Saturday, 26 November 2005

Winter drawers on

This is what we have NOT had but I thought it might invoke the curse of the snow gods. What should have been nice crisp snow has come down in abundance but as heavy, freezing, driving rain.
Flooding all over the place. I was worrying about the road salt under the car but no problem with that after today's rain. We used to have a petrol Citroen and the engine died under damp if a dog so much as peed within half a mile so I was dubious about the car we now have. No problem at all - she just sailed on through.
I upgraded my mobile this week; part of my Christmas present to me. It is a NEC 343i - matches my iPod dontcherknow! Thing is, it has a zillion and one settings that can be personalized. All described in detail in little tiny print and a great strain on eyes and mind. It is very thin - just like two slices of Ryvita and I think I'm going to like it when I get it all set up. I think back to the old carphones marketed by GPO that were the size of half a jerrican and weighed about six pounds. We'll soon get them down in size so that they can double as the rings on a belly button piercing.
Read a report today that thongs (for women) are now 'just so last year dahling'. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. If - the Lord forbid - I get to my late 90s, I can go onto Sky and relate the impact they had. With photographs of today or so.
Amused today watching a TV clip about rugby to be played today. They had some of the really big boys on show. Looking at the potential players, every one of them must have a body weight vs. height sort of figure that would make them on the far side of obese. No chance of any serious medical procedure for them then?

Friday, 25 November 2005


So, serious snow was threatened for today. We didn't get any in the village. What should have been snow came down as rain. We certainly had the high winds from the North East and they were showing about zero degrees so, with wind chill, that was quite impressive. I drove missy to the lunch time exercise at the Whiteadder picnic place and we had almost a white-out there with wet snow coming in at about 30 degrees. It was settling on the grass but not on the roads. The picnic valley is always colder than surroundings and today was much worse. I had expected this and had a good selection of clothes on but it still forced me back to the car after about 20 minutes. That dog is as weird as can be. Sometimes here she wants to go outside and sort herself out but does a refusal on the very doorstep if it is raining to the slightest degree. She firmly resists any nudging and squats down periously close to the threshold. However, get her out into weather like today and she is off and running with not a care in the world. She normally keeps a check on me to see where I am. Today's weather meant that anything more than 30/40 yards away was invisible but she dashed off like a runaway train.
George Best finally left us today. I never saw him play live but always watched on the television where possible. He was a star in the days when football was far tougher than today; if defenders could not see the ball, they kicked the man who had it. In addition to getting the ball off them and controlling it as if it were stuck to his boot, he ran around his attackers. I once saw him play the ball by bouncing it off a defender and then re-take control and run away. His private life was his undoing. I think that he was easily bored with something he found so simple to do and had to find things that would turn him on. He had a native wit as one would expect from the back-streets of Belfast but not much education to do more than booze and play the social life. I do not join with those who criticised him for - as they put it - wasting his transplant. If it fitted medically then he should have had it. To allocate spares on the basis of the value of the receiving individual is not the way to make life-saving decisions. It does seem to be creeping in. Some NHS trust has said that it will not do hips or knee replacements if the patient is obese. That, to obese me, is like saying that it is OK to drive over wobbly cyclists.
We're well ahead of the game here. All the Christmas presents are collected in and only await wrapping and despatch. Card lists ready. Early skirmishes have been made on the food front with a big fishy order off to Loch Awe. I'm already in Christmas mode - wishing it was all over.
My puppy and I have a bonus day tomorrow. Norma is away at sparrow fart to some 'Ladies who sew' event at Harrogate which means an early start and late return. I am due to go to the Farmers' Market at Haddington for big chunks of venision but, other than that, the day is our own. Mind you, all bets are off if the looked-for snow descends tonight.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Rule Bri.. er, um, Rule Who?

Because of my somewhat trenchant views, I attract quite a bit of the “League of St. George” sort of publicity. I treat most of it as humour but now and again I come across something – or, rather, it comes across me as I do not seek it out – that makes me think we are going a bit awry. Here’s something that lays out a number of my concerns. Small ‘taster’ below.


Wednesday, 23 November 2005

What knoweth a man who knows only......

For some reason today, I found myself wondering how many Americans had passports. This came from reading postings from that country on an obscure forum. These, in the main, displayed a very sad lack of knowledge of what goes on outside their own little world of McDonalds County. I had some granite chip in my brain that was bleeping with a figure of 30%. Never mind, I'll save any dispute as someone has already done a fairly convincing analysis. Well, 20%. That's not a lot is it? The point is made that they do not need passports to go into Mexico, I cannot say how many this covers but I do not consider Mexico to be a mind-broadening destination. My 30% was also relevant it seems as that is about the figure for members of Congress who have never been out of the country (except, maybe, Mexico).
Now, this is scary. America has a tremendous influence in this world. Good or evil is immaterial, just possession is sufficient. They seek to involve themselves - mainly with good intentions - in the lives of a large proportion of the people on the earth's surface. They have the idea that theirs is the ideal way of life without too much knowledge of how things are arranged elsewhere.
Methinks they would be better occupied in putting their foot on foreign soil rather than in their mouth.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Oh! Some of these customs have to be preserved...

And this is happening right now in a village in Pakistan. It is a country-wide custom in a land where the President is described as a strong ruler supportive of Western values.
A village council in Pakistan has decreed that five women should be abducted, raped or killed for refusing to honour childhood "marriages"
Pakistan is a country appealing for much more aid after the latest earthquake. They claim they would have been better treated if more Europeans had been involved.
Yeah - right.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Many a true word spoken in jest

Save our police

I have waited for the dust to settle a bit before writing MY take on the recent shooting of a West Yorkshire police officer.
We have had ‘not a woman’s’ job comments, ‘better protection’, ‘arm all police’ and ‘bring back capital punishment’ responses.
Insofar as job for women. There is nothing about police work that inherently determines which sex should do it. It is only fairly recently that female officers have been fully integrated. It used to be that they were reserved to deal with offences against women or young children and none would wish that they went back to this limited range of tasks.
Better protection. This presumably means armour. What is most often seen on our police is only a stab vest. This offers no real protection against firearms of even small calibre and low velocity. It is possible to buy proper bullet-proof waistcoats or to upgrade the stab vest by fitting ceramic plates into pockets. This does, however, make the item very heavy and cumbersome. Getting in and out of vehicles or running is made difficult. Additionally, the vest does not give full cover of vulnerable areas. On some, the vest looks like a support bra. The sides of the body are unprotected as is the head and lower body. They cannot be considered really effective. There is also the problem that once an authority recognises the danger by providing bullet-proof clothing, they fall within the scrutiny of Health & Safety who would rule whether they are adequate; they obviously are not.
Arm all the police. Well, funnily enough, they do not all want to be armed. A recent police federation poll showed this to be against the wishes of a large majority. Many said they would leave the service the day the police were universally armed. Some may be concerned at what happens to a firearms officer who does open fire and kills someone. The investigation is intensive and prolonged. Not everyone is capable of being trained to just handle firearms safely still less decide when to shoot and have a real confidence of hitting their target. Police numbers would not permit the removal from current duties of any significant number of candidates for a firearms course and the annual reclassification. Metropolitan police firearms instructors claim it takes five years for an officer to reach the stage where they regard them as fully competent.
Bring back capital punishment. This has a permanent season ticket in the minds of the general public and appears whenever there is a particularly harrowing murder or series of murders. The calls from the public however, never seem to find resonance in the ears of MPs who reject change with a large majority whenever the subject comes up. I did find a well-reasoned presentation on why this should be. The main objection is that execution is so final and there is no redress in the event of a flaw in the legal proceedings that led to the judicial killing. There are opinions that such miscarriages would be much reduced because of advances in forensic science such as DNA and fingerprint analysis. I personally do not thing that a reduction is quite enough. There are no degrees of death – it is as unlikely as being ‘a little bit pregnant’. Another risk is typified in the case of Timothy Evans who was hung for the murder of his wife and child. Evans was somewhat backward and was suggested as the killer by John Christie who lived in the same buildings as Evans. Christie was later identified as a serial killer of prostitutes and it was he who had killed Mrs Evans and her child.
So, what can be done? Firstly – do we really need to do anything? The loss of one life is to be condemned but we should recognise that police do what is a dangerous job and their death is an unfortunate element in their work. I do not want police officers to give their lives when there is an alternative. Changing the publics’ perception of their police is a risky business. Confidence and results declined when the policeman on the street was relocated into panda cars. We like to feel that the ‘bobby’ is approachable and friendly. Dixon of Dock Green was a figure to whom we could relate. Replacing PC George Dixon with the heavily protected and awesome Officer RoboCop would be a bad move. To me, it is clear that we need to have both.
Couch potato critics will say that we already have Armed Response Teams on patrol. Yes we do. They still do not have the operational freedom to mount their weapons and there are not enough of them. Their numbers need to be much increased and they should have the best resources and administration we can provide. Faster transport. Dedicated drivers with advanced driving qualifications. Better nation-wide communications. Targeting of high risk areas. A range of weapons and ammunition to cover all circumstances. There is a reluctance to issue Tasers because someone might get killed. Tough – issue them and leave it to the officers’ discretion when to deploy them. Remote control from someone sitting in an operations cell miles from the action is not satisfactory to deal with a fast-changing and developing situation. The Rules of Engagement need to be re-evaluated and made known to everyone – police, general public and the crooks. I am expected to know that shoving a broken bottle in someone’s face will get me a life sentence so why can I not know what will happen if I insist in waving a real or replica weapon in a manner that suggests I might use it?
Sentencing is part of the legal review that is also required. Evidence that the policy of “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” is for real must be firm, clear and widespread. Police abuse of the old Judges Rules led to introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. This introduced essential safeguards but was written at a time when law and order was not under such a heavy and serious challenge as today. For example, police were constrained in the latest incident in releasing descriptions of men they wanted to interview as this could have compromised the evidence from eye-witnesses at any identification parade. There are more.
Attempts to ban handguns after serious incidents were somewhat knee-jerk in style. All that has happened is that those who held short weapons legally have had to surrender them. The crooks can still buy very effective arms and ammunition illegally. There are even people who will rent them out by the day. In the context of their intended crimes, possession of an unlawful weapon is the least of their concerns. Therefore, greater attention must be given to removing weapons from the community.
As in all crime prevention or reduction, much depends on the risk of being caught. So, in events where arms are involved, the odds relating to detection, prosecution, conviction and imposition of a significant sentence have to be significantly raised in favour of the police. If needs be, new legislation. Just let it be written by a proper team of draughtsmen and not on the back of a fag packet by some jovial old buffer of a Home Secretary. Do away with the term ‘life’ or define it exactly. Until death, for 15 (or so) years. Say it, mean it, and stick to it. Get the judiciary on side. No release on licence or grounds of ill-health. Heighten the threshold of judicial review.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Weather watch

Another fine, dry day. Big blue skys all around with just a bit of cloud coming in for the morning and evening sun rise and set displays.
Only small cloud on my horizon with all this is that it looks to me to be the sort of conditions that comes ahead of a lot of snow. The good looking ladies of the weather forecast offices seem to think the same so my aching knee agrees with the computers.
I like snow - don't get me wrong. Only problem is that it will disrupt Madam Pointy Nose's trips to exercise areas and we will have to cope with an ADD dog inside the house. She revealed a new trick yesterday after catching a really big cock pheasant. Once I had done all the 'good dog' stuff she set about it again and had it plucked as neat as a whistle inside five minutes. Course, we then had to run off as the wind-blown feathers revealed our position and I thought she might have nicked the bird from under the noses of the beaters. Might get a few quid hiring her out for the festive season. Oven ready birds from sky to table in 10 minutes!