Malaya and Northern Ireland. Six or so months later - bloody civvy!
I thought it politic to show this. I have many friends with, thank God, wicked sense of humour and this will limit their options. What we used to call a prophylactic statement - saved an abortion later.
Even becoming a civilian did not cut the ties that bind. Just a few months ago, I was answering questions about things that happened in 1970 and my 'When did you last see your father?' moments at the Bloody Sunday saga two years back. People say many things about the errors of soldiers and what rubbish the army seems to them. All I can add is that it does not seem to have done me any harm and, even in my worst night terrors, I do not see any accusing ghosts from those days.
The similiarity of poses is accidental - must be the influence of James Dean who stood something like this!
What about my clever daughter?

Friday, 17 June 2005

Dah Daa

Well now, what about this new look? Isn't it smashing? I'm so knocked out by it that I'm not going to do a 'proper' blog tonight as nothing will do the new layout justice until some of the newness has worn off.
When I was a kid, I used to insist that anything new came to bed with me. I still do something like that if the 'new' thing is suitable. I'm thinking I'll move my bed into the study to keep and eye on my new blog so noone nicks it or pawns it.
Bravo Gemmak and thanks/ Hell of a bang for 10 bucks.

Eternal tourist

Off on my travels.
Looks as if I got the damned forms right this time. The guy in the Post Office does a check and it seems I got all the writing inside every tiny box OK. Seems daft anyway as last time we went to Frankfurt and on the trip to Berlin no one looked at the passport going out or coming in.

Thursday, 16 June 2005

Blogging on

I admire those who retain a sensible perspective on blogging. By that I mean the bloggers who post when they have something to say and otherwise live ordinary lives that do not depend upon the blog. How wonderful it must be to have no concern over whether the blog is read or not, to care less about statistics, to post without even a thought of whether you last posted yesterday or a month ago. What freedom that must be!
The rest of us are slaves. Oh, we can explain that there is a purpose behind what we do, that the blog serves us in the achievement of some high-minded goal, that it is merely the means to an end. But the fact is that we become slaves to the blog. To blog with a purpose implies that we intend to reach others, for whatever reason. And that means we have to be concerned with traffic, to know that others are reading and that we become more effective in drawing return visits to the blog. So we become interested in statistics, beginning perhaps with a hit counter but soon desiring more details. Then we begin to learn how to ensure that the numbers continue to mount: post regularly, know your audience and deliver what they want, make the blog attractive and easy to navigate. All these are the elementary things that add up to blog success.
But we hunger for more and so, eventually and inevitably, we head for the traffic exchanges. Now the pressure really increases. Suddenly the blog is being viewed by hundreds and we have to think about how to capture some of those fleeting visitors, how to turn them from browsers into regulars. The blog has won and we have become its slaves.

This comes from someone else infected with the blogging virus. I can fully understand what he is saying. I started my own journal whilst running a forum that prospered and died as I had found it an outlet for things I wished to say but was not sure how to find someone to listen. It seemed better than haunting the neighbourhood ranting into space or sitting next to nice people on a bus and engaging them in idiotic conversation. Anyway, I lacked the hair as required to produce that electric-shock look. Now I have progressed to the stage where I want to add to the experience of muttering into the void by dressing my efforts in finer clothes. Not, I hope the Emperors New Clothes. There is a very interesting and finely-produced blog that I follow (and recommend to you also) and the Keeper of That Blog made an offer to do a bespoke page for a ridiculously small amount of coin. I took this up. It entailed joining PayPal which is a bit scary. I worry that I might find myself bidding on eBay for things like Japanese teenagers' knickers or Destroy It Yourself projects of a dubious provenance. I hope my brief to Gemmak was right. Given that she produces pages which change two or three times a day - does she write them in PowerPoint I wonder? - she will certainly come up with the goods. I wait with bated breath.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Interior fittings.

What I would like in my new bathroom.
I think the blue of the tiles matches my eyes. (This picture stolen from the superb blog of BlackRat) I never cease to wonder at the flexibility of models. The pose of this young lady would have me screaming for mercy even back in the days when I was a gymn-bunny. She holds it without any sign of strain. Oh yes, and when you go to BlackRat, make sure you have a look at the Virgin Rail advert he mentions.
Off again today to see if my passport homework gets past teacher. Good idea where the local post office vets things before they go and it saved me a lot of karma-decreasing swearing when the PP office rejected things.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Looking for changes

Not quite Scott of Antartic.
But then, I'm seeking change rather than some point on a map. I have just been sent this synopsis of what our gallant and industrious parliamentarians are up to. It seems that there are lots of meetings and speeches. Suppose this is an average sort of day. Now compare what actually happens in changes, new legislation or anything that actually benefits us.
Tony Blair flies to Luxembourg for talks with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker in advance of the European Union summit later this week. Discussions are set to centre on the future of the constitution and the 2007-13 EU budget, including the level of Britain's rebate. Blair also travels on to Paris for talks with President Chirac just days after relations between the two men reached a new low as a result of the rebate row. Number 10 has said that, at the request of the French government, Blair and Chirac will not be holding a joint press conference after the talks. The prime minister is expected to hold a media event at the British embassy in Paris.
UN secretary general Kofi Annan is also in Paris, where he addresses a conference at the Elysee Palace entitled 'the business contribution to the millennium development goals'. He also has a working lunch with Blair and Chirac, as well as bilateral meetings with them individually. Discussions are set to focus on UN reform, the G8 summit and international development.
EU foreign ministers are expected to conclude two days of talks in Luxembourg ahead of the meeting of national leaders later this week. Foreign secretary Jack Straw returns to the UK for talks with Slovenia's minister of foreign affairs, Dr Dimitrij Rupel.
International development secretary Hilary Benn continues a visit to Sudan and Ethiopia.
Ruth Kelly today backs a programme launched by E-skills UK aimed at encouraging girls in England to consider careers in technology. "It is absolutely vital that we take every opportunity to help girls recognise the relevance and attractiveness of careers in science and technology," says the education secretary.
Kelly is also among the speakers at a Kick It Out conference in Manchester focusing on how schools can use football to address diversity, anti-racism and citizenship issues.
Transport secretary Alistair Darling addresses the European parliament's transport committee.
Work and pensions secretary David Blunkett speaks at a conference hosted by Remploy.
Environment secretary Margaret Beckett visits Berlin as part of a tour of EU member states ahead of Britain's presidency.
Energy minister Malcolm Wicks announces details of government support for carbon abatement and hydrogen technologies ahead of the G8 summit.
Children's minister Beverley Hughes publishes the Child Contact and Inter-Country Adoption Bill. The Department for Constitutional Affairs also publishes research on contact disputes in court.
ODPM minister Yvette Cooper attends a Local Government Chronicle conference on delivering sustainable communities, where she launches the local development framework implementation study.
Home Office minister Paul Goggins and Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips are among the speakers at a New Local Government Network conference on race equality.
Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart and Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, are among the speakers at a New Local Government Network conference on local strategic partnerships.
Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman begins a four-day visit to Tanzania. Speaking ahead of his departure, the Africa minister said he was "looking forward to meeting Tanzanians from all walks of life and to developing the good bilateral relationship that exists between the two countries".
As a new poll reveals mounting opposition to identity cards, the Tories and Liberal Democrats have claimed the government is losing the argument. The NO2ID survey, conducted by ICM, finds that support for ID cards has dropped from 80 per cent to 55 per cent. Shadow home secretary David Davis has warned of a mounting revolt both within parliament and the country. "The ID cards scheme is fast turning into Labour's poll tax. It is no surprise that public opinion is turning against it," he said. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten added: "The more people hear about the ID cards scheme, the less they like it."
SDLP leader Mark Durkan and education spokesman Dominic Bradley hold talks with Northern Ireland Office education minister Angela Smith at Castle Buildings, Belfast. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Bradley said: "Obviously the main item on the agenda will be the cuts being faced by the education and library boards. The minister has made positive sounds in relation to the situation...we will be asking her what action she intends to take to deal with the situation."
Former Europe minister Denis MacShane is expected to address a Communication Workers' Union meeting on the proposed EU constitution.
As part of 'national bike week' around 60 parliamentarians, including transport minister Derek Twigg, are expected to take part in a bike ride in Westminster.
Commons speaker Michael Martin opens an IT exhibition for MPs and peers in Portcullis House.
Baroness Thatcher attends a Conservative Way Forward dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her election as leader of the Conservatives.
Edward O'Hara, Labour MP for Knowsley South, presents a report on the European technology acquisition programme during the second day of the assembly of the Western European Union in Paris.
Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, chairman of the Human Genetics Commission, is among the speakers at a Chatham House seminar on terrorism, security and human rights.
Scottish communities minister Malcolm Chisholm and Christine Grahame, SNP communities spokesman, address the annual conference of the Scottish Pensioners' Forum. The event will focus on the political agenda for older people after the general election.
Welsh education minister Jane Davidson speaks at the Quality Assurance Agency's higher education conference in Cardiff.
Ahead of a debate on school funding, Plaid Cymru has warned that there is no mechanism within the assembly that can be used to scrutinise school funding. "There needs to be far greater degree of clarity on the money that is announced from the assembly and how that translates to school budgets in Wales," said shadow education minister Janet Ryder.
Plaid Cymru holds its weekly press conference in the Welsh assembly.
London mayor Ken Livingstone holds his weekly press conference in City Hall.
London Liberal Democrats publish figures showing that in the last four months the 24-hour London TV channel, funded with £630,000 of taxpayers' money, was watched on average by just 481 people an hour. "Serious questions must be asked of the mayor as to why more than half a million pounds of Londoners money has been spent on a TV channel watched by almost no-one," said Lib Dem culture spokesman Dee Doocey. "This is more a case of LondOFF TV rather than LondON TV."
The Association of London Government hosts its regular meeting of London borough leaders.
The government may need to limit the private sector's involvement in the running of the NHS. Interviewed in the FT, the health secretary denied this was a U-turn away from reforms, but says that too many NHS employees feel that "change upon change has been done to them, rather than with them."

Michael Howard will today face another confrontation as senior Conservative backbenchers move to block his plans to shake up the party. The executive of the 1922 committee is to set out its case against the overhaul of the way the Tories operate in a meeting with Raymond Monbiot, head of the voluntary wing and chief architect of Howard's reforms.

The Social Market Foundation has set up its own working group of experts to examine how a compulsory pension system would work. They will meet over the summer and are expected to report in the autumn ahead of the government-backed Pensions Commission.

Dame Ruth Deech, independent adjudicator at the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, delivers the keynote speech to a Neil Stewart Associates conference on managing student complaints

I am in charge

Right, you lot. Listen in. Gather round in a circle. Push in those at the back. Now be quiet.
Ah, that’s got you has it not. Today, I’m in charge of doing this blog thing. Old Chubby is asleep in the armchair and if I don’t get something done it will just not appear. I think he is overpowered in his old age on two counts. We had spaghetti with meat sauce last night and we all over-indulged. I managed a second helping for supper but have had the chance to run it off a bit. Another thing that may have tired the particle of brain embedded in his skull is problem with something called a passport. He went off all cocky to get it checked and sent away from the post office but came back with his tail between his legs. Seems teacher rejected his homework – something about crosses in boxes going outside the box. I kept out of his way as he looked really black about the gills.
Bit of a doubt about this morning’s breakfast walk. Yesterday, it was raining and I decided that I could not be bothered. I’m not sure what he thought about this as he tried to bully me into getting all wet and nasty but I just turned and walked back indoors. This morning, I was fitted with collar and lead before the front door was opened so there was no chance of getting back to his bed before it got cold. We must have confused the pigeons as well because there were lots of them in the park this morning. No sooner had I chased one to the far end of the place than there was another to chase back towards him.
I’m just beginning to realise that there is not a lot to discuss about a dog’s day. Maybe if I were a gundog or a sniffer dog it would be OK but I’m just a family pet sort of dog which means that I just get to walk and sleep. Still, that means that there is very little stress for yours truly. It is a dog’s life.

Monday, 13 June 2005

Cast ye bread upon the waters.

Birthday toys.
Arrived today courtesy of daughter Caroline. Mrs. Organising Queen found them on e-bay and outbid the opposition. So, birthday present and, also, I am now able to join the rest of the world who have used e-bay. I started a collection of these Bad Taste Bears a long time ago and still have some 20 or so. I gave up - mostly because I ran out of space in my study (this being the only suitable space to display them) and because they got a little too outre for a house visited by grandchildren. (What's that man doing to that sheep grandad? Oh - it's OK. He's a Welshman).
I saw something about this set way back when there was that fuss about schools failing to teach sex says mum. It struck me that these models might be a way to set up a lesson plan so that teachers could bring the matter up (ahem!) in a helpful but not overpowering way. Similar dolls are used in investigations involving sexual attacks or abuse on young children.
Anyways, thats my story of why I wanted them - believe it if you wish.
So from me - thanks Caroline. Back to the day job now!

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Thoughts on a Sunday

As a soldier, I never gave a lot of thought to religion. I knew it was a subject likely to rouse deep argument and was best avoided. I had little reason to think about my faith. This was strange; as a child I had been pursued by a maternal aunt who was what I suppose could be called a religious maniac. Her whole life was governed by her belief in Christianity. She also saw herself as a missionary with a duty to involve others in this way of life. I don’t think I actively resisted what she propounded – at that time one did not do this with adults and certainly not with aunts. Rather, I associated her conduct with her; something that went with the terrority like wearing slippers in Grandmother’s house. What I think I gained was a sense of right and wrong in every-day terms rather than fire and brimstone for the wicked and harps and angels for the virtuous.
I had a general knowledge of the 10 Commandments and did not question these.
Religion had little place in my adolescent years. I was a scholar, an athlete and, yes, a choirboy although this was because I enjoyed singing in resonant places rather than the spiritual side of things. My work in the Army brought me into contact with tragedy and villainy and I began to hear the question, “Why did he have to die when there are so many bad people left alive?” One of the ways in which one may treat this exposure to stress is to engage in black humour so it was not a question which gave me cause for thought. I sheltered behind the adage “Shit happens” I did pick up another thought “There’s always a day called Catchem” which is really just another way of saying that one’s sins will find one out. I would sometimes weigh the consequences of “Catchem” against my wish to do something. I did not resist Christianity, it was something I ignored. Little thought was given to the existence of a superior being. In part, this was because my travels had brought me into contact with other religions. If I did compare things, I suppose I came to the opinion that there could be many ways to any God.
Just after we moved to Scotland I went away for a long weekend at a Buddhist retreat. There I came into contact with Buddhist precepts. These, to my mind, corresponded to the 10 Commandments and I regarded them as a description or plan for how to conduct oneself. They meshed in with what I tried to do in a worldly way. There was much about the Buddhist way of life that I found attractive. The simple and mega-peaceful atmosphere within the monastery was very relaxing. The monks had very deep beliefs and I found it very easy to have deep discussions with them without having any sensation that there was some Faustian conspiracy at work.
There have been times when I have questioned the whole idea of religion. It is something that accompanies my bouts of depression. Given that I have no religious foundation and strong belief in Christianity or any other faith, I was unlikely to change to being an atheist. It was more